Wednesday, November 26, 2014

I'll Pray For You

I'll pray for you.

I've heard it for my entire life.

You're in our thoughts and prayers.

Usually it's an answer for an uncomfortable, tense, or sad situation where you don't know what else to say. But what does it really mean?



I've heard it used so much that it almost seems like something you just say. Pray for our country. Pray for our troops. Pray for healing. Pray for miracles. Pray for peace.

(And we should.)

The prayer quotient just gets upped this time of year, as if God might hear our prayers around the holidays more than he would in June.

Can we pray to a God whose very existence we doubt?

I'm still alive but barely breathing
Just prayed to a God that I don't believe in.
{breakeven, the script}

For me, it means I have really great intentions, but not so great follow-through. It means I really want to make the person I'm talking to feel better in the moment, with nice words and a generous hug, but words that don't come from the heart don't mean much.

People know when you aren't being sincere. They know when you are using prayer as a cover-up for a lack of words, feelings, thoughts or emotions.

Prayer is one of the sweetest acts of love a person can offer. To go to God on behalf of someone else is such a beautiful gift. But who wants to open a pretty package, only to find it empty on the inside?

Rejoice always, 
pray continually, 
give thanks in all circumstances; 
for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
{1 thessalonians 5: 16-18}

Maybe this is one of the many reasons Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5 to pray continually. Because we are a distracted people, forgetful, prone to make promises we can't keep. And maybe we make those promises with no intention of keeping them, because it sounds good at the time.

For me, prayer is more about humbling oneself to the will of God than getting what you want. Even if I'm more polite about it and add a please to every prayer request I say, if I'm not humbling my heart, but only expecting what I want when I want it, then I've missed the point.

Humbling my heart is not an easy thing to do. I tell my kids often that the world does not revolve around them. I could be reminded of the same thing.

I want to be more intentional with my prayer. Instead of promising prayer with a half-hearted attempt at actually praying for that person, I want to do what I say. I want to offer the best gift I know to give--prayer--to people who have hurting hearts and I want them to know I mean what I say. Even if it means saying a prayer right away so I don't forget. I want to humble my spirit so that God knows I'm serious about my prayer.

His will be done.

Couldn't we all use a prayer?

Have a prayer request? I'll pray for you.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

5'5"

Sixth grade. I remember it well. (But maybe not so fondly.)

I was five feet, five inches tall (taller than my petite--shoe size 5.5--mama), wore a 7.5 size shoe, weighed 130 pounds, wore a size 9 in juniors, had pink glasses and permed hair. I towered above almost all the boys and most of the girls, and all my mom's friends would comment on my size.

My goodness, look how big you're getting!

Wow, you're taller than your mom!

Look at you, how big you've gotten over the summer!

It was true. I'd always been bigger than my friends, taller and more...sturdy than the little girls I went to school with. So the fact that I grew to the size of an adult in a matter of 10 weeks, and people always commented on it, did not help my self-confidence.

Yup, that's me!

And then {drama}--a boy called me ugly. Ugly! And I believed him. (Greg McGarry, if you're out there somewhere, just know that you are still on notice for that.)

Nobody puts Baby in a corner. Or me, either. So I set out on my own personal vendetta to prove him (and myself) W-R-O-N-G. I already felt less than because I wasn't little. Or particularly stunning. And I wanted to be those things. Like really, really bad. So I learned about skin care and makeup techniques, scoured fashion magazines for the latest trend, watched runway shows on E! and took approximately 3.5 hours to get ready--to go anywhere (leading to a devastating trend of arriving late to school, which my teachers--Mrs. Haddad in particular--took exception to, which lead to a career in detention that I cannot say I am proud of).

I used to ask my mom if there was a way to cut my legs to make me shorter. Little. More petite. Because I felt huge.

I've tried in a gentle, not-so-direct way tell others not to compare or comment on my daughter's size, whether that be the size of her feet, her height, or her clothes, because I know how it feels. Try not to comment on how she's taller than ________ or bigger than _______. And I've told her over and over again how much I grew the summer before sixth grade, all in an effort to try and shield her from, and maybe prepare her for, what I know might be an issue for her. We've talked about confidence and inner beauty and all the things I didn't feel like I had a handle on in middle school, with the hopes that she would get what I didn't.

So when she let out a dejected sigh and wished out loud that she was shorter, a little part of my insides caved in and cried.

"I hate being tall, and I hate being big, and I hate it when people comment on it. I wish I was shorter."

The same cry of my own heart, 20-some years later.

I was watching the intro to the USA reality TV show Chrisley Knows Best, and apparently two of the kids had gone out and spent $200+ dollars at a deli (???), and dad was understandably angry. But he looked at them and said "I have created these two monsters sitting in front of me today."

And I know, in my heart of hearts, that I must take some of the blame for creating what my daughter has become. It would be foolish to sit back and think that my own inner struggle with confidence and beauty doesn't have an impact on her, as it would also be stupid to assume that she doesn't notice when I'm in the middle of a fierce battle against...well, myself.

I would sit and compare myself to Cosmo or Seventeen and falsely conclude that if I could look like that, then I would be happy with myself. I would no longer believe Greg McGarry or anybody else. If I was beautiful and thin, then I could be happy. But then thin became not thin enough, and beautiful became not beautiful enough, and I struggled to find any security or happiness in the constantly evolving world of weight and appearance.

Sometimes I think I should remove every single mirror from my house so that I won't be so tempted to look and judge myself. Sometimes I think that I should gather up my family and move to a remote part of the world, where the issues that I face today, like what my kids see on Instagram (Nicki Minaj + bad teacher Halloween costume = bad news) and the constant influx of this narrow definition of beauty, wouldn't be so hard to deal with. But since neither of those are really viable options, especially for a girl who sees a mirror as a piece of art to decorate with as much as anything else, it stands to reason that changing my perspective on the importance of beauty as well as my source of happiness would be a good thing.

I've seen the influence I can have on my daughter--negative and positive. And when it comes to showing her that beauty comes from the inside, no matter what the number on the scale may be, well, that's an attitude I have to model for her. To show her that confidence comes from knowing who you are in Christ, that beauty comes from letting the Holy Spirit shine through you, that security comes from standing on the solid foundation of Christ, because everything else is like shifting sand.

I don't want her to go through life battling the same issues I have, for sure. Just living on this planet is enough of a battle in and of itself. And I can't go back and undo what I've already done. But I can change my perspective so that we can begin walking a new path.



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Monday, November 24, 2014

Have Faith

faith[feyth]










noun
1.
confidence or trust in a person or thing:

2.
belief that is not based on proof:

3.
belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion:

google images

I find the concept of faith to be intrinsically difficult. I'm not a natural believer, but a person who likes to have proof before she puts confidence in anything. Isn't that what we're taught as kids? That we can't believe everything we see, hear or read? That not everything is truth, but that lies must be weeded out before truth can be seen--and even then, you must be very, very careful?

My mom used to warn  me against believing the lies and truths of other people, because I used to be (and still am) such a gullible person. (This is not a trait I am proud of or happy that I possess, and sometimes I work extra-hard to be the opposite. How's that for a little messed up?)

Maybe I'm just a cynical person. (I know I'm a cynical person.) 

But even through my ever-present skepticism, I still find myself taking risks with people, which brings out fear and anxiety. Sometimes after I become friends with somebody, I can't believe the things I've shared--and this is the part I hate--even though I warn myself time and time again do not over-share. Do not share your heart. Do not speak out of the comfort zone of the conversation. 

But, as fate would have it, every other time I meet someone and get to know them, I let out more than I intended, I share my heart and my pain, and I take the risk that once they get to know me, they may not really want to know me anymore. 

Because, see, I used to be a person who didn't know Christ. I knew who He was, I just didn't know Him. I had been churched my whole life, going to Sunday School every Sunday and following (most of) the rules I had been taught. A nice little life, an easy belief system, a fool-proof way to get into Heaven. It was very black-and-white for me. But when my whole world was rocked by the death of my grandfather and then mom, and the subsequent imploding of my family and the world I had known, the easy belief system I had become so accustomed to didn't provide any solid ground to stand on. Going to Sunday School didn't cut it anymore. Following all the rules didn't provide any comfort. 

"Come," he said. 
Then Peter got out of the boat, 
walked on the water 
and came toward Jesus.
{matthew 14:29}

But what I did discover, and quite by accident, I might add, is that life requires a little more than sitting in a pew and singing a praise song. When God found me, sitting in one of the darkest places I had ever known in my whole life, He showed me faith. And faith isn't easy. Faith means putting confidence in Someone I can't truly see or hear or touch. It means not having solid proof, other than the changes made in my life, of the existence of God. It means reading God's Word and believing it for what it says, and not trying to make it into something it's not.

I did not abandon ship and jump into the vast ocean of faith immediately, just so you know. I asked God for signs, for proof of His existence, daily. (P.S. God loves me, but He doesn't play that game.) But He did begin showing me signs of life beyond my darkness. Peace and calm that doesn't come from Zoloft. Joy that cannot be explained. Passions I didn't know I had. A peek at a freedom I had never experienced. Patience that I knew I didn't possess. A willingness to take risks, to go outside my comfort zone, even though that's a scary place for me. 

Relationships are full of give and take. And sometimes I take back all the faith I ever put in God, and I doubt everything. But I know if I stay in that place for long, it will ruin me, and the thought of being ruined is even scarier than the thought of putting my faith in the God of the universe. So we pick up right where we left off, me putting my fears and anxieties and troubles and doubts on His shoulders, right where they belong.

And I can begin to see that regardless of the clouds, it's a beautiful day.

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

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Choice

Girls.

Strong. Brave. Courageous. Determined. Spirited. Creative. Lovely.

Dumb.

I know this because I am a girl, and I have done some dumb things and I have believed some dumb lies. So I shouldn't have been surprised when the stories started rolling in about the girls in middle school, because if one slice of the population takes the cake for being dumb, it's those (boys, too) between the ages of 13 and 25.

Now that I am beyond the age of 25, I feel I am allowed to say this with certainty. Although many a dumb decision comes past that age, too. Just read the newspaper.

But this particular story got me raising both my eyebrows. I said story, because here's the thing about middle school: half (or more than half) of what you hear is a big ol' fabrication, made up to either a) hurt the person being talked about or b) elevate the status and therefore the attention received by the person being talked about.

As my pastor always says, hurt people hurt people.

I'll give you the details, you fill in the rest: high school boy, broken condom, TWELVE YEAR OLD GIRL, miscarriage.

You picking up what I'm laying down?

This is the gossip coming home to my ears, and I don't like it.

Because true or not (likely not, but what do I know), somebody along the way made a really dumb decision. To make up a story and tell it. Or to actually participate in this sordid love lust story.

I have all kinds of questions related to this tale, none of which could be answered by the young one relaying the gossip. The first question being what the heck? (Well, at first it wasn't worded so nicely in my head, but I was able to tone it down.)

So we had to have a quick convo about choices. I say quick because here's another middle school factoid you may not know: they don't like to listen.

I know, I should probably be forcing more conversation over topics like sex and alcohol, but when I start saying come back here and look at me and let me see your eyes and it is disrespectful to walk away while I am talking to you more than I'm saying anything else, even I know it's time to redirect. And I thought redirecting was a thing for the twos and threes.

Choices. We all have to make them, daily, and some are mundane (toast or cereal?), while some are more exciting (Hawaii or Bahamas?), and some are just plain hard (pay this bill or pay for food?). But we have all been in situations where we allow other people to influence our decision-making, and sometimes we make choices that we know won't be good for us, but they feel good at the time. And most of the time we have to deal with the consequences of the choices we make, and when it was not the best choice we could have made, the results usually aren't so fun. But sometimes we get so stuck in a cycle of bad choices, it seems impossible to get out. They become almost like habits.

One of my habits is thinking that I do life on my own, my way. And so even though I pray for wisdom and discernment and knowledge and understanding and everything else I ask for that I think will make life easier (and possibly even better), I'm not willing to give up my way to get what I want. So I try to beg and plead with God, but I also know that I'm begging and pleading on my own terms, because I'm not willing to fully submit.

Isn't that a ghastly word?

There are lots of different synonyms for submit. Like I could also say I'm not willing to kowtow to someone else, and I think everybody would go well, duh. But if I said I'm not willing to defer to, or acquiesce to, or even if I said I wasn't willing to respect, then you might have a different picture of me.

You see, I am a stubborn person, and I come from a long line of people with the same attitude (so I hear, anyway). The only person who is allowed to say that I am truly as stubborn as I am is my husband, and even then, I will vehemently deny said accusation. This stubbornness extends over into my relationships (like mother, like daughter), including my relationship with God. I acknowledge He has a will, a plan for my life, and that it's a good thing. (But I often think so. do. I.)

The problem is that my plan (many, many times) gets me in trouble, or at the very least doesn't accomplish what I thought. And then I go to God upset, because He allowed this to happen. And I think why, why, why, why, and I give Him my list of things I need (wisdom would be great), and I tell Him my terms, and we start all over again.

It's been a slow process, but I've come to realize that God doesn't ask me to submit to His will because He want to control me like a puppet. He wants me to submit to His will so I can be in His perfect will. Acknowledging His might and His power and His authority in my life might seem frustrating, but it actually puts me in a position of being protected, plus, when we start working together, me with Him, I start seeing the fruits of that decision more clearly. Wisdom. Discernment. Peace. Joy. A more positive attitude.

I know my kids don't see anything but negative when I ask them to do what I say rather than being swept up in the current of public opinion, but I know that I have their best interests at heart, and ultimately, I want to protect them from making dumb mistakes. I know they won't always listen, and they will make mistakes. But I pray that when the rubber meets the road, and they have the opportunity to make a choice, they'll remember one thing.

Nobody ever did, 
or ever will, 
escape the consequences of his choices.
{alfred a. montapert}

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Do Not Be Anxious

As I sit here, warm cuppa beside me, amazon.com tab pulled up (grey and ivory chevron rug runner is my obsession right now), I feel that deep pull of anxiety in my soul, and I know that if I give in, it will ruin me.

I've been there before. Where anxiety and depression pull and tug on the heart until you just simply cannot take another minute of the thoughts swirling around in your head. I know all too well how that feels. And while the sources change, the feeling remains the same.

It has occurred to me as time has gone by how much my posts have changed. All I wanted, when I first started blogging, was to feel secure about who I am, to embrace the person that I am, to be free from the constant pressure (it might be pressure I put on myself, but it's still pressure) to show the world at large a perfect face. And I wanted to share with you the things I was learning as I started changing and growing, because these aren't things we should keep to ourselves. I still want to feel secure about who I am and I still want to be able to embrace my own brand of beauty. But lately, most of my posts have centered around parenting, because right now, parenting my two children is consuming me. Sometimes to the point where it's all I think about.

I know in my head that I do have enough. I do have what it takes to parent these two kids, who, by the way, but have been entrusted to me--specifically-- to take care of.

However.

Sometimes, and it seems this happens at the most crucial hours, I totally forget that I have been given the essential skills I need to parent the children that I have. And then I flail around in this ocean of parenting, looking for a life raft, or a Strawberry Shortcake floatie, or something to keep my head above water. And it's only because I have taken my eyes off of Jesus that I'm coughing and sputtering, but something happens in this head of mine that makes me think that He is my last resort instead of my first. But I think He has placed me here, in the middle of this ocean, with no land in sight, because He knows that I need to rely on Him and only Him, and if I see land, I'm going to try to row to shore.

google images

Last weekend, there was a vigorous debate over the merits of allowing my daughter and her friends to watch a PG-13 movie. While we ultimately decided that the content was a bit heavy for a sleepover (although, I argued in my head, I watched Dirty Dancing at sleepovers when I was 12), the debate didn't end with my daughter, who is decidedly persistent. And last night, there was an energetic and robust dispute over being allowed to watch TV while doing homework, which is against the rules in our house, although it would seem that everybody else in the entire world watches TV while they do their homework. There was a one-sided conversation (with me being the talker and my son being the listener, or ignorer, depends how you look at it) about making friends. And even though most of the time he insists that he doesn't want any more friends, there was a quiet moment yesterday where he looked at me and quietly admitted that it was lonely to sit by himself and draw because he doesn't have any friends in his class, and yes, he wishes he did have more friends.

And my heart aches for my children, for her stubbornness and defiance, and his loneliness.

The ache turns into that anxious tug that won't go away, that threatens to occupy my thoughts and turn the occasional sleepless night into a frenzy of distressing, albeit illogical, speculation.

My mind races with thoughts like am I doing the right thing? and what can I do? and should I do something different? and will they be okay? My thought processes begin and end with the same statement: I don't know what else to do. And it makes me feel helpless, because I feel like I should know what to do, and somewhere along the line, I missed the memo RE: KNOWING WHAT TO DO.

Enter anxiety.

That feeling hovers somewhere in the back of my mind, and while I can distract myself and forget about it for a few minutes, or a few hours, I know it's still there, like a dark cloud hanging over my head, and when I allow my thoughts to center on that feeling, the anxiety rushes in like a fog, smothering me under it's weight.

As I struggled under that weight this morning, thinking of all the things I feared most for my kids in their current state of affairs, it suddenly occurred to me that not only was this weight too heavy, but it was unnecessary. I was not made to carry such a heavy burden, and I was reminded of that when I caught a glimpse of a verse I have written and taped up in my closet.

Do not be anxious about anything
but in every situation
by prayer and petition, 
with thanksgiving, 
present your requests to God. 
And the peace of God
which transcends all understanding, 
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
{philippians 4:6-7}

I am slowly beginning to understand that I'm not out here in the middle of the ocean all by myself, as He is gently, day in and day out, reminding me that He's not providing a life raft because He is my life raft. I need to depend on Him, and only Him, in every situation, not just the ones that I've checked as okay. Compartmentalizing my life and applying the God treatment to certain areas doesn't work. He want access to it all, and I don't need to be so afraid to open all those doors.

houzz.com

I've tried to memorize Philippians 4 so that I can repeat it to myself when I start feeling anxious, but I don't memorize things all that well, and sometimes all I can get out is don't worry and peace of God. But I know that he knows that what I'm trying to do is remember to put my trust in Him instead of in anything else, because I want that peace in my life.

We may not do this parenting thing perfectly, but at least we aren't doing it alone.

Fear not, 
for I am with you; 
be not dismayed, 
for I am your God; 
I will strengthen you, 
I will help you; 
I will uphold you 
with my righteous right hand.
{isaiah 41: 10}

Monday, November 17, 2014

enough

I have a prayer that I've been praying for a long, long time. It has yet to be answered.

It goes something like this:

Dear God, Please heal these horrendously ugly varicose veins on my legs. Amen.

Sometimes I feel like that's a prayer that could be answered in a way that would blow me away. He could actually answer that prayer, and I would sing hallelujah at the top of my lungs. I'd also show everybody my legs, even though the Dear God, please let me be tan has also not been answered and would be a miracle in and of itself. (Just as an aside, country music these days is all about the long, tan legs, of which I have neither, and it's starting to make me mad. There's more to a girl than long, tan legs, Jason Aldean.)

Sometimes I worry that I'm not enough. Or that I don't have enough.

I'm not talking about money or possessions. I'm talking about the enough that makes you feel like life is worth getting up for every morning.

One of my biggest worries in life right now? My kids. And my parenting skills. I often wonder if I have the grit and the determination it takes to be a good parent. My perfectionist tendencies veer me off-course sometimes, not allowing for mistakes. And then my brain speaks up, a reminder that in real life, mistakes happen. Of course we will make mistakes. Everybody does. But even so, I still wonder, with that little voice that speaks up in the back of my head: do I have what it takes to be a good parent to my children? Am I raising them to be good citizens, unselfish and proactive, givers instead of takers, faithful and loyal, and followers of Christ?

Mostly, I feel like I'm severely lacking in resources when it comes to parenting. I don't feel like I have enough to complete the job--and be good at it. Why? Because often times, I find myself staring out the window, wondering if the decision I made was the right one. Or if I acted quickly enough. Or if I'm too strict. (That's a big one right now.)

The Lord turned to him and said, 
'Go in the strength you have and 
deliver Israel from the power of Midian. 
Am I not sending you?' 
He said to Him, 
'Please, Lord, how can I deliver Israel? 
Look, my family is the weakest in Manasseh, 
and I am the youngest in my father's house.'
 'But I will be with you,' 
the Lord said to him.
 'You will strike Midian down as if it were one man.'
{judges 6:14-16}

I recently read about how Gideon didn't feel like he had enough either--especially when God pared his army down from 30,000 to 300. And then sent Gideon out to defeat the Midianites, who boasted an army much, much, much larger. But God promised to deliver the Israelites, and He did. But Gideon had to have the faith to go in the first place, and looking at those odds, that's a tough place to start.

Here's the secret: 
You're better off with God's 300 than your own 30,000 
because His deliverance is only guaranteed to come through His supply. 
Bigger isn't always better. 
More is vastly overrated. 
Believe it or not, you have exactly what you need 
in time, gifts, talents, provision, and spiritual resources. 
In fact, He has graciously 
"granted to [you] everything pertaining to life and godliness" 
(2 Peter 1:3).
{priscilla shirer, seed}

So even though I feel like I'm running on empty in the parenting department, I've actually been given what I need to parent the children I've been given. Everything pertaining to life. And godliness. So why don't I feel like it?

When I'm feeling like I don't have enough, I automatically look inward, as if I'm expecting my soul to squeeze out one last good idea. But when I'm already feeling empty, looking inward isn't exactly the place to be looking. Faith is a difficult concept to begin with. Everything in me fights the concept of having faith in something I cannot see or hear or feel, but then again, if I could see it and feel it and hear it, then it wouldn't require faith, would it? But even so, I don't often look to the source of my faith for encouragement, and I end up feeling overwhelmed and crushed by the weight of worry and doubt.

Gideon knew he was weak and didn't think he could possibly achieve this lofty goal. But the Lord promised to be with him. And He has made that same promise many, many years later to you and me. He is with me.

I do have enough. In Him.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

stupid is as stupid does {sigh}

Sooooooooooooooo...I kind of have a little bit of a confession to make.

A Saturday post was necessary to air my gaffe.

You know how I told you this week that my stupid computer was broken and I had to haul the kids to the library and nobody could do any work because the stupid computer was broken?

Well. {ahem}

It turns out it wasn't the computer that was being stupid.

The good news is that the computer works! Thanks to my ever-clever and capable husband, who discovered that no, the computer wasn't broken, the cord just wasn't plugged in properly in the little junction box (you know, that thing that seems unnecessary that connects the cords in the middle). I mean, the battery back-up doesn't work, so that's a mark against the computer. But the computer?

It works.

So no need to ring the alarm, as it were. No hasty, impetuous Apple AirBook purchase required. {sigh}

 See you Monday.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Library is Where It's At

Is it a bad sign when you come to the library and the same woman with the same sunglasses is sitting at the same computer as the last time you were here? What does this say? And about whom?

I'm at the library because I ain't got no good computer at home, and this kid of mine likes Minecraft too much. Plus I wanted to check in with y'all, see how life is.

A library observation, if I may:

1) This is supposed to be a quiet place. Just like in Ghostbusters, when the ghost lady turns to The Busters and puts her fingers to her lips. SHHHHHHHHHHH. I mean that's, like, a rule.

I am not kidding you when I say that this scene scared the _____ out of me. Seriously.

2) It smells weird. It just does. I think it's a combo of the coffee shop and the kid sitting next to me, earbuds in, playing some sort of colorful game. If he's reading this, then sugar, a shower is a necessary thing. (I just turned my monitor a little just in case.)

And to the left is my enthusiastic Minecraft player, building Super-Charged Fire Arrow Launchers and Classic Jeb Doors and Deluxe Lighting Systems.

Now that other guy's playing some sort of shooting, bloody game.

Geez, Heather, eyes on your own paper.

It's not that I'm so curious about what he's doing, although that mouse over there is going crazy. It's that I'm so completely and utterly distractable. My mind is absolutely going at full capacity, taking every sound, color and noise in, and mine poor eyes just want to see. It all. So all that swirling around in my brain makes for some chaos sometimes, but I've learned to deal with it. Except for today. Because that darn mouse clicking over there has got. To. Stop. I cannot deal. And I'm the creeper because I'm giving that guy the side-eye. What?

I have arrived today in stunning attire. Workout leggings. Black and white leopard-print wooden clogs, with the mary-jane strap, what what. Black long-sleeved cotton (with thumb-holes, should my hands get cold at the library, obvi) workout shirt. Black legwarmers. And white knit hat with two ginormous rhinestone trimmings.  All from my workout this morning. And sans makeup, except for sparkly lipgloss, because this outfit needs no other frippery. Personal style? I've got my finger on that pulse.

My time here is running short, because I have a soiree I am planning this evening, and I baked caramel brownies. Yes. I, Hater Of Sugar, baked caramel brownies. And I ate some. And I liked it. Except that instead of baking the brownies as directed (9x13 pan), I made up my own Mini Caramel Brownies, complete with cute cupcake wrappers. Here's the thing. Caramel is sticky. And it tends to stick to paper. Like really bad. So while my idea was truly grand, and may I say ambitious, it may not have been a well-thought-out idea, which may have been why one (maybe) should just stick with the tried-and-true way of doing things. I always say how are you supposed to know if you don't try? as a way to kind of make my kids feel better when they make a mistake (or me, as in today). Was I supposed to just assume that the caramel would stick to the cupcake wrappers???

Plan A is to stick with the plan and serve my daughter's friends sticky, gooey brownies in cupcake wrappers, pile some ice cream on top and call it a success. Plan B is to go to the store, buy the ingredients again, and make it like it's supposed to be make (glass pan). Plan C is to go to the store and buy a cookie cake. Since Plan C is not my fave (don't like store bought cakes, but you already know this), and Plan B would take waaaaay too much time (that I don't have, I mean, we'd be eating brownies at 9PM. Maybe.), I believe I'll go with Plan D: Go home. Assess. Ask for a willing taste-tester to test said brownies.

I hope the paper doesn't taste too bad topped with caramel, chocolate and lots of vanilla ice cream,

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

In a Few Days, I'll Be Back

Ok. So today I decided I needed to lay my tired self down and rest my eyes for just a few minutes.

I really didn't think I'd fall asleep.

Until I was jolted awake some 25 minutes later by the doorbell ringing dingdongdingdongdingdongdingdongdingdong and there was my son, home from school.

Talk about rude awakenings.

And then I was all like disoriented and groggy and couldn't walk straight, like I'd had a bottle of whiskey in my hand all morning.

Not a good feeling.

So when we went to turn on the computer so both kids could do their homework, and it wouldn't turn on, well, I didn't know what to make of it, other than to throw my good-for-nothing laptop out the window.

Onward, soldier, the library awaits.

On the way, Miss Sass informed me, after I told them to stop talking in the car because they were arguing about nothing, that this is a free country and she has freedom of speech.

Did I mention she's studying The Constitution and The Bill of Rights in history?

So here we are, at the library, sitting right in a row, so we can use the computers here, and as it turns out, the computers here might be slower than the one we have at home, which is saying a lot.

All this to say, a) it's going to be a long night hanging out at the library, b) you don't realize how much you use a laptop until you can't use it anymore, and c) I won't be posting for a few days, because my good-for-nothing laptop refuses to cooperate or show signs of life. It's okay, because the speakers don't work on it anymore anyway, so YouTube videos, video games, Skype and everything else requiring sound are pointless. But still. So very inconvenient. So thanks for nothin', laptop.

I'll talk to you in a few days!

Signing off...

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Based on Perception

As fate would have it, my immune system isn't as strong as I had hoped, and has succumbed to a cold so taxing all I want to do is sleep.

And I want my ears to pop so that I can hear something other than the sound of my own labored breathing. And my own swallowing.

So it only makes sense that I would take it easy today, using the time I have to myself wisely. By sleeping. Unfortunately, I have a mind that doesn't turn off easily, which means that even though I might lay down and close my eyes, I'm still thinking about a) new projects, b) old projects, or c) current projects that are underway but still unfinished. I'm great at starting them. Not so hot to trot on finishing. In an effort to rest, I picked up my book and began reading.

I've learned that in my world one's reputation is based on perception, rarely fact. It was the perception of my fabulous life that made it fabulous, at least in my friend's eyes. The minute a perceived weakness reared its ugly head all bets were off.
{linda francis lee, the devil in the junior league}

A perceived weakness.

I'm willing to bet that none of us have perfect lives, and as a result, the weaknesses aren't perceived, they are real. But we if live with the belief that perception has to be picture-perfect, with no room for flaws or mistakes, then we are setting ourselves up for a lifetime of stress, strain and exhaustion.

It's tempting to want others to think that life is perfect. Maybe it even makes us think that our life actually is perfect, or at least a slice of it is. The slice you let other people see.

I used to think that I had to be perfect, or at least act like it, so that other people would think I was perfect, because I was afraid that if anyone really knew that sometimes I yell at my kids and I lose control and I relate to colors better than I do math, and it takes me awhile to do simple math in my head (I'm all about the counting on fingers and talking the whole problem out while you're working it out, so while I eventually arrive at the same or near the same answer as a certified math person, such as my husband, it takes me a whole lot longer to get there), and sometimes I don't do small talk, and for no rhyme or reason I'll make a snap judgement about someone and not ever really give them a chance, and I also want everybody to like me really bad so sometimes I am a people pleaser but there are times when I'm totally passive-aggressive and I am direct and candid and blunt and come across just a tad bit bitchy--and sometimes I cuss just because even though I was taught otherwise--well, all that makes me really scared and afraid that if people really knew me, I wouldn't have any friends.

And let me tell you. I need friends.

So I would box up all my perceived weaknesses, like the fact that I'm totally attention deficit, and pretend like all--and I mean everything--was 100%, entirely, perfectly put together.

Except that all the pretending on the outside started clashing with all the reality going on in my house. Like when Jon and I would disagree. Or I would forget about the laundry in the washing machine and leave it there for a couple of days. Or I would flake on a school function.

It made me hate the fact that I wasn't perfect, and strive all the more to get there.

I also erected high (and I hoped) impenetrable walls around my heart so that no one could get to know the real me. They would only know the me that I was comfortable presenting.

I don't think I had anyone fooled. Not my husband. Not my sister. And definitely not my Creator, who knows my heart, my thoughts, and the number of hairs on my head.

Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  
Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
{luke 12:7}

When I decided to allow the love of Christ to fill my soul, rather than the various and assorted other remedies I had been seeking, the insecurity surrounding not being perfect slowly began to fade away. There is an ebb and flow to the process; I wasn't wiped clean overnight, and I still deal with the insecurity of knowing that other people know that I relate to colors better than I do math and that I get grievously offended by the simplest, silliest things and then let it make me mad for five days. And that I am totally passive-aggressive.  In a bad way.

But there is it, written for everybody to read.

Don't be afraid.

Don't be afraid of letting the experiences we've had, the feelings we feel, the good traits we like and the bad ones we don't, come forward in an real, honest, uncomplicated way.

Because it could actually help someone else.

It could, might, maybe, help someone else to know that what you deal with, they deal with, too. Or the feelings they are feeling aren't so singular, and in a real, honest, uncomplicated way, you could form a bond over knowing that life is hard and frustrating and sometimes you just don't know what to do, and you're there to help each other out.

Friends.

One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship 
is to understand 
and be understood.
{lucius annaeus seneca}


Friday, November 7, 2014

Happy Friday

Both my kids are home sick today.

Both of them.

They have a sick day, I have a sick day. It's not so bad. Until I'm the one that's sick. So I've been drinking my AirBorne and taking my Vitamin C and hoping and praying that The Sick passes over me and my incredibly unyielding immune system.

Last night, my son got sick. Like got sick. All over my bedroom floor. And so I directed him to the toilet before I went to clean it up. And on my way back through, it had spread. Yeah. Spread. And I didn't know that it had spread. And I stepped in it.

With my Bare. Freaking. Foot.

No, no, no, no, no! I wanted to scream. But it was quiet in the house and who wants a mother who is going to pieces on the floor in the middle of sick and blankets and pillows and paper towels and Clorox and Fabuloso anyway? Especially when your bowing your head over a toilet?

So I refrained from screaming and wiped my foot off with the lavendar-scented Fabuloso, which isn't recommended for skin. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

I'd already been contaminated anyway.

So then I hauled all the sheets and blankets (he was sleeping on a little pallet in my room just in case he got sick) that had sick all over them to the laundry room, cleaned the toilet with Clorox, and lifted my hands to my face to shove my bangs out of the way.

And encountered wet. Wet from my hands transferred to my face.

Near my mouth.

Oh, lord, lord, lord, lord, lord, PLEASE do not let that have been sick that the Clorox didn't get off. 

And I looked down at my hands and inspected them very carefully. And there was a little piece of something, a foreign object on my finger. It looked like sick. I closed my eyes and bit my lips in and held back dramatic tears of tragedy and crisis, and stuck my hands under the burning hot water to wash them off. The injustice of it all, plus the fact that there was no one around to witness the bravery I had just demonstrated, was getting to me.

google images

Today, with two sick babies, I'm eyeing the door and realizing with certainty that there is no way out.

We have been infiltrated. We are contaminated.

I am a damsel in distress, with no one to rescue her from this desolation.



Happy Friday, y'all.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Church...and Cliques?

Don't pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. 
{romans 12:9-10}

I am so tired of cliques. And you know where I am the most tired of cliques?

Church.

I belong to a very popular, hip church with a hip pastor and hip-pastor wannabes. This church was the original hipster church, and even though we now have several other hipster churches in the area, this one stays relevant and prominent in my area.

I was relieved to graduate from high school and all it's petty nonsense, with it's favorite hip teachers to the too-cool-for-school in-crowd, and the people who couldn't possibly be friends with someone outside (double gasp!) their circle, only to find out that the same kids who formed cliques in high school form them as adults, too. I was dismayed when I joined the PTA when my daughter was in kinder, only to find that there was a distinct, yet unspoken, division among the moms and dads.

My mama told me to a) be nice and smile, b) try to learn everyone's name, c) don't follow the crowd or conform to one certain clique, and d) don't leave anyone out. Especially on purpose.

I know what you're saying. A clique is simply a group of people who have common interests who have become friends. Like "Hey, you have a nose and I have a nose. We have something in common. Let's be friends!"

I'm here to call bull manure on that.

When a group of people who have noses because their noses are what they have in common ignore or exclude other people who have noses, simply because they are already full up on noses in their group, or they don't like the other noses, you have a clique.

And I'm so stinking tired of walking around my own church on Sunday morning and Sunday night and seeing people I know and have at least communicated with on a superficial level pretend like they don't 1) see me (I mean really?) or 2) know me. Listen, I know that some of the onus lies with me. I didn't take my mom's advice in high school because I was afraid of being rejected, and I haven't totally taken it as an adult. And I'm a borderline introvert, which means I love to be around people, but sometimes I need to recharge on my own. I'm just a little bit shy, and a little bit afraid of being rejected by someone who has purposefully forgotten my name.

I always had this false hope that everybody would somehow like me. But, as a fellow bible study partner once pointed out, I don't like everybody, and I can't expect everybody to like me.

BUT WE CAN STILL BE NICE. And kind. And all the other synonyms that go along with those words.

I went to a church function not too long ago. Lots of people were invited, and I knew many of those invited, but not very well. It was a dinner, with rounders set up all over the room. This sort of situation makes me slightly uncomfortable, as I don't want to be the last one left in a game of musical chairs. So I sat down at a table. By myself. And I hoped and prayed that some of the people that I a) know and b) have communicated with, at least on a superficial level, would come sit down with me. Because this is not the time or the place to reenact your high school drama and only sit at your lunch table with your clique.

Which is exactly what happened.

People want to sit together, and I get that. If I had known some of the people a little better, I would have sat down with them, too. And honestly, I probably wouldn't have noticed the girl in the jean jacket and awesome striped skirt sitting down by herself. Waiting and hoping that someone would break away from their group long enough to sit down with her for dinner. Or (what?) invite her over to their table to sit with them. Several people came up and asked if the seats at my table were taken. Uh, no. But when I invited them to sit down, they all informed me that sitting with their friends, or their life group, or their whoever, was what they really wanted to do but did I mind if they borrowed one or two of my chairs, because look, the table they were joining was full up on people with noses, and they needed to squeeze in.

Now if I were just a little more outgoing or a little less afraid, maybe I would have gone up to any one of those tables and bravely asked if I could join them. But to someone like me, that's like asking me to sing and dance a Beyonce medley out loud in the middle of church while the pastor is preaching.

And you know how us church-going folk would react to that.

Maybe you think I'm being overly sensitive. Maybe you're right, in a way. I already admitted that I may not have noticed me sitting all by myself. But not noticing does not excuse those who exclude others. The love of Christ encompasses all, not just a select few, and as the body of Christ, it is our job to make those who walk through the doors of our church feel loved and accepted. Church should be a safe haven, not a place people dread, yet one of the biggest issues I've heard discussed ad nauseam is the lack of response from those who are already members, who are already comfortable and included. I'm not saying not to have a group of friends, because this is one of the things that makes life more tolerable. Just make sure that's not all there is.

In light of all this, I've included a few pointers to remember when you're at church (but of course, this could always apply to any part of life, should you choose to make the application):

1) you do not have to be the pastor's best friend, or part of his inner circle, to be accepted or popular or well-liked.
2) even when you can't remember someone's name, smile and show that you recognize their existence. Then maybe (!) ask how they're doing. At least say hey. You don't have to like them. You just have to notice them.
3) when you attend a function or walk into a room, take a second to look around and notice other people. Continue to have fun and chat with friends. Noticing only takes a few seconds.
4) Make an effort to talk to someone you don't know. It doesn't have to be a deep, philosophical conversation on how to right all the wrongs in the world. It could simply be "Good Morning."
5) if you seriously don't know who I'm talking to, or think I'm not talking to you, then go look in the mirror introduce yourself to yourself. Because we all do it.
6) love, love, love others

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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Beautiful



 I am a self-professed lover of beauty. I have a passion for it. Sunsets and sunrises take my breath away. A violin and piano duet gives me chills. A sparkling diamond. A child's laugh. Mountains and palm trees, the ocean, white sand, a delicate rose, black and white photographs, architecture, the way a napkin is folded on a perfectly set table--I see beauty everywhere I look. And I want to dive in headfirst, to let this passion for beauty swallow me whole.

So much so that sometimes I forget.


I forget that God is the creator of all things beautiful.

The Heavens declare the glory of God;
The skies proclaim the work of His hands.
{psalm 19:1}

The human mind. And horses.




And I start to praise the beautiful things. I start to think that those are the things that will fill me up, that will make me so, so happy, that will keep me going when I get weary and tired and sad. And I start to desire those things more than I desire the One who created them.

It's okay to dream. I even think it's okay to let the passion for the gifts God has given us to run wild, untamed.

Free.

When I think of being free, I feel like I can breath again. But sometimes the very things that are supposed to make us free turn into heavy yokes on our back. Like when I start worshiping the gifts instead of the giver.

It's hard to deny God when you can look outside and see His Glory displayed.

Sometimes I do it anyway. I take for granted the things I see and touch, and my heart becomes calloused to the beauty all around me.

But when I am reminded of how great He is, it is a beautiful, beautiful thing.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Date Night. At Best Buy. Oh, Yeah.

My husband and I had a date night on Saturday.

"We should go to Corned Beef! Because dancing would be fun!" (If you know us, you know who would be excited about dancing all night at a bar. Or just dancing all night, period. Or at least just dancing until my strict, self-imposed 9:05 bedtime.)

He looked at me and gave me an annoyed side eye. I won't repeat what he said.

Sometimes I have great ideas. Sometimes I have not-so-great ideas. I'm okay with that.

So instead of Corned Beef, we found ourselves wandering, directionless, around Target (my choice, I had a return, and what better night to make a return than Saturday date night?) ending up of all places in the un-sexy women's pajama department, and then, afterwards, walking over to Best Buy. I haven't been to Best Buy in a long time. It's like sensory overload every time I walk in that place.  It rattles my brain. Plus, the odd, yet faint, smell of armpits mixed with printing paper lingers in the air. I blame the kid/bouncer who stands at his little station next to the door right when you walk in.

We decided that while we were there, we would check out the whole "Gaming Center", which is easy to spot because it is always crowded with the 13-year-old, swingy-hair, hat-wearing gaming crowd as well as the 40-year-old, bald-headed gaming crowd.

We aren't "gamers" and aren't familiar with all the new "game technology" out there. So we stared and stared at the X-Box 360, the X-BoxOne, (I wondered where the Wii was, only to discover that the Wii is ancient history. We have a Wii, complete with little Mii people that my kids have made up.) and then the new PS4 (hey, I learned something on Saturday night. We call the PlayStation4 by it's acronym: PS4).

I'm cheap. When we bought the Wii, nearly one hundred years ago when wheat crops were still wheat crops and cows were still pastured, I nearly passed out from the cost. This plus the cost of the games?!!? I remember thinking to myself. I may have vocalized this to the scared-looking gamer/Target employee, who was wishing he was communicating with his screen rather than this crazy-eyed mother of two.

And the X-Box 360 is the cheapest of the game consoles. Apparently it's also The One. Like, The One you Do. Not. Want. The One that, should you make the idiotic choice to buy it, would cause others more knowledgeable in the field of gaming to whisper about you behind your back and reject your invitation to play a virtual game of COD: Black Ops II. They may not even invite you to Best Buy on Saturday night.

When you want answers, you go to the source. And my source was a pair of preteen boys, who were carefully examining the X-Box game display.

I picked up the 360 and took it over.

"If you were buying a new system, what would you buy?" I asked. Both their faces lit up. And both their mouths opened in what I will describe as a raining down of words on my head. The tall one with the cocky hat looked at me out from under his shaggy mane and calmly explained that the 360 is old news. The short one with the short, blonde hair would interject his opinion, too. This one was excited. Every sentence ended in an exclamation point. And some of them were in all caps. "You don't want the X-Box! I have a PS3 and an X-BOX! MY GRANDMA BOUGHT ME THE X-BOX!  And I've had so much trouble with it that I just SHOVED IT IN A DRAWER!" The tall one explained that he had had some trouble with his X-Box, too. "Yep!" the short one exclaimed. "I WAS ALWAYS ON THE PHONE WITH CUSTOMER SERVICE!" (Wait. You seriously have two or more gaming consoles in your house, one of which is shoved in a drawer because you were on the phone with Microsoft too often? Dang. Can I buy that one?) They politely directed us toward the PS4, declaring it's awesomeness over the lowly, issue-ridden X-Box. The short one's grandma would have been proud.

And my husband and I stared some more. We looked at each other and back down at the PS4, glowing under it's own shiny halo of light. $400????? Could that possibly be right?

"Yep," the Best Buy employee/gamer said, as he was also informing us of his intention to be done with the thousand dollars of X-Box equipment he already owned and make the step toward updating his entire video game library to the PS4. This guy was serious. And he had dark circles that went not just under but all the way around the eye, indicating his all-night commitment to becoming a better gamer.

"And you'll need more controllers," he explained. We looked at the controllers. $60??? For real? "Yep," he said happily. "And I would highly recommend a pair of gaming headphones! Because when I have those headphones on, I can close my eyes and hear my friend walking around in my head, and I know exactly where he is." His eyes, inside those dark circles, were literally glassing over. He tried to say something else and then stumbled over his words. "See!" he exclaimed, shaking his hand at us. "I'm going through withdrawals!"

We stared at him. He stared at us.

And we walked out of Best Buy decidedly empty-handed.*

*As our kids get older, we won't be empty-handed for long. In one hundred years, when cows are genetically modified and wheat is grown in car engines while you're driving, we will own a PS4.