Thursday, November 17, 2011

Standard of measurment~

{Click for larger photos, if you like.}
I have to tell you something about me. Maybe some of you know it already. Maybe some of you have seen this particular issue I struggle with in person. Maybe some of you struggle with the same thing.
It's that little thing called self-image.
You know... the way we see ourselves.
Well, the truth is I don't always have a nice picture of myself in my head. I don't always feel inside like the person others sometimes see on the outside.
I honestly can pinpoint certain times in my life and events that really shaped- or should I say 'mis-shaped' the person I am.
It certainly didn't come from my parents. Or my extended family or even close friends. Nope. Those people have loved me for who I am and have been for my whole life. My parents always made me feel that I was unique, important and most assuredly let me know they loved me and God loved me. From the earliest age I have memories I already knew I was loved.
I was even likable and funny most of my school years.
But in middle school I most remember not liking myself. I was a great student. I was a class clown in a lot of my classes. But I was slightly chubby for my height. I was almost always the shortest kid in my classes and certainly felt "bigger" than a lot of the pretty girls I went to school and church with. My older sister was always- ALWAYS- taller and thinner than me. Even if I went on more walks than her.
It was hard not to compare myself to other kids around me...and you know what? It sometimes still is hard for me to not compare myself to others. Thankfully I have grown up a lot, matured a little bit (what? I have!), and learned to love me for who I am. All grown up.
But there are lots of areas besides my weight, height and hair color that I can compare myself to others- things like how big my house is; are my kids happy like other kids? Do my spouse and me have as much time or fun or happiness as other married friends do? And the list goes on and on.
We live in a world that loves to compare and contrast. It loves to measure people by monetary standards, and happiness standards and success standards and... I think you know. If someone can measure or compare it, it happens. Whether consciously or subconsciously. We stack our stuff- our bodies and looks and pocketbooks and families and divorce rates and home values and whatever we have or are gets put on some sort of scale.
I sometimes feel overwhelmed as a mom of 6 kids at home, that I have to shield my young kids, or at least be responsible for the pressures they feel or will feel to "measure up" in this world. I sometimes feel a weight on my shoulders that I know I can never be big enough to lift. I just don't have enough power or ability to keep the messages and comparisons that inevitably will come their way at bay. The media is a big source for many of us for setting our measurement "standards". It's why advertising does or doesn't work that well.
Where am I going with all of this anyway? I'm not 100% sure, but I will say this...I think it's a big deal and I really wish it wasn't. I will say that I have gotten much better and more realistic about my standards of measurements over the past several years too. I feel very lucky and blessed to be married to a husband who loves me at size 6 just as much as size 16. He loves me when I make waffles too many nights a week for dinner just as much as when I make Greek Spaghetti. I am lucky to have been raised and loved by family, friends and to know that God sees me as lovable and worthy ALL THE TIME.
I feel lucky and blessed that I don't have to wonder about my self worth. I know nothing can make me a better person- things like plastic surgery or a new pair of shoes or owning the biggest diamond with the highest degree of clarity. I know that "stuff" can't change who I am and should never be the standard for which I try to measure up.
I guess I am pouring out my heart on the subject because sometimes it seems like we need reminders in life about these sorts of things. I am writing to remind myself. I am writing because as Thanksgiving approaches I want to be conscious and grateful of things that truly ARE blessings in life. And not just making a check-list of things I am grateful to have. I don't want to create a spreadsheet to document the things that society seems to want us to measure our worth by.
These thoughts come in large part to our upcoming move and all the details that we are working on right now. Things like de-cluttering and looking at our next house and the schools our kids will go to and just being mindful that even though I don't cook the best meals, or keep the neatest house, or even have nice family photos taken with just the right amount of natural sunlight and flare in them doesn't add or take away any of my worth or the worth of anyone around me.
I want to look at myself and like me for me. No.
I want to love me for me. For those scars I blogged a few posts ago. For the trials that I have endured and yet somehow have still managed to find ways to smile and love in life again. I want the people around me to know the real me. And love that paerson too. Not just the one they see with make-up on and seems to have it all together. I want my kids to know I love them- no matter their test scores or if they can even walk a flight of stairs or use the potty by themself. I want them to know that our standard of measurements are different than the ones they will likely encounter in the world. I want everyone to know that God loves each of us- not because we are perfect- but because we are imperfect and we recognize we need Him in order to be complete.
Whatever it is that you feel inadequate about today, I hope that you will pause and take a look in the "right mirror" and see if maybe you are judging to harshly. I am ready and feel like I am on a path of feeling more free, more happy and more ready to let go of needing to measure up. In lots of areas of my life. I'll never be the tallest or prettiest or smartest or richest or lots of other things. But I know that I can still be the best me I was made to be.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Straight out of a book.

Sometimes its like life comes straight out of a book at my house. Yesterday it looked like this- the Oh, David! baby board book. We keep child-proof latches on our cupboards because of the age and stage Teague is at in life. The stage where everything in life is pretty much a science experiment and nothing has yet been discovered. His curious nature and lack of fear make for one busy little guy with a whole big world and endless opportunities to learn how things work. He is at the stage where everyday he wants a little bit more independence and feels fully capable of doing things all on his own. Even if they are out of reach, out of the question, or out of line. He doesn't care. If he can find a way, he is happy to do so.
So after he had already eaten breakfast, he was happy playing and discovering things in the living room. I was around the corner straightening my bedroom. The three older kids were all home from school due to parent-teacher conferences. It seemed as though the morning was off to a nice, leaisure start.
And then I heard a crinkle and a crumple and the sound of little bitty pieces on the wood floor. I took a few steps out into the kitchen and found Teague holding the Yogurt Cheerios with a twinkle in his eye at the same time. He seemed rather proud that he had discovered the latch undone on the cupboard that is 99% of the time latched shut. It was like hitting the toddler lottery. A couple of the kids came running to see what the noise had been...and they stopped dead in their tacks. Then they looked from him to me. I proceeded to say, "Uh-oh, Teague." Then I went and got my phone and snapped a few photos of the mess. By that time Teague was already squatting down and in true kid-fashion, he was picking out the pink yogurt-covered ones and eating them as though this is how we always eat our Cheerios. Off of the floor.
Crew came over and joined the fun and Ava helped me sweep and clean up. Brock wanted to know how it was that I was "staying so cool about it".
I told him that sometimes moms are better about being moms than other times. Teague had dumped out the cereal on a good day. =) But truthfully, I said, there was a time in my life when Daddy and me had sat in a house that had just a couple of weeks earlier been noisy, chaotic, a little bit stressful and had Cheerios and toys all over the floor that felt like a never-ending task of cleaning. But suddenly we were sitting there looking at each other hearing nothing but my quiet sobs and wishing upon every wish of our hearts that someone would come bounding into the room making too much noise and spilling Cheerios on the floor.
Here I was. More than 10 years after having such a wish on my heart and it was happening exactly the way I remember wishing it would. Only instead of Teagan, Brock or Wyndham spilling the cereal, it was my little Teague. My healthy, thriving, trouble-making, mess-making, lovable Teague.
I absolutely mess up more times than I can count as a mom. Every single day. But I also know that I absolutely appreciate the messes that do happen and the memories they trigger and the reminders that come to surface in the midst of the mess. They are moments to recognize that messes can be cleaned up, kids are learning and in the end, Cheerios on the floor are still a part of my life. And I wouldn't want it any other way.
Even when they are scattered all over the floor.
Sometimes my life looks like it could be straight out of a book. It doesn't look much like a fairytale, but the storyline and characters fill my heart. They keep my hands busy too. I feel blessed that sometimes I do keep my cool and just take in the moment. I will wish this one back someday too. Teague went on to re-enact a few other pages out of this board book later on in our day. I just kept my cool. It was a good book day all-around. =)

Saturday, November 05, 2011

It's going to be a major move...

Hello to so many new friends and readers coming here from Casey's blog. I am so encouraged and grateful for the notes you have sent me and how many of you have been touched by the story of Teagan that she shared with you. Thanks so much for stopping by and I hope that you know in "real life" we are a fairly typical family with lots of ordinary days and activities just like you. We are sometimes awed how God uses our shortcomings and failures and even trials and tough times to make Himself more known to us and others through us. We definitely lean on Him and look to Him for guidance and so far we have had quite a ride in life.
It's about to take us a bit west again...all the way "home" to Minnesota from our current home here in west Michigan. Chip was recently offered and just accepted a position at Northfield Golf Club, so we will be packing everything here and moving 8 of us and all that stuff to where the orange arrow is pointing. We are so excited to be moving closer to so many of our family and friends again, although we have made some wonderful friends and been very loved and supported here in Michigan. We will miss all our friends here, but we know that God is opening this door for us and we are anxious to see how life is going to look for us in a new place. All this will happen by Christmas, so let's just say we have a lot of work to do between now and then. I probably should be packing something right now! =)
Anyway, if any of you readers- old or new- are in the area, I just might have to have a real life Nitty.Gritty. chat session to see who you all are once everything gets settled and I find a couple of hours of free time. That would be so much fun! As you must know then, this blog may get even more quiet than normal, and if that's the case you'll know I am buried under bozes somewhere, or trying to empty them out. I love the idea of decluttering and starting fresh in a new home again...but honestly, I could very well do without the hassle of packing. Wish me luck. Wish all of us luck and I bet I will have a few good stories to share with you all soon!

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Remembering scars as we face an unknown future...

None of us knows what the future holds. We can plan, we can prepare, we can take control of our finances and set aside time and energy for tasks we have to accomplish and we can set goals and pour all of our energy into reaching them and making them our reality. But the fact remains that none of us knows what the next moment, hour, day, week or year holds for us. Sometimes we are heading down one path when life suddenly takes us on a u-turn. Sometimes we feel like we have it planned out perfectly, and then life throws us the unexpected.

I have been thinking and praying for a young woman I've never met for a month now. October 1st, 2011 was the date that Samantha and her fiance, Chad, had chosen and dreamed and prepared for and been excited about for months. Tragically, less than 36 hours before their wedding day arrived, Chad along with Samantha's brother who was to be a groomsman in their wedding, were killed when the best man lost control of the SUV they were riding in and the vehicle crashed. I learned of this tragedy because Chip's golf club was to be the reception site for their wedding celebration. The families and communities were stunned and filled with sorrow at such a tragic event. I could only imagine how Samantha felt then, and now- one month later.

The dress that she so carefully selected and had fitted, I imagine just hung there bringing more tears as she looked at in light of her pain. Rather than be the dress of her dreams, it now represents shattered dreams and probably brings a flood of tears at a simple glance of it.

I have prayed and prayed for God to pour out His peace and comfort and mercy at this time when no person, no thing, no act can bring a comfort to her hurting heart and the hearts of the family and friends that surround her.

They are broken, grieving, scarred and hurting.

It got me thinking about the time in our lives when we too felt such sorrow, sadness and pain in our lives. I pulled out the above picture of Chip, which was taken about a week after our inital tragedy at the Old Depot- this was August 2001- the place was Hurley Hospital, Flint, Michigan. I had never seen Chip so wounded and scarred before. Just days earlier we were a happy, thriving family of 5 with a big, bright future ahead of us. We had no plans to be side-tracked by death, fractured ribs, brain injuries, internal trauma, muscle and nerve damage and hearts that would hold their own wounds from sorrow and loss.

Our life took a u-turn and we found ourselves in a world we never imagined or dreamed.

* * * * *

In my morning devotional today I read {and shared on my FB status} these words:

"It is God's presence that gives us true comfort, not the absence of affliction". There is such power and truth in that statement. Read it through once more, and let it sink in.

Do you believe that?

If you don't, do you believe that it could be true in your life somehow- sometime?

It can.

I am actually grateful to have the few photos that my mom snapped while we were "at our worst" physically and emotionally from our time in ICU. Seeing the pictures and scars and how tremendous our injuries were gives me a reality check. When I think back to this time in our lives I can still remember how much it "hurt". In every sense of the word. I have never felt more pain than during that time of our lives. But during those same long days and sleepless, painful nights and all the healing that had to take place to even be functional again, we both felt an overwhelming peace and comfort in our hearts that we had never experienced before. We never felt it when life was going splendid.

We felt it when our hearts and bodies were torn and we literally had our lives shattered by pain and grief.

God was there.

He never let us go.

In fact, He helped carry us when we had no strength of our own to keep us going. He held us together when we felt like falling apart and giving up. He poured out His mercy in our lives as we needed to draw on Him to be able to extend grace and forgiveness to the one who had brought us so much pain. He gave us Hope for our future and even laid it on my heart to want joy in life again.

I clicked through and pulled out a few pictures of how we look now. Our scars have healed quite nicely, with the exception of Wyndham's disabilities and ongoing needs. We have added 4 kids to our family since our tragedy struck. We have smiled and laughed again. We have known happiness, peace, comfort and joy.

But not because we had some supernatural abilities. But because of His power and strength that helped us move on. We have a future ahead of us that is filled with unknowns and unexpected events yet to come. I know that we can face them with peace and even with excitement, because we have seen the way God has already worked in our lives and we know that He will see us through whatever else may come our way.

I am so glad that God spared Chip's life and Brock's life and Wyndham's life and even my life, because through our scars and pain we have come to understand His healing powers that much more. We have learned firsthand that God doesn't abandon us when our hearts are torn and laid open with grief, but instead, that is the time when He gently picked us up and gave us new eyes to see Him and we felt His embrace like no other. His comfort was real then. I have faith and trust that it will be real as we walk forward too.

He is a God who loves, who protects, who turns mourning into dancing again.

My prayer is for this Samantha, to know this same grace, love, mercy and healing. And maybe one day she will look back or recall shattered, broken dreams- not with heartache and pain- but with the reality that God was big enough and gracious enough to turn it all into something beautiful that she never could have dreamed.

Maybe you are facing a future that scares you or maybe you are recalling a past filled with pain and "scars" of your own. My prayer for you is that you will call out to God and give your hurts and uncertainties to Him. He will never let you down and more likely than not, you will find that His plan blows you away. Our scars may always be with us to a certain degree...but our future is bright always. Because He is our eternity!