Redefined: Wrestling with Faith

A few months back someone asked me to write about my faith. I’ve alluded to it a few times–more to the fact that I have a faith than how exactly my faith journey has developed.

I felt neither equipped nor ready to share.

I couldn’t figure out how or where to start. Some memories were difficult to wrestle with. I couldn’t decide what was pertinent or how vulnerable I was willing to be for the whole, wide Internet. So, I enlisted the help of my absolute most favorite person in the whole world: my wife, Stephanie.

Steph is brilliant and hilarious and my number one fan. Sometimes she is the only one in my cheering section (which is absolutely fine. She is enough all by herself).

She also has a degree in religious studies and has served as a youth minister, associate minister, and missionary. Her sermons are delightful (it’s hard to hold my attention) but her ability to find just the right words to truly capture her thoughts is fantastic. So, she is starting off this series of how we came to adopt the title “progressive Christians” and what that means in terms of the faith we learned as children and how it has developed into the faith we hold as adults.

I say series because it’s a long story.

Like I said, I didn’t know where to start. But Steph has created a great foundation for us to continue explaining our faith journeys both as individuals and as a couple. So without further ado, I’m turning over the proverbial reigns, part one:

Wrestling with Faith by Stephanie

Sarah and I met after being introduced by a mutual friend.  We had both gone to small, private, Christian colleges and lived in a super conservative (as if there is another kind) part of Kentucky.

We made assumptions about each other based on our environment and each assumed the other was a prude. However, Sarah immediately tested my threshold for offensiveness–which I found hilarious. Her quick wit and intelligent satire at the funny side of faith won me over in an instant.  I knew I loved her the moment that we met, but that is a different post.

The more we talked, the more we realized how similar our frustrations and concerns were about living authentically and how alone we felt in the process.  Sarah became my sounding board for all of the questions that faith communities had expressly forbidden.

In fact, we realized that anything “different” was altogether segregated from our religious experience. The faith communities we knew either publicly shamed or guilted differences into conformity. People were ostracized, various theology banned, and any discussion as to “why” was not for the lowly congregant, but decided by the authority of leadership.

There was a good deal of comfort in this for the majority of folks.  They need not worry about anyone or anything that didn’t look like them, act like them, think like them, etc.  I understand why some people prefer this, but I think it does more harm than good. It limits diverse thought and experience.  It creates a population of people who can not even begin to have soulful empathy for those different than themselves using more than just words.  As I tell my students, “Talk is cheap. If you mean it, you will change your behavior.”

Segregation is never a practice that remains limited to one area of life.  

Fear and ignorance make it possible for one group of people to exert dominance and superiority over another in an effort to maintain their divisions.  Cliches and platitudes become excuses for poor behavior and bad decisions.

As the two of us continued to wrestle with our faith we realized that we were much more interested in finding the truth than in proclaiming unconditional correctness. We began to admit that our fear of this process stemmed from a fear of rejection and damnation.  We were on our way to what has been called “Progressive Christianity.”

Progressive Christianity

Some will read those two words “Progressive Christianity” and think it is a phase, a fad, or even a cult following of heretical Christians.  One side of the aisle defines it as changing authority structures to subjective spirituality and half-truths. The other side of the aisle says it is nothing more than politically motivated action in the name of religion.

We are not part of any group or society of people that have made a pledge, signed a pact, given money, or told what, how, or when to speak OR what, and how to believe.  We have no endorsements from political or religious sponsors.

Most importantly, we are not asking or trying to persuade anyone reading this post to change their beliefs.

Sarah and I were asked to share about our faith journey.  We offer our perspective, nothing more. This crossroads of faith has left us with a better historical understanding of Christianity and has allowed us to truly, genuinely love God and our neighbor while committing ourselves to the inclusion and dignity of all of God’s children.  

If we had to sum our experience up in one quotation, it would be this:

“We believe that social justice is the heart of the gospel.  Progressive Christianity is about not apologizing for what we become as we live this life and openly engage the faith we grew up with.  There are no sacred cows, only the relentless, sacred search for truth. Tradition, dogma, and doctrine are all fair game, because all pass through the hands of flawed humanity, and as such are all equally vulnerable to the prejudices, fears and biases of those they touch.”  –John Pavlovitz, Explaining Progressive Christianity (Otherwise Known as Christianity)

So keep following us for more on what Progressive Christianity is, how it fits into a post-modern world, and how we journeyed through a spectrum of belief.

She’s brilliant, right?

What are your thoughts or questions in relation to Progressive Christianity?

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3 Reasons To Register as an Organ Donor

Happy Valentine’s Day! I love all holidays, and I especially love celebrating a day of love and friendship. Our day started with a box of fresh donuts from Granny. Could it get any better? I gave Steph her Valentine’s gifts early (a necklace, some new essential oils we didn’t have, and some lovely perfumes made from essential oils. She’s a sucker for perfumes) because I was just too excited to wait, but she gave me a gorgeous notebook and some super cool erasable ink pens. She knows how to speak to my soul. She also bought me some kitchen accessories I’ve been eyeing for months, but she gave those to me a couple of weeks ago. Also, she is also planning a family date tonight. I don’t know what it is yet, but the boys and I are excited. Valentine’s Day really is one of the best holidays.

However, Valentine’s Day is not the only holiday that falls on February 14th. Today is also Organ Donor Day!

I know death and health issues are not in the forefront of most of our minds, especially on a day we have committed to hearts and love and chocolate and pink (all my favorite things), but for the 114,000+ people waiting on a life-saving organ, it is always on the mind. And to the families of the 20 people who will die waiting on an organ today, it’s an important holiday.

Why should YOU be an organ donor?

1. It is easy to sign up to become an organ donor and it doesn’t cost you anything.

It’s easy to register as an organ donor. Once you make the decision to donate,

  1. Register here.
  2. Sign up the next time you renew yoru driver’s license
  3. Make sure you talk to your friends and family–especially those who would have to make decisions on your behalf–and let them know exactly what your wishes are.

Being an organ donor is completely free for you and your family.

You do not have to pay to register.

Your family will not be charged for the medical procedures needed to test or remove your organs.

I know that an organ donor does technically have to pass on to become an organ donor. And that may seem like it is asking an awful lot. Especially since many people believe that if you are a registered organ donor the doctors will not take the same efforts to save your life as they would someone else. That’s a myth. Your doctor’s responsibility is to YOU and to save YOUR life, not someone else’s. If your doctor has done all s/he can do, then what good are your organs going to do for you? Do you really need them for whatever you believe happens after we die? Can you take them or use them? So why not donate them to someone else? Let someone else have life.

Which brings us to number 2

2. Being an organ donor is a great way to help other people.

One organ donor could save up to 8 lives.

That means 8 individual people have a chance for life because of you. It means that 8 mothers keep their kids for a few more years. 8 spouses will wake up to the love of their life longer than they expected. 8 children will have their parent there for their big–and small–moments. Imagine you are one of those 8 people and how grateful you would feel for the donation of another person.

While helping others, you would also be leaving a legacy.

If you have never watched the videos or people who have heard their loved one’s heart beating in another’s chest, you should grab some tissues and search YouTube. It is so beautiful and heartwarming to see how a person lives on through their organ recipient’s life. Generally, people who receive an organ donation do not take the gift lightly. They know the sacrifice that was made for them to have a chance at life.

This is one of my favorite videos about how a man’s legacy lived on. After he was murdered during a robbery, his heart was donated. A decade later, the donor’s daughter invited the recipient to walk her down the aisle at her wedding. I’m not kidding when I say grab some tissues. I’m fighting the tears as I type.

3. Literally anyone can be an organ donor. There are no age limits.

You can’t be too young.

Yes, you have to be 18 to officially register, but you can still have the conversation with your parents or guardians that if something happens to you, you would like for your organs to be donated. There are plenty of children on the waiting list who cannot receive organs from adults. Even though I could not register until I was 18, I had the conversation with my dad when I was in middle school that if something were to happen to me I wanted my organs to be donated.

You can’t be too old either.

There is not an age limit on your organs. The doctors will test and examine your organs to determine if they are healthy enough to be transplanted. Your age has no effect on the outcome of those tests.

I know it’s not the most pleasant thing to think about on Valentine’s Day…

…but I encourage you to consider becoming an organ donor (if you haven’t already). Have the conversations with your loved ones. After all, in the words of my favorite neurosurgeon, Dr. Derek Shepherd “It’s a beautiful day to save lives.”

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30 Lessons for Adults from Kid Books

If you read my first post in my Countdown to 30 Series, then you know that I love to read and get a little over-involved in the books I love.

Even though I am turning thirty soon, which means I am becoming a real adult (not a the fake adult I’ve been for the past 12 years) does not mean I am going to give up my love for children’s literature.

In honor of my inner child, here are 30 quotes from children’s literature that contain messages, lessons, or inspiration for adults. Save them to an inspiration board on Pinterest. Refer back to them whenever you need a pick-me-up. Words are magical–and these words are some of the most magical.

For a quick reference, you can find all my Countdown posts below:

30 Quotes from Children’s Literature that Will Inspire Adults:

1. Book: The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh

Author: A.A. Milne

2. Book: Giraffes Can’t Dance

Author: Giles Andreae

3. Book: The Lorax

Author: Dr. Seuss

4. Book: Olivia

Author: Ian Falconer

5. Book: How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Author: Dr. Seuss

6. Book: Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed

Author: Mo Willems

7. Book: The Bad Beginning: Or, Orphans! A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 1

7. Book: The Bad Beginning: Or, Orphans! A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 1

Author: Lemony Snicket

8. Book: A Wrinkle in Time

Author: Madeleine L’Engle

9. Book: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Author: Judith Viorst

10. Book: The Minpins

Author: Roald Dahl

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11. Book: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Author: Lewis Carroll

12. Book: Blueberry Girl

Author: Neil Gaiman

13. Book: Charlotte’s Web

Author: E.B. White For some insightful information about the author behind Charlotte’s Web, I recommend THIS book. It’s very cute and will make you love E.B. White as an author and person.

14. Book: A Wrinkle in Time

Author: Madeleine L’Engle

15. Book: The Adventures of Huckleberry Fin

Author: Mark Twain

16. Book: A Spot of Bother

Author: Mark Haddon

17. Book: On the Night You were Born

Author: Nancy Tillman

18. Book: The Twits

Author: Roald Dahl

19. Book: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Author: J.K. Rowling

20. Book: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Author: Lewis Carroll

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21. Book: Peter Pan

Author: J.M. Barrie

22. Book: Anne of Green Gables

Author: Lucy Maud Montgomery

Anne of Green Gables is a new love for me, so this quote and the next to are from this book. Anne and I are kindred spirits.

23. Book: Anne of Green Gables

Author: Lucy Maud Montgomery

24. Book: Anne of Green Gables

Author: Lucy Maud Montgomery

25. Book: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Author: J.K. Rowling

26. Book: I Can Read with My Eyes Shut

Author: Dr. Seuss

27. Book: Where the Sidewalk Ends

Author: Shel Silverstein

28. Book: The Monster at the End of This Book

Author: Jon Stone

29. Book: Otter and Odder

Author: James Howe

30. Book: The Paper Bag Princess

Author: Robert Munsch

What are your favorite children’s books? Share in the comments!

Self Care Is Not Selfish

I am in a couple of mom groups on Facebook. A group for SAHM moms, a couple of groups for twin moms, a group for teacher moms, a group for lesbian moms, a group for parents/grandparents who do not want to raise their children in fundamentalist tradition, etc. For the most part, I have enjoyed these groups. I have learned a lot from of them and found support in so many areas. It’s truly beautiful when women come together to support and empower one another.

But there is always that one person…

Recently a person posted in the group for SAHMs looking for advice about having “Me Time”. She wants to hire a babysitter once a week to help with her babies so that she can have time to recharge and be alone and maybe for her and her husband to have dinner or see a movie together. However, her husband is very uncomfortable with the idea of someone other than one of the two of them keeping their babies. I understand. We’re picky about who can keep our boys. Several women offered ideas for how to help him become comfortable with the idea of a babysitter. They were positive, encouraging, understanding, and wonderful.

Except that one. The one who replied that “Me time ended when you became a mom” and it is “completely selfish to pawn your kid off on someone else to have me time”.

Y’all, I tried. I tried so hard to just keep scrolling.

But I know there are moms out there who really struggle to make time for themselves and now here they were being called selfish for trying and I just couldn’t let it go. I couldn’t keep going without defending all of us moms who are still people even though we have babies.

“Self care is not selfish,” I replied, “but mom-shaming is.”

I am not the kind of person who engages in Facebook arguments with strangers, so I moved on expecting that to just be the end of it. But it wasn’t. Of course Sanctimommy (a title she was given by another mom who replied to her mom-shaming comment) wasn’t “mom-shaming” she was “stating facts and truth and sometimes the truth hurts” and I “just need to face it.” She said that I was “disrespecting my SO by wasting their hard-earned money on babysitters” when that was my job.

So I politely offered some perspective.

When I became a SAHM, Steph made sure I was given time for self care and time to recharge. It wasn’t my idea. I didn’t ask for it. It was Steph’s priority. I am the most introverted introvert who ever introverted. She has seen what happens when I don’t have my alone time and she does whatever she can to prevent that from happening.

So Granny comes over a couple of days per week so I can work. I have those two days per week to teach online, do my transcription jobs, write my blog, do homework, clean the house, clean our church, or whatever else I need to do. I don’t make a ton of money, but as a recovering workaholic, I am still making some money that contributes to running our household. It helps me not feel like a bum and keeps me intellectually stimulated. It isn’t just good for me, our boys love Granny and she adores them. There is no separating them.  

Also, it is important to Stephanie that I don’t lose my identity just because I am a mom. Yes, being Mama is the most important title I have ever held and it is my first priority after Wife, but I’m still Sarah–Sarah the Writer, Sarah the Painter, Sarah the Crafter, Sarah the Dog Mom, Sarah the Friend, Sarah the Coffee Obsessed, Sarah the Super Nerd. Those aspects of me and my life didn’t vanish because I harvested human beings with my body. I am not only an incubator and caretaker. I’m a whole person. And Steph loves all of me–even the not so great parts, so she makes sure I have time to be a whole person.

I feel sad for Sanctimommy.

According to her, my need to be alone, to be intellectually stimulated, and to be a whole person means that I’m just not a good enough mom. I’m lacking and I need to step it up.

A few years ago a comment like that would have devastated me. Now I am able to say, “If that’s what keeps everyone in your house happy, then you do you. Don’t shame others for having different needs and choices.”

Friends, Self Care IS NOT SELFISH. It is necessary. It is essential.

Three Reasons Self Care is Not Selfish

1. Self care strengthens authenticity

We all wear many hats and have many roles. We are a lot of different things for a lot of different people. But if we don’t take the time to step back and care for ourselves, we lose sight of who we are.

When I was a kid I would go spend the weekend with my older sister or friends. When I came home, I would almost always get in trouble for having a bad attitude. “If you can’t have a better attitude when you come home you’re not going to be allowed to go anywhere anymore,” I was told. I was so confused because I never tried to have a bad attitude, I wasn’t trying to be nasty, I just couldn’t help it.

Now that I understand more about myself and more about child and adolescent brain development, I realize that when I came home I needed to be alone. I needed to go to my room and recharge. I had been around people for however long I had been gone and I was not only physically tired, but mentally and emotionally tired, too. What I didn’t need was to answer a thousand questions from my parents and brother or have the television blaring in my ears. I needed to recharge so that I could return to being a kind, contributing family member.

That didn’t mean that I should be punished. There should not be punitive repercussions for being an introvert or an extrovert. These traits are beyond our control.

Through the years I have tried more than once to change that I am an introvert. And every time was a disaster that left me drained. In order to be a functioning human I need to take care of myself.

Practicing authenticity through self care helps you find purpose.  

After moms, the one group (in my opinion) who receives the most criticism for practicing self-care is teachers. Teachers are treated terribly.

When I was pregnant, I almost died trying to carry my twins to term. I did not want to have them early. When I was admitted to the hospital, hooked up to monitors and IVs, I tried my best to convince anyone who would listen that I should go home and come back in a couple of weeks. Finally the doctor told me, “If we don’t get these babies out of you by Monday, all of you might not make it.” So I had an emergency c-section at 1:30 Sunday morning.

I was still in recovery when texts and calls about work began. I spent the night in labor & delivery, and by the time I moved to a mom & baby room (without my babies) Steph had taken my phone.  I was trying to recover from a major surgery, my children were in intensive care, I still couldn’t regulate my blood pressure, I was a brand new mom to twins, I could barely walk, and people were bothering me about work.

And not because they needed to. Stephanie is a teacher, who teaches the same content I did in the same district. She contacted the administration in my building and taken care of my FMLA paperwork. She had taken care of sub plans. I had entered the data they needed into a Google Sheet before I left for fall break the week before.

Teachers, like moms, are often treated like they are not allowed to be people. For real, both teacher and mom shaming can be debilitating.  

I have three main purposes in my life: be a wife, be a mom, be a teacher. Thanks to contract teaching–and the ability to practice self-care by stepping away from a full-time career–I am able to do all three of them well and with joy. I feel like my true, authentic self for the first time in years. I am overwhelmingly happy.

2. Self care cultivates empowerment

The opposite of self-care is sabotage.  Putting myself on the back burner time and time again is detrimental to my mental, physical, and emotional self.  It makes my goals and aspirations seem like nothing more than silly daydreams.  

This doesn’t mean that you won’t continue to make willing sacrifices for others, but it does mean that you create healthy boundaries.  Learning to say “no” is freeing. Practice is the only way to cultivate this type of empowerment. A healthy dose of releasing guilt also helps.

Self-care has made it possible for me to not only be honest about my dreams, but take practical steps to seeing them come to fruition.

3. Self care enables us to care for others

Self care and selfishness are motivated by different intentions. Selfishness comes from a place of how can I make my situation better for me? How can I make this benefit me? Self care comes from a place of How can I improve myself so that I am able to care for others? What can I do to be better for my family/job/friends/etc?

There is nothing wrong with realizing you need a break from your children so that you can be a better mom. There is nothing wrong with using a sick day from work to take a “mental health day”. And there is nothing wrong with telling whoever you live with “I’m going to my room and I need to be left alone for a couple of hours to recharge,” or telling your significant other, “I need a break. You’re on baby duty.” Doing these things will refresh you and allow you to return with new energy and fresh perspective.

Taking these breaks increases our productivity as we care for others

Whether you are a mom, a wife, a friend, no matter your occupation, etc. becoming a stronger, more confident person will also make you better for the ones you love.

Our first week at home with the boys was amazing. It was so wonderful to have them at home. But it was also exhausting. I was still recovering from surgery and no longer had help from medically trained nurses and doctors. Steph and I were on our own. We had to figure out how to keep the two tiniest humans I had ever seen alive all by ourselves. Between diapers and feedings, especially considering Gryffin did not like to eat and Atticus had some severe reflux, there was barely enough time to eat and use the restroom. Any time I had I chose to sleep. When my mom visited the weekend after they came home, the first thing I said was “I’m so glad you’re here. I haven’t showered since Tuesday. I’m going to take a shower and a nap.”

“Why haven’t you showered?” My mom asked.

“Because every time Steph said ‘I got this. Go take a shower or something,’ I slept instead.”

After that shower, I was a completely different person. Instead of taking a nap, I made dinner.

It was a long shower. I used my favorite shampoo and soap and lotion and put on my favorite, most comfortable sweatpants, and felt like a brand new person. It felt as though I had been recreated. I was ready to be more than a “mombie”.

And after that I was a better mom. I was better at taking care of my kids and my wife. I was a better human. All because figured out how to care for my infants and be productive because I took an hour to step away and take care of me.

Regular breaks also “fill up your love cup”

I know that sounds ridiculously cheesy. I first learned the phrase when I read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. And I thought it was cheesy then, too, but the phrase has become a regular part of my and Steph’s vocabulary.

Our sweet boys have especially taught us about filling our love cups.  They are rambunctious fifteen month olds. In those little bodies are some big emotions they aren’t always sure how to deal with.  When one of them has a melt down (starting before they could even crawl) we will pick them up and talk to them, often also saying “aw, sweet baby, your love cup was just empty.”

Now that this has become their norm we have noticed that the boys often come to us for quick snuggles whenever they are feeling overwhelmed. In those moments, they practice self care; they realize they are overwhelmed and in need of a safe space. They come to us and receive love, attention, and/or comfort, and then continue playing happily. This doesn’t keep all the melt-downs from happening, but they do happen less often and are a little less severe.

It also taught me that self-care doesn’t have to be a solitary activity. The boys come to us to “fill their love cup.” We receive as much in these moments as we give. And it strengthens our bond as a family.

Taking Care of Yourself Is Not Selfish

In a world of increasing online interaction, where tones are misconstrued, and people can hide from taking responsibility for the damage their words can cause, it is easier than ever to attack others, to shame others, or to hurt others.

No matter what you read, please remember that YOU matter. YOU are important. And you need to take care of yourself.

Self care is never selfish.

Mom shaming is.

What is your favorite way to practice self care? Share with me in the comments!

5 Reasons Our Kids Don’t Believe in Santa (and 2 Ways We Still Keep The Magic Alive)

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

I love holidays. All holidays. I love celebrating and now that I’m a mom I love it even more.

Nap time with Atticus. <3

This year I had so much fun making family Halloween costumes (You can see them here). The boys really enjoyed eating Thanksgiving food. And now, it’s Christmas. I am in love with my Christmas tree, even if all we have done so far this year is put it up–no ornaments. And Steph bought family stockings that I have been wanting for years. I have all the crafts planned and all the cooking ideas and I’ve spent way too much money on Christmas gifts. But I love it.

However, I have had a concern prickling my subconscious: Santa

I don’t want to teach my kids to believe Santa is real. And not just Santa, but the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy and that damn Elf on the Shelf, too. But at the same time I was doubting myself. What if I was stealing the magic of the holidays or the innocence of being a child by not convincing my kids to believe?

I think I may have found a solution!

There are five big reasons I don’t want to teach my kids to believe in Santa (et al)

1. I don’t want to lie to them.

I want my kids to know they can trust me with anything and everything no matter what. And I feel like if I create a foundation of dishonesty in their most formative years, I might not ever recover.

2. I’m not into bribing or manipulating my kids for good behavior.

I want them to make good choices and be good people because it’s the expectation and for the intrinsic rewards, not for gift-wrapped packages under a decorated tree. Also, I don’t want them to feel like they have to earn gifts or my love. My main love language is easily physical touch, but receiving gifts is a close second. I want to give my children gifts as an act of love and I don’t want them to ever feel like they have to do something to earn my love. I love them simply because they are mine and that will never change.

3. Santa is a creep.

He spies on kids all year long. He judges their worth. And then he breaks into their homes while they are sleeping. That does not sound fun.

Also, I’m not a huge fan of the fake Santas who pose for photos. I’m sure most of them are wonderful and have no ulterior motives. But some of them are disgusting.

I let the boys take a photo *near* Santa this year when we ran into him at a craft fair because there was no line and the photos were free.

We walked away and paused so I could get them ready to go outside and a couple of high-school-aged girls wanted to take a silly photo with Santa. The same Santa who had no problem with posing next to my stroller refused to take a photo with these girls unless they sat on his lap. They only wanted to stand next to him, but he pressured and insisted they sit on him.

The girls left without a photo, and I was furious. It was absolutely inappropriate for a grown man to insist that teen girls sit on his lap even though they made it clear that 1) they did not want to and 2) he made them uncomfortable. I worried about all the innocent children who sat on his lap throughout the day.

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4. “Santa” WAS real.

St Nicholas was orphaned when he was a teenager. His wealthy parents left him a lot of money. He heard about a man who was going to have to sell his three adult daughters into slavery because they were so poor he couldn’t afford food much less a dowry, which means they couldn’t marry. One night, the oldest daughter washed her stockings and hung them by the fire to dry. The next morning, she saw a lump in her stocking and found enough gold inside to provide food for her family and pay her dowry so she could marry instead of becoming a slave. The next morning, another bag of gold was found. The third night, the father stayed awake to catch who was helping his family. When he was discovered, Nicholas asked the father to not tell anyone about his deeds.

St. Nicholas helped people throughout his whole life, and he always tried to help in secret. He didn’t want attention or thanks. I feel like it is more important to teach the spirit of Santa Claus/Christmas/St Nicholas is one of generosity and giving that should last all year long and not just during December.

5. I do not want to negatively affect my kids’ faith.

Religion is a tricky subject. I want to teach my children about my spirituality and faith. I want to teach them about the saints and Advent and the 12 Days of Christmas, and Epiphany, and Lent–all things I didn’t really know anything about until I was an adult. Some of them I had never even heard of until I was an adult.

And I want them to know it is okay to question. They do not have to choose the same religious belief system I have chosen–I won’t force that on them. But if I trick them into believing in mythical creatures and people when they are children, then later when they are questioning whether God is real or sovereign then what validity is there in anything I could say?

What will we do instead? Two Things

1. Giving

We will share with our kids what being a gift giver really means and how to promote the magic of Christmas by creating a spirit of thankfulness and giving and family tradition.

I love giving gifts, and I think I’m pretty good at choosing meaningful ones. I love making gifts (handmade gifts are my favorite to receive!). We will make an effort to teach our kids how much fun it is to give thoughtful gifts. We will demonstrate thankfulness in all seasons and conditions. And we will always focus on family and togetherness as most important not only during the holiday season, but all year.

2. Pretending

We will still do all the Santa things (and Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny) but we will tell the kids “This is something that we (children and adults) pretend because it is fun.”

Does tricking our kids into believing in Santa inspire creativity? No. Can we encourage creative thought and play and still be truthful? Yes. Imagining that Santa exists and believing that he really does are two completely different things.

So we will still bake cookies for Santa (peanut butter, because they’re my favorite) and we will still write him letters (duh. With two English teacher moms they’ll probably write several drafts of each letter). We will still read books about Santa (and St. Nicholas). We will still fill their stockings after they go to sleep on Christmas Eve. On Easter they will still wake up to Easter baskets. When they lose teeth they will still find glittery money under their pillows from the Tooth Fairy. But they are always going to know that we are all pretending these fun things together. Moms pretend to be the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy.

I know this isn’t ideal for everyone.

And that’s okay. I promise I will ask my kids not to tell the truth to other kids before I send them to school. But I am very much looking forward to building traditions with my family that include fun, love, and happiness for all of us.

What is your favorite holiday tradition from your childhood? What is your favorite tradition you celebrate with your kids? Tell me in the comments!

Inspirational Dream Journal

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6 Ways to Overcome Self Doubt and Follow Your Dreams

I once heard someone say something like “If you ever notice your preacher discussing the same topic often, it’s most likely because he/she struggles with that topic.” I’m certainly not a preacher, but the concept applies to me today.

Self doubt is definitely my greatest hurdle. As I mentioned in my “About Me”, I have always wanted to start a blog. I even made a feeble attempt once before. I had no idea what I was doing (still don’t) and was way too intimidated to actually share the URL with anyone (that still scares me). BUT ten years after that disastrous attempt…I am trying again. Self doubt is coursing hard through my veins. I don’t know if it ever really goes away altogether, but I have learned how to push it aside, set goals, and make an effort to overcome it! These are the six things I recommend doing when self-doubt tries to take over.

1) Forget about what everyone else thinks of you.

I started with the hardest one first. I say all the time that I don’t care what people think about me–and I mean it. There is no way I would have survived 8 years as a teacher if I worried about popularity.

But what I mean when I say that I don’t care what people think about me is that I don’t care if people like me or not, but I do care about how people perceive  me. It’s okay for people to disagree with me, but for someone to judge me or weigh my worth makes me a big ball of nerves.

The intersection at the end of our street is busy, and I often have to make a left turn. I stress out when someone pulls into the turn lane behind me. I squirm in my seat, my palms sweat, my heart races. What if I could have gone then? My brain says. What if they are getting frustrated because I am taking too long? Being perceived as a competent driver by these strangers suddenly becomes more important to me than driving safely.

I had to delete TimeHop from my phone because I was so embarrassed by the stupid things I posted on Facebook ten years ago. I was an embarrassingly pretentious teenager. And when I think about that, my mind starts racing. What if I am still obnoxiously pretentious and I just don’t realize it? What if no one tells me? Worse, what if someone DOES tell me? What if I accidentally embarrass someone else with something I write? What if I misrepresent myself to the entire world?  I just shouldn’t do it.

See how easily it gets out if hand? I allow my concern for how others think of me cripple my ambition. And here’s a truth: others are a lot less concerned with you than you think. When I let the opinions of others go, I am able to work toward my goals. It’s easier said than done, I know, but it is possible. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this now.

2) Give others the benefit of the doubt.

This goes hand-in-hand with number 1, but when someone does give you positive feedback, believe it. When someone offers constructive criticism, accept it graciously and use it for growth, but don’t stew on it.

When I first met my wife, I assumed she had ulterior motives in everything she did. After all, that’s what many of my previous friendships and relationships had been like. I had built this huge wall around me and I was trying to keep everyone else out. Otherwise I was nothing more than someone who could be used.

One day she finally said to me, “Unless I give you evidence otherwise, assume I want what is best for you.” I remember the moment clearly. We were in her car and were on the brink of an argument because I had to do something for work, and I was stressed out and refusing help because why would she help me? How was helping me going to benefit her? It seemed completely counter-intuitive to just believe that she wanted what was best for me, but in rearranging my mindset to believe it, I have learned that she truly does want what is best for me. All the time.

And in learning to trust that my wife has good intentions, I have learned to give the benefit of doubt to others.

When strangers or acquaintances try to talk to me now, I don’t get shy am still super shy, but I make more of an effort to hold conversations. I assume they are genuinely being friendly and not targeting me. I’ve made more friends as a result. I’ve made quality friends as a result. In a few weeks, I am officially leaving the “real” work force to be a stay-at-home/work-from-home mom. I am over-the-moon excited, but I am also very sad that I will not be seeing my friends every day. I have grown close to some incredible people.

Sometimes I am still not so great at this.

We only have our yard mowed every other week because 1) I’m not going to mow it and 2) we can only afford every other week. A man stopped outside our house the other day and rang our doorbell (he better be glad the babies weren’t sleeping!) to give us his business card for his lawn mowing service. My replies were something like, “So my yard looks bad? Your yard looks bad. Your MOM’s yard looks bad!” (Don’t worry. I was talking to the babysitter. The wifey answered the door).

There’s no way I would have ever found a way to actually attempt this blog thing if I still allowed myself to be paranoid about other people. To me, this is a lot of vulnerability and opening myself to a lot of judgement. Rearranging my mind to believe the best in others–and myself–made it possible.

3) Surround yourself with positive people.

Repeat after me, it is okay to be choosy about who you let in your inner circle.

My friend Kelly explained life to me like this: Imagine your life is a production, but YOU get to decide who attends the show. When someone buys a ticket to a show, the people in the front usually have more interaction and are more involved–they’re closer so they can see better and hear more. So, your life is a production. Not everyone gets a ticket. You’re in charge of who does and who doesn’t, and you decide where those guests sit. YOU decide who is in your front row and involved in your life, and you decide who observes from the back, and you decide who isn’t invited at all

It is okay to cut toxic people from your life. It is okay to cut people who are not necessarily toxic, but expect more from you than they are willing to give back to you, or who expect you to give more of yourself than is healthy for you. Your mental, emotional, and physical health are important and it is okay to value your health. And allowing self-doubt is not good for your emotional health or mental health. Anyone who is holding you back from believing in yourself needs to be moved to the nosebleed section or escorted out. (And did you notice I did not specify that you could/should only cut friends? Sometimes family can be the most toxic people. You are not a bad person if you limit them, too.)

Most productions are not a one show deal.

They sell tickets multiple times. You might have to show someone out for a while, but that doesn’t mean they can never get a seat again.

Surround yourself with positive people and a quality cheering section. When you’re feeling down, when self-doubt is sneaking in, call them and let them become your inner voice. My front row makes me feel like I can take on the world.

4) Don’t be afraid to be yourself.

You might not know this yet, but I am funny. Like, super funny. But I am also socially awkward and often lost in my own head and a little uncouth so sometimes people don’t understand that I am funny. Give it time. You’ll warm up to my humor.

I read others’ blogs and think Man, I wish I was funny like her/him! But if I was, I wouldn’t be me. I need to find and use my voice, and it’s okay if others don’t like who I am. (See number 1 above) 

5) Find some inspiration.

Find a quote, Bible verse, or mantra that you can repeat to yourself to motivate you to keep going. My personal favorite quote is one my middle school choir teacher made us all memorize:

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” -Aristotle

I’m not going to be an awesome mom or kick-ass wife or successful blogger if I allow myself to drown in self-doubt. Excellence is a habit. If I am going to succeed I have to strive for excellence until it comes naturally.

You can get ideas for a personal mantra in many places. Google inspirational quotes, do a Pinterest search, or, if you’re religious, look for Bible verses that encourage you.

Don’t overthink this and don’t overlook it.

Words are powerful. Albus Dumbledore says that words are “our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.” Find words that remedy your self-doubt and cling to them.

6) To quote Nike, “Just Do It.”

Whatever it is you want to accomplish–just go for it. If you never try, you’ll never know. 

I have no idea right now if I will be a successful blogger, but it’s worth a shot, so I’m going to do it.

What are YOUR tried and true methods for battling self-doubt? Share them in the comments!

Knowing and following your dreams is not for the faint of heart. It is hard to honestly evaluate yourself and assess your possibilities Click below receive a download for this FREE 28 Day Inspirational Journal. Use it to take a few minutes each day to focus on YOU. Read the inspirational quote and the daily prompt to reflect on who you are and where you are headed.

Inspirational Dream Journal
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