Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

I didn't really want to go.

But I got myself dressed, straightened my hair AND put on makeup just so I could present myself as decent for my kids 1,000th "Fall Party" (a.k.a. their annual school Halloween party) anyway. When I walked into my son's classroom, he barely looked up from watching Monsters U on the Activeboard.

Okay.

When I walked down the hall to my daughter's classroom, I bumped into them coming back from their fall party, so she didn't need to pretend like I wasn't there. Because I wasn't.

As I signed out of the office a full twenty minutes from the time I signed in, I decided I needed to reassess this situation. If my kids don't care if I'm there and I don't have a huge desire to actually be there to watch the kids watch a movie and guzzle down 52 teaspoons of sugar before they come home and go trick-or-treating and guzzle down 48 more teaspoons of sugar, then should I be there?

I thought that's what good moms do.

But good moms also make sure their kids have costumes, fix their kids dinner, fix skinned boo-boos, take them trick-or-treating and listen to their kids day. They go to work to make money to support their families and they read bedtime stories. They bring water up past bedtime and give 87 'final' kisses before bed. They supervise homework and referee fights, they rub backs and give advice, they wash dirty socks and sweep mud from cleats off the floor.

There are a million different ways to be a good mom, and if going to a Fall Party on October 31, 2013 isn't one of them, I'm here to tell you that you can enjoy the day without guilt.


Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

He Says I'm Beautiful

Photo

Here's the thing: people do, too.

I know you know this. 

Some of us are tall and leggy. Some are pear-shaped. We have heart-shaped faces, square jaws and ski-slope noses. We have brown eyes that are wide-set, green eyes that are narrow and blue eyes that are round. Big feet, flat chests, jiggly rears, long hair, short hair, cankles and angel wings. We all have things we accept about ourselves and things we wish we could change. 

I don't see any pumpkins complaining about the way God made them.

After my aerobics class today, I overheard several women commenting on their size and what they had been eating (like a pig, according to one. I just cannot control myself).

I guess we women will never get over the self-deprecating remarks, the critical analysis of one's diet, the constant desire to loose just a little more weight. It's like there is a small box the world has labeled WOMAN, and we are all trying to squeeze ourselves inside.

I don't know exactly when the lie begins in a woman's life, but somewhere in her early teen years she begins to become very aware of how she looks compared to others, and suddenly what used to be simply a part of who she is (a little bit of a tummy, curves) becomes not just undesired but BAD. If it's something she can't change (long legs that make her taller than everyone else), she believes the lie that all feminine girls are petite, and she hates her legs and her height, with the slight chance that later on in life she may appreciate her elegance. If it's something she can change (curly hair), she believes the lie that all pretty girls have long straight hair, and she works day and night trying new ways to make what she doesn't like like-able. 

When did we start believing the lie that how we are made isn't good enough?

As we get older, the lies we believe about ourselves continue to run the familiar track in our heads, deepening the already well-worn grooves. Sometimes things happen and the deep-seated beliefs about ourselves are confirmed, like the time a boy called me ugly (he actually called me a dog, the ultimate insult). I was heart-broken, but I believed that lie, and later, I came to believe that unless someone directly called me pretty, they too thought me to be unattractive. Does it make sense? No, but believing the lies doesn't make sense in the first place.

We've got to get out of the dark.

The dark keeps us from seeing the truth. But when we finally expose what we've been believing for ___ years to the truth, when we finally are able to flip on the light switch and flood our very being with The Truth, the lies are practically drowned by it. They can't survive. Sure, they keep trying to resurrect themselves, like zombies in a horror film, but here's something we all know about zombies: they aren't real. And neither are those lies.

You are beautiful. I am beautiful. We are all unique, made differently, made specifically, made just the way we were supposed to be made. We are lavishly loved by a gracious God who values who we are to the very core of our being, even when your second toe is longer than your big one. He cherishes our hearts, He loves our soul, and He provides a security that cannot be found anywhere else. It doesn't matter that I don't look like a Victoria's Secret model, because I am me. There is no other me, there is no other you, and we add value to the world.

I want to start living life, taking risks, expecting adventure, being free of the shackles of untruth that weigh me down. I've lived life half-way, one part of me wanting to be free, the other part holding tight to the conviction that that box labeled WOMAN must contain me.

Freedom. It's a beautiful thought.

It's also a reality.

Jesus didn't die on the cross and shed His innocent blood so I could continue to allow the world to define who I am, down to the very shade of lipstick I apply in the morning.

He died to set me free.

Free from lies, from assumptions, from narrow definitions of who I should be, from expectations, from stereotypes, from boxes labeled WOMAN.

There is one Truth: He made me. He defines me. My worth rests in who He says I am. My value is determined by Him. Not the world. Him.

And He says we are not worthless just because we don't fit in a narrow mold.  He gave up His life to show that we are worth everything to Him. We are His crown of jewels, the apple of His eye, the crown of His creation.

Valuable.

Significant.

Beautiful.
 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Pumpkin Carving Supervisor is my new title

Well, I have a confession to make, and it might disappoint some of you.

I, Heather, do not enjoy pumpkin carving.

It's so sweet when I see pictures of other families gathered around the pumpkin, hot apple cider mugs steaming, newspaper spread, carving their intricate little designs in their perfectly round, perfectly symmetrical, perfectly orange pumpkins. They even have It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! playing while they carve and laugh and sip.

Aw.

At my house, their is much debate on what the face will look like. There is no intricate design, no convoluted picture, no complex pattern to follow. We are of the 'simple is better' frame of mind, and besides, my kids are getting to the point where they want to carve their own pumpkins without getting frustrated that the tail on the cat arching it's back against a full moon isn't turning out right.

Concentration

Yesterday we decided to go get our pumpkins, but we didn't have time to spend the entire day lolly-gagging around a pumpkin patch. So we went with the next best option: Kroger. Because on Wednesday of last week, Kroger had hundreds (that might be a small exaggeration) of pumpkins neatly stacked on bales of hay, ready for the picking. This is for the person who prefers to grab and go with no hassle (me). However, when we arrived late Sunday afternoon, there were 2 large and 7 small pumpkins left. Well. This makes choosing easier, doesn't it? And when the manager came out and said he'd sell us the large pumpkins for $3 instead of the normal $6, we said we'd come to the right spot. The cashier looked at us like we were trying to pull one over on her (because a family of four trying to buy the last two large pumpkins on a Sunday afternoon is obviously a shady bunch), but she rang them up anyway, looking at us with narrowed sidelong glances like she expected us to take off without paying at any minute.

Slime. It's not for me.

So we got them home. This is where my involvement in pumpkin carving ceases, and my husband, pumpkin gutter extraordinaire, takes over. He's pretty sentimental, that guy, so he enjoys all that kind of stuff. Making memories. It's sweet. I'm not very sentimental. I guess that makes me not sweet. Anyways, we got the pumpkins all set up and ready to carve. Newspaper spread, knife at the ready. He cut into one of the pumpkins and...well, it would seem that maybe we paid $3 too much for that guy. He was soft on the top and his odor wasn't beautiful. The plus is that his softness made him that much easier to carve. The minus is that he may not last til Halloween (but don't tell my son that, it's his pumpkin).

 


All of the members of the family minus me (I'm good at supervising) got their hands in the pumpkin guts, all gooey and icky and sticky and gross (precisely the reason this isn't something I love). They carved their pumpkins, both designs cute and very different.

We didn't have steaming hot apple cider. It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! was not playing in the background. I didn't even get my hands dirty, and the last 30 minutes of the carving I was having a counseling session with a friend on the phone. It wasn't perfect, but then again, things like this rarely turn out that way.

So here's my advise. Have fun with it, even if you don't like getting your hands dirty. The thing is, it wasn't perfect, but it sure was fun. We spent time together, laughing, talking, carving, de-sliming, and basically enjoying each other.

And I'll do it all over again next year :)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

I Do Part 2: Appreciation. It's What I Need

I just want to be appreciated.

That's all.

And loved. And protected. And cared for. And accepted.

But mostly appreciated.

I told my family a few nights ago, after they had all put their dishes into the sink (but not into the empty dishwasher, which is a major pet peeve of mine) that I was no longer their maid-in-waiting. I told them that I wanted to support them, help them, drive them where they needed to be, manage the household for them, keep schedules straight, things organized--but not do for them the things they can do on their own (i.e. doing their dishes for them).

And they agreed. Yes! Mom should not be wiping our bottoms for us!

And then what do you know. Dishes. Sink. Dishwasher. Empty. So what I said was this, but what they heard was Charlie Brown's version of an adult speaking: whaaa whaa whaaa wha wha.

This does not make a girl feel very appreciated, just so you know.

I think my dad may have had somewhat of a hard time knowing exactly how to appreciate the females in his life. I'm not saying he didn't, I just don't think he knew how. This sort of appreciation from a father to a daughter is so so so important, and when it's missed, it's missed in a big kind of way, so I did what came naturally to me: looked for 'appreciation' elsewhere (i.e. BOYS, who, by the way, don't always know how to appreciate a girl, so when you mix that with a girl who will take 'appreciation' in any form she can, you have a recipe for DISASTER). I wanted to be loved, appreciated, protected and cared for. I really did. I just didn't know exactly what I was looking for, or when to have the courage to say no. Because if I said no, then maybe that boy wouldn't like me anymore. And if that boy didn't like me anymore, then I wouldn't feel appreciated.

Bad idea. Except no one actually sat down and said to me 'Hey. This is a bad idea.'

Boys were not the only place I looked for my cup of self-worth to be filled. I also looked to fashion magazines, TV, movies, advertisements, friends who would tell me I was pretty--anything that represented what I wanted to be, and it was the furthest thing from what I actually was. I was just a girl, looking for a little self-worth, with a little appreciation thrown in on the side. What I got was a low self-esteem, a lower perception of my own self-worth, and a gaping hole in my heart that continued to grow wider with every passing year that it wasn't filled.

When I finally met my husband at the tender age of twenty, I think I covered my insecurities up fairly well, but I was hiding an insecure thirteen-year-old girl in my heart who desperately needed to be told she was lovely inside and out. I had spent most of my teen years as a beggar of sorts: constantly outstretched hand, asking for money in the form of compliments and affirmation, but my cup had an endless bottom. Like pennies in a wishing well, those compliments just disappeared out of sight, and I was once again left feeling empty. But a husband, well, he's supposed to pick up where everyone else left off, right? He's supposed to fill in all those gaps, those voids, those empty spaces.

When you put that much pressure on anyone, friend, husband, enemy--well, it just doesn't work. It's too much. That person can never and will never be able to fill the wishing well,  no matter how many compliments they pay. And at some point, it's almost like paying a toll: the compliments, no matter how sincere, don't mean much anymore. It's a way to get past the toll booth. To move on.

I know my husband wished I had more self-confidence, that I didn't feel the need to exercise and try fad diets to stay skinny, that I wouldn't compare myself to every model I saw in the magazine. He told me time and time again that yes, he thought I was beautiful. Yes, he loved me. Yes, he cared for me.

But I demanded more. I needed more than he could give.

A friend asked me today how I got over my insecurities and self-worth issues. And I told her I'm not sure that 'getting over them' is the exact phrase I would use, as I am wont to hide them in my heart and play the part of a person whose problems have been solved. I still deal with insecurity. I still wonder if people like me and if my husband thinks I'm beautiful. I told her that I really had to come to the end of myself, to discover that nothing else in the world was working. Not exercise. Not beauty treatments. Not compliments. Not perfection. Nothing. And what I discovered when there was nothing was that God was waiting patiently for me to turn away from all the distractions and look toward Him. He wasn't loud or obnoxious about it, and if I hadn't turned toward Him, I know He would still be patiently waiting. But I did, and I found out through various bible studies (message me if you'd like to know some of the ones I've done) that I needed to take all that pressure I'd been putting on my husband and friends and place it on His strong and very capable shoulders. What is too much for a person isn't too much for God, and I've been striving to do just that since He met me in that miserable place of depression, anxiety and insecurity several years ago.

But it's a daily, hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute choice to look to Him instead of to all that I can see in this world. Some days I feel like I've got that bull by the horns, and others...well, other days I don't feel quite so cocky. I make mistakes. I obsess over the number of calories I've eaten and how much I've exercised, and sometimes I feel like I've taken one step forward and three steps back. But the confidence I have now is that my God is holding me by my hand, tightly, and He will never let me go. Which leaves me to enjoy a relationship with my husband and friends that doesn't depend on them to make me feel better about who I am, because now I know who I am.

A child of God.

Accepted. Protected. Cared for. Loved.

Appreciated.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,
he is a new creation.
The old has passed away;
behold, the new has come.
{2 Corinthians 5:17}

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Open Toilet Season

As I was cleaning the bathroom early this morning, the seriously bright part of my brain wasn't quite wide-awake yet, and although cleaning the bathroom takes little to no actual skill, it still requires the cleaner to be awake enough to realize that when she doesn't tie back her hair, there is a chance when she leans over she will dip the end of it into some sort of cleaning solution/water/soap.

Or the toilet.

Which is what I did this morning.

google images

And not only did I dip the ends of my hair into the toilet, but I didn't realize it at first and flung toilet water all over the floor and my clothes.

Good thing I hadn't gotten to the floor yet, right?

Unfortunately for me, I had a gym class important appointment at 9:30 that couldn't be missed, which meant that I'd be sporting the new toilet wash for at least the morning. Maybe when the water dries, the germs dry up, too.

I'm not a germ-o-phob, so things like this don't bother me so much, and besides, the water already had cleaner in it, so technically, no potty germs could be in my hair. Or at least that's what I'm going with, as I never actually washed my hair. It'll just have to wait until tomorrow morning.

That's a wholelotta icing
On a much brighter note, my daughter and I are taking a cake decorating class together. Our second class is tonight, and she is super-duper excited, although whether she's excited about the actual class or the fruits of our labor is hard to tell. The only protest I have so far is that I didn't realize when we signed up exactly how much work would be required on my part in order to participate. As in, last week we had to bring a bunch of stuff but didn't actually have to make anything. This week, however, we had to bake two cakes and make four batches of icing, all of which will be coming home with us (perfectly iced, that is) this evening. Which means that last night I was in the kitchen for hours baking (and eating waaaaay to much cake batter with raw eggs for my health). Wilton is really good at the soft-sell, too, so what was a $20 class has turned into a pantry full of cake-baking and cake-icing merchandise that may or may not ever be used again.

from Wilton beginner class to Cake Boss: when can I expect to be making this cake?
google images

Here's what I've learned today:
1. For goodness sake, rock a bun when cleaning the bathroom.
2. Cake batter is too tasty to care whether there are raw eggs in it or not.
3. Cake decorating class requires a little more time than I thought.
4. Time is one of the most important thing I can give to my kids. So I'll go tonight, and I'll enjoy!

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, October 21, 2013

I Do

I eyed my husband skeptically out of the corner of my eye as we walked along the gravel path. He was walking carefully, holding his back stiff as he cautiously walked along. I knew this wasn't his favorite thing in the whole world to do, especially with a back that won't quit doling out pain in large doses.

I also knew that he knew it was something I would enjoy.

Every little girl dreams of her Prince Charming, her beautiful white wedding, her Happily Ever After. My parent seemed to struggle with their Happily Ever After, causing me to wonder with uncertainty if there would actually ever be one for them--or for me. I was determined that my husband would sweep me off my feet, that we'd be the perfect married couple, that I would find my Happily Ever After, that all those other married couples must have it all wrong.

google images

He proved himself sweet, kind and romantic, the perfect Prince Charming in a blue Dodge Stratus. And when he proposed, I knew he was The One.

Ah. Newlywed bliss. My Happily Ever After, all wrapped up in a handsome, dark-haired, 6 foot 3 inch man.

Except.

I expected my husband, with all his wonderful qualities, to fill every void I had ever had in my entire life. Poor guy. He probably never knew what hit him until after the I do's. And when he didn't meet those high expectations, I became upset. I didn't see how he couldn't understand how my needs needed to be met.

I tend to think of myself as a Mary Poppins-type of spouse--Practically Perfect in Every Way. In my mind, I rarely do wrong, and if I do, it's only because someone else practically set me up. I am not annoying. Or irritating. Or frustrating. (Well, I'm sure it's frustrating when I run late, but really, how frustrated can a person get over these things?)
 
google images
 
Sometimes I think it would be beneficial to go back and reread those vows we took 14 years ago. We said them one time, in front of friends and family and the preacher. But when the newly-wed bliss rubbed off and real life set in, I realized that my Prince also didn't like to dance, drove like a maniac, could argue with me until I didn't know what I was arguing about anymore, and would fall asleep while sitting up watching tv (sometimes in mid-sentence). Frustration set in, and my perfect Happily Ever After was threatened by Real Life.

I, (name), take you (name), to be my (wife/husband),
to have and to hold from this day forward,
for better or for worse,
for richer, for poorer,
in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish;
from this day forward
until death do us part.

He'll never chase me through an airport or chase my taxi through New York City traffic on a motorcycle declaring his eternal and undying love for me. We'll probably never find ourselves on the tip of a Titanic-sized ship as it's going down, and I'm guessing he'll never sit behind me as we turn a clay vase together. But these are grand, movie-sized, theatrical ideas that don't represent real life at all.

Instead, it's the small moments in our relationship that mean the most. He doesn't hold grudges, not even after an arguement, and he's always ready with open arms and a kiss to make up. He plans all our vacations, down to the very last detail. He drives an hour away with his wife while his back is sore so that she can have a much-needed weekend away.

And then he walks a trail with her. And takes her out to dinner. And sits on an uncomfortable couch in an uncomfortably warm cabin with her feet in his lap.

It took me a long time to understand that God wants to fill all those voids in my heart. I can't expect my husband to.

It's a God-shaped hole.

And only God will do.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

I Did. I Screeched. At. My. Child.

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to encourage one of my kids and really use the opportunity to make the links in the chain of our relationship stronger and bring him close to my heart. Instead?

I blew it. 

Major. Parenting. Fail. 

We couldn't immediately find my son's soccer team when we got to the field. I know him, and I know what he was thinking. There was chaos and commotion, and he was unwilling to jog around and actually find his team. Instead, he hung back, dribbling his ball and surveying the situation. Slowly. Methodically.  Reluctantly.

I, however, was in a hurry.

Me.

So I commanded, voice dripping with irritation, 'Go to the field AND FIND YOUR TEAM!!' He jogged off, but as I turned to go, a mother and her teenage son were watching what had just gone down. I knew that she could probably sympathize with me--kids have a way of bringing out the worst in us at times--but I was embarrassed that they had just witnessed me screeching at my child.

Not me.

I'm an introvert. He's an introvert. It's not a hard thing to have sympathy for another person's plight, especially when you understand exactly what they're thinking in any given situation. But I allowed my own agenda (and annoyance at his tortoiselike ways) to dictate how I treated my child, with no thought to his feelings or respect for his person.

I wouldn't like it if someone spoke to me the way I spoke to him.

It's not about what I said, although I could have used a lower octave. It's all about the tone and the frustration. He knew he needed to find his team, and my insistence that he do it quickly so I could jet wasn't helping. He also probably wishes he were a little more outgoing so situations like the one a few days ago didn't bother him so much. So making it obvious that he was not doing it quickly enough for me was probably embarrassing for him, and made me look like every other frustrated, wild-eyed, harried mother out there who screams instead of talks and probably drives crazy, too.

In her book Unglued, Lysa TerKeurst talks about three rules that she has in her house when her people speak (she also touched on the topic today in her devotion on the Proverbs 31 website): are the words kind, necessary, and true? And I'm going to add in my own extension of her idea: do my tone of voice and my facial expression match my kind, necessary and true words? Because most of the time in my case, my tone and expressions belie my words, kind, necessary and true as they may be.

I can't just suddenly stop being irritated when things don't go the way I planned, but I can stay in close communication with God all day long. In her devotional book Jesus Calling, Sarah Young states what should be obvious but I tend to forget the minute I snap my Bible shut: "Because I am always by your side, the briefest glance can connect you with Me. When you look to Me for help, it flows freely from My Presence...The Promise of my Presence is a powerful protection."

I really do want to be an encouragement to my family. I want to build them up, speak kindness to their hearts, and create close bonds that will stay strong. I know that everyone has their ups and downs, and fortunately, kids are really good at forgiving--and forgetting.

I could take a few notes from the pages of their books, too.

Therefore encourage one another
and build one another up...
{1 thessalonians 5:11}
 
 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Shopping 101

A few weeks ago, while shopping at one of my favorite stores (TJ Maxx, what what), I found the Cutest Vanity Mirror and bought it for my basement bathroom make-over. However, when I got it home, I discovered that the two side screws were missing, so I decided to look for another one.


Which I found (at the same price!) at another fave, Pier 1.

I should correct myself and say that I found this vanity mirror online. There is a big difference between real-life and online. But I went ahead and ordered it anyway, along with another wall mirror that I also plan on using for my basement bathroom. Since I had finally found a replacement, I took the Cutest Vanity Mirror back to TJ. Can we just talk for a second about how, when you find the cutest of something at TJ Maxx, you don't take it back. You just don't. Shopping 101. You hang on to it until you are sure that the replacement you think you've found is actually going to work.

When I got to Pier 1, I told the sales associate that I was there to pick up a large mirror and a small mirror. When she brought them out, she commented "Wow, you weren't kidding when you said one big and one small." That's because this is what I had actually bought online:

Later, my husband asked why I didn't utilize that handy tab on the website called DETAILS, and had I had any inkling at all I was buying a vanity mirror made for a dollhouse, I may have saved myself a lot of running around.

Um.

Had I known that the mirror I bought was made for this girl, I would have just kept the Cutest Vanity Mirror from TJ.


At this point, though, my son was in danger of a) internal combustion from too much shopping and b) being late to soccer practice, also because of shopping, so I grabbed the mirrors and sped out of that parking lot, irritated beyond what I should have been at my lack of focus on small details. (Apology to kids is forthcoming.)

On the way to soccer, I called TJ Maxx. Hi, I was just there 30 minutes ago and returned a mirror...it's missing the two screws on the side...the girl just set it on the back counter...it's not there? It's already been reshelved? You're not going to go look for it? (I didn't actually say that, but really? You are of no help, TJM sales girl). And just as an aside, that mirror was technically broken. Do you really reshelve a broken mirror? Really?

Okay. Mission: LOCATE CVM commence. I dropped my son off at practice and headed straight for TJM, accomplice (daughter) in tow. I was going to find my mirror and get her back, come traffic or high water. I looked. I asked. A sales associate by the name of Chris even looked on all the clearance shelves and in the back room for CVM. She didn't turn up anywhere. Literally, it had been an hour since The Return.

As we walked away, dejected, I turned down that random aisle in TJM where all the we-don't-know-what-to-do-with-this-random-statue-so-it-goes-here stuff is, and hold on to your hats, because lo and behold, THERE SAT MY CUTEST VANITY MIRROR. On a random shelf. In a random aisle. After Chris the Sales Associate tore that store apart looking for it.

It was destiny. A reunion.

Now, I had my mirror back, but this girl is a smart shopper, and like I said, technically, that mirror was broken. As in not worth full price. When I got to the register, I asked for a discount off of the $14.99 price tag. I thought it was only fair, especially after all the trouble I had just gone to.

"We can take it down to $14 even for you."

99 cents.

Seriously?

Twins. How charming.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Allergies

I might be allergic to church.

When I was younger, I was allergic to wheat and dairy products (try making a creative lunch a first grader will like with those restrictions), plus hay, mold, mildew and grass. And cats. And probably church, too.

When I walked into the sanctuary yesterday, my nose immediately started itching, and then I started sneezing. Then I coughed. And I thought to myself I, in fact, may have an allergy to this place. It doesn't help that it is the time of year where it is still nearly pitch black at 7 AM, and my internal sleep dial tells me that no, it is NOT time to get up. It is time to go back to sleep. I like sleep. Sleep=bliss. I do not like having to drag my rear out of bed on a rainy Sunday morning when it is still dark outside and then wake up two grumpy kids so I can go to church and then find out upon walking in that I'm allergic to it.

Is this not the cutest church ever? I wish it was actually my picture. It's just from google images.

(Disclaimer: I am not allergic to church. I made that up because sometimes I don't want to go. I am, however, still sensitive to dairy products, and grass still gives me hives if I roll around in it, which at this point in my life I am not wont to do.)

While sitting in church yesterday, I contemplated why, if I don't want to go, do I sit through the service? Why not just skip? Because my church is large enough that I could skip a lot and no one would notice right away.

So I debate the pros and cons of going to Sunday morning service:

Pros:
-I like my pastor
-I have friends there
-I've learned a lot about the Bible and having a relationship with God
-My relationship with God has grown
-I've developed relationships with other people that are precious to me
-We have the most beautiful view of the mountains from our sanctuary
-It's a way for my kids to hear about God
-Communion. Every Sunday.
-It's a time for me to recharge
-It's a good example for my kids to follow
-I've learned a lot. Not specific to anything. Just a lot.
-I've started a devotional time every morning--very important


Cons:
-I don't love praise and worship music, nor do I enjoy using my singing voice in public
-Sometimes I look around at what other people are doing/wearing instead of paying attention. (I do not look around during prayer time though. I'm sorry, that's a total lie. I have. I'm a work in progress. Focus is something I'm working on.)
-I'm tired. But that's a given on any day of the week, really.

It seems the Pros list is much longer than the Cons. Plus, the Cons list, upon further inspection, happens to be very self-centric. As in, I'm thinking about my One and Only, my One True Love, my Amore--me. Not God. Me.

This is not good.

It so happens that, believe it or not, I am trying to think of me a little less and of God a little more. Something tells me that staying in bed, all cozy under the covers, only emphasizes the me part of the equation and not so much the God part.

So while I may think I'm allergic to church (see: disclaimer above), it's actually a really important part of my week. So important that it's worth getting my behind (and the grumpies) out of bed, showered (okay, another lie. I don't always shower. That's why they made body spray, folks) and ready. To hear His Word. Fresh and new.

Every Sunday.

For where two or three are gathered together in my name,
there am I in the midst of them.
{matthew 18:20}

Friday, October 11, 2013

FMF: Ordinary

I'm linking up with Lisa Jo Baker for Five Minute Friday :)

Ordinary

She sees her reflection in the computer monitor while she watches the music video play on YouTube. She's ordinary, it's plain to see. Make-up rubbed off from a long day, disheveled hair playing at perfect but not getting the part, workout clothes not changed from the morning workout because she's been too busy--and hasn't had any reason--to change them.

The video is what she longs to be, but only in her most private, most aching-heart moments does she allow herself to think of what she wishes she could be. Her life is ordinary. Her husband goes to work. Her children go to school. Her days revolve around laundry and dirty dishes, soccer practice and swim lessons.  Nothing special, no one even takes a second glance at the girl who wishes she could be something more than she is.

But God knows the ache in her heart. And He longs to fix it, to bring His healing to her heart, to tell her that before she was even born He knew her in secret, He knit together her very soul. She is who He made her to be. How long will it take for her to look away from the video and fix her eyes on Him?

The world whispers that ordinary is something to be ashamed of. To cover up. To push out of the way. To camouflage with bright colors and a fake personality and a faker smile.

She needs to turn her eyes away from the screen, tune out the song playing. He's whispering, too. He's asking to fill her thirsty heart with His love. He's offering His strength, His love, His peace, His security to fill all those empty places she keeps trying to fill with clutter.

So He can fill her ordinary heart with His extraordinary love.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The End

"...for God gave us a spirit not of fear
but of power and love and self-control."
2 Timothy 1:7

It seems I am in a particularly overwhelming season of life right now. I know it probably won't last long and I'll eventually regain my footing. But for now, I feel a little crazy coming on.

A few years ago, I would have completely folded under such intense pressure (okay, it's not intense pressure, but it sounds better written that way). I didn't think I could ever get it together, that I'd ever get rid of the feeling that I was spinning my tires, or that I'd ever feel confident in my abilities to efficiently and smoothly run a household. (And I admit, there are days I look around and wonder: who exactly is the amateur trying to run this show?). But a few years ago, I only had a small concept of the fact that God is stronger than my weaknesses.

I tend to think of my own personal weaknesses as The End. (I may have a flair for the dramatic.). However, personal weakness is something that I have a hard time overlooking, and the harder I try to overcome (i.e. improve the weakness, make it go away completely, or ignore it all together), the more it becomes a stumbling block for me. Suddenly what was manageable before becomes unacceptable. One of my weaknesses is being inherently unorganized. I'm talking paper stacks everywhere (and not the neat kind, either), clothes thrown at but not in the hamper, random kitchen cabinet doors left open, toys thrown into a pile (that's not all me, by the way), a haphazard filing system. Once I figured out that I could not process my life without feeling chaotic because I was so unorganized (comparing my rooms to Pottery Barn didn't help, as un-lived-in rooms in catalogue photographs tend to be very organized), I knew I needed to and wanted to be more organized. Weakness Identified: Disorganization. Mission: Organization commenced. But I didn't just want to be organized. I wanted to be perfectly perfect AND perfectly organized. I guess I missed the part in Sunday School where they teach you that the only perfect human was Jesus. Becoming organized was manageable. Becoming perfect was not, and the more I tried to become perfectly organized in every way (combing through magazines and catalogues, scrutinizing every detail of how they did it), the more of a stumbling block becoming organized became. That's where I was a few years ago.

Then I read A Confident Heart by Rene Swope.

And I discovered that organization, while a good thing, wasn't really what my heart was after.


I was really after something I couldn't quite place my finger on, and still can't, really. I was running hard after things I thought could give me peace in my heart and in my head. I was after happiness, I was after contentment. I thought that things like being beautiful and being thin and being organized and being perfect could and would bring me to a place of peace and contentment in my life. The only problem was that those things were becoming so important that they became my main focus. There is nothing wrong with being organized. It's a good thing. There's nothing wrong with being thin, either. But when they became the focus of my life, I knew I had gone too far. And A Confident Heart helped me understand how to fill the space in my heart with what could really bring peace, joy, fulfillment, security and contentment: a relationship with my Savior.

See, weakness isn't The End. It's The Beginning of discovering that new life is waiting in Him, where I am made strong by His power, not my own. When I get to The End of my life, I don't want to look back at all the struggle, the striving for perfection, the endless worry, anxiety, and inner strife, only to discover that it was all for naught, that my life meant nothing and The End is actually The End. When I get to The End of the Road, I want to know that my life was well-lived, and have the blessed assurance of knowing that I'm not at the The End, I'm only just at The Beginning.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Eat To Live



Tuesday has consumed my time, leaving me with not much to give to you today. Last night I was talking to a friend, and as she was explaining to me why she chooses to eat healthy, she shared this quote with me:

It's perfect for all those times I've eaten food I didn't want but ate anyway because I was emotional, stressed or anxious. Or tired.

Or ______.

In the spirit of "eating to live", I thought I'd share a recipe I found online with you. It looks overwhelming, but I promise it's worth the effort. Yum!

Lightened Up Protein Power Goddess Bowl


★★★★★

Makes: Yield: 6 cups

Ingredients:

1 cup uncooked green lentils (yield 2 & 3/4 cups cooked)
1 cup uncooked speltberries (yield 2 cups cooked) OR grain of choice, like brown
rice
1/2 tbsp olive oil, for sautéing
1/2 red onion (~1 & 1/3 cups), chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
3 cups spinach or kale, roughly chopped (I used Lacinato kale)
1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced
1 batch of Lightened Up Tahini-Lemon Dressing (recipe below)
Kosher salt & black pepper, to taste
Lemon Wedges & lemon zest, to garnish

Dressing
1/4 cup Tahini
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1/4 cup Nutritional yeast or a bit more, to taste
2-4 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil, to taste
1 tsp kosher salt + freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
3 tbsp water, or as needed

Directions:

1. Cook lentils and speltberries (or grain of choice) according to package
directions. I did this the night before to save time. Drain and set aside.

2. Prepare the Lightened Up tahini-Lemon dressing in food processor (see below
for recipe).

3. In a large skillet over low-medium heat, add your olive oil and sauté the
chopped onion and minced garlic for a few minutes, being careful not to burn.
Now add in the chopped red pepper and tomato and sauté for another 7-8 minutes.

4. Stir in the chopped kale or spinach and sauté for another few minutes, just
until tender. Stir in the full batch of tahini-Lemon dressing, the cooked &
drained grains and lentils, and simmer on low for another few minutes. Remove
from heat and stir in the minced parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste
and garnish with lemon wedges and zest. Makes 6 cups.

Notes:

Here are the changes I made to the lightened up version:

I added another garlic clove (to make 3)

Source:
http://ohsheglows.com/2011/05/12/lightened-up-protein-power-goddess-bowl/

Monday, October 7, 2013

Messed Up


"If man is made in God's image...Then God is deeply messed up."
{from the movie Syriana, 2005}

 
How do you respond to that?

I started writing a blog in 2012 with the intention of talking about my insecurities, which, as you know, revolve largely around my appearance. I wanted to open up communication and cross the lines that divide gender, race and religion. I had hoped that being part of a community of people would help ease some of the angst I felt and help me get over my insecurity for good. At first, it was a one-way street--just me, telling you about how I felt.

But then you started to respond. 

It's a touchy subject. I've grown (more) comfortable talking about it. Some of us haven't. But what I found out when the talk became a dialogue instead of my monologue is I am not alone. I thought that at first. That I was alone. That everyone else had it together except for me. But when you started opening up about how you felt, I found out that we all have insecurities that seem insurmountable, fear and worries that keep us up at night, anxieties that bind our minds and paralyze our hearts and doubts that hurt our confidence.

Hurts. Doubts. Insecurity. Fear. Worry. Anxiety. Depression. Frustration. Discord.

It does seem messed up. But that doesn't mean that He is.

You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay!
Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, “You did not make me”?
Can the pot say to the potter, “You know nothing”?
{isaiah 29:16}

I'm looking for a safe place, a place that I can lay down my doubts, my fears, my worries and my anxieties. I'm looking for something that I can hold onto so that I don't have to worry so much about losing my youth, gray hair, cellulite dimples, stretch marks, wrinkles, or a  number on a scale. I searched any number of avenues for fulfillment, love, significance, contentment, peace, and happiness. And when it seemed I had run out of options, I found Him waiting patiently for me.

My safe spot.

It's not up to me to question God or His plan for this world. It is up to me to have faith and to trust Him.

Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker...
Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’
Does your work say, ‘The potter has no hands’?
{isaiah 45:9}

Friday, October 4, 2013

I Hate You

It was like old times. I got together with a friend of mine (we used to be neighbors) for dinner (frozen pizza) at her house and to let the kids play. In the midst of the chaos and disorder (seven kids--I need no other explanation), we got to talk. Sort of. (Seven. Kids.)

But by the time I got home, I was in a completely unreasonable state of irritability. I have no explanation (hormones). Some members of the family unit choose to overlook said unreasonable behavior. Others (no name to protect the privacy of this individual--although it might be the male parental unit of our household) have no patience for illogical and at times irrational behavior.

I have to question the logic of it myself. How is it that I can be perfectly calm and objective when visiting a friend, but turn into a mad woman once I step through the garage door? It must be something in the air here, like an unidentified mold or bacteria. Maybe my allergies are acting up.

So preposterous were my actions that the aforementioned unnamed household resident chose to leave my company and find solace elsewhere, leaving me to be disgruntled and sulk by myself. Fine. I opened the book I'm reading (the Love Dare for Parents) so I'd have something to do only to find the title of the passage glaring at me with contempt:

Is that title unusually large to you?

Okay, okay, so my irritability could be seen as somewhat unreasonable, but did the blasted book have to call me out on it? Good grief. As I read on, the reality of my frustration laid heavy on my heart. Several months ago I was involved in a "growth opportunity" (i.e. an altercation, but Lysa TerKeurst calls them growth opportunities--clever) with another individual, only I never actually got to air my grievance directly to this person as we never really talked face-to-face (hows that for an awesome chance at a growth opportunity--can you hear the sarcasm in my voice?), and although I'd love to think that I've completely gotten over what I feel like was an infraction against me, well...I haven't. Nope. Here's my confession for the day, and don't hold it against me (hehe): I hold grudges. I know I shouldn't, that it's not healthy, that I should forgive, blah, blah, blah.

google images

I can hold one heck of a grudge. And then really not like that person for a really long time.

Now, of course, if someone did this to me, I would be terribly and grievously offended and hurt. BUT. I still do it. It's not pretty. It's the truth though.

And what did this very book mention in the passage about irritability on the very night I was brooding in silence? That "Love brings freedom by leading you to forgive instead of holding a grudge." No joke. Here it is, I highlighted it for you:



I mean, really. Really. Really. I'd prefer to just hold a grudge, because to me, not holding a grudge is essentially letting the wrongdoer off the proverbial hook. But obviously holding the grudge was, for me, becoming unhealthy and affecting my family. In fact, the Mayo Clinic says that the person who chooses the path of unforgiveness might be the one who pays most dearly. (Read the entire article here).

In my mind, that person needs to know that I did not like what they did/said or how they acted. But, "Forgiveness doesn't mean that you deny the other person's responsibility for hurting you, and it doesn't minimize or justify the wrong. You can forgive the person without excusing the act. Forgiveness brings a kind of peace that helps you go on with life." (Mayo Clinic). There are benefits to forgiveness, like healthier relationships, but definite drawbacks to holding a grudge, like depression and anxiety. And as you know, I've dealt with and worked through, with God, much of the depression and anxiety that used to plague me. So why would I want to go back there?

I've decided that I just need to forgive and move on. It's not worth holding on to. There are moments when I want to forgive, and there are moments when I want to take it all back and go on a rampage about and against that person. Not my proudest moments for sure.

This will be a journey for me, this forgiveness and such. And not necessarily one I am always most or immediately happy with. However, when I compare the benefits and reward to the plausible effects of holding a grudge, even I know what's best.

And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.
{Mark 11:25}

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Models Are

When I was in elementary school, all I wanted to be when I grew up was a model or an actress. Or Micheal Jackson's wife (wow. glad that one didn't pan out). I also really loved (still love) horses, so I actually wanted to be a model/equestrian/beautiful actress/Micheal Jackson's wife. As I got older, that dream of being a model never really died. I used to look through magazines like Cosmo, Seventeen and Allure filled with images of supermodels like Christy Turlington, Christy Brinkley, Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer and Cindy Crawford and wish with every ounce of my being that I could just be them.

Interestingly, I think my mom, who was beautiful but never believed she was, must have wanted to be a model/beautiful actress, too, because she was full of advice on what models 'do' (I think she was too probably old to love MJ).

My mama. Sorry about the glare. There was glass. I'm an amateur.

'Models stick their tongue slightly between their teeth when they smile.'

'Models wear Vaseline on their teeth so it's easier to smile.'

'Models have to be versatile, even when they come out of the water and have soaking wet hair.'

'Models have to look good with bangs, with long hair, with short hair, with no bangs.'

'Models have to have straight teeth and full lips.'

'Models have an oval face.'

'When you stand perfectly straight, your legs should only touch at the calves, the knees and the tops. These are perfect legs. Models have perfect legs.'

So I would practice my smile, sticking my tongue slightly between my teeth. I would put Vaseline on my teeth, and practice my looks with soaking wet hair and no bangs. I would play around with my makeup to make my lips look fuller (FYI, DO NOT line outside your lipline, as this is not a good look in real life).

But when I looked in the mirror, I knew that I wasn't what a modeling scout would be looking for. My teeth were too spacey, my mouth was too small, my face was not oval and I certainly didn't look good with soaking wet hair.

My modeling career was not destined to go very far. And I was crestfallen.

Fastforward to 2013. I was at the doctors office yesterday, perusing yet another magazine filled with beautiful models (and advertisements for the first 80-some pages) while I waited to be called back. But this time, I had the truth in my arsenal.

'Models are airbrushed.'

'Models are sometimes seen as expendable and are dismissed when they don't have the right 'look'.'

'Models have great lighting, great makeup and hair people, and are perfectly posed. I only see what is considered their 'best shot'. What I don't see are the hundreds of photos that didn't make the cut.'

'Models are real people, yes, but the image that they are representing is not.'

'Models are people. Models are not perfect.'

Sometimes, I just need a little truth-talking to my heart.


Models are also apparently very confused. Again, glare. It's hard to hold a phone and a magazine in the waiting room and get a good picture while trying to be casual about it.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Food For Thought

No one can make you feel inferior
without your consent.
{eleanor roosevelt}
 
 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

I Am Tired

I am tired.

Of being tired.

Overwhelmed, hurried, hectic and rushed.

This morning, I just wanted to go back to sleep. For a long time. The irresponsible side of me would have. Would they have been okay? Would they have survived? Of course. But not only did they need my help, other people were counting on me, too. To show up at my class on time. To make good on promises I'd made, to carry out my responsibilities at home.

Expectations. I have them. So do other people. And when expectations get placed on me, sometimes I get tired of carrying that heavy load. Some expectations are reasonable: get my kids to activities on time and with the right gear. Some expectations are not as reasonable, and most of the time, they aren't as clear cut, either: Be happy when you're not. Be supportive when you can't be. Some expectations I place on myself: Be thin. Be pretty. Be organized, have it all together, and do it All. Of. The. Time. Unreasonable? Of course. But do I have them? Sure do. And do those expectations that I have of myself cause me to feel bad when I fail? You betcha.

So when I read my devotion out of Jesus Calling by Sarah Young this morning, I was relieved. Rest. I could sure use that. A break, like stepping out of white water rapids onto the quiet shoreline. 'Rest in Me', the book said. Yes!

But when I really started thinking about it, I realized that I had no idea what that devotion was really talking about. And no surprise. I had quickly run through my list of 'devotion have-tos' this morning: I read my Bible, I prayed for the kids and my husband, I read Jesus Calling...and then I hopped up. And although what I had just read was in the back of my mind, I was much more concerned about getting my son's soccer uniform clean for tonight's game than I was about really taking to heart the true meaning of resting in Him.

I don't have time to take time out to rest in Him. Because to me, it seems like resting in Him would be physical, like a massage. I want one. I really would enjoy one. But I don't have the time to go get one.

But the more I contemplated rest, I tossed around the idea in my head that maybe rest doesn't have to be a physical thing only. Maybe I could mentally rest. In Him. And maybe I haven't been able to do that because I haven't taken a simple step first: pray about it. Ask for rest, for a mental break, for help carrying the load.

It doesn't have to be grand, or long, or formal. Prayer can be simple and to the point:

I need help!