The words that changed my life this month

IMG_3776January is my least favorite month. Followed by February. And March.

As a mother of three girls under age four, I’m doing my best to beat back the winter doldrums. We tiredly pull on our boots, zip up our jackets, and pop our hoods over our heads.  We’re trying to function mostly indoors: community play places, the gym, the library, the grocery store.

In winter, everything takes more effort and energy. No lie – even breathing in the cold takes more work, since our bodies have to warm and humidify the air.

I could go on and on. The sky is the same color as the rooftops, which are the same color as the ground, and it’s easy for all of the vibrancy of life to feel drained down to a muted, dirty white.

This starts a spin cycle of questions for me… Just why do I live in Minnesota again? Why did I say yes to X? Why does my baby insist on dunking her stuffed animals in the toilet? Why am I not on vacation? Why does everything have to be so HARD?

My whiny perspective is simple evidence of one thing. It’s easy, far too easy, to lose track of the good plan for my life…and then start looking around with cheating eyes at everyone else’s lives.

But friends, I have a quick encouragement for you today. I didn’t come up with it, but the girl who did is pretty amazing. I recently heard her speak at an online Thrivemoms retreat, and what she said changed my whole perspective over the past few weeks.

“God’s good plan for you doesn’t look like his good plan for someone else. Stop comparing the two.”

Stop for a second. Think it through. God’s good plan for you is not His good plan for me. My life is unique to me, and your life is unique to you. And each of us is promised enough grace and compassion to get through each day in our own situations, difficult or otherwise.

PS. I also get the view from the other side. Maybe you’re in a place that feels as far from God as you can get, and if this is His plan for you, forget it. You’re out. Or maybe you felt like you knew God once, but you’re not so sure about Him and his plans anymore. (If this is you, do me a favor? Head over to my friend Addie’s recent post at Off the Page “When you want to believe…and can’t”. It’s poignant, and true, and might help you search out some things.)

I’m no guru. I don’t have an answer to why our lives are lovely sometimes, and crappy in others. But I know that when I fall face-first into my rock bottom, this truth from Jeremiah 29 is always the bedrock gravel I’m picking out of my teeth.

11 For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. 13 You will find me when you seek me, if you look for me in earnest.

So guess what. It doesn’t matter how many times hardship and comparison step into our days if we’re equipped to sweep them aside. And Truth makes a pretty darn good broom.

Friend, your life has a good plan. It is a plan that is completely your own and no one else’s. Take a second to look around it. Look at the roof over your head, the food you had for breakfast, the people who have your back. Look back through your recent social media feeds and be reminded of all the things you wanted to share with the world.

I don’t know what your plan is. Heck. I don’t know my plan is most days. But I can trust that the foundation is sure, and that it’s working toward a future and a hope.

May that be good enough for all of us today.

Three reasons I respectfully decline your network marketing invitations

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Photo credit: Sheknows.com

I don’t get worked up about very many things. Call it my stoic Swedish side, the one I passed on to my twin daughters who poker face their way through all shopping trips.

However, I’ve read quite a few articles and posts about network marketing lately, and as an average age-bracket, targeted consumer, I feel prompted to speak up.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been approached numerous times. Maybe it’s because my Jamberries ripped, my Doterra spilled in the car, and my hamburger didn’t fit in my Shakeology food portion jailers. Or maybe, it’s because I see a few problems with the how network marketing views me as a potential customer.

  1. Network marketing breeds negative comparison

I can’t scroll through my Facebook or Instagram feeds without seeing someone’s tan and muscled abdomen, someone’s stylized protein shake, someone’s sparkling sink or someone else’s glowing skin.

We live in an age where advertising is almost impossible to escape. But now that it has infiltrated social media through network marketing, we are forced not just to compare ourselves to the nameless face on the billboard, but to Sally, the girl we know and went to college with.

Combine that with the fact that the average adult spends 4.7 hours a day looking at social media on their phone, and suddenly, the time we potentially spend battling comparison skyrockets into almost a third of our day.

Even though comparison is the basis for selling most things, network marketing, with its targeted audience of friends, co-workers, family members, and acquaintances, creates a major source of unnecessary, unhealthy comparison in our lives.

I don’t particularly want to be targeted that way. Do you?

2. Network marketing doesn’t want your one-time sale. They want a line item in your budget.

This is not a new tactic for anyone in sales. Every business wants to bring customers back for more of what they’re selling. The difference with network marketing products is that they’re often priced in such a way that the average consumer can’t, or isn’t comfortable, making room for them in their budget.

I hear this over and over again: “I tried this product and I loved it! Then I realized I got a discount on the product if I sold it, so now you should buy it too!

Subtext 1: “I tried a great product. I don’t want to stop using it. But I can’t afford it unless I get a discount.”

Subtext 2: “I tried a great product. I don’t want to stop using it. But if I sell it to other people, they can pay my way.

Unfortunately, in a majority of instances, this doesn’t work either. In a study published by the FTC, a staggering 99% of those involved in multi-level or network marketing lost money instead of making it.

Every product aims to build repeat customers. That’s the foundation of good business. But when the product is priced in such a way that the consumer can’t afford it without selling, distributing, or working for the business that makes it, the model is flawed.

3. Network marketing inflates discontent

In the final season of Parenthood, Adam and Crosby counsel their niece Amber about finances and job choices. Adam reminds her, “Amber, remember. Money can’t buy happiness.” Crosby replies, “Don’t believe him. Money can buy peace of mind, which is basically the same thing.”

When we see network marketing professionals posting about their news cars, their vacation plans, and the things they can do because of their disposable income, we naturally question our own choices, and allow discontent to shade how we see our lives.

Maybe we do need more money. I haven’t been on an airplane in ages. I always wanted to take my kids to Mexico. And I’ve been wearing the same coat for at least three years. And the car needs new tires. I wouldn’t worry about that if I had extra money. 

But when a multi-level marketing scheme promises financial freedom, and waves around flyers for trips to Cabo and keys to a new Mercedes, beware. What they’re really doing is asking you to feel discontent enough with your own life that you’ll buy into their version.

In my personal experience with times of financial want and plenty, when I wanted more money, what I really wanted were more things and experiences and esteem, none of which had the lasting ability to give me happiness.

They did the opposite, in fact. Once I took a big trip, I just wanted to travel more. When I bought an expensive dress, I felt like I needed three others like it. Having extra money simply created a vacuum of false need, which inflated my sense of discontent.

If you are a network marketing professional, please understand one thing. I’m not attacking you or your choices. If you’ve been able to meet financial goals, stay home with your kids, quit your day job, or travel the globe because of your network marketing job, I offer you my sincere congratulations.

What I wish is that the industry as a whole would look for a more positive model for selling their products. A model that didn’t thrive on making me, as a potential consumer, feel compelled to purchase something out of guilt, shame, or discontent.

I don’t need to be sold on the fact that my life isn’t perfect. What I believe is that perfection (or network marketing’s perception of it) isn’t necessary for me to have a life worth living. 

Someone bottle that truth up and market it. I dare you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Confession: I don’t get “mommy wars”

I read a lot of blog posts and articles about “mommy wars.” To be honest, I never really understand. Maybe it’s because I have two feet firmly planted in the passive aggressive soil of the Midwest, where most mothers would rather get the chicken pox again than have a confrontation involving breasts.

Or maybe it’s because the mommy war I’m most familiar with is an inside job. Top secret. One I don’t like to talk about much because it’s a little too personal.

It’s the war of feeling lesser than.

Lesser than strangers. Than friends. Than parents. Siblings. Even a former self.

Last week I wrote about the beauty of social media and its ability to connect us. What I didn’t write about were the times I put down my phone feeling tired, unequal, upset that my situation was a whole lot messier than the coordinated scene that just lit up my screen. Why?

Because lesser than jumps over our mama war arguments of bottles and organic cotton. It sprints past our comparisons on hair bows and sporty yoga threads and designer toddler mocs.

Lesser than settles in our spirits.

Lesser than deceives us into being a half-a$% person because we can’t do it better than X, prettier than Y, tastier than Z.

Lesser than is the great incapacitator. And when we allow that mindset into our day, we stop trying. Stop being our unique and beautiful selves. Stop becoming anything. Harboring these feelings of inequality does more damage than any mommy war over organic snacks ever could.

Call me crazy, but I don’t think anyone has time to deal with it. The business of living out our vocations to the best of our abilities has nothing to do with how someone else could do it differently. For better or for worse, our lives (and the people in them) are entrusted to us.

Thankfully, that doesn’t mean we’re going at it alone.

The New Testament book of Ephesians says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

057There’s a whole element of the supernatural going on here. I’m honestly reeling as I type. Does this mean God has already prepared the people, the work, the elements of my life for me before I even go into my day?

If so, shouldn’t I feel that much more empowered to approach them with grace and peace, knowing that my life, specifically, has been handmade for me – tailored for my abilities?

There is no room for lesser than here. There’s only the confidence to live my daily life above the arguments. The comparisons. The spirit crushers.

Today, I’m going into my morning knowing that the work that’s before me, from tea parties to flashcards with my girls, has already been planned. And friend, whether you’re holding a tired baby, kissing a sick spouse, plunking away at a work project, or making mac and cheese for the hundredth time this month, I hope you do the same.