Thursday, March 8, 2018


My daughter Ivy is a ballerina who dances at a fairly high level.  She is currently teaching at the studio she grew up with, and she is honored to dance the featured role in many local productions.  She has not chosen to pursue ballet professionally, but she is all too familiar with the pressure ballerinas face to be thin. 

So far, only one dancer from her studio has become anorexic.  Thankfully, she seems to be doing well at this point, but one of the first things she did as she and her family began to do battle with this monster was to quit ballet.  Hours every week in a leotard in front of a mirror were not helping the cause.

Next week, this gal we will call Macie, is coming to speak to the young dancers at the studio about her experience with anorexia and what she learned about the issue of body image.  The tricky part of it is that the studio director, although she has the best heart in the world, operates under an opposing set of pressures, so to speak.  The sweetness of her heart and intentions is reflected in the fact that she is the one who invited Macie to come speak in the first place.  But honestly, she would like most of her dancers to lose weight.  I suspect she secretly believes just a touch of anorexia would do them good. 

For many years, she wanted Ivy to lose weight.  A happily trim teenager by everyday standards, Ivy was a little too fleshy by ballet standards.  Ivy has been deeply scarred by this pressure.  She has been cut to the quick by various conversations with this director over the years.  In the director’s defense, to call her remarks cruel is laughable compared to what she endured from her director growing up.  Ballet can be a cruel, cruel world indeed.

However, whereas Macie responded to this pressure by not eating, as many ballerinas do, Ivy had the opposite reaction.  The pressure certainly created in her an unhealthy fixation with food, but ultimately caused her to gain, not lose weight.  More tears.  More consternation.  Deep wounds.

Right now, however, Ivy is lovely by anyone’s standards.  She is at a healthy weight for a young woman (at the low end of her healthy BMI range), and even thin enough for a ballerina.  What happened? 

Josiah happened.  Josiah, her boyfriend, also a dancer.  He came along at the height of all this trouble and began telling her she was beautiful.  She was beautiful.  He thought she was beautiful.  Stop worrying.  Stop thinking about that.  You’re beautiful.  I think you’re beautiful.  You look perfect.  You’re beautiful. 

And the next day: You’re beautiful.  I think you’re beautiful.  You’re perfect.  You’re beautiful. 

They have been dating three and a half years now.  And she still knows, Josiah thinks she is beautiful. 

Ivy lost interest in what the ballet world thought of her.  She only cared about what Josiah thought, and he thought she was beautiful. 

So, what do you think happened then?  With the reassurance that she was beautiful, do you think she let her appearance go?  Do you think she gained weight and began dressing sloppily?  Stopped wearing makeup?

No.  She didn’t.  She enjoyed dressing beautifully all the more for him.  She enjoyed putting on her makeup for him.  And she was careful about what she ate.  Whatever her body was doing before with weight seemed to correct itself naturally, and she is currently a full ten pounds lighter than what she was during those years. 

She still bears some scars.  She doesn’t like eating in front of other people, especially anything unhealthy.  I see her looking around to see who is looking when she pours cereal for herself in the morning or puts food on her plate at dinner.  I am careful to avert my eyes.  It breaks my heart.  But she is getting past it, all because the young man she loves calls her beautiful.

Jesus calls us beautiful.  He calls you beautiful.  As we draw near to Him in repentance and obedience, we enter a joyful union with Him that God Himself likens to the wedding of two young lovers.  This is what we were created for.  This is what the depths of our hearts long for.  Do you believe it?  Can you believe it?  Most of us do not have Josiahs, but we do have Jesus. 

Like a lily among thorns
    is my darling among the young women.   Song of Solomon 2:2

Arise, come, my darling;
    my beautiful one, come with me.             Song of Solomon 2:13

How beautiful you are, my darling!
    Oh, how beautiful!                 Song of Solomon 4:1

You are altogether beautiful, my darling;
    there is no flaw in you.           Song of Solomon 4:7

Ballerinas suffer with a damaged body image.  Most of us instead suffer a with damaged soul image.  How would our souls be healed if we basked in this truth day after day?  

If day after day after day,
as we drew near to the Lover of our souls,
as we bared our hearts in confession and repentance,
as we knew His forgiveness and grace,
as we sought His direction and will,
and we saw in His eyes
that we
            to Him
                                    are beautiful.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Father of Crush

Yesterday I wrote about getting my son Reed ready for Colorado -- my wonderfully laid-back, relaxed Reed who reminds me of Crush, the sea turtle from Finding Nemo.  I told you how he really is his father's son.

Well, this morning my husband, Tom -- the Father of Crush --  was off to Mexico for a few days.  He travels quite a bit, so this is all old-hat.  His flight was supposed to leave at 8:41 a.m., and we live about 40 minutes from the airport.  We got into bed last night, and I asked him what time he was getting up.

"My alarm is set of 6:00," he said.

"Really?!  What time do you plan to leave?"

"I think I'll leave at 7:00.  That should be plenty of time."

Um, no.  For an international flight?  Not plenty of time.

"Is it a direct flight to Mexico, Tom?  Or is it domestic for the first leg?"

"No, it's direct," he replied, not catching my meaning.

"Tom, I don't think you're allowing enough time," I suggested.

"No, I think it'll be okay.  It takes 35 minutes to get to the airport, 10 minutes for the shuttle [from off-site parking], I'm already checked in, I have TSA pre-check, so I should get through security quickly.  And I'm all packed.  I'll be fine."

Well, after years of travel, he is a good packer: unlike his son, he always remembers underwear and long pants.  But still, I was dubious.  I pointed out that his plan did not allow for any unexpected occurrence, like an accident creating traffic on the way, or the shuttle being delayed, or who knows what else.  But, the Father of Crush would not be ruffled. 

So, just before 7:00 this morning, he headed out the door.  I asked him if he remembered everything.


"You have your phone?"


"Your charger?"

"Yep, and my passport.  I'm good."

And he was off.

About 20 minutes later, I went upstairs to our bathroom.  What was sitting right on the counter, but his phone.  AAArrrrgh!  What to do?  What to do?

So, I used his phone to call the co-worker that he was traveling with.  "Ed!  Do you think I should try to run this to the airport for him?"

Ed pointed out he may be en route back home to get it, which would really create a problem.  On the other hand, he may not be...  He really hadn't allowed enough time for that.  And if he had realized his mistake right away, it seemed like he should already be back.

So, I arranged things with Ed.  When Ed found Tom at the airport, he would tell him that I would be waiting for him right outside the terminal with it.  He would have to leave the secured area and then go back through security again, but it seemed like the best plan.  *IF* I didn't pass him on the road.

Heading out of our town, I saw a white Dodge pickup truck, which is his car, driving in the opposite direction.  Did the driver of that truck seem a little frantic?  He was changing lanes -- was it to gain an advantage in speed?  I could turn around on the chance that it was indeed Tom heading back.  On the other hand, what if it wasn't?

I thought about it for a minute and called Ivy, still asleep and probably none too happy to be involved in this circus.  She said, "Dad just walked in."  It was him I had seen, and now I was well on my way to the airport with his phone.  Double-argh!

So, he took Ivy's phone with him so we could communicate and got back on the road.  We arranged an exit where I could pull over right on the exit ramp, we could do the phone hand-off, and he could jump right back onto the expressway.

We met, did the exchange, and as he pulled away I called to him, "Tom, forget the off-site parking!  Just do short-term!"  It would cost more, but it would be better than missing his flight.

At 8:15, I get a call from him.  He was mad.  He had tried short-term parking, and it was full.  He drove to long-term, and it was also full.  Now, after wasting 15 precious minutes, he was heading back to the off-site parking anyway.  "I knew I should have just listened to my gut and gone with the off-site parking in the first place!" he barked.

The implication was clear, and I didn't appreciate it.  He was going to miss his flight, and it was all my fault.  Next time I will limit my heroics to making sure he has underwear.

The end of the story is that, miracle of miracles, he made the flight.  He was even upgraded to first class. 

"I wasn't worried," he said.  He is the Father of Crush.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Cowabunga, Dude!

For You formed my inward parts;You wove me in my mother’s womb.I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;Wonderful are Your works,And my soul knows it very well.

Psalm 139:13-14  NASB

Reed.  My precious, wonderful, creative, kindhearted son Reed.  He and Dom are off to Colorado for a week of skiing.

Remember Crush, the sea turtle from Finding Nemo?  That's my Reed, except he isn't really a surfer.  He just has that cowabunga, hang loose, no stress attitude.  The same hang loose attitude that allows him to walk into the house from the car -- through the snow and over the ice -- in bare feet.

Past experience told me that his version of packing would be to bring his dirty laundry home.  Not an unreasonable line of thinking.  After all, it should include all his favorite things to wear.  He surprised me this time though in having only two small loads of laundry.  He said his clean clothes were in a suitcase in his car.  I was definitely impressed.  Even surfer dudes grow up, eh?

So, yesterday, just an hour or so before they were supposed to leave for the airport he brought in the suitcase of clean clothes and unzipped it on the living room floor.  Honestly, it looked like he had taken a snow shovel to the floor of his bedroom and dumped all the clothes into the suitcase.  Either that, or he had been sleeping with the clothes for about a month.  There was a bed sheet in the mix.  I expressed my surprise and said, "Buddy, I think these all needed to be washed."

He said, "No, Mom, I'm fairly certain most of these are all clean."  And he proceeded to pick each item up one by one and smell it.  Including the underwear.

"Oh, buddy!  That's gross!"

He laughed.  "Only if you think about it, Mom."

So he picked out a few things that did need a wash and left the rest, confident that he had everything he needed for the trip.  I rushed dirty items into the washer and came back to fold and organize what was left in the suitcase.

He had a tall stack of hoodies and a tall stack of t-shirts.  Two pairs of underwear.  About 25 socks, of which there were maybe three matching pairs, and no long pants at all.  No jeans, no sweat pants, no lounge/pajama pants.

"Huh!" he said, mystified.  "I guess I didn't do such a great job of packing."  He was clearly puzzled as to how this strange imbalance could have occurred.  Unrattled, however, he went on playing with the cat.

I, on the other hand, was slightly rattled.  It was too late to run to Target to buy more underwear, so I ran up to his room to search out stray pairs left from his previous visits home or even his high school days.  I found a few, plus the dirty pair from the previous day left on the floor.  I ran them down to the washing machine, hoping they could catch at least the last few minutes of the wash cycle.  I rummaged through his dad's closet shelves looking for a pair of sweat pants that wouldn't fall off him.  Thankfully, he had worn a good pair of jeans home, so at least he had those.

Meanwhile, he had roused himself to search out a pair of ski pants to wear.  He concluded that he must have left his own pair at school, because they were nowhere to be found around the house.  He settled on a pair of women's pants he found that fit (amazingly, because he is a long-legged 6'1"), but they were only a shell, without insulation.  So, I was off again to search out some long underwear he could wear underneath.

I cannot tell you how much I love this kid.  My heart swells when I think of him.  But here's the thing:  it swells all the more with joy and love for him as I write this, recounting his foibles.  His weaknesses are very much a part of the glory that is Reed.  Somehow, mysteriously, his weaknesses are fundamentally, inextricably woven into his strengths, which are marvelous.

In many ways, Reed is a natural, easy-going version of his dad, except that Tom beats himself up over these sorts of things.  Tom fights it.  I tell him, "Tom, this is why God gave you me.  I am here to take care of everything you forget."  And I firmly believe that to be true.

I am delighted that Reed doesn't seem to beat himself up over the trivialities of life that escape him, like matching socks or the need for underwear.  My prayer for him is that God will give him a sweet Christian girl to marry who will understand and appreciate him -- and be willing to pack long pants for him -- without belittling him for not managing it himself. 

 Reed helps me to remember too how God's heart swells in the face of my weaknesses.  Sin, rebellion -- that's one thing.  But how often do I beat myself up for parts of myself that God created for His glory? How easily I gloss over my sin, excusing it shamefully, but spend time instead berating myself for parts of me that are intrinsic to the very person God created me to be for His glory?  I wish I were more charismatic.  I wish I could decorate.  I wish I were musical.  I wish I were funnier.  I wish I could dance.

No!  Let's stop this nonsense!  God made All Bark to be just what He intended All Bark to be.  All Bark is as perfect and precious in His eyes as Reed is in mine.  And just as I am happy to help Reed out in the bits of life he doesn't handle so well, so God generously helps me out in the bits I don't handle so well. 

Cowabunga, dude!  Let's play with the cat.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Divorce and the Supercilious

I read yesterday about a young woman in Christendom who got divorced.  Nothing especially interesting or novel in that, except that this woman has just a little bit of a "name" out there in the Christian world.  Just a little -- and it's possible that her work will eventually cause her to become more well-known than she is now.

I stumbled upon this piece of personal information about her quite accidentally.  I know almost nothing more about the situation.  I do not know who initiated the divorce, nor do I know the first thing about the circumstances surrounding it.  Neither, I might add, does anyone else online.

This pesky fact has not deterred a certain handful of people from posting their opinions, however.  A small storm of Christians have graced the cyber-world with their not-so grace-filled assessments of this woman as a result of this divorce.  It is very disheartening.  What exactly are they suggesting?  That she is not worthy of our respect because her personal life hit a bump in the road? That her work, therefore, is discredited? 

That anyone would think such a thing is disappointing.  That they would go so far as to put their superciliousness into words and publish it online is abominable.  There is no excuse.  My heart breaks for this young woman having to read such ugly words about herself, written by people who know nothing of her, her situation, or God's work in her life.

It's the sad, old adage: Only Christians shoot their own.

But I bet I can guess at their emotional motivations.  And if I'm being unfair to them, well, maybe they deserve it.

My guess is that they themselves are in pain in their own lives. They haven't made the mark on the world that they had hoped to make in their younger years.  They see her using her goodly intelligence and hard work to move the needle forward, so to speak, while they sit in their dusty corners of the world fruitlessly spinning in circles.

In other words -- they're jealous.  And superciliousness is a handy consolation prize.

So, to the small group of highhanded folk who sought to defame this woman and her ministry, to make a public circus of something that was undoubtedly very painful for her --  for shame.  Let us all see your words and posts for the spitefulness they are.

"Who are you to judge the servant of another?  To his own master he stands or falls; and stand he will, for the Lord is able to make him stand."  Romans 14:4