Keeping it Simple to Make Room for Gratitude

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This year is somewhat unique for my family. My sister has a newborn. One that we all love and adore, but his first weeks of life have not been easy, most especially for my sister. My grandmother spent time in the hospital two weeks ago after having two small strokes. She is now doing rehabilitation and physical therapy, but isn’t feeling up to coming to dinner. Two weeks ago I also returned to work part time. I don’t know if it is permanent or temporary, but I know that it has already been taking a toll on me and my family.

It feels like the Christmas rush has hit early this year so Thanksgiving was beginning to feel like just one more stressor. So we decided to take things easier this year.

My mom ordered most of Thanksgiving dinner catered from Wegman’s (a local grocery store chain). Yes, it is more expensive. But it will also be easier. We are still filling in with a couple of sides and buying or making our own desserts. (The apple pie will be homemade. The pumpkin and pecan are coming from Sam’s Club.) For the first time we’ll be using fancy paper products instead of fancy china.

No, this is not the cheapest or healthiest Thanksgiving we’ve ever had. It isn’t organic or free range. We won’t be winning any awards for most decorative holiday table. But we will, most of us at least, be together. Honestly, while I love Thanksgiving food, it’s more about the people. Yes, I live near my family and we see each other almost weekly. But we don’t always take the time to be together, away from work, and other interruptions. (My dad is a pastor so Sunday dinner is often interrupted or delayed by church business). It’s a time to come together as a family and be grateful for all we have been blessed with, including each other. What we eat and where it comes from doesn’t really matter.

We will be gathering together today.
7 adults: my parents, my husband and myself, my sister, brother-in-law and his mother.
4 children: a preschooler, 2 toddlers and a newborn.

We’ll talk, eat, hopefully laugh and play; and be thankful.

Wherever you are and whoever you are with today, I hope you take the time to be grateful, even if your holiday isn’t being celebrated in the traditional manner or look like you expected.

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Dressing in Freedom

I really needed to read this chapter this week. Focus on getting dressed and taking care of ourselves can have a downside too; when we let it control or distress us. It’s tempting to walk this road sometimes. I want so much to feel good about myself and show that I’m not just a frumpy mom who hangs out all day in sweat pants. (I am wearing yoga pants as I write this, but you’ll forgive me for that, won’t you?) I want to prove to the world, myself and other women that being a mom doesn’t mean being unfashionable or unattractive.

But that isn’t freedom. When I start doing these wonderful things for the wrong reason, I lose the positive benefits. I am beautiful and I am loved. Getting dressed helps me to show on the outside how beautiful I feel on the inside. Except sometimes I don’t feel beautiful on the inside and I think that dressing up on the outside will make it better. Sometimes it does, but only when I do it for the right reasons.

Inspiration I’ve Imbibed

Getting dressed is only a good thing if I don’t let it become another chain or expectation. the focus of this whole book is on helping me realize that I am worth the effort. But if I decide that anytime I don’t get dressed I am some how less, I’ve missed the point.

Challenges I’ve Pursued

I’m still getting dressed but I’m also cutting myself some slack. When my kids and I were all sick a few weeks ago, I wore yoga pants, a long sleeve shirt and a comfy sweater. You know what I didn’t wear? My pajamas. I made an effort even if it was a small one. You don’t always have to do it all. Sometimes if things are particularly difficult, don’t make it harder on yourself by having unrealistic expectations. If you’ve been up all night, focus on getting a shower and putting on clothes besides pj’s. But don’t feel like a failure if you don’t put on makeup or accessorize fully. Give yourself grace. Dress in freedom.

Next- Frumps to Pumps: Is Being “Cute” Biblical?

Week 1 : Join the Challenge

Week 2: Know Your Why

Week 3: Dress Differently, Act Differently

Week 4: Prophesy Hope Through Accountability

Week 5: Make the Decision

Week 6: Find Your “Earrings”

Week 7: Focus Your Eyes

Week 8: A Moment of Silence for Showers

Week 9: Roll Up Your Sleeves

Week 10: Discipline

Week 11: Too Tired to Get Dressed

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The Stranger at the Book Signing

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Last Saturday I had my first book signing. It was exciting, it was terrifying. Mostly it ended up being a lot of fun. People aren’t quite in the Christmas frame of mind yet, so I wasn’t expecting a ton of buyers.  But what I got was an amazing outpouring of support from friends, family and social media contacts. The first hour was kind of slow. Let me tell you, during that hour I was seriously reevaluating the decision. But the second hour was buzzing with people. I was so grateful for the friends who bought my book and also those who just came to check out my event and show book stores that people really are interested in these kind of books.

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Photo courtesy of Kinsey Gensel

One of the most interesting sales of the day was to a total stranger. I know, that sounds weird, but honestly I have a lot of local contacts, so most of the sales of my book so far have been to friends, family or fellow church goers. But I’d never seen or met this woman before. She spent a long time looking through my book. She asked me some questions about my faith tradition and theology background. We talked for a while about how we both love Advent and Christmas. I talked to her about our family celebration of Advent when I was growing up and how my mom loves Christmas carols with their wonderful theology that we often overlook. In the end, she bought my book.

It was an exciting moment. Someone who had no other reason to know or trust me was going to read my words and allow them an influence into her mind and soul. As a reader and writer, that’s huge. (As a frugal person, the fact that she was willing to pay money for my book is, in some ways, even bigger.)

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Photo courtesy of Kinsey Gensel

It reminded me again how lucky I am to have this space to share my thoughts. When you click onto this blog, you are taking time to read these words, humbly shared as they are. You are saying that what I have to say is worth reading and that your limited time is well spent on them. I am touched and humbled. Thank you again for this continued opportunity.

 

Marketing Evangelism: Why Can’t Sharing Our Faith Be This Easy?

Last Saturday I invited a total stranger to my book signing.  It’s never been easy for me to promote my book or myself. I love what I do and it’s fun to talk about, but it can be an awkward conversation starter.

“Oh you’re a writer, what have you published?”

“I’m working on a novel but I recently published a family Advent devotional.” This is usually followed by a blank gaze because I just used two words that aren’t in most people’s vocabulary, Advent and devotional. Even if people do know what that is, I get a lot of assumptions that I mostly do religious writing, which actually isn’t the case.

But last Saturday was different. I was standing in line at Sears, to return some clothes I had bought from Lands End. (Sadly, the argyle sweater had to go back) and ended up chatting with a lovely woman who was also standing in line. We chatted about how we love Lands End clothing and how easy they make returns and how the quality is so wonderful. Which led to me mentioning the possibility of my mother and I wearing the same thing to church. (We both shop at Lands End). She asked what church I attended. I told her where, she said she knew of it. She’d attended seminary with my pastor. Now she’s an Episcopal priest. Then we discussed faith for a while, as well as my father’s midlife career change from chemical engineer to pastor. Then I said to her. “You know, if you’re interested, I have a book signing at the Moravian Book Shop on Main Street this Saturday for my family Advent devotional.” Her eyes lit up.

“You are a published author? I have a friend who writes about Advent.”

“Advent was an important part of my life growing up and Christmas is one my favorite times of year.”

“Oh, mine too. I just love Christmas and Christmas carols.” Soon we were discussing the beautiful theology of Christmas carols and holding up the very tolerant check out clerk who said she was just glad that Lands End was facilitating such wonderful new opportunities for connection. I told her they would be well represented next weekend at my book signing when I wear my favorite Lands End dress.

While promoting myself like that is usually difficult for me, the whole interchange flowed so naturally. When I told my mother about it later she said, “That’s how easy it should be to share the gospel.” She was right. The way the conversation progressed to my writing (though in this case also to my faith, by association), is how easy it should be to share my faith. But it isn’t. Sometimes I want so much not to offend or repel people but I just don’t bring it up. My faith is a crucial part of who I am, but I know it doesn’t make sense to some people. A lot of people. I’ve gotten used to people not getting it.

My dad can share his faith with anyone, anywhere. He has managed to meet Christians in the strangest of places, including while traveling in Indonesia (which at the time was 90% Muslim) and while riding in a taxi into the center of London.  He shares the gospel with waitresses, shop clerks, and bus drivers.

Why can’t it be this easy for me? It’s not awkward to say that I go to church. That’s something that people understand. What why is it difficult to casually bring up in conversation that I’m a follower of Jesus?

So as we head into Advent this year, sure I’m excited to promote my book, but I’m also praying for opportunities to share why I love this time of year. It can be a dark depressed time for many people, but for me it is a time of light and hope. I want to be able to share that with others.

I encourage you to make a point to share light and hope with those around you this Christmas season.  You never know when some stranger you meet in the checkout line may need to know about it.

Cope or Reign, I Choose to Fly: Five Minute Friday

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Years ago when a friend was going through a difficult time, I asked her how she was doing. She said, “I can either cope or reign and I’ve decided to reign.” What she had realized is that we may not control our circumstances, but neither do we have to let our circumstances control us. As a mother a two littles where my own goals and desires seem to always take a back seat, feeling out of control is where I live. I’m realizing that while I can discipline my children and guide them toward proper decision making, I can’t control them. But I can be master of my own thoughts, attitudes, behaviors and emotions. Events in my life and the world around me may not be under my influence, but I can decide how I will react to them.
I can be the bird who is blown off course by the storms or I can choose to fly; banking against the winds and using the updrafts to take me in the direction I want to go. You see I’ve been given all the mental and emotional tools I need to navigate these storms, I just need to utilize them. I am surrounded by friends, family and other support structures. I am not alone. So I can chose to cope, to be at the mercy of the wind and the waves. Or I can fly. I choose to fly.

Too Tired to Get Dressed: Frumps to Pumps

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“We know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrected bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we’ll never have to relocate our “tents” again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God wets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of Heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less.” 2 Corinthians 5:1-5 (The Message)

 I’ll admit that I don’t take the time to meditate on this scripture as often as I should. I don’t know why. I think sometimes I worry that if I think too much about what is to come I’ll stop even trying to take care of what I have today. But that doesn’t have to be the case. This body is a gift, but it is a flawed and imperfect one. Someday I will be given a new body, a perfected one that will never fail me.

So what can I do in the mean time? Take care of what I have been given. This means exercise, medical care when needed, healthy diet and taking the time to enjoy this body and the good things it has to offer.

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Inspiration I’ve Imbibed

When I become frustrated with the inabilities or perceived flaws of my body and I take hope in knowing that someday I won’t have to cope with these problems anymore.

Challenges I’ve Pursued

Get Dressed! Make the most of the body you have been given and learn to love it. Focus on your better features and be grateful for those. But when you feel the pain of aging joints or discouragement with a softening waistline, remember that better things are coming.

 Next- Frumps to Pumps: Dressing in Freedom

Week 1 : Join the Challenge

Week 2: Know Your Why

Week 3: Dress Differently, Act Differently

Week 4: Prophesy Hope Through Accountability

Week 5: Make the Decision

Week 6: Find Your “Earrings”

Week 7: Focus Your Eyes

Week 8: A Moment of Silence for Showers

Week 9: Roll Up Your Sleeves

Week 10: Discipline

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I Have a Book Signing!

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I know that I do sometimes discuss my books and my writing in this space, but I don’t often talk about my local promotions of my work. This weekend I have my first book signing. I know this sounds a little funny since my book technically came out last year. Last year I was determined to publish my book because I had put it off for too long. We had several road blocks to getting it published and available to the public, but I pushed it through because I wasn’t willing to wait another year. (In fairness I should credit my wonderful husband who was the one who did most of the pushing as well as designing my cover.  I probably would have quit if not for him). As a result of all the last minute craziness, I didn’t do much promoting of my book last year. I did a blog post, some Facebook up marketing and a tweet or two, but that was really it.

This year is different. I was determined that I would have a local book signing and do a better job of promoting my book via social media.  I was lucky enough to arrange a book signing with local book seller Moravian Book Shop. If you are a follower of The Laundry List and local to the Lehigh Valley area, please feel free to join us on Saturday from 1-3 p.m. I’d love to connect with some readers in person. The Moravian Book Shop is an amazing place and is much more than your average bookstore and Main Street Bethlehem is a wonderful place to do your Christmas shopping or just soak in some of the early holiday spirit. Please invite your friends, family, neighbors, Ok anyone really. But seriously I think this book is for everyone.. If you’ve never celebrated Advent before and you are wondering why anyone would write about book about doing so? Don’t worry, there will be a blog series coming soon all about that.

For those of you spread out across the country who won’t be in the area this Saturday, thanks for your support.  If it weren’t for this blog and the faithful readers who come here to share my words, I probably would never have published this book.  Thank you again.