Joy

How to survive a really long meeting when you have absolutely no idea of what’s going on

Recently I found myself in a meeting. Because we had a lot of important details to tend to, the meeting went a little long. And for basically all of those 150 detail-filled minutes, I was pretty much the most clueless person in the room.

Many of you know I’m on the planning committee for the Breathe Christian Writer’s Conference, which is held in Grand Rapids every October (writers, you should totally come!) Let me be clear: I love these people and this conference. I even love the meetings. It’s exciting to be part of something I really believe in, and deeply satisfying to watch experts in action.

But I’m not one of the experts, it turns out. Here, I’ve created an infographic to succinctly explain the situation:

While I know I’m loved and wanted on this team (this sentence is to forestall anyone on the team from feeling like they have to assure me of my worth), I totally understand I’m there for something other than contacts, social media prowess, or my in-depth understanding of the publishing world.

God only knows why I’m there, and I think it’s mostly because he has a great sense of humor and knows every team needs someone who’s willing to engage in shenanigans at a moment’s notice. And I am that girl!

Here I am with part of the team, and we’re all looking very serious as we get ready for the video shoot. This almost never happens (the seriousness or the video shoots). ((Photo courtesy of the Breathe Conference Facebook page.))

I’ve assembled some thoughts on this situation because I can’t be the only person who goes to meetings where everyone else is vastly qualified. Let me outline the steps I’ve found helpful:

  1. Come to terms with the fact that you will not be the expert in the room. It’s okay. Let this truth sink into your soul. Poke at it a little with the acceptance stick. Jesus himself told us that a person speaks out of the overflow from the heart (Luke 6:45), so let’s make sure our hearts are humble and ready to learn. I think we’ve all been in a meeting when an arrogant, clueless fool begins to blather. It’s torture. But this never happens when a person understands she knows nothing and feels no need to prove otherwise to her teammates.
  2. Listen. Seriously, make an art of listening. I one day hope to actually know things when I go to a Breathe planning meeting, which is why I tune into the conversation and listen like a ninja. I’m absorbing through my earballs.
  3. Ask pertinent questions that show the team you’re listening, even if you’re providing no good help. For example: Me: “Darron, how many people can the bookstore hold?” Darron: “Oh, the event space can hold at least 300 people.” Me: “Excellent.” Carry on, my friends. I have learned a new piece of helpful information.
  4. Accept the fact that your butt will go numb and you will have to stand. Your friend Ann may look at you with concern. You may have to casually announce to everyone that your rear end is causing you problems. It’s possible to stand and listen so just go ahead and do it, especially if the meeting has reached minute 135 and you also have an hour-long drive home.
  5. Enjoy the snacks! I’m hopeful that your meeting will at least have great snacks. Partake with great gladness.

I truly do get a kick out of seeing everyone in action. You might not realize the working parts that go into a successful conference, but about three million details have to come together to make sure there’s a meeting space, attendees, food, and speakers. This is why the team ends the conference with glazed looks and the inability to complete intelligent sentences.

Look at this beautiful stage that Elizabeth designed! See, that’s what I mean about details. We need a whole person for this! (This photo also stolen from the Breathe Facebook page.)

But we love it. It’s worth it. And I pray your really long meetings are worth it all, too.

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Could you use a nap and a million dollars?

Dear Reader (you, the cute one sitting over there. I mean you),

Could you use a nap and a million dollars?

OF COURSE YOU COULD. Everyone could.

We’re tired and we’re stressed out and we’re sick of it. A nice long nap and a million bucks would solve quite a few of our problems.

We’re tired of being tired and we’re tired of the adult stress.

We’re pretty sure adulthood wasn’t supposed to look like this, with the dirty laundry and the piles of bills on the counter and the really, terribly, stupidly annoying people who are trying to make us insane.

I know it’s bad manners to call people stupid. I’m not calling people stupid– I’m calling them stupidly annoying. You see? It’s different. (If you could see me right now, you might notice a wee bit of an eye roll situation occurring on my face.)

But guess what. I’ve written a book for us all.

I Could Use a Nap and a Million Dollars: Biblical Alternatives to Stressed Out Living is on the way. Coming to you sometime in Winter of 2018, the publication wheels are already grinding away. My editor and I have been sending the manuscript back and forth, getting the details just so. Once again I remember how a good editor makes a writer sound much, much smarter than she really is. I love editors so much.

But I love you, the reader, even more. Writing this third book was really hard. I sat down every day at the computer and I asked God to give me insight on what you needed. I want to encourage you, I want to make you see things differently, and I possibly want to make you shoot some sort of beverage out your nose every once in a while.

To do this, I wrote about a zillion chapters to cover every kind of stress: Housekeeping, finances, annoying relatives, discontentment, and pride. Just to cover a few, you understand. I can’t promise that every chapter will connect to every woman who reads the book, but I did my best to approach it all with honesty, ridiculousness, and encouragement. And then I searched the Bible to find how we can adjust our hearts to find the peace and abundant life Jesus promised us.

I hope you’re excited to find a better way to live! I know I am. We’ll be discussing it here on the blog, too. I’ll be telling you all sorts of awkward stories about stress in my life and we’ll laugh and laugh and laugh.

Well, you can laugh and I’ll join you after my eye stops twitching.

 

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How a near-death experience in a Roman taxi can bring new life to your marriage

Have I told you the story about how I thought I was going to die in a Roman taxi?

If yes, I apologize but I’m going to tell it again anyway. It’s a good story that bears repeating. And it even has a point, in a manner of speaking.

It begins a few years ago, when Eric and I celebrated our fifteenth wedding anniversary by going to Italy without the children. I love to travel, but I wasn’t prepared for how un-America Italy was going to be. While the trip was beautiful and delicious and wonderful, we also spent the week driving around lost, looking for an appropriate bathroom, and trying to find a parking place that wouldn’t get us fined or towed.

So it was wonderful, but a wee bit stressful in the transportation department. When the week was almost over and it was time to turn in the rental car, I was a wreck. It wasn’t quite time to go home, though. We still had one night in Rome, but to get from the car rental office to the city we had to take a taxi.

This was not the taxi. But isn’t it cute?

Listen. I grew up in the sticks. There are no taxis where I’m from. There are barely buses. And my husband grew up in a small farming community that literally considered a tractor a viable transportation method when one needed to get to school.

So we were unprepared for Ricardo and his taxi.

Or, as we shall now refer to him– Reeecaaaaaaahhrrrdoooo. That’s how he said his own name all fifty times he answered his cell phones as he hurtled through traffic.

Did you catch that? Cell phoneS? As in the man had more than one phone?

Yes, yes he did. He had three of them, and two of them he answered over and over again while making notes on a clip board.

Eric took this shot. Isn’t it great?

I was quite sure I was going straight to the bosom of Jesus from a Roman taxi, as this fool of an Italian man barely kept his hands on the wheel as he attended to his office duties from the front seat of a hunk of metal that must have been traveling about seventy miles an hour.

I wasn’t sure how my orphaned children were going to keep a straight face explaining my death in a flaming taxi/office with Reeecaaaaaaahhrrrdoooo at the helm. That was going to be awkward for them.

We didn’t die. You’ve probably assumed as much, but we made it just fine. Not even a little accident. The gentleman drove us to exactly the right spot and politely took our money and left us wobbly-legged on the sidewalk across from the location where Christians used to get eaten by lions.

This place seriously creeped me out. Our people were snacks and entertainment here!

All this added one more layer of glue to our marriage. Years later, all I have to say is “Reeecaaaaaaahhrrrdoooo” and Eric grins at me. The whole week was like that. We saw beautiful things, ate delicious meals, and walked on ancient streets. And somehow, our marriage was strengthened by the experience.

I don’t understand it, but apparently this is nothing new. It’s part of the concept of Steve Arterburn’s new book, The Mediterranean Love Plan (affiliate link). I joined the launch team for this book, and I’ve been stopping Eric for days to read bits and pieces out loud. The book’s basic premise is this– if you want a passionate, joyful marriage, you need to be two passionate, joyful people. No sitting silently on the sofa in beige sweatsuits while the blue boob tube flickers in your living room.

“If both of you are not proactive about passion, I can guarantee that one day you’ll be pulling up your Depends and wondering, ‘Where did we go wrong?'” ~The Mediterranean Love Plan

Encouraging the reader (hopefully that will be you!) to tune into their mate and then tune into the joy and beauty of the world, Arterburn has a better plan than growing old and boring in a beige, sexless marriage.

Eric and I are in! Are you? The book releases April 4, but you can preorder it and have it in your hot little hands as soon as it’s ready. I’ll be doing a few more blog posts on it, just because I have other dumb stories to tell and I think marriage is important enough for us to focus on for a while.

Until next week– Ciao, baby!

 

Chasing down joy and contentment in a world gone mad.

I jogged last Friday.

But let me explain what precipitated this ridiculous event. It certainly didn’t happen on purpose.

Lulled into a false sense of security by the sunshine, I decided to go for a walk after dropping the kids off at school. I dressed warmly enough for a March morning, but not warmly enough for the sneaky, icy wind I hadn’t noticed. I swear this wind had come straight from the bowels of Canada, ripped right over Lake Michigan, then plunged into our little town as soon as I locked the van and hit the trail.

It blasted me in the face and I thought, “Sheesh. It’s going to be a long walk with this wind. Maybe (this is where things went terribly wrong, dear reader)… I could go faster.

And here’s the thing. I sort of pride myself on my non-competitive, slow forms of health. If a three mile walk takes me an hour and a half, I take that as a badge of honor. That’s ninety minutes I spent tending to my health! If I need to change my diet, I pick one tiny little thing and then master it, like “eat more fruit.” That one decision can take two years to fully implement, and then as a fruit-eating expert, I add one new small thing into my diet.

So going faster on this walk was sort of out of character. But the wind was literally stinging me in the face so I decided that since I was on the trail and no one would likely see me, I would jog.

And then I did, actually, jog.

It wasn’t actually so terrible for the first tenth of a mile. Then I walked for another tenth of a mile to get my breath back. Then I hit an open field, and the wind started howling and I started running out of self-preservation. My eyes involuntarily teared up. I think perhaps snot was running down my face, but my face was frozen so I couldn’t be certain. My legs were completely numb, so the only evidence I had of movement was that I was actually passing things.

If any of you actually saw me in this state, I apologize for not greeting you. I believe my corneas may have been frozen for several minutes.

I jogged for two tenths of a mile that time. Breathing raggedly, like a marathoner who has accidentally run for two solid days, I turned the corner on the trail and was blasted in the face with another round of ice-oxygen.

That was it. I was done. I turned around immediately, putting the wind to my back, and started for the van. My rear was now taking the brunt of the cold but that is far less bothersome than frozen corneas, so onward I went at my usual walking speed.

And because I was walking, taking in the sights, I was able to notice the tiny green leaves just starting to push out from the smallest of the branches. Small shoots of woodland greenery were just beginning to poke tips out of the dirt. A robin shot me a dirty look, like I was somehow responsible for his discomfort.

I couldn’t have seen any of this if I was still jogging. There’s beauty and joy all around us, just waiting to be noticed, but too many of us are missing these small things. We’re chasing contentment and joy, but chasing it is the worst possible way to find it.

We’re running hard after our dreams and our desires, filling up our calendars with more obligations, our carts with more plastic doodads, and homes with more shiny screens. And we wonder why joy and contentment remain elusive.


This world has gone mad. It’s made us a million false promises, enticing us to believe that more stuff, more fun, and more money will eventually lead us to what we seek. We just have to catch it.

This is ridiculous. Joy and contentment are decisions. They’re willful states of mind, choosing to be joy-filled and satisfied right where we are. They come when we slow down enough to notice the people in our home, the new signs of spring, and the pantry with enough food to make dinner.

I’m not saying the world will ever be perfect, or if we slow down enough that perfection will present itself. I don’t think it works like that. I think we find joy and contentment when we decide it’s time to be unreasonably thankful for what we already have, even when there are other things that remain difficult and unchangeable.

Two hours later, I decided to be joyful about the warm blanket around my legs and my home that kept out the wind. Yes, my lungs were revolting from the jogging incident and I coughed for three hours. Yes, my butt stayed frozen until lunch and unwarranted tears kept slipping out of my thawing eye sockets. I’m not saying the situation was ideal.

But it was enough. I chose to slow down and notice that I already had exactly what I needed, and it was enough.

 

 

 

The Ms. Mediocre, Slightly Chubby, Often Cranky, Bad Hair Day Pageant

pageant for normal womenIn a move noted as “bold” and “long overdue,” a new pageant arrives on the scene this season.

Viewed by many as the obvious alternative for 99% of human women, the Ms. Mediocre, Slightly Chubby, Often Cranky, Bad Hair Day Pageant offers what traditional beauty pageants lack– common sense and a firm grip on reality.


Competitions are scheduled in the following crucial life skill departments:

  • Chasing a toddler through a busy parking lot while holding two bags of groceries
  • Politely helping your best friend realize her eyebrows have grown out of control
  • Speaking to teenage offspring without using all the swears
  • Messy buns and other half-arsed hair options
  • Yoga pants vs pajama pants: how, when, and where

Interested applicants are encouraged to apply quickly and decisively. Judges expect a torrential onslaught of candidates, as no one has ever shown interest in the common woman before.

Perky, thin, gorgeous women with full and natural breasts will be shot immediately upon application, officials stated in the press conference held early this morning. Shot to death, they clarified.

The pageant is expected to be held sometime in spring, but an exact date is hard to determine, as NORMAL WOMEN HAVE TOO MUCH TO DO TO BE PRANCING AROUND THE STAGE AT A STUPID PAGEANT.


When an official date is scheduled, we will be the first to let you know. Stay tuned for further details.

When the dark, black doom of math homework falls over your Monday afternoon

I’m standing in the kitchen right now, with one eyelid twitching and a migraine starting somewhere in the middle of my brain.

A few feet away from me, my husband and son are wrestling the most ghastly page of math homework we’ve seen to date. Every problem is taking us, two college educated adults, at least five minutes to figure out so we can help him. There’s multiplying and dividing and evening up and possibly sacrificing a goat.

Thankfully I had to step away from the situation to make dinner. I don’t know what’s going on over there, but no one is having a good time.

We love this child. We don’t want him to grow up to be a dullard, but I think maybe it’s time to consider career paths that don’t include fractions.

For example, ballerina. OSHA inspector. Race car driver, banana harvester, cowboy.

Perhaps gym teacher, barber, or even mail man.

Caleb says the race car driver seems pretty cool to him, but the banana harvester thing might be okay, too. Well, hallelujah. We’ve narrowed down our options.

Romans 8:26Parenting is going to be the death of me, I swear. How on earth am I going to move these children through middle school to adulthood? Is this even a possible thing that might occur? I see friends with older kids and those children are actually growing up and moving out. It seems like magic. I certainly don’t know the secret of making it happen.

But then again, I see our young friends who have little children, and they’re still staring down potty training like it’s a magic occurrence. They have no idea how to get those kids out of diapers and into the next stage of life. And all I can tell them is that you try and fail and try and fail about three hundred times, and then eventually the kid gets it.

All the stress of life seems to be insurmountable in the middle of the challenge, doesn’t it? Whether it’s math homework or potty training or ministry or career problems, the stress we’re currently facing might need a big of magic to get us through.

But what if we had something more powerful than mere magic? What if the power of God rested on us and the Holy Spirit was able to help us beyond human capabilities? Wouldn’t that be better than relying on our own strength or ingenuity?

(Yes.) ((The only answer to that is yes.))

As I’ve been writing, things have calmed down on the homework front. We’ve thrown in the towel for the night and written a note to the teacher to help us all out. WE NEED THE TEACHER TO HELP US OUT, pretty please and thank you.

And in regular life, the part of life that doesn’t include stupid fractions, we need the power of the Holy Spirit to get us through. So today, if you’re facing a giant stressful page of math homework that’s about to kill you, I suggest you take a break and pray about it.

And if you’re facing anything else, I’m quite convinced God is good at many things, even when they don’t involve the black doom of math homework. Write your metaphorical note to the teacher and ask for his help!

***Are you interested in an eBook to help you with your stress? I’ve written a little devotional just for you! Click Here!
And thanks for reading. I appreciate it so much.***

 

 

 

Stress: Let’s do something about it (other than just sitting there and feeling miserable)

I don’t know about you, but when life gets stressful I often do exactly the wrong things. I tend to sit and brood while my mind spins. I come up with ever more implausible, terrible things that could happen. I create monster nightmares of the future, all while shoving too many chips and cookies into my face.

So shortly I feel stressed and fat. Delightful combo.

And then I snap at my children and anyone I find annoying. I nap too much to avoid reality or find myself at Lowes buying enough paint to redo the entire house. (Because who doesn’t love to repaint a house every two years? ) ((Yes, I am in counseling for my painting addictions.))

But mostly I sit and brood and worry about the future. I’m very good at that.

Are you very good at that too? 

If not, then feel free to move along to another blog post by someone else who doesn’t worry. But if you are also a Grand Master Brooder and General Worry Freak, then I invite you to do something better with your stress.

Instead of just nurturing it and letting it grow out of control, let’s face it head on. Let’s sit down with it and examine it. Let’s invite God into the conversation, letting him sort out the mess. Because, let’s be honest. Sometimes the stress is absolutely not our fault. We can’t be held responsible for a bad health diagnosis or the ensuing medical bills. We can’t force our children to be obedient at all moments of the day. Sometimes the stress attacks and we didn’t do anything to attract its attention.

But sometimes the stress is– stick with me here without needing the vapors– exactly our fault. Sometimes it’s the consequences of our sin or terrible choices. Sometimes it’s just that we’re sort of block headed and we’ve dug our own hole.

And when we’re stressed out, we often can’t see the way clearly. But God can, and he’s more than ready to help us sort out the stress. He’s waiting for us to come to him, no matter our emotional state, and then restore us with his peace and grace.

So let’s try that instead of brooding. Let’s do what Lamentations 3:40 says, and see what our loving Heavenly Father can do with our stress.

Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord. (bible gateway.com)

Want more? I’ve written a devotional on stress, with more thoughts just like this!
Click here and you’ll be taken to the Amazon page. 

They don’t make greeting cards for these hellish sorts of days

Yes, and I’m sure the carpet is sorry too.

If, by some miracle, someone mailed me the perfect greeting card today it would read:

I’m sorry you were up until midnight scrubbing vomit out of the carpet.
I’m also sorry the bathroom still smells pukey and you can’t figure out why.
And further, I’m also sorry that your husband’s sinus infection blew a hole in his eardrum last night (while you were scrubbing the vomit), causing everyone in the house to be quite, quite miserable. 

They don’t make greeting cards for these sorts of days. And really, how could they? This is our own personal problem; I don’t expect Target to foresee our issues and prepare a card in advance.

For my young nursing friends, who are always having some sort of trouble.

But I think maybe I’ll start a company and address everything possible. My line will address needs such as:

  • It’s too bad your baby won’t nurse and your left breast is the size of a grapefruit and feels hot to the touch. 
  • I apologize for shouting at you when you wouldn’t take the Advil last night, but you’re a full grown man and you should be able to take care of yourself when you’re sick.
  • Honey, the budget is destroyed. But look at this cute stuff I bought at Target. Please stop yelling. 

And so forth. Please feel free to comment below with any additional Hellish Days issues I could address. I will attempt to meet all needs.

Just shhhhhhh.

Maybe you’re having your own Hellish Day right now! Maybe you are stuck in your own personal misery and feeling worse as the day progresses. I’m with you, my friend. We can handle this mess together. It’s just a few more hours until bedtime, and tomorrow is a whole new day.

Tomorrow is a whole new day. Let’s hold to that hope and make it through.

So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11

If you’d like to be the first in line for updates and news, here’s the link to sign up for emails from me! Jessie’s Email Folks

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The Lord’s cat is peeing on the Lord’s carpet

You should see my basement right now. It looks like a deranged person has neatly placed random things all around the edges of the room. Laundry baskets, the sewing machine, buildings from the kids’ old train set– it’s all tucked up right next to the baseboards.

We’re trying to keep the cat from spraying on the walls. He got all sorts of mad at us for something a few weeks ago, and I found him peeing and spraying all over the edges of the room. Ever since we started blocking his favorite areas with stuff, he’s knocked it off.

(I know some of you cat lovers are worried about Captain Kitty’s urinary health. Let me assure you there’s nothing wrong with him physically; he just has scrambled eggs for brains.)

I took to yelling in my kids’ general direction, “Your cat is peeing on my carpet!” It was all very upsetting.


But our small group is doing a financial study from Crown Financial Ministries, and our first lesson was on God’s ownership of all things. All things. Even the cat. Even the carpet.

Deuteronomy 10:14
So now I wander around the house saying calmly, “The Lord’s cat is peeing on the Lord’s carpet.” It’s helping. If nothing else, it makes me laugh.

Now you try it. If the Lord owns all things,

  • The Lord’s minivan smells like the Lord’s children’s smelly feet.
  • The Lord’s checking account needs a fresh influx of the Lord’s money.
  • The Lord’s children just spilled Coke down the Lord’s couch.

And so on. Any time you feel stressed about money or things, just apply our little formula here. Does anyone have an example handy? I’d love to hear them.

 

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