How I’m Dealing With Stress

Since I still haven’t found the rhythm to our life at our new house, I haven’t been writing or video blogging as consistently as I used to. In a momentary fit of procrastination, I sat down yesterday and recorded a short vlog about a recent epiphany I had regarding the “stresses” in my life. Maybe you can relate.

Oftentimes, when I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed, I think it’s my perspective that’s the problem. Rather than seeing the many blessings in my life, I see to-dos, and obligations, and unmet expectations. Remembering that each thing is truly a blessing has really helped me relax, and rediscover joy in my day-to-day activities.

Hope you all are well! And I really, really hope to find my rhythm again soon. Call me boring, but I sure do love having a routine.

xoxo, mj

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Let’s be friends!

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All The Good Ones Aren’t Taken: A Letter to Single Ladies

All The Single Ladies

“All the good ones are taken.” If you’re a single gal, or you’ve ever been a single gal, you’ve either A) said this yourself, or B) heard another single gal say it, and nodded your head in agreement. (Maybe even adding a sassy little “Mmm-Hmm.”)

Well, it’s not true. And? It’s offensive.

All The Single Fellas

I, personally, know of several upstanding, successful guys, who have been single for at least a year, minimum. Why? Because they’re waiting for the “right” lady to come along, and aren’t interested in dating, just for the sport of it. You heard me right: they are not looking for a hookup. They are looking for the real-deal. “Single, mature young men, without commitment issues? Openly looking for a long-term relationship?” They are not unicorns, ladies; they are real, and when you hear what they have to say, maybe you’ll think twice about all of that “all the good ones are taken” business. (Before I go too far, what I have to say is aimed at Christian young women, but regardless of your spiritual beliefs, the struggle I’ve described is universal, and is worth some consideration.)

Let me share with you something that a male reader recently wrote me, in regards to 50 Shades of Grey and Magic Mike (don’t worry, I have his permission to post this quote):

It is hard enough being expected to be a respectful, godly, and upstanding man on one hand, and seeing the women that we are interested in often fall for the exact opposite of what they say they want. But it is completely maddening to see women fall for the same type of cheap objectification and destructive appeals to venal human nature that men have been plagued by for generations, and to have that celebrated as progress rather than being viewed for what it truly is: degrading for both the producer and the consumer.

Hindsight is 20-20

When I read this, I got so frustrated, not because it’s not true, but because I see it happening all around me. I WAS one of those girls, falling for the exact opposite of what I said I wanted. Honestly, his comment was simultaneously a slap-in-the-face, and a push forward. Immediately I was confronted with visions of my past-self, and I figure that two or three of you out there might be able to relate, so allow me to get real vulnerable, real fast.

Facing visions of my past-self is always difficult. It’s getting easier, but I can’t help but hurt for young-me. How many times had I compromised myself in an attempt to win the affection of someone that was totally undeserving? How many times had I turned my back on what I knew was right, just because I wanted some cute guy to think I was cool? How many times had I made myself ultimately vulnerable to a guy who I knew wasn’t interested in me in a “real” way? (All the while griping about how “all the good ones are taken.”) Looking back on it, I see that I was looking to other people to define my value, rather than knowing my value, and standing firm on it. In retrospect, I thank God that he didn’t introduce me to my husband in that season of my life, because I hadn’t even become myself yet. I feel like God was waiting for me to get my act together before he’d deliver me a “good one.”

A Disposable Heart

If you allow an unworthy guy to define your value, do you know what your value will be? Zero. Nothing. Less than nothing. Disposable. And that’s exactly how I felt. And when you allow yourself to be treated as if you’re disposable, you begin to believe that you are disposable, so that when you do cross-paths with a really amazing, godly guy, you will not feel worthy of his affection. Not only that, but I’m convinced guys have a sixth-sense about this kind of thing; they can “smell” when a girl doesn’t value herself, and generally, they keep their distance. Like I said, the “good ones” are looking for the real-deal. Are you preparing yourself for that, or are you caught-up in pursuing guys who will ultimately treat you like you’re disposable? When you meet a “good one,” will he see a girl who knows her value and stands firm on it, or will he see a girl exhausted from chasing down the shadows of her self-worth?

(Some quick questions: If you are identifying with me at all right now: do you see the extent to which this cycle is damaging your ability to begin and maintain new, lasting relationships? Are you ready to dramatically shift your way of thinking? What will it take for you to be ready?)

Maybe all of the “good ones” aren’t taken. Maybe you’re blind to them, because you’re involved with a bad crowd. Or maybe they’re blind to you, because they’re looking for a girl with maturity and self-respect, and a solid foundation.

I know these might sound like harsh words, but here’s the thing: I know how you feel, because I have been there. Maybe I’m subconsciously writing this to my past-self, because the fact of the matter is that no one in my life was telling me the truth about this kind of stuff. (Even some distant stranger’s voice from across the Internet would have been better than nothing.) So I figured it out on my own, and was completely obliterated along the way, and eventually came back to square one: where, and what is my identity?

Living In The Tension

Before we get there, let’s address a very real tension that exists for women: from day one, many (most?) of us feel “less than,” as compared to women in the media. Many of us had fathers who openly lusted after women that the culture deemed worthy (or our fathers flat-out abandoned us), and though that’s not the only cause, it’s one reason why many women feel that they NEED to be more like women “of the world” than women of God. We’ve seen our fathers, step-fathers, church leaders, political officials, etc live in a way that says they place more value on “worldly women” than godly women. And over time it has caused many of us to harden our hearts, and choose to live in a way that says “Oh yeah? Well two can play at this game.” (Therapist-types call this “acting out.”)

Whose Am I?

No matter how hard you push back, nothing you do will ever undo anything that has happened to you. It won’t bring your father back; it won’t restore your trust in men. All “acting out” does do is move you further and further away from the truth, and build massive walls around your heart. It prevents you from healing, from growing up, and from moving forward. What’s left, after all of this trauma and subsequent acting-out, is a population of young women who have very little of their identity rooted in God, and most of it rooted in their worldly value.

Reversing this cycle of brokenness, claiming your identity in God, and discovering your real value takes time. But just in case you’re thinking you can cut corners and “fix it” as soon as you meet Mr. Right, let me prepare you: I’ve seen it happen so many times (I’m one of them) where a “worldly” Christian girl meets a godly guy, and changes her tune SO FAST. Suddenly she believes in modesty, purity, the whole shebang. The problem is that she is doing it to win a man’s heart, and once that has happened, she no longer has an identity. She has abandoned her worldly ways (which often means severing ties with poisonous friends), but has no identity in God; usually the relationship fails because she gets drawn back into “the world,” and the guy leaves, or she puts her identity in the relationship, and that scares the guy away. Then he leaves, she feels betrayed by (yet another) man, and the cycle repeats itself.

This cycle might be the greatest tragedy facing the young women of my generation, and the next generation, and it breaks my heart.

And lest I forget to mention them: I do know that there are young women out there who do have their identity firmly rooted in the love of God their father, alone. They are beautiful in their security, and they are choosing not to approach dating as a sport. They are serving God with their time and talent, thereby blessing their future husband and future family with a life spent in truth and light. And what an example they are to those around them!

Decisions, and Moving Forward

It is never too late to choose to begin making right decisions, and there is no shame in recognizing your mistakes, turning your back on them, and starting fresh. And depending on what, exactly, you’ve been through, I highly recommend seeing a therapist*. Most insurance plans have coverage for therapy, and it will cost you a minimal amount of money.

I would love to see a real call-to-action for change in this regard. I have this vision of fathers who have blown-it coming forward and confessing to God, and then to their daughters, and of daughters choosing forgiveness and allowing God to soften their hearts, and confessing themselves to their Father in heaven. It’s beautiful, but I’m not sure it’s realistic. It’d be amazing if we all reconciled with our fathers, but in real-life we often have to choose forgiveness, even if the other person hasn’t seen their error. Even if the other person isn’t apologetic. And it’s hard, but it’s worth it.

Does any of this resonate with you, or am I just shouting into the wind, here? Though I wouldn’t wish anyone to go through the kind of junk I put myself through in my late teens/early 20s, I think one of the reasons it all happened is so that I can share my experiences with others, for their benefit. From that perspective, I’m very happy everything happened as it did, and I hope you were able to glean something from my experiences.

As always, feel free to say whatever you want in the comments below. 🙂

xoxo,

mj

PS- Well after posting this, I was brushing my teeth and remembered this verse in Proverbs 31 (sorry to trot out Proverbs 31 :/). It’s verses 11 and 12: “Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.” (Emphasis mine.) For some reason I never understood that ALL means ALL. That means she brings her husband good and not harm before she ever meets him. So simple, but so profound. 🙂

*A quick note on therapy: Therapy was able to provide me with the tools I needed to understand what I had been through, and cope with it on an intellectual level. I couldn’t have healed if not for therapy. But even after therapy, my heart still didn’t feel right. I was bitter, and cynical, and couldn’t seem to forgive. Therapy was only one big piece of the puzzle, but the other piece was God. God was able (and continues) to restore and revive my heart. He has, as the cliché goes “created beauty from ashes.” I could not be the person, wife and mother that I am today if not for the work God did in my heart, and the work he continues to do in my heart. (I put it in bold because I am that serious.)

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Let’s be friends!

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So This is Love? (Follow-up to 50 Shades of Magic Mike)

I’m sitting here at my computer, collecting my thoughts, and on the surface, everything is exactly the same as it was yesterday. Same feeling of disapproval when I look at my face in the mirror (explanation). Same anxiety about leaning into the words that have been put on my heart. Heck, I’m even drinking from the same coffee cup (I washed it, don’t worry).

But below the surface, I’m overwhelmed. I’m completely humbled by the incredible outpouring of love and support I’ve received from strangers.

You know, when I first sat down to get that 50 Shades/Magic Mike post out, I’m going to be honest: it felt as if I was unloading a burden. I didn’t write it so much to please God, as to get him off of my back. (I wish I could say I had more righteous intentions.) I put off writing it for several days, but whenever I’d sit down to blog, or work on my book, or email a friend, I couldn’t write the words I wanted to write, because the whole 50 Shades/MM thing kept bubbling up. So late one night, annoyed that I couldn’t get any “real” work done, I finally addressed the issue that had been niggling at me for the past week. And I am so glad that I did.

God is Proving a Point

It is interesting, how even in the community of believers, one can feel so alone. At least, that’s my experience. I didn’t see much purpose in writing that post, beyond showing God that I was willing to let him interrupt my plans, even though I didn’t see a real point in it. (Though I’m well-known in my field, outside the tech-world, I’m nobody special, so the its not like anyone was going to read it anyway.) And in hindsight, I wonder if God’s purpose for me wasn’t necessarily just to address the 50 Shades/MM issue, but to show me that I’m not alone. That there are sisters (and brothers) all around me, and that I don’t have to feel so isolated.

So thank you. And “thank you” are pretty measly words, compared to how I feel. I am so grateful to each of you who has extended herself/himself in support, and has encouraged me to continue saying “yes” to God’s “interruptions.” You have blessed me immensely, and God is using you to prove a point to me: I can trust that I am not alone. I can find community and love in a group of people who used to intimidate me. A group that I used to openly despise. (Maybe sometime I’ll talk about my pre-Christian life a bit. What a change.) That I’ve been adopted by such a father, into such a family, moves me to tears. What a beautiful, beautiful gift that I absolutely do not deserve.

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This is not to say that there has not been resistance. I knew when I wrote it that it was not going to please everyone (and would probably upset some), but should pleasing people be my primary concern? Like so many people, I place too much value in how others regard me, and I often prioritize others’ comfort to a fault. Saying “yes” to the words that were placed on my heart was a way of willfully pushing myself out of my comfort zone, recognizing my error in allowing others’ opinions of me to dictate my identity, and deciding to place my security in the opinion of my Father alone. And it was hard. And just because I did it one time, doesn’t mean that it’s over. I’m afraid and excited that in this regard, my journey has only just begun.

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Feel-goods aside, I’ve learned a lot from the spectrum of responses I’ve received.

  • We can turn nasty when our earthly desires are threatened.
  • We are prone to justifying behaviors to satisfy our ideas of what is good, rather than God’s.
  • Many people have said that admonishment of wrong behavior is “why they left the church.”

“It’s people like you that caused me to leave the church.”

That third point, “Many people claim that admonishment of wrong behavior is “why they left the church,”” is an interesting one. I can see a lot of myself in that statement. Like I said earlier, even in the community of believers, I often feel alone. There is a lot that bugs me about Christians; some of it is vestigial frustration from my pre-Christian experiences, but some of it is rooted in legitimate concern. Probably the greatest factor that has influenced me to stay in the church over the past several years is that at one point I realized that authentic faith is not rooted in one’s feelings about Christians; deep, meaningful, authentic faith is rooted in one’s love for God their Father. 

If your faith is tied up in people-pleasing, and following rules in order to be accepted by people, your faith is in trouble. I used to resent Christians, because I didn’t feel like I needed to live a certain way in order for God to love me. And that’s the truth. God loves you, no matter what. But here’s the thing: if you believe that God, your Father, loves you, and only wants the best for you, it follows that you would, out of respect and love for Him, do your best to live in a way that honors Him, and brings glory to his name. It is IMPOSSIBLE to be happy living that life if you are looking to others for validation. So many of us have tried doing just that, and failed miserably.

So to those of you who would say that being admonished by other believers is pushing you away from God, I encourage you to reorganize your priorities, and begin making decisions through the lens of God your Father. If you love God, seek after Him, and his will, and his purpose for your life. It will follow naturally that you will make decisions based on His approval alone. (Though that doesn’t make those decisions easy.) Once that becomes your new normal, I believe you will have a whole new perspective on admonishment from other believers.

God, The Dictator

If you’re trying to live under God without loving him, or without knowing his love for you, you’re missing out entirely, and you’re going to feel like you’re beating your head against a wall. If you feel as if God your Father is demanding, and oppressive, and you’re constantly struggling to please him, you’re not getting it, and my prayer for you is that something will happen that will reveal God’s overwhelming love for you, because it will change your life.

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Thank you, again, for encouraging me, and for correcting me that sharing God’s truth doesn’t have to be “quick, like a bandaid,” (my words), but “loud, and clear, like a trumpet call” (words of a particularly inspiring commenter.

I love you. I really do. And that’s the first time I’ve ever felt that for our big, crazy, sometimes loud-mouthed family. (Even though there are a few of you that fall into the “crazy uncle” category, and a few of you who I’m SURE would argue with me about politics over the Thanksgiving turkey.) 🙂

So this is brotherly love, huh? It’s a whole new world.

Xoxo,

mj

The Tension Between Crossing-Off Tasks and Achieving Ambitions

In case you’ve noticed, I’m taken a small break from my “Summer of 7” project. Actually, if I’m being honest, I’m reevaluating its value. One week is not long enough to change habits, neither is it long enough to impress enough discomfort on me that I’ll really learn anything. Not trying to be a negative-Nancy here, but I’ve been thinking a lot about how much I can actually do, and what’s worth doing, and what’s better left undone, and that’s all to say that I’m not sure I see the heart-changing value in altering my habits for a week, and then devoting time to writing about it.

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You can tell that I’m writing more because there’s laundry, unfolded, from a week ago, just sitting on the back of our couch. And basically none of our possessions are where they should be. Our home isn’t “dirty” in an unsanitary way, but it is disorganized, and that makes me feel a little wife/mom-guilty. At the same time, I’m grateful to be married to an English teacher who happens to love that I’m writing more, thinks that I’m really excellent at it, and isn’t bothered at all that my craft supplies (the ones I used to make the Instagram Magnets about a week ago) are still on our dining room table. He’s a saint. The guilt is all mine.

I want our home to be in a state that, if someone were to randomly drop by, I wouldn’t have to apologize for any messes. I could breezily offer our surprise-guest a cool drink (cucumber-mint water!), and we’d sit and chat on my front lawn, admiring my tiny garden. But to do that, I’d have to be tidying the house right now, and fixing cucumber-mint water, not writing. I’d have to be weeding right now, or vacuuming, or dusting, all of which are things I want to be done, but I don’t want to sacrifice my time in doing them. Not when I could be writing. I’ll try and jam it all in, once I post this, but you and I both know that they’re not all going to happen. And what about my other commitments?

Choosing what I will and will not devote my time to is harder than I expected it would be. Nothing is easy to cut back on; everything I want to be doing is good stuff. It’s not as if I’m watching television, or playing video games or something.

So I guess what I’m saying is that if you come over to my house, and all I have to drink is regular old water, and there’s laundry still sitting on the back of the couch, it’s because I’m doing something that I think is more valuable. I’m spending time with Elle, swimming, or playing at the park, or drawing on the sidewalk with chalk. I’m writing (sometimes) pretty words about beautiful things, or ugly words about tragic things, or regular old words about regular old things. I’m spending time talking with my husband, and learning more and more about what makes him tick. I’m serving my church, building blogs and maintaining social media presences. I’m pushing for greater cultural awareness regarding unsustainable design in technology, and its effects on people and the environment. Bigger things than laundry. Bigger things than dusting. And, finally, I’m not afraid to say it.

Photo Ops With Role Models (Me & Donald Miller)

I spent Friday and Saturday at Storyline Conference at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, CA, and it completely messed with my head. I’ll write at length about it later this week, but right now, it’s bragging-time:

Melissa Jenna Godsey and Donald Miller

You know, just hanging out with Donald Miller. No big deal.

So, yeah. That happened. Don’t know who that is? That, friends, is Donald Miller, author of some books, including one called “Blue Like Jazz,” which you pretty much need to read if you’re going to continue calling yourself a friend of mine.

There we are, all buddy-buddy friend-like. Two peas in a pod, me and Don. Contemporaries. Peers. Amigos.

Reality: All of my courage dripped out of my feet while I was waiting to speak with him, so when our time finally came, my voice was the volume of a child’s whisper, and I never said any of the things I had planned to say in my head while I was waiting in line. He signed my book, we took a picture, and that was that.

The only solution is to Internet-stalk him until I get the courage to actually express myself. Right?

Sigh. I admit my embarrassing dorkiness to you all because I love you. Because it’s totally okay to be a dork. Because even the most chatty people we know freeze-up once in awhile.

How to Be Joyful When Nothing is Perfect

Dude. Life is so good, isn’t it? I feel like I’m living in the sweet-spot lately, and it’ll be nice, when October rolls around, to look back at days like today and remember that I’m capable of being this joyful. I’d say “happy,” but to me, “happy” is to “joyful,” what “pretty” is to “beautiful,” you know what I mean? And yes, while I am “happy,” more than that, I’m deep-down-in-my-bones joyful, and that’s a whole other thing entirely.

Melissa Jenna and Ellie Godsey

We just got done swimming and were giddy from all the excitement.

Am I saying nothing is wrong or bothering me? Absolutely not. There are plenty of things that aren’t the way they would be “in a perfect world,” and a few situations that I would wave a magic-wand over if I could. (You guys: the first time I typed that sentence, I typed “magic wang.” And then I snickered like a twelve year old boy.) But, and I think this is the trick to “joy” versus “happiness” (if I may be so bold as to claim that I “get” joy): those temporary things do not matter, and I know it. Like, more than head-know-it, I heart-know-it. And, at least for me, it doesn’t matter how much I “head-know” something; if I don’t “heart-know” it, it might as well not even be true.

I’m joyful in my housework, and errands, and snail-hunting (garden’s full of ’em), and in swimming with my kiddo, and my silly little blog, and sharing dinner with my husband. And in probably the darkest, most psychologically upsetting circumstance of my life (my mother “disowned” me over a year ago, and continues to remain divorced from me and my family to this day), guess what? I’m joyful. It’s electric.

Past versions of myself would be ears-deep in depression right now, looking for a thing or a person to throw myself into, to lose myself in the midst of my anguish and multiply pain upon pain. But that person died, and continues to die over and over again, as my present and future self continues to be reborn. (My husband would call this “circling upward, rather than just going in circles.”) It’s amazing, and beautiful, and I’d say “unbelievable,” except that I have to believe it, because I am living it.

Do I “get” it? Why I have this deep wellspring of joy? I mean, why me, and not so many others? I certainly don’t “deserve” it. I wish I could give it away to everyone I know, but if I tried, I’d hand them a box, and they’d open it, and it’d be empty. Because the source of my joy isn’t a thing I can contain, or a thing I can impart on anyone, no matter how much I want to share it; the source of my joy has always been, and will always be, and is right there in front of each of our faces, just waiting, patiently, to be noticed.

But many of us are so focused on other things, red-herrings of joy, that we miss it, that plain, soft-spoken voice that patiently calls to us. We peruse those red-herrings, and each time we realize that the source of joy that we’re chasing is inauthentic, a phony, we simply begin chasing another red-herring. I did that for years. Some people do it for a lifetime. How exhausting. How depressingly and frustratingly exhausting. Why not consider giving up the chase? Take a break, and examine that patient voice that is waiting to be heard. You’ve got nothing to lose. And trust me, the red-herring chase will be there if you decide you want to go back to it.

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I really didn’t mean to get all spiritually weird on you with this one. I honestly just sat down to explain that the reason I didn’t follow any of the “Seven Sacred Pauses” for my “Summer of 7” today, was because I am so gosh darned joyful, that that book was actually messing me up in a bad way. (And that, my friends, is called burying the lede.)

This is seriously not a cop-out: the book was screwing with my biorhythms, okay? I had to put it down. So today, to remain faithful to cutting out the excess stress in my life (per my “Summer of 7” requirement), instead of obeying the “Seven Sacred Pauses,” once Ellie went down for her nap, I did my housework, then laid on my front lawn in my bathing suit and listened to an audio book. AND I FEEL NO GUILT.

I smell like warm Hawaiian Tropic and sweat, and I couldn’t be more joyful.

So there.

xoxo, mj

Oh, one more thing. Storyline Conference in TWO days! I am pretty gosh darn excited. You know who wrote a funny thing about Storyline? Jamie, The Very Worst Missionary, that’s who. Never read her? You’ll love her, trust me. See you soon, Westmont!

Dating and Business

So I often do the Internetty part of my job from a coffee shop that I adore (Sally Loo’s in San Luis Obispo, by the train station. Go to there. It’s the bombest.), and typically it’s filled with young women chatting in small groups. No joke, every time I’m there, I overhear a conversation about a recent date/crush encounter, and often, the story ends sadly. I simultaneously want to hug them and tell them that they’ll probably not even remember that loser’s name in five years, while thanking my blessed stars that I’m not in the dating pool anymore.

I’ll be honest: I’ve had some awesome dating experiences. Based on smallish sampling of guys that I let take me on dates, there are a lot of interesting, handsome, thoughtful, hard-working, gentlemanly fellas out there. A lot of mamas have raised their boys rights.

BUT. I have also had some miserable dating experiences. I’m sure I don’t need to give you details, because you’ve all seen a romantic comedy before. I remember thinking, after some dates, that all men are dogs, and that I’d be better off being single forever.

That all being said, for the good and the bad of dating, I am so happy to be happily married. I do not envy the dating crowd. I want to tell all these love-sick girls at Sally Loo’s that it will be okay. You will get over it. Everything will work out exactly the way it should.

———————————–Another thought entirely———————————–

Part of my job is keeping my eyes peeled for people and organizations to collaborate with in a manner that is mutually beneficial. Inviting someone to collaborate on a project is SO MUCH like asking someone on a date, or wanting to be asked on a date. There are the people who passive-agressively hint that they might be interested in collaborating on “something” “sometime,” and then there’s me, who’s all “hey, we should get together and do a video!”

Some people are too cool for school. I am not one of them.

If I’m into your work, or I love your company’s mission, I will tell you. Probably over and over again. I’m over-eager. I’ve found this to be just as off-putting in a business relationship as it was when I was dating, unless I’m dealing with a woman. Women (GENERALLY) love to be excited for each other. I can’t speak for everyone, but when I meet a new friend and we immediately “click,” I’m all up on my phone, texting my husband “I met a new friend and she is TOTALLY AWESOME!” And when a girlfriend of mine has some good news, I love sharing it with them. What’s more fun that celebrating something together? (This by the way, is why I agreed to join my “Summer of 7” blogging group. None of my So7 sisters are afraid of being “too excited” by our project, or about each other. It’s so. totally. rad.)

Anyway, in that way, collaborating with men, or rather, inviting men to collaborate, reminds me so much of what I didn’t like about dating. Can’t seem too eager. Can’t seem too excited. Can’t seem to be too into the project. Like, I want to work with you, but you know, whatever, no rush or anything.

HOW LAME.

Let’s be excited for a new partnership! Let’s talk about how we can help each other out! Let’s DO A THING rather than talking about “maybe doing a thing together sometime.”

I’m not looking for a collaborative partnership in which we stay up all night braiding each other’s hair, and make-up skits about the mean girls at school, but I am looking for one in which we give each other permission to be into it, you know? Permission to be excited.

SO. If you wanna do a thing together sometime, maybe tweet at me or something. Whatever. No pressure.
OR, if you wanna get together and hash out how we can talk each other’s work up, and introduce our audiences to each other’s awesomeness, let’s go get coffee, like, right now! Can’t wait!
xoxo, mj

Best Books For Young Girls?

Is this a thing for little girls?

I’ve mentioned this a few times in the past, but growing up, I was never a girly-girl. I imagine that this has less to do with my inclination to “girly” things, as it does with the fact that I didn’t really have the means/relationships/security to develop that aspect of myself. I spent a great deal of time by myself, and my volatile family situation made it hard to make friends, or meet people outside of my immediate family. When I was in my late teens/early twenties, I brushed this off as an inconsequential fact of my childhood. Would I really ever care that I didn’t get the “typical” girl experience? And wasn’t I better off for not having that whole gender-identity thing shoved down my throat? Yes…and no.

Here I am now, inching towards my twenty-ninth birthday (which is about a decade longer than I expected to live), married, and with a daughter of my very own. And it wasn’t until I was married and had a child that I started to get the feeling that I was missing something.

I remember several instances when we were planning our wedding that my husband (then fiancé) would ask me for my opinion (music, food, etc), and I didn’t have a preference one way or another. It wasn’t that I didn’t care, it’s just that I had never put much thought into it, and in the end, we were going to be married regardless of which band played, or whether we had a wedding cake or wedding cupcakes. I’m not trying to say that being ambivalent with regards to one’s wedding preparations makes one “less of a woman,” but I am using that as an example of how little preparation or comprehension I had for what “normal” women are like. Most women (certainly not all), have, you know, some clue as to what they’d like their wedding to be like. What their dream house looks like. What they might name their children. Whether or not they’d even like to have children. Those sorts of things. And I had nothin’. (Which, in many ways, made my wedding totally awesome. Lowest maintenance bride ever, this one.)

But here’s the thing: growing up with so little attention paid to my gender, and yes, my gender identity (as much as people seem to hate the very idea of “gender identity”) and having so many negative examples of femininity ingrained in me from such a young age, made my young adulthood ridiculously difficult to navigate, and has left me totally unprepared for many aspects of my life as a wife, mother and maker of my home. Don’t get me wrong: I make up for it. I read a LOT. A LOT a lot. And I discuss. And I argue both sides of things to myself to discover how I actually feel about *breastfeeding/cloth diapering/vaccinations/preschools/etc. But none of this comes naturally, the way it seems to for women who were raised to be women (whatever that means). Sure, it’s not “easy” for anyone, really (life as a mostly stay-at-home-mom has been the toughest “job” of my life), but some women just seem so…natural, you know? I chalk it up to all those years they spent pushing their dolls around in strollers and playing house. OF COURSE their houses are beautifully decorated, they’ve been planning it since they were five years old! 🙂

I could go on and on about my perceived deficiencies, but that’s not the point here. The point (yes, there is one!) is that I don’t know what books to make my kid read. Can you believe it? Four paragraphs of background, just to solicit book recommendations? Before you yell at me, hear me out: My Friend Flippa? (Flicka?), American Girl? Something about a Prairie? Anne of Green Gables? Something about a black horse? These all sound vaguely like book titles to me, and if I reach for it, I feel like they’re typically associated with little girls. Am I right? I know there’s a whole sea of wholesome, little-girl books out there, but I have no clue–not a clue–where to start. I figure, if you all can give me some recommendations, I can begin reading through the list, and have them ready for Ellie when she’s five or so.

For context (as if you need more context…), the first book I remember reading was an oooold Webster’s Dictionary. It was the biggest book we had in the house, and I feel in love with it. In the back it had charts of the solar system, and the periodic table of elements, and a field-guide to rocks and minerals (not sure who’s going to carry a dictionary with them out in the field, but okay) AND a section with old-timey slang. I went into kindergarten calling boys “fella” and my favorite game was “making a list of words that mean the same thing” (evidently I skipped the entry on the word “Synonym”). And as if you didn’t see this coming: I ended up marrying an AP English teacher whose favorite book is Dostoevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov,” and who sends me hand-made postcards from work quoting e e cummings. *SWOON*

So, if you’d like to help a sister out, please leave your favorite little-girl book recommendations below. I’m partial to stories about courageous women who make huge sacrifices for the betterment of others, and stories about girls who overcome adversity and make an impact those around them. I like stories about hard work, and struggle, and when the characters get excited about things like “going into town” or “playing in the crick,” but I’ll read whatever. 🙂 Thanks for your help! And I’ll let you know what I think as I read through them.

❤ mj

*Yes, as long as possible/Love the idea, will do it with the next one/Regular vaccination schedule/Montessori, I hope

I’m Being Haunted By A Book

It’s rare (at least for me) to be so aware of a shift in (personal) seasons as it’s happening, so, for my own benefit, I thought I’d write down some thoughts and feelings before they evaporate.

This book is ruining my life.

Okay, yes, that’s a gross exaggeration, and I’m trying not to exaggerate as frequently. How about this:

This book is haunting me. It’s set-up a semi-permenant camp in the back of my mind, and is basically eating-up all of my spare thoughts. It’s constantly churning my quiet-time, generating a sense of immediacy that I cannot ignore.

This book is completely messing with my head. It’s making me uncomfortable in my own skin. It’s stirring up a deep sense of dissatisfaction within me. I feel as if this book is holding a brand new mirror in front of my face, and I do not like what I see.

None of the above sounds good, but I promise you, those are all good things. It’s what I’ve been yearning and praying for. I don’t know about you, but I am far too comfortable, and when I’m comfortable, I don’t grow much. I certainly don’t change much. Comfort is…paralyzing, in a way, and I am practically itching for growth. Thank God (seriously, not, like, in a figure-of-speech way) for Jen Hatmaker and her totally uncomfortable book, “7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.” I am ripe for change, and this book has lit a fire underneath me.

I realize I haven’t said anything actually about the book yet, but that’s because I haven’t finished reading it, and what I have read is still “digesting,” if you get what I mean. You can (and should!) click over to the book, read the description, buy yourself a copy, and get yourself uncomfortable, too. I’ve got about 75 pages left, so we can finish it together!

If I were a shrubbery (oh yes, I went there), I’d have grown wild, and would have ceased bearing fruit a long time ago. It’s time for a good clean pruning, and I couldn’t be more looking forward to it. Don’t get me wrong: I am scared. I feel anxious. I don’t know what I’m going to be pruned into, but I’ve been through enough of these seasons to know that in order for me to do the works that lay ahead of me, a change needs to happen. I need to be refined. (I need to stop mixing metaphors. :/ )

I am so excited for what’s to come: to be free of the dead-weight of my broken ways of thinking and untrue beliefs about myself that play on loop in my head. To (once again) relinquish control of situations that I never had control over in the first place. To bear good fruit again. What an adventure!

What Christmas Means to Me

So, I got some interesting feedback about my “I’m failing at Christmas” video, and I thought I’d just address it here. Lots of people seem to think that I’m not aware of the history of Christmas, or the origin of many of our most popular christmas traditions. Rest assured that I’m aware. Nowadays, anyone with a computer can become privy to the details without investing too much time. So yes, I’m aware that a Christmas tree has nothing to do with Jesus. I’m also aware that Christians have co-opted many traditions that they themselves did not create.

I’m aware.

I’m educated.

This is not about that.

This is about what Christmas means to me, and before I get to that, I need to share some history with you.

This might come as a surprise to you, but I’m not perfect. (Shocker, right?) Actually, if we’re going to be totally honest, I used to be a pretty rotten person. So if you were unfortunate enough to know me (or perhaps date me) many years ago…I’m sorry. Basically, I was a bitter, cynical, mean, selfish jerk. I was manipulative, and took advantage of a lot of good people. But, because my misdeeds aren’t the point of this post, we can leave it at that.

I was incredibly judgmental, and I didn’t like most people. Christians, specifically, were probably my least favorite, but religious folk in general were intolerable to me. I thought they were stupid (belief in Creation), lazy (“God’ll keep forgiving me, so I can keep on sinning as much as I want!”), hypocritical (Christian marriages end in divorce as often as secular marriages), mean, judgmental (treating my tattooed/pierced friends like demons), intolerant (“It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”), and hateful (Westboro Baptist Church, etc). And guess what?

They are.

We all are.

Not just Christians, but people in general. People can be pretty wretched. Don’t get me wrong, we certainly have our shining moments, but in general, we all are very very far from perfect, Christians included. But that’s not the point. Perfection I mean. Perfection is not the point.

So, at some point, in the middle of all of my partying and raining on everybody’s parade, I met a few new friends who represented Christianity differently to me. They were way smarter than me for starters (Computer Science, Mechanical Engineering and Organic Chemistry, to be more specific), and more thoughtful, and just happier in general, and as much as I wanted to dislike them the way I disliked most other religious people, I couldn’t, because they were different. They didn’t pretend they were holy and above reproach, and I respected that. And I think that’s, in part, what made it possible for me to give God and the Bible a chance. (Like, a real chance.)

I already knew a lot about Christianity and God and the Bible, because I was the kind of person that would argue points of the Bible with Christians until they broke down and cried in front of their friends. I did that. (True story.)

Eventually I made the decision to give God a chance (which felt TERRIBLE, like, almost humiliating in some ways) and considered the question “what if what they say about God is true?” And slowly (v-e-r-y slowly), I began to see things differently. Opening my mind (and heart) to the idea that maybe, possibly, I didn’t “know” as much as I thought I did, kind of set a change in motion, and I haven’t been the same person since. Which is so totally cliché that I feel nauseous even writing that. I didn’t have some radical, in-the-moment conversion experience, and even if I had, I don’t think I would have believed it. (I’m still too cynical for that kind of thing.)

So my mind began to change about some things, and as I started to learn about God as a Father, my heart began to change, too. Growing up, I never had a Father, and my Mother was never really interested in me enough to set any kind of standards for my behavior, or an understanding of having healthy boundaries or anything. Basically, there was no one in my life offering any sort of guidance, and no one was really into me enough to care about who I was becoming or what kind of person I was. And I ended up engaging in a lot of behaviors that are totally embarrassing to look back on now.

Once I began to realize that I do have a Father in God, and that he created me intentionally, and that I’m accountable to Him, I naturally shifted away from my old lifestyle, and started living in a way that a child of God would live. And it felt (and feels) SO GOOD. I think a lot of people see living life with God as their father as restrictive, or boring or whatever, but it’s so totally the opposite. Even in my down times, I’ve never been happier, and I can say with complete honesty that every day gets better. Even when crummy things happen. If I seem happy at all, it’s because my deepest joy is totally unconnected from the events of the day.

So, nowadays, I call myself a Christian, albeit reluctantly, because I know first-hand what many people think about Christians. But now I know that being a Christian is about knowing God as my Father, and understanding that he loves me enough to trade all of my nastiness for a life with him, through the redemptive work of Jesus. It’s about knowing that even though I’m still not perfect, and never will be, that He will always be my Father, and will always want me as his child. He loves me enough to care, and that’s huge. For someone without a father, and with no contact with her mother, it’s a lifeline. Sure, the fact that I don’t have like, real physical parents makes me sad, but knowing that God is my father…that’s where all of my joy comes from. (And you can psychoanalyze my daddy-issues as much as you want, that’s fine. I sure have. You wouldn’t be the first to do so.) I’ll never be able to convince you of anything, but at the very least, you can trust that I’m being sincere.

So Christmas, to me, and to some other people, is a celebration of God’s love for us. That he loves each of us–you too even if you don’t know it–and desires us as his children. (Yes, even if you are a total Christian-hater like I was.)

He wants us to recognize and claim our role as his children, because here’s the thing: we’re all equally flawed. Knowing God as your father isn’t, like, limited to just the “good” people. Don’t let those holier-than-thou Christians keep you from experiencing life with God, just because you’re gay, or divorced, or have a prison record, or a substance addition, or have persecuted Christians to the point of tears, just for sport (that one’s all me). He made you and He loves you, regardless of whatever messed up stuff you’ve done. Christmas is a remembrance of the day that God turned his love into flesh and blood and revealed himself directly to the world, just like he promised he would. Christmas is a promise kept, and a promise of a future with God. For everyone. Equally.

I can’t convince you that anything that I said about God is true, but really, that’s not my goal. All I can do is share my story, and how I’ve changed, and what I believe, and listen to your stories and your perspectives. And I hope that you give as much value to me and my experiences as I give to you and yours. Chances are, I used to be in your shoes.

Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays!

I Am Not a Mom-A-Tron

Something that’s become particularly clear to me this past week, is how easy it is to fall into the maternal trap of trading one’s individuality– that is, the very qualities that make one unique– for the quest of becoming the very best mother one can be. I advised a friend via email recently to give no consequence to his feeling “too old” to attend certain concerts, because “some of us are, by circumstance, made too old to attend” I knew, even then, that I was projecting my sense of loss onto him. (But I still find mine to be sound advice.)

But then I considered: what good does it do Elliott to have a mother who divorces herself from herself? Or for Mike to watch me slowly shape-shift into a single-minded Mom-A-Tron? (He did, after all, marry me, not Mom-A-Tron. Although the more I say it, the more awesome Mom-A-Tron sounds. Like a badass mommy-robot.)

My realization isn’t anything novel or groundbreaking, I’m sure, but here it is: Elliott and I were matched together as mother and daughter (and to Mike as father and daughter), because we are the individuals that we are, and because of the unique inclinations of Elliott’s heart that neither Mike nor myself are even privy to yet. I have to believe that my likes and desires are shaping me uniquely as Elliott’s mother, and that the relationship that Elliott and I are cultivating will be enhanced by those details.

The Happiest Baby

Gratuitous photo of The Bean. Sigh. Feel that? That's your heart swelling full of happiness.

I want Elliott to love me as her mother, but I also want her to know me as an individual that exists in roles in addition to my primary role as her mother. And rather than knowing Elliott singularly as my daughter, I look forward to knowing her as a person, gaining insight into her character, and watching her grow into the many roles that she will play.

I guess that’s all to say that it will not irreparably tarnish my relationship with my daughter if she watches her mother go to a Metric concert with her friends, continues indulging her fascination with haute shades of nail polish, or falls further into the vintage rabbit-hole, sartorially.

And, as usual, I’m not really sure about any of what I just said. But it feels right. As Walter Sobchak asks, “Am I wrong?”

(Polish en ce moment: Essie’s Mint Candy Apple)

Essie's Mint Candy Apple

Writing About Not Having Time to Write.

So. Let’s talk about time. Time and parenting. Time and parenting and my self-centered needs.

You’ve heard it all before: between caring for a child, taking care of chores, grocery shopping and preparing dinner, there is a scant amount of time left-over for nurturing one’s marriage, or other less essential things like reading a book or painting one’s finger nails. I knew this. I mean I really knew it. So why did I decide to start not one but two new blogs? And have I mentioned that I’ve started a new (part-time) job? And that I’ve committed to working 10-15 hours a week at church? Just who do I think I am, anyway? Wonder Woman I am not; nor am I Bat Girl or any other female in possession of super-powers.

About a month (maybe a month and a half) ago, I was staying up until midnight or 1:00 AM writing for this blog and planning my future posts. I even have an adorable little “editorial calendar” to help me stay on track and remain as relevant as possible. (You know, because I have so very much time to write that I need a calendar to keep myself organized.) My system was worked well for about two weeks. Then I cascaded into a loosy-goosey semi-insanity called “sleep deprivation,” and that pretty much knocked some sense into me. As much as I enjoy writing, it just wasn’t worth sacrificing the precious hours of sleep. So now I try to jot down my ideas for posts, and as the list piles up I’m beginning to get the feeling like I might never catch up. And that’s okay I guess, so long as I write a bit here and there.

Sleep-deprived temporary insanity aside, here’s what the past few weeks have been like, in photos:

Among the images you’ll see my fateful encounter with a Google Street View car, and the Oscar Meyer Wiener Mobile. Both in the same week! Also pictured is the studio (work in progress!) that I’m recording in at my new job, and my very sad looking desk. Not a single tchotchke. Yet.

So I’ll just keep on going to bed before midnight if that’s okay with you all, and you can expect to see an update here once or twice a week. Deal?

Hugs from over the internets.

mj

One Thing I Never Prepared For

The time is 11:20 PM, Mike is sound asleep in our bedroom, The Bean is (noisily) asleep in her bassinet in the living room, and here I am, on the couch across from her, plunking away at my computer. I know, I know, “sleep when the baby sleeps.” I’ve got a cold and I’m exhausted, so I should be sleeping like a baby (ha!), but I have a hard time sleeping when something’s bothering me. Prepare yourself, because we’re delving deep fast: Why is it that during the happiest time of my life I sometimes feel so, I don’t know, empty?

For starters, and I know we’re (i.e. new moms) not supposed to say this in “public,” but I’m lonely. Example: I had the television on because the sound was keeping me company, but the light would cause Ellie to stir, so I turned it off. I’m embarrassed just typing that. It makes sense though: I spend every moment I’m awake with a 7 week old infant, and I have very little interaction with people my age, or people capable of carrying on a conversation for that matter. I would not trade a second of my precious time with Elliott, but the matter remains; I feel like part of me is shriveling up as a result of lack of use. Couple that with the guilt I have for feeling the way I do, and you’ve got yourself the ingredients for a late-night confession in blog format.

I miss my friends, and I miss my coworkers but most of all I miss my husband. (There’s a sad kind of irony that he’s sleeping soundly one room over, and here I am feeling like I’m slowly being emptied out.) Let me save you the time of telling me what I already know: I know it won’t always be this way, and I know some of my sadness could likely be attributed to all of the recent hormonal changes, and I know that my life is actually perfectly wonderful and I’ll look back on this time later in life with warmth and nostalgia, and I know that comparatively my life is a cake-walk. I’m so blessed to have such a perfect little daughter, and a wonderful, loving husband, and the ability to stay home and care for our adorable tiny treasure. I know that, and I believe that, but man, I miss myself you know? And how I used to be fun and creative and social.

Maybe this is the time where I’m supposed to reflect on the woman I was before the pregnancy and birth, and look forward to the woman I’m becoming? I already know that this experience is changing me for the better, and I look forward to growing into a new, more refined version of myself that I see on the horizon. I guess I just wish I wasn’t so alone in the process.

I’m sure my sentiment in this matter is not unique; this is probably something many new moms go through, but I was not prepared for this. Breastfeeding, diapering, swaddling, I over-prepared for everything. But loneliness? This is an entirely new arena for me.

I’ll attend another moms’ group tomorrow (I already belong to one) with the hope of meeting some new moms and maybe talking about something other than the adorable smile Ellie makes before she toots. (You haven’t lived until you’ve seen it– it’s magic.) And hopefully, albeit slowly, I’ll replace whatever it is I’m losing with all of the wonderful things I’m gaining.

And as always, if you’ve got practical advice, I welcome it.


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