Never Say Never

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I stood outside on the patio at church on a Sunday a few months ago, and vehemently stated, “I will never volunteer in kid’s ministry again.”

My eyes filled with tears as frustration coursed through my body. Now “NEVER” is a bold statement for a ministry wife who is expected to serve with a smile, but at the time I meant it. I was done. My bucket—empty!

It’s not that I don’t like munchkins—I love kids—but a bad experience with a parent got under my skin and it messed with me. A new parent not familiar with our childcare system lost his claim tag to pick up his kid. If you’ve ever been to Chuck E Cheese or Ikea you know the concept—basically you drop off the kid, get a tag, and pick up the kid with the proper check in ticket. This alleviates child abduction by a non-custodial parent and no one but you takes home your precious little angel (or monster) depending on your parenting paradigm.

Anyway the guy lost his claim tag and I very nicely asked him to get another one. I had a large class of kids and I obviously couldn’t leave them, so I pointed him in the right direction to the kiosk. He refused and then got in my face, whipped out his ID and demanded I give his kid back. Again, I calmly refused to hand over the package. So he yelled a little louder, clinched his fist and puffed up like he was going to smack me. Fortunately my fearless teenage daughter walked up at just the right moment and hustled him out of my face to help him get a new tag. Faith—you are my hero!

Somehow I managed to get all the kids back to their parents without losing my spit. Then I staggered outside and broke down in a defeated heap. How did teaching first-graders about Jesus almost turn into a beat-down of Sam?

After a few days of venting, processing and praying with my husband I remembered a few important things about the plans I make for myself and the “NEVERS” I so casually throw out:

Oh Yeah…I’m not in Control

In a perfect world we would all play along with my Sunday school agenda and everyone would play nice. The kids would put their toys away at the end of class (instead of chucking blocks at each other) and recite their Bible verse to their parents on the way home to make me look good. Oh, and those very same parents’ would thank me profusely for watching their kids for free while they got to sit in an air-conditioned church and relax. And then the unicorns would dance and we could all eat the Crispy Crèmes and stay skinny because my perfect little world doesn’t exist on this planet.

On any given Sunday, the kids are messy and squirrely and demanding. If a few listen to the lesson and learn the verse I do a happy dance. Some of the parents are chill (thank you!) but there are those who wait impatiently in line and hate the claim check process because—darn it—they have brunch to get to.

But I am not in control and honestly I don’t want to be. I believe God knows every detail and is in every detail of these Sunday morning adventures. But when I lean on my own understanding instead of surrendering to the chaos I struggle. I operate out of fear instead of faith and nose dive into anxiety.

The truth is that it’s in the messiest moments that God does his best work.  I have no idea what good was in the crazy encounter with the scary guy—but I can rest in the hope that a plan beyond my own was at work.

Your Ministry is Where the Greatest Need Is

I love it when people say they will NEVER completely surrender control to God because then he might send them to Africa to work as a missionary—so they give God 90% over and hold back the rest. I get it—it’s scary to cede over the reins for some crazy “God calling,” but that’s where I think most people have a warped idea of what ministry is. True ministry is simply identifying a pressing need in front of you and getting your butt off the sofa to help out. Ministry can be raising babies with purpose, loving a broken spouse and investing in a marriage or relationship. It can be as small as caring for a neighbor or as big as boarding a plane and taking on the social injustice God impresses on your heart. It might be Africa but it’s probably more likely something right in front of your nose.

I’ve done lots of different things in ministry—some big and some small—but right now, the need in our growing church is for helpers in children’s ministry. Ladera Ranch is the Disneyland of suburban Orange County and we have a plethora of parents that reproduce more than the average American family. So, from a church perspective that means we have more kids than most churches our size do and we need extra leaders to help guide these tiny tots to Jesus.

And if you think, “Yeah, whatever Sam, I would still Never help out with kids.” You might be surprised at what God can do with your Never.

“Never” Might Be the Opportunity You Need

Once upon a time I said I would NEVER marry a pastor. You might not know it wasn’t an easy decision for me to make. I didn’t want to live in a ministry fish bowl with people judging me all the time. I wrestled with God over it. Sure I loved God but it was the 90% thing holding me back. I wanted to marry a rich guy with a yacht who would hand over the credit card and sail away often, letting me raise my babies in peace. But God had a different plan. My life looks very different than what I thought it would be. It may not be fancy but it’s exactly what I need.

I have a wonderful husband who is up in my grill at all times, who simultaneously drives me crazy and makes me laugh—bringing endless joy to my life. Our love is messy and complicated and more than I could ask for or imagine. My silly NEVER was God’s BEST.

And Sunday School? I went back the next week to drop off my kid and the teacher wasn’t there so I felt compelled to step in and help. It was initially nothing more than pure obligation and a desire to do something alongside my teenage daughter who is a faithful volunteer.

Then I signed up for more because somewhere along the way my heart got ripped open wide and raw by these stinking little kids and I was hooked. Yes, they are exhausting, but these kids are also glimpses into God’s Kingdom—into an innocence and wonder we lose as life beats us up.

One of the little boys in my class has autism. He’s named after an angel and I don’t know what fairy dust he sprinkles over me but I am mush around him. This child has taught me to slow down and go easy on the transitions. When we switch rooms for worship and lessons he clings to my hand and trembles. Then I give him a gentle hand squeeze and he takes a deep breath and leans in to the scary. Somehow we get each other—I don’t like transitions either. I also have laser focus and get overwhelmed sometimes. Maybe I see myself in his eyes?

Another sweet girl has cancer and her bald head and joyful spirit are a sacred offering to the class. She is fragile and yet powerful—a six year old and who lives in the present—not the “shoulds” or “have to’s”, not the “hurry ups,”just the now. She teaches me to BE. I want to hold her and weep all at the same time and yet I see the haunting gift that God wields through this child to those around her and I am wrecked and taken to a Holy place in this classroom I said Never to.

Now I don’t EVER want to leave…

What are the NEVERS You need to lean into?

iPad Babysitter?

baby-with-iPad

As a parent of a three-year old, I know the quandary a parent faces when their toddler melts down in a fine-dining establishment. 

We silently play a mental game of tug of war.

“Do I pull out the iPad and soothe baby or wait outside in the cold until daddy pays for the meal I didn’t even eat?”

Hmmmm…tough call.

In the days of old, babies clutched a rattle in their tiny fists for amusement and played with their toes –but these days just as many parents hand over the iPad or SmartPhone to: (A.) develop fine and gross motor skills (swiping and poking) and (B) passively babysit.

Do a Google search for “toddlers with tablets” and images and videos of toddlers maneuvering hexagons and triangles bombard the screen.

(Seriously though…my baby could sort shapes way before yours)

But critics shake their head at this early embrace of technology, suggesting addictive behavior and behavioral disorders could follow.

But are parents heeding expert advice?  Am I?

Urvashi Sen of New York City claims her 11-month-old son Ishaan could swipe a tablet before he was 9 months old.

Sen, a member of the group Upper West Side Moms, says she feels conflicted about handing over the technology to her children. Suzy Wolfson, another member, also expressed concerns about her 13-month-old son Leo’s interaction with tablets.

“I feel guilty when he’s sitting there with it,” Wolfson said. “But at the same time, I know I’m going to get him to eat dinner if I give him the iPad. I do think there is real learning and value.”

A study by Northwestern’s School of Communication discovered that 37 percent of parents of kid’s age 6-8-years use their tablet or Smartphone to entertain; despite the fact that over half are concerned the mobile devices may have a negative impact on their physical activity.

But research reveals, the more their kids beg for technology the less parents seem to care.  Because the truth is when the Smartphone is at arm’s length and the baby starts crying, many parents will reach for the easiest solution at hand. 

And once patterns are set, it’s tough to resist.  The baby knows if he cries hard enough in public, mom or dad will cave to the pressure.

What’s even more frightening is the addictive nature of technology.

ABC News conducted an informal test to see if babies would prefer mommy’s arms or the iPad.  Sadly enough, the toddlers were irresistibly drawn to the touch screens.

Infants over and over again are mesmerized by digital toys. When Leo was given the option of his mother Suzy, or the iPad, he went straight to the tablet.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends for children age 2 and under –zero “passive screen time.”

Not even for Elmo or Baby Einstein or Yo Gabba Gabba.

Just to fess up…in our home, we cheated by a few months, but generally deferred technology across the board until age two-ish (translation 20 months).  We also set limits on media but occasional fail during the summer months.

Instead, the AAP suggests unstructured play and talk time because they believe these approaches help children learn while supporting development.

This means mommies and daddies might want to consider turning away from their SmartPhones at the park to play pirates and princesses; it means we bring crayons and toys to the restaurant instead of the latest “Cupcake Maker” app, read books at bedtime and pull out the Little People for a game of pretend. 

It means we need to engage with our kids and not use technology to do OUR JOB.

We have to step up as parents even when it’s SOOOO easy to be a boob tube, iPhone, and iPad SLACKER. 

Because who is going to tell on us, the baby?

“That’s a time when these young kids need to be developing language skills and learning to recognize a facial expression, not scanning the Internet on an iPad,” said Gary Small, author of iBrain and professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences and Parlow-Solomon Professor on Aging at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

Alright, exhausted parent’s of the world, as summer begins let’s virtually pinky swear to play more and tune in less.  Let’s turn off Playhouse Disney and go make a real fort with pillows and stuffed animals.

(Either that or your baby is going to turn into a techno-zombie who prefers his virtual mommy.  Just saying…)

How do you feel about toddlers and technology?

Source: ABC News

The Face Plant

It was one of those perfect winter days masquerading as spring.  The sun warmed my toes and a soft breeze tickled my ears.  The trees overhead swayed back and forth and in the distance I heard Kolby’s high pitched giggle as her little legs pumped high on the big kid swing. 

We were at one of our favorite parks in Old Town San Juan Capistrano.  We stopped for a glass of wine and a yummy appetizer at Sundried Tomato, picked up a latte at Hidden House Coffee, petted a few stinky llamas and alpacas at Zoomars and then headed to the park.

Daddy laughed along with Kolby’s screams of glee and pushed her higher and higher on the swing while I lounged on a wooden park bench in the sun.  My eyes got heavy and finally closed as I listened to the happy sounds of kids playing and the train off in the distance. 

Until I heard a high-pitched scream that woke me up fast.

I jumped up from the park bench and raced to the swings where little Kolby lay face down in the wood chips.  Her feet had dragged and with a violent smack she face-planted. 

I gently picked her up and blood poured out of her tiny nose.  It was her first big Boo-Boo.

Daddy and I cleaned up her face, checked for a broken nose and tried to cheer her up with a promise of ice cream.

Kolby’s blood and tears dried fast but daddy’s cheeks remained ashen. 

This little girl means the world to him. 

It reminded me of the first time my son Kyle took a spill, face planted and ripped open his lip after I encouraged him to try a big slide.  I felt like a tool for pushing my 12 month old to go big and take a risk before he was mature enough to tackle it.

But years later I recognize it was those very risks and  encouragement that allow my son to dream big.  Kyle might eat it when he tries new things and he might occasionally even fail but he believes in himself and fear does not define him.

Kolby  told us later on that night she would “never go on the big swing again.” 

Tim looked crushed.

Then I reminded my three-year old of how great she did on the big kid swing and how maybe in a few months when she grew a little bit bigger that it would be fun to try again.

She considered my words carefully and sighed big.  “Ok, mommy.  I will try again soon, but I need to eat more vegetables and grow before I try that scary swing again.”

Daddy and I nodded in agreement and affirmed her willingness to get back in the swing.

I love how with just a little encouragement Kolby turned her fear into a challenge to grow. 

(And I’m really thrilled how my eating vegetables brain-washing is sinking in)

I know there will be many more scrapes and bumps along the road for my youngest girl.  And I know my husband will have his heart wrenched a thousand more times as he watches his first (biological) daughter grow up.  

Their daddy/daughter love story reminds me of my own journey with God–a loving father and a scared little girl who sometimes winds up face down and bloodied in the wood chips.

But she gets back up because she is loved.  And next time she will swing even higher.

Have you taken any big risks lately? 

Fred, George and Goldilocks

Christmas 2012 Kolby 4

Fred and George still haunt me.

Not in the way they used too, I mean I’m not afraid of ghosts anymore, but their names still bring back delicious terror.

You see…daddy told me when I was a wee tot that two ghosts lived inside the walls of my bedroom and if I dared to climb out of my bed they would get me.

Let’s not even bring up how demented this is.  When I’ve suggested it was a form of child abuse to my dad he still falls over laughing. 

But one day I realized, like Jim Carey in the Truman show, that no apparition appeared if I defiantly stuck out a toe or a limb.

I caught on pretty quick that my reality was not REALITY.

Eventually I worked up the courage to run like a bat out of hell out of my room and sneak over to my mom’s side of the bed who always let me in for a cuddle.

I thought a lot about Fred and George last night because my toddler refuses to stay in her bed.  And after two weeks of not sleeping and now fighting off illness (probably from massive sleep deprivation) I’m almost ready to ask Fred and George for some advice.  They keep appearing in my feverish hallucinations taunting me with a whole night of un-interupted slumber.

Kolby moved into the BIG GIRL BED a few weeks ago.  We took the crib down, stored it in the garage and unknowingly kissed sleep goodbye.  Most of the time I take the hit for Tim, because out of the two of us I do better without sleep, although he had to step up last night as I borderlined pneumomia.

It’s the second time we’ve tried the BIG GIRL BED.  After a failed attempt a year ago, we aborted mission and put her back in the crib.  Last time it was because she potty trained and needed help to use the restroom in the middle of the night.  I couldn’t handle waking up every three hours to help her tinkle, so up went the porta-crib again in our room so I could at least keep the lights off as I guided her tiny butt to the potty.

But now she is physically too big to stuff in the porta-crib.  The fact that she was complaining about her legs and arms hurting might have been an indication we had played out that card a little too long.

In goes Kolby into the BIG GIRL BED and within one hour she has snuck back into our bed to go horizontal on us and kick one of us in the head or the kidney.  She lies on me, throws elbows in my chest and breathes her sweet baby breath in my face.

I put her back to bed.  Tim puts her back to bed.  Press repeat over and over until we are so exhausted that Tim goes to the sofa around 3:00am to salvage any sleep whatsoever and then Kolby kicks the crap out of me until 6:00am when I have to get my teenager ready for high school.   

I am a ZOMBIE and I am way too old for this.

I’d toss her out like a sailor if not for the fact that I love her soooooo much.  This third baby of mine has both daddy and I whooped, sucker tied and wrapped around every phalange. 

She is terrifically spoiled and we are wimps when it comes to her little grin and Goldilocks.

Is bribery the next option?  Will it take a puppy to get her to sleep in her bed?  I’d gate her in but she shares a room with her sister with an adjoining bathroom to her brother’s room.  She’ll just walk right through into his room and find us.  She’s smart like that.

This kid needs incentive…

What makes a toddler want to stay in bed?

All advice will be considered except ghosts and spanking.

 

Terrible Two’s and the Grocery Store Meltdown

Kolby Keller (AKA “Lamby-Pants”)

It’s a hard sell after a long day at pre-school to get little Kolby anywhere near the grocery store.  I’m afraid to even suggest the appalling word –Pavilions, knowing it will bring on growls and whining.

All Kolby can think about is driving straight home, noshing on MACANONI, plowing through eight or nine books, taking a bath with her Dora shampoo and falling into mommy’s arms exhausted by 7:45pm. 

My two-year-old loves routine.

But mommy had to pick up dinner for the family and the pain of a cranky toddler was a necessary evil.

In we trooped to the store and quickly made our purchases.  Kolby commented on the balloons, the cards, and the Christmas decorations.  She pointed out the green bananas, offered her critique of pepperoni vs. sausage pizza and spelled out the letters on every sign. 

In the checkout line Kolby noticed the man behind her.  She smiled at him and struck up a conversation.  I felt a tug on my leg.  “Mommy, who is he?” she whispered.

Overhearing her, the man replied, “My name is Garrett.  What’s yours?”

Kolby stuck out her tiny hand.  “I’m Lamby-pants, nice to meet you.”

I corrected her and giggled, “Her name is Kolby and sometimes Lamby-pants.”

Kolby’s smile vanished.  “Mom, I am Lamby-pants!  That’s what you call me,” she shrieked as only a small child can. 

(It’s the scream from Hades every parents fears and it ALWAYS happens in the checkout line)

All commerce stops.  All eyes turn to the parent to see how they will react.  After three kids I know the routine.  If I freak out, I can guarantee someone will recognize me as the pastor’s wife and make a thinly veiled comment. My only option is to ignore the pounding in my head, offer a firm but calm response and to flee from the scene ASAP.

“Mr. Garrett my name is Lamby-pants,” she spitted out, glaring at me with all the hostility she could muster.

Mr. Garrett nodded at my small child who morphed into Carrie, afraid her head would spin around and spew out green vomit if he disagreed.

I raised my eyebrows, shook my scarlet cheeks, and paid for my frozen pizza and wings.  “Ok Lamby-pants, let’s say goodbye and get the hell out of here,” I muttered under my breath, trying not to look at anyone.

I tried to knock off the big L on my head as I ran out the door, but it refused to budge.

Note to self * After 5:30pm, Dominoes is always WORTH the cost of delivery*

What’s your most embarrassing moment as a parent?

Violent Hands

 

Monday night was a heart racy night for me.  I held my breath.  I tried to be calm, but the anticipation and anxiety of the awards ceremony was way too much drama for this mama.

Monday was the end-of-season football banquet for J Serra High School where my son Kyle plays on the freshmen team.

Kyle is a tight end and middle linebacker.  And although he scored about ten touchdowns over the season, it’s the defense that captures his heart.

One of his coaches’ told me in private, “Your boy has violent hands.  You can’t teach fierceness.  Either you’re born with it or not.  Kyle’s a playmaker.  He disrupts, he intercepts, he makes fumbles and quarterbacks run when they see him.”

Yep, that pretty much sums Kyle up.

When he was little he had an over-abundance of energy.  I took him to the pool or the park religiously to wear out the little tyke. 

Now Kyle always shared his toys.  He was gentle with girls and small children.  But woe to the boy child who stole from him, pushed or bullied.

That kid was going down.

I don’t know how many times I had to jump in the baby pool as my son confronted  a bully or an out of control water-gun shooter and knocked him on his butt.

Kyle was the Chuck Norris of the toddler set.  He was the defender of the weak.  He was also very difficult to peel off when he was tackling (I mean teaching) another kid a lesson.

Football was a Godsend.

He was seven years-old when he set foot on the field.  After the first week of full gear and contact he came to me with tears in his eyes.  “Mommy, thank you so much for letting me play football.  I get to hit people and its ok!  Thank you so much!”

You’re welcome?

Seven seasons later I sat next to this tall, muscular and mature young man at an extravagant awards dinner and held my breath as they called out names.

They announced the big awards last.  The suspense was killing me.  I sat there and thought, “Why am I so nervous?  Why is this so personal?  Why do I care so much about his success?”

I guess it’s just what football moms do!

This is the kid I’ve pushed up and down the street a thousand times in his Flintstone car to hear his giggle, the kid I’ve loved and battled with and washed a thousand stinky jersey’s for, this is the kid who is a gentle giant (off the field) with a wicked sense of humor.  This is the kid whose smile and soothing personality brighten every day…

I looked over at Tim and Brent.  They were sweating bullets too.  I smiled and laughed inside.  We all care so much about Kyle’s journey.

As the coach started talking about the last defensive award, I knew he was referring to my boy.  He mentioned how the quarterbacks at Orange Lutheran want nothing to do with this kid. (Kyle knocked both the starter and the second string QB’s out of the game).  He mentioned his ability to make magic on the field, his work ethic second to none and his leadership that set the tone for the entire team.

He paused and grinned at my boy, “The Defensive MVP Award goes to…Kyle Adams.”

Is it ok to thank Jesus for “violent hands?”

A Soppy Dog Day

A long time ago I made a list of how God sees me.  I read and re-read the list over and over for years until I memorized and internalized certain truths about my identity.  When a bad day hits, I go back to the verses and remind myself of whom I am in Christ.

It gets me through THOSE kinds of mommy days. 

Like yesterday, when I pulled out all the fixings for dinner and discovered I had purchased hot dog buns for Sloppy Joes instead of hamburger buns.  My kids looked at me like I had been smoking crack and even though I tried to explain it was an accident, they gave me the LOOK like I was losing my marbles. 

“Mom, hot-dogs and hamburgers are very different,” my daughter Faith explained in her snotty Jr. High voice.

Ya think?

Even little Kolby gave me a hard time and refused to eat her “sloppy dog” (except she called it a “soppy dog” because she struggles with her “L’s”).

Then there are the days like Monday when I set up a princess tea-party for my girls with home-made chocolate chip cookies and sweets and crisp white linen cloths with an elegant tray.  Kolby and Faith donned their fanciest gowns as I carried the lovely china bursting with yummies outside to our front porch.

The clouds were supposed to part and the harps were supposed to sing…right?

But just as I placed the feast down on the table, we were accosted by the roar of a Carpet Cleaning Van parked in our neighbor’s driveway and a hot wind blowing an inferno in our face.

COME ON!  Princesses aren’t supposed to sweat profusely in mid-October or have to shout over rumbles.  I wanted serenity and girl-time, but instead I got sweaty pits and a migraine.

These are the days I try to remember my God affirmations.  I have to repeat over and over, “I am a good mom and a loved child of God, even when I screw up Sloppy Joes and my princess party fails,” instead of berating myself for the mishaps. 

I want to think about things that are good and true and noble instead of focusing on the bad. 

But geez…it’s so dang easy to complain. 

Lately, God has been nudging me to stop focusing on the little irritants and keep my eyes focused solely on him.  I wish I could say it was effortless, but the truth is, it’s a hard road for me to navigate. 

I am a woman after all. We like to complain. It bonds us.

Most days I feel like Peter walking on the water, eyes squared on the BIG man and then suddenly I drop off into oblivion when a gripe seeps out.

Walk, drop, swim…walk, drop, swim…

Over and over I play this game. 

Sometimes it feel s like I doggie-paddle more in the deep than I walk on top of the water, but I am determined to keep paddling towards the only one who can lift my soppy dog head out of the water again.

Do you ever struggle with complaining?  How do you keep your thoughts positive on a bad day?

 

 Photo Credit: From nowserveme.wordpress.com

Pretty Girl Syndrome

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?

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?” 

 

 

Pay it Forward

So my heart’s been acting a little cranky lately. It’s not a spiritual issue –more like the forty-year warranty on my body is about to expire and the valves need some fixing. I’ve spent a lot of time hanging out at the Happy Heart Center waiting, waiting and waiting for my busy but awesome cardiologist Dr. Gandhi to take more tests.

Kolby accompanies me on these journeys and even though it’s a pain the behind to hang out in a waiting room and atrophy, my two year-old keeps it real. We sing silly songs, read magazines called “Great Circulation” and play on mommy’s iPhone. We have long conversations about doggies, and William (her best friend) and Mickey Mouse.

A few weeks ago we sat near an older couple who watched the two of us and chuckled at my busy toddler. They told me about their grandchildren and we swapped stories about living in Newport Heights (my old neighborhood) and writing and life.

No one mentioned why we were there. It’s never good news at the cardiologist or the oncologist but it just might just be one of the more genuine places to meet people. Everyone there is a bit frayed around the edges. Masks are let down. Sadness and hope and resolve swirl around like air freshener.

I found out they owned a clothing company for little girls called “Girlfriends” and the lovely lady –Anita asked me what size Kolby wore. She also asked for my card to check out my blog and said she might send us a treat.

I wished them the best and off we went to wait some more.

On the day before Mother’s Day, a big box arrived in the mail and I tore into it. I pulled out one beautiful dress after another for my little girl.

And I was blown away at this couple’s generosity. We didn’t talk about God or illness or anything sad that day –because it was the unspoken and obvious, we just laughed and gloried in the life and vibrancy of a small child.

And maybe that was our simple gift to them.

Thank you Anita and Jerry for your random act of kindness and paying it forward! You made my Mother’s day very special ♥

What can you do today to bless a stranger?

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