On Rock Hunting, and People-Tumbling

Rocks I collected south of San Simeon

Rocks I collected south of San Simeon

Lately, I really suck at having hobbies. Gardening has been reduced to sometimes remembering to water my succulents; writing has been reduced to tweeting on an (almost) daily basis, and cooking? Well. I made some instant oatmeal this morning. Let me say this, in no uncertain terms: having a full time job, and a family, is hard. (Duh.) So, that’s basically what’s kept me away from here lately. (There’s more I’d like to say about that, but it’ll have to wait for another time.)

The one hobby that I can stick to, with my demanding schedule, is rock hunting. (Bonafide dork status, right there.) I’ve been into rocks since I was a kid, and last year, for my 29th birthday, my husband bought me my very first rock tumbler (because he is a dear). So I’ve been collecting rocks, and tumbling them, for the past few months, and every time I’m doing something rock-related, I think of you guys. Rock hunting (and tumbling) takes time, and I’ve come to realize there’s a few reasons I enjoy it as much as I do, and I’ve been wanting to share them with you all for a while.

Here are the real basic-basics about rock hunting.

The best place to find rocks, in my area of California, is at the beach. Specifically, just south of San Simeon, where the creek dumps into the ocean. You want to go there after a good storm (which we don’t get often), and at low-tide, for the best pickings. So step number one in rock hunting, for me, is head to the beach. Once you get there, you survey the landscape for the most promising-looking piles, then set yourself down, and…well…just start looking for the good stuff. With all the sights and smells of the ocean, and the warm sun on your back, you could easily spend a few hours, looking for the best specimens.

If you’re new to rock hunting, here’s how you tell which rocks will polish-up nicely: get them wet. If you don’t have a bucket of water handy, you can just use your own spit. Don’t worry about how silly you look, because, hello, you’re sitting on the ground, playing in rocks. You already look pretty silly.

Once you’re satisfied with the amount of rocks you’ve collected (hint: you’ll never be satisfied with the amount of rocks you’ve collected), it’s time to go home and get them into the tumbler, along with the coarsest grit you have. Over the next few weeks, you’ll continue changing out the grit, until eventually your rocks are polished up to a glossy shine. What you do with them after that, I’m not so sure. I mean, that’s not really the point. Not for me, anyway.

Now let me tell you why I actually enjoy rock hunting.

There’s something exciting about looking at a shore covered in dusty (some would say ugly) beach rocks, and knowing that buried amongst them are agates, and jaspers, and moonstones, and quartz. Precious stones that, after a little TLC, will shine with an effortless beauty reserved for nature’s pure creations. But what moves me even more is that even the plain rocks are beautiful, once they’ve had their dust and rough edges worn away.

It’s hard to collect rocks, and tumble them, and not think of the people who’ve “tumbled” me over the years. And not think of the people I’m “tumbling”/will “tumble.”

It feels good to be chosen, doesn’t it? For someone to see the value in you, underneath the grime and the rough edges, and think to themselves “this one. This one could really shine, with a little help.” And it feels good to be the one doing the choosing. To have the vision to see the beauty and opportunity and potential in someone, and to continue to invest in them with no alternative motive, other than to leave that person better off than they were when you first met them.

Now let me tell you what we’re going to do about this.

I’m asking you to do a few things. First, take a moment to identify someone (or a few people) who have “tumbled” you over the years. Do your best to remember some specifics about that experience. Then reflect on how grateful you are to have had their influence in your life. Next, if you’re able, reach out to that person, and say thank you, in whatever way you can muster up. Sometimes this can be hard, but it’ll mean a whole lot to them, so take the time and do it right. Lastly, take a moment to identify someone in your life that you could use your influence, and commit to doing something to act on that. Could be just taking them out for coffee and asking them how they’ve been. That’s always a good start.

I would be nowhere if people in my past hadn’t taken the time to see something inside me worth surfacing, and gently assert themselves in bringing that change about. It’s my hope that by reflecting on the people who have influenced your life, you walk away with a renewed sense of gratitude, and perhaps a new desire to invest in others, the way you have been invested in.

Whaddaya think? Is it a worthy exercise?

xoxo, mj

3 Secrets to Squashing Vacation-Envy

Image Credit: Melissa Godsey

Image Credit: Melissa Godsey

(I’m delighted to be guest-posting over on ShareSLO.com today! This is just an excerpt, so make sure you click over and get my 3 Secrets to Squashing Vacation-Envy.)

I can tell it’s really summer when celebrity vacation photos are splashed all over the covers of magazines at the grocery store. While waiting in the checkout line, you see pictures of Rachel Bilson skipping along a beach in Barbados, Heidi Klum in Hawaii, and Jessica Alba in St. Barts, each of them tan, smiling, and glowing with a radiance that only comes from a jaunt to a far-flung locale. But before you’re overcome with vacation-envy, I have a trick that just might put some glow back in those office-weary cheeks of yours. I call it “Vacation Living,” and it’s my number one weapon in combating the 9-to-5 blues.

The idea behind Vacation Living is pretty simple: put your tourist glasses on, and rediscover your hometown. Approach your free time with the same gusto you have when you’re on vacation.

For most of us, the simple act of being on vacation brings out our adventurous side. With some distance between yourself and your routine, you’re suddenly tasting new foods, seeking out new experiences, and sometimes even trying your hand at a new language. There’s something about being away from home that gives us fresh eyes for the world around us. How would your quality of life improve if you had the same adventurous spirit at home that you do when you’re away?

Routine is the enemy of Vacation Living, so to help you expand your horizons, I’ll share a few challenges I’ve given myself, to help push you out of your bubble, and into your new Vacation Life. Click on over to read the remainder!

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Thriving Through Transition

I’m the type of person who is most comfortable when following a routine. But I also know that I grow the most when I’m not comfortable. For me, discomfort is a catalyst for growth. My heart wants consistency, and finds security it knowing what comes next, but my head needs variety, ambiguity, and unexpected challenges in order to level-up, leadership wise. Learning to intentionally put myself outside of my comfort-zone, to embrace risk, and to value potential for growth over comfort, has been one of the great lessons of my late-20s.

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Motherhood has a way of teaching you how to thrive through transition. Pre-motherhood MJ was on a conquest for peace, routine, and balance. Mom-MJ has since recognized the value in finding the peace within times of uncertainty, transition, and discomfort. It’s all very zen, I suppose.

This is all to say that transitioning back to working full-time has been quite the time of growth for me. (In case you’re wondering if it’s as a hard as they say, transitioning from stay-at-home/work-at-home parent, to 9-5 working parent, let me just tell you: yes. Yes, it is.) Elle, on the other hand, has never been better. She loves all the time she gets to spend with her Nana, and is just as much the little angel as she always has been. I think it’s hilarious how differently Elle and I react to my being away from home.

Lest any of this is taken as complaining, I suppose I need to say: I’m over-the-moon about my new job, and I’m delighted with how easily Elle has transitioned. Life is good, all around. Am I a little heartbroken, watching my little love grow more and more independent every day? Of course. But at the same time, I’m just so proud of her. One thing is clear: I’m the one with separation anxiety, not the child.

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It’s beautiful, the way motherhood simultaneously softens your heart like an overripe piece of fruit, yet at the same time thickens your skin, and toughens you up, and increases your strength. I’m the toughest and the softest I’ve ever been, all at the same time. And it’s a great–albeit uncomfortable–feeling.

mj

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Monday is My First Day at My New Job

Rosetta’s brand-spankin’-new West Coast HQ. Ain’t she a beaut? Click HERE for more images.

I’m very excited to announce that Monday will be my first day in my new role as Talent Brand Ambassador at Rosetta! I’m honored (and humbled) to be welcomed onto such a talented and innovative team, and I can’t wait to get started. (You can get acquainted with Rosetta at rosetta.com , and of course, I’ll do my best to answer whatever questions you have.)

But of course to begin this new chapter, the previous one must come to a close. When I started at iFixit, the video department did not exist, and “MJ” was concept in my imagination. I’m so proud of the work we’ve done over the past few years, and I’m confident the video department will thrive with the fresh perspective and energy of a new host. (But I’m not going to spill the beans on who that person is, so you’ll just have to wait and see.) 🙂

To those of you who came to know me during my time at iFixit: it’s been such a pleasure creating content for your guys, and interacting with you on a daily basis. Thank you so much for your support! I hope you’ll continue to follow the channel, and welcome the new face of iFixit with enthusiasm. And, of course, you’re invited to continue following me on my journey. I’ll be *very* sad if I have no one to nerd-out with over the iFixit teardowns. 😦

Thanks again for your continued support, especially those of you who’ve been with me since *before* iFixit, back in the days of YouTube’s infancy, and the advent of “web personalities.” Pretty remarkable how much things have changed since then, huh?

Onto new beginnings!

TL;DR? I have a new job that I’m stoked about. Leaving iFixit is bittersweet. I love you guys. ♥

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Learn to Love Your Naturally Wavy Hair! Episode 3: The Right Towel & Drying “Technique”

Is your towel causing your hair to be untamable? In this video I cover why you should avoid drying your hair with a big fluffy towel, and what you should use instead.

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How To: Pin to Pinterest From Safari on an iOS Device

Pin From Safari to Pinterest in iOS

If you use Pinterest on an iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch, you most likely already know how to re-pin things within the Pinterest app. But what if you want to pin something from the Safari app? Like, you’re looking at a great DIY on someone’s blog, and you want to pin it, but you don’t want to have to remember to do it when you get back to your computer. Did you know you CAN pin, straight from the Safari app on your iOS device? It takes several (easy) steps to set it up, but once it’s done, you never have to do it again. So, here we go. Here’s how to pin stuff to Pinterest from Safari on your iOS device.

(N.B. There are two ways to do this. I’m showing you a somewhat longer way, because I don’t want to assume anyone has bookmark-syncing set up. Also, if you’re familiar with the Pinterest bookmarklet that you can install in your desktop’s browser, this is just like that.)

First of all, launch the Pinterest app on your iPhone/iPad, go to your profile, and tap on the little gear in the upper-left corner.

Tap on the gear

Next, tap on “Pinterest help.”

3Then tap on “mobile and tablet help.”

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Tap on “iOS iPad, iPhone.”

5Next, tap on “How to install the Pin It button on an iPhone or iPad.”

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Then scroll to the bottom of that page, and copy the bit of code that appears in the box. (To copy, tap and hold on the text, then adjust the starting and ending points to include all of the code, then tap on “copy.”

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Now close the Pinterest app, launch the Safari app, and tap on the arrow button at the bottom of the screen.

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A little box will pop up, and you’ll tap on the “bookmark” button.

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Change whatever text appears as the name of the bookmark to “Pin It!” and tap on “save.” (Ignore the fact the the URL doesn’t match. We’re going to edit that soon. Also, make sure that the third box reads “Bookmarks” like mine. If it doesn’t, just tap on it, and choose “Bookmarks” from the list that pops up.)

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After you’ve tapped “save,” it will take you back to the page you were on when you started. This time, tap on the bookmark button.

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Now we’re going to do two things. We’re going to move our “Pin It!” bookmark to the very top of the bookmarks list, then we’re going to paste the code that we copied into the URL box. First thing’s first: let’s move “Pin It!” to the top of the list, that way it’s easy to access when you need it. To do that, tap on “edit” in the lower-left corner. Then, tap and hold on the three little lines to the very right of your “Pin It!” bookmark, and drag it up as high as it will go in your list of bookmarks. It might not go to the very top, and that’s okay.

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Now that our bookmark is in a convenient location, tap on the “Pin It!” text, and replace whatever URL is in the URL box with the code you copied earlier. To do that, make sure everything in the URL box is deleted, then tap and hold in the empty space. When “paste” pops up tap it, then tap “done” in the bottom-right corner.

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Now we’re basically done. Just tap “done” in the lower-left corner, and we can test out our “Pin It!” button.

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Navigate to something in Safari that you’d like to pin, or just pin something random to test out your button. When you’ve found the thing you’d like to pin, tap the bookmark button on the bottom of your screen, then tap the “Pin It!” button we created. (At this point, Pinterest might prompt you to login if you’re not already. This should be the only time you have to do that.)

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If there are multiple pinnable-images on the page, you’ll see them  here. Tap on the one you want to pin. (Mine only has one image, so that’s pretty easy.)

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Now choose your board, write a description, and pin it, just the way you would if you were using the Pinterest bookmarklet in your desktop browser. Done!

I know I broke it down in to MANY steps, but I didn’t want to lose anyone. Hope this helps you out, and if it does, please do share! Happy pinning!

mj

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Learn to Love Your Naturally Wavy Hair! Episode 2: Quit Brushing You Hair

Before I get into the specific techniques I use to style my hair, I thought it’d be best to go over some of the habits you’ll want to unlearn, that are more suited for caring for naturally straight hair. The first straight-hair-only habit that you’ll want to quit, is brushing your hair. You read that right. You absolutely do not need to brush your hair (though for those with naturally straight hair, it could be beneficial). Don’t you worry: the video talks about how to handle those inevitable tangles.

As always, if you have any questions, requests, etc, just let me know!

Oh, and here’s a link to the book “Curly Girl” that I mentioned in the video. It’s THE resource for those of us with naturally curly or wavy hair.

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Learn to Love Your Naturally Wavy Hair! Episode 1: Why Go Natural?

If you’re anything like me, you’ve fought your hair’s natural texture your whole life. If you’re curly/wavy, you straightened it, and if you’re straight, you curled (or permed!) it. One of the awesome things about motherhood is that it’s encouraged me to accept myself the way I am, inside and out. And once I had Ellie, my time became far more precious. Rather than spend an hour straightening my hair (yes, it used to take me an hour), I learned to embrace my hair’s natural texture, and after learning a lot about caring for wavy hair, I’ve grown to love it!  The best part is that my hair “routine” takes all of 4 minutes, and because I’m no longer heat-styling it, it’s in better condition than ever.

So, this is the first episode in a series of videos I’m producing about how to care for (and love!) your naturally wavy hair. Like I said, I’ve learned a lot over the past few years, and I can’t wait to share all my tips and tricks with you wavy ladies. If you have any questions/requests/etc, please let me know!

And just a bit of background, so you know where I’m coming from: I HATED my hair texture. I have really thick hair, and tons of it, and if I ever tried to wear it naturally, it would pouf out and frizz all crazy-like. That’s because I didn’t know that wavy hair needs to be treated differently that straight hair. Most people don’t know. It’s not our fault, it’s just not something that gets passed down from mother to daughter, because most mothers don’t even know, themselves. With a few small changes in your routine, you can save hours of primping and fighting your hair, and tons of money in unnecessary products and tools.

I hope you enjoy the series, and your gorgeous, natural hair!

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Interview With Ellie, The Nap-Skipper!

Being a sick mama is hard, especially when your kiddo basically skips their nap. In this case, rather than feel sorry for myself, I decided to interview my little nap-skipper. Enjoy!

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Let’s Get Real: I Probably Should Hire a Housekeeper

Probably the number one thing I’ve had to learn, since becoming a somewhat stay-at-home-mom, is to cut myself a break. And yet, even though I DO do some work outside the home, I’m having the hardest time admitting that I am not a super hero. That I just can’t keep all of these balls in the air without some outside help.

Do any of you have “help?” Some folks I know will pay some of the high school girls at their church to come over once a week and play with their kids, while they get some work done. Even that would help. But what about a housekeeper? I’m not going to lie: I want one. BADLY. What’s your experience? Can you recommend it?

The Problem With Blogging (There Are No Secrets on The Internet)

Probably my least favorite thing about blogging, is that I can’t share everything. I feel like I can talk to you guys about everything and anything under the sun. (I mean, let’s face it, it doesn’t get much more personal than talking about family-planning methods, or posting pictures of expressed breast milk.) We’ve covered a lot of sensitive and personal ground. But yet, there are subjects that are off-limits. Basically anything that involves people I actually know in real life—unless it’s gleamingly positive—is a no-no zone.

I want to tell you all about what’s happened since the ShareSLO contest ended (SO MUCH good stuff!!!!!!!), but I can’t. I want to tell you why I feel so positively about them choosing Bentley over the other 8 candidates, but I can’t. I want to tell you about the little conversations I’ve had with friends of other contestants, and the hilarious and delightful stuff they said, but I just can’t.

And that’s all positive, happy stuff! What if my marriage was in trouble? (It’s totally not, which is why I feel comfortable using that as an example.) What if I wanted to reach out to you, my brain trust, for your marriage-wisdom? I mean, I look at someone like Heather Armstrong of Dooce.com, and how totally shocked I was when she announced that she and Jon were divorcing. There’s a tragic sort of irony in sharing your life with people, growing intimate and close with them, yet being unable to disclose the really meaningful stuff.

I guess the only solution is to really become besties with everyone. Chat on the phone, text during the middle of the day, the whole nine.

I know many of you keep blogs of your own. Where do you draw the line with regards to what’s appropriate or inappropriate to share?

Basically, just you so you guys know my philosophy, here’s my where I stand: if it’s likely to hurt someone’s feelings, I won’t share it on my blog. Note, though, that this is different than disagreeing. You guys know I don’t shy away from sharing my opinion, and I love hearing the opinions of others. But clashing opinions is totally different than hurting someone’s feelings. Where’s your line?

My cup runneth over with ideas for upcoming posts. It’s actually somewhat overwhelming. I’m going to do my best to bring two of those ideas to life next week.

mj

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“All I Want is a Beach-Chair Somewhere…”

A lot has happened since I last updated. For starters, I finished in the top 10 in the ShareSLO Social Ambassador contest! And I owe that to each of you that voted, even just once, but especially those of you that voted on a daily basis. Thank you so much for your support, and for joining me on that journey.

I had my official interview for the position on Saturday. The interview went well, though on the drive home I did think of a couple of questions that I could have given better answers to. You know how that is, I’m sure. You hop in the shower the day after an interview, and suddenly, BAM! The right answer just pops into your head. C’est la vie. Like I said, even considering that, it went well. Plus, you guys should have seen my resume. I reformatted it in the form of an infograph, and MAN. It’s good. The copy clerk at Staples said it was the best she’d ever seen, and that’s not nothing. 🙂 If you’re into well-formatted graphic documents, let me know and I’ll send you a blank copy for your own personal use.

Then I got sick. (Like one does after staying up until 1AM working on a thing like the contest for a month.) Last night I had a fever of 102.something, though today I’m feeling slightly better. No fever at least.

And tomorrow. Tomorrow is my wedding anniversary! Here’s to hoping that I miraculously kick this thing in time to spend a relaxing evening with my husband (without coughing all over him).

Also, tomorrow is when they choose who will be the ShareSLO Ambassador. No big deal. The official announcement is public on Thursday, but if the hiring process for this job is like others in my experience, they’re going to have to notify the applicant tomorrow (Wednesday), in order to process their new-hire paperwork and run a proper background check. If that’s the case, then the applicant will be notified tomorrow. But they could gamble, and not notify the applicant until Thursday, under the assumption that the background check will clear. Needless to say, I’ll be anxiously awaiting the announcement on Thursday.

If you think applying for a job, and interviewing, and everything that comes with that is stressful, try doing it in front of your family, and friends, and thousands of loving supporters. For OVER A MONTH. This must be, like, .03% of what it feels like to run in a Presidential election. (Maybe .003%.)

I’m serious. It’s hard, in our culture, to admit that one cares about anything at all, let alone putting yourself way out on a limb that has a 90% chance of snapping, and dropping you to the ground. IN FRONT OF EVERYONE YOU KNOW. I’m telling you, after the “campaign” portion of the process was done, all I wanted was a beach-chair somewhere far, far from the Internet. How the heck is Mitt Romney handling it? I don’t even know.

Feeling feverish again. Bring on the Nyquil. Breaking out the big guns. 😉

Talk soon! xoxo, mj

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Disciplined Giving in The Era of AutoPay

You guys left some really thoughtful, really insightful comments on my previous post about charitable giving (I would expect nothing less from you smarty-pantses). Your comments have been rolling around in my head for the past few weeks, and have sparked some new ideas, so here’s a follow-up post, and I’m sorry if it rubs you the wrong way.

A couple of you expressed a similar point, and that’s that giving isn’t about me and my growth (or us and our growth), so much as it is about providing for the needs of others, and I have to admit, at first I was a little stung by the implication that I’m giving selfishly. But then I thought about it some more, and there’s a couple things I see happening:

  1. I didn’t explain my thoughts completely the first time. This is a bad habit for me. This might sound like a cop-out, but here it is: in my head, one idea expands into a giant web of interconnected ideas so quickly, that I rush though explaining how I got from point A to point B (and C, then D, then E), in favor of writing everything out as quickly as I can, lest I forget everything. The result is too many big ideas that lack sufficient background or explanation. I’m trying to improve in this area, but also, I want to keep my posts under 500 words, so….It’s a tough compromise.
  2. I bit my tongue, and censored myself, because I don’t want to piss anyone off, or alienate you wonderful people. I have some things to say about automatic giving, and I’m afraid of how it will be received. More on that in a moment.

That all being said, let’s do this thing.

To the point that “giving is about meeting a need, and has nothing to do with what get out of it:” I don’t think God is concerned with the bottom-line, when it comes to giving. An easy example of this is the story of the widow’s offering in Mark 12:41-44, wherein she gives far less amount-wise, but far more in terms of sacrifice. This shows her great faith and gratitude. Jesus says she gave more than all the rest, though in dollars, she gave a fraction of a penny. So when I talk about not giving “enough,” I don’t mean enough in terms of the dollar amount, but in terms of expressing my faith and gratitude. In this regard, my family is very much like the wealthy folks in that story, throwing in our excess money and not even thinking about it. And boy, is that humbling.

Giving is a Discipline. Disciplines Take Practice. (Maintain a Loose Grasp.)

Our nature (and this is strictly my opinion here) is to keep a firm grasp on what “belongs to us.” You can see this in children, who are reluctant or unwilling to share toys, out of fear that the toys will never be returned, and the feeling that those toys belong to them. I think grown-ups are kind of like that, only that we’ve learned to put a smile on, and share just enough to be socially acceptable.

Because of our very human inclination towards maintaining a tight grasp on our material possessions, I know that I need to practice giving. I need to practice putting my hand into my pocket, pulling out some money, extending it to another person, opening my hand, and not expecting a single thing in return. I need to practice remembering that none of what I have “belongs to me,” and I need to practice letting that understanding overcome my will, and my desire to give just enough to be socially in the black.

(Question I like to ask myself, to check-in on the state of my heart: “How tight is my grasp on “stuff” and money, right now?”)

Automatic Giving/ Auto-Tithing Stunts Our Spiritual Growth

Someone in the comments said that automatic giving is great, because it shows that I’m “disciplined” in my giving. I would argue that the opposite is true. It’s not “disciplined giving” if it’s automatically withdrawn. “Discipline,” by definition, results from training, and training takes effort and thought. (Interesting that “discipline” and “disciple” share the same root.)

Automatic giving/auto-tithing circumvents a spiritual process of recognizing that what I have is not really mine, and really only serves the legalistic purpose of meeting the bottom line. And like I said, I don’t think God is at all concerned with the bottom line. I think God can, and does, work miracles with even the smallest portion, given from a full and loving heart. (Loaves and fishes, for example.)

I think God is more concerned with the condition of my heart, than whether or not I’m giving a lot of dollars, and in that regard, giving is more about me than meeting a need. I think God wants me to go through that process every single time: saying thank you, counting my blessings, and giving what I can for the benefit of others. And I can’t do that if my church is automatically drafting tithes from my bank account. The very reason people use auto-tithe is because it simplifies the process, and they are assured that they’ll fulfill their giving obligation for the month. And I just don’t buy that line of reasoning.

(The pastor of the church my family used to attend would remind folks, in the weeks running up to summer, that they should consider enabling auto-tithing before they go on summer vacation, that way they don’t “forget to give.” This would always make my ears ring “so the money is more important than the act of worship?” Perhaps, rather than treating the symptoms (tithing slows to a trickle over the summer), we should treat the illness (congregants don’t understand giving)?

(Um. Also, how reverent is my worship when my automatic-tithe gets the same amount of my attention as my student-loan payment?)

Giving is an Antidote to Greed.

This one is pretty easy. Habitual, intentional giving breaks us of our habit of greed, and keeps us from tightening our grasp too much. And one of my favorite things Jesus said, can be found in Matthew 6:19-21 — “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Bingo. I’ve heard this said and re-said (“Want to know a person’s priorities? Take a look at their checkbook”) so many times over the years, and it is as true today as it was when Jesus said it.

Other Assorted Bits That I Can’t Be Bothered to Organize Right This Moment:

Giving is meant to be a joyful expression of thanks to God from the heart, and not a legalistic obligation.

Amy (in the comments of my previous post) said “I think sacrificial (truly joyful) giving comes from a truly thankful heart. If we come to understand that everything given us is completely unmerited, then I think GIVING then becomes a true act of worship. It’s not the amount…not at all…it’s our attitudes behind the gift.”

And now I’m 600 words over my self-imposed limit.

I hope you’re happy. 🙂 But seriously, I want to continue this conversation, because I think we’re beginning to touch on some really sensitive issues. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve heard anyone address finances in a church-setting (not counting Dave Ramsey), and I think there’s a lot of unresolved tension in this. Wanna sort this out with me? Lord knows I have more blind-spots than I can count. Say what’s on your mind in the comments, below.

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You Won’t Even Notice: My Problem With “Easy” Charitable Giving

Being that the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons are in full swing, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about generosity, and giving, and what it means to give “sacrificially.” In meditating on the idea of sacrificial giving, some light was shed onto a dark part of myself, and though it revealed an ugly truth, I’m better off for it, and I hope that you will be, too.

Busted

I like to think of myself, and my family, as the generous sort. As the type of people who will forgo some of our own wants, in order to provide for the needs of others. But when I peek behind that veneer of generosity, reality doesn’t match up.

I realized this some nights ago. I was feeling really anxious, the way I used to feel when I was a kid, and I had done something wrong, and was about to get busted for it, except in this case, I didn’t have any idea what I had done wrong, or who was going to bust me. All I could think about was Kalkidan, our Compassion Child, and how there are so many children just like her, whose basic needs aren’t being met, and how completely unjust that is. And that’s when I got busted.

You Won’t Even Notice

When I tell people about Compassion, and how they should sponsor a child, the first thing I say, every single time is “$40 a month might sound a lot, but I swear to you, won’t even notice it.” “You won’t even notice it” is not only true, but it’s tragic. (I have the same feeling about auto-drafting tithes from one’s bank account, but that’s a whole ‘nother post.)

Here I am, feeling somewhat proud of our family, for giving some of our money to a child in need, but really, how sacrificial is it if we don’t even notice? It’s not like we’re giving our excess money away. We’re giving the excess of the excess. How noble. (I’m okay being sarcastic if I’m levying it on myself.) Needless to say, I’ve been humbled.

False Sacrifice

But here’s the thing: when we first began giving to Compassion, it felt like a sacrifice. Instead of buying a bottle or two of wine during the month, we’d send money to Kalkidan. But is forgoing wine really a sacrifice? I mean, when so many people don’t have access to clean water, is my skipping out on wine really sufficient?

The fact of the matter is that I’m completely comfortable giving, so long as it doesn’t inconvenience my family too much, and that attitude has come to really disgust me. Why does my child deserve nutritious, organic, GMO-free food, when so many children around the world don’t have enough food, period?

Light Chases Out Darkness

I want to notice that I’m giving. If you’re the church-going type, you’re familiar with the idea that giving is an act of worship. It’s a way of acknowledging that we only have what we have because God gave it to us in the first place, and showing gratitude and love by giving some of that away to others. And if you’re not the church-going type, no doubt you believe in some form of “paying it forward.” Can I really consider our monthly gift to Kalikidan sacrificial if we don’t even notice it? I mean, I guess an easy answer is to turn off the automatic payment every month, and choose to do it manually. That’s a start.

I remember what it felt like growing up, always having to do without, and I’m so blessed to be in a position as an adult to choose to feel the burden of sacrificial giving, rather than the aching pain of an empty stomach. And it’s somewhat embarrassing to reveal the ugly parts of myself, but I think there’s a lot of truth to the phrase that “sunlight is the best disinfectant.” And if previous conversations with you all has taught me anything, it’s that I’m not the only one feeling this way. I’m curious to hear if you guys “give without noticing it,” and which organizations you support.

If you haven’t heard of Compassion, please do check them out. Like I said, $40 might sound like a burden, but if you can “sacrifice” some trips to Starbucks, or pack a few more lunches, I don’t think you’ll suffer. 🙂 Also, in the coming weeks I’m going to talk a bit more about another organization I love, Heifer International. If you have some minutes, do yourself a favor and look into them, too.

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Let’s be friends!

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When You’re Mothering From Scratch (Coping With Absentee Mothers)

I popped into Sally Loo’s this morning (espresso con panna + molasses spice cookie = happy mama), before I headed into the iFixit office, and the place was crawling with babies and toddlers. Makes me wish I had Ellie with me, so she could meet some kiddos, and I could have an easy transition to talk to other coffee-loving parents, but I digress.

There was a woman in front of me, presumably about my age, with a little girl on her hip who looked to be about 12 months. Judging by the still-matted patch of hair on the back of the little one’s head, and her lack of desire to be put down, I’d guess she’s not a proficient walker, so maybe she was younger than 12 months. Regardless, the little girl was adorable. Bright blonde hair, rosy cheeks, and tiny little fingers that unconsciously swirled themselves in her mama’s hair. As she rested her chin on her mama’s shoulder, we had a staring contest. She won, on account that I smiled first. (Couldn’t help it.)

After a minute or two of us making eyes at each other, the little girl’s nana walked up, and gave her rapid-fire smootchies on her big soft cheeks, and the little girl giggled. It was too cute. Shifting the little girl to her other hip, the mama looked over at the nana, and asked “ya want a cappuccino? I know how you love ’em.” Nana nods her head, but never loses the little girl’s gaze, now playing tickle on her tiny palms. “Ooooohhh, I just wanna eat you up,” coos Nana, again with the rapid-fire smootchies.

It’s a perfectly normal, perfectly natural interaction, and I’m sure I’ve seen many like it in recent weeks, but for some reason this particular exchange stung me. My throat got tight, and my eyes began to well up, and I ditched my spot in line in favor of the privacy of the restroom.

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It’s harder, some days than others, coping with the absence of my mother. Most days I recognize her absence the way one recognizes a blank wall in their home, knowing that there should be a photograph, or a piece of art in that spot, but not having a vision for what it might look like exactly. But other days–days like today–I see a completeness, and a love that I know I don’t have, and I feel envious.

I’m not kidding myself into thinking that if my mother were in my life, that our relationship would be as warm, or as familiar, as the two that I saw in the coffee shop today. I’m not idealizing the relationship. But I want the chance to know what our relationship would look like, if it were healthy. I’m 29 years old, and to this day, I do not know what that feels like. I suppose it’s okay to respect those feelings, even if they hurt, in order to grieve properly, so long as I’m not wallowing. I have very little patience for wallowing.

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In so many ways, I feel as if I’m doing this mothering-thing from scratch. Seeing three generations of women all together really pushes that button for me, I guess.

I wonder, does having an active and involved mother of one’s own give one more confidence as a mother? Does having that support, and that wealth of knowledge and experience equip women better for their marriages, and for raising their children? Does everyone else have resources, and support, and knowledge that I don’t have? (That’s my insecurity speaking.)

I wasn’t planning on posting anything today, but it’s rare that I spontaneously cry in public, so I figure maybe I needed to get that off my chest. And hey, silver lining: I’m not wearing makeup today, so no scary mascara tears!

Some of you have shared having similar relationships with your mother. Do you experience “flare-ups” the way I did today? What triggers them? How do you cope?

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Let’s be friends!

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