Category Archives: Feelings

Birthright, Bodies, and Healing: Part Two

Birthright.

One word can change everything.

Last week, I promised to tell you the things that happened to my body after I got hit with the meaning of this word, birthright.

And I will. I’ll get to that.

Things happened that I could see, but more important were the things that happened deep down–the unseen thought changes were the root of the tangible changes.

What is beauty?

The day I heard “Your body is your birthright,” I was reminded of a time I heard this question in prayer.

Amy, what is beauty? 

I saw three vases, beautifully sculpted, on a mantle. One was very tall and thin. One was short and curvy. And one was shorter and rounder, like a bowl.

What is beauty?

 

“Amy. Which one is beautiful?”

“All of them, Lord, they are all beautiful.”

“Yes,” He said, “and they are more beautiful together.”

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Then I saw an arrangement of three flowers, a daisy, a rose, and a violet, and I heard again, “Which one is beautiful?”

“They all are, Lord, all of them are beautiful.”

“Yes,” He said, “and they are more beautiful together.”

I could see this in life, in the mall, in the women around me, but until the other day, I couldn’t see it for myself.

Which one is beautiful? 

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You are beautiful.

You are God’s favorite shape.

We all are.

And.

We are more beautiful together.

Constantly comparing or coveting someone else’s body or features is a sure death of self-esteem. Always looking at someone else and thinking you should be better, “like they are,” means an endless cycle of competition is whirling every time we look at each other.

Somebody has to get off this Ferris Wheel of Death. Maybe a whole lot of somebodies.

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Because it is death. It is a sure death of anything looking like self-esteem. It is a sure death of being comfortable in your own skin. It is a sure death of enjoying your life, enjoying relaxing in your birthright, celebrating the shape that you are.

And for some, it is actual death.

I’ve been reading stories this week about self-esteem.

People who have cosmetic procedures are at a higher risk of suicide, because nips and tucks on the body don’t address the root problem, the vision we have of ourselves.

Many patients, women and men, come out of surgery only to feel worse about themselves because the self-esteem issues weren’t addressed–they wake up and those issues and the feelings that go with them are still there. In fact, even those with healthy self-esteem who think they are just going in for a “little lift” often feel worse about themselves after these kinds of procedures. There is a promise on these procedures that they cannot deliver.

Nips and tucks don’t address the vision we have of ourselves.

 

When we disdain our birthright, when we don’t look at our bodies as a holy inheritance, the Temple of God, but instead see them as something to be constantly criticized and corrected, we establish a habit. No matter what this body looks like, we will criticize it, because we decide this is the right way to view a body.

And if we do this to ourselves, we will do it to others.

Love your neighbor–as you love yourself.

You can’t give what you don’t have.

I have not been critical of other people’s bodies. I held others in high esteem, one reason I had not noticed this defecit in myself.

But what I had started to notice is that certain things sent me into a rage. Grammar mistakes by strangers. Bad driving by strangers. And bad manners by strangers.

You can’t give what you don’t have.

 

I realized I was carrying an underlying level of what I considered acceptable criticism. It was not acceptable to me to consciously criticize myself or people I knew, but I found myself spewing rage toward strangers and their missteps.

The first prayer I prayed weeks ago in this journey was “God, what is this? Why am I letting grammar and table manners rob me of my peace? I don’t want anything draining my energy! Show me the root! I want freedom. I don’t want any thought that isn’t from you!”

I thought I needed to confess and be delivered of being so darn judge-y.

And I did, but He showed me that it started with me, with the way I viewed myself. Even more than I criticized  others, I was constantly criticizing myself. And I truly did not see it. I had a conscious stream of thought that was “correct,” things that I said over myself every day:  I am God’s creation. I have favor. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. But I also had a less conscious stream running underneath all of that, the one that shuddered over imperfections, the one that always said “ew” to the mirror.

I want freedom.

 

Love your neighbor.

As you love yourself.

That’s some kind of poison love we are giving out to others if we are constantly walking around saying “ew” every time we look in the mirror.

Photo by Mike Wilson on Unsplash
Photo by Mike Wilson on Unsplash

 

Seeing your body as Birthright is a game changer.

 

If my love for myself today is conditional on reaching a certain standard–a number on the scale, a dress size, a body-fat percentage–then my love for myself will always be conditional. Reaching those standards won’t be enough. It’s a bar that’s always being raised, a point that’s always moving, a goal that can never be reached.

I have to love myself unconditionally now, just as I am, “flaws” and all, if I want to be able to really love myself and others in the future, regardless of whether I go to the gym and “improve,” or I age and “decline.” This kind of love is a decision. It has to be made. It has to be chosen.

Seeing your body as birthright is a game changer.

It stops being about vanity and becomes about something cosmic, something deep. A right. An inheritance. A gift.

A Temple.

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Culture gives us one standard of beauty, but God does not see us or any part of His creation that way. And He did not make it to fit one narrow mold. He is an artist, the original creative, a lover of diversity. Even in something that seems insignificant, like a leaf.

Think about all the different kinds of leaves, and how beautiful they all are together. How absolutely boring nature would be if every leaf were a maple leaf. And how absurd if every leaf aspired to change its shape to the maple’s pointed star.

Culture gives us one standard of beauty, but God does not see us or any part of His creation that way.

 

I lived in Los Angeles for two years. I have seen many celebrities up close, and I often don’t recognize them until someone else points them out.

Why is that?

Because they usually don’t even look like “themselves,” like the images that they have helped create. They are not recognizable without their style teams, professional makeup and lighting artists, and airbrushing. They have wrinkles, saggy skin, grey roots. All of it.

It doesn’t mean that I haven’t looked at them and thought, wow, what a beautiful person, but it does mean that, many times, they don’t look like their own pictures.

As Cary Grant was famous for saying, “Everyone wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant.”

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So.

What happened to me after a day of thinking like this? After releasing the eternal “ew” that I was speaking over myself and trading it in for the awesome Power of the Birthright?

First, I felt lighter. My head felt so light I felt like a bobble head. I have had a lot of migraines and neck and shoulder pain. Sometimes it was low-lying and constant, kind of like those beat-yourself-up thoughts I was having. I noticed it was gone.

Second, I felt good. Good. I felt so much better, I didn’t want to feel that old way again. Any time some critical thought would try to creep in, I was like, “NOOO!! This is my BIRTHRIGHT. I am God’s favorite shape!” And, instead of hating the reflection in the shop windows, I noticed I was seeing myself and feeling good. Like, “DANG, Y’ALL, I FEEL GOOD! I LOOK GOOD! I AM GOOD!” I did not care if someone liked the way I looked in my jeans, because I am God’s favorite shape. I did not care if someone thought my arms looked awesome in my shirt because I AM GOD’S FAVORITE SHAPE! I laughed a lot.

Third, I came home after a day of this freedom, and I thought, “I bet I lost weight. I feel lighter. I bet I am lighter.” I got on the scale. I lost 3.5 pounds that day without even trying. And over the next day, I lost another half a pound. Four pounds total, just melted off like that.

Fourth, I had insight into some health problems that I have had for years. I changed a few small things, and I am almost symptom free after one week. I am back to eating almost all foods without painful repercussions, and I see a huge difference in my sleep.

I felt lighter.

 

I am expecting more good things to come. For me and for you. All of us, more beautiful together. Better overall, together. Celebrating our birthrights, together.

Doesn’t that sound so much better than competing for impossible standards, together?

I’m jumping off the Ferris Wheel of Death. Right into my Birthright.

Here are a few tips on how I’m doing it, and you can too:

  1. See your body as your birthright. Journal about what this means. How does it change the way you see yourself when your body is your Birthright instead of something to be criticized and “whipped” into shape?
  2. Say stuff out loud. Thank God for giving you your body as your Birthright. Tell your body that it is good, just as it is. Thank your body for all the good times, all the hard work, all the stuff it’s put up with. Apologize to your body for all the mean things you’ve said and done to it. Tell yourself, “I am God’s favorite shape.” Tell your body you’re going to do your best from now on to treat it with the respect and celebration a Birthright deserves.
  3. By all means, exercise and eat well, but not as some form of self-abuse. Trade in loving yourself “someday” for “now.” Don’t put conditions on self-acceptance. Truly loving yourself means eating well to bless your body, not starving yourself to reach an impossible goal.
  4. Write life-giving words over yourself, and post where you can see them, especially on mirrors. For example, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made! I am made in God’s image! My body is my birthright! I am done abusing myself in thoughts, words or actions. I love myself today, not “someday!” I celebrate my Birthright!”
  5. If you catch yourself falling back into old habits, just apologize to your body, and get back on the wagon.

This is a good starting place. What other suggestions do you think could help others make peace with and celebrate the body as Birthright?

And by the way, this is not just for women. For men, too. We all have things we are tempted to criticize about ourselves. But we are getting free. We are on a journey to Birthright.

***

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well. Psalm139:14

 

Birthright, Bodies, and Healing: Part One

Healing is complex. And some things change you forever.

This week, I heard a word in a new way. And I am changed forever.

Birthright.

The Lord spoke this word to me this week. Over and over until I paid attention. Real attention.

Before now, when I heard the word birthright, I thought of an inheritance or the story of Jacob and Esau in the Bible.

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Birthright was taken so seriously in ancient days that even when Jacob tricked Isaac into giving him Esau’s birthright blessing, Isaac couldn’t take it back. It wasn’t something that could be given and then taken away.

Once your birthright, always your birthright.

As I pondered this word this week, I asked the Lord, “What do you want me to get from this word, birthright? Why are you highlighting this word to me?”

And I heard this in reply, “Your body. Your body is your birthright.”

Your body is your birthright.

 

I hurt my knee in April, and I’m still recovering. I’ve gained 15 pounds and watched hard earned muscles wither as I wait for my knee to heal, even while exercising as much as I can. I’m learning to be thankful for different things, like not having to go on outings in a wheelchair, and I’m really trying to give myself time to recover. Trying not to beat myself up when I see the changes in my body. And rather than being angry and frustrated with myself and the whole situation, I’m trying to be grateful, to choose joy.

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I am not always successful.

Before I hurt my knee, I was just coming out of a six-year bout with a mystery illness that caused a tremendous amount of pain and a thousand weird little symptoms. I never had a diagnosis, just a bunch of confused doctors telling me to rest and work on my diet and maybe take an anti-depressant, the blanket diagnosis for women who can’t be helped. We must be sad.

Because being sad causes dry eyes and itchy hands.

I never took the anti-depressant, but I did work on my diet, and I prayed constantly, and my life motto became “NEVER GIVE UP.” In April this year, I could see breakthrough in every area in my body. I thought I was entering a new phase with my health.

And then, I hurt my knee. And in some ways, I have lost a lot of ground.

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The day I kept praying over the word “birthright,” I was also asking, “What is up with this body? Why was I sick, and then almost well, and then I hurt my knee? Something isn’t right–God, what is it?”

When I heard His reply, “Your body is your birthright,” I had to stop a minute.

“What, now?”

My body.

My body is my birthright.

And I had a sudden impression of the power of The Birthright.

A birthright was everything. It was every good thing a father had to give. It was everything a father worked to give his children, every blessing he could provide to sustain them all the days of their lives. It was a good gift, the best gift. It changed the future. It was meant to be used, invested, stewarded, appreciated, enjoyed, celebrated.

A birthright was everything. 

 

If my body is my birthright, it is a good gift from my Father.

My body as my birthright, just as is it, it is a blessing. It’s not less than. It’s not a mistake.

My body as my birthright, it is meant for many things. The investing and stewarding, I get that, but, enjoyed? Celebrated? Even in the state it’s in right now?

That was a tough one.

Celebrating your body is your birthright. Loving yourself, in whatever state you’re in right now, it is your birthright.

My body as my birthright, just as is it, it is a blessing. It’s not less than. It’s not a mistake.

 

I have been extremely careful over the years to never say “I hate my body, or I hate this or that thing about my body.” I hear other women say it, and the curse in that kind of language is clear.

But, what did I say?

I was quick to say that I needed to work out or eat better. I could see my arms or legs, especially since the accident, and the first word that came quietly out of my mouth was usually, “Eeeewww.”

In our culture, we equate fitness with righteousness, and we can be extremely cruel to ourselves in the name of stewardship. And in the religious church, “Loving yourself” sounds a lot like heresy to some.

We are missing the whole point.

I could look at other women and see their individual beauty. God is an artist, He loves diversity, different sizes and different shapes, and I love to see the different expressions of His creation in His daughters and His sons.

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I could be happy for everyone else.

But to myself, I was astonishingly  cruel.

Before I heard this sentence, “Your body is your birthright,” I didn’t realize how cruel.  I love clothes and hair and makeup and all the girly things.  I didn’t feel insecure or ugly.

But I didn’t feel like I measured up, either.

I always felt like there were other things I should be doing, adding more exercise, trying this or that meal plan, reading about color blocking or the most slimming jeans. Always, always, always thinking how to get this body “whipped into shape.”

Whipping our bodies into shape is not health. It is not stewardship. It is not investing.

Whipping is abuse.

But to myself, I was astonishingly  cruel.

 

A flood of images and impressions came over me. I understood in my mind that I should be kind to myself, that I should let my daughters hear me speak well of myself for their sake, that I should speak life over myself. Consciously and on the surface,  I did that.

But in my heart, I wasn’t getting it. God revealed to me the constant underlying stream of self-abuse in the background–underneath the conscious thought–word upon word upon word telling me in a million ways how I didn’t measure up, wasn’t good enough, the constant “eeewww.”

In my heart, I wasn’t getting it.

 

He showed me how I checked myself in shop windows and quickly sucked and tucked and adjusted everything and then walked away  thinking, “Well, that’s a little better. It’ll do.”

He showed me that I made up, yes, made up conversations in my head that other women were having about me in their heads.  How I noticed a woman nearby and immediately began to assume that she was judging me, that she thought I didn’t eat well, or thought I was lazy and didn’t exercise. And I would get indignant over this imaginary conversation. How dare she judge me, she doesn’t even know me.

Made up conversations, do you hear me.

This is true.

Crazy, yes.

But true.

And I know I’m not the only one who has done this.

In reality, that woman is probably not thinking about me at all. And if she is, if the conversations I have been having with friends this week are any indication, it is likely that she thinks I am judging her.

What an absurd situation, two women circling each other over cantaloupes, imagining the other one judging her. Imaginary hate from imaginary haters. Because. You know. We don’t have enough real haters.

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What in the world.

It’s got to stop.

Your body is your birthright.

Your Birthright.

When we see a newborn, we all look in quiet wonder at tiny fingers and tiny toes and say the same thing, “What miracle.”

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Can you even imagine looking at a newborn and talking to that baby the way most women talk to themselves?

“Oh, what a miracle. But, eeeewww, your fat little arms. And oh no, your butt is just ugly and huge. You need a girdle. And those legs? Ugh. We need to get you in the gym quick, whip you into shape. Yes, you are a miracle, but, um. Seriously, tiny baby. Gross.”

This is absurd. But it is what most women do to themselves constantly, all day, every day, and it is tragic.

Your body is every good thing. You are a miracle. You were that newborn once. Your Heavenly Father delighted in you then, and He delights in you the same way now.

Can you imagine talking to a baby the way most women talk to themselves?

 

God made you, fearfully, wonderfully, beautifully. He looks at you and calls you good.

Yes.

All of it. Your whole self.

You. Are. Good.

I wept.

I am good.

I felt light as the thoughts burned up in the light. I knew that they would try to come back, and I felt so good, I didn’t want to pick them back up again. I did not realize how much negativity was spewing through my mind constantly, how it was weighing me down, how it was constantly draining my energy.

The enemy is so sneaky. He goes under the radar. It takes Holy Spirit to reveal these hiding places to us.

I asked Him, “How do I walk this out? I don’t want to go back. Show me how to walk this out!”

And I heard again, “Your body is your birthright. Be kind to your body. Celebrate your birthright.”

Celebrate your birthright.

 

I think some of us sort of get this in our heads, but we have got to get it deep in our hearts.

Not just for everyone else.

For ourselves.

It was foreign to me, but I felt such relief and such love from Him, such gratitude, I was willing to do anything.

I didn’t know what else to do but start talking to my body.

“I’m so sorry, Body. I’m so sorry I’ve been so mean to you. Thank you so much for being so good. Thank you so much for letting me enjoy this life, have kids, eat food.”

I just went on and on.

“You are good arms! You are good, good arms. You are good legs, good, good legs. Thanks for letting me reach out and touch the world, thanks for carrying me to so many places. You are good! You are a good tummy, you are good hands, you are good!”

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Sometimes, I’m really glad there’s no one around when He has me do this stuff.

I stood there and talked to my body and hugged myself. And I wept.

We are more cruel to ourselves than we would ever be to anyone else, more cruel than we would ever allow others to speak of themselves in our presence.

It is not righteous to beat ourselves up with words.

It is not good stewardship to whip ourselves into shape.

You. Are. Good.

 

Health is Having Exquisite Appreciation and Love That Heals.

Health means doing things for yourself in love, NOT out of self-hatred. We need to take care of ourselves, but out of love and wonder at the miracle these bodies are, not out of disgust at all the ways we don’t measure up. Health flows from appreciating your birthright, not looking at yourself and saying “Ew.”

Your body is your Birthright.

It is also your birthright to walk in this body and enjoy it. Celebrate it. In whatever condition it’s in, it is your Birthright.

And.

Your sister’s body is her Birthright.

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Jacob and Esau were just one example, but their story is a morality tale of two brothers who despised their own birthrights, and both are shown to us as foolish, and ungrateful, and missing the point of the birthright. And they destroyed their relationship in the process.

Your sister’s body. Her Birthright. It is not a thing to be coveted or set a standard. Your father gave her this birthright. Your father gave you yours. Your birthright is not less than hers simply because it is different. Hers is not better or worse than yours because it is different. Birthrights are not things to be compared. They are a father’s best gift, individually suited to bless each child.

Your birthright is not less than simply because it is different.

 

Knowing that my sister’s body is her birthright, it’s easier to look around. When temptation to compare comes in, I say, “No. That is her birthright.” And there is a sense of honor and of being happy for her, as well as for myself.  She has her birthright, and I have mine! Birthright honoring Birthright. Way better than two ravaged women squinting at each other over produce. Beating myself up with whatever she got that I think I don’t have? And vice versa? That was not God’s plan when He gave us our bodies.

Body image may work like that, but Birthright does not.

Once your birthright, always your birthright.

Your body is your birthright. Celebrating your body? Appreciating it? Not cursing it and constantly thinking how gross it is? Congratulating your sister on her beauty? This attitude is part of your birthright.

Birthright honoring Birthright.

 

When I grabbed on to this word, God started doing tangible things in my body. Next week in Part Two, I’ll share those things along with more tips on taking hold of your birthright and not letting go.

For now, ask yourself, ask Holy Spirit, “What have I been saying to myself deep down about my body, my weight, my age, my fitness level, my overall look? How do I abuse myself or beat myself up? Where am I walking in self hatred? What does God call me? What does He say about it? What do I need to say to my body, to myself about myself, instead?”

Pay attention this week to the stream of thoughts that flows underneath the conscious shoulds. When you hear self abuse of any kind, even the sneaky kind that masquerades as “health,” ask God to give you something else to say. Write down what you hear so that you can come back to it when you need to. Pat yourself and say those things out loud. Say to yourself, “NO. This is my birthright. This body part ________ is GOOD. It is my BIRTHRIGHT.”

May be best if no one else is around. You need to get excited about this. You need to get freaking emphatic.

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Your body. Your body is your Birthright. Celebrating your body as you would celebrate a miracle, a newborn, and any other thing in creation? Also part of your birthright.

Once your birthright, always your birthright.

You are good.

***

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well. Psalm139:14

Just Do Today

The last few weeks have been complicated.

On Easter Sunday, I had a freak accident on my bike that seriously damaged the tendons in my knee. The pain has been intense, but more than just the body, injury messes with your mind. Serious pain is a head game.

And even though I’m improving, last week hit me hard.

I sat in my bed and cried.

I know that “why” is not always the most productive question, but I couldn’t help but wonder, “Why did this happen?”

“God. Why did this happen?”

 

I’ve had accidents and injuries before, but in almost all those other incidents, I could see something I did that caused them. Not that I “deserved” what happened, but I could see a line of logic, things I could have done in advance to prevent the mistake.

This time, I couldn’t see what I could have done differently with the information I had that day. I might go back now and make a different choice here or there. Hindsight may be 20/20, but foresight is not.

So I prayed and said, “I know that why is not the best question, Lord, but I can’t help but wonder.”

I waited and listened, wondering if He would throw me a bone, some little word that would help me make sense of all the time and energy I spend lugging this leg around every day, a leg that worked perfectly fine just a few weeks ago.

I heard nothing. So, like all men and women of faith and wisdom, I prayed the same prayer, but louder. In case God needed me to speak up.

“I said, I know that WHY isn’t the best question…”

And I waited.

And I heard this.

“Just do today.”

That was all.

Just do today.

I sighed and sat a minute.

And then I said to myself, “Just do today.”

“Just do today.”

 

It did nothing to help me make sense of the accident, but in reality, it did do something to help me make sense of the present and how to go forward in the future.

I had let myself be overwhelmed by questions. Why did this happen? Where is my miracle? What could I have done differently? Was I out of order or out of God’s will in some way? What should I do now? Do I need a second opinion? Why won’t the physical therapist call me back? What’s going to happen next?

And on and on.

I was asking so many questions, I was not making any room in my mind for peace.

And sometimes, it doesn’t matter how many questions we ask, even  if they are the right ones.

We hear in part, we see in part, through a glass darkly.

He didn’t tell me why.

Sometimes it doesn’t matter how many questions we ask, even if they are the right ones. 

 

He didn’t tell me the answers about physical therapy or what is going to happen next.

He told me what.

He told me what to do, right now.

Just do today.

Just do what you can in this moment. Just do what will make the most difference, right this second.

And it helped me.

It gave me a clean slate. It erased all the questions and replaced them with a simple mission.

It made me realize, there was one thing  I could do. I have a great doctor at home I could email. Then he would have a heads up for when I get there, and he could tell me what I can do in the meantime.

Right then, I emailed him.

I immediately felt better, lighter.

Action gets us out of our heads. One sure way to make progress is movement. If you only ask questions but never move, you never know what is possible.

If you take a few steps, you might even realize you walked the wrong direction, but then you know which way to go next.

If you only ask questions but never move, you never know what is possible.

 

It’s simple inertia. Questions that serve no purpose weigh down our minds and leave no room for peace. Overthinking and underacting make a recipe for depression. Movement creates energy.

I pray for clarity for you, for movement, and a freedom from the pointless “whys.” For forward inertia toward the new thing God has for you in this season.

Just do today.

***

What questions are you asking that are pointless and weighing you down? What  “why” question do you need to let go so you can just do today? 

What does “just do today” look like for you right now? What can you do about your circumstance, right now, to move in any direction toward a solution? 

Isaiah 43:18-19 Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up, do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

Four Faces of Poverty and One Way to Overcome Them All

Poverty is a life-stealer, a joy-stealer, a dream-stealer.

A thief.

And like many thieves, a poverty mindset is a master of disguise.

A poverty spirit can wear many faces and speak with many voices.

There is no doubt that things happen in life that are beyond our control, and this post is by no means a dismissal of hardships. I have experienced poverty circumstances at different times in my life. I know how hard it can be, but I have also overcome a lot of the mindsets and the circumstances, so I also know it can be done! There is hope. The battle is in our minds. These are a few tips to help you recognize the enemy and win the battle.

Hopeless Identity

The most common expression of poverty that I hear says things like, “That will never work. I’ll never have that. I don’t even want those things. That life is not for me. Life is a struggle. The odds are stacked against me. I was born in this situation, and I’ll die in it. Everyone I know is like me. There’s no way out. I’m poor. It’s who I am.”

This face wears poverty as identity. Usually people who think this way have a mindset that has been passed down to them through generations. This face is marked by hopelessness. The oppression is so great, there is not even a concept of dreaming.

Entitled Resentment

One expression says, “Not only am I stuck with this life, but if I can’t have something better, no one else should have it either!  It’s not fair! I got some bad breaks, so everyone else should have to exist on my level. In fact, those people who have more than me? They should give me some of what they have. They owe me.”

This face wears poverty as resentment, and it is marked by entitlement. The saddest thing about resentment is that it keeps this person from connecting with people who do know how to succeed, people who also had some bad breaks, but overcame them. Resentful, entitled poverty will isolate these people in a cycle of group-think with others who have the same mindset and, therefore, affirm their unhelpful attitudes. This cycle will prevent them from learning other thought patterns that lead to success–and, then, lead them to helping others.

Defeated Heaviness

Another expression will admit that it wants success, but feels too beaten down to go after it. This one says things like, “I’d love to go after my dreams, but I don’t know how. I’m too old/young/uneducated/inexperienced/etc. I just can’t do it.”

This face wears poverty as total defeat and  is marked by a heaviness, an inertia, a lack of movement toward personal goals.

Self-Sabotaging Perfectionism

And the last expression is not always easily identified as a poverty mindset, because it looks different from the outside. This expression will admit that it wants success and will work hard to get it. However, it will self-sabotage all along the way. A person with this expression of poverty will throw tantrums with loved ones. Nothing is ever good enough for them, and they will reject opportunities, gifts, and offers of help because these offers don’t live up to their “standards.”

This expression wears poverty as perfectionism and is marked by an appearance of success, or of seeking success, that is thwarted by self-sabotage. Perfectionism is just another kind of poverty. It will keep a person from ever accepting themselves or any good thing that comes their way.

One Way to Overcome Them All

The way to conquer these feelings, or any spirit, is to cut them off where they started, at the root.

Humans are three-part beings, body, soul, and spirit, so the root has to be dealt with in every area.

For the body, take care of yourself. It’s your temple. It’s God’s temple. You will not feel like you are living the abundant life eating chips on the couch. Well. Not for long, anyway. Proclaim over yourself that any expression of poverty in your body is cut off at the root and allowed no longer, in the name of Jesus! Ask God to replace any poverty in your body with life and life abundant!

For the soul, think abundant thoughts! All behavior comes out of your thoughts. To change a life, change the thoughts. Write down upgraded thoughts, especially from scripture, and post them all over your house, car, and workplace. Proclaim over yourself that any expression of poverty in your soul is cut off at the root and allowed no longer, in the name of Jesus! Ask God to replace any poverty in your soul with life and life abundant!

For the spirit, take hold of your true identity! You are made in the image of God. Every good thing that He is, it exists inside of you! Proclaim over yourself that you are His beautiful creation, and any expression of poverty in your spirit is cut off at the root and allowed no longer, in the name of Jesus! Ask God to replace any poverty in your spirit with life and life abundant!

And for all three:  Ask God to show you the deeper things He has for you. When I started writing this post, I prayed and asked God what He wanted in the solution, and I heard Seneca Schurbon’s name. You may be familiar with Seneca’s groundbreaking work with flower essences. I shared the idea for this post with her and asked for her suggestions.

You can learn more about flower essences at her blog here. Seneca sees people integrating and healing body, soul, and spirit by using her products, and she has an essence called Prosper that she suggested for anyone wanting to try something a little out of the box. Everything Seneca does is done prayerfully and based on years of research and testimonies from clients. The Prosper essence “addresses poverty mentality, scarcity, and lack.” You can try a free sample of this essence and others by following the link; just click and type in Prosper, or browse the site for other possibilities.

If flower essences aren’t for you, ask God to show you what He has for you to do. He is limitless. His ways are high and delightful and creative. He wants to bless you and surprise you with a tailored personal touch on your life.

We all deal with poverty feelings from time to time. When thought patterns try to  come in that don’t line up with your best life, stop them at the onset.

***

Would love to hear from readers who have overcome a poverty mindset or something similar.

What worked for you? What would you suggest for others fighting this battle?

Please share in the comments!

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Jer29:11

The Best Possible Light: Respond to Others and Change Yourself

Sometimes, the places that hold criticism and neglect shock me.

Even though I guess I should know by now, I can’t help hoping that some relationships will change one day.

In the same way, sometimes the places that hold  encouragement and cheers surprise  me as well.  Sometimes a total stranger sees us more clearly than anyone we know.

I remember getting off the phone with someone one time and thinking, “Wow, after the things they said, I could be really hurt, and mad, and offended right now.”  And then, something else took over, and I thought, “But.  I just don’t want to be.”

It was a turning point for me.  I realized I had a choice.

Practicing that choice is a practical way to change everything about my day, my feelings, even my physical health as I refuse to allow stress and pain to take over my life.

I realized that I like being happy more than I like being offended.  I like having peace and moving past insults without having my day interrupted by anger.  I like enjoying my kids instead of taking out other people’s mistakes on them.

And I love thinking of all the people who have hurt me as their best possible selves, seeing them in the best possible light.  I love imagining the fun we would have if we could all be our best selves with each other, all the time, every day, no matter what.

It will be that way in heaven.  I’m looking forward to it.  Until then, we have a choice.  God, help us choose well.

***

How do you choose to move past hurtful things?

Count it all joy… when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  Jas1:2-3  ESV

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.  Jas1:2-4 NLT

3 Ways to Recover Quickly from Hurtful Comments

Oh, the holidays.

So much fun.  So cozy.  So sparkly and delicious.

And sometimes, so very painful.

Whether it’s family, friends, or total strangers, we get thrown together with lots of people this time of year.

And, often, we get thrown together as we are planning or attending gatherings that are stressful for some reason–either just happy people trying to put on a beautiful event, or really crabby people feeling the pressure of time and debt and dysfunction, or some combination of the two.

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Clearly, many times, this is not a good thing.

And we can get caught in the middle, in the way of someone who is short on patience and time.

And words can hurt.

Below are three ways you can overcome hurtful words quickly.  Life is too short to hold on to someone else’s bad decision.

1.)  Know this:  It’s not about you.

Really.

Nine times out of ten, a person’s statements reflect their own mood or situation.

One time, I was in a big box store a few weeks before Christmas when I nearly had a head-on cart collision with a white haired gentleman.  Even though it was an accident–both of us were pushing carts around a blind corner–I smiled and apologized.  I thought he would do the same, and we would move on.

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I said, “Oh, I’m sorry!”

He scowled at me and shouted, “SORRY? OH!  YEAH, I KNOW YOU ARE!!!”

For some reason, typing this today makes me laugh out loud.  But that day, I was devastated.

I was in my twenties and had my little ones with me. When he shouted at me in front of them and called me “sorry,” I almost cried.

But it was not about me being “sorry,” it was about him having a bad day.

Maybe his wife sent him to the store, and he hated it or was afraid of letting her down.  Maybe he was just a mean man.  I have no idea.  But it was his problem, not mine.

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That day, I just kept telling myself, it’s not about you, it’s not about you.  Which brings me to number two.

2.)  Say out loud that you don’t receive the hurtful comments.  Speak up and replace them with truth.

Say, “This is not about me.  I do not receive those words.  That person’s problem does not get to tell me who I am.”

I love the verses that talk about what we hear, that faith comes by hearing.

And not only does faith come by hearing, but we develop faith in the things we hear most.

If we listen to lies, we will begin to believe them.  If we listen to truth, the same is true.  We can’t control what other people say to us, but we can control what we say to ourselves, and so, control what we hear, and so, what we believe.

Joyce Meyer suggests starting your day by saying “God loves me” one hundred times.

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Get ahead of any lies that might come your way by filling up on a beautiful truth first thing in the morning.

When that man called me “sorry,” at one time, I would have said to myself, “Why did he say that to me?  What did I do that made him be so mean?  I must really be a sorry excuse for a human being if he felt like yelling at me!”

But I had learned that I had a choice.

So instead of beating myself up because of something someone else did, I said, “I do not receive that.  And I forgive that guy.  And I bless him.”

Which brings me to number three.

3.)  Forgive quickly, and bless the person.

I cannot tell you how many times people have said things to me that cut me to my heart.  Things that kept me up at night.  Things that made me feel sick, that gave me a pain in my stomach, things that I remembered that made me cringe and sweat.

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But, over time, I learned that they hurt me partly because I agreed with them and because I kept asking “why?”

“Why would they do that to me?”

There is so much in that little question.  The “why” looks for a way to make the hurtful comment make sense.  But abuse never makes sense.  Trying to force sense out of abuse will wear you down.  It is an unanswerable, never-ending spiral of a question.

And asking, “why would they do that to me?” makes the whole scenario about, well, me.

And most of the time, again, what other people say is not about me.  Or you.

I also love the verse that says “from the fullness of the heart, the mouth will speak.”  Some translations say, “from the overflow of the heart.”  The verse doesn’t say “from the way everyone else acts, the mouth will speak.”  It is clear that what comes out of a person comes because it is what was already there.

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In the same way that if someone spills a drink on you, it is not your fault, neither are the words that “spill” out of a person’s mouth to be blamed on you.

In a very few cases, you might need to listen to the heart of a matter, even if the presentation was less than kind.  Especially if you hear the same thing over and over again from different people.  But, most of the time, a person’s words only reflect one thing:  the state of their own heart.

***

Occasionally,  if we are very tender, or the person is very close, or the comment strikes an insecurity we already have, we have to be more persistent.

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I have had times when I had to repeat these steps over and over and over.

But I realized that I would repeat something to myself over and over, even if I didn’t try. It could either be their words, or God’s.  I learned to choose truth.

I choose to speak over myself words of life, even if I don’t feel it.  I repeat them until I do.  Sometimes, it has taken one time.  Other times, twenty.  And some hurtful words did not leave my soul for years, but I could feel them loosening their grasp as I stood on truth.

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It gets easier the more we practice.  Speak life.  It’s better.  It works.

And, bonus:  The more you speak life over yourself, the more life you hear.  The more you hear, the more you fill your own heart with love.

And by filling your own heart with love, you become more likely to speak love to others.  It’s a win/win.  You will bless everyone around you as you bless yourself.

***

I am a child of God.

God loves me.  God loves me.  God loves me.

I forgive.  

I bless.  I bless.  I bless.

What words do you need to trade in for truth today?

The good man brings good things out of the good treasure of his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil treasure of his heart. For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.  Luke 6:45

Panic Attacks: One Way to Say “No.”

The other night I woke up with my heart racing.

No bad dreams.  No scary sounds.

Well.

Sometimes the ice maker sounds like footsteps.

But, not really.

I just woke up for no reason, feeling like I had three shots of espresso:  shaky, buzzing, and short of breath.  A classic panic attack.

Until that night, I hadn’t had a panic attack in years.

I used to have panic attacks about every other day.  Back then, I didn’t know what they were.  I thought I had heart problems.

I would get shaky and tense.  I was afraid, but I didn’t understand why.  I was washing dishes, working, walking, just doing daily life, nothing scary about it.

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A wise woman I knew asked me what my thoughts were like immediately before the panic attacks.

I had not been aware that I was thinking anything before the attacks,  but I started paying more attention.  I realized, as the panic attacks triggered, that I wasn’t always thinking only about washing dishes, or working, or walking, but that I also had a running storyline playing in my mind as I was doing these other things.

I had developed a bad habit of playing out all my motherly fears in my mind.  For example, if I was afraid of a child getting hit by a car, I would play it out in my mind like a movie to the bloody, bitter end.

And it had become such a bad habit, that I ruminated on negative  and terrifying things constantly without being aware that I was doing it.

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Yeah.  Awful.

So.  The next time I spoke with my friend, I told her that I was more aware of my thoughts.  And I realized that I was playing out all these horrible scenarios in my mind.

She said, “Yes, that’s what I wondered.  Those are fear fantasies.”

She said that most people don’t think of fantasies as being negative, but that we can still fantasize about fear.  She said we do it for two reasons.  1)  Because we want to see if we could handle a certain scenario.  We want to test ourselves, our inner strength, our coping ability.    And, 2) because we want to practice in our minds how we would handle something if it happened, like a tornado or fire drill in school.

But fear fantasies don’t really work that way.

Tornado drills and fire drills are helpful because they deal with situations that are likely to actually happen, and they finish by giving the participants a practical skill they could use if they did.

Fear fantasies are different because they dwell on extreme terror more than they focus on a resolution.  And they leave the mind in a fearful, hopeless state.

A state that can result in a panic attack.

Ten years ago, my last major panic attack took place in my laundry room.  At the time, a major court case regarding a violent criminal was playing out in the state where we lived.  I watched all the news coverage about that case, every day, for months.

As I stood in the laundry room, some of the details of the case came to me.  I thought of my two babies, in different rooms in the house, and it occurred to me that, if something bad happened in that moment, I could not protect them.

I felt so vulnerable.  And I started to panic.

So much so,  that before I knew it, I was bent over double, clutching the countertop and gasping for air.

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I felt like I could choke.  My heart was pounding.  I broke out in a sweat.  Sick all over.

I knew that I could say scripture out loud and that was supposed to help.  I thought, “the 23rd Psalm, the 23rd Psalm…”

But, even though I had known that scripture since I was a child, I couldn’t think of the words.

The blankness of my mind scared me even more.  And the panic increased.

My heart cried out, “JESUS.”

If I couldn’t think of scripture, I could just say, “Jesus.”

I said, “Jesus.  Jesus.  Jesus.”

Over.  And over.  And over.

And the panic left.

I could breathe.  I could think.

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I had always known there was power in that name.  There are songs about it.  But I had not seen it in my life until that day.

One way to say “No!” to panic attacks is to just say “Jesus.”

Of course, over time, I learned other ways.

Obviously, I had overloaded myself with scary news stories.  And I had a bad habit of indulging in fear fantasies.

I stopped watching so much news.  Honestly, you don’t need to watch the news every day to know what is happening in the world.  Events have a way of making themselves known.

I stopped allowing my thoughts to run away with me.  And one way I did that, when I realized my thinking was turning into a fear fantasy, I would say “Jesus.”  I would also immediately replace those thoughts, saying scriptures out loud, or saying things like “God’s got this, God’s got this!”  Out loud.

I learned to get my thoughts under control.

I learned to raise my voice in a positive, powerful way.

I did that again the other night.  I just said, “Jesus.”  And I asked Him to take the fear.  And He did.  I really don’t want it anymore.

***

This is an example of one way to deal with panic attacks.  It has worked for me repeatedly.  If you have panic attacks, you may need to seek counseling or a doctor’s help to deal with all the possible roots.  This page is in no way intended to provide diagnosis or prescriptions or take the place of professional care.

3 Things You Can Do Today to Fight Fear

Today, I’m giving you 3 strategies you can use immediately to fight fear in all areas of your life.

I’m a practical girl.

I can philosophize and get all prosy, but at the end of the day, give me practical anytime.

I believe that fear is at the root of nearly every battle we fight, if not every single one.  I battled fear all my life until I realized what I was up against.  I was trying to deal with secondary emotions, not always realizing that fear masquerades as other feelings.  And that disguise makes it harder for us to get at the source.

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For example, rejection could have a root fear of being left out, or not being good enough, not lovable.  Insecurity could have a  root fear of not measuring up, or fear of being worthless.  Rage could have a root fear of being weak or of losing position or control.

When it hit me that fear is at the root of so many struggles, I started to pay attention to the people around me and what they did to fight fear and stay in peace and joy.

I watched myself go through things and change, and I paid attention to what I did that worked and what didn’t.  Three of my favorite strategies are in the list below.

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3 Things You Can Do Today to Fight Fear

  1. Start pumping in the positive messages.  Right now.  Whatever works.  Whoever.  And keep ’em coming.  Move against the fear, not with it.  A comedian you love, songs, speakers, scripture, TED talks, podcasts, redemptive movies and television shows, etcetc.    This is a good time to keep the material at a PG-13 or less.  Lots of drama yields stress, which is just an everyday word for fear. Try different things until you feel encouraged. If you are aware of any level of fear in your life, begin to saturate your mind with positive messages.
  1. Repeat the positive messages you hear out loud.  The words we speak and focus on affect our brain development and our response to stress.  A current theory in the field of neuroscience holds that our brain function, and even DNA, can be changed by focusing on one simple positive word like “peace” or “love.”  Of course, the more positive words you hold on to for longer periods of time, the greater the positive effect on your brain, and therefore, your response to stress.  Just pick a quote from one of your positive messages above, or even a single word right now, like “peace.”  And start saying it over and over.  It does take time for a significant long-term change to occur in terms of neuroplasticity (the changeability of the brain), but most people I talk to feel relief almost immediately as they focus on positive messages with their speech. 
  1. Take 3 Deep Breaths.  & add some lavender.    Many people are familiar with the idea of deep breathing, but how often do you actually do it?  Right now, close your eyes, take a deep “belly breath” on a count of eight.  Hold it for a count of eight, and exhale, a controlled, slow breath for a count of eight.  Can’t do eight counts?  Start with a count of four and work up.  You can do this anywhere, anytime.  And your lungs will thank you!  Also, stop by the health food store or call your friends who know about oils.  Get some lavender sachets, lavender tea, lavender oil, whatever, and start enjoying the fragrance.  Research at the University of Maryland, among others, has confirmed that lavender has soothing effects.  (If you use essential oils, research safe practices and always dilute.)

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***

More lists to come, things that are more lifestyle changes or might require you to order a book or watch a video or develop habits.  But I wanted to start with things that you can do right now.  I still do all of these things if I find myself in a struggle.  I diffused lavender oil in my room the other night.  Best night’s sleep I’ve had in a while.

What practical things do you do to fight fear?

***

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Deut31:6

Prayer for those fighting fear:

Father, thank you that You never leave us.  Thank you for Your hand on us.  Today, I’m binding fear and praying that my friends will feel Love, stronger than any other thing.  Jesus, be more real than any circumstance, any anxiety or stress or insecurity or pride.  Or any other type of fear that comes to distract.  Fear cannot have our peace.  I pray for supernatural strength.  For encouragement.  For joy and laughter in the face of circumstances.  For ministering spirits to go out and bring comfort and reignite the feelings of passion and purpose that cause us to fight fear like we mean it, to rise up and move against the lies instead of letting them steamroll us and steal our destinies.  I pray for victory and breakthrough in every way today, in Jesus’ name.

Happy Dog and Pony Show. For Father’s Day.

My father was so tall.  The way he threw back his head to laugh, he could make anything look like fun. I was about four, still in ruffly pants and shiny curls.

There are pictures in an old album of that day.  I think my uncle even had a mustache back then, so dark and swarthy, he looked like a Spanish pirate. In flannel.  With glasses.

I remember their hilarity, they laughed out loud all morning.

I was curious, peeking around corners, watching the construction.  With my little red wagon, horse bridles and buckles, and maybe some duct tape, they built a small buggy and hitched it in on to my uncle’s Doberman. They planned to take me for a wild ride.  It sounded fun.  It looked fun.  And I loved their handsome giggles, dimples showing.

The laughter, I loved, the joy and the silliness of these grown men.

On the other hand, I had always been a little bit afraid of that dog.  She never hurt me, but still. She had a “liver” coat, a color which, to me, was about as appealing as its name.

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And looking down her long sloping snout, all I could see was a swirling vortex of drool and steam and pointy teeth.

The wagon was good, I was used to that.  It was a little bumpy, but sometimes they put a blanket in for a cushion.  I liked it.  The horse bridles were fine.  I hadn’t had the great fall yet at that time, and I loved everything about horses.

But the dog, she and I kept our distance.  She was so hard and sharp all over, and jumpy.

By the time they finished the cart and harness, they were laughing so hard they could hardly stand up, and someone had out a giant camera, a silver box that blinked and caught time.

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They came into the house.  I took one look at that liver-colored dog, the straps and the wagon.  No blanket.  And, just like that, I changed my mind.

I did not want to get in that wagon.  I did not want to put my life in the control of a dog that was, at best, a toothy acquaintance.  I did not trust her.  Too many angles, too little fur.  Suspicious.

I did not want to put myself in the hands of these near hysterical men.  I had seen their exploits and bucking stallions.  My heart pounded.   Mayday, mayday!

As a mother, I now call that feeling “Daddies do it different!”  And I smile brightly and make sure I know the location of the nearest ER, and I send them on their way.  A bandaid here and there is worth an adventure with Dad.  Dads have a way of planning these beautiful disasters that usually turn out alright.  And the kids get tougher.  And the memories are priceless.

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But I didn’t know that then, and I shook my head.  They laughed and said,  “Come on, come on, it’ll be fun!”

“No.” I whispered, a mixture of wanting to, but not, a sick feeling at disappointing them, and fear of the dog, and of bravery at saying what I felt, a tiny voice in a room full of deep and boisterous sound.

My grandmother was there.  She must have agreed with me, because when I whispered “no,” she grabbed me up and hugged me against her plump chest, and said, “This little baby does not have to get in that wagon.  You boys take it right back outside!”

She tucked me next to her and got out a lapful of books.  I felt some relief, but I peeked out from under her soft arms at my uncle and my dad, giving up, disappointed, no more laughing, sighing out loud the way that big boys do.  The last thing I saw was the tail of that liver colored dog walking out the back door.

I was a tiny adventurer who got afraid.  I wanted to do it, but I didn’t.

I wish someone had put a stuffed animal in the wagon to show me it was safe and familiar.  I wish my grandma had said she’d hold my hand and walk next to me if i wanted to try it.  I wish I would have known that a chance to ride in a Doberman-dog-and-pony-cart would not come again.  I wish those men had tried harder with me.  Not just that day, but every day since.

But it’s hard when a child is pushing you away, and the women around them circle to protect.

I think I would have said ok, and I think it would have been crazy fun.  Bumpy, yes.  But, then, Daddies do it different.  Gloves off.  Rub some dirt on it.  Get back on.

It can be hard for moms too, when something looks like a danger to a child, a child they looked death in the face to bring into this world.  Like I always say, if men gave birth, you would never see a baby on a motorcycle.

There is a balance in this child rearing thing.  And it’s a challenge to find that balance when we don’t know how to be a team and the moment takes us by surprise.

If I had a time machine, I’d go back and try it, that dog and pony show.  The wild ride the men had planned, holding on to my grandmother’s hand.

We need the men and women both, in our lives.  It’s important that moms and dads look at each other and know it, that we all look at each other and know it.  And love and respect . And help.  And share.

Fathers are so important.  

Mothers are so important.  

Blessings on all your efforts.  

Thanks for all you do.  

Sometimes I Consider Throwing in the Towel, but That Would Only Make More Laundry for Me.

Laundry.

Sometimes I keep up with it, homemade dryer sheets and all.  And I even enjoy it, the daily rhythm of sort, wash, dry, and  fold.

Other times, I wash and dry as many loads as I can before I stop and fold.  When I’m in a laundry-folding-procrastinating-phase, sometimes I pile load upon load upon load on top of the dryer.  It becomes a game, how many loads can I pile before the whole thing starts to molt, scattering socks and dish towels as the dryer does its thing, rumble and toss.

And then, when the pile threatens to come crashing down, I start stuffing it.  Stuff, stuff, stuff.  Cram it down.  Not a game anymore, this is war.  Me against gravity, my silent protest against years of housekeeping.  Screw it.  I was made for more than this.  Stuff, stuff, stuff.  One more day, I bet I can make it one more day.

My sister says that I manage my laundry like I manage my feelings.

Sometimes, I keep up with them.

Other times.  Well.  You know.

Stuff, stuff, stuff.

And I am not aware of them until life does its thing, and I feel it, and I am rumbled and tossed, and I am scattered.  The pieces fall where they may and land, jaggedly, on whoever stands the closest.  I used to land on my kids, hard and loud, but the pieces of me fall more evenly, now, and more in a heavenly place.

This is the post that didn’t want to be written.  It still doesn’t.  It is still stuffed down inside of me.

Some things are crammed in the middle of the pile, like laundry Jenga.  Pull too hard on those jeans, and everything explodes.

You just have to start at the top and work down.  I’m working my way down.  Some layers get stuffed in there for so long, they are molded in that stiff dried clothes formation.  How does that even happen?  It’s so weird.  A soft washcloth, let it dry all wonky in that hard little wad, and it’s never the same again.

Thankful for the great laundry service in the sky.  Fold me, Lord.  Deliver me from the endless loads and hard little wads that try to take over my days.

Jesus.  Your load is light.

Speaking of a light load, I have a few left to do today.

See you on the other side of the teetering tower.

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. . .  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.  Mt 11:28, 30