Monday, January 30, 2012

Unskinny Me

The news that size six models are now considered "plus size" hit two weeks ago.  This picture starting circulating facebook ten seconds later.  As a mom of teen and tween daughters, I know this news is going to affect them.  My girls do not ingest Seventeen magazine yet but they are still influenced by the media and advertising around them broadcasting  "skinny" is the new way to be. Females have been hearing that same mantra for years now, but today's "skinny" isn't what it used to be.

I remember poring over the pages of my first Seventeen magazine at age twelve. The issue was all about bathing suits and making sure your body looked "beach ready".  I had no idea what that meant back then.  I was so young I don't even remember feeling inadequate in comparison to the models on the pages of the magazine.  I was just enthralled.  I felt certain I was going to grow up to be as beautiful as those young women. 

What I don't remember is the moment of realization that my body didn't look like the pages of Seventeen magazine. But oh it happened all right. Worse, I thought my body was too tall, too round, too everything it wasn't supposed to be.  I spent most of my teen years dieting and a teen girl on a diet without supervision is a scary thing. I lived an entire week once on Snackwell cookies, the gross Devil's food flavor with fake marshmallow filling.  Disgusting.  At the time I was 5'7 and weighed 115.  I probably needed to GAIN weight.  But I felt tall, huge and like my body didn't fit.

One of my best friends during middle and high school was 5'3 and weighed 90 pounds soaking wet.  But she wasn't "skinny", she was tough.  She was the only girl in our eighth grade gym class able to do four pull-ups.  She lifted weights, never got sick and loved coming to school every day.  I was envious of her honestly.  And I constantly compared my 5'7 body to her size zero. 

 As a high school junior I finally lost down to a size 4.  I was running regularly at the time, but I still wasn't eating enough to be healthy.  I went shopping and got this really cute pair of shorts. I was so stinkin proud of the "4" on the tag.  I stayed at the best friend's house that night and the next morning 90 pound friend grabbed my shorts, size FOUR, and stuck them in her closet, thinking they were hers.

Instead of taking the mistake as a compliment...I had finally reached my friend's lofty measurements, at least in my hips...I got insanely angry.  I'd starved all the fat off my body and got zero recognition for the feat.  Instead I had my shorts stolen because they couldn't possibly be MY size four shorts...I was a six at least, right?  Yeah, we didn't talk for a few days after that.

See how crazy my thinking had become about what my body was supposed to be???

 I can still feel the laments in my younger teenage heart over my unskinnyness.  Now society is screaming  crazier extremes. Back in my first Seventeen magazine I remember the articles stressed physical activity and wise food choices as the key to a healthy body.  They even used the word healthy to describe the ideal body.  The models were not sticks and they were even a little muscular...think Gabbie Reese.  They had some curves.  They looked...well, real. 

But today's model in a fashion magazine is 23% smaller than the average female reader.  Did you catch that?  I just did the math and for my height and weight that means the model showing off clothing probably weighs FORTY pounds less than me. Plus-size models now range in size from six to fourteen and most retail clothing stores do not sell clothing above size fourteen. I suppose the fashion world considers you a hippopotamus if you're any larger than that.  Most fashion models today are considered anorexic.

What's a mom to do with all this startling information and my own past struggles as I teach my girls about healthy self-image?

For starters, we have banished the word "fat" from our home. I've had lengthy discussions with the girls about eating habits, how the body breaks down protein and carbohydrates and which foods go in each of those categories.  We talk about re-touched photos and the other techniques used to make models look more perfect than humanly possible.  I explained to them my new eating and weight-training plan is not for me to get thin.  I don't want to be skinny, I want to be strong.  Lean and healthy.  I use every example I can on a daily basis to explain to my girls what is healthy and attractive and what is not.

But here is what I tell them most- You are the most beautiful you can be when you are being you. So be YOU.  Figure out who you are and embrace it with your whole, attitude, and size. Stop comparing yourself to other people around you. 

I wish physically attractiveness was rated the same way today as it was back in the 50s and curves were still considered beautiful on all young women.  But just because society is telling my girls underweight is beautiful, I am going to tell them the truth- God created their bodies and they are perfect.  Size 2 or size 12.

I know how seductive advertising can be.  Most of the women I know have been fighting the "unskinny" lie their entire lives.  I have too.  No more.  I am going to be healthy and teach my girls the same.  Healthy is the new gorgeous...the new Marilyn.  Wait and see. 

Next step...we are gonna banish the word skinny from our vocabulary too.  


Breaking up is hard to do.

I foolishly believed when I was younger that once I reached adulthood and marriage my break up days would be over.  I didn't understand back then that breaking up is a part of life until we die.  Human romantic relationships may last...some don't...but we still leave things and people and dreams.  They leave us too.

I had a fight with my best friend on Thursday night.  She is the friend who has known me since I was fourteen and our friendship is beautiful and messy because there is so much history there.  She spoke with good intentions Thursday night on a sensitive topic and I responded with angry words.  I should have given her the grace to say the things on her mind without fear of attack from me. I am ashamed. I have apologized, but who knows? Our decades long friendship might be broken to bits now with no hope.  I am waiting.  I have done my damage and said my sorry, now the outcome is in her hands.      

We recently broke up with a church.  It was necessary but I miss the purple walls and real half and half on the coffee table.  I miss being known by all the people who knew me there.  The unknown of breaking up is so frightening, isn't it?  Where do we go from here? 

I've broken up with too many dreams over the years to even count, some insignificant and a few monumental.  I will never sing on Broadway- we covered that one in the last blog post, didn't we?  We never made it to Fiji on our honeymoon, and our fifteen year anniversary in April is fastly approaching...I know we won't be going there for a second honeymoon either.  I honestly don't care about that anymore, I am peaceful seeing my corner of the world for now.  I won't share the big broken dreams right now...some of them do still sting a little to be honest.    

Some break-ups are good, necessary, life-sustaining.  Breaking up with bad habits, addictions and people that aren't any good for us...I've had my share of bravery saying adieu to all of those.  But breaking up always hurts.  Even if you think you are over and done and don't care, a quiet moment will find that part of you that still hopes a little bit and tears will come.  Sometimes breaking up never seems to end because the promise of what was and could be still lingers.  It lingers in thoughts and prayers and songs and all the moments that never quite were.

In the end breaking up is about letting go.  You give all your control over.  To God.  To the unknown.  To hope and fear and freedom.  It will never get easier, I must keep reminding myself that.  Breaking up is unnatural...we were created to be in perfect relationship with our Creator- everything in His nature is the antithesis of all things leaving and ending.  He never leaves.  We are human, created in His image but making poor decisions all day my angry words.  Breaking up becomes woven into our existence because we often require it to undo all the things we do or others do to us.  But it is not perfect and it is not God, it is our humanity. 

Breaking up will never be easy to do.  It will always hurt and feel wrong, even when it is the best possible thing.  But then the sigh comes, the relief, the freedom.  Sometimes it is instant.  Sometimes it takes forever for peace to push its way through the dug-up ground of our wounded hearts.  But it always comes in the end.  God brings newness and hope.   

Be brave.  Let go if you need to.  Allow light into your soul today if you are in pain from a breaking up. And remember- don't cling too tightly to anything except God.  It is all a vapor after all.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Strange girl post two- Teaching the things we CAN'T do.

I woke up with the lines of a song in my head:

"When I was young and unafraid, when dreams were made and used and wasted."
I Dreamed a Dream, Les Miserables. 

I figured my morose mood last night brought the song to my mind, but its themes came in handy this morning.

Ainsley and I listened to a few different versions of the song before she headed off to school. Les Miserables has been my favorite musical since I first heard it in 1993.  I sang selections from it in twelfth grade Chorale and saw it live at the Kravis Center of West Palm Beach in 2004.  Ron sweetly surprised me with tickets for Mother's Day that year, scraping up the cash for very nice seats.  I sang Castle on a Cloud and Little People to the girls when they were younger.  Ron gave me grief about that second song and he was probably right.  

Since it was a musical kind of morning, I printed off lyrics and listened to Ainsley practice a song she and a friend want to audition for the school Talent show. This is where it gets sticky. 

Ains has many incredible talents and abilities but she didn't end up with Onnie's voice.  Or mine for that matter.  That might be too cruel to put in print.  Is it?  I have listened, mentored, practiced with her...done all the things I know to do to help her improve.  She gets picked on by other kids when she sings.  Ron and I have endless conversations on the subject- he is afraid she is going to grow up to be one of those poor people auditioning for American Idol, who have been told all their lives they can sing when they really can't.  He says it is my job as her mother to tell her the truth so it doesn't come harshly from a stranger. 

But how does one crush a child's dreams like that?  Girls grow up in Disney culture these days- they want to be Selena Gomez and are told by advertising that with the right clothes, hair, make-up and go get 'em attitude, they can be the next star.

As parents, we are our kids' biggest fans- we teach them that they can do ANYTHING.  But singing, like any artistic vocation, requires some natural talent for success. 

I have pondered and prayed and stalled.

I thought about my writing and how I would feel in the same situation.  I would want the truth even if it hurt.  If I couldn't put two sentences together coherently in an entertaining fashion, I wouldn't want Stephen King to be the one to tell me.  I would want my mamma or someone else who loved me very much to break that news, and give me hope in another dream that could be possible for me.  Wouldn't you?

I knew I had to talk to her. But how to begin?  I thought back to the song in my head when I woke up this morning, the song I can still sing note for note, A Capella, without missing a beat. I started there. 

"Ains, did you know that when Mommy was your age I wanted to sing on Broadway like the woman we listened to this morning?"

Blank look.

"Do you know why I never did?"

The blankness turned skeptical, her right eyebrow slightly raising.  She's a smart one, she knew this was headed somewhere maybe she didn't want to go. 

"Well, you remember how Mommy can't dance very well?"

"You can't dance at all Mommy."

Well, okay.  Ouch.  But true.

"Do you remember me telling you how I tried to dance when I was in middle school?  How I took dance lessons?"

Ains nodded.  Oh yes, she remembered my story of almost knocking out another dancer due to my clumsiness.  God didn't grant me much physical "grace" as a kid. 

"What does that have to do with Broadway, Mommy?"  She was probably remembering that the woman we watched this morning stood very still as she sang.

"Well, honey, for most Broadway shows you have to be able to sing and dance at the same time."

"OH."  One little word from her.

Tie it together, Val.  You can do this.

"Sweetie, I decided to give up my dream to be on Broadway because I knew my dancing would never be good enough to make it.  Plus, I was very afraid to perform in front of people back then.  But...BUT.. that was okay.  Because I had another dream, a bigger and more exciting dream than that.  Do you know what that dream is?"

"No." She was getting grumpy now, sensing this was all gonna tie into her but she still wasn't quite sure how.

"Think about it sweetie- what does Mommy do?  What do I love to do?"


"That's right sweetie.  I write.  And you know what?  Getting my words into print is way more important and fun to me than dancing ever would have been."

The wrap up...Lord help me.  Honest prayer.

"I had a dream to be on Broadway.  But that wasn't the best dream for me.  Writing is the best dream for me.  I believe God gave me talent and desire to write."

Deep breath.  Maybe if I rushed the next three sentences, she would never notice the first part.

"Honey, singing might not be the best dream for you either but that's okay because God has given you amazing talents that are going to be so exciting and fulfilling for you to use and we are so so proud of you and all your accomplishments and"

I didn't even try to breathe in there.  I knew it was going to be painful and awkward. I am sure other moms pull off conversations like these with buckets of grace, leaving their children's self-esteem intact. Those kids probably even feel BETTER about themselves after the conversation.

But me? Oh I was sure I had screwed this one up in a big way.

Ainsley heard the first part all right.  Her face crumbled, tears sprang up behind her glasses and the accusation flew out of her mouth, pointed straight at my heart:

"YOU DON'T THINK I CAN SING?????"  She jumped up ready to fling herself toward the stairs, feet stomping and hair flying. 

I was quicker.  I grabbed her in a hug.  Comforted her.  Held her tight.  We talked.  She cried.  I did too.

But I didn't back down on my sentence.  I couldn't.  It would only cause her more hurt later- by a stranger, by someone who doesn't care about her feelings one bit.  

The truth- Ainsley doesn't appear to have the natural talent needed to make singing into a career.  I could continue to raise a child, letting her believe she has the talent to become the next blond haired blue-eyed little singing doll in the Disney empire.  Or I can choose to raise a child who will one day be an adult, telling her the truth and letting her release this dream to find the dream that is uniquely and only HERS.   

Who really cares if she doesn't make it as a signed music artist? 

She will grow up to be a violinist, painter, Olympic swimmer, writer like her Mamma, school teacher, doctor, zoologist, lawyer, actor, fashion designer, mother, wife, or a hundred different things.  Ainsley has things to accomplish on this Earth that only she can do with her unique talents and abilities.

Honest- it wasn't the best morning.  I probably forever forfeited my Mom of The Year award for getting into that discussion BEFORE school.  Ugh. I would love to say she walked out the door feeling great about herself.  I don't think that happened. 

I am still glad I told her the truth.  I believe it will open the door of her little heart wider to embrace all the POSSIBLE exciting amazing dreams God has for her. My bet is on fashion designer.  But this is my caring Ainsley Kat we are talking about- she will make sure her creativity brings good for those less fortunate around her.  TOMS better watch out! 

So here's to dream crushing.  To saying "you can't" so when your best comes along, you can say I CAN. 


Monday, January 16, 2012

We represent the STUFF MART...all you need's a little more stuff.

Truth- Sometimes I feel like the strangest girl in the world.

I am thinking of renaming my Blog The Strange Girl.  Maybe that will help me embrace the feeling.  I do feel strange for a lot of reasons, but my focus today is my strangeness in not wanting stuff.  Lest you feel this is a false humility, pat myself on the back because I am content with my belongings while others aren't post...well, it just isn't.  I do wonder sometimes if God left out some important "GIRL" gene from my DNA make-up, because girls love to shop, right?  Okay, maybe not all girls, but I am not trying to dissect the entire scope of the female population. Most girls love to look at stuff, hold shirts and skirts up to a mirror, try on shoes with impossibly high heels, browse through China patterns dreaming of that twelve person place setting with matching EVERYTHING for the big Holiday dinner party where everyone's in sparkly dresses and no one's too tipsy or fighting with the neighbors over who's light display is best.

Nope, not me.  Just thinking about all the stuff I would need to keep up with everyone else's stuff exhausts me. Most of the time this quirk just makes me feel inadequate beside other women.  I have one friend who doesn't enjoy taking me shopping with her anymore because I do not display the proper oohing and ahhing over shiny store stuff.  I suppose I am a downer when it comes to impulse shopping- I generally talk others OUT of their purchases.  Maybe I can't grasp the light-hearted carefreeness that is required of day long shopping excursions.  Can't we just go get coffee and catch a movie instead?

Honest- sometimes I get annoyed at certain female friends because they have lots of stuff and want more stuff.  Really honest- sometimes I am a little bit jealous too...not necessarily because I want their stuff but I feel maybe their lives are richer or more fulfilled somehow because they realize the importance of stuff when I don't.  Their lives certainly seem more sparkly than mine.  They live in hot pink while I exist in pale yellow...I find my color soothing, but pale does lack a certain pop, yes? 

But then I have other friends who have nice things and beautiful homes, and they share those beautiful things with others.  Sometimes through entertaining or helping others in need.  Using their bigger-than-mine houses to give forever homes to unwanted orphans...that is one of the most admirable acts I can fathom. But honest- sometimes those people intimidate me too.  Because their stuff doesn't own them, and yet they have found a way to put the stuff into serves a purpose in their lives, a good purpose.  I want to be like those people.  But I generally just don't want stuff period.

I am glad stuff doesn't control me.  I honestly am.  But sometimes I wonder if I am sparkly enough on my own, without all the outwardly shiny stuff?  Reminds me of a line from my favorite One Republic song, "Do you think I'm special, do you think I'm nice, am I bright enough to shine in your spaces?"  I know as a moral person, as one who treasures the Bible, that God would tell me my INSIDES should be what shines, my personality, my heart, my warmth and strength, should draw others in.  I do like my personality most of the time.  I cringe at my emotional neediness, my very apparent "fear of abandonment" issues, but that is a blog for another day.  Or never...I haven't decided yet.  Does my personality shine brighter than the non-name-brand clothes on my body?  I probably picked them up a thrift store or on clearance at Target, to be honest.  Does this material world see past my cute and cheap accessories to see a person of value underneath?  Does it want to be in my home with my thrift store finds?  Where my most treasured wall art is the kitchen towel my aunt saved for me from 1976, showing the Monday I was born?

Should any of those questions really matter to me?

My answer to that last question should be no.  But why do I feel ashamed to say I do not want a newer car or bigger house?  When did wanting less instead of more become the freakish idea?   I know as a child and teenager I wanted more- I bought into the entire culture of stuff in my formative years.  Although even back then spending an entire day at the mall with my friends was exciting to me for the friends and food and adventure of it all instead of the clothes and shoes we might try on.  I guess I have mostly always been this way...a non-carer of stuff.  Not that there aren't some things I'd like to have...that cute pair of brown leather short boots at Famous Footwear, some work-out clothes from Target, and I am sure I could find one hundred tempting things at IKEA today.  But my life is not going to change one single bit whether I get those things or not.  I suppose knowing that fact is what keeps me from buying.  Those items might change the way others perceive me, especially strangers, but they aren't going to change me or my beliefs.

So I guess I listen to God on this topic.  Teach my girls to do the same.  Hope I don't offend others when I don't gush over their stuff or stuff they want.  Remember I am the strange one here.  And strive to make my personality the thing that pops, not my stuff. I do think my personality makes my pale yellow turn brilliant sometimes.  I hope you do too.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Freedom for me and you and them.

Yesterday was National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.  I didn't realize it until one in the afternoon and didn't respond well to the news.  You see, this is a cause I feel God has placed on my heart.  You might remember my words about it a few months ago in my blog on LOVE146.  However, since August I haven't put my efforts into this cause beyond prayer.  I did look up information about local chapters, but by the time I found the appropriate website I had already missed the monthly meeting for August.  I forgot about it for a couple of months...September had a lot happening and two family birthdays.  I remembered again in October, but couldn't find up-to-date info on the website about the next meeting.  Then I forgot again because of the holidays.

If this all sounds like a bunch of excuses, that's my point.  I have lots of reasons why I still haven't invested my efforts in such a vital cause, but if it was truly important to me I would have found a way to get involved.  Made time, sent an email, found a phone number...something. Anything.

So what did I do yesterday?  I ignored it.  I thought to myself, "Oh good. What an important thing."  Then I didn't post a single word about it.  I felt shame burning down to my toenails...I should have known about this day, I should BE A PART. 

But where does shame like that get us?  It usually causes us to ignore with more focused intent.  I am dumping the shame that would keep me away.

Truth: Those things we do in life which will have the most impact- personally, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, socially- will always be hard fought.  We know this, and yet we still want the magic microwave pill.  We have come to expect instant results and gratification.  But anything GOOD takes time, hard work, focus, sacrifice.  Can I sacrifice a little of my time and effort to see children around the world become free from slavery? 

I don't know the causes on your heart.  Or if you have discovered any yet.  I was talking to a friend over the weekend about how we feel called to help in different areas...I feel called to help the people of other nations while my friend feels called to help those here in the U.S.  We all have different things on our hearts- perhaps this ensures that the needs are met everywhere.  But here is the biggest realization I've had since yesterday-

I need to help.  Stop just talking and writing blogs about it and DO. Give my time, effort, talent and finances.  Period.  We will only know true freedom in our hearts from materialism, greed, selfishness...all those unimportant things we cling to so tightly thinking they will bring us joy when all they do is leave us longing for more...when we set others free.  That freedom may come through giving food and blankets to a homeless person, legislating for changes in our laws, rescuing a girl from slavery, building a Habitat for Humanity house...the list of ways we can help is endless, yes? 

A huge thank you to those working on the front lines for change, here in America and across the world.  You inspire me.  I am coming.

Ponder your "place" today, won't you?  What is important to you?  What injustices do you see around you that make you angry?  Start there. Sure, we can ignore the great needs around us, like I have been doing for most of my life, but it is to our detriment as much as those in need.  With all our stuff, we need freedom too. 


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

You gotta dig for that gold!

Writing my three paragraphs of crap so I can get on with this writing day...

In case you don't know what that means, many writers, including the incomparable Ann Lamont, suggest that facing a blank page is worse than anything else as a writer.  Even crap slung down in any old fashion is better than the blank page, which is so formidable at times as to bring many steely writers to tears of frustration.  Ms Lamont claims the first three paragraphs...sometimes even the first three PAGES...a writer conjures every day are complete crap.  At least at first glance.  But, and here is the irony, a writer can't find the golden words, the secret stuff hidden deep in our talented souls...ha, that was rich!...unless we move all the crap words out of the way first.  The gold must be unearthed. I know...the analogy doesn't fit because gold is mined, but this is supposed to be crap writing, remember?  I can have the gold come from anywhere I please as long as I don't stop writing about it. 

So I write my three crap paragraphs and my mind can finally be freed from all its inner turmoil and junk...did I really keep my Christmas tree up until the 10th of January AGAIN?? I must be stuck in some sort of traditional time warp gone bad...reminds me of Brother Where Art Thou..."Well, isn't this place a geographical oddity...two weeks from everywhere!"  That's tree's gotta come down earlier next year..

See what I mean?  Rabbit trails everywhere in this brain.  Which all leads me to another observation that is really connected to putting down crap...

Which is better?  To give some effort toward a goal, although not 100%, or to wait to tackle said goal until one can give as close to 100% as possible?  I know what my answer to this question is.  Like Ann might say, some effort will get the body, soul and mind warmed give GREATER effort.  That is certainly what I was thinking at 5:30 this morning when I was doing new weight training and thinking I probably wasn't accomplishing much more than getting sweaty at the crack of...well, there wasn't much of a dawn in Denver this morning because we are having a little blizzard.  My inner critic was hounding at me relentlessly...your form is wrong, you are going to hurt yourself, would you please remember to inhale and exhale at the right times, don't forget to count...on and on and on it went.  It was discouraging, that's for sure.  But you know what?  I kept going and I got those damn exercises done!  I wasn't perfect, I am not really sure how many reps I did on a few of them because I was so concentrated on trying to breathe right, and I went way too long which meant my girls got up and wanted to have early morning conversations with often does that happen??  But I got them done.  I will be better on form, my breathing, my counting.  Or maybe not.  Maybe it will be the same as today.  That's okay though right?  The important thing is that I showed up, I made effort.

Yes?  YES! 

My brain still feels a little tight to be honest.  Like jeans after Thanksgiving dinner and a recent washing.  I am really hoping this isn't a three page day, I have a feeling you won't stick around for that.  I might not either.  But who am I kidding, really?  I will show up to write, plowing or mining for the gold, until I find it.  I must, it's my destiny.

Go dig out yours today too.  Give crappy effort.  I think it all adds up.  There is gold down there, I know it.

Not even gonna proof or edit this thing before posting it.  I have other writing to do.  And this is real, honest.  That is way more important to me and my effort than pretty polishing.  I will polish again tomorrow.  That doesn't mean I won't be cringing over this later, probably as soon as I hit "post".  But honestly, who cares?  I made effort! 


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Ignoring siren calls.

Just sharing a song today, my favorite by Mumford and Sons. This song rocks. The words are real and resonate inside my soul.  Listen to them carefully.  I know I am always writing about becoming more...well, you.  But it is such a vital message in today's world of apathy.  What is the dream in your heart?  Who do you want to be? Step out into YOUR story. LIVE.

"So make your siren's call
And sing all you want
I will not hear what you have to say...

Because I need freedom now
And I need to know how
To live my life as it's meant to be"

Monday, January 9, 2012


I love the color yellow.  Just reading the name brightens my insides.  It is sunshine, new beginnings, friendship roses, the color of my favorite shirt in my closet and my favorite song by Coldplay.  It is my bad days turned inside out by grace. Yellow is hope, bright and brilliant. It sounds a Southern word to me...a bellowing hello, beside a stream full of trout, got caught in the wind and became new.

I just wrote lots of words under these about my gray Monday.  Grey is a great color for a scarf but an awful color for a day.  I am deleting all those words now.  I got them out and light came into my soul.

I turned my day yellow.   You should do the same.  Dump the gray dreary weary can choose whatever color you want it to be.  Choose well.

One of my favorite yellow things, just for you.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Challenge and being real...

I was challenged this week to write a short story.  The idea was daunting at first.  I wrote my last short story back in college, and it simultaneously won an award in a church teen talent writing competition and was ridiculed by my college creative writing class as having too happy of an ending.  What a strange duel response to the same story.  But I used to dish out sap back then, so the story was probably feel good enough to have "Walking on Sunshine" playing at the ending words for all I can remember.  My eyes are wider these days.  There is good and bad in everything- in each of us- and I want my stories to reflect that idea, lest we all try to pretend to be something we are not.  I know I am a chief sinner every single day.  I have experienced forgiveness for my soul, and drown deep in grace daily.  But I am not who I want to be.  Not yet, probably not ever in this life. There is hope in that though, the newness of do-overs and second chances, yes?   I have started my short story.  It is refreshing and new in a way I haven't written before.  I am excited for its process and outcome.  I am thankful for the people in my life that challenge and encourage me to be the best of who I truly am inside...the writer. 

Do you have a challenge you are working toward right now?   What hard thing are you facing that you know will make you more YOU on the other side, if you will just get it started?  Embrace it- take one step today.  I am cheering you on, and I hope you will do the same for me. 

Back to the story...

*Note- The picture above is the cover of a selection of short stories by one of my favorite female authors, Flannery O'Conner.  I discovered her works in the creative writing class I mentioned above.  Her works are not for everyone, as the mirror she holds up reflects an accurate and disturbing view of humanity, especially the self-inflated.  But I find her voice and her intent inspiring. 


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Pain or Perspective?

I read a few quotes by Ted Dekker earlier this week that have stuck in my mind.  They are about our pasts.

 “Pain or perspective, that's the choice.'
. . .
You choose pain - you choose to fight it, deny it, bury it - then yes, the choice is always hard. But you choose perspective - embrace your history, give it credit for the better person it can make you, scars and all - the choice gets easier every time.”
Ted Dekker, Kiss 

 “. . . your history is no less important to your survival than your ability to breathe. In the end, you can only determine whether to saturate your memories with pain or with perspective. Forgetting is not an option. I tell you the truth now: Pain was not God's plan for this life. It is a reality, but it is not a part of the plan.”
Ted Dekker

I have been pondering the past recently.  I have past pain, deep pain, just like each of you.  If you can look back at your life and not find a time of great hurt I am very glad for you.  But for most of us, pain from the past is a reality.  For me, it shaped my entire personality. It changed me.  I suppose pain does that.  I know with certainty I have forgiven the inflicter of the pain. The hurt doesn't assault me on a daily basis.  In fact, like most unpleasant things I encounter in my life, I have become very adept at ignoring the pain.  The above words are so true though- forgetting is not an option.  I have been fighting, denying...burying the pain.  But it is still there- a gaping, seeping wound.  What to do with it?

I have asked God to heal it, begged and pleaded for all traces of the wound to it never happened.  But that's just more denying and burying, isn't it?  The past made me who I am today, for good and bad.  I am mentally and emotionally stronger because of it.  I gained wisdom, seeking God and the truth in his word more than air in my lungs.  Pain brings beauty to God's promises, doesn't it?  The pain of the past also made me harder and more closed, not as trusting as I once was.  Perhaps that last one is not all bad, says the still too naive girl.  But it also drove me to actions, words and choices I am not proud of.  It is in our nature to fill a hole...we dig a hole in our backyard and we refill it as quickly as possible- someone could get hurt by that gaping hazard, right?  We fill the holes inside of us with such frenzied intensity sometimes, aching to forget and instantly move forward from the pain, that all we do is add more burdens and addictions on top of the core issue of our deep hurt.

As I face this pain and wonder what it means for my future, I feel the choice of perspective is air to a drowning person.  What if I embraced the pain?  I know I am thankful for the positives changes it brought about in me.  I am shameful for the negative ones, but that is part of the perspective too, isn't it?   I might as well hang up the forgetting part, it's not gonna happen.  Nor can I pretend I am healed and whole when I am not.  But perspective...embracing all of my past...perhaps I can do that.  It's gonna hurt like hell, that's honest.  I am going to try though.  Living in denial of the pain is not an option anymore.  And it is also a little insulting to the person I am now, isn't it?  I survived the pain, just like each of you.  

It is your turn.  How do you deal with deep pain from your past?  What works and what doesn't?   

Sunday, January 1, 2012

It's a New Year, Charlie Brown!

This is a New Year's Day post, but I should warn you now lest you throw rocks at me later, this post is not actually about Charlie Brown.  Or Snoopy.  Or even Linus and his soft, ratty blue blanket.  Ainsley and I are huge Peanuts fans, so I found it fitting.  Okay, moving on...

Traditionally, I write a New Years Day blog post.  Most years I can be contemplative about the nature of a new year and those dreaded resolutions we all make and break.  I can usually sum up the previous year with the statement, "I survived...thank God that year is in the past."  But not this year.  This past year has been one of the best of my life.  The precious things of this year were found when I stepped out of my comfort zone...when I was brave and trusted. The most beautiful of all was completely unexpected. 

But today, as the old year is gone and the new is beginning, I have more questions than answers.  Uncertainty hovers over every area of my life.  Just like my strange cup of coffee sitting next to me, with fat free creamer and two Splendas floating in it instead of my usual quarter cup of cream and sugar due to my new health regimen in 2012, change is in the air.  I honestly do not know what the future holds.  I am okay with that uncertainty for once in my life.  Maybe I am finally learning to surrender my control tendencies...if true, that is a very good thing.

2011 was my year to be redeemed.  That was the word God spoke to my heart many times these past twelve months.  I just looked up that word and found:

     redeem: to buy back, to get or win back, to free from what distresses or harms, to free from captivity by payment of a ransom, to release from blame or debt, to free from the consequences of sin, to change for the better, to atone for. 

 Wow.  I want to cry.  Yes, that is exactly what Jesus did for me this past year...he redeemed me.  All my past regrets, my bad choices, all the broken parts and holes inside of me caused by others' carelessness, selfishness, apathy and poor decisions...he held me together and stitched me back whole.  I was talking to a friend this morning about surrender, and I realize now it was only in finally surrendering all the past pain and junk to Jesus that he could come in and redeem.  I know he could have done this in me sometime during the past twenty-six years...I took the long walk up to the altar at nine years old to ask Jesus into my heart...if I'd only been willing to let him into the deep places of my heart. I thought I had let him in, thought I had given him every part of me.  But I hadn't. I mourn when I think of how much time I have wasted on regret.  But all the lost pieces of me are now found, nothing is missing.  Honest though:  I still struggle with surrender.  Perhaps I am more stubborn or rebellious to authority than others.  I am working on this too. 

I wanted to end this New Year's post with a song. I came across this video which I believe sums up 2011 for me.  I love the teenagers in it, their hope and smiles. I admire their courage in showing the deep hurts and struggles they face. I know some of my readers may not understand this post or the video.  It's okay.  All of life is a process, especially the journeys our hearts take. Thank you for your openness to my words and I hope they might be a conduit to bring something good into your life in the future.

Watch the video please.  And I want you to ask yourself...if I was given a piece of cardboard and a black Sharpie today, what would I write on it?  Be honest with yourself please, nobody's seeing this but you in your own mind.  Then I want you to envision the other side...flip it over in your mind.  It is still blank.  But what would you want it to say?  Feel whatever your heart is saying to you, don't dismiss your feelings or deep longings.  Ponder it, won't you?  

Here's to new beginnings.  I value each of you so much.  Thank you for continuing to read my clumsy words.