Thursday, September 26, 2013

I Got This?

Some days are better than others. Some days I'm feeling good, in control, things under my belt--I can say I got this. Some days I feel like I can't get anything done, I have things waiting to get done hanging over my head, and all I feel like I'm doing is spinning my wheels. And if there's ever a feeling I've hated with much passion, it's that. I want to feel accomplished, not inept.

Today happens to be one of those days. I'm in wheel-spinning mode, trying to balance my plates while they spin precariously in the air. And we all know that if one falls, this entire performance is in danger of a major crash and burn.

google images

As I sit here and contemplate the next 15 things on my to-do list, and I look wildly around a house that is in disarray, I feel God gently tugging at my heart. It seems that in all the rush and demand that this day has brought on, I've completely forgotten about Him. And if there's one thing to be forgotten, He really shouldn't be it. Maybe you feel like me today. Is there a slightly wild look in your eye? Is your hair standing on end? Have you started five things but only actually accomplished one? Do you feel like the people in your life are all looking to you to make "it" (whatever it may be) happen, to keep it going, to keep it balanced and in place and where it's supposed to be?


Then let's all take a minute (okay, 30 seconds), take a deep breath, and remember that while we may not have life completely mastered right now, all it takes is a moment to regroup and remember that He is never to far away to hear us when we cry.
Jesus Calling, Sarah Young

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Opportunity Knocks

"WE ARE OUT OF SYRUP!!" my daughter shouted from the kitchen. "We can't eat our waffles without syrup!"

They are spo-iled.

Nonetheless, I decided to run into Kroger (my "runs" into Kroger are similar to my "runs" into TJ Maxx, only they aren't quite as fun) to get some liquid gold maple syrup (why is this so expensive???) for my babies. I came out with four jars and a Powerade.(What? It was on sale. Next week I'll be running a special post on How to Overdose Your Kids On Sugar). When I got to the checkout line, one of my favorite cashiers was there, but without her usual bright smile. I love her because we chat the entire time she's scanning groceries (our favorite topic? Hair.), and she's normally full of chit-chat about her son, her school and her work. Today, she barely looked up. Her face was downcast and sad, and when I asked her how she was doing, she could only reply, "I've been better." Turns out, she had experienced a frightening health scare the day before and was feeling bad, and work was sending her home. The thought crossed my mind to tell her that I would pray for her, but before I could, the conversation swung in a different direction and another cashier stepped up to take her place. I didn't want to be awkward or anything, so I let it drop and left the store.

As I drove away from Kroger, she was foremost in my thoughts. She's such a sweet girl, trying to take care of her family, work and go to school at the same time. It's true that she probably needed prayer (don't we all?), but maybe she needed to know that she had my prayers. Maybe it would have made a difference in her day. Maybe not. But at least she would have known that I didn't ask her how she was doing out of obligation, but I asked because I really do care about her welfare. The further I drove away, the more I thought about it. I should have asked her if there was anything I could do to help her out. Maybe I should have offered to help with her son. Now, honestly, I really don't know this girl, and for all I know she would have looked at me like I had three heads for offering to help with her baby. I debated in my head that, yes, it could have been really awkward. But instead of grabbing an opportunity to let a fellow human being know that someone else was thinking of her and her well-being, I walked away.

I believe that God gives us each opportunities to show His love. Some are big and some are small. But regardless of the size of the opportunity, the impact it can have can be huge, but only if we willing to put ourselves out there a little bit.

So, Jen, I know you probably won't read this, but if you do, I'm praying for you, girl. You have a smile that brightens up other people's day!  You make a difference in the lives of other people. Your happy is contagious. And I hope that the next time I have to run into Kroger, you're there to talk hair.

Be strong and take heart,
all you who hope in the Lord.
{psalm 31:24}

Monday, September 23, 2013

Retail Therapy

On Saturday, I had to run out to drop my son off near the mall. That lucky duck was going to go sit in the rain and watch a college football game, while this poor girl had to stay home in the warm, dry house and find something useful to amuse herself.  Who, I ask you seriously, had the better deal? I'm thinking ME, as I don't love football. Or cold metal bleachers. Or sitting in the rain on purpose. Or drunk people who pee in the middle of the stands. (That's another story for another day, but it's no lie.). After I dropped him, I decided to run into TJ Maxx for "just a few minutes" so I could "look around". Sometimes this is a successful plan. Today it was not and I came home with a new lamp and this guy :

My husband was grievously offended by the "huge horse head" in our living room, describing it as "tacky", and implying that it was a tasteless choice in living room decor.

Retail therapy is good for me but not my pocketbook.

As I was leaving the store, I ran into a girl that I worked with like 11 years ago (I honestly didn't believe it had been that long, but the numbers don't lie like I do). We said our heys! and how are yous! and my, you haven't changed a bit!, but I felt like I had to apologize for my appearance because I seriously had rolled out of bed, brushed my teeth and gotten dressed. I hadn't even washed my face, which is almost a cardinal sin. And if I had just stuck with the original plan of "just looking around" for a "few minutes", then I wouldn't have had to show my face. I mean, how many people want to see someone that they haven't seen in years only to show them them that no, I do not care what I look like when I run into TJ Maxx. I wear ripped up jeans and tee shirts that might have shrunk in the dryer so I have to wear a tank top underneath or it'll be inappropriate and flip flops and I don't brush my hair. And then, while I was talking to my friend, another friend from my aerobics classes walked out, looking quite striking all made up, while I look like I do every other time I see her--like I just came from the gym, exception being I wasn't all sweaty, just maybe a little odorific because I hadn't showered yet (this is why Bath and Body created body spray, FYI). So then I felt like I had to excuse my appearance again, which she quickly dismissed as being silly.

Beauty is not in the face;
beauty is a light in the heart.
{Kahlil Gibran}

Had I known that TJ Maxx would be the place to be on Saturday morning, then maybe I would have at least washed my face and put on some lip gloss.

As I drove home, I rehashed the conversations in my mind. Why did I feel the need to apologize for my appearance? You apologize for saying something nasty, for making a mistake, for misbehaving, for being rude. For not having washed my face? No need. I just needed to own it. I am wearing ripped jeans. I own that. I work it. I am not wearing makeup today. Own it. Let the personality shine through, enjoy the conversation, have fun, and let it go. Confidence is beautiful. Because in the end, it's all about the joy you exuded, the kindness you showed and how you treated the person you had an interaction with, not how you looked.

The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mole,
but true beauty in a Woman is reflected in her soul.
It is the caring that she lovingly gives,
the passion that she knows.
{Audrey Hepburn}

Friday, September 20, 2013

Sentence Enhancers?

I have a confession to make:

I cuss in my head. Not out loud (most of the time). But in my thoughts.

I do not cuss out loud because my mama taught me not to (even though she had quite a mouth on her when she was angry), and also because it is not very lady-like to say curse words in everyday conversation. But I feel bad when I cuss in my thoughts, cause, as my Sunday School teachers used to say "The Good Lord can hear your thoughts." (You have to say that with a real strong Southern accent and extremely pursed lips--probably really red or really pink--or it doesn't come across quite the same.)

My mom and dad were both prevelant users of certain curse words. I grew up in two houses that both had wood-burning stoves as their main heat source, and when you're five and you think another word for a stove is a "damn it", then your parents might have a cussing habit. The F-bomb, however, was strictly off-limits, like there was this unspoken rule on the severity of explicit deletes: on a scale of 1-10, the f-word is a ten. (Although she did get me a book from the library on the true definition of the f-word, just so I could be properly informed and not schooled on the meaning from the kids on the back of the bus and WHOA! that's a lot of heavy info coming at you when you're 12 or 13. AWKWARD.)


In 2013, there are lots of substitutions for these words, like friggin, freaking, and the ever-popular effin. And admit, I say them all (except for effin, I don't like that one). Even in front of my kids. GASP! There has been ample debate amongst parents I know as to whether those words are appropriate or not, since the user is intending them the same way.


In my house, profanity isn't the way we choose to express ourselves (although when you're really, really upset or angry, sometimes no other words will do). We are trying to teach our kids that there are many acceptable ways to express how you feel without being vulgar about it, but they do know most of the curse words (when you hear the f-bomb dropped by your very own daughter--as she is explaining the words she knows--it does tend leave one a bit aghast) and they know that they will hear them and read them for the rest of their lives--but that doesn't make it okay for them to use them regularly.

So back to my confession: I have gotten better. The words don't pop out of my mouth like they used to. And in the grand scheme of life, it's a fairly minor issue :)

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
{ephesians 4:29}

Thursday, September 19, 2013

My Name Is...What? My Name Is...Who?

I currently hold in my possession a bike that is the source of much consternation amongst the children of my household--those who visit and those who live here. It was a Christmas gift to my youngest child, thinking he'd get a few good months of play out of it before he, as kids are wont to do, grew tired of it and moved on. Never in our minds did we imagine that this bike would become the main focus of an ongoing war over who gets to ride and for how long. And never did I imagine that I would become the referee over said toy. Almost every day since this bike was introduced into our home, a child has come into the kitchen (this is where I live, the other rooms in the house are just for show) to 1) complain about another child who has been riding for too long/too fast/too crazy and is not sharing and 2) to manipulate me into doing something about it (i.e. take the bike from the non-sharing participant and give it to the complainer, who obviously has sharing under his or her belt). And almost every day since the inception of this arguement, I have told the parties involved that 1) it's not my deal and 2) to figure it out on their own. Obviously this particular path isn't the most effective, but honestly, my brain cannot take and process this information. There is too much other stuff going on up there to be particularly concerned about time limits, sharing and bikes.

The bike in question, in it's secret location.

Yesterday, my children took matters into their own hands. They decided that they didn't want to share the bike with anyone else. Period. (When questioned later on this particular method, they both got wide-eyed, smiled and said "But we weren't fighting over it, mom!!" like I was supposed to be real proud of their behavior and say "Hey! High-five! You've taken sharing to a whole other level. Proud. So proud."). You can imagine my surprise when I walked into my very own laundry room only to discover that this was the place they had decided to stash the bike. Clever. Because what kid would think to look in the laundry room for a bike? Anyway, I didn't do anything about it right away, as I reference the above: 1) not my deal and 2) figure it out on your own. But when my daughter came into the kitchen later to say that the neighborhood kids were looking for the bike so they could ride it,  she then had to confess that they had actually hidden it so no one could use it. Sigh. Do we really have to go over the rules of sharing this late in the game? She then explained that the kids were grilling my youngest about the secret location, which he would give up under NO CIRCUMSTANCES. He stays strong under pressure. My daughter, on the other hand, was starting to crumble, which is the reason she came into the kitchen in the first place. She needed to regroup. And while she was in there, she told me of the conversation unfolding outside:

AB: Mom, they're asking where the bike is!! They say that they're gonna ask you!!!!

Me: Okay...

AB: But they don't know what you're name is! Or at least what you like to be called. So they asked me!! And I didn't want them to come in and ask you!! SO I SAID I DIDN'T KNOW WHAT YOUR NAME IS!!!!!!!

Well played, my child. Well played.

I guess she thinks I might crumble under the pressure of 8-year-olds, too, and that perhaps I couldn't keep the location of said bike under wraps. Or perhaps she knows that I would probably share.

The pressure was getting to her. She was coming unhinged. I get that. But I think your story has a few holes in it when you say that you don't know what your own mother's name is.

Excuse me while I break out into a Slim Shady rap, complete with my very own scratching sounds, cause this mom is cool like that:

Hi! My name is... (what?) My name is... (who?)
My name is... [scratches] Slim Shady
Hi! My name is... (huh?) My name is... (what?)
My name is... [scratches] Slim Shady

 And you know what? After this rapping episode, my kids probably won't have to worry about sharing with any friends anymore...

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Grasping Sand



With Sandy Hook and the Boston Marathon bombing a not-too-distant memory, and events like Virgina Tech, 9/11 and Columbine as a part of our country's history, I am still troubled over the recent events at the Navy Yard in Washington. In the aftermath, it's hard to grasp the whys and the hows, and even harder to know how to brace ourselves for what may come. Sadly, things like this aren't unfamiliar to us anymore, yet none of us really know how to deal when it happens. The what-ifs run the same track in my head, deepening the already fearful and anxious thoughts I try to hide in the back of my head. I find myself grasping at straws, at any hope of safety and protection this world could provide, but just a glance at the morning news tells me that depending solely on the world is like trying to keep a firm grasp on dry sand, like in the video clip of the dance "Sand".

Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
{psalm 62:2}

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Honor

I'm taking a moment to honor the victims, families and employees of the Navy Yard in DC.


We love you, Uncle N!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Refuge From the Crazy

Sunday I was out in the yard doing some dreaded yard work. I was spreading mulch around the mailbox and brought a rake out to help spread, which I laid in the grass. Prongs up. Can you guess where this story is heading? Not only did I accidentally step on it, but I stepped on the prongs, which made the long wooden handle fly up and smack me on the tushi--hard! I was frustrated by even having to be out there.

Today I was irritated because Kroger didn't have a very good selection of produce, I forgot my coupons, all the Gala apples that were $0.99 a pound were wiped out, and the next cheapest apples were $1.99 a pound, and they were HUGE, so my receipt shows that I paid $15 just for apples. (My family really likes apples.). Ridiculous. When I saw an acquaintance we exchanged pleasantries, we then both bemoaned the fact that it was, indeed, a Monday. Ugh.

My mind started going down that path--the one you don't like, but can't seem to help, you know the one--Life is so annoying sometimes. Mondays stink. I mean, $15 for apples? A big 'ol bruise on my backside just because I am apparently the most oblivious person on the planet? Really, Monday?? Me, me, me...

But when I got a phone call that a shooting had occurred in the DC area, I was stopped in my tracks. Unfortunately, it often takes a tragedy to bring me out of my self-focused haze and back to the real world. There was a person out there who was frustrated enough by life to hatch a plan to go try and kill other innocent people, and whether he succeeded or not, its a scary reality to face. When I heard the news, my first reaction was fear. What is this world coming to?? How many tragedies will we have to endure? How many people will have to get hurt? What will my children, and their children, have to face in the future? My frustrations from earlier were minimized and all I could think of were the families and people affected by yet another shooting. And suddenly, my Monday that is always so stable and secure, always the same (and sometimes even boring), seemed unstable and shifting like sand. It's disconcerting and troubling, and I found myself in a sea of fear, anxiety and worry. And I don't like that feeling. It robs me of any joy, peace or faithfulness that I previously had, and it snowballs in my head to the point of not wanting to leave my house.

The world offers no security, no refuge from the crazy. It affects us all in small ways and big. I find myself wishing there was somewhere I could go, some place I could be just to feel safe. To keep my family safe. And yet, in the midst of the madness, the Bible promises peace. It even promises joy. It promises all the things I want but can't permanently find in this world. For me, the true battle today isn't being physically fought. It's a battle for the soundness of my mind, and on that front, the Bible promises a safe haven from a world that seems to be coming unhinged at it's very core.

But I may come unhinged first.

Prayer is the first line of defense that I have against the threat of worry, anxiety, fear and doubt. David prayed over and over in the Psalms for the Lord to hear his prayer, and I believe that He does. Psalm 66:20 says "Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me." Going to the Lord and taking all my anxiety, my worry, my fears and my doubts isn't always easy, but it's the best way to put those things that I can't handle on the shoulders of The One who can.

 “Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him,
for he shields him all day long,
and the one the Lord loves
rests between his shoulders.”
{deuteronomy 33:12}

Friday, September 13, 2013

imsorry

The other day I walked into the garage only to be greeted by a rather large and ugly spider. He stared at me. I stared back at him. He scurried toward me, and I ran screaming back into the house. I hate spiders.

This is also precisely how I feel about conflict.

I avoid it. I don't deal with it. I run screaming from it. (Sometimes literally.)


I'm all for healthy conflict resolution, but by the time the resolution part comes around, I'm angry and in no way interested in resolving anything. I have dealt with conflict in the past by giving the silent treatment, screaming and yelling, and holding my anger in just to appease the other person. I wouldn't describe any of those as healthy or particularly effective, but it's what I know, so it's what I do. Just so you know, I'm working on improving myself.

The other day, I was involved in an argument where a decision was made that was offensive to the others involved, and before I knew it, it seemed like somebody was mad at somebody else. What a colossal mess. So I did what I've always done when I have a problem: I called my sister and hashed the whole sordid mess out with her. As we talked, I realized a few things:

1. I have to stop pointing fingers at other people and assuming they are the ones with the problem. I need to accept my part in the conflict and stop placing blame on someone else.

An offended friend if harder to win back than a fortified city.
Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with bars.
{proverbs 18:19}

There are 'friends' that destroy each other,
but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.
{proverbs 18:24}

2. I need to choose my words carefully.

Those who control their tongue will have a long life;
opening your mouth can ruin everything.
{proverbs 13:3}

3. I need to talk about my feelings--my true feelings--instead of playing along, appeasing the other person, or giving them the silent treatment.

Laughter can conceal a heavy heart,
but when the laughter ends, the grief remains.
{proverbs 13:13}

4. I need to put myself in the other persons shoes. Where could they be coming from? How might they be feeling? Having empathy for their situation might help me understand them a little better.

Spouting off before listening to the facts
is both shameful and foolish.
{proverbs 18:13}

5. I need to quiet my tongue. I tend to let my tongue talk without letting my brain filter it first--I call it verbal vomit--and when it starts, I always have a regret. Or two or three.

The mouths of fools are their ruin;
they trap themselves with their lips.
{proverbs 18:7}

People with understanding control their anger;
a hot temper shows great foolishness.
{proverbs 14:29}
 
6. I can make the choice to forgive and not hold on to grudges.

Love prospers when a fault is forgiven,
but dwelling on it separates close friends.
{proverbs 17:9}

7. I need to own up to my own mistakes, gulp down my pride and say what could possibly be the two hardest words in the English language to say--"I'm. Sorry." (Or, if you happen to be like me, you say it really fast and sorta mumbled--imsorrypleaseforgiveme.)

Pride leads to conflict;
those who take advice are wise.
{proverbs 13:10}
 
8. I need to realize that I don't do any of this well on my own, and start praying fast. 

We may throw the dice,
but the Lord determines how they fall.
{proverbs 16:33}

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Bestest Bible Study Leader EVER

Obliviousness must follow me around wherever I go. I thought for awhile that maybe it was a faze I was going through, or that maybe I was just having a bad day or two, but today, as I drove home in the middle of a thunderstorm with my sunglasses still firmly attached to my face, I decided that once for all that there is a part of me that has no idea what I am doing.


It follows me to the grocery store when I realize I've forgotten my list or my coupons (or both, at which point I figure I may as well give up and come back another day).

It follows me to my child's soccer practice when we show up at the wrong field for practice. (True story, I just did that on Monday. Then I snapped at my kids for asking because I was slightly embarrassed. Mommy FAIL.)

It follows me to bible study when I haven't done all my homework. And it follows me to bible study Leadership Training when the director asks the group to answer questions on how we as leaders can effectively influence the women who attend our studies and I have no idea how to answer the question. So I did what anyone else in my shoes would have done. I sat and waited for my group members to offer their answers, and then I just kindof tried to fill in. You've been there, haven't you? (Please say yes.) Whether in school, a business meeting or leadership training, you get put into groups to answer questions about a certain topic, only to feel like you're the only person who isn't spouting off a thousand fresh ideas.

Yikes.

That's how I came to leave the building feeling like perhaps someone else would make a better leader than I could. I mean, first of all, I've got issues, as anyone who reads this blog would well know. Secondly, because of said issues, I feel ill-equipped to really lead a study, and I feel especially ill-equipped to effectively influence and encourage other women who are attending. Who do I think I am, signing up for this job? Isn't this a job for other women who have clinical psychology backgrounds, who are extroverted and have confidence in their verbal communication skills? Who can spell? (So I sorta forgot how to spell the word 'christian' yesterday, and I kept thinking I had it right but it didn't look right on the paper, so I kept going over it in my head 'c-h-r-i-s-t-I-A-N'--is it a-i-n or i-a-n...and I finally got out my phone and typed myself a message to see if it auto-corrected. That's right. I did that.).


You know what's funny? That this will be like the 4th or 5th study I've led, and I still haven't figured this stuff out yet. By this point in my Bible Study Leading Career, ladies may have figured out that I'm that leader...the one who doesn't have it all together, the one who forgets what she was saying or what the point was supposed to be and why it was even relevant to the discussion right in the middle of her spiel, the one who goes over the class time limit, the one who doesn't have any sort of relevant background,  the one who is introverted and has issues, and yes, the one who temporarily forgets how to spell CHRISTIAN. And maybe some ladies even prefer someone who is more, shall we say, seasoned in their leadership experiences.


Those of us who are in positions to serve and who feel ill-equipped to do it are in a unique, but not uncommon, role. Even the most seasoned leaders probably at some point or another feel inadequate and unsuited for the role they've taken on, and that's okay. See, what's most important is that we have a heart that desires to work for God, and when we have that, we can trust that He will put us in roles that suit us. And when we trust that He is in the driver's seat, we can also trust that the tools and the means we need will be delivered with the best possible timing. It's not easy to go into a situation where I'm feeling unsure of my footing, but sometimes there is, as Stormie O'Martian might say, only enough light for the step I'm on. At that point, I have to let go of the wheel and give up being the captain (see, I did it again! a-i-n or i-a-n? Thank the LORD for spellcheck), because if I try to accomplish the task I've set out to accomplish in my own strength, I'm done for before I even start. But when I trust in Him to work through me, now that when things start getting done. And I might even learn how to spell Christian in the process.


Monday, September 9, 2013

You CANNOT Wear White to a Wedding...The Update

The wedding on Saturday turned out to be beautiful. The bride was radiant and the groom handsome as they stood before the congregation and declared their eternal love for one another.

I decided to wear my black strapless dress. A good decision because it was about 85 degrees and sunny on Saturday, and the church, while air conditioned, is old and not very efficient. I felt sorry for all the Suits, with their ties and jackets and socks and shoes. Anyhow, the dress was a good decision until I decided to dance the night away (sans my Suit, who sat and chatted with the other Suits while their Beauties danced and asked each other what could they possibly be talking about?), starting with the song Shout. You know the one, it goes Shout, put your hands up and Shout...anyway, every time he says Shout, you jump and put you hands up, which doesn't work out too well when you're wearing a dress with no straps to hold itself up, so I was the one jumping and waving and then pulling that dang dress up. Every. Single. Time. Otherwise, I would have given my very own show, which would have been inappropriate. Turns out I should have thought my dress choice through a little more. Turns out its also difficult (but entirely possible, as I proved myself, thank you) to Charlie Brown in 5-inch heels. 

Turns out its also entirely possible to have a blast without worrying about how you look every single second of the evening. My lipstick came off somewhere around the Poached Pear Salad, and my eyeliner started to run sometime between doing the Cha-Cha Slide and Shook Me All Night Long, and the heels came off during Billie Jean, and you know what? I didn't care. 

When my sister texted me later asking what dress I had decided to wear, I jokingly said that I would have to lose a little more weight to fit comfortably into the brown dress again. Because isn't that what we always concentrate on? The Quest to Lose Weight. It's always there, at least it is for me, reminding me that even during life's dullest moments, you shouldn't let that guard down because then you might Gain Weight and then Misery would set in. She asked me later if I was joking about losing weight, because even though I am growing to accept m for me, someone with my past might always deal with that issue. And I was joking...at least mostly joking. There is always that small part of me that lives in the back of my head that's worried about that issue. Gaining weight. That little part of me stresses about having fun and eating everything on my plate and giving up the constant dieting (Someone like me is always in a diet, because we are NEVER comfortable just eating. There are rules to follow and calories to watch and fat and carb grams to count, and we never, ever eat much--just enough to be polite--when we are not the ones who made the dish and therefore have no knowledge of the ingredients.). So Saturday night was a little new for me. I ate without worrying about calories and fat! I chose not to worry and stress over my appearance and just worked toward being the best me I could be. I went in with the determination that Fun was on my menu, and I tried not to worry about what other people were thinking about me (although there was one point in the evening where I kept catching this, um, odor of eau de body, and it was strong and quite unpleasant, and I have to admit that I tried to discretely check under my own underarms just to be sure it wasn't me. Turns out it wasn't, it was a rather large gentleman who was apparently dancing up quite a sweat. His wife may want to carry some extra deo in her purse from now on.). 

And you know what? It was freeing. No worry. No stress. No anxiety. 

I am learning that my value doesn't come from perfect makeup or the acknowledgement from others that I may look pretty. My source of significance doesn't come from trying to stay skinny and fighting to regain my youth. My security doesn't come from knowing that my dress was the best. It used to. I used to need those things in order to feel good about myself. But those things will always disappoint, because they can't ever fill that God-shaped hole in my heart. They are like sand, constantly shifting and changing, but He remains solid and true, a safe place to put my trust and to search for the significance I long to have.

The best feeling in the world is realizing that you're perfectly happy without the thing you thought you needed.


Friday, September 6, 2013

You CANNOT Wear White to a Wedding...Unless You're the Bride

We have been invited to a wedding that is happening tomorrow, and I am super-excited. I really love weddings because I really love wedding receptions. A fun DJ that is willing to play the Cha-Cha Slide, the Electric Slide and The Cupid Shuffle (!), a dance floor (although I happen to be married to someone who does not want to like to dance, much to my chagrin), any finger food you could ever want and a free piece of cake (wedding cakes have made a marked improvement over the years)? Does it get any better? I'm ready. Except for my dress.

My original text to my sister was this: is it too late to wear white pants to a wedding? (I generally stick to the hard-and-fast after Labor Day Rule for wearing white--and I used to for open-toed shoes but have discovered that open-toed shoes are becoming a year-round thing now, so I decided perhaps I could broader my horizon re: white after Labor Day, too, but I knew as I was texting that I couldn't do it, I just couldn't. Coco Chanel would probably be very proud of me.). When she texted back, though, she said she probably wouldn't wear pants to a wedding. Oops. Cause I just did a couple of weekends ago, but who needs to go back and be full of regrets on the wardrobe front? Besides, pants are like a staple in my closet. I don't do many dresses. Perhaps I should spend more time in the dress department, but honestly, I get invited to about .00001 weddings a year, and I don't typically wear dressy dresses otherwise. Regardless, this particular text about not wearing pants threw me into somewhat of a tizzy. Now I have to go back to the Closet of Pants and find a dress, because I certainly cannot wear pants. What would people think?? Okay, okay, so the bride and groom probably won't notice what I'm wearing...and their parents won't either...and all the Suits in the room are typically oblivious to Rules (pants versus dresses, that is)...but the ladies will notice.  And if all the ladies out there were really honest with themselves, then perhaps we could all agree on this one thing: When we dress, we dress to impress. Other women, that is. And when we know we have every single other woman in the room beat down by our stunning wardrobe AND our unmatchable beauty, then we can be comfortable. Maybe I'm wrong and it's just me, and in that case, you probably don't want to hang out with me anymore...

YES I'm wearing two different shoes because I DON'T KNOW WHAT I'M DOING


So I texted her (that being my sister) a few dress choices from my closet, one of them being WHITE, I don't even know what in the world I was thinking, because YOU CANNOT WEAR WHITE TO A WEDDING. Unless you happen to be the bride, which I'm not.  Cardinal rule, like my sister said. Duh. Anyway, she liked both the non-white options, and added a couple of suggestions. And I thought When did I become so helpless that I cannot even put together a simple outfit?? So I had to ask my husband this morning. "Which dress? Which dress? WHICH DRESS?" Because this is probably the most important thing that has ever happened, ever, and it requires emergency status and everyone needs to drop whatever they are doing to HELP ME DECIDE. 

And in case you're wondering, I'm looking perturbed in these pictures because my daughter was supposed to be taking pictures of me but instead she was playing around and she kept disappearing, only to reappear and SNAP! with no warning. Annoying.


When I mentioned to him (my hubby, that is) that I was considering going to get a spray tan today, he cocked his head to the side and looked at me for a minute before asking me if I had ever read my very own blog before. Which I of course denied, because that would mean that I would have to realize that spray tans, perfect dresses and beating the competition aren't what I'm about at all. Or maybe it is what I'm about but it's not what I want to be about. Either way, I knew he had me, and my first thought was A) DANGIT, Mr. Sensibility, how is it that you are ALWAYS RIGHT? And B) I'm glad I didn't mention the Spanx I was going to look for and the fact that I was going to go get my nails did. Or that after I put in that black strapless number, I was seriously considering asking for breast augmentation for Christmas. 

The aforementioned black strapless dress. Note the pose. Don't ask, I don't know either.


After some thought about how I want to spend my time, money and the messages I want to send, I decided against going to look for Spanx (for now. This girl tends to freak out at the last minute and change her mind), getting my nails done and getting a spray tan. Instead, I painted my own nails, used my own self-tanner (hey, L'oreal, could you please make a stink-free version? I smell like a tanning booth, and not in a good way)...and that ultimately it's okay to not be perfect. I may get to my toes and not my fingers...and it's okay. I may look a little pale...and it's okay. I mean, I want to be the best me I can be, so I put effort into my appearance, but sometimes it's hard for me to not go overboard and become obsessive.  Regardless of what I ultimately look like for this wedding, I decided I would borrow a line from One Direction (#1 at $15 million??? Who saw that coming?): 

This Is Us ME.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Why I Don't Tweet

A friend of mine will occasionally post this as her status:

Its my fault....I was paying attention to my phone.

I have to laugh when she posts this because its so familiar. How many times has one one my kids (or my husband) tried to ask me a question, but I couldn't answer because I was too distracted by my phone? And how many times have you been sitting at lunch with a friend when they get a text that cannot be ignored? This one is the best: how many times have you come up behind a driver swerving in the lane and driving 15 miles below the speed limit, only to pass them and discover that they were texting? We sit with our phones on the table while we eat, at the ready (in case the President calls?). We take them everywhere with us, even when we know we'll never hear it ring over the music at the gym or have to put it on silent because we're sitting in church. I think my brother-in-law may have been onto something when he wondered out loud if this generation of instant-messaging, instant gratification people will look back with regret at all the time they spent on the Internet, FaceBook and Twitter.


Don't get me wrong, I appreciate social media, and for all the negative things about it, I think it's pretty great that I can keep up with my friend who lives in Montana and my other friend who moved to New York, and see their little ones as they grow and mature.  I can share pictures with my in-laws and message my friends without having to remember their email addresses. I can share my joys or I can gripe and complain and have any number of people to commiserate with me. It's kind of weird, too, because I feel a little like a creeper when I look at friends photos of their Labor Day outings, but I guess that's why they shared them--to be looked at. 

The reason I won't have a Twitter account is this: even though social media and instant Internet are both great, they are also something (for me) that takes time away from the things and the people that are most important to me. And the things i actually have to do. Sometimes I sit down to do my morning devotion, only to get distracted by email and Pinterest. Even though I know one of my sweet babies is dying to tell me something, I'll often finish what I'm doing (which is obviously ├╝ber-important, like saving the world) before I can give them my attention. There are times when my husband and I will both be looking at our individual devices instead of talking at a time in our lives when we don't get to communicate much one-on-one.


We are faced with this high-tech, faceless, fast-drive culture and a generation of people entranced by its instant gratification. I know I am. It's almost cause for immediate celebration when I can find out about a teeth-whitening product on Pinterest, go to a blog to see how it's used, get a discount code in the comments section, go to the web page, order it, and have it delivered to my door five days later. Balance is essential, and we all learning how to live a balanced existence in a world that is so instant and distracting.

Now I need to put down my laptop and go spend time with my kids. As my dad told me on the phone the other night, "Enjoy life, sweetie. Before you know it they'll be gone." He would know.

Time is your most precious gift because you only have a set amount of it. You can make more money, but you can't make more time. When you give someone your time, you are giving them a portion of your life that you'll never get back. Your time is your life. That is why the greatest gift you can give someone is your time. It is not enough to just say relationships are important; we must prove it by investing time in them. Words alone are worthless. "My children, our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action." Relationships take time and effort, and the best way to spell love is "T-I-M-E.”

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Happy Monday!!!...er, Tuesday!

When a holiday happens on a Monday, I get confused and think Tuesday is Monday. 

When I left the house this morning, I apparently left my head behind. I am what I would call a robot in the morning. I do things not because I am awake and alert, but because they are routine. I was just not made to enjoy the early morning hours (but at this point in my life, I'm not enjoying late night hours either, which means my awake/aware/alert hours are slowly eroding away, to possible extinction, and then I don't know what will become of me). Because I wasn't hungry at the 6:45 AM breakfast call this morning (which is waaaay too early), I didn't eat anything. But later, my stomach never thought to alert me to the fact that I hadn't eaten anything, and I was so focused on getting out the door (it's rude to be late to a gym class) that I totally forgot to eat, which I didn't realize till I was halfway down the road. This lack of sustenance may be a contributing factor to my obliviousness. After my class, I looked down to see that I was no longer in possession of my keys or my sunglasses.  I considered the possibility that I left them on the sink in the bathroom, so I trekked all the way up to the women's locker room only to realize that they weren't there, and I wondered if perhaps A) some kind soul took them to the front desk or B) some evil, conniving soul took them to the parking lot and was pressing the lock button to figure out which car was mine. But on my way to the front desk, I remembered that I laid them on the table in the studio where my class had been all along. Duh. But maybe I burned a few extra calories going up and down those blasted steps....

I tend to pay attention to prices at the grocery store.  It's a good idea. So when I saw the $20 sunscreen scan through when I was checking out, I was shocked at myself. How, exactly, did I miss the fact that I just bought my son $20 (well, I had a coupon so it really would've been $18.50) worth of sunscreen for his face? (I'm trying to develop healthy habits early. Sunscreen everyday! They love me for it.). I had to ask the poor cashier to void it off, because coupon or no coupon, this smart shopper isn't spending $20 on sunscreen. Now I have to check my receipt for all the other things that I probably missed while I was sleepwalking through Kroger.

I thought I was being smart by putting the DVD I had to return to the library up on the dash so I'd see it when I got in the car, because on most days, but this day in particular, I'm apt to drive right by the library without a second thought as to the fact that a free DVD is no longer free when you have to pay late fines on it. And yes, I made it to the library! And the DVD was in the case (we've had problems with this before, and I get an annoyed phone call from the local librarian: 'Mrs. R, you returned the case for The Chronicles of Narnia, but there is NO DVD IN IT. Please return. At your convenience , of course.' Which is code for 'Are you an idiot? Did you think we'd fall for that trick? Return the DVD pronto.' But it was only after I got home that I realized a book I needed to return (same concept, library fines add up to might as well buy the darn book) was hiding underneath my purse.

Quite honestly, I'm surprised I made it from Point A to B without major incident. 

The Loser by Shel Silverstein

Mama said I'd lose my head
If it wasn't fastened on. 
Today I guess it wasn't
'Cause while playing with my cousin
It fell off and rolled away
And now it's gone. 

And I can't look for it
'Cause my eyes are in it,
And I can't call to it
'Cause my mouth is on it
(Couldn't hear me anyway
'Cause my ears are on it),
Can't even think about it
'Cause my brain is in it.
So I guess I'll sit down
On this rock
And rest for just a minute....

Shel Silverstein gets me.




Monday, September 2, 2013

Don't Run From Who You Are

  1. The movie The Voyage of the Dawn Treader from The Chronicles of Narnia series focuses on temptation and fear, and being strong enough to not let either of them get the best you. Lucy, the youngest of the Penvensie siblings (and the one who first discovered the land of Narnia) is dealing with a weakness that is familiar to me, and it is capitalized on and exploited in our society. All poor Lucy wants to be is beautiful. And she doesn't want to be just any kind of beautiful, she wants to be beautiful like her sister, Susan. When she finds a Book of Incantations that will transform her into her sister's image, she rips out the page to keep with her. The temptation to be beautiful overcomes her, and she enters a dream-like state where she becomes Susan--but it means that Lucy no longer exists, and they know nothing of the Narnia that they discovered. When she wakes up, she sees Aslan in the mirror:

 

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Lucy Pevensie: That was awful.
  1. Aslan: But you chose it, Lucy.
  2. Lucy Pevensie: I didn't mean to choose all of that. I just wanted to be beautiful like Susan. That's all.
  3. Aslan: You wished yourself away, and with that, much more. Your brothers and sister wouldn't know Narnia without you, Lucy. You discovered it first, remember?
  4. Lucy Pevensie: I'm so sorry.
  5. Aslan: You doubt your value. Don't run from who you are.

I've never thought of it that way before, have you? That the longing to be beautiful like someone else is actually just wishing myself away, because I doubt my value and the contributions I've made to this world. Most of the time, it seems like the things I want will make me happier, more satisfied... maybe even more popular, in vogue and well-received. I've always thought of my desire to look like Kim as harmless, and maybe even a little silly. But if I did look like someone else, then I wouldn't be me.

google images
 

Every single one of us was made with a purpose, and while many of us (myself included) are still looking for what that means individually, it's important to realize that we make valuable contributions to our society everyday. Not all of us are destined to be the next President, CEO, general, or great bible study leader, but the small, seeming insignificant contributions we make everyday aren't worthless. We all have value, and it has nothing to do with the way we look. We have influence and impact on neighbors, friends, children, grandchildren, the kids down the street, book club members, spouses--even something as small as a smile offered to a harried grocery clerk who is having a bad day is significant. 

I shouldn't run from myself or doubt my value simply because I don't perceive myself as being as beautiful as someone else. That's placing the value of beauty on a pedestal in a society that already places youth and beauty at a premium. And it's not just a message for those of us who have already doubted our value based on how we look, but its also for those of us who have relationships with younger generations, whose ideals and thoughts are being formed by watching us. We will never be able to take away the advertising that is directed right at that weak point, but we can influence younger people by acting as a positive role model.  That means no more commenting on how fat you look in the mirror--at all--but especially in front of our impressionable, sweet babies. That means taking some days to spend more time with kids--whether that's through volunteering, or by just sitting in the floor and playing a game--than we do in front on the mirror, assessing make-up, clothes, your side view,  frontal view, rear view, pore size, hair style, jewelry, shoes...
 
But I can't just snap my fingers and make VALUE materialize. I've already tried for many years to create it on my own, with beauty treatments, material possessions, other people, knowledge...but none of those things ever gave me personal value. They didn't make me better, or more important. And eventually, in one way or another, all those things that I depended on to make me more valuable actually disappointed me, leaving me feeling empty and searching for the next big thing. Little did I know that the answer had been there all along, I just hadn't given Him much time or thought. What I discovered requires faith, and honestly, I still struggle with doubt. I don't always believe that I am the apple of His eye, like its says I am in Zechariah 2:8, or His crown jewel (Isaiah 62:3). I don't always trust that I have a worthwhile purpose, that my contributions are valuable, or that I can positively influence anyone else. And on those days, I look to the mirror, magazines and TV shows to tell me who I am (or who I'm not) and who I should be. And for me, that always leads down a path of defeat and anxiety, teaching my children that the only way to be happy and stay happy is to be perfectly beautiful all the time. 
 
It's time for an about-face, a redirection. Time to replace defeat with hope, anxiety with peace, self-hate with acceptance. 

Seek Me with your whole being. I desire to be found by you, and I orchestrate the events in your life with that purpose in mind. When things go well and you are blessed, you can feel Me smiling on you. When you encounter rough patches along your life-journey, trust that My Light is still shining on you. My reasons for encountering these adversities may be shrouded in mystery, but My continual Presence with you is an absolute promise. Seek Me in good times; seek me in hard times. You will find me watching over you all the time. {Sarah Young, Jesus Calling}