Photogenic is not a term anyone has ever used to describe me- but over the past few years I’ve become obnoxious about it. I no longer smile for pics. (Unless you really beg, or threaten to take my cupcakes.) Instead of smiling- I make faces. tongue out, eyes crossed, the goofier the better.

It’s not just because I’m a goof. (Admittedly, I am. We know this.) It’s actually, because I’m a freak. A dental-phobe freak.

For the past few years, I’ve had 2 missing teeth. Well, not quite missing… they are broken down to bits. Yes, I brush my teeth. A lot. The thing is- I have TMJ- and grind my teeth while I sleep. The grinding to bits has left me with a black hole of a gap on each side of my mouth. Especially if I smile. Attractive, huh?

Not. And I know- it. So, I don’t, show it.  At least not if I can help it. Especially for pictures. I smirk, half smile and mona-lisa on a bad day smile- but no real smiles. I’m embarrassed.

Why haven’t I gotten them fixed? (Yes, I can hear you from here.)  It’s not because I don’t have insurance. (I do.) While the cost is a factor-  it’s been more of an excuse. And no- It’s also not because I belong to some weird dental-denial cult.. (although sign me up if there is one…)

It’s because:

I HATE the dentist. No, not a normal- “I hate the dentist, too- who likes being poked and prodded and drilled and filled?” kind of way- but in an  “I’m having a panic attack and I feel like I’ll throw up” kind of way. If I even think about it. EVen if I don’t have an appointment. When I do have an appointment- the anxiety increases exponentially. Waiting for a few minutes before the appointment is akin to water boarding. That little reminder card you get in the mail about your 6 month check up?  It makes me hyperventilate. The sound of a dremel or drill? Makes me shake. Which- I may add is not fun, at the nail place. But, I’ve considered writing the appointments off as desensitization therapy. Except, I’m not desensitized. At all. #thatsafail.

I’m cracking jokes like teeth, here. But the truth is- I feel humiliated, not just by the gaps- but because fear has stolen my smile. And my peace. And my sense of self worth. I feel like an idiot. I have years of experience being a counselor- I know how to help people with phobias…. unless it’s me who is afraid. #counselorfail.

A vortex of fear and shame has sucked me in.

But, tomorrow?  I’m getting out.

Here’s the thing- I frequently have opportunities for public speaking. People like to take pictures. They prefer you not to stick out your tongue. They also take pics when you are least expecting it. Usually from weird angles, that show gaps.  And people don’t generally let you photoshop teeth into their pics before they leave an event. Also- in working to finish the book proposal, I’m realizing this dental dilemma has become a stumbling block. Writers- speak in public. Bad hair may be forgiven on occasion- but teeth are pretty much expected. Gaps kind of blow your credibility in addition to your smile.

On the rare occasion I’ve been honest about this fear-  the results haven’t been great. Mostly because of the whole  “Aren’t you a Christian- and if you trust God you shouldn’t be afraid of the dentist” thing. I’ve been: laughed at, told to: let  God handle this for me, Trust God more, Pray and ask God to heal me of my fear. And the ever popular: “Fear is the sin of lack of trust” condemnation comments. .. Yeah….thnx for heaping guilt on top of my already full emotional plate of humiliation and fear! I feel so much  better! Except, I don’t. Also?  I have asked God to grow new teeth…. but apparently that breaks the time space-continuum, so he voted no, to that. At least they didn’t grow in- so I’m guessing that’s the reason.

So, I had a choice: Go and get my teeth fixed, or continue to live in humiliation, fear and without a smile?

A few weeks ago I decided it was time. I asked my husband to make me an appointment, I went. Then, I had a follow up appointment- and I got an impression made… and TMI or not- I almost threw up. It sucked and I hated it- But, I went. And I will go again, tomorrow.

Tomorrow?  I will be having oral surgery.  I’m getting implants. (No, not the boob kind. duh, I have enough there.) The implants will replace my two missing teeth. It will involve bone grafts and some other work. I will be knocked out. (I”m bringing a hammer for backup anesthesia. Just in case.) I don’t want to do it.

But I do want to face the fear and conquer it. I want to smile again. I want to speak without feeling self conscious about my smile.

I’d love to say- God has taken my fear and I feel peace. He hasn’t. I am afraid.

But, I’m doing it anyway.

Maybe today- you are facing a fear. Or, like me, have been avoiding one. Maybe you’ve prayed and the teeth didn’t grow in. Maybe you’ve avoided making that appointment for a mammogram, or the dentist, or the ob/gyn because it makes you nauseous and sweaty and panicky. Maybe you have a phobic fear of flying, or needles, or dogs or heights. Maybe you’ve heard you wouldn’t be afraid if you trusted God more. Maybe you’ve chided yourself and reprimanded yourself for being a freak.

It doesn’t help.

There is only one way to get through fear- to go through it. Today as I get ready to face my fear- I’m praying for you….trust me, if I can do this- so can you!

Dear Lord- I’m afraid, I’m tired of avoiding the dentist and all that it entails. I’m tired of being embarrassed to smile, I want to show the joy I feel in my heart. (Well- when I’m not being afraid of the stupid dentist.)  I hate the dentist, Lord- but Im going to go anyway- please help me get through this- and help anyone else who’s facing a fear…. the only way through it- is through it….amen PS- Lord- thank you for all the fear filled men of courage in the bible… it helps to know I’m not alone!;) 

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear” Mark Twain

I was beyond offended. “Excuse me? I can’t even TOUCH it? I may be: What? Unclean? “  I wondered if I was on a hidden camera show. “Is this a joke?” I’m a lover and collector of books. I am compelled to at least run my fingers over the spines. If the slightest bit of my interest is piqued, I explore them like they hold the hidden keys of life and love.  But here- I was- with a beautifully bound, gilt edged book right at eye level begging to be explored- confronted with a sign saying: “In honor of our faith, Please do not touch this holy book, you may inadvertently cause it to be unclean.”  I couldn’t believe it. I’d gone into this little shop to experience a little multi-cultural shopping- not to be judged.

I glanced up and down the aisle. No one was looking. In my typical strong willed way- after being told (albeit in a nicely worded sign.) not to touch the book, I desperately: wanted to. “They’ll never know. It’s not like it (or I) will burst into flames or anything. Besides- that’s what you get for judging me.”  At least I hoped nothing would burst into flames. Before I could raise my hand, I heard the squeak of grocery cart wheels and the voice of a mother telling her toddler “No.” to buying candy and his whine in response. Flames or not, I didn’t want to be caught even thinking about touching that book. I walked as quickly as I could away from the squeak (and the whining) to the front of the store. In the corner of my eye I caught sight of her beautiful deep brown eyes peeping out from under her head covering.  Suddenly, I felt very naked.  “Is she judging me for my naked head, too?”  (Yes, I’d gotten paranoid, guilt does that:P)

I made my way to the counter to pay for my purchase and a smiling face and warm, deep voice met me there. “Do you find what you need today, Ma’am? Can I help you find anything else?” His kindness made me feel like a criminal. (Guilt  also does that. It’s ambidextrous.) “No, but thanks.” I mumbled.  Hoping my fake smile would hide the truth that: I had just seconds ago wanted to purposefully and willfully defile his merchandise- worse yet- his holy book. Ugh.

My guilt was short lived. By the time I made it to my car, I also felt: self righteous and maybe a bit (ok, a lot) prideful.

“I’m so glad that I serve a touchable God. One who doesn’t require me to be “clean” to love me. I can pick up my bible and read it any time I want to. Anyone can. I don’t have to perform weird rituals or be afraid I’ll wreck it with my un-clean-ness. I can’t even imagine being in such a controlling religion.”  

 I stuck my keys into the door lock, with a righteous jab. Which, is when I noticed my pink “everyday” bible (forgotten) in the back deck window. It’s cover was curled from the heat of the car. It’s pages were yellowed from the sun.  There was a brown stain where I’d left an iced tea sitting on it for too long….and it’s pages were crimped from when it had slid to the floor and feet had found it, before I did.

The irony did not escape me.

It mocked me.

Maybe, I could learn a thing or two (or 10) about reverence from my Halal corner deli.

I wonder- how would my bible study change if I could only study at certain times of the month?  Would I long for it more- when I can’t? I wonder how it would change if I chose to ceremonially wash before even touching my Bible? Would I be more apt to remember my sin and Christ’s redemption? Maybe.

Either way- I took that pink bible out of the back window and am treating it with a bit more respect. I think it’s about time.

 And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe. 1 Thessalonians 2:13

Lord let your word not just be taken for granted in the back seat of my life- but be at work in me. I love you lord and thank for speaking to me through a Quran in the Halal deli. Amen

Interesting word study on reverence in the  Bible-

Interesting resource for understanding the religious observances of the Quran (particularly the no- touching thing that I have such issues with)

I sat in a be-ribboned garden chair, conflicted. “Does he know what he’s getting into?  How can he do this? Will it last? Does he really know her?  Does he know what I know about her?” The wedding march played in accompaniment as my thoughts ran on like a third grader’s sentences.

I watched him at the sun-bathed altar. His eyes were so full of love. There was a smile of delight on his face. He glowed. Honestly?  I wondered whether he was naive or just stupid. But, I love him. So, I smiled. The sun beamed. INstead of bathing the scene in beauty, it’s light just brought my conflicted feelings into sharper contrast.

A tear escaped my eye as she walked past me. It wasn’t a tear of joy.

She tripped on the runner.

She stumbled.

She fell.

She tried to catch herself on the pew. She didn’t. Her knee landed just off the runner in the grass, it stained her gown. “Is she drunk?” I wondered as she kept lurching towards the altar. As she walked past me, I noticed her train was torn. The gown wasn’t flattering.  In fact, the fit was awful.  Besides, should she even be wearing white? Who is she trying to fool? She didn’t fool me.

I sighed and tried not to roll my eyes. I dabbed at them with tissue and hoped the other guests would think I was touched. But I noticed whispers. Maybe I wasn’t the only one doubting the wisdom of this choice.

He could do so much better.

She’s not good enough for him. I know things about her. Bad things. Things that should make him (like me) reject her.

The list flew through my mind like leaves in the wind:

  • She’s got a history, you now- with men.
  • She’s a user, an abuser.
  • She’s controlling.
  • She’s manipulative.
  • She’s judgmental.
  • She’s sloppy.
  • She’s naive.
  • She’s vindictive.
  • She’s pompous.
  • She’s simplistic.
  • She’s too pie in the sky.
  • She thinks she knows everything.
  • She argues over nothing.
  • She holds nothing sacred.
  • She’s narrow minded.
  • She’s too permissive.
  • She’s self righteous.
  • She’s just not right.

The list went on and on. So did the ceremony and my torrent of thoughts:

“I can’t accept this. I refuse to have anything to do with someone like her. I just don’t have anything in common with her. Maybe, if she listened to me and changed some of her opinions… and ways….we could work this out…But, I doubt she’d see things my way.” 

I didn’t hear a word of the ceremony.

Then, suddenly, it was over. It was too late. They were joined. United. One. I sighed.

“I love HIM. But, what do I do with HER?”.

I waited in the receiving line, wishing I was anywhere else. I don’t “do” faking it well. “Congratulations” and “Welcome”  were the furthest things from my heart and mind. I wanted to shake some sense into her.. not shake her hand kiss her cheek and welcome her to the family.

As I got closer to them, my heart beat faster. “What can I say that isn’t a lie?” I wanted to scream at him, shake him and tell him what a mistake he’d made. “It’s not too late- this can be annulled or something, can’t it? RUN!” I settled on telling him the truth..  at least he couldn’t say he didn’t know. And I could live with a clean conscience.

At least, that’s what I’d planned. Until I stood face to face with him.

I looked into his eyes.  I saw the truth.

He knew it all, worse yet- it was all true.

He also knew what I felt. He knew before I ever stepped into that receiving line.

He knew it all. And He loved her, anyway. And he loved me too. Regardless.

As we stood toe to toe, and I looked into his eyes and saw his love for her, I knew that if I rejected her.. I’d break his heart.

How could I?  When he’d already accepted Me?

I wrapped my arms around them both. I held them. I cried.

She’s still all those things….. But, I love her. Because I love Him.

Even if I disagree, even if I think he’s naive.

I refuse to break his heart. I won’t reject her.

She, is the church.  She, is me. She is All of us. 

And he loves us. As we are.

Dear Lord.. Thank you for loving your bride, messy, clumsy and sin-filled and conflicted as she is.  I pray that you’d help us to be beautiful in your sight and in the sight of those around us….help me to set aside my judgements and struggles with the disagreements I hold so tightly– bind our hearts and lives.. make us one… and let us love, whether that means helping to keep each other from sin or to clean up and heal the wounds our sins cause.. Lord make your beautiful bride.. fill our hearts so full of love there is no room for hate….in Jesus name- amen.

There is a lot of angst about the “church” in our world… both inside the christian culture and outside…I’ve had my own share. I think I have the spiritual gift of criticism…. hello?  It’s not a gift.  As I sat in my devotions this morning.. this is the picture and truth that came to mind… I can’t hate the bride he loves, without breaking his heart.

“just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” Ephesians 5:25-27

“Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. 8 Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.”

9 Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’ ” And he added, “These are the true words of God.” 10 At this I fell at his feet to worship him. Revelation 19:7-10

This week is a celebration of unity across christendom. Started by Rachel H Evans A “Rally to restore unity”  Something I  think could change the world… if we stopped sniping at each other, and started accepting respecting and  *gasp* even appreciating our differences…. the world may just see the love of Christ through us…

And because unity should bring us to action… Rachel’s raising funds for Charity water-— who would argue  with clean water to save lives? 

the wedding day

the wedding day

Eyes welling with tears, I could barely read. My voice gained and subsequently: lost control.  I tried to maintain composure. I mostly- lost.

Sure-this was partly due to the emotion I felt, at seeing “my girl” (albeit my girl shared most lovingly with her parents) all grown up and getting married. But, there was something else.   As I read the words as a blessing and exhortation for their marriage and carried them in my heart throughout that day… I also saw them come to life before me. The Bride of Christ.  Something, I could not wrap my brain around,  I witnessed.

I saw a bride, glowing with joy, brilliant in spotless white, eyes radiating love for her bridegroom and her guests.  I felt the sense of awe that guests felt,  when seeing her adorned for and adored by, her bridegroom. These were things I’ve experienced at weddings before. These were things I expected and things I understood. Or thought I had.

What I did not expect, was the beautiful bride- immaculately dressed- stooping to hug children, a bride who’s veil became a tent and a bee-keepers netting, during her fairytale carriage ride. I saw a bride not too concerned with her appearance to be touched and hugged and joked with and danced with…even if it meant a few fingerprints, popped stitches of bustling and stains were left behind.   I saw a bride that drew people to her- instead of holding them afar to keep herself “clean.” I saw a bridegroom who appreciated her love for people, and delighted in it.

The few stains left behind were removed in an instant with a trusty Tide-to-go-pen-(well- except maybe where her white satin heels dug into the dirt!) But the memories of a flower girl meeting a princess come to life? Memories of family and friends feeling loved enough to be touched, teased and played with even on this special day?  They will last a lifetime, maybe even beyond.

This weekend-  I got a glimpse of what Jesus must have been like… someone who glowed with love and joy and purity- yet cared more about people than appearance. Someone holy and loving and touching and caring all at the same time.

I wonder what the world would be like— if we lived that way- everyday, wherever we are?

I think I could handle that.

Repost from Oct 08

The cold crept up though the granite boulder I sat on. It seeped through my well-padded backside and settled into my spine.  Cold, clumsy, fat and scared is how I felt. The sun had barely risen and held no warmth, except a promised one. I pulled my hoodie tighter around my growing stomach and turned the pages of my bible in search of comfort.

What I found was about as comfortable as the granite I sat on.

1 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.

2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”

Not, what I was looking for. I was pregnant, hormonal and afraid. I was looking for peace. DUH. Instead of peace- the doctors phone call haunted me:

“Your tests came back with soft indicators for Down Syndrome, you need to make an appointment with the genetic counselor.” In that instant,  I’d lost peace. Instead of wondering about my baby’s gender, I was now afraid my child would die. I was afraid my child would struggle. I was afraid he’d be rejected. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to handle it. I wondered where God was.

I wanted my excitement back. I wanted my peace back.

Instead, I opened the page to see God tell a man to kill his son. I kept reading. I saw a man lay his beloved child on a cold rock and lift a knife to kill him.  Fear and anger welled up in me.

I hated Abraham.

“That altar is cold! Is he nuts? Where Is Sarah? I’d kill him if he was my husband. THAT’S HIS BABY! Would he really do it? What an idiot.” (Umm I maybe actually think like this, am I the only one?)

I slammed my bible and walked back to the camper. If this was the comfort God was offering- I didn’t want it.

I let the door slam as I entered. I wanted everyone to be awake with me in my misery.

It didn’t work. They snored on.

Trying to shove down the anxiety I felt, I started to clean. I grabbed a shopping bag to put it away and out fell a blue, silk edged Winnie the Pooh blanket, I’d bought for the baby. Tears filled my eyes.

I imagined myself holding my baby in the blanket, I imagined the blanket never holding a baby.  I imagined the blanket draped over a tiny coffin, and I imagined it wrapped around a tiny Down Syndrome baby.

I wondered if Sarah had a blanket for Isaac. I wondered how Abraham had overcome his fatherly instinct to comfort and care for his son, to lay him on a cold stone altar.

“Maybe he didn’t.” Was the response. (It was either God or my imagination, but I heard it.)

“The Bible LIED?” I asked. Kind of hoping it had.

“Maybe Abraham didn’t lay him on a stone altar, maybe he lay him on my lap. Maybe you should lay your child there too.”

I was pretty sure Abraham wasn’t the only crazy one. He had a new neighbor in crazy-ville: ME.

I let the words sink in.  Not an altar, a lap. A fathers lap. I wasn’t convinced.

“In your lap? I can’t. I have to take care of him.” I replied. (Once you’ve gone to crazy-ville you may as well stay a while. )

“I will. I already AM.” Was the reply.

“I can’t let go.” I answered.

“Neither can I.” Was the reply that brought me back form Crazy-ville.

The truth is I could let go, if I really tried, and if I really trusted.

That day didn’t end my fear. But, it did become a place to return to, like the rock on the beach I’d sat on,while searching for comfort. Only instead of coldness creeping up my spine, it brought warmth. It brought peace, and yes, comfort.

On a lap, not an altar.

God hadn’t promised everything would be alright.   Instead, he met me where I was, and gave ME a warm lap to crawl into, a place where I could lay down my little one. Not a cold stone altar, but the lap of a loving father.

He didn’t change my circumstances, but he did change my perspective.

I don’t know what you’re feeling today, maybe you’re afraid, maybe you are angry, maybe you have read that same story and wanted to put the beat down on Abraham, like I did.  I’m praying that God will meet you where you’re at, and show you what you need to see, whether (like me) you like it or not.

Dear Lord- I pray that you’d constantly remind me to trust you.. that you’d constantly remind me you are not a cold hard, judging God but a loving father, into who’s lap I can climb and find peace.  I love you Lord and pray that you will meet each one that comes here, right where they are. Amen

I’m having eye trouble. I must be.  Or maybe, it’s visual processing issues…. Maybe I should call the opthamologist maybe?   Maybe I should try Lasik… but, I’m not sure any medical intervention can help.  The problem seems to be more systemic than just a visual one.

See the beautiful purple sock in progress? The intricate twisting of the stitches? The socks are the “Oak Leaf Socks” from the online magazine  “knotions”.   It’s a beautiful pattern.  It’s a beautiful yarn. (Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock in Blackberry) .. I should love them… but I can’t seem to see them as others do. 

When I look at them.. I mainly see the mistakes.  It’s almost like they have been highlighted, or circled in red ink.  There are probably thousands of stitches already in this sock.  and to be honest a very small few in comparison are incorrect.  Yet- to me they stand out.  BOLD.   Instead of seeing the thousands of RIGHT stitches.. I focus on the ten’s (maybe) of wrong ones.  I nearly ripped them out to start over.

Instead, I put it on my foot, not because I wanted to- but because some wise soul suggested, that before I rip them out, I should put them on and have another look.  I was shocked.  From that distance,  from that angle-  I could suddenly see the pattern.  IT WAS THERE afterall!  Sure, the mis-crossed stitches were still there… but the overall pattern, now caught my eye.

There is something bigger in this pair of socks than a few crossed stitches.  There is my ability to choose to gain perspective on my mistakes, and allow my eyes to be refocused. To see the bigger picture.  In life- this is not always my first instinct- not towards myself- or towards others.  My instinct is to be critical, and allow the few mistakes to distort my view of both myself and others.  Sometimes this is wise and necessary.And sometimes, I “rip” a perfectly good person (most often myself)  because all I focus on is faults or mis-crossed stitches.

My eyes may have issues…. but it isn’t a doctor I think I need… I think it’s a change of perspective…. and the only way MY perspective is changed, is through the one who always sees things with truth and grace.  I think I’ll be asking Him for help.

“Dear Lord,  my critical eye is not hidden from you, both it’s strengths and it’s weakenesses.  I ask you to help me gain perspective.. to focus on the right stitches and not the mis crossed ones…both in myself and those around me.  I ask for your wisdom and for your grace to permeate my heart and then my world— I love you lord- amen.”

Funny- somehow I think God sees much more clearly the bigger picture of who He created us to be….much more so than the mistakes we make…