Folgers had it right when they said, “The best part of waking up, is Folgers in your cup!” In the Northwest, there isn’t much satisfaction in Folgers, but there’s no shortage of satisfaction for us coffee lovers who live in an era of really good coffee. It is the best part of waking up!

And to that privilege I would add, the fun of choosing my coffee cup. On a daily basis, that’s a fairly ordinary experience, but holidays add a little more fun to my routine, because I get to see the mugs that have been out of sight the rest of the year.

I thought I’d make it fun (for me!) and share a mug a day. I have no partridges or turtle doves, so this is my “12 Days of Christmas.”

 

This is my mug family

No more do I need

This is their home

They’re my Christmas routine

 

They are the chosen ones

I’ve sent others away

Up in the attic

These are stored and are saved

 

Some are my favorite

Some remind me of friends

Some are just cooler

And remind me of trends

 

 

Waiting for purpose

They wait all year long

Like the coffee I pour

They’re constant and strong

 

Pick me, I hear

When I open the door

I’ve been with you the longest

I hear some implore

 

But it’s not up to me

Which mug I will take

My heart grabs the one

For heaven’s sake

 

That will start out my day

And put a skip in my step

As I embrace the season

With my holiday prep

 

On each day I choose

A new Christmas mug

As God taps on my heart

With this warm coffee hug

 

 

My hands are icicles. A few days ago I discovered that my TRANE XL80 furnace requires an upgrade kit. In car terms, isn’t that equivalent to a recall, that is typically covered by the manufacturer? I am annoyed at the unplanned expense, but gratitude skills are to be employed. I have a blanket, a roof, food, my health (oh, my health), and savings for the $855 repair bill, which is scheduled for this afternoon.

My house in the winter months has always been cold. I chalked it up to just being a drafty house. I had scheduled several NW Natural Gas visits to assess the heat efficiency, but work always seemed more important. March brought warmer temps, so I bagged the NW Natural Gas appointment altogether. Now that I think about it, they might have bagged me, due to all my canceled appointments. Sorry, NW Natural Gas. It was me, not you.

Ugh, is all I can say. This afternoon I’ll know the answer to the question that plagues me: Is it a drafty house? Or, has my furnace been broken for several years?!

Moving from fall into the holidays, I’ve had a lot to contemplate, both personally and professionally. Thanksgiving was emotionally difficult, but it forced me to be intentional in managing the holiday season. December has been a good segue regarding my new business. Here are some things I’ve learned as I engage in self employment.

REASONS WE REMAIN IN ONE PLACE

  1. Comfort
  2. Exhaustion
  3. Fear of the unknown
  4. Lack of focus

MY COMFORT

The side vinyl business has been great during the holiday season. Orders trickle in, but reluctantly, I’ve stopped promoting my items on social media. As my vinyl learning curve has slowed and I’ve become more proficient, I’ve discovered comfort in production that isn’t present in the drudgery of details that accompany creating a business. I’m reminded of my waitress days (yes, I want to use that old term!). I’d request closing down the restaurant, to be the last server on the floor. I knew the job like the back of my hand. Why not do that forever? Well, because it would limit my potential (in my case: make more money).

Creating a business from scratch is fraught with discomfort. Someone stole my intended domain name. See that saga here. Last week I spent hours on an Amazon issue. Well, I think I’ll do something more comfortable, like solicit more orders for pretty towels! Giving up entices my senses when success seems so distant. 

No words can describe how unprepared or the amount of effort that was required when I started my job as Principal’s Secretary. While I flailed to survive, not a speck of land was in sight. However, when I finally found land, I felt I could teach a course on how to get there.

MY EXHAUSTION

As I inch closer to starting my new business, I realize that I’m starting again. One of my hashtags is #constant renewal. I think I was born with a growth mindset, long before it was taught in schools. I am grateful for my teeth, my hair, and my growth mindset. On the other hand, constant renewal can be exhausting. This last month has been a relief from exhausting. If I were three I might stomp up and down and refuse to hand it over.

We all want more time. Even when I’m overwhelmed with the tasks of work and home, the flexibility I’ve had has made life more manageable. 6:30 am finds me in my PJs working from home, or driving to deliver a Christmas surprise to my son’s doorstep. None of my early mornings have me pulling into the parking lot at 6:25am and facing the demands that began as soon as I opened the door.

On Sunday morning I stood in front of CBS Sunday Morning (my favorite) with my hands wrapped around a hot mug of coffee (with chattering teeth). I picked up a friend for church and returned her home. I then ran errands for a friend, and in the evening I worked. I thanked God for a day that I could fully embrace without a battle against resentment or frustration. I didn’t have to wrap up the day by 9pm (of which I was rarely successful) in preparation for a 5am wake up that would have me out the door by 6:15.

MY FEAR

Fear has also justified the focus on my vinyl business. What does a day in the life of the new business look like? Will my idea convert to a practical reality? Am I capable to produce and deliver the very thing I am selling? Is my hard work, belief in my idea, and faith enough? Are financial security and personal well being possible with this endeavor?

MY FOCUS

I have to remind myself daily to zero in. I’d rather socialize, decorate, cook, write, read, discuss, enhance, engage with my kids, and understand today’s politics than hunker down on a work project. There. I said it. This person you think I am is a facade, masquerading as an ambitious person. I am ambitious, in that I want to do everything. But I am challenged to focus on the most essential objective: Will this task move me toward financial well being? God gifted me with a curious mind and a generous heart. I produce a lot, but I’m not always producing what pays the mortgage.

There is a current trend that encourages us to work doing what we love. I believe God desires that every single one of us live vibrant, balanced lives. That no person, regardless of the wealth or social status they were born into deserves anything but the best. An oppressive work situation is not ideal. If possible, we should find employment that allows us to receive, as well as give. We should manage a life that provides us with the best case scenario, within our circumstances. We should take care of self. However, that means sacrifice of self. It means saying NO to the things we enjoy, which requires more discipline from some of us than others.

I’m not a 100% certain, where is “there.” But when I walk with my creator, any direction is the right direction, and ultimately, that’s where I’m headed.

 

Skills, that have little to do with creating my business, yet have everything to do with it, can be game changers for us personally and professionally. Naysayers, wait and seers, and discouragers can squelch a person’s dreams faster than anything else. As much as the technical skills and knowledge are advantageous in the practical side of creating a business, there are other skills that are invaluable in overcoming discouragement or simply advancing ourselves on any level.

I am on Pinterest occasionally these days, for both of my businesses. I saw this quote: “Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.” I want to send it to a couple of people. You know those moments when you want someone to get a message that you hope will change their mind, their thoughts, their position, their life? When we’re younger, I think we all do that. We’re certain that the message we send is going to make the difference in someone’s behavior or attitude. That if they see “this” or hear “this sermon” all will be well. Then after a few years of discovering that your insight wasn’t the conduit that changed a person, that it’s people who change themselves, we begin to understand that there is more to a person’s transformation than the bible verses or beautiful quotes we send. That’s not to say we shouldn’t send our friends uplifting phrases. I love to give and receive them. But over time, a lot of relational experiences, and through reading our bible, we discover that these phrases or a powerful sermon is only one piece of a bigger puzzle.

We all have those interactions that we wish never happened. The kind that, in the exact moment it’s occurring, you wish you could run away, hit them and make them go away, or everything in you wants to give in to the tears that have made their way up and are ready to burst. I’ve had two of those moments in the last couple of months, and after each experience I realized that during the conversations, I was keenly aware that I’d used my skills. I didn’t run away or hit, and I postponed the tears.

We tell kids all the time (especially in the school environment), to use their skills. But I think we adults live as if that message is just for kids. The lessons were left behind with the David Cassidy posters, or for my younger friends, Back Street Boys. Okay, I’ll include Frankie Valli. Most of us have the capacity to engage our better selves in the heat of the moment. Admittedly, I’m at an advantage, simply because I’m older and have had more opportunity of experiences and learning. It’s not easy to overcome emotions that flare up when someone speaks unkindly or critically of us. Our heart hears them first. It jumps ahead to the finish line and kicks our brains back to the start, limping along, almost helpless to catch up.

Almost helpless… I read the bible a fair amount. It is my “go to” for comfort. My friends are a necessary and invaluable component to my well being, but their comfort must be accompanied with the healing words of hope and compassion my savior provides to me in the bible. I love to listen to leadership and management books and podcasts. I listen to sermons on hope, forgiveness, and God’s kind of love. Kate Bowler, Timothy Keller, Brene Brown, and many more. You can see that I am fully equipped to handle the most gruesome situations. But we never know our capabilities until we’re put to the test, of which I’ve been so fortunate to be able to do.

In the midst of a recent conversation, I was discouraged and misunderstood. My heart was predictable and the first to respond, immediately seizing my body. But thank you, brain. It kicked in and I remembered that I do have control. I thought, “I cannot give up in this moment. I must turn this situation around.” My brain managed to somewhat listen to the words. It had a lot to consider,  and with its partner the heart doing laps around it, in thundering strides, it was no easy task. So, I listened with a polite ear, yet not a completely analytical one. I conjured up how to respond as best I could and salvage the situation. I determined I would find words of affirmation, combined with sincerity.

I can’t share the details of the conversations, yet if you know me, you know I’d love to share every word that was spoken. But as I listened, I considered what positive thing I could glean from this, and how I could recite it back to the deliverer. I considered what truth had been said that I could acknowledge, and what emotion of mine that I could reveal. I was able to find something to affirm, and offered my sincere response by sharing that I was surprised at their perception, but that I took it to heart. I said that I didn’t see things the way they did, so I wanted to think about what they’d said.

I used this strategy for both conversations, but one in particular was much harder, because the person means so much to me. The criticism was delivered with a tone that didn’t come from thoughtful delivery or of God’s will. My heart wanted to unleash itself, but I knew that if I allowed that, I could jeopardize the relationship completely. This particular conversation wasn’t nearly as smooth as the first, but throughout it, my mind stayed present and we did our best. My heart flailed while my brain worked overtime. After the conversation was the time for heart and brain to collaborate. That would be time for contemplation, tears, education, and friends.

I so want to send messages of clarity and inspiration by text, by email, or by pigeon. I want to fix a situation by convincing the wrongdoer. I want to say that a thousand failures have occurred, before success happens, and I want to illustrate my point until I’m blue in the face. But I know that the best messenger is God, and in that truth, I will keep on hoping.

Practically speaking: My side biz is taking a slight pause as I take advantage of the holiday season and create items I’ve made to sell. This is keeping me very busy, for which I am hap hap happy! More on the practical side of my biz, soon.

Love,

Joni

I wish I could say I got to enjoy this. I attempted having a fire again, hoping I’d figured out how to keep smoke from billowing into my house, but I hadn’t. I ended up pouring water onto it. But it sure looks pretty, doesn’t it!?

I know it’s a week late for this, but since my job isn’t a beat reporter, you can bet my current affairs will always be a day late, which is in keeping with me, because I’m always a dollar short! I’m enjoying the idea of an extra day off with our inclement weather, yet as it sits right now, the inclement weather has hit every area except Washington County. Just the idea of it is giving me a possible false sense of a few extra hours to play with, so play I will!

Playing for me is to write a blog post that’s been on my mind since last Sunday. The Super Bowl upset that I’m referring to has nothing to do with the outcome of the Patriots / Rams game on February 3rd. I had such a great time at my friends’ house eating good food, catching up, and enjoying a defensive game. While many people thought it was boring, I was engaged with anticipation of which defense was going to break down and allow the other team to score. Since Bradley plays defense, I appreciate that perspective of a game and I was thoroughly entertained.

But what did disappoint me was the halftime show. Adam Levine was fine. I wish he would smile because he’s so much cuter when he does. His gyrating distracted me. I enjoy his personality on The Voice, but I didn’t find the same sense of satisfaction in his Super Bowl performance as I do watching him banter with Blake Shelton about The Voice contestants.

The Super Bowl upset was this: the halftime show’s second performer. I’m going to expose my ignorance by admitting I don’t even know who he was. I know he’s a big deal because he performed at the Super Bowl. I’m out of the loop with pop culture. I’m not even going to look up who the performer was. I don’t care about tearing him down, and this post is about more than this performer.  My disappointment is in the people who are in a position of decision making. I was so frustrated that the second half time performer sang a song that required many of his phrases to be bleeped out. I don’t get it. I feel like sports is the one arena that should be sacred. That anyone should be able to take their child to a sporting event and trust that it’s family friendly, absent of anything that would require us to plug our kids’ ears or explain anything other than why the Patriots took so long to score and the significance of a young coach and quarterback getting to play in the Super Bowl.

We have ratings on movies and we sensor our books. The drinking age and ability to buy cigarettes in Oregon is 21. We separate state and church so extremely that we’re not allowed  to use the word Christmas in any portion of our holiday celebrations at school. Yet the Super Bowl that received 98,000,000 views smacks us with a performance that uses lyrics that are so offensive they have to be bleeped out. I’m sorry for the people who were present at the Super Bowl and forced to hear the lyrics.

We put laws and policies into place, in an effort to protect our kids, but where is our heart for our kids? Where is our sacrifice for them? There is a theory called PAC – Perceived Adult Consent. This theory was discussed as part of the Discovery Program class that I was privileged to participate in as part of my school’s strategy to help our students. PAC makes so much sense to me. It means that consent is perceived by students (or youth) when adults observe a behavior that has been deemed unacceptable, and look the other way instead of confronting it. PAC subtly gives our youth the message that even though we say something is not okay and even though we say something is important, we are not going to go the extra mile to enforce it. What they might experience is that we care, but we don’t care that much. Or they might just think we’re authoritarian, like rules, and don’t care at all.

I’ve seen PAC happen a million times, every day. It happens in our community, within families, on social media, at school: everywhere.

I understand that addressing issues takes time and energy that we don’t always have. I understand it’s easier to make our kids’ bed than it is to teach them, and it’s easier to pretend we didn’t hear the name they called us, than deal with a consequence we have to enforce. But what gets me is that people ask:

What is happening to our youth?

What is happening to the fabric of our culture?

Why are our kids so depressed, anxious, and volatile?

Why are our kids so disrespectful?

Why are our kids facing more mental and social issues than ever before?

I feel like the answer lies with us. We are what’s wrong. Who looked the other way when it was decided to use this performer at the biggest sporting event in our country? Was there a discussion? Was there an argument? Did someone advocate for our kids and consider the message this performer infuses into our culture? It is one thing for someone to access this performer on the Internet or at a concert. But we were subjected to this performance.

Don’t we all really just want to feel good? We are daily bombarded with things that don’t feel good and are out of our control. When it is in our control, why don’t we embrace that opportunity? Like Ellen does (yea, Cheerios!), or Jeep does?

Jeep opted not to spend the money on a Super Bowl ad they’ve spent in the past and instead post their ad on the Internet. Their ad was created with the same level of quality that we would expect from a Super Bowl ad, and it was beautiful. The ad makes one feel good!

Why wouldn’t the producers of the Super Bowl reach for that goal? Thank you, Jeep for knowing we want to feel good. I can think of many performers who make us feel good and don’t require bleeping. Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton, Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, to name a few. There are many more. I think Gladys Knight’s National Anthem made us all feel good!

At this time there is so much effort in both time, money, and mental strategy to understand what is happening to our kids. Educators attend symposiums in an effort to decipher emotional, social, behavioral, and mental health. Counselors spend entire days sorting through emotions so they can get students to a place where they can focus and learn. New methods for managing our students are introduced. We ask: Where are things going wrong? What can we do for them? What system can we put into place to meet their needs? More money is required within education than ever before for resources and providers. And we are paying the price.

To me, all of our efforts seem fruitless if we don’t identify the root cause, which I believe is this:

There is a lot of Perceived Adult Consent that takes place in the lives of our youth every day.

Our expectations of our kids and each other are low. We look the other way when we see courtesy abandoned. Our kids don’t think it’s important, and why would they? Our politicians hurl insults at each other and we cheer them on. We retaliate on social media with snarky replies to and at each other. And we condone profanity and obscene lyrics in a public display.

The other day I saw a post that seemed so ridiculous I laughed out loud, TO MYSELF! I didn’t post it and call her an idiot. I later shared it with a friend and we had a good laugh. But we chuckled at her style. We didn’t devalue this person by slamming her publicly.

Even at that, as a Christian with a desire to esteem people and not devalue them, whether in public or privately, I had to check myself. I understand the temptations. But if we want to make a difference for our youth and each other, we have to overcome temptations. We have to sacrifice time and our own entertainment. We have to be uncomfortable. For some it might mean working harder at being our better selves. For me, it’s seeking to be the new creature that I am in Christ Jesus, which is easy to do when I talk with him and read his words of encouragement.

If our kids are our tomorrow; we are their today.

I know our world isn’t perfect. Jesus told us that we would have trouble in this world, and to take heart, because he came to overcome the world. But his love for children is great.

He said in Matthew 18: “At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who then is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

Jesus invited a little child to stand among them. “Truly I tell you,” He said, “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes a little child like this in My name welcomes Me.

But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

Our responsibility for children is monumental.

I love Christmas! I love love love the glitter and sparkle and this time when I am reminded about the wonder of our savior.

I think about the luxury of living in a time and place where information is easy and the news about a baby who was sent to save the world didn’t get to me weeks later by people on camels who hadn’t bathed in days. I’m glad I don’t live in a time or place where my children’s lives would be threatened by a king who wanted to kill all the babies under the age of two so he could be certain the baby Jesus didn’t threaten his own position as king. I am humbled when I consider the perfection of the story, which helps me see my own imperfections, and for that I am glad. It feels like luck that I have the benefit of the bible, where I can see that Jesus’ birth fulfilled a prophecy. The people who lived in Jesus’ time had only the word of people who were just like them. They had reason to be suspect of this wild information they were given. That a savior had come in the form of a baby, and they asked, “A savior from what?”  I pray for those people who couldn’t wrap their heads around this miracle, and I believe God understands the disadvantages of not yet having the Gutenberg press (that transformed communication).

I love it that a star shone above Jesus and that sparkle and abundance is part of our holiday. I love it that the wise men brought gifts and that giving and generosity is encouraged by their example. And most of all, I love it that our king was not a king of Judea, Israel, or Palestine, but a king of our souls. A king who would save us from the tragedies of sin, regardless of the location that we live or the life we’ve lived, and that this king was born lowly and in a manger. That is worth overflowing expression.

I have to remind myself of these joys because I find myself becoming Grinch like as I juggle all the expectations by myself (Dear friends who help me, I trust you know what I mean!) Because I love the season and want to give and participate, I tackle projects and then grumble when my house (and office) is a mess. I am frustrated at the things I’m missing out on and am short tempered with peers and love them at the same time. I’m impatient with non givers, wondering how they missed the generosity gene, but then applaud the boundaries they set for themselves.

Side note: I discovered last night that Cracker Barrel doesn’t serve alcohol. I’d gotten a gift certificate from my bank perks so my friend and I decided to try it out. I’d hoped for a glass of red wine with my friend, rice with my trout, and peppermint tea at the end. The menu has probably 200 items on it, but doesn’t have three things for which I’d hoped. Grinchyness tempted me: an attitude check was in order!

This last few weeks has been extra difficult. A beloved coworker was diagnosed with terminal cancer, a precious friend was diagnosed with breast cancer, and we had an ongoing threat of violence in our school district that left us feeling vulnerable and took us off track of productivity – that was the straw that broke my camel’s back. While we’re hoping to enjoy Christmas, interruptions are spoiling our fun.

Yet Jesus’ birth gives me sure footing when the ground beneath me is giving way. 

While the circumstances are breaking our hearts, we can remind ourselves, “Oh, but there’s Christmas.” And by that I mean, “Oh, but there’s Jesus.” Jesus, your name brings us peace. Jesus, Jesus, your name is love.

I got to ride my bike to work the other morning. It’s been hard to do during this busy time when I’m carrying things to work or running errands after. These rides are precious talking to God time. It’s 6:15ish and dark (and with five layers of clothing, other than my hands, I was prepared for the cold).  I love sharing the road with the few others that are up and out with me. The car lights make me happy and my senses are warmed with the smells of bacon and pastries as I pedal past restaurants, donut shops and bakeries. It’s a sacred time that can’t be measured. Aware of my fragile state, I asked God for strength throughout the day. I wasn’t feeling servant like and I needed ability from him to remind me of who I am in him.

I asked for patience and tolerance, and somewhere between Fred Meyer and arriving to school he reminded me that he doesn’t tolerate people. He loves them.

And that is what Christmas is all about. A gift from God who loves us so very much.

While the world calls us to be tolerant of each other, Jesus calls us to be so much more than that. He asks us to love one another. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16.

And then his baby grew up to be a man. He walked this earth as a human, lowly, tempted, rejected and betrayed. He came to serve and glorify his father, ultimately hanging on a cross for us. That is not tolerance, it is love.

When the things around you are spoiling your fun, when someone or some thing robs you of the joy of this season, may you step firmly on the ground that God created for you, and remember, “Oh, but there’s Jesus.”

Merry Christmas! There is Jesus!

PS: My Secret Santa at school brought a lift to my spirits, too.