Sunday, October 4, 2015

Listening...getting curious

I've written about listening before. But I want to write about it again. Because listening is...well, it's the most important (I believe) part of communication, relationships, and growth.

I have been privileged to have encountered and become friends with some incredible listeners over the years. They've taught me about nurturing relationships and the art of empathy. You know what they all have in common?


They get curious when they're listening. Instead of drawing their own conclusions after hearing a few sentences, they ask, probe, inquire, dig around. Man! What a difference that makes in a conversation.

Example 1:
Me: I started Laundry Love in Georgetown.
Friend: What's Laundry Love?
Me: Well, it's simple. We team up with a laundromat and provide free laundry once a month to whoever needs it.
Friend: Oh. Cool. That's good that you're doing that.
-the end-

Example 2:
Me: I started Laundry Love in Georgetown
Friend: What's Laundry Love?
Me: Well, it's simple. We team up with a laundromat and provide free laundry once a month to whoever needs it.
Friend: Interesting. So how does helping people with their laundry make a difference?
Me: I see it as an entry point. A way to start relationships and learn about the people in our community.
Friend: Ohhh, I see. So what have you learned?
Me: I've learned that a financial burden is extremely heavy. And I've learned that people right here in our community are struggling with hard stuff and they've overcome hard stuff and they work hard, but they need better resources for affordable housing, food, child care, transportation, and getting jobs.
Friend: Gosh, I never even thought of that. What sorts of things are they struggling with?
....and on and on until who knows when.

When we don't get curious and start probing, we miss out on a lot of important details. And we *may* make assumptions about motives, purpose, worth, or value as a result of not asking questions.

Sometimes I am really freaking good at getting curious. And sometimes I hear something that either causes me to shut down and tune out or I feel a wave of hot anger fly up from my heart to my head. In those moments, it is incredibly hard to remember to get curious. And so that's exactly what I'm going to be mindful of. Getting curious and investigating the inner world of the person I'm talking to...instead of tuning out or becoming inappropriately angry just because I don't like what I'm hearing.

Curious Erin

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Looking around the corner

image from

When I was a little girl, I thought I was a top-notch thing-finder. Once, my mom lost a brown comb on our brown carpet. She asked me to find it. From my 48 inch high vantage point, I couldn't see it anywhere. So I got on my belly, turned my head to the side so my eye was peering out over the horizon of the bedroom, and looked around. And there it was...a teeny tiny bit higher than the carpet, invisible from above, but clear as day from my angle.

Now, as an adult, when I'm looking for something, I try to remember to take a different posture so I can see things from a new angle.

Say...truth, for example. When I'm looking for truth in a situation, instead of looking down the hallway of life from my white, 38, female, middle American, western Christian posture, I take a look around the corners.

Huh? Corners?

Think about a hallway in your home. I bet there are some doors leading to bedrooms and bathrooms in that hallway. And I bet that what's going on in those rooms is much different than what you can see from your position at the end of the hallway. So to get the whole picture of the truth of what that hallway holds, you'd have to start walking, opening the doors, looking around the corner, and then you'd get a fuller picture.

That's what I try to do when I'm searching for truth. Because I have a limited understanding of how the world works from my normal, everyday position. And I don't want to be narrow-minded or uninformed or insensitive.

For the month of October, I will be here, writing through topics that beg to be looked at from a different posture.

See you 'round,

Monday, December 15, 2014

I have great news! You have a choice.

It's Christmastime. Homes are lit up with sparkling lights and through the windows, I can see decorated firs, inviting wrapped gifts to make their home underneath the branches. It's a joyful, expectant time of year.

But not always. Not for everyone.

Perhaps you are experiencing the holiday blues. I don't know your situation or what brings about some feelings of sadness or loneliness or anxiety. Or all of the above. But I know you're not alone and I know you'd give anything to feel joyful and expectant right now. I've been there. Done that. Rode that roller coaster. 

Yesterday my dear friend, April, preached a sermon on the Magnificat, Mary's song. It was the 3rd Sunday of Advent and we lit the candle for joy. April showed us that thankfulness produces joy. And she pointed out that we all have a choice when faced with circumstances that are quite unexpected. So I want to encourage you with that. You have a choice. 

Perhaps you feel like things have happened to you beyond your control and you wonder if you will ever get back to living a "normal" life. Well, the answer is "most likely" and I have great news! You can make choices NOW that will bring you closer to joy and peace.

The first choice is to realize that YOU are NOT a victim. Bad things do happen to good people. It sucks. But the good news is that YOU get to CHOOSE how you will respond, who you will surround yourself with, and what you will do differently in the next phase of life. That is some dang good news, sister!! Here's a great gift to buy yourself if you want to dig a little deeper into this subject: Safe People.

Next, how will you respond? I am not suggesting that you manufacture joy by trying to be cheerful about your circumstances if you're not actually cheerful about them. But can you find a few things to be thankful for? Perhaps this is your first Christmas away from your kids and the thought of not seeing them wake up on Christmas morning, full of anticipation, is gnawing away at your heart and mind. I've been there, it is really really really hard. But mama, I bet you need a break. Can you be thankful for some time to take care of yourself? Watch a few movies, paint your nails, go to dinner with a friend. Take some time to do a few things that you don't normally get to do and ask God to show you how He intends to care for you during this time. When you choose thankfulness, joy grows inside of you!

Finally, you get to choose to do things differently next year. Do a few things that will bring you closer to living the life you desire. (This is my favorite part!) Here's a starting place: Write it out. Pray, ask God to bring to mind the life that is His desire for you. Just start writing down everything that comes to mind. Last year, I used a tool to help me with this and it turned out to be a total life-changer. Check it out here. Nothing excites me more than thinking about what I can do now to live a fuller life. No matter what your situation, I promise you there are a few things you can change that will make a big impact on your life! This year I started playing soccer with a co-ed team, I moved to a small town from a big city, I rented a plot in a community garden so we can start growing food, and I've gotten involved with the Phi Lamb sorority at the local university. All of these choices have enriched my life and they've expanded my circle of influence. I'm influenced by more interesting people and I'm serving more interesting people. I'm healthier because soccer kicks my butt! And Jackson and I are building something together, working together, and hopefully watching the garden grow together (I tend to have a brown thumb). You can do this too! 

I know it's hard when you're feeling sad. But choose not to stay stuck in that place. Be kind to yourself, but don't enable yourself to stay in a depressed state of mind. Choose thankfulness and experience joy, sister. In what ways would you like 2015 to be different from 2014? Make it happen, baby. 


Monday, October 20, 2014

Smart Dating

I now know more about dating than I EVER hoped. As of today, I have been single (post-divorce) for 7 years. I was with my ex-husband for 10 years (all of my 20s), so I've had to learn about dating after marriage.

Dating can be really confusing. Lots of people have ideas on the correct way to date. Some people even think there is such a thing as Christian dating and they have made up a bunch of rules about it. There are thousands of books written on the subject. And most of them have conflicting ideas and approaches.

So, what's a girl to do?

In her book, True Love Dates, author Debra Fileta suggests really getting to know yourself before you venture out and start dating. I am 37 years old and I think I know myself pretty darn well, but I realized I stopped trusting myself somewhere along the way. I stopped trusting that I know what I want and what I don't want. I started thinking that maybe I need to be more open minded and push myself to date people I normally wouldn't.

Well. That hasn't really gone too well. Which you know if you've followed my story for any amount of time.

When Debra was focusing on getting to know herself and growing as a person, her mentor suggested that she make three lists. Red, Yellow, and Green. The Red list are stop signs: traits you notice in a man that tell you to STOP and proceed no further. These would be things such as addictive behavior, lying, financial irresponsibility, etc. And then some things that might be more personal for you -- like uses tobacco or isn't physically very healthy. The Yellow lists are slow down signs: traits you notice in a man that give you reason for pause. Such as he doesn't have any close friends or he's not serving others in any capacity. And the Green list is...okay you know what the green list is! This is the fun one, where you list the qualities that give you license to, he loves Jesus, he is involved in a small group, he serves others, he seeks wise counsel, he puts others before himself, he takes responsibility for his actions, he does not have a victim mentality, he pursues open communication, etc. Wooo, I got excited just writing those down!!

Here's what I've found since writing my lists: Knowing who to say yes to and who to say no to just became a whole heck of a lot easier.

You can find Debra's blog and book at I have not enjoyed a dating book this much, ever.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Enjoying the Promised Land

A recent encounter with someone I've been getting close to led me to say, "We are grown ups, we can do hard things." I've come to realize, and I'm guessing you have too, that just because someone is of adulthood age doesn't necessarily qualify them as a grown up.

Not all single moms act like grown ups. I'm certainly not mature 100% of the time, but I do know that I have done hard things when it's extremely uncomfortable because I believe there will be benefits in the long run.

For example:

  • Taking Jackson out of traditional school because I felt his emotional health was suffering.
  • Moving to Texas from Colorado just a few short weeks AFTER Jackson's dad moved BACK to Colorado after being gone off and on for a few years.
  • Letting go of a real estate career and starting a house cleaning company (taking a huge pay cut) in order to decrease stress in my life and increase the peacefulness of our home life.
  • Being selective about who I choose to date and, in turn, being single for 7 years.
  • Living in tiny condos because I took a pay cut and want to live below my means.
  • Going back to school as a single mom and spending nights and weekends studying and writing papers for 4 years.
  • Taking Jackson out of his beloved school and placing him back in traditional school after being out for 3 years because I felt it was time for more structure and would be beneficial to his emotional health.
  • Moving away from my community of friends in Austin to Georgetown so that Jackson could go to a great school and live in a neighborhood with kids his age.
  • Saying no to sex outside of a committed relationship because I want to protect my heart and trust God. 
  • Taking a job completely out of my range of knowledge because it allows me to stay in Texas.
  • Leaving a precious prayer group because I felt that God was leading me in a different direction. 
  • Home schooling Jackson for 1 semester in order to prepare him for entering traditional school. 
  • Enduring emotional highs and lows (mostly lows) with Jackson as he protested leaving his school and moving to Georgetown. 
  • Sticking with discipline even though it was extremely painful.
Can you relate? Are you in the middle of making grown up choices right now and wondering if it's even worth it?

Well let me tell you, IT IS!

I was just reflecting last week as I sat on my front porch with my dear, dear coffee that God had led us to our very own Promised Land. And because I know that life has its ups and downs and full of trials, I want to treasure this time and express gratitude for it and let it serve as a reminder of God's faithfulness during whatever phase comes next.

These days we are reaping the benefits of doing hard things when it's uncomfortable:

  • Jackson is loving school! He is fully equipped to do well both socially and academically.                                             
  • There are boys in our neighborhood that are in Jackson's class and they ride their bikes to each other's houses and play, play, and play. Awesome!!!
  • Jackson is happier than I've seen him in years. He has a personal relationship with God and it shows in his peacefulness and confidence.
  • My job provides very well financially and we're living in a house with a yard in a charming neighborhood with lots of families that is within walking distance of the historic downtown. 
  • Since we have a yard, we were able to get a 2nd dog and she is bonded to Jackson and not me, like our other dog. :-)
  • My degree enables me to speak with confidence in my job and I feel I bring value to my role.
  • We live very close to family now, so we get to spend lots of time together.
  • I'm able to quickly assess who can meet my romantic relationship needs because sex is not part of the equation and doesn't cloud my judgment. And when I get a break up TEXT from a guy I've been dating, it doesn't devastate me. Yes, it was in a text, friends.
  • Although it's hard to be away from my Austin friends, when I do see them, I know how loved I am because of how happy they are to see me. And that's a great feeling!
  • Jackson and I have fun together and have more opportunities to do what we love because of where we live and our financial situation. 
There's more, of course. But I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge this awesome time that God has led us to. I give him glory in the trials and I want to glorify him right now, while times aren't so tough.

Friends, I pray that you reap the benefits of being a grown up and doing hard things even when it's uncomfortable. I pray that you recognize the Promised Land when you're in it. Don't let it be lost on you! Trials are around every corner. Let's cherish the way God provides when we're in the middle of a trial AND the sweet places he takes us to between trials. 

I'm with you in the trenches!