Saturday, January 12, 2019

Feeling Alone?

Recently a friend wrote to me after reading my post about not fitting in. I have her permission to share our correspondence with you. I am pretty sure you'll be able to relate to her in some way. Hopefully you will be encouraged by our correspondence. 

Dear Vinae,

Why is it so hard to fit in with other Christians? Why is it so hard to make relationships? I feel like making friends is almost impossible in your 30’s. I’m tired, they're tired, everyone is busy and tired. I’m not too tired to spend one hour scrolling mindlessly through Facebook, looking at everyone’s Photoshop pictures, but I’m too tired to invite a neighbor over for cheap hot dogs and fellowship. 

I join groups and meet new people, we add each other on Facebook, but that is the extent of the relationship. We meet, we have a lot in common, and then we get busy with life and it’s the end. Well, we are still looking at each other’s Facebook page, commenting on photos or snap chatting, but really we are not engaged. 

I just wrote off a longtime friend of over 10 years. She lives a few hours away from me. I have traveled hours to her house to support her in fundraisers, graduations, and many other occasions. It was inconvenient, but I do these things for her all the time. Last week she told me multiple times that she was coming to my child's birthday party. We made it through the party and I realized she didn’t even show up. I was angry. I think the real issue was that quite a few people cancelled, many the day of, and several didn’t even tell me they weren't going to make it, and she was one of those along with some family members. 

How do we recover from hurt feelings when we have made an effort in someone’s life and it is not reciprocated? How do we keep from shutting down and becoming isolated? I know God is the answer, but isn’t there anyone out there that we can rely on? It’s an imperfect world yes, but should it really be this bad? I have family and a “best friend” who told me they would be at my kid’s special celebration and they can’t even tell me they are not going to make it. I would tell a stranger I wasn’t coming if I had made a prior commitment, let alone someone in my family or best friend. Has responsibility just been thrown out the window? 

How do we keep these doubts and let downs from seeping in and separating us from God? (I guess I’m still equating God’s love to affection and love from others.) But, isn’t it reasonable to expect these things if we are following God and trying to live Godly lives? Should we live isolated lives or are we meant for fellowship? This is question I struggle with. Wouldn’t it be nice to just have Christian friends in our age group that will just get together and pledge to love one another no matter what? Do life together, call, not text, but call just to say, Hey how is your day going? Friends that care about kid’s birthdays and life events? 

Hi Friend,
You know, you are not at all alone in what you are saying. I’ve had the same thoughts – why is it so hard to make friends as an adult? Why are relationships fed only through social media until they all they consist of is how many “likes” you give the other person? When did it become so easy to feel isolated in a world that is full of texts and chats and messages?

You hit on a key point – it’s easier to spend hours mindlessly scrolling online than it is to be intentional about meeting with a  friend for an hour. It’s all about where we are investing our lives. Are you purposing to do things that fill you and revive you, or just self-medicating by vegging and coming away from it just as empty as you went in? This is a question I have to ask myself many times every day. Is what I am doing going to renew me?  If not, I should probably stop.

Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram are fun ways of keeping in contact with someone, but unless thought and intention is put into the connections, they become just another virtual friend. What we’ve lost in our world is REAL communication – face to face interaction that breathes life into the other person.

It is so easy to write off people when they constantly hurt you. I have a few friends who I have reached out to over the years but never get anything back from them, so, while I haven’t exactly written them off, I HAVE backed off. I only send a message every once in a while, and don’t wait with baited breath until they respond. While it hurts that they don’t respond, I’ve learned that I can’t depend on their response to make me feel good. I had a good friend send me a scathing message about how I never reach out to her, even though I have usually been the one who tries to keep in contact. The words hurt. But I also know that Satan can use the hurts that I have to make me bitter and wallow in them. My identity is not in how my friend thinks of me or my relationship with her. My identity is tied to my relationship with God. When I am trying to be a friend with God, making him a priority in my life, the brush offs from others don’t hurt quite as much. Oh, to be sure, it still hurts, just not quite as much as it did when I made them the source of my feeling good about myself.

I know you were hurt by your friend, but you even admitted that she wasn’t the only problem. She was kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back. It’s hard not to become cynical when people hurt you, and even more when it comes to your kids. I know. I have felt that my kids have been completely ignored by some of their relatives. It breaks my heart for my kids that they are missing out on that family connection. Actually, that is a wrong statement. My kids are not hurt by not getting a card from their cousins, I am hurt by that. My kids don’t know any different. But because I make a concerted effort to remember relatives' birthdays, I am hurt when the effort is not reciprocated. I am the one who feels forgotten and neglected.

As you know, we have moved around a bit in the last few years. When we moved to Portland, it took a really long time for me to make friends, and just as I felt I was making true friendships, we moved to California. I was extremely depressed because I knew how much investment it takes to make deep friendships, so I prayed. God brought into my life two ladies who I keep in close contact with, yes, through Facebook, but also through notes in the mail and messaging. Whenever I get a chance to see them, I make the effort to. 

So when we moved here, I really prayed, and asked my friends to pray, for God to bring into my life women who I could make a real connection with. It’s been three years, but I feel those connections are finally being made. It takes time, it takes effort. And if someone isn’t willing to invest the effort back, I have to give that up and look elsewhere. It really is up to ME to be willing to be vulnerable enough to let someone into my life to develop that deep, meaningful relationship that I long for in another woman. It's scary to open up and be vulnerable enough to risk being rejected. And it’s hard and time consuming and takes a lot of emotional energy; I want to protect myself and so having shallow conversations is easier. But it is worth it…IF I invest. And it really is an investment. 

The same goes with God. I didn’t realize until recently that I haven’t really made any kind of time it requires to make that relationship happen. It requires sacrifice – a sacrifice of time, a sacrifice of sleep, a sacrifice of me wanting to just veg, a sacrifice of my pride and a sacrifice of my desire to fill the longings of my flesh.

You asked how do we keep the doubts and let downs from separating us from God? I think a more accurate question is: How do we disassociate those doubts and let downs from God’s character?  The answer is by making God your friend. Spending un-hurried time with him, reading the Bible, and praying. I know. It sounds so cliché. I’ve heard that all my life - yet I never took it to heart and actually did those things until recently. Do I spend quality time with God every day? No, but I do try to make an effort. I’ve asked him to give me promptings to seek him. When I am in my bathroom, I often feel a tug to go into my closet and pray. It is often only for a few minutes, and often I am not actually praying, but just silent before Him. I’ve started trying to recite Psalms of praise in my prayers, but often I just end up repeating the same thing over and over.

If we are following God and trying our best to live a Godly life, isn’t it reasonable we should expect kindness and courtesy from others? I paraphrased your question, but I’m not sure that the answer is yes. Humans are sinful. They are always going to let you down. Always. I’ve come to the conclusion that while I am here on earth, I will always have a longing in my heart for something more. And I think that God put that longing in us so that we would long to be with him, to get to know him more. As I have been spending more quality time with God, spending more time in the Word and praying, a little bit of that longing has been filled. Not all... I don’t expect that it will ever be gone until I reach heaven. But that is where my hope comes from. I know that I am never going to belong or fit in while I am alive. There will always be that longing for more, and the tension that comes with that is a good tension. It reminds me daily to be in connection with the only one who will eventually be able to fill that longing.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Nourishing Hot Cocoa

When it gets cold out, I like to have a hot drink with me all day long.

I discovered I could add things to my hot chocolate that made it nutritious as well as delicious. The collagen helps my joints and skin stay healthy. Molasses has potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, B6, copper, and many more vitamins and minerals. Cocoa powder has magnesium, iron, fiber and flavonoids. The sea salt adds needed electrolytes. Cinnamon is an anti-inflammatory, and honey has many healing properties.

Did you know that your hot chocolate could provide so many good things for your body?

Nourishing Hot Cocoa

1 or 2 scoops Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides
2 tsp cocoa powder
1 tsp molasses
1-2 tsp honey
1 squirt Sweet Leaf Chocolate Stevia (or any type of stevia)
sprinkle of cinnamon
sprinkle of sea salt
drop of peppermint

Pour in hot water, stir well, and top off with almond milk for even more nutrients!

If it is not sweet enough for me, I will add some maple syrup, which adds calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and more minerals.  You can also add coconut oil or butter to help balance the protein and carbohydrates.

How I make my hot cocoa

What do you like to add to your hot cocoa that helps fuel your body?

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Purposeful Mornings

I am NOT a morning person, I am most certainly a night owl. I get motivated to do things around 10 pm, just in time for bed. This wasn’t a problem when I was single. Now that I’m married and my husband likes it when we go to bed at the same time, and I have three kids who have their own ideas about mornings, I really can’t stay up late anymore.

I used to wake up whenever the kids did. When they were pre-schoolers, they thought that 6:00 am was a great time to start the day. I did not. When my oldest started waking up at 5:00 am, I said, No Way, and taught him how to play quietly until six. When we moved to Kentucky, for some reason, all three kids started sleeping until 7:00 am or later! It was a miracle! I could finally sleep in every morning and get my full 8-9 hours of sleep. Let me tell you, I took advantage of that.

I have always heard: wake up before your kids and read your Bible to start your day off right. I made every single excuse I could think of as to why that was wrong: my kid isn't sleeping through the night, I need a full 8-9 hours of sleep, I can't concentrate when the kids are in the room with me, I need to have quiet time, I can't concentrate early in the morning. I am sure there are more excuses, but the thing is, they were just excuses.

About a year ago, someone told me about spending purposeful time with God every day. That made a huge difference in how I perceived what my "quiet time" with God was supposed to look like. She said that it didn't matter if my kids were up, or if they were interrupting me, or if it was noisy. It didn't have to be perfect; I had to let go of the ideal that my quiet time would be, well, quiet. I also had to let go of whatever romantic image I had in my head of what a quiet time might look like. What mattered is that I purposed to spend TIME with God. I could let the kids participate, or I could let them play quietly around me, or I could let them know that I needed time with God and they would have to wait for a little bit on whatever it was they wanted me to do. So, I started doing that instead of waking up early. It sounded like a great compromise. The problem was, I wasn't very consistent because I would get distracted so easily.

When I started exercising again, my coach urged me to try to wake up before my kids. She gets up at 5:00 every day. I thought that was ridiculous. So I started getting up at 6:40, ten minutes after my husband, to give him time in the bathroom before I went in. Well, that gave me enough time to get dressed before my kids woke up, but that was about it. The problem was, I’d just go downstairs and get a coffee and the kids would be down.

My coach again urged me to wake up earlier for the rest of the three week challenge I was participating in. I figured, it’s only two more weeks, surely I can handle 6:00 am for two weeks. I set my alarm so it was silent, and my watch would vibrate to wake me up. That first day? It was harsh, I’m telling you. I did NOT want to do it, but I knew she'd ask if I got up early, so I did it. That accountability started a new phase in my life. I was absolutely positive, without a shadow of a doubt, that I could never change from a night owl to an early bird. Now, I have been waking up at 6:00 am for about three months...and I love it. Say WHAT??? Yeah. This gal never though she would say that.

Here's what I get when I wake up an hour before my kids: I get some quiet time in the morning to collect my thought, I get a HOT cup of coffee, I get in purposeful time with God that is uninterrupted, I get in some work in before my kids need my attention, and I get my workout in. The best part of all is that I get a morning where I don't feel rushed and already behind.

Are your mornings rushed and frantic? Or do you have a purposeful start to your morning that sets the tone for the rest of the day?
Are you an early bird or a night owl? Have you always been that way or did you have to train yourself?

If you are a night owl, like I was, do you wish you could be an early bird? Do you think it's hopeless? I am here to tell you that you CAN change - IF you commit. It takes discipline and dedication. It helps if you have someone to hold you accountable, like I did. What do you have to lose?

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Finding My Passion

I was recently asked what five things make me ME, the areas of my life am I the most passionate about.  I was a little stumped.  Obviously I am a mom, a wife, and a homeschooler, but what else?  I had to think about that for a long time. What I finally realized - what I actually already knew - is that I am passionate about helping other women; whether that involves mothering, homeschooling, fitness, or just life, my passion is for mentoring women.

A month ago, I was asked to be a part of something that I have been wanting to do for years now. I was thrilled! I prayed a lot about the decision, my husband and kids were on board with it and I was excited to start. Just as I was about to accept, I had a caution flag go up on my heart. I just did not have peace about accepting, so I had to turn down something I had been wanting for so long.

After turning down that position, three opportunities presented themselves to me - all about mentoring women. Two of them I was already part of and were expanding, but the third was totally unexpected and not something I ever thought I'd do. While I was disappointed to turn down that longed for position, my passion lies in helping women, and it just didn't fit into my passion. I am now fully invested in those three mentoring positions.

As part of being a mentor, I was challenged by a friend to open up my journey for the world to see: my journey as a mom and wife, and my journey to better health. That vulnerability is scary for me. One of my hobbies is reading, and I am on the book launch team for Imperfect Courage, by Jessica Honegger. The chapter I am currently reading in is titled, Widen Your Circle. (Gosh, that's a scary thing.) As an introvert, I like my us-4-and-no-more group of comfortable friends. But I also have a passion for helping women fully become who God intended them to be, so He obviously wants me to grow in that area. The second paragraph into the chapter, I read:

 "Unless we allow those noble efforts to connect us to real, live people, we won't get very far. Courage is ignited through connection, and connection happens only when eyes and souls meet." 


I am way more comfortable behind my computer than in front of people. My talent lies in writing...not speaking, and certainly not face-to-face interaction. Why do I have to reach out to other people? Doesn't God know I'm an introvert?  Maybe, just maybe, He gave me this passion because He wants to use me and grow me. Maybe, just maybe, He has already given me all the tools I need to do what He has called me to do.  Maybe, just maybe, he has given me these three opportunities because He knows it is time for me to go scared into the next venture of my life.

{Interestingly enough, as I was writing this, an email came through with another opportunity that I have wanted for the last four years. I really, really want to accept. However, as I re-read what I have written above, this new opportunity does not align with my focus on mentoring women. Sigh. I think I will have to give another refusal.} 

God has called me out of myself, given me a desire to inspire, motivate, encourage, disciple and mentor women. And He has opened the doors to for me to do so. Super scary, but when I am in His will, I have peace.

Leave me a comment and tell me: How is God challenging you to connect to others?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Continue On

Photo by Pawel Pentlinowski

Continue On
by Roy Lessin

A woman fretted over the usefulness of her life.

She feared she was wasting her potential being a devoted wife and mother.

She wondered if the time and energy she invested in her husband and children would make a difference.

At times she got discouraged because so much of what she did seemed to go unnoticed and unappreciated.

"Is it worth it?" she often wondered.  "Is there something better that I could be doing with my time?"

It was during one of these moments of questioning that she heard the still, small voice of her Heavenly Father speak to her heart.

"You are a wife and mother because that is what I have called you to be.

Much of what you do is hidden from the public eye, but I notice.

Most of what you give is done without remuneration.

But I am your reward.

Your husband cannot be the man I have called him to be without your support.

Your influence upon him is greater than you think and more powerful than you will ever know.

I bless him through your service and honor him through your love.

Your children are precious to me.

Even more precious than they are to you.

I have entrusted them to your care to raise for Me.

What you invest in them is an offering to Me.

You may never be in the public spotlight, but your obedience shines as a bright light before Me.

Continue on.  Remember you are My servant.

Do all to please Me."