Rhythm

I love the word ‘rhythm’. It’s got that awkward letter ‘y’ right in the middle and preceded by a silent ‘h’…it’s a phonetic pronunciation nightmare. All the same…it’s a great word. Good rhythm is what we all hope to have when our favorite beat drops in the grocery store, or the car, shopping at Costco and most especially when we ‘re dancing in front of our family at our cousin’s wedding. Some of us don’t have very good rhythm. I tease my husband all the time that he has terrible rhythm. He taught me how to dance the ‘water-sprinkler’ when we were in college. That’s the sum total of his rhythm. Likewise…i’m not sure that my rhythm is very good either. I firmly believe I know how to drop my beat when my favorite tune comes on…but the looks on everyone’s faces is not one of being impressed at my moves …more like they’re embarrassed for me. My son, on the other hand, he’s got it….and thank goodness for that. That kid can drop his groove anywhere, anytime; no matter what song. He even dances to Neil Diamond! It is truly impressive.

Rhythm is a wonderful thing. It’s the steady drumbeat to not only our favorite music but also to life. Our lives move and sway to a rhythm. Sometimes the movement is fast…frenetic almost. Other times, the rhythm is slow, methodical. Our life can go through a rhythm of positive and negative. Of ups and downs….side-to-side. The rhythm can abruptly change or it can go on seemingly forever. When my son was a toddler my husband traveled extensively and I found myself alone in a town where I didn’t know many people. (We had moved shortly after my son was born) That was a tough rhythm; seemed like it would never end. Countless hours of diapers, picking up, wiping tears, making meals, etc. When life’s rhythm is difficult it’s easy to be lost in the frustration and not see the joys because in addition to the diapers, meals, cleaning up, etc…there was also story time, laughter, singing together, cuddle time, etc.

It’s important not to fight the life-rhythm in which we find ourselves. If we are in a rhythm of mourning…we have to mourn. In high school my best friend was killed in a bicycle accident just before starting senior year. I continued to tell myself that we weren’t very close and that her death shouldn’t affect me. I would dream about her. In my dreams I was so angry with her. It took years to bring myself to go to her grave…i couldn’t accept the finality of the situation. It’s scary to show yourself grace when you are heartbroken. Ignoring the rhythm of mourning meant ignoring my heart-break. Instead of showing myself grace, I withheld it. Not cool.

Rhythm is very much a God-thing and He has woven it all over the place.The heart He made you with beats in a rhythm. The lives He has given us moves from the rhythm of childhood to adult to senior. Parenting is a rhythm that changes as our children get older and become more independent. There is a rhythm to learning…it’s called a learning curve. Students begin in kindergarten barely knowing their ABC’s. By 12th grade they read, write and can, hopefully, reason. This earth moves in the rhythm of spring, summer, fall and winter. There is a steady drum-beat everywhere not only in what we do but in what is going on around us.

Most importantly rhythm cannot be rushed. We can’t “push” through life rhythms. We need to walk, move. sway to the beat. Sometimes my life’s rhythm is somber and discouraging. In those moments,  the presence of my Lord gently reminds me that it won’t always be this way…it’ll change. Other times, my rhythm is exciting…pure joy. I soak it up and relish every moment.

The rhythms of our life are a gift. They are periods of time that form our character and shape our opinions. They are journeys that reveal God’s grace; moments where we have to be carried or pulled through life followed by moments where we dance to the beat.

Through it all, good or bad, rhythms bring us into a deeper, more intimate relationship with God. We experience rhythms of sadness and find His comfort, rhythms of hunger and He fills us, rhythms of anger and we are given His wisdom, rhythms of joy … and we are reminded of His grace.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NIV)

Good Morning Sunshine :)

I was in the doctor’s office last week for an annual wellness visit. My doctor was running behind which is usually my opportunity to get caught up on all the style and gossip magazines…the ones that talk about fashion, and makeup, and clothes and all that really fun stuff. The particular magazine I picked up was about all the latest fashions and trends. Seeing as I how I don’t receive theses magazines at home, I thought it a good opportunity to bone-up on my fashion sense.

Thumbing through my magazine I happened to come upon an article chronicling the morning routines of three busy, successful females. Each of the women provided, in detail, what they did in the morning to get themselves started. One was a venture capitalist, another a global fashionista and the third an entrepreneur of a flavored-water company. All the women appeared beautiful, intelligent and accomplished in their own right. All of them got up early…between 5:15 to 7 am. (one lady gets up at 6:05 because she hates the snooze button and 6 am seems too early…ergo..6:05 am) Each of them performed some activity to wake up their brain…exercise, meditation, walking, etc. They all had very healthy breakfast habits: hot water with ginger and lemon (to detox), Greek yogurt, lattes, eggs, toast, grapefruit, or smoothie. Further still, their morning beauty habits made me jealous: vitamin E body scrub, face washes I can’t pronounce, lotion exfoliators I can’t pronounce, sun screen, age repair serums, mineral frizzy shine serums for hair, regenerating firming lift oil, plumping mascara, brilliant gloss for the lips and much, much more. In the end, between the beauty/hair treatments, morning exercise/meditation and light breakfast, each lady made it out the door between 8 and 8:50 am.

I’m quite envious of these ladies…here’s my morning routine:

7 am – Hit the snooze button. I believe in the snooze button and I believe it has a place in my life.

7:09 am – Get up. Get kiddo up. This usually requires an explanation (sometimes an argument) that contrary to his internal clock it is in fact time to get out of bed. (PS…remind kiddo that when he washes his hair in the shower he is to wash all of his hair not just the front half of his cranium)

7:11 – Turn off exterior house lights. They don’t go off automatically and those bulbs are expensive to replace.

7:11 – Start hollering for Oswald (8 year old English bulldog) that it is time to get up. He’s old and he’s a bulldog = stubborn.

7:15  – Now that Oswald is in an upright position begin wiping all his wrinkles…around nose, eyes, mouth, ears etc.  Once his face is clean, pull (and I do mean pull) dog into laundry room to begin eating his breakfast.

7:18 – Get kiddo’s bed made and holler into the bathroom to remind him that ALL his hair must be washed.

7:20 – Make kiddo’s breakfast (equates to heating up frozen pancakes), pack his lunch. Holler to hubby to see if he needs lunch today or if he wants toast for breakfast.

7:30 – Explain to my son that he better kick it into high gear because he needs to feed his cat. Then turn around and hug and kiss hubby out the door.

7:35 – Make my bed. Get out of my pajamas. Put on some walking clothes

7:40 – Let Oswald outside, fill up his water bowl and follow it up with a quick “Son, what is taking so long? You’ve still got to brush your teeth?!?”

7:45 – Let Oswald inside and perform the most loathsome task of the morning. (For any of you English bulldog owners this will come as no surprise. However if you have the pleasure of owning a pet without a corkscrew tail, this will seem a bit over the top. Rest assured it is quite necessary) After Oswald has finished his morning constitution, I pull out a hemorrhoid wipe and proceed to wipe my English bulldogs butt and tail. I am not joking. If I don’t perform this task he takes on the smell of dead, rotting fish.

7:50 – Scrub my hands. Check my hair in the reflection of the microwave. Holler to my son…”Time to go!”

We head out the door and walk to school. It’s a 1.2 mile walk. We talk about everything. Video games, his friends, what he read in his devotions that morning…nothing is off limits. I walk him up to the school… hug, kiss and watch him walk through the doors. I then walk for the next hour or so around our neighborhood; finally making it back to my house to a bowl of raisin bran, cup of coffee and then a shower.

There isn’t any lemon, ginger water to detoxify my system, although it does sound like a good idea. I’ve no fancy face scrubs. I don’t meditate to focus…but I do read my Bible to stay grounded and hopeful. I feed little mouths and wipe wrinkles…and butts. My morning is a far cry from the three ladies in the magazine, but I’m equally as successful, accomplished and as beautiful as they are. My morning is not fancy…it’s controlled chaos and it happens to be full of grace.

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Oswald…his usual pose.

The “Jumperoos”

There are two types of people…

Type 1: Athletic

Type 2: Not Really

The first category requires little explanation. These are the folks whom, upon picking up a ball, bat, racket, etc., show they possess an athletic aptitude. They are not necessarily paid athletes. In some cases they are our kids, spouses, friends, etc. Then there’s the latter category. A group of people whom, when they pick up a ball, bat, racket, skis, helmet, ice skates, baton, grapple hooks, frisbee…etc., it becomes quickly apparent to those watching that they do not possess an athletic bone in their body. These are the ‘not really’ athletic group.

I belong to the latter. As a matter of fact, I’ve spent all of my life in this group in just about every sporting category save for the second grade jump rope team, the Andover Jumperoos…

So there I was in the second grade and my PE teacher announced that try outs for the school’s jump rope team were open and she would be screening us to see who could join. Her plan was to video tape us jump roping and select kids for the team. I knew I was meant for this team…if there was anything I was good at, it was jumping rope.

I was confident I was going to make the team and went home and told my mom. She supported me and smiled…didn’t really say much. I suspect she was worried about potentially dealing with the aftermath and the emotions of her 7 year old. Either way, I knew I had this.

The day for tryouts came and I was ready. The gym teacher had a VHS recorder set up on a tripod. (The thing was the size of a small laptop and took a big stick-like handle to operate…I digress.) At any rate, she started recording and I pulled out all my moves. First started out with just regular skipping rope. Then I did speed jumping…wanted to show her I was fast. Then I did double jumps…where you jump high enough you can get two rotations with the jump rope. Lastly, I finished up with criss-cross-applesauce…crossing your arms and jumping…that was my best trick. At the end of the “try outs” I was beat and my heart was pounding, but even I was impressed with my skill.

A couple of weeks later the list came out for who made the team…I was on it. I got a team shirt, my very own red, white and blue jump rope, and I got to travel to jump meets. I honestly don’t remember the meets, but I loved the idea of being part of the team. I was the smallest person on the team, but I was scrappy. Being on the team made me feel big. I knew I could hold my own.

I was cleaning out my mom’s basement a couple of weeks ago and came across my old Jumperoos T-shirt. It remains, to this day, the only athletic team for which I’ve ever successfully tried out…granted it’s only jump roping, but still…that’s nothing to sneeze about.

It’s scary to try something new…something that you don’t know will work. Personally, my biggest fear is others seeing me fail. Not sure why that really gets to me… since the truth of the matter is that people will think what they want of you regardless of failure.

I firmly believe the Lord allows for these challenges to come to our doorstep. At some point we have to step out on faith because it is the journey that changes us. The feeling of accomplishment only comes with a job well done…one where you’ve given it everything you have, left it all on the field. Of course I want the gratification of winning or ‘making the team.’ But at the end of the day, when I came across that Tshirt, it was a reminder that I tried something I’d never done before. I was confident in my ability and gave it everything I had.

Our Lord delights in life and I believe He gives abundantly when we step out in faith and try something we’ve never done. So try something new. Find a new friend. Heck, make a new recipe…so what if it ends up tasting like crap…at least you tried. Remember, the journey is the rhythm for which we get to experience the blessing. In that moment we become sojourners in His kingdom, traveling into uncharted territories. The grace is in the journey.

My Jumperoos team shirt (circa...a really long time ago)

My Jumperoos team shirt

I Am Retouched “Untouched” Perfection

Couple of weeks ago a picture surfaced of Cindy Crawford. In of itself this is no biggie as Cindy is/was a supermodel and remains active in the public eye. She has appeared on many runways, countless magazine covers and even starred in her own workout videos. The unusual nature of this event lies in the perfection…or lack of perfection in these photographs. Supposedly the photos were ‘leaked’ prior to any photographic touch-up of the body, clothing or face. Cindy is standing in this sort of “I’m-just-stretching-my-back” pose wearing a black bra and underwear. She’s sporting a cool looking black fedora, some sweet earrings and wearing a black-feathered Cruella DeVille type coat…or maybe its a robe. At any rate, she looks awesome. Makeup, expression on her face…it all looks sexy. More compelling is that the photo shows her tummy NOT as a tight, flat midsection but instead a “I’ve had a couple of babies” midsection. Further still, regardless of how Cindy’s tummy (AND thighs) were not a perfect, plastic, Hollywood-ized expectation, the expression on her face shows that she really doesn’t care. She’s acting FLY. Appearing more than comfortable in her own skin, she acts sexy.

The “leak” of this photograph to social  media and news outlets caused quite the stir. I had friends on my Facebook & Twitter pages posting and tweeting the photo and congratulating Cindy for being “brave.” Brave…I guess because it takes a lot of guts to appear as your normal self and not your ‘pretend’ self in front of bunches of people.

So that was a couple of weeks ago. Fast forward to today, March 2nd. The photos now are being claimed to be retouched so that they appear untouched. You follow? In other words, the photographer of the original photos states that the pictures were stolen and were retouched (altered) to appear that they were untouched … untouched suggesting the real (untouched) Cindy Crawford is like the rest of us…not perfect; blemished. To further support  the “nonsense”  that Cindy’s tummy does NOT look like cottage cheese, Cindy’s husband tweeted a photo of her in a swimsuit looking amazing…like a supermodel.

The most interesting part in this story is not Cindy Crawford…it’s us, me and you. We saw what we thought was a person willing to be uniquely herself  in front of everyone regardless of wrinkle or age. We are drawn to that…at least, I know I’m drawn it. Realness. Vulnerability. Not fake.

That being said I have decided, and you are welcome to participate with me, that I am going to be retouched “untouched” perfection. I don’t plan on limiting it to just my sassy, sexy looks. I’m going full tilt. Home, mommy and wife…I’m all in. My ‘not-a-supermodel’ tummy will be the least of my retouched, untouchables. For that matter, my house is just sometimes going to NOT look like it’s out of Architectural Digest. On occasion my husband and I might NOT agree on everything. Further, I MIGHT loose my temper with my son. And you know Vogue magazine, it’ll have nothing on me, because I’m going to act like I’m smokin’-hot regardless of whether or not I’ve done my 35 burpees.

So here’s to us. The hot mess that we are…the retouched “untouched” perfection that is you and me.

…And that is all we need to be.

“Good Morning! You’re beautiful with God’s beauty, Beautiful inside and out! God be with you.” said Gabriel to Mary (Luke 1:28 MSG)

Let Go and Let God…***middle finger***

I think if I hear the phrase “let go and let God” again I will have to flip that person the bird. Truly. I detest that saying. I’m in a bit of a sour mood…grumpy actually…as I’ve been coming to terms with slowing my life down from recent MS news. New spot on MRI. Re-MRI in the spring and in the meantime take care. If more new spots at next MRI, than I’ll have to start taking a new drug that will have not-so-fun side-effects. I’m not dying…(that’s good news)…but, this isn’t fun.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last several weeks being pretty PO-ed with myself for being bitter. I shouldn’t be bitter. Again, I’m not dying. My son is happy and healthy. Hubby is gainfully employed and even my dog has remained healthy.

It can be tough learning to walk a different pace. Just because you are living a slower pace doesn’t mean that all of the sudden you are living in perpetual vacation. It’s a balance. A balance between life and moments of pause. Finding what that balance looks like is aggravating. Some days are perfectly balanced with activity. Others with downtime. Some days I want to be active, but I just can’t seem to find my gumption.

The phrase ‘Let Go & Let God’ means that I let go of my internal struggles and let God take over. Fabulous. Why hadn’t I thought of that? The truth is that there is no reality behind the phrase ‘Let Go & Let God.’  I fight and fight…and fight. And, no matter how many times I try to let go…the struggle is still there. It is unrealistic for me to ignore the situation, to not be afraid, to not be disappointed and to not fight. The burden remains.

All that being said, I can still hope. Not hope in my situation but in a Savior. My situation can have either a positive or negative outcome. Flip a coin and sure hope that my MRIs look good, but there is simply no guarantee. But I know that in Christ my hope is safe regardless of circumstance. The burden acts almost as a catalyst moving me closer until I am a whisper away from the mouth of my Savior and finally, I can hear Him. The voices that keep screaming frustration in my head begin to silent. My situation remains unchanged, but His presence brings peace and the burden becomes lighter because I no longer carry it alone.

We, me and you, were never designed to fight our struggles all alone. We were meant to give our struggles over to God, but not in a vacuum. Not without dialogue. Not without relationship. Not without the constant going back and forth conversation that takes place between a kid and her dad.

Reality check: continuing to believe that God will become the manager of our problems if we only “let go” is a lie. Recognizing that our problems are an opportunity to be drawn into relationship is pure grace.

Merry Christmas

I love Christmas. It is, hands down, my favorite holiday. I love sending Christmas cards, baking, decorating, singing carols. The crowds don’t bother me; not even the commercialism gets to me. The traffic can be sort of nagging and the parking lots are a bit of a drag. Last week a kind soul honked at me as I was straightening my car out in my parking space. I graciously gave them a “thumbs up” sign. Christmas just brings the best out in me and everybody else. (Tongue in cheek)

All these people, myself included, running around like our hair is caught on fire trying to get our “Christmas-To-Dos” done…why is Christmas such an over the top holiday while it’s origins were so humble? Why was Jesus born in a manger? Seriously…why? Why was it God’s design to bring his Son into the world in a stable? Why were sheep herders the recipients of a sky filled with “heavenly hosts?” It seems opposite from what you’d expect. Backwards.

Remember when the Duchess of Cambridge went into labor this last summer? Remember the months preceding the birth where news reporters speculated when she might go into labor? They were camped outside of the hospital long before the duchess even checked into labor and delivery. After the baby was born, I remember seeing “royal town criers” delivering the news of the baby’s birth. Then there is the moment where Prince William and the Duchess came out of the hospital with the baby to a throng of photographers . He (William) gives an interview and then the new family drives off in a parade of black cars. Then, because we all simply couldn’t get enough, there is the much anticipated family photo of the new family together. There is an example of a royal birth! Why wasn’t Jesus’ birth like that?

I have an idea on that topic. I wonder if Christ being born vulnerable in a barn with animals had something to do with God turning the tables on what we think a king and kingdom should look like. We think royalty and Camelot comes to mind. But, God thinks royalty and a stable comes to mind. We think King and then wealth and power come to mind. God thinks King and all of the sudden an omnipotent being becoming human comes to mind.

Could it be that our definition of power is not His definition of power? Further still, could it be that my definition of life is not His definition of life? For me, at one point, life was a successful career. Now, life for me is lived through the eyes of one with MS.

Everything about Christmas is the opposite of what we think. I believe this stark contrast was intentional on God’s part. It isn’t about our kingdom or what we think a kingdom should be. It’s about His kingdom and He keeps trying to draw us into it. But, we continue to fight and build our own kingdom. Stuff. Status. Validation. The list is long. The humbleness of Christ’s birth was by design and a important detail that I don’t think we should miss. I think Christ was born in a barn to an unassuming mother and father, with animals, laid in a manger (trough for feeding animals), visited by shepherds and wise men because God wants to draw us out of our world into His. He wants us to let go of our definition of what power looks like and see what his power looks like…total dependence upon Him.

I think my favorite thing about Christmas is how backwards it is. That a group of sheep herders received perhaps the most glorious birth announcement of all time. That no one local came to celebrate the Savior’s birth except Wiseman who were foreigners to the land. That a King was laid in a feeding trough. There were no town-criers. No caravan of important people. The star and the choir of angels were the only outlandish parts of the story. Our Jesus stepped down to join us and become Emmanuel, God With Us. His actions showed us humility is power brought under one God. The implications of this are profound. That instead of fighting to maintain control, His grace has afforded me the ability to let go. To take in the moment, and not fight to get out. To see Christ at the helm and know that I am safe. Struggling falls away and peace settles in. Stillness. Perfect peace.

God’s grace and peace to you…have a very Merry Christmas.