Here’s to Moms in all Forms

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Here’s to moms in all forms.
Biological moms. Adoptive moms. Stepmoms. Surrogate moms. First-time moms. Moms to one, and moms to many.
Here’s to moms who have loved and lost. Moms who have loved and let go. Moms with empty arms and broken hearts. Moms whose babies are being formed in vitro.
Here’s to spiritual moms. Doting aunties and forever friends. Sisters, grandmothers, nieces, cousins. All those who support and pray and nurture and champion and protect and support.
It takes a village.

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Woman in the Mirror

Every morning I wake up and go to war.

As I wash, I wonder what strategy my enemy is going to use on me today. Will she pounce on me as I prepare myself first thing this morning, or will she slowly poison me every hour throughout the day?

Either way, if she wins, it will darken the entire day. My open wounds will bleed into every encounter, every situation. I’ll find adversaries in friends, ill-wishers in loved ones. Every ray of sunshine will have a cloud, and if there’s no cloud I’ll find one in the far, far distance and stare it into being.

If she wins (and she’s a very worthy opponent–skilled and experienced and trained in the art of uncovering vulnerabilities), she will wreak havoc on every aspect of my life.

She’s won battle after battle. Preying on a thoughtful little girl with big daydreams. Unrelenting, not letting go, not even for a minute. Not ever.

Pinning down a sensitive, searching teenager and breathing hatred into the lungs. Coiling around the heart and sinking in her venomous teeth, poison carousing through the body until choking and sputtering, the white flag was raised.

I give up.

You win.

Take my body and my heart too.

Take my soul.

I’m too weak to fight.  

While the battle is now less bloody, the enemy lingers, more of a silent assassin than a barbarian warrior–a dark spectre at the periphery, brushing her wings ever-so-lightly here and there, so as to let her presence remain a constant. Slowly sucking up joy like an invisible vampire, casting a shadow on the loveliest days.

I’m here, she reminds me. I’m here in case you get too comfortable, too strong. Too loving.

I’m here. You’ve been mine for so long that we’re almost friends, you and I. 

No need to focus your attention on anything else. No need to try to forget me. I’ll always be here for you, your constant companion. Together, we can continue to live a half-life. 

Keep your enemies close …

She’ll continue to win. She’ll continue to keep her stranglehold on me and life will ramble on as before, a little bit darker, a little bit emptier.

Unless.

Unless I rise up and fight back with every ounce of power and strategy she’s used against me.

Unless I decide that I want a full life, a rich life, and I can’t with her so close.

Unless I laugh in her face and see her for what she is she is. Not ignore her or minimize her presence, but fully acknowledge her special assignment on my life and fight back fire with fire.

Not to forget the scars she’s left, the battles she’s won in the past and the post-war ruin. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, they say, so then my strength must be immeasurable. I can crush serpents beneath my feet, a twenty-first century Eve. I can hold my sword high and ask for Help, and know that I have it.

I can rise from the ashes of a lifetime of destruction and come back as the fierce beauty bent on reclaiming that which was stolen. The diamond dazzling from years of fire.

I can wake every morning with the song of victory on my lips, aware that this is a battle of the flesh, the mind, and the spirit. This is a war greater than just me and her, and good will triumph over evil.

So I’ll be vigilant, mindful, intentional. I’ll fight back with gentleness, love, care. I’ll show my scars to a broken world and my words will be a healing balm on millions of warrior brides blind to their own weapons. I’ll sing a new song of joy–a battle cry to drown out the world’s deafening clatter.

I’ll wake up and not forget my armour.

I’ll lock eyes with my enemy in the mirror and declare that the war’s not over.

It’s only just begun.

 

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head and you will strike his heel — Genesis 3:15

 

Woman at a Mirror by Theo van Rysselberghe (1907) [photo courtesy of WikiPaintings]

Woman at a Mirror by Theo van Rysselberghe (1907) [photo courtesy of WikiPaintings]

Let Them Eat Cake

[photo courtesy of google image search]

You did NOT just make a comment about my weight! [photo courtesy of google image search]

The scene takes place anywhere women are gathered and there happens to be food.

Woman 1 grabs a chicken wrap and begins eating it.

Woman 2: You’re eating a wrap? I thought you said you’re not working out today! Shame on you! You’re not going to be able to work that off!

Woman 1 [with her mouth full of chicken wrap]: Uhhhh … I was hungry? And … I’m going to the gym four times a week?

Woman 3: Oh, you’re going to the gym now? You want to be a Skinny Minnie?

Woman 1: Uhhhh … not exactly, I just want to be healthy and able to walk up a flight of stairs without being out of breath [congratulates herself on not “weighing in” on the undercurrent of body shame present in so many conversations women have with each other]

Woman 4: Yeah, I hear ya. Me too.

Woman 3: What are you talking about, Woman 4? You’re skinny!

[At which point Woman 1 leaves, enraged]

CAN WE STOP TALKING LIKE THIS TO EACH OTHER, PLEASE?

All of the body shaming and monitoring what each other eats and how much we exercise REALLY needs to stop.

It’s just not cool, and it’s not appropriate.

There are just SO many things wrong with the above scene, I don’t even know where to start. And the thing is, it seems like your everyday conversation between women when there’s food around and you may think it’s not that bad.

That’s the point. We talk this way to each other and we’re not realizing how stupid and invasive it is.

1.  First of all, if someone is hungry, at some point they’re going to put food in their body. That’s generally how it works.

2.  Secondly, it is absolutely 100% NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS when, how, if, and what someone eats. None whatsoever.

Here’s a question for you. When is it appropriate to make a comment about someone’s eating habits?

a) When they’re overweight and they’re indulging in a second cupcake

b) When they’re thin and indulging in a second cupcake

c) When they’re average-sized and indulging in a second cupcake

d) When they’re getting married soon and indulging in a cupcake*

e) If they exercised that day

f) If they didn’t exercise that day

The correct answer is NONE OF THE ABOVE!

3.  Someone should never, ever have to explain why they’re eating something. Whether they’re eating because they’re hungry, or bored, or just because the food is there, guess whose business it is? Not yours.

4.  People go to the gym for all kinds of reasons. To get fit, to be healthy, to participate in group exercise classes, to be social, to reduce stress, to train, to build up strength, etc. Yes, a lot of people go to the gym to lose weight and yes, that was the reason I gave the people at the gym when they asked why I signed up, but. A far more self-loving, and feasible goal should be health, rather than losing weight, which brings me to my last point.

5.  Skinny does not automatically mean healthy! There are plenty of skinny woman out there who, I’m sure, would not be able to climb up a flight of stairs without being out of breath. Also, are only not-skinny people supposed to want to be healthy? Are thin people not allowed to say they want to get healthy? I don’t get it.

So please. Mind your own business. Stop body shaming, stop monitoring what your friends eat and whether or not they’ve worked out, and let them eat cake. Or chicken wraps. Or whatever.

* based on true event

Be Good

let them eat cake

“No, thank you. I’m being good today.”

I probably hear that multiple times on a daily basis. Mostly women, with sheepish, apologetic smiles on their faces, peering longingly at the pastry case lined with goodies.

“I would have that cookie, but I’m trying to be good.”

“Ohhh, that brownie looks so delicious. Too bad I have to be good today.”

Out for dinner, the dessert menu is passed, promising decadent treats and temptations. We all rub our “bloated” middles guiltily and suddenly regret the three cheese lasagna or greasy pizza.

“Any desserts?” the waitress asks, and there’s that pregnant pause when we all exchange glances. Will anyone be brave enough to order a slice of pie or bowl of ice cream?

“No thanks. We’re trying to be good.”

words to live by

Why is it that, as women, we equate being good with not eating? 

I mean, obviously it’s important to have a balanced diet and exercise and not eat a diet of fast food and sugar-filled pastries. But the way we talk about food and indulging our cravings once in a while is disturbing, especially when we infuse our rhetoric with good and bad. 

This is nothing new.

“I was bad today. I ate a handful of chocolate covered almonds after work and had a cupcake for dessert.”

Oh really? How about you were bad today because you gossiped mercilessly about your coworker and lied to your family?

“Want to have some ice cream with me?”

“No, it’s okay.”

“Wow, you’re so good. I wish I could be more like you.”

So, you wish you could be more like me because I won’t have ice cream and not because I’m kind or generous or diligent?

We all talk like this and it’s so easy, so easy, to engage in these conversations.

I hear it every day. I have these conversations myself. The constant beating up of oneself if we’ve been “bad” and had … (insert any food you feel guilty about here). The incessant, “If I could just lose 5 pounds  … If I could only fit into a size 4 again … If I could just go back to my pre-baby weight …”

The weight loss centres, the gimmicks, the specialty weight loss teas (not recommended!), the fitness programs, the diet pills, the willpower, the withholding, the starvation …

How is this acceptable?
(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Honestly, I’m sick of our culture’s obsession with appearances and the message it sends that as long as you look hot, your character doesn’t matter. Teenage girls are going on YouTube, asking anonymous viewers whether or not they’re hot, when they could be wondering whether or not they have integrity.

I get this, because I was a teenage girl once lost in an obsession of my own making. But I wish I understood then what I am getting now. That, as Audrey Hepburn once said, “the happiest girls are the prettiest.”

And how can you possibly be happy if you’re preoccupied with your appearance, which will never be good enough by society’s standards anyway?

So let’s do this.

Let’s stop measuring our goodness by how often we say “no” to treats because honestly, life is too short to not have chocolate. End of story.

Let’s look for new ways to be good: smiling at strangers, making someone’s day, working hard for no extra credit, giving freely and generously, embracing those that are despised by everyone else, being honest, being loyal, being kind and warmhearted and gentle …

I can think of no better beautifier.

Paperbag Princess

the beauty of the story

I am a princess. All girls are. Even if they live in tiny old attics. Even if they dress in rags, even if they aren’t pretty, or smart, or young. They’re still princesses. All of us. Didn’t your father ever tell you that? Didn’t he?   — from “A Little Princess” (1995)

cherish me as much as I cherish you

We desire to possess a beauty that is worth pursuing, worth fighting for, a beauty that is core to who we truly are. We want beauty that can be seen; beauty that can be felt; beauty that affects others; a beauty all our own to unveil […]

There is an emotional promiscuity we’ve noticed among many good young men and women. The young man understands something of the journey of the heart. He wants to talk, to “share the journey.” The woman is grateful to be pursued, she opens up. They share the intimacies of their lives – their wounds, their walks with God. But he never commits. He enjoys her … then leaves. And she wonders, What did I do wrong? She failed to see his passivity. He really did not ever commit or offer assurances that he would. Like Willoughby to Marianne in Sense and Sensibility.

Be careful you do not offer too much of yourself to a man until you have good, solid evidence that he is a strong man willing to commit. Look at his track record with other women. Is there anything to be concerned about there? If so, bring it up. Also, does he have any close male friends – and what are they like as men? Can he hold down a job? Is he walking with God in a real and intimate way? Is he facing the wounds of his own life, and is he also demonstrating a desire to repent of Adam’s passivity and/or violence? Is he headed somewhere with his life? A lot of questions, but your heart is a treasure, and we want you to offer it only to a man who is worthy and ready to handle it well.                                                                                                                   –from Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul by John and Stasi Eldredge

Love Story

Catherine Middleton and Prince William on April 29, 2011

I don’t think it’s just because they’re royals that we waited so eagerly and watched the Royal Wedding so excitedly a couple of weeks ago. It’s because there’s something in us that springs to life whenever we witness two people madly in love saying “I do” … why some of us, despite our grandest efforts, are suckers for chick flicks and shows like Four Weddings and A Wedding Story.

Because we were hardwired for romance.

It’s like we have these little clocks inside of us that begin spinning and chiming a tinny tune at the sight of a misty eyed groom beholding his veiled bride gliding down an aisle or the first chords of Pachelbel’s Canon in D major. Some of us are more easily reduced to soppy messes than others by all of the furnishings of authentic love (the title of my blog should be a pretty good indication of where I stand) and the pleasure we take in discussing Kate Middleton’s elegant wedding gown or the way Mr. Thornton kisses Margaret Hale at the end of 2004’s North & South must be somewhat checked and classified as “guilty.”

While those others–jaded, cynical, disappointed, unaffected, stoic, unromantic, what-have-you–may scoff and shake their heads at our “silly, girlish” (said pejoratively) fascination with wedding gowns and flower arrangements, there lies inside of us a little girl who never quite grew up–a little girl who once upon a time crowned herself with dandelions and dreamed of being a princess made beautiful by the love of a prince.

"Romance is the glamour which turns the dust of everyday life into a golden haze" -- Amanda Cross

At the core of this–our wedding mania and obsession with red roses and soft candlelight and stolen glances and dancing slowly–is our most intimate, naked, vulnerable desire:

To be loved.

To be wanted, accepted, pursued, chased and adored, whether we be princesses, paper bag princesses or queens in our own right. Beneath our feminism and self-love and independence–all constructive things, mind you–there is still a yearning, an ache to be cherished and held, to have someone see our light and our dark and love it all. For someone to see our value as diamonds and rubies, our dust and dirt as malleable potential. For someone to say, I would do anything for you and really mean it.

Despite how happy we are and how much we’ve come to terms with our circumstances, the heart knows what the head ignores and our throats constrict and our eyes overflow at the most genuine displays of true love. Despite what we know about waning romance, infidelity, unhappy marriages and patriarchal impositions and traditional gender roles and soiled diapers, overflowing trash bins and bad breath, we can’t help but sigh just a little whenever a bride and groom march down the aisle for the first time as man and wife.

Not everyone’s storyline heads in that direction but they make peace with it and some choose alternative lifestyles for themselves which is courageous and tough. And fairy tales, romantic comedies, and Jane Austen novels tend to conclude at the first kiss, the marriage proposal, or the ride into the sunset because what comes after is the lost luggage, mortgage payments, dirty socks on the floor, runny noses, and trial after trial after trial (or so I hear). And perhaps for some, period romances and Harlequins and flirting with strangers become an escape from the monotony of married life because reality never lives up to the fairy tale.

But why?

Because we were hardwired for romance.

"I am my beloved's and he is mine" -- Songs of Solomon 2:16

Human love, while ecstatic and wondrous and beautiful, can only reach so far, hence the Harlequins and heartbreak. But beyond that, the reason why we ache and dream and crave, is because we were made by love, to love, for love. Because human love may be brief and may end catastrophically and nearly destroy us, but we don’t die because a greater love story runs in our veins and sings us back home again and again and again.

Masked in the filthy robes of lust and desperation is our inherent need to be loved unconditionally and to be seen continuously as a breathtaking bride meeting her perfect bridegroom at the altar: the place of unity, sacrifice, and eternal promises.

As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you — Isaiah 62:6

From the moment we were born, our cries filled the air with the longing to be held and loved … the ache only intensified as we grew older and began watching Disney and royal weddings. Our hearts beat to the rhythm of love and our own personal love stories become apparent in our visceral/spiritual reactions to the sun setting in a wash of pink and gold; church bells chiming ancient prayers on lazy Sunday afternoons in the spring; the seamless orchestration of perfect moments when all of our senses are aroused … He has set eternity in our hearts and romance in our souls.

We are being romanced with a love divine, a love primordial, a love of one million happily ever afters.

How will your heart respond?

Beauty of Love

“there is a design, an alignment, a cry of my heart to see the beauty of love as it was made to be”

The purpose of Love is to find a partner we can grow with, through the barriers that keep love at bay, to the centre of the universe that exists inside of us all […] We must work to find God, not to find men. Women must stop trying to be good enough, except for God […] We learn from God that we’re absolutely glorious–in his image, for his sake.

Ultimately, we learn to stop trying so hard. We no longer try to get a guy when we remember we’re only here to bless him. There is a difference between getting a partner and attracting a partner. Getting implies that our hooks work; attracting means that our light is bright and appears like a beacon to one who is meant to see it. When we try to get a partner, we increase our chances of getting the wrong one. Yes, we can hook one perhaps, but a hook in him is a hook in us. We either end up neurotically obsessed, or he figures out it’s a hook and does his own casting off.

[…] Surrender of the partner obsession is a great release and allows much greater room for real love to enter. Be friends with a person. Don’t underestimate the grace of true friendship.

–from A Woman’s Worth, Marianne Williamson. Random House Publishing Group, 1993.