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A Hand Up

I am 25 years old, and I still get caught living according to the past. I still believe lies I learned as a child.

You're looking chubby, so you're not worth quite as much as you were a few months ago.

There is still more to must not be doing enough. You are inadequate.

You are responsible for everyone and everything to get done...and get done right.

That thing you said [on your blog] might have been taken the wrong way. You better explain. Are you sure you want people to know who you really are? If they know, they might not like you.

I wrote quite a bit this weekend. When I wasn't talking with my girls or preparing meals in the kitchen, I was mostly scrawling thoughts in my little striped notebook. I was trying to write the tension away, trying to unravel the knots in my stomach, in my shoulders, my chest. I was being honest- really honest- with myself.

There I was-in the middle of God's awe-inspiring creation, with 2 straight days just to spend with my girls. Two days to love them and hug them and listen to them.I felt grateful for that time. But my heart was hurting and asking to be tended, so I did that, too.

On Sunday night, I cried. I cried into the chest of the best person I know to dig up major heart dirt in front of. I cried and I admitted, and then he spoke true things. Not truth-mixed-with-lies I'd been allowing to vice-grip themselves onto my heart. Truth. When the tears subsided, and I was a little closer to being able to breathe through my nose, I spoke a soft, "It's silly to live according to the past isn't it?"

My incredible husband confirmed that it is. And all over again, I saw freedom.

Sometimes (and what I mean by "sometimes" here is "most days") I need to be reminded of what that looks like, feels like, sounds like. Because I am free, but I wasn't always that way. And sometimes I forget who I am and what I've been given. I forget, I trudge back to my old jail cell and just sit there...until I begin to remember that what goes on outside that cell is life. Vibrant colors and changing seasons and crisp air. And sometimes, to be quite honest with you, I really need a hand to get up and out and back to the beautiful mountain trail I've come to call home.

Appearances are deceiving sometimes. I'm not (and you are not!) really alone on that trail, without anyone to help me up when I slip down the rocky parts. Ever.


On Body Assessments

What is it about some people that allows them to say whatever they want without concern?

I think sometimes it's discomfort. Discomfort and difficult with being in that discomfort.

I have some beautiful friends who recently gave birth to adorable babies. During their pregnancies, they heard over and over,"you're so big!" One of them said she doesn't think much of it, because she knows people say things like that due to a shortage of anything else to talk about. Rather than find comfort in silence, some people must say something, even if it is a rude something.

Some of my teenage girls have no shame in making comments about my body.  "You have a big butt." "You're skinny." "You have child-bearing hips." It is a strange feeling when someone assesses your body like it is a car or a toy..or some other object. But I have since realized that many of my girls are still learning to be comfortable in their own bodies. They're not quite there yet (some days, I'm not quite there, but I'm there a lot more days than I was as a teenager!), so they're looking around, comparing, taking notes, making comments.

I have family members who also make comments about my body. Some of them insist that I have lost weight every time I see them. I can assure you that this is not possible, but those same words continue to come out of their mouths with every reunion. It is possible that they are not quite sure what to say to me after months apart and  one big bear hug. Maybe they don't know what to ask. Maybe it is easier to open a conversation with  a comment about appearance because it is right on the surface, calling out, "here's something easy to talk about. Pick me!"

I've done it. I compliment my girls on their hair cuts, shoes, and shirts. I try to do it especially when those choices seem to reflect what they really like because I think self-reflection in the form of fabric and buttons and necklaces is the best kind of fashion there is- but I still do it. I know it's easier to start with, "you look great in that tank top!" than dive right into the juicy stuff. And let's face it- everyone could use a compliment or two. Even about appearances.

Years ago, when  undergoing an involuntary body assessment, I took comments to heart. (I have received comments about my body from the time I was 10.  Anyone else?) I dieted in the name of finding approval and acceptance. Now, I'm not sure I get fewer body-assessing comments than I did even in junior high. In fact, I think I might get more. But unlike then, I feel beautiful. When I was in junior high, I was told I'd be beautiful when I grew up (not then, mind you. When I grew up.) by two different women on two different occasions. And you know? Maybe they were right. Maybe I just needed some time to get comfy in my own skin.  

I now know that those comments I receive(d) have very little to do with me. They mostly have to do with the insecurities of the person who is saying them. That knowledge gives me a little more room for understanding, grace, and love...even for those who have no problem analyzing my body right in front of me.


Life Lessons from a Germ-infested Girl

Two life lessons are staring me in the face.1. I've gotta know my body and who I was created to be, and respect that. Comparisons (to other people or "how I normally am) just don't work.

2. My personal decisions impact people around me.

Last Thursday, when I said I wasn't feeling well, I wasn't. I went to bed soon after posting, woke up too early, was unable to fall asleep due to feeling so yucky,  but went to work because Friday's are the easiest days in my workweek, and because, well, I just had a cold, right? Or allergies. I did dishes, chopped bananas to keep them from going bad (and use in banana soft serve later), made soup, went apple picking....and then I was worn out. Every inch of me, exhausted.

Saturday, I repeated the same kind of slower-paced activity while still trying to do too much for my broken-down body. I went to a yoga class (my first in I don't know how long), stopped by a launch events for a satellite church my dad is in charge of  and visited with some friends, stopped by my church's community center,  and went on an outing with my girls (where I ran into more friends.) People  made comments and asked about my voice (which is very reminiscent of a talking frog at the moment). Some proclaimed, "it's allergies!" Some said,"you don't sound good."

I returned home with the same fatigue. Even my eyes hurt. I felt badly that I wasn't doing dishes, laundry, the many other household tasks that "need" to be done, spending time with people, or at the very least, writing cards. But I was spent. I didn't do a whole lot of getting up from my futon for the rest of the night (until I upgraded to my bed.)

This morning, I still didn't feel great. But I had a Sunday School class to attend to, so my husband made the executive decision that," we will go to the outpatient clinic"  right afterwards. Normally, I fight any suggestions to visit a doctor's office, but my this morning, I was just so tired of feeling the way I do that I eagerly accepted the idea.

As I write this, it seems kind of obvious that maybe I should have stayed away from people all this time so as to avoid passing on the nasty germs I am carrying around.  I honestly thought I was making the right decision by trying to meet up with people as much as I could before my body gave out each day.

 It seems that a lot of people just soldier on when they aren't feeling well.  They truck through allergies and illnesses and bouts with fatigue. They get lots done, they provide listening ears, write thoughtful emails and cards. My co-small group leaders, Kristen and Jaimie, do it all. I call myself busy, but they are out of my league. And they still find time to spend with our girls. They still have a hug for me whenever I see them (which at least I have had the foresight to decline in the past few days due to "germs.") I kind of thought I just needed to buck up, be tough,  and do as much as I could until I couldn't do anymore.

There's nothing I really would have wanted to cut out of my past few days. I really wanted to spend time with all of those people. Relationships are the best parts of life, you know? But in the process of trying to do "everything" until I could not physically handle anymore activity, I realized today-at last!- that my efforts may have ended up doing more harm than good (by spreading germs around).

I am hoping no one gets sick through any contact they've had with me. I am secluding myself in my home until it's safe to come out. Which kind of drives me nuts. I like to be busy...normally. But. It seems like my body's not feeling up to "normal" quite yet. I just need to respect that.


Tuesday Afternoon Confessions

 1.This is how my best mornings begin.2. I have heard (and read) that some people think that Jesus and Bible are crutches that people who say they believe in them use to lean on. I'm not quite sure if that is a negative thing, but I find no offense in such an assumption.

3. I really like my coffee. See that Bible up there? Reading it brings me peace and clarity. But that coffee? To be quite honest, it just might be on my list of top 5 favorite objects.I just love to sip a good cup of coffee while writing, reading, or catching up with a friend. My only real motivation in limiting my consumption has been that I might become pregnant. I haven't become pregnant which has melted my resolve to limit my caffeine consumption recently.

4. I'm not really cut out to be a small group leader. To steal a quote from a member of my church family, I'm "just a beggar showing other beggars where to find food." I'm a mess.I'm moody, I often fail to think before I speak, I lose focus, and mostly see the world through my own eyes. But I love my girls. I want to see them thrive. And to quit because I feel inadequate seems a little foolish .My girls are just too important.5. When my husband and I go somewhere together in public, we often split ways. At church, I am usually sitting without him while he helps lead the music. Afterwards, I spend my time hugging, laughing with, and being honest with my church family. I don't really keep track of Tim, unless it is time to go home. At youth group, we sometimes tease each other, but I spend most of my time with the girls, and he spends most of his time with the boys. We usually split ways at family gatherings, too. We don't enjoy the same forms of exercise. We don't have the same taste in food or books.

But the truth? I really, really love him. Nobody captures my heart or knows my heart like my husband. Tim and I often split ways because we are a team, and I treasure that. We always, always come back together. And I treasure that even more.6.I don't feel the way I thought I would about not being pregnant yet. Sometimes I am disappointed and sometimes I feel like there is something wrong with me. But after I sort through that, I often realize that there is much good to be had in not being a mama yet. I've learned lots through the fact that some of my plans have not worked out, and Tim and I have some other ideas. Maybe God does, too.


The Beach + My Kids

Well, Hello!This week, I'm at the beach with a few junior highers, my husband, and two high-school-graduates-turned-camp-counselors.

My junior high girls are climbing out of their elementary school shells quickly, dipping their toes in the water just between childhood and adolescence. I am enjoying their questions, their slightly cautious but daring spirits, and the time I am able to spend asking them questions, learning about who they are.

Our ("our" refers to "mine and Tim's." I use possessive words because the group I'm with is considered family.) graduate-counselors are  fantastic. They've been spending a lot time loving the kids intentionally. The kids love them. And? The fact that they are older teenagers who love these kids without reserve and without an agenda is so valuable. (On a me-centered note, I'm loving the extra time with Dan and Danielle. Loving it.)

 I've observed that:

  • I really enjoy long walks on the beach. However cliche, it's true, and I did not know it before this week.
  • Mini-golf can be fun. I hated it up until last night, when I went with my kids. And had a blast.
  • Junior highers are in a difficult place. They are still children, but they're becoming teenagers. They need a little freedom, a little encouragement, but sometimes? They need to be babied. Just a little bit.
  • I am no longer paranoid about saying or doing the "wrong" thing when I'm with my girls (and boys). My time with them seems to be more and more about being intentional about truly loving when I am with them than doing everything "right."
  • True love has many different faces.
  • Sometimes, it's just a good idea to bite my tongue.
  • Many junior highers want an adventure. Some of them just need an invitation.

Many more words to come. But not right now. Right now? I'm going to go live life with my girls.


Pressing On

I'm at a healthy weight. (I actually suspect I've lost a few pounds due to all the plants-mostly beans and produce- I've been eating.)

My clothes fit.

I've been able to stick to a regular yoga practice.

I eat really well most of the time.

I genuinely enjoy my life.

So what's the big deal about a little comfort eating?

It's them.

My girls.

It's the girls I love to hug, listen to, laugh with, cry with, and otherwise share life with. It's the girls I am able to take on special eat, to walk, to practice yoga, to cook. It's the little girl next door who wants a (long!) story read to her, wants a hug, wants to learn to jump rope.

While I am becoming someone who is accepting of herself, loves her body, and knows she is capable and loved, maybe some of my girls haven't quite put both feet into that particular boat yet. Maybe some of them need a little push. Of course, the qualities of being honest, open, and human are good and necessary. I want those things. I know my girls don't expect me to be perfect.


I want to be someone who encourages a healthy mind, a healthy body, a healthy spirit, and a healthy soul. I want to be someone who has those things. My girls? They are beautiful, sometimes in completely different ways, and they spur me on to keep going, working, analyzing. Their very existence encourages me to be better.

So I press on.

"I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back." -Philippians 3:12-14


Courage in the Car

Would you follow this girl anywhere?

I wouldn't.

Yet sometimes people do. Because I've been where they want to go. Because I have a few pointers. A map, even. When I stop to think about this, I feel a little scared. Freaked out, if you will. (I mean, did you see that picture?!)

Yesterday, my small group and I went to my co-leader, Mama Swan's, house after church. For a lot of food, movies, conversation, and seven hours together. (Not that we were planning on seven; we just really like to be together.)

But first? We had to get there.

And in order to get there, two cars followed me. Two.

I'll admit I tense up whenever someone wants to follow me, especially in a car. Even if I've been to said destination several times, without written directions. What if I forget how to get there? What if I lose somebody? I usually feel like I have little idea what I'm doing and wonder why someone would ask me to lead. Do I look capable to you?

But somebody's got to lead, so I say yes. Sometimes we have to turn around, sometimes I make a (frantic!) phone call. But we get there. We always get there.



Do you know who I love?

My girls.

I try to love them individually, not collectively, although my term for "them" suggests differently. I fail all the time.

I'm not sure if it's the weather, or the time of day, or the fact that I'm in weekend mode on a Thursday afternoon when I have to go back to work in less than 2 hours, but I am semi-seriously considering laying a few things out each year for my girls. Because I desperately want to see them blossom, and I don't want any perception of anything I said, did, or didn't say or do to get in the way of that.

What if I were to give out a disclaimer?
Here are a few things I might say:

1. Sometimes I don't know what you need. And although I know you might be going through something difficult, and you might not know how to tell me, could you please try? Because I'm trying to dig into a lot of girls' lives, and I miss a whole lot of signals in the process.

2. Depending on my day (or week or month), what has been said to me previously, or something else going on in my life, there are times when I cannot handle complaints about something my husband said or did. I try to be objective, but in the end, he has the best part of my heart a human can have, and there are times when I will be a little (a lot?) defensive. Please don't take this as a personal assault.

3. My absence from your game/play/party/concert doesn't mean I didn't want to be there. When I was choosing my own hours as a substitute teacher, I went to a lot more of my girls' events, and I still would have liked to attend more. Sometimes there are other commitments that get in the way of keeping a schedule that might seem ideal.

4. I'm human. I say thoughtless things and make lots of mistakes. I have bad days, and sometimes I'm grumpy. But overall? I love you. I try to get better at loving, but I love you imperfectly because I'm not Jesus. So when I fail you, try, please try not to let it rock your world too much. Try not to let it get you down. Try not to let it lead you to make big conclusions about life. Because I'm just a person who wants to hike with you on the best path.

And if you're ok with all that?
If you're ok with learning from and teaching someone a little older than you,
if you're ok with acting as a team to scale walls and keep from tumbling down steep inclines,
if you're ok with silence while the sunsets, keepings secrets, and digging for treasures, well, then,
we're going to have a grand adventure.


For the Love of Life and Katie Jane

Katie, did you see that I wore a tiara on my wedding day?

It's true. You and I have more in common than you might realize.

Several weeks ago, I skipped my ordinary yoga class to visit Hello, Bluebird with
Danielle, Dayna, and Steph

Not only did I end up having a great time with 3 beautiful ladies that I love, but I also discovered this.

Some of my favorites?

And just because it reminds me so much of Katie