Don’t Waste Your Courage On A Swimsuit

Maybe it’s too late to have this conversation, but I want to talk about swimsuits.

Swimsuit. What a word. I mean, it is practically synonymous with self-hatred talks to the mirror and the emotion of shame itself. Good grief.

Every summer, we try on the old one or drag ourselves out to find a new one. And it’s never fun. We are always miserable.

If the mirror tells us bad things, we dutifully renew the gym membership, even change our diets. And that’s not a bad thing. We probably should’ve done that anyway.

But it usually doesn’t help because it takes literally all the courage we have to suck in our guts, slip on the flip-flops with heels, you know, for a little extra length to our silhouette and actually walk into that pool.

I’m glad these girls are celebrating their bodies. But it’s okay if you’re not ready to do that. You don’t have to prove you’re courageous by walking around in spandex. For the love. You’re courageous for so many other reasons….
This year, I wondered Why. Why do we do this to ourselves? 

I mean, we are torturing our bodies and minds but for what? So we can walk around in essentially spandex undergarments, comparing ourselves to everyone else we see, not enjoying ourselves at all? 

I believe it was Eleanor Roosevelt who inspired all of us to “do one thing every day that scares you”. I’m just curious why we waste our brave act on a swimsuit.

In the past two years, I watched my body boomerang and balloon, growing a full belly with a baby inside, and then a shrinking belly with skin that didn’t know quite where to go.

I went from regular to large to regular-ish again, and in all of this changing, I realized what my body is really for. My body is for loving.

So if that’s true, what are we doing to ourselves every year, hitting the gym, changing diets, having hate talks to the mirror, starting some time during spring and ending some time by when we can hide out in sweaters again?

I mean, would you be friends with someone who talked to you the way you talked to you? Probably not. But I digress.

I don’t have the cure for all our self-hatred or shame. I mean, that is a much longer conversation. But I just think we don’t need to play by the arbitrary rules media writes. 

Our culture says, “Prove how brave you are and how much you love your body by wearing practically no clothes.” And I’m like, “Why? Do we know each other?”

Cause last time I checked, being mostly or all the way naked was for intimacy and trust, not a peep show for random strangers who I’ve never met. So what am I trying to prove in this publicly-worn spandex underwear anyway?

I say, I can be brave a million other ways. I can be brave in ways that move the world forward. I can be brave and love myself on my terms, not the terms of judgy strangers. 

Don’t get me wrong. I love when people love their bodies. And I want us all to use our courage. But I say, dont waste it on a swimsuit. Use your courage to apologize to your spouse or your best friend. Use your courage to apply for that job you think you’re not qualified for. Use your courage to take that medical missions trip you’ve always known you should take.

But don’t waste your perfectly good courage on a swimsuit. Wear the cover up or the jean shorts or the one piece or whatever. It’s all good. I will be right with you. Cause I’m using my courage to be a better mom. And that’s taking pretty much all of it. 

What will you do with all the extra courage you have? I can’t wait to find out. 

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These stories pump water

I love brand new ideas, really good ones I wish I thought of. Don’t you?

Well, here’s one for you. Have you heard of CausePub yet? If you haven’t, you’re about to.

I just wrote a story for CausePub, an organization creating books for a cause through group-publishing. [Click here to read the story and vote]. [Their current book project is called Couch Rebels, a collection of stories about folks who rebelled against horizontal life and got up to do something, to change something, even if the thing they changed was themselves. The concept is genius. Here’s how it works.

  • CausePub identifies a charity or cause they want their book to support
  • CausePub solicits stories from adventurers and story-tellers
  • After stories are submitted, they approve the stories and post them to their site
  • Story-writers solicit votes from friends and strangers
  • CausePub selects great stories they love with the most votes
  • The Couch Rebel book will be published as a Kindle eBook on August 14. So soon!
  • When anyone purchases the book, the proceeds are divided between the cause, the writers and basic overhead costs.
  • For Couch Rebel, 50% of the proceeds will benefit Blood: Water Mission. The breakdown is in the graphic below.

[Follow CausePub on Twitter here and find them on Facebook here.]

Here’s where I need your help: I wrote a story for CausePub, and I need your vote.

The story is below. It’s a story about a time when God met me and my seatmate on a plane to Atlanta. I didn’t see it coming. I love this story because it makes me like God even more. Please read and take a second to click VOTE. Thank you so much.

What God Thinks About You

“So, where are you headed?” I asked the young brunette next to me to end the awkward silence. She smiled the stranger smile, as if wondering how long this conversation might take. “Somewhere tropical. With friends.” She needed a little prodding, and I wondered if I should just lay off. Instead, I offered my own less glamorous destination: Atlanta.

I attempted to stir the conversation with more questions about her destination, responding with appropriate amounts of awe and jealousy. I hoped we would catch a common thread in our lives and the chatter would take off, giving me an opportunity to eventually talk with her about Jesus.

But no such luck. The conversation flailed, and we politely took up our books. I leaned into the window, pretending to read, but inside I argued with myself, knowing God might have bigger plans for this three-hour plane ride.

Eventually, my discomfort with silence grew larger than my desire to be well-mannered company. “What are you reading?” I finally inquired. She stammered a bit. “It’s a little unconventional. I’m not sure I want to say.” She tucked the pink book cover down toward her lap. I attempted to reassure her I didn’t have plans to judge, but I wasn’t going to push it. But what was she reading?

“I’m reading about artificial insemination,” she offered hesitantly, waiting for the verdict to read on my face as she turned the cover toward me. “I’m not married yet, but I’m 35. And I want to have a baby.”

Oh.

Click the button below to keep reading and vote.

Vote

Unafraid

Yes. To all of the above. One of my big goals this year is fearlessness. I was afraid to commit to it. (LOL.) But seriously, I really was. Being unafraid means potential loss, pain and other things we religiously aim to avoid.

So why put ourselves out there? Whenever I choose to risk, it’s because the pain of regret is bigger than the pain of failure.

May I remember the pain of regret only long enough to make the strong and fearless choice. And may we all live lives unafraid.

What’s the one thing holding you back from taking the leap into living unafraid?

{Let’s stay in touch. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter. And you can subscribe to the blog right here. Thanks.}

[Image cred: found this one from Em and Kat over at The Refined Woman. Love that blog. Those girls are too fun, sassy and they know how to dress. Stop by for a visit and get a few wardrobe ideas from these fearless gals.]

image

When it’s all up to you: the value of legacy

{If you found me through my article on Catalyst, welcome. And if you’re a regular or a visitor, please let me share my news: I had the privilege to be featured on Catalyst this week, talking about the church planting life and the value of raising up the legacy of the next generation of leaders. I’m hoping to have the opportunity to write more on church planting and leadership, something Josh and I are growing intimately familiar with. Thanks for reading. Please leave thoughts in the article comments section. Thanks. Now, without further ado…}

Church planting is like parenting. It’s exhausting, and in the beginning, you’re doing all the work. It’s a good thing you love your new, baby church.

But as it grows, it gains independence. It can tie its own shoes. And eventually, you get to go to the bathroom unaccompanied.

Yup, this is pretty much what it’s like in the beginning.

Okay, it’s not a direct analogy, but you’d be surprised by the similarities.

If you’re a church planter, you know: the policy writing, program development, volunteer training and recruiting, preaching and teaching, discipleship of new converts, janitorial duties, midnight counseling, Sunday bulletin design, weddings and funerals and hospital visits and baby dedications are simply all part of the job. Your job.

But this is only the infancy of the church, the stage of greatest need and dependence, and in many ways, the highest level of pastoral involvement. But it’s not supposed to stay this way.

After my son was born, we returned home from the hospital and tried to adjust to life without sleep. I remember hearing him cry one day and wondering when his mother was going to come and help him out. It was dreadful to realize I was the mother. Who gave someone with no parenting experience a new child who has no use of the English language?

Like parenting, church planting is a startling thrust into the fire. When we got the 2 AM call from a local hospital that the husband of one of our parishioners passed away suddenly, we searched about wildly. “Someone should call her pastor,” we muttered in our groggy stupor. And then we realized we were the pastors. We left our three week-old infant with my mom, who happened to be in town, and hurried to the hospital to comfort our friend.

Even if you’ve never comforted a new parent, cooked a casserole for a potluck, or provided the homily at a funeral service, suddenly, it’s up to you. You’re up.

Like parenting, it’s almost a given that whatever needs to be done will fall on you in the beginning. But that’s only the beginning.

Continue reading at CatalystConference.com.

I am the opposite of me

I am a paradox. And so are you.

We are clean and shiny in some areas of ourselves, yet disheveled disasters in others. The real estate of our souls and our yards is impeccable from one angle, and painfully unkempt from another.

How is it that we can live with coexisting brilliance and ignorance, with generous nobility and glaring narcissism?

Sometimes, I feel I’m an imposter, like the real me is the messy version, and the times I act right are just glitches, some kind of cosmic error where the light fell just right, and now the world thinks good of me.

But it feels like a balancing act, until I wreck it again.

So who am I? Can I be the bad and the good, at the same time?

Am I summed up in my moments of fear, panic and rejection or in my faith and courage?

Am I a scared, helpless child, wordless with shame, or a ferociously brave teacher who lives to inspire?

Am I all the times I hate to be alone, or the times I am frantic to get away?

Am I the girl who can’t find her keys or the idea-generating leader bent on improving her environment?

Am I the friend you can count on for everything, or the friend who will let you down?

Am I the blessings and encouragement I bestow, or the curses I hiss beneath my breath?

Am I the rage and anger I release on my very last nerve with my child, or am I the patient nurturer, singing this same child to sleep?

Am I the forgiveness I extend or the grudges I feed?

Am I all the times I disappoint or the times I keep my word?

Am I the girl who finds showers annoying or the girl who can’t stand dirty feet?

Am I everything I do right or everything I do wrong?

Am I the desperate woman wanting children I don’t have yet or the grateful mother to the one I do have?

It doesn’t seem possible, but I am all these things. It’s the conundrum of me. I can stop covering it up now, stop holding my breath so people will think of me as cleaned up and together.

The truth is, I am holy and I am full of sin. I am a work in progress. But at this exact moment, I am the good and the bad. 

I am all the things I’ve screwed up irreparably, the words I want back, and the genius and generosity in between. I am everywhere I’ve been and everywhere I’m going. I am my failure and my success. I am what I know and what I don’t know. It’s part of me. 

I just need to hit “Accept” on all this stuff, on the easy to love and the impossible to love parts of me. Cause it’s all me, and I’m not going anywhere.

Anger management: how it’s going out here

Two weeks ago, I took a crazy challenge. But it was about time.

Inspired by the brave mom at The Orange Rhino, I committed not to yell at my son for 365 days. With certain caveats, like safety and distance, of course. That was 14 days ago.

no-yelling

So now it’s confession time, right? How have I actually been doing? Well, let’s just say I’m only 10 days in to this thing. May I defend myself? Well, I’m going to.

On Saturday, July 6th, we were visiting my family. My son, in true toddler form, turned into quite a mess from an afternoon of play. So into the tub he went. Being an opportunist, I decided to also wash my hair under the faucet while he took his bath. And what do you think I saw floating toward me as I rinsed my hair? Poo. That’s right. A small, but definitely-there piece of poo. In the bathtub. Where you’re supposed to get clean!

I was upset, disgruntled, flustered, not quite yelling, but I was close. Out went the toddler and down went the water. My hair was now sopping wet so I sat the tot down on the potty so he could finish his business and tried to complete my hair washing, this time in the sink, which is a less likely place to find poo. I peered around the corner to check on him, and at just that moment, he plunged his foot into the toilet. Just to spite me, I’m sure of it.

And then I lost it. I yelled. It was a violent act of regression, and I knew I was going to have to come out here and tell you I did it. But I did.

So the next day I started over. There have been two poo-in-tub incidents since that day, which makes three since I’m counting, but guess what? I’ve responded well to both, no yelling, just redirecting. And whining. Because eewwwww, gross.

I hope you don’t leave my alone on my commitment, but I also promise to keep you updated every couple week so you know I’m not faking it over here. I’m a mom who needs help, but I’m sure trying.

Here’s to more days and years of self-control! And kids who don’t poop in tubs.

No one notices the pillars

No one notices the pillars.

Take a look at the White House. The facade, the grandeur, the elegance, the sweeping landscape. The protesters in front. You can feel the history. But you probably walk right past the pillars.

They cast a lovely shadow, create an ambience to be experienced, but so often we look right through them while they stand at attention in a thankless work. As we enjoy the view, we forget if these essentials supports cracked, buckled or vanished, the place would topple.

This is true for those who support our organizations, our churches, businesses, non-profits. We take great pride in our out-front leaders, the big personalities, the charismatic types who lead rallies and bring in all the fundraising.

pillar

But what about the pillars, the ones who stand behind, the last to leave, the ones with toilet brushes in hand? These are the pillars we walk right past. We don’t appreciate the pillars who stand beside us, who hold the whole place up with their relentless tenacity, who day in and day out take the sideline view to make the vision a reality.

A few days ago, our church said farewell to a family of pillars. They were rarely in front. Their names weren’t plastered on walls. Some people didn’t know them well. But they propped up our community with prayer, guidance and support. They showed up in the beginning, when there wasn’t much to show for the labor, when pieces were hardly in place. 

And they stayed. Because that’s what pillars do.

When pillars are people, sometimes we have to say goodbye when a new season comes along. But inevitably, within a healthy family of people, whether a business or organization, someone else will step in. Will become the new pillar. Will forsake notoriety and fame to build up and support something greater than themselves.

So here’s to the pillars. I see you. I am so thankful for you. May we all see the pillars in our lives, and give them the praise they are due.

A reason to purge

My dresser drawers barely close. I fold, stuff and shove, but they don’t stay shut. Fabric peers out from the top. Too much stuff.

Not my drawers, but they look similar.

I fancy myself a Purger, a lady who lives light, who doesn’t value things too much. But how can that be true when my drawers are half open, contents spilling out?

Mornings are usually a little frantic for me, often because I hit Snooze too many times. But mostly because of all the choices. Too many choices I feel compelled to keep because “What if I want to wear that shirt some day?” (I’m giving away my hoardiness, aren’t I?)

I talked about decision-making last week, and gave a short list of prescriptives for making choices. I am going to stand by all that stuff I said. But this week, I’m working it out. And you know what I found? Waffling in a decision isn’t only from lack of confidence. For me, it comes from too many options.

Whenever I pack for a trip, I take too much. I never wear all of it. But I always think to myself I’m so glad I had options. But am I?

I’ve taken a few trips where I only had a pair of jeans and a couple shirts. I had to get creative or get redundant. But it felt liberating not to try fifteen ways to wear a romper before deciding I don’t want to wear it at all. Like I did today.

You know the feeling, standing in the laundry soap aisle. I just need something that cleans clothes, but I have to choose between something that cleans clothes with fragrance or without, something that cleans clothes that makes them smell like clean clothes, or summer, or fresh-baked cookies. Seriously? I just need my clothes not to smell like sweat and look like I rolled in mud. Why all the choices?

Sometimes I just want it to be simple. Like someone should tell me what to do. Or give me only two selections. I don’t think I can handle more than that.

Now I love my free will and all. I’m not voting for a drone brain implant. But I know my life would be way easier if I held out fewer options to myself.

So thus begins my purge. My drawers need to shut, and that’s where I will start. My motivation won’t come by imagining my clothing will outfit the “less fortunate” because I’m going to give them to Salvation Army and a college girl is going to find them. And she is probably not poor.

But I will feel better. Less clingy, less needy. More concerned with the real stuff of life. The Intangibles.

We all need to get rid of something, lighten the load so we can make decisions with ease. Cause who needs to spend half the day just making up her mind? Not me.

What do you need to get rid of in order to make your life lighter and smoother? How are you going to decide what goes and what stays?

Also, if you have a suggestion for where my clothes should go, I’d be happy to hear it.

Anger Management for Moms: the 365 Day Challenge

I can relate.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about anger. My anger. The kind that fills me up with sadness and regret. The kind I dive into in the moment and feel I’m drowning in the next.

Since I wrote about it, read about anger from other moms and started paying attention to my volume and emotion, I’ve been doing better.

It’s amazing what a little awareness can do.

About a year and a half ago, a mom blogger at Orange Rhino got caught yelling at her kids. (I can’t remember when but I feel like I’ve been there. It’s not pretty.) She decided enough was enough, and committed not to tell at her kids for a year. If she yelled, the 365 days started over.

That’s quite a challenge. And a brave woman.

She outlines the varying levels of volume in our voice as we move from a whisper to a raging scream. Her cut-off is level 4, the “oopsie snap”, the moment when “your blood pressure is building” and maybe you’re overreacting a little. That’s nice. She gives herself some grace.

Crazy, wild-eyed yelling is out. No matter how tired she is. No matter how bad the kids are.

It’s parental self-control at its finest. I love this commitment, and I am going to make it as well.

365 sounds like a long time, but when do I want to start yelling at my kids again? I don’t. Ever. So setting the deadline far away improves my chances of forming new habits. I will either sail through the year with perfect performance, which means the light has come on, or I will be required to start over by bad behavior. Either way, I win because I am forced to learn alternate ways to deal with anger.

So here is my commitment. 365 of no yelling, no nasty snaps or raging screams. I think I know what these are, but I may have to define them more as I go. Orange Rhino’s rule of thumb: If you think you yelled, you did.

So what do I want from parenting? I want relationship. Not zombie, docile, obedient children…

Why yelling or not yelling really matters? Two big reasons:

1. Because proving parents can control themselves as a higher priority over controlling their kids is something we must demonstrate to our children. I must not try to control them or they will learn that people can be controlled. It’s only a matter of figuring out how to do it. I want my children to demonstrate self-control, not others-control.

2. Protecting my children from my sinful responses is essential if I want to guard their hearts. I want to keep the relationship open between us and “not provoke them to anger”, as Paul challenges fathers, and I believe all parents, to avoid doing. I provoke anger when I am angry and out of control. I am powerful enough to mold a tender heart into an angry, defensive heart with my words and expectations. I have to use my power to build and not destroy.

So what do I want from parenting? I want relationship. Not zombie, docile, obedient children without opinions who only want to please me to avoid my rage. Or the opposite, raging hearts who only have their parents to model the handling of their emotions, children without self-control who feel rejected and unsure of their boundaries.

Dear God, help me avoid that fate. It’s painful even to imagine what my children could grow to be if I don’t truly learn this.

I will continue to discuss these emotions and handling them better as I discover new ways, or as I run into challenges. I know now I will need to outline specific ways of dealing with anger so I can be prepared, not surprised.

Until then, here are a few excellent posts on doing motherhood well from some of my favorite bloggers:
Sarah Bessey
Ann Voskamp
Lisa Jo Baker

May you respond with love and self-control, and may you live without regret every day of your life.

Do you have skills or suggestions on how to manage mommy madness? Please share them below. I would love to learn. Thank you.

A squishy, floaty, sturdy, heavy thing called Love

Only the things done in love matter.

Only the things done in love weigh enough to stamp eternity. Everything else just floats off the surface as vapor.

It’s not the act. It’s the intent.

Love might wear you out, but it doesn’t get tired that easily.

Love lets you be where you are right now, knowing you won’t always be here. It knows This too shall pass.

Love is lighter than gravity with a terrible memory for the bad stuff people do.

Love is more a grandmother and less a police officer.

Love doesn’t look down in vulnerable moments. It just looks you square in the eye. And it doesn’t flinch at all that you’re uncomfortable.

Love chuckles at the past, beams bright toward the future and sits perfectly content in this moment. Because its a pretty good one.

Love isn’t in a hurry, doesn’t wish it was somewhere else. Love can silence the phone and taste dinner.

Love likes itself, doesn’t wish it was someone else. Love takes good care of itself, but isn’t self-obsessed. Love doesn’t belittle itself because it doesn’t need your compliments. And it’s confident enough to care about you, to really listen, to squat down next to you in the dirt and feel all you feel.

Love looks past sour, crusty shells to warm, squishy insides. And knows just the words to safely let the guts out.

Love listens because the stories are the people, and the people always matter.

Love can tell you you’re wrong so kind you won’t feel the sting. You will just be grateful. 

Indeed, only the things done in love matter.

Jesus is love. If you don’t know him yet, introduce yourself.