Tag Archives: truth

A Perfect Moment: {STOP}

This week.

So many things clamoring. So much demanding attention.

I don’t know about you, but my personal life is a roller coaster.

Surgery in January. A close death in our family. Homeschooling three kids. Graduating a senior.

Just doing dishes has been a challenge. I’ve been sleeping under a pile of waiting-to-be-folded laundry at the end of my bed for a week. It’s kind of like another blanket.

The last couple of months were a blur as life and errands and kids and tasks and grief and joy rushed by.

And then, one night this week, it rained.

Like, really rained.

The sky poured. Pounded on the roof and on my windows, the most comforting sound.

I put on new flannel pajamas. I picked up a mystery that I had waiting by my bed and climbed under the covers. And the laundry.

The dark and the rain and the novel and the blankets wrapped me up in a beautiful pause. I needed this.

I heard little feet and looked up.

My youngest stood next to the bed in her pajamas, holding a teddy bear and a worn copy of The Secret Garden.

She looked at me with big green eyes as the thunder rolled.

“You want to join me?” I asked her.

She smiled a little sheepish smile. And jumped on the bed.

We pulled up the down comforter and read in the lamplight.

A few minutes later, my husband came in. He lay down next to us and put on his glasses and started reading the news and checking the weather.

It was a perfect family moment. I smiled and read on.  My mystery turned a corner. I shivered.

And then my head jerked up.

I looked over at my husband, sleepy and checking on all the things.

I looked at my daughter, head on my shoulder, teddy held tight, book in hand.

I looked out the window, the dark night, the rain drizzling down the glass.

And I looked around my room.

I felt solid and slow and electrified and aware all at once, like time folded in on itself and expanded simultaneously, the two ends of time swelling out and meeting like a ribbon or an ocean wave, right on top of me in my bed.

That’s the best I can do to explain it.

Arrested in a moment. Time stopping, but speeding up, and you have to grab it to make it count.

Once, when my oldest daughter was a toddler, I sat in the floor with her in our living room, playing with a puzzle. I was like most young parents, I think, in that I wanted to play with her, but I had a list running through my mind of all the other things that needed to be done. Clean the bathroom. Make some phone calls. Go to the store. Start supper. And laundry. Always laundry.

I loved watching the careful way she picked up the pieces, how she tried to put them in place with fingers that didn’t quite know how to do what she wanted.

I loved the way her hair curled over her round pink cheeks and the serious expression on her baby face. Intelligence incubating in sweetness. Pure vulnerability trusting me to teach her independence, the paradox of parenting. Precious, perishable time.

But the to-do list. It nagged at me. My own need for busyness. I felt restless, but I hadn’t yet let myself run away.

Lily looked at me, frowning, and held out a piece of the puzzle.

I reached out to take it, and over her shoulder, I saw the stop sign on the corner outside my window.

And that thing, that Minkowski spacetime thing, it happened again.

Time stood still, and yet I could feel it racing on, straining against the clock. Everything froze and blurred except the sign, and it grew larger and clearer and threatened to outshine the sun.

Huge and clear in white letters on a bright red field in front of my eyes.

STOP.

And I felt a buzzing like a light shock from an old refrigerator, and yet, also, a first-waking morning drowsiness. An awareness, and yet a stillness.

And I looked at her. And back at the sign.

And I stopped. And I told myself–it can wait. All the nagging to-dos. They could wait.

And I looked at at my daughter as through a frozen glass, she so clear, and misted white light all around her.

It’s a snapshot in my mind.

Like the other night.

The rain and the books and the dark windows and warm blankets and my husband and my daughter.

A perfect moment.

{STOP}

Stop and seize the time.

If you haven’t done it in a while, do it now.

Stop. Really stop. Lay down your phone. Put down the coffee and the stuff in your hands. Take a breath. Feel your feet, they are cold, or they are warm, in socks or shoes or bare on the floor. Be aware of your shoulders, your forehead, your scalp, all the parts of you that get forgotten in all the hustle of all the days.

Who is in front of you? Look. See. They are there for a reason, a divine appointment.

God, what would you have me do? What do they need? He is beautiful. She is beautiful.

Be grateful.

Thank you, God. For my feet. For my hands. For this moment. For the sensations, pleasant or unpleasant, that let me know that I am alive, stirred, charged, tingling, electric.

{STOP}

***

Seize life! Eat bread with gusto! Drink wine with a robust heart. Oh, yes! God takes pleasure in your pleasures. Dress festively every morning. Don’t skimp on colors and scarves. Relish life with the spouse you love each and every day of your precarious life. Each day is God’s gift–it’s all you get in exchange for the hard work of staying alive. Make the most of each one! Whatever turns up, grab it and do it. And heartily! This is your last and only chance at it, for there’s neither work to do nor thoughts to think in the company of the dead, where you’re most certainly headed. Ecc 9:7-10

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crybully Epidemic: Hijacked Stories of the #MeToo Movement.

The crybully connection.

I didn’t see it when I first saw #metoo.

I read a few stories. I posted my own #metoo.

It didn’t feel like crybullying–a mess of pitiful tantrums intended to control others with emotional blackmail–no.

It didn’t feel like that.

It felt like a way to participate in a sisterhood. A way to encourage hurting women who felt devalued and attacked. A way to increase awareness of a social problem in our country.

When I was in high school and college, I dealt with some degree of assault several different times.

It was humiliating, and it was terrifying.

I posted my own #metoo.

 

I started waitressing when I was sixteen years old. The first guy that grabbed me was well over fifty. I had absolutely no grid for what was happening in front of the table that I was supposed to be serving, a table of two couples in their thirties. They all stared while he went through his routine. No one said anything. No one stood up for me.

I couldn’t look at my table after he left. I rushed through their table service. Two adult men and two adult women, and not one of them said anything to him or to me, as young as I was. It would have meant a lot if one of those women had said to me, “Me too.” Or if any one of those people would have said just about anything to make me feel like it wasn’t my fault, and I wasn’t being judged. That there were ways I could stand up for myself. That I was worth more than being grabbed by a certain type of man.

When I wrote my #metoo story, I didn’t even mention the waitressing grab. Several other things happened to me over the years, things that were much more serious. I wrote about those. They left me with horror, and with awareness. They left me a little bit cynical and resigned to things that happen to women when they encounter a certain type of man.

A certain type of man.

A couple of months later, the #metoo movement exploded into something unforeseen.

Not long after I posted my story, the Harvey Weinstein stories began to come out. Woman after woman in Hollywood had a story about Harvey.  These stories are awful. Harvey is a “certain type of man.”

A certain type of man.

 

But I watched more and more accusations being made in the media, and the tone suddenly changed. And I started to feel like my #metoo, and many others, had been hijacked and exploited.

A story I shared to encourage others felt like it changed into something else, like it had been snatched up and melded into a tiny part of a huge crybully epidemic.

I started to feel like my #metoo had been hijacked and exploited.

 

I heard accusations against more and more men, made with more and more degrees of uncertainty, and less and less hard evidence. These accusations include a recent one against comedian Ansiz Ansari. If you haven’t heard this #metoo, it’s basically a woman’s account of a really bad date and some unfortunate choices made by both people.

The essence of the woman’s accusation is that Ansari was insensitive. He didn’t order the kind of wine she liked at dinner. He failed to read her mind. But. She wasn’t being forced. She went to his house of her own will. She stayed there. She never said “No.”

When I was attacked, I said, “No.” In fact, I yelled it while I kicked the guy in the nuts.

It is important that people feel heard.

It’s tremendously important that victims of actual crimes see justice and get the help that they need. It’s tremendously important that women are healed.

It is important that people feel heard.

 

At the same time, the #metoo movement seemed to stir up something else.

There is something about the #metoo movement that conflates real abuse with waist grabbing. (One of the actual officially listed accusations against Senator Al Franken. He squeezed someone’s waist during a photo-op.)

This ambiguity is epitomized by the confusion around the emergence of the Aziz Ansari #metoo story. Anyone who says that Ansari doesn’t deserve to be accused of sexual assault is in turn at risk of being accused–by a certain group of so-called feminists–of perpetuating rape culture.

As though a bad date is the equivalent of an actual rape.

This attitude delegitimizes real abuse. It devalues the real #metoo stories.

This attitude delegitimizes real abuse.

 

And now, many women are coming forward in the media with more and more unverified accusations against men in the public eye. And these accusations have almost all been treated as complete truth, with one man after another getting fired or stepping down from their jobs, as the innocent until proven guilty adage seems to be largely ignored.

There have been very few cases where hard evidence proves that every one of these men is, indeed, a certain type of man.

And even more accusations, particularly by actresses in Hollywood, against abusers that they refuse to name. Actresses, who not long ago, were seen schmoozing with the same perpetrator they gathered to malign, Harvey Weinstein. Actresses who are on record calling known child-molester Roman Polanski a “god.”

Bravery names names. It doesn’t lecture, and virtue-signal, and victim-compete without following through. 

The innocent until proven guilty adage seems to be largely ignored.

 

The posture of Hollywood contrasts starkly with victims in the recent case of Larry Nassar where women came forward in a courtroom, rather than grandstanding for the media. They saw justice through to the legal fulfillment. They didn’t vaguely allude to abuse and then back down.

Women should have justice.

And.

Men should also have justice.

Lives should not be destroyed, just because they can, by false or unproven accusations.

In many cases, women in Hollywood have been unwilling victims of Harvey and others on the infamous casting couch.

Women should have justice. And. Men should also have justice.

 

The casting couch is sick. It is a disaster. It is a social ill that has been well-documented since the beginnings of Hollywood. And all of us have looked the other way. It’s a good thing to see it being addressed.

But we have to differentiate between rape and ugly consensual agreements between adults.

It is also true that many of these women participated in the casting-couch culture, not unwillingly, but willingly.

It is unfortunate that the casting couch exists. But, it is also something that an actor or actress can walk away from. The casting couch might stand between a person and a high-profile acting job, but it does not stand between a person and every acting job. And it does not stand between a person and a good life.

In many cases, participating in casting-couch culture has been a consensual agreement by all involved.

It is absurd for Hollywood women to lecture us and threaten men that “time’s up” when these same women willingly and knowingly participated in a system that trades sex for jobs. One of the women in the Harvey Weinstein case, when asked why she never came forward, told police, “Harvey said, ‘You’re ready to become a real actress now.’ It’s what you do. You keep silent.”

How many other women were victimized by Harvey after this rape because this woman waited years to speak up, because “silent” is what you do?

These are sad stories.

 

I have seen video of famous women talking about letting famous men into their hotel rooms, but, if they had known that a man was only going to end up a C-list celebrity, they never would have let him in. I have read articles by actresses talking about the distress that they experienced as they did things in front of the camera that they didn’t want to do but did anyway because they didn’t want to lose a role.

These are sad stories.

These women are hurting. They need to know their true value. They need unconditional love and deep healing.

But cooperating within a corrupt culture does not make them heroes.

Many of these women, unlike actual sexual assault victims, were willing participants in a sick and perverted system.

If you did something you wish you hadn’t done, that is regret.

And as the saying goes, regret is not rape.

Cooperating within a corrupt culture does not make them heroes.

 

If you have violent stress symptoms in your body as you anticipate a sexual act that you are about to participate in by your choice without force, but you ignore those symptoms and go on and do that act as part of a job, there is a word for that. It is prostitution.

And if you do it in front of a camera, it is pornography.

Just because these women are famous, and have wealth, and some form of respect, that does not change the nature of what they are participating in, and honestly, what we are all participating in when we pay Hollywood to continue to entertain us at such a high price.

Regret is not rape.

 

I couldn’t help but think as I watched coverage of the last few awards shows, where were these powerful women when child star after child star came forward over the years with stories of pedophile abuse in Hollywood?

The recent documentary, An Open Secret, is well-researched and full of concrete evidence, including recorded confessions, against Hollywood pedophiles in high places. But the film was finally released for free on the internet after seeking and failing to find patrons and distributors for over two years.

Any one of a myriad of Hollywood women could have backed that film. What a statement of actual bravery that would have been.

Bravery does not crybully.

Bravery protects.

The feminist movement constantly accuses culture of infantilizing women.

Allowing women to participate in a known corrupt culture without asking them to also take responsibility for their conscious actions?

There is no worse form of infantilization.

Bravery protects.

 

There is an element of responsibility that mature adults take for themselves and their behavior, independent of others.

When we as women don’t take responsibility for ourselves and our choices, we keep ourselves from fully growing into our potential. And isn’t that really what feminism is all about? Isn’t that what God asks of us, to the best of our ability? Women, and men, actualized and activated in their greatest possible forms?

When we don’t take responsibility for our own power, we risk creating a culture of fear around us. And we risk destroying what every woman who has gone before us worked for us to enjoy.

I don’t want women to be shut out by men professionally or socially because men are afraid of what could happen if some woman chooses to accuse them of any thing at any time.

I won’t be in a hurry to jump on a # bandwagon anytime in the future. I no longer trust the culture with my stories. I’ll tell them in my own way, my own time.

Below are some great quotes from an excellent article entitled “Meet the Women Worried About #metoo.” You can find it at spiked-online.com.

***

The novelist Kingsley Amis used to say: ‘Women are trouble – keep them out of all institutions.’ He was a misogynist, but such notions will revive if women portray themselves as so fragile that they can’t deal with the small change of everyday life with robust common sense. ~Mary Kenny

 

Girl Power is real. Instead of carrying on about how frightened and degraded we are, maybe it’s time to acknowledge the truth: In 2017, we can destroy almost any man by a single accusation.

With power comes responsibilities. As Wesley Yang said, in the best article yet on the #MeToo frenzy: ‘Feminists should remember something they know well from their own experiences with men:  Nobody is so dangerous, to themselves and others, as a person or collectivity that wields power without acknowledging it.’  ~Christina Hoff Summers

 

The #MeToo campaign is very worrying and will achieve the opposite of what it pretends to want. The hashtag claims to be about empowering women to speak out when actually it is turning women into perpetual victims.

Women who put up with sexual harassment and keep quiet about it for years, protecting the perpetrators, are hailed as heroines and strong, powerful feminists. Yet, bizarrely, women who speak out and deal with sexual harassment forcefully at the time, and then happily move on with their lives as I and millions of other women have done over the years, are derided as ‘victim-blamers’ or even ‘rape apologists’. It’s almost as if a woman is only ‘the right kind of woman’ if she is willing to play the victim. ~Julia Hartley-Brewer

 

My greatest concern is that the #MeToo phenomenon creates a toxic narrative that casts every male as a potential predator and every female as a perpetual victim. This can be enormously damaging for women, particularly young girls who, despite having every advantage and legal protection in the West, grow up believing they face enormous, perhaps insurmountable, barriers. . . .Meanwhile, modern feminism all but ignores the plight of the most oppressed women around the world who are subjugated from the cradle to the grave. ~Rita Panahi

Don’t Try to be Something You’re Not. What Does that Even Mean?

Don’t try to be something you’re not.

I heard adults say this phrase over and over throughout my childhood.

But it’s hard not to try to be something you’re not when you’re not even  sure what it is that you are.

Identity is a subject that is talked about all the time. In cultural circles, it is one of the hottest topics of our day.

Don’t try to be something you’re not.

 

A week ago, I was getting ready for church.

I used to try to have all the little details of my life perfect, especially when my family was going somewhere in public. My clothes laid out, the kids’ clothes laid out, my hair perfect, their hair perfect. Everyone’s nails clipped and filed, mine perfectly manicured. Coordinating hair bows, loose strings cut, sweaters lint-rolled till they shined. You get it.

Our culture tells us “Don’t be something you’re not, but, oh by the way, be perfect!” All at the same time. And we buy into it.

Because, what will happen if we don’t?

I make choices daily about how I use my time. Having all the little details perfect back then meant that I spent a lot of time on those details, shining shoes, ironing, micromanaging the kids on little things.

And we buy into it.

 

I still care about those things. I’m not saying that I have become a slob. In fact, I’ve learned how to work smarter and not harder in a lot of areas. “Lord, help me work smarter, not harder!” One of my favorite prayers. Everyday wisdom. Jesus. Oh, how we need it.

I still care about those things, but I don’t care about them nearly as much as I used to because I no longer take my identity from them. 

“Identity” was a word that used to infuriate me when I first came back to the church. The women in the weekly Bible study I attended said “identity” to each other, their eyes meeting, knowing looks, head nodding. Identity.  Girl. Mmmhmm. Like it was a world in a word. And it is. But their extreme confidence in something I did not understand frustrated me to the point of rage.

Lord, help me work smarter, not harder.

 

Christianese is only helpful if we translate.

I wanted to know what they knew. I started to pray into this word. “Identity. Identity in Christ. What does that even mean, God? I want to know.”

I started to see what Jesus died for. What He wanted for us, for me. Redeemed. All the junk that I thought was a lost cause in me, all the areas of damage, all the areas of failure. He died so that I could have a different identity. I was not what I did. I was what He did. I was what He died for.

Christianese is only helpful if we translate.

 

It’s a walking out. What we know as identity will continue to grow as we grow closer to Him.

You become like the people you spend the most time with. I want to be more like Jesus. I’m spending more time with Him than I am on all the little details. And I’m spending more time trying to follow Him where I think He’s leading me. I do think He cares about the way we take care of ourselves, but those things can become idols. We can go overboard on anything if we don’t understand that identity comes from Him, His life, His death, His vision for us.

You become like the people you spend the most time with.

 

Our lives are not our own.

Instead of making lists that are set in stone and making everyone miserable as I try to check them off, I’m asking more questions. “How did You make me? What is on Your list for me today? What am I in You?” I’m able to walk out in more confidence when my to-do list comes from One so much bigger than I am, One who loves so well.

So. Back to getting ready for church.

I had gone to an event the night before and gotten home late. I didn’t take a lot of time to get ready for the morning before I went to bed. I know how I am when I don’t get enough sleep. Sleep is a priority. The details have to come later. I chose rest.

And, again in the morning, I chose rest. I slept as long as I could, and I got up with about 45 minutes to get ready.

What is on Your list for me today?

 

I knew  I wasn’t going to be super dressy, no time for that. So I picked up a pair of jeans. Fine. Jeans are fine.

Then, I started going through my drawers. I felt a little stressed and rushed. I picked up a sweater that is pretty, but I don’t love it on me. I started going through the drawer again, looking for something that I felt better about wearing.

And I heard that old phrase, “Don’t try to be something that you’re not.”

And I felt offended.

“What, Lord? I’m not doing that. I enjoy clothes. I enjoy dressing up and putting different pieces together. I’m not ‘trying too hard’ or ‘trying to be something I’m not!’ What are you talking about?”

I am learning that when I am offended by the Holy Spirit, I like to throw a little fit. And then when I get it out, He’s still there, waiting. And then I say, “Ok. Fine. I don’t understand because I don’t think that I am that/do that/think that. But whatever. Please. Show me what you mean.” That’s just how it goes. Every time.

And He does.

I felt that He was saying, “Just stop a minute. Be honest with yourself about what you are right now.”

Please. Show me what you mean.

 

And I got it.

What I am right now. What I was, right then.

I was someone who chose sleep over details that day. I was someone who chose blogging over ironing that week. I was someone who chose time with my kids over shining shoes and cutting threads. I was someone who chose to put a party together for my friends instead of dying my hair.

I do all those self care things–again, I don’t want to sound like those things don’t matter. They do matter. I’m not all holier than thou. Trust me. I like my hair done.  I like when my boots are tall and my makeup is on point. It’s just that, the reality of what I was in that moment was not someone who had made those things a priority. I wasn’t going to be able to fix it in 45 minutes. I wasn’t going to be able to make up for a week of putting other things first by tearing through a drawer trying to find the perfect sweater. I wasn’t going to be able to get ready for church and be on time by trying to be something I wasn’t.

I wasn’t going to be able to fix it in 45 minutes.

 

I felt relief. Permission to move forward. Perfect is just not going to happen today. Maybe never. I put on the less-than-perfect sweater. I didn’t even try to fix my hair. I brushed it and put on a hat. I grabbed the first jewelry I saw. I did simple makeup. I have no idea what the kids wore, but they got themselves ready for church on time with no prodding. To me, that’s success. Two teens and a tween in the van, on their own, on time, with no pushing from mom. Thank You, Lord.

It’s a journey, this identity thing. But one thing I know. I have permission to stop trying to be something I’m not. That means being honest in every moment about what I am. Rushed? Tired? Frustrated? Disappointed? I don’t have to wallow in it, but I don’t need to be in denial about it either, in the name of perfectionism, or optimism.

Or even in the name of faith.

I have permission to stop trying to be something I’m not. That means being honest in every moment about what I am.

 

Real faith doesn’t have to lie about circumstances. Real faith is honest about the mess and brings it to God and says, “Ok, God. It’s Your mess. Now what?”

And here’s the funny thing. I got so many compliments that morning on my jewelry, on my hat. I had to take a picture. Not because I think I look like a rock star, but because I know how I felt, and He showed me that He can still put us together in the middle of our mess, in the middle of our less-than-perfect. He can help us work smarter not harder. Don’t try to be something you’re not.

He will work it out.

And someone will just love your hat.

If they only knew.

Less than perfect. And I’m showing you my messy kitchen too. Don’t try to be something you’re not. Lol! <3

***

What are you, right now? What do you need to be honest about, and just let God have it? Frustrated? Disappointed? Rushed? Lord, we give it to you. Show us how to walk this out without trying to force something that is never going to happen. Show us how to stop trying to be something we are not and just rest in You.

Cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Cor 5:17

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Gal 2:20

Lands Sakes. You Are Not Alone.

Lands sakes.

I don’t even know what that means. I just felt like saying it.

I’m a southerner. We talk like that. Especially when we don’t know what else to say.

I have found myself not knowing what to say a lot this year.

If you follow this blog, you know I had a bike wreck in the spring and hurt my leg. Bad. Sprained every ligament and tendon. Tore my ACL. Broke my leg.

Lands sakes.

When I finally got out of the wheelchair and off crutches, I started to see my way back to a normal life.

It was good.

But suddenly, just as I started walking again without a brace, I had gallbladder problems. I’ll spare you the details, but I’ll just say this:  It was not good.

But I prayed, and I got insight on what to do. I drank half a lemon squeezed in warm water every day. Almost all symptoms gone the first time I tried it.

It was good.

Then. as soon as that passed, I got a wart.

In the middle of my face.

Not kidding.

Not good.

But, again, I prayed, and I got insight. Oregano oil, morning and night. It disappeared within a couple of weeks.

Good.

Ha.

Winning. I can fight these battles. I have God and natural medicine on my side. What can stop me? Whom shall I fear?

And then.

Yes.

Then.

In October, I took my kids to California on vacation, a trip we had  put off for months while I recovered from my knee injury.

We drove for three days. We had big plans to see good friends, the beach, Hollywood, Disneyland.

What can stop me? Whom shall I fear?

On our second day there, my son climbed up on an eight-foot  platform at a church we were visiting. You know. Like you do.

He yelled, “Look, Mom!”

I looked up, and I saw him. And I thought to myself, “Oh. What a terrible idea.”

But I was too far away to yell back. I hurried to get closer so I could tell him to get the heck off that thing.

I watched him edge further and further out on the platform. I watched the back of his shoe catch, ironically, on the safety rail.

And I watched him fall.

Bam. Hands first. On concrete.

Lands sakes.

It’s a thing that takes your breath away to see, your child suspended in air and  plummeting toward the earth.

He looked stunned as he lay there, so still, and my first prayer was that the kid would just raise up his head. Jesus. Let me see him raise his head.

And he did.

I still was too far away from him. But. Raising his head. That is good.

Then I saw him raise his right arm.

Oh, he’s fine. He’s ok.

But.

Wait.

You know how your arm is supposed to bend at certain specific places? Like joints?

He raised his arm, and even from where I was, I could see it bend in the wrong place. Not at the wrist, but about two inches behind it. Ew. Not good at all.

At the hospital later I asked him, “Son. What were you doing on that platform? When you said, ‘Look, Mom,’ what were you going to do?”

In a cloud of shock and morphine, he turned his head toward me, eyes glazed over as he pondered the question.

“When I said ‘Look, Mom’?”

“Look, Mom!”

“Yes. When you said, ‘Look, Mom.’ What were you going to do?”

“Oh, that. . . I was going to do a Batman trick.”

Oh, wonderful.

Well. Thank you, Batman.

We were in the emergency room all night, and doctors’ offices all over Southern California for the next three days. They thought he needed pins in his wrists. One was a clean break, but the other was shattered. He went into surgery to get them set, to get pins to hold his bones together.

My friend Chana and I sat in the waiting room and declared for an hour, “He will not need pins. No pins. No pins.”

He came out of surgery. No pins.

Even in the midst of it all, God’s hand.

It was good.

Then.

On the way home, traveling through Arizona, I got a phone call.

It was my sister. She kept my cat while I was in California. “I’m so, so sorry,” she said, “I hate to tell you this after everything that has happened. But. Hazel is hurt. She broke her leg. The vet is about to call you. So sorry.”

What and how.

A cat with a broken leg. I never even heard of a cat with a broken leg, and my dad is a veterinarian.

Lands sakes.

The vet called. “Hello, ma’am. Here are your cat’s treatment options. We can do surgery on your cat (thousands of dollars). We can do a splint on her leg. Or we can amputate.”

Oh my God.

I stood there. On my own just broken leg, watching my son try to handle his luggage with casts on both arms, imagining the two of us going home to a three-legged cat.

Thank you, Batman.

“Ma’am? Are you there?”

Not sure.

“Um. Uh. Yes. I’m here. What do you recommend?” I didn’t want to know. I didn’t want to have this conversation. My poor kitty. My poor son. My leg. Lands sakes.

“Oh, well. It’s up to you, but I think the splint should be fine.”

Just a word to you vets. If you think the splint is fine, then let’s just go with that. Please. We simple folk never need to hear the word “amputate” never again. Just, no. Not ever.

 

 

We made it home.

Then.

Yes.

Then.

About three weeks after we got home, cat, casts, and all, we went to a fall celebration at a friend’s house. A lovely gathering of many families. Kids everywhere, a chili cook-off.

And a bouncy house.

Which my oldest daughter decided to race through at top speed. Backwards.

She took a flying leap, and her ankle bent all wonky, and she somehow landed on the top of her foot instead of the bottom.

It swelled up like a pregnant pig in about five minutes. And, yes. She is still on crutches.

Ummmm.

Lands sakes.

When it all started, I declared that this season would not break me. I do not bow to circumstance.

But circumstances didn’t quit. They just kept piling on.

And somewhere in there, I got ticked.

And I got distracted. Like a tightrope walker or a man of faith, I forgot to keep my eyes up. I looked down. No net. Big waves.

I forgot to keep my eyes up.

 

And I got resentful. I got depressed. And I sunk.

If I have any regrets from this year, even more than a difficult injury that I’m still dealing with, it is how little I laughed through it. How much I cried and felt sorry for myself.

I know we technically have a right to feel a certain way. But I just don’t want to. I want to be deeper than that.

And really. It is kind of funny. Leg, arms, cat, foot. Ridiculous. At some point you have to laugh.

Besides laughter, I have one huge takeaway from all of it.

I kept praying even though I didn’t feel like it. And when I prayed, I heard this, over and over:  You are not alone.

Whatever you go through, you don’t go through it alone.

Sometimes I am perplexed at the way God answers prayer. It’s clear that He’s present and providing for us. But I know what I want. I want my miracle. And I want it now.

And He could do it that way.

But I keep seeing Shadrach. Meshchach. And Abednego. Or as my kids call them, “Radio Shack, My Shack, and A Beanie Go.”

And the fourth man in the fire.

You are not alone.

I kept seeing this story play out in my mind.

You may know it. The king, Nebuchadnezzar, had built a giant golden idol and given the people these instructions:  When the statue is unveiled and you hear the music play, you must fall down and worship it, or be thrown into the fiery furnace.

So, the music played and the people fell down. Worshipipng, I guess. Or just passing time on the ground until the king was satisfied. Either way, there were a few men who did not comply. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were worshippers of the living God. They did not worship idols.

The king’s men reported them. And the king was furious. He was so angry, he told his fire-builders to make the furnace seven times hotter than before. The fire was so hot that the king’s henchmen died as they threw the men into the fire.

They did not worship idols.

But Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did not die. They did not burn.

The king looked at the furnace and saw the men walking around inside. And he saw another man, a fourth man, and he said, “he looks like a son of the Gods.”

The king called for the men to come out of the fire. They were not burned. Not a hair on their heads or a thread on their robes was harmed.

And they didnt even smell like smoke.

The king was amazed. He declared his faith in their God and commanded his kingdom to follow God. He promoted Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego to higher positions in his kingdom.

They didnt even smell like smoke.

 

It was a miracle, but it didn’t have to go down like that. God could have saved these guys another way.

He could have whispered a new direction, and Nebuchadnezzar could have spared the men the time in the fire.

But then, it would be a big nothing-story. It had to be just like this. It had to be dramatic. It had to be crazy. It had to be so obvious that it was God, or that day would have been like any other day. The king would have forgotten a still small voice, but who could forget four men walking around inside a fiery furnace?

You will walk through fire in this life. You will. It’s a promise. In this life, you will have trials.

You will walk through the fire, but you will not be burned, and you are not alone.

 

You will walk through the fire, but you will not be burned, and you are not alone.

 

And you never know who is watching, those people who will be encouraged and influenced and then influence others because of your faith, like Nebuchadnezzar watched the men in the fire, astounded, and then called for his people to worship the Living God. Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s friend Daniel, who needed the memory of this day when he went into the lions’ den.

You never know who is watching you walk through fire and seeing that fourth man standing with you, who sees that you go through the same stuff they go through, but that you don’t go through it alone. Your fiery trials create a platform for The One who shines like a son of the gods, who shines brighter than the fire itself.

You never know who is watching you walk through fire and seeing that fourth man standing with you.

 

I know that I am not the only one who has had a crazy year. It’s been a year of trials for a lot of people.

Lands sakes. For others’ sakes. We can walk through this fire. We are  not alone.

***

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stepped out of the fire. Then the high officers, officials, governors, and advisers crowded around them and saw that the fire had not touched them. Not a hair on their heads was singed, and their clothing was not scorched. They didn’t even smell of smoke! Dan 3:26b-27

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Josh 1:9

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.

It’s Yours. Go and Take It! How to Let Struggle Work in Your Favor.

Finding joy. Finding strength.

It’s not easy. Not for any of us.

And so often, those who do this hard work of fighting for life and fighting for power are given what is possibly the most condescending response ever. “It’s easy for you. It’s harder for me than it is for you. You have something I don’t have. You have the gift of joy.”

But.

Here’s the thing.

Joy is not a gift.

Galatians 5.

Joy is a fruit.

That means it is something that must be cultivated.

Fruit comes after ownership–owning our territory, and owning our part in the growing. It comes after plotting, tilling, planting, and much care.

Joy is not a gift of the Spirit, nor is it a gift of circumstance. Some of the most emotionally challenged people that I know have had it the “easiest” in terms of visible circumstances.

Joy is not a gift.

 

Those who have not known ease can assume that if they only had a different circumstance, they would also have a different level of joy.

But happiness studies from around the world show that this simply is not true.

Joy and circumstance are not related to the degree that people assume that they are.

Joy is not a gift, but sometimes struggle is.

Struggle works in our favor when we realize that it leads us in to our identity. Struggle and work make us feel our own power when we engage wholeheartedly and watch the fruit come.

Good parents see struggle as part of health.

 

Infants struggle to be born, and then they wriggle and struggle to hold up their own heads.

Babies struggle to crawl. Toddlers struggle to walk, falling down a million times and never giving up.

Good parents see this struggle as part of health. Like weight-lifting or training for a marathon, it’s hard in the moment, but no one gets stronger being carried everywhere.

In fact, I recently heard of a mother who was so protective of her child, never wanting to see him struggle, that she did carry him everywhere for almost two years. The child could not walk. He never had a chance to struggle and learn. There was no normal, healthy development in his legs. Child services came in to insist that the child be allowed to struggle to gain strength.

Very often, the thing that looks like struggle is the thing that builds your strength.

And even in Eden, there was work to be done.

There is a consciousness to joy. A conscious choice for cultivation. This consciousness exists with all the fruits of the spirit.

Even in Eden, there was work to be done.

 

There is nothing easier than criticizing a joyful, loving person. Nothing easier than tearing down a soft target. And there is something about a joyful person that can make an angry person angrier and meaner, especially if he is determined to stay in his state of mind.

It is not only that the joyful are a soft target.

A joyful person is a challenge.

The mere presence of a well-adjusted person is an inherent challenge to those who don’t have it figured out yet. And when that same well-adjusted person is also flourishing and strong, the challenge is even louder. And those who have not fought in the same way can sometimes assume the way was easy for those who have already won their battles.

A joyful person is a challenge.

 

I have fought this temptation too. The temptation to see someone who is living well and bearing good fruit as someone who just had it easy and has no real clue about life.

But then, after years of struggle, I started to wonder if, maybe, those people knew something I didn’t.

It can feel good in a twisted way to fall into self pity, to sit and tell myself how hard my life is. To vindicate the waves of emotion that, at forty-two years old, I still have not learned to entirely control.

“I deserve it! I want chocolate! I want to complain! I want to watch myself cry in the mirror! I want to quit!”

Self-pity gives us all the excuses we need to not try harder, to not go out and do the hard work of pursuing our destiny. It makes us feel exempt from the struggle for excellence in our own minds, where the battle is the thickest. We can redefine “excellence” in our pain, saying, “Well, at least I’m still here, well at least I’m this, at least I’m not that.”

At least.

But I don’t want “at least.” I want “at most.”

I want the best there is.

And I know you do too.

And God wants the best for us. He already has it planned out.

Very often, the thing that looks like struggle is the thing that builds your strength.

 

When the Israelites were “given” their inheritance from God, He also told them to GO AND TAKE IT.

When Ruth went to Boaz for charity, it was there, but she still had to work for it. She still had to GO AND TAKE IT.

When Jesus healed the man at the Pool of Bethesda, He told the man, “Get up. Take up your mat, and walk.” The man had to take responsibility for himself and TAKE his healing. He had a choice.

GO AND TAKE IT

 

It’s time for us to GO AND TAKE the inheritance, the blessings, the joy, the healing that God wants to pour out in our lives. God does many, many things by grace, just giving us blessings because He loves us. But even with a gift, we have to stretch out our own hands to receive.

But other times, like a good father who wants to see his child grow healthy, He stands out a little way from us, holding out His arms and saying, “Come on! Come on! Come on! I know you can do it!”

The way to let struggle work in our favor, and incidentally, one way to cultivate joy, is to count the struggle as joy. 

Don’t know how to do that? Me either, sometimes. Ask God to help you reframe it. And you will see Him standing before you with arms outstretched, cheering you on.

***

Reckon it nothing but joy, my brethren, whenever you find yourselves hedged in by various trials. Be assured that the testing of your faith leads to power of endurance. Jas 1:2-3

Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” John 5:8

So Ruth worked alongside the women in Boaz’s fields and gathered grain with them until the end of the barley harvest. Then she continued working with them through the wheat harvest in early summer. Ruth 2:23ab

See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land. Deut 1:8a

What have you been putting off because of self-pity or fear? What do you need to GO AND TAKE today? What is one thing you can do to move forward in claiming your inheritance?

Father, thank You that You allow us the good kind of struggle that brings strength in us! Thank You that You stand before us with Your arms out, saying, “Come on! Come on! Come on! You can do it! Come to me! I’ve got you!” Thank You that You know how much we can be, and You believe in us! Thank You that You never leave us or forsake us, and You are our greatest Helper, our greatest cheering section, our greatest encourager!

I pray for anyone reading this to hear Your voice in greater measure today and every day, cheering them on to claim their inheritance! To hear You say in their hearts–there it is! That thing I have for you! I’m shining a light on it, I’m cheering you on! Now! GO AND TAKE IT!

Thank You for helping us and planning out our best lives and making a way for us to find what You have! In Jesus’ name, we GO! Amen!

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

Too Whatever: Overcoming the Sticky Green Lies

Last year,  I did a post called “Too Whatever.” Upon a reader’s request, I’m writing it again, with a little spin, a little more backstory, a little more dimension. I pray it blesses you. God loves your “Too Whatevers.”

When I turned forty, I had a strong and wonderful moment of empowerment.

Finally.

Old enough to command respect. Old enough not to care what people think. Old enough to bust out and do whatever I want.

It was a fleeting moment.

A sudden fear of being obsolete and out of touch came over me as I studied my hair in the mirror, and the half-inch of showing roots looked whiter than ever. And all that empowerment? Fled away, its whimpering and ancient gray tail tucked between its legs.

I shared this aging angst with my friend, the lovely Chana Keefer.

She understood. She laughed. And she told me that she had the same fear about her modeling career–when she was sixteen.

Sixteen.

At the time, fifteen-year-old Brooke Shields had hit it big, and Chana was one year older. She was, she decided, over the hill, past her prime, antiquated, passé. She hadn’t done enough in her field. She was doomed to fail at life.

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At sixteen.

Chana, of course, went on to do all kinds of amazing things, modeling, acting, writing, living.

And this conversation was an eye-opener for me.

Chana heard the same lies, at a young age, at sixteen years old, that were trying to take me out at forty.

Too old.

The same lies.

As I talked to Chana, the Holy Spirit showed me a dark figure holding handfuls of green slime, like really wet neon green bubble gum. He was waiting for someone to walk by so he could throw it at them and cover them with the nasty goo.

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And I heard the Holy Spirit say this: The enemy has nothing new. He has no creativity or orderly strategy, even though it seems like he does at times. He just stands there and throws the same lies at all of you.

It’s up to you what sticks.

It showed me the truth. The same lies come against all of us, no matter who we are or what we are dealing with.

Too old. Too young. Too late. Too shy. Too inexperienced.

Too…whatever.

We all hear the same doubts and battle the same insecurities.

It’s up to us what sticks.

I shared this story with a friend in the music industry. She said, “YES!! When I was in my twenties and thirties and I went to auditions, I was always afraid of being told I was too young for the part. I thought when I turned 40, that feeling would go away! And it did, but it was immediately replaced with a new one. Too seasoned. I started hearing people say the company told them they were ‘too seasoned’ for a part. Overnight, my fear went from being ‘too young,’ to being ‘too seasoned.”

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Whatever we put our faith in that isn’t God will let us down. We will just trade one lie for another, over and over, until we realize we have to stand on the miraculous power of the truth of God for our lives and nothing else.

His word for us??

OVERCOMERS.

We are OVERCOMERS.

You are an overcomer. An Overcomer of the Too Whatevers.

All the enemy has is lies. That’s all he has. He can’t create, he can only pervert what God has made with lies.

When you approach your destiny, he flings those sticky green lies at you, harder than ever.

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Don’t believe the lies that say, “you can’t,” whatever they are.

In that moment of 40-year-old empowerment, I started my blog. I started appearing on media. I started doing video and ministering online.

Not long after, when the doubts came, I went to the Lord.

“Father. I am too late. I waited too long. I’m too old.”

And I swear to you, He laughed.

I heard Him laugh for what felt like a very long time.

It made me laugh.

And then I heard Him say this: I love too old.

And before my eyes, I saw Abraham and Sarah, Moses, Daniel, Anna, and Caleb.

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They were all “too old” when God did some of the most amazing things in their lives.

“I love too old.”

“Ok then,” I said. “You love too old. Well. Let’s see what you can do with this.”

Truth is, you might be older or younger than the average success story. You might have held on to a vision for years. You might have too much on your plate to see your way to living your dreams or reaching your goals.

But God loves our “Too Whatevers.” He loves showing up in the gap, like He did for Gideon and his tiny army and bringing them to victory.

When I said, “Too old,” God did not try to talk me out of it. He said, “Oh, that? No problem. I love it.”

I felt that He was laughing because He much prefers to show His strength in us than let us lean on our own. When we feel weak, He is strong in us.

I could tell you that you haven’t missed the boat. And ultimately, I believe it is true. God wants to use you. He wants to help you. There is plenty of time. There’s always a place for the thing you carry because it’s never been done by you, in your own unique way.

But even if you did miss the boat, get this–

IT. DOES. NOT. MATTER.

I’m laughing typing this.

Even if you did miss it, your Daddy in Heaven loves a missed boat. He loves too old! He loves when we are late to the party! He loves TOO…WHATEVER!!!

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I love thinking of Caleb, armored up and raring to go. I imagine that he must have felt it too, at least one or two times, that he had missed the boat. It makes me wonder if he was determined not to miss it again, if God used some of that pent up energy from the past to give Caleb a greater measure of courage, if Caleb felt closer to death than the others because of his age, and rather than letting it weaken him, he wanted to go out with a bang in the promised land. It seems that God used the very thing that could hold Caleb back to make him the fiercest warrior of the day.

Never give up. Never, never, never, never, never give up. You have destiny inside you. You carry purpose and a plan. You carry the future. Don’t quit. If you have a commission on your life, He will help you achieve it. Don’t leave a vision because it sat too long, unless He tells you to leave it. He loves missed boats, late-to-the-party guests. He loves your “Too Whatevers.”

***

Father, I thank You that You are the God of Second Chances! And Third! And Fourth! And A Million!!! Thank You that nothing is impossible for You! Even our weaknesses and stumblings–especially our weaknesses and stumblings. You show Yourself strong in our weaknesses. You love our TOO WHATEVERS!

Thank You that we can’t miss the boat in You if we really want to catch it. God, we lay it all at Your feet. Our doubts. Our insecurities. Our struggles. Time. Energy. Inspiration. Skill level. Experience. Team. Whatever we feel is lacking, we give it to You.

We give you permission. Take what we have to give, however we feel about it, and DO SOMETHING AWESOME WITH IT!

We rebuke the lies of the enemy that would come in and shut us down and shut us up! We rebuke the sticky green goo that tries to attach itself to us! It cannot touch us, it cannot stick–because we stand on the word of TRUTH! We are OVERCOMERS IN CHRIST! We stand in expectation, that You will take our “Too Whatevers” and turn them in to SOLID GOLD. In Jesus’ name, amen!

Prepared for that Moment: Interview with Sue Cato

At eighty-three, cancer-survivor Sue Cato is the one of the oldest active real estate brokers in the United States.

She has been in business for forty years, and she is one of the most fabulous women I know. She is a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother to many. She can bake a pie with one hand while closing a million dollar deal on the phone in the other. Her nails are always perfect, and her fashion sense, forever on point.

I adore her. I look up to her in myriad ways. It is my honor to introduce her to you.

Enjoy our conversation that follows in this short interview, filled with a lifetime’s worth of experience and advice on faith, ethics, business, finances, and the power of prayer.

LADY:  Forty years is a long time to do the same thing! How did you know you wanted to work in real estate? How does a person decide on a lifelong career?

SUE:  I stayed home with the kids for twenty-five years. But, one thing led to another–I planned events for friends, church, the kids’ school, the United Way, and the local college. Running a household as a purchasing agent, managing money.

Nothing I did was wasted. The good Lord was preparing me for my future.

The bank president needed commercial properties sold. A friend at church thought I would be good at it and suggested I go to work for the bank.

Everything I had done until then prepared me for that moment.

The good Lord was preparing me for my future.

 

LADY:  What do you recommend as a key to success in life?

SUE:  Pray.

Praying to do right is hard. I did everything above board. Even when you see something that if you ignored it you could make twenty thousand more dollars, you can never let money be your guiding light.

One thing, early on–I realized that the big boys in the corporations would try to eat me alive. I went into business for myself so they wouldn’t know what I was doing.

Work ethic.

Work hard.

I’ve never earned a penny I didn’t work for. Nobody’s ever given me a thing in my job.

Work ethic is part of who I am. I’ve always had a desire to be a winner. And where I could work hard, I did.

Never let money be your guiding light.

 

LADY:  What keeps you going?

SUE:  When I got sick (with cancer) I didn’t know what was going to happen.

I prayed a lot. I continued to study the hospitality industry. Stay current.

If you have food to eat, if you have a roof over your head, even if it’s someone who’s feeding you a meal or will take you in, then you aren’t poor–you’re inconvenienced.

 

LADY: How do you handle challenges in the workplace?

SUE:  I had a client that had a horrible tragedy, and the sale fell through.

You send flowers.

You suck it up and go on.

Because what can you do?  What can you say?  You don’t waste a penny. You may have to borrow money to eat, but you pray, and you tell yourself this too shall pass.

And you keep going.

I’ve made mistakes in my career. I assumed I would make a sale, and I’d be committed to something else before having the money.

Know your abilities before you commit yourself to responsibility.

If you have financial trouble, pray to God to show you priorities.

If you have food to eat, if you have a roof over your head, even if it’s someone who’s feeding you a meal or will take you in, then you aren’t poor–you’re inconvenienced.

Keep going.

 

LADY:  What does courage look like for you? 

SUE:  Courage is faith in action, believing that Jesus is the son of God and that He came for my redemption. Knowing that I have Jesus gives me a reason to get up in the morning, a reason to care about others, a reason to tolerate.

Knowing that the sparrows and the lilies of the field, He cares for them so well–and He still loves them less than He loves me? He will care for me. And if the whole world falls down, I can still be joyful because Jesus loves me.

When I face challenges, the times when I let Him live through me, those are the times that I am forced to get out of the center of the universe and just let God be God.

Courage is faith in action.

Just let God be God.

***

Thanks again, Queen Sue!

Nothing was wasted. The Good Lord was preparing me for my future…Everything I had done until then prepared me for that moment.  ~Sue Cato

Pray. Work hard. Keep going. Let God be God. ~Sue Cato