Thursday, December 19, 2013

Snow White, Rapunzel, and Jesus (Part Two)

This is the second part of a story I broke into two posts, so start here, or you're really going to be confused.

Okay, folks.  When last we were together, I was just getting ready to tell you why I don't worry about the "Disney princess" syndrome anymore.  (You really need to read part one first to have this make any sense at all.)  I'm going to have to go way off track of where I left you at the end of part one, but I promise I do have a point.

In the early morning hours of the day, long before Sweet E and I were singing together, many hours before this idea hit me, I was reading from the Gospel of Luke, in chapter 2 to be exact.  The following verses were the focus of my study today:

8And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 

These are familiar verses to me; maybe they are to you, as well.  But this morning, something in the notes of my Bible stopped me in my tracks.  In verse 10, the angel tells the shepherd that this good news of great joy was for all the people.  "Of course our Savior's birth was good news of great joy for all the people," I thought.  However, the notes mention that what the author (Luke) most likely meant by "all the people" was all of Israel.  At first, I was a bit huffy after reading that.  I pouted, "It was good news of great joy just for Israel?"  Well, yes, they were God's chosen people, but gee whiz...  What about us Gentiles?  For a split second, that kind of put a damper on this verse that I had always loved.  Then, as I thought it through some more, I realized that even though the announcement of His birth may not have brought joy to the Gentiles then (since they hadn't received the prophecies and the promises of this Savior), it certainly does now.  The birth of Jesus is a wonderful thing for us to celebrate, but the joy I have didn't begin and end with his birth.  The joy I have comes from His birth and life and sacrificial death and resurrection.  It comes from His willingness to come here to save me, to rescue me.  And so I finished my time of study, grateful for being rescued and grateful for the Rescuer.

Fast forward several hours: Sweet E and I are in the kitchen singing with the newest Disney soundtrack.  I am having that creeping feeling of doubt that always comes with Disney and princesses and girls needing rescued.  And suddenly it clicks...girls do need to be rescued...along with boys and men and women.  All of us need it.  It isn't wrong for my daughter to hear this message.  It is right.  It is exactly what she needs to hear; what we all need to hear.  No, she doesn't need to learn that she needs a man to make her life complete, or that a man will come along to pull her out of terrible situations.  But, she (along with the rest of us) do need to hear that there is a God-Man that did come.  And His birth, His perfect life, His sacrificial death, and His resurrection did make her complete and perfect and pulled her out of the most terrible situation she could ever be in.  Jesus came and He rescued her.  And now what I see in the epic stories and the valiant heroes and even the fluffiest tale of damsels in distress are echoes of Him.  May you see it, too, friends.

Merry Christmas! 

Snow White, Rapunzel, and Jesus (Part One)

This morning, I had a thought.  That in itself is not unusual.  I am one of those people who spends a lot of time in my own head.  Analyzing, contemplating, planning, wondering, hoping; just a lot of thinking going on, in general.  I feel pretty confident that most of my thoughts are not unique to me, but there are times when a thought gets stuck in my head that is counter to the message at large.  In those moments, I feel compelled to get it out of my head and on paper.  Even if no one else ever reads it, I feel an actual physical relief at getting that thought fully formed and written down in some sort of coherent form.

Back to this morning: it was a normal Christmas break kind of morning.  The boys were playing with their new toys, and Sweet E and I were working on making some Christmas treats while listening to the soundtrack of the latest animated Disney movie.  Since two of the main characters are sisters, Sweet E and I each picked a sister and were going through the songs singing the correct parts.  It was silly and relaxing and just plain fun.  Until...

See, this is where all this thinking of mine gets me into trouble.  It was all fun and games this morning...until the evils of the "Disney princess" syndrome crept into my mind.  You know,  the "we're doing our daughters a disservice by letting them watch movies where the princess is always saved by a prince" argument.  When I first read about this several years ago, I have to admit that I took the bait.  I clamped onto this idea like my youngest does an Oreo cookie.  There was no way I was letting go of it, no matter how much I loved the movies.  My daughter was not going to grow up thinking she needed a man to save her.

Time passed and my resolve started to soften, for some good and some not so good reasons.  The inescapable marketing of each new Disney princess movie reached my young girl and pulled her in.  She was so excited.  How could I say no?  (Don't judge.  I was young and didn't know any better!)  At the same time, I started rethinking the whole thing.  Why was it that I didn't want her to watch these movies again?  As a young girl myself, I loved it when I found a book or movie where a girl was the strong and brave character.  But, I equally loved the stories of valiant rescuers, epic battles, and the damsel needing to be saved by someone stronger.  Watching every Disney movie ever made, I didn't turn out thinking a man would solve all of my problems.  So, why had I thought that these narratives would ruin my daughter?  Disney had even turned the tide a bit and had started making their female characters strong and brave.  Was this even a real issue anymore?  A quick Google search told me that it was still an issue for a lot of moms, but being the mature (young) parent that I was, I said "Whatever!" and dove whole-heartedly with my kids into enjoying the beautiful music and epic stories of Disney movies, old and new.  And we loved it.

My daughter is 10 years old now, and with each new movie, there has still been a seed of doubt.  I reanalyzed my decision with every movie that came out.  I wondered if this was the one that was going to send my daughter off the deep end and cause her to turn into some girly-girl who did nothing but sit around and sigh and wait for her prince to come.  I second-guessed my decision everyday...until today, that is.  Now, readers, I have to ask you to hold on for a minute.  Partly because my kids are starving and waiting for me to make them lunch.  But also because this is turning into a way bigger post than I had intended, and I don't want to lose anyone before we get to the good part.  It is just around the bend, I promise.  Stick around for part two!

Part Two

Monday, December 16, 2013


The beginning of our new year celebrations really begins today.  No, we aren't huge party animals that need a full two and a half weeks to ring in the new year.  We just happened to get married on this December day, that is so close to the end of the calendar year.  So, while most people are thinking of wrapping the year up, of things coming to an end, and closing the books on 2013, we are doing the opposite.  We are celebrating a new beginning; the beginning of 13.  

Thirteen years ago today, we promised that out lives would forever be joined.  I didn't understand what I was saying, but I think 13 years later, I understand it now.  And it is good; so, so good.  Better than my silly 20-year-old self ever thought it could be.  And it is hard; oh, so hard.    Harder than my 20-year-old self ever imagined it would be.  But the hard parts of life don't scare me so much anymore.  I've been told that if it is easy, it just might not be worth your time.  At the beginning of our thirteenth year of marriage, I think I'm starting to agree.

Both of us knew, from a very early point in our dating, that we had found the person we wanted to marry.  We didn't share that with each other at the time, of course.  (We didn't want to scare the other person off, you know!)  This led to a fierce commitment to each other that many of our peers didn't understand.  Okay, not just peers.  Many older adults in our lives didn't understand either.  Okay, let's be honest.  Nobody understood how we could know at 20 and 22 that we were sure we wanted to commit the rest of our lives to each other.  Not even us.  We didn't understand it, we just knew it to be true.  

The fierce commitment that earned us a lot of teasing and a good many lectures has served us well.  It has gotten us through the darker times, and made the light-filled times even brighter.  As in all marriages, many things have fought to pull us apart.  But unlike many marriages, we have been blessed with this gift of seeing our commitment through.  We have stayed: through richer and poorer; through times of sickness and times of health; through good times and bad.  We are, for better or for worse, two stubborn people, who, by the grace of God, now know exactly what we meant when we said, "I do."

Happy anniversary, Big D.

Love always, 


Friday, October 25, 2013

Because I Don't Want to be the Slowest in the Zombie Apocalypse

Okay, y'all...this morning I worked out.

I got up, did my Bible study, and found a workout that I could do for free on Prime.  It wasn't pretty.  I made it a little more than halfway through (35 minutes was halfway...isn't that a whole workout?!?), and then I knew.  I knew if I pushed any harder, I was going to be sick.  And since all three kids were sitting there watching me, and because who actually likes to throw up, I called it good for the day.

Thirty-five minutes seems like nothing.  It seems like it isn't enough time for anything, really.  But, I learned a ton in those few minutes.  I learned that teaching a kid how to convert fractions from improper to mixed number doesn't use a lot of quad muscles.  I learned that going over sight words day after day doesn't do a lot for your core.  I learned that reading Curious George over and over again might give your patience a run for its money, but it does nothing for the flexibility in your hamstrings.  In other words, homeschooling, my daily reality, doesn't do a lot in the way of keeping my body strong.  And, I learned that my body is far from strong these days.

With a lot of blessings from God and hard work and time and effort and prayer, many other parts of my life have become stronger.  In the last few years, my faith has grown stronger, my marriage has grown stronger, my relationships with my children and family and friends have all grown stronger.  Those things are all so good and healthy and wonderful.  But, all the time, I have still been neglecting something very important.  My body.  The body that allows me to act on my faith, to work for my marriage, and to give to those relationships.  I let the care of my own body go, partly because I was overwhelmed by the growth and change in those other areas, but also because it was what I wanted to deal with the least.

I don't like to sweat and feel gross.  I don't like to have aching muscles.  I don't like to push myself physically.  I have some injuries from the past that make it a whole lot of not fun to work my body hard.  And, those excuses were all enough to keep me from doing anything.  Until today.  I'm tired.  I'm tired of being tired.  And, apparently the way to become less tired is to make yourself more tired.  Seriously.  Whoever said that exercising can give you more energy was totally lying.  Then, the next person (who realized it was a big lie, but didn't want to admit it, because he thought he must have just been doing it wrong) just went along with it.  And so on, and so on.  Well, I'm not totally sure about it being a full-on lie... I do feel exhausted, don't get me wrong.  My weak muscles are still very trembly, and I tweaked some muscle over my rib cage (planks and mountain climbers...who invents these tortures?). But...I do feel more...awake?  Alive?  Something.  Maybe it is just because I am keenly aware of all these muscles that have gone unused for so long.  I'm curious to see if this feeling stays with me through the long day ahead.

I have heard two very conflicting things about talking about fitness.  Some advise to keep it under wraps in case you fail at meeting your goal.  Some say to shout it from the mountaintops so you can have as many people supporting you as you possibly can.  I don't know who is right, but since I'm writing this I guess you know what I chose.  I know me.  I know that if I keep it to myself, I'll let my busy life give me all the excuses I need to quit.  If know that if I have someone to ask me about how I'm doing with meeting my goals, someone to push me when I need it, and someone to cheer me on when I miss a beat, then I will do better.  I will be more likely to stick with it.  I don't need to find those people, so that's not why I'm sharing here.  I already have people in my life that can and will do that for me.  But, I am first and foremost a writer at heart.  So when my heart and my head get so full of something, I feel tremendous relief in just pouring it out.  That's what this post is for.  That's what this space on the internet is for.  It's a place for me to pour out my thoughts, and for unsuspecting victims to be pummeled with those thoughts that just had to find their way out of my brain.

Why am I doing this now?  Why am I doing this when my life is full to overflowing and Nutcracker rehearsals are about to start and my husband is working a bunch of extra hours and also getting ready to start his busiest season at work and my boys are going through simultaneous stages of mutant orneriness?  Because it's time.  It's time to start the long process of taking care of the body that I want to last for a whole lot more decades.  And because when the zombie apocalypse comes, I don't want to be the slowest.

Monday, June 3, 2013

If You're Not Whitening...AKA...Saving Your Marriage

The commercial is annoying enough, I'm sure it will be stuck in our subconscious minds for years.  You know, the teeth whitening commercial that preys upon insecure people everywhere: "If you're not whitening, you're yellowing!"  The creator of that commercial is a genius.  She or he now has every person with even a tinge of vanity thinking that this very instant their teeth are turning some horrific shade of buttercup yellow. run out right now and stock up on a lifetime supply of whitener!  (Side note: It isn't just hips and pimples that get airbrushed in magazines.  You didn't really think every single model/actor/actress/politician has perfectly white and glowing teeth, did you?)

A few weeks ago, one of my favorite little people kept quoting that commercial over and over as she was playing.  I don't think she really realized what she was talking about, but as she said that one line repeatedly, a different thought popped into my head.  This commercial symbolizes a lot that is sad and wrong about our culture, but I think it also resonates because it is built on a truth that could save a whole lot of marriages.  "If you aren't building up your marriage, you're letting it go."  I know that I would probably get a lot of pushback from this (if more than a handful of people read it), but I believe that it is true.  "If you aren't building up your marriage, you're letting it go."

Let me clarify what I am saying versus what I am not saying:

  • I am saying that a healthy marriage is made up of two people who are constantly and intentionally engaged in the relationship.
  • I am not saying that if a day, a week, a month, a year, or even a decade goes by and one or both of you are checked out of the relationship, then your marriage is doomed and you might as well give up.
  • I am saying that a healthy marriage takes effort every single day.
  • I'm not saying that if you ever have something come up in your life that requires your focus to be on the crisis rather than your relationship, then your marriage is doomed and you might as well give up.  
  • I am saying that building up your marriage can take something as little as 10 minutes a day and a simple, "How can I help you today?"
  • I am not saying that you have to spend every waking minute with your spouse and thinking about your relationship every minute you are away from them.
I am saying that if you aren't intentional about building up your marriage, a little bit at a time, on a regular basis, it is way too easy to just let it go, a little bit at a time, until you feel like your marriage is doomed.  And, if your marriage gets to that point, you have a hard decision to make: do you give up and call the whole thing off? you start all over again, building up your marriage from scratch? 

Even the peddlers of teeth whitening products get this right: don't give up.  If you haven't whitened in years, you can't expect to see results overnight.  You won't go from yellow to brilliant white in a week, a month, or even a year.  Translation: if you haven't spent any time building up your marriage in years, you can't expect to see results overnight.  You won't go from totally disconnected to best of friends in a week, a month, or maybe even a year.  

Colgate doesn't want you to quit, and neither do I.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Whispers and Chances

What are the chances?  A trip to a new park, on a whim, on a whisper in my mind.  Little E begging to stay, just as others arrive at the park.  A conversation that I normally wouldn't start, only to find out that the grandma is raising her four grandsons.  Shared encouragement for two women deep in the responsibilities and rewards of being a on my first go 'round...she on her second.  Me, raised by my grandparents.  She, raising her grandchildren.

We came to the park beginning another day, each on our own.  We left the park, with our heads and hearts full...each getting a glimpse into the future through the stories we were willing to share.  Me, encouraged to never stop working on those relationships with my kiddos, even when I think I am too tired to go on one more day.  She, encouraged by seeing with her own two eyes that a grandma's tireless love can change a life forever, even if it happens just one day at a time.

What are the chances that these two women would make these unplanned visits to the very same park at the very same time?  And what are the chances that both would be so willing and open to share with a stranger?  And what are the chances that two timid followers of Him would decide to take Him at His word at the very same time and step out in faith?  What are the chances?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Perpendicular Lines and the Gospel

This is Holy Week.  In our house, that means that we listen to dramatic readings of each of the Gospels from the Last Supper to the Resurrection.  This week is also Unit 7 of fourth grade math.  In our house, that means we are learning a lot of new mathematical terms.  Words like parallel and intersecting and vertex...and perpendicular.  Sweet E, my fourth grader, is a word girl.  She has had a large vocabulary since she was very young, and since she is an avid reader, her vocabulary is always growing.  New words and their definitions are easy for her to master.  So, as we tackle this new math unit, we go about learning these new mathematical terms.  I show her what it means for two things to be parallel.  Then, I have her represent that pictorially.  Finally, we talk about it in an abstract way, only using words to represent what we have formerly done with physical objects or pictures.  And, it is a piece of cake for her.  Sweet E answers every question I ask correctly and she can mimic all the strategies I have shown her for drawing parallel and perpendicular lines.  Thinking she is ready to work on her own, I assign her some exercises out of her book and send her off to do them.  

She comes back with her work finished pretty quickly, but as soon as I look at it I know something is wrong.  All of her parallel lines are perfect.  She very definitely understands that concept.  Some of her perpendicular lines are...not so perpendicular.  Lines are intersecting other lines at widely varying angles.  I take a deep breath and ask her to give me the definition of perpendicular lines.  “Two lines are perpendicular if their point of intersection creates right angles,” she responds.  In my head, I sigh in relief.  Ok, good.  She does understand what we have spent the last few days working on.  But, why all the incorrect drawings then?  I ask her to point to all the perpendicular lines on her page.  She points to every set of lines that intersect, whether they are perpendicular or not.  I ask for the definition again.  She gives me the same correct definition.  I ask her to point to the perpendicular lines again, and again she points to lines that are nothing like the definition she just gave me.  We go through this a couple more times.  I keep hoping she will hear the definition she is giving and see how it doesn’t fit with what she did.  She doesn’t get it, though, and I finally give in and show her why the lines are not perpendicular.

Later that day, I was relating this story to my husband.  “I cannot believe that she could say the right words over and over, but not actually DO the right thing on paper!” I complained.  “She had the head knowledge, but it was like she couldn’t really internalize what she knew so she could use it.”  And, as I said those words out loud, I realized that my daughter is no different than I am.  But, with me, it is the Gospel.  I hear it spoken to me often.  I go to a church whose pastor delivers wonderful messages that keep me captivated and wanting to know more about Jesus.  I read it often.  I study the Word almost every day, and the days I’m not reading the Word, I am reading about it.  I talk about the Gospel, too, on an almost daily basis.  I talk about it with my children, my husband, my closest friends.  We discuss how it changes us, how it moves us, how it works on our hearts.  And yet...there are so many times that I am just like Sweet E.  The things I am saying just don’t fit with what I am doing.  I get it in my head...I understand what the Gospel means...I can even proclaim it when asked...  But, there are many times when I can apply Jesus’s message in real life, and I don’t do it.  It’s like I haven’t really internalized it yet.  I haven’t moved it from my head to my heart.  Like the song says, “He isn’t finished with me yet.”  

So, as we move through the next few days, remembering the Last Supper, mourning Jesus’s excruciating death, and then celebrating the amazing resurrection, my prayer is that I will remain focused.  I want to really think and know and learn what all of these things mean, so that I can truly know what the Gospel means.  But, this year I don’t want to stop there.  I don’t want to just know it...I want to live it.