Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Seasons.

I passed out like a toddler who missed a nap last night. Came home from work, changed clothes, went straight down to the venue and worked there for a few hours, came back home and ate a wonderful dinner that a dear friend had sent us, and then found. my. pillow.

So when I woke up a few minutes ago and noticed the time, I fully expected to be able to roll over, snuggle down further into the warmth of the covers, and enjoy a couple more hours of good sleep. But it didn't come. I've learned over the years, to make use of these moments. They are like stolen nuggets of what I call "prime time." 
I've been meaning to blog all week about changes coming up with The Bohotique, an amazing holiday benefit venture - The Denim & Diamond Gala - that Mike and I are hosting this weekend, as well as talk about a great new thing I tried out and can't wait to blog about called Front Door Fashion. 
But this morning I can't get away from this one word: SEASONS. 
Seasons come and seasons go. We can count on it. Summer fades into fall, fall into the crisp winter season, which sprouts anew each year into spring. Spring saunters into summer and the cycle continues. It doesn’t matter what part of the country you live in, even moody 'ole Texas, seasons are evident.
“There is an appointed time for everything.And there is a time for every event under heaven.” -Ecclesiastes 3:1
It’s inevitable: CHANGE HAPPENS. Change can be perceived as good, like springtime bursting forth: job changes, birth, children moving out, new friendships, or going to college. Change can be perceived as negative, moving into the winter season: job loss, death, children moving out, friendships ending, or divorce/separation.
Cycles continue, life progresses on and CHANGE HAPPENS. 
Whether positive or negative, change usually brings feelings of fear, anxiety, indecision, tension, confusion, hopelessness. Our emotions are a part of change. Seasons of change can last for a few weeks, months, and even years. Change lasting longer than expected can often be agonizing.
Oftentimes, we lose heart or vision during seasons of change, because it doesn’t appear anything is happening. Learning to trust God with change can be challenging.
In a natural sense, we know that seasons change. There’s winter, spring, summer, and fall. And although I’m not about to get poetic on you, I simply want you to truly recognize that just like the natural seasons change, the same happens as it relates to seasons in our lives. Yet, the key to success in getting through any of them well, is first recognizing where you are.
Over and over this morning I have read the verse in Ecclesiastes 3:1, “For everything there is a season.” Ultimately God is in control of all of the seasons, whether natural or within life. So it’s important for us to recognize that from the start. Everyone goes through seasons. EVERYONE. Yes, even the woman in the next cubicle who looks perfectly put together every. single. day. and has the perfect hubby and the perfectly behaved kiddos and gets regular promotions, keeps a clean house, and STILL finds time for hot yoga and making her own baby food. 
Listen gal, if you have a friend like that...back it up. She's about to BLOW. 
Just a real brief run down on the major seasons I've experienced. (And I SO wish I could say that after you've been through a really tough one, you may not have to visit that one again. And...you may not...:)
1. The Dry Season
This is no doubt a tough season! Trust me. I’ve been there at various moments in my life, and I personally know how hard this one can be. For Christians, it’s usually called a spiritual dryness or a dry season. It’s when God is quiet or you can’t hear His voice or sense His presence as you once did. He seems very distant.I believe one of the keys in getting through this challenging season is realizing that you are in this particular one, and to press through it. Meaning draw closer to Him anyway. Don’t wither up. Continue reading His Word. But also talk to Him, even though He’s quiet. Because guess what, sis? He is there. He hasn’t left His throne. I have a lot more to share on this season, but it feels like maybe its for another day. 
2. The Waiting Season
Let me kick this one off by saying, "Waiting is NOT easy!" If you’re there now, I know…I know. Aaaaaallllll the praise hands that I haven't really been here in a while. Truth be told, if I had known in those times what I know now...I might have cherished those pockets of time a bit more. Rested. Reset. Read more. Learned more. Soaked up more. Traveled more. Waiting doesn't have to mean sitting still. It merely means waiting before making those life-altering decisions, the ones that will follow you to the end of your life. But while you are waiting - whether it's on that Godly husband, the dream job, the big move, the long-awaited baby - waiting can be quite difficult, but it can also be a time for you to rest your body, mind, and soul in preparation for what is coming. God has not forgotten you.
3. The Grinding Season 
This is the busy season. Dear Lort, Dear Lort. How well I know this season! This is the “I don’t have enough time in a day to get everything done!” season. The "Hey, can we please add 3-4 more hours in between 7 and 1 because that's MY prime time; before and after those hours, I'm riding the struggle bus for realz, y'all! You know what I mean. That faded out, broken down piece of junk that you got from an uncle's friend that owed him a favor. Yeah....THAT bus. It gets the job done. But it takes a long time. And you usually wind up dirty, hungry, and suffering from a hot flash. 
But seriously. I’m in this season right now as I write this to you. But the key to success and accomplishing much in this particular season is seeking God for direction the moment your feet hit the floor. Actually, BEFORE. I breathe the words that now hang on the wall of our bedroom, "Be still, my soul." I try to drain my mind and body of all except the breath coming in and going out and allow the day to greet me with a gentle kiss instead of that proverbial slap in the face. Then I plow through priorities when the work day begins. Attacking your priorities first will also help alleviate undue stress. I make lists. I am usually at my desk in my classroom by 7:15 and I'll sit down with a cup of coffee and make out the to-do list for the day. You'll be amazed at how much you get accomplished when you do this. Try it.
4. The Tests & Trials Season
If you’re going through some hard times in this season, know that God is with you right there in the midst of it all. He’s totally at work. I know it’s hard when you’re in the middle of it, and you might not even understand what you’re going through or why. But I want to encourage you that God knows, and in due time, all will be revealed. In the meantime, don’t give up or get tired of doing good, sis.
This season will pass. If you need comfort, let Him comfort you. If you need strength beyond yourself, let Him strengthen you. Beyond this, don't be afraid to reach out to someone and ask for help. I'm preaching to the choir here. I'm still pretty lousy at doing this. At my age, it's not so much about pride or trying to keep up appearances anymore; it's more of being aware that so many people have it so much tougher that I do! The truth is that we all have those days - and sometimes those weeks and months - when we need a sisterhood to surround us, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We need praying partners who can touch the Throne for us when we are unable to crawl there on our own strength. I'm so thankful for the women in my life who do that for me. It's a gift, and one of the greatest blessings we're given. No mean girls or drama! Ain't nobody got no time for that!! 
I actually meant to get up and write about what's going on in life this week and what's coming up at the B&B this weekend. But these thoughts have been heavy on my heart the past few days. When I woke up at 3 this morning and couldn't go back to sleep, I knew this was my few stolen moments of writing time. It also means that my "prime time" may end at noon-ish today - fingers crossed for a long, productive day in the classroom, at the B&B, and in my home! 
Be well, people! Whatever season you are in, know it is temporary. So if it's that cool, perfect fall breeze, then hug that baby up a little closer, give a few extra hugs to your sweet man, high-five all of your students...If it's the early chill of what promises to be a long, hard winter, wrap yourself in the promises of His word - it will NOT fail you.  Lean on the capable shoulder of a friend; allow them to feed you soup. Know Spring WILL come, and with it new life, new growth, new possibilities. 
Until then...may we all labor well in our season.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Grace.

Up until a few years ago, I would have my new "word of the year" all picked out by New Year's Eve. Ready to roll right into it when the clock struck midnight, signaling yet another fresh year - a blank slate, if you will - to do more, be better, see the good, and grow as a result.

Too often, my word turned out to be not much more effective than my New Year's resolutions. For a while, it stayed on my mind and, for a while, I diligently pursued the goal.

Then Life would intervene and I would go off-road, but with every intention to swing back onto course just as soon as everything leveled out. The funny thing about Life though is that our idea of "leveling" isn't always how it happens. In fact, almost never.

At some point there came a NYE when I didn't have a word picked out. I found that this "unplanned" year was not all that different in nature from the ones where I had meticulously plotted how my word would aid my journey from January through December; how I was practically destined to accomplish all the goals I set my mind too simply because I had the mind set to do so. Yet, (there's that word again:) as the days turned into weeks, and then the weeks into months - with still no word - I realized the power must not lie there because I still experienced the very same ebb and flow of Life that I always had.

Plenty of "ups," complete with achievements, meeting goals, and getting that one overlooked closet cleaned out, and then followed by a fair amount of sub-par performances, LOTS of dropped balls, and a closet once again in need of a cleaning after one futile attempt to locate a missing sweater.

So when the word "grace" began to play around in my mind this past summer, I didn't recognize it for what it was for the longest. I don't know if you are like me or not, but I tend to talk to myself; no, not necessarily out loud (although that HAS happened:) but definitely in my head. I found the stresses of this past summer were really working on me, and not in a good way.

Frustration, bitterness, disappointment - anger even, were just a few of the emotions that fought for top billing in my heart. My soul - usually so easily inspired and uplifted - felt bogged with the weight of the circumstances surrounding me. While the issues weren't directly related TO me or mine, they WERE very close. Too close to ignore. Too close to pretend they weren't happening.

I caught myself more than once saying, "Grant them grace." Even though it was a mere thought, it was a reminder for me to take a minute, breathe deeply, and allow the people around me to make mistakes without judgement. To realize that everybody is doing the very best they can, and that sometimes even the "best" just isn't going to be enough. Blame isn't going to do anyone any good. Yet Grace allows for a break, for a realization that - though NOW this person or this situation isn't as it should be - who is to say that they (or it) will not rise to the occasion tomorrow, or next week, or even next year or the years to come?

In late July, after this had been going on for quite a few weeks, I made the decision to leave the English classroom, and come back closer to home, to where I am needed most. The coincidence of being invited to teach culinary within my old district was a surprise and something that could only be a "God-thing." To combine what Mike and I do on the daily - hospitality - with my passion (teaching) seemed almost too good to be true. While I knew there would be a learning curve, I have to admit that I approached the new school year full of confidence and very few fears or trepidations.

The first week went swimmingly.

Then began The Learning Curve, SO much steeper and hillier than I had ever imagined. Transitioning my "home cook" experience into that of a chef trainer in an industrial kitchen, learning the ins and outs (re: do's and don't's) of PO's, activity funds, and requisitions, planning menus for board meetings, alumni luncheons, and football games, all the while teaching four classes I had never taught before turned out to be more than my so-called confidence was prepared for!

Last weekend, as I was driving alone, I mulled it all over in my head. Realistic Staci began to lecture Perfectionist Staci and - in the course of their conversation - I heard myself say out loud, "Give yourself some grace."

Give yourself some grace.

There was that five-letter word again. G-R-A-C-E. So simple, yet so very full of meaning. Life-changing, really. It was time for me to take a minute, breathe deeply, and allow myself to make mistakes without judgement. To realize that I am doing the very best that I can and that, even so, on some days my best just won't be quite enough.

And that is okay.

Fast forward to yesterday's staff meeting, where our amazing principal held up a piece of paper with a single word written on it. "Take some time and think about what YOUR word for this year will be." He challenged us to join the student body, who are all doing this as well, and put our word down on paper, decorate it, and let it join all the others on the cafeteria wall.

I didn't have to think about it.

I knew my word instantly.

It wasn't my word at New Year's.

Instead, just like Life and just like God, the giver of this Life, it raised its voice and spoke truth to me at just the right time.

Grace.

"Life is measured in love and positive contributions and moments of grace." - Carly Fiorina

Monday, September 3, 2018

Courage for the middle places.

Sometimes Faith's ugly sister, Fear, appears and threatens to take over the scene. While I would never exaggerate my visibility or recognition, I still find myself afraid to be more fully seen. Which - if it weren't so dead gum scary - it would almost be funny. I teach high schoolers - who can see right through you most days, I run a business that thrives on hospitality {the B&B} and love {the wedding venue}, and I'm trying to grow a little boutique that requires I put my face and my name "out there."

The possibilities of failure, rejection, etc. get poured into this fear-cocktail. And while I can honestly say I originally hit these challenges with courage head on, as the battles in other areas of my life persist, I’ve become bone-weary in the fight.
What I've discovered lately is that it's not my own issues that have hijacked my life; it's that I've allowed the needs and hurts of others to rob me of my confidence. I've shouldered more than I was meant to; taken on the burdens of others when they were never mine to bear.
As is the case with much in life, problems don’t disappear overnight. More often than not, we don’t get over them. We move through them.  The lyrics of one of my favorite songs right now say, 
"Escape is a waste of time; ain't no use in hiding - 
you know the best way over is through. 
So if it matters, let it matter.
If your heart 's aching let it ache.
Catch those pieces as they scatter;
know your hurt is not in vain."


And in this middle place of working through something—in the space between moving courageously and waiting for something to change—you can lose your gumption. Hope gets buried beneath 50 layers of defeated thinking, and you’re sure you’re making all the wrong moves.
I’ve been there, and as I read through Exodus 14, I see Moses and the Israelites have been there too. In this passage of Scripture, Pharaoh had just freed them from captivity, and the Lord then leads Moses and His people onward and away from Egypt. But sometime shortly thereafter, Pharaoh changed his mind and goes after God’s people. As the Israelites camped near the Red Sea, all of Pharaoh’s army barreled down on them. When the Israelites saw them approaching, they were full of fear and began questioning every move that brought them there. Moses spoke up and said,
“Fear not, stand firm…The Lord will fight for you.” Exodus 14:13-14
The waters of the Red Sea were zipped up so that the Israelites could cross. Once they reached the other side unharmed, He brought the waters back together again over the entire Egyptian army.
The Israelites were scared, yes, but they leaned into that promise: The Lord will fight for you.
And they moved forward.
So I do what I know to do. Keep on keepin’ on. You’ve got this.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

The power of YET.

The last 3 months...twelve weeks...84 days...
...have been some of the most challenging, frustrating, creative, joyful, disappointing, humbling months, weeks, days EVER. How so many emotions can vie for first place at the same exact time within the human heart is almost inexplicable.
And yet...here is where I have been.
The pieces of what I’m trying to force together sit in a hazy distance or under layers of cobwebs. I can’t get close enough to make out the picture it’s supposed to be, or I can’t excavate the tender parts that pull it all together. I want to, but I can’t.
On the other hand, every so often - even if only fleeting - the fog lifts and I’m able to see how the pieces fit together. Or how I want them to fit. I see the vision, and I do the work to make what wants to be become what is.
These last several months I’ve had so much vision and so much interest to work on brand new things. Yet my heart and talents have been so needed elsewhere. So instead I collected tidbits here and there, penciling them into the margins of my schedule and life. But in several barely-there whispers, God began to imprint on my heart that now was not the right time to do anything else with it.
Yet.
Someone advised: “Ya know, sometimes the Lord simply suggests things rather than tells you you should or shouldn’t do it.”
Yes. That was it exactly. I could see and feel how the Lord suggested I set other things that I deemed important in the moment aside for the time being. 
I was sad, disappointed and if I’m being honest, downright scared about that. I mean, what if these things ended up leaving me altogether? I'm fifty now, for crying out loud. What if I lose the energy for what it is I want? What if I run out of time and I don't complete every dream, every vision I can so clearly see today? What if? What if? What if?
When I knew beyond a doubt that waiting was what I needed to do, I cried my eyes out. Waiting is so hard. 
This time was by far the hardest. After all, with all of the challenges and changes, surprises and shocks that my home and family had been hit with in the past months, this spark of inspiration wasn't content to lay low or dormant. It had taken root on the inside of me, and I was ready  - desperate - to produce it on the outside. I had time and motivation to work on it as well as the passion and inspiration.
Yet I wasn’t supposed to.
Sometimes I assume the season of today is the season of forever. When this happens, urgency and panic want to be my companions. The best thing I can do is realize that my right now no is likely not a forever no but a temporary not yet.
It's frustrating when you can’t make what you want to be become what is, especially it makes you feel good when all else around you seems to be crumbling. But even as I think about what it is I want to create or do, God is most concerned about the heart of one He created: Me. 
You.
Glorious, capable you. If like me you sense this undeniable nudge to wait on something, have courage. Have courage to move through this season with a relaxed sense of anticipation for what God’s doing in you and through you. 
Today's not yet just means He's still doing a work. When the time comes, it will be bigger, better, sweeter, and more joyous because it was done in His time. Embrace it.
Embrace the not yets in your life.

Friday, August 31, 2018

More stirred, less shaken.

Since May, our family has experienced one change after another. Some have been good ones and right on schedule - a celebratory part of our family's story. Others have been completely unexpected - unwanted.

 Both types have shaken and stirred this season like a fast-moving storm to the sea, and - more than once - I've felt sea-sick and felt myself hanging over the proverbial rail of the ship.


You get it; you've been here. You know what I mean.
You get one challenge sent your way, and you’re holding on just fine. But then another smacks right into you, and you stumble a bit, but regain your footing. Then the next wave hits and you see a few around you go down; it’s just too much
It could be any number of things. 
The sudden loss and the diagnosis out of nowhere. The discovered secret and the news from the past. The breakdown of a relationship and the breakdown of ALL of the appliances. The letter of rejection and the awareness of public scrutiny. 
In the blink of an eye, it can become all too much for this day, this week, this season. So, when you need to do that productive thing — because other areas of life are moving parts you can't control — you find yourself in a whirl, trying desperately to accomplish. To be productive. To improve. To make a difference. Something. Anything, to try to restore the equilibrium to your heart, your brain, your life...
A while back, I came across these verses of Scripture, and today they are speaking straight to the bruised and broken parts of my soul:
Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had.John 5:2-4 (NKJV)
It’s fascinating that the waters had to be stirred up for someone to be healed within them. Not only that, but those who entered into the stirred-up waters only did so because they had faith the healing would come.
Sometimes change is very much that which stirs up the waters, isn’t it? The question becomes less "Why are things falling apart?" and more "Do I have faith to believe that even though the waters of my life are disturbed that healing can take place?" 
More importantly, am I willing to step directly into those troubled waters, or will I prolong the struggle by shying away from them?
Life-stirring changes. 
Life-giving waters.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Everything I need to know about life, I can learn from my hens.



  • Communication is the key to a healthy relationship
Chickens really are the great communicators. As someone who is  married, in a career, and very involved with family and friends, I know that communication is key to any good relationship. Chickens know this, too, and they have a very sophisticated  - yet simple - communication system. Who knew they had so many different "calls?" They encourage one another, scold one another, and warn one another - it all depends on the situation they are facing. Looks like calling someone a “chicken” actually means they are pretty brave!
  •  Relax and enjoy the sunshine
Just like many of us, chickens love to soak up the sunshine. Our hens will dig little holes in the dirt and flick dirt up onto themselves in a dust bath. Dust baths and sunbathing actually have many health benefits for chickens: the dust baths prevent parasites and the sunbathing is thought to stimulate hens’ metabolisms, along with providing other health benefits. After observing this in my chickens, I feel much less guilt when I indulge in back deck time! It's healthy, and those few moments - however brief - can go a long way in rejuvenating a weary soul.
  • Surround yourself with only good people
In spite of what a lot of people think, chickens do like people. Certain people. People who treat them with kindness. People who talk to them. People who bring them food. Sound familiar? They will flock with great excitement to the gate of their yard when they see us. They know the routine. We are dependable. We have a routine. We show up. It's a constant reminder to me to show up for the folks in my life, whether they be my love, my family, my students, or friends. Show up. Be present. Be dependable.
  • Be loud and proud about your achievements
Kids love to announce their accomplishments. I typed in 'brag' at first but brag tends to have a negative connotation these days and what kids do is anything but negative. They are proud of the award they won, they are excited about the good grade they worked so hard for and didn't expect, they are delighted when they learn a new skill. And they should be.

But somewhere along the line on the way to being mature, responsible adults we begin to downplay our accomplishments instead of sing them. It's like we've been taught that it's not proper or in good manners to talk about ourselves. 

Have you ever been around a hen during and after she's laid an egg? Let me tell you, it's a par-tay! That doesn't mean that the other hens stop whatever it is they are doing and join her celebration. Instead she spends a few minutes rejoicing and then she goes back to her life and to her co-existence with the others in her flock. Lesson learned. It's okay to take a moment and bask in those hard-earned accomplishments. But don't set up camp there. Take it in and then move on to the next thing. 

  • Come home to roost.
Chickens like adventure. They like to peck, wander, and explore. They like to leave their yard and mosey into the neighboring wooded area, foraging as they go. Very rarely do they wander alone; the are really good at the buddy system. But no matter where they are, they come home for the important things. They go to their nesting box to lay and they come home to their coop at night. 

It's a family thing and a safety thing, two of which we can learn from. Family is where it is, and - at the heart of family - is your safe place. It's where people love you even when they don't like you in the moment, it's the spot where you're built up after being torn down during your day, and it's the sanctuary of your heart. It's where you lay down your worries, cares, disappointments, as well as display your triumphs, your dreams, and your wins. 

"She closes her eyes, through her hero's demise. Holds on to her hope beyond the sky. 
She take a breath, weight comes off her chest. She finds a way to weather through the storm.
She cries out, "Home! I need me some home. Oh, I need me some home.""

Monday, August 27, 2018

Do two negatives REALLY make a positive?

I saw today where someone posted "If two wrongs don't make a right, then how come two negatives make a positive?" In math and science, this may be true, but - when it comes to people - I can promise you only one thing:
If you put two negative people together for any length of time, I am POSITIVE the outcome will be negative!
We know that snap judgments are bad for the world at large, but people rarely discuss how destructive being judgmental is for the person who is doing it. Women are the WORST at this! No joke, being judgmental of other women causes us to live in hateful chaos, and we have to consciously rise above it if we ever hope to live peacefully in our bodies.
Just to be clear: I don’t think you should judge anyone. But women tend to judge other women the harshest, and our bodies, outfits, and appearances get hit the most consistently and aggressively, because they’re easily accessible. I know some people call this on-going judgment of other women a “guilty pleasure,” because it gives you a private little hit of satisfaction. When you sum up another woman in a split second, and find something wrong with her, you get to enjoy a momentary jolt of superiority.
The problem is that every time you look at another woman and find something wrong with her based on her body, looks, or anything else, you reinforce for yourself the idea that there is a universal “right” and “wrong” way for a woman to have a body, look, live, act, dress, or otherwise. You solidify imaginary rules in your mind for what is “acceptable” and and what is “unacceptable.” You may momentarily feel superior, but when repeated over and over again in countless scenarios for a lifetime, you will also eventually feel very alone, isolated, and anxious. Being hyper-aware of the countless (self-imposed) ways in which you could fail at being a woman encourages you to take fewer risks, keep your true self better hidden, trust fewer people, and constantly guard yourself against the endless imminent threats of how you could be “doing it wrong.”
Not only does your habit of judging other women shrink your life down into an ongoing list of do’s and don’ts, but keeping company with that nasty little voice in your head 24/7 makes you, understandably, kind of paranoid and defensive.
It’s like how you always end up feeling really crappy about yourself after you spend time with that one friend who gossips about all your other friends. She might claim you’re exempt from her mean gossip, but you can’t help but wonder what she says about you when you’re not there. This endless, cluttered, negative ocean of fear and judgment clouds your mind and poisons your heart. It make you feel insecure, stressed, unhappy, anxious, paranoid, obsessive, and completely unable to let go and be present. With that as your baseline, it becomes near impossible to look at yourself, or your body, and say “Yup, this is perfect.”
The remedy?
Walk (no, RUN!) away from the negative influences in your life. It's easy to say that we may be able to "help them be more positive" if we keep hold of our own positive outlook and views on things. And it probably is possible, in small doses. The reality though is that most chronically negative people pretty much enjoy right where they are. Walk away from these and surround yourself with folks who "get" you. It doesn't mean they agree with your every thought. They may not get behind all of your big ideas, and they may even find it necessary to tell you why at times. The difference is they do it all in love. There is no question that they have YOU and YOUR best interests at heart with every word, every action.
Those people are harder to find than the negative ones, but they're out there. Find them, surround yourself with them, and love them right back. 
Two positives ALWAYS create a positive!