Category Archives: Love

Don’t Go Nuts! Three Ways to Crack the Christmas Crazies.

Christmas Crazies, anyone?

If you caught the Christmas Crazies, you are not alone. Crazy is contagious this time of year.

At Christmas, we can spin between extremes of fantasy and regret, the fun of spending and the crush of debt, the disconnect of feeling alone in the middle of all the social pressure.

No matter what the season, or what the neighbors or the stores or the churches are doing, we have to live our days in a healthy way at a healthy pace that works for us. No manic-panic-sinking-Christmas-Titanic allowed at my house. No pushing for perfect and then screaming at the kids when it doesn’t work out. Been there, done that. Sheesh. Seriously. Those are not the Christmas memories that I’m trying to make.

Below are a few ways to keep the Christmas crazies at bay.

Three ways to Kill the Christmas Crazies

 

1) Fuel your spirit by spending time with God. Hello. This season is about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.  Rolling around in glitter is all good, but taking a deep breath and remembering why we are doing it is a key to seasonal peace. Christmas tree fell down? What would Jesus do? Feel sick about spending that much money on that overpriced plastic toy? What would Jesus do? People acting crazy? What would Jesus do?

He came for a reason beyond Christmas. He came to change us, to raise us from the dead in every way. Celebrate Christmas by letting Him change you even in the holiday chaos.

Now, maybe more than any other time of year, I have to focus on who God says I am and what His plans are for me. I’m busier than I’ve ever been–that means I don’t have time to not spend time with God. Spend five minutes every morning in worship, celebrating who God is. Out loud, say every good thing you can think of about God.

 What would Jesus do?

 

Spending time with God can be a challenge. But your thoughts about God and who He is to you are the source of your deep beliefs about what life can be and about yourself. You are made in His image. What you believe about who God is for you is a foundational belief.

The Lord is for me, I will not fear. Ps118:6a

This I know, that God is for me! Ps56:9

I will sing to the LORD because he is good to me. Ps13:6

2) Fuel your soul by thinking healthy thoughts. Thoughts are the source of behaviors, and thoughts come out of the deep core beliefs we hold in our hearts and our minds.  Lifestyle and behaviors are the outward expression of these thoughts and beliefs. To change a life, change the thoughts. To change the thoughts, we have to take them under conscious control and submit them to Jesus. He wants to change the deep wrong beliefs of our minds so that we can live an abundant life.

To change a life, change the thoughts.

 

To take thoughts captive, say “no,” and start speaking a better thought–out loud. I notice myself getting critical and prideful when I get stressed and out of His peace. That is my red flag. When I lose my joy and my ability to give people permission to take the time they need, when I lose my patience and my sense of humor, I need to do a mental inventory–quick–so that I don’t take it out on anyone. I can handle a pretty big to-do list, but even so, it can get heavy at times. I have to know myself well enough to know when to say “no,” when to take a rest, when to stop and refocus my thoughts.

Be prepared by having a verse ready when the crazy tries to come in. Keep a note in your pocket or stuck on your mirror or dashboard with a verse that you can easily see and read out loud.

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. 1Peter5:7

A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance. Jn10:10

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 hope and a future. Jer29:11

Be prepared.

 

3) Fuel your body by choosing health. A healthy body supports a healthy mind. Comfort-eating and drinking or other self-medicating behaviors feel good in the moment, but we pay later. Poverty always focuses on the moment. Abundance focuses on investments.

Investments don’t always feel good right now–a lot of times, they hurt. Think about exercising or saving money instead of spending it. But in six months, life looks very different for the person living for the whim of now vs. the one investing for tomorrow.

Poverty focuses on the moment. Abundance focuses on investments.

 

So. Take care of your body! It’s your temple; it’s God’s temple. Get good sleep when you can. Drink water. Eat an apple every day, because, you know what they say. Eat well. Go for a walk. At the mall, while you are shopping, sit down and  take a break. Get a salad and water at the food court before you head over to Cinnabon. Hot tea is good, too. Please take care of you. You are part of this human team. We need you.

Christmas is not about working ourselves up to a case of Christmas Crazies. It’s about celebrating the Prince of Peace.

This year, I pray you have a peaceful, wonderful, joyful, beautiful, crazy-free Christmas.

***

For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Cor 1:2

For You Are Powerful, Entrusted with Great Things.

This week, my little girl said some really mean words.

To me, to her brother. Really mean.

Then, my oldest did the same. Just harsh.

The beautiful thing about true love is the way it covers. Today, I can’t even remember what they said, just the way it felt. Hurt my heart. How I give them everything, and they give me these words in return.

But they do it because they know I love them. All the feelings they have, they are safe with me. They can ventilate. I will forgive. I will love, even still.

And I’ve done the same to them, I’m sure. We’ve all done it, said something awful that we kind of meant, but, not really, just because it felt twisted-good for one second to give voice to that thing inside us that would not rest.

And then, you see the other person’s face. And it’s not good anymore.

When my kids do things that hurt me, I don’t try to pretend that I’m invincible because I’m the mom. I tell them. To me, they need to know that they have that kind of power.

They need to know that they have that kind of power.

 

Hurt people hurt people. And so do people who think they are invisible, ignored, weak, victimized, powerless, unheard. They overcompensate with reactionary hugeness because they feel so small.

This is what I tell my kids. “You hurt me. Those words you said, that thing you did. You really hurt me. Like, I need a minute. I might cry. Because I love you so much, but also because you have power. You have the power to hurt me like that, to hurt your brother or your sister with your words. With your choices. You are not powerless. You can’t just say or do anything you want, because you are powerful. What kind of family do you want? You have the power to make this family the kind of family you want. Or to make it the kind of family you don’t. You are not weak just because you are young. You have power.”

You are not powerless.

 

They look at me. Then they usually tear up a little. Their hearts, convicted and softened. But it’s not a weakening, it’s an awakening. It’s the kind of cry that shows the birth of strength. I ask them if they remember someone hurting them, someone who had the same kind of power. Of course they do. They don’t want to do that to someone else. They just don’t always realize that they can.

I’m convinced that most people have no idea of the pain they cause in relationships. People have their own pain, and they act out of that place without thinking about how it hurts the other person involved. A lot of times, they don’t have all the information. They don’t know why someone did what they did, and their own insecurity leads them to feelings of rejection, which leads to accusation and judgement of the other. And then, they let them have it. What they deserve. Revenge.

Sigh.

It’s a mess, but I believe it’s most often born out of ignorance.

I’m not excusing it. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have boundaries or never hold someone accountable. I just think that indulging feelings of weakness or victimhood or self-pity are much more dangerous than we realize.

Because. We are not victims. We are not weak. We are not pitiful.

We have power. We are powerful.

And when we wield our weapons recklessly because of our own pain? We become emotional terrorists, holding friends and family hostage with our words and our demands and our emotions.

We are powerful.

 

We have to deal with our junk. We have to deal with our pain.

We have to give up our feeling that we have a right to be offended.

Forgive quickly. Be slow to anger. Love well.

For we are powerful, and we have been entrusted with great things.

***

Today I’m praying that all of us would be healed of anything that keeps us from knowing our power and wielding it well. For we are warriors, priests, and kings. We must learn the weight and joy of power and true love. We must learn how to wear our crowns. And carry our swords.

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? 

Flower Collage

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

Four Energy Seasons: Which One Are YOU In?

We all know that the earth has seasons of weather and growth.

But have you ever noticed that your life has seasons too? Not just in the way that time passes, but in the way your energy comes and goes.

Spring, summer, fall, winter. Energy ups and downs.

I read something from Kris Vallotton recently that alludes to this idea, and it got me thinking about my own season, and how hard it can be to give myself permission to be truly present in each one, especially when it requires rest.

In our culture, Westerners, particularly Americans, seem almost addicted to the creativity and busyness of springtime.

Something new! Something fresh! Something different!

Taglines for ads are always “the latest new thing!” Fast food and processed food companies seem to be in a weekly race to the “best” new eating concept. “Best” being a relative term…

Root beer breakfast tarts. Unicorn rainbow coffee. Cheese puffs stuffed with macaroni.

It is possible to innovate too far.

With the exception of unicorn anything, maybe they should just stick to the original flavors. Plain old mac and cheese is a classic. Biscuits and gravy are fine just the way they are. Don’t need root beer on my biscuits.

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Springtime is lovely. Innovation is fun. New things are exciting. Plowing  stale earth and dropping in fresh seeds is good. It’s a beautiful time of year. But it doesn’t make sense to have springtime all the time.

To Everything There is a Season

Plowing through.

How many times have I heard myself say those words? “Got to plow through today! So much to do, so little time! Working hard, keeping busy, plowing through!”

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Sometimes that attitude is condemned by people who interpret “plowing through” as striving. In springtime, however, plowing is right on schedule.

But you can’t plow all the time.

If you plow and plant, and then keep plowing and planting over the same field in summer, the seed won’t  have time to grow, and you will ruin what you planted earlier. If you plow a harvest too soon in the fall, you may get some of the crop, but not nearly the abundance you could have had if you waited for the season to come to its fullness. If you try to plow in winter when the ground is hard and ready for rest, you could break your plow and wear yourself out as you fight the elements. Frozen ground won’t welcome a seed.

Knowing your season is key.

In springtime, we plow, and plant, and plan for what is coming after all this sowing.

But it’s a temporary time, until next year at least.

After spring comes summer, a time of tending diligently to what has been planted. Time to weed, and water, and fertilize, and watch over the hard work of the planting. Summer is hard work in the heat, and it is less about dreaming and startups, and more about maintaining and guarding the hard work of spring.

Summer is about follow-through.

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And fall is the harvest! Everyone wants to hear the words, “Your harvest is coming!” But your harvest comes after seasons of spring and summer.  Harvest-time still takes work, but it’s the work of celebrating dreams manifesting from the spring.

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And then comes winter.

Winter is about rest. After the hard year of plowing, planting, tending, and harvesting, the rhythm of the year makes room for rest. There is still work that has to be done in winter, and seeds still doing mysterious things under ground, but it is more about keeping the home fires burning and enjoying the nourishment that came from your garden. Eating well, resting, and getting things ready for the next planting season.

And as my friend Alice Briggs says, “In winter is when the roots grow deep, wide, and strong to support all that new growth come spring!”

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As often as I hear myself say, “I’m plowing through!” I also hear myself say, “I’m hiding. I’m hibernating.”

Understand Your Season

In the Kris Vallotton blog post I mentioned above, he says, “It’s so important that we understand what season we’re in, or we will judge ourselves against the work that others are producing in very different seasons than ourselves.”

You can’t compare your winter to someone else’s spring. Their resting time will come, and so will your harvest and your new thing. If you get out of order because of someone else’s season, you could miss the benefit of God’s timing for your life.

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I have a tendency to think my personal seasons should match the natural ones. Sometimes they do, but that is not always the case.

I also put pressure on myself to be in perfect balance all the time, plow in the morning, tend in the afternoon, hibernate at night.

But no other natural system works like that. I want to stay in balance and guard my Sabbath days during the week as much as possible. But there is a rhythm to life, to our years as well as our weeks. I’m learning to accept that, and to pay attention to my words as my spirit tells  me what I need.

I have to listen to myself, my body, the words coming out of my mouth, feelings of fullness or depletion, to help me recognize my personal energy season.

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Honoring our seasons with career, dreams, family, health, and all aspects of life can be make the difference in how successful we are over time.

Spring is glorious, beautiful fun. Winter sometimes can feel like a drag, especially if you are addicted to productivity.  But even the best marathon runners and athletes schedule recovery months after big events. They know that scheduling recovery cycles will allow their bodies to achieve peak performance.

Rest makes room for a different kind of productivity. Most growth in children occurs while they sleep, and nearly all centenarians will credit sleep as at least part of their secret to a long life. The most healing in our bodies occurs while we sleep, and pregnant women need more sleep than others overall.

Miracles may begin in energy, but to grow, they also require peace and quiet and rest.

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Part of being in any season is enjoying it while it lasts and fitting your activity to the season, while also planning for the next one. A favorite winter pastime of gardeners is browsing through seed catalogs, thinking about how they’ll use their energy when the spring season comes back around again.

And knowing that all the seasons will come back around, that each one is temporary, can help us enjoy and make the best use of every one as they pass.

Spring is about plowing, preparing the ground, and planting. Summer is about follow-through, even on the scorching hot days. Fall is about harvest. And winter is about rest.

No season will last forever. Learning to appreciate each one will help us maximize the time we’ve been given.

***

What season are you in right now? How can you honor your season and prepare for the next one? Knowing that this time is temporary, whether of working hard or of resting well, how can you make the most of the time God is giving you right now?

Father, we thank You for seasons. Thank You that You are the God of the Seed. And the Tending. And of the Harvest. And the God of Rest.

Give us discernment to see the season we are in and to walk in its rhythm.

I pray no condemnation for the time spent in plowing or in rest as we fit our plans to the time. I pray for the best possible use of time in our current season. Our culture is good at working hard. I pray we learn how to work smart. And I pray we learn how to truly rest, both in weekly Sabbaths and in our winter seasons.

Resting in You, Father. Trusting all things to come together in Your perfect time.

In Jesus.

Amen

Love in Action: The Great Baldini

Last week, I met a magician.

He and his wife sat across the room from us at breakfast in the hotel where my family and I are staying.

He approached our table and held out his hand to my daughter and showed her a penny.

“Do you know how much this is worth?”

My daughter smiled and ducked her head. She watched him, chin down, eyes big under her bangs.

He said, “In 1920, you could buy a piece of gum or a spool of thread with this penny.  Do you know what it’s worth today?” He waved his hand, and it disappeared. “Nothing,” he said. We laughed.

“They still make pennies today, but they are worth much less!” He waved his hand again, and a doll-sized penny appeared. My daughter gasped, and he gave her the tiny coin.

“I got a million of these tricks,” he said. “I’m the Great Baldini!” He rubbed his bald head, and his wife rolled her eyes.

“It’s great,” I said ” Please! Go ahead! I’ve been stuck in bed for a week! This is awesome. Give us all you’ve got.”

He put a ball in my hand and then made another one appear. Then somehow ended up with three, then two. It was the ultimate shell game. “Now how many do you think I have?”

“Um, three?” We had no idea.

He opened his hand. No ball, just a little plastic nun.

“NONE!” he said.

Ba dum bum. So funny.

And such a refreshing gift after a difficult week.

Some people know how to be generous with themselves.

I have been taken lately with the idea of “love in action.” That, as Heidi Baker says, love looks like something.

It’s not a simple feeling. And, for Christians, it’s not really an option. It’s a lifestyle.

Mr. and Mrs. The Great Baldini went on their way, and I sat thinking about what it takes to put on an impromptu magic show for strangers at a hotel breakfast.

Love in Action:  Practice, Planning, Perception, Pluck.

 

It takes practice. Perfecting an approach at home, trying out tricks on friends and family before taking them on the road.

It takes planning. The Great Baldini carries his pennies and props with him. He’s ready when opportunity appears.

It takes perception. He saw me sitting with my crutches. I obviously was injured and not going anywhere fast.

And it takes just a little bit of pluck, or boldness. We could have rejected him, but we would have missed out if he hadn’t risked reaching out to us.

I’m so glad he took the chance. I was in pain and fighting all the emotions that come with injury. It was a delight to be seen and served and entertained with such kindness.

It breathed life into my day. My daughters were sitting with me, fetching and carrying, worried about mom. His show took their minds off all of it for a minute. We enjoyed the laugh and the light-hearted interaction.

Thank you, The Great Baldini. We needed that. You are a blessing. May your life continue on with a flourish, and may you always have a rabbit in your hat.

***

Love in action. Practice, planning, perception, pluck. 

Little children, let us not love in word only, but in actions and in truth. 1John3:18

Calling All Daddy’s Girls! Conference in Review.

When you have a vision and talk about it, it has the potential to come alive.

Lisa Palieri Perna of Touched by Prayer saw that happen last week.

Lisa had envisioned a gathering of a group of women, many of them encountering God in an intimate way for the first time.  She prayed over it.  She spoke to other women about it.  She asked for God’s help and for a team to support the vision.

And it happened, on March 17, 2017, just like that.

It was an honor to be there, to watch the women experiencing God’s love and receiving inner healing, finding freedom.

So many women, coming together, just to love.  Maturity, wisdom, generosity, kindness.  And with none of the games that often go along with gatherings of women.

No competition.  No cattiness.  No cliques.

Just love.

When you encounter love like that, Holy Spirit love carried to a certain depth, there is an indescribable peace that fills the room, the interactions, the atmosphere.  A peace that says, “You are accepted.  You are safe here.  You are free here.”

It makes sense.  Perfect love casts out fear.  It brings peace.

The relief that comes along with that kind of peace, it’s also indescribable, I think because we encounter it so rarely in most group settings.  It’s something I pray we will see more and more in our lives.   It’s a kind of permission to be ourselves. It’s something we are all longing for.

Many thanks to Lisa an to all the women who came to serve.  I’m so blessed and encouraged and inspired.

A vision realized is a beautiful thing.

***

The planning for the next Daddy’s Girl conference is already in the works.  Follow Lisa at Touched by Prayer on Facebook to get the deets as soon as they are available!

If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.  Matt 21:22

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L-R.  Lisa Perna (Touched by Prayer), Margie Moorman (speaker), Mitzi Hanna (writer).  Photo used with permission.

Jr. High Gym Class. Oh, the Horrors.

Gym class was the worst.

No.  Wait.

Seventh grade gym class was the worst.

The heat.  The clothes.  The coach’s shorts.

Our locker room was concrete blocks, painted–no–slimed is a better word, a pale and institutional mucous pea green.  So shiny.

I hated it.  I can’t think of a strong enough word, so I’ll settle for hate, but I mean, I hated it.  I dreaded it.  It became nearly a phobia.  Maybe a full-on phobia.

I was never a great runner as a teen.  I discovered later that I had a mild case of asthma.  It would have been nice to know back then, why I always came in last, why I couldn’t breathe.  It would have been nice to be able to tell the coaches, with their barely restrained eye rolls, as they clutched their stopwatches and waved the stragglers in.

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At home we played some mean badminton on the weekends.  But softball, football, volleyball, basketball?  Ummmm, no.  Never.

And it didn’t help that I went almost my whole seventh grade year without glasses.  Even though my prescription is in the -5 category.

I did fine in my classes, I just couldn’t see a softball coming to save my life.  At least not until it was close enough to hit me.  Nothing like throwing a softball at a blind kid and telling them to run.  “Come on, kid!  Catch it!”

I spent that six-week-unit out in left field.

Literally.

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It didn’t help that I had gone to a friend’s house the summer before, and a bunch of kids there thought it would be fun to play softball.

I have learned that some things are not fun for me.

Softball is one of them.  Also Starbucks at 6 am.  I don’t get it.  Not fun.

They got a game of softball together in the front yard.  And I went out to left field.  My destiny.

But my friend forgot to tell me that her dad had strung up a single strand of electric barbed wire that was about knee-high on a twelve-year-old.  He put it there to keep the cows out of their yard.  I grew up in Arkansas and, hot wire, it’s a thing.  But I lived in town–no cows, no barbed wire.  I didn’t see it.

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When the ball came my way, I decided I’d actually try to play.  Unlike gym class where I usually wandered off to the bushes in the middle of an inning.

I took off running, stretched up, arms out, glove open like a cradle.  I was going to catch it, one more step, and I would be right under it.  The kids were shouting.  I thought they were cheering me on.

And then.

I connected with the barbed wire, and those electric barbs sunk deep in my knee.  And on a hot wire, I was stuck there a second, shocked and vibrating.

When I finally pulled back and broke the circuit, I was done. Just done. The little white ball rolled innocently to a dip in the pasture.  A cow gazed at me, chewing, and looked away.

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I heard my friend running behind me, “I was trying to tell you!!  So sorry!  I thought you would see it!”

Well, I could see it now, thanks, but just barely.  One string of wire against a green and brown lawn doesn’t exactly stand out.

I was over it.  I completely ignored her.  I dropped the glove on the ground and started walking to the house.  Forget softball.  Forever.

Blood streamed down my leg.  I wasn’t even embarrassed.  I was just done.

I went into the house.  I probably should have had stitches, but I didn’t want to deal with it.  I didn’t show my mom.  I stuck a bunch of bandaids on my knee and never looked back.

After that, I hated anything to do with Phys. Ed. even more.  As if.

I did the least activity I could and found all kinds of excuses to sit out.  I slow counted my crunches and my cotton pickers. I faked sicknesses.  I hung back.  I made it through with a B grade, some coach’s mercy.  And I still had to take two more years of gym class.  I limped through it and was never more relieved than when that last credit was done.

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Fast forward a few years, and my daughter asked me if she could play softball.  I said yes.  She had a friend on the team.  They giggled and wore matching shirts.  They liked meeting each other at the softball field and getting juice boxes after the games.

The first time I visited the field, the wind blew and shook the chain link fence.  The rattle of the metal was Pavlov’s bell, in a bad softball field kind of way.  I broke out in a sweat, and a mild panic rose  up in me.

Shame is an awful feeling.

It takes everything.  Freedom, joy, delight.

When that fence rattled, it took me back to all those years of being picked last, softballs flying toward me that I could not see.  I hated taking my daughter to those games.  I could barely watch, and the rattling of that fence rattled me.  I stood outside the group of moms, trying to focus on my daughter, sweating, and counting the minutes til the game would end.

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One afternoon, I stood and listened to the fence jangle, metal rings on metal rings in the wind, and I watched my daughter play.  She was the sweetest thing, eight years old, all unicorns and cupcakes.  Her smile was so big I could see her teeth from the sidelines.  She was having so much fun.  Out in left field.

The other kids were tearing it up.  Hitting the ball hard, running for dear life, sweating, red faced, focused.

And all the while, my daughter and her friend were lying down on the ground, looking at the sky.  Making dirt angels.  Picking daisies.

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No pressure.  No shame.

And something fell away from me, that fast.

My heart reconditioned in one soft and sunshiny moment.  And that chain link fence suddenly sounded like a song.

It has happened to me over and over again, walking through an old ugly thing in a new way with my kids.  Their joy heals me.  Everything is reframed.  New memories push the old ones away.

What a gift.

***

Children are a gift from the Lordthey are a reward from him. Ps127:3

Thanksgiving, How Sweet the Sound.

My grandmother’s love language was food.

Biscuits and gravy.  Bacon and eggs.

Pancakes, stacked high with butter and syrup, sausage on the side, mixed and crispy-hot in the pan just before daylight.

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Home fried chicken.  Ham and beans.  Cornbread in an iron skillet.  Mashed potatoes, perfectly white, whipped to an inch of their little lives.  Homemade cinnamon rolls, homemade ice cream.  Chocolate chip cookies.  Banana splits.

My grandma made iced tea so sweet it crunched, and then she sent me out to the garden to pick little sprigs of fresh mint. She laid the green leaves gently on top, and the smell of that sweet mint tea was as fresh as the sun.  We are Southern after all.  There’s really no other way to drink it.

In the winter she made hot chocolate, and cappuccino from a tin.

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She made grilled cheese.  Macaroni and cheese.  Sandwiches with three slices of American cheese.  Cheeseball.  Pimento cheese.  Fruit and cheese.

Oh, and pepper jelly on a Triscuit.  With cream cheese.

Fresh.  Everything so fresh.  And almost all from scratch.  Pie crusts rolled out early in the morning.  Fruit picked from her own trees and sugared by her own hands.

Berry pie.  Cherry pie with whipped cream.  And apple pie with melted cheddar cheese.  The first time she handed me that delicacy, I thought someone had gotten confused.

But it was good.  Like all of it.  So good.

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And Thanksgiving?

Move the chairs out and bring in some tables.  Turn yourself sideways to make your way through the bounty, stack up your plate, and don’t be shy, honey, come back for more.

On Thanksgiving, my grandmother cooked for days around her teaching job.   Deviled eggs could be done early. The pies too, they could be done ahead.  Salads, chopped the day before and tossed in the morning.

She still made jello molds, maybe the only thing she made I didn’t love, but they were pretty and somewhat gravity defying, and what kid isn’t entertained by carrots jiggling in gelatin?

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My grandmother was a schoolteacher and a children’s librarian.   Besides cooking, she dressed in costumes on the holidays.

On Christmas, she was Mrs. Claus, Santa hat, red sweater, matching skirt, and a huge black belt with a shiny gold buckle.

And on Thanksgiving, she alternated years, one year a Cherokee maiden with construction paper feathers in her hair.

And, other years, a pilgrim in black and white, complete with a little collar and funny hat, flaps around her ears.

And she did it all while caring for my grandfather, wheelchair-bound from polio.  My grandmother sold everything she had after he came home from the hospital, and she went to school to become a teacher.

She was loyal to him until he died in his fifties, and she never remarried.  She still wears her wedding band, even though I’m not sure she remembers why.

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She doesn’t know us anymore, and she gets upset if she forgets where she is.

But her love language is still food.  She got afraid at my house the other day, and I said, “Grandma, do you want a cookie?”  She nodded.

I gave her two cookies.  “One for each hand,” I said, like I do for my kids.

She smiled and took a big crumbly bite.

It wasn’t until I had my own kids and tried cooking for a family, day in and day out, that I realized what a gift she gave us.

After I had stayed home for ten years, I realized that I had prepared over 10,000 meals, many of them spit out and proclaimed “disgusting” by children who had just been eating dog food.

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I know they did.  Dirt, too.  I saw it with my own eyes.

Even so, I baked and meal-planned and hunted recipes to delight them.

One time as a young mom, I tried to make beans.

I didn’t know you weren’t supposed to make the whole bag at once.  When the water boiled, I happily watched the beans soften and swell.

Until I realized they were swelling right out of the pot.

I called my grandmother.

“What do I do?”  I asked her.

She laughed so hard.  Couldn’t even talk.

“Grandma, stop laughing,” I said, “they are seriously coming out the top!  What do I do?”

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“Just get another pot, honey,” she gasped.  “Start spooning them in to something else on another burner, add more water.”

“Ok, Grandma,” I said.  Her laughing made me laugh.  I spooned some in another pot.

The beans kept swelling over the top.

I called her back.  “Grandma, I think I should just throw it away.  There’s too much, it’s still overflowing.  I give up.”

She thought this was hysterical.

“No, honey,” she said.  “Don’t you have four burners?   Just keep adding pots, keep spooning it out.  You can fix this.”

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It was a vote of confidence from a woman who knew her food.  I did fix it, on the phone with her, laughing and spooning and babysitting beans.

She kept asking, “What does it look like now?”  and laughing.

I wish I’d had a cell phone back then.  I would have texted her a picture of the four bean volcanos erupting on my stovetop.

I think she got the idea.

It’s a little memory.

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But I’m so thankful for it.

The food is a small thing too in a way, but in another, it’s the soundtrack of my childhood as much as any music.

A soundtrack of flavor and love poured out and laid before me by a servant of God and family who lived to bring us comfort.

My grandmother worked hard in her gardens and at school to provide the food for a big family she fed all the time.

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And then, unless you’ve planned meals like she did, and gotten up at all hours of the day and night to make sure it came out right, and tended to every little bite like it mattered, it’s hard to explain the time and the effort, the cuts and the burns and the sweat and the tired arms over a hot steamy stove.

I remember conversations at these meals.

Conversations that often ended up with someone raising their voice and walking away mad, and the awkward silence that followed.

And I remember my grandmother leaving the angry adults and swooping us all up in her arms.  She had holiday books that she read in the most soothing, sweet voice, a voice and a cadence made to order for children’s stories.

I’m sure the conversations mattered to her, but her babies mattered more.

She had worked hard to make a beautiful meal and space for gathering.  She was not about to let them ruin it for her or for us.

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She was a woman who never stopped smiling.

I’m amazed by her restraint, and inspired by the way she always chose love.

I want to give that same gift to my kids and my family.

I’m planning what I’m cooking this year.

My kids have never seen a jello mold.  This may be the year that changes.  That jiggly delight just might find itself a place on my table.  Some old things are worth resurrecting.

And I’m planning what I’ll say.

“Hey kids, want to read a story?”

And.  My sister has this hilarious game.  Telephone pictionary.  Great for a crowd.  Directions here.  Might play that, too.

There’s a time and a place for everything, it’s true.

But Thanksgiving is about making a joyful noise, not an angry or fearful one.  And about making memories that will still be sweet for a long, long time.

***

I’m praying for love, words of love, sweeter than honey, and more savory than turkey, and sweeter than music, to grace your lips, your ears and all your gatherings.

Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.  Prov16:24

Once Upon a Time. The Most True Thing of All.

I don’t remember being afraid when I was very young.  Fear didn’t come until later.

I was not afraid of being alone.  I reveled in it.  Alone, I could be anything.  Act out any story.

Alone, I was Goldilocks in the forest, Hansel and Gretel beating the witch, Nancy Drew solving all the mysteries.

I was not afraid of climbing the tallest trees.  I held books in one hand and a pencil in my teeth and scrambled up to the highest branches, an elementary school lady pirate.

I nestled in and read for hours and wondered what it would be like to sleep there.  I would close my eyes and wedge my body into safety and drop anchor.

I rested there and soaked up all a tree could give.

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I was not afraid of riding my bike as far as I could go.  I pretended to be a Swiss Family Robinson boxcar child, and imagined where I would find my next meal, and how I could convince my teachers I had a home if I didn’t.

I told myself I would run away, even though I didn’t really want to leave.  I just wanted to know what it would feel like to fall down a rabbit hole or ride off into the sunset, to wake up in new worlds, to wake up and find new places in my heart.

I was not afraid of any animals.  I was Snow White, for heaven’s sake.  They would stop at my word.  I knew it.  I had bottle fed baby skunks. I had curled up like Mowgli with a giant Rottweiler as my sleeping mat.  I had ridden the biggest stallions in the barn.

They knew me.  And I knew them.

A photo by Thomas Lefebvre. unsplash.com/photos/aRXPJnXQ9lU

I was not afraid of the dark, or zombies, or ghosts.  If they approached me, I would say a prayer, and they would disappear in a vapor.  I was Persephone, even the dead would bow their knee to me.  I was born to be a queen.  I knew it.

And then.

Life happened.

It was not even the bad news of terrible things.  Kidnappers could kiss my cowgirl boots.  I would kick their teeth in.  My uncle showed me how.  I was ten.

No, not the news.  Not the big bad things in the world.  I was Red Riding Hood.  I knew all about wolves.

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But seeing real pain close to home, that did it.

Feeling the crush of poverty.  Watching my mother suffer.  Wondering if that was what life would really be for me instead of getting to live as Mrs.-Queen-Nancy-Velvet-Persephone-Hook.  I thought that I knew what was coming my way, I was part gypsy, I could feel it.

But then, I saw the hand of heartbreak, and it made me doubt.  It made me afraid of getting hurt, afraid of failing, afraid of falling, afraid of being poor, afraid of brilliance, afraid of love.

And the fear changed me.  It stole all the stories of what I thought I could be, what I thought I could have.

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I shrunk.

I got smaller inside.  My shoulders collapsed downward onto themselves.  My lungs held less air somehow, and my breaths were always shallow.  My heart had no room for its big pounding beats, it skipped fast to try to make up for all the lost things.  My hands got clammy, and I could no longer grip the high branches.  My hair got limp.

Fear did its best to squish the life out of me.  To squish the dreams and the stories and the promise out of me.

I panicked and panted over questions posed by adults, “what’s the right answer, what’s the right answer?”  And even if I knew that I knew it, I doubted and kept silent.

I walked for years in confusion. What was I doing?  Why had it all changed?

“There is more, there is more,”  I thought, and yet I was always falling short.

A photo by Volkan Olmez. unsplash.com/photos/wESKMSgZJDo

It’s a self-defeating vicious cycle.  Fear of success means failing, fear of failing means no more trying.  No more effort means dumbing down to the lowest common denominator every day.

And that denominator leaves no room for fairy tales.

Identity.  Fear steals identity.  Fear steals the assumption, the confidence, that I am loved and made for majesty and adventure.

Fear snuffs out all the light in us.  It makes us certain that anything good we ever get will only be given to us out of pity.  That there is no way to get delight for ourselves, that there is not enough strength and power at our disposal to gain any ground.  Fear covers over passion, fear suffocates the security it takes to sample anything new, to look different, ever.

And in a world where we all look different, that can be excruciatingly painful.  Looking different is inescapable.

Knowing we are loved as we are by the King of All Things, it  changes everything.  It changed everything for me.   It turned back the pages of my story, of our story, to the fresh and sweet beginning.

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He is the God of Second Chances.  To infinity.  And beyond.

Knowing that we are more than enough for the Maker’s heart.  That He is not disgusted.  He is not disappointed.

He is not calculating any numbers when He looks at you, your I.Q., the cost of your house, your earning potential.  None of it.  He doesn’t look at you like that.

In the beginning.

A word spoken, flesh raised from the ground.  The one true and original magic.

All creation singing.  The rocks swelling and bellowing  like whales.

And you.  The crown of creation.

He chose you.  To be His crown.

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The seed of courage, the greatest story of all time, planted in you from the first day of the world, because you were formed in love, made in His image.

Whatever came close and tried to suffocate you and steal your story, whatever it was, whatever it is.  It is no match for love.  It is no match for knowing who you were made to be.

A fairy tale, sometimes, is the most true thing of all.

***

Once upon a time.

There was a kingdom.  

There was a prince.  

He saved you.  

For himself.  For adventure.

For life.

He stood over you, and he said,

“Live.”