1/12/18 Morning Musing: We Damage His Name…

After reading another story about another woman being sexually assaulted by a man and it not coming to public knowledge for decades and hearing her disparaged and minimized because she “waited too long” or because it was “decades ago”…I just can’t be quiet any longer. (This time, it was Andy Savage of Highpoint Church in Tennessee.) It’s late and my heart hurts so be patient with me as I try to make coherent points.

I can not understand how “waiting so long” is supposed to negate the victim’s reliability or the truth. People in power have gotten away with abuse of the ones without that power forever…and unfortunately, it is also true in churches. But unlike outside of the church, we Christians should be held to a different standard…not because we are better than anyone else…not by a long shot. We should be held to a higher standard because we have intimate understanding of Jesus’ example of giving a voice to the voiceless…of bringing justice to the marginalized…and giving dignity to the broken or hurting. This intimate knowledge of our God and his heart means that we can not continue to ignore injustice and abuse of power while representing our Lord accurately because each time we do, we aren’t just lying…we aren’t just hurting the individuals being denied justice…we are also damaging the name of our God.

We damage his name when we continue to turn a blind eye to abuse.

We damage his name when we refuse to see other people…other image-bearers…as valuable.

We damage his name when we give racism or sexism (or any other ism) a pass by remaining quiet when we know we should be speaking up.

We damage his name when we refuse to enter into honest and respectful dialogue about topics that matter. (This contributes to the trend of people seeing the church as obsolete.)

We damage his name when we defend abusers and judge victims based on whether or not we align with them politically, denominationally, etc. (Yes, I just went there.)

We damage his name when we push for male leaders in church to receive funds for their ministry, appropriate pay and title, and continuing education while denying it for their female counter-parts.

We damage his name when we beat people up with our religion instead of listening to them and loving them.

We damage his name when we applaud what is wicked and criticize what is good.

We damage his name when we deny others the freedom that we simultaneously demand for ourselves.

We damage his name when we judge others instead of remembering how we have been forgiven.

We damage his name when we mistreat each other in the name of “witnessing.”

We damage his name when we abandon the needy, weak, marginalized, aged, or hurting.

We damage his name when we refuse to own our sins and, instead, justify our ugly behaviors or minimize them by using more palatable wording so that we can feel better about ourselves.

I could go on and on forever with this. At some point, we must quit tolerating the abuse of power. If we are the ones with power, God’s blessings are not limited…there is no need to try to hoard it. If we are the abusers, yes there is forgiveness…the gospel is not too small for any sin…but that doesn’t mean that accountability is void. If we are the survivors…and hear me on this…please hear me…our pain is not to be wasted! It can become a beautiful place that will allow us to minister to others and understand the hurts of others if we allow it. If we are the ones without power, our God is the God Who Sees us (El Roi) so he clearly sees the power-mongers and they will be held accountable.

How are you doing with this? Did any of these points make you wince a little or bring a specific incident to mind? Is there some way that you can pursue a more truthful and authentic way of living this out? Is there someone that you feel you should apologize to? Is there forgiveness that you can extend to someone regardless of whether or not they have asked for it?

My prayer for us tonight is that we would simply love each other better. I am praying that instead of constantly grappling for power or position or status or whatever, that we would see the truth of what is important and life-giving and pursue it with abandon. I am praying that we would try to squeeze every bit of living out of this life while we have it instead of pursuing the things that lead to our physical, emotional, and spiritual death. I am praying that we would also learn how to receive love when offered by others.

Much love friends,

Beks

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10/18/16 Morning Musing: Knowing What To Own

**I started writing this morning thinking that I was writing about a completely different topic but this was where God took it so I hope somebody finds it helpful.**

What. The. Hell?!?! Are you serious right now? This was the questioning in my head as my friend relayed the scathing conversation that took place about me behind my back between some “friends” a few years back. My skin flushed and prickled as I clawed at the neckline of my sweater, scratching my red, itchy skin as I did so. “Why is the heat turned up so high in here? I’m sweating!” was all I could say in response to this heart-breaking news. I felt betrayed and I was angry…and my response to anger is usually tears and I didn’t want that so I was going to distract myself in any way that I could for the time being. I would unpack this and deal with it later. For now, pizza…lots of pizza…and chocolate…because I could always count on eating my emotion…my delicious emotions.

I did work through it all later. God and I did some difficult work together on this one and came to a conclusion that I really didn’t like: While I am responsible for how I make people feel, I am not responsible to own their opinions and feelings…even their opinions or feelings toward me. Ugh! The people-pleaser side of me really, REALLY did not like that. I recall talking with God and trying to negotiate with him: “Now, come on…if the opinion is about me, I should have some say in it shouldn’t I? I mean, when people have me pegged completely wrong, there’s got to be a smooth, non-messy kind of way to make them see that I really mean well but that I am just a bumbler who screws up a lot…right?” The answer I got from God was “How often do I force the truth of who I am on those I love?” *Unhh!* (In case you don’t know that sound, it’s what it sounds like when air leaves your mouth really fast because you got hit in the gut unexpectedly.) 

So, despite my desire to “fix” things (and maybe also the desire to call people out on their shi-…uh…on being intentionally unkind to me) and after talking it through with some friends, I decided to release it. That doesn’t mean that it didn’t hurt me and it doesn’t mean that it didn’t matter, but it does mean that I was willing to let God be in control of it…and by doing that, my anger and resentment over it didn’t control me anymore. **Post note: one of the two ladies involved in the conversation very humbly approached me on her own a couple of years later and cleared things up (at least her side of things) and we have become quite good friends now…she has actually become a consistent source of Godly counsel, wisdom, and encouragement…I’m pretty glad I didn’t just go in guns blazing like I felt justified in doing.**

What is my point? Glad you asked! I guess there are several: First, I think that how we make people feel matters (I know, I’ve said that before…I’m a broken record here…I can’t tell you a single thing I learned in middle school but I can tell you in excruciating detail how I felt…feelings last…how we make people feel does matter.) Also, while how we make them feel is important, we can not own their opinions and feelings for them…even if the opinions are about us. Finally, I would say that if the weight of all of this gets too heavy for you like it does for me at times, just remember that all God is asking you to do right now is to be obedient right now. He’s not asking you to change the whole world and everything in it at this moment. What does obedience look like right now? For me, sometimes it means speaking up…sometimes it means holding my tongue.

So how are you doing with this? Do you think at all about how your words or actions affect other people? If you do think about this, are you able to keep it in balance or do you take it to far and try to own their feelings and opinions? How can you create healthy boundaries for yourself so that you are invested in those you love but not so deeply invested that you find yourself wresting ownership away from them. Finally, what does obedience look like for you right here right now? Not your five year plan…not your huge long-term ministry goals…today! What would obedience to God look like for you today?

My prayer today is that we would be so consumed with serving God and serving others that our reputations would take care of themselves. I’m praying that we invest deeply and love well. Much love friends,

Beks

10/11/16 Morning Musing: More Than This

My husband played baseball his whole life. He went to college on a baseball scholarship. Over the years, I have asked him a few times about locker-room talk…it was nothing like what I heard come out of a presidential candidate’s filthy mouth this weekend.  

Caleb and I had a talk about that recording this weekend…he’s 9 years old…he doesn’t understand those words that were used…he shouldn’t have to…but he knew that me hearing it…well, it injured me. He saw me shaking and saw the tears in my eyes. I talked to him about how damaging it is to someone to be objectified but also about how damaging it is to someone’s soul when they do the objectifying…how they become a little less human…a little less flesh and bone…and become a little more stone. I told him that the reason we objectify people is the simple fact that we are made in God’s image…if we can reduce people to objects, we don’t feel as directly confronted by the affront we are committing to God…we feel less guilty about it because we no longer see them as people…we no longer see God looking back at us as we damage them…we just see the objects we have turned them into. 

What’s my point? Well, I guess it’s that I am embarrassed by Trump’s behavior. I am embarrassed that out of the billions of people available, this is what we have to offer the oval office. I’m heart-broken that a possible leader of our country might teach my son and yours “to move on a woman like a bitch” or to “grab a woman by the pussy.” I’m terrified that my daughter could one day soon be the woman that he was talking about. I’m angry! I’m straight up pissed off on behalf of the woman he objectified in that recording, on behalf of myself for having been objectified in the past, and on behalf of the millions of women and girls who don’t even know their worth because they are around this kind of thinking.  

I’ve seen a lot of discussion about this online and I want to make one point very clear: This has nothing to do with what anyone else has done. I’ve heard people…Christians…say “It’s terrible but…”. No but. Don’t try to justify this for him. This is not “locker room” talk. This is dehumanizing talk that shows exactly what is in that man’s heart. (“But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart. Those are the things that make you ‘unclean.’” Matthew‬ ‭15:18‬ ‭NIRV‬‬.) Please, please be more loyal to your God than to your political party. I don’t care which party that is or who you vote for…just know that your vote is your voice affirming the beliefs and actions of these people.  

Today, my prayer is that we would use our voices to speak truth. I’m praying that we would spend time with God so that we would know truth and that we would refuse to perpetuate lies that destroy souls. I’m praying that we would be a voice for the voiceless and that we would refuse to be quieted. I’m praying for work to be done in our heart spaces.

Much love friends, 
Beks

Image taken from: https://womenwithworth.wordpress.com/2012/09/19/you-are-more/

5/9/16 – Morning Musing: Being Me

Last fall, I went to a conference specifically for Christian women in leadership. I was really excited to go and there was one particular session that I was looking forward to: Working With Men: Dive, Survive, or Thrive. I was familiar with the speaker for this session and knew that she was a pioneer for women where she is employed. Since I was working in a place where the overwhelming majority of leadership positions were filled by males and the majority of supportive roles were filled by females, I had found myself chaffing…struggling under the weight of this. Now don’t get me wrong…I was never looking to climb the ladder…I wasn’t even looking for a job when I got that one…I just wanted to minister to people…to help people see and embrace the truth and grace and freedom available to them…I wasn’t interested in money or position and so I was able to approach things without an agenda.  

Anyway, I went to this session with some of my work friends and the most humiliating thing happened: The speaker began to speak and I began to furiously take notes. As the session progressed, I began to feel heavier and heavier until I just sat there open-mouthed and confused. Is this really happening? Did I really just hear her say that women needed to suppress their emotions in order to work with men? And thank the men that allowed them to be a leader? What? And then it happened. I felt the first tear fall down my cheek. No!!!!! Stop! I berated myself as my vision blurred while I sat there on the second row and cried as the speaker asked this room full of women leaders to suppress what is a big part of many of us and is fully God-given. The message I received loudly and clearly was “If you want to be successful in this male-dominated field, you will need to become more masculine so that the men can feel comfortable with you.” The speaker made eye-contact with me and was visibly disturbed by the expression on my face complete with the tears, sniffing, and red blotchy skin. No poker-face here!  

My co-workers who were with me were trying to help me out but I just couldn’t seem to reign it all in. It took me a while to find words for why I was so broken by that speaker’s message but I finally did. I was grieving. This woman, whom I had looked up to was giving me the same message as the men that I had struggled with: There is a specific persona that I would have to embody if I wanted to get to really do ministry. I would have to suppress the strongest parts of myself and be inauthentic in order to get the opportunity to speak truth to people. Do you see the irony? I would have to lie about who I am to myself and others if I wanted the chance to speak truth…any truth I could ever offer anyone would have to begin with a lie. I couldn’t stomach this at all. I had come so far from the self-doubting girl who didn’t understand why God had made her “incorrectly” (a female with “male” gifts of leadership, pastoring, teaching, etc.) I had finally reached a point of understanding that I, too, was an image-bearer of the Almighty despite being female…had finally started to accept my God-given and carefully designed character and personality and this message directly attacked the freedom that had finally become available to me. I had gotten this message a lot over the years and had been able to disregard it most of the time because I figured that we all learn our lessons at different rates…just because I knew something was true didn’t mean that everyone else already knew it. What made it so very painful this time…was that this message was coming from a woman who had paved the way for me…she should have known better.  

I lost respect for one of my role-models that day because she was asking me to be inauthentic…to lie to myself and others about who I am…to hide. I have a lot of flaws…and I own them fully…but inauthenticity is not one of them. I can not and will not pretend to be less so that others can feel good about themselves.  

So, how are you doing with this? Do you know yourself? Really know yourself? Do you understand how your specific characteristics are meant to benefit the world around you? Do you sometimes doubt your gifts and design? Where do those doubts stem from? What usually spurs you to deny who you are? How can you change that way of thinking around so that you can honor not only how you were designed…but also the One who designed you?  

My prayer today is that we would be authentic people who love others, ourselves, and God well by speaking and living out truth because if what we offer isn’t truth, we are just filling the world with noise.

Much love friends,
Beks

9/22/15 Morning Musing: It’s Only Bravery If We are Scared

In about a month, I am giving a talk in my marriage class. It shouldn’t be a big deal…I’m outgoing and never (ever!) have trouble talking with folks (whether I know them or not and whether they know that they want to talk or not)…but having a conversation is different from holding a microphone and talking from the front of the room. I have incredible anxiety around these kinds of situations…any situation where I feel like I am having to “perform.” The subject area is right up my alley: Fun and Connectedness. (I mean, c’mon! This practically has my name written all over it.) So what’s the problem?

Well, I guess my problem is two-fold:

First, there is the performance thing. I am the girl who would vomit before tests in school…from seventh grade all the way into grad school. And even as an adult, I would get performance anxiety around testing for taekwondo. (I’m sort of ashamed (and sort of proud) to admit that I was known as the lady with the fun flask at testings and tournaments. I would arrive early and pour vanilla rum into Dr. Pepper and voila! It was a yummy Vanilla Dr. Pepper from Sonic…but more fun.) I mean, c’mon! I’m an adult! (at least chronologically if not otherwise.) And…I am paying a lot of money for these judges to judge me…but I was so afraid that they would also “judge” me. *shudders* As a deeply-died-in-the-wool-people-pleaser, that thought alone can make me freeze up and just shut down. (And yes, I know all of the reasons (Biblically and otherwise) why I should not care what anyone thinks of me…it’s my blood pressure, stomach, and brain that have the absolutely terrified and paralyzed disconnect.) **Warning: Digresses to a story: When I first started board breaking in taekwondo, I got all gummed up in my head at testing because I knew my board-holders (Mr. Scott Mischke and Mr. Nevels.) Nicest guys in the world…but I knew them. When mentally preparing myself for this testing, I had faceless board holders…but these guys…I knew! And I liked them! Ugh! Well, as it would go, I was all amped up and kicking it wrong for the first two tries. When I got to the last possible attempt, the thought occurred to me, “If you throw up on them, you will have to quit because it will be too embarrassing to ever return to class.” Well…that’s just great! I knew then that vomiting was eminent and I had to do the last kick (pass or fail) before the vomiting happened or I was just screwed. So, I managed to throw a terrible, ugly, embarrassingly bad side kick…and accidently broke the board…with my calf. What the-? Hold on, I used to be a science teacher…I have taught physics…that isn’t supposed to be possible! And in my confusion and disbelief, I passed my test. I stood there stunned and saw the stunned and amused faces of Scott and Kevin looking back at me as I thanked them and wandered away somewhere. (I’m still not sure what I did or where I went after that…I sure hope I wasn’t driving.) The only thing that made sense to me was that I was so pathetic that God had mercy on my and broke the board for me. Honestly, it’s the only thing that I can think of.**

The other problem for me, where this upcoming talk is concerned, has to do with my long-held belief about women being quiet in church (1 Tim 2.) And while I have this settled in my mind after extensive study (I am happy to have a conversation about this if you want,) there is still something that nags at me…some insidious voice that tells me that I am being a “bad girl” (and not in the fun way…just in the disobedient-to-God way) and that gives me heartburn. It gives me pause and it opens me up to doubt. This nagging thought is the reason that I have denied my Spiritual giftedness for so long…but I simply can’t deny it anymore: Pastor/Shepherd, Teacher, Prophecy (Counsel), and Exhortation (Encouragement)…these gifts define who God made me to be and the story that he has chosen for my life to tell. So, every time I consider doing this, I have to go through the entire exercise of re-studying in order to make sure that I am in humble obedience to God and not in some sort of rebellion. It can be exhausting.

Why am I telling you this? Well, I guess it’s for a couple of reasons: First, I’d love prayer support. Ever since making this decision, I have honestly felt attack. My time has managed to become over-loaded with stuff that I don’t like or have a passion for (soul-sucking tedious stuff like updating websites and dealing with rosters and stuff) and have been denied the deep conversations with actual people’s faces (in person) about real ideas. I have been unable to muse although it is one of the only things I want to do. So, I am asking for prayer as often as God brings it to mind to think about. (And thank you in advance.)

Another reason I’m writing about this is that I think that big things are happening in the Church (universal…not just the one I attend) where biases (gender as well as others) are concerned. As long as we are unable to put ourselves in someone else’s circumstances (gender, race, socioeconomics, orientation, up-bringing, etc.) it is crucial that we talk with people to gain their perspective. I would be willing to bet that very few male pastors in the Bible Belt have struggled against feeling like they are a willfully disobedient Christ-follower for speaking truth in church. Considering that many of us spend time with others who are like us, it stands to reason that we lack exposure to many perspectives that could allow us glimpses of God’s truth and character that we don’t currently see.

Finally, I’m writing this as an encouragement. I don’t think that there are many worthwhile things in life that don’t require some work to accomplish. For example, if public speaking were easy for me, I might be prone to thinking that I was doing it through my own strength…I might forget my need for God…and then I’d miss the entire point of why I do this.

Time to flip the tables: How are you doing with this? Is there something that you should be doing but aren’t because you “aren’t good at it?” (For me, it shows up as recurring thoughts that make me go “Where did that come from? I don’t wanna do that!”) Are you surrounding yourself in “holy huddles” and not exposing yourself to other perspectives? (We are each a PART of the body…not an entire body on our own…we are meant to be in community with people who are different from ourselves (different body parts.) Who can you ask to enter with you into a healthy exchange of ideas? How can you grow in your understanding of God and the story that he would like to use your life to tell?

My prayer today is that we would be obedient to our Lord regardless of whether or not we like what he has planned for us to do. I am praying that we would honor him with a gift-offering of being willing to lean into our discomfort instead of fleeing from it. And finally, I’m praying that we would respect him and those he loves by allowing them to share stories about their experiences with God with us.

Much love friends,

Beks

1/14/15 Morning Musing: The “S” Word

I know this woman. A mutual friend of ours once described her character in this way: She is the kind of person that if you were both in a body of water that was way over your heads, she would go under to lift you up so you could breathe. The only problem is that not everyone would do that back for her…in fact, I know very few people like her. When I think of the dreaded “S” word…you know…*whispers*…”submission”…I think of this analogy.

I think that, in general, we get submission wrong…we think of it as weakness or something that can be demanded or inability to think for one’s self or just plain obedience. It has become a very touchy word (especially in church cultures) because I think it has been abused for so long. I know a lot of women, myself included, who have been damaged by the mis-use of this word and I know a lot of men, who have also been damaged by being allowed to misuse the word. So, let’s take a look at what my dictionary app says submit means: “to yield oneself to the power or authority of another.” Hmmmm…yield oneself…it doesn’t say that it was demanded or forced…yield…well, let’s see what yield means: “to give up or surrender (oneself)”…Example: He yielded himself to temptation. So, submission is voluntary and not coerced…it is not powerlessness…the opposite really…it’s the willingness to relinquish the power that you have. Think about it…you have never heard of anyone submitting their weakness over to someone…that isn’t called submission; it’s called being a burden. Well, what about it being an inability to think for one’s self…for that, I would point you to the analogy at the beginning of this musing…the friend that is so self-sacrificing that she would do it to her own detriment…do you think that is without thought? I don’t. I think it is simply a shift in thought…I think that it means thinking about others instead of only ourselves…that goes against our nature…against our “survival instincts.” To go against our reflexes requires a decision. Reflex circumvents thinking…it is an automatic response of the body which bypasses the brain. To defy our reflexes is to not only to have made a decision…but to have been quite convicted about that decision.

Why am I bringing this up? Glad you asked! For one thing, we are having to skip a week in our marriage class this semester because of a scheduling conflict and…you guessed it…the topic being skipped is submission. I think it is unfortunate to miss that week because I personally know a lot of women and marriages that have experienced healing from finding out what this word truly means. I think that churches have been guilty of mis-using this word for centuries and it has had a profound effect on women, politics, marriages, and society. An example, that truly grieves me, is a very large church (that I will not name) in the DFW metroplex that has been advising women that are in abusive (physically and otherwise) marriages that they should “submit better.” Where did I get this information? From a woman who works at an amazing shelter for women and children who are escaping abusive relationships and have to go into hiding…many of these women and children are coming from this local evangelical church and are so damaged by the abuse they have endured, but further damaged by their church (and by extension…their God) because telling them to “submit better” is equivalent to telling them that it is their fault and that they deserve it. That is so asinine to me that…well…I think I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.

I know this is long, but bear with me: “But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (‭Ephesians‬ ‭5‬:‭13-21‬ NIV)

Did you catch that? This passage is talking about how to be alive and live a life of light. It has some good ideas and some things to avoid, and then it says “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” This is not a gender issue…it is a heart-space issue…it’s the very thing that I have been talking to Team Massey about constantly for the last month: Be kinder than necessary! This means thinking of others and loving them enough to put them first. Sounds a lot like agape love doesn’t it? Sounds a lot like the Gospel doesn’t it? I would think that evangelical churches would be the first to recognize the Gospel…but I guess that isn’t always the case.

At any rate, I used to have quite a knee-jerk reaction to this topic…and I have discovered that knee-jerk reactions should be analyzed deeply because doing what we are called to do by God is not usually natural for us: it isn’t natural for us to forgive people who have deeply hurt us; it isn’t natural for us to give our money, that we work so hard for, away; it isn’t natural for us to sacrifice our time and resources for the benefit of others. So, when we have knee-jerk reactions to something, we should make sure to analyze if it is because it is gospel-truth or if it is survival/selfish instincts…is it what we really believe or is it the culture within which we were raised…have we developed our own beliefs or inherited someone else’s?

So, how are you doing with this? Do you have beliefs that are based on culture? Do you have beliefs that you believe but don’t know why? How can you explore those subject areas and look for a way to eliminate potential bias? Have you been harmed by people misusing the word “submission?” Have you harmed others? What is your church’s stance on this subject? If you don’t know, why don’t you? How could you find out? If you want some resources on this subject, I am happy to share some that I have gathered so that you can study for yourself.

My prayer today friends is that we would all live life full of light and submit to each other…that we would put each other first…that we would love like my friend described in the first paragraph. I am praying that we would all understand that submission in not a gender thing…it’s a Gospel thing…it’s a Jesus thing…and if you are a follower of Jesus, that makes it your thing. Much love friends.

Beks

P.S. I am happy to share information with anyone about scripture references, wonderful sermons to listen to, as well as how to get help if you are being abused.

5/19/14 Morning Musing: Down With the Power Panties!!!!!!

I’m diving for the volleyball, arms stretched out in front of me and make an incredible dig. The ball goes up…and over…and lands in the back pocket of the other side of the court and that wins the game! At least, that is how it goes in my head. The reality is that the ball hits the sand before my feet leave the ground and I roll awkwardly over the ball, knocking the wind out of myself and getting sand in places where…well…it’s just oooky…and sand shouldn’t be there. The imprint that my body left in the sand is a bit bigger than I think it ought to be too….hmmmm…when did that happen? When did my dreams and reality get so far apart? I used to be able to do this stuff…now, I not only can’t execute the movements the way that I think I can…I also won’t be able to move tomorrow without crying out in pain. This is my reality. What happened????

My friends are getting botox injections, chemical peels, stomach bypass, implants, tummy tucks, and other such “Mommy Makeovers.” I think they are all absolutely beautiful as they are but totally supportive of whatever they need to do to feel healthy and happy and comfortable in their own skin. I start to look at myself and wonder if I need any of these procedures too…Hmmmm…those creases in my forehead are awfully deep and pronounced…my skin sure could use a little sprucing up…and when did my boobs get all the way down there??? Hmmm…what else has faded from its former glory???? This is my reality. What happened?????

In college, I spent all day in classes and studying, went dancing every night, got home around 2:30, and was up and showered and made up for an 8am class again the next morning. I subsisted on about 4 – 4.5 hours of sleep each night with no problem. Now, my mind turns off by about 3pm each day (nothing deep or valuable coming out of this mind in the evenings.) I take benadryl and use acne medicine every night. I put mentholatum on my lips every night (Stan refers to it as “Sex-Repellant.”) And getting up requires zyrtec, coffee, a hundred kinds of vitamins, and a construction crew to make me not scary. This is my reality. What the Heck Happened????

Aging. Aging has changed my reality in major ways. I always thought I’d be super-energetic, super-thin, and would age gracefully…that has not been how this all came together though. I don’t know if I’m the only one that prays that the Spanx or “Power Panties” as I call them won’t let me down…if that material gives way…someone could get injured from the after-shocks alone…but aging has not worked out quite the way I thought it would. And while I want to be healthy and fit…I also want to be happy…and I don’t want to compare myself to you, or women in magazines, or anyone else for that matter. So, ladies, I say we make a pact. Let’s support each other, encourage each other to make whatever decisions make us comfortable in our own skin, praise God for our bodies as they are, make changes to be happy, and cut down on the baggage. Let’s burn the Power Panties, get pedicures because they make us feel good and not because we are ashamed of our feet, change our diets because we want to and not because of shame or image, and for the love of God…let’s get verbal about how beautiful we think our friends are…they need to hear it! We all need to hear it! If any of you are nearing the ledge because of shame, or poor body-image, or just need some affirmation…let’s get together. We can work this out and feel good about this. We’ll go drink a fat-full coffee and eat french fries while we plan a do-able diet and figure out ways to flatter our figures without requiring a meat-cleaver, pills, or misery. Who’s with me?!!!!!

5/2/14 Morning Musing: Knight in Shining Armor or Control-freak Wrapped in Tin Foil?

My best friend in high school went through a period of time where her parents were warring with each other and filed for divorce due to infidelity and, what I believe was, mental illness. I remember this friend and I trying to help her mother get on her feet and gain some independence…learning to live alone, take care of the house alone, get all the bills in her own name, and even get a job after being a house wife for 20 years. I remember being so incredibly shocked at how dependent this woman was when she asked me “How am I going to get gas in my car?” I was probably too flippant when I responded, “Uhhh…go to the gas station and put it in there?” She looked at me terrified and said, “But I’m not a man! I don’t know how to pump gas!” And again, too flippantly (seeing a theme here?) I responded “Well, it doesn’t actually require…a penis.” I was so confused by her helplessness. Once I realized the severity of her circumstances, I took her out and taught her how to pump gas and buy groceries and what not. I remember feeling how tragic this situation was…how humiliating for her…how betrayed she felt…how small her world was…and I knew right then that I would never allow myself to go through that. I was my own woman…I wasn’t writing off men…but I wanted to not ever be completely dependent on one either.

Here is the thing though, I think that we, as women, have laid a trap for men where they just about can’t win. We have been untruthful about what we say we want: We want to be independent but want them to take care of us. We want to be empowered but we still want them to swoop in and save us. We want them to be tender but not weak or weepy. We want them to provide and be a provider but also not feel weird if we make more money than they do. We want them to be protective but never get jealous. We want them to basically be a knight in shining armor…but only when we want them to be and only in the way that we want them to be…poor men…no wonder so many of them want beer and a man cave…they are probably just trying to figure this nonsense out.

So, as per my usual…all of this got me thinking about the myths that we tell ourselves and the men in our lives and I thought I would clarify some things (at least from my perspective.) I don’t know a single woman who likes to have all of her problems solved for her by her man…this makes us feel helpless and powerless. I would much rather Stanton Billy challenge me to be better and stronger in my own right…but to handle that challenge in gentle ways so that I don’t turn my fury onto him instead. Also, I love that Stan is so committed to providing for our family…but it doesn’t mean that I can’t work or that I don’t contribute…he has empowered me to decide what would be the most fulfilling and healthy decision for me. He encourages me to do what is beneficial to myself and our family and is flexible and open-minded about how that might look. Then there is the jealousy thing…very few things are less attractive to me than a clingy and jealous man…but on the flip side, I don’t want him to not give a damn either…there is a balance to be achieved…invested but still independent is probably how I would word it. In my experience, women don’t want a man to swoop in on his white horse with sword raised and save them…they just want them to want to.

I think that what we tend to want from our men is to feel like we are on the same team and we are invested in but still acknowledge that we were independent, complete people before we met the love of our lives. So, please, put down the trashy romance novels and archaic thinking about roles of men and women and invest in each other…serve each other…empower each other…and love each other well. I know that today’s musing doesn’t apply to many of you today…it’s just what was tumbling around in my head. What are your thoughts on this? Does this apply to you? Are you wired differently? I am open to other perspectives…this is just mine.

4/21/14 Morning Musing: Reverse-Snob?

I’m just going to come right out and admit it: I don’t identify with perfect, sweet women at all. I’m not saying that none of my friends are sweet…just the opposite…they all have sweet moments…but if they get into my inner-circle, they are more likely to be feisty and challenging than they are perfect and sweet. The problem with this? Well, I live in the Bible Belt…there are stereotypes that exist about women from the South for a reason…I ought to know…I’m a Georgia Peach and I can do the hospitable, demure, good-natured, agreeable, Southern Belle thing to a tee. But in truth, I’m ornery, strong-willed, independent, and I get my highs from thinking about stuff and working with my hands. (I spent my childhood playing football with the neighborhood boys, with skinned knees, and wearing my brothers’ hand-me-downs.) Although I am good at it, I hate pretending and I feel like people who do are cheating the people around them…if you are pretending to be someone else, then the people spending time with you are only getting to know a facade…what a waste to invest time and find that the person you invested in doesn’t even exist.

The problem? So glad you asked. I don’t know if I simply prefer people who are deeply genuine and authentic or if I’m just a bigoted person who doesn’t like nice people. I tend to think that it’s the former rather than the latter because my friends rock and they are nice…but there is just such a level of depth and sincerity to them that I am drawn to. I don’t know if this is true or not but, it seems to me, that their depth (along with my own) seems to stem from hardships that they (and I) have endured. Some of those hardships have led to depth of character and true learning of life’s lessons. Overly-sweet people bother me…I think I have decided that they are either false or shallow (you know…have led such a charmed life that they haven’t learned any lessons the hard way…thus, haven’t developed any calluses in their personalities) and that probably isn’t fair but it’s what happens in my head.

I prefer to hang out with women who admit to having faults or short-comings and sometimes even flaunt them. I love to spend time with women who don’t keep a perfect house and whose kids don’t behave perfectly all the time. I like women who look at the ideal created by pinterest and say “Nope…that ain’t happening today!” I love women who say “I’m sorry…I screwed up…and boy howdy, let me count the ways…” I can not get enough of women who say “I struggle in this way; help hold me accountable to taking it to God.” I absolutely adore women who walk around in work out pants (whether or not they work out) and have animal fur on their clothes along with baby spit up, lint, and/or part of tonight’s dinner. I am so strongly drawn to the imperfect…maybe because I identify so strongly with the imperfect. I have a very difficult time identifying with people who have it all in place…maybe it’s because that is so far from my reality that I think it can not possibly, in a million, zillion years be reality.

I know that much of my depth and real-ness are rooted in lessons I learned in the hardest-possible ways. So, maybe that makes me a reverse-snob of some sort…but, it’s me…the real me. Sometimes, I don’t know if that is something I should embrace or something I should try to fix. I don’t know if it is beautiful imperfection that leaves room for Jesus to work or if it is simply feeling over-whelmed when I look at the “good people” and trying to put a positive spin on my lack of pursuing that type of lifestyle. Does anyone else identify with this? Or am I just a weird version of bigot and didn’t realize it until now?

4/12/14 Morning Musing: The Double X Cage Match

I took Michaela to her soccer practice this morning and enjoyed getting to watch her play. During the 4th quarter, it was Michaela’s turn to sit out and she sat in my lap in my chair while we watched her team finish out the game. Sitting near me was a mom who was overwhelmed and frustrated with one of her daughters. Granted, I haven’t spent every waking moment with her daughter (about 12-14 years old?) but she really didn’t seem to be doing anything wrong. I definitely got the impression that the mom was mostly concerned with not being disrespected by the daughter in front of others…and while I don’t think the daughter was disrespecting the mom…the mom was definitely loudly and publicly disrespecting the daughter for, what felt like, an eternity. I could feel Michaela trembling in my lap and it wasn’t cold outside. I wrapped my arms around Michaela and told her “I’m really glad that we don’t talk to each other that way. I love you very much and think you are one of my favorite people in the whole world.” She turned and buried her face in my chest and said, “I’m so glad we don’t do that too. It scares me.”

So, my first instinct was to think “How can you expect someone to show respect when you don’t model it yourself? You have taken her voice from her and publicly humiliated her.” Then, thank goodness, my second instinct kicked in before I opened my big, stupid mouth. It is easy to judge this mom while not knowing what she is going through, not knowing her relationship with her daughter, and not knowing what kind of support she gets in child-rearing. It is easy for me to point my finger and say “that is wrong.” But doing that will not help this mom or her daughter. My experience has been that people who behave disrespectfully, have experienced it and had it modeled for them. What this woman needs is not judgement and subsequent disrespect from me…she needs help…practical help…and understanding from another mom who has been frustrated and absurd at times too. (My mother-in-law rightfully laughed out loud at me when I angrily yelled a stubborn 3-year-old-Michaela that we were “about to throw down.” Yep…that really happened.)

There is a tendency with moms/women to judge each other (and ourselves) harshly and measure ourselves by how we compare to others. Of course, these comparisons are never apples to apples…it’s usually my best moments compared to your worst or vice versa. We make our own decisions ok (or completely horrible) by picking apart (or idealizing) the decisions of others: kids, no kids, working mom, stay-at-home mom, married, divorced, remarried, single, pop-tart mom, organic free-range mom, breast-feeding mom, formula-feeding mom, career woman, home-maker, co-sleeping mom, cry-it-out mom…if someone else’s choices are ok, then somehow my choices or circumstances are wrong or invalid. Let’s stop buying into this lie. If your favorite color is blue and mine is day-glow orange, neither of us has to be wrong…we can have different opinions and still be ok with each other and still be telling our own unique and beautiful stories.

How does choosing differently as a woman relate to this mom speaking disrespectfully to her daughter? Glad you asked…someone has to keep me on topic afterall. It was obvious to me that the mom was, for one reason or another, trying to save face in front of the other parents. She was feeling embarrassed and inadequate and was probably trying to save face in the way that was modeled to her (the same way that she was modeling to her own daughter.) Maybe if she didn’t feel that unspoken but strongly-felt competition that unfortunately is prevalent among women, she could have different experience to pull from…she could offer her daughter something different…she could have different interactions in her life to model herself after.

So, did I do the right thing and build this woman up? Nope! Just a big loser here who just hugged my own daughter and stayed quiet. I don’t process things that that fast…I needed to come home and dissect the event and evaluate it for a few hours. But guess what?! Our team has another game at 2:30 (less than an hour from now.) I’m going to have another opportunity to do this right…find some way to build up this woman and her daughter…model something different for my daughter…and end (at least for the moment) the nasty cage match that occurs every day between the members of our society with the double X chromosomes. I’m betting this happens in your life too…what could you be doing to reduce the competition, build up others, and love people well? Thoughts? I clearly suck at this and could use ideas from my friends out there.