November 30, 2009

Musings on a Christmas Tree...

The scent of "fresh balsam" fills my apartment and Nat King Cole is crooning from my iPod. Twinkling nostalgically on my little tree are the colorful lights I put up this evening, by myself. As I sit here, these melodies remind me of joyfully trimming the tree my with my brother and father (after Mom had very bravely put up the lights), laughing over old ornaments and trying to sing "O Tannenbaum" in German or quoting the Beatles' Christmas album. It was one of my most favorite things to do... ever. And this year I put up my tree alone. Suddenly I realized I have become one of those women I would see in movies and on TV who lived alone and trimmed their Christmas trees alone-- like Lucy in While You Were Sleeping, or Kathleen in You've Got Mail. Or even that creepy character on ER years ago named Amanda who was in love with Dr. Green and was kind of stalking him.
And with this realization comes a dull ache. I think it's the ache of the in-between. Miles separate me from my dear family, the ones with whom I built and kept and enjoyed traditions. Time separates me from my future family, the ones with whom I will build and keep and enjoy new traditions. I am in-between, and alone.
There is a quote from Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol that says something about how Christmastime is a time above all others where "abundance rejoices and want is most keenly felt." While this is referring to basic needs, I think it applies to emotional needs as well. Families rejoice in their abundance of love and togetherness. Husbands and wives rejoice in the abundance of blessing they've been given. And the want of family is felt keenly. The want of a spouse is felt keenly.
I truly have no room for complaints, as my needs are met and my family is healthy, though far away. And yet, to write with candor, I find that ache in my heart as I listen to ancient carols and deck the halls. I have no promise that next Christmas, or the Christmas after that, or the Christmas after that I will have someone with whom I will trim the tree. But I am not truly alone. I have the presence of the very one whose birth is the reason for our celebration; and that is more than enough. I have to preach that to myself at this time of year especially, but it is truth. If you find yourself in the in-betweens, or far from family, or simply alone, it is my prayer for you and myself that we would find our satisfaction in Christ Jesus and not pine for the things we don't have and wish to have. The blessings we have in Him are abundant, and we want for nothing.

November 27, 2009

The Perils of Consumerism...

Forget National Lampoon's whatever. I've got my own crazy escapades for the holidays.

It was Friday morning. Black Friday. Whether they call it "Black Friday" because of the darkness of the morning, the "in the black" retailers experience, or the blackness of hearts fighting over 42" plasma TVs I'll never know. Regardless, it was Black Friday, and indeed, the sky was black with the heaviness of pre-dawn (matching the heaviness of my eyelids). With my mother incapacitated this year (my usual partner-in-crime), my father agreed to accompany me in my shopping endeavors... not because he likes to shop, not because he wanted to grab the good deals... but because he didn't want me to die from being trampled to death in the entryway of a major retailer.

I was up at 4 and out the door by 4:40, making a stop at White Castle for my dad's breakfast sandwich. We would make it to Wal-Mart by 5, just when they opened. My goal: $25 printers, among other more trifling items. Christmas music filled the car for the first time since last December. I was energized-- ready for the day and ready for the season. I'll even go so far as to say that my father, the antithesis of the typical Black Friday shopper, was energized. Then we rounded the corner towards the Wal-Mart parking lot.

Cars. Lots and lots of cars. There were so many cars that we parked across the street. That was our first bad sign and should have been our cue to leave. But we didn't. In the darkness, we began to cross the street. Dad started to run-- not because there were tons of cars coming, but I don't know, I guess because it's a habit to run across a street rather than walk or trot. Naturally I followed suit. That is, until my feet and my brain stopped communicating. As is commonplace when I begin to fall, time slowed and I knew what was coming but could do nothing to stop it. Smack in the middle of the street, at 5 in the morning, Black Friday morning, I fell. I didn't just fall though. I wiped out. Smack on my knee, my hands, sliding onto my side, twisting my back. If it hadn't hurt so bad, I would have laughed. But my dad wasn't laughing-- he was completely freaked out (which makes it that much funnier now), thinking probably several things: he now would have two invalid women in his house, I would get hit by a car as I lay helpless in the middle of the street, and/or he hoped no one had seen this embarrassing display. I hobbled to the curb and waited for the pain to subside, then limped over to Wal-Mart only to find they were at capacity and the line curved around the store.
It was all for nothing. I had busted my knee, scraped my hands and side, and wounded my pride only to walk around the building in the cold, printer-less. I watched people exit the store with those printers. "I just fell in the street in order to get that!!" I wanted to scream. But I knew they'd probably scream back, "I have been waiting in the cold since 11 last night. I haven't showered, slept, or gone to the bathroom since then," and their crotchetiness would have made me reply with, "Well, you can take your printer and..."

But none of that happened. I hobbled back to the car and we tackled Target, Kmart, and returned to Wal-Mart, successful for the most part. I, a kind of Captain Ahab, had gotten my great white whale-- an electric toothbrush (you know you're getting old when) that was cut down to $40 (after which I would receive a $10 rebate and get the toothbrush for about 70% off). My Christmas shopping is now 98% complete, and I put a big dent in my mom's list.

At what price? A bruised knee, a bruised ego, a few scrapes, and tired eyes. If I looked simply at the events of the day, I'd say the deals and steals of the day do not make up for the perils of consumerism. But I looked beyond the events, and I see a memory made with my dad (he has given himself the "father of the year" award), a source of laughter for others (at great physical cost, though I really cannot stop laughing about it now... I'm laughing at this very moment, in fact), a Christmas list happily completed, a kind stranger helping us out, the satisfaction of getting a great deal and being a good steward of money, seizing the day, the joy of the beginning of the Christmas season, and the opportunity to help my mom with her shopping.

It's all about the attitude. Unlike the rumored fistfights that were occurring over TVs at Wal-Mart, and unlike the men and women who waited in line all night for products not for their families but to turn around and sell at a higher price, I went with the hope of bringing joy and being a good steward. And so for me, my experience, despite the perils of consumerism, was a positive one. Don't knock it till you try it.

November 26, 2009

Give Thanks...

I can't help it: I love old hymns, particularly ones I associate with memories of the holidays. "We Gather Together" is one such hymn that I had the pleasure of singing this past Sunday at my parents' church.

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;He chastens and hastens His will to make known. The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing. Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.

Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining, Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;So from the beginning the fight we were winning;Thou, Lord, were at our side, all glory be Thine!

We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant,And pray that Thou still our Defender will be. Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;Thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!

Interesting words for a Thanksgiving hymn. There is no mention of family, meals, or anything else that the holiday typically represents. I love Thanksgiving through and through. I enjoy getting up early to make breakfast for the football players, then lounging around and watching Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. I love ushering in the holiday season by viewing Miracle on 34th Street, and of course I gorge myself like everyone else on my mom's fantastic cooking, and soak up every moment of the time I get to spend with my family. Laughing, shouting, playing, eating, joking. I love this holiday. It's as great as Christmas but without the commercialization (ironically, because people jump over this holiday in order TO commercialize Christmas).

However... I think the focus of Thanksgiving (which most believe is one of the few holidays to retain its original purpose) has actually gone askew. Sure, family is important and we should be thankful for every day we have with them. But I believe the words of the song above bring the focus of Thanksgiving back 'round to where it should be: the Giver of all good gifts. After all, how can we be thankful for our families and other wonderful blessings if we don't know to whom we give thanks?

And so here are some things I'm thankful to God for this year:

The salvation of my soul
The (relative) health and life of my family members
The relationships with my family members
My friendships
My 2 new "brothers-in-law"
Employment and income
My ministry and the delightful girls I disciple
My own place
Health and becoming healthier
Good food
Clothes to wear

When you gather together to ask the Lord's blessings this Thanksgiving, please remember to give thanks to the One who gives immeasurably more than we could ask or think. Happy Thanksgiving.

November 21, 2009

Airport, Affleck, Awkwardness...

For those of you who read my previous post regarding the premonition my mom's friend had regarding me, a turkey, and a future husband in the grocery store, well... I went to the grocery store today and... it didn't happen (shocker). Neither did it happen on the plane ride here to Chicago. However, I must tell you about my airport experience this morning.

I sat complacently in the little black chairs at the airport, waiting for my flight and crocheting an ugly scarf with ugly brown yarn. Then out of nowhere, of all the open seats around me, sits one of the top ten most attractive men I've ever seen close up. Like, not movie-star attractive necessarily, but this amalgamation of boyish good looks and manliness; He was like a combination of Ben Affleck and that cute desk worker from Moody I mentioned earlier. Of course I didn't talk to him (I never do talk to attractive men... we've been over this), and he sat, fidgeted a bit, watched the crochet hook, got up, left. I thought, Well, that's the end of that. Figures. The cute ones never stay long. I boarded the plane, took the aisle seat of the second row, and forgot about Ben Affleck. Until we made eye contact.

"Anyone sitting there?" he asked, pointing his head towards the seat next to me.
"Nope," I said in a small voice with a slight smile, face reddening. I couldn't decide if it was God's sense of humor or pure irony that this attractive stranger was actually going to sit by me. Instantly a hundred thoughts raced through my mind: I've got to think of something to talk about with this guy! Should I flirt? Wait, I don't even know how to do that. Do I look OK? Oh my gosh he's cute. We very awkwardly did that always-very-awkward dance that people do in planes when depositing luggage and taking seats. He sat down. Tall. He was very tall. And right next to me! I rummaged in my purse for some gum. Wouldn't want my breath to stop what could be the beginning of a very beautiful... conversation.

"I'm really sorry to do this to you again," he suddenly said, looking sheepish but still very good-looking, "but I think I'm going to take that seat," he continued, pointing to the middle seat in the row in front of us. Clearly this man had commitment issues. OK, maybe he just had really long legs and wanted the first row. Did I mention he was tall? Tall, dark and handsome.

"Oh, that's OK," I insisted with a smile that belied my disappointment but indicated my relief that I wouldn't have to make coherent conversation with Ben Affleck. Awkward airplane dance again, except worse this time because he paused to let an elderly couple pass (cute of him), which meant I had to stick my butt in a woman's face and get closer to the elderly man than I found entirely comforting. Ben Affleck turned to me again, apologetically. "Sorry to do that to you again," he said. I smiled brighter this time. "It's OK," I said. And that was it. That was the end of my conversation with the attractive man. As quickly as he had come, bringing his handsome self near, he was gone again. I spent the duration of the flight crocheting my ugly brown scarf and looking at the back of his well-shaped head that kept comically nodding to the right and left as he fought sleep. I promise I wasn't as much of a creeper as that makes me sound.

I had to laugh inside. After writing about meeting someone anytime, anywhere, and my problems with talking to good-looking men, I thought it was quite opportune to be actually sitting next to such a catch. I was even mustering up the courage to speak to him. And then in God's typically funny, ironic way, he's snatched from me and I'm forced to do what I always do... watch and wish. And I just had to share this with you, for laughs. As I get older, I think I get more awkward... which does not bode well for the rest of my life!

November 19, 2009

Miss Independent...

This Thanksgiving season I decided to think about the reasons I'm thankful for singleness. Usually my cons outweigh my pros on this topic, so I thought it might be time to try to tip the scale the other way. The following is the first thing for which I'm thankful:

Yesterday, after about 13 1/2 hours at work, I walked up my three flights of stairs wearily, turned the key in the lock, dropped my purse, and sighed. I was home. I was home in my own place, my very own place with my very own things, kept clean in my very own OCD way. At that moment, I realized that was one very big reason I'm thankful for singleness. I love everything about my apartment.

I love how I can watch whatever I want to watch whenever I want to watch it, and as Lucy from While You Were Sleeping so astutely noted, I have "sole possession of the remote control... that's very important." Nobody can make fun of me for watching a goofy Lifetime movie, and I don't have to feel bad about watching "Glee" instead of some sports game, probably involving two college teams about which I couldn't care less. I love my yellow lamps I picked up at a thrift store because I couldn't afford new lamps, but I love more than any new lamps I've ever seen. I love my Breakfast at Tiffany's poster which would inevitably come down if a husband were to occupy my dwellings. I love that I can burn whatever fragrance I like in my candles and no one can complain that it smells stinky or girly, because I have the last word about the odors in my household. I love that my house is impeccably clean (well, besides my bedroom, which will be littered with clothing until Jesus returns). I love that there are no vestiges of man in my bathroom-- little hairs, especially. I love that I can have lace curtains and shabby chic floral patterns in my bedroom without feeling bad about emasculating a husband. Perhaps most of all, I love that I have a whole walk-in closet to myself, filled with wooden hangers holding fashion potential of biblical proportions.

So really, I suppose my love of my apartment is mostly selfish... but I think there are definite benefits to living by oneself for a period of time. I like that I can pray aloud. I like that I can sing loudly in the shower. I like that I don't have to wear pants. I like that I can dance like a spaz. I like that I can eat my healthy food that most people hate and watch my goofy movies that most people hate. This is my season to live alone, one that I at some point may give up forever. I'm thankful for it.

With that being said, it brings up a concern I've wondered about when it comes to having my own place and being independent. I've always been very independently-minded. Some would call it strong-willed. OK, my parents would call it strong-willed, as that kind of child is what they raised. But as I grew, my independence grew. My college roommate and I used to muse that our Independence had to have been a big reason why guys didn't ask us out-- we were too intimidating for them, I guess. Too much for them to handle. Ha.

But truly, as I become more and more independent-- paying my own bills, cleaning my own house, buying my own groceries, fixing my own problems-- I wonder if this independence really may be too intimidating for most men, and even worse-- will this independence make it harder for me to submit as a wife some day? Probably. Which is why I have realized that the more independent I become, the more dependent I must be on God. When I depend on Him, then it's not about me leading my own life. It's about God leading my life. So when and if that man comes along who is strong enough to handle this "too much to handle," I'll already be used to submitting to and following my God, so submitting to and following my husband will be less of an issue.

So for now, I will continue to work on depending on God, and I will continue to love living on my own... one of the blessings that comes with being single!

November 15, 2009

Holding Out For a Hero...

Alright single ladies. I'm going to be candid here. Every time I have made a big change in my life, I have thought, "maybe here and maybe now I will meet my future husband." When I started Moody I thought certainly he would be found somewhere within those walls. When I moved to Florida, I thought absolutely he would be waiting for me here. And at each junction, the Lord has said, "Nope. Not yet. My timing. Wait on My timing." I don't usually think, "maybe when I round this corner, I'll bump into him," or "maybe when I get on this plane, he'll sit next to me." But sometimes I do. And if you are a single girl and are honest with yourself, you'd probably nod your head too. I don't know why we do that-- the irrepressible spirit of hope within us? Our blind expectations for the future? Our trust in God? Beats me. But I definitely thought about this tonight... twice.

First, I was sitting in church and noticed someone I'd never seen before. He was really good- looking. Very, very good- looking. In fact, he reminded me of a young Marlon Brando (see picture and swoon). I didn't meet him, don't know his name, and probably will never meet him. I didn't look at him and think, "that's my future husband," because that would be silly. Also, I am pretty sure that someone who looks like Marlon Brando wouldn't be looking at me. Regardless, it reminded me, quite happily, that at any moment, God (if He in His infinite wisdom would choose to do so) could drop someone into my life. He could indeed meet me around a corner. He may very well sit next to me on a plane. He could possibly shake my hand on a Sunday. And this thought bouyed my hope and trust.

Then I was wandering around Target looking for mousse and other such necessities while chatting with Mom on the phone. Conversation had gone its normal route when suddenly she told me that a friend of hers had instructed her not to buy the Thanksgiving turkey until I get there, because she believed that that's where I was going to meet my husband... at the grocery store. We laughed, because this friend of hers is a funny, free- spirited type and she means well. And I really laughed, given the thoughts I'd already been thinking about God and His infinite wisdom. I was quite amused. I doubt I'll meet my husband while finding the perfect frozen bird at Jewel. But maybe I will. Regardless, I'm not going to hold my breath, but I will keep "holding out for a hero" with faith that God's timing is perfect, and whether we meet at a grocery store, on a plane, at church, or wherever, it will be as it should be, because it is designed by God.

November 14, 2009

To Flirt or Not to Flirt...

Flirting is in the eye of the beholder. Or the ears of the hearer... I guess I mean the senses of the senser. Flirting was this nebulous entity when I was in high school-- something I could never quite wrap my mind around in order to actually practice it, and certainly I'd never recognize it if I received it. And then there was college, where conditions were ripe for flirting just about every time one exited his or her dorm. The flirtation cloud hung low over the campus, showering the students when they least expected it. Walking through the SDR (student dining room) was like walking through a hormone-charged battlefield and one might not get through meal without a flirting battle wound.

My only real experience with flirting was watching girls do it around good-looking guys, and it made me want to throw up all over their excessively smiley faces and perky personalities. They would giggle, poke fun, purposefully annoy (how is this an effective flirtation strategy? Yet I've seen it done so often!), pout, and flatter. This was flirting? Then what about the times I'd be out with friends and we'd leave a store and one would say, "He was totally flirting with you!" Bewildered, I would think, he smiled at me and made a joke... that was flirting? There were no giggles, no flattering! Hence, my confusion.

I remember having conversations with the girls on my floor about flirting... I was never really sure what constituted actual flirting, officially, and if there was a line in the sand that, once crossed, meant that now I was flirting. I wasn't a moment ago, but yes, now I am. We came up with three realities regarding flirting that I still kind of hold to today, but I must be honest-- flirting is still as foreign and unnatural to me as it was when I was a teenager. It is, at its essence, an attempt to get a member of the opposite sex to notice and become interested in you. We can see that clearly when young children push each other down and run away in order to be chased. But everything gets foggier when you get older. So here are the three realities about flirting I've come up with:

1. Flirting is in they eye of the beholder. I've already made this statement, but it's a good one, don't you think? I know this to be true, because every single man and woman I have asked, "what is flirting?" has given me a completely different answer. To some, it's speaking in double-entendres (ew). To others, it's laughing at their jokes. Still others look for body language-- hair flips, head tilts, proximity, that good-old arm slap. To some it is witty banter. And then there are some who will take a mere smile to be flirting. And this is where flirting is in the eye of the beholder: if one wants to be flirted with, then they will find a way to sense flirtation. They will see a smile as only for them, they will sense witty banter to mean there's a deep, interpersonal connection, they will see a hair toss as "please date me; I'm all yours." I do have personal experience in this area. It haunts me today and is part of what led me to #2, as you'll read in a moment. I will never forget the moment I was sitting at our bro/sis table in college. It was after dinner and we were talking and goofing off, as we were wont to do. I was wearing my hair in braided pigtails for whatever reason, and playing with the tips. Girls do that, and especially I do do that, as after I eat and I am enjoying conversation, it is necessary for me to find something with which I can occupy my hands. And then we all begin a conversation on this very topic: what is flirting? That's when they boy across from me looked pointedly at me and smiled. "I heard it's when a girl plays with her hair!" Instantly I reddened and dropped my hands to my lap. I was definitely not flirting. But he wanted me to be; how do I know? He asked me out shortly thereafter.

2. My girlfriends and I decided that, unless we were truly interested in the guy (and assuming that if we were we could even figure out how to flirt), we would do our best not to give out flirtatious vibes. Why? Because why would I want to get a guy I'd never date interested and then have to shoot him down? Or why would I want to flirt with someone who would shoot me down? I guess it boils down to self-preservation and those Berlin Walls around my heart again, but there's an element of loving our brothers there too. This is where some of my girlfriends differ, however. Some of them believe that we should practice flirting with anything male that moves (okay, maybe not that broad). "Why?" I ask them. "To practice," they tell me. I don't really think that's a good enough reason to play with the hopes and emotions of guys. I don't need the bit of self-esteem rush you get when someone flirts back (not that they do either... just saying...). So I don't. Many of my friends have tried to get me to flirt with Baldy, but I won't do it for two very good reasons: I'm afraid of rejection; also I'd probably never actually date him. So why put myself out there if I'm not even serious. Those are the kinds of games girls play that make guys think we're crazy.

3. When girls decide not to flirt with boys until they want a specific boy to flirt back, I have found that they actually do practice flirting. With each other. I know that sounds weird, but girls, be honest. How many times have you told your girlfriends, "That outfit makes you look hot!" or, "How you doin,'" and then laughed about it? Of course it's never serious, as you'd never actually flirt with a girl... but it's as if it's a safe environment in which a girl can practice her flirting without ever actually roping a guy in. Ideal! Ideal? Not really, because it all goes back to #1, and no one really knows what truly constitutes flirting anyway. It's possibly one of the most ambiguous things on the planet, like the the existence of the Yeti, or Carrot Top's humanity.

Bottom line: if someone wants to be flirted with, they'll perceive things that way. Therefore, I steer clear of flirtatious behavior so as not to mislead men. And therefore, I very rarely pick up on men flirting with me. I'm just as clueless about flirting as I ever was. Maybe that's what makes it so irresistibly interesting...?

November 9, 2009

The Cultural Battle That Is Me...

Today, the only thing that kept me from crying was remembering that I wasn't wearing waterproof mascara. I sat in my little gold Saturn, watching the rain sprinkle the windshield and willing the light to change to green so I could just go home already. Then my very own mascara vs. tears situation gave me an epiphany regarding two dueling parts that make up my whole; two dueling parts that have been at war in me from childhood.

My mom's family is very Irish, and therefore characterized by something very Irish: emotion. Tears are commonplace at family gatherings. In fact, it has become a bit of a game for my cousins and myself-- when we gather for prayer, if my grandpa or any of his four children do the actual praying, there will be a throat catch, and inevitably... wait for it... a few tears. And that's when we peek from our prayer and give each other knowing, mirth-filled looks. We knew it. Hugs and kisses abound, tears flow, and they like it that way.

My dad's family is very German, and therefore characterized by something very German: stoicism. Tears are non-existent at family gatherings. In fact, I have not once seen my father or my aunts cry... unless of course from laughter, in which case I have seen it more than a few times. When one of us falls down, no one comes running with compassion and a band-aid... instead they double over in fits of giggles. Emotions aren't discussed, touchy issues remain untouched, and they like it that way.

There are no words to express the amount of love I have for each side of my family, equally. And while each side is loving, odd, hilarious, and entirely entertaining, I have suddenly realized that it has created a bit of battleground in me. My Irish side tells me to let out my emotions-- cry, laugh, shout, fume, rant, dance... my first instinct is always to follow these emotions in that characteristically passionate way Irish poets pour out their hearts and souls into ballads and sonnets, the way Irish musicians throw their emotions full force into a jig or reel, and the way Irish women throw dishes at their offending husbands in anger.

But then my German side takes over, saying, nicht! Schreien Sie nicht! I must not cry. My will and pride to never be seen as weak become stronger than the emotion, I suck it up, and that's that. Picture me: jaw set, head high, clear throat, step forward. Practical, right? Just as I said-- I wanted to cry, but wait! I wasn't wearing waterproof mascara, so that's that. Irish emotion vs. German pragmatism.

Culture composes so much of what makes me... me. Not just what I have grown up around and the people who have surrounded me, but my genetic makeup. My link to my ancestors is my Irish emotion and my German stoicism. What makes you... you? What cultural battles rage within you? What links you to your ancestors?

November 6, 2009

No Means No...

Funny I should be writing this post today, after I passed the teachers' lounge, filled with a figurative cornucopia of culinary delights-- not the least of which was a cheesecake with cherries and a crumbly danish top. But write this post I will...

About 9 months ago I decided to get healthy, and that meant a lifestyle change. Let me put it this way: I could no longer consume whatever struck my fancy, or whatever Mr. Sweet Tooth (my true nemesis, evil on every level) would command. It took a lot of planning, and it wasn't too difficult to stick to my plan for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. What I found to be the real struggle was passing the teachers' lounge, or going out to eat with friends. Pastries would taunt me, with their wicked, wicked cream cheese filling just begging to be eaten. The cookie aisle would call to me as I perused the produce section... it was a siren song, truly.

But, firm in my resolve, I would approach the dreaded lounge, look the offending cake in the eye and say, "no." I walked away. That first "no" was probably one of the most difficult words I ever said to myself. I thought about the cake throughout the day... imagined how it would taste, how delicious it would be... and I also imagined the guilt I'd feel if I blew my diet. The horrible over-filled-and-stuffed-to-the-gills feeling I'd be left with after the last bit of vanilla icing left my tongue and the sugar high wore off.

So the next time I was met with a culinary contender that was not part of my plan, I said, "no." And I walked away. And just like that, little by little, "no" became easier to say. The more I said it, the easier it became. My evil nemesis was losing power! I began to see the effects of saying "no." I was shrinking before the very eyes of those seductive danishes!

I was struck by how closely this mirrored the battle against sin. Titus 2:11-12 reads, "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age..." In our sinfulness, we have no power to say "no" to sin, but by the grace of God and because of his power, we can.

Let's imagine you are trying to overcome a particular sin. The first time it looks you in the eye, you may think about how much you want to commit that sin, how much you'll enjoy it. But then hopefully you'll also think about the price that was paid for that sin, and the consequences that will ensue. And when you say "no," that first time, it may be the hardest word you'll ever say to yourself. And you'll walk away. You may think about that sin throughout the day, too... but if you say "no" and mean "no" and walk away, it's a victory. And by the grace of God, every time you continue to say "no" to that sin, it will get easier-- you will begin to see the effects of saying "no:" closer communion with God, better fellowship with believers, a life of holiness, and freedom from enslaving sins.

Unfortunately, when we're enslaved by sin, it seems awfully fulfilling at the time... just like that cherry cheesecake with the crumbly danish I snuck from the teachers' lounge. Oh did it look delicious. Oh did I anticipate its sweet, succulence. Oh did I regret it. When we say "no" to sin, we see clearly enough to see it for what it really is-- a complete affront to God. When we say "no" to sin, we see clearly enough to see the consequences that come from it. What appeared to be fulfilling is nothing short of appalling.

Try it today. Say "no" to that enslaving sin-- whether it's laziness, pride, lust, anger... Say "no" today. It will be hard. I wish there was a "sin-be-gone" spray like I wish there was a "glutton-be-gone" spray. But what it boils down to is the grace of God and self-discipline. Say "no," walk away, and enjoy true freedom.

November 1, 2009

How are Your Heels?

I just saw an advertisement for heel cream. This heel cream claimed to rid you of your cracked, disgustingly grotesque heels and leave you with heels as smooth as baby feet. I had literally not thought about my heels for maybe ten months. Who has heel insecurities, really? Then I thought, "When does it end? When does the poor body image/body insecurity train stop and all the women get off and say, 'This is the end of the line-- I will go no farther than this.'?"

Enough is enough. I mean, I get the weight issue. That's insecurity number one for women. Besides needing to be healthy, we constantly are harangued with images of perfectly thin, toned women with neither cellulite nor fat roll, and are often expected to live up to those images. So while I don't succumb to them, I understand all the advertisements for diet fads and weight-loss programs. Then they attack hair contentment. Basically, if we as women have hair, we should be happy. But according to advertisements, our hair needs to be thick, lustrous, shiny, and frizz-free. It should sway in the breeze, tempt men to run their fingers through it, and fall perfectly over our forehead in an oh-so-coy manner. So now we are insecure about our hair. And our faces. Let's change our eye color. Let's fix our wrinkles. Let's cover our blemishes and the things that make us "us." Let's fix our teeth and make them whiter. Let's be insecure about the unique face God gave us. How about the level of our skin's softness? Our skin should be touchably smooth, including our armpits and definitely our legs. Forget moles and freckles-- those are automatic insecurities.

And now, we can be insecure about our heels. Oh for the day when women will stop looking in the mirror, picking out all the "flaws" society has pointed out, and instead will realize that God designed them before they entered the world. Do we realize that every time we are dissatisfied with our God-given looks, we are telling God that he made a mistake? More importantly, when will we as women spend more time grooming our spirits and fixing our internal flaws than grooming our bodies and fixing our supposed external flaws.

Our minds have become so warped that what consumes our thoughts is the color of our eyelashes, the luminosity of our skin, and the tightness of our abs. How many of these things will matter into eternity? None of it. So why do we care so much? Pride, probably. We want better heels than so-and-so; we want a different so-and-so to notice our lustrous hair; we don't want inferior skin-smoothness. So as usual, pride is at the root of our deepest problems. What do you say we root it out and get off the poor body image/body insecurity train for good?