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Everything is up for debate now. Processed versus organic. Breast versus bottle. Cloth versus disposable. Even swearing versus “child friendly talk” around our kids. There is someone who favors it. Someone who criticizes it. Tis the way of the world.

 

I remember the first time I cursed around my oldest. I was pregnant with his little brother and I was nesting so hard. I had all of the baby clothes sprawled out around the living room getting them organized for the baby to come. Son was toddling around, unfolding the baby clothes, throwing toys around, and asking me for cookies. I must’ve told him 40 times that we didn’t have any cookies, all the while attempting to smile my Shirley Temple smile through increasingly gritted teeth.

 

Then it happened. I bent down to pick up a toy that I couldn’t bear to see out of its place and when I stood back up, I whacked my head on the fireplace mantle. While I was still seeing stars, son creeps up behind me, touches my angry arm skin and begs me yet again for a cookie. I spin around like a monster in need of an exorcism and tell him we don’t have any ___________ cookies (insert your favorite cuss word.) He looks truly startled and then starts crying.

 

I have never recovered from that moment.

 

Oh, I forgive myself, and I understand that hormones and pain and other factors were at hand, but I never felt the same after that. And I never stopped cussing.

 

I didn’t cuss just to cuss, and I was cautious around my children but from time to time, when the moment was right, a very righteous “damn” (or worse) came off a fiery sharp tongue. At first the kids were affected, but eventually the shock and awe became a stretch and yawn, and even morbid laughter from my kids. My oldest couldn’t take me seriously, and neither could I. The cuss word felt as sweet as honey on my tongue, yet I always felt like a fool 14 seconds later.

 

I prayed about stopping cussing dozens of time. But it was futile. I was princess pudding pop dripping with sugar until the whole parenting thing unraveled my good senses and then it was on. Eyes bulging, lip twitching, neck spazzing cuss-a-thon. Good, good times. I felt so guilty and awful, but the guilt never inspired lasting change.

 

Until…

 

My youngest son began cussing. Wait, no, my mildly autistic already struggling to fit in with the world son began cussing hard. He could “eff” it up with the best of them.

 

Here’s how I learned it was a problem: He thought I had left the house to get his brother from the school down the road. He thought he was alone, but he wasn’t. Poor fella was losing his “stuff” in the kitchen. He was just cussing up a storm. When I popped around the corner, his heart nearly stopped. His expression was priceless. I asked him what he was doing. He said (because honesty is not an issue for him), “Cussing and eating sugar.” Well, there it is. My shiny example at it’s fullest potential. I created an F-bombing sugar monster.

 

Then it got worse. He started cussing a lot. Whatever made him mad was a justifiable reason for cussing, and he was good at it. It was always in context. I picked him up from school one day, and his teacher told me it was a rough day for him. His response was simple, “That’s bullsh*t.”

 

Houston we have a problem.

 

Even his brother was embarrassed. He left his baby brother at the basketball court down the road and called me to come get him. He said the little cusser was losing it at the court, scaring off walkers and dogs with his angry language. I slipped on my house shoes, collected my minions and came to a realization: Something has to change.

 

I told his doctor and his counselor that he was cussing a lot. I told the counselor that I was an angry cusser too, but couldn’t bring myself to admit it to the doctor. She asked the man cub where he learned the bad words. “Was it at school? From your friends? From TV? Or video games?” “No, my son kept repeating.” I shot him a sheepish thankful look. The doctor caught on and thankfully moved on.

 

So I prayed again. And this time I was ready to commit to quitting. I was thinking about how hard it was going to be. I grew up around cursing, then I worked in the restaurant and bar industry, then I incorporated “colorful” language into my story telling. Everyone laughed. It became part of me, and I didn’t know how to let it go.

 

Then while I was praying, and pitying myself for having to do such a hard thing, God reminded me: People quit heroin. You can quit polluting the world with your words.

 

It finally soaked in. I wanted to do this. I needed to do this. And I would do this.

 

So I came back to my child and told him I was sorry, and that I was wrong. That I had set a very poor example, and that I was going to change. I asked if he would join me on a journey towards better language. I gave him permission to call me out for bad language. And we joined forces to become better versions of ourselves.

 

Here’s the deal. We can say that kids and adults have different rules, but we are wrong to think that will hold water. Rules are a reflection of values. And it should be obvious to our kids where our values are from, and what implications they create. We can’t live in the gray, and expect the light. We have to choose, and we have to be clear. We have to stand out in a very foggy world, leading our kids where we would like them to go. We have to forgo ambiguity for clarity and comfort for honor. We have to parent.

 

I wanted to have the right to say to my son, “Our family doesn’t do that. This is what we believe in.” And to mean it. And to not break his trust by becoming a liar. That is the hardest thing I have committed to. Not quitting cussing, but being a person of my word that chooses to change a little of who I am to be a better example for my child. To literally give my child a greater chance at success in life.

 

You might not think cussing is a big deal, but if it leaves you feeling like a pile of poo like it does me, or if your kids have learned some bad habits from you, it’s time for a change. And there is no greater time than the present.

 

I am still struggling with it a bit. I fouled up pretty bad today, and quickly apologized, but the smog is lifting in our home, and the vernacular is changing, and my son is choosing fewer and fewer curse words, because “our family doesn’t do that” and we are trying to live up to our own standards. We aren’t doing a cuss jar or any other gimmick. We just picture the people we want to be, and the future we want for our children and we give it value and strength every time we honor it with a series of small decisions.

 

Some might say we already give up so much for our children…our bodies, our careers, even a piece of our marriage. But I say is it all worth it if it doesn’t make us better humans, if it doesn’t create in us a sense of urgency to do this “job” with greatness and commitment? What is the purpose of it all if we are just going to say to ourselves, “Eff it. They will learn it one day anyway.” If parenting doesn’t make you want to be a better person, what will?

 

They will learn a lot – in time. They will learn about drugs and addictions, about murder and war, about hunger and famine, and prejudice and hate. They will experience heartbreak and loss. They will lose friends and watch loved ones fade. They will experience great joy and crushing lows. They will love and they will live.

 

But who they will be in the process, what light will shine from them along their journey has a great deal to do with us: Our words, our values, our example, not just the ones we told them we had, but the ones we lived so hard that it bent us at times, and changed us, and made us better people; those are the values what will be their compass and their guide and will affect their journey, even their destination.

 

And what greater gift as a parent can we give our children than the gift of sacrifice? The knowledge that mom or dad gave up something once thought precious or integral for something better and lasting because our children deserved it. Because we saw a snake in their path, and we cut off the head, because removing hurdles to success is part of what we as parents do.

 

I picture little toddlers, zig zagging around me. And bigger kids too, all looking up to me. I can hear one shushing another, “You can’t use those words around grandma. She doesn’t say bad words.” And I can smile and think to myself, “You were so worth giving it up for.” Because that’s what our family does.

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Alert! Alert!

This parent has made a breakthrough.

And it’s too good not to share!

First of all, praise God for answered prayers that come in the form of small victories throughout our lives. Secondly, thank God for counseling which helps us set a healthy(ier) tone in our home.

Ok, so back to the breakthrough.

Your kids might never be difficult or argumentative. If they aren’t then praise you noble one. You need not read on. But if they are, this article is for you!

My loins created an offspring that can argue and complain about ANYTHING. It might be genetic, but if so, I am claiming it skipped a generation. My parents would probably beg to differ.

This A&C (arguing and complaining) has become so rampant that I am constantly ready for it. I brace myself for battle every time I tell this child to do something, anything. My chest tightens, my shoulder spasms, and I already have a list of consequences locked and loaded to fire at him. A battle of the ages always occurs. The family members become irritated and tense, yelling occurs, the boys get at each other, and everyone gets in trouble.

It straight up sucks.

So today I had a calm and bright moment. I was in the shower, where all good ideas occur, and I realized something: He ALWAYS does the chores eventually (or almost always) and he usually even apologizes for acting like a mad man. But this middle step wrought with drama is unraveling our peace of mind and causing him to be on an endless roller coaster ride of losing his privileges. A classic lose-lose.

So here’s the short version of what I said:

  • Let’s talk. This is not a lecture. Your thoughts are as valuable as mine. I am here to help you.
  • I’ve noticed a pattern: I tell you that you have chores, you get angry (add in a bunch of angry steps-throwing, slamming, bad words), then you later calm down and do the chores, but you don’t get the same reward for the chores as you would have (such as an allowance, iPad time, or the freedom to choose how you spend your free time.)
  • So now we have to figure out how to skip the A&C and move towards compliance and the rewards that come with it.

He agreed. Ok, now we’re cooking.

So here’s what we decided on:

  • This is kind of like driving a golf cart and seeing a tree coming up quickly in your path but driving into the tree anyway. The tree represents the A&C and the consequences that occur.
  • We agree there are two things you (child) can do:
    • Pump the breaks
    • Steer away from the tree
  • Pump the breaks means
    • Stop-don’t respond
    • Think-Is arguing going to help?
    • Listen-Listen to mom before reacting.
  • Steer away from the tree means
    • Look for the positive in the situation verses the negative
    • Remember the reward: money and free time (being the main ones for him)

I could see it click for him. He saw the tree and the clear path and he got it. He said emphatically that he’d rather stay on the clear path because he could see something he wanted. FREEDOM.

Well, well, well. I think we are making progress.

So we started over. We pretended like he didn’t already lose his cool this morning over a few simple chores. I told him he had a few things to do. I laid out the freedom that would follow. He complied. And now I am typing.

I know, I know. This is basic parenting stuff. But I do stuff like this a lot and it doesn’t always pan out. The difference was two-fold. We decided to fix this TOGETHER and we could mutually see a solution and looked like JOY for both of us.

Our opposing values were no longer like magnets with one turned in the wrong direction, bouncing off of each other. He turned his magnet around, not because he had to (clearly HAD to wasn’t working so far) but because he WANTED to. He sees something he wants, and he is driving toward it, avoiding trees that will wreck HIS journey.

And so I finished with this:

Me-Hey bud, so you’re on your path to freedom, you have a clear path in front of you, and there are flowers along your path. What do you think those flowers represent?

Him-You?

Me-Yes, me and your family smiling at you and supporting your journey.

Guess who hugged me? Yeah. That kid 🙂

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Today I shoveled up the body of a dead bird into the tines of a pitchfork and warily carried his body to the woods. And by warily I mean I looked the other direction while walking with his little body until I realized he had fallen off and I had to go back for him. Dead animals are cringe worthy.

 

I never planned to do that.

 

Well of course you didn’t plan that. How could you? –You might say.

 

Oh my dear, my plans were very, very different.

 

We moved into a country home on 17 acres over four years ago. I was entranced by the long tree lined driveway. I was welcomed by a porch the length of the house anchored by a porch swing. I was swayed by tomato plants, real hardwood floors that seemed to tell a story, and a sewing room with a future.

 

No, I don’t sew, or quilt or even needlepoint. This sunlit narrow room was supposed to house a crib, a glider, and a baby named something quaint, feminine and turn of the century.

 

But it doesn’t.

 

And I am a girl who is used to getting her way. I am not saying that I was born with a silver spoon – far from it. I am not saying I deserve more than anyone else – I don’t. I am not even saying that I am lucky – I am not.

 

I am just a girl that always seemed to know what was going to happen next. I could predict the future, or so it seemed. I didn’t have a crystal ball, but I had hellagood hunches, and they were almost always right.

 

Yet here I stand, on that novella hardwood, looking around at my home, my life, and I can see that my hunches can no longer be trusted. My fortune telling days are over.

 

So back to the bird.

 

I found him today. Deep black feathers with a purple hue. An iridescent crown the color of the ocean at night. Curved black beak. And completely lifeless.

 

And normally I would have left him to rest in peace undisturbed.

 

But now it is my job to escort him elsewhere. I am a dog sitter and I can’t have my clients eating yardkill and sending them home with a belly full of feathers or some weird disease. And as I did my “job” I thought, “How did I get here?”

 

Do you ever wonder that? How in the world did I end up here?

 

I was on a road that was broad and clear. And then I took a fork in the road, followed by a detour, complicated by a foggy sense of navigation. And somewhere in the nooks and crannies of the yonder, I took a path that led me here. And there is no way in a million guesses I would have ever guessed this life.

 

But it is mine.

 

I planned for a submissive and easy first child, but instead have a headstrong leader in the making.

 

I planned for a super easy laid back second child and have learned to navigate autism, ADHD, anxiety, depression, and even angry outbursts in my youngest son.

 

I said till death do us part, and then walked away.

 

I am full of caution, yet married an adventurer, a risk taker the second time around.

 

I planned to have 2 boys and a girl, yet instead I have a dog sitting business with dog poop, a vacuuming obsession, and dead birds.

 

I don’t recognize my life.

 

 

Hello God, are you there? It’s me, Kris. Quick question: Are you being serious?

 

I am certainly not one to put words in God’s mouth, but I can picture him saying simply, “Yep.”

 

So here I am. And as I try to process it all, my mind wanders to that sewing room, that baby room, sans baby. And I refuse to oversimplify infertility. My struggle has been fairly long and arduous. My husband and I have experienced repeated loss. The heartache is real. The scars are physical and emotional.

 

But I move forward. I still kind of want a baby. I still think it is possible. And if it happens, God will get ALL of the glory.

 

But I move forward. And I make plans for my future that don’t often include a baby, and I picture the future of my boys and I plan to love my husband with all my heart.

 

And I move forward. I show up to help my husband at his business. I help my boys with projects. I scout out clumps of dog fur in crevices forgotten. I exercise, cook, pay bills, apply make up, take my son to counseling, and plan vacations.

 

And I move forward. I relish in the time I have to devote to my children. I soak up the sun and enjoy the breeze, and notice all the little new flowers and host a herd of four legged friends.

 

And I never look back.

 

My oldest son occupies that sewing room now. It sports new flooring, and a fresh new roman shade, and it almost always covered in skinny jeans, Vans, and food crumbs.

 

I write, and walk dogs, and hire and schedule the staff, drink protein shakes and text my friends, all while moving forward.

 

I am living the life.

 

This is the life God wants for me. And I want it too. Because I want Him. And in all things, and all situations, we can honor Him with obedience, even joy.

 

And if I can be obedient in these small, inconsequential, even gritty tasks, how gloriously can I represent Him in the great and honorable, even noble tasks?

 

I am a firm believer that we are always in training for something. Maybe something bigger, maybe something more important. Or maybe we are to just follow God with a lamp to our feet to light the path in front of us, unaware of where that path might lead us (Psalm 119:105). We fall down, we shake off the dust, we march one foot in front of the other. And we keep moving forward.

 

I don’t know how you got where you are. You might not know either. But I am not sure how much it will matter in the long run. Because nothing is achieved in straining to see the view behind us.

 

So ask yourself, “Am I moving forward?” You don’t have to shy away from your story, but let’s walk and talk at the same time. Embrace your story, forgive your plans that God did not set forth, and move forward.

 

I had a dream, and a plan and even a Pinterest board for my baby room ideas. But God had a plan that I never saw coming. But I can still love that plan, my life and even the inglorious minutia of my days. It is a choice, and I choose it, and I choose it in every tiny forward step I take.

 

Are you with me? I don’t know where I am going, but it is ahead of me. The road will wind and will take me to low and scary places at times, but He is with me, and He is waiting, my eyes are on Him, and I am moving forward.

 

 

 

 

 

Selfies really irk people. They seem vain, self-serving, pathetic, and well…selfish.

 

I used to hate selfies. I hated their captions. I hated their angles. I might have even hated their owners.

 

Young people love selfies. They have selfies sticks and they aren’t ashamed to use them. Their image is their number one subject matter. When I was 20 you had to ask a stranger to take a picture of you with your crappy 110 cameras. It was guaranteed to suck. Every time. Then you would throw the photo in a drawer with 600 other pictures of you with your eyes blinking or rolling back into your head like your demons were being exercised. No self-respecting human enjoyed this experience.

 

When we did get lucky and have our good hair day memorialized by a random photo (probably of the dolphin floating behind our head), we didn’t know what to do with the picture. Put it on the fridge? Send copies to all the grandparents? Frame it for our own desk so we can look certifiable? There was nowhere to broadcast it and no one cared.

 

Perhaps no one cares now when we post pictures of ourselves, except to get offended.

 

But I care. And I am getting over being grumpy about it.

 

I might not truly care that you had a spinach and goat cheese omelet that was to die for, or that you finished your 11th 5k, or that your clothes fit better this month than last, but I care about you, and so should you.

 

Famous people have their pics taken all the time, but they know to expect that so their hair looks fantastic and their clothes are so put together and they love it. Their lives are being recorded because they are beautiful and important and everyone wants to see how they live.

 

But what about regular people? Who is telling their story? I mean, we have “Humans of New York” but no one cares about humans in Clarksville, TN or Springfield ____________ (insert random fly-over state). There are no paparazzi grabbing pics of me in my hideous green bathrobe right now while I type this in my dirty kitchen. I am just boring in the eye of a public. I am a wife and a middle-aged Tennessee mom of two.

 

But if I’m being honest, that kind of fires me up! I go to IEP meetings every month and advocate for my son. I take my boys to the doctor, maneuver the DMV, clean baseboards, walk dogs, help manage my husband’s business, encourage women and sometimes even brush my hair. And no one is getting all this sweet action on film. Who is telling my story?

 

I have taken pics of every aspect of my kids’ lives. I have pics of them in their tiny hospital hats, UT Vols onesies, preschool graduation robes and pee wee football uniforms. I have pics of their first day of every school year, every Halloween costume, every milestone and thousands of pics of them sleeping (because let’s be honest, we love them the most then.) We have every birthday cake, every vacation, and every animal they have looked upon at every zoo cataloged somewhere. But we are rarely in the picture.

 

We try to capture dad too, grilling, building, painting, napping, coaching and accepting honors for his job. But unless we wore sequins and were his arm-candy for the banquet, we can float around unseen. We hold it all together, we capture it all on film, and then we proceed to be invisible. Then we feel kinda sassy one day and post a pic and then feel like a douchey loser because non-vain sophisticated moms who put themselves last aren’t supposed to do lame stuff like this.

 

But no more. No more selfie-shaming of the lady folk. We deserve to have our lives seen and if no one else is going to ask us to say cheese, we will just cheese it up in our own way.

 

Good hair day? Click it. Good work out? Click click. Feeling smart in your new glasses? Click click click people. If you can photograph a plate of food, you can photograph your face.

 

And you don’t have to feel sexy to take a pic of yourself. Feeling accomplished, sad, introspective silly or inventive? Capture it. This is your life ladies, and one day you will be crazy old, and you will wonder where all the time went, then you can pull up some 40 year old photos of yourself in a swimsuit, a graduation gown or a pair of over-bedazzled jeans that fit just right and you can remember that you lived and that on some days, you even crushed it.

 

Ladies you are living, and balancing and struggling and accomplishing. And there’s no paparazzi creeping around your windows showing the world how kick-ass you are. Oh, your friends and toddlers take pics of you that make you look crazy, and that’s okay, but what in the world is wrong with wanting to remember a moment, a look, or a feeling that you earned, you felt and you lived?

 

Take that selfie dang it. And if anyone tries to make you feel bad, 86 them or tell them to go photograph a rock or something so they can feel intellectually superior.

 

Sometimes I feel small, or old or frumpy or weak. But when I am feeling strong and lovely and confidant, I might decided to make a 16-piece collage of myself and hash tag it to the moon and back. It’s my life and my business and my aging face and I will selfie as I please.

 

And if anyone thinks that is vain or pathetic or self-serving, they can get over it. Because they are my memories and my feelings and I have the right to enjoy them, now and when I am old and when I have grandchildren to tell my story to.

 

Wealthy ladies used to commission artists to paint a portrait of them. They wanted to leave a legacy and capture a fleeting moment or fading youth. My face won’t end up in oil and hanging in a museum, but my little photos of my little life make me feel significant and memorable for a few minutes here and there. And in a life full of minutia and beige and ordinary tasks, it’s not too much to ask.

 

I want to know what I look like when I am doing my best. And I shouldn’t have to pose with a friend or my kid or my dog to validate that desire. I am accomplishing things and I want the world to see it. I want to see it.

 

Want this moment to last? STOP. And post a selfie. Now. #iearnedthisselfie

 

For pics of my dogs, kids, omelets, my biceps and even my face, feel free to follow me (or just stalk me) on IG @mrskriswolfe

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Moments before I realized I had gotten carried away writing and forgot to get my kid from school. Ah. Life. #iearnedthisselfie

 

 

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Am I the only mother who…

 

Thinks of dropping off her kids 6 miles from the house––in a blizzard because they are fighting.

 

Always knows the cost of a flight to Mexico. Just in case I need a little “me” time.

 

Has all the good chocolate in the bathroom closet. Or the safe.

 

Sees a call from the school during a workout and finishes the work out. They’ll always call back.

 

Tells my child to stop touching me before I go bananas.

 

Wishes that the school didn’t send 15 notifications about snow days so they kids will just go to bed so I can go to bed and read about fictional lives.

 

Resents PowerSchool for constantly telling me “what’s up.”

 

Prays we don’t get in a wreck in the car circle because I am wearing a bathrobe and snow boots. And no actual clothes.

 

Tells my kid we are out of syrup so he will stop having Elf moments and leaving syrupy paw prints all over the kitchen.

 

Drinks an Angry Orchard in the bathroom for a mini vacay (that was just once so and it’s practically apple juice, so you know, stop judging me, lol.)

 

Does the Jacob’s ladder at the gym AFTER the workout because it’s more fun and relaxing than cleaning the house.

 

Counts my Easter Peeps before leaving the house and when I return (to keep an eye on my kids sugar intake of course.)

 

Has a thing called “snack dinner” (insert glitter cannon), which is propped up to sound like a carnival of epic proportions but it’s really just a smorgasbord of crap from the fridge with questionable remaining minutes of quality.

 

Being a good mom is really subjective you know. Some days are Mary Poppins days. Some days are Bloody Mary Days. Some are like a scene from The Shining. But some dang reason, our kids love us anyway. So bask in that for a minute. You are loved unconditionally. Weird isn’t it?

 

Like little mini Frankensteins, they were created to love us. Well not really. But it’s fun to imagine.

 

Keep crushing it mom. One day their counselor will enjoy the stories.

 

Stress is inevitable. Throughout the day you will have many opportunities presented to you in which to enjoy stress.

Have you ever noticed that some women seem to handle it more gracefully though? While some of us are losing our cool easily, crying at the drop of a hat, and getting irritated often, some women (and men) seem to be taking it in stride.

I have no doubt that these ladies break down too. I can just picture them in their pantry, Hulk-slamming a carton of Pop-tarts and punching a bag of marshmallows. We all have our days.

As a student of the world, I have been watching these wondrous creatures to see if I could observe a pattern of what makes them different from those of us who spazz out so easily, and here’s what I have observed:

  1. These goddesses of the world eat right-They might not be “skinny” but they are healthy looking. They are taking the time to make good food choices, drink water and even take vitamins. They are not putting their nutrition on the back burner. They do not take kindly to putting junk in their systems, and their lives show the fruits of their efforts: they have the energy and overall health to work out, play with their children and enjoy life. They have invested in themselves, and it is paying off in their quality of living. They don’t eat to simply survive, they are eating to create the life that they desire.
  2. These smart cookies take time for themselves–You can find these ladies taking time to read the Bible, go for a run, take yoga, lift weights, dance, create and even vacation. They are not ashamed of taking time to nurture their mental and physical health. And they don’t feel guilt ridden when they want to take a girls weekend or time away from their children. They seem to understand that even women need time to be fully human, not just a mom or a wife, but a woman with her own spirit to feed.
  3. These wise souls don’t take on the problems of others–While they are the first to listen and even pray with you, and probably among the first to lend a hand in your time of need, they are not absorbing or owning the problems of others. Their faith allows them to pray for you and with you and to be available to you without sacrificing their own health or well-being. They are genuinely empathetic without becoming engaged in the depth of despair around them because they realize their own limits and they are okay with them.
  4. These joyful creatures actively seek contentment–While they are not always dancing with joy, they are willing to accept certain circumstances without feeling hopeless. They are looking for the light at the end of the tunnel and they can almost always see it. They realize that there is a time and a season for everything, even sadness, and they accept the lows in life with faith and hope. They are not bottling up their emotions, they just aren’t worshiping them because they are too busy worshiping God.

On a very good day, I am this woman. But most days I am a work in progress. These women aren’t perfect though, they have just learned to love themselves because they know that they can be more to this world and for their family if they will take efforts to reduce their stress, take care of their bodies and take time to pursue their passions.

I can’t be all things to all people. I can’t even be all things to one or two people. But I want to be useful and joyful congruently. I want to serve a purpose and I want to be content in doing it.

Whether I am driving the kids to school, walking the dogs, making lunch for my husband, or propping my feet up, I want to enjoy this moment for what it is, neither taking on stress or creating negativity. I want to be free, truly free to live the life God designed for me.

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5.1)

But some days I have to remind myself of my limits, get out of my own way and just lean into Him and enjoy the ride.

Life is short. I want to enjoy it. If not now, when?

Forgive me while I talk out of both sides of my mouth for a minute.

I like feeling pretty. A good hair day, nice skin and a new outfit can all brighten my day. A well-placed compliment can kick my mood up a notch or two.

I also like complimenting my friends. I want them to know they are pretty, that I have noticed their new hairdo or their extra effort with makeup.

But in the end, I am just over it.

I am so tired of talking about beauty. Tired of hearing about beauty. Completely over reading about beauty. And just cringe at everyone trying to define and redefine beauty.

Here’s the real deal. There are two kinds of beauty: the kind you see and the kind that just is.

I heard it said once that Catherine Zeta Jones just is pretty. That it’s not a matter of opinion. It’s just truth. And honestly it doesn’t matter if you or I agree. Because it’s true.

But here’s why. It’s not because of her lovely eyes or perfect pout, it’s because God created her. Therefore it’s true. She is a creature of beauty. But so are you.

You see, there is beauty in every human that just is. And the opinions of our parents, peers or partners simply cannot alter that. They can only alter our perceptions of ourselves. And isn’t it sad that we would let another person alter our view of God’s creation?

Listen y’all. It’s okay to have a little concern over beauty. I do. But we can’t sit around waiting to feel beautiful because someone tells us it’s okay to finally feel it. Ironically, I think most women know that have something beautiful about them, but they seem to be waiting for someone to give them permission to admit it, own it and believe it. And that makes me sad.

And when I was younger, with smoother skin and fewer gravity affected parts, I knew I was attractive in some people’s eyes, but I never felt lovely or truly loved because I didn’t have a clue what God thought of me. So all the lust in the world couldn’t make up for the love of Christ. It just can’t. And it won’t.  And I am sorry if I am the first person to tell you that.

So it’s cool if you are just know embracing your stretchmarks and your scars, and learning to be okay with the loose skin that follows drastic weight loss. I am pumped if you are okay going to the gym with no makeup or to the mall in a ball cap. I am impressed if you are in the camp of growing old gracefully, rolling up them boobs and stuffing them into your sensible bra. I am fine if you want to contour your whole blessed face, shave the side of your head or tattoo your neck. For all I care you can go topless on the beach, spend your downtime in a moo moo or wax off your brows and draw in rainbow caterpillars in their place.

I just don’t care, and neither does God. It’s just so unimportant.

I would rather tell you: good job not losing your mind with your kids today, great job at work surviving that evaluation without getting weird smelling sweaty armpits, way to rock it at the gym today doing 2 more push ups than you normally do, way to hold it all today, way to forgive yourself, way to love, way to take it to God in prayer, way to surrender.

It’s time to change the conversation ladies. Finding beauty in everyone isn’t changing the definition of beauty, it’s knowing that there is only one definition of beauty that matters and it depends on our relationship with Christ, our standing in Him that occurred when He gave all for us and continued to cement when we chose to be adopted my Him and accept His love and grace.

I am not going to stop buying skin cream, but I am not going to lose any sleep when no one knows that I am using it or that no one cares, but why should they? It just doesn’t change the world for the better and in the end of my life, no one is going to be touched that I kept my roots on point.

We are more than hair, skin and boobs. Let’s start acting like it.

 

 

 

Hi there sweet girl,

 

I have named you hundreds of times over 30 years. It started when I was 11 and I would try out names for you in the back of my diary. I can’t remember them all but I can recall Meg and Emmie were tops for me in middle school. I am now 41 and I still have a list on my iPhone. I still read the credit of every single movie and show I watch and look out for names that will perfectly capture who I imagine you would be.

 

I already have two boys. They are crazy and cool and you would rock their world. They would probably treat you like an alien for a few months, but I suspect Kaden would shower you with love and Jackson would protect you with all his heart and soul. They would make you laugh and teach you about Star Wars, basketball and video games. They would take you for walks down to the creek, through the bamboo and up to the barn. They would read to you and steal your Halloween candy. It would be perfect.

 

When I found out that my second child was a boy, I cried for a minute. I had decided to only have two children, so I began to mourn the idea of having a daughter. Eventually I had an epiphany. I realized that in my 20s I wasn’t ready for you; I wouldn’t do you justice. I was hardly a tomboy, but I was kind of a sailor: dirty jokes, potty humor and bad decisions (no offense to sailors). If you had learned how to be a woman from me, you would be a lot of fun. You would make everyone laugh. You would love bad words. You could make men blush. And that’s pretty cool for a while. But cool isn’t enough.

 

If we had met in my 30s, you might be a little different depending on which “me” you met: the broken me or the “risen” me that was born after years of abusing myself and recreated after meeting God, learning to trust Him more than myself, and finding wholeness in Him. I gave up a lot of myself to find myself and my joy. You will see what I mean when you meet Him. He is worth changing everything for. It’s beyond description really.

 

The forty-something me is the best me I have ever known. I am nicer to the world, and I am so much kinder to myself. I have decided to stop trying to change certain parts of me. I apologize for the right reasons. I believe in my own mind. I love the strength of my body; I don’t use it to please others who don’t deserve its gift or the tiniest morsel of me. I find joy in the little stuff.

 

I have met the man I want to be your dad. He is so amazing, I didn’t even know if I wanted to share him with you. I enjoy being the center of his love, below God, but above cheeseburgers, which is a pretty sweet spot if you know him. He loves the boys so much, I am afraid the love he would have for you would break him but I know it would change him in all the right ways. It would multiply our love for each other. He would spoil you and cherish you and show you a reflection of God’s love that is generous beyond measure.

 

I am ready to meet you now. I think we would be a smashing team. We could split cheesecakes like my mom and I used to, we could cook together and go on the biggest adventures. I could help you be brave when you wanted to hide or stand in the shadows. I would take you to all the libraries in the world and you could imagine that you are the hero of every story. I would tell you that you are beautiful, and smart, and witty and compassionate and courageous. And I would mean it. And you would believe me because I would bathe you in the Truth and it would keep you safe in the strongest of storms.

 

I don’t know if we will ever meet, but you would be so loved. Even though we haven’t met, I know you will change the world. I might not have been ready for a daughter for a very long time but I am there now. I will teach you how to be really fun and respect yourself all at the same time. I will help you chase your own dreams. You will have the best brothers, the gentlest father and a wonderful family. You will know God and He will shine brightly on you. You will be you. And you will be surrounded by unconditional love.

 

Even though you don’t have a name yet, do not fear, I have one or two in mind. If God introduces us, we will figure out the details. I will learn to live on less sleep. You will be instantly okay with a mom with thinning eyebrows because you won’t know any better 😉 Life won’t be perfect, but it’ll be worth it and I will help you navigate it, and try to step back when you don’t want my help, when you need to find yourself and reconnect with God.

 

If we never meet, it’s okay too. Just the thought of you has made me a better woman, and for that I thank you.

 

With all my love,

 

Mom

So I have thinking a little bit lately about what it means to be a good mom and a wife, and how my views have changed over the years.

 

My oldest is 15 and I was 25 when he was born. I had several notions of what kind of mom I would be, what kind of kid he would be, and what kind of life we would have. It looked a lot like the inside of a snow globe – perfect.

 

It’s New Year’s Eve, and even though this isn’t your typical New Year post, I am in a spirit of reflection and gratitude. This happens this time of year, especially because my birthday is 11 days away. These 11 days become introspective, and the older I get, the sweeter they are.

 

See, when I was younger, I wasn’t very kind to myself. I guess I had something to prove. I wanted to prove I was good: a good mom, a good wife, a good cook, a good housekeeper, a good decorator, and good everything. Being imperfect at anything wasn’t even an option. And sometimes what it took to be good cost me so much.

 

I went through a Martha Stewart phase. I tried to make gifts and my own wrapping paper, make baby food, breastfeed, send Christmas cards, turn the house into the mall scene from Elf, and attempt to have friends, a job, and be a good lover to my then husband.

 

But I wasn’t centered on God. I thought I was at times because I talked to him, especially when my marriage was an absolute wreck or when I wanted him to fix my life. But everything I did was centered on receiving approval from my kids, my husband, and from the world. I was window dressing, but I was failing.

 

I am not saying that if you put a lot of effort into any of these things, that you are insecure and desperate for approval. Many guys and women truly enjoy the things they do, but if you don’t, may I suggest you simply STOP?

 

For example, instead of making a fancy appetizer platter for you friend’s party you are attending tonight, run to Publix and get a pre-made party tray. You will be surprised at how no one cares. Cheese blocks cut into cubes or into roses still taste like cheese.

 

Here are a few more ways to be kind to yourself:

 

  • Teach your kids how to make their own breakfast or do their own laundry.
  • Eat out on holidays when you just want to skip the shopping, cooking and two hour clean up process, sore feet, and exhaustion.
  • Skip holiday cards. Well you are probably thinking, now you tell me? If you forgot to do them, who cares? I love getting them, but I get about three a year now because I don’t reciprocate, but weirdly I still have friends.
  • Let your house be a little messy. Ask the kids or hubby for help. Hire someone to help out once or twice a month. Stop looking at the pictures from Southern Living Magazine and trying to live up to that. They have a whole staff. You don’t.
  • Go easy on Pinterest y’all. It’s fun, but it’s like being in a library for me: it’s overwhelming because I know I can never read all those books, and I am probably never going to even complete one Pinterest project. It’s just not that important.
  • Stop comparing yourself to your friends. We are all struggling and comparison makes the crazy go ‘round. So your friend had the best maternity pics that made her look like the Virgin Mary glowing in the blue lagoon and you just keep taking pics in those same ratty sweatpants. Big deal. Rock those sweatpants.
  • Set realistic standards with your relationships. You can’t be everything to everyone so use your time in the car to check on the friends who really matter to you. Don’t over promise your time. Don’t be afraid to say NO THANK YOU to an invitation when you just aren’t up to it.
  • Stop setting so many goals. Pray about what you really need to work on for your health and spiritual wellness. Goals can seem very appealing on the front end, but you might be focusing on the wrong things with all these goals. One or two goals in a year are usually more than enough.
  • Ask yourself why? Why are you doing it? If it is out of guilt, obligation, fear of upsetting someone, desire for approval or advancement, just don’t even bother. You are wasting your precious energy. If you truly want to do it, GO FOR IT! Do it with reckless abandon, thanking God for the opportunity, but you still don’t have to be perfect. No one expects that of you, except maybe you.

 

Most importantly, take care of yourself. Nap if you need to, work out if you want to, eat chips in your closet if you feel like it. Protect your sanity and your health. It’s a must.

 

For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church (Eph. 5:29)

 

This verse relates to marriage, but let’s think about it. Can you be good in any relationship if you are not good to yourself?

 

I pray for you to be kind to yourself today, and everyday in the upcoming year. Be gentle and loving. Be patient and forgiving. Offer grace and unconditional love.

 

This is how to be a good mom and wife. Be a good to you.

Most resolutions are very well intended, lose weight, stop smoking, and maybe even fall in love. But no one actually keeps their resolutions, do they?

 

According to Time.com, these are the most commonly broken resolutions:

 

  • Lose Weight and Get Fit
  • Quit Smoking
  • Learn Something New
  • Eat Healthier and Diet
  • Get Out of Debt and Save Money
  • Spend More Time with Family
  • Travel to New Places
  • Be Less Stressed
  • Volunteer
  • Drink Less

 

Coincidentally, they are among the resolutions most often made.

 

There are a few reasons why resolutions fail:

 

  • Lack of time
  • Lack of commitment
  • Lack of resources/knowledge

 

What is it about January 1 of each year that makes us think that more hours will be born into our days, more will-power will sink into our bones, and suddenly we will know how to do what we haven’t been able to do in decades?

 

But there are some resolutions you can actually make that you can actually keep, because I am not going to tell you what to do, but one REAL step you can take to get there.

 

Here are 10 worthwhile resolutions that you may have been avoiding for a very long time, but shouldn’t because they can change your life. And I am going to give you one actual how-to for each of them that you can sink your teeth into:

 

  1. Get healthy–Ok, this one is intentionally vague for a reason: we are all different, so we all need healthy advice that is tailored to our body and lifestyle.

Pro tip–Schedule a physical ASAP. Your doctor may run blood-work and a series of tests to see how you are doing, why you are tired and tell you what you can do about it. See? This is useful.

  1. Help your community­–Most lists include an altruistic component that helps others, but not everyone knows what to do to help.

Pro tip–Tithe. Yep, give up some of your dough to your church. Your church is already helping the community (or should be) and now your money can help an already existing well-oiled machine.

Note: You can also volunteer. But don’t get confused: they are two different things. You may choose to only do one or the other, but one does not substitute the other.
  1. Improve your marriage–January is a busy month for filing for divorce. But even if you aren’t throwing the D word around, you might be longing for something deeper and more intimate. I could write a series on this, and I might but let’s start with one tip, because honestly, marriage is hard, but it doesn’t have to be miserable.

Pro tip–Get marriage counseling. Check with your local directory, your church or your health insurance. There are sliding fees and evening hours for working people. But trust me on this one, it is worth your time and money to get counseling and improve your marriage. Divorce is way more costly.

  1. Achieve weight and health goals–Some of you want to lose weight, others might want to gain it. A lot of us just want to squish it into another area of our body. Changing our bodies is a lengthy process that requires commitment to our health.

Pro tip–See a nutritionist (or health adviser). In other words, put down Cosmo and close your Pinterest app and schedule an appointment to talk to a pro who will help you assess your patterns and advise you on ways you can improve your health over the long run and see real results.

  1. Enjoy life more–Oh boy. We are all looking for the key to happiness, and every year, we are hoping and praying for more happiness in our lives. So why do we keep setting this goal, yet not achieving it?

Pro tip–Let go of what could have been. Living in the past or living with regret will zap happiness in a jiffy. More than likely, you cannot undo what is done (or what has been done to you). So take a look at where you are NOW and come to grips with, and make a plan for your future that makes no considerations for what could have been.

  1. Plan for your financial future–I don’t care where you are in your financial planning, there is always more to learn. Your next step will look very different for the guy next door.

Pro tip–Read Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace or attend a respected financial seminar from a respected leader (not someone interested in you investing your money in their next scheme).

  1. Plan for your long-term health–As we age, we have to take our health very seriously and take extra precautions to be healthy. We often avoid the reality of our age, but avoiding it will not shelter us from reality.

Pro tip–Schedule your prostate exam, mammogram, skin cancer screening, OBGYN appointment, or any recommended exam for your age, sex and family history. Yes, it will probably be uncomfortable, but it’s part of being a grown up.

  1. Drop emotional baggage–Been lugging around some drama, heartache, and bitterness for a hot minute? If so, I bet you are exhausted from it. I have been there and it is draining and can even make you physically ill.

Pro tip–Forgive someone. Forgiveness is a process that allows you to be free from the pain that comes with the wounds someone else inflicted upon you. They may not seem worth the effort, but you are. So start praying for the ability to forgive now. It will take time, but it will change your life for the better.

  1. Be someone you like–Feeling emotional, crabby and moody more than you care to admit? Tired of feeling like a walking butt hole and for having to constantly apologize for your attitude? I hear this a lot from my friends, so I know this is common, but should it be?

Pro tip–Choose one attitude to change. Angry, guilt-ridden, or too judgmental? Choose one attitude to adjust and attack it with this handy acronym: P.R.A.Y.

  • Pray about it,
  • Read about it
  • Ask for accountability
  • Yield to help.

Life is too short to keep feeling this way. It’s time to take charge friend.

  1. Do you–Ok, I am not trying to sound 20 years younger than I am, but people of all ages want to have fun, have an interesting life and find out who they are in the process. And if you are around my age, then you might also want to think of “doing you” a little more, because once your kids are out of the house in 5-10 years (or less!), are you going to have a life? Are you going to even know what you enjoy?

Pro tip–Make a list of things you want to learn, hobbies you used to enjoy, or my favorite: things that scare you. Now post this list on your mirror or in your phone and start doing them. This is your life. Enjoy the heck out of it.

 

There are many worthwhile goals, and I have only mentioned a few, but I encourage you to take charge of what is holding you back, release what is weighing you down and look forward to each hour of each day of this beautiful and messy life.

 

It’s your life, and no one is going to make it lovely for you.

 

So do you.