Confession: I have a Spanx addiction. I’ve been known to wear 2 pair in seriously insecure fashion situations. It’s possible I’ve worn them under work out clothes. (Gross, I know. I’m crazy, we know this.)  I may have worn them with: jeans, formal wear and layered over body shaping tights, (AKA: Spanx with nylons attached.) I’ve worn them out. I’ve worn them for speaking engagements. I’ve even worn them when I know I’m not leaving the house. It’s possible I’ve worn them home from surgical procedures. (I once thought I popped a stitch trying to pry myself into Spanx after surgery…  I nearly cried… no one wants to explain THAT to their doctor…) (For the record- I mostly wear the off brand knock offs.Real Spanx are great and hold up well- but are pricey.)

I once took the extra 15 seconds to throw a pair on under my jeans- before taking my kid to get stitches….. (Third child…. you get dressed before going to the hospital with the third one.. ) See? I have a problem.

WHY? (If you don’t click to read the rest- you will miss the unspanxed embarrassing pic of me at the end. Just saying.)  (more…)

The cold, wet wind blew straight through my jacket before I stepped off the front porch. Dodging slushy raindrops, Noah and I made our way to the car. Easing into the seat, all I wanted to do was go back inside, start a fire, have a hot cuppa something and a good read. Instead, we drove to the bus stop.

I noticed the bags and bike before I notice the man. “Weird. Who rode their bike to the bus stop?” I thought. (Parents occasionally ride bikes down to the corner to await the bus. Their children ride or follow along. Just not so much, in March. ) Pulling closer- I noticed a brown coated, soaking wet “Shaggy” double [from scooby doo- i’m old skool.] trying to keep his cigarette lit in the rain. “That’s not a parent.” My mom radar sounded off a warning.

He paced back and forth at the corner- picking up cans and putting them one at a time into his collection of piled bags. AT THE BUS STOP. For the record, it’s not a public transit stop. It’s the school bus stop. On our street corner. In a subdivision. In the suburbs. In a nice neighborhood. In the rain. In the cold. In March.

It was: weird.

I told Noah to: stay in the car. Since not a single child raced to the bus stop, (a morning tradition.)  I’m guessing that every parent in the neighborhood thought the same: “DANGER! WEIRDO. Protect the children!”

To me- the dude looked like a predator. Why else would he be out in this rain? On a bike. At a school bus stop?  At 8:15 am ? Soaking wet?

I considered calling the police… what are the rules about stranger danger, anyway?  Do you wait until the guy talks to a kid?

I looked up and down the row of mom-driven, soggy SUV’s and by the similar turn of our mom hair-cutted  heads- eyes locked on the “intruder,” it was obvious we were all watching his every soggy- and chilled to the bone move. We were keeping our children safe.

Suddenly, he flipped up his soggy collar against the cold rain and started gathering his bags. He glanced at the cars lined up like a police blockade and mounted his bike while the cigarette dangled from his lips. We’d made it pretty clear: he was not wanted or welcome here.

As he turned to pedal away,  I saw his face. He was just a kid. Maybe college age.. but still, just a kid. He looked cold, frustrated, a bit embarrassed.

When he was out of view, car doors started to open and slam shut behind children. The morning’s race to the stop sign commenced. Things were back to normal.

I should have felt relieved.

I didn’t. I felt awful.

“What if he wasn’t a predator? What if he was just cold and hungry and desperate enough to face the cold to collect cans to buy breakfast?” Questions flooded my mind, a little too late.

Today begins lent, a time when we set aside time to die to ourselves in order to find greater life in Christ…and I’d just missed the point, entirely. What if I’d died to my own fear and offered him a cup of coffee or an umbrella? What if I’d grabbed the cans from the floor of my car (ok, so my car’s a mess- it always is. Don’t judge me.) to add to his collection? What if I’d reached out in kindness instead of being held back by fear?

Did I miss a divine appointment? Or was he a predator that I’d just kept my child safe from?

I’ll never know.

But when I read this over on Curt’s blog this morning- I felt convicted.

I won’t miss the next opportunity. I will step out of my fear and into love. I think instead of giving up something for lent this year- I’m going to give up my fear make lent a journey into love….selfless fearless love.

By His grace, and with a safe (ish)  plan…..

My questions for you:

  • What would you have thought, or done?
  • Can you think of a safe way I could have reached out to this guy?
  • Did I do the right, or wrong thing?
  • Have you been in situations like this?  What did you do?

Can’t wait to hear your thoughts…

I have legalism skillz.
No really, I have turned legalism into an extreme sport.  I’m hoping to get it past the Olympic committee and make it an official olympic sport in 2012.

What evidence do I have that my legalistic skillz are extreme?

I managed to take a grace based  season,  (namely: Easter/Lent) and turn it into a festival of iced-tea abstinence, legalism and pride.

Trust me, that took skill.

It all started with a book and some blog posts I read. (Am I the only one who gets inspired to stupidity by the brilliance of others?) As I read about someone else’s Lenten experiences and observances, I started to feel a little  jealous. (OK, “a little” is putting it mildly.) I desperately wanted that kind of experience. I felt  like I was getting ripped off by my non-denominational, contemporary faith. (I should have known this motive would lead to no good.)

“Why can’t I observe Lent?  I bet I could learn from it…it’s not like the Catholics “Own”  lent or anything..I could do it too…” I thought. Not slowing down  to  consider my motives or attitude.

And with that, I decided to observe the tradition of  Lent.

“Now what?”  I had to decide what to give up. It should be something I love. But something I could do without fanfare and whistles… (going meat-less would affect my whole family… skipping caffeine would for sure lead to murder not an option. I moved down my list of vices… Giving up chocolate?  Too risky.  I might need the serotonin boost or the antioxidants. I’d hate to give myself cancer over Lent… besides…. it’s medicinal, like vitamins.. for Pete’s sake…)

So I wondered:  “What can I give up that would be both a sacrifice and an offering.. that would remind me to focus on God?” Since iced tea is my vice of choice I went with that. (I can tell you which restaurants and drive through’s within a 30 mile radius have the good stuff.) I have been known to pick a restaurant by it’s iced tea offerings. I love Iced tea.

Assuming that a greater blessing would come with a greater sacrifice.. I gave up my tea.

Don’t laugh… You have no idea how hard that has been.  Think quitting smoking without the patch..(although I’m getting desperate… I may tape a tea bag to my forearm later today..

My plan:

  1. To give up iced tea for the Lenten season.
  2. To  set aside the money I would have spent and donate it to the blood water  mission .
  3. Take those iced-tea craving moments and focus on God. I’m using the Mosaic Bible Lent readings.

Now, If I were mature, (which I’m not) I’d have kept this whole thing quiet. But I kind of want people to know about my sacrifice for God.. (Hey, I may inspire others with my… um brilliance?) Well,  I guess it might build my holy street cred… or  not.)

The thing is, people don’t care. Most just say something along the lines of:  “Tracey, You’re not Catholic. ” To which I respond: “The Catholics don’t own Lent.”  (See?  told you, immaturity: I have it..)

So, I’m not sure it’s working in general. Or maybe it’s working better than I’d hoped. I’m definitely learning.  I’m just not liking all that  I’m learning- about myself. (more…)

001

“I KNOW! YOU DON’T NEED TO RUB IT IN!  Why do you think I’m playing this stupid game anyways?”  I yelled at the little white, wiggling  “balance board”  icon touting my fatness all over the flat screen. (WHY do we have such a big screen anyways? To validate my shame?)

Watching the little scale weigh my tired, sore body and then pronounce the fact I already knew, infuriated me for some reason. It caused an immediate craving for chocolate, with a chips and salsa chaser.  (My perfect vortex of junk food..one bite tries to balance out the other.. spicey, hot and salty calls for a dousing of sweet creamy chocolate.. you just can’t STOP!)  For just a minute, I considered stepping off and retreating to my happy kitchen.  Or at least, to the comfy and rarely snarky; couch. 

Instead, I clicked through to “aerobics.”  I huffed and puffed through that first 3 minute run like a brownie overloaded, Thomas the Tank Engine working a steep hill.  I thought I might die.  I didn’t.

 I clicked to do it again.  I struggled to keep up with the little dog with an arrow over his head. I googled to see if there was a “leash cheat” that would attach that stupid dog to my Mii and pull me along.. there wasn’t. I got annoyed when the screen told me how un-steady my pace was.  Again, I considered running straight to the kitchen.  Again: I didn’t.

That was two weeks ago today.  That first day on the Wii Fit I struggled with 6 minutes of running. (Albeit in place) Yesterday? I managed 30 minutes, with much less angst. I barely fantasized about leashes, cheats or chocolate.  I’m starting to have more energy.  I even managed to work in some yoga.  (Which is apparently, hilarious to watch- according to my kids. So glad I can still make them laugh.. even if it’s at ME.  No worries, I’ll get them back.)

Theoretically, it takes 21-30 days to build a new habit… I think I just might make it. I’ll tell you this: exercise changes my attitude towars food.. instead of  “OHHH YUMMY”.. I say: “Ohh.. is that worth extra time in the tree-pose?”  Most of the time the answer is a resounding NO.

So far, I’d say- Wii Fit is a great fitness tool for moms.  There is flexibility to keep you from becoming bored.  There is minimal set up and it doesn’t take over your house the way a treadmillof other exercise equipment does. The cost isn’t exorbitant. (I got a deal through Amazon- a returned- open box  item for about $80- I only waited about a week fo it to come in stock and be shipped..)  And you don’t need childcare.  My youngest not only thinks it’s cool, but works out with me. Which is fun.  (Except when he tells me I look like a tree frog instead of a tree, and laughs at certain bouncy parts of me…that, I could do without.)

My goal is to get fit enough to be able to run outside. (Currently the extra weight I’m carrying makes my asthma worse outside- especially in the cold. Not to mention my vanity..about running in my fat girl sweats in public.. but I digress..) I’m also hoping to improve  my sanity, so that I eventually I won’t be arguing with the Wii.  Also: I want my haircut like my Mii.  Am I asking too much? 

Maybe.. But, I’m thinking the Wii Fit just might be able to deliver.

Interesting.. when I started this Lenten Journey I had no idea that taking better care of myself would be part of it.. I wonder where else it will lead?

001

Yoga looked so easy and relaxing,  until I tried it.

“Breathe, maintain your center of balance, lift one foot, using your hand and place it on your opposite thigh, knee turned out.  Bring hands together, front centered..” 

So begins the instructions for the Yoga practice known as the Tree pose.   It sounds simple enough and not the least bit dangerous or even painful.  IT LIES.

Yoga is about maintaining body centeredness, core stability and deep breathing.  This should be RELAXING.  Umm.. Hello.  IT IS NOT. (At least, not so far). 

Maybe it’s because I’m using the Wii Fit Yoga method…Maybe I’m doing it wrong. Maybe it’s because my yoga partner is a 6 year old who giggles while I wobble.  I’m not sure WHY, but I KNOW I do not look like the pics and videos I’ve been viewing. 

The yoga instructors look calm and relaxed- my face is scrunched up in a mix of: concentration and pain while sweat is dripping down my back .  The yoga instructor looks serene and stands elegantly motionless.  My ankles shake and I sway like a top heavy sapling in it’s first summer storm.

In the Yoga class of life I may be more tree-frog than tree pose, but I’m  making progress. During this lenten season- I’ve felt that I needed to add things into my life that would nourish and care for the life that God has given me.  An aspect of my life that has been long neglected is the physical aspect..

I’ve started 3 simple things:

1)  Eating food, not products.

2)  Feeding myself instead of starving myself until I’m ravenous and then stuffing myself.

3)  Exercising to strengthen my body for service.

I used to run. ALOT.  I miss the rhythm and the meditational quality of running, what I don’t miss is my former obsession with it.  I’d like to learn to run in moderation.  I’ve set a small goal: to run a 5 k race.   I’m starting slowly- and am adding other forms of exercise to balance out my exercise schedule.

 I may be a tree-frog now— but I’ll be a strong deeply rooted tree , eventually.  This is the scripture I’m meditating on while my ankles shake and I struggle to maintain the tree pose:

Psalm 1:3 (New International Version)

 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
       which yields its fruit in season
       and whose leaf does not wither.
       Whatever he does prospers.

Dear Lord- I want to care for all that you’ve given- mind body and spirit..please help me to honor you by being a stewart that cares well for your gifts, oh.. and Lord?  Could you hold me still duing the tree pose?  I’m having a little trouble with that!  amen

I am one of those people who needs to have an editor- I tend to ramble… too bad you can’t hire editors to speak for you– they only deal in written words!Today- Lent has lead me to “pray for a forgiving heart”  The scripture comes from Jesus’ warning to those who tend to “orate” in prayer and pray as if it were a theatrical production.. he has helped us to ‘edit” our prayers- not to limit us,, but to show us what really matters.

Matthew 6: 9-13

7And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

 9“This, then, is how you should pray:
   ” ‘Our Father in heaven,
   hallowed be your name,
 10your kingdom come,
   your will be done
      on earth as it is in heaven.
 11Give us today our daily bread.
 
12Forgive us our debts,
      as we also have forgiven our debtors.

 13And lead us not into temptation,
   but deliver us from the evil one.[a]

14For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

 

The debts here- are not economic debts.  They are debts of the heart. Debts incurred through sin.  Sin is simply- missing the mark. Something we are each prone to do because of our own imperfection.  There is no bailout or stimulus package that can provide relief- only forgiveness.

The last part of this scripture holds a warning- we are forgiven.. and so we MUST forgive others. God’s only expectation is that we don’t hoarde forgiveness to ourselves.. but freely share it with those who sin against us. 

This is hard- people have hurt me… I don’t WANT to forgive them.. I want to punish them.  I doubt I’m the only one who struggles with those feelings.  Is Jesus telling me not to be angry?  Is Jesus telling me not to be hurt?  Is he telling me to forget what people have done? 

It doesn’t seem so.  I up looked Forgiveness.  It isn’t a directive on feelings- it’s a directive on actions.  The connotations mean “to set down one’s right to retaliate” .  There are lots of ways to retaliate when someone sins.. passive agressive ways.. agressive ways… no matter how subtle- they must be set aside.  I have to choose not to use them.

Why should I?  People aren’t fair.  People do things that are WRONG.  Why should I have to forgive?  The answer is simple:  Because I HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN. Jesus paid the ultimate price for my sin.. and in return, I am only requested to set down my right to retaliate.  I am asked to forgive.  Isn’t that the least I can do?  It may be the least- but it’s also: hard. I’ll need His help.

Today- I’m praying for a forgiving heart.  But first- I’m thanking Him for forgiving me- so very much.  Today- Into my Lenten Journey’s  bag goes the simple prayer that Jesus offered me… the “Our Father” of generations of followers before me.. that is my prayer.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, they shall see God.”  Matthew 5:8

I blinked. I blinked again.  I squinted.  I strained to see, but what I could see looked more like an impressionist’s rendering of my bedroom than what I knew it to be. Everything was hazed and bleary.

I made my way downstairs, wondering if it was finally time to break down and get the bi-focals.  I sipped my coffee, continuing to squint while I watched the news.  Right about the time the caffeine kicked in, I took off my glasses to rub my eyes in a last ditch attempt to save my vanity from death by- bifocal… suddenly everything was clear.

I looked at my glasses… they were smeared and smudged from tiny fingers… apparently my 6 year old “helper” had brought them upstairs.  I took them to the kitchen and carefully cleaned the lenses.  I slipped them back on.  Everything became clear and sharp.  I could see.

I settled onto the couch to continue my Lenten journey- today’s direction was -simple.  “Pray for a pure heart. Read: Matthew 5:8”  But I wondered at it’s meaning.

Purity is a word our culture seems to save for marketing and sexual abstinence.  It isn’t  a word often used outside of those contexts.  What does purity meant in this context?  I took a few minutes to look it up.  The commentary mentions Psalm 73 for further study

Between the commentaries and the scripture here is what I’ve discovered:  

1) To be pure in heart gives one the ability to see God.

2) To be pure in heart means to rely on Him alone.

3) To be pure in heart means  to be without blemish or sin.

These are things I desire.. but things I can’t accomplish.  I walk through my days with eyes glazed by sin and distracted by things that I think I can rely on outside of God… they smear my sight like the fingerprints on my eye-glass lenses.  Even when I recognize them for what they are.. I can do little to clear them from my vision. I squint and blink, trying to see clearly,  it doesn’t work.

I try to clear them with what I have, my own dirty fingers.. I smear and haze them all the more. I can’t use something dirty to clear something.. I need something clean- pure.  I need God’s help.

Today- I’m praying for a pure heart.. one that can see God.. one that has embraced His power to cleanse and clear- the only power that can… and I’m praying to see God… how amazing would that be?

I’m taking time to finish a chemo cap for my mom’s friend today.. while I knit, I’ll be meditating on God’s purity and will be praying that God would cleanse and purify my heart..I wonder what I’ll see with clear vision?   I’ll also be praying that he would cleanse her body of sickness…

I can’t wait to see where this journey takes me tomorrow…