Dignity

This is a request post – a friend asked me my thoughts on dressing in a dignified manner. What a great question!  Clothes are real and practical, but they are also the manifestation of our ideas.  Dignity, honor, and clothing are all closely connected, but we can get so caught up in the practical that we don’t consider the ideals that shape us and our clothing.

This isn’t going to be in an Ashley Tries format, because it was hard to get up every morning, look for clothes, and think, “I’m going to be DIGNIFIED today.”  Any success that happened was partial at best.  But it was a definitely a good exercise, because it forced me to think outside my normal questions:  Which clothes are clean?  Does that top fit well right now?  Does this print top need black jeans to balance it out?  This week the questions shifted to broader questions:  How would my coworkers describe this outfit?  Is this outfit unquestionably appropriate?  Do I look like a woman, not a little girl?  As it turns out, the broader questions are harder to answer, because they encompass all the practical questions and then add perception and standards on top of that already substantial question pile.

I don’t know why it felt so pretentious to ask myself whether my outfit was “dignified” or not, but it really did.  Probably because I don’t think of myself as a dignified person – I think of myself as a funny, slightly clumsy, sometimes stressed, usually happy person.  I assign the term “dignified” to awe-inspiring people who are older and wiser and calmer than I am.  But I’m thirty and I don’t believe in putting off being an adult, so it’s good to think beyond what clothes are cute and start thinking about what clothes reflect the woman I want to be.

One of the most common verses that comes up when you look up dignity in the Bible is Proverbs 31:25 – “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.”  That’s striking and beautiful image, isn’t it?  It’s a good verse to remember when the future feels like NO LAUGHING MATTER.  In Job 40:9-10 (ESV), the Lord asks Job, “Have you an arm like God? and can you thunder with a voice like His?  Adorn yourself with majesty and dignity; cloth yourself with glory and splendor.”  In Esther, the king asks what “honor or dignity” has been bestowed on Mordecai for saving the king’s life (Esther 6:3) and the part of the honor that gives Mordecai is to dress him in royal robes.  All of these verses speak about dignity as something that can be bestowed and put on.  It has weight and it can be seen by other people.

We were born wanting honor, but we mess up in how we seek after it and we mess up in how we think it comes to us.  We understand there is a link between clothing and honor, which is one of the reasons that clothes are so important to us.  The bride on her wedding day, the graduation robe, the uncharacteristically professional interview suit, mourning black at a funeral – these all have built-in significance and backstory, but everything we put on has a backstory.  Usually it isn’t as obvious as a wedding dress, but we all know that some clothes have more dignity or honor than others.  But as I said earlier, we can really mess up what we consider honorable.  Attention is not the same as honor.  Approval does not equal dignity.  We’ll settle for acceptance if we can’t get the honor we really want, because all it takes to gain acceptance is to find a group with the same blind spots.  If nobody likes your posts, do you feel unlovely?  Disappointed?  Alone?  That’s an indication that you’re really seeking after the approval of others.  It has nothing to do with strength, dignity, or laughing at the the days to come.  Don’t settle for counterfeit dignity.

A couple of practical applications

  • Even though I wasn’t certain about what outfits were dignified this week, I knew that I could control how appropriate my outfits were this week.  I avoided the the skirt that’s two inches too short when I sit down, the neckline that needs attention whenever I lean over, the jeans that are just a *little* bit too tight.  I aimed for appropriate to the point of boring.  It was a comfortable way to live, because I didn’t have any worry hanging around my clothes choices this week.
  • There’s dignity in dressing for your age and your stage of life.  In an age of perpetual adolescence, it’s beautiful to see a respectable woman in respectable clothes.  I don’t want people to think I’m twenty.  I’m thirty.  I should be leaning into responsibility, not running away from it.  My first impulse is to run away from responsibility and when it’s given to me, I immediately freak out.  That isn’t mature of me and it’s an area where I need to routinely confess sin and fight against my first instincts.  For all the moms out there, it’s just fine to look like a mom.  There’s a ridiculous amount of pressure on moms to get back to where they were “pre-baby”, but everything changes post-baby and it’s a beautiful thing!  Moms, you are amazing.  You have an amazing job and it is fine to wear clothes that are appropriate for it.  Don’t feel like you need to apologize for looking like a mom.  That would be like me apologizing for looking like a data analyst.
  • Shame shouldn’t be our default.  Shame is the opposite of dignity and it should never be where we live.  Shame can be a powerful driver, because the point of shame is to drive us away from our sin and to God and forgiveness.  It is not a good place to settle down and build a house.  If shame isn’t driving us to God, it’s driving us somewhere else.  Shame can drive to self-loathing or self-aggrandizement, to hatred of others or idolatry of others.  Get out of there.
  • I want to be clothed in dignity.  I want honor.  That might seem completely obvious, but it’s not something I admit very often, even to myself.  Because it’s “easier” to stay as I am right now.  It’s “easier” to be whiny and petulant.  It’s “easier” to live without the burden of responsibility.  It’s “easier” to stay #Relatable and celebrate my flaws and my fails.  It’s definitely easier to be worried about the days to come than to laugh at them.  I’m afraid of failing.  But going back to the idea of confidence, God is on my side.  Why should I be afraid of anything?  When I die, I want to hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”  Why do I hold onto things that aren’t easier in the long run?

All that to say, I don’t know what dignified looks like on me, but I want to grow into it.  I know what it looks like on other people.  There’s dignity in honest work, in kindness, in formality, in reverence, and in loving God with everything I have and everything I make.

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Confidence

This is a fashiony blog, but this post isn’t going to dwell too much on clothes and the ever-present buzzword, body confidence.  When it comes to confidence, each person has a completely different set of situations and worries and insecurities that layer up, so it’s impossible to deal with specific body issues on a general blog like this.  If you have a specific question about how to dress for your body shape or how to be more confident in your clothes, please let me know and I’ll help out in any way I can!  We all have body issues.  Humans have had body issues ever since Adam and Eve ate the fruit and suddenly became aware of their nakedness.  This isn’t a new issue created by grocery store magazines yelling at you to start getting that perfect beach body for the summer.  That’s a symptom of the problem, not the source of the problem.

I looked up Confidence and here are a few of the definitions that came up:

  • the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something; firm trust.
  • the state of feeling certain about the truth of something.
  • a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.

The common thread through all of those definitions is the feeling of certainty.  What that tells me is that confidence isn’t dependent on having an objectively beautiful face or the most fashionable body shape.  (If you don’t think that there are fads in body shapes, you’re wrong.  Ask me about it sometime.)  A woman can have perfect skin and wear a size zero and still have body issues.  Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe, still two of the most influential beauty ideals of the past century, were both massively insecure about how they looked.  They projected confidence, but they didn’t have it.  If you don’t get your heart and mind right, no amount of externals will give you confidence.

It breaks my heart to see a beautiful woman who is overly-critical about herself and others.  Don’t get me wrong here.  I’m all in favor of being clear sighted and critical about myself.  If I sin, I want to see that sin, so I can confess it and ask for forgiveness.  But after that process is done, I’m confident enough in the goodness of my God to leave it behind and walk away happy.  That contains some self criticism, but it isn’t a constant state of being.  Hypercritical is a different animal.  A hypercritical person can have a very hard time leaving things behind and the criticism takes a hundred different forms.  Lying in bed remembering something embarrassing that you said two years ago.  Not accepting compliments, because you don’t think you deserve them.  Apologizing constantly for things that don’t offend anybody except yourself.  Not using your gifts, because you don’t think they are good enough to share or even bring up.  Being too afraid to go for it, because you’re afraid you’ll fail or be embarrassed or say something wrong or die or all of the above.  Beating yourself up about something you should have done, but didn’t.

The hard part about criticism, especially self-criticism, is that it can masquerade as humility.  If you turn up the doubts, they can drown out what’s actually going on.  I’ve gone down the rabbit hole of doubt and it’s dark.  It’s dark and dusty and scary and it’s just you down there.  If you get to the point where you think you can’t do anything right, you get stuck, because you’re too afraid to do anything.

Another common response to doubts is to try and compensate for perceived lacks.  This is the old “Well, I’m not pretty, but at least I’m smart” scenario and it looks different for each person.  It can be talking too much, because you’re nervous.  Looking for affirmation in followers and likes.  Sticking with what you are good at and avoiding things that you probably won’t be good at, so you keep developing your strengths and ignoring weaknesses.  Focusing on the things you think you can control (your look, your house, your job, your family, your ideals) and pushing down the things you can’t control, until you can look perfect from the outside and feel like an absolute mess on the inside.  It’s the equivalent of stuffing everything into a closet when people come over, but your soul is the closet.  I’ve been in the hypercritical camp before, but overcompensating is my main temptation.  While criticism can mask itself as humility, overcompensating can mask itself as confidence, but it’s the difference between being brave and having swagger that makes you LOOK brave.  Usually I turn on the faux-confidence when I’m at my most terrified.  It’s not a good solution.  Scratch that – it’s not a solution at all.

Of course we lack confidence.  We’re broken.  We long to be whole.  We long to be immortal, perfect, in control.  We want to go back to the Garden, back before every day was a reminder of death.  But the temptation is to try to go back the wrong way.  That’s why we try (and always fail) to deal with our failures, our shortcomings, our imperfections.  We want to fix ourselves.  But we can’t fix ourselves.  Sometimes we forget that that is the good news.  It’s the best news, because there’s a way back to the Garden that actually works.  Have confidence in Christ’s ability to fix you.  Don’t try to fix your own brokenness, even a little bit.  In a world where every human is either trying to fix their problems or ignore their problems, the truth that you can’t fix your own problems and that there is a Savior who can fix the problem is water in a drought.

Christians should be the most confident people in the world.  Romans 8:31 asks a question, “If God be for us, who can be against us?”  That’s the overwhelming question, isn’t it?  Why do we hide?  Why are we afraid?  Why aren’t we satisfied?  Why do we try to fix ourselves?  Because we look for confidence in all the wrong places.

For practical application, here are few things that will help you if you struggle with confidence:

  • Trust God and trust true friends.  That’s a confidence you can rely on.
  • Give thanks for what you have.
  • Be honest with yourself.
  • Distinguish vague doubts from real issues that need to be addressed.  Don’t let past embarrassments or anxiety about the future cloud the here and now.
  • Go ahead and laugh.  Life isn’t as serious as all that.
  • Be kind.  Be generous.
  • Go for it.  Live life boldly.  If you fail, you fail.  God is for us.  Why should we go tiptoeing around?  My prayer right now is for God to give me chutzpah.  That covers it, I think.

I love you all.  I know you have body issues and confidence issues and worries creep in.  Believe me, I have them.  That’s why I have to preach to myself.  If you ever want to talk through stuff, let me know.  I’m right here.

Feeling Beautiful

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkened ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits.

– from Endymion by John Keats

I felt beautiful this Easter.  My outfit was simple, sharp, and neutral – cream dress, tan heels, navy jacket.  Neutral makeup, hair up.  The accessories provided the spark in this outfit – blue topaz earrings from my aunt and a feathered fascinator.

The outfit helped, but I felt in-the-bone beautiful, beyond what I was wearing.  Usually I feel that beautiful when I’m sitting in strong sunshine, soaking in the warmth of the sun and smelling the heat rising off the ground around me.  And it doesn’t matter what I’m wearing as long as it is comfortable.  It doesn’t matter what I weigh or whether my skin is clear or whether people see me sitting there.  The sunlight making my eyelids coral pink is enough on its own.  My sister and I were laughing about how happy sunshine makes us and we agreed makeup was just a way to replicate how we look in the sunshine when there’s no sun.  (Truth.)

Looking beautiful and feeling beautiful are two distinct things.  Women are beautiful, but it would be a lie to say that women always feel beautiful.

Easter was so lovely that I thought, “I feel very beautiful today.  Wouldn’t it be great to feel beautiful all the time?  I’m going to try to leave the house feeling BEAUTIFUL every day this week.”  HA.  As it turns out, that is easily said, not easily done.

We had the Monday after Easter off of work and on that Monday evening I got a cold.  Tuesday, I woke up feeling like an elephant sat on my face all night.  Dark puffy eyes, runny nose, oxygen-deprived brain.  I felt gross and I felt like I looked gross.  The truth is that makeup covers it pretty nicely.  If I hadn’t been coughing/sneezing/blowing my nose all week, it wouldn’t have been obvious that I felt like a dumpster fire.  If you’re not familiar with that term, it’s a metaphor for something that starts out garbage and then bursts into flames.  I felt like a DUMPSTER FIRE ALL WEEK, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN.  It was one of those truly hilarious scenarios that romantic comedies’ bread and butter, but without any romantic stuff.

Tuesday’s stream-of-consciousness thought process:  My face is puffy and my nose is bad news.  Sleeping didn’t work out that well last night and my brain isn’t working that well now.  Beautiful.  Oh gosh.  I’m supposed to leave the house feeling beautiful.  WHY DO I DO THESE THINGS TO MYSELF?  I’ll curl my hair.  Maybe that will help.  Lots of makeup today.  Especially around the eyes.  Earrings.  Maybe that will help.  High heels.  Maybe that will help.  Nope.  Still don’t feel beautiful.  I feel like a slime monster.  Oh well.  Need to get out the door.  I failed the challenge and it’s only the first day of it.

Wednesday’s thought process:  I like black and I like flowers.  I will wear those things.  My face is still so puffy.  Still a virus-ridden slime monster.  Do I feel beautiful?  Nope.  Oh well.  Failed again.

Thursday’s thought process:  My dream just scared me awake and I can’t go back to sleep.  How did I dream?  It doesn’t even feel like I slept.  I don’t feel like smiling.  I still feel sick.  I don’t feel smart or competent or ready to face the day, let alone beautiful.  I’m going to dress like a grown up today and maybe I’ll look competent and smart.  Blazer.  That’s what blazers are for.  I’m going to straighten my hair.  Because that seems like something a grown woman would do. FAILING AT THE BEAUTIFUL THING AGAIN.  OH WELL.

Friday’s thought process:  How much did I sleepwalk last night?  I know I woke up outside of my bed about three times, but really, I have no idea how much I walked in my sleep.  Scary.  In my dream, a group of friends came over to throw me a surprise birthday party at three in the morning in my own house.  Then they judged me for how messy my house was.  Then I turned off my alarm.  Then I woke up at 8:15.  8:15??????  I should already be on my way to work!  No time for contacts.  It’s a glasses day.  Brush hair, throw on clothes.  Dress and sweater.  Is this the best outfit?  Nope.  But it’ll do!

When it comes down to it, feelings aren’t the most important thing.

Would I like to leave the house feeling beautiful every day?  Of course.  I would absolutely love to feel beautiful every day, but feeling beautiful is elusive and complicated.  It’s true that we learn more from failure than from success.  This week made me think about the difference between my own perception and how everybody else viewed me.

Looking through the outfit photos this week, Thursday (blazer/jeans/straight hair) was by far the most successful outfit, but it was probably the hardest day.  Wednesday was the most emotional day, but Thursday was the hardest, because everything was raw.  My stupid dream woke me up too early (I still don’t remember what about it scared me awake, but I couldn’t go back to sleep).  My nerves were raw, my nose was raw, my throat was raw, and my eyes kept watering.  I felt stupid, but I knew I needed to get a ton done at work that day.  I felt insufficient as a human that day.  Forget about feeling beautiful.  I felt like a scratched scab on Thursday.  Oozy and exposed.  Gross.

Feeling beautiful comes down to a lot of different elements, only some of which I can control.  A lot of them I can’t control.  I can’t make it sunny outside.  But I can turn on the song “Ventura Highway” by America and feel like I’m in California driving with the windows down.  I can put on bronzer and look sunkissed.  When I’m happy, I feel sunny in my soul.  Happy is beautiful.  But I have to wait for sunshine.  I can do that.  And the waiting makes the sunshine even more amazing when it comes.

I realized that one of the things that kept me from feeling beautiful this week was comparison.  Comparison is one of the fastest way to stop feeling beautiful.  I was constantly comparing my sick self with my healthy self.  (If I wasn’t sick, I’d feel beautiful.)  We do this all the time.  “Me right now” versus the “Me that doesn’t have a cold”, the “Me with the nice haircut”, the “Me, but 20 pounds lighter”, the “Me ten years ago”….. these are the kind of comparisons that I don’t even need to leave the house to find.  Also, the assumption that the “other Me” would feel more beautiful might not even be true.  On the whole, I feel more beautiful now than I did when I was 20.  I was very uptight at 20 years old.

Once I step out of my house, I see beautiful women everywhere.  Actually, social media allows me to compare myself to the world’s most beautiful women without leaving my house.  Comparison City.  If I start down the comparison road, it will never stop.  There’s always something to compare.  My hair versus her hair.  My personality versus her personality.  My nonexistent coolness versus her very obvious coolness.  My body versus her body.  I don’t have many illusions about my body.  I have a My Little Teapot sort of body – short and stout.  (And when I get steamed up, I do end up shouting sometimes.)  If I fall into comparisons and then fall short, there’s a natural impulse to start listing what I have and she doesn’t.  That’s a bad way to go.  Don’t do it.  Confess that sin and get out of there.

The things that counter and conquer comparison are gratitude and love.  Give thanks for what makes that woman beautiful and give thanks for the different thing that makes you beautiful.  How boring would the world be if we all looked the same?  Give me variety.  Give me personality.  That’s what makes me happy.  I love all my amazing friends and how unique and beautiful you all are.  I’m so glad you’re so different from each other and different from me.  It keeps the world from getting dull and obvious.

Getting back to feeling beautiful – what can I control and what can’t I control?

Things I can control:

  • My attitude.  If there’s no sunshine outside, I can still be sunny on the inside.  It’s a cliché, but that is because it is absolutely true.  If I’m sad or anxious or angry, I’m not going to feel beautiful.
  • Clothes.  If my jeans are too tight, I’m uncomfortable.  If my bra is too stretched out, I’m uncomfortable.  I feel great in a dress that fits through the shoulders and the waist, but my go-to confidence outfit is jeans, t-shirt, and a fitted blazer.  The look is tailored and sharp and it suits where I am in life right now.
  • Makeup.  I only do enough makeup to make me feel the way I feel when I’m in sunshine, which isn’t that much.  I usually do a light foundation, bronzer (I don’t own blush right now), mascara, and tinted lip balm.  If I’m feeling fancy, I’ll do eyeliner or lipstick.  One or the other.  I’m more likely to accentuate my eyes.  Eyes are the windows to the soul.  The perfect shade of lipstick, perfectly-applied winged eyeliner, getting the eyebrows together – these are all wonderful things.  They might not sound like much, but they make a big difference.
  • Hair.  I’ll preface this section by saying that sometimes I can control my hair, but sometimes hair can be what insurance companies categorize as an “Act of God”.  Then you just have to do your best and know that this hair day was sent by God Himself.  My hair actually isn’t that difficult.  I do have many many cowlicks.  The cowlicks are more obvious when my hair is short.  Sometimes Good Hair Days and Bad Hair Days fit into the What I Can’t Control section, but there’s always a ponytail.  Or a hat.
  • My surroundings.  When I get ready to go out, I’ll turn on Frank Sinatra or bossa nova samba music or Natalie Cole.  Music can make me feel beautiful.  It sets the mood.  This will sound funny, but I feel especially pretty when I’ve had a glass of wine – not because I’m delusional, but because I’m relaxed.  When I’m having a great meal with friends or family and I’m content and happy and have a glass of wine, I’m golden.  When my house is clean and picked up, I’m more likely to feel put-together.  Even if everything is thrown into the closet, if I can’t see the mess, that’s good enough.
  • My love.  Feeling beautiful is very closely connected to feeling loved.  But I’m not commanded to receive love.  I’m commanded to give love.  God has told me to pay more attention to loving people than to how well those people are showing love to me.  Like feeling beautiful, this is easy to say, not easy to do.  It’s easy to see how people are failing in love towards me, but it’s hard to love people.  I’m always trying and failing and learning and working on it.  I’ll be working on it until I die.

Things I can’t control:

  • Other people.  If people don’t compliment the look, is the look still good?  I know there’s a disconnect between what I like in my outfits and what other people like in my outfits.  If nobody likes what I’m wearing, it’s hard to feel beautiful in it.  Approval is important to us.  Not everybody needs mass approval, but I think we all have a few people we want approval from.  A compliment can turn a day around.  But I can’t control how people will respond to me or what they will say.
  • The day.  God has a plan for my day that may or may not line up with my plan for my day.  The weather.  My job.  Finances.  People.  If I was solely in charge of orchestrating my day, I’d do a bad job anyway.  It would be a boring day.  As it is, every day is a surprise.
  • Love towards me.  Sometimes I feel unloved or unappreciated or lonely.  All of these feelings are lies.  The amount of love that God pours out on me is laughable.  It’s a hilariously, embarrassing huge amount of love.  The sky is small in comparison.  The ocean is small in comparison.  So when I feel unloved because no guys tell me I look pretty, that displays a stupid lack of perspective.  That’s when the feelings just don’t matter.  Rely on what you know, not what you feel.  Feelings aren’t the most important.  I know that I’m loved.  I’m loved by my family, by my friends, but far and away loved most by my Creator.  I have nothing to complain about.
  • Everything I take for granted.  Even the things I think I can control, I can’t control.  The things I take for granted are a gift, not a given.  My face, my body, my voice, my heart, my passion – these are all given to me and can be taken away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.  Everything gets categorized as an Act of God, because everything is.  If there’s anything I assume is an Act of Ashley, I should be prepared for it to be taken away from me.  This week showed me some of my many blind spots and I’m grateful for it.  Blessed by the name of the Lord and here’s to next week.  Like this week, it will be a gift.

 

 

 

 

Ashley Tries Hard, Ashley Fails Hard

I got a new razor for the first time in forever and now my left leg is bleeding profusely from three tiny wounds.  The nicks themselves are nearly invisible, but you’d never know that from the blood rivulets that came waterfalling out of them.  It’s just overly dramatic and I wish my leg would stop it already.  It’s like those soccer players who assume the fetal position and howl whenever another player bumps into them by accident.  Just stop it already.  You’re not gonna die, legs.  STOP BLEEDING SO MUCH.

So I’m sitting here in shorts, waiting for my leg to scab up enough to put on jeans and not have gratuitously graphic blood stains spread all over them.  It feels pretty Capital-L-On-The-Forehead Loser.  But my whole week felt pretty Loserly, so it’s par for the course.

I’ve been doing Ashley Tries for a while now and my main discovery during the process is that one of the common side effects of trying is failing.  I’ve also realized I hate failing.  I hate failing so much that sometimes I don’t want to try, just in case I fail at it.  But the irony is that failing to try is way more loserly than trying and failing.  I know that.  I still don’t like it.

This week’s Ashley Tries was supposed to be featuring accessories and I don’t think I did it well at all, so I’m going to try again next week.  Take 2 on Accessorizing.  It’s not that I failed at putting on accessories, I just lacked focus and intention and, to be completely honest, I lost interest in my Try this week.  That’s what made it a fail for me.  This week just happened to me.  I prefer to happen to the week.  I want the week to look back at me and think WHAT JUST HAPPENED?

That’s not to say I didn’t learn anything this week.  I learned a ton this week.  But most of what I learned wasn’t about accessorizing.

Things I learned this week:

  • In order to get more done, I need to wake up earlier.  I learn this lesson every week, without ever really absorbing it.  There are many lessons that fall into this category, including: If I don’t make a list, I’ll forget things at the grocery store and I won’t have clean clothes until I actually clean my clothes.  The Vicious Cycle kind of lessons.  The lessons that are solved through self discipline and a good solid routine.  I fail so much, guys.  I FAIL ALL THE TIME.
  • I’m way more likely to cry-laugh when I’m tired.  I laughed until I cried a lot this week.  Over random stuff.  Over that mouse in Cinderella who is sitting on the edge of his bed, trying to untie his tail.  Over not-that-funny jokes that in the moment WERE that funny.  Cry-laughing tends to derail work meetings, by the way.  Lesson learned.

  • If I want something, I have to ask for it.  Nobody is able to read my mind.  I’m not able to decipher my own mind a lot of time and I really shouldn’t expect other people to do what I don’t want to do.  It’s easy to think, “If they really love me, they should know what is up with me.”  But sometimes I don’t know what’s up with me, so how could they possibly know?  Asking is not admitting defeat.  It’s just something I have to do.
  • If it was possible to fidget to myself death, I’d already be dead.  I wore a ring for the first time in forever this week and I am SUCH A FIDGETY PERSON.  That ring was twisted every which way, taken on and off, and thought about way too much throughout the day.  I’m going to have to try again next week, just to see if I can get better at wearing a ring.  Accessory fail.

  • I tend to rely heavily on the things that I’m good at and avoid the things I’m not good at.  I stay well within my comfort zone on most things.  And since my comfort zone doesn’t necessarily look like anybody else’s comfort zone, I can get an undue reputation for boldness/confidence/bravery.  I wear weird outfits and post the outfit results every day and I’m a scaredy cat.  My fears aren’t obvious from the outward facade that I’m pretty good at presenting to the world.  My fears involve me not being respected, being a failure, and being a flaky person who doesn’t fulfill any of her obligations.  Sometimes my drive comes from trying to prove myself wrong about myself.  It’s stupid, but it’s true.
  • Not feeling pretty isn’t the same as being ugly.  That seems obvious, but when I’m tired and I don’t feel pretty, it seems like a safe assumption that I’m just a hideous person.  Intellectually, I know that I looked perfectly normal this week.  But I felt like a troll.  A fat ugly troll who lives under a bridge and gets annoyed at how loudly goats walk.
  • My job is great, but difficult to explain.  I emailed the US Department of Labor last week and didn’t even think that it was weird until I thought about it afterwards.  I really like my job and one of the reasons things fell through the cracks this week was a major project that I was trying to finish.  Most weeks aren’t entirely fails.  Usually it’s a mix.  This week was a work-win-week, but not a life-win-week.
  • Razors are one of the things I always forget to buy at the grocery store, because I stupidly decide not to write grocery lists (see Lesson 1), so I finally ended up ordering razors from Amazon and when I used one of the new razors, I cut myself in multiple places and then I realized that bandaids are the other thing that I always forget to buy at the grocery store.  Please excuse me while I sit here covered in the gory reminder of my failure.
  • Failing isn’t fun.  I know there are tons of TED talks featuring tech magnates with square glasses calmly talking about how failure is so good for you.  I always want to slap the square glasses right off of their overly calm faces, because they make it sound so easy to analyze everything.  My initial reaction to failing is laughing.  Or crying.  Or laughing until I cry.  It definitely is not gleaning the important lesson that I should be learning from my failure.  It takes me a while to calm down enough to acknowledge the moral of the story that just happened. And that is okay.  As long as you get to the point eventually, you don’t have to be okay immediately.  I’m a little teapot (short and stout) and like most teapots, I get steamed sometimes.  And I keep everything bottled up inside until everything comes out with a shrieking whistle noise.  My first reactions are emotional, but I don’t always let them out right then.  They do come out at some point, but usually they come out after building up for while.
  • Humility is a good thing.  I can present the image of having everything under control, but I don’t.  I’m good at some things, but I’m bad at so many things.  So. Many. Things.  The good news is that I don’t have to be good at everything.  Thank goodness.

This wasn’t a terrible week.  It was just a long week and I was tired for the majority of it.  There was a lot of cry-laughing in it, but that’s way better than a lot of crying.  My life is pretty darn funny.  I’m listening to a Roger Miller record while writing this and if you’re having a long week, I’d highly recommend listening to Roger Miller songs.  Hilarious.  This is the comic genius who wrote You Can’t Rollerskate In A Buffalo Herd and other such classics.  Take this lyric:

Ya can’t take a shower in a parakeet cage
Ya can’t take a shower in a parakeet cage
Ya can’t take a shower in a parakeet cage
But you can be happy if you’ve a mind to –
All ya gotta do is put your mind to it
Knuckle down, buckle down, do it, do it, do it.
Yeah!  You said it, Roger Miller!  I’m going to try again next week. (Knuckle down, buckle down, do it, do it, do it.)  If I fail next week, which is a possibility, because accessorizing isn’t one of my strengths, I’ll try again the next week.  It’s not a big deal.  Not trying guarantees failure.  If you try, there’s a possibly of failure, but there’s also a possibility of success.  So I’ll be back next week and I’ll try again and we’ll see how it goes!  Thanks for putting up with me, friends.  I’m know I can be a drama queen and a little steamed-up teapot and a loserly mess, but I really like all you of you guys.  You’re pretty great.  If you feel like a loser this week, join the club.  It’s no fun, but it isn’t the end of the world.  Have a good laugh.  Learn something from it (eventually).  Go ahead and try again.  And then try again.
I’ll be back next week with something to say about accessories.  Hopefully.

Waiting Around On Valentine’s Day: A Study In Metaphors

[An important preface to this post:  I wrote this on February 15th while on airplanes.  Now, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I tend to get pretty philosophical on flights.  Maybe it’s something about hurtling through the air, being a little sleep-deprived, being very aware that my fate is NOT in my own hands, whatever.  If it doesn’t make sense, I apologize.  It’s probably the just the flight talking.  Alternate titles I thought of:  Singleness 2:  Even More Single?  / Does Hope Hurt?  / A Bad Day to Fly / Why Am I Still Here?…..  Yeah.  It was a long day.  Here goes!]

On Valentine’s Day, I spent a good chunk of the day in a tiny rural fog-bound airport.  I was waiting for a plane.  (As one does.)  The irony of sitting around waiting alone on Valentine’s Day didn’t escape me.

Trying to keep the boring part of the story short, I was dropped off for a mid-morning flight.  The weather didn’t look promising – snow flurries and freezing fog between the flurries.  The airport is so small that it only flies to one destination and the plane wasn’t at the airport yet.  It hadn’t even left the other airport yet.  That plane kept delaying and delaying and delaying.  Then finally, the news was announced that the plane was wheels up and on its way to us.  (Rejoicing!  Hope!  Hurrah!)  We had been in the airport for around 4 or 5 hours by that point.

As we scurried through The TSA Security Pageant (the most common form of interactive live theater in the United States), hope was running through our blood.  And as we sat in that post-security lockdown area, we heard the plane.  And then there was silence.  And then we heard the plane again.  That plane circled the airport three times, couldn’t find an opening in the fog, then went back to its original airport.

Canceled.

Went back through the line, got rebooked for an afternoon flight (which was about an hour away at that point), went back through The TSA Security Show and got patted down that time.  Why be MORE thorough the second time through security?  It’s a mystery.  Sat back down in post-security lockdown, and heard the plane.  And heard the plane.  And heard the plane.  Then heard the announcement that the plane circled three times and went back to its original airport.

You know the hardest part of waiting?  The hope of imminent change.  In this case, it was hearing both of the planes.  It was going through the motions and getting packed and getting prepped and getting patted down, then sitting there with a suitcase and going nowhere.  It felt like a Buster Keaton movie and I’ve never felt more for that sad-face little figure who was funny just because he didn’t know when to give up.

T.S. Eliot has a line in the Four Quartets:

I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope / For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love / For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith / But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting. / Wait without thought thought, for you are not ready for thought…

Are you ever afraid of hope, because it seems so tied to disappointment and hurt?  I know that I’ve made hope into the enemy, because I’ve tried to fool myself into thinking that if I don’t hope for anything, I can’t be disappointed.  Making waiting and wanting into a problem and trying to solve them by ignoring them.

HOPE IS NEVER THE PROBLEM.  Hope is hope.  It is good.  How can we even pretend to be fine without it?

Today, I’m writing this on an airplane.  The weather is absolutely gorgeous.  The snow hills look like sleeping swans with their heads tucked under their wings.  From the air, school buses look like chopped up No. 2 pencils.  The world was blue and white and brightness.  My prayers have been answered.  Not that they weren’t answered yesterday, but yesterday’s answer was Wait.  Not gonna lie, I never like that answer.

But the truth is that yesterday was a terrible day for flying.  Today is a good flying day.  Today is everything that I hoped yesterday would be.  It’s obviously the right day to go.  I woke up knowing that it would work this time.

I spent a lot of the stuck-in-the-airport time reading, but also browsing social media.  A lot of single people kinda lost their minds over Valentine’s Day.  Reactions ranged from the ambivalent (Well, the day after Valentine’s Day, all the chocolate goes on sale) to pure reaction (Well, I’m going throw a party for myself and celebrate singleness!  Yeah!) to offended, wounded, and in despair.  Like waiting for a plane, this despair over a reminder of romantic love has everything to do with unfulfilled hope.  Being single on Valentine’s Day can be like hearing that your long-awaited flight has finally been canceled.  It’s a symbol of love and you feel excluded and alone.  But hope isn’t the problem.  You know the most important time to have hope?  When it is hard.

It’s the same with all virtues.  Fellas, love is easy when she’s looking beautiful in that black dress and her smile is stopping your heart.  A stranger could fall in love with her when she looks that beautiful.  Love is hard when the baby’s crying in the middle of the night and you’re deciding whether or not to acknowledge it or not.

Hope is a gift from the Holy Spirit.  We can’t cultivate it on our own.  Without God’s grace, love, hope, and peace are just words and words we can’t possibly understand, let alone carry out their actions.  We want hope without any need for hope.  We want love without any trials to refine our love.  We want peace to mean there is never any conflict for us to resolve or any anxiety to make us doubt.  We want to be great without trying.  Without difficult people or difficult circumstances messing our hair up.

Show love while waiting for love.  Have hope when it’s hard to wait.  Have peace when you start to doubt whether you even want hope.  Peace.  Be still.  I’m frustrated and illogical.  Peace  This is the most important time to have hope.  Hope comforts, disappointment hurts.  Don’t confuse them.

I was shown so much love on Valentine’s Day.  My family loves me so well.  I love them and I like them.  I’m spoiled and I know it.

My dad expresses his love in a lot of ways, but they fall under the general category of Caring.  He takes really good care of me.  He helps me with paperwork and booking flights and talks through car problems and taxes.  All the stuff that intimidates me.  We were on the phone so many times during the no-fly day, thinking through everything.

My oldest brother drove me to the airport, because he wanted me to be safe on the icy roads.  My second-oldest brother gave me a ride back to my house once everything got canceled and after finding out there wasn’t food in the airport, he made a detour to buy me chicken nuggets and sweet’n’sour sauce.  My sister fed me dinner and we made snow ice cream.  I’m so thoroughly blessed.  Saturated with blessings.

Waiting and hope are two different things.  Sometimes waiting feels like the airport.  Sitting.  Nothing to do except wait.  A defined timeline.  Between things.  Between what you have and what you want.  But I don’t think it is a good metaphor for hope.

Hope is like anticipating a really good dinner.  You have your work to do, but you have friends working alongside you, and you remember throughout the day that dinner is going to be amazing.  It isn’t static or wistful.  It’s a certain knowledge that God loves His children and He is going to give us exactly what we need.  Even if the work is hard, even if there are times you have to work alone, remember that there’s blessing ahead and it’s going to be exactly what you need and it’s going to taste even better after all that work.  Don’t JUST wait.  Work.

I’m saved by the blood of Jesus, so I can work in peace, knowing that He’s always taking care of me.  You know the only thing I have to do before I die?  Live.  That’s it.  Live in the delight of my Lord.  Do the work I’ve been given and give thanks for it.  Will that someday take the form of a house and a husband and some adorable fat babies?  I sure hope so.  But I’m not just going to sit and wait, because my life isn’t defined by what I don’t have right now.  I have so much to be grateful for and so much to do!  Time to get busy.  Keep praying, keep desiring good things, strong in faith that God gives His children everything they need and blesses far beyond.

If you’re waiting and struggling, maybe despairing, whether it’s for waiting for marriage, a job, reconciling with your family, or healing, I understand how hard it is.  I’m a 30-year-old virgin.  I know what waiting is like.  I look back on some of my life’s rough patches and just see darkness.  But I also know that those are my growth rings.  The hard times are the times when I’ve grown the most.  Those are my book of Psalms.  Seek out wise counselors, invest in friends, invest in family.  Don’t be embarrassed to cry in front of other people.  Let other people help you.  You don’t have to go it all by yourself.  You really don’t.  If you find that you’re stuck in airport mode, always sitting and waiting for that one thing that is out of reach, leave the airport.

Ashley Tries to Write About Singleness Without Coming Across As Whiny or Delusional

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As a perpetually single Christian woman, I’ve read a lot of blog posts on singleness.  I don’t seek them out.  They mysteriously appear on my Facebook wall.  Who knows where they come from originally, but they end up in my feed, like dust bunnies under a couch.  They have titles like “How the Church Fails Singles” or “37 Things Never To Say To Single People” or “Singleness and Contentment” or “Using Your Singleness” or things like that.  I usually read through them, but none of them really captured my attention.  Probably because all of them were so SERIOUS.  I’ve been putting off writing The Dreaded Singleness Post since I started this blog, but it’s time.  The Time Is Now.  My target audience is post-college single women in the 25-45 age range, but please, stick around.

I’m 30 and haven’t been asked out on a date since I started my job, and I’ve had my job for about 6 years now. Not that I think my job has anything to do with it.  I just tell time by landmarks. I don’t remember specific years when things happen.  Now, I don’t really know why I haven’t been asked out.  In my lower moments, I can think of all sorts of reasons why guys wouldn’t be interested in getting to know me.  Maybe I don’t talk enough.  Maybe I’m uninteresting.  Maybe I don’t seem interested.  Maybe I seem too independent.  Maybe I can’t cook.  Maybe I’m not attractive.  Maybe I’m mean without realizing it. Maybe it’s because I’m either overdressed or I look like one of the Lost Boys fro Hook.  Maybe it’s because my eyebrows are constantly trying to take over my face.

Let me exhort you not to fall down that rabbit hole.  If you have a specific concern, ask your family or a close friend in honesty and humility.  “Am I careless with my words?  Do I hurt people?”  Don’t ask yourself.  If you are asking the question, you either you don’t know the answer or you are ignoring the answer.  So stop asking yourself questions that you don’t know the answer to and move on to something else!

Have you ever auditioned for anything?  It’s a vulnerable, nerve-wracking, competitive experience, because you have to stand up on your own and perform to a room full of people who are there to judge you.  Sometimes the cast list comes out and your name isn’t on it.  The best advice I ever received about auditioning: Don’t try to figure out why you didn’t get the role.  That’s a fast way to go mad or get bitter.  Either you blame yourself and start obsessing about what you could have done differently, or you blame your competition.  Either way, you can start thinking “I didn’t get it because I didn’t have enough breath control for that low note.” “I should have had more confidence coming in.  “I’m too ugly for that role.” “She only got the role because she’s blonde – typical.” “Why did SHE get the role? My audition was so much better.”  DON’T DO IT.  The same thing applies to unwanted singleness.  If you like a guy and he starts dating your best friend, how do you respond?  It’s ridiculously easy to automatically blame your friend or blame yourself or blame the guy you liked.  DON’T DO IT.

But like I said, those are the low moments.  Most of the time, I’m happy and fine and enjoying life.  But I do run into some hilarious singleness problems.  Like people being concerned about me and offering me advice and comfort.  It’s amazing how uncomfortable comforting can be sometimes.  This is where all those “37 Things Never To Say To Singles” posts come from.  But OH COME ON.  How pretentious would it be to walk up with a scroll, dramatically unfurl it, and announce All The Thinges Which Maye Not Be Uttered In My Presence.  That’s what those posts are like.  Are people always going to say the right thing?  No.  Will they always be sensitive to the issue you’re handling right now?  Nope.  When people try to comfort you and do it clumsily, recognize their intention.  Remember all the times that you clumsily tried to comfort a friend.

I have a little collection of singleness sayings at this point. One of my personal favorites: “Don’t worry, it’ll happen when you least expect it.” At this point, I don’t know how I can expect it any less.  But the winner of the most uncomfortable (and unintentionally hilarious) comforting was a lady who came up to me at my Grandaddy’s funeral. Here’s the scene – I’m in the receiving line and a kind stranger comes up to me and starts this gem of a conversation:

Lady: “Do you have kids?”

Me: “No, I don’t have kids.”

Lady: “But you have a husband, right?”

Me: “No.”

Lady (patting my hand): “Aww. It’s still just you and Jesus.” (Lady walks away, while I struggle to keep a straight face during all of this, because this was at a FUNERAL.)

Enough concerned people have asked me if I had tried online dating that I eventually joined OKCupid.  There were a few reasons for this.  Reason 1)  If I tried it, I could just say “Yes. I have tried online dating” and quickly switch to a more interesting subject.  Reason 2)  It was free. 3)  I’ve heard some success stories from OKCupid, so I was interested to see what it was like.

I think the main thing that drove me nuts about it was the inefficiency of the process.  Inefficiency is fine when there is warmth and personality and kindness.  Greece is inefficient, but if there’s blue ocean and delicious food, I don’t care how inefficient it is. But the deadly combo of inefficient AND impersonal eventually made me put the online dating account on ice. If I wanted inefficient and impersonal, I could run down to the DMV or get called involved in some other tedious bureaucratic process.  In my opinion, trying to meet somebody shouldn’t feel like a part time job.  What happened to the original matchmaking services, dinner parties and dances?  I like those.  If nothing came out of the dinner party, at least you got dinner.  If nothing came out of the dance, at least you got to get dressed up and see all your friends.  If nothing comes out of online dating, you’re just home in your pajamas, clicking through photos of strangers, probably holding a glass of white wine.  No wonder we feel isolated sometimes.  Real people are more fun than the ideas of people.

I want Amazon or Netflix to start an online dating service. Sure, it would be icy and impersonal and probably run by evil masterminds, but at least it would be highly efficient. Netflix wouldn’t even need me to fill out a profile – they already know too much about me. They know that on emotional days, I either want to watch Disney movies or the category they have labeled as Emotional East Asian Dramedies.  If dating comes down to algorithms, I want a service with the very finest algorithms.  Amazon’s dating service would come with reviews for each person.  That would drastically simplify the process.

Truth be told, I am picky. Evidence to this fact: I’m 30 and oh so very single.  But I’ve waited this long, so why should I settle NOW?  It seems like bad timing.  I’m holding out for great.  I’m not planning on lowering my standards.  If anything, my standards have gotten higher.

Okay, now I’m going to say some things that I should probably Never Say To Singles, but rest assured, everything I’m going to say to you, I’ve already had to preach to myself.

  1. STOP COMPLAINING THAT ADULTING IS HARD.  Also, we need to stop using the word Adulting.  Sure it’s hard.  It’s real life.  But you’re a real adult, so stop pretending that you’re still a child trying to do adulty things.  You’re an adult doing what you have to do and have every capability of doing.  Do you want to be treated like an adult? Act like one. Commit to things. Don’t have one foot out the door.  As a single person, it’s easy to sit at the kid’s table for a lot longer.  My younger sister feels more like an adult than I am, because she has a husband, three kids, and a household that she has to run.  But that’s a feeling.  The truth is that I’m just as much of an adult, but it’s easier to not see myself that way.  It’s time to put down roots and start building my own household.  If I’m building that household on my own right now, that’s not a problem.

2. GIVE UP THE HYPOTHETICAL TIMELINE AND LIVE IN THE REAL ONE.  It’s easy to sigh and think, “When I was in college, I assumed I’d be married and have kids by this point.”  That’s a hypothetical timeline, but it feels more real the more you dwell on it.  This feeds into a particular smart girl problem of being terrified of falling behind or failing.  Sometimes it feels like I fell behind a long time ago and now I’ll never catch up.  It’s not a race.  Don’t feed the fake timeline.  Give up your disappointment.  Give up the fake competition.  This is the real timeline. Live in it and love it.

3. MAKE GOOD FRIENDS.  If I could have one thing written on my tombstone, I’d want it to be Good Friend.  Cultivate your existing friendships and always be open to new ones.  This probably seems like a no-brainer, but be a good friend to your family.  Sometimes it’s easy to ignore that aspect of family, but being friends with your siblings and your parents is one of the best things in the world.  Spend the time and really invest in people.  Let your focus be external, rather than internal.  Focus less on being interesting to other people and focus more on being truly interested in other people.

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4.  BECOME ADMIRABLE.  Keep learning.  Keep improving.  Become an intimidating force of nature.  Do the hard things that you have to do and don’t complain about it.  I find it so easy to complain.  Way too easy.  I don’t want to be a wimp or a whiner.  If an amazing man does come along someday, I want to be standing on my two feet and carrying out a plan, because that’s what I’d expect from him.

5.  USE WHAT YOU HAVE BEEN GIVEN.  A couple days ago, I was reading The Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25.  It’s one of the hardest parables for me to read.  “Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed.  And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground.  Look, there you have what is yours.” (Matthew 24:24-25)  I don’t know about you, but it’s very easy to me to feel sorry for that man with one talent, but that is because he uses the same excuse that I do.  LORD, I WAS AFRAID.  I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT YOU WANTED ME TO DO.  WHAT WAS I SUPPOSED TO DO?  The answer is anything except nothing.  It doesn’t have to be complicated.  If he had put the talent in the bank, he would have at least earned interest on it.  Don’t be afraid, because fear only paralyzes.  Use whatever you have been given.

Love isn’t a feeling.  It’s something that you do.  Don’t sit and wait for love.  Don’t bury it in the ground.  Don’t be afraid.  Love God and love your neighbor.  That’s it.  That’s what we’re told to do.  Loving other people does not require any other person giving love to you.  God has already given you all His love.  More than enough for you to give away every second of every day for as long as you last.  Don’t be afraid.

So whatever I go for this year, I want to go full out.  If it doesn’t work out, that’s okay.  I want to do anything except nothing.  I want to invest in people and build up my friendships.  I want to put down roots and not be afraid that it’s the wrong thing.  It’s not the wrong thing.  The wrong thing would be to bury what I’ve been given in the ground.

To all my single ladies, my amazing friends:  I love you so much.  You’re like those classic actresses in black and white movies – fierce, funny, witty, compassionate, intelligent, and beautiful.  Most people don’t think they make women like that anymore, but I know that’s not true, because I know my friends.  I’m telling you that you are all worth getting to know and it’s my privilege to know all of you.  Are you intimidating?  Absolutely.  Please don’t lower your standards.  You don’t need to settle for mediocre.  You deserve legendary.

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Ashley Tries Doing Her Own Hair and Ponders Gift Giving

This week has been a departure from my standard Ashley Tries format.  I did try to do my hair a different way every day, but that really wasn’t anything to write home about.  I’m still really bad at doing hair.  The main thing I learned was that I had to decide the night before that I was going to try to do something different, so I was mentally prepared to try something new the next morning.  The first day was the highlight – I tried that I’m-a-millennial-so-I-don’t-curl-the-ends-of-my-hair hair and that worked out pretty nicely.  I also tried to put together my best millennial outfit and break out the instagram pose, just for consistency’s sake.
The only problem with having a win early in the week was that it lulled me into a false sense of security.  Tuesday I tried to do a french braid.  WHY?  I never learned how to do a french braid and I have very little dexterity when I’m trying to knot hair on the back of my own head.  I didn’t have Sara get a picture of back of my head, because I didn’t even want to know what it looked like.  This picture was taken an hour or so after I twisted my hair into what I hoped looked like a braid and it was already falling out.  Fortunately, I was wearing a turtleneck and pumps to prove that I am in fact an adult and a professional.  I wore red lipstick to try to salvage the hair and face situation, but my hat is off to those women who can somehow knit together a masterpiece on the back of their own head.
By Friday, I had definitely run out of ideas, so I went with a ponytail.  I realized that I use clothes as way to control things that I’m not great at.  Mainly hair.  “Well, my hair is kind of boring, but I’ve got a red shirt on.”  “My hair is mess, but I WILL DISTRACT YOU WITH MY BLAZER.”  And it works.  People assume that I’m a put-together person most of the time.  I’m really not.  I have a million ideas sleeting through my head and a stubborn streak, but discipline doesn’t come easily to me.  But if a blazer makes people think that I’ve got it all together, you’d better believe I’m going to wear that blazer.
The main thing I focused on this week was creating gift guides and thinking about presents!  I love Christmas and I especially love the tradition of gift giving.  The only reason I object to the idea of Santa is that sometimes he’s used as a works righteousness threat.  (Be good or Santa won’t bring you any presents!)  NO.  The whole point of Christmas is that God gave us everything when we least deserved it.  This world was a planet of Grinches and Scrooges and we deserved worse than nothing.  Then God sent His Son and saved us.  He gave us everything.
When we give, we give ourselves.  Love who you give presents to and love what you give.  Watching kids open Christmas presents is the absolute best.  They haven’t gotten to the stage where they don’t know what they want.  They ask for what they want and when they unwrap the thing they really want, there is pure joy.  Adults are trickier to shop for and sometimes we just need some inspiration.  So I made a few themed gift guides to help get your giving going!
Gift Guide: Geek/Nerd/Fan
 
Gift Guide: Organized vs. Crazy
A few parting thoughts about giving fun presents:
  • Figure out a budget for presents and stick with it, so that your giving isn’t grudging or tinged with guilt.  Antique stores and consignment stores and thrift stores are great places to look for inexpensive presents with a lot of personality.
  • Some people get very burdened by physical possessions.  If you’re trying to figure out a present for somebody who already has too much stuff, give them a gift card to a coffee shop and plan a time to hang out together, or buy them a movie pass and plan a movie night together.
  • Food is a great present.  I adore food presents.  I’m a farmer’s daughter and one amazing thing about farmers is that they give what they grow.  It’s so personal and wonderful.  Growing up, the other farmers would give us tangerines and oranges and almonds and pistachios.  They didn’t grow chocolate, but they also gave us a lot of chocolate and it was the BEST EVER.
  • Don’t shy away from practical presents.  The older I get, the more I appreciate nice socks in my stocking.  I wear socks all the time and nice socks are such a delight!  I was given a little pocket knife one year and that was fantastic.  But I lost it somewhere along the way and I am living a knifeless life.   I should ask for a little Swiss Army Knife for my stocking!
  • Give music!  I signed up for Pandora Plus (because I got sick of listening to ads) and I love it.
  • Give presents that foster a sense of adventure – if they want to travel to Iceland, give them a travel guide to Iceland!  Give them a map of hiking trails in your area.  Give them trail mix and a compass.  Give them a globe.  I loved our globe growing up.

The main thing is to just love your people and give out of gratitude.  Start Christmas off right by having a happy heart!