How Pinterest Saved My Marriage

Well, I’m exaggerating, of course, but I imagine you now are at least a bit curious…

First of all… Pinterest. Wow. I actually did not think I would enjoy it that much. I delayed even going to the site. Then, of all ridiculous things, you have to request an invitation. My supposition about this was that they wanted you to feel insecure and sub-par even before you get on to see all the amazing meals and stunning crafts friends and strangers are creating in their free time.

But I was assured it was worth the wait and shenanigans, and now that I’m a believer, I couldn’t agree more. It is by far my favorite way to enjoy the Internet these days. And since I work online most of the day, that’s saying something. I try not even open my computer when I’m at home.

So… what was up with my marriage, you ask? Well, for our wedding nearly five years ago, several of our Guatemalan relatives gave us absolutely beautiful fabric place mats and napkins. The patterns and colors are brilliant, and Billy and I both enjoyed them. Then, in all my American-ness, I joyfully tossed them in the washing machine to launder. As you may already imagine, much of the weaving came unraveled in this process, effectively ruining one of the sets.

Still, three sets remained with still gorgeous patterns, but one thing had changed: me. I was now more hesitant to use them because hand washing is something I rarely remember to do. Billy liked them so much he would pull them out any time we hosted guests and decided to have place settings. A small tension was growing.

You may be waiting to hear my nifty Pinterest trick for how to safely clean fabrics, but… and this may come as a shock to you… I rarely search for cleaning tips online (or anywhere for that matter). Nope. What I discovered on Pinterest was the shockingly simple idea to frame fabrics.

And there it was. The idea that pleased both me and Billy and gave us a fun way to display our woven gifts as art. So we did it and created a nice, if I do say so myself, display of Guatemalan fabrics and art. Very swell. Thank you, Pinterest!

Have you given in to the Pinterest-mania? What’s your favorite trick you’ve learned there? Do you have other ideas for fabrics collected internationally?

7 Prayers for the Transient: Part I

I am approaching my three year anniversary living in Atlanta. And I have no plans to move. This officially marks Atlanta as the place I have lived the longest since graduating high school.

There’s something really wonderful about settling into a place long enough to nurture growing friendships, locate tasty Peruvian food, and be summoned for jury duty. But, I must admit, I miss… just a little bit… the newness, excitement, and adventure that comes with moving.

When I plan for a move, I love to imagine idealistic moments of my new life in the future location. I’m always happy in the new place… never bored, frustrated, or dealing with car troubles. I host a lot of fictitious dinner parties, take long, leisurely walks, and have perfect, beach-y waves in my hair.

You could say my expectations are unrealistic… but hey, at least I get a new driver’s license photo.

But the reality is that moving can be fun. You get to meet new people, experience new places, and discover new hangouts.  You shake up the routine.

By the same token, it can also be really difficult.  You’re starting over… searching for new friends, seeking out a church, and often adjusting to a new job.

During one of my first moves post-college, I found myself extremely lonely and discouraged.  Without my girls living down the hall in the dorms, intramural sports, communal cafeterias, and readily available Bible studies and prayer groups, it was difficult to feel connected socially, spiritually, and emotionally to my new life. 

So one day I sat down and made a list of the aspects I felt would compose a full and fulfilling life for me. I tried to think of all the different facets of my life and consider what I needed.  I then began to pray for and intentionally seek out each of the things on this list, which I now call 7 Prayers for the Transient. I will share a few today and follow up in the next couple of weeks. 

Meaningful Work

It’s important for me to be doing something that I enjoy, that engages me, and that I feel has value bigger than me. While in graduate school, the monotony of classes left me looking for somewhere to invest my time and energy that felt meaningful. In that case, I forced myself to move forward choosing a focus for my master’s thesis that brought me life because I needed that sense of larger purpose.
Many times, though, my moves have been fueled by the very fact that I am heading towards meaningful work. I have decided to move because I have found jobs with organizations that excite and inspire me. That’s when I realized I can become too focused on meaningful work and assume that this is the only thing a person needs to have a full life. That’s too much for one job to fill.

Physical Activity

Who doesn’t love a good Prison Break marathon?  I’m actually in the middle of one right now.  Still, there’s something to all those magazines telling you how good you’ll feel if you exercise regularly. I can’t testify to it because it’s been years since I felt good after exercising… or tried it regularly… could these two statements be related? Hmmmm…. we might be onto something. Generally, though, I exercise for about a week and then get a cold. It’s very weird and freakishly predictable.

But in my ideal world, I’m turning off the TV and walking, bike riding, or playing basketball.  Note: I’m never “jogging”… I have rules about these things.

Mental Stimulation

I have a very clear memory during my time directing an after school program. I’m standing in front of the supply closet, bordering on full-scale meltdown because I didn’t have enough paper cups for snack time.  Staring at the shelves of plates, forks, and napkins, I heard my brain beg me, “C’mon, Sarah! You have got to give me more than this.”

My delightful brain is decidedly overactive, and I have realized that when I don’t keep it properly engaged, it will create its own dramas… hyper-focusing and over-analyzing. I can quickly blow everyday occurrences out of proportion and lose all sensible perspective when my brain has very little to ponder.

A new job often provides that mental stimulation because you’re learning the ropes, but oftentimes, once you get the hang of it, many tasks are repetitive and require little brainpower. That’s why I am constantly having to remember to seek out new topics to learn at work. But even if it’s not happening in the workplace, I’ve taken courses at a community college, joined book clubs, or taught classes as an adjunct. It really helps put paper cup situations in proper perspective. 

I'll wrap this post up here for today. Nothing earth shattering, I realize, but good reminders nonetheless. I have four more areas where I seek to maintain a sense of balance and fullness in life in a new place. 

However, even after three years in Atlanta, I find myself coming back to my list, searching for new ideas because even though I may not be moving, I may be still up for shaking up the routine a little bit.  

Check out Part II.

You Kinda Look Like Me

Take a look at that driver's license picture and tell me yours is not good. Every time I look at it I hear the news caster in my mind: "The child was last seen with this woman….” My face is flashing on the mental screen.

I love to pass this photo around because people never know exactly how to react. I can make fun of it… but are they allowed? Did I just wake up? Am I wearing a shirt? I mean, what is going on here? I did tell one of my co-workers I was going for a serial killer look. She laughed and said matter-of-factly, “You nailed it.”

It's cool. I have long known that I'm not super photogenic... this was no earth-shattering news at the DMV. I smile too big or I look too serious or my eyes are crazy.... it happens.

Still, when I look at this image, something new has come to light that I never saw before. It is with deep joy and wild enthusiasm that I share some long-awaited and highly-sought after news. I have finally discovered a trait that I have passed on to Gabriella.

It hasn’t been easy. From the moment she was born, all I have heard is “She’s like a little Billy!”  Yes, what every mother wants to hear after she awakens from baby surgery is “Are you sure she’s yours?” I mean, technically, I couldn’t be certain. After a few too many jokes about how I hoped to go to sleep and wake up a mother, I was transported to 1960 and was having a twilight sleep birth.Whoops... I guess I should be more clear with the doctors next time. Clearly, my brand of humor is not appreciated... or understood.

One of my only memories from my foggy, drug-induced state was telling Billy to “follow that baby and put a ‘Q’ on her foot.” It’s strangely comforting to know that even when my system has been compromised I’ve still got a place for paranoia… and nice to know another circumstance when a Sharpie comes in handy.

But I don’t care about her favoring her father because… well, they’re both cute. And besides, I was holding out for my own secret prize: Handedness. Is that a word? Oh, I love being left-handed. Forget the pencil smudges and cursed spiral notebooks... (will my daughter even know what these ancient writing methods are?) Being left-handed is worth any diner booth rearrangements or scissor mix-ups in Sunday School. Surprisingly, I often find myself in both work and personal circles that tend to be dominated by left-handers. Yes, we dominate.

We do not, however, dominate in the game that is genetic roulette. Since Gabriella has recently taken to coloring, I am devastated to observe that she keeps grabbing the crayon in her right hand… no matter how many times I try and shove it into that little left one. It turns out I have nothing to offer her but a big pile of recessive traits.

But this week… it happened. She went with her father to the YMCA and had her ID picture taken. Whereas I imagine he smiled adorably and produced a socially appropriate happy photo, Gabriella did not mirror that trait in her papa. Nope, she followed her mother's lead. 

Now… is that a baby you’d like to meet in a dark alley? I don’t think so! That’s my baby! And how do I know? Look at that face… no one can learn how to take an ID picture like that. It’s gotta be genetic! 

What Harry Potter & Barbara Kingsolver Share

I loved Harry Potter the moment I started reading the books. Well… really, I loved Hermione, but Harry was fine, too. They captured me, and I couldn’t read fast enough. Thankfully, I jumped on that band wagon late, so nearly all were published by the time I started, creating an incredible reading marathon.

Barbara Kingsolver… took me a minute. I started with Poisonwood Bible, but didn’t finish. It was a slow start. When I was advised to “give her 300 pages,” I scoffed. I refused to give an author 300 PAGES to gain my interest. But then I read The Bean Trees and Pigs in Heaven, and I absolutely knew it would be worth any wait. True to form, Poisonwood Bible is one of the best books I’ve read.

So clearly, their commonality does not lie in my initial reaction to these books. And obviously, one is an author and one is a main character, so already my comparison is breaking down.

What I love about Harry and Barbara is that not one detail is wasted.

A stray comment in Chapter 3 comes back around in Chapter 19 in ways you never could have imagined, shedding game-changing light on the situation at hand. Every. Single. Time. I am in awe of the writers’ abilities to thread such thorough and clean details throughout the story.

I want life to provide similar, satisfying closure.

You may find me ridiculous, but I don’t want to waste days, months, or years living details that have no real purpose in the story. The problem is that I can’t always see the significance in the midst of discouraging details. Lately, the prayer of my heart has been Psalm 13 (NLT):

O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
How long will you look the other way?
How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day?
How long will my enemy have the upper hand?

Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!
Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.
Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!”
Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.

But I trust in your unfailing love.
I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
I will sing to the Lord because he is good to me.

Now I recognize that no situation in my life is the same as being chased by a king, and I am thankful that no one is trying to kill me. Still, I can relate to that sense of silence from the Lord when circumstances feel urgent for an answer. And sometimes I feel like I’m living inside details that do not relate to the storyline.

However, Romans 8 tells me that “the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along… He knows us far better than we know ourselves… and keeps us present before God. That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. God knew what he was doing from the very beginning” (v 26-29 The Message).

So I must continue to trust in Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith. And one day I expect to marvel at His story crafting skills that does not overlook even one, single detail.

Where do you find encouragement when the details of your circumstances seem so far from where you feel God has called you? Where have you seen God use situations from your past, which may have seemed wasted at the time, to bring purpose and clarity to your present?
A Life with Subtitles. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.