Monthly Archives: June 2018

Two Messages on a Mirror

message on a mirror

In the summer, as my birthday approaches, I often begin to take special notice of my figure. Or my lack of it. The belly that used to be flat … a long time ago. The backside and thighs that seem to collect far more fat cells than any other part of my body.

If I could choose where I want those extra pounds distributed, I would have the perfect hourglass figure. But I can’t. So I don’t.

During the school year, with classes and teaching, it’s a challenge to focus on my diet. So in the month leading up to my last birthday, I decided to cut out junk food. It’s not that I eat inordinate servings of chips and donuts on a daily basis or anything. I simply hoped to re-calibrate my appetite. Losing a pound or two, or ten, wouldn’t be unappreciated.

Okay, so I wanted to get down to 150 pounds. A nice, even number. My pre-mommy weight, which I dropped down to within six months after each pregnancy, was below 140. My last pregnancy had been nearly eight years ago, and I was hovering dangerously close to 160 pounds (read: 159.8).

I wrote my weight in a blue dry-erase marker on my bathroom mirror, along with the date: July 18. A month to lose ten pounds.

For the first two weeks, I avoided chips and sweet drinks, processed foods and starchy meals. I drank homemade smoothies for breakfast / lunch. (Okay, so I also drank chai every morning, but homemade chai, with ginger … that’s good for you, right?) I tried to embrace that hungry feeling in the evenings, when I usually succumb to cravings of salty or sweet foods.

At the end of July, I took my weight and marked it on the bathroom mirror: 154.6 pounds. Halfway there.

A day or two later, something else appeared on my mirror. Lyrics to a few different songs:

He loves you more than the sun and the stars that he taught how to shine.

He lives in you.

He made you flawless

Lyrics covered the mirror, except for a space in the center where a huge smiley-face was. And of course the top right corner where I had marked my weight: my slow progress toward a better figure.

A better me.

One of my greatest prayers for my children, especially my daughter, is that she will see herself as a beautiful creation of God. Flawless. A beautiful young woman made in His image and created for a unique purpose. I know how much the world and our own minds fights against this concept.

But sometimes, instead of encouraging that attitude, I focus on the opposite. Making myself better. Focusing on the externals. Sometimes, instead of teaching my kids, I need them to teach me. And that is what my daughter did with the song lyrics she wrote on my mirror.

I didn’t reach my weight-loss goal by my birthday. In fact, I gained back a couple of the pounds I thought I had said goodbye to. I look in the mirror, and I don’t see flawless. But if I focus on the words my daughter wrote, my perspective changes. Because I’m no longer looking at me. I’m looking at words that convey a different message. I’m looking at a truth I hope my children will always embrace. A truth they will use to bless others throughout their lives:

He loves you.

He lives in you.

He made you flawless.

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When Is a Mess Not a Mess?

Trio block constructionSunday evening, one week into my 19-unit semester. Four months of classes and assignments, abstracts and annotations, essays and reflections loomed ahead. I wanted to get in bed on time … so I wanted the kids to get in bed on time. I approached the boys’ room to pray with them for the night.

I stopped in the doorway, temporarily blinded by the state of their room.

Books, papers, and writing instruments covered the desk. Trio block creations scattered the floor and Lego creations stood on top of the dresser and every other horizontal surface. During the weeks leading up to the kids’ school and my classes starting again, I had spent more than a couple of hours organizing, cleaning up, and cleaning out that room with the boys … then telling them in no uncertain terms that their room needed to stay clean because the weeks ahead would be too busy to spend much time deep cleaning.

“Boys, this room is a mess,” I stated. They looked at me as though I was speaking another language. “How much time did we spend cleaning this room?” They were silent. “You’re not watching any videos until the room is clean.”

As I tried to go to sleep that night, I thought back on my motherly feathers being so ruffled by the state of their room. And I thought about that. The Trio buildings. The art work and projects. The Lego towers. I realized it was all creative play. Building. Drawing. Even reading. All good things. Creative expressions.

No wonder I felt like I was speaking a different language. In a way, that’s just what I was doing. I said “mess” because I saw a mess. They drew blanks because they saw their creations and ongoing projects. We looked at the same room and came up with very different conclusions because of our very different perspectives.

And then I thought about later. Five years from now. Or ten. I thought about their room, and how I might wish to see my kids’ latest drawing or project or poem or construction. But my kids will no longer be kids. They will have moved on to bigger and grander things.

Their room might be clean then. But the loss would be mine.

How many times do I, as a parent, look in from the outside, or from above, and fail to see the world from my children’s perspective? Through their eyes? Whether it be their room or their homework, an argument between siblings, or an emotional situation they’ re going through.

The next morning, before I even got up, the boys had cleaned their room. (And I thought my words had gone selectively unheard.) I missed the chance to get on their level and ask them what they were working on. Or join them in their creative play. Again, the loss was mine, even though the room was tidy.

No, it’s not my job to clean up after my children. And yes, they do need to develop a sense of responsibility. But perspective makes such a difference. Perspective on messes. On time. On teaching and learning.  As a parent, I am slowly coming to learn that I have more to learn than I ever did. And even that is a matter of perspective. Seeing the learning as a joy, as something to be gained from every person and every situation.

Even from a “messy” room.

Lego creation & stack of books