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

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Weekend Project: Declutter

We have too much stuff.  Does anyone else feel like they spend all their time picking up after all of the humans who live under their roof? I feel this low grade stress all the time that there is so much clutter everywhere. 

Clutter is robbing me of the time I want to be spending doing things of purpose.  I wouldn’t say I am a hoarder, but I definitely like to shop.  I love finding little things, great deals, and collecting some of this and that.  We have papers and toys and shoes and so so many things.

After a morning of trying to get the kids out the door with too many stressful interactions of trying to find the right things and tripping over the legos and digging through clean and some yelling I decided to take inventory of my heart. This was not the mom I wanted to be.

All of the keeping up with the things, putting away, storing, organizing, cleaning, prepping, is making me exhausted. I am striving to keep up and I have it in my mind that if I just drink enough coffee and work faster and harder, I can get it all done.  I am lying to myself and creating an ugly wake for those around me.

Now, the reality is, I can’t give up on the responsibilities. (Man!) BUT, I am beginning to realize that I can transfer my wealth of resources.

You see, I was rich in materials, but poor in time.  If I could find some things to give away or get rid of or stop buying, then I might be richer in time. 

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I made it my goal to declutter in one weekend.  I am NOT rolling around in extra time, and I am guessing you’re not either, but I do want some restoration of order.  I am not talking any deep cleaning and I still have oh so many things to sort and giveaway.  My goal was to regain some control over my life and get back some of the time I want to spend being purposeful with people, not things.

This can be stretched as long as you’d like it or if you drink enough coffee can be done quicker!  Please take it at your own pace.  Here was what I did.  Obviously tweak it to what works best for you!

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Identify Areas

Pick 3 areas that take most of your resource of time and identify what stresses you out about them. Mine are clutter, clothes and toys.

Gather

I went around to all the surfaces in my main areas and bedrooms and dumped everything into a laundry basket to be sorted later.  Tables, side tables, counters, shelves, coffee tables.  Pay attention especially to bins and if you have extra time, drawers. (drawers to me were another project). Mine ended up being a lot more than 1 laundry basket.

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Clothes: I am infamous for keeping something for too long.  If I hadn’t worn it all season, it’s gone.  I also have way too many gray shirts and jackets.  No one needs all of these shoes.  I once loved them all, but they have served their purpose and I am thankful for what they were.  Now someone else can enjoy them.  My laundry baskets are always way too full and there are never enough hangers, and that tells me I have a problem.  My clothes alone take enough of my time, not to mention adding 4 other humans to the mix.  So, I went through all the closets and tried to pair down to what we actually wear.  (if you haven’t at at least skimmed  The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up go get it right now).  Confession: I often keep things of value to sell or take to a consignment shop, but in this case that defeated my purpose so if you’re lucky enough to run into any of my old leather jackets or fun purses at our local thrift store, I hope you enjoy!

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Toys: I looked for pieces that I haven’t seen played with in a while.  I have a lot of mom guilt getting rid of toys and you know as soon as you donate it they will ask for it the next day, even though they haven’t played with that puzzle in a year.  So I tried to filter each items by asking: do they play with it? Does it add value to their lives? Or is it taking away from both of our lives as I ask them to put it away for the 80th time.  I am a big believer in creative play (but that’s another post for another time.). In the end I didn’t feel like I actually got rid of that many toys, but somehow by pulling out all of the broken playdoh sets and small figures and unused costumes and that extra bat cave, I was able to find more than enough room for all of the things to go.

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Sort

I made 3 piles, keep, donate and throw away.  If it didn’t add value to my life at this time (ie takes away from my goal of being purposeful with my time) it is gone.  I know this sounds ruthless.  I am very sentimental but I also love order. I have a box under my bed for the meaningful drawings from my kids and the pictures and cards from friends.  The rest is usually something I can do without. 

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My mom, the queen of organization as I like to say, is always in my head saying “if it doesn’t have a special place, it will end up never being put away.” It has been true for me so far.  If I have a drawer or a basket for it, it is easier to put it away.

We started a new Monday and I can tell you that low grade stress has gone down.  I still have lunches to make and homework papers to keep track of, iPads need to be charged and my laundry is never ending, but their is this unsaid peacefulness to choosing purpose over stuff.  I will always have to keep my clutter in check, but I am thankful for the resources I have gained through a little more time to play outside, to read a book and to just be.

Happy Decluttering!

-Erin

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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

4 Ways to Be Intentional this School Year

This summer has been so good for my momma soul.  It took me a while to get thereI really like having a clean house and some sort of form or order. I spent a few nights losing my mind after the kids went to bed because…EVERY room. Once I gave in, lowered my expectations and embraced the disorder + constant chaos, I fell back in love with having my kids around.   We had good, quality time together.  My kids remembered how much they loved each other.  They played more.  Read some.  We talked.  I fought to focus on what counted and to let the rest go.  It has been a sweet summer, one I will cherish for a long time. 

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And the carousel gears up again. I spend my time filling out the calendar, planning new routines of earlier bed times and what to pack for lunches, hunting online for shoes to fit, back-to-school hair cuts, and digging through Target for that 3-pronged blue vinyl folder.  I find myself hoping to carry some of that slower, more meaningful intentionality we’ve had into this next school year.

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I am still working on building this into the busy mom life.  Most of the time I don’t feel like I am succeeding at being a mom, but I want to take some small steps towards not missing out on what matters.  Here are my 4 goals for being intentional with my kids this school year:

Be: I want to work on being more intentional with turning screens off.  I am guilty when it comes to using a screen to occupy their time or giving in when they have begged me for the 42nd time.  I want to create some spaces in our schedule where screens are not allowed and we can talk.  Where I can listen.  I hope to do the same in being off of my phone and available to my surroundings.  It’s fun to watch them to eventually come up with something to play or make or read. 

Ask: Even though I don’t always feel like it, I have pockets in my day where I can make the most of connecting with my kids.  A lot of times for me it is while the kids are eating breakfast and I am unloading the dishwasher or tucking them in at bedtime. Some of my favorite talks with my son Courtland, have been on ride to school.  I try to just listen, even if it’s about Pokemon characters

Do: I can tell my kids little cups are full when we spend time together.  I want to make sure each kid gets a little oneonone time with me.  My goal is to start out small and do one little outing with kid a month and rotate turns.  I would love to make it more than that, but if I’m not realistic I will probably fail.  I want to create a little bucket list on things they each would like to do with me.  Anything from a trampoline park, visiting the donut shop or just me sitting down to paint her little toes.  I want them to know I value them and enjoy being with them.

Give: As a mom, a huge goal of mine is to help my kids see that the world is more than just ourselves.  I want them to have a heart that sees and loves others.  This year my goal will be to look for small ways we can step outside of our little world and be a part of lifting others up. Anything from the little ways of helping to be a part of the “family team” to looking for volunteer opportunities. It doesn’t have to be a big production, I think it’s the little reminders that keep their eyes open to giving encouragement or helping hand. 

I will probably putter out and forget these goals, but I am hoping that by building these into our routines, as the season of change comes, that we can continue to develop each of their characters. Hopefully, they will know they are loved, valued and truly matter. 

-Erin

Click here to download a free copy of 4 Ways to Be Intentional with your Kids.

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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.