10/22/14 Morning Musing: 🎶🎶Big Girls…Don’t Cry-yi-yi…🎶🎶

Crap! Here it comes! Not now! No! No! Maybe if I pinch the bridge of my nose…nope. Argh! Science! What if I open my eyes really wide in order to achieve more surface area of my eyes being exposed to air and thus allowing them to dry? Nope. Well, crap!!!! Biting the inside of my cheeks and lips? Ouch…and nope. Why can’t this happen when I am alone? Why does it always have to happen when I am in someone else’s presence? I hate it! I hate that I can not stop myself from crying when I get frustrated or angry and I hate that he is looking at me like this. Now, he won’t remember what I am saying or the point of this conversation…all he’ll remember is that I’m weird and can’t handle heavy topics because I appear to be hyper-emotional. Great…now I’m going to be described as “a hysterical female” and I can’t even be hysterical (literally means to have a uterus…I will never be hysterical again…but my eyes don’t seem to comprehend that!) This sucks!

This is the conversation I had in my head just a couple of weeks ago. I was so frustrated with my apparent lack of self-control, that when I got home I began researching how to circumvent the crying process. Turns out…there isn’t much you can do about it. Some people suggest the bridge-of-the-nose-thing and some suggest physically taking a step back from the situation in order to feel that you have the “space to gain some perspective” but nobody has figured out yet how to prevent it. One research paper (science geek-out alert) even suggested that when a woman cries, there are chemicals released from her body that lower testosterone in nearby males which is meant to reduce aggression in any male attackers…my personal experience is that it just reduces my ability to be viewed as a rational and intelligent woman.

So, why am I writing about this? Well, it turns out that a LOT of women struggle with this and I want you to know that you’re not alone if you are one of them. Another thing is that it appears to be truly physiological and not due to some sort of mental or emotional deficiency at all…which would mean that it is a safeguard that is in place in order to protect us from harm. It is meant to protect from physical, emotional, and mental damage or danger. I wouldn’t curse my reflexes for responding to something hot so why do I curse my body for it’s natural response to danger? (The tears weren’t the only response; I also noticed that my hands balled up into fists, my heart rate sped up, I began sweating, and my mouth felt almost gummy and sticky. So…it’s probably safe to say that my sympathetic nervous system was primed and working full-speed…great…why can’t other things like…oh, say…my metabolism be working at full speed? I digress.)

Here is the thing though, in my experience, there are two kinds of people in the world: those that cry and can’t help it…and those who hate to be around those that cry and can’t help it. And I can have all of the head-knowledge in the world on the topic but it doesn’t matter because the other person (the non-cryer) doesn’t have that same knowledge so I am consequently still seen as a blubbering, irrational, stay-away-from-that-brand-of-crazy kind of woman. Even though God created this in me out of his infinite wisdom and love for me, I would like to short-circuit it somehow or download information about it into all of the non-cryers out there…but I can’t.

So, I’ve had about 10 days to think about this, process it, pray about, and discuss it with trusted friends and I have come to a few conclusions. First, God instilled this characteristic in me so I need to embrace it just like I do my crazy-thick hair, my freckles, and my crooked dimples…it just…is…and I need to accept that and be okay with that. Next, even though our culture sees this kind of display as a sign of weakness, I don’t need to judge myself by the culture (Culture gets things wrong all the time! Polygamy was once part of the prevalent culture and I wouldn’t judge myself for not following along with that so I need to see the difference between a true flaw and a perceived flaw.) Additionally, I have spent years changing myself from being a guarded person who conceals who I am to a painfully-vulnerable person…so this is consistent with my goal of being authentic and real…it coincides with part of my mission. Finally, I should be thankful to my creator for using such care in designing me that he instilled safe-guards…you don’t safe-guard something that is without value…you only safe-guard what you love and hold dear…so, it’s actually a beautiful thing that God created me in this way.

So how about you? Do you have the same struggle with tears or maybe some other perceived flaw? How can you identify if it is truly a flaw or if it is only a perceived flaw? Would that difference matter to you? If there is something about yourself that you are wanting to change, would the people who love you support the change? If not, you might want to evaluate it further because it could be an unhealthy change. Even if this doesn’t apply to you, there are people around you trying to change themselves (for better or for worse) and you could be a source of truth being spoken in their lives…so will you? Will you speak truth, encouragement, and life into others?

My prayer today is that we will all embrace the creations that we are and accept that perceived flaws are not necessarily actual flaws. I am praying that we will thank our Creator for the care he took in forming us and those we love. I am praying that we will focus on excising barriers that exist between ourselves and our God as well as between ourselves and our loved-ones. (After all, we are all fearfully and wonderfully made.) Much love friends,

Beks

10/13/14 Morning Musing: Painfully and Exquisitely Imperfect

Almost done. Almost finished…Crap! I messed up. It was tempting to just draw a line through it like the teacher had instructed us to do when we made a mistake…but I just couldn’t do that. It had to be perfect. Perfection. *Sigh* I pulled out another sheet of notebook paper and turned it at my preferred angle on my desk and I began again on the homework in Ms. Graves’ English class. Perfection and nothing less…in everything that I did…because if I was perfect, people would like me, wouldn’t they? They’d have to because what could you possibly dislike about perfection? Nothing! That’s what. So…here I go again.

This was how I operated growing up…I have always been a bit more than the typical Type-A personality…I was drawing value from being perfect. I needed to be perfect because I wasn’t the most…anything. I wasn’t the prettiest, the nicest, the smartest, the most fun, the wildest, the most outlandish…I was the most mediocre and invisible…at least in my head…and I was determined not to be mediocre. I couldn’t change the other things about myself…I couldn’t make myself smarter or prettier…but I could work hard…damn hard…so that is what I did. And I felt like it added value. After all, if I worked hard enough, I could trick people into thinking I was smarter and better than I was.

The problem with working to create a persona is that you have to always be “on.” If I were to become the “perfect girl” I was going to have to eat, sleep, and breathe perfectly. It got to a point where it took over: it was about grades, looks, popularity, intelligence…everything. You can see how this could become exhausting. In college, I perfected the perfection persona (alliteration! Oh! Ms. Graves would be proud!) because I accidentally found something that I was actually a natural at: Dance. Oh God! I loved to dance! It made me feel like I was flying. When I was dancing, I felt beautiful…all eyes were on me and regardless of whether or not they had seen it before, people couldn’t help but be impressed. I could let my guard down when I was dancing because I actually WAS good at it…I wasn’t pretending…I wasn’t playing a part…so I danced every night…every opportunity that I had…I even bullied my girl friends into going most nights as well. (Summer, Terry, and Becky…oh the things you put up with back then! On the plus side, we didn’t go to a ton of keggers because I was less interested in anything that would take time away from the dancing.)

I was on my way to perfection! I was making the grades by working so hard…I wasn’t learning anything…but who cared?! I had the grades! I was well-known because everyone in this college town went to the dance halls at some point (because there was nothing else to do) and would see me and remember me. I was even on the commercials for the bars there (My Southern-Baptist Preacher Dad would have hated that! All the better because that meant I was “wild” too! Yes, dancing was my huge college rebellion.) I was somebody! And at the same time, I was nobody (unless I was dancing) because every other aspect of me was contrived…false…artificial.

I lived this way for years and years and was still “performing” when I met Stan. But, miraculously, he saw through it. He saw the me that was behind the well-guarded (and perfected after more than a decade of practice) persona. And I don’t know how he saw me…nobody else could…nobody. As a matter of fact, after our first date, his exact words were “There is more to you than meets the eye.” Wow! That scared me and thrilled me at the same time. I didn’t quite know what to do with that. I couldn’t drop him like I did most guys (during this time, I was horrible to guys…I would purposely lure them in until I knew I had them hooked, and then I would drop them because the thrill was gone if I knew I could have them…I’m not exactly sure what I was proving by doing that…I assume self-worth…but it didn’t work…I always came up empty and requiring more ego-feeding.) There was something about Stan that just stuck to me though…honestly, I think it was that he could see through my bull $#!t! Without any effort, he could see me…really see me…and he wasn’t put off by what he saw. How was that possible? Nobody could possibly be impressed with mediocre…could they?

I kept him a little at arm’s length for a while so I could study him. I told him that if he uttered the word “commitment” that I was gone. And to this day, Stan says he “played me like a fiddle.” If I wanted the chase, he was going to give it to me. We went on 50 dates before he kissed me for the first time…that is right FIFTY! That had never happened before. I would be damned if I was going to be the one to make the first move…that wasn’t how I operated…my job was to lure him in and his job was to be enamored with me. (For some reason, that would make him easier to discard…because he would be just like all the rest.) He was not playing by my rules and it frustrated yet appealed to me.

We continued to get to know each other and slowly, the persona that I had worn like armor, began to fade away…until a true version of me began to reveal itself. Over the next few years, I grew not only into a real person…but into a truly loved child of God. And, as always is the case, I came to a point where I tested it. I chose to not be perfect…would Stan turn and run after finally seeing the nasty person that I really am? Would God? And they both surprised me. Neither Stan nor God abandoned me. Neither one condemned me…but neither one sugar-coated it and said that sin was ok either. And I have never felt more loved in my life. What?! You mean I’m not defined by my mistakes? I can be less than perfect and still be loved? I can be real? Instead of fearing that when I made mistakes that I would be rejected, I finally came to a point (in my 30s, mind you) that I could actually learn from my mistakes instead of trying to conceal them. That is when I became addicted to something altogether new for me: authenticity.

The reason I put all of this out there this morning is that I have been asked (a lot lately) how I can be so painfully transparent. The answer is simple…I think that trying to conceal things is much, much more painful than the risk of rejection for authenticity. I’ve lived that painful falseness and I hated it. Now that I have tasted the sweetness of authenticity, I don’t think I could settle for the bitter flavor of living a lie again.

So, how are you doing with this? Are you living authentically or do you have pieces of yourself that you think people would reject if they could truly see it? Do you have a persona that you wear around certain people…all people? Do you have to present yourself in a specific way to anyone? Why? Do you think they will reject you? Will you reject yourself? Do you fear that God will reject you? If you fear God’s rejection, how does it make you feel to know that he sees through it all anyway? What small step could you take today in moving toward being more authentic? I have a feeling that if the thought of this scares you…then it might just be the right step.

My prayer this morning is that we would all embrace the creations that we are…intentionally and thoughtfully crafted in the hands of a perfect God who sees the flaws in us and loves us deeply…deeply enough to die for us. I am praying that we will not continue in our sin of being false…that we would see it as sin…because it’s a lie…and our God is Truth. My prayer is for authenticity so that we can reflect the real image of our Jesus. Much love friends,

Beks

10/3/14 Morning Musing: Tap the Brakes, Babycakes!

I know this dad who loves his kids deeply…but doesn’t know how to relate to them very well. He has made huge efforts to do fun over-the-top things with them only to have the kids respond with luke-warm feelings at best and disinterest most of the time. The responses from the kids are disheartening to the dad and he withdraws a bit to lick his wounds. A month or so later, the process repeats itself. It’s leaving the kids disconnected from the dad and the dad feeling like a failure and frustrated with the kids for not wanting to do the fun things together.

I’ve thought about this many times…and I’ve never said a word to the dad because I don’t want to come off wrong…condescending or like I have a clue what I’m doing…and let’s face it, he didn’t ask for my opinion…but from the outside looking in, it’s easier to get perspective…my pride and emotions aren’t the ones being damaged more and more with each pass through the cycle. So, this morning, I am musing about it so that I can process what I am seeing.

I see two children who are checked out. They would rather interact with a video game or tv screen than with a human. (That part is not necessarily unusual in most homes unfortunately.) I see parents who love their kids deeply but who are willing to let the video game and tv be the main influencers of their kids 90% of the time. Then, the parents clue in to what is going on and make a huge effort to do something with the kids that will “wow” them. The kids know that this will fizzle out shortly (because it always has) and so they no longer respond to the over-the-top display of affection. This leaves the parents exasperated and frustrated and feeling like failures. The cycle repeats constantly and relationships are becoming more and more fractured.

I understand the lure of letting the tv or video games or whatever dominate your child’s attention because, let’s face it, there is a lot to do and not enough time to do it. (My current to do list is 3 pages long! I get it!) The thing is, there is not one single thing on that list that is more important than any relationship you have in your life. What if, instead of big overtures, we spent precious little moments with those we love. If the goal is to connect, why not steal away moments alone with the child to ask them about their lives (and…here is the hard part…not offer advice unless it is asked for.) Ask questions that get them talking about what they are interested in. Talk about the gifts and talents that you see in them and ask them if they see them too, how they are developing those talents, and how those talents play into their future. Ask them about their friends, what characteristics their friends have that they admire and why. If you show someone every day that you are invested in them, the walls come down. If you are only showing them investment every once in a while, well…it’s easy to defend against that…and make no mistake…it is defense for them even if it is intended to be fun…because they know your interest in them will go away again…it isn’t sustainable in the large doses because life is going to steal your attention away again…and that hurts.

So how are you doing with this? Do you have a relationship in your life that is waning because of a lack of daily (or at least regular) investment? Is there some way that you could invest on a small but regular basis…something sustainable? Who are you meant to go deeper with? Are you? If you aren’t, how can you let them know that you want to develop a healthier, more stable relationship with them?

My prayer this morning is that we would reduce our to-do lists by putting names on them instead of activities. I’m praying that we would focus on the people God has blessed us with and that they would feel loved and seen and valued…and consequently, that we would show them one more glimpse of God’s character. Much love friends,

Beks

10/2/14 Morning Musing: Father or Daddy?

A few years ago, my parents were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. (That is a huge accomplishment in my opinion.) Anyone who knows my parents knows that they don’t do parties and extravagance and fuss. So, my brothers and I decided that we were going to have a family-only surprise party for my folks at my house. How to get them there without them knowing what was going on? Well, since Stan and I do pre-marriage mentoring, we get invited to a lot of weddings. I lied to my folks and told them that our babysitter backed out and that we had promised a couple we would be at their wedding. So, here came my parents to the rescue! The night of the party, it looked like one of my brothers wasn’t going to be here before my folks got here and that just wouldn’t do. So, I called my mom’s cell phone and feigned upset GI issues and asked them to stop at the pharmacy and get me something (because I couldn’t very well attend a pretend wedding in my pretend state! Ha!) That gave my brother and his family just enough time to get to my house before my folks got here. Our photos of the surprise that night had my dad coming in the door ready to help with a giant bottle of mylanta in his hand and a very concerned/surprised look on his face.

I think that there is a special bond that is meant to exist between a Daddy and his little girl. (Not that there isn’t with sons…but it’s different somehow.) I was 35 when the story above happened but my Dad still wanted to be my knight in shining armor and come to the rescue. He wanted to make everything bad go away by doing something tangible to help. (I know that about his character and actually used it to manipulate the situation…not in a bad way…but it was manipulation nonetheless.) I see this with Stan and Michaela on a daily basis. He wants to fight away any unpleasantness from her life and surround her with his love. He views her as extremely precious; he sees value in her femininity and sweetness and wants to preserve that in her as long as possible.

God is referred to in a Father role many times and even Abba which translates to “Dada” or “Daddy.” We are to learn something about the character of God in this reference. There is a problem though…many of us are damaged by our broken relationships or lack of relationships with our fathers and that tarnishes how we view God. When you can’t relate at all to an analogy, it loses its meaning.

I know that there are a lot of people out there who struggle with this and I want to tell you that your father has struggled in it as well. When a man abandons, abuses, or neglects his children…well, he isn’t seeing clearly who God is or even who he is. I’m not saying that those actions or lack of can be condoned…not at all! I am, however, saying that sin doesn’t ever just affect the person who is mistreated; the person who commits the sin is also extremely damaged by it as well. I think when God calls us to be something…in this case, Father…and we choose not to fulfill that calling, that we lose a piece of ourselves and that leaves a gaping hole in our spirit. When I think of the pain that the person who commits the sin is in, it usually allows me to be less angry with them…not permissive…but less angry. (And holding on to anger only hurts me…it never hurts the other person.) In addition, the person who committed the sin is reminded of it every time they see the person that they hurt…that is painful…humans generally do not like pain so we push away…it isn’t right, but we do it. While I know this won’t ease your pain, I’m hoping it may possibly shed a little bit of light on some of the questions you may have.

I guess the take-home message here is that a Daddy has a very special role to fill and when he doesn’t do it, it has a domino effect in the life of his child…but also in himself. If you are a father, think about your calling to be a Daddy and not just a father. Think about how your children relate to you, and consequently, relate to God. If you have/had a father who was not a Daddy, please don’t turn your back on God…God wants to be the Daddy who rescues his little girl and shows up to a surprise party with a giant bottle of mylanta.

So how are you doing with this? No father is perfect except for one…are you holding onto anger toward your father for his failings? Are you allowing your understanding of God to be limited by your experiences with your father? How can you try to move past this? How can you change your image of father? If you are a father, are you also a Daddy? What images of God are you giving to your children? Do your kids see God as too busy for them? Abusive? Workaholic? Neglectful? Inappropriate? Not worth looking up to? What can you do to change that?

I am not intentionally leaving mothers out of this musing…I just felt like I was supposed to speak to fathers today. My prayer this morning is that we would all allow God access to the wounds that we are protecting…wounds from the failings of our fathers (because every single father will fail!) I am praying that we would allow the healing process to begin. I am also praying for the fathers out there. Showing God to your children is a huge responsibility and can feel overwhelming when you know that you will screw up…but every moment is another chance to get it right and be obedient to God…another chance to give your children a glimpse of God’s character…another chance to love well. Much love friends,

Beks