Monday, October 26, 2009

The Once Over

I got the once over yesterday. If you're a girl you know what I'm talking about. It's that look you catch someone giving you when they literally look you over from top to bottom. It was from another girl, that can only mean one thing...she was measuring me up. I wonder if I made the cut? Anyone else ever been on the receiving end of the once over? Or worse yet, the once over coupled with the whisper? That's when they look you up and down and then turn to their friend and whisper. Nothing can make you feel more exposed as when you catch someone giving you the once over and they don't even hide it.

It's important to state that because we are humans, and God gave us eyes, it's impossible to not look at other people and to not have a picture of who they are embedded into our psyche. That's part of who we are and part of how we relate to eachother, and that's okay. What's not by God's design, however, is that look of judgement that comes with the disgust or disapproval that registers in the lookers eyes. When you are on the receiving end, you feel the sting, just like they stung you with a sharp pin. It hurts, it wounds and sometimes can weave itself into the beginnings of some serious personal attacks.

As a woman I recognize it's nice to be noticed. I can think of many times I've received a complimentary glance or a verbal compliment that I've floated on the tails of for an entire day. It feels good to know that we look good or that someone liked what we had to say. But the quickest way for my balloon of happiness to deflate is when the once over I get is accompanied with a look of disgust or disapproval. That takes me right back to my elementary school days when I wore toughskins and polyester pants. Oh, how I wish our society wouldn't focus so much on what we look like on the outside and instead follow God's commands and appreciate the little gem that's hidden within us.
In Matthew 7:12 it says, "Do to others what you would have them do to you?" And in Romans 15:3, "The insults of those who insult you have fallen on Christ." So, as much as I wanted to feel hurt and angry at the person who gave me the once over, and believe me I had to work for a little while to let it go, it would not have served me or her any purpose to hold onto that. Sure, if I want to allow my worth and my value to be tallied up by someone who doesn't even know me, then I could choose to let that look stay embedded in how I feel about myself. But as a daughter of the King I choose to instead remember that passage that states with such emphatic love, "The King is captivated by your beauty," by me. He is captivated by me, no matter what I'm wearing, no matter if my shoes are with the trend, or if my hair is styled just right. The King is captivated by me, his gem, his treasure, his precious child. That's where I find my worth.

The next time I catch someone giving me the once over, instead of wondering if I made the cut, I'm going to remember that I did indeed make the cut, in God's eyes. And that will be enough.

Friday, October 23, 2009

This is Zach and This is Kayla

This is Zach.

This is Kayla.

Zach and Kayla are two of my favorite people and they just happen to be my kids. I'm not sure how we got so lucky but we did. They are pretty cool... I guess I can say that since I'm their mom. I know we're blessed and not a day goes by that I don't shake my head in wonder when I see the things they do that are truly gifts from God. Sure they bug eachother but more than anything else they are really good friends, they actually like eachother. Which I know at this age could go by the wayside at any moment but I'll hold onto the hope that it won't change even as we enter these teen years.

Zach is a brainiac and so is Kayla. There is a subtle competitiveness between them, and Zach always wants to be on top. Kayla in her 11 year old wisdom already knows to not fight this battle, somehow sensing that his need to be #1 has nothing to do with her. Her insight inspires me and Zach's mettle inspires me just the same. They make me want to be the best person I can be. When I see them in the morning, even if they've challenged me the night before, they still walk into my arms and I'm only too happy to hug them.

How are you inspired by your children?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Who's Rocking Your Boat?

I tucked my knees beneath my chin as I sank onto the wooden planks stretched across the shallow opening, creating a place just large enough for me to fit. The black water tickled the sides of the boat as I wondered where I was and how I had ever strayed so far from the shore, from the familiar landscape of my life. The sky ran for miles into the horizon where the ocean and the heavens meet. Straining to see just a glimpse of land I closed my eyes in disgust. How did I ever end up here?

Wrapping the thin nightgown around the bottoms of my feet warmed my hardened soul for a moment before the sting of the wind began to swirl around me. The calm sea began to swell, frosting the black peaks with white foam, throwing buckets of water into my once dry boat. The thin fabric of my nightgown, pelted with salt water, grew heavy like a potato sack and pulled me deeper into the boat. The waves crashed, tossing my dinghy around, throwing me deeper and deeper into the boats shallow depths. My fingers clung to the sides of the boat as it rocked and bucked tossed about like a child's toy. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I cried out to God, to anyone to save me. "Please, someone, please...I'm going to drown! God, please rescue me!"

Pushing off from the boat's edge that now lay submerged beneath the surface of the ocean, I stood wrapping my arms around myself, bracing my feet in the bowels of the sinking boat. The wind raged around me, throwing salt pellets into my face, stinging me like a wooden switch on the hind end of a six year old boy caught for stealing. Straining against the salted air, I searched the heavens and then the depths of the sea, but all I could see was the empty black hole that was about to swallow me up. And then in the distance I saw him. He stood at the end of my boat like a gracken risen up from the depths of hell. His giant hands gripped the end of my boat, splintering the wood as it cracked with each heave. His eyes gleamed with hatred as they peered into my soul. He laughed as I tried to cover my secrets, my fears, my greatest weaknesses, but he saw it all and said, "You think you can hide from me? You think anyone is going to save you now?" His words clattered throughout my anxious brain as I searched my heart, cowering beneath the weight of this truth, accepting this as my fate. There was nothing I could do, my time had come.
I surrendered in defeat, waiting for the final blow to come. I begged internally for it to be quick, painless, and asked for mercy. Seemingly he knew what I was saying in my mind as a horrific bellow gurgled out of his mouth covering me in darkness.

And then as quickly as the storm had raged, it disappeared. The peaceful waves held my weakened body as I clung to a wooden remnant of the boat. Streams of light streaked across the sky, sending small fire like explosions across the heavens, as the darkness was again consumed by light. Looking all around me, my brain struggled to place where the gracken had been when all I could see was the glimmer of sunlight bouncing off the pale blue water. I rolled onto my back, floating along as the waves carried me. I had no idea where I was going but for once I was sure I didn't really care. Somehow miraculously I was saved. I laid my head back, smiling to myself, soaking it all in. What had seemed like certain doom before had turned into something wonderful.
As I lay there bouyed by this revelation, I realized I wasn't alone and opened my eyes. Right there attached to the toe of my right foot was a rope. I followed the length of it with my eyes, startled to discover another boat. An exact replica of the boat I had been in before, only this one was perfect. I unhooked the rope from between my toes and pulled myself towards the boat. Questions rolled around my head as it came closer. Painted brown this time, it was bigger then my previous boat. Grabbing onto the sides, I pulled my battle weary body into it's waiting arms and collapsed. None of this made sense to me, how did this get here? And what happened to that gracken anyway? I looked around searching the horizon once again but there were no clues. Curling my body onto one of the plank seats I wondered once again how I had gotten here to begin with.
As I settled onto the firm bench, I heard the faintest rustle of paper in the wind. Down in the deepest corner of my new boat was tucked a folded up piece of paper. Blinking my eyes a few times, I reached down to get it and held it out in front of me. On the outside of the creamy cardstock was my name. Allison.

Dear One,

In spite of what you might think, I have never ever forgotten you. I never could. You are my created being, part of my kingdom and a treasure to me. I promised you that I would watch over you, give you rest and shed my blood so that you could have a relationship with me. I have always loved you and would never willingly turn you over to the pit of hell.
Allison, the battles you choose to fight on your own, you will surely fail. The battles you choose to fight with me at your side, you will always win. Victory may not look how you want it to, but I assure you, I am always for you and never against you.
Surrender your will, trust me and believe that when you are once again sinking in your boat, all you have to do is cry out to me and I will be there to lift you up.

Love Your Father in Heaven

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bras, Customer Service and When it Crosses the Line

I don't know any woman who enjoys shopping for bras. I know I don't. In fact I know many women who think there is some kind of conspiracy among bra manufacturers who are determined to make a mockery of us every time we set foot in the lingerie section of any department store. Not only do we have to hunt for the sizing as we meander through rows and rows of bras that are meant to entice us, we also have to try them on because who knows if the full figure bra from one manufacturer is going to fit the same as the one from the competitor.

It's frustrating, and humbling...unless your built like Heidi Klum of Gisele Bundchen, then I suppose you should stop reading this post right now. Probably I wouldn't want to be your friend if you're built like them anyway, I would develop a complex. As if I don't have one already.

Now back to bras, customer service and when it all crosses the line. I spent years working at Nordstroms in a number of different cities. Nordstrom is known for it's impeccable customer service and prides itself in the mantra, "The customer is always right." I've learned over the years since my days at Nordstrom that not every Nordstrom lives up to this, and that in and of itself is disappointing to me. The last time I went shopping for bras I naturally went to Nordstrom where I knew I would get great customer service, a knowledgeable sales associate and perhaps hold onto some of my dignity at the same time. But what happened while I was there was interesting to say the least.

I'm usually pretty clear on what I want, and try very hard to be pleasant to the sales associate. Since I spent many years in their shoes, I know what it's like to have a crabby customer and I definitely don't want to be one of those. I gathered up my variety of bras, asked the sales clerk to check on something for me and found my way through the myriad of colorful tables displaying all kinds of distracting undergarments and settled into the dressing room. And so I proceeded to try on my assortment and amused myself in the mirror trying not to laugh out loud when something was way to big or way to small. Meanwhile, I waited for my sales associate to come back...did she have to go to the warehouse herself to get my question answered? Or maybe she decided to sew me up the newest rendition of Le Mystere' any case I waited for what seemed like an eternity.
Now you and I both know that waiting while you're trying on shoes is one thing but waiting while you're trying on bras is a completely different experience altogether. Imagine my surprise when a new rather young looking sales associate knocked on my door to see if I needed anything. By then I wanted to wrap my arms around her and invite her to name my next baby, of course I don't plan on having another baby, but you get the point. She came in took over for the sales associate who by now had caught a flight for Siberia and managed to talk me into quite a variety of different garments I would usually not have entertained. She was fun, knowledgeable and exactly the kind of girl you want waiting on you when you're half dressed in the lingerie department at Nordstroms.
Right about the time she was doing the final fitting there was a knock at the door. Our eyes met across the dressing room floor and like two schoolgirls caught we shared an uncomfortable giggle. My original sales associate was back from Siberia and she wanted to see how I was doing. Finding my voice I said, "Oh, I'm good, I have everything I need." Expecting her to leave us alone I looked back at my sweet young helper and smiled. We both paused for a moment to see if she would go on and leave us alone. That's what I would have done, the sale was lost to her and she knew it. But, apparently she missed the Customer Service 101 class and unlocked the door to my dressing room and walked right in.
In the history of my adult shopping life, and believe me I've done some shopping, I've never ever had a sales associate barge in on me and then begin to demand that the person who has rightfully earned the sale leave the room so that she could take it over. Nevermind the fact that I was standing there half dressed, what was so shocking was the blatant disdain and disregard this woman had for her co-worker much less me the potential client.
And so I did what anybody who knows anything about customer service would do...I politely but very firmly kicked her out of my dressing room and informed her that she had crossed the line of appropriateness.

I still don't like shopping for bras, but I do know this...if that ever happens to me again, I'll be shopping on the internet from now on.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Community in the Home

I work from home, almost all the time. I sit at my computer and navigate my current manuscripts, book proposals and my blog. I take phone calls from coaching friends, and connect with potential clients via email or phone. I'm at home all the time...did I mention that already?
And here's the thing, I like being here.

There was a time a few years back when being here at home was the very last thing in the world I wanted to do. I couldn't stand being here in my own home and so I was always on the go. Telling myself there were errands to run when there really weren't any. I volunteered all the time at church and at school and filled up my days with shopping, lunching and being anyplace else but here. It was extreme and I felt empty all the time. I had no connection with myself, with my family or even with God. Everything about my life was wrong, felt wrong and made me sad and so I self medicated with a false sense of community that existed outside the walls of my home and I was miserable.

The turning point came one summer as I prepared to begin Lay Counseling training at church. My husband became ill and I had to step out of all my other leadership and volunteer duties to focus on him and my children. Now, don't you think that's where God intended for me to be all along? I used to think if only I had paid attention to the things happening here that maybe we wouldn't have gotten so far off track. When I was forced to stay home and deal with the issues at hand, I was angry and didn't like it very much. But at the same time, if I didn't face the issues that were alive and well within the four walls of my very own home, how could I ever expect to be an encouragement and support to those in the outside world. My heart was to encourage and be a help to others but the only way I was ever going to do that was to clean my own house and deal with my own stuff. And no one I know really ever likes to do that. It's usually only when push comes to shove or we find ourselves dangling on the edge of a cliff that we will finally stop avoiding and start engaging.

I'm one of those people that really thrives in being around others. I like socializing and connecting. I love listening to people talk about their own lives, their challenges and how they overcame them. I love my friends and being with them fills me up, it's something that I've come to understand is a part of me. Like you need air to breathe or water to drink, I need people. I like them. But the danger for me is to keep a careful balance with this need I have for community, otherwise it can overwhelm the balance of my days and I'll find myself running all over again like I was before.

And so here's what I do now. I know I have this innate sense about me to connect and create community with others. Instead of running all over town and volunteering for every single thing, I now choose carefully the activities I do outside of my home because, guess what? When I stopped avoiding and started engaging issues with my husband, issues with my parenting, issues with my relationships, I started to see that my real community started with the man I married and the two children I've been blessed with. My friends are important to me and I love my work but community for me begins at home.

I like being here at home now and have learned to navigate a careful balance of working several days a week while keeping a day or two open for errands, lunches with friends and bible study. It's a balance that I'm committed to keeping because when I don't I find that I miss these new connections I have with my husband and with my kids. Yes, it takes effort but it's worth it.