Why I’m Not Bringing Sexy Back

What you do in your bedroom is your business. I won’t ask and PLEASE don’t tell.

Stay with me.

But how you think outside the bedroom is my business, actually it’s humankind’s  because we live in a world where cheap sex and sexy backs are commonplace- so common that there is a slavery business just for that.

Human trafficking is a worldwide, human rights, moreover women’s rights problem. And here in the US at least, we mostly have ourselves to blame.

Hold up.

Like, did you know that we spent $7.6 BILLION on pretty little lacy, barely there sexy things bearing the VS insignia last year?!

I choke on that figure. Think of what that amount of money could do.

Don’t freak out- a pretty panty or racy bra is not the problem, but the life-size glossy of the collagen-lipped model wearing them is. Here’s why: we accept THAT as sexy, no- desirable, no- easy (sorry- old fashioned word), no- achievable, how about the gosh darn freakin’ standard of being a modern, “with it” woman?!

I know this is strong language but it has to be said. Playboy, SI swimsuit issue and hundreds of thousands of websites are EXPLOITING WOMEN EVERYDAY- and we tolerate it, we support it, no, we sustain it- all of them- by believing that we have to strive to be that- that sultry, lusty female that entices all.

I reject sexy (and you should too).

We are exploiting ourselves, then we are appalled at the rise in sex trafficking. To be sure, there are much greater evils at work, but:

HEAR ME OUT.

Our “outside the bedroom” thoughts should be: How strong are we? How capable are we? How smart are we? How clever are we? How can we advance ourselves? How can we dream bigger dreams? How can we be ourselves? How can we achieve amazing things?

The notion that a woman’s body is a free peep show, feeds into the insatiable need for fulfilling a man’s desire, which feeds into the slave trade in which so many women are lured, which in turn leaves every woman degraded, disrespected and undervalued.

I stand against the sexy tide. Who is with me?!

And my word for 2017 is…

She poured the bubbling acid, waited for just the right moment, then scraped and scraped and scraped. It was a laborious process, requiring much patience and precise depth. We groaned at another piece of old, musty furniture that did not look worth salvaging. Yet, she saw beyond the layers of paint and deep gouges to the beauty of that turn of the century bird’s eye maple grain, stained a warm, inviting blond.

My mom saw it restored, envisioning something the rest of us simply could not see.

Restore.

That is my word for 2017.

After 2016 began by burying my last remaining parent and ended with a brutal, unjustifiable 2 months of unemployment for my husband, I look towards the beauty of what will be.

2017 will hold its own heartaches- this, life has taught me with certainty. Yet, the restoration I envision is no wishful thinking or wearing of rose-colored glasses finish.

Instead, with great deliberation, I will strive to find purpose in the layers of pain, broken expectations, loss. In the gouges, I will behold the grand details of life’s intricacies and the redeeming qualities of the blemishes.

Restoration is: reclamation of something lost, a bringing back to full capacity, a revitalization of original beauty. It takes seeing beyond what is on the surface. It takes hoping for a future promised. It takes valuing the painful moments alongside the exquisite ones.

It is a laborious process at times, but one so worth the effort. I will hope. I will imagine what’s underneath. I will endeavor to renovate the ugliness. I will have faith in God’s renewal. I will anticipate the loveliness of a salvage completed.

Here’s to a restored 2017!

1 Peter 5:10

“And the God of all grace… will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

Cheap Optimism

Last week, I heard a message about the hope of Christmas and how we look both forward and back to fully grasp it.

During that message, two words resounded and I have mulled them over all week:

cheap optimism

The truth is, I have, over a number of years changed from a self-proclaimed pessimist to an optimist. The reasons are varied and how I accomplished this is too much to discuss here. The simple fact is: I see beauty, potential, and grace in people or situations that were before only dismal, twisted and hopeless.

Still, something about the words “cheap” and “optimism” together stuck me because this is a concept that totally consumes our culture. We want cheap thrills, quick fixes, casual sex, instant gratification, likes and loves on social media, or hope in the form of some political, athletic or celebrity savior. In short, we want a watered down version of lasting optimism. We want hope that just might get us through the next 24 hours but not much beyond. We want the promise of sunny future without any present cost.

These words seem a juxtaposition since cheap connotes negative while optimism brims with positivity. Yet together, they convey a strong message: hope without longevity and a solid infrastructure will fade.

Optimism is possible. No, not even just possible; it is tangibly within each person’s grasp. Because at it’s core it begins with hoping in someone- a being so transcending time and space, so divine and yet strangely human, so outside the temporary, cheap thrills that tantalize- the person of Christmas, Jesus himself.

This optimism won’t dissolve like a vapor. It won’t disappoint like an ill-conceived gift. It won’t wear out like twenty something beauty or fade like yesterdays on trend fashion.

This optimism carries us till the end- in the darkest of seasons and the loveliest of times, in the ups and downs and in and outs of life. We can remain truly hopeful because this is no cheap optimism. It came at the cost of a human life, sacrificed some 2,000 years ago for us.

This is my foundational truth that allows me to see beauty in the broken, feel hope for tomorrow and see light, joy and potential in my dark, lurking doubts.

My broken snow globe holidays

In a matter of days they will arrive. You know, the cards with families full of mirthful expressions, the letters telling of orgasmic feats, exotic vacations, university degrees and oh-so-amazingly talented children.

Then there others that would like to send a card but can’t. They just buried a loved one and are clawing their way through grief, one torturous moment at a time. There’s the once happy family that was splintered when their rebellious child left everyone in the lurch with their choices. Then, there is the jobless family who could not fathom the frivolity of a holiday card, as they look at their dwindled bank account in worry.

Oh, it’s not like each of these can’t somehow muster a few “things I’m thankful for” to rattle off when asked. Rather, the crushing weight of current circumstances has shattered the idyllic holiday snow globe scene: shards of hopeful expectations or family traditions, broken, unable to be recaptured.

It’s that time of year, where all the things we might know about friends and family (but can blissfully ignore every other month), are lovingly and without malice, foisted right in our faces. These messages arrive in glitzy envelopes, picture cards that are downright movie set quality and letters listing feats of epic proportions. They come to us innocently. But the emotions they evoke are quite the opposite of the beauty they display.

Don’t tell me I’m just envious because that is not it. Don’t tell me to “rejoice with those who rejoice” or don’t rebuke me with some trite saying like “hey, you’re not dead yet.”

This isn’t self-pity or envy. This isn’t a sad miserable soul trying to garner attention and a tiny violin serenade. This is me admitting my globe broke and it hurts like a mother.

Let me hold the base of my broken snow globe and weep. Allow me to look longingly at the scene that will never be again. Help me by gently picking up the slivers of glass alongside me. Don’t offer to go buy another one. That would never make me feel better anyways. Just let the hollowness be. *

*Maybe you know a person like this. What can be done?

Invite me for a coffee. Wrap me in a warm hug. Drop a non-glitzy card in the mail just to say, “I’m thinking of you.” Be mindful of your message when you send out that card or letter. Most of all, don’t forget that not all of us will have a happy holidays this year (even if we might really like to). It may be your broken globe year one day.

broken-globe

Getty Images

Lil’ bit gypsy, nun, feminist

Well, that’s an odd combination, you say. True. I am pretty odd :).

I thought it would be fun to expound a bit on my weird self. Not in a narcissistic kind of way, but in a relatable kind of way. Because like I like to say, we are not so very different after all.

I grew up in two houses and only one I actually remember. My parents built their country dream home and we moved in when I was six years old. It was idyllic- close enough to LA to enjoy the good stuff like cool LA beaches, yet far enough from the gangs and graffiti that I was cushioned from the urban decay.

Constant– it’s the word I use to describe my childhood. Dad works at the same job for 30 years, I live in the same town (until I marry at 19, GULP), mom stays home and is there every day to take care of everything.

Fast forward 25 years. I have moved 13 times, once moving out of and back into the same house. The reasons are vast, varied and would take a volume in itself to tell. But THIS is why I am a lil’ bit gypsy. God thought it was a good idea to s t r e –  t   c   h me, to take my rigid, constant world and turn it upside down. While it isn’t ideal (and it’s really sucked for our kids somewhat), it has made me who I am today- a much more flexible person, able to appreciate and love all the friends I’ve made, and not a lover of “stuff”. (You do a lot of purging when you move this much!)

A lil’ bit nun– that’s an easy one. Remember that I said I grew up “cushioned”? One rule was NO MOVIES at the theater. Why? Because movie theaters are evil, don’t you know… I also double pierced my ears on my honeymoon because, don’t you know, I would have been kicked out for doing it while living under my parent’s roof. Definitely, no two piece bathing suits! Yeah, we went kind of heavy on the rules at my house.

Dirty secret- I’ve never owned or worn a bikini. I go to the beach in shorts and a tank top. And just in case you’re all feeling sorry for my daughter, she owns and wears a bikini. I’m just not into the whole body bearing in public scene and I feel very strongly that this is sadly one of the ways that females unknowingly exploit themselves. (But that is a post for another day and obviously, I have very solid rationale for it.)

A lil’ bit feminist because I spent far too many years with my head wrapped up in the doctrines of MEN who like to write books about being the head of the home (while making the woman the tail) and being king of the castle (while making the woman his vassal, instead of his queen).

It took me way too long to understand my value and see myself as equal, just with a different and unique role. The deprecation and devaluing of women the world over breaks my heart and angers me. If I can bear and nurture a child, without which the world would cease to exist, I am invaluable. My ideas are not inferior, just feminine. My body is not weaker, just feminine.

My husband and I are both strong, type A personalities and trust me, we have had to WORK REALLY HARD to compromise and be cohesive and not step all over each other. But it’s beautifully worth it.

So, there, nothing like a complicated mess who ambles through life with a bit of baggage. (Don’t we all?) But it is this very stuff that has woven the complicated pattern of who I am today and what makes me tick as a person. To use the cliché’: God isn’t finished with me yet and he won’t be until my last breath is drawn.

If you had to use only 3 words to define yourself, what would they be?

 

take your idyllic life and shove it

It used to be white picket fences. Now, pretty sure it’s more along the lines of a 2500 sq. ft. house in the burbs.

I had a white picket. I built it around my heart. (Oddly enough, there was one in front of our very first house and every day, the school kids would scribble words like fuk on it- go figure.)

For far too long I cultivated and conjured the idyllic life. Pretty. Well ordered. Adorned. I thought I had it. Then it slowly disintegrated like a prim mirage in a heat wave.

Finally, the pickets came out one by one. They all had names like perfectionism, self-righteousness, obedient children, financial security, or dream vacations. I am certain a few were taken out by gale force winds of upheaval.

Without that fence, my life felt bare and exposed. This was new ground to tread and nothing appeared picturesque at all.

I have to talk myself out of panic attacks. My toilet hasn’t seen a brush in two weeks. My kids sometimes call each other the “d” words. I look in the mirror most days and think, “Oh crap. The old grey mare ain’t what she used to be.” I can’t paint my rented walls that eggshell shade.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. You should see what’s underneath.

Idyllic? No. Ideal? Rarely. Fabulous? Working on it {most days}.

I’m glad that fence came down. It was freedom that I never knew I wanted or needed. Freedom from expectations and confines and religiosity and so-called bliss.

This life of mine is not very neat and tidy but I love it, every weird, loud, emotional, uncertain moment of it.

If I want idyllic, I’ll have to go to Disneyland.

My Public Confession and Declaration (about parenting)

I’m sitting here feeling (a little) sorry for myself. At least I’m woman enough to admit it. For that past seventeen years my life has been bereft of my mother and my dad, who tried beautifully to fill both shoes left me almost 5 months ago. So, yeah.

Then there’s the fact that motherhood represents the great cataclysmic change in my life that has brought out my absolute worst and but sometimes best sides. So, I decided I’d turn flip the script a bit. Instead of my kids giving me some schmaltzy accolades (which they did ‘cause they’re awesome), I’d write a public declarations and confessions post.

First, the confessions:

#1 I didn’t love being a mother at first. In fact, I think it took me a number of months to even like it. Thanks to post-partum depression that assailed me like a ton of bricks after each birth, I was in the doldrums while everyone told me I should be flying over the moon.

#2 I yelled too much. I dug in mentally, said I was going to win every argument and shouted to prove it. Ugly, harsh words that if I had the breaths of a lifetime, could not suck it all back in. Also, I still lost a lot of arguments.

#3 We actually thought spanking was the best way to discipline. How absurd! I am indelibly sorry for spanking you- ever. If we still had it, I would personally build the bon fire in which to burn that stupid “whacker” we used to administer corporal punishment.

#4 I diluted your juice waaayyy beyond when I should have  and I made you go to bed too early for too long (which I said was because of science proving kids need good sleep, but was really because I was just “done” by 8 pm).

#5 I was a mediocre teacher who fumbled around trying to pretend I knew what I was doing, too hard-nosed and demanding. But kudos to me, you can all read, write and think relatively well.

#6 I listened to other people’s opinions too much and played the great “how-do-my-kids-stack-up-against-yours-academically-physically-spiritually” game, instead of looking at each of you as unique individuals, gifts perfectly designed to be raised by me (and your dad). (By the way, we came in at 44,786th place. Not bad.)

And lastly, #7 For too long I was afraid, very afraid that I would mess up and you’d turn out horrible, so I tried to create a bubble world I thought would protect you. Then the bubble burst and guess what? It’s okay because I am outside the bubble with you and more than that, so is God.

There’s that. Now on to part two: the declarations.

#1 I love you- NO MATTER WHAT! My mama heart is yours through the tears and rages of young adulthood, through the bad and good decisions you make, through the experimentation years and ignoring me years and the years of trying to figure out just who the heck you are.

#2 I admire you in innumerable ways and I need to get better at reminding you of that everyday: your courage, your intelligence, your creativity, your strength, your determination, your tenacity, your sensitivity, your humor, your beauty, to name a few.

#3 I will give you a good verbal whoop up every now and then because if mom can’t get in your face time to time, you need to toughen up.

#4 I will continue to annoy you, no I will in fact seek to annoy you at times, just to make sure you know who is boss and not take life too seriously.

#5 I will keep telling you to swim against the tide, to be yourself, to go after something if you want it, to not follow the crowd in doing wrong, to get a grip, to do unto others as you’d want done to you, to go to college, to look for beauty everyday and you’ll find it, to remember that God is writing your story, etc.

#6 I will keep listening- always- about your hurts and hopes, about your crazy and brilliant ideas, about your loves and lost loves, about your fears and struggles (Even if it’s the middle of the night.)

#7 I will always make the best chocolate chip cookies. You can count on that.

#8 I will always pray for you.

Happy Mother’s Day 2016

Life is Like an Unfinished Painting

I used to dabble in art, but if I was being honest, I probably got less than 5% of any artistic genetics (okay maybe more like 2%).

Yesterday, my son went to one of those “learn to paint in an afternoon” places. His entire class painted the same scene (Does this seem healthy for an 8th grader’s self-esteem?) and let me tell you, the results were stunning- in good and bad ways. Clearly, art is one of those things – you either “have it” or you don’t.

Seeing this masterpiece my son painted reminded me that I have not done a “Life is like…” post in awhile. So, you guessed it: Life is like an unfinished painting. Unfinished because we never to get see the end result so to speak.

I do know just a tad about painting. You have brushes, oil paints, an easel, a smock (what a weird word), oh and a canvas- a pristine, vibrant white canvas. That is how we start out in this world.

Then little by little color is added, shapes appear. Different brushes are used to create smaller or larger swaths of color. The brushstrokes begin to fade and the beginnings of a picture emerge.

Sometimes the mood is foreboding, the dusky shadows are added- black, grey or brown, then softer hues add a splash of highlight- a brilliance that wasn’t present before comes alive.

Each person we interact with paints using their own technique upon our canvas, some for beauty, (hopefully most), and some for distastefulness.

The choices we make and roads we amble down add a depth and texture, like when the thickness of the paint comes off the canvas in dimensions.

God paints whether you think He does or not. As divine creator He has a picture planned from eternity past- and His brushstrokes are transcendent but not always good, seemingly. He sees the finished work unlike anyone else does.

With time, the picture looks like something. Layer upon layer the colors mingle and definitive lines resemble what it was meant to be. Everyone a distinct picture. No two alike.

In different lighting, it can take on a new perspective, as does the distance one stands from the canvas.

And it goes on like that until, the very last inhale and exhale of life. Then our canvas is filled and only those who live on after us see the final product.

Let us strive for a masterpiece, a legacy for those who gaze upon it, a picture worth admiration and emulation.

Marked

I thought it was morbidly weird- ashen crosses on foreheads. My thought process was something like: Must we? That is what makes the world think the Christian religion is a bit freaky; so many outwards signs, symbols and rituals. And this… it’s just so sad looking.

We all wear scars, marks if you will. Some are visible, some invisible.

Maybe it’s a scar from a surgery or the marks from birthing children. Perhaps our mark is an intentional one like a tattoo with meaning behind it. Or the scar could have a darker purpose, like an attempted suicide or cutting.

Whatever the case, these are reminders, either for good or bad.

Likewise, the ashen cross marks us, reminds us, prepares us. The symbol of the cross reminds us that we are in need of saving and Someone has already done that. It reminds us that we are still carrying that mark invisibly in our souls everyday because we belong to Another. It prepares us for one of the greatest events in human history- the death and resurrection of Jesus.

The 40 days of going without serve a somber purpose, but with the happiest of all endings- the reason we rejoice in our present salvation and have a future hope.

The cross is the beginning, but the empty grave is the end!

As we embark on the journey of Lent, it is with purpose and deliberation; a time of reflection and ardent pursuit of the greatest love ever given.

I am a soul forever marked.

In the Ashes

I’m sitting in the ashes.

The grey char has dirtied my clothing and skin but I don’t care. I am content to be here. It’s my season.

We often fear the ashes. They feel unclean and our society balks against dirtiness. They leave indelible stains and we are all about removing those. Their particles permeate the air and our lungs must have only pure oxygen.

Now I sit, sometimes in silence, but only silence on the outside. Inside, there are scenes playing in rapid fire succession. Poignant moments. Warmth of embraces. Snippets of conversations. Compliments. Rebukes. Twinkling eyes. Silly jokes. Dinners, coffees, donuts. Hundreds of thousands of moments. Sweet but aching all at once.

Sometimes the ash is mingled with tears- copious amounts of them; tears of anger mixed with expletives like f**k cancer and “why don’t I have parents” questions. Then drops of anguish or fear come splashing out, fear of my own mortality (will I get cancer too?) and anguish- the crushing kind where your chest feels heavy from a broken heart.

I get up and walk away from the ashes because I have to. Life goes on around me- homework, work, bills, dinners, grocery shopping. Then I go back, not because I have to, but because I want to. It’s my season and it will soon be a distant memory, not forgotten, just moved past.

I am not afraid here. These ashes are a reminder- a sobering one- that life is like a mist but there is an eternity that awaits us; that a life lost is not a life forgotten. As the soot cannot be easily removed from anything it touches, so grief stains our entire being in a somber grey. But I will rise from the ashes a better person.