The Problem With Pretty

I filled my new hand lettered mug with the last of the morning coffee, scooped up my official canvas tote filled with notebooks, pens, and my journaling Bible, threw my favorite cozy blanket scarf over my shoulders, and walked to the hotel conference room to listen to the day’s speakers. The beautiful decorations looked fresh out of the craftiest blogs and most followed Pinterest accounts, the worship was richly experiential and full of emotion, and the weekend was filled with heartfelt reminders that God made us each beautiful and unique, and that we never needed to feel anything less than fully enough as we embraced big and powerful callings for Jesus. Women left the weekend feeling refreshed, feeling encouraged, and feeling empowered.

What I never felt that weekend?

Convicted.

brigitte-tohm-187223Sure, there were tweetable quotes from speakers who inspired us and encouraged us – but was there ever time they had really convicted us? Had they ever challenged us? Had I ever felt shaken from my spiritual comfort zone? Ever felt possible disagreement with something that was said from the platform? Ever felt that Holy Spirit punch to the gut that urges us to confession, and repentance, and ultimately to transformational change?

It wasn’t simply this particular weekend either. Looking back over many of the various retreats, conferences, and women’s ministries I had experienced so far, I began to see a common thread take shape. Between the adorable swag bags and the hand letters quotes, amongst the DIY decor and the fellowship around cupcake bars and campfires, and in spite of journal after journal filled with furiously scrawled notes from speakers, I struggled to find a moment in which the experience had been anything but beautiful. Even speakers who were seen as “raw” or “vulnerable” had ultimately shared past-tense experiences and struggles, most of which had an arc mimicking the 30 minute sitcom episodes of my 90’s childhood. Sure, there’s always a problem for our protagonists, but by about minute 25 we find the solution, the lesson to be learned, or the surprise happy ending, and we can put a bow on this week’s episode and see the happy family hug as the end credits roll. We feel inspired, we feel uplifted, and ultimately we feel comfortable and secure.  [Read more…]

God Doesn’t Exist in a Niche: Neither Should You

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Finding your niche. Define your niche. Know your niche.

Niche.

Niche is hands down the official buzzword of the blogosphere. What’s it mean? Essentially, the number one piece of blogging advice given at conferences, classes, and all over Pinterest boils down to this: find a specifically defined and branded area of the internet where you can establish yourself as an expert, and then stay in your lane. If you blog about recipes? Don’t post about home decor. If you’re a graphic designer? Don’t talk about your parenting. Pick an area of expertise, and then streamline your posts to stay within your sphere so that you have a clearly defined audience and an established brand.

So what’s my niche here at The Joy Parade?

I don’t have one.
photo-1461773518188-b3e86f98242fWhen I started this blog, I hired an amazing designer who specialized in branding. I created a Pinterest board while working with her to brainstorm what I wanted my branding to communicate. Sure, some of that work is about color palettes and graphics and such, but much of it is defining how you want to make people feel. It’s imagining what your readers will experience when they go to your website, scroll through your Instagram, or otherwise engage with your brand online.

If you’ve ever clicked on the Meet Stephanie page, you may have seen this verse: “So being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.” The verse serves as a manifesto of sorts for my purpose behind the Joy Parade. It’s a place where I get to share myself with my readers in an authentic way, letting each and every one of you into my story to see what God is teaching me and how He’s showing Himself to our little family. It’s an extension of who I am – spilled out to take form in these words and images, and sent lovingly outward to travel the web and onto the screens of whoever God would have them for.

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People of the Internet, You’ve Been Had

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People of Internet,

You’ve been had.

In the past couple years we’ve borne witness to an interesting set of trends. Various hashtags started gaining popularity that claimed to be celebrating the #authenticlife, but they were unusually ripe with photos of farm to table feasts on custom built farmhouse tables, cleverly staged journals with pristine latte art, and gorgeous minimalist home decor without a trace of evidence that real live people actually inhabited these homes. We saw an Instagram “celebrity” go viral for posting an extremely public breakup video to the very app that gave her a platform, only to start rapidly growing a following on her very well marketed (and highly monetized) site promoting her newfound position as a leading voice for being “real” online. Conferences and retreats have popped up left and right with speakers who market themselves brilliantly as experts and success stories of their supposed fields and vocations, but if you peek behind the curtain you discover the only job they actually hold is that very self marketing, speaking, and teaching. It’s a bit like when we find Dorothy pulling back the curtain to reveal that the Wizard of Oz is in fact a tiny little man pulling levers and dials, and its all been a cleverly designed trick all along.

There is no Wizard folks.

photo-1449535423830-de3f6546aabdThe internet doesn’t actually care about authenticity. Social media isn’t actually growing more appreciative of the vulnerable and exposed. Many of the biggest names who claim to have a way to sell you a path to success don’t actually have success in anything other than selling success.

Yeah… kind of Debbie Downer today, right?

But hear me out fellow citizens of this crazy online world. I am NOT advocating for cynicism or apathy. I’m in no way hoping to simply burst the bubble only to sit back and watch the damage. This isn’t just a case of “misery loves company.” Rather, I’m hoping we can all find a little Dorothy in ourselves right now and be brave enough to pull back that curtain, call out a clever con for exactly what it is, and put the illusion to bed in order to make way for something better to rise in its place.

The good news is this: the underlying reason for this trend’s success is that so many people ARE in fact craving a more authentic experience online. The bad news however is that its going to be much scarier to achieve than we hoped or expected. We like when we are seen as brave and vulnerable, but we’re not nearly as in love with the reality of living that out. It’s messy. It’s embarrassing. It’s anything but glamorous. It’s counter cultural in every way. And yet the only way we can hope to see a more authentic form of community online is to be willing to come to the table first, knowing full well we might be out there alone and exposed. It’s risky, but all the best things certainly are.

photo-1447914178647-198e7e4a70b5Can you imagine if we all stood up and saw the false hashtag #authenticity for what it really is and demanded something better? What if we stopped celebrating pseudo-vulnerability and held ourselves to a higher standard of bravery? What if we didn’t just share the carefully curated highlight reel that fit the persona we worked so diligently to cultivate, but opened our personal closets and admitted we aren’t any more on top of things than anyone else? What if instead of self promotion and viral marketing, we just put our work out there and let it speak for itself? What if we actually created the #authenticlife we claim we so desperately crave?

And therein lies the bigger challenge. It’s easy to criticize what we’re against, it’s a lot more difficult to actually do something about it. I could get up on stage after stage speaking against false authenticity and write blog after blog calling out the online culture of deception, but what can we actually DO about it? It’s not good enough to know where we don’t want to go if we still don’t have a plan for where we should – it only leaves us stalled and stagnant.

Claim your personal stake as part of the solution:

Calling out pseudo-authenticity doesn’t solve nearly as much as stepping up to the plate with the real thing. The only social media accounts you have any certainty of affecting for change are your own. Make a commitment to take personal responsibility for your online citizenry and focus on your own domain. Lead by example.

Don’t misinterpret inappropriate sharing as authenticity:

No, you don’t need to post all your dirty laundry on facebook in the name of being more authentic. There are most definitely situations that call for privacy, especially in the name of respect. No one enjoys seeing martial spats played out over social media, and disputes with friends are always better handled face to face rather than publicly on facebook. Most importantly: authentic sharing is NEVER sharing information that isn’t about you or isn’t yours to share. Gossip isn’t a tool to better community, it only encourages people to hide their vulnerabilities even more, lest they become ammunition in the wrong hands later

Take regular stock of your social media “big picture,” and compare to the real story:

There’s a difference between not airing your dirty laundry and presenting the false idea that you don’t have any laundry to begin with. It can be a tightrope walk for sure, but it CAN be done. Look over your social media account regularly and ask yourself if the story you present overall is an accurate representation of the real life person behind the screen. If you aren’t sure, find a close friend you trust and ask them to weigh in. Ask yourself: if someone who had only known you online were to come spend a week in your home, do you think they would be at all surprised at the person they would see? If your answer is yes, ask yourself which parts of yourself would be most surprising, and how your might more accurately represent them moving forward.

Real authenticity is almost always scary to some degree:

If you have never experienced that nagging instinct to self preservation, or had to will yourself to press post on some less than flattering aspect of yourself, its a good idea to examine just how authentic you’re willing to be. Yes, there are those rare folks among us who maintain such an incredibly healthy self esteem that no amount of unflattering photos or admitting of their flaws holds any sort of fear. These are the exception though, and not the norm. For most of us, the idea of sharing our mistakes with the world gives us more than a little bit of pause. For many its outright terrifying. If you’ve never had to urge to hit delete or felt the weight of just how vulnerable it is to feel exposed? Challenge yourself to share something uncomfortable and see how folks respond.

Resist the urge to adhere to a label or niche:

One of the most insidious ways we start to take on false personas is by allowing ourselves to step into a comfortable label online. Nobody is just a DIYer, just a Christian, just an attachment parent, just a #girlboss… the list could go on and on. When we take on a label its often too easy to take it on as a role to be played, with proper costumes and guidelines for who the character should and shouldn’t be. Theres a reason that you’ll see so many similarities between bloggers who blog in similar niches – it can be all to tempting to let those labels define us and start to filter our other choices through those roles. Authentic people are much harder to fit into a box. You might be a blogger who doesn’t like coffee, a hippy mom who also enjoys rap music, or a fantastic designer who’s living room usually looks more like an abandoned daycare than a plug for HGTV. Real people are more than one thing, and we wont all look the same.

The Best Question to ask before EVERY post:

“Are you sharing this to build better community or to build up yourself?” Real authenticity is always about building connections, not building a platform. Authenticity is never about gaining the high ground, but about leveling the playing field. Authenticity is never about being liked, but about being known. Authenticity cant be planned, staged, coached, or branded. It has no cares of what will be retweeted, repined, reposted, or double tapped. It is because it IS. It’s truthful, it’s real, and it’s without agenda. Anything less simply misses the mark.

We can do this, people of the internet, I know we can. It’s not too late! With bravery and intention we can still right this ship.

The only question that remains is whether we really want to.

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I’m the iPhone Mom in the Food Stamps Line

If you follow us on social media you may be aware that in January my husband was officially laid off from his job as a mobile app developer for a start up. It was a pretty crummy situation, since only this last September the same company had given us permission to relocate from our home in the San Francisco Bay Area and begin a whole new life in Salem, Oregon. Because of the nature of my husbands work, he is able to do his job entirely online, so it was no big deal for his company to allow him to work from another state. In fact, a majority of the coworkers on my husbands project lived too far away to commute to the office, being that they all live in India. Such is the nature of the new global economy, so we were thrilled to take advantage of the opportunity to leave the hustle and bustle of Silicon Valley life and live in a quieter, slower, more intentional way here in Salem. What we didn’t expect however was that only months later the company would admit to hitting financial difficulties; difficulties they chose to solve by eliminating an employee salary – OUR salary. Yikes. So now that we relocated from the very place where a majority of these tech jobs exist, now we would be looking for work. Double yikes.

Layoffs-Unemployment-Job-Cuts-Losses-Pink-Slip-FiredWe ever so briefly asked ourselves if we had made a horrible mistake and needed to consider taking interviews back in CA, but we quickly remembered all it took for God to bring us to Oregon, and how he had confirmed to us over and over again that we wanted this life for our kids. Besides: even if we got a decent salary back in the bay, the cost of living had skyrocketed so high that we would never be back on our feet again, and certainly never have a home or a life like we’ve found here in the far more affordable state of Oregon. We recognized that it was more logical to deal with short term struggle here in Oregon, where we at least have a shot at a future, then go back to CA where we may never get out of the cycle of paycheck to paycheck life, if we could even support ourselves at all.

So Bobby went about the business of applying for new work. He even went through multiple interviews with the same company, who eventually brought him onsite to meet the team and even talk to HR… only to send him a form email the next day saying they “couldn’t offer employment at this time.” Resume after resume was going out, and most of the time he only heard crickets in response. The very last paycheck had come at the end of January, and we would do everything in our power to stretch that as long as could. Besides, Bobby had paid into unemployment insurance with every check, so we’d at least have that right?

The letter from unemployment was jarring: your claim has been denied. What? That couldn’t possibly be right. Countless phone calls and entire CD’s worth of hold music later, the mysterious problem was finally uncovered. Turns out the HR representative at Bobby’s last job had made an eentsy weentsy miniscule typo – in his social security number. *head-desk* So all those payments diligently made to unemployment insurance month after month, paycheck after paycheck, ensuring we were properly prepared for an occasion just such as this? Not a one of them was credited to Bobby, but to a magical second social security number that wasn’t even his. More phone calls and even more hold music later, the final word was something along the lines of “yes, you most definitely qualify, but no, we have no idea whatsoever how long it will take for the two states to sort this mess out. We’ll get back to you… eventually.”

So here we are – 2 kids, 1 mortgage, 0 immediate sources of income.

So now it seems the calendar says MARCH along the top, resumes are still going out each and every day, and that paycheck from January is shrinking so that it’s all but vanished at this point. I wont lie – the scariest part is when you realize you cant pay your mortgage anymore. We moved to a whole new state to seek more affordable housing, something well within responsible budgeting guideline suggestions, and yet now that we’re here we feel it slowly slipping away. February is still due, March is now upon us, and who knows when either UI benefits or a new job will finally bring the next check into our mailbox. So I finally put my pride aside and applied for food stamps, because my children need food on the table more than they need my stubborn self reliance.

A Popular Internet Meme

A Popular Internet Meme

Now I suddenly find myself stepping into the role of an unpopular stereotype: the iPhone mom in the food stamps line. I admit it, Im terrified to answer calls on my shiny gold iPhone when I’m in the social services building or even in the grocery store line. I’ve even gone so far as to turn my wedding ring upside down so only the band is visible, the stone hidden away from view. I know what people may think: “how can you have an iPhone and claim to need food stamps?” “How can you have ANY nice things but then expect the hardworking taxpayers to pay your bills? ” And I get it: it’s hard to think that while you’re working so hard, trying desperately to create a future for your own family, that somebody else expects you to pay for theirs. And yet, here I am – forced to abandon my pride and accept the help that is often less than willingly given, knowing full well how many people may think we don’t deserve it.

The truth? Even people with good jobs who keep to the budget and make the “right” choices with their money can end up in situations they never expected, and sometimes by no fault of their own. In this new economy our story is FAR from unique. Thousands of people who have worked hard, spent money responsibly, and haven’t taken a vacation in years are finding themselves very suddenly and unexpectedly struggling to put food on their table. Gone are the days when we can assume that anyone that’s willing to work hard can make a good life for themselves. It’s no longer as simple as pulling yourself up by your bootstraps or simply altering your budget. My husband had a great job, made smart choices, always put into his retirement responsibly, and we aren’t exactly buying luxury cars or designer bags around here. Most notably my husband and I haven’t actually taken a vacation since our honeymoon – and that was over 6 years ago.

Why am I sharing all this? Why even feel the need to justify our situation? My hope is that by sharing the reality of our own situation, and how difficult it has been to even admit we need government assistance at all, that people would see that these unflattering archetypes we so easily mock represent real people with real stories. From everyone I’ve seen and spoken to in a situation like mine, one thing has been consistent: nobody PLANS to live on government assistance. Trust me when I say you aren’t getting enough to live comfortably, just enough to keep your pantry from running empty. So when you see that mom with a nice purse using her WIC coupons, or you see that man talking on his iPhone at the social services office, try not to judge. For many, needing help is a temporary situation they never expected. Even if they sold their phone or pawned their nice purse, it wouldn’t be enough to fix things anyways. Sometimes, when you’re living on so little and going without so much, it’s those little things you hold on to that help you believe you can get back there someday. They may be remnants of an old life, where the budget more than provided for them. They may be a gift from someone better off, someone who can easily afford to spoil a good friend.  And for some, the harsh reality is that they may always be struggling, no matter how hard they work or how much they try. For those people in particular I would pray our hearts would have compassion over judgment, and would recognize than when your whole life is spent in a position of sacrifice, you need to have some small comforts, some little joys to make life worth living.

fear and faithAs far as the Tait family is concerned, I trust that God has a plan for this desert season we find ourselves in. One thing for certain is that when we receive food stamps, or a donation from a friend to help pay the bills, it’s so much easier to directly recognize God’s provision. When we have a good job and collect those paychecks? Then it’s so easy to fall into the trap of feeling like we earned it ourself, the pride that a sense of ownership and well earned entitlement can bring, and its too easy to forget who our provider really is. When you have no choice to remove yourself and your hard work from the equation, the first thing to go is that pride: the illusion is shattered, and you see each and every cent for what it really is – mana from heaven. We are immensely blessed, and we trust that God will keep providing for our needs in ways we never expect or imagine. I’d be lying if I didn’t say it’s scary right now – its downright terrifying. But real faith exists only in the presence of real fear. When we’re sure of our next step, its not faith that guides us, but common sense. Faith and fear aren’t mutually exclusive. No, faith and fear live in a beautiful intimacy, totally intertwined until you cant tell where one begins and the other ends.

So for now we focus on living authentically, and being open about wherever God takes us in this story. Perhaps an incredible new job is just on the horizon. Perhaps the lean times will continue and Gods miraculous provision will keep being displayed in unexpected places. I wont pretend I know the plan, in fact I will openly admit I dont have the foggiest idea what it is at this point, but I don’t have to know it to trust it. I know HIM, and I know His promises, and thats enough for now. Every time I look at the tattoo on my wrist I’m reminded of this verse which keeps us moving forward each day in that trust:

“And to Him who is able to do IMMEASURABLY MORE than all we ask or imagine according to His power than is at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:20)

 

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**UPDATE: BOBBY WILL BE STARTING A NEW JOB ON 4/13! PRAISE THE LORD FOR HIS PROVISION!!!!**

More Than A Buzzword

If you’re fairly present on social media like I am, you may have noticed some really positive words are trending lately. Words like authentic, and intentional, and vulnerable – they’ve all been reaching their veritable status buzzwords and are now being hashtagged at a fever pitch. It seems fairly evident that people are growing increasingly weary of the constant facade and are tired of being bombarded with picture perfect highlight reels of seemingly perfect lives on social media. So we carve these words into the covers of our journals or buy beautiful hand lettered prints on Etsy, determined to apply their virtues as we embrace the new year.

And for many, thats where it stops.

Because reality is that these are incredibly demanding words. They fly in the face of all that we value as a modern society and demand that we live in a radically countercultural way to everyone and everything around us. And for most of us, thats just simply not what we signed up for.

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I mean sure, we like the IDEA of “intentional,” and we want people to SEE us “authentic,” but are we really ready to sign up for turning our entire existence upside down to dedicate ourselves to words that so wholly refute most everything we have built our lives on?

And so countless women across Instagram throw their hair into a strategically messy ponytail, put on their makeup but skip those last steps of eyeliner and gloss, and take 3-4 outtakes before finding the perfect selfie to hashtag #therealme

Moms all over Facebook straighten up their living rooms, leaving a few toys scattered just so, and post a half-truth update about needing to be #authentic about the way their house isn’t actually perfect.

Ugly, gross, embarrassing truth time? I’ve DONE this. For my own personal confession, I present to you Exhibit A in the case against me for my own pseudo-authenticity. Last year I posted this photo to Instagram:

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I captioned it, “Authenticity Moment” and went on to talk about how important it was to show our real lives on social media and not be afraid to show our messes. And sure, there are a few dishes in the sink here, and the paper towel roll needs refilling, but seriously? You want to see a REAL authenticity moment? THIS is what my sink actually looks like sometimes:

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Y’all. I CANT EVEN. Feel free to call me out for that one, because I *know* I deserve it.

We are selling ourselves short if we really think this is the best we can do. Authenticity is so much more than a buzzword. Being Intentional? Its hard work: taking every thought captive, and making every choice with a real thought to our values and goals. And being vulnerable? Its probably the most intense of them all – baring our flaws in all their glory so that HIS glory can shine through. Its easier said than done, but it certainly doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to do them either.

Pseudo-authenticity isn’t helping anyone. Can we all just agree to stop cleaning up our houses for company and then saying “oh sorry for the mess” when they walk in? Can we actively try to look at our social media and consciously reflect our lives in their most authentic state? Can we stop simply lettering these words across our coffee mugs and surrender ourselves to them in a real and radical way? Or maybe for some of us its a simple as promising not to keep offhandedly hash tagging these life altering words until we’re wholly ready to see our lives transformed into something unrecognizable.

I can promise you this, if you dedicate yourself to discovering the height and the depth of words like these: it may not mean suddenly uprooting and moving to another state, or jumping into a new career, or putting your life online for the world to see – that happens to be my story, and yours may look nothing like it – but it WILL be utterly transformative. Life as you know it will change in every facet of your existence, and nothing will ever be the same.

Crafting Your Legacy Online

Navigating the social media age certainly added a whole new dimension to the way we receive and perceive social stigmas.

Don’t have a Facebook page? You live in the stone age.
You do have a Facebook page? Instagram is now where it’s at, Facebook is passé.
Post a selfie? You have a vanity complex.
Never post any photos of yourself? You need help with your self esteem.

And then of course there is the unwritten commandment leveled at all parents with an internet connection: don’t don’t don’t post too much about your children.

From the thinly veiled flogging of the iPhone mom to overtly calling out such supposed taboos as adopting a photo of your kids as your personal profile picture, the message is clear: your online habits are now the new frontier for outsiders judging your parenting. And thanks to the marvelous connectivity of the internet, strangers with no tangible connection to your family or home life now have the unique ability to reach out and render their critiques with lightning fast speed and virtual anonymity.  It’s reminiscent of those classic women’s magazine spreads where unknowing pedestrians found themselves featured on the glossy pages with a black bar of shame plastered over their faces and the enormous “DONT” label calling out their crimes.

I’ve often found myself on the receiving end of some of the haplessly lobbed verbal grenades.
“I’ll bet your kids are so sick of having their pictures taken, right?”
“Put the camera down or you’ll miss their whole childhood!”
“How do you find so much time to post online? Aren’t you supposed to be watching your kids?”
“People who post so many updates about their kids online are just embarrassed they don’t have their own life or their own identity outside their kids anymore.”
“Posting a ton on social media is just pure narcism.”
Some are unintentionally pointed or mistakenly worded in haste, others are overt criticisms or outright mean spirited, but all of them hurt, and all of them have had the potential to alter my internet presence and change the way I express myself online.

Maybe it’s because I’m nearing my 30’s, or maybe it’s just God working a new growth in my character, but I’m learning to make a new peace with the naysayers and givers of unsolicited advice. I’m cultivating an understanding that every phrase and image I post online accumulates into my personal autobiography, and I would never allow anyone else to write that story for me. Every time I edit my online voice to serve the critiques of another, I essentially drop my folio into their lap and ask them to take their red pen to my life’s work. I would never surrender the power over to someone else to choose my next haircut or restyle my wardrobe, so why would I allow them to craft my online persona?

The internet is a powerful medium, and with every post we shape our legacy – images and strings of characters coming together to craft a story of us.

Photos of morning cheerios and gap toothed smiles.

Stories of potty training snafus and the little victories in the everyday.

Journals of travels and new experiences.

Testimonies of Gods provision in the unexpected.

Quotes from when the kids really did say the darndest things.

Status Updates chronicling the first date, the first home, the first steps.

If you post what you love and share the things that are meaningful, there simply isn’t any way to be wrong. Don’t give an editors pen to anyone you wouldn’t trust with your life’s work. So go ahead and share another story about that hilarious thing your preschooler just said, and don’t be ashamed to post the umpteenth photo of your baby’s newly tooth endowed grin. Its your story, and only you get to decide whats in it.

No You Can’t Actually Do It All

Photo Credit : Desirea Still | Pursuit Conference 2014

Photo Credit : Desirea Still | Pursuit Conference 2014

My fellow mamas – oh how I need to share my heart with you. God has been laying some truths on my soul, that kind of truths that ruffle feathers and leave you shifting uncomfortably on your seat, but that your heart latches onto and simply wont let you avoid any longer.

I get it ladies: we all want to be the next wonder woman, the poster for super moms everywhere, who are having their cake and baking it from scratch out of organic gluten free ingredients too. Peruse some mommy blogs for a couple hours or a take a virtual stroll around pinterest and you’re bound to get the idea that most of the other moms in this world are not only doing it all, but they are doing it all brilliantly, and looking fantastic while doing it too. Their children are getting their very best, their jobs are somehow also getting their very best, and yet somehow they are also volunteering in their churches and communities, perfectly decorating their homes, hosting amazing parties, and they are keeping themselves fit and well dressed while they do it.

But is any of it true?  Have we finally solved the secrets to this elusive virtue of “balance?” Have women just defeated evolution once and for all and found a way to be everything we’ve always wanted?

Or in fact is this one of the biggest cultural myths we’ve continued to perpetuate ultimately because we fear that we really ARE the only ones who are failing? Perhaps we fear that trying to expose the myth may ultimately just expose ourselves as the outsider we really are, and that’s a risk we simply aren’t willing to take?

Who told us that we could do it all? Or more importantly, who told us that we even SHOULD?

If we were truly able to achieve it all, and all on our own, what would draw us outside ourselves into the embrace of community? Isn’t the myth of independence one of the biggest roadblocks to living in community with the people around us? When we believe that not only CAN we do it all on our own, but that we SHOULD, isn’t that the end of “the village” and the beginning of our own isolation? When would we ever have a chance to experience the love of a friend bending down to meet us in our hour of need? When would we feel the intense connection that only comes from walking through a deep valley braced on the shoulders of someone we trust? When we spend our lives as competitors, how can we ever be companions?

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Think about it: if the God of the universe, the epitome of total perfection, exists in a triune form – not as a singular being, but as community in and unto himself, three persons in one state of perfect union – why would we ever want to exist outside of community ourselves? Let that set in for a minute, because its a pretty enormous truth, and I know it takes a moment to process. The God who created us in His own perfect image, who embodies perfection and strength and omnipotent power, He exists in a state of COMMUNITY – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – and forever models for us not confident IN-dependence, but perfect INTER-dependence. For even before the world began, God Himself was never alone, but always existed in a communal state, in perfect harmony as three in one – and it was in this image He created us.

We weren’t created to do it all. We weren’t created to BE it all. We were designed for community. We were designed to strengthen each others weaknesses and brace each other where we fail. And Scripture is absolutely rife with verses pointing us to this truth.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! – Psalms 133:1

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another – 1 John 1:7a

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. – Hebrews 10:24-25

Ladies: lets kill the myth once and for all. We can’t do it all, and we just were never designed to. Im flawed, you’re flawed, and its our beautiful brokenness that His mercy and grace shines through. When you share your weaknesses with us, you give us a chance to be the hands of feet of Jesus and come beside you as a tangible extension of His love in your life. When I share my weaknesses with you, I give you a chance to admit your own flaws and lay down the myths that stand between us and a chance at walking this road together. Let’s all let go of this lie of doing it all, and instead embrace the truth that we were made to do it together

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