Letter to G, from me.

G.
I have been sitting on this letter to you for a little while now, because I was hoping the answers would magically appear in my brain, but that’s definitely not happening so I thought if maybe I combined your brain with my brain we could come up with something wonderful.
I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m Natalia. I met you in MN, (along with about 500 other ladies, about three years ago, so I don’t expect you to remember me). I’m a pastor, wife, mother and my whole family and congregation know of you because I pretty regularly use your words in my preaching. (thanks for that by the way – you make me look goooooooood on a regular basis)
My little is 5. She is creative and wonderful and quirky and hilarious.
She wants to write.
She has started a book club for little girls.
I love her and her heart.
Each day when I get her onto the bus, I tell her to be brave and kind, but “especially kind”, and she looks at me, kisses my nose, and says “you too mama” And off she goes.
She goes off to kindergarten, with great teachers in a great school, and not everyone is kind TO her.
And man. How hard is it to be kind when someone else isn’t kind to you? It’s a thing most ADULTS don’t know how to do and here I’m asking my little love to do it.

So here’s the thing I need help with.
Because what she is learning, with great difficulty, is that being kind means being hurt. And as a mama, I love that she’s kind and I HATE that she gets hurt doing it.
So here I am. Hoping your littles (being a little less little than mine) have already come into this issue and you can share your experience with me. Because I truly, truly believe that love wins. That kindness will win the war even when it doesn’t win the battle.
But the lost battles suck.

Anyway – that’s what I’ve got.

Thanks for being you, for sharing your heart and your honesty with me.
I am truly better at being me because you are you.

Praying for you – Natalia

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You are a Masterpiece. (Or, why my book club is better than Taylor’s Squad)

In the past few months, Taylor Swift has basically redefined what it means to be a girlfriend.
She showed up at the VMAs with her “Girl Squad” all decked out and loving each other, holding hands on the red carpet, and hanging out at the after party.

Taylor-Swift-Squad-083115
(That’s basically exactly what I look like when I hang out with my friends…)

Taylor has made the “girl squad” a thing… something people aspire to be. Having a squad – a crew of friends that hang out and have a great time and have each others’ back – seems to be the “in” thing right now.
(Don’t believe me?  Just search the hashtag #squadgoals and you’ll see what I mean.)

The more I hear about squads and the more people talk about Taylor’s friends, the more I realize my own #squadgoal has been met by a most unexpected source… my book club.
I know what you’re thinking.  No way.
Squads have to be made up of fancy famous people.  That’s what Taylor has taught us!
And really, if ten years ago, someone had told me that a BOOK CLUB would impact my life more profoundly than any other group of people outside of my family and God, I would have called shenanigans.
But instead, that very thing has happened.
I’ve been a part of my book club for about 8 years.  And sure, for the first couple of years, it was a great way to talk about good books, drink wine, and check in with like-minded ladies.
But somewhere along the line, something changed.  We became a squad.
And even better than a squad, because instead of walking the red carpet together, we sit on couches in sweatpants and confess our struggles to each other and celebrate our joys with one another.
Yes we still read books, and yes we still talk about them monthly, but somehow we’ve become more than just a book club.

Last week, we had a book club retreat.
It wasn’t fancy.
We were at someone’s house. Not a hotel or retreat center or cabin.
We didn’t even read a book before we met.
But oh man.  It was holy.
So SO holy.
Yes, we told stories, and ate good food, and drank wine,played games, laughed hard, and stayed up too late, but in the midst of the fun, we created some holy ground.
One night, we spent four hours taking turns telling each one why they are a masterpiece.
FOUR HOURS you guys.
It was incredible.
One by one, we singled out each woman and shared why we love her, honor who she is, respect her, and why she is a masterpiece of God’s creation.
I have to say, I have never been a part of something so profound in my whole life.
NEVER.
As a mother, wife, and pastor, I’ve been privileged and honored to be a part of a lot of profound and holy moments.
And now, five days later, it is STILL feeding me.
Still filling my soul.
Not only the words that were spoken to me, but also the words spoken by others for everyone else too.
Holy Ground I tell you.

And each and every time I think of those four hours of amazingness, as I again feel the glow of love and a full heart, I wonder what the world might be like if more of us practiced this as a part of our daily lives.
What if we looked at our own “Squads”: our friends, our families, our communities, and spoke words of love and why we see them as a masterpiece?
And not only that – but why don’t we do this ever?
Why do we wait until at funerals and around hospital beds to speak these kinds of truths into people’s lives?
I know this was profound because it never happens, but WHY DOESN’T IT EVER HAPPEN?!
Can you imagine what our squads would be like if we just did this always?

Let me tell you – the things I thought people might say about me?  I wasn’t even close.
And the things I say about myself?  They were even further away from what I heard spoken to me.
I’m not alone in needing these kinds of words.
10 other women weeping for four hours tell me so.
The people in your life need it too.
I KNOW they do.
And you have something to say to each of them.
You can look at them and tell them they are a masterpiece.
That God’s fingerprints are all over them.
And when you look at them, you see ____________________…
And then go.
Do it.
Today.
Right now.
Don’t put it off.
Create a holy moment with the ones you love.
Your squad will never be the same.
And neither will you.

Why I’m not thankful this November

Each month, over the past year, I’ve taken on a project, like drinking more water, or getting outside every day, or limiting my online presence.
For November, the most logical project would be to spend days being thankful.  And if those who have been following this project would have to take a guess, I think most would assume that I’d go with some kind of thankfulness experiment… but they’d be wrong.

I have a confession: the daily thankful stuff during November drives me bananas.

I know. I’m a horrible person.

It’s not that I don’t have things to be thankful for – I actually have SO MUCH to be thankful for.  But I’ve started to wonder what the point is of all my blessings if I’m just saying I’m thankful and that’s it.
What does that really do?
Does it change anything? Does it change me? More importantly, does it change the world?
My gratitude month (in May) taught me that it’s not being thankful for the big things, (like family, friends, a job, health, etc) that bring gratitude and joy. No, surprisingly, it’s the little things – tiny, otherwise unnoticed moments in the day – that change our perspective and us.
So why spend a month being thankful for those big things when I’m not really sure it does anything?

After some thought – I’ve decided to make this month’s project “service.”
Simply put – I’m going to do daily acts of service for the month of November.
They don’t have to be big all-day events, but small moments where I intentionally give back.
Give back out of the blessings I have been given.
Give back out of gratitude for the people that I love and who love me.

Being thankful is a start, but we can go further.
This month, I challenge you to be more than thankful.
I challenge you take the things you are thankful for, and give out of those things.
Thankful for your kid? What can you do to serve out of that place?
Thankful for your amazing parents? What can you do for them, or people who don’t have amazing parents?

It’s not quick and easy like posting what you are thankful for today to facebook.
This practice means taking time and being thoughtful and intentional around your blessings.
But we can do it.
And I think we’ll be better off for trying.

Who’s with me?

Project 12:30 November

For my monthly “project” in November, most would assume that I’d go with thankfulness… but I have a confession: the daily thankful stuff during November drives me bananas.
I know. I’m a horrible person.
It’s not that I don’t have things to be thankful for – I actually have SO MUCH to be thankful for.  But I’ve started to wonder what the point is of all my blessings if I’m just being thankful and that’s it.
What does that really do?
My gratitude month in May reminded me that it’s not actually being thankful for the big things, (like family, friends, a job, health, etc) that bring gratitude and joy.  It’s the little things – tiny, otherwise unnoticed moments in the day – that change our perspective and us.

So I’ve made this month’s project “service.”
I’m going to do daily acts of service for the month of November.
They don’t have to be big all-day events, but small moments where I intentionally give back.
Give back out of the blessings I have been given.
Give back out of gratitude for the people that I love and who love me.

This month, I challenge you to be more than thankful.
I challenge you take the things you are thankful for, and give out of those things.
It’s not quick and easy like posting to facebook.
It means taking time and being thoughtful and intentional around your blessings.
But we can do it.

Who’s with me?

Project 12:30 October wrap up

So October has come and gone.
I cannot believe how quickly it went!
I had good and bad days with my online presence fast.  If nothing else, I realized how much I was attached to my phone and checking my online communities.
But, I have really learned to let go this last month.
I’ve kept my phone away from family time, from the dinner table, and my bedroom.
It’s not easy, but it was a start, and I think this month’s habit is one I’m going to keep.