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Go Find a Mirror

Maybe I’m beingmirror too open, too vulnerable? Maybe you don’t need to hear what I’m going to say? Scroll on. It’s ok.  Maybe I just need to say it. Posterity and all that.

About a month ago I found a lump in my right breast.  Just a blatant, defiant, 3 cm, hard, round…different than normal tissue. My stomach dropped. Fear looked me in the eye.

I have a dear friend that I’ve reconnected with just prior to this finding. She shared her breast cancer story with me. Brutal. Heart-wrenching. Courageous.  Many words come to mind.  Truth is, I didn’t want those words, even the “courageous” one. After many weeks of uncertainty, I finally got confirmation yesterday that this lump is a benign cyst. The doctor said something about menopausal hormones, and more things… and that these cysts do not turn into cancer. That was what I had been praying to hear. In the weeks of waiting, I have had some growing to do.

The theme of my life lately has been “content while contending”, one hand holding Thankfulness, the other hand holding Dreams. Both very true and alive and worth pursuing. (Never mutually exclusive by the way). So, here are my thoughts to those that care to hear. My lesson of “content while contending” in relation to what I think about my body.

Sometimes we can easily think of our bodies as an expression of ourselves instead of housing our true self.  What do I mean by that? We can let the image of our body steal from the reality of who we are at the core. That is the possible travesty. My dad has always said “pretty is as pretty does” reminding us that our actions make us beautiful. or not. But in our culture, the appearance of our body has a high value. I guess I’m saying that we can be stripped of this “expression” (body) so easily. Aging, illness, injury…can take this perception and leave us feeling empty. expressionless.  I have wrestled because I think the body should be celebrated. Not idolized, but appreciated as the gift it is; a life holder. So, I have been confronted with my disgruntled attitude. about my body.  I’ve made comments about what I would change if I could. Not once while thinking I might have breast cancer did I bemoan that I would like to have my boobs any different.  Not once.

If someone asks you the question, “what would you physically change about yourself if you could?  What would you say?  I had my list. Do you have yours? Here’s my big advice. Burn the list. Destroy it. Purposefully find a place for it’s ashes. Trust me these lists just creep back up and create opportunity for daily burial ceremonies and ash throwing. 

We need to let the truth sink deep. Our body is beautiful.  Intricate. phenomenal. Whether we’re 5, 12, 21, 46  🙂 or 97. I’m daring us to stand naked in front of our bathroom mirror and smile.  Have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror with kindness? Not allowing criticism.  You can actually do that. Take in the beauty of every part of you. The strength, the softness, the giving power. Stay there until you are looking at yourself with admiration, awe, and thankfulness. (I can see it now, toddlers and maybe even husbands knocking at the bathroom door to see what is taking you so long in there?) Just stay. Stay through the tears.  Stay through the angst. I have a theory that in this exact mindset, we will choose to be kinder to our bodies, choose wiser for our nutrition, exercise harder because we’re ADDING to health and beauty , and not because we are pursuing illusive beauty that fades with the next commercial (that changes the definition).

There are women who have had mastectomies, parts of them cut away in an effort to cling to life.That is beauty in it’s highest form – sacrifice. There are people who have lost limbs, eyesight, hearing, movement…they are very aware of the gifts our bodies give to us. Loss does that. accentuates truth. bores deep into ourselves what we need to know. They also will look into the mirrors too and find the Beauty and see. It is always there.

So my dears who long to love more deeply,  start with how you love and care for your own body. Go find a mirror.

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Abby – my comforting vision

Today I’m just roaming around the house trying to process the fact that Abigail is no longer on this earth. I’m sobered, sad, yet hopeful. The truth is that my heart is away, residing with my brother-in-law, sister-in-law, my nieces and nephews, my mother-in-law and father-in-law.  Abby’s life embodied courage; the kind of courage that comes from pain. I remember her birth.  Merribeth and I were pregnant together, both excited to meet our baby girls. Abigail and Bethany were 2  1/2 months apart.  But from the beginning Abby struggled. It wasn’t until later that year that we learned she had serious health issues. She started having seizures.

I have had the privilege to see her family give and give.  She went through so much and so they did as well. The were consistent to try new diets, doctors  and prescriptions, new ideas as to what might make her life better and more rich.  What they did the best though, was love.

She loved her baths.  She loved her food.  She loved her music so much.  And she had the cutest clothes you’ve ever seen. She would bend her head down to the music toy, hit the button and listen with her ear pressed to hear the sound. And though she could never say with words what made her happy, she definitely communicated it. Her hands would clap and she would laugh. During seizures, her parents and family soothed and held her. They cried when she cried. And so many sleepless nights they spent awake on her behalf.

Merribeth taught me many lessons.  One day I was bemoaning the fact that the kids were getting so grown and changing so much.  She gave me a perspective of a mom who wished growth and change for her daughter; that each growth step is one to be thankful for. It was a poignant moment that I have never forgotten.  I am cognizant of the beauty of change.  Now Abby has changed. It happened.

I had a vision this morning while praying specifically for my sweet sister-in-law.  It was so clear.  I don’t know if this is the way it will be, but this is what I saw-

We were all in heaven. Abby was Abby, but without pain.  She could talk and express herself completely.  And we all turned to the big screen in front of us and watched hand in hand as her life played before us. Every interaction was there.  When her mom said “Abigail, I love you”, Abigail would cock her head sideways (like she does) and instead of  just listening, she talked back saying, “I love you too, mom”.  It was what she would have said if she could have. When her dad said “Abigaaaaaaaiiiilll….NO!” and would laugh, Abby would not just smile but tease right back, with words coming from her heart and out her mouth. Every. single. interaction.  We watched every single one, re-lived with Abby whole and well. She said every single word that she ever wanted to speak. And there was all the time in the world to live the life again.  It was as if earth was the dream, and heaven the reality. And the last scene was the seizure that stopped her heart; the moment she left earth.  She squeezed our hands a little tighter.abigail

She turned to us as we stood there in heaven,  tears in her eyes and said “Thank you for loving me and giving me what I needed. God knew you would be the ones who could love like this.” She thanked grandma for all of the walks in the stroller, all the times her siblings included her, every meal her momma made, every moment with a daddy who loved his baby girl, every…

We were the ones speechless now, overcome as we marveled that life on earth seemed so final in our minds. We were so joyous that in this new place we could know this kind of pleasure; that we could be with Abigail. She had been spending time with her cousin Christina, Grandpa and Grandma Wells, Grandma and Grandpa Thompson, while waiting for us. It was like we joined a prestigious club; they bonded on common ground; waiting on all of us to arrive.

That was my vision–beautiful and comforting on this day that I/we mourn. We miss her. We are happy FOR her. We will never forget her. The lessons she taught us in her weakness are much more powerful than any of our strengths.

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What You Think About Your Body Matters

Flower-Wallpaper-For-DesktopMy dear women friends, It is so mighty interesting, this dance we dance with our bodies, isn’t it? Somewhere in those early years we became not only self aware, but body-image-aware.  Do you remember those first thoughts about how you thought you looked? We all have war stories, don’t we?  We are all overcoming.

Along the way we learn that our bodies are the vehicles that give reality to our hearts; flesh to our desires. We use touch to soothe, hands and mind to master favorite foods for those we love and eyes to cry alongside the hurting…all with our bodies.  We use our voices to express and words of cheer. Even the miracle of pregnancy (I have five babies that grew inside of me… 5 reasons to view my body with awe and admiration.)  Every fiber of us is  a potential gift to those we love.  All of what we have gathers in the green room waiting for a moment to be called to the stage.

I see at least 2 women among us. We sometimes even vacillate between the two.
One woman is so self-conscious, sadly downplaying everything about her physical body.  She tries to mask this, but there is the depth of her angst that bubbles up in quiet moments. She gives so much more grace to others than she gives herself.  Her feelings of inferiority underly every interaction.  She doesn’t want to be this way, but she is paralyzed with self-hatred. She buys into the inward being the most important (which it is) but she uses this as an excuse for herself.
The second woman sees the less-than-perfect image but reconciles this dilemma. It’s hard to even pinpoint how. But she does. She purposefully accepts herself, so she can give herself away. She knows her potential. The good and the bad.  She decides to be a “smiler”. To those she meets, she emits little pieces of herself, yet miraculously there is never less of her. She locks eyes and smiles toward her love, not always waiting for darkness, but unashamed in the light.

She focuses on this truth-that in her tangible body, she can give of the intangible. She smiles again and again and gives every inch of her physical body. Nothing reserved.  This makes her vulnerable. But Powerful. Confident by default, not by faking it.
I want to be like woman #2, not wasting what I have to give.

Let’s not believe the lie that we can only give with depth until we feel perfect.  Because the truth is, we never will. We will waste away waiting for perfect.

Somewhere along the way, we must give ourselves a gift…So, what is this gift that we need to give ourselves? We need to give the gift of proactive thankfulness.  What is this? Well, I am presenting this option-the creative, hard-working, thoughtful approach toward our outward appearance while also having unwavering settledness and contentment about what we have in the moment. Thankfulness frees. Liberates. Living in thankfulness lets us live out the beauty we were created to share, renewing us from the inside out.

I’m not trying to sound insensitive, but it doesn’t really matter what your mother, sister, husband, etc, thinks about your body.  What matters is what YOU think about your body.  YOU have to be the guardian of thankfulness;the catalyst for wholesome thinking toward your body. No one else can do this for you.

It’s true, we are always working to up-keep this body shell but the truth is, this model isn’t designed for forever. But with our bodies, we have opportunities, places to go and lives to touch.  Only with thankfulness will we be confident enough in our bodies, to be vulnerable; vulnerable enough to be beauty seekers and beauty givers in life.

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My Love…

On certain days you feel the gravity of the gift of life; of love.  Today is Valentines Day and a little part of me stands at a distance, like a loner on the shore of the ocean, just pausing for a moment to pray for those who feel alone.  It just seems respectful.

Most of me knows that any person with love and life, is forced to their knees, overcome with a heart full of gratitude. So I am also there.  Just so thankful.  I have so much love that it seems unfair, but I in that knowledge, I hope I spend my life passing around this love to all I meet.  “What do you do?”, they ask.  I wish to say, “I’m a love-giver”. Yep, that’s what I want to be.

So, to my darling David.  There are no words for what you are to me. “Valentine” is nice, but just not sufficient~you are my lover, hero, companion, rock, comforter, partner-in-crime, friend, soul-mate, sunshine, smile, heart, hand-holder, thought-provoker, popcorn-maker, breakfast king…and yes, my wonderful Valentine. always and forever!

This is why I can aspire to live my dreams. To know the love of God, to have it loved so clearly through an earthly man~what can I say? So undeserving, but that is the scandalous nature of God.  Why am I surprised?