Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Red is the New Black

It suddenly dawned on me the other day that I finally like myself.
I could end this post here and be alright with it. (You, dear reader, would probably prefer that I did just that.)
How did I come to this conclusion?
Let's go back in time.

I wonder if you've ever been like me.
And by "like me" I  mean hard on others.
It's the classic "low self esteem" residual effect when you attempt to feel better about yourself by minimizing others. I can spot it a mile away in other people.

"She's just unhappy."
"She doesn't like herself."
"She is crying out for validation."

Having low self esteem, a.k.a. not liking oneself/low self-worth is not an unusual trait. Actually, I suspect it is pretty common. Especially among women.

I grew up with a patient, loving, browbeaten genius of a father and an anxious, demanding mother. B+ wasn't good enough. I wasn't allowed to be a cheerleader or a Girl Scout because that would not further my career or social standing. I was allowed to take piano lessons and singing lessons because that would put me on stage at church. (My piano teacher of 7 years sorely wished I had taken up cheerleading instead.) Both of my parents were raised during the depression. My father thought everyone was poor and enjoyed his barefooted years to the hilt. My poor mother somehow knew there was another class of people out there beyond her South Georgia homestead and for 70 years, to this day, strives to be someone she isn't. (and doesn't need to be) Nothing was ever good enough.

Marry that part of my maternal genealogy with my hefty paternal genes and you get poor self esteem.

It's not like I didn't ever accomplish anything. I dated regularly, was in an exclusive singing ensemble in high school, had friends, clothes, good grades, etc. I was not disfigured or slow witted or particularly weird. (a little weird, yes.) As an adult I snagged a handsome husband, had amazing kids, made some good friends, threw fun parties, loved Jesus, and never got fired from a job. My friends and family thought me wonderful and supported me 100%. However, the chubby kid who was taller than every other kid in kindergarten and had a face full of acne in 10th grade couldn't come to terms with what it means to love herself. She couldn't, in turn, show acceptance to others.

As an adult, I found myself becoming critical of others. Especially those of you who were smart, beautiful, successful, and friendly.
And whaddya know? Those were the very same attributes I found lacking in myself!

In seasons of spiritual growth, I would even pray for God to love others through give me the power to love as He loved because I recognized in myself what I termed a "black heart". I would even joke about it with my husband. Luckily he saw more of my heart than was showing all those years.

I'm tired of having a black heart. It's exhausting holding you to a higher standard than myself. It's destructive to belittle you just because you are amazing. I'd like to say I'm done with that but we both know that there will be days that I am not fully covered with God's armor and a fiery dart of disparagement will make it's way into my heart for a time.

This is how I know I like myself now. I am consistently seeing you for the exceptional person you are. God has allowed me to empathize with your pain and your struggles without judging you. Because you are stunningly beautiful, I am no longer envious, but appreciative of God's handiwork. I am also mature enough to realize that your beauty does not exempt you from suffering.

I can't pinpoint the exact moment I started liking myself because it was most likely a process that started when I went back to college after 30 years of feeling under-educated. That decision entailed sacrifice, neglect , and the painful realization that I should have done this way earlier because you absolutely cannot retain the information you receive at 50 the same way you can at 20. If you go back to school at 50 and major in visual arts and have no tattoos, you will not fit in. If you are a Christian you will not fit in. If you are sensitive to cricism, you will not fit in.

Stretching yourself = liking yourself.

If you see yourself in these words, I know how you feel. I know that you lay your head down on a troubled pillow at night . I know that you enter into a room full of people looking for an exit. I know that you have built a wall around your heart and to be transparent makes you feel nausated. I know that it's difficult for you to believe that you are loved.

As I wind up this post, I can honestly tell you that I love you.
My prayer for you is that you allow yourself to love others.  It's okay. It won't hurt.
People may hurt you but the act of loving won't.
And then LIKE YOURSELF. Because you're pretty d@#& awesome*.

Here's my old black heart being filled with the blood of Christ who showed me the same grace he expects me to show others.

( I'm so glad I went to art school and can draw beautiful metaphors like this.)

There may be a few readers who know me and are thinking, "She's still mean!" That may be true, but it's not because I don't like myself, it's probably because you've been a jerk to someone I love. I most certainly have not overcome that problem yet.

*dang (what did you think I meant?)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The French Fries at the Bottom of the Bag

Don't act like you don't stop at McDonald's for the occasional order of french fries. And that is because they are the:



You know how you thoughtlessly munch on those hot sticks of salty manna and come to the bottom of the box and don't feel anymore in there? You immediately jerk to attention and start scooting your hand around the bag for more? And there at the bottom of the bag lies two more french fries. And you feel relief/exhilaration/victorious as if they are the golden ticket to Willy Wonka's factory. There's a scientific principle at work here. It is this:

There will always be french fries at the bottom of the bag...even when you don't feel anymore left in the box.

I experience this phenomenon on almost a daily basis.

This past weekend my most of my family gathered in Nashville for the celebration of Belle's first year with us. Belle, in case you don't know, is the most beautiful baby girl on this planet. My son's daughter. She's a sassy mix of rainbow and butterflies and jalapeno. It was a whirlwind weekend in which we were there not even 30 hours. Not even a day and a half.

I'm not a good leaver.

It's ALWAYS hard for me to say goodbye to one of my loved ones. (especially when there's a baby in the mix.) I am usually sad for an hour or two after we back out of the driveway. This time I was really down for some reason even though I knew we weren't going to be there long and I knew we wouldn't have much one on one time and I was totally prepared for it...just glad to be going to the party. The fact that I was also getting a migraine headache didn't help either. You know the kind that makes you throw up?

So I'm laying on the foam mattress in the back of the van on the way home, waiting for my medicine to kick in, and this happens... I find the french fries at the bottom of the bag.

A hand reaches over the back seat of the van and starts gently scratching my back and massaging my temples. Then a conversation ensues from the two persons in the back seat, one of whom is scratching my back.

Bobby: "I'm picking my nose."

Grandaddy (from the front seat): "Bobby, don't pick your might stick your finger in your brain."
Bobby: "Mommy, can I die if I pick my nose?"
Andrea: "No Bobby. You won't die. You can pick your nose if you need to. I don't care." 
Bobby: "Mommy can I give oo a hug?"
Ange: "Of course, baby!"

Snippets of conversations between a mama and her three year old. Priceless.
I felt as if I was being given a special gift at that moment. A gift wrapped in blonde hair. Two kinds of blonde hair: spiky with dark roots and fuzzy like a duckling hair.

Thank you God for the gifts you give. The ones that show up when the french fry box is empty.

"I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart…I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word." Ps. 138:1-2

Happy Birthday, Karen. ♥

Monday, January 6, 2014

Six Reasons Not To Read Lists

Tis the season for everyone to post and repost lists on their social media pages. Not one to be left at the dock, I have decided to make my own list of the reasons not to read lists.

  1. Lists aren’t special. Who is the final expert on deciding 10 Scientifically Proven Ways to Become a Better Person? Why should I read a list that suggests it is the final word on choosing the 10 best of anything? Couldn’t Charles Manson publish a list like this? Howard Stern? What about Justin Beiber? Would everyone read it and belieb it? (Don’t you see why I had to do that?)
36 Ways to keep the faith! But reinvent your life after you keep that faith, because you could meet 
Iyanla Vanzant and have an amazing SEXY YOU YEAR. Keep that faith honey.

Don't even bother to read the 27 Instant Room Upgrades when you can skip down to the fine, 
naughty print at bottom right for five heinous habits you just must keep.

  1. How do you determine a true #1? While I certainly do Google the “best of” in categories like electronics, hotels, poison ivy remedies, spaghetti squash recipes and baby products, I can find 38 different first choices for “best domestic bed and breakfast with a working chicken coop”. This gives me cause to doubt exactly which IS the best chicken coop at which to stay on my hard earned vacation.

  1. These lists, whether online or in print, are basically designed to sell something in the end. Have you read a list that did not have advertising included? Just the other day, I accidentally clicked on 8 Ways to Ensure Survival and there in perky flash format were two Anime’ pixies, dancing and beckoning me to START GAME…which is just a tantalizing way to get you to join a video game club. All the while a Comcast ad is pulsating across the top of the screen. (BTW, the #2 way to ensure survival is to develop colonies on other planets…in suspending floating cities or giant balloons…I’m sharing this tidbit so you’ll be prepared in the end…and I won’t be in the floating balloon by myself.)
20 Bright Ideas to ReCharge your Body (and most would require you charging your credit card as well), 
14 Favorite Beauty Products in the World! Do you know what this means? We are going to have to go down 
to a gold mine in Guyana and dig us up some mineral rich soil that someone will somehow formulate into a 
cappuccino colored silky cream with bits of rare cobra venom guaranteed to 
paralyze your wrinkles and scare them from ever returning.

  1. Nobody has time to read all those lists. The time it takes for us to read those lists, we could memorize something useful. Like our children’s social security numbers, our license plate number, or our password for iTunes so that we can download a grammar app.

  1. Why do people assign an arbitrary number to their lists? I’ll tell you why. (See above mag cover...14 Favorite Beauty Products in the World) If they write, “The 30 Best….” or “The 25 Worst….” most people will not take the time to read it. I say choose a number less than 10 so that it will be more tempting. And more than 5 so that you can act like you've done a little research. The enumeration of lists is ridiculous. Yet I can’t seem to stop doing it.

  1. Reading lists is not going to improve your life. Neither will reading a blog post for that matter. It may entertain and even cause us to obnoxiously inject it upon our friends but honestly, who has added depth or value to a conversation by quoting a list? How can one possibly keep up with all the lists out there?

Because I am feeling benevolent, I am going to write my final list. The one that counts. The one that is unequivocally true. The one quoted from the ultimate source of knowledge and wisdom. The one that actually WILL add value and accomplishment and completion to your life.

Love God.
Love People.

I did not make that up or arbitrarily decide to use two statements. I did a little research. It’s right here.

That’s pretty much the only list that matters to me.

Before you get indignant and return to me all of the lists I have sent to you, publicly humiliating me, just know that I own up to having read and shared a good many lists. Including this one…and most every other blogpost I've written.