Archive for the ‘Women’ Category

Intentional Friendship

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016

word-of-the-year

*This is the second post in my series about becoming more intentional in 2016. Read the first post here.

There’s a group of women that gets together monthly in my neighborhood. The week before Christmas, they invited me to come to their White Elephant party. I decided I would go, even though I only knew one of the women going, and the rest of them had been meeting for years.

No one likes being the new girl. I’m not going to lie: I had a knot in my stomach walking up the sidewalk to the party. I talked myself into knocking on the door and the owner of the house–Amanda–greeted me warmly. I flashed a genuine, but nervous smile, and then we exchanged the universal small chat that ALL moms do:

Oh, your son’s in 4th grade; so is my daughter. 

Who’s his teacher? Do you like her?

Actually, I think they’re in Science Olympiad together.

What’s his name again?

Amanda and I walked through the foyer together toward the party, following the sounds of  loud laughter, the kind that old friends do. We stopped at the edge of the kitchen island, arrayed with platters and plates full of delicious, bite-sized party food. Amanda interrupted the conversation to introduce me, and almost all at once, everyone turned their heads to look at me.  The only thing I could think to say was:

Hi, I feel like I’m in middle school.

(Good Grief.)

But then, everyone laughed. 

(How do you spell R-E-L-I-E-F?)

They laughed, because they all knew what is what was like to be me.  To be the new person. To walk into a room full of strangers. To meet new people. To want new friends.

It’s almost as scary as middle school.

via GIPHY

 

 

I’m in my late 30s, and admittedly, it’s nowhere near as hard to meet new people as it was in middle school. (I thought I was going to die every day in 1991). But sometimes I still have to talk myself into it.

Here’s the thing: I want meeting people and making new friends to be organic. I want it to be easy. But, for one thing, our society isn’t set up that way. It’s hard to “do life” together {sadly} because we go to different jobs, live in different neighborhoods, and our kids go to different schools (even if they live in the same neighborhood).  At best, we have friends in each of these circles, but they do not overlap.

Somewhere in my mid-30s, I abandoned this idea of organic relationships. I realized that I could not wait to be on the receiving end of someone else’s invitation, phone call, or text. If I wanted deepening friendships, I realized I needed to replace the word organic with intentional; I needed to pursue friendships instead of waiting for them to come to me.

Around the same time, I met a fellow pastor’s wife who was interested in getting a small group of other pastor’s wives together monthly to talk shop.  She wanted it to be a group that moved past the chit-chat to the real stuff–the hard things–and how Jesus was meeting us with His grace.

By the second week of meeting, we had collaged a summary of our life stories to share with each other. I was very uncomfortable. It felt like too much too soon–certainly NOT organic–although she was very careful in inviting us to share as little or as much as we wanted. But we all decided to take the plunge, to risk being known, possibly more than we wanted to.

It felt like a major turning point for me. As I listened to each of their stories and shared my own, all of them mixed with pain and joy, I began to understand that the foundation of intentional friendship is vulnerability.

intentional-friendship

It’s a risk, or course, to be known exactly as you are. But the older I get, the less interested I am in the ways I think I’m supposed to be for someone to like me. I’m less interested in hiding, and more interested in being known. I’m less interested in waiting around, and more interested in saying, “Hey, let’s be friends.” (Kinda like you did when you were 7.)

C.S. Lewis had some fantastic reflections on friendship. Here’s one of my favorites:

“In friendship…we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another…the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting–any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends, “Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.” 

friendship

Intentional steps toward friendship does not negate a God who is mysteriously at work behind the scenes. It’s a step of faith, trusting that the God who created us for relationships, has beauty in store for us when we enter into the lives of others as friends.

That doesn’t mean it won’t hurt sometimes. Others let us down + we let others down (often). But our hope rests, not in what others can do for us, but in our identity in Jesus, who has set us free to love.

So, in 2016, may there be more White Elephant parties with strangers, more invitations for coffee + wine together, more intentional phone calls, and more opportunities to see what God is up to in the people I call friends.

/ / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

P.S. I don’t go to the pastor’s wives group anymore. But not because I don’t want to–my family moved last summer.

We moved to Raleigh. But guess what? I’m intentionally meeting monthly with 3 other incredibly beautiful women who God has put in my path, in this place, right now, to reveal the beauty He has in store for us all through friendship.

I can’t wait to see what happens.

My Word for 2016: Intentional

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

I’m not much of a New Year’s resolution person.  I hardly ever make resolutions because I know I won’t keep them. I’m not very disciplined, or maybe, I’m taking care of 4 children and have little time for setting goals, let alone keeping them.

But something was nagging me at the end of 2015. I felt like I was constantly reacting to the flurry of the day’s activities–the tyranny of the urgent– rather than planning to meet that  activity-flurry, spinning like a 200 mph tornado, head on.

One day, I remember saying to myself: I’m just not going to clean anymore. I can’t fit it in. Weeks later, I told Duane about my little plan, to which he replied: “Hmmm, that’s interesting.” So, I guess it’s not a good plan?

I also sensed a gentle conviction that planning ahead would actually not just make me feel more in control of the day, but it would be a kind and gracious act for the 5 other people in my house.

The word that kept swirling around in my head was I N T E N T I O N A L. How could I make changes in my home that would leave me feeling less like a flightless bird frantically flapping her wings?

word-of-the-year

 

Several areas came to mind as I thought about becoming more intentional in 2016.

Food

Relationships

Prayer

Cleaning

(I’m covering F O O D today. Stay tuned for forthcoming posts on the other topics.)

First, food. I really wanted to change the way I approached food. I felt like the lack of  planning in this area resulted in a lot of carb-consuming. When the kids got home from school, I threw out a bowl of pretzels or graham crackers (with a side of fruit…thank you very much), which basically left them still hungry with a carb-coma to boot. I especially noticed it in my 13-year-old boy, who now eats twice as much as everyone else. He needed more.

So, in the last few days of 2015, we only had one child–3 had gone off to greener pastures to spend time with friends and family. It gave me a much-needed breather to actually think through the changes I wanted to make for 2016.

Pinterest became my best friend in the waning days of 2o15. I looked up a ton of recipes for protein-laden snacks, smoothies loaded with greens, and sweets minus the sugar (ahem, we’ll see how that one goes).

I got a NutriBullet for Christmas, which is honestly the best invention since Pinterest. I can make a smoothie in about 30-seconds flat and clean it up in even less time. I bought all the bells and whistles, too, that make smoothies stick to your stomach: protein powder, chia seeds, almond milk, spinach, Greek yogurt.

Y’all, it’s been fun. I look forward to them every day.

Here’s one I made this morning:

Pineapple Banana & Coconut Cream Smoothie (Vegan & GF) from AverieCooks. It was SOooo GOOood.

pineapplebanana-smoothie

Source: AverieCooks

 

I also follow Simple Green Smoothies on Instagram for recipe inspiration.

green-smoothie

This is @simplegreensmoothies Strawberry Daiquiri smoothie made with spinach, strawberries, grapefruit, and dates.

Follow @simplegreensmoothies HERE.

 

Onto after-school snacks.

I’ve already made THESE.

Peanut-Butter-Banana-Smudgies

Peanut Butter Banana Smudgies

Source: PopSugar

You pop them in the freezer for an ice-cream sandwich effect, except with healthy stuff in the middle!

Today, I’m also making another freezer treat: Cherry Almond Coconut Protein Balls .

cherry-almond-balls

Source: PopSugar

Feel free to check out my Pinterest board, New Year New Food, for more healthy snack ideas.

Even before 2016 started, I started changing the way I make dinner. For the months of November and December, I entered the vast wide-open land that is freezer meal prep. All I can say now is, after  a few wobbly baby steps in this new territory, I’m a believer!

I used 2 different plans from the blog I Am That Lady. Each plan cost about $3 to download and are specifically tailored to shopping at ALDI, although she’s adapted some of her shopping lists for a regular grocery store if ALDI gives you the creeps.

I made approximately 15-20 meals over the course of 2-3 days (you’re supposed to be able to do it in a 5-hour block, but who has that kind of  free time?), and never thought about dinner again for the rest of the month. 

I know some people get together with their friends for prep, so that it’s not so overwhelming. That might be something I try in the New Year as well.

I’m taking a break from freezer meals in January to focus on overhauling all of the food we eat, but I’m kinda sad about it. I’m going to miss the sigh of relief when that moment of internal panic strikes around 5 o’ clock  that screams: You haven’t started dinner yet!

Only the Freezer Meal can quiet that voice.

 

Rilke

 

I’m looking forward to planning some new things this year, things that have never been.

Later this week, I’ll share some more of my thoughts about becoming more intentional about relationships.

Let me know what you’re cooking up, too. I’d love to know.

Oh, and Happy New Year.

 

 

 

 

 

Hospitality Stories

Monday, November 10th, 2014

To wrap up my hospitality series, I’m excited to share stories from a couple of friends who I’ve had the pleasure of sitting around the table with many times. They’ve not only been hospitable to my family, but to many others along the way.

hospitality

The first story is by my friend Kristi James, a fellow pastor’s wife and blogger, with a serious wit. I always crack up a little when I think of her answer to the oft-asked question, “What’s it like being the pastor’s wife?

Kristi: “It’s better than being the pastor’s girlfriend.”

Yes, yes it is.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

When we moved to Asheville, we lived in a pretty cool apartment in a building that had been built to function as a hotel, but had been used as a mental hospital until the nineties.

As in 1990’s.

It was as gothic and creepy as you’d expect. Once a friend came over for the first time and when I opened the door, she was practically sweating. “I didn’t see another person the entire way up here!” she said. It was dark and quiet, making the whole thing seem even more eery.

In my mind, the ideal home for exhibiting hospitality is one that’s easy to find, has great curb appeal, and maybe even a double-wide circular driveway. Lined with great landscaping.

Our creepy third floor apartment was definitely not that.

And yet, we had people over. We gave them our security code to the building, or we ran down to let them in. We welcomed them, fed them, talked to them, and hugged them goodbye, even though it wasn’t an ideal setup.

hospitality

I come from kind of a quiet family so when we got married, I was sure that I’d never be the one to raise my voice. I’m soft spoken as it is, so it seemed unlikely that I’d ever be the “yeller.”

We didn’t have people over for a long time after we got married, because it took forever for us to get our house to a point where I felt like it was moderately presentable. I’m 9 years younger than my husband, and moving into the house he’d already lived in for years made it hard for me to feel confident in my ability to make good choices for a home.

Plus I didn’t really cook. (Clearly I was a real catch.)

We finally invited another couple over for the first time and I was super stressed. I felt the need to be a fancy southern host (although I’m neither fancy nor southern). I had several things working against me. We had a smelly dog that shed a sweater’s worth of hair right after you vacuumed, like a fluffy middle finger taunting you from the corner. Fancy southern women don’t have piles of dog hair in the corner. The kitchen had about 2 square feet of counter space and no dishwasher. Fancy southern women don’t have cluttered counters and unwashed dishes. I knew how to make about 3 things, so I made them. Fancy southern women use The Masters Cookbook and make…fancy things.

I scrambled around trying to make things JUST SO. Right before our friends came over, my exasperation with Duff’s inability to know EXACTLY what I needed help with at every moment without me having to actually verbalize it boiled over, and I yelled some words at him.

Everything about it shocked me. The volume, the tone, the actual words I used; it was awful. He handled it perfectly, walking calmly out the back door to the grill, while I fell apart, crying at the kitchen sink. I looked up and saw our friends walking to the door. Perfect.

***

Hospitality is bigger than having people over, but one of the easiest ways to bridge the gap between being an acquaintance and being a friend is to spend time in each others’ homes. Before Facetime was a thing, I had a friend who wanted to see where I sat when I talked to her on the phone, so she could picture it. Spending time in each others homes is like that – our idea of the person is more grounded and personal once we invite each other into our living spaces.

But I share those two stories because while that sounds romantic, it isn’t always perfect.

Your home may not be exactly what you want it to be. We live in a house now and while it’s easy to find and has some curb appeal, we have street parking and it can be kind of a pain. But we have people over all the time, and you know what? No one has ever turned us down because they have to walk a few hundred feet to get to the door.

Your mental state might not be perfect. Wouldn’t be nice if you could be cool as a cucumber and impressive whenever anyone approached your house? “Who me? I’m just whipping up a batch of meringue by hand. My mixer’s broken but it’s fine! Everything else I needed to do is done so I figured this would be just the thing to fill the time!”

NO. Never going to be me.

Instead, I’ll try to make sure things are reasonable – a toilet that won’t gross you out and handsoap in the bathroom. But your feet will probably crunch on a stray cheerio and you’ll see crumbs from last night’s dinner on a child’s placemat. I might be mad (but I probably won’t have just yelled at my husband because while I’ve yelled since then, the years have softened me a little and it doesn’t happen as often). I might be tired. I might end up needing you to help me with something. But I want you to be there, at that moment. I’m not going to wait until I’m perfectly ready.

Because I’m not ever going to be perfectly ready.

Instead, my imperfectly ready is the best I’ve got to offer.

But when it comes to hospitality, the imperfectly ready is more than enough.

(Also, I ran out of sugar, can you bring a cup?)

***

Connect with Kristi at her blog, And Babies Don’t Keep, or on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Helpful Hints for Showing Hospitality WITH Young Kids

Monday, September 29th, 2014

“What people are craving isn’t perfection. People aren’t looking to be impressed. They’re longing to feel like they’re at home. If you create a space full of love and character and creativity and soul, they’ll take off their shoes and curl up with gratitude and rest, no matter how small, no matter how undone, no matter how odd.” –Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine

hospitality

 

If you don’t remember anything from this hospitality series, memorize the above quote. The same exact thought rolls around in my mind often, but she communicates it more eloquently than I ever could (which is why she wrote a book and I write on this self-published blog).

I really think that is why so many of us are afraid of hospitality, especially once kids arrive on the scene.  We realize that it’s hard to juggle  time between kids and creating a Pinterest-worthy dinner party, so we settle for nothing.

After I wrote the first post for this series, a good friend of mine reminded me that she wishes her friends with kids would let go of worrying about hoy many toys are put away or baking the best apple pie; she just wants to be with them, to be seen and known.

We all want the same, deep down. But we’re surrounded by sleek images of dinner parties for 15, with decorative name cards, two kinds of glasses, matching plates filled with roasted parsnips and beets, prepared with goat cheese and arugula,  then drizzled with honey, and we think: “If that’s hospitality, I don’t have  time for it.” So we settle for nothing.

Don’t get me wrong: I kinda love a cooking challenge and I like to serve things that are  outside of the box.  There’s nothing wrong with that. But, there have been plenty of times when I’ve served scrambled eggs and cinnamon rolls or a big pot of chili.

I’ll tell you another secret.  I have a small house and 4 kids. I don’t have a dining room and we call our fenced-in front yard the bonus room. It can be frustrating at times to have guests over, especially in the winter when we can’t rely on the “bonus room.”

But we’re committed to a life of hospitality with the resources we’ve been given. You probably won’t get filet mignon at my house, and you certainly won’t get name cards, but you will be fed and we hope you’ll laugh (or cry) while you’re here, too.

So, with that in mind, let’s get to the main point: Helpful Hints for Hospitality with Young Children.

#1 Lay a foundation.  Kids, even as young as two,  can help around the house.  Get them started with easy chores while they still think it’s fun. My two-year-old is actually quite proud of himself when he hands me the clean silverware from the dishwasher to be put away in the drawer.

If they start helping now, it becomes part of a normal routine. Then, when the time comes to have people over, they’re already used to helping out.

#2 Keep things accessible. For young kids, it’s important that you keep some things on their level. At our house, we have an entire lower cabinet dedicated to kids’ dishes, cups, snack bowls, etc. That way it’s easy for them to serve themselves, but also to access meal necessities when other kids come over.

#3 Prep, prep, prep. This might be a no-brainer, but do everything you can before your guests arrive. It’s really hard to fuss with cooking as your guests arrive while you’re shouting at your 2-year-old to get out of the trash.

Crock pot meals are great way to prepare in advance. Plus, your house smells good all day long. Often, if I’m making a dessert, too, I’ll make it the day before so I don’t have too much to do in one day.

#4 Let the kids help in the kitchen.  Speaking of dessert, baking is one of the best ways to introduce young children to cooking. They love to  scoop, pour, and sprinkle (with a little help, of course).  You’ll have a little extra clean-up, but again, if you start them early, they’ll think it’s fun, not a burden.

Abby is now at an age where she can make cookies totally on her own, and that’s a sweet reward (literally) as a mom.

#5 Plan ahead. “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” (C’mon, you know THAT movie.) Sometimes we have the best intentions, but if we don’t put it on the calendar, it won’t happen. Take a few minutes each month to schedule hospitality  into your life. You’ll make somebody else’s day in the process. Don’t you like getting invited over places, especially after you’ve had kids?!

#6 Embrace the chaos. It’s not always pretty. There’s nothing wrong with throwing a Pinterest-worthy dinner party, but serve some grilled cheeses once in a while, too. The most important thing is to have people over (homework: memorize top quote).

Also, if you have kids, chances are you’re having other kids over, too (though I suggest inviting over all different kinds of people in different stages of life). It can be loud and chaotic. I used to dream of having a playroom, one where I  could shut the door and talk to our guests uninterrupted. It never happened. But the guests at some of our most chaotic dinner parties have become some of our best friends.

It just takes time. Hang in there. Don’t settle for nothing.

We have, each one of us, been entrusted with one life, made up of days and hours and minutes.  We’re spending them according to our values, whether or not we admit it.” -Bread and Wine

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Disclaimer: I like Pinterest. I think it’s a great digital filing system. I actually find and file most of my recipes there. Cookbooks are virtually obsolete in my house (that’s another subject). BUt I do think there’s a negative side to Pinterest. It’s so darn pretty that I do think it creates pressure to be extraordinary, when ordinary would be just fine. Glennon Melton from the blog, Momastery,  wrote a GREAT article about this idea called Pinsanity. Read now! It’s hilarious.

 

// Let me know if you have any more helpful hints to add to this list in the comment below. //

 

Body Image and Our Daughters

Monday, September 8th, 2014

A new Human Barbie has been crowned. I’m not kidding.

I never knew this category existed, but apparently the newly crowned Barbie is the second Human Barbie.  Sheesh.

 

Meet the newest Human Barbie; she’s a 16-year-old from Ukraine:

 

Human Barbie

eOnline

 

This picture disturbed me on multiple levels.

First, I had to look at this photo several times to determine if she was real or not. (She is.)

Second, her measurements. You can read about those here. Apparently, she hasn’t had surgery or photoshop to help out with those pesky problem spots. She inherited this body (minus the colored contacts) and she’s proud of it:

“If I can become famous for my appearance in some other way, I will be extremely happy,” she told the Daily Mail. “I think I’ve achieved this image better than anyone else. I’m the ultimate vamp woman.”

(By the way, what’s a vamp woman?)

Third, this information is apparently newsworthy in our culture.

All this got me thinking about body image and appearance and especially about our daughters.

 

daughter, golden-hour, light, dusk

 

 

How do we talk to our daughters, in this self-obsessed culture, about their bodies?

How do we alleviate  anxiety about their appearance when the Human Barbie makes international news?

This is what I’ve come up with (so far):

I think it starts with how we treat our own bodies and how we talk about them in front of our daughters.

How would you answer the following questions?

1. What are you saying about yourself in front of your daughter?

  -Are you (still) vocally obsessing about those extra pounds you gained at Christmas?

  -Do you talk negatively about yourself because of your appearance?

2. What are you saying to other women around your daughter?

  -Are you rating yourself and/or other women based on weight?

  -How often is the first thing you say to someone else: “You look so cute, great, skinny, etc.”

3.  Does the need to exercise control your schedule?

– Are your relationships/home life suffering because you’re exercising obsessively?

4. What kinds of activities are you pursuing with your daughter?

– Do you choose activities that engage your/her whole person, not just the ones  that cater to you/her appearance (shopping, manicures, makeovers, etc)?

IMG_6650

Ok, I know what you’re thinking–Wow, who just showed up and ruined the party?

But, just hang with me for a second.

My point is that our daughters SEE. They observe how we spend our time and take note of what’s important to us. They HEAR how we talk about ourselves and others. They UNDERSTAND what we value based on our choices.

Ann Voskamp uses a stunning, two word phrase in her book One Thousand Gifts: All eye. It’s a reminder to be on the lookout  for God’s story in our lives and others’ lives, and to be thankful for His gifts. All eye.

Our daughters are all eye, too. They see and absorb the things that we do, the way that we treat people, the way we relate to our “selves” .

I don’t say this from on high; I struggle with these things, too. Isn’t it sad to think that since I was a little girl, I’ve wanted to be thinner?  There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t wish it was so. I suspect it might be the same for you, too.

But I have a choice whether this THING–this aspiration that our culture hands down to us that drives girls and women to NOT eat, binge exercise, or vomit– will control the choices I make for myself and my daughter. (For some, I realize it doesn’t feel like a choice, that it’s taking over your life and you want it to stop, but you can’t. Please tell someone you trust TODAY.)

I strive to pass down to my daughter the value of  things in moderation–to really enjoy good things like food and exercise, but not to the point of worshipping them or letting them control her. That’s a problem for all of us as humans, not just women. We elevate the good things around us to a place of ultimate satisfaction, a place that they were never meant to hold. They cannot ultimately satisfy the deepest longings, but we want them to so badly that we  easily spin into a cycle of addiction.

So, what does it look like to enjoy good things in moderation with our  daughters? Well, I’m a work in progress, but here’s what it looks like in my house.

1.Abby and I enjoy going shopping together occasionally. But, we also bake together, go to coffee shops, and sometimes read together.

2. I  like to exercise, and I carve out time when I can. It clears my mind and the endorphins are pretty nice, too. But sometimes, I have to say no to the inner drive for MORE, MORE, MORE, because…well, I have a family to take care of.

3.  I made a pact with a friend recently to just STOP commenting on other women’s appearances so much, even when it’s complimentary. (It’s harder than I thought.)

Disclaimer: I think  there’s something really breathtaking about a beautiful woman. And that’s okay. God created ALL women beautifully. But again, we have a tendency to take the good things that God gives us and elevate them to a dangerous place. Furthermore, have you ever stopped to think about what our compliments to the extraordinarily beautiful and thin women do to the women who aren’t? 

4. The person in #1 still obsessing about those extra Christmas pounds in September?  Yep, me. But I don’t share that with my daughter. Every now and then, I talk about it with my husband (his favorite conversation!), but mostly I mull it over in my own mind, constantly reminding myself that the value of my life  is not found in my dress size. Or being crowned the next Human Barbie.

daughter, sun-flare

Isn’t she lovely?

So, what do you think? What are some ways you tackle body image with the girls in your house? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

The Other Side of Thirty

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

birthday, balloons, 30

Yesterday, I turned 36. It was different than turning 35. I realized that I am now on the other side of my thirties, plunging head first into the big 4-0.

I remember the exact day when my mom turned 40. Early in the morning, before she woke up, I blew up a bunch of gold balloons with big black letters and numbers on them that said: Over the Hill and 40! From a child’s perspective, I wanted to do something nice for my mom on her birthday. From a 36 year old’s perspective, maybe that’s not the first thing she wanted to see when she woke up. (Thanks, Mom, for receiving my “surprise” with a smile.)

While it continues to be a somewhat strange and existential experience to grow older and see crow’s feet forming around my eyes, I love this side of THIRTY.

Here are 5 reasons why (in no particular order):

#1- Friendship. It’s so much easier than it used to be. Maybe because I’m more comfortable in my own skin (though I still have a long way to go) or maybe it’s because me and the women I’m around are able to overlook minor offenses and petty comparisons. Not so easy to do in 4th grade.

#2- Friends. Not a repeat of #1, but an added benefit of being on the other side of thirty, is that age is beginning to mean less. I have friends who are in their 20s and friends in their 60s. That’s a beautiful thing. Generation gaps can sometimes cause confusion, but they can also open the door to enlightening conversations and much-needed paradigm shifts.

#3- Marriage. As I grow older, it means my marriage is growing older, too, which is quite frankly the BEST thing about being on the other side of thirty. How did we get through that first year(s)? I was an emotional basket case.

After 13 years of marriage, I can truly say we really KNOW each other. We’ve grown so much in taking ourselves less seriously, but taking our marriage very seriously. Even this morning, we were laughing about our less-than-helpful patterns of communication (his) and our relentless insecurities (mine).

#4- Kids. Seriously, one of the greatest things about my birthdays now are the enthusiastic responses of my children. They love picking out and giving gifts. Of course, I don’t need anything from them, but it’s a joy to watch them G I V E.
I got a dollar from Stephen (from his own money), wrapped in a handwritten note. Abby picked out a very HIP color of nail polish. And Aidan gave me what every teenager dreams of–an iTunes card (not sure what that says about me).

#5 Parents. It’s true that as we get older, we appreciate our parents more. For me, it’s because enough time has passed that I understand how hard parenting can be. There’s more GRACE for weakness, because I am weak myself.

* * * * * *

And then you realize that this life is passing by really, R E A L L Y fast, which makes you want to hold on tight to everyone. Parents. Kids. Friends. Spouses. But you can’t. And so, you do the best thing you know how: enjoy THE STORY now, with open hands, trusting that there is grace to laugh at the future, because THE STORYTELLER is the one who’s writing it.

What Does Your Toothbrush Say About You?

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

toothbrush

Recently, I went to see a periodontist. A what-o-dontist?! A periodontist is a dentist who specializes in the supporting structures of the teeth, mainly gums. So, I’ve graduated to the special dentist who tells me I need a $900 “procedure” on my gum(s) because they’re receding. I’m pretty sure once the regular guy can no longer handle my problems, it means I’m getting old.

At the end of the examination, the very nice periodontist said something interesting: “I see women like you all the time. You brush too hard. You want your teeth to be really, really clean and your gums suffer for it.” I laughed nervously. Then I thought to myself, “Did he just say that I have an obsession with brushing my teeth. Really?” Then I said out loud, “Wait, are you saying that only women have this problem with obsessive teeth cleaning?”

“Yes, that’s what I’m saying. I don’t generally see men with this sort of problem.”

WELL! How dare he? But then, ever so slowly, pictures of my toothbrush began to appear in my head with bristles splayed in ever direction.  I run the thing ragged every month. I know it’s time to get a new one when I hear a squeaking noise while I brush, which basically means the edges of the toothbrush are no longer making contact with my teeth.

Other pictures appeared in my mind as well– my mistreated toothbrush next to Duane’s pristine, bristles-all-in-a-neat-row-even-after-months-of-use toothbrush. Okay, maybe this periodontist is on to something.

Since he got to make a blanket statement (from experience, mind you),  I will make one, too–I just won’t get paid $200/hr to say it. Why do we, as women, obsess so much? Why is it so hard to rest? Why do we want our houses so clean and brush our teeth so hard? In general–with exceptions, of course– women are more prone to anxiety and fear than men. We have a hard time doing nothing. I’ve heard countless women say things like: “I can’t just sit down and watch a movie. It feels like a waste of my time.” Furthermore, most of the people I know who don’t sleep well are…women. Why can’t we just relax?

Sure, society places many cultural impositions on women.  Don’t get me started. We’re supposed to weigh 90 pounds to look good in our clothes. When you have a baby, it should only take you 6 weeks to regain a perfect 6-pack a la Sarah Jessica Parker (I never had one in the first place). Our houses should look like the ones on the front cover of Better Homes and Garden. And, lest we forget, we define our liberation as women by our sexual prowess (I started, didn’t I?).

Society hands us a script for what women should be, but we have a choice to be defined by that script or not. We don’t have to prove ourselves through superficial means to be worth something. If your house is messy, great. Clean it up once in a while so your family can function, but it’s not a reflection of your worth. There are countless times I walk past the stairs with all of its little kid piles to be put away (some time in the next 6 months) and feel intense feelings of failure. REALLY? Is that the hill I’m going to die on?

The truth is I could have perfect stairs and be a size 2, but I could be forsaking what’s ultimately worth something: the people around me–my 4 beauties, my husband, my neighbors, and my community. The script that we live by will affect our relationships.

The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3:

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

Paul calls this love “the most excellent way.”

So, how do we begin to define ourselves by a different script? Consider the famous story of the woman at the well in John Chapter 4. The woman has had 5 husbands, she’s shunned by her community, and furthermore, Jewish men rarely socialized with women, certainly not with a Samaritan woman. But Jesus, king of breaking down social/cultural/economic/you-name-it barriers, approached her and talked to her. He knew that she defined herself by the love of a man, revealed by the fact that she’d married 5 times. And he knows that her community shunned her, which is why she’s drawing water from the well at a different time than everyone else.

But the script she’s living by isn’t the script Jesus offers her. He tells her, “Everyone who drinks this water [from the well] will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give Him will never thirst.” Jesus is offering her true satisfaction that comes only from knowing Him–a freedom from seeking acceptance from things that are only passing away.

It’s been a whirlwind of a year for me to learn this truth. I’m not there yet. The call of the skinny, long-legged, fake blonde supermodel battles for my heart. Yet there WILL NEVER BE rest in that call–only a insatiable desire for more. But in Jesus, I have every spiritual blessing in Christ ALWAYS:

I’m loved, forgiven, chosen, adopted, redeemed, accepted, God’s possession, and for the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1). That’s the script God wants you to rest in each day.

So, go and rest. Relax. Watch a movie. Laugh with your kids. Go out on a romantic date with your husband. Call your mother-in-law. Leave dishes in the sink sometimes. Play kickball. And for goodness’ sake, be kind to your toothbrush.

onNeutralGround