Thursday, May 16, 2013

What If?

Photo courtesy of Google Images

My pants are too tight. I mean, like the part of my day I dread the most is getting dressed, too tight. For those of you who have kept up with me through my blog you know that I made some major diet changes over the last couple of years in order to alleviate some health problems. An awesome bonus of those changes was losing weight. I had even gotten into a smaller size than I was in high school. It made me happy, happy, happy. :)

Well, things changed. I stopped teaching dance six hours a week and started working a desk job that also made the whole healthy eating thing more of a challenge as it meant actually preparing things ahead of time, and come to find out, I stink at that. :) And holidays came. And went. And after eating horribly for 7 months suddenly-boom! My pants don't fit. Even my shirts started feeling tight. For a while I got away with the eating normal thing. I didn't gain weight right away. I even still felt okay. So, I kind of convinced myself my body was healed and I could eat M&M's on the way home from work everyday if I wanted to. 

Of course, all good things must come to an end. A couple of  months ago two of my co-workers told me that I looked like I was expecting. They said I had the glow. I know that was nice talk for "wow, your belly is growing".  There was a day and time when their comments would have led to a complete emotional breakdown when I got home (if I made it that far before the waterworks started). But you know what? It didn't really bother me. The truth is, yeah I have gained weight. I also have a medical condition that at certain times causes my belly to swell like I'm six months along carrying twins. It's not the most thrilling part of my life, but I realized it's also not the worst thing ever. In fact, my co-workers seemed as though they were being complimentary. Now, I do not particularly want to look pregnant (been there, done that, couldn't fit in the t-shirt), but for the first time, maybe ever, it dawned on me that perhaps gaining some weight was not the end of the world. 

And I began thinking, what if we were taught to see things differently in our culture? What if, instead of dreading pregnant and post-baby bodies, we celebrated them? What if we were taught that stretch marks and saggy skin and wider hips are awesome? Not because they are necessarily beautiful to look at, but just because it is amazing what those pregnant and post-baby bodies have done? What if younger girls looked at older women the way that older women look at younger women? With longing for a body different than their own. Even for those who have never experienced pregnancy, there are so many changes that happen. Lines that come from laughter. Hair that grays with experience. 

I once had a friend's mom tell me how you could always tell a woman's age by her hands because women are always dutiful to take care of their faces, but not so much their hands. I've always thought about that. And worried about it. I hate the way lotion feels on my hands and have always felt sure my hands will look 80 years old any day now. But with this new found outlook, I began to think about what that meant. I hope my hands age. I hope that they look like I've done something with them. Because despite what our culture would have us to think, we are not just here to be looked at. 

I recently discovered a website that says all of these things so much better than me. It is called Beauty Redefined and has many articles that discuss this very thing. The idea that beauty is not necessarily what we've been taught that it is. Do you know what one of the greatest things has been about my roller coaster weight journey? It has been the fact that I have finally been able to grasp the fact that I am the same person whether my clothes are a size 6 or a size 12. I prefer how I look at certain sizes better than others, but at the end of the day whatever size my body is, it is housing Emily. You see, it has just been in the last few months that it really dawned on me how much I placed my value in being a certain size or looking a certain way. Like so many, I had bought in to the idea that physical beauty is the only thing that matters about a person. Let's face it, we have that crammed down our throats all the time. Only the beautiful people get to be the lead characters in love stories. Beautiful people apparently get away with crimes because they're better looking. We hear that good looking people are more likely to get promotions. And the idea we internalize is that looks trump every other quality a person has and we only exist to be looked at. Can I tell you something as someone who has been with the same person for 15 years? You can only look at each other so much. :)

Sadly, generations upon generations have grown up thinking that being pretty is more important than being kind. That being skinny or curvy in all the right places is better than being smart. That having a tan beats out being funny. Good hair is way better than being honest. White teeth? Totally trumps talent. It sounds silly, but it's so ingrained in us that it's hard to grasp that it's not the truth. That people are important and valuable even if they could lose a few pounds or need braces. 

When I had lost so much weight I would get lots of compliments about my size. But over the last several months I've had several people compliment me and say, "You look good. You look so happy."   And, maybe those M&M's had something to do with it :), but I like to think that for once what was happening inside of me stood out more than what was going on physically. 

I think that is exactly what this verse is talking about:

Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.

1Peter 3:3-4

What if?

What if, we spent as much time working on our minds, spirits, and the health of our bodies as we did on just appearing a certain way?

What if, we stopped talking negatively about ourselves and leading to more insecurity of those around us?

What if, we valued the bodies of those who have aged and experienced things we haven't?

What if, we devoted ourselves to growing and doing and serving instead of just appearing?

What if, we decided that if we are okay with ourselves it doesn't matter if anybody else is?

What if, we measured the impact our life has on someone else instead of our waist?

What if, we could learn to not only accept ourselves, but others as well?

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Eli the Great Turns 8!

Today is special, today is great;
today Joshua Eli turns 8!

He is sweet, he is kind;
since kindergarten he's only made straight A's because he has a great mind.

Legos, sharks, drawing and ball,
FSU and bikes; he loves them all.

Gentle and sensitive, tough and fast;
a smile and a heart that are made to last.

Competitive and hard-working, analytic and fun;
you love to run and run and run.

You're no longer a baby, you're a big kid now;
when I think of you all I think is "Wow!"

Today you are eight,
and everyday you are GREAT!! 

Photo courtesy of Photography by Jenny Johnson

Joshua Eli, there are no words for how proud you make me and your Daddy. From the moment you entered this world on 5/5/05 (my favorite number, btw), you've been a peaceful, sweet bringer of joy. I didn't know what it would be like to add another member to our family of 3; your sister was a little used to being the center of attention. :) But, like the rest of us, she adored you and you brought out the little Mama in her. You also bonded instantly with your Daddy. One of my most favorite memories in life is waking up from a nap not too long after you were born and seeing him with you in his arms. He had changed your clothes and made sure you had on a onesie with a sports theme. He has doted on you ever since and you are two peas in a pod. I am so thankful that you love your Daddy the way you do. You are going to be such a great man because you have his influence, and I will always feel close to your Daddy when I'm with you. Kate has given you the chance to be a big brother and you have excelled at that just like you do with everything. I know she drives you crazy sometimes, but trust me, she thinks the world of you. :)

You are an amazing little boy and I have watched you grow more this last year than any before. You became a follower of Jesus and overcame your fear of being baptized to be obedient to Him. You also have come such a long way in your fear of bad weather, and I am so proud of that because I know that it is no easy task overcoming fears, even for grown ups. 

You are SO smart and ask lots of questions that not only am I not smart enough to answer, I'm not even smart enough to ask. You keep me on my toes. Thank goodness for your Daddy and Google!! You are a thinker and an analyzer and a perfectionist. I'm afraid you got that very honestly. As I watch you beat yourself up over missing a ball or getting a 97 instead of a 100, I feel the need to apologize for the genes you inherited honestly from your Dad and I. And sometimes I want to cry with you. Because it's a personality trait that just stinks sometimes. But, I know God is going to use that drive that you have in a mighty way. Whatever you do, you do it all out! You do it with passion and determination and a desire to do it the best.

Sometimes, you are so smart and gentle and kind that it is easy to forget you are a little boy. Until I see the dirt on your neck and the holes in your jeans and step on Legos. And then I remember. :) And I thank God for giving me such a special little boy and letting me have a front row seat to watch as He grows a man of God right before my eyes. And maybe an FSU baseball player. :)

"And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him"
                                                             Colossians 3:17

Photo courtesy of Photography by Jenny Johnson

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Baby Steps

In the center where I work, we have 3 classrooms. The toddlers are 2-3 years old, the mobiles are 1-2, and the babies. While I love reading and conversating with the toddlers, the baby room has been my favorite by far. It felt like such a gift that when I returned to work because my baby started kindergarten, I had a whole room of babies I could rock and hold and cuddle. Even better, I can hand them off to their teachers to get changed. I imagine that's what having a nanny would have been like. :)

The baby room is still my favorite. It has changed a good bit in the 6 months I've been here. Six months is like a lifetime in baby development time. It's gone from a room with sleeping babies to a mini zoo. I never know what will be going on in there, I just know to be prepared to catch a baby. I remember the days when my babies were the age that you never sat down because they never stopped. Now I am just experiencing it multiplied by 8. Bless it. 

They are SO busy. Busy sitting up. Busy crawling. Busy scooting. Busy pulling up. Busy cruising along the bookshelves. And busy falling. It is always like being in one of those slow motion movie scenes when you see a baby start to fall. You start to move to catch them, but your body morphs into slo-mo, yet somehow they quickly fall to the ground, usually making sure to bump their head on a hard surface nearby. I told the teachers we need to just move that class to the triage unit of the ER. They are an accident waiting to happen!!

Despite the anxiety caused by these new developments, it is so exciting to watch! It has always been so amazing to me how one day they just do something they've never done before. And it's really fun to watch their face when they realize they've done something they couldn't do before. Until they fall and cry of course. 

All of this change and busyness and excitement has made me think about the spiritual journey we take as Christians. Mostly it has made me think about how much we try to skip this phase. We decide to follow Jesus and expect that we will wake up the next morning and have it all together. I think we've all watched too many Disney movies and expect that some fairy is going to come sprinkle magic fairy dust and make us perfect. Except of course we learn, we don't believe in magic. :) And yet, we act like that is how God changes us. 

The truth is that the Holy Spirit moves in, but we have to decide to let it grow us. A baby starts crawling because it is the next step in his/her development. But it's not easy. There are days, weeks, even months when a baby struggles to get on all fours. Then, they bounce a while. They know they are supposed to be moving, but they just can't get it going. The truth is, we know that we are now supposed to be full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control. And yet, just like a baby sometimes decides it is easier to cry and get picked up than to work on the crawling, we decide it is easier to follow our natural instincts. To be mean, cranky, stressed, impatient and out of control. It's what we know. 

We all face this struggle. The difference for us is that we are able to hide it. We are able to put on a smile when we're ready to bite somebody's head off. We learn to say the right things, even if they are not anywhere near how we feel. And I guess it makes us all feel better to get together and pretend that we're all good, but when we do that, we're missing out on growing. 

I like to imagine that if my babies could talk their conversation would go something like this: 

Baby 1: "Man this sitting up stuff is hard! I can do it, but then I just fall forward everytime!"
Baby2: "I know what ya mean. I've pulled up on that wooden kitchen set 4 times and I've fallen and knocked myself out every time. I think I have a concussion, man."
Baby 3: "I fell and hit the rocking chair and that crazy lady just watched me do it."

The point I'm trying to make (I really do usually have one, it just takes me a while to get there :), is that we should see our church family (all of the church, not just the ones in our building) as our buddies in the baby room. We are all working on things, things that are hard for us and things that we really mess up at sometimes. Sometimes it is painful and messy and not at all comfortable. We've not perfected anything yet. The key is that we are trying. I've yet to see a healthy baby with no developmental problems decide that they can't do the walking thing perfect yet, so they just won't try. It's just understood that they will fall, but then they will get back up.

What is also understood is that the parents and caregivers of those children do not expect perfection. In fact we cheer and applaud every attempt. And yet, as brothers and sisters in Christ, we are often waiting to attack each other and any attempt at growth. Without verbalizing it, we send the message loud and clear, "Come when you've figured it out. We don't really have time for your stumbling." We all know people who think that criticizing is their spiritual gift. It's not, y'all. We all have a responsibility to teach and admonish each other and that includes calling each other out on inappropriate behavior. But, we are to do that in love and by example. We are to do it because we want our brother or sister to go stronger in their walk, not because it makes us feel better about how weak ours is. 

Wherever we are in our walk, we are to keep getting stronger. If you are in the baby steps stage just struggling to get to your feet, keep trying. You will get there. If you are walking, but need more support than others, let people support you until you're strong enough to stand on your own. If you're moving slow, learn as much as you can along the way. If you're a strong walker, grab someone by the hand and help them along. No matter where we are we all have the same goal: to run.

    Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 
    ~Hebrews 12:1