Have you ever wondered how old is “too old” for this or that sport or profession?
Is Tom Brady past his prime in the NFL? How about his wife Giselle? Is she still young-ish enough to super model? What is the expiration date on youth? How far, how long, how much can we push within the parameters of age and time? Because there is always a consequence for going to far–like I learned a few months ago.
Have you ever wondered how old is “too old” for this or that sport or profession?
As soon as day breaks, I hear the pitter patter of little feet slide open the back door to head outside.
“Mama, daddy and I are going out to the garden,” Kolby whispers in my ear.
I love the way that word sounds—“garden”—it implies so much more than an ordinary backyard.
The ordinary backyard is what I’m most familiar with. A few rogue bushes the professional gardener maintains and no more. I’ve kept my backyard simple and streamlined because life is busy enough (or maybe I was just too busy to care?).
In all truth, I’ve struggled to even keep a house plant alive. Orchids flee when they see me coming. My thumb was nowhere near a shade of green—black perhaps?
And I’m not sure I cared very much. Our backyard wasn’t a place we often visited. Yes, we barbequed and yes, we were blessed with some lovely patio furniture—thanks to our generous neighbors—but it wasn’t an inviting place. It was a square box with a large expanse of wall—yawnable at best, the before version of any good makeover story and a perfect blank palette for an episode of Backyard Crashers.
I didn’t find rest there. In fact, I didn’t really go out there.
But I do now.
It started with a trip to Home Depot and then many more trips to nurseries and Lowes. Soon, we couldn’t stop planting. I found some Hello Kitty gloves for Kolby and mini tools for tiny hands. We bought roses and fruits, herbs and vegetables. The siren call to get our hands dirty and engage in the dance of soil, sun and water won us over.
And I’m learning far more than how to grow a jalepeno, I’m learning how to live differently.
Lessons from the garden:
1. Gardens nurse a broken spirit back to health
One of my favorite books as a kid was The Secret Garden. It’s about some children who discover a walled and locked garden, break in and learn to care for it. Through their efforts they bring it back to life. Not surprisingly, they too transform in the process—one child moves from a sickly and withdrawn orphan into a lively and engaged girl, another takes her first steps after a terrible accident paralyzed her and the father of the paralyzed girl finds redemption in the restoration of his lost wife’s passion—the garden.
The garden is a metaphor for God’s deliverance—from weeds of sickness and bitterness to roots of liberation.
And just like the book, our little garden is moving within us and changing our hearts too. It has become a place of healing and recovery. In the garden we find solace and respite. I am able to pray and release hot tears to water the soil with hope and anticipation of the beauty just under the surface.
We watch our plants grow, we do all we can to assist them (water, water, water)—but ultimately we surrender to God’s will and provision—the elements are his alone. We can coax the plants to grow but not control them. We can plant the seeds but ultimately God bears the fruit.
After a brutal season of turmoil, chaos and death, our garden is a symbol of new life—both tangible and spiritual and a reminder that despair is not the end of the story.
2. The Garden awakens Delight
The garden is a place of whimsy and toil, of watching our nine tomato plants sprout baby green fruit. It’s a place where we battle rats (six down) and fight for our strawberries, a daily adventure of nurturing and culling patience and finding enchantment in the smallest buds. It’s where glorious roses parade their blooms and show off displaying their vibrant colors—like a strutting peacock’s plume.
Food tastes better when you grow it. We savor the fruits of our labor. And I know it’s organic because I grew it! We ate cilantro with our carnitas tacos the other night and the smell of the fresh herbs made the whole house smell like a taco bar.
I also find myself connecting with my husband differently. The garden is a shared project—a journey we take together, separate from work and kids sports and hurried life. When he turns and lazily smiles at me, wiping away a sweaty and dirty brow, my tummy flutters with butterflies of desire. In the garden we can be our truest selves, working side by side as partners and friends.
3. The garden connects us to the seasons of life
Living in the land of constant summer—AKA Southern California—I forget that life is not a balmy 73 degrees every day. I forget that reality is far from the Disneyland suburbia I call home, filled with Real Housewives and athletic families in yoga pants. I become anesthetized to pain because life is pretty dang comfortable and I know how to play this game all too well.
My garden reminds me that to everything there is a season…a time to plant and a time to harvest (Ecc.3:2)
And even in Orange County—land of eternal sunshine—there is a time for pain and death. I will have to replant my tomatoes in the spring because they too will wither and die.
When I forget the rhythms God placed in my life to remind me of time, I lose track of my purpose and focus. I think it’s all about the here and now (and all about me) instead of harvesting a thankful spirit. I forget to prepare for the winter and store up during the summer bounty because I think the frost will never come. I focus too much on leaving a legacy or being “more” awesome instead of drinking in the bigness of God and simply enjoying the obscurity of following a far greater light than I could ever aspire too.
How about you? Is it your time to plant a garden?
“There is always music amongst the trees in the garden but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it”.—Minnie Aumonier
I’m in a Catalyst coma.
Thoughts are running amok and drool escapes as I try to unpack all the wisdom dumped on me in the last two days.
Catalyst is one of those conferences that seriously messes with your brain. It provokes and convicts and makes me stop and think about EVERYTHING.
And in the quiet moments over the last few days, one word keeps running through my head.
I guess it’s not really a word, but it’s what I hear.
God whisper’s to me, “Sam you are BROKEN right now. A little beaten down, raw, and vulnerable…and yet you are more beautiful to me in this mess than in any perceived sense of strength or control you think you might have. In your weakness I fill you with my presence. So you are FULL of me.”
And although I HATE suffering at the time, I’m truly beginning to see its ravishing beauty.
Suffering disrupts life as we know it and flips us off the hamster wheel of self-importance and busyness into a heap of wet fur and woodchips.
Why the wet fur?
Because our water bowl always gets knocked over when we fly off the wheel screaming bloody murder. There’s ego and pride, control and image management hurling through the darkness.
All that spinning and craziness is a messy affair.
But it’s in the mess where he does his best work, isn’t it?
I saw Jason Russell speak today at Catalyst and it reminded me of this truth loud and clear.
For those of you not familiar with him–Jason Russell is the director of Invisible Children–the most watched documentary in the world about the abduction of children who are used as child soldiers by Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). This film centers around a group of Ugandan children who traipse miles each and every night to places of refuge in order to avoid abduction by the LRA.
After Russell’s film went globally viral, (over 120 million views in 10 days)Russell experienced a mental breakdown.
Basically, God threw him off the hamster wheel.
It was embarrassing. His woodchips/wet fur mess moment involved his bare bum running through the street and a global audience just waiting to rip him to shreds.
Jason suffered. Jason went down. Jason’s celebrity status crashed and burned.
But not only did Jason survive the ordeal, he’s now a better leader because of the suffering.
Today, two years later, Jason’s mantle is shrouded in humility, compassion and DEPENDENCE on God. Jason knows the 28 year-old war in Uganda will end only when God decides it will end. And it won’t be because Jason made the War Lord “Kony” famous.
I sat in my chair and thought about Jason.
“See,” God whispered. “broken-FUL.”
Here is a man who had everything, lost everything, suffered and suffered some more, and is now empty-handed offering his everything to Jesus.
BROKEN. BEAUTIFUL. FULL OF GOD.
And that’s my prayer tonight. I’ve got nothing God. I’m stripped. Bare. Take my nothing and FILL me FULL of you.
Where is God in your mess?
About a year ago I decided to grow my hair out. For some, this would be no big deal, but for those of us who haven’t seen their real hair color in twenty-three years, it was a significant risk. I was a bit apprehensive at what might surface under the prolonged years of L’Oreal abuse.
Was I blonde, grey or brown? I had no clue.
But as the roots came in, it wasn’t as atrocious as the images I conjured in my head. Turns out I have medium to drab blonde hair and as of yet, the grey fairy has not appeared.
I thought I’d try out this new me for a while –the real me and see if I liked her.
People tell me it looks more natural, maybe because it’s the color of dirt?
But “natural” isn’t necessarily a compliment. “What a lovely color” was just as nice. I think as one ages, natural might be overrated.
I’ve noticed lately I’ve been struggling with blonde envy. I drool over light blonde hair and wish mine was just a little more flaxen.
But because I am wretchedly poor right now thanks to private pre-school, high school and a husband finishing seminary, I couldn’t justify a trip to the hairstylist.
And so I forgot the cardinal rule of hair care. If you screw up your locks, you will pay one way or the other.
But I’m a natural blonde, (remember?) so I embraced my inner ditz and proceeded to make the dumbest move possible. I picked up a highlighting kit at Wal-Mart for $6.00. It looked simple enough. Paint a few little beach blond stripes through my hair and brighten it up a bit.
Unfortunately, my artistic brain begins and ends in the writing realm, although I do have some qualms with Revlon…. (a)They need to include paint by numbers diagram and (b) there should have been an idiot test.
I really tried to get it right but the gobs of blue goo I accidentally dropped on my head left a little surprise for me.
How bad could it be you ask?
(Well, let’s just say it’s a good thing I am tall)
On top of looking like cheetah, I also have large gum-ball spots of white hair in the middle of my darker blonde head.
I tried to part my hair about fifty different ways to cover the spots, but to no avail.
It looks AWFUL!
I‘d cry, but every time I glance in the mirror I start laughing at the quandary I’ve gotten myself into.
My vanity is like a dysfunctional friend I’ve (mostly) set firm boundaries with, until in a moment of weakness, I crack open the door and invite back in to torment me.
It might be time for professional intervention, but In the meantime, I will answer to Spot or Hound’s-tooth.
Have you ever screwed up your hair?
Photo Credit: http://nopsa.hiit.fi/pmg/viewer/photo.php?id=755210
Sometimes I catch a glimpse of my daughter Faith and I am afraid for her. Faith is arresting in her beauty. While little Kolby is pretty and toddler cute, Faith has an exotic look to her and though she is only eleven years old, the child turns heads.
I worry she will become spoiled, entitled or a diva. People already do things for her and occasionally instead of pitching in to get work done, she stands there helplessly looking too cute to get her hands dirty.
The story of the lady in Britain made me cringe. Here was a lovely woman (at least by British standards) who claimed she was treated differently by her peers. The world retaliated with venom. How dare she claim to be beautiful?
(Apparently, you are only gorgeous if the world tells you so)
I think she had a serious case of “Pretty Girl Syndrome” and it’s the one disease I will move mountains to make sure my girls don’t get.
But I don’t think the British chick was loony –maybe just too arrogant for our liking. I think she was probably on to something.
Treating Pretty Little Girls Differently
From the very beginning, a pretty girl is more sheltered, statistically buckled in to her seat more often, and overly pampered. She will make significantly more money than her less attractive friends and will be perceived as easier to get along with, more loyal, and more intelligent. She will serve less jail time, if any, than those with an ugly mug (i.e. Lindsey Lohan). She will be given more opportunities, from job interviews to sorority memberships and find cooperative people to engage with. In a world obsessed with image, attractive children are both blessed and cursed with expectations.
Dave from New Mexico, has some strong thoughts on this research.
“Like this is a surprise. Beautiful people get more of what they want handed to them, and never have to work as hard for what they do get. They’re more likely to be manipulative, and less likely to be caring, compassionate people. Yes, I’m homely, and I see this every day.”
Underdevelopment of Pretty Little Girls
Because the pretty child is used to excessive attention and extreme complimenting, there may be little incentive to exercise normal social skills of engagement; i.e.-empathy and interest in others. Shallowness may be a result.
Constantly affirmed for beauty, fawned over and coddled, the child may also lose interest in more intellectual pursuits. Over time, she may begin to lack developmental skills in common social situations. Entitlement and a true lack of common sense may be seen in cases where the parents do not intervene and de-emphasize the role of beauty, contradicting the messages of the world.
This is where the Pretty Girl Syndrome can mutate into:
Pretty Dumb Girl Syndrome.
If the attractive little girl happens to be blond and voluptuous, then she will be lumped into the paradigm of a sexual object and men and women will both desire and hate her. Before she opens her mouth, the assumption will be that nothing of any relevance will come out. Now, the pretty girl’s beauty will be used against her. She will face a wall of opposition with people who will refuse to take her seriously. Because she is affirmed for her beauty she may retreat into the role she knows she will be accepted in, and thus ensues a vicious cycle of disengagement in one realm and overcompensation in another. It’s the Marilyn Monroe phenomena or the likes of Paris Hilton; who exploit their own beauty while downplaying their obvious intellect.
My daughter Faith came home the other day with an Abercrombie bikini that looked like a band-aid. My ex-husband and I watched as she tried it on for us and we almost passed out. I don’t want my girl to be affirmed for just her body –I want her to know how much God treasures her heart, how smart and kind she is, how talented and lovely both inside and out.
My husband reminded me I wore a bikini at my fortieth birthday weekend in Palm Springs. I worked out super hard and I wanted to see if I had it in me one last time to rock a two-piece.
“Is it possible your daughter is modeling you in wearing a bikini” Tim suggested.
Ouch! I guess its back to the one piece and her suit will be returned back to the store because the last thing I want is for my girls to define their worth solely on their beauty.
Why is it always the bikini that takes me out? It’s like some last remnant of my youth I hold onto.
What do you think?
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
I’ve started to feel like a teenager again.
But it’s not because I’m full of energy, hormones or even indecisiveness. Nope, my teen spirit smells like ProActive and Benzoyl Peroxide this time around.
Basically, I have become a zit face and it ‘aint perty.
I’ve been baffled by my usually clear skin’s change of direction. Have I done anything different? Is it stress?
Does raising teenagers give you pimples?
Could it be too much hanky panky? (Ha Ha, just checking to see if you read this dear!)
Then one day as sweet little Kolby counted eight boo-boos on my face and kissed them to make them “all betta,” it dawned on me whom the culprit might be.
I recently read how a dash of lemon in your water make you lose weight so I have been adding a wedge of citrus to every glass of water I down. (If I can’t get to the gym enough I can at least drink myself skinny, or so my reasoning assumed)
Now my mom is probably laughing right now, because unbeknownst to many, I grew up with horrible food allergies. I was that kid –the one who couldn’t drink sodas or eat pizza or have anything good because I would blow up and turn into an EWOK. Seriously –it was hidious.
But sometime into my thirties my food allergies waned. I ate my first egg in fifteen years and I lived. My husband says it’s all due to his amazing love because most of my allergies disappeared around the time we got engaged.
(Honey, it must be time for a vacation!)
So now I’m in lemon recovery and my zits are drying up and peeling off. It’s so attractive.
And I didn’t reaIize how hard it would be to starve myself of my little habit. I cheated on Friday and had a lemon drop martini and a small margarita on Saturday(which is clearly a lime, but closely related to the evil lemon), but overall I’m making great progress.
I must admit at one point I was having a whole lemon daily and sometimes two because I was so incredibly dedicated to the lemon diet.
So the lesson I learned is this:
- Lemons might make you skinny but they will also make you ugly.
- There are no shortcuts to getting in shape and drinking myself skinny is delusional.
- The love of a good man can eradicate many illnesses but the force of a lemon is very strong and Tim just might need to head back to the Degobah System for some more Jedi training on battling citrus.
- Sometimes you can’t make lemonade out of lemons. You just have to move on to a new fruit altogether.
There is something magical about a tutu. It’s the fairy tale, twirly princess, cotton candy dream all rolled up into one. It’s the artistry of Degas, childhood innocence and whimsy in a poufy skirt.
Add in a two-year old girl with blond curls, sturdy toddler legs and a laugh like the tinkle of angels’ wings –and the essence of the tutu becomes iconic.
My two-year old Kolby has yet to show interest in the Disney princess or flowing gowns. She prances right past the Cinderella section straight to the stuffed animals and cuddly monsters.
Until today –today was an EPIC girly moment.
Kolby ran to her closet and reached for a lovely ballerina frock her sister wore around age three. Little hands tugged on the dress.
“Please mommy, I wear this one?” my baby pleaded.
In an instant I had the gown over her head and Elmo t-shirt. I pinned up the long straps in the back and she stepped into the leotard. I glanced down at her cherubic face and my heart exploded into spasms of mommy ecstasy.
Kolby carefully stepped down the stairway and made her grand entrance before her awaiting father. Visions of prom and bridal gowns danced in my head.
She twirled around with a huge smile and exclaimed, “I’m so pretty daddy.”
Daddy agreed with gusto.
Tim and I laughed with glee as my eyes filled with tears while we snapped her photo –and for a brief moment time stopped.
My baby was glorious!
I’ve thought about it all morning and I can’t get the picture of her out of my head –maybe because it’s more than just a precious little girl, a tutu and a pretty princess day.
I think Kolby captured the heart’s desire of every woman from age two to eighty.
“Am I lovely? Do you cherish me? Am I worth fighting for?”
Questions we strive to find the answers for in all the wrong places.
My heart aches for the journey Kolby has just begun.
But today, for this moment, Kolby found the answer in her daddy’s eyes.
I think I might a need tutu too!
My middle child’s name is Faith. I thought I gave her this moniker because it affirmed God’s grace and our double fisted faith for her safety during an arduous pregnancy.
But God has a sense of humor.
I’ve now realized naming your kid Faith is like praying for patience. You never pray for patience because then God will give you opportunities –terrible, brain numbing opportunities to develop your patience.
Holy Cow! I am so dumb!
I inserted some sort of weird blessing/prophecy on my kid –and now I am getting the chance to get faith like Abraham as my daughter hits puberty.
Like this weekend for example when I headed into the land of Canaan –I mean the Mission Viejo Mall.
We ventured over to Macy’s after church to pick up an Easter dress for Faith. It had to be Macy’s because I have a gift certificate from my parent’s for Christmas and I’m strapped enough to tap into all available resources. I know, I know…what I sacrifice for my kids.
Faith picked out a few dresses and went to try them on. Tim, Kyle, Kolby and I waited outside the dressing room to view the frocks on display as Faith came prancing out.
First dress –It was ok, nothing to write home about.
Second dress –Youza! It was a beautiful color –a sky blue number, silky, and way too grown up. It was seductively subtle, a little too short with tiny spaghetti straps and just a smidgen too low in the chest.
My daughter is already beautiful but in this dress she was dangerous.
And here is where I screwed up.
Faith-“Mom, what do you think?”
Me- “It’s really pretty.” (Rewind and take this back you idiot)
Tim- “It’s too sexy. No way. She is almost eleven not twenty. Not an option.”
Me- “You’re right. Sorry sweetie.”
Faith- “Waaahhhhhhh! Then she ran into the dressing room and sobbed for ten minutes. “You said it was pretty! It’s all Tim’s fault.”
When in doubt, always blame the step-dad.
Me- “No Faith, it’s my decision. It’s a lovely dress but it’s a very sexy dress and not the best one for you.”
Repeat tears and howling wails for another twenty minutes.
I storm out of dressing room with my eye twitching.
During this time I go and purchase a pair of jeans with my son. When I come back Faith is moping and half-heartedly looking for another dress with Tim.
The boys go home and Faith and I continue to look. Finally, about three hours into the shopping nightmare she tries on a gorgeous and modest dress we both like.
Despite it being more money than I want to spend, I buy the darn thing and escape home.
Next time I will bring:
- Imitrix for the migraine headache I will leave with.
- Anxiety medicine
- A Flask
- A team of prayer warriors who have previously fasted and have experience with pre-teen demons.
(I’m kidding about the first two)
Upon arriving home, Faith runs up to her room, puts on her new dress and models it for the family.
She twirls in front of us like a lovely princess.
Faith- “Isn’t it the most beautiful dress you have ever seen?”
I am staggering, on the edge of tears, frustrated and overwhelmed, “Sure sweetie,” I choke out.
Can someone tell me how to defend my daughter’s honor without going freaking CRAZY?
What I want to say is, “Don’t make the same mistakes I did. Have the confidence to rock your inner beauty. Don’t buy into the world’s lies that sexy defines your worth.”
But it never comes out the way I want and it gets all stuck in my throat. I don’t sound like cool mom I sound like lame mom. And even though I think we have these awesome mother-daughter chats –nothing sticks. She ignores me and forges her own way. I wonder where she got this stubborn trait?
So my friends…this is how I develop faith. I am tested beyond all sanity.
Want to know the really scary part? Kolby’s middle name is Grace.
I can’t wait to develop this muscle.