Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Americas Next Top Mommy: Take Care Of Your Vessel

Americas Next Top Mommy: Take Care Of Your Vessel

Take Care Of Your Vessel

I had a talk with my daughter this morning as we drove in the car.  It was just me and her, my sweet 12 year old who is finding her way and wrestling with all the things that 12 year old girls wrestle with.  She'd never admit that self-image is one of those things but it is- because it just is with every female aged 12 to ...

I myself wrestle with it and try really hard to find a balance between being responsible for my body yet not being down on myself when I don't do such a great job at it. Both of us struggle with giving in, with having that extra fudge pop or not getting enough sleep or not working out.

So our talk went down like this...
"Do you think that the car we drive has any bearing on what kind of person we are?" I asked.  "No, that would be stupid," she said with her face all scrunched up.  "Because it's just a car."  "You're right, it is and so we can't base our worth on what kind of car we drive.  It's just a thing, a vehicle that gets us from point A to point B."

There was a moment of silence as we stopped at red light.  We both gazed out of the windows and I noticed the thousands of tiny droplets attached to the glass like little, watery marbles.

I continued.  "The thing is, we belong to God.  We are not of the earth. We didn't come from here and when our lives are over we will return to God.  Our lives are short.  These bodies of ours are gifts, just vehicles the Lord gives us to get from one place to another and our job is simply to take care of them.  It's like this car.  In order for it to keep running well, we have to maintain it (change the oil, wash it, vacuum it, rotate the tires).  And our bodies are the same.  We maintain them by getting plenty of exercise, eating healthy foods, getting plenty of rest, drinking enough water.  And if we do, God willing, our bodies will take care of us while we are here.  They will keep us safe and keep us moving."

She smiled and nodded her head.

"This is why I tell you to skip the extra bite of that brownie, baby.  Not because of your weight or how you look on the outside.  You are beautiful no matter what.  You'd be beautiful with one less leg and half your face melted away.  You'd be beautiful fat or thin, tall or short, pimply faced, bed-headed and stinky.  You would be because your inside is beautiful.  And so my advice to you baby is to simply take care of your vehicle.  Don't do it because it matters how you look on the outside. Do it because it matters that you take care of this gift that God has given to you, because you value it."

Teenagers are sometimes hard to understand.  That's because they don't communicate well.  A slammed door could mean they are feeling hurt just as easily as it could mean they are being selfish.  That's why I try to see past the exterior and listen to her sweet, little spirit.  Her spirit was singing this morning with relief, relief that someone saw her as perfect and beautiful and that she has my undying support and approval, that she doesn't have to try to live up to the world's standards because they are unrealistic and hurtful.  Her spirit was happy and relieved and best of all, inspired.

"The world will tell you that it's all about the outside.  That you should be skinny and sexy and gorgeous all of the time or else nobody will love you and you should know that those things are lies.  So many people live their lives working just on the outside but that's such a waste of time.  That's sort of like buying a run down house and putting new siding on it with a new roof and gorgeous landscaping in front in order to make it look good on the outside but leaving growing mold, rusted pipes, warped floors, cracked walls and raw sewage on the inside.  The house is worthless even though it looks good on the outside.

So...work on your inside, baby.  And take care of your vehicle because you love God.  It's not easy but it's pretty simple."

If only my mom had said these words to me.  If only it hadn't been about trying to fit in or how people would "see me" or first impressions.  The good news is that I know this now and that decisions are made easier every single day having the conviction that I want to care for myself not because of anything else but for my desire to be loving and grateful with the gift God has given me.

It's been so good to me, this body.  It's kept me healthy and sane and given me much pleasure.  It's given birth to three babies, nursed them, carried them and wrapped itself around them when they were feeling sad.  It truly is a gift and so today I will try to separate myself from it to see it for what it is, something that doesn't reflect my value or beauty, but rather, my vehicle.  It's time I start pampering it because I want to put a couple more hundred thousand miles on it!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Saying "I'm Sorry"

We spent the better part of the weekend working on my oldest daughter's room.  She outgrew her bunk bed months ago and the walls were a Pepto Bismol color.  She vehemently abhors anything "girlie",  so she's been begging and pleading for us to "give her a new room" for the past few months.

This isn't exactly the kind of project that's on my priority list.  I mean, we're talking about going through a room packed to the gills with junk; trash, stuffed animals, papers, books, clothes.  I have nightmares about the kinds of things that grow in her closet!

So I made a deal with her.  If she cleaned her closet, threw away all the trash, organized her toys and kept it clean for a few weeks, we'd talk make-over.  I made this deal thinking that there was no way she would be able to do it which in turn would get me off the hook but darned if that girl didn't keep her end of the bargain.  This totally backfired right in my face.

We emptied the room, cleaned, washed walls, sanded, painted, shampooed the carpets and washed windows.  All in all it was lots of sweaty, messy work.  My husband was a lot of help and so was my oldest daughter and son!  My little one? Not so much.

She was more like the dog...eager to be with us but always under foot at THE. WORST. TIMES. POSSIBLE!

When the carpet had finally dried and we brought the bed back inside all hands were on deck to move the full sized bed.  And there she was, underfoot yet again and adding high doses of drama to the situation by saying she saw a spider on the bed which made everyone else drop the mattress just as we were going up the stairs and left me heaving and cramping and dripping with sweat.

All the kids screamed in terror.  The dog barked.  It was chaos!

From my daughter's description the spider was a beastly creature with fangs and claws, the "biggest thing" she'd ever seen.  It was going to eat her in one swallow without having to chew.

I looked everywhere and finally spotted the monster.  It was about the size of a grain of sand and it was trembling with fear.

"It's a tiny, little spider", I said. 
"AAAAAAHHHHHH."
"Come on you guys, help me with this mattress!"
"AAAAAAHHHHHH."

Since it was the little one causing all the drama I yelled, "Stop it! I can't stand it anymore! Go AWAY!"

She immediately ran away crying, this time because of her terrible, terrifying mother with fangs and claws.  We put the bed in place and though the weight of the bed was off my shoulders I felt heavy with guilt.  My poor baby girl.  I'm setting such a terrible example when I lose my cool like that.  I mean, stressful as they are, those kinds of moments are learning opportunities, moments when I can show my kids how to behave under pressure with grace, patience and kindness.

I was the exact opposite of graceful, patient and kind today.  I was like a sweaty, growling animal. Ugh!

I went downstairs with my tail tucked between my legs and found her in the kitchen still crying.  I said, "I'm so sorry for yelling at you baby."

"I..*gasp* was just trying to *sniff* help *gasp* and that spider *sniff* scaaaaaaared me!!"  She sobbed and I felt terrible.  She really was trying to help in her little seven year old way with her noodle arms and super xray vision eye sight able to spot invisible spiders!

"I'm so sorry! I was wrong.  I shouldn't have yelled at you and I know you were trying to help and I do appreciate your help.  I'm sorry the spider scared you and I'm really sorry that I got mad at you when I should have been making you feel better. Can you forgive me?"

She gave me a hug and it was over. Like immediately.  She went from cries of agony to smiling and laughing in lightning speed, like someone had yelled "CUT" on set and her performance was over.  She really is a pain in the behind sometimes.  So am I.  I wonder where she gets it from!?

I wish I could say that I will never do that again, that I won't ever lose my cool under pressure, that I'll never yell at my kids when I've cracked but that wouldn't be the truth.  I will do my best but there is a good chance that I will falter again.  And I'll apologize again and that's the cycle of love, right?  We love well and then sometimes we don't and we offer a heartfelt apology and our loved ones forgive us because they know that we will forgive them when they fall apart too.

I'm trying to learn not to beat myself up about these kinds of things.  After all, this is family life.  There is no such thing as a perfect family, a family who never argues or never gets on each others nerves.  There will always be a crack somewhere and it's good to know that while I can't avoid falling in them, saying "I'm sorry" goes a long way in making things right again.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

He Made The Sun Stand Still

In the book of Joshua (chapter 10) there is a story about five kings who, fearing a continuously victorious band of Israelites who threaten to invade and claim their land, decide to join forces.  The Israelites were under strict orders from God.  They were to conquer and claim the inheritance promised to them and they were to do it ruthlessly and without fear or burden. Naturally, the five kings wanted to defend their territory so this set the stage for a mighty battle.

Joshua, the great military leader of the Israelites and servant of God, now faces the biggest challenge of his life but instead of backing down or being terrified, he does exactly what he's told and clings to God's repeated words, "Do not be afraid."

He presses on but not without a little nervousness.

I can't even imagine how scary that had to have been, to be met with not only one opposing and formidable enemy, but five at the same time!  I've never faced a military battle that seemed hopeless but I've faced several personal battles.  Even one big one is enough to take the wind out of me.

I remember losing my mom and how much faith it took for me to keep walking every day.  It took Herculean strength to open my eyes, to lift myself out of bed, to get dressed, to speak.  And so, I'm trying to imagine what it would be like to have five terrible things against me at once; to lose my mom,  have my house burn down, care for a sick child, go bankrupt and face depression all at the same time.

I mean, seriously?  Even one of those things is enough to bring someone to their knees.  I'd like to think that I'd have some strength and do my best but that would all be some tough stuff!

And so it's from that place that I stand in awe of Joshua's faith, that he didn't waver or tremble or beg for mercy or get angry.  Instead, he did something pretty amazing.  He looked up at God and basically said, "look, if you want me to do this I'm going to need some help, BIG time help.  You need to make a huge gesture on my behalf, like...you need to make the sun stand still!

And God does something miraculous that has never happened again since that day...

He made the sun stand still.

He listened to Joshua and gave him the miracle he asked for.  He did this for two reasons: he loved his people and Joshua asked. The bible says, "Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel."  Translation: It's obvious that God was on his people's side and would do anything for them.

Yes. He was.  And he still is.  He's on our side. He's on my side.  Why do I keep forgetting that? Why do I forget that I have the source of all power at my disposal?

He made the sun stand still...

...and yet I struggle to trust him with my finances.
...and yet I worry about petty things.
...and yet I resist asking for help.
...and yet I keep trying to do things on my own.
...and yet I forget that the only true strength I have, the strength that will endure and get me through even the toughest of times, comes from him and him alone.

In the end, Joshua emerged victorious.  The five kings fled in fear and they hunkered down in a cave.  Joshua found them and brought them to his camp and told his commanders to each place their feet on the king's necks.  Then he said, "Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged.  Be strong and courageous.  This is what the Lord will do to all the enemies you are going to fight."  Joshua then impaled their bodies and left them for everyone to see.

This is what God does to the trials I face, big and small.  He allows me to place my feet on their necks and own them. He gives me command over them and puts me in a place of victory over them.  This is the power of Christ, the power he gives me to understand that following him does not mean that my life will be easy.   I will always face a battle.  There will be big ones, there will be small ones and there will some that make me tremble and sweat but that is the image I want in my head when I face the world, an image of me standing on the neck of my problems...and crushing them with a strength that defies all logic.

He made the sun stand still...the magnitude of that is mind boggling.  And he'd do it again for us all! What miracles, what victories could we all claim if only we'd ask him for the impossible!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

He Gives And Takes Away

"You give and take away, you give and take away.  My heart will choose to say, Lord blessed be your name!"

I've lost several friends in the last few months.  Not on account of disagreements or hurt feelings but on account of big kinds of things.  One moved away to mission in another country.  Another was called home to heaven.

And in the midst of that, I couldn't help but feel really bummed.  These weren't acquaintances.  These were people who inhabited parts of my heart, parts that were now vacant and who echoed with the stillness and silence of their absence.

He took away. 

I felt sorry for myself.  I'm not the kind of person who makes friends easily.  This, I must point out, is usually my fault.  I tread lightly when I meet new people.  And I walk into friendship sort like I walk into a haunted house...suspicious, a little terrified at what I don't see and expecting to be surprised in a bad way at any minute.

You know, when you're a kid, making friends is pretty easy. You have plenty of time to have fun together and enjoy sleepovers and long summer days of just hanging out and riding bikes and laughing together.  But when you're an adult with spouses and kids and bills and jobs, well...it's just not as easy.  And then I go and add even more difficulty on top of it by being a weirdo.

So when I do finally make a connection and feel like I can trust someone, it's a big deal.  Like, I can finally breathe and feel comfortable and do the happy dance because I HAVE A FRIEND!

I should clarify that for me, a friend is someone who is connected to me in a deeply personal sort of way.  This is someone I see often or speak to often.  If I don't see them often we still maintain a closeness that never seems to diminish.  In other words, it's people I love! I have many acquaintances but I have a small group of close friends.

And so I lost two really big players on my team.  And I thought it was just about the end of the world. I may have been dramatic about it in my head.  "I'm never going to find another friend.  I'm going to be lonely forever.  Nobody likes me. What is wrong with me? Why did God do this to me?"

But then something pretty amazing happened.  Friendships began to cultivate in unexpected places, to multiply weekly, to deepen daily. Where there was none there were suddenly three..and then five.

I recently met a woman who is just...wonderful.  I like her a lot and we've been getting closer and closer, spending many days a week together, talking a lot, telling each other intimate details of our lives.  Walking into this friendship never felt scary or dark to me.  It felt well lit, comfortable, easy.  And how am I ever grateful!

God does take away.  He took away two precious people from my life.  But, he also gives.  And while there is no replacing my loved ones, I'm finding comfort in new beginnings. It was less than three months ago when I felt the depths of loss.  How would I ever recover from losing someone who's known me my whole life? How do I recover from losing someone who I need every single day?  I felt immobilized, amputated.   Being gifted with all these new, loving relationships brings me so much joy. It's amazing to me how one minute, our lives can be filled with pain and in a single moment, things can change. Where there were empty, echoing spaces in my heart, there is now music and laughter.

A friend, a real friend, can change your life. 

He has given me friends my whole life.  And he will take away, I can count on that.  But I'm starting to find hope in the cycle.  It's always darkest right before the dawn and so when I'm at my lowest point, I know it's time to celebrate and be happy because that just means that I'm about to be flooded with light.