TO MY DAUGHTER

My body is freaking amazing.

I said that out loud when I typed it.

AMAZING. 

Have you ever said that? Do you believe that? 

Yah, it’s rough...I know. Because I don’t either. I mean, I think it might be true and I can scientifically believe that all of these pounds of flesh, organs, hairs, muscles, and blood - beat, grow, inhale, blink, and move to keep me alive and that THAT is freaking amazing. But when I look at myself in the mirror…

Not so amazing. Kind of scary actually. Like, why is my face so hairy? Is that boob exponentially bigger than the other? Do my arms always shake like that when I wave? Why do I have to gain all my weight right there?

The story of my body starts with a lot of insecurities (as does everybody's I’m sure). I remember being in the 7th grade and watching girls a little older than me walk around in their cute, little two pieces at Loon Lake. Everything about them was tan, toned and perceivably perfect. They were surrounded by friends and I was mortified that I was at the lake with my family in a one piece. Nothing was tan or toned about my body. It was one of the first times that I would believe a lie that I still fight today not to believe which sounds something like: they are happier because they look like that. I sat in a sweatshirt in the blazing sun on a beach chair the whole day and watched my family have fun in the lake because I was paralyzed to actually live in the body I had been given. What once was just a body became so much more. It felt like everything was riding on my body now. How I felt. The friends I had. How people felt about me. My happiness. My security.

I was all of the sudden mortified by my white, skinny legs. Any sort of good humored jokes that were directed at my appearance were daggers to my heart. The itty bitty rolls I had then, that were  maybe as thick as my index finger now, felt like disastrous traitors that I wished I could just cut off.  

When I think about my daughter - you know, the daughter I don’t have. I want her to believe that her body is freaking amazing. That her heart pumps blood throughout her body so that she can hold my hand. That her lungs take in oxygen so that she can sing her grandparents a song. That her muscles grow so that she can run into her daddy’s arms.  

I want her to esteem the beauty of people’s character over their perfect butts and great outfits. Because the world has got it COMPLETELY BACKWARDS even though we know that we love the insides of people more than their outsides.

I want her to be motivated to be active not so that she will be thin, but because she wants to take care of what God has given her with the awareness that being active will make her healthy, capable, and strong in her lifetime.

I want her to learn quickly how to diffuse the lie that the happiest people are the ones that society has deemed as beautiful- But instead to realize that the happiest people are the ones that are the most secure with who they are-insides and outsides. It’s a security that comes from not looking at what and who God made everyone else to be, but instead to focus on looking at herself and learning about what and who God has made her to be. A security so drenched in His love for her that she feels it when she loves others and when we love her.

When it comes to desire, I want her to be watchful for the people who adore her for her insides- (what makes her unique) and to not give any time to the people who desire her for her outsides- (what makes her attractive). And that she in turn would esteem and appreciate others for their inside character and uniqueness instead of their outsides.

When my daughter sees me lacing up my shoes, grabbing my yoga mat, or  putting on my swim cap I want her to know that her mommy isn’t being active to look good. To be the hot mom. To be thin. To have the nice butt. She’s being active so that she feels good. That’s the paradox God has created in all of this. By putting in hard work and putting our body through something kind of/sort of miserable we come out feeling capable, refreshed, strong, and sane. I doubt it every time, but it’s true.

I want my daughter to realize that her body isn’t her. It’s just the address of her soul (someone wise said this but I can’t remember who). It’s only a matter of time before it starts falling apart no matter how good she takes care of it and that’s okay. The only thing that will last and what we love most about her, is her insides-her soul. So she needs to take more time to nurture, grow, care, and workout her insides more than her outsides.

All of these mentalities on our bodies, beauty, and being active are the same things I want for me and you. I don’t want how I feel about my body to be defined by what society has designated as beautiful. I don’t want to value a person’s outsides more than their insides. 

I’ll catch myself saying things like, "she has pretty eyes" or "he is nice and tall" as if those are the reasons that I should like them the most. But instead I want to be saying more things like, "she has such a positive spirit" or "he always makes me feel so welcomed". Those are the characteristics I want to remember people by and value them for, because that's how I want to be remembered and valued for too. So maybe in teaching my future daughter, I can teach myself.

 

 

Stones

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself”. How I act out everything I believe hinges on these two commandments. -Amber C. Haines, Wild in the Hollow

I heard a story recently of a group of God-loving individuals who were wronged by one of the members of their group. The deed that had been done against the group directly affected everyone and was morally wrong from both a world and Christian viewpoint. I heard how the leader of the group felt justified in shaming the individual for all to know and how one by one the members of the group felt justified in breaking off all ties with the guilty individual not only from the group, but from their friendship with the member.

Oh how quick we are to pick up our stones.

I was reminded when hearing this story of the adulteress woman. How the Pharisees dragged her out in front of everyone when she was caught red-handed and threw her before Jesus, asking him what he thought her sentence should be. The law of old was to stone her for such an act, so the Pharisees felt justified in shaming her and picked up their stones to kill her.

Justified: 1. Having a good or legitimate reason. 2. Declared righteous in the sight of God

Righteous: 1. Morally right. 2. Very good.

Self Righteous: Characterized by a certainty that one is totally correct or morally superior.

Judge: To form an opinion about (something or someone) after careful thought. 2. To regard someone as either good or bad.

Justifiable sin is truly the best kind of sin. Because what THEY are doing is wrong. Obviously. So I pick up my stone and judge. Because I have a legitimate reason to pick up my stone (justified). Because what they are doing is not morally right (not righteous). Because I am morally superior (self righteous).   Because I have put careful thought into what THEY are doing and it is wrong (judge)!

There is always a THEY with this justifiable sin. We just love feeling like we are better than the other “not classy” people over there. We conjure up a list of why we are better: Slept with only one person. Go to church every Sunday. Never had an addiction. Have an upstanding job. Don’t wear trashy, provocative clothes. Feed my kids all organic food. Attracted to the right sex. Have nicer stuff. Are not overweight.  

The irony in all of this, is that I went from judging the supposed “not classy” people, to judging the supposed “classy” people. Because I was no longer judging the “not classy” people anymore, my justifiable sin was then feeling like I was better than all the supposed “classy people” who still were judging others with the Word of God in their hands. Basically I just took the stone and tossed it from my left hand to my right hand.

I can come up with a slew of faces that I feel are morally incorrect. That I should be justified in considering myself to be better than or even to condemn. I’m sure you can too.

“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone...” -Jesus

So I sit on Jesus’ lap and yell, “But Jesus, they are totally out of line! They have hurt me so bad! What they are doing/have done is totally wrong by the world’s standards and YOUR word! They are totally misrepresenting You! They are not a good people! I should have the right to throw the stone!”

And then He grabs my hand, and I feel the holes. The holes that remind me that my sin pierced Him to a cross. When I look deep in those holes I remember that  in judging others I am the one totally out of line. How else do I know what out of line is other than having crossed that line constantly? That I have hurt others so bad. That I have done things undeniably wrong. That I misrepresent Him all the time.  

You know when you are similar to someone else and instead of that uniting you it annoys the crap out of you? Like you both are dominant personalities, so you rub each other the wrong way. Or you both are intense planners, but you never seem to have the same plan. Or you both really love to cook, but struggle to cook in the same kitchen because your process is different. I think that’s how this whole judging others thing goes to. It’s like, we see the wickedness, emptiness, desires, wrong motives, lack of love, laziness...etc. And we know exactly how that fruit tastes because we have that same nasty in us. We get it. And yet instead of sympathizing or having compassion we choose to pick up our stones.

I know for a fact I will always struggle to love the self righteous Christian, because I am the self righteous Christian. I’ll always struggle to love and not pick up a stone instead.

All the sudden, I’m not the Pharisee anymore, I’m the woman on the ground. Breathing in dust, sweat, and tears. Mortified I am caught. Mortified at where my desires have led me. Adulterous to a Savior so worthy of my love. Worthy of condemnation.

“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” Jesus whispers in my ear. I look around and all that was righteous and justified in putting me to death has cleared out. The stone wasn’t theirs to hold. The only stone my Jesus is in the business of is the one He pushed away from his tomb and in doing so redefining death and life for me.

“Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.”

 

 

Hella Good

When my Nana passed away unexpectedly, I felt like I should be okay with it. Her life had become so small, so full of pain. I felt as if I should be relieved that she didn’t have to live that way anymore. As if loss can be justified to make it hurt less.

The loss of someone feels so unreal. I just can’t wrap my head, my heart, my logic around this reality that one day someone is here leaving voicemails on your phone, mailing you cards, giving you hugs, and then the next...they aren’t.

At the time I felt like this is where my faith card should come into play. Ya know? The moment where total shit hits the fan, yet somehow faith buffers the hurt, steps in and allows me to see silver linings or have peace or something. I wanted to be able to withdraw some of the faith I had saved up throughout the years and rub it like a salve on all the questions and hurt that the loss of my Nana brought to the surface.

Nothing. Absolutely nothing to withdraw. Turns out faith doesn't look much like a bank.

Everyone was saying, “she’s in a better place” and my response in my head was, “Is she? Like really. Is she in a better place? Or is this something we are just saying to make ourselves feel better?”.

I had never had to truly believe this part of the text. Never had to believe in the “place” Jesus said he is preparing for me. I had never been so smacked with the reality that this life, this body is just for a moment and that I’m supposed to believe in an eternity that I know few things about.

When I was maybe 9 or 10, my Nana heard I was singing for the first time on the big stage at church. So she took me to JCPenney and bought me a whole new outfit to wear, complete with cute little loafers and a butterfly headband that had small, metal wings that fluttered around from little springs. She was so proud of me. The last time I saw her she pulled out a bunch of worship music sheets she had saved from her church and had me sit on the couch with her, hold her hand, and sing. 

My nana is my butterfly. So much of her life was misery and pain. Was being held captive by her past and her incapability to forgive. But now she’s free. The pain she experienced here mentally and physically is GONE. She doesn’t have to be in mental bondage by the horrendous things that were done to her. She doesn’t have to be convinced that no one wants her. Because the lies and pain that held her captive in a cocoon for so long don’t hold her anymore. She is a new creation.

She is existing in the reality that was always true for her, yet she couldn’t see. She is forever fully wanted. Fully known. Fully loved. And I’m realizing that her not being here with me, not being here to tell me that I shouldn't use products with bleach or my children will be born with no hair, her not being here to hold my hand when we walk through the crowd at Justin’s graduation, and her not sending me cards with her cutesy handwriting all over the insides…doesn’t suck for her. It just sucks for me.

And no matter how much I might miss her. I would NEVER ask God to bring her back. Because I know being with Him has got to be just too good. It has to be. And I barely get it. This whole heaven eternity thing. But what I know of this God. God Father. God King. God Creator. God Saviour. God Spirit. Is He is GOOD. Good in the purest, truest, most beautiful sense of the word. And I want Nana to experience all that goodness.

Eternity with God in this “place” that he is preparing for me is hard to believe. He told me so little about it. He spoke in riddles. He rarely gives me the black and white answer. It feels like all He has left me is this aroma. This beautifully, sweet and pleasing aroma that makes my mouth water and my soul hungry. I want it. I’m starving. I’ve got to have it. I’m following it. This aroma is the testament of something wonderful to come. Something that smells a lot like freedom, like no more fear, pain, or suffering. Like no more crying, no more living a life of sin, no more living a life with Him and yet somehow really detached. Like being fully loved. Like being fully held for forever. So I guess I’m trusting the chef in all this. I’m smelling and I’m believing that what He has in store is gonna be hella good. Because He is hella good.

 

Devoted

I get it. I want it too. To come, to sit, to hear, to belong to a group of faith seeking individuals, to try my best during the week to be good, and for that to be IT. The eternal IT that will get me a passport into heaven and the stamp of approval from the faith associations that blesses the people that fill their pews. 

I just started feeling like IT wasn’t actually... IT. 

I’m a product of a faith association. I was taught on felt boards in Sunday school, met the right kids in youth group, and perceivably got on the straight and narrow. My greatest testament of God was through the love I experienced in the dysfunctional functioning family I was a part of. I knew early on that the love I was experiencing was a direct result of the faith journey my parents were on. Because of that, I was always very aware of a God who loved me and who called me His child, just as much as my parents loved me and called me theirs. 

I felt special because I was blessed with one of the gifts that faith associations love: singing. I was singing on the worship team consistently when I was no older than ten. I got confused. Or maybe deceived? I believed the lie that the best faith seeking individuals are the ones that are on stage with the lights shining on them. I assumed that I was closer to God than the others who didn’t get to be on stage. In that small, deceived child’s heart was a pinpoint of true faith. Just a mere speck of faith, noticeable only through a microscope in that mucus filled heart of mine. But oh how beautiful it was. So small. But glory be to God for that speck. 

I’ve done it all. Attended everything. Attended nothing. Half-assed attended. Full born committed and got burnt out. Learned boundaries and had healthy commitments. Tried to follow blindly without questioning. Questioned everything. Been convinced that everything leaders say is truth. Been convinced nothing they say is truth. Been fully aware of God’s presence in those faith associations. Sat questioning if God’s presence was there at all. I’ve pointed fingers. I’ve thought the problem was me. I’ve felt like I totally belong at times and felt like I don’t belong at others. I could keep going, but you get the idea. Probably because you're paddling in this boat with me. Which is okay. And don’t worry, I brought snacks.

My husband had this crazy idea that I should start asking questions. Questions felt like throwing rocks at a faith that I was afraid might break. A faith so shiny and strange that it might not be able to withstand the force and crudeness of the rock in my hand being swung directly at it. Asking questions seemed disrespectful and the opposite of having faith. Faith doesn’t ask questions! What if it falls apart? What if it doesn't last? What if I break something that can’t be repaired? I can’t throw rocks at something that might break!

But I did it anyway. I threw. With all my tears and all my questions and all my doubt. A lot of stuff broke. Okay, it basically all broke. At first, it felt like I was ruining the faith that had stood with me for years. That had loved and nurtured me. That had protected me and allowed me to feel like I belonged somewhere. The process was messy and jagged and it felt like nothing was going to be left. I was miserable and yet I couldn’t stop throwing. I also was pissed. Pissed that what was crashing to the ground was breakable and couldn’t stand up on it’s own. Pissed at God. Because He wasn’t showing up to protect what I considered faith. Was anything true? Was anything real? Was anything pure? 

When all the glassy crap fell away, what was left was just a pinpoint of faith not much bigger than when I was a child. Microscope still needed. But no matter how many rocks I flung, that pinpoint of faith held it’s own. So I held it in my hand and I realized it was beautiful. It wasn’t much and it certainly didn’t answer all my questions, but it was beautiful. Even though all the crap is gone and I’m more confused than ever because I still want IT to be IT,… it’s okay. 

Because I’m seeing and hearing and feeling God and His Spirit more than ever. 

He is real. 

He is alive. 

He is here. 

The rituals I learned and only once did in those faith associations have transferred into my everyday life and somehow become holy. I no longer find obligation and faith in the same equation. My faith looks a lot less like routine and a lot more like a life journey with an ever present God Father. 

I am more devoted than ever.

WHO I AM

I get really frustrated at some of the people I love the most.  

The most amazing, beautiful, and inspiring women I know are absolutely convinced they are anything but those adjectives I just previously described them as. They would describe themselves as…otherwise. Let’s just say otherwise. They are heavily influenced by their inadequacies, incapabilities, previous failings, and insecurities. These beautiful women are some of my favorite people in the world, so to witness their incapability of seeing what I see in them in one fell swoop makes them the humble, down to earth people I adore and in another breaks my heart. 

Recently, I was pondering how the last couple of days had been pretty crappy. I too, had lived in a thick cloud of my own inadequacies, incapabilities, failings, and insecurities. A cloud so thick I was suffocating in all I wasn't, all I couldn't do, how I was going to fail, and how incapable I was. I saw clearly for the first time while trying to unravel the crappiness of the past days and in a moment of clarity I said out loud: “I wish I was as aware and convinced of WHO I AM, rather then being so aware and condemned by WHO I AM NOT.” 

Somewhere in my faith, I have translated terminology like “being dead to self” and “sacrificing myself” as not being aware or flexing any sort of dreams, giftings, or talents. I had assumed that being confident and loving myself was extremely vain because thinking anything good about myself was “loving the flesh”. I don’t think those exact words were ever actually interpreted that way to me, but I also wasn't really encouraged to be aware of who I was and the talents, dreams, passions, and capabilities that God has given me making me uniquely me.

But I’ve been hearing God’s voice lately for me and for my favorite people in the world and it’s saying, “If only you could see what I see!”. That voice breezes right up, past, and through me like all the magic of the breeze in The Colors of the Wind and I feel secure. I feel capable. I feel adequate. I feel like enough.

A life devoted to being aware and convinced of WHO I AM and who God has made me to be is worth fighting for, rather than living in the condemning and suffocating reality of who I am not and who I will never be compared to everyone else. That's just the thing though isn't it? To focus on who I am and who God has made ME, I have to stop looking and comparing myself to who God has made everyone else to be. Cause I'm never going to be the bubbly, charming, optimist that everyone instantly loves. But I AM the truth teller that optimists most often can't be. And I'm never going to be the petite figure that feels small compared to most. But I AM a strong, 5"10, size 10 woman that has a body that is capable of swimming in crystal blue oceans, going on long walks with my mom, and reaching for items on the top shelf at the supermarket for all you normal people out there (I do what I can). 

If only you could see how you light up a room when you walk in. If only you could see how you can comfort others in ways no one else can. If only you could see how people delight in your silliness. If only you could see how you do things every day others can't. If only you could see how your passion motivates others. If only you could see how the simplicity of your words and life is a comfort to all around you. If only you could see how your laugh makes everyone else laugh. If only you could see how your gift isn't stupid. 

If “every good and perfect gift comes from above” then why haven’t I been taught and urged to recognize those gifts God has given me and applaud the Creator for them? 

Can you believe some of us can dance? Some of us can make others laugh till they cry. Some of us can accidentally pee their pants when they laugh making us all fall off chairs and roll around on really dirty floors. Some of us can cook freaking bomb food. Some of us can put on their running shoes without crying. Some of us are good listeners. Some of us are just naturally approachable to all. Some of us have really good sense of direction. Some of us just naturally make their home feel like our home. Some of us see needs no one else does. Some of us love kids that aren't even their own.  

Not all of our gifts, talents, dreams, and passions are big flags in the sky that society applauds and celebrates. But I’m realizing it’s important to know, use and applaud them all the same. To know what we CAN do. That we are adequate. That we are valuable. That we are important. That we are capable. That we are enough.