Archives for June 2012

Death by Tan

“Bend forward and pose like Arnold,” Maggie instructed.

In a grimace of sheer humiliation, I leaned forward and did my best body-builder imitation. 

Maggie pointed the spray gun at my shoulders and released a cool blend of brown shellac and air.

It was my first ever spray tan and I was standing in my underwear in a little tanning tent feeling like a big goof.  But then I thought about exposing my Colgate white butt cheeks at the pool this weekend in La Quinta I remembered my motivation.

I am what most people call a fair girl.  I have naturally blond hair and blue eyes with a spatter of freckles dusting my nose.  I burn, I peel and even after a summer by the pool I am at my best a gentle shade of cream.

Self-tanner is my friend in the summer.  Usually I do a mystic-tan for big events, but because this weekend is my fortieth birthday I thought I would go all out for the personal touch.

And Kolby’s pre-school teacher (also a spa owner) gave me good deal.  How could I refuse?

Maggie looked at me and smiled.  “Now go home and sleep and take a shower in the morning.  Half of this will come off and you won’t be this dark.  Don’t be scared when you look in the mirror.  It won’t be this dark.  I promise.”

I turned and glanced in the mirror and almost fell over.  My body looked smoking tan but my face looked like the scary tan lady who took her kid to the tanning bed.

I looked like an Aborigine with blond hair. 

How could I go home like this?  I put on my glasses, paid her and skulked out.

When I got home I ran up to my room and grabbed a wipey and tried to undo the damage to my brown face.  My daughter Faith came upstairs and in her usual Jr. High tactfulness said, “Ummm, do you think she did a good job?”

I ran downstairs as my son and husband returned home.  Kyle walked in and started laughing, “Mom, who screwed up your face?”

Kolby stared and looked confused.  And then I started crying brown tears of shame.

My sweet husband calmed me down and stared at my tan legs and arms. “I like it,” he exclaimed.  It will be better tomorrow. 

Leave it to my darling man to talk me off the cliff.

I woke up this morning at 4:45am and showered.  And fortunately, Maggie’s prediction came true.  All the icky brown washed down the drain leaving me with a pretty golden glow.

Score this round    Sam -10    Vanity +10





The Last days of “Thirty-Something”

I have seven more days to claim status as a “thirty something” before I tumble over the ominous hill to reach forty.

Holy Cow…Me 40?  I’m only 32 (in my mind)

I’ve got some mixed emotions on the matter. 

On the downside, the big Four-O sounds old.  People start telling you look good for your age instead of you just look good.  My metabolism has apparently nose-dived again and all of a sudden I get body aches when I overdo it running or lifting weights at the gym.  My heart is getting cranky and gravity and I are in a fierce battle for my perky parts.

I have a son starting High School for crying out loud.  Somehow this really makes me feel really ancient.  I remember High School.  It was only a few years ago…right? 

But as my body slowly decays, fortunately my brain and spirit are just getting warmed up. 

Age has ushered in contentment, something that always eluded me when I was young.  I adore where I am at, who I am with and the people and relationships surrounding me.  It feels so good to stop striving.  I can retire the heels and stop killing myself to be the “hot girl, the perfect mom, or the super-dee-duper Christian.”  I think I’ll settle for simply being me –imperfections, quirkiness and all.

But I don’t think you just arrive in these places.  It takes about forty years (give or take) to get there.

It takes suffering and pain and heartache to appreciate the simplicity and beauty of life.  It means getting on your knees and crying out to God for understanding and then getting up the next day and the next day and doing it all over again. 

And then one day you wake up and you are thirty-nine and you realize God is everywhere around you and has blessed you immeasurably more than you could ever ask or imagine.

Every day I get to sit down and write which makes me deliriously happy.  I get to walk outside each morning and smile and chat with my beloved neighbors and on Sundays (and lots of other days) I can visit the church I helped plant with my husband. I have a glorious daughter with a sweet and happy nature like sunshine, a strapping son who has allowed me to be his biggest fan cheering him on from the sidelines, a toddler who takes Dora bubble baths with me every night and falls asleep in my arms, and best of all…a husband who would slay dragons for me.  I have a wonderful family and dear friends who would travel all the way to the desert to toast me on my birthday.

It doesn’t get much better than this.

I think I like forty.  Saggy earlobes and all…

Do you have a big milestone coming up?



Christians and the Birth-Control Controversy

Two weeks before my wedding I paid a visit to the lady doctor.  She poked and probed me and then asked me, “What sort of birth control do you use?”

“None,” I replied.

“What?  Aren’t you afraid of getting pregnant?” she suggested in a horrified tone.

“Ummmm…no, I haven’t had sex with my fiancé, so it hasn’t been a big issue.”

The doctor looked at me and frowned.  “Well now that you are getting married, are we putting you on the pill?”

“Nope, we want kids.” I said.

“Ok, after the kids.  Then what?” she asked.

And then I shrugged and sighed and shook my head.   Because the truth is I get confused about the birth control issue and Christian evangelicalism.  It’s a big blurry gray area of dividing ideologies and as time passes even my own paradigm shifts with new revelations, not to mention my own painful experience with different approaches.

What I do know is abortifacient contraception is not an option for me anymore. 

Recent evidence suggests abortifacient contraception –the Intrauterine Device (IUD), the day after pill, and even the regular birth control pill distort the natural design of conception.

So if you believe (like I do) that conception begins when an egg and a sperm meet and a spark of life ignites, then who am I to play God and get in the way of his plan?

For a great in-depth look at this topic -read Albert Mohler’s, “Can Christians Use Birth Control?

But even without this controversial argument, every method of birth control I’ve ever used (besides a diaphragm, condom, or family planning) has always screwed up my body so much, that if I’m honest, I innately knew it wasn’t good for me.

The truth is birth control is just like all of those drugs advertised on TV.  Your initial symptom might go away –but beware of the twenty more issues you will now have… Like all those poor Propecia guys, who tried to grow more hair but now can’t get an erection.  Personally, if I was a dude I’d rather be bald!

And so it goes with birth control and the promise of consequence free sex.

When I took the pill in college, I not only gained weight but got so depressed I hid in a corner curled in a ball weeping.  Then I tried Depo-Provera -a nightmare of synthetic chemicals injected in my behind.  The side effects were so bad it was questionable if I would ever even want to have sex again.  I gained weight, became severely anemic and could barely get out of bed for three months –definitely not sexy!

Then there was the abortion I hid (like all my friends did in their early twenties).  But ironically, Planned Parenthood forgot to tell me and thousands of other young women about the consequences.  They didn’t mention how almost fifteen years later the recognition of what I had done would hit me like a tsunami, drowning me with devastating waves of grief and sorrow I then had to process.  Somehow I repressed the emotions long enough to justify my behavior –until I couldn’t anymore and the pain seeped out like a hidden vault of toxic tears.

All of my efforts to play God with birth control and taking life had detrimental consequences to my body and my heart.  It’s the reason I champion life now and speak to teen moms and parents of unplanned pregnancy. 

Pain changed my paradigm about birth control and life.

Maybe if we saw sex in marriage as a gift and as a potential life creating union it would mean more to us.  Maybe if we looked at children as a unique treasure and not as an imposition it would alter our selfish tactics.  Maybe we should question the price of “sexual freedom” and think twice about destroying our bodies for the sake of promiscuity.

As for my husband and I, we have chosen to use natural family planning methods.  For us, this makes sense with our belief in God’s design.

But it hasn’t been an easy road to navigate and there are no pat answers. 

What do you think about the birth control issue within the Christian evangelical realm?

One Thing

I expected to see thousands of screaming doe-eyed girls, long lines and expensive parking (a whopping $20) at the boy band concert I sold both my arms and legs to attend with my daughter Faith last night.  I knew I would be deaf by the time I drove home, cringe at the over-priced Diet Coke and delight in my little girl swooning over Harry Styles.

I brought an Advil for the headache I anticipated and psyched myself up to be the cool mom for one evening –difficult for me at best.

I laughed at the banners –“Snog Me Harry” and the glittery t-shirts saying “Mrs. Nials to-be.”  One clever girl threw a walkie-talkie on stage and got the band to chat with her.

I planned and expected many things for our girl’s night out, but the one thing I didn’t expect to encounter was a strong brush with humility –from the band One Direction of all places.

And even this morning it lingers.

One Direction –the boy band de jour –was surprisingly, one of the more grateful groups of young men I’ve seen in a very long time.

These boys don’t take their success lightly.  They weren’t ego-maniacs despite their Beatles-like power to hypnotize little girls.  Even while panties and bras were flying on to the stage –they laughed and poked and teased each other with sweet self-deprecation. 

And fortunately for all of us parents who chaperoned –these lads had pipes and could dance and wail and brilliantly light up the stage.

But most importantly –they thanked the crowd no fewer than thirty times.  Each young man (five in all) took multiple opportunities to dote on their fans, appreciate their fans, encourage, affirm and edify their fans…over and over and over.

In a world of people pushing and striving for the spotlight, it was deeply refreshing to see rock stars who willingly give it away.

And their startling humility made an impact and made me think about my own personal thank-o-meter.

Do I thank people enough?

Probably not.

Maybe it’s time for a tune-up.  The truth is I want my life to be less about me and more about others.  I want to diminish (my ego) to allow others to flourish.  I want to be thankful for every friend, fan, like and reader.

I want it to be less about me and more about you.

So, here we go.

Thank you.  Thank you for reading the words I write.  Thank you for giving me a chance to pursue my dreams.  Thank you for commenting and loving and encouraging me on the overwhelmed days, the achy heart days and all of the ordinary underwhelming days.

Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you!

I think One Direction has really figured out the “One Thing” –HUMILITY.

Do you have someone in your life you need to thank today?


Muno’s Heart

“OK Kolby, what does daddy for a job?” I asked my two-year old in an attempt to teach her some basic family information.

“Ummmm…daddy make pants!” Kolby replied earnestly.

“Close sweetie!  Daddy’s a pastor.”

“Dat’s wright.  Daddy tells people bout Jesus and he fixes hearts.” Kolby said with a smile that could melt butter.

“Mommy, can Da Da fix Muno’s heart?”

“Of course he can baby!”  I ran and got Kolby’s red monster doll –Muno from the series Yo Gabba Gabba and we sat him in front of daddy and I told Tim very firmly he needed to tell Muno about Jesus.

Tim looked at me with mirth, shaking his head and laughing, but he played along with us .

“Muno, Jesus loves you very much,” Tim said in his best pastor voice.  “He knows sometimes you bite your friends and it makes him sad.  Jesus sacrificed his life for you on the cross because he loves Muno so very much.  He wants Muno to live an abundant life and have a strong heart. “

I whispered under my breath, “Abundant…seriously?  She’s two.”

Daddy frowned at mommy.

Muno then squeaked out, “I do want to follow you Jesus,” only it sounded a bit like daddy on Nitrous Oxide.

So daddy led Muno through a simple prayer.

Kolby sat quietly the entire time taking it all in.  Then she picked up Muno, thanked daddy and fell asleep in my arms shortly thereafter. 

I woke up this morning clutching Muno’s hand in mine.  Seriously.  Maybe the little guy was mourning his life of sin and needed some cuddling.

I rolled over and opened one eye sleepily gazing at my husband.  “Hey PANTS-tor…what’s up?” 



All Fleeced Up

Check out my beret...

For the last twenty-one months I have been hustling –writing early in the morning, at lunch, during baby’s nap and at all sorts of odd times.  I have been jotting down notes in the car, at church, on scraps of paper and sometimes even tapping away on my iPhone to pen some fabulous tale of awesome I might otherwise forget.

And it’s all been for this day. 

Today, I am officially a full-time freelance writer.

I wrote a while back about a big decision we were praying over and how Tim asked for fleece from God and God provided the fleece by miraculously placing a white van on the freeway with a “Got Fleece?” license plate right in front of my car.

God is so stinking creative!

Well, this was the big decision –to go all-out for my dream or stick with the safe and secure route.  In all honesty, moving from a full-time steady pay-check to a life of an eccentric beret wearing writer/artist just scraping by didn’t sound too appealing to my husband. 

But God provided the fleece.

I secured a couple of steady writing gigs and negotiated a deal to do a little contract work for my tech job.

We won’t starve, although I still may wear the beret and start mumbling in French, and read all of the works by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway and maybe 50 Shades of Gray (if they offer a PG version).

I am pinching myself this morning and blown away by the grace of God and his mercy. 

Sometimes our dreams do come true with plenty of hard work and spit and gumption.

And a loving God who provides the fleece and doors of opportunity no man can shut.

What is your dream job?  What can you do today to move towards a career that resonates in your spirit and makes you feel alive?

Not so Compassionate

The other night I spoke to a group of gals at Birthchoice –a nonprofit supporting the parents of unplanned pregnancy.  It was the usual crew of girls albeit a few new faces.

The topic was pregnancy and exercise and the level of interest was slim to none.  I know not every talk I give will raise the roof, but is a small rumble too much to ask for?

One of the new ladies was either mentally disabled or had fried her neurons from excessive drug use.  I was warned by the leader that she had been very disruptive the week before and interrupted the speaker constantly.   I prayed for Holy Spirit intervention or at the very least, enough humor to keep it light.

Every few sentences I uttered, the woman chimed in.  I found out it was her fourth pregnancy and she walked an hour a day and the names of her kids and a thousand other details all while I was supposed to be speaking.

I kept thinking of Henri Nouwen and the lessons Jesus was trying teach me about compassion and empathy but my frustration level subtly rose notch by notch with every interruption.

I asked the girls a few questions to figure out their lifestyle and discern their difficulties in finding balance between exercise and babies, work and education.  

  1. How many of you work?                              None
  2. How many of you are in school?                One

And then I realized how my stupid my questions were and I got pissy and a little defeated.  One of the girls had been showing off her hair extensions earlier and when I looked up, she flipped her glorious locks over her shoulder. 

I think it’s what set off my internal envy switch.

I am standing up speaking and what’s going through my mind is pure evil…This is so unfair!  I want hair extensions for my scrawny tresses but they are too expensive and my kids need new shoes.  Some days I want to stay at home and not work two jobs to pay the mortgage and all the sports fees and endless activities for my kids; so what gives you the right to be lazy and Welfared and sooooo relaxed while I have heart palpitations and still take more time out to volunteer and share with you how to exercise when you are going to laugh at me and eat Cheetos anyway and then just have another baby? (was that a run-on sentence or what?)

After an exhausting thirty minutes, I finished up and exited quickly.  Normally, I hang out and talk with the girls but I needed to sort out my heart and emotions.

Jesus clearly needed to take the wheel back from Satan.

Here is what I discovered once I calmed down and dug into my crusty soul.  Like everything in life, nothing is black and white.  I admire these women for choosing life and not aborting.  I love them as sisters in Christ and I can champion and promote their desire to overcome adversity and grow into responsible citizens and loving mothers. 

But I cannot take on their burden if or when they choose to operate with entitled and lazy behavior, nor will I condone it. 

I volunteer and give because God called me to encourage and love these women and it’s possible only a few will hear the message and respond.  But even if it’s only one or two or even none, they are precious to God and to me.  My agenda is love and to come alongside them -not  to fix.  And in all honesty, at my worst, I am no different.  I too want to be coddled and cared for and take the easy road some days. 

But at my best, when someone believed in me –even when I didn’t believe in myself, it allowed me to experience a sliver of hope and to dream of a different and courageous life. 

A life where God can take a selfish and self-righteous girl –despite her complete and utter unworthiness, and allow her the grace to grow and minister to other women. 




Driving Lessons

Walking out to the car from the grocery store with three kids in tow, I grimaced at the sight of my dirty SUV.

“Uggh! Kyle. When we get home you need to wash my car.”

My son smiled and nodded his head amiably. As we pulled up to the house Kyle noticed my parents’ car parked in the driveway –a temporary resting stop while they vacationed in Cancun. It needed to be moved if he was to hose down my car.

“Hey mom, I’ll wash your car if you let me pull out Mimi and Poppa’s car from the driveway and park it in the street.”

I looked at my son, on the cusp of high school and now suddenly interested in cars and rims and all sorts of manly automobile trivia and chuckled, wrinkling my nose. “No way, my parents would kill me if I let my kid crash their car.”

But the look on his face was pure yearning –a strong desire to grow up, experience life and to feel the roar of an engine under his feet. How could I say no? (Here is where my husband later injects –“What the howdy-doody were you thinking?”)

“How about I move my parent’s car and let you maneuver my car into the driveway?”

Kyle’s eyes rapidly blinked. “Umm sure, I’m cool with that.”

I quickly moved my parent’s vehicle out onto the street and then threw Kyle the keys to my car, motioning him to roll down the window so I could direct him.

Kyle moved the seat to make room for his long legs, adjusted the mirror and then gave me the thumbs up sign.

“Ok, pull it out in reverse and turn the wheel to the left to swing out into the street,” I instructed.

Kyle put my charcoal grey Nissan in reverse and then before I could yell, “NOOOOOOOO!” gunned the car backwards across the street. Just as he hit the curb, he braked and his head lurched forward as he pulled to a stop.

“Wow!’ he yelled. “The gas is pretty sensitive. “

Then he hit the pedal again, still in reverse and jumped the curb. The bumper grazed our neighbor’s tree as the car stopped violently.

“Oops mom, I forgot to put it back in drive,” he yelled in chagrin as I doubled over laughing until the tears ran down my legs.

Kyle shifted into drive, hit the gas and shot toward our long driveway. The right tire clipped the curb and whizzed past the mailbox by an inch as Kyle headed straight towards the garage door at forty miles an hour.

The worst possible scenario flashed through my mind. I imagined Kyle crashing into the garage door and t-boning the Cadillac parked just inside. There would be airbags and blood and worst of all –some serious explaining to do when daddy got home from work.

“Jesus stop him!” I screamed with horror.

Kyle – eyes wide with terror looked over at me.

“Hit the brake.” I yelled.

All of sudden the car jerked to a stop. Kyle threw it in park and climbed out gingerly. The car rested a mere millimeter of an inch from the garage door –about the length of a fingernail or a lady bug.

“Mom, that wasn’t like my video games at all, we might need to practice some more,” Kyle weakly grinned.

I collapsed in a heap –alternating between laughing and yelling, rolling on the grass in a gasping and convulsing dance of gratitude and frustration only a parent of a teen can fully appreciate.

Next time –we are practicing driving in a parking lot in the middle of the desert with no one to hit but a cactus.

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