I Don’t Want to be a Better Version of Myself

Belief in abundance, belief that we are made to do great things, belief in our purpose, being a better version of ourselves. These ideals and hopes move humans to change the world.  Sometimes, they get me out of bed in the morning.  But I’m realizing something.  They can have me with my feet on the edge of a very faint line in the sand.  If the wind blows a little stronger or the waves crash a little harder,  I end up clinging to MY dreams, MY hopes, MY purpose.  What can I get done today, what’s on my list, what’s MY why?

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I’m in love with the hustle.  I love working hard, I love challenges, and I believe we were meant, each and every one of us, to change the world.   But I’m not about becoming a better version of myself.  I’m not about my why.  At least, I try not to be.  You see, it sounds so good.  It sounds right.  But if you listen, it’s missing something.  Or rather, it has too much of something.  It has too much of YOU.  It has too much of ME and MY and MINE.

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Let’s stop trying to be a better version of ourselves and let’s collectively get over ourselves.  One good deed at a time.

Let’s stop trying to be a better version of ourselves and let’s collectively get over ourselves. One good deed at a time.

When I was in high school, I went through a season of sadness. During that time, my mom sat me down and encouraged me to, each day, do three simple and kind things for someone else.   I would wake up each morning, not focused on how I felt, but on how I could make others feel.  Over time, I was able to climb out of the darkness I was in.  Please understand, I’m not talking about depression.  That’s very different.  But what I learned during this time was something I’ve carried with me into my adult life.

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I’m not sure that the fact we feel good when do good has anything at all to do with happenstance.  There’s a push and pull in the rhythm of this Earth.  Rain nourishes the soil, not because rain is really good at raining, but because of what happens after the rain.  The sun comes up each and every day, not thinking about how much brighter it could shine if it worked harder.   It comes up because of what happens to everyone else when it does.   And I think we exist to serve.  To take all the good that’s in us, and pour it out, like the sun and water, for others.  The sun isn’t concerned if there will enough sun left for tomorrow.  It doesn’t hold anything back.  And the rain isn’t concerned if the water is going exactly where it needs to be.  It just rains.

The sun isn’t concerned if there will be enough sun left for tomorrow.

Doing good feels good because it’s what we are supposed to do.

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If you are interested in joining our movement to get over ourselves, click here to watch a video.

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How to Pick Outfits for Family Pictures

The leaves are crisp, the pumpkins are everywhere, and Christmas card season is right around the corner. We all know what this means. Family pictures are upon us.

That time of the year where everyone immediately forgets how to smile, let alone look, at the camera. That time of the year where you all of a sudden have “nothing to wear.” Wait, that’s pretty much every morning. We all see those amazingly curated little squares as we scroll the Instagram at 10:30pm instead of “talking” to our husbands or actually sleeping. All of the information and comparison can be overwhelming; and I like to turn overwhelming things into processes. I believe there’s almost always a method to the madness, and here’s mine.

My Family Picture Process

First, you’re going to want to pick your vibe. What kind of style do you usually lean towards? In family pictures, I think people usually lean towards one of three categories. Glam, classy, or boho. How do you know which one you are? Women that like the glam vibe tend to get excited about long dresses and flowy hair. The classy vibe fans want to wear structured outfits and simple prints. The boho vibe is all about the beanies and layers.

Once you’ve picked the vibe, pick your color scheme. It’s fall, so we probably aren’t going to go with coral or mint or anything neon. I think it works to have one color and some complimentary neutrals.

Now, you pick YOUR outfit. With any design project, I start with one muse, one standalone piece. Family pictures are your design project and you, my friend, are the muse. Because when you look good, you feel good, and you are able to corral and delegate and throw kids in the air or whatever cute thing the photographer asks you to do all while smiling.

You’ve got your vibe, your color scheme, and your outfit. Now, we complete the picture (literally). You can find your missing puzzle pieces with accessories, layers, and hairstyles.

I’ve gathered together three different family picture outfit ideas to hopefully give you some inspiration and visual

 

Glam Vibe

Classy Vibe

Boho Vibe

A home that inspires

When I walked into Laurie’s home a few weeks ago, I was instantly enchanted. I asked her to walk me around and show me each and every nook and cranny.  Every spot was purposeful and full of meaning.  I loved it because it was so obviously, uniquely her.  She didn’t run to the newest aisle at Target or head to West Elm for all the things.  Her home was curated.  She told me about art she’d made, pieces she’d found at local thrift stores or ordered off Ebay. 

I think the reason I was so intrigued and had so many questions about her style/decor was because of how unapologetically her home portrayed her.   I could tell she really loves her home, and she put in a lot of sweat equity and creativity to make it her own.   

I left her house feeling inspired.  I found so much freedom in realizing that she did her own thing and it was beautiful.  I kept thinking “her house was so her, and I’m a me – my house can be so me!”  And then I couldn’t help but be brought to this analogy: Just like I was inspired by her home being a genuine portrayal of her,  I walk away feeling inspired when I spend time with someone that is comfortable with and aware of who they are becoming.   People like that are like a breath of fresh air.  There’s no weird dance of keeping up or comparing.  I’m not good at that kind of dancing; it leaves me empty. 

I will say it could’ve been easy to be jealous of how pretty her home was.  But jealousy makes it about us, and keeps us from discovery and relationship.   I want to grow and learn, and I especially, ESPECIALLY, want to connect with other people.   Jealousy is a big wall we build between connecting with someone else.  But gratitude and belief in abundance over scarcity will knock that wall right down. 

Because I was so inspired by the home she’s created, I asked Laurie if she would do a little interview and home tour for us. 

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Kansas and my childhood was split between two towns… Kansas City, Kansas  until 7th grade, and then De Soto, Kansas from 8th grade until I got married at age 22.  Both of the schools/communities I was raised in had small town vibes.

What did you like to do as a child? 

As a kid I was outside all. the. time. I lived near farms and had lots of room to explore with neighbor friends. Somehow my parents would let us be gone for hours in a hundred acre woods of sorts! 🙂 I also knew I loved design and all things houses from a young age… I would look at home magazines and house blueprints for fun! I was a decent athlete and played lots of sports, I took every art class possible, and was a bit of a perfectionist.

Tell me about your current job and what brought you here.

My job changed dramatically at age 31… I decided to quit my job as a part-time nurse practitioner to focus on home design as a career.  It’s one of the scariest things I’ve ever done and sometimes it still gives me anxiety to think about! 🙂 I realized I was tolerating my nursing job and only working for a paycheck.  I wanted to do something where I felt confident that I was using gifts the Lord had blessed me with… so that’s what pushed me to change! I now stay at home with my two boys part time and then work as an interior designer part time!

When I was in your house a couple of weeks ago, I asked you to take me around to each little area and explain it to me – the vision, the how, the why.  What is your favorite story to tell in your house?

I think it’s just every little piece here and there that is special to me… some items were my late fathers, so those are very precious to me.  Some were amazing deals I scored at an antique store or thrift store (like my pink chairs that were $20 each!). I love to explain to people how hideous all the paint colors were when we first moved in (orange and purple kitchen)… and how literally every color of the rainbow was used in the house! Previous owners also found an old lace dress in the walls during a renovation… the dress has stayed with the house and it’s a neat artifact to show people!

 

What is your non-negotiable decorating rule for your home?

I gotta absolutely love it to buy it.  This is a rule I learned over time… but if I need a chair or a piece of art, I don’t just go to a store and pick one (like I did when I first got married).  I wait until I find something that I really adore.  That’s usually how I’ve scored amazing deals… I’ve learned to be very patient.

 

What are some things you do when you want to feel more inspired and tap into your creativity?

I love art so much, and so a lot of times I’ll look at the work of my favorite artists and see what colors they put together, or what patterns or textures they mix.  I also love to go to stores that do amazing styling… so locally for me, this is Nell Hills or Anthropologie.

 

Who are two of your heroes and why?

Other than Jesus? Too obvious?? 🙂  I’m not sure I’ve thought about this question before… hero might be a strong word for these people but here are two celebrities I admire:

Jerry Seinfeld because I love to laugh and the creativity of his humor amazes me.  I could watch him all day, and I wish we were real life friends. I love funny people, they are my favorite.

Martha Stewart because she went to prison and still ran an amazing brand. Dang. And because everything she does is perfect. Seriously though, has there been anyone else to change home decor as much as her?!? And she’s been around for so long and still so relevant!  She’s not trendy in her design either, which I love.

How do you think other people view you?

I think others view me as creative, reliable, and loyal.  I tend to come off very private and quiet to people at first, because I’m not super outgoing. My friends would probably say I’m funny because I don’t take anything too seriously.

How would you describe yourself in one word?

cautious

Tell me about your proudest moment.

I think one day I’ll look back at this time of my life and be proud of this major shift in my life/career.  Even if it doesn’t “work out” like I see it potentially working out in my head… just the fact I took this leap.  I think right now I’m still a little too wrapped up in the emotions, nerves, logistics (aka…paying bills), to say I’m proud of myself. But if my kids find themselves in the same boat someday, I hope they take the leap too and I’d definitely feel proud of them for following a calling.

What’s your favorite quote?

I’ve been thinking of a line from a song a lot recently as I’ve been starting my own business and trying to keep my heart in check:

“To you who boasts tomorrow’s gain, tell me what is your life?  A mist that vanishes at dawn… all glory be to Christ.” 

 

You can head over to her Instagram page @lauriechampdesign for all sorts of inspiration and ideas.

One Outfit, Three Ways

We took some basic Fall wardrobe staples and styled them a few different ways.  All we ultimately changed was the accessories in each look, which goes to show you can have a little in your closet go a long way.  We have a an at-the-park-with-the-kids look, an everyday casual look, and a date night look.   The foundation of each outfit consists of skinny jeans and a white tee.

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Whether you are a stay-at-home mom, work-from-home mom, working mom, or any other category of mom out there, comfort usually comes before style.  But that doesn’t mean it has to come without style.  This outfit takes the basic jean + white tee to the next level.  And bonus! The turban means you can also look fly even though you haven’t had time to get a haircut or even just wash your hair.

 

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Lunch with girls? (I don’t know why this is funny to me.  I guess because how many of us actually have lunches with the girls unless it’s planned months in advance for a specific reason?  Maybe we should write a whole post just about how this is kinda sad) Throw on a leopard cardigan and a minimalist statement necklace and you’re set.

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For date night, add a black blazer, some black heels, minimalist gold dangles and a silk tassel.

Here’s the deal.  I’m pretty sure you have the right clothes in your closet.  Maybe you can’t find them because you have too many (I know that’s real because I’m so guilty of that).  Or, you just had a baby or you gained or lost weight and your clothes fit weird.  All of those things are so real.  I’m trying to show you that you can grab or find a few things and make what you have work.  Change up the accessories and shoes and you’ve got three completely different looks.

the mom who doesn’t lose her mind on school mornings (satire)

SONY DSCshe’s a sound sleeper, so after 2 hours of deep REM sleep, she’s awake by 5 am. it feels good to get a little head start on the day, she always thinks. a quick 5 mile run, a shower, some professional development, goal setting, journaling, emptying of the dishwasher, watering the plants, feeding the dog, meditation, switching the laundry, morning yoga, packing her lunch, answering a few emails, fresh ground coffee made in her pour over,  putting the laundry away, her jeans and shirt and flats are put on, she dries and straightens her hair, puts on her makeup, diffuses some essential oils, and since that stuff doesn’t really take that long, she begins to make a quick breakfast for the kids.

they don’t come downstairs until 7, and promptly sit down at the table.  they don’t own a tv.  she puts homemade whole grain waffles with uncured bacon and a side of fruit and plain greek yogurt on their plate.  they’ll both eat anything, so they eat breakfast cheerfully.  there’s talk of plans for the day, after school activities, and a devotional. they wash their own plates, and begin getting ready.  both of their outfits were set out the night before, and they never ever change their minds at the last minute, so they get dressed, brush their own hair, and their teeth. lunches were packed the night before, obviously.  and they each included thought out lunch box notes.  they get their backpacks on and shoes without being asked and walk to the car the first time they were told. 

they sing hymns on the way to school and practice some of their sight words.  the drop off goes very smoothly.  the mom doesn’t drop her kids off too early and never late, but just at the right time.  she’s never speeding around the corner or frustrated at other moms for taking a long time at drop off.  they just sing their hymns and say their sight words.  the kids have their shoes always on the correct feet and have a light jacket just in case. papers are signed and in their respective backpacks.  she kindly waves to the other school moms, says a quick hello to the teacher on car rider duty, and drives off. 

and she begins to worry if she’s doing alright with the kids.

Kid’s Backpack Keychain D.I.Y.

 

School’s here and ready or not those sweet kids (sometimes crazy) will be heading down the halls and off to face their little worlds. This weekend in the shop we had a fun little keychain craft in hopes to send them off with something a little special.  Moms and dads and grandmas and friends were able to make a sweet little backpack accessory for them keep as a little reminder of a moment they had together. The kids (and adults) loved it so much we wanted to share with you!

Crafting with kids is such a fun opportunity to not only work together, but to squeeze in some quality time.  More often than not, when my kids and I color or play play-doh or paint, it leads to some good talk time with my kids.  I’m love tricking them into spilling whats on their minds!

Here are the supplies I used.  I included the links of what worked for us, though you can get most all of this at your local Michael’s or Hobby Lobby.  I ordered in bulk so that we could make these in our shop.

What you’ll need: 

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  1. Choose how many beads you’d like (i used 2-3 on my kids) and paint your beads using one paintbrush end to hold the bead while using the other to paint.  Have fun and play with color and patterns. My kids wanted help with this part.  Lay on the the base of the bead (hold down) to dry.
  2. Drill or twist in the mini eye-hook screw into your chosen animal and string the waxed twine through. I did about 6-9″ long.
  3. Once the beads are dry, string both pieces of the wax twine through your beads
  4. Add a tassel (or a pom pom would be cute too!)
  5. Pull apart the two strings and tie around the keychain.  I made like 3 knots and then clip the excess string
  6. Add to your backpack to be the coolest kid in school!

Here are a few ones made with mama’s in the shop this weekend.  We loved seeing how they turned out and know that the kids will have a little piece of home to take to school with them.

-Erin

Am I chasing the right dreams?

One of the things I love most about summer is kind of the chance to jump off the treadmill of schedules of pickups and drops off and all of that.  As summer has been winding down, I feel like I have been in the mindset of wanting to start off the new “year” with some practical rhythms for being intentional in goal setting.

Over vacation I read a book about chasing your dreams.  I loved the book but when I finished, I was left with this frustrated feeling I couldn’t put my finger on.  Then I realized, I haven’t met my goals and my dreams are too big. 

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As a kid growing up, we are taught to chase our dreams and “you can be anything you want to be.”  I feel like the intention is well-meaning and can be true to some degree, but for someone like me that can be a frustrating mindset.  I am naturally a dreamer, and over the last few years with becoming a mom and being a business owner, I have begun to think that maybe I can’t set my mind to be anything I want to be, but I can set my mind to be who I was made to be.

you can't be anything you want to be, but you can set your mind to be who you were made to be

Not all of us can be astronauts.  It can be super discouraging, for someone who sets the bar really high, to not achieve your goals either in the timing that you want to or maybe ever.  I tread very lightly here, because I am the first person to create bucket lists and set high goals and I have spent a majority of my life dreaming big.   

As Racheal and I have been growing our business, we are nowhere near becoming multi-millionaires, we never made it to Shark Tank, we didn’t break the internet with our fame (yet…jk).  Do we have goals?! Absolutely!!!  We even have big ones.  BUT, we trust the plan of what will happen with our business.  We know ourselves and we have people in our lives to help remind us to stay true to who we are.  We seek wisdom daily, through prayer, through friends & family and through people who have walked in our shoes and are maybe a few steps ahead of us. 

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photo cred: @celseyb

If we had a world full of astronauts who would make music, write books, teach kids, heal sick people, run the country, you get the point.  I believe that we are each something to be grown into.  We have in us a maximum potential of greatness that is one-of-a-kind.  We aren’t going to get there by doubting ourselves or comparing to the person next to us.  We are going to get there by looking inward and questioning, “what am I made to be?”

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Racheal and I dream of Wild Juniper growing and continuing to be a source of income, but more than that, we dream of connecting to people.  Whether in store, online or through social media.  We LOVE people.  We LOVE you guys.  We dream of being ourselves (which most often is a mess) and we dream of staying true to that.

As we enter this next year, we will jump back into the grind of working hard, but I am hopeful to continually self-reflect and grow more and more into my maximum potential.  As a mom, a wife, a friend, a volunteer and as a business owner.

Here are some questions I am going to be asking myself this year as I start new routines and rhythms. (and you have permission to keep me in check. :))

-Erin

What do I dream about_ What ways can I trust that if it_s meant to happen it will_ What ways can I set myself up for moving toward that_How am I being myself_ What ways am I being untr

 

 

vacationing with kids

I wrote a little about this topic in a previous post. But after being freshly home from a 7 day trip to Colorado, I thought I’d talk a little more about it.  With my family living in Mississippi, which is a 12 hour drive from us, our kids have traveled a decent amount.  They both made that drive as newborns.

I have friends ask me for tips on how to survive a long road trip with kids.  What I usually tell them is to structure the drive.  I used to wing it and just throw snacks and TV shows in the back constantly and by the time we arrived everyone had a sugar hangover and was overstimulated and exhausted and cranky.  Now we plan out our stops and structure entertainment and snacks accordingly.

On most of our trips, we usually hit the road by 6am.  Our kids don’t sleep in the car.  Like ever.   We used to have high hopes of me sipping coffee, Jeff driving (he always drives the first shift), and the kids sleeping peacefully in the car.  It was a cute thought.  On our trip last week, we planned to make three stops because it was a 10 hour drive.  We aren’t rigid about the stops, if nature calls, there’s nothing you can do about it.  We divided the trip up into three segments.  For the first three hours, they can eat their breakfast, read, draw, and look out the window.  No shows, no devices, no snacks.   This always starts the trip off well.  Something about holding off on sugar and TV helps the kids have a better attitude.  We talk, maybe listen to music, and just sit.  After our first stop, they get to watch a movie, which usually takes about 1.5 hours and they also get a snack.  It’s a well-earned reprieve for everyone.  After the movie is over, they can read or draw or play with one of the toys I packed.  I usually run around the house the night before the trip and grab a few toys that I can throw in a backpack with their books.  Our second stop is lunchtime.  We eat, stretch our legs, play if there’s a playplace, and then get back in the car.  This is rest time for the kids.  They have to be quiet and try to sleep.  Like I mentioned earlier, they don’t sleep in the car.  But we make them be quiet for about 2 hours.  They can read but that’s about it.  They then can play with their devices for a little bit before our last stop.  After that stop they get one more show and then we have about 2 hours left.  That’s usually the hardest part of the trip, so they get a snack, which helps a lot.

I love the feeling of getting on the road.  My favorite day of vacation is the travel day.  There’s just so much to anticipate and look forward to.  I love finding a good playlist to listen to, drinking coffee with whip cream, opening up a new book picked just for the trip, bouncing good questions off of each other, and learning about our surroundings.  On this particular trip, we drove a long way on I70 west.   We learned about agriculture and wind turbines and wind energy.

Jeff and I always set our expectations for trips on the car ride.  We talk about what we hope to get out of the vacation – personally and as a family and how we can help each other make those things happen.  I thought about how excited I was and I realized we are almost always more excited than the kids.  No matter where we go.  And I realized what makes vacations so much less fun is when we put expectations on their reactions.   I realized there was no way I could expect the kids to treasure the vacation as much as me.   They don’t need a vacation.  Their whole life is a vacation.  They’re kids!  Something about realizing all of this slowed me down a little and allowed me to just… be.  I feel like that phrase gets used a lot, but maybe it’s because a lot of us are so bad at it.

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In my efforts to just be present, I was able to say yes to the things that made the kids feel more loved.  “Mom, watch this!” “Mom, can we go see this pond?”  “Mom, look at this fish!”, along with 1000 bad knock knock jokes and lots of looking at pretend worlds made up in the yard.   And those things filled us all up.  I wasn’t focused on going to see and do all the things.  We saw and did a lot, but we didn’t really have energy or expectations behind any of it.  We were just together.  And it was beautiful and relaxing and fun.  And when Nora was asked, “What was your favorite part of your vacation?” she said, “Being with my family.”

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what we talk about on date night

college babiesI always joke with my husband that I was the first to ask him out.  We met in college and I immediately fell hard for him and while waiting for him to finally tell me his feelings, I worked up the guts up to ask him to a service sorority formal (where the girls ask the guys).  After all of that work, it ended up being canceled due to a snow storm.  I think he knew by then that I was into him and he asked me out on a date.   

Fast forward 11ish years and 3 kids later, we still love to date each other.  I’ve learned that it doesn’t always have to be planned out or anything fancy, our main goal is to reconnect and come back together.  We have a few favorite date night places but when it comes down to it our purpose is to spend time talking and knowing what’s happening in each of our lives and hearts.

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If you don’t plan for it it will never happen, right?!  With a never ending schedule of events we started planning date night into the calendar.  After the sitter comes and we fly out the door leave for our date night it is real hard for me to switch gears and shut out the stresses of real life.  I’ve learned if you want to ruin your date night, talk about work and kids.  Although those parts of our lives are so so important to us, those topics would sometimes trigger stressful landmines that were just not helping us reconnect in this set aside time for just us. 

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We are NOT experts on marriage in any way.  We have been thankful to bump into people with all sorts of marriage experiences and journeys.  One tool we came across, through our church, when we first got married was to ask each other open ended questions to kind of gauge where each of us were at that moment.  We honestly use it almost weekly (not just for dates, also good for those smaller & slower moments.)

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Our friends also gave us these fun question cards that we will pull out a lot of times or bring with us.  A lot of them are cheesy but once you get over what you think you already know about your partner, it is a good segue into some fun conversations.  I wasn’t able to find these exact ones but these are from the same institute and look perfect for date night!

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We love open ended questions because they usually lead to more topics and dust off the surface of what has piled onto our lives, in order to get to what is really going on in each of our hearts.  We do often end up talking about our kids and our jobs and all of the things that make up our lives, but starting off with a curious heart can create a safe place to come back together. The whole point being to reconnect and grow closer.  

-Erin

 

on dinner and friendship

This past weekend was our third annual Summer Progressive Dinner.  Our neighborhood holds one in the summer and one in the winter each year, starting three years ago.  Here’s how the night usually goes:

We walk from house to house, starting at appetizers.  We move on the hour and head to the main course.  This year we had fajita kabobs and 7-layer dip in cups.   Then we move to dessert, which included fried ice cream, sopapilla cheesecake, and margarita cupcakes.  The final stop of the dinner is cocktails

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Because our neighborhood is… how do I say this… “extra”  we also had a mariachi band follow us around to a few houses this year.  Because vibes.

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I listened Friday night.  And what I heard, amidst the neighborhood chatter and house project conversations and catching up, is that we are all in this together.  As an adult, sometimes getting out of the house and talking to people feels hard.  But once you get yourself there and start talking, you begin to hear and say a whole lot of “me too”s.  I love that phrase.  I heard so many “me too”s Friday night.   I used to be surprised when we had these neighborhood hangouts at the amount of people that would come to them.  I’m not anymore.  Because I’m realizing that everyone wants connection as much as me.  We just want some people in our lives that will help us figure out who we are and where we should go and maybe we can do the same for them

I’ve been slowly reading Everybody Always by Bob Goff.  So far, I have two things rolling around in my head and in my heart.  The first is that we make friendships three minutes at a time.  The three minutes it takes to go check the mail and chat with your neighbor.  The three minutes it takes to check out at the grocery store.  Three minutes paying for your fast food.  Three minutes picking your kids up from daycare or the car rider line at school or waiting for the bus.  Those three minutes, when used well, can add up to a friendship.

The second thing good ol’ Bob is teaching me is that we make loving people seem way more complicated than it actually is.  We try to attach labels to it like ministry or service and we think it needs all these big, huge plans. We don’t need an elaborate dinner to create community and to love one another (but it is kinda fun), what I think we need is to make ourselves available.  To show up. To get outside of our heads for long enough to be curious about what’s going on in someone else’s heart.  Even if it’s just for three minutes.