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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Turtle Rockers

Do you remember being seven years old? 

Unfortunately, due to Polaroid film, I am forced to remember this era of my own childhood.

Me, circa 1989 (otherwise referred to as The Fro-tastic Years)

Would you look at the natural body my hair possessed? I should have been a child model. I wanted desperately to audition for Disney's "The Mickey Mouse Club." Can you picture it? Me, Britney, and Christina, all vying for the attention of a certain Mr. Ryan Gosling. He would have picked me, obviously, since I totally resemble Eva Mendes in the above pic. I credit my mother, Lindsay, for helping me blossom into the beautiful seven-year-old swan you see in the photograph. Instead of using hair products to tame my frizz curls like most people would have, she dared to be different and went to town on my locks with a fine-bristled brush, slowly separating each and every curl into my golden halo of glory. The only thing that is missing from this picture is my neon green headgear, which was really a crowd-pleaser. 

When I was seven, my best friend, Heather, and I would get together to play hamsters. That's right...while some kids played Barbies or house, we (the homeschoolers) played HAMSTERS. We were each hamsters and we shared a cage. We built nests on the floor to sleep in and rigged baby bottles to hang off the wall upside down so we could lick the nipples to get water, just like a hamster does from her water bottle. We lay pretend hamster babies and raised them into fine, world-changing hamster adults. 

We were fantastic.

I give you this background to help you understand that I wasn't always the fine specimen that I am today, and also to explain why the following story made me giggle/weep.

My daughter is now seven. She is wonderful and fabulous and sweet and funny. She is so, so much cooler than I was at seven. She has beautiful golden-brown hair that is shiny and smooth and has the perfect amount of natural body. She has a great attitude and she helps me around the house. She loves art and dolls. She does not have headgear (yet) and she has never, not EVER, played hamsters or licked bottle nipples, praise the Lord!

However, she is still seven.

When she comes home from school each day, I get an earful from her about the goings on and the good and the bad and the drama. Most days she's peppy and upbeat, loving life and school and her friends.

Then there are days like yesterday.

She arrived home from school and I immediately noticed that she was a little down. After helping her unload her backpack and get a snack, the following conversation started.

ME: Are you okay, Em? You seem a little bummed this afternoon. 
EM: *SIGH* I'm okay. 
ME: Are you sure? Because I can usually tell when you're sad, and you seem sad. 
EM: *SIGH* Well, I guess I'm a little sad. 
ME: What's wrong, baby? 
EM: Mom, you know that girl in my class, the one who is always mean to me? Well, today on the playground she started a band. It's called The Turtle Rockers (pause to stifle the laughter), and she asked all of my friends to be in it but she told me that I can't join. And I don't care about being in her dumb band, but I wanted to play with my friends and they wouldn't play with me because she told them that if they were going to be in The Turtle Rockers they had to stay with her and practice and not play with me. My own friends wouldn't even let me come over to the monkey bars because that was their band room, and I'm not in the band (cue the waterworks). 
ME: Ummm...they named themselves The TURTLE ROCKERS??? 
EM: Huh?

Before you become alarmed, this was not the end of our conversation, and of course I kicked myself that the first question I asked was a snarky response to a seven year old's terrible choice of a band name. However, can we all agree that The Turtle Rockers is just awful? It sounds like a band that Zach Morris might have started to play at Bayside High's senior prom. Am I right or am I right?

Jessie and Slater, tearing up the dance floor.

Back to the intentional parenting moment.

After fighting back the laughter, I gathered myself and dove into a difficult conversation with Emerson. It's not like this was the first time she was left out or hurt by a friend, but I think for some reason this time it especially hurt.

See, this girl in her class really seems to find satisfaction in being the mean queen bee of the 1st grade (which does blow my mind). I didn't realize mean girls start that young. All year she has made it a priority to tell Emerson that she is not her friend, and has even resorted to calling her names and making fun of her outfits in front of the class ("oh, look who's wearing overalls...what is it, FARMER day?"). Now, don't get me wrong, I'm sure Emerson has had moments of unkindness herself, and I'm not by any means saying she is without faults. However, I know that this situation has proven to be hurtful many times over, and that my daughter just can't wrap her brain around why the founder and lead singer of The Turtle Rockers would enjoy treating her that way.

After a lot of listening, I challenged Em with this: To join the mean girls is to become a mean girl, and you are not a mean girl. Therefore, you might just have to stand alone. 

There are always going to be mean girls. There are always going to be "cool" cliques. And sometimes, many times, you'll yearn to be a part of that crowd. However, if being "cool" means you mistreat others and represent your Heavenly Father poorly, then it's just not worth it. Period. 

We talked about why she is at her school, and what it means to stand alone and dare to be different, even when it's isolating. We talked about seeking out the lonely and the hurting and being the hands and feet of Jesus to them, even if it's by doing something as simple as asking them to walk on the track together during recess. We talked about not engaging the hatefulness, but instead how to operate out of a heart of love with kindness and humility, no matter how awful someone is behaving.

These are hard discussions. Hard but necessary.

And as I thought and prayed about her situation last night, it occurred to me that, at 32 years old, not much has changed since my own seven-year-old days in the hamster nest on the playground. There are still mean girls; they have just learned how to make fun of you more subtly. There are still the "cool" cliques, and they are still selective about who they associate with. And sometimes, if I'm being honest, I still yearn to be a part of them. Sometimes I desperately want to be a Turtle Rocker.

In some ways it's even harder to navigate these relationships as an adult, don't you think? The pressure we put on ourselves is tremendous. I mean, at this point we know not to join forces with the mean girls, but a teensy part of us wishes that we were that put together and organized and fit and stylish. And we know it doesn't matter if we're ever classified as "cool," but a tiny part of us wants to be.

It's bound to happen; we are going to be tempted to join them because we feel like can't beat them. My prayer for those of us who are hidden in Him is this: that we would snap back to reality and realize we're totally, completely focused got it...OURSELVES! 

In being so self-consumed we somehow, so easily, forget the very purpose for our very existence as followers of Christ. To love other people to Jesus by seeking out the lonely and the hurting and being the hands and feet of the Savior to them, which is the very nature of the Gospel.

If we have style and swag but don't represent the Savior well, we've missed it. If we have lots of friends but we never step outside of our inner circles to engage a broken and hurting world, befriending and walking alongside people who don't look or act or think like us, we've missed it. 

Don't miss it. 

I love, L-O-V-E how The Message interprets Romans 12:9-21:
Love from the center of who you are; don't fake it. 
Run for dear life from evil and hold on for dear life to good. 
Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. 
Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath.  
Laugh with your happy friends when they're happy; share tears when they're down. 
Get along with each other and don't be stuck up. 
Make friends with nobodies; don't be the great somebody. 
Don't hit back; discover beauty if everyone. 
If you've got it in you, get along with everybody. 
Don't insist on getting even, because that's not for you to do. 'I'll do the judging,' says God. 'I'll take care of it.'
...If you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if she's thirsty, get her a drink. Your generosity will surprise her with goodness. 
Don't let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.
Do you know my favorite line in that section of Scripture?

"Make friends with nobodies; don't be the great somebody."

Easier to say than do, but it's a worthy challenge, isn't it? I'm up for it - who's with me?

As I read this post back, I wonder, does it even make sense? I don't know...I guess it does to me, so that's what counts, right? At this point anything makes more sense than naming your band The Turtle Rockers, so I have that going for me. I have a mascot for them, though, just in case they're looking for one:

Feel free to laugh!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Dear Lady-Who-Just-Asked-Me-When-I'm-Due...

Dear Lady-Who-Just-Asked-Me-When-I'm-Due,

Alas, your eyes have deceived you, for it is not a tiny human growing in my uterus, but instead a food baby growing in my gelatinous abdominal region. I can see how your eyes might have played tricks on you, though, because my food baby has grown in girth since giving birth to my actual babies (which is amazingly ironic, right?).

Let me say, first, please don't feel bad.

Well, okay, it wouldn't make me totally upset if you felt a little bit bad.

Anyhow, please don't feel too bad. My FUPA (that's fat upper pubic area, for all you old-school shawties) and I forgive you. We really do. We don't hold grudges, just calories.

We do, however, request that you don't ever, not ever, like, NEVER again assume someone is pregnant, even if they are laying in the middle of a sidewalk screaming with labor pains. Here's a tip from the Ladies' Code of Social Correctness Handbook: it's ok to ask someone about their pregnancy ONLY if they have first mentioned that they are, in fact, pregnant. Otherwise, just assume it's a mommy muffin.


I have given birth to three children. My fourth is stubbornly refusing to leave my body, and I am well aware of this. Don't get me wrong, I'm no Mama June, but I do have a slight case of Dunlop Disease (you know, when your belly done lop over your pants?). My upper arms now sport a nice pair of Bingo Wings. 

All I can say is that I'm working on it. And I'm okay.

The "I'm okay" part is a big deal, because, you see, I used to fight an eating disorder. I was thin. I was svelte. I was fit. And I was miserable and horribly proud.

Then I had three kids. My body was not my own (and apparently still isn't). I was left with stretch marks galore, lumps where I shouldn't have lumps, and cellulite on my kneecaps. My muscle tone diminished. I grew tired and overrun and didn't have time to spend in the gym like I once did. And yes, I know you might have been the mom who stayed fit all through pregnancy and dropped the weight like a champ, but have some grace for the rest of us, please and thank you.

And I'm kind of a mess, physically. And I'm working on it. 

And it's okay.

You see, I have come to realize that I traded something temporary, my "perfect" body and my fitness bragging rights) for something eternal. Three children. Three souls. Three tiny humans who I hope and pray one day grow into mighty warriors for the kingdom of God. Three lives that I get to to shape and mold.

So do I shape and mold myself, my own body? In other words, do I care for myself physically and pursue health? 



What I pursue even more, and what I see as the best trade-off I'll ever have made, is growing my children up as best I can into honorable, noble, godly adults who live lives of integrity and purpose. And if I have a food baby for the rest of my life because I can't commit as many hours to the gym as I'd like (and because, let's be honest, mothers have no abs!), so be it.

"Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth." -- PSALM 127:3-4

I am making a conscious effort to focus on the things that matter. Things with eternal value.

If my food baby does decide, however, it's time to let go of her death grip around my middle section and succumb to the powers of the elliptical machine and arugula, I wouldn't be mad.

Just saying.

Feel free to laugh!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Year of ME

Happy 2015, dear friends! 

I hope your year is off to a rad-tastic start. If you're anything like me, you're probably up to your eyeballs in trying to keep up with your new year's I right?

I'm not actually up to my eyeballs in my resolutions. I'm more, how do you say, fully immersed. I don't normally make resolutions; doing so seems like an opportunity to add my lack of follow through to my #momfail list (I know you know what I mean, you moms-with-great-intentions-but-no-time-for-the-execution-of-those-great-intentions). However, this year is going to be different. Very different. 

As I approached the end of 2014 and did some self evaluation, I found myself depleted. Spiritually, physically, emotionally, and even financially depleted. I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that, as a mom, I give all day, every day, until I'm bled dry. I'm too frazzled for quality time with God. I'm too busy to exercise. I'm short with my kids and not so much fun to be around. I have even given until it hurts, financially, leaving our savings account pretty lean.

And I refuse to be this person again in 2015. I simply refuse. 

And so, in the least-narcissistic way possible, I have officially declared 2015 to be The Year of ME!

Yes, I know, this flow sheet might be a little over the top, and it's probably teetering on the edge of self-absorption in a non-funny way. However, I do think it's a little funny, mainly because I'm a little bit sick in the head.

I've realized that in an effort to nurture and protect my family, I have totally, completely put myself on the back burner. Ironically, in doing so, I have actually done more harm than good in my home. I'm impatient and frustrated. I start most of my days with my tank half-empty because I haven't been refueled by my Father. I'm tired and overweight, largely due to the fact that I don't make it a priority to take care of myself. 

My grandiose plan to be completely selfless has royally backfired.

The question I started asking myself toward the end of 2014 was simply this: 
What am I going to do about it?
Do I maintain life as it has been, because it's normal and it's easy? Do I hope and pray for things to be better while changing nothing in my routine? Do I sink into a depression because things just seem too far gone?

Or do I change directions?

I don't know about you, moms, but I am not willing to settle for mediocrity. I am not ready to become that mom who loses herself and in turn loses her influence in her family.

I refuse.

That's what The Year of ME is all about. It's not about neglecting the needs of my husband or my children. It's not about appearances, growing spiritually or losing weight or saving money in order to show the world that I have it all together. 'Cause I definitely don't have it all together! It's not about being happy, even. 

Instead, it's about a change in mindset, a change in daily operations. It's about understanding that when I am filled up spiritually and emotionally, when I am physically healthier, when I care for ME, I then have something to give away.

When I'm spiritually filled up, my wisdom, insight, and fruit can be poured out into the lives and hearts of my husband and children.

When I'm physically filled up, my body feels better, and my stress level is majorly reduced.

When I'm emotionally filled up, the way I deal with my husband and children is drastically improved. I can empathize instead of being self-consumed. I can choose kindness instead of frustration. 

When I'm financially contributing to our household, I feel like I am able to supplementally help my husband, and to give more without it breaking the bank.

When I'm healthy, I set an example of health for my children, which is a gift that paves the way for them to grow into healthy adults.

You might be wondering how I am going to accomplish all of this goodness. Well, for me it's fairly simple.

I am clearing my morning calendar. Literally clearing it. After I take my boys to preschool at 9am, I am giving myself four hours to take care of ME, Monday through Friday. I will go to the gym and not feel guilty, like I should be doing something more important. I will spend time curled up on my favorite chair with my Bible and a cup of coffee. I will make dinner, or as much of it as is possible, because I love to cook, and I don't allow enough time to enjoy it anymore. 

I might even take a nap.

God has given me such freedom in this that I'm not ashamed to admit it (even the nap part)! I think He is, dare I say, proud of me for refusing to settle.

My challenge to you, fellow moms and friends, is this: what do you need to do to make 2015 The Year of YOU? What areas of your life are suffering because you're not carving out time to care for yourselves? In what ways do you need to become a little more (gasp!) selfish? If something came to your mind immediately, I beg you to take it to the Lord and to ask Him what He would have you do to better care for YOU.

I also want to encourage you to read Proverbs 31:10-31 through the lens of a woman who makes caring for herself a priority. I did this recently and I was amazed at how my understanding of who this woman was changed (for the better, I think). I always read this passage through the eyes of a woman who gives until she has nothing left, pouring all of herself into her family. However, I think I was wrong. The woman outlined here doesn't neglect her family (she most definitely understands that they are important and a priority), but neither does she neglect herself. She cares for herself well. She even dresses herself in fine linen and cares about looking her best, which I happened to like!

I leave you with one promise, a commitment that comes from the depths of my heart:
I hereby promise to never, never, not ever, post selfies at the gym. Never. Even I am not that narcissistic. You're welcome.

Feel free to laugh!