The Motivation Trap

I'll be honest. I've had a hard time writing lately. I don't know about you, but this part of the fall season that is largely grey rather than the sunny and colorful September and October annually tends to drain me. My energy is seems to have gone into hibernation, and with it, my ideas. To think hard is to trudge through sand, and my hands...well...they just don't want to type. Nor does my brain feel it has anything of worth to offer you today. But I decided to write anyway, because it's important.

I read a quote today by John Maxwell.
He says, "The whole idea of motivation is a trap. Forget motivation. Just do it."

It's important for me to write because I believe God created me, to some extent, to write. I know He created me for other things, too, but I feel confident that this is a part of the big picture. So even when my muscles are sore or tired - or in atrophy after a month without use - I need to pick up my proverbial pen, no matter how heavy, and start to build my strength again. Because I'm called to. Because I'm made for it. And I don't want to miss the reason for which I've been made. 

If you give yourself an honest look, you'll know the stuff inside of you is on purpose. And you've gotta do something about it. Is the weather, or kids, or work, or life zapping your motivation?
Forget motivation. Just do it. 

We need you.

Comparison and How You Can Be Part of the Cure

We live in, quite possibly, the most comparison-saturated culture in history. Glossy magazines, the illusive shimmer of hollywood, the rise of social media and that blasted Nashville filter have revolutionized the way we see others and ourselves in a way that would frustrate and sadden our ancestors. The thing is, these glamorized mediums create a great chasm between who we see someone else to be and who we see ourselves to be. We're over here in our humble world and they are wayyy over there in shiny land where everyone smiles and nobody hurts and everything is peachy. We can't see beyond the filtered photos into others' reality, and so we make the truly most surface-level assessments of their lives. And everything is greener over there. 

Well, I can't speak for everyone, but I can speak for me. I love social media - I do it for a living! - and I love playing around with filters and adjusting photos to make them pop in various visually wonderful ways. But for every cute photo of my handsome hubby and me, there are least twenty (read: forty) rejects. (Pause to give Luke props for being the kind of boyfriend who will stand there smiling as I click away for ten minutes.) I waste a great deal of time perfecting photos so they have the "feel" I want. My point is, it's all produced. I'm not saying it's fake - my love for Luke and art is so real! It's just not all as perfect as it seems.

And it's ok! Post your art and your Christmas card photos of your kids all smiling together (which probably took your photographer an exhausting 15 minutes to capture). We all want to see these things. It makes me smile to see your happy fam, and it adds to the interest and eye candy of social media that we all love. But I will be very tempted to unfollow you if you end your post with #myhusbandisbetterthanyours. 

People are already comparing themselves to you. Please don't make it worse with careless, "funny" words. By doing so, you essentially invite people to mistakenly evaluate themselves, to focus on the lack in their lives, to feel like they don't measure up. Let's not perpetuate the cycle. Instead, try mixing in a little imperfection sometimes. Give your audience access to the outtakes, the missed opportunities, the unfiltered moments. There is more beauty in imperfection than you think, and part of that beauty is being relatable. We were made for each other. So let's close the gap and let our real selves be seen.


PS - If you struggle with social media comparison in a big way, consider unfollowing certain people or fasting the whole thing entirely for a season! I have a friend who knows she has a hard time with comparison, so she only follows 18 people on Instagram and they're all family. And she is so very healthy when it comes to her self-image. Do what you have to do to keep a proper view of yourself. You were made purposefully and perfectly by the Creator, which means you are beautiful, worthy, desired, loved, accepted, and, believe it not, quite creative in your own right. Walk it out.

I fear I've misled you.

To the unknowing eye, my last few posts might paint the picture that I am on a mountain top in every area of my life. I have posted about many good things, it's true. Some areas in my life that have long-awaited an exit from the valley have finally made it through, and you know what? It's time to party. In her book The Miracle in the Middle, Charlotte Gambill says, "We as believers should throw parties as we reach milestones in our own journeys. Too often we forget to insert these full-stop moments as we are too preoccupied [with life. But without parties,] our lives become exhausting, ultimately unsustainable and a lot less fun."

Here's the deal. I'm standing on some mountain tops and I am still walking my share of valleys. But I have to celebrate the wins, because hard-fought-hard-won wins deserve cake and a good blog post.

The thing about valleys is that they don't often need to be posted on a public platform. Some things are too personal, too raw to share with the entire world while we're dealing with them. I see people (especially ladies) too often pour out everything about current struggles on Facebook to anyone who will read. Friends, we need to be more protective of our hearts. 

I'm not encouraging secrecy or invulnerability. Share what you're learning in your struggles. Just keep the details of those struggles close to your chest until you've had time to heal. 

Believe me, when there are even more mountain tops, there will be even more blog parties. But only then. <3

I'm grateful Luke and I broke up.

Now, before you get upset, I must also add in that I'm also quite grateful that we got back together. But I'm grateful that our first relationship ended in February of 2013, because it opened up room in my heart for me to move far, far away to a distant land known as South Florida. (Which ultimately opened the door to us getting back together, but that is a different blog post altogether.) Florida was a good move for me because I met wonderful people, got a fresh start, and started a job more difficult than I could have possibly dreamed.

I'm grateful for my difficult job. It was hard because it pulled me in multiple directions, many of which I had never tackled before (including being a boss!), and I had to learn a LOT very quickly. I failed a lot. I grew. I broke down. I grew some more. And, as one of my many tasks in this difficult job required, I discovered the exciting, elusive, curious, predictably unpredictable task that is coordinating social media.

I'm grateful for social media. Sure, it's messy and distracting and has made my love for books and my attention span duke it out on a daily basis. And figuring out how to do it for an organization was a tough learning curve, with my sole teacher being (ironically) a book. But learning to do corporate social media made a way for me to have a reason to turn my face to the sun today as I stood on top of a hill with the wind in my hair, shouting THANK YOU with all of my heart.

Because I'm grateful for my church. I was out in the pavilion reading a book assigned to our Creative Team, and as I closed the cover and stood to walk back toward the building, I was suddenly overwhelmed (as I find I often am) by the fact that I get to work here. Here, where my life was transformed four years ago. Here, where Heaven gets bigger and people encounter hope every single day. Here, where brilliant, inspired people that I love, that I get to call my team, laugh and make great art at stations nearby and next to mine. Here, where my precious Luke works right downstairs. So yeah. I'm glad we broke up. And I'm grateful for the stuff in between. The in-betweens lead to the face-to-the-sun moments. Don't despise the in-betweens. 

You Don't Know What You Need

Luke and I were giggling this morning, talking about what our expectations were for our mates before we met one another. Luke, being older and wiser than me, had a long list of things he had prayed about for years - and he prayed specific things! Exuberant personality, big smile, not-ugly feet. Me, I just had a list of things I thought were important, and I didn't necessarily submit them to God. I just thought it was an empirically accurate collection of descriptors for what my man should be like. 

It's cool for Luke to look back at the list he prayed over and realize that God answered his prayers in the little things. (Apparently I have been gifted with not-ugly feet.)
It's cool for me to look back at the list I created and realize that I had absolutely no idea what I needed or would actually love having in a husband.
Today, I am beyond grateful to have an omniscient God as the One who calls the shots in my life. 

Our relationship has been littered with moments of Luke being a certain way that he is and me being surprised at how important his way of being is to me. Those moments always make me think back over my list and shake my head, laughing at what I thought would be crucial and wondering what else I missed. There are so many things I can tell you that have become non-negotiables for me because of the kind of man Luke is, but today I'll highlight just three. And if these three aren't on your "list," I'd encourage you to consider making another draft.

1. Kindness.
It's a little like niceness, but with a large dose of compassion added to the mix. Trust me - nice isn't enough. Find you someone who is eager to understand you and give you the benefit of the doubt.

2. Generosity.
It's not something many people think about, but man, generosity is HOT. Just think about what it would be like to live with a stingy person who doesn't think about the needs of others. Ew. But a guy who puts a section in the budget specifically for giving stuff away to help other people? Hello, handsome.

3. Gentleness.
Most women highly value words, and it's a rare man who appreciates the gravity of what he says and thus thinks extensively before speaking. Everything Luke says to me is full of thoughtfulness and grace. In three years, he has never hurt my feelings out of carelessness. I don't take it for granted, and you shouldn't take for granted your need to have your feelings considered in conversation.

You won't find these three qualities on any Cosmo Top 10 list. And they might not seem like the sexiest attributes a man can have, to an unmarried mind. But I can't imagine married life without them.

I hope this post inspires you to look for someone who will treat you like gold. And I hope it encourages you to run away from counsel that says your future spouse needs to be 10 out of 10 on your list or you're "settling." In what other area of your life have you always been right? Perhaps it's time to consider that Someone probably knows a little bit better than you. :) And it's ok. I didn't know what I needed either.