How to Not Do Life Alone

In 2010, I moved back to Tulsa, Oklahoma to marry Devon. I had only been away for 5 years, so I thought I wouldn’t have any issue reconnecting with friends and making new ones.

Wrong!

I felt like I was on a road all alone, with no one to travel with me. It made the journey very lonely.

At that point in our lives, it seemed like everyone had their own busy lives. Friends from high school or college were busy making babies and having careers. It seemed that no one had the time or interest to reconnect.

For years, my husband and I pretty much did life alone. And life was… lonely. We would go through each week working ridiculously hard, come home exhausted, talk to each other and rarely anyone else, and then start the whole routine over again.

We kept telling each other that we would eventually get involved or start a church group, so we could “do life” with other people, but ironically, life kept getting in the way of us doing life with others.

There was always an excuse. Devon was in school, so we didn’t have time. Then he was working too late in the evenings for us to make it to a group in time.

A couple years ago, we decided that we would just have to make joining a church group a priority. Our church, Life.Church, has this amazing thing called LifeGroups, and they talk frequently about how life groups are a way to “do life together.”

from https://www.life.church/lifegroups/

I always heard that phrase and thought, “Well, isn’t that precious?” Because honestly, in my adult life, I hadn’t done life with many people. I didn’t even know what it would look like to do life with another adult other than my husband. There were friends I’d check in with from time to time, but not really anyone who I could turn to day in and day out to complain about the mundane or to rejoice with about the little victories.

Everything changed when we committed to a group. On January 3, 2018, we decided to launch a LifeGroup meeting every Wednesday at our house. After more than a year of getting together weekly with other couples in their 20’s and 30’s, we have formed truly invaluable friendships. It’s been a game changer in our lives.

Our amazing LifeGroup called Love Lives Here. Thanksgiving 2018.

But it’s not just the weekly meetings that have brought us together. Here are some ways we’ve cultivated our relationships with our group:

  1. Pray for each other. True friends are those who care about the needs you care the most about, will pray for you, and will see you through thick and thin. We send each other encouraging texts. We check in on each other. And of course, we actually take the time pray for one another.
  2. Stay connected throughout the week. We don’t just see each other on Wednesdays and then forget about each other’s existence until the next week. The biggest channel to staying connected for us has been technology. The ladies use GroupMe so we can message each other throughout the day, and it’s not quite as obtrusive as a group text chain. We also have a group Facebook page.
  3. Have fun together. Even though many of us are super busy as professionals, spouses and parents, it’s important that we cut back and have fun. We have game nights, potluck nights, guy/girl hangouts, etc.

We’re so incredibly thankful for the 11 men and women who entered our lives last year through this group, and we think everyone should either start or join a group that will pour into their lives in a similar way!

What are some ways you have cultivated friendships with others in your adult life?

 

 

 

How to Survive Being “The New Guy”

typewriter-girl-at-workI’ve spent almost the last year of my life being “the new guy” at work.

It’s not my favorite.

Especially the first couple months are pretty awkward when you’re the new person in any environment — whether that’s a job, a city, a neighborhood, a school, etc.

That’s because everyone (or most people, except for other newbies!) is surrounded by people they’re already comfortable with. They have inside jokes with those people. They know each other’s work styles. They’ve come to trust each other.

Meanwhile, here I am, with my wildly untamed bangs, hot pink handbag, and cheesy smile, trying to make friends with everyone.

And it seems like no one wants to be your friend. Cue toddler-esque crocodile tears.

It’s hard coming into a new environment. But I’m finally to the point that I’m not really the “new guy” anymore (because there are now people who are newer than me!), so I feel qualified to share a new tips.

Here’s how to survive when you’re the new person:

  1. Be yourself.
    I know, it sounds so cheesy. But if the real you is introverted and doesn’t want to get to know your new co-workers or neighbors, then be you. If the real you won’t be able to sleep at night until you get to know all of your co-workers’ or neighbors’ names, then go on a mission and find out those names! Just be authentically you. New friends will surface to the top as they come to appreciate who you are.
  2. DON’T LOOK BACK.
    This is what I should have told myself 10 months ago. When I first took this job, my old job was still available. And honestly, the people at that job treated me a whole lot nicer than the people at my new job did, at first. I thought so many times about calling up my old job and seeing if they’d take me back, like an old boyfriend. But just like the re-kindling of a flame with an ex, that sort of situation rarely works out. So I finally put on my big girl panties and decided to stop looking back.God called you to this new season — whether it’s a new job, new city, new school, etc. — for a reason. Keep pressing forward, know that the best is yet to come in this new chapter, and don’t you dare live in the past.
  3. Surround yourself with encouragement.
    There were days in this new chapter that I so wanted to throw in the towel. I was so anxious that I wasn’t sleeping well at night, which resulted in me being tired and grouchy each day. All that kept me going on some of the roughest days were verses I had sitting on my desk. I’m including some of those verses in images below, and I hope you’ll find them encouraging.Get into the Word of God and find what you need for your new season. He has exactly the words that will encourage you if you will seek Him!

How to Simplify Your Life So You Can Stay Sane

It all started on a beautiful beach resort in Cancun. My husband and I were lounging on beach chairs under little tiki coverings, sipping on tropical drinks. This sounds like the beginning of a wonderful, peaceful story, right?

Wrong. It was somewhere towards the end of my strawberry daiquiri that I had the realization that in two days, I would be returning to reality. No more housekeeper making my bed for me. No more chef cooking every meal. REALITY.

Reality… an often-screaming toddler, a demanding new job (usually self-imposed), trying to take care of my husband, who also has a demanding job, serving at church, leading a church group, serving on two boards, writing in my “free time,” trying to stay in good physical shape, and the list goes on and on.

I set down my drink and told my husband I would be back in a bit. I went back to our room, and to put it nicely, had a mild panic attack. How was I surviving? How was I fitting so much into my life? I couldn’t even fathom going back to a reality where I had so much on my plate.

It was beyond time to simplify.

I needed to edit my life.

We live in a time in history where it seems like we can never do enough. It’s crazy to think that just 50 years ago, most women were homemakers. Now, women are expected to do it all – raise the kids, have a job, provide amazing snacks for their kids’ school and soccer teams, have a thriving social life, have a beach body, etc.

And on top of that, it seems there’s an expectation that we be all things to all people. We need to not only take care of our immediate family, but also our aging parents, pets, nonprofit that we volunteer with, etc.

Instead of just throwing up my hands and saying, “I’m done with reality! I’m staying in Cancun forever!” (which was very tempting), I decided I needed to change my reality.

Here are some steps I took to edit my life. I hope that if you find yourself in a place where you constantly feel overwhelmed, you will also consider following these steps to simplify your life:

Here’s how I edited my life:

  1. Let go. Practically, what can you drop from your schedule? I’m not encouraging you to be flighty or uncommitted, but what is not absolutely necessary that you can step away from over time? In my case, I resigned from a couple of boards that I realized weren’t absolutely essential to my life.
  2. Stop caring so much what others think. Before I resigned from those boards, I thought I would upset others. But ultimately, those folks understood that this is what’s best for me in this season, and they’re doing just fine without me. Often times, our exit is actually an opportunity for others to step up and grow.

  3. Say no to future obligations/opportunities. You are just one person. In order to stay focused on family and work, you can’t do everything that comes your way. Learn to gracefully say no.
  4. Delegate wherever possible. Delegating frees us up to do the things that are most important. Find people – your spouse, a babysitter, a friend, a mom – who can help you with duties that keep you from your most important things in life.

Maybe you realize you have too much going on in your reality. I hope you will take a real inventory of what you can eliminate from your life so that you can spend more quality time with the people who matter most to you.

Why Desperation Can Be a Good Thing

desperationFor the last 9 hours, I’ve been riding through Colorado and Kansas over snowy, ice-covered highways with my husband and 2-year-old son. My husband, ever the competent and confident driver, has been navigating our Nissan Altima over the slick roads with the expertise of a seasoned truck driver (Believe me, he looks nothing like a truck driver, though).

IMG_0688
My non-truck driver husband braving the roads.

There is always snow and ice on the highways when we travel back to Oklahoma after visiting my family in the Denver area at either Thanksgiving or Christmas, so it was no surprise when we were greeted by a blanket of wintry precipitation on the car this morning.

Unfortunately, the roads are worse than what we’ve experienced previously. We had just passed the famous “Oasis” in Colby, Kansas (if you’ve ever driven to/from Oklahoma/Colorado, you know what I’m talking about!), when we discovered that I-70 was closed for more than 200 miles. So now we’re on country road highways being extremely careful and prayerful. And it’s been 9 hours.

IMG_0689
Entertaining a 2-year-old

I have been sitting in the back seat, trying to keep a toddler entertained with “The Lion King” on an iPad, pictures from a magazine, and all the food and milk his heart desires. Need I repeat, for 9 hours. Still, my job is not nearly as difficult as my husband’s, as he tries to keep us alive. Oh, and I’ve been praying like there’s no tomorrow and asking for prayers from every person we’re close to.

I would like us all to make it home in one piece … no matter how long it takes.

The sad thing is, I realize that today is probably the most I’ve prayed in the last few months, and it’s because I’m scared. It’s because I’m desperate for the safety and security of home.

It’s interesting how times of desperation draw us closer to God. I think back over my life and see this to be true – times of desperation have caused me to get closer to God.

  • I fully dedicated my life to God as a teenager when I was going through a terrible trial with a friendship.
  • God taught me to run to Him during our difficult first year of marriage. Every argument was fuel for me to run to God and find His help.
  • Again, I ran to God out of desperation when our son was a newborn. I was so worried and exhausted mentally and physically during the first couple months of his life, as I dealt with his kidney condition and an unsuccessful breastfeeding experience. I felt like I was surviving only by telling myself that the words I was hearing in worship songs were true.

God meets us where we’re at. He will come to us in our times of desperation. If you’re in a rough spot in life, cry out to Him.

Times of desperation cause us to look for an outlet. Sometimes, those outlets are negative. Sometimes, those outlets are alcohol that drive a person to become an alcoholic or get a DUI. Sometimes, those outlets are relationships with people that end in heartbreak.

Let God be your outlet. Psalm 46:1 says: God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble.

 He will get you through this storm. He is an outlet that will never disappoint or leave you in a worse place than you were before. He will fill you with peace and hope as you trust in Him and make you a stronger person as you endure this hard time. He is an ever-present help in times of trouble.

Desperation can be a good thing, if you’ll respond to that desperation by running to the right place.

The Power of Places

unnamed (1)

I love places. There’s something spiritual and almost otherworldly about certain places that we return to throughout our lives.

I am not one to sit at home. I am one to explore places. I am one to find the best place to hike, the quietest place to think, the most delicious place to eat, the most fun place to take a kid.

I love discovering the personality of a place. Places have many human qualities … they can be peaceful, professional, hipster, holy, pretentious, fun. Often, what determines the personality of a place is the type of person/people who created that place, and the type of people who frequent it.

img_1283

When I’m in a certain place, I sometimes like to think about all the thousands of people who have come before me and sat in that spot, and the thousands of people who will come after me. And I like to wonder how my life will be different next time I return to that particular place.

Sometimes, I run out of new places. Sometimes I am destined to return to the same places … and I think it’s for the better that I do.

I live in the city I grew up in, and with that comes the propensity for a flood of memories to wash over me when I visit a certain place. When I go to the Tulsa Garden Center that is sadly now full of dead, poisoned roses, I am reminded of the time that the gardens were flourishing and my parents took me there when I was about 5. I was whining and complaining the whole time for one reason or another and missed the beauty of the flora around me.

IMG_0322

Now that I’m a parent, I get to introduce my son to some of my favorite places, and see the magic of those places through his fresh eyes. A sleepy nature park becomes woods for a dragon and pirates to play in. LaFortune Park, one of my favorite places to play as a child, now has much cooler playgrounds, and he could entertain himself there for days.

Perhaps some of the most important places to me are spiritual places … places where I have felt God’s presence. I can’t go into the Prayer Gardens or Prayer Tower at ORU without feeling that God is right there with me. It’s a place where I’ve felt God since I was a child, when on Sunday afternoons my family would visit the bright blue fountains that used to fill the campus. In college, it’s where God would quietly direct me during those 4 years as I sought Him and His purpose for my life.

unnamed

Sometimes, a spiritual place is much less formal that a prayer garden or a chapel or a cathedral. Sometimes it’s a closet. Sometimes it’s a bench at a park.

It’s wherever we can connect with God. Even the Bible was full of spiritual places — places where God moved again and again. So many miracles happened at the Jordan River, for example — the miracles of Naaman the Leper, Elijah and Elisha, and the baptism of Jesus.

Go to your spiritual place. If you don’t have one, find one. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. It just needs to be a place where you experience peace, love, fulfillment, and most of all, God.

Where are some of your favorite places?

When Anxiety Comes a Knockin’

Let’s be honest. I’m terrible at casting my cares.

I’m pretty all or nothing. I either don’t give a flip about something, or I’m so concerned about it that it keeps me up at 3 a.m.

That’s why Jesus created 1 Peter 5:7. For extremists like me. “Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

I recently read something about that verb “casting” that really stood out to me. I’m about to get all Greek on you. Minus the Windex.

From Rick Renner’s blog:

The word “casting” used in First Peter 5:7 was the Greek word epiripto, a compound of the words epi and ripto. The word epi means upon, as on top of something. The word ripto means to hurl, to throw, or to cast, and it often means to violently throw or to fling something with great force.

I imagine a couple things when I think of the verbs Renner mentions. First, I think of flinging off a nasty bug if it were to fly on you. You would smack that thing away with you with the force of The Hulk.

Secondly, I think about what I do with my clothes after a long, hot, humid summer run. Sorry to get nasty here. But I fling those things away! I want nothing to do with them! They’re stinky, sweaty, and an abomination only fit for the washing machine.

So getting back to me and my cares. It’s time to cast them away. It’s time to violently throw them off and fling them with great force, never to pick them up again.

That’s the thing about cares. We keep retrieving them. The same worries and concerns end up circling around our minds over and over.

But not if we truly fling them. Not if we truly cast them on the Lord, who can carry those burdens with such ease.

Here’s one more verse about casting – this time from Psalms. “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” Psalm 55:22

When we truly give him those cares and concerns, He sustains us like only He can. We get sweet sleep, we don’t carry around those worries. It’s not that we don’t have a care in the world; it’s just that we’re doing giving our cares to the one who can carry them. We were never meant to carry them alone.

What are some burdens you need to release? How can you practice flinging your cares away and not retrieving them?

What Older Folks Have Taught Me

I’ve spent the last five plus years doing marketing for a beautiful senior living community. Its halls are the final home to some of the finest people on planet Earth. On Monday, I began a new job that won’t have me around seniors every day.

During the last five years, I have learned so many valuable lessons from my elders. Here are just a few.

  1. This is not Georgia… just another funny old lady.

    A Sense of Humor is a Must.

I learned this from a Resident we’ll call Georgia (I’m changing her name for the sake of HIPAA, OK?). For over a year, every morning when I walked into work, she would greet me by telling me my hair looked crappy. But that’s part of the joy of being older – you don’t have to have a filter anymore!

Even though her sense of humor is a little odd, I’ve come to love Georgia dearly. She makes fun of those she loves.

Thanks to Georgia and the others who have taught me to more freely laugh at myself… and others, in an appropriate way.

  1. Old folks know how to dress!

    Appearance is Important.

The Greatest Generation … they may be the last generation that truly dressed up. Think about it. People barely dress up to go to work anymore. Just compare the way flight attendants dressed 50 years ago and the way they dress today. People don’t dress up like they used to.

I’m not saying we should spend an inordinate amount of time focusing on our outward appearance, because life really is all about developing your relationship with the Lord and your character. But the thing is, if you’re 30 now and you’re having a tough time looking good … imagine what it will be like when you’re 90.

Your body is a temple, according to the Bible. I see people in their 90’s who look like they’re in their 70’s, and people in their 70’s who look like they’re in their 90’s. You can do things today that will help you look your best when you’re elderly – exercise, eat a healthy diet, and avoid smoking and drinking.

Oh, and why not dress up a little? I’ve learned through the fancy ladies in their 90’s who wear adorable suits and jewelry to put a little extra effort into my appearance. Because if they’re still worth it at 95, then I’m also worth it.

  1. Your attitude is a culmination of your daily choices.
Do you want to be a Maxine or a Betty White?

This is the greatest lesson I’ve learned the past five years. I’ve realized that there are two types of old folks: They’re either super mean or super nice. Basically, they’re either a Maxine or a Betty White.

So what determines if someone will turn out to be super mean or super nice when they’re in the final chapter of their lives?

Daily decisions.

It’s refusing to become depressed even when your dear friends all die.

It’s finding hobbies you enjoy doing and doing them.

It’s separating yourself from people who drain the life out of you.

Grouchiness doesn’t happen overnight. You know that crotchety old neighbor from your childhood? He didn’t get that way in a day. He decided over a lifetime to allow negativity to get the best of him.

So thank you to the super nice, but also to the super grouchy elderly who have taught me this valuable lesson. I will continue trying to make decisions each day that will result in me being the kind of sweet old lady that younger ladies look at and say, “I want to be like her when I’m old.”