A promise to myself as a woman

As a woman living in the 21st century I will live as though I have a thousand daughters, even though I have none, because every girl is my daughter and when she sees me, or engages with me, she’s looking to me for how to live. So I will live, I will smile, I will laugh, I will speak, and I will pray as though their hearts and souls depend on it.

As a woman living in the 21st century I will not judge myself based on numbers. My worth will not be determined by my weight, by my height, by my social security number, by my Blogger followers or Google followers or by Facebook and Twitter. Only one number will ever matter to me, that is, the number One, who is God, who is my biggest fan, and all I will care about is whether or not I bring him glory.

As a woman living in the 21st century I will not depend on makeup or clothes to improve my self-esteem. If I am looking tired, I will take a nap, not put on foundation. If I am feeling sad, I won’t buy a new outfit, but I will bow down and pray and ask the Holy Spirit to mend these broken ways in me and comfort me and be my closest confident. I do not need to purchase or accessorize; I need to recognize my emotional and spiritual needs, and allow my creator to recreate me, daily.

(for the rest of this post, won’t you visit me HERE over at my personal blog today?)

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i love my hips (and other ways women are beautiful)

i’m used to apologizing for them.

“i’m sorry about my wide Dow hips,” i said as my friend slid into the sled beside me, both of us with babies on our knees and toddlers between our legs, children left and right and me voicing contempt for the body that bore them.

and then i corrected myself even as the snowmobile started and we moved down the track of snow. “i mean, i’m sorry about my beautiful birthing hips,” i said, and my friend laughed.

and it’s a start. i’m beginning to speak in love about myself. it’s not perfect, but i’m not either, and God is and he is making new everything about me, spirit and body, even as i get older. because i’ve invited him in. i’ve invited him into my heart, and into my eyes. i’ve invited him into my soul and into my mouth.

because becoming a new creation is actually pretty literal. it doesn’t mean feeling new. no, it means becoming new. it means God taking our old natural instincts and replacing them. it means him breathing spirit and life into our vision and our speaking and our thinking.

oswald chambers puts it this way:

“Our Lord never patches up our natural virtues, He remakes the whole man on the inside. The life God plants in us develops its own virtues, not the virtues of Adam but of Jesus Christ. Watch how God will wither up your confidence in natural virtues after sanctification, and in any power you have, until you learn to draw your life from the reservoir of the resurrection life of Jesus.”

i have a lot of days where i barely look into the mirror because i’m so busy looking into the faces of my children. i don’t have time to look at my reflection, and yet my children always think i’m beautiful. “do you see the way kasher looks at you?” trent says. “with the utmost adoration.”

and my boys see me at my physical worst: at my sweats and bathrobe, messy hair and sleep-worn eyes worst. they smell my coffee breath and my unwashed body and they snuggle closer. they keep their hands on my shoulder even as they play because they don’t want to lose contact with me.

our depth of relationships, with ourselves, with our children, and with our creator, define our beauty, because relationships are eternal. they give us meaning and value and worth. the world wants us to think that appearance defines beauty because it can profit from that philosophy. it can’t profit from something intangible, like love. only we can.

so i’m trying to speak kindly about my beautiful Dow hips, to stop apologizing for my existence. because this body gave birth to two boys, and it gives birth to marriage every day, and it bears spiritual life too.

i love my hips. i love my lips. i love my life. not because of who i am but because of who lives in me. and he is beautiful. 

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why I write about God–and why I stopped

i write about God a lot. i write so i will know him more.

but there comes a time when i need to stop writing. and it happened last week while i was listening to Sons and Daughters’ Your Glory. i was sitting in my easy chair, the christmas tree alight and the children asleep and peace on earth, except i wanted more. i always want more. i’m a good-news junkie.

so i stop typing, i close my eyes and i raise my hands, listening to Sons and Daughters and in my mind, i see God’s light, a luminous light pooling like butter on the ground and there i am, running around outside the scope of that light, following flickers, pale white flashlight-flickers like fame and fortune and people’s opinions of me.

and more often than not for all of my running i’m left in the dark. and right there, in my living room, i put my face in my hands and asked God to help me step into his light, into his glory, and to stop worrying about what other people think. to stop letting humanity define my eternal worth. because bones don’t make the soul.

i sat there in my brown housecoat, Sons and Daughters singing and my eyes closed and face in my hands and then, the light shifted. God’s glory. it moved, and it came to rest upon me.

i didn’t have to.do.anything. i just had to ask. God wants to give us everything. why do we find it so hard to believe he loves us? to let him love us? maybe because the world tells us we’re only as good as the mother on the screen, or the wife in the church pew, or the size of our jeans?

and i realized in that moment of God coming to rest on me in my living room that this is what he did at Christmas. he came to us. he knew we couldn’t get to him. we couldn’t do enough good to reach him. so he did the completely unexpected, and came as a defenseless infant into a room that was a barn.

talk about feeling like a failure. i wonder if mary doubted herself. if she doubted God’s calling on her life to be the son of God’s mother, because she gave birth in a pile of straw and manure.

the Bible doesn’t talk about that, but i think we can be reassured that she chased those flashlight-flickers too… until she held Jesus in his arms and felt the strength of the universe in his muscles and saw the love of God in his old-soul eyes and felt God’s pleasure shake the barn rafters.

and again, God’s glory found Mary and Jesus and Joseph in that barn. angels on the roof, lighting up the night in a chorus of hallelujah.

so i’m going into this new year slowly, because i don’t want to step out of God’s glory. i don’t want to stop feeling his pleasure. i want to let him provide for me, and sing over me.

and i want to draw my children close and let them feel God’s glory too.

Blessed Are Those Who Don’t Do It All (Guest Post by Cara Sexton)

 
In past seasons of my life, I filled notebooks with goals, to-do’s, strategies and techniques for getting things together. From a fundamental place inside of me came the constant, relentless message: Be Better.
I wanted to be better at everything and somewhere inside I believed that every other woman out there was accomplishing all the things I couldn’t manage, an entire lifestyle of doing it all with grace and effortlessness. I saw myself as failing in some level at just about everything, not only everything in my life but everything in the world if you counted all the things I wasn’t doing. (And I counted.)
If I spent five hours cleaning the kitchen, I felt bad about the state of the pantry. If the house was neatly picked up, the carpet stains screamed loudly at me every time I walked into the room. If I’d baked a fabulous dessert for my family, I berated myself for the mediocre dinner they were served just prior.
But somewhere along the line, something within me broke and I saw that part of myself from outside eyes, like an out-of-body experience. I learned to be kinder to my heart and treat her like a friend of mine and not just an abused little girl who couldn’t live up to anything. This was all unfolded, I’m sure, as my depth of understanding unfolded about grace, about the God who loves so purely and completely that His heart for me cannot be changed by any amount of my goodness or lack thereof.
At some point, I stumbled on peace and self-forgiveness.
I started a Things I Don’t Do list in my head and began to check off, one by one, the things that would creep up on me and tell me lies. I thought hard about the things that tormented me and decided whether I really needed to make space for them in my life, whether I really did believe my call was to be better in that area. Sometimes the answer was yes. Sometimes, I added them to the TIDD list, and breathed a little easier.
The Things I Don’t Do are mostly good things. They are things that may be sacred and creative and might beautifully enhance another person’s life. But for me, they are things that would take the space I have to give the other things in my life, the ones that give me life and joy and serve a higher purpose than to simply be better. As I have let things go, I have learned that with less effort to be everything and more effort to be the uniquely created me, I am a little bit better by proxy, and that is the ironic-flavored icing on the cake.
Here is a portion of my list:
I don’t go to the gym. My body is not perfect or even necessarily pretty but it is the body that has bore three children and held tightly to a dozen more. It sags in areas it shouldn’t and bulges in places I wish it didn’t and has erupted in a terrible case of adult acne, but its scars and stretch marks reflect its purpose. I love to see old Bibles, worn from years of use and tears, notes scribbled in the margins and pages bent back. I’m beginning to see my body in this way too, an open book, a love story, in which my life is written slowly into laugh lines and chipped nails, tan lines and chronic illness and chapped lips and birthmarks, calluses and tattoos and scabbed-over wounds that I am beginning to love. My exercise comes in the form of wrestling t-shirts over squirmy kid heads and games of hide-and-seek, hiking to waterfalls and the thousand leg-lunges I do every single day while picking up Matchbox cars. I don’t count calories and I eat more chocolate than is good for me but I’ve decided I’m basically okay in my size 11 jeans because this body has been awfully good to live in despite its many flaws.
I don’t garden. I grow children well, pets poorly, and I kill most other living things. I admire and respect those who find gardening to be a spiritual experience, but for me it is dirt and thorns and grub worms, and it takes all the beauty and mystery out of nature. If I manage to keep alive a rose bush, I resent it for the creative time lost in its cultivation and therefore, gardening makes the TIDD list.
I’m not on the PTA. I’m not the room mother or the field trip chaperone or the teacher’s aide. I care deeply about my children’s educational experiences but this is not the outlet for that, for me. I admire that there are others who are so much more patient, more talented, more gifted with teaching children and I give them space to be positive influences in my kids’ lives, too.
I don’t pair socks. Laundry is serious business around here and I spend way more of my life than I care to in the act of cleaning and putting away clothing. We have a Sexton Sock Basket, and when I fold laundry, all socks go in the bin. When someone needs a pair, they Scuba dive for two that pass for matching, and we all live happily ever after, the end. Most people are seriously horrified by this. What kind of mother doesn’t even match their kids’ socks? Let me tell you. This kind of mother. The kind that has living room campouts with them for the heck of it and throws unbirthday parties every once in awhile and decorates a living room birthday tree for the special kid of honor. The kind who has decided to make other things a bigger deal than socks and does so without apology.
There are scores of other things I don’t do. I don’t eat organic or change my refrigerator filter as often as it needs it. I don’t do play-dates or mom’s group or homeschool (anymore). I don’t cloth diaper. I don’t vacuum every day or run marathons or cook from scratch or iron or dry clean. I am not against any of these things. They’re good. They’re great, even. They’re just not great for me, right now.
I am not totally guiltless over all of these things yet, but I’m getting there. The Things I Do list (I have one of those too) is getting shorter and shorter in quantity, but fuller and fuller in quality and I’m learning to see that as the better thing.
You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are – no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

(Matthew 5:5 MSG)

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(please visit my friend Cara, here. and don’t forget to pre-order your copy of Chasing Silhouettes: How to Help a Loved One Battling an Eating Disorder, with Dr. Gregory Jantz, here.)

the night we lay beneath the stars

he pulls me to the door. outside the night is young like us, all freckled with stars. the children in bed and down the patio steps into grass still warm from summer. he pulls me to the trampoline and there, two pillows and a blanket, the quilt from our bed. he looks at me and i smile and he pulls me up. we lie there beneath the freckles and it’s bible school again. that night we took to the yard in woolen socks, his parents asleep and we lay there kissing, only now we talk.

i can hear the leaves changing color and i shiver close. we kiss but it feels awkward and we laugh and then a baby starts to cry.

but i choose to believe. i fold this moment up, all tattered with its frayed quilts and awkward kisses and i tuck it into the hole inside. the hole that begs like a needy child for love and meaning and purpose.

because sometimes all we have is tattered and awkward, and it’s the heart behind. i am bruised from years of hurting myself but here is someone who handles me gentle, who cares enough to put pillow and blanket on trampoline even for five minutes of talking. and it’s these moments that tell us we are worth it.

these are gifts, these moments, even as the sound of the leaves changing color or the touch of a baby’s skin or the taste of chocolate mousse or the long unexpected sleep… these are gifts from a God who longs to pull us to himself and talk. a God who believes we are worth the details of the day, the little, seemingly insignificant details, because we are so very significant to him.