Monday, June 30, 2014

Wishers and Doers (I'm the former, not the latter)

There are wishers and there are doers.

I am a wisher who (get this) wishes she was a doer.

I am the person who drives by the stables and watches the people who are riding (the doers), silently wishing she was riding, too.

Or who waves goodbye to the friend who is leaving for Paris and wishes she was going, too.

I'm not known for my practicality, but I do have a (small) practical side to me, and I often talk myself out of doing, which leaves me just wishing. Wishing and dreaming for something that I know I'll probably never do, if only because life right now simply won't allow it.

I talk myself out of a dream trip to Paris because I don't like to fly (especially across open water--yikes. It's like a heart attack waiting to happen for me), I don't sleep well when I travel, and I don't like big cities. All very practical reasons that I shouldn't visit Paris. Or Italy. Or Spain. Or any of the other places I wish I could but probably won't.

I'd love to see the Egyptian pyramids, Stonehenge in England, the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Brazil, the crown jewels in the Tower of London, the Teracotta Army in China, and the vast amount of art displayed in Italy. I like the idea of my kids experiencing different cultures and seeing different parts of the world. I'm jealous of people who get out there and just go, because I'm not one of them.

Fear.

It's very real. From the minutia of everyday life to the bigger details, fear enters into almost every conversation I have with myself.

I am not a doer because doers are brave and I am not brave. I am scared.

Fear can paralyze. It can stop a person in her tracks and leave her stunned and weak. It can cause her to look to the future with trepidation, to the past with regret, and to the present with a certain amount of panic. Fear can cause her to constantly worry, hoping she's doing everything right (but knowing without a doubt she's not), wishing everything were different, wrapped in a sarcophagus of bleakness and negativity. Fear can cause her to never, ever change.

Fear leaves her a wisher, and certainly not a doer.

What would life be like without fear? What if we could completely let go of fear? Would it be good for us? Is there safety in fear? Because I like to feel safe. I don't like the unknown, the unfamiliar, the unexpected. I like to live by a plan. I like to know what's coming up. I like to be prepared. I am not extraordinarily spontaneous. And stepping out of that safe box is very, very frightening.

And inhibiting.

Who wants to live their life in a cardboard box, only familiar with it's six walls (because no matter how you turn it, it's always the same), comforting cardboard color, smooth yet rough interior, and flat surfaces?

But that's what I've chosen.

Because I'm scared of what other people will think about me. Of what might happen. Of getting hurt. Of dying. Of being exposed and vulnerable. Of making a mistake. Of looking stupid. Of not knowing. Of having to ask a dumb question. Of not knowing what to do or how to do it.

There is a beautiful, wild world out there. Or at least I imagine there is. From the safety of my cardboard box. My own personal, self-made, keep-the-world-at-bay, stay-safe, don't-get-hurt, predictable, soothing box.

My imagination ignites as I explore google Earth. Look at Christ the Redeemer, the Eiffel Tower, the Nile River. So beautiful. What would it be like to actually experience it for myself?

Life. It's not meant to be boxed up. It's meant to be lived. Abundantly. Richly. Not through how many possessions one can acquire but through the experiences. The sights. The sounds. The colors. The tastes. The smells.

But I don't know how to let go of the fear.

I imagine that beyond my crate of fear, this box over my head and heart, that there are snow-capped mountains waiting to be explored, creek beds waiting to be walked upon, rainbows waiting to be seen. There is music waiting to be heard, fresh pain au chocolat waiting to be tasted, a true and original Renoir waiting to be seen, a castle waiting to be explored, a tower waiting to be climbed, a road waiting to be driven on, a people waiting to be experienced.

The wisher in me wishes that for once, just once, I could pop my head out of the box long enough to taste life. I know it would be sweeter than honey.

I might taste a freedom I didn't know existed.

Freedom from fear.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Naked Rain Dance

dis·cern·ment

  [dih-surn-muhnt, -zurn-] 
noun
1.
the faculty of discerningdiscrimination; acuteness of judgment and understanding.
2.
the act or an instance of discerning.
Origin: 
1580–90;  < Middle French discernement,  equivalent to discern er to discern + -ment -ment


Of all the things I could ever give my kids, what I want them to have the most are intangible but more valuable than any material possession they could ever buy.

Wisdom.

Discernment.

I can and frequently do impart my own wisdom (if you want to call it that--I call it "experiences" and "dumb mistakes I made that you shouldn't"), but it's completely up to them whether they use what I've told them to their advantage or not.  This is probably one of the most frustrating things about parenting. They have their own minds. And sometimes they do not choose to use that precious asset.

A friend of mine had to go pick up a baseball net from a local elementary school field. It's a field where we've played often, underneath a steep hill, a playground and an elementary school. Hidden by trees on two sides from all the surrounding houses and apartments, the hill on the third, and with a creek that leads into woods on the fourth, this is the ideal spot to hang out, do nothing (or something) and not be seen by anybody. So the story goes that as my friend was driving to this particular field to pick up his baseball net, it started to rain in sheets, so he wasn't expecting company when he pulled into the gravel lot at the back of the field.

google images

Apparently, neither were the several teenagers that were using the field to do their rain dance in.

Naked.

Or nearly there.

I believe both parties were equally surprised and embarrassed at the spectacle.

When I heard the story, I couldn't help but think a couple of things.

A) what were they thinking?
B) why are teenagers so stupid?

I mean, come on. What exactly was the plan here? To dance around a baseball field that, although mostly hidden, is in fact in close proximity to neighboring houses, apartments and an elementary school? Did you really think that no one would see you? Did you care? Do your parents know where you are?

Are you high?

(I don't know why, I  usually always sometimes suspect teenagers of being high on something, perhaps to explain away their illogical and absurd behavior. If you are a teenager, act like a teenager, or are still a teenager at heart, I apologize profusely and also feel sorry for you. I'm sorry. There are good teenagers out there, I know.)

And I also thought C) how can I help my kids to think wisely and make good and smart decisions?

They won't always. I know this. There is a certain amount of trial-and-error associated with growing up. Sometimes we have to learn a hard lesson, and the only way we can learn it is by taking the fall.

I don't always think wisely either, but it's a prayer I pray over myself and my family daily.

God's word says that when we ask for it, He (in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge) will give us wisdom--and give it generously.

And all we have to do is ask.

If any of you lacks wisdom, 
you should ask God, 
who gives generously to all without finding fault, 
and it will be given to you.
{james 1:5}

I found a book by Stormie O"Martian that offers daily prayer for kids, called The Power of the Praying Parent. And since I have this daily habit of needlessly worrying about every move my kids make (am I letting them watch too much tv or am I stressing them out by not letting them relax--that kind of thing, and obviously the major worries that most parents are concerned about as they watch their kids grow up), I really need to transform my worries into prayers and take them directly to God. Otherwise, I'll end up having a stroke from all the worrying I do. Which isn't worth it.

So when I read a couple of prayers about receiving wisdom and discernment, combined with the promise that when you ask it will be given to you, I was immensely relieved. All they have to do is ask and they will receive. All I have to do is ask and I will receive.

All you have to do is ask and you will receive.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

White White Girl

I guess most people assume that when you come back from a vacation at the beach, you will have accomplished these things:

1-a savage tan
2-a relaxed, carefree attitude

I can say that I mostly accomplished one out of the two, which ain't too bad, all things considered. I relaxed at the beach. I didn't wear a watch or worry about the time (causing me to be late to family dinners a time or two), and I didn't follow a schedule. For me, that is pretty carefree.

I did not acquire a savage tan. Or any tan at all.

I do not tan.

I really wish I did. But I don't.

So why people feel the need to point this out to me, I can't quite figure out.

My ancestors are not from a part of the world where people have beautiful, dark complexions. They are (mostly--my grandma claims to have a direct line to Powhatan--yeah, the Indian--but this has never actually been confirmed) from Scotland and Ireland, where a long line of people just like me dealt with  freckles and lighter than pale skin. My sister and I didn't inherit that bright red hair--we both have dark hair with red undertones, although I had light-ish strawberry blond hair when I was really little--but we both inherited that skin tone that will not accept any sort of tan whatsoever. I promise. No matter how much time I spend baking myself in the sun, my skin tone remains quite the same. I don't like it, but it is what it is.

People have always made comments about my skin. Like my whole entire life. I don't know why this is a subject at all, expect for maybe I've made it one out of exasperation in recent years. I've talked about it before. From the mean kids in third grade who told me I should get outside more to right now, it's been something people comment on fairly consistently.

Don't get me wrong. I really don't mind, for the most part. But occasionally, people will make comments that make me inwardly roll my eyes and shake my head, and even though I try really hard to roll with it (because it's not that big of a deal, right??), that insecurity starts to bubble up inside, and it overflows into thoughts, then actions, and before I know it I've taken what feels like 500 steps back, reverting to the old, insecure teenager who didn't feel she would ever measure up.

Where does the idea of beauty come from? Is it from pictures in magazines, or the movies, or TV shows? Or does it come from the gym, or from other people's comments? Or does it come from inside, from a standard that I've created on my own? I have read and written about beauty being on the inside, on accepting yourself and being your own kind of beautiful, but sometimes I don't even measure up to my own kind of beautiful, which leaves me feeling stuck, and kind of bad, and all sorts of confused.

There is a field behind my house that the owners use to grow hay. At the beginning of the summer, the grass is long and beautiful, blowing this way and that way, bending and rippling with the wind. Whichever way the wind blows, the grass goes.

Sometimes, I am that grass, and other people's opinions are the wind. That insecurity inside weakens my resolve, and I find myself bending to what other people think and say. Combined with my own internal negative conversations, it can lead me to a bad spot where I don't feel very good about myself, how I look, or who I am.

I shift my gaze from the only One who matters to the ones who don't, and I find myself drowning in a sea of long, waving grass, wanting to be something I'm not and hating myself for it.

People's opinions will always change, it's just the way we are. What was considered fashionable in the 1950's wouldn't cut it in 2014 (although I do love a vintage, high-waisted bikini), and basing my internal meter of measuring up on what other people think leaves me constantly needing affirmation.

This is a mighty struggle for me. It's why I talk about it so much. Maybe it is for you, too. Maybe you can relate, but on a different level. Maybe you have the whole darn thing figured out. (And if you do, then you should be writing this blog and not me.)

But a mighty struggle for me isn't too much for a Mighty God, who was fully God and yet fully human, vulnerable yet strong. And when I shift my gaze back to the only One who matters, things come back into focus, and I find my security not in my skin tone but in knowing what I've always known, but have forgotten from time to time--He thinks I'm beautiful.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Summertime Sadness

This day is falling apart.

I have it planned out entirely, morning to night. I don't know exactly where we went wrong, but right about now I'm supposed to be doing something different than what I am, because what I am currently doing was supposed to have already been done.

And I'm still in my workout clothes from this morning. (This is not unusual.)

I told my kids that they could invite friends over for the afternoon, but that we had to get chores and laundry done first, and they have (begrudgingly) obliged. The main chore for today was pulling weeds, which is no fun for anybody. If I won a million dollars, I'd hire a full-time gardener. And a personal masseuse. Oh! And a personal chef. And I'd have fresh white roses in my house all the time. And I'd get my car detailed every week.

A housekeeper wouldn't be a bad idea. And I could use a professional organizer in the basement and garage.

I guess I need to win more than a million dollars.

But I digress.

The friends couldn't come over until 3:15. I have a 12:15 arrival and 3:15 departure for said friends on my pre-made schedule.

Falling. Apart.

I am a creature of habit, depending on a schedule, even one fraught with episodes and divergences, to get me through my day. I hear the naysayers out there, telling me that my kids shouldn't have to be on such a tight schedule during the summer, that "when we were kids, our days were spent outside playing and using our imaginations". I get it. I've seen all those "summertime when we were kids" montages on FaceBook, too, but I was a kid in the eighties and now I'm an adult in 2014 and Summer 2014 for my kids won't be the same as summertime circa 1984. I offer no apologies for this.

(My kids are in the background singing "Summertime Sadness" as their theme for this summer, especially because they don't get to sleep in.)

Besides. It's in my veins to be scheduled, even though sometimes I hate them. I do better and accomplish more when I have a schedule to go by. Plus, now my gardens are weeded, kitchen cleaned, and a load of laundry has been started (the finishing is where we get sideways), so I consider that an accomplishment. And now we can go relax and be with friends and not have these arduous chores hanging over our heads.

But not until 3:15.

I guess it's not in the fact that the schedule is falling apart, but in how we deal with it all. When it's all said and done, I want to see this day as a success and not a failure, but that doesn't only include the chores I got done. It includes having a playful approach with my kids, and not coming down on them too hard when things aren't going the way I planned. It also includes rolling with what the day brings, whether that may be adjusting for friends or rearranging because pulling weeks took waaaaaay too long (and one helper who shall remain nameless was conspicuously absent for a majority of the time, claiming she needed water and other such amenities that the outdoors simply couldn't provide the instant she needed them).

I want to have fun even in the not-so-fun parts, and see the joy through the sorrow, and be thankful for life itself, and not be anxious or depressed over things like upset schedules.

It's so not worth the angst.

google images


Monday, June 23, 2014

Sorry, Brenda

I have a problem. It's called "I can't throw anything away".

It's a sickness, really.

We were at the beach last week, which is why my intentions never actually turned into written words.



So we did what most people do when they go to the beach for a week. We bought groceries. Because you can't go a whole week without eating (this is even true for those of you who think that starvation equals losing weight, which is a fallacy I used to believe, too). Anyways, as also is true when you buy a weeks worth of groceries but have an 8 hour journey home, some things have to be thrown away. I'm not gonna lie. This causes me much consternation.

Yes.

Actual distress.

Words like "money" and "wasteful" enter my mind, and I think of the pictures I see on TV of starving kids in third-world nations who stare at the camera with woeful eyes and pained expressions. And I think "I must bring that milk home".

No one can take milk home when they have an all-day car trip.

So my mother-in-law needed milk for her cereal yesterday. Except all of the milk was gone except for one lonely-looking, tiny container of skim milk that I had bought exactly one week prior. So she asked if she could use some milk. Normal people say "sure" and don't think much more about it.

I must not be normal.

Because I explained that I was going to take the milk home with me.

Really, Heather? Really.

Who does this? (I did do.)

(Sorry, Brenda. I hope you can forgive my momentary lapse into the world of crazy, combined with not sleeping well the entire week.)

See. I told you it was a sickness. No one tries to take milk that is a week old home with them. (Except for me.)

So when my husband pointed out to me (because I packed up some extra hamburger buns, also a week old--hey, you can freeze those things!) that I simply cannot throw anything away, I had to verbally defend myself--obviously (but silently agree).

"Waste Not, Want Not" was my mom's motto, one which my sister and I carried with us into our adult lives, and one that does bear some thought. Of course, we shouldn't be wasteful. Of course, we also shouldn't be ridiculous, but I do it like it's my job.

I'm so boss at being ridic.

(You are not allowed to agree with that statement even though I just said it.)

Cutting the lotion bottle so she could scoop out the very last bit from the bottom was a commonplace occurrence for my mom.

It's actually surprising to me that my house is as free from knick-knacks and junk as it is. I don't like a lot of clutter. Which is weird, considering my habit of keeping it.

Lord have mercy.

I think I need an intervention.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, 
what you will eat or drink,
 or about your body, 
what you will wear. Is not life more than food, 
and the body more than clothes?
{matthew 6:25}

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Holy

She looked down at the sand, thinking about last night's dinner and silently chiding herself for eating that extra piece of steak, especially because she knew she wasn't even that hungry.

I'll do better today, she promised herself. 

She contemplated the sand as she walked. It was low tide. By the time she got dressed and back outside, the water will have covered her footsteps, erasing all evidence that she had ever been there. The broken shells cracked under her feet as she walked, making sharp sounds as she stepped. 

Broken.

Just like how I feel, she thought. 

Yesterday had been a day just like any other, except for the fact that she was on vacation in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Clear aqua-colored water, white sand beaches and palm trees dotting the shoreline. Perfect sunsets. Beautiful resorts. 

The finer things in life. 

Yet as she had ventured out in her black bikini with the ruffled halter top and the short, flouncy skirt, she couldn't think of anything other than the hips that she was sure were swaying just a little too much, the stomach that she surely could not suck in any more, the skin that despite all her best efforts would never be the perfect tan she wanted. She settled on the beach, thankful for the protection of her umbrella--from eyes as well as from the sun. To the casual observer, she was simply just another tourist, finding shade and a breeze underneath her umbrella, but for her, it represented protection, just like the wall she had built around her heart.

She observed the other tourists on the beach and imagined how they must be reacting to her presence. Imagined them thinking how pale she looked, how she should drop a few pounds, how she shouldn't be wearing that bikini.   Were those the voices of others, or was the voice her own? She looked down at the ground, filled with shame and guilt and regret. If only she had worked a little harder, eaten a little less, been a little more disciplined. 

But even with yesterday just a memory, she still clung to the shame, held onto it like a punishment, remembering it so it would drive her to work harder, longer, faster. 

She could hear the waves pounding against the shore, but she was focused on the sand as she picked up her pace, her head down, her heart defeated. 

She was lost in her thoughts, the sound of the crashing waves and the calling seagulls distant, her mind dark.

Where had her joy gone? Is this what she was living life for? To count calories and then run them off as soon as she could? 

Somewhere in the back of her head, a still, small voice urged her to look up. When she forced her eyes up, off the sand, she was shocked by the beauty and the fierceness of the ocean that she was standing in front of. The sun was still rising, shimmering off the surface of the water, making her squint at the reflection. As far as she could see there was water and nothing else, the expanse of it causing her to catch her breath. 

Beautiful. 

She hung her head, looking at the sand again, pondering how she had gotten off-track, how quickly her heart had been deceived. Then she drank in the beauty of the ocean, it's power and strength, it's commanding presence. She could feel the wall she had so careful constructed around her heart start to crumble. 

Yes, I'll do better today, she promised as she smiled to herself. 

Much better. 

So what do I know of you,
Who spoke me into motion?
Where have I even stood,
But the shores along your ocean?
Are you fire? Are you fury?
Are you sacred? Are you beautiful?
So what do I know? What do I know of Holy?
{addison road, what do I know of holy}

Monday, June 16, 2014

Good Gifts

Ok. Can I just say this:

Cauliflower pizza dough?

YUM.

You have to try it. Have to.

To Serena at Domesticate Me (http://www.domesticate-me.com/cauliflower-pizza-crust-with-roasted-vegetables-and-goat-cheese/)--thank you. So. Much. 

Yum. 

Next in the line up will be cauliflower mac and cheese, eggplant bruschetta, and cauliflower "rice", among other tasty and healthy dinners that I will force-feed my family. 

It is important to note that my son, that annoyingly picky son of mine, would not eat the cauliflower pizza dough, saying he liked the regular octane stuff better. Harrumph. But that won't stop me from trying, no siree. 

It is also important to note that I am probably as picky as that annoyingly picky son of mine. Ditto with the daughter. 

It's actually impressive how much influence we parents have on our children, especially when said children seem to always want to go their own way, seemingly oblivious to any guidance or direction offered from their well-meaning world tour guides. 

Tour Guide. I've never thought of myself like that before, but I suppose that's what I am. I person who has been here on the earth a little longer and knows a little more that the little people who are following me. It's my job to guide them and point them in the right direction, warning them of potholes and bumps in the road and places to stay away from. 

I try really hard to be a helicopter tour guide, hovering over them (like right directly over them, like 2 feet over them, like smothering them over them), but I'm learning that while it feels safer, it's no good for them. They aren't learning how to navigate their own compass when I'm right there to do it for them. 

It's hard. 

I wish parenting came with a rule book or something. 

My daughter was invited to a pool party the other day, so I made arrangements for my son and planned to go with. 

Someone didn't like the plan, and informed me as such. 

Um. 

I know how to swim, mom.

(Insert helicopter mom)

I'll be honest. I had an incredibly hard time a) not being worried and b) not being worried. A pool party? With water? And a diving board? And boys??? How would she be okay if I wasn't there to watch?

I know what you're saying in your head. 

Let go, woman! Cut the apron strings, for goodness sake!

It's haaaaaaaarrrrrdddddddd. So hard. 

But I'll say this. I think you're right. 

Half-way right, at least. 

Our foursome--the source of both my greatest joys and most consuming worries.
{emily giffin, the heart of the matter}

If only I could (or would) trust God as much as I want to, then my anxiety would probably be greatly reduced. I say probably, but I mean definitely. 

I think.

Which indicates an extreme lack of trust.

God doesn't ask for me to put my kids lives at risk. He only asks that I trust that He loves them as much (or more, even) than I do. 

The world can be a scary, constantly fluctuating place, and the unknowns are what scares me the most. But whether I'm around all the time or not, I can't protect my kids from everything, and eventually they're going to have to learn to think wisely and protect themselves.

And trust in God.

Which they don't have a good example of through me. 

So as hard as it is, I need to be the example of a mother who is wise, who thinks through decisions, who does the best she can, and who ultimately trusts God. Especially when the influence doesn't come from what I say (necessarily). I comes from what I do.

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more then will the Father who is in Heaven give to those who ask Him!
{matthew 7:14}

**hello, autocorrect! Now that I've gone back through and re-edited (I see that I was particularly concerned about protecting my chickens rather than my actual children), this post should make more sense if you are reading it again :)


Friday, June 13, 2014

The Comparison Game

I have done the impossible.

{insert superhero music}

I have done what I never thought I could do.

{insert drum roll}

I have gone where I never thought I could go.

{insert headache}

I have spoken.

Yesterday, I had the awesome opportunity to speak to a group of women about finding security in God. I didn't think I could actually do it, to be honest. But after much prayer ( by me and for me--my most heartfelt thank you to those who were praying for me not to a) throw up or b) pass out), I actually stood on my own two feet (in wedge heels, thankfully I didn't fall over) without shaking (too much) and delivered a presentation.

YES!

SO elated was I that I think it showed.

Well, until I got home and opened up the mailbox, pulling out the Victoria's Secret catalog that was hiding it's cruel self inside.

Well. That didn't last long.

You remember in Despicable Me (the first one) when Gru pulls out a pin just so he can pop that little boy's balloon?

Incidentally, as I was googling images for Gru, I found this from Pinterest, which you are correct in assuming this picture has absolutely nothing to do with this blog post. However, I had to share the image an entire doll--Rapunzel, no less--made out of balloons and then shared on Pinterest as a suggested project that normal people could possibly undertake. I believe some of us may have too much time on our hands.

Yeah.

I only glanced at it, because I know my tenancy. Which is to pour over it, comparing what I've been blessed with to what The Perfect Ones have been blessed with, and in the end, it's no blessing at all, because all I end up with is a whole basket full of flaws and nothing else. And dang, that's depressing.

But there she was. Back cover. Flat stomach. Tan skin. Beautiful.

And here am I. No covers. Stomach is a work in progress. Pale skin. Just average.

I can come up with all kinds of excuses, like she probably hasn't had kids, and heck, it's her job to look beautiful, and of course, airbrushing, but what it all boils down to is this: I'm still playing the comparison game. All. Of. The. TIME.

I recently read in a Proverbs 31 devotion a suggestion to pray for the person you are comparing yourself to. And at the time I was all like Okay! Good idea! But it feels kinda goofy to pray for the model on the back cover of the VS catalog. (A side note: I don't often go around just spelling the word "catalog" for the heck of it, and have discovered in the writing of this blog post that I, Heather, have no idea how to spell this word. I mean honestly, I thought that there was a u and and an e somewhere in there. Thank goodness for spell check. Stay in school, kids.)

I mean, what the heck am I supposed to say? "Hey, Lord, I pray for this girl I don't know because she's pretty and I'm comparing my perceived sad and fugly self--not to mention this stomach that will not go AWAY--to her"?

That's just weird.

But that's precisely what I did.

I've heard you can't hate someone you pray for.

We'll see.

However.

A) It's silly to play the comparison game. Who has time for all that mental anguish and self-deprecation?

and

B) It's not silly to pray

and

C) It's really not silly to pray for other people

and

D) In a round-about way, I'm actually praying for God to intervene in my heart so that I don't feel the need to compare myself to other people.

There will always be beautiful-er people around us. My head says it ain't fair, but my heart is the one who suffers the most, because she is sensitive and she wants beauty to fill her up and make her happy. But there is nothing here--not even beauty--that can fill our hearts. Only God can do that. But how is He supposed to do that when I'm still turning to the things that are fleeting and temporary to fill my heart?

Obviously, He's God, and He can do what He wants, but He also gives us choices, and I've chosen to look to away from Him and toward other things for affirmation and direction, but let me tell you. It's not working out so well.

So I pray. For that model. For the thin girl at the mall that I compared myself to.

And for my own heart.

When they 
measure themselves by themselves 
and compare themselves with themselves, 
they are not wise.
{2 corinthians 10:12}

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

STOP: The Top 10--A Clarification

I've been known to get on these healthy food kicks and make some crazy stuff. Like "chocolate" covered dates that are supposed to taste like caramels (actually pretty yummy) and eggplant bruchetta.

Cauliflower pizza dough is in the lineup for this week.

I hear the collective rolling of the eyes, the moans and groans, the "she's gone too far with this one". I'm used to it.

I'll let you know how it goes.

(I bet you a million dollars it'll be really good. And if it's not, I can't pay you the million anyway, so let's just encourage one another and build one another up--that's 1 Thessalonians 5:11 AND the verse I make my kids repeat when they are on each other's nerves--and say I'm sure it'll be delicious, k?).

A few days ago, I wrote a post about the top ten things I think we should stop saying to our daughters. Things like comparing her to other girls (and ourselves), commenting on her weight or height, and commenting on the size of her clothes are all (and this is strictly my opinion) dangerous and can (again, my opinion) lead to unhealthy habits and body image issues later in life. Sometimes it doesn't even wait until later, as many girls (and some boys) as young as six see themselves in an unflattering light.

I think most people could identify with me, maybe remembering back to comments made by well-intentioned individuals (moms, it seems, are often the guilty party when it comes to making comments about a girls body), only to still be dealing with resentment and bitterness, perhaps even a lack of self-confidence, due to a perceived negativity.

SO! Here's the thing I want to clarify, and I think it's important:

POSITIVE and NEGATIVE comments can be equally as damaging.

I see you shaking your heads. I hear you disagreeing with me.

Just hear me out on this one, and if you still disagree by the end, then we will just have to agree to disagree. (I always hate it when people say that. I can't agree to disagree. Because I disagree. There is no conclusion in this, and it deserves a nice long debate. So. If this is way you feel, too, then I apologize.)

Positive comments are nice. They make us feel good, and mostly, I see nothing wrong with throwing a compliment someone's way. (But you have to mean it, otherwise it comes off as insincere. Trust me.)

However.

When we start commenting on the bodies belonging to our girls, it can give them the idea that physical beauty is what we think is most important, and it can also give them the impression that this is what they need to work on in order to be happy and successful in life.

There is a balance, of course. It's not like you can't say "Hey, you look cute today."

But when the "Hey, you look cute today" turns into "You look great in that miniskirt/bikini/tank top because you're skinny and you can pull it off well", we just turned a nice compliment into an emphasis on being thin in order to look good. It's a fine line to walk, for sure, and we definitely shouldn't be hyper-stressed about always getting it right. But for as many times as I've heard a mother comment on her daughter's perceived heaviness, I've heard a mother comment on her daughter's perceived thinness. The former are always a bit embarrassed. The latter are always super proud.

The problem is that we are placing too much priority in one area: physical beauty/attractiveness, teaching our daughters (and sons) that, whether you're too big, too little or just exactly right, beauty is where it's at, plain and simple.

And it's not just about our girls, either.

Our boys are just as impressionable as our girls, and they hear the comments made about their sisters and female friends, too. They aren't deaf, they aren't dumb, and they are paying attention. They may not always apply it to themselves, although I've heard of a few cases of anorexic boys. The more distressing thing to me is that they apply it to their female counterparts. Not only do they have plenty of magazines that exploit women by showing them as perfect with absolutely no flaws but with 100% sex appeal, when boys hear their mothers making comments about the body of another female, it can give them the impression that girls are made to look good. That beauty should be a top priority, and that they should first rate a girl by how good she looks, even before he gets to know her.

So my number one thing to stop doing?

STOP: The Number One (according to me, of course)
1. STOP PLACING SUCH AN EMPHASIS ON BEAUTY AND PHYSICAL APPEAL.

Go ahead. Spread the emphasis around. Like on responsibility, kindness, respectfulness and, oh, yes, encouraging one another and building one another up.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

As-Is Department

The other day, I was browsing at one of my favorite stores, TJ Maxx (yes, I can proudly call myself a MAXXINISTA).

One of the first aisles I go to when visiting my fave place is the clearance aisle. I love, love, love looking for good deals, especially when I find something I know will look fabulous. It's like finding a little treasure in the middle of chaos!

Because we all know that when it comes to a store like TJ Maxx, patience and time are key ingredients to finding what you want.

Over the years, I've found several "as-is" items on the shelves of stores like Target, TJ, Stein Mart, Belk, and JCP. I even found an "as-is" table at Anthropologie, where I got a cute switch plate, and at Pottery Barn, where I found a king-size velvet comforter with silk trim for my bed (marked way down because someone had accidentally gotten red ink on the corner of it).

Of course, the things I've found have been nicked, scratched, marked on, or cracked, but usually I can see the beauty of how I can use it beyond the flaws and spots.

Sometimes I feel like I belong on the "as-is" shelf.

When I compare myself to the women beautiful enough to grace magazine covers and catalogs at any age, and I don't measure up.

When I wish for what I am not and do not have: longer legs, leaner torso, a graceful body.

When I look in the mirror and all I see are flaws and spots.

And my nicks and scratches are obvious: the scar I still have on my leg from the day I cut myself with a broken glass, the varicose veins that are starting (with no plans of going away), the wrinkles forming around my eyes, the gray hair I discovered a few months ago, the cellulite on my tummy, the freckles that make themselves at home on my shoulders when I wish I could tan.

I am "as-is", flaws and all.

But He thought I was worth paying a price for. He thought I was worth dying for. He thought I was worth proving that I am more than the labels I place on my own skin.

Even when I can't see the beauty that lies beyond my stains and smudges, He can.

Just like I can see the beauty in a velvet comforter with delicate silk trim, despite it's obvious red blemish.

I am a broken human being. We all are. And He can still use us, fill our soul, and turn what we see as unsightly into something beautiful.




Thursday, June 5, 2014

211

When the doctor told me my cholesterol results, I was shocked.

211.

For someone who takes great pride in their health, it's a punch in the gut.

He said he wasn't all that concerned about it (!), and the conversation stopped there. But in the months to follow, I became increasingly concerned about it. Isn't high cholesterol associated with heart attacks and heart disease?

My dad said it was probably hereditary, my sister said that if my doctor wasn't concerned about it then I shouldn't be either, and my friends said that I shouldn't be so worried about it. Check your good cholesterol, they said. It's probably fine.

When I saw my neighbor walking her dog a few months after the cholesterol panic, I caught up with her to get the full scoop on why she was moving away. (I always hate it when my neighbors move. Plus I'm always really, really curious about the reason why. Just call me Gladys.) Anyway, I heard the full story on the whole move situation, but what I was more interested in was her weight. Which was down several pounds. "Twenty", she informed me.

Now I'll be honest. Anytime anyone says they've lost twenty pounds, I'm extra, super, crazy curious how they did it. Because I like to know how things like that work. Is it extra time in the gym, scaling back on calories, or are you making yourself throw up? I just want to know. Not that I'll copy, I'm just curious.

Unleash Your Thin, she said.

I'd be a total liar if I said that I didn't feel like I could drop a few pounds. I'd also be a total liar if I said I didn't think about it on a regular basis. Aaaaaaaaaaaannddd I be a total liar if I said that even though I write a ton about body image and weight and confidence and all that stuff, I still struggle with finding that confidence in Christ rather than in how I look. Maybe that makes me a total fraud for even suggesting you can find confidence in Christ. Maybe it makes me authentic. I don't know. But I struggle daily with thoughts that swirl around the idea that if I could just look like I wanted to, then I would be happy. Which is totally shallow and circumstantial and also not true, but somehow, I have given credence to the entire ridiculous distortion of truth.

So I checked out the website, and bought the book. Yes, research does show that certain eating plans do lower cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugar. If I can do those things, then yay for me! I won't know until my next doctor's appointment if I've actually accomplished lowering any of those things, so I hope the research is accurate.

But when I stepped on the scale and saw that I had lost a few pounds, I almost did a happy dance right in the middle of the locker room.

Because my circumstantial confidence was right where I wanted it to be--based on a number on the scale, a flatter tummy, and a few pounds lost.

Now I will say this: after reading the entire book, and doing a little extra research on the side, I do feel like this is a healthy, manageable lifestyle. And I'm all for healthy and manageable.

But, as has been the case for most of my life, I tend to take things a little overboard when it comes to what I think is healthy. As in A) everybody should do it! and B) I become totally preoccupied with myself.

I just finished a study called Your Move by Andy Stanley, in which he describes what he thinks are the best ways to work through the decision-making process. Definitely a good read, and worth your time. But it was the last day that I've given the most thought to, where he poses this question:

What would be the most honoring to God?

See, I don't believe that I have room in my heart to be all about me and at the same time all about God. It's either one or the other, and when I'm full up on me, I've got no room for Him.

As Sweet Brown would say, Ain't nobody got time fo' dat.


I want to be all about Him, but I'm really attempting to live for my own glory. I like me. I actually love me enough to want to give me some of that honor and glory. Which means I'm giving Him zero.

How is being consumed with my weight, my workouts, my eating plan, my life actually giving God any honor at all?

Two words: It's not.

Don't get me wrong. There is certainly a healthy balance to strike, where we take care of ourselves and our bodies but live for Him. At the moment, I'm not quite there yet.

But consider this, from Andy Stanley: at a great funeral (if there is such a thing), where a life is celebrated, people aren't in awe of the person's huge house, or the last contract the negotiated, or the nice cars, or even the few pounds they lost. They don't post pictures of these things on the boards around the visitation room. But they do talk about, and see evidenced in pictures, is that person's life. How they lived it. What they did with it. Who they helped, and why. Why we loved that person so dearly.

Food for thought, right?

The challenge is to begin factoring into the decision-making process the simple question: what would be the most honoring to God? We owe it to ourselves to at least ask the question.

Taking care of my body with a healthy eating and exercise plan?

Sure.

Totally obsessing over weight and appearance and self?

Not so much.

Your glory is too small a thing to live for. 
No matter how much money you make, 
how big your house is...
you can never amass enough glory to fill yourself up.
{andy stanley}

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Stupider

Well.

I backed into the garage door today and broke it.

Photo
You are most certainly NOT supposed to see daylight through your garage door.

There is not a whole lot in life that makes me feel more stupid (at this point I should just say stupider) than making careless mistakes because I wasn't paying attention.

Of course, I backed into the garage door on my way out of the house this morning to pick up a prescription for my daughter that I didn't get last night. If I had just been able to get it last night, I wouldn't have had to leave this morning.

Sigh.

I went to the pharmacy at 8:55 pm last night (after 4 long hours of baseball), thinking I'd grab the Rx and go. But I haven't had a prescription filled since 2011 (!) and they didn't have any insurance on file. And the eye drops and antibiotic were over $200 (!!). When the pharmacy tech asked if I had an insurance card, I looked at her like a deer caught in headlights.

Uhhh...no, I don't.

She looked at me kinda strange-like, and said she couldn't do anything for me until she knew who to bill.

Again. Uhhh...

I mean honestly, am I missing part of my brain? Because all I had to do was tell her to look under my husband's file and get the insurance information. Or look through my wallet and find the stupid card (which I do have, by the way), but instead of opting for any of those, I just left.

My poor daughter.

Who needs eye drops because she has the most contagious virus out there--pink eye. Yuck. When the school nurse called me yesterday, I was right in the middle of teaching classes, but I offered to come pick her up after I was done. I really thought it was just allergies and didn't think much of it, told the nurse to give her some Benedryl and thought nothing more of it until she got off the bus, eye red and bloodshot and gross.

And she was completely out of it from the unneeded dose of Benedryl.

Oh, my. I may have underestimated the situation.

So when we got to the pharmacy at 8:15 this morning, after backing into the garage door and discovering it wouldn't close, I found out that the eye drops and antibiotic were still going to cost over $80.

Uhhh...no.

So after a lengthy conversation with both a pharmacy tech and the pharmacist, we decided the best thing to do was to call the doctor and get new (less pricey) prescriptions. But at 9:15, after testing all the sparkley fingernail polishes we could find (sorry, I know I shouldn't do that, but what else were we going to do for an hour at CVS?), the doctor still hadn't called back, so we left. Again. With no prescription.



I mean really.

The doctor's office seemed to think that he would get around to calling the pharmacy around 1:00-ish.

The poor girl's promotion ceremony is tomorrow morning, and she has a pool party in the afternoon that she's been looking forward to for weeks. But if I don't get a prescription and her eye doesn't clear up, I'm pretty sure no one is going to appreciate me sending her to the pool with a red, bloodshot, grody eye.

I know I feel like my eye is kind of ichy. I hope this is a mind-over-matter thing.

I need to just lay down and start over.

What We Learned Today:
1. Use your head.
2. Be sure the garage door is all the way up before you back out.
3. Pay attention to life happening around you. It helps.
4. If you have pink eye and don't have the prescription yet, get some of the pink over-the-counter stuff, because surely something is better than nothing. (I did not do this, by the way. See #1).

You will do foolish things, 
but do them with enthusiasm.
{colette}

Monday, June 2, 2014

Stop: The Top 10

I had to laugh (only because the other option was to cry, and who wants to do that?) when I saw my stats this morning. Normally, they're pretty good and I won't complain, although it would be nice to have a blog as popular as some of the ones that are out there. But when I saw that 2 people--yes, TWO--had checked out my blog this morning, it was quite a shock.

Thank you to the two people who read this morning. Hats off to you.

Moving on.

Did you know that mothers have the most influence when it comes to shaping their daughters? And that's not all. According to this pbs.com article, friends of moms have just as important a role to play when it comes to shaping and molding our future female generation.

This bothers me.

It bothers me because sometimes I am just as insecure as I felt the first day of sixth grade, when all I could think about what whether my hair looked okay and did my outfit match okay and man, I wish I didn't have to wear these pink plastic-framed glasses. I can look at my body in the mirror and see all the flaws but none of the strengths, and it will bother me for days when I take something someone says as an offense. When I look at a Cosmo or Women's Health and compare myself to the desperately thin and perfect models, I'm showing my daughter that the standard is impossibly high, and that she shouldn't be content with how she looks, but should strive for unrealistic beauty goals.

That's me on the far right with the purple sweater and stripey jeans.
Who rocks her pink plastic frames?

And now I read that my daughter's friends see these tendencies in me, too.

Did you just utter a deep sigh, too?

I've noticed that when it comes to their own daughter, mothers have a lot to say. Especially about how their daughters look.

Can we stop focusing on this? I'm afraid that it's giving them the wrong impression. I'm afraid that even though we mean well and truly want the very best for our daughters, we are telling them that how they look should be their number one priority, through what we say and how we act.

I'll never forget seeing a sick young lady on The Today Show a couple of years ago. She was so cute.

She was anorexic.

And she was six.

Her reasoning behind her refusal to eat, so said she, was because everyone would tell her that she looked just like her mother. But her mother would peer into her mirror everyday and comment on how fat she was. And this little girl reasoned that if she looked like her mother, and her mother believed she was fat, then she must be fat, too.

Six.

But it's not that far off from where we are, is it?

So I'm challenging you (and me) today to let it go for a week. Watch what you say and how you say it. And before you speak, think about how it might be impacting your little girl.

Stop: The Top 10 (according to me)

1. Commenting on how fat/gross/untoned/ugly you look.
2. Commenting on your daughter's current weight.
3. Commenting on other people's daughters weight and/or height.
4. Comparing your daughter to her friends, with respect to weight and/or height.
5. Comparing the size of your clothes/shoes/bras/shirts to the size of your daughter's clothes/shoes/bras/shirts, etc.
6. Comparing your daughter's friends clothing size to your daughter's clothing size.
7. Comparing your height, your husbands height, your grandmother's height to your daughter's height. Sometimes, it doesn't make her feel good to know she's almost as tall as/as big as __________. It just makes her feel big.
8. Comparing how small you were when you were her age/height (or when you were older than her but remember yourself to be much smaller--please) to her current weight/height.
9. Commenting on how she looks in certain attire (i.e. bathing suits, short skirts, etc).
10. Commenting on how big she's gotten and how tall you think she's going to be. Especially when it's someone else's daughter.

Look, our girls have it hard enough with boys and peer pressure and the influence of the media without us giving them the impression that beauty and weight is all that should matter to a woman.

You think I'm that far off? I've had several conversations within the last week that would say otherwise. And people are constantly commenting on my own daughter's height--and not necessarily how heavy she is, but how big she's gotten. And I'll tell you right now, it doesn't make her feel good.  She's already unhappy with certain aspects of the way she looks, and I take some of the responsibility for that. I've been incredibly focused for the entirety of her years on how I look, and can be extremely critical of myself. But we all have to stop thinking that the comments we make don't matter, because they do, and they have a lasting impact on our girls.