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No Competition

momloveIn my early twenties, I had a job where I worked in an office with three other women. Our boss was twice my age, very fit and energetic and seemed to check me out head to toe each morning as I arrived at work. She would comment on my outfit or jewelry, in that way that you don’t know if someone is really being nice or nasty. Often the next day she would come to work wearing something similar to what I had the previous day, but nicer or bigger and better in some way. It didn’t take me long to realize we were in competition. Whether I wanted to be or not. The whole thing made me so uncomfortable that I didn’t work for the organization for long because I wasn’t interested in competing with this woman.

For years I have struggled with comparing myself to other women, trying to answer the questions that seem to hound the female gender: am I beautiful? am I too much? am I normal? I believe that most women have a personal gauge they use, constantly comparing and tallying up wins and losses against other women. This may sound callous, but a woman who completely denies it is lying or blind. One may say it’s not an issue now, but few can deny that it ever has been.

We have two teenage daughters who are gorgeous inside and out and yesterday they both got dressed up for church and reminded me how stunning they can actually be. Now, I have a choice to make; I can try to outdo or I can remember it’s no longer about me. I have watched many Moms accept this progression well, encouraging their girls and helping them reach their full potential. But I have also watched  women compete against their daughters, wearing the same styles and sharing their clothes. Some will even antagonize their daughters, comparing weight and clothing size, or talk to their friends about them in condescending ways. Mom, there comes a time when you must take a step back and allow your girl(s) to be beautiful. Period.

Julia Roberts was in a movie about ten years ago called ‘Mona Lisa Smile’ and in an interview she was asked what it was like to work with many beautiful women who were 10-12 years her junior. Her reply was simply, “You can’t out-cute kittens.” She knew the secret, that although she is beautiful, there is a slew of women on her heels who also fit our culture’s rigid standard for beauty and she cannot compete. Let’s take her cue and encourage our young women by working with them, not against them. Game on.

Garbage Day

Alfie, Kirsten, Miles and Elly.Friday is garbage day in our little community. I don’t like to run outside on Fridays because every few feet I am greeted with cans, boxes and containers of smelly, marinating trash. Normally I would hold my breath while passing by, but when I run I am sucking air as my lungs demand, no control at all. My typical route takes me out of our neighborhood and into an affluent pocket of town where the landscape is perfect and each lawn is always pristine. But on Fridays, the wealthy have garbage day just like the rest of us. Stinking and overflowing.

What a great reminder that although some people appear to have it all together, to have a perfect marriage and family, to have that sin mastered and never doubt their purpose in life, they have garbage too. It may appear to be better contained but it’s still garbage.

All of us have become like one who is unclean,
    and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
    and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

Isaiah 64:6

 

This picture is from a photo experiment done by Gregg Segal, depicting a week’s worth of trash collected by different US families. It’s fascinating: http://www.slate.com/blogs/behold/2014/07/08/gregg_segal_photographs_people_with_a_week_s_worth_of_their_trash_in_his.html

Chocolate Chip Cake

Photo (50)….or Coleman’s birthday cake every single year. We originally had this cake while visiting dear friends in Memphis and now it is the only cake he will eat, and it’s gone in hours when we have it.

So, this recipe is from my friend Britta:

Chocolate Chip Cake

1 Pillsbury yellow cake mix

4 eggs

1/2 c oil

1/2 c water

1 small box instant vanilla pudding

8 oz sour cream

1 4 oz bar German chocolate, grated

6 oz chocolate chips

1/4 c sifter powdered sugar

Combine first six ingredients, mixing well. Fold in all the grated chocolate except 1/4c.

Fold in chocolate chips and pour into a greased Bundt pan.

Bake 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes. Cool 10 minutes and remove from pan to cool completely.

Top with remaining chocolate and powdered sugar.

 

 

I Don’t Get It

ControlI have a friend who is young, smart, talented and very single. By that I mean that she considers herself eligibly unlucky, watching all her friends and family tie the knot while she has yet to meet anyone who she would consider marriage material. This woman is gorgeous and faithful that God will provide a mate in His timing, and she is very lonely.

Another friend and her husband have raised their three adult children well; in church each week, praying over their children through the years and applying scripture to their lives as they grew up. At this writing, all three have seemingly walked away from the faith of their parents and are relying on their own strength and power to get through this world.

There is a family I am close to who desperately wants to have another baby, or would love a couple more to add to their brood. Several miscarriages, some of them late term, make the possibility feel less and less likely, but they still try for another because they believe their house is not full yet.

Another family that I love has a young, sick father. He has a chronic illness that will likely prevent him from living a long life, so they concentrate more on seasons than years. Their faith in God is strong, but their trust in medication and time being on their side is not.

These scenarios beg the question, “Lord, Why?” The people who love you and are following your will the best way they know how, are still suffering…..waiting…..hoping.

The answer may be simple, but it is not easy to accept. Free will. If God gave believers everything they dreamed of, everyone would be a believer simply to get whatever they asked for. And then there would be nothing to believe in, no faith required. We are all being observed by others, believers and non, to watch how we will handle life’s circumstances. None of us is exempt, if we were, there would be nothing to watch, and faith would not be necessary.

God has a plan. He knows your name and your circumstance.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

 

Fairy Tale

everafterDo you remember the very last frame of Cinderella, in script as she and her Prince are riding away, it says….and they lived happily ever after! Really? Cinderella lost each of her parents in two different ways and was left to fend for herself against a wicked step-mother and her two evil daughters. The prince didn’t seem to have a mother (why is this so common in Disney movies?) and was raised in a privileged household with servants in a mansion. Good luck with that.

Snow White is no different; she left her home forever, running for her life from a crazed witch trying to murder her for her beauty. She ended up living with seven small men and taking care of them. If there was information about her prince, I don’t remember it, but let’s assume he was tall, dark and dreamy with lots of money. Happily ever after? Probably not without some serious therapy.

Let’s take a more recent movie, Tangled, and the story of Rapunzel. A princess was kidnapped as a child and locked in a tower and forced to never cut her hair. Her kidnapper persuades her to believe that she is Rapunzel’s mother and plays serious head games with her. The princess is rescued by a known thief and eventually reunited with her real, royal family. I see no issues there, do you?

Our children watch these dramatic tales of injustice, evil and chivalry and cheer when the damsel is out of distress. Little girls see her in a beautiful princess dress at the end of the movie, smiling and ready to ride off into the sunset with her prince, and they want to be that princess. It is easy to imagine that life after all that turmoil will be simple because they are finally together, happily ever after.

It’s no wonder we are surprised when we learn that marriage is work! We marry people with a lot less drama than those stories, and yet we don’t just automatically live happily ever after. There should be a sequel to each of these movies, showing us how hard it was for the two protagonists to merge their worlds, unload their baggage and sift through each other’s junk. We don’t give our children the proper role models to learn that marriage can be good, but difficult and rewarding, even while challenging. I’m all for the fairy tale that takes you away to another land for a little while, but when it leaves you there –  far, far away from reality, the end result is going to be anything but happily ever after.

Peanut Butter Cups

Photo (48)So simple….keep them in the fridge on summer days. I got this one from Top Secret Recipes, and there are lots of versions, but this one is the simplest.

Homemade Peanut Butter Cups

24 mini muffin tins

2 -12 oz packages milk chocolate chips (I use Hershey’s)

2 c peanut butter

1 c powdered sugar

1/2 t salt

 

Melt the chocolate using 15 second increments in the microwave. Spoon the chocolate into the muffin cups, shoring it up the sides, and place in the fridge while mixing the remaining ingredients.

Mix the peanut butter, powdered sugar and salt and spoon on top of the chocolate cups, patting down slightly as you go. You could microwave the peanut butter mixture to soften slightly, but I don’t need to.

You may need to melt the leftover chocolate to keep it soft, and spoon it over the tops of the peanut butter, sealing the chocolate to the sides. Refrigerate the peanut butter cups as long as your family allows!

Makes 24

 

 

Typical

photo (47)This is a typical day at my back door. The dogs are always so desperate to go outside, they run around the backyard exactly one time and then back to the door to happily get inside. The cats mostly come and go as they please, but must have assistance, so the game goes all day to be at the door, begging to go in or out. It seems like everyone would be much happier if I left the door open for a few hours each morning, but that isn’t the case; they tend to avoid all that freedom. I am well aware it is all a game, and some days it makes me crazy.

But this morning I am reminded that I am so much like my pets, always wanting what I don’t have, grateful for mere seconds as I receive what I think I need, and then on to the next round of acrobatics to get more. I’m thankful for a God who doesn’t get tired of catching me at the door, eagerly pushing for the next big thing, when what I currently have is so much more than I deserve.

Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 1 Timothy 6:6-7

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