Throwing Stones

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I’ve been a bit of a gym rat lately.  I run, I lift, and I work off the grief and stress. 
 
I also look around a lot–I mean there’s not much to do on a treadmill other than watch the three TV stations available.  I tire of Fox News or The Housewives ripping each other’s hair out.  Sometimes I simply prefer to watch gym people–it’s just as entertaining.
 
So, I’m running along the other day, bopping out to Pandora, when a woman catches my eye.  She’s twentiesh and tiny with long hair swishing down past her itty bitty bum.  Offhand, she looked Philipino to me, or Islandy (Islander?)…let’s just say she was some exotic  blend of tan skin and  petite features. 
 
That is until she turned and I caught the side view.  Island Girl’s bust was GINORMOUS.  Huge is an understatement.  I actually gasped in astonishment.
 
I tried not to gawk but her machine of choice was in my direct  line of sight, so then I thought it would look more obvious if I twisted my head and avoided looking forward.
 
Sam’s self talk goes something like this, “Just be casual.  Don’t stare.  Don’t stare.  Don’t stare.”
 
(I’m sweating more from angst than my actual workout)
 
I glance up, oh so nonchalent, to my first full view of the woman.  It looked like she was wearing a Hello Kitty Top with her yoga pants. 
 
A “mall stroller” came to mind.  For those of you who aren’t mom’s of babies, let me explain. 
 
You know when you put all your shopping bags and the diaper bag and your purse on the back of the stroller and everything is fine and dandy until you pull the baby out and then the stroller falls over?
 
That’s what Island Girl reminded me of–a mall stroller–and I waited in apprenhension for her to topple over.  She was so top heavy she defied gravity.
 
Then her t-shirt came into view more clearly.  And I was wrong.  It didn’t say Hello Kitty.
 
It said Hello Titty and the kitty face was morphed into a strange kitty boob concoction.
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When the slogan hit me, I almost fell off the treadmill.  I punched the arrow key and lowered the pace trying not to laugh out loud but making strange gurgling noises in the process.
 
I hate to admit what I thought next–maybe she’s a porn star?  But then  I thought about it again, “In Ladera Ranch?”  It didn’t make sense to me.
 
Now my brain is humming a new refrain, “Don’t judge circus girl.  Don’t judge.  Don’t judge. Don’t judge.  Oh God help me, I’m judging just trying not to judge.”
 
And sadly, I couldn’t look at her without throwing mental stones.  I knew I needed some help.
 
So I got off the treadmill and walked a safe distance away to pray and get a grip on my inner bitch.
 
And I tried to think how God would see this girl. This desperate girl screaming out for attention. 
 
And God whispered, “What if she was your child?”
 
What would I do if my daughter went in for three surgeries and became addicted to the knife in some desperate attempt to feel beautiful or loved? 
 
What if my daughter believed the lie that even negative attention was better than no attention so she disfigured herself to try and find it? 
 
But let’s be honest here, what would make a girl even go in that direction?  Sexual Abuse? Neglect? Abandonement? 
 
Then I felt another nudge from the Spirit, “Where are you in this girl?”
 
Really?  Ouch!  Well, I guess, I too fall into the trap of wanting to be beautiful, to be relevant and to matter. 
 
My definition of beauty might be different than hers, but I still want to take my husband’s breath away.  I still want to be pretty despite my age (41).  I enjoy looking young”ish” even though I’m grateful for the years of growth and maturity. 
 
In all truth, I’m still vain deep down in my core despite my efforts to supress it.
 
Are my desires so different from hers?  I might not wear a booby shirt and flaunt my 32 ZZZ’s at the gym but I understand the desire to be loved and pursued and adored.
 
And it hit me, If she were my daughter, I’d love the socks off her.  I’d love the good parts and the broken parts and the really big parts.
 
(Although we would definitely have a conversation about the Hello Titty top)
 
I got up and walked over near where she was working out.  I picked up some weights and smiled at her when she caught my eye.
 
A friend smile.  A smile that hopefully said, “I see you–not the boobs–just you–and maybe I can lift weights next to you and we can chat without anything wierd between us.
 
No agenda.  Just gym stuff.
 
And I felt God removing the log from my eye, a really big 2×4 that let me see this woman a lot more clearly.
 
I looked up the shirt when I got home.  It’s a BREAST CANCER logo. 
 
I will not even go into the awkwardness of some of their campaigns but I will give the gal props for raising awareness!
 
 
 
 
 
 

a little mischeif

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Giggles erupted from the back seat.  My radar went up.

I glanced in my rear view mirror and watched in amusement as four-year-old Kolby placed a small black cauldron on her head.  The little black “pot-of gold” was intended to hold leprechaun bullion—a gift from pre-school on St. Patrick’s Day.

“Hey guys, look at me…I’m a POT-Head!” my little lamb exclaimed.

And the car exploded in raucous laughter.  My teen and tween gave me THE LOOK while Kolby beamed at the great response to her joke.

“Shhhh…guys, I know it’s funny, but she’ll figure out that it will make people laugh and it will be part of her new shtick,” I warned my older kids who were wiping the drool off their laps in hysteria.

“So, bud, I asked my son, trying to change the subject, “How’s the whole drug thing going on at your school?”

My son smirked.  “Mom the kids who want to do it are still finding ways to do it, despite the drug tests.”

“How do you get around that?” I asked. 

“There are ways,” he said. 

“Really, UMMMM, wow!”  I muttered.

I Googled it later and yes this does exist.  I used my work computer (at home) which I thought about later and regretted.  Probably not a good idea to look up “how to pass a drug test” on the work computer. 

So, I found out you can buy synthetic urine at smoke shops.  They come in little pee bags. 

It’s good to know that our youth is always one step ahead of the curve. 

I thought carrying a flask into prom was bad.  How would you like to walk around with a pee bag in your thong, under your mini-dress and heels?

So, my friends who are parents of teens, if you find a small pouch with something yellow in it, please don’t think it’s a drink and give it a whirl.  It might be time for a discussion with your kid about the perils of weed and brain cell development in teenagers.

I also think it might be time for blood tests although that might open a whole new can of worms (or vampires?).

We pulled up to our house and jumped out the car.  A group of neighbor kids and moms was standing in our yard.

I heard Kolby in the distance yelling as I unloaded the groceries out of the back of my SUV, “Hey guys, look at me!  I’m a Pot Head!”

Yep…I knew that one was coming.

The Family Discussion

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“Mom, Dad, we have something we want to discuss with you.”

My husband and I looked at each other in apprehension.  It’s always a little scary when your three kids—even the toddler—band together for a “family discussion.”

My oldest son Kyle took the lead, “You said if mom didn’t get pregnant by Christmas, we could get a puppy.”

The girls nodded their head in agreement and three-year-old Kolby chimed in with a chant, “puppy, puppy, puppy!”

I exhaled a big whoosh of exasperation, delighted at my children’s tenacity and complete frustration at my old and rusty uterus. 

The kids are right.  We’ve tried and tried and it’s time to own up and pay our puppy dues.

I really do want my kids to get their dream dog.  I also really want one more baby.  I guess I want both.

I don’t want to throw in the towel yet (I’ve still got a month) but my biological clock seems to have stalled and stuck—it’s been two years and two miscarriages—so unless we explore infertility, I am more likely picking up dog poop in the near future than changing diapers.

(Insert a melancholy tune)

Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only one who feels this breathtaking sadness at hanging up the cleats in the baby making department. 

I see women all the time who have one or two kids and are so adamant they are DONE. 

While I respect their resolve, I’ve never had that feeling stick.  Not even once! 

No timer dinged loudly in my brain or heart.  The only thing holding me back from the Brangelina adoption of a mini-tribe is money. 

As far as I concerned, the more (munchkins) the merrier.

When I hear people complain about their kids I cover my ears.  Yes, these little (and big) suckers drive me bazonkers, but it’s a beautiful chaos. 

Call me crazy, but I just want more.  More kisses, more cuddles, more baseball games and tutu’s, more giggles and yes…even more teenage angst. 

Children are life—ravishing reminders of God’s blessing and love in a world of chaos. 

Maybe my thinking is broken.  Maybe it’s letting go of control?  I don’t know.  It’s just hard to watch the baby years come to a halt. 

Maybe I’m afraid of who I am when I don’t have a passel of children around to distract me.  Before I had kids, I was a little lonely.  I was a (mostly) only child with a large age gap between myself and my half-brother.  A large family fills that gap. 

The laughter, the noise, the energy…I love it.

Tim and I told the kids we would seriously consider our prior agreement. 

I also told them to ignore any strange noises from our bedroom. 

 “EEEEWWWWWW!!!!! Gross!” yelled my middle schooler.  Kyle just smirked.

(This is one way to guarantee you will never have sex, because kids are smarter.  Kyle simply stays up until 1:00am doing homework, Kolby and Faith wake up at 5:00am since the time change and just for good measure, Kolby also wakes up in the middle of the night to go potty)

We have to be sneaky in this house.

And we just might need to call a handyman to repair the broken fence on our dog run (just in case).

AAAHHH! My Son Brought a Girl Home!

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I saw lots of adorable scarecrows costumes this Halloween—dainty Dorothy’s with a Toto peeping from a basket spilling over with candy—and of course, spooky green witches—but not once did I encounter my favorite character—the cowardly lion.

In all honesty, I believe it’s the costume that best represents us all—a fearful people—raging and roaring in image management as we tremble in our boots and hope no one see through us.

We have moments of glory where we roar our terrible roars and knash our terrible teeth, and then reality rears its ugly head and we go back to worrying about the bills and our health, Obamacare and North Korea, our marriages, teenagers, and a million other concerns.

Fear steals our joy and anxiety makes tyrants of all, but courage—glorious courage—when it breaks through—shines like the light of a million stars.

I saw a glimpse of a courageous little lion stepping out of her comfort zone and into bravery the other night.

On Halloween evening, a friend of Kyle’s—a specific Girl friend stopped by the house to meet us.  The beautiful young lady, accompanied by a friend and her mom, walked up to the door and introduced herself.

Grace and Kyle—while not officially dating—have a strong fondness for each other.  I can see the sparkle in her eyes when she looks at my son.  At the Varsity football games, when they call his name over the loud-speaker for a tackle, she squeals with delight.  She wears his number #34 proudly on her cheek and she even dressed in one of old jerseys for Halloween. 

They are sweet together—it’s high emotion and furious texting and the blood racing tingles of high school romance. 

And to their benefit, these two are trying to navigate the space of family, church, age-appropriateness and really liking each other in a God honoring way

So what was so scary to Grace?  Apparently us. 

Meeting the parent’s—the scary dating experts—the pastor and the blogger—the mom of her crush—were all just terrifying to the poor girl.

I can’t imagine how awkward it was for her.  I was dressed as a saloon girl and Tim was a cowboy.  Our porch was covered in candles, strobe lights, pumpkins, bats and thumping ghoulie tunes.  Kids and neighbors poured over our walkway. 

It was funny way to meet the first girl he’s ever brought home—strangely formal, bizarre, and so endearing.

But I knew if Kyle was making the effort to include us we’d better pay attention.

And so little Grace—the competitive gymnast with the strawberry blond hair—bucked up, put on her big girl pants and braved the parents. 

Although I don’t know her very well and I’m not sure I’m ready for dating, I like how Grace operates. 

Fear does not define her.  She moved at the scary ‘meet the parents “moment with quaking feet and a fluttering heart, (our son told us this all later) but the point is she moved.  She planted those feet on our porch and stuck out her hand with a smile.

Grace defined her circumstances instead of letting her fear (or circumstances) define her.

The cowardly lion ends up learning courage because there is something MORE important enough in his life than the fear to make it worth the frightening journey.

And it makes this mama smile to think my son was the important thing that motivated her to be brave. 

Is there something scary or overwhelming in your life where you need an extra dose of courage?

Do I Have to Dress Up for Halloween?

My smallest child has asked me to do something out of my comfort zone.

She wants me to dress up for Halloween.

It shouldn’t be that big of a deal.  I did it plenty of times when my big kids were little.  I was a saloon girl, a cute kitty, and Little Red Riding Hood.  I guess, as an older more mature mom now, my frisky and whimsical side needs a serious kick in the pants.

Why does dressing up seems like…well, hard work?

But, I’m willing to make the effort for my three-year-old Kolby.  So, I started perusing the Halloween aisle and hunting down some online options.  Skanky costumes are out of the question–so that leaves me with very little to look at in the stores.  But, I’m on a mission for the Kolbster.

Here is what looks amusing… 

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Kolby can be Max in our favorite book “Where the Wild Things Are” and Mommy can be the boat.

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I can be Harry Potter and Kolby can be Hedwig the owl!

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This would be really funny if I was still Samantha Adams…but now I guess it’s just AWKWARD. Scratch this idea.

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I just love Bert and Ernie (Even if they are more than roomies now) But these two look a little bit SCARY, so I might need a more family friendly get-up. Kolby could be Rubber Ducky, Faith could be Zoey and Kyle could be the Cookie Monster.

 

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How awesome is this? Tim and Kyle can be Stormtroopers, Kolby can be R2D2, I can be Chewbacca and Faith can be the Princess.

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Seriously? This family is Bat-Ass. Kyle can be a bad guy and Faith can be Cat Woman.

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Kyle can get out his old Buzz Lightyear costume, Faith can be Jesse and Tim can be Slinky…Oh yeah!

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This is exactly what Faith would look like if I made her wear this get up. “Why do you all get to be apes and I have to be the sexy cave girl?”

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I just had to include this. Wouldn’t this be great as a family theme? Baby T, Momma T, Daddy T, Boy-Teen T and Girl-Tween T…
I think this is the one!

Work, Mommy Guilt, and Box of Macaroni

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I’ve been accused of dropping off the planet the last few weeks.

My blog has been neglected, my home a train-wreck (until my lovely housekeeper paid a visit yesterday) and my husband and I have passed like ships in the night.  Grandpa paid a visit to help me contain the chaos, but until I finish my project, the turmoil seems inevitable.

So, what detracts me?  What takes me away from reality?

I’m ghost-writing a book and my deadline is Oct. 1st.

No pressure for a mom of three smack dab in football and soccer season, ministry kick-offs and oh, another two jobs.

So, I came up with a scheme (and probably the only way I could finish the book on time) which was to pack my bags and head for the hills -or La Quinta, in this case, to my parent’s giant home in the desert.  I could get away for a few days, write like a fiend and finish the book.

I also thought I might rest a bit and refill my bucket.

But it didn’t work out the way I’d hoped.

Stinking Mommy Guilt interfered.

Oh, she is a nasty thing.  The morning I left, the “Berenstain Bears,” one of Kolby’s favorite shows was on and featured Mother Bear getting a job and not being there for her family.  Father Bear and Brother and Sister were left to flounder and fend for themselves in the wake of Mother’s ambitious dreams.

Kolby looked up at me with big eyes,  “You’ll never leave me, right Mama?”

“Uhhh, oh, ummm.  I love you.” (As my bag is packed and in the car)

Seriously PBS?  Is it a conspiracy?  I thought you were a pro-woman liberal show and now you make me feel like poop!

As soon as I arrived in La Quinta, I put on my pajamas.  These are the same pajamas I lived in for two and a half days.

After a few hours of work, I called home at bedtime and Kolby bawled in my ear.  “I want you to come home now Mama.” My big kids groaned…”We miss you, Mom, please hurry up and come home.”

And Mommy Guilt washed over me in waves of fury.

All I wanted to do was make the wails of my children go away as fast as possible.

So, instead of working and taking leisurely breaks to swim or leave the house and eat or shop, I holed in like a burrowing groundhog and worked twenty hour a day.  In my pajamas.

I took a few breaks to replenish my coffee cup, eat a few old crackers and demolish a box of macaroni.

I didn’t walk outside, watch TV, read, eat much or EVER relax.  Stupid Mommy Guilt turned me into a stark raving mad woman possessed by the desire to get home fast at all costs.

I was like Benji separated from his family and the mountain in between me and my babies and hubs was a pile of words.

I could taste home and it was all I wanted.

I drove home Tuesday evening and finally relaxed, reveling in the arms of my kids and husband. (And maybe crying over the state of my house)

And then one of my neighbor friends -a lovely mommy with three little ones said to me, “I hear you went out-of-town to write a book.  I’m jealous.  I want to write books too.  I want to go away by myself.”

And I shook my head and laughed.

Without a partner in crime, with no margaritas or a pool to lounge by with a friend, with ALL work and looming deadlines…getting away is highly OVER-RATED.

Work and vacation aren’t good friends.

And MOMMY GUILT is a horrible companion!

 

 

Cheer Bullies

Few things in life are all black or white –all good or all bad.

Most events have some redeeming factor or lesson to apply. Grace weasels its way in and finds the light in the darkest of nights.

But occasionally, evil rears its ugly head and I am left scratching my noggin in befuddlement.

Where is the good in this? What positive can I squeeze out of a rotten maggot infested dead rabbit?

(ahhh…but that’s another story about a rancid trashcan and a rabbit that croaked in my yard and an angry ex-husband who found the dead rabbit in the rancid trashcan because his wife didn’t know that dead rabbits need to go in other people’s trashcans)

Anyway, sometimes I ask myself, God, what the (insert an appropiately lame Christian bad word) was that sucker punch all about?

This was the question I asked myself as I left a youth football and cheer board meeting last night weeping.

Yes, weeping.

I walked through a senior center parking lot that lasted for miles and miles gulping and sobbing from a public beratement worthy of Paul and the Sanhedrin (before he turned good…when he still worked for the Dark Side).

And I asked myself once again, “What the hell is wrong with people?”

Years ago I was warned (by a wise mommy mentor) there are a few areas in life where people use unbridled power to manipulate and throw their weight around like the Patriots offensive line.

“Is it Washington politics?” I naively inquired.

“No Sam, its YOUTH SPORTS. Take heed to my words young lass and beware!”

I nodded at the wise sage and never forgot her words. And for years, playing for the Irvine Chargers and for Santa Margarita Pop Warner I had nothing but INCREDIBLE coaches, teams and experiences in football and cheerleading.

I thought I was one of the lucky ones. Sure there were the occasional squabbles and snarky remarks among parents, but overall we were tremendously blessed.

But last night those words came back to haunt me.

This year my daughter Faith was signed up for her second year to cheer for the Cowboys. Last year, her team competed in Nationals and she had a mostly positive experience. I had some concerns with extremely poor orginization within the league (not knowing the time of games until the day before…which will drive a mother of three CRAZY), but I tried to let the bad stuff go and focus on the fun. I helped out as team mom, hosted parties and provided a practice spot for the team (at no cost) at our church as a community outreach to save the league money. My husband and I went out of our way at every turn to support our girl and her team at every endeavor.

We were invested in the team like all parents who think their kids are AWESOME!

But this year things started off a little shakier.

The two oldest football teams –frustrated with the league took their ENTIRE groups of boys to another league. This left a gaping spot for the older girls.

There were no boys to cheer for in their age group.

My almost teen daughter would have to cheer for eight-year old boys.

And for a twelve-year-old girl this =MORTIFICATION.

Faith spent an entire night crying her eyes out. We asked her to pray and consider.

Then we got an e-mail saying her coach quit.

The game had changed. Faith tearfully asked if she could not cheer with this team.

She signed up to cheer for a MIDGET team but was faced with cheering for the MUNCHKINS.

I asked for a refund. Simple enough, right? I paid almost $400 and asked for my money back.

I was sent an e-mail saying I had to appear before the board.

Huh?

(Actually, I was sent five e mails with different times and dates and enough confusion to drive me crazy just regarding the board meeting)

So, I showed up at the firing squad (whoops –board meeting) where a group of YOUTH FOOTBALL Nazi’s terrorized me.

I was questioned, berated, interrogated and verbally beaten down to tears because I asked for a refund.

And then the questions arose as licked my wounded pride back at home?

Are the Cowboys in so much debt and disarray they can’t provide a refund for a kid who requested their money back over a month before practice started?

I was told “this is a business and we counted on your money.” “Even if kids get hurt we don’t provide a refund.” “Has your daughter been publicly shamed?”

My favorite was “How about a credit for next year?” –after I was already choking up. (like I wanted to come back and join this party again?)

And then like robots they repeated over and over a pre-planned message (clearly previously discussed) about what an honor it is to cheer for little boys almost half the age of my daughter.

And I understood why the two older teams picked up and left and took their boys with them. And why the Cowboys were allegedly kicked out of their previous league two years ago after a board member added seconds on the clock to overturn a game and let the Cowboys win.

Will somebody stop this reign of terror and stand up to these bullies?

I might have cried last night –but like little David facing Goliath, I’m just warming up my slingshot.

Have you had experience with youth sports?

Pharisees in Skirts

She caught my eye just as I opened the door to my gym locker fresh out of the shower; there stood Mrs. Pharisee in all her fitness glory with pert blonde hair, a haughty sneer and an agenda written all over her face. I furtively glanced around for a place to hide, but my options were limited by the water dripping from my soaked head and a large towel that was the only thing covering my derriere.

I braced myself for the forthcoming interaction as the woman spotted me, smiled like the big bad wolf about to devour grandma, and catapulted over benches and tennis shoes to reach me.

I remembered our last conversation at the church picnic all too well. I dared to bring a male companion I had recently started dating to the event. Mrs. Pharisee pounced and sweetly commented, like icing on a butcher knife, “Wow, Samantha, you sure got over your divorce fast. How long has it been dear?”

Her glib comment glossed over the last two years of abandonment, betrayal, instant single motherhood and the onslaught of accompanying pain. Her snarky insinuation implied I should still be mourning and wearing widow’s garb for a few more years in reverent obedience to a rule she had clearly made up about appropriate post-divorce behavior. 

“Well, it’s been a long journey from my end,” I replied as I tried to get my horrified date away from the “tsk- tsking,” of her disapproval.

The truth is legalists (or Pharisees in skirts as I like to call the female variety) abound in every church.  Sadly, if you leave one church there will probably be seven more at the next.   My neighbor recently had a run-in with a few lovelies that did some serious damage to her heart.

My neighbor is a seeker and recently began attending a local church.  She tried to connect and make some Christian friends by joining a women’s Bunco group she saw advertised in the church bulletin. After a few weeks of throwing dice, my neighbor volunteered to host the game night at her house and was surprisingly met with veiled hostility by the women in the group.  When she inquired about the tension, the ladies let her know that she was welcome to come to their church, but she was not allowed to host an event at her home until she accepted Jesus as her savior.  In this uncomfortable discourse, it also came out that some of the women didn’t think she should be attending the monthly Bunco game either. 

Now, my neighbor grew up in a strict Jewish home and any decision to follow Christ would affect her entire extended family.  Many of her relationships might suffer and her parents would more than likely be embarrassed.  It wasn’t a decision she took lightly and it wouldn’t be forced into over a Bunko game.

My neighbor confided in me one late summer evening as we were sitting on my porch.  Shocked, I inquired how these ladies extra religious rules made her feel. “Well, I don’t want to go their church anymore,” she said dejectedly. “It’s a complete turn-off. But I’m still curious about Jesus.  Could you,” she stuttered, “explain salvation to me?”

Needless to say, I took a deep breath, opened a bottle of wine and we talked and searched the scriptures together for hours.

I run into this religious spirit all too often at women’s bible studies.   At our growing church, new women join our studies each week.  When an attractive woman shows up for the first time dressed less than modestly, it seems as if a self-protective fog of dissention falls upon the group of women in a shield of exclusion.  And when I sense this gang-mentality resistance drawing me in- to reject instead of lean in and connect with a new, albeit pretty face, I call it out for what it is-fear.

Our female fears and insecurity regarding body image, lack of security and control issues turn us into modern day Pharisees as we bind heavy burdens on women and distort God’s word with a long list of she-made rules.  And I believe when we do this, we open the door for the enemy to create strife and a critical spirit that is detrimental to the church and to the world at large.

We bow our heads each week and sing, “Come just as you are,” and then negate this very invitation with body language that says, “Not so fast sweetie”.  If we were honest, we would post a warning sign at the church entrance reading: “Ladies, you are welcome if: 1. you keep your boobs properly covered 2. no midriff is revealed 3. all tattoos remain covered (unless it’s a trendy cross in an approved location…i.e. ankles are good, tramp stamps are bad) 4. you abstain from inappropriate footwear (six-inchstilettos are highly discouraged). 

There are strict unwritten rules of hierarchy in our Christian Women’s Social Club; you must act like a Christian, even if you don’t know Christ.  It doesn’t matter what your spiritual condition is as long as you modify your worldly behavior. If you get vulnerable and share something you are struggling with, we’ll pray for you with feigned empathy and talk about you behind your back.  And if it’s really bad, we’ll send your plight out to the prayer chain so the whole church knows what you are struggling with.  This may result in your being blacklisted from future leadership. And, if you don’t except Jesus fast enough we reserve the right to cancel your Bunco privileges.

So when Mrs. Pharisee approached me at the gym, my knees went weak and I prayed for strength. It had been some time since the church picnic; almost a year to be exact and certain events-namely my engagement to a pastor in our church, had increased my Klout for Christian score-keepers.

“So, I hear you are going to marry that pastor you’ve been dating, “Mrs. Pharisee gushed like a little girl wooing a queen bee with honey. “What an honor! How are you going to be able to handle this prestigious spiritual mantle?”

Unsuccessfully struggling to reel in my sarcasm, I replied, “Well I’m trying not to swear so much.”

Mrs. Pharisee’s poppy red mouth made an “Ooohhh” sound and she nodded her head very seriously.

“And,” I decided to take a chance, “I’m working on not being so judgmental.  I’m trying to love people more,” I said. “You know what? Sometimes I struggle with that.”

“Me too,” she whispered, “Me too.”

I guess there is a little Pharisee in all of us.

The Awkward Baby Daddy

Once a month or so I head over to Mission Hills Church and teach a class to a group of unwed pregnant young women and the occasional baby daddy supporting them. I run into a cast of characters at Birthchoice but this week might have been the most memorable EVER.

In the front row sat a very pregnant and lovely young gal. Beside her was an older gentleman who resembled Santa Claus. The age gap between the two was close to forty years.

I almost asked if the man rubbing her shoulders and cooing support in her ear was her grandpa or father but I felt prompted to hold my tongue.

As I started the class I bantered with the girls and asked a few questions. When I got to these two, it didn’t take long before the story poured out.

Santa was the baby daddy.

And it wasn’t pretty.

The girl clearly had some mental disabilities attributed to an accident during her teen years where she had lingered in a coma for weeks. Although still able to comprehend, there was dullness behind her beautiful brown eyes. She struggled with social filters and boundaries.

And from a distance (without perspective) it looked like this man had taken advantage of a young mentally disabled girl.

My stomach dropped and I choked back the rising waves off revulsion behind my tongue.

But as I talked, I secretly watched the two and how he interacted with her. Surprisingly he was gentle and patient and kind. I saw true delight and care behind his eyes.

Huh?

And then all of a sudden Jacob came to mind –Jacob, the biblical patriarch who dealt a shady hand all his days. This is the man who stole a birthright from his brother Esau, finagled the best livestock from his father in law and took his wives and kids and hitched the first camel train out of town.

But then one night it all came crashing down and Jacob was forced to confront his brother and the past.

He spent a night near the river Jabbock (which means wrestle in Hebrew) and Jacob did exactly that –he wrestled with God. He came clean. He owned his past and persistently dealt with his junk until God allowed him to pass through. He came out on the other side wounded (with a lingering blow to the hip) but able to move into his future unencumbered.

And here was this man before me -a man with kids my age who had impregnated a young girl, who didn’t run for the hills.

He didn’t abandon her.

He didn’t encourage her to abort the baby.

I imagine he had to face some ANGRY parents and possibly law enforcement.

Instead he owned it.

He accompanied her to parenting classes, assembled a team of friends and family to assist her and stayed close by her side.

I saw a man wrestling with God.

His sin was painfully obvious. It was the eye-sore in the room. Even the young knocked up sixteen year old girls felt justified that their mistake certainly wasn’t as heinous as his.

And I was reminded that in God’s economy nothing is ever black or white. And grace and forgiveness and sacrificial love trump righteousness every time.

God gave me new eyes that night. I saw myself in this man and my own struggles with failure and brokenness. The Jabbock nights flashed before my eyes where I have confronted the past and wrested with my soul.

The nights where I have ripped open the shiny facades I hide behind to expose the real me within and acknowledge the deep crevices and prickly darkness to the one who knows my most secret sins.

I saw a man who courageously faced his grimy soul and sat before me humbled and refreshed.

Not many sixty-five year old men get to be new daddies. There was humor and pain as he shared his unfortunate tale.

And it made me smile.

I believe God brings families together in the most bizarre ways.

I believe he can restore relationship out of ashes.

And I believe he can build something new and wonderful out of a contrite grandpa/baby daddy holding the hand of his greatest source of brokenness and future blessing.

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Not So Cheap Thrills

I should have known I was in over my head when the woman in reservations asked for my credit card to hold our brunch seating.

But after all my diligent research I figured it couldn’t cost TOO much to celebrate our Daddy in style.
I threw out my old gift giving ways this year.  No ties or sauces for daddy, no sports visors or knick-knack items –this year I wanted to dazzle my man with creativity. 

 My husband Tim adores Bloody Marys so I did a little sleuthing.  I discovered the famous drink was initially formulated by the St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan, New York.  I also found out the St. Regis in Monarch Beach, not far from our home, offered a three-tier Bloody Mary bar on Father’s day. And the best part…each custom concoction was only a mere $10.

It sounded reasonable, so I called and made a reservation at Motif –the main restaurant at the hotel.

Father’s Day arrived and my hubby was dressed up and amped up for his special DAD activity. After an early breakfast in bed, church, and dropping off the big kids, Tim and I and little Kolby headed over to the stunning hotel overlooking the azure blue sea.

The valet whisked our car away and we entered the grandeur of the St. Regis.  Vistas and views met our every turn and rich people glided and tottered by in impossibly high heels.  We found our dining establishment and checked in with the hostess who handed us glasses of champagne while we waited.  I people watched and played with Kolby who climbed up and down the majestic staircase.

Tim ventured into the restaurant to take a peep at the Bloody Mary bar.  His eyes were big when he came back and he bubbled over with energy as he described the decadent condiments and accoutrements.  Then he casually inquired how much the brunch cost.

“I’m not sure,” I replied.  “The drinks are only $10 so it can’t be that much, maybe $45 a person?”

This seemed like a large number to me.

Tim wandered away again as I downed my bubbly and played with my little girl.  He came back a few minutes later with a giddy and dazed look on his face.

“You must really love me,” he stuttered.

Quizzically, I turned.  “Yes, I do…why do you say that?”

“Because the brunch is a bit more than your highest estimation,” Tim gulped.

“How much is it?” I whispered.

“It’s $115 a plate and the Bloody Mary Bar is on top of that,” he frantically giggled.

I furtively looked around.  “Maybe we can run?”

Then I remembered they had my credit card.  We were stuck.

My eyes filled with tears.  “I’m so sorry; I didn’t know it was so much.”

Tim looked at me with laughter, kindness and mirth.  “I know honey.  It’s ok.  But we are going to get our money’s worth today.”

We stayed for almost three hours and ate and ate and ate and ate.  And truthfully, it was the finest buffet experience of my life.  Kolby even took a nap and they brought her a blanket to lounge.

I’m realizing over and over again, that although I have plans, God loves nothing more than to mess them up.  His ways are mysterious and daring.  He invites me to trust and to lavish love on my husband. 

It wasn’t in my budget.  I had to charge my almost $300 brunch, but my husband felt treasured and esteemed in a different way than normal.  It was extravagant love and maybe that’s reason enough to be a little crazy and a lot of broke.

Oswald Chambers said…

“It is more and more impossible for me to have programs and plans because God alone has the plan, and our plans are only apt to hinder Him, and make it necessary for Him to break them up.”

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