At the intersection of life and love…

My son saved a man’s life yesterday.  He arrived home shaken, yet all in one piece, and made his momma cry and then tearfully thank God with the story he told.

As he came home from his often-frustrating job yesterday dressed in his clothes that are so filthy that he may look less than the brilliant man that he is, he told me about how he had approached a four-way stop less than three miles away from home, and saw an elderly man riding a bike approach the same intersection.  The man had waited, in his blue poncho in the rain, for his turn to cross and began pedaling.  About halfway across the busy road, his feet slipped off the pedals and he struggled.  At the same moment, Justin noticed a car approaching from his right whose driver clearly had no intentions of stopping at the sign.  
In milliseconds, my son realized that he was about to witness the death of a man that had reminded him of his well-loved great-grandfather.

This is the moment when you realize, as a mother, that your child has his own path and that path will happen regardless of how much you like it or not.

Because my son drove his big, blue pickup into the intersection in such a way that he would effectively block the road and stop her car before it hit the man.
And he did.
And the woman slammed on her brakes so hard the the cell phone she was using (ahem) flew into the windshield, and she stopped within inches of Justin’s door.  The old man on one side, breathing hard and eyes wide, the woman in her little car on the other, breathing hard and eyes wide.  
“Are you okay?” he asked the old man on his left.
“Yes,” he replied.
“Are you okay?” he asked the woman on his right.
“Yes,” she humbly replied.
And he drove home.

In a world where life is so fragile and not one moment can be taken for granted, I feel frustrated.
Because, you see, my son (one hero on my short list) works at a job, as we all have at some point in our lives, where he is treated as less than he is.  
He will not complain and would be mad at me for even writing these words.  Good thing it’s our little secret, right? 
Whether it’s by people who think they’ve arrived in life and this somehow qualifies them to belittle the lowly employee who services them or a boss who just doesn’t care about his employees as people, we’ve all been treated as less than we are.
We get grouped into levels of worth based on one word.

This one, seemingly innocent word makes me want to grab my family and run for the hills.

Label:  a short word or phrase descriptive of a person, group, intellectual movement, etc.

Seriously, if we, as a culture, were incapable of labeling anything or anyone the world would change. But, as it stands, we group together in classifications and we exclude, and brand people, and judge people, and jump to conclusions about people.  And isn’t it ridiculous?

As if I’m less because of the label or lack of one on, say, my purse.

I unwittingly participated in my own social experiment the other day.  I had dropped three of my people off at a huge venue to watch a Coldplay concert in another city than my own.  It takes about three hours to arrive at a city that Coldplay would be playing to more than just cows and squirrels and the like, so off we went.  
Happy girls, happy momma as I found a nearby shopping complex in which to while away my few hours to myself where I could do whatever it was I felt like doing.

What I felt like doing was changing my clothes.  You see, I am a horribly messy eater and really should factor this into my packing because inevitably I wear lunch.  Today, my comfiest grey skirt looked like it had been comfy for too many days and too many meals as my chicken piccata from lunch had left its mark.  
So sad. Must buy some jeans.  
My iPhone found me this lovely little outdoor mall.  Little did I know that folks with a splotch on their skirt do not shop here.  Especially folks with a splotch on their skirt and no label on their purse.  
And folks who work here must’ve been told not to help people who eat and wear chicken piccata.  Sigh…  I must’ve missed that on the sign when I arrived. 

So, I got myself some clean clothes and some cute (clearance) shoes and changed my look.  I went from comfy and ignored to jeans and heels, and all of a sudden I began to be treated differently.  “Yes, ma’am.  How can I help you, ma’am?”


Can’t tell you how many times in life I’ve been in a social group in which I am classified as the outsider.  Can’t tell you how that feeling frustrates me.  As if our worth is determined by our shoes, or the condition of our yard, or size of our diamond, or hairstyle, or career choice, or age, or gender, or which church we attend–or don’t. The list is endless–political views, car you drive, how many letters follow your name–or don’t.

I’m weary of feeling judged for being myself.
And I’m even more weary of the judgment flung at my children for choosing to be exactly who they were raised to be–individuals!  
But not weary enough to conform.

Being different makes you stronger, but it also opens mouths around you.

I guess people just want to relate.  We group up with folks of a like-mind.  It feels good to have somebody get you, doesn’t it? So I suppose that’s how these little subcultures form.  This is what we think and we call it…”____”.  And now were not sure what to do with you if you don’t think like us.

I’m guilty.  We all are to whatever degree we allow ourselves.  Us and them.  It’s running rampant.  
But, it needs to be evaluated.
Having done some traveling and listening to folks who’ve traveled more than I,  I’ve learned something priceless.  No matter how far away we are from home, people are people and if you peeled the skin off like a banana (like a friend of mine used to say) we are all pretty much the same.  

We all long to be loved and to be seen and to matter.  
That’s it.  It’s the holy grail.  

And it’s our job to care less about the labels we apply than the people unconsciously wearing them.  
So do it.  Listen for it in your words today.  Find the labels you apply to folks and rip those suckers off–fast like a band-aid.  Stop the cycles we’ve begun for our children.   Reach out past your comfort level and make someone feel like they matter.  Put yourself right there in the intersection and brace yourself.  It may just save a life.


The shape I’m in

Image–1. a mental picture or impression of something
2. An exact likeness

Recently, I spent some time in a dressing room.

If you are of the female persuasion you know how devastating this can be.  I firmly believe that the most disheartening experience a woman over about age 13 can face is the set of mirrors that encloses you on three sides and shows you glimpses and views of yourself you haven’t seen in quite some time. And come to find out, you didn’t want to see at all.
I’m convinced that the first retailer who has the brilliant idea to utilize softer lighting and flattering mirrors in a dressing room will sell more clothes than every other store put together.  As I see it, the ugliest, brightest lights that show every lump and bump are the ones currently being used.  And I swear those mirrors are shipped in from some sadistic funhouse.
You know I’m telling the truth, ladies.

This visit, oh so thankfully, was not the dreaded bathing suit or bra shopping.   I’d rather eat my feet.
And at the risk of sounding like I’m bragging, I will tell you that my husband took me shopping and helped me choose clothes for this fall and winter, and we had a great time.  He sat on the chair outside the dressing room with his cup of coffee and acted like he was on Say Yes to the Dress or something.  He also made friends with the salesgirls and all the female customers around.  That’s my guy.  He’s so much fun.
But, despite the best possible shopping experience, I left feeling disheartened and discouraged. I’m sure getting pressured into trying on those skinny jeans was my downfall.

To sum it up, I reaaallly struggled with the image in the mirror.

It just wasn’t what I had hoped it was.  I wish I was over this stage in my life where it matters.  Apparently, I’m not.

The store that is my favorite has salesgirls that helped me pick things out and give me advice.  It’s really the only way I know how to to shop any more.  I don’t know what section to shop in in any department stores.  Maybe it’s because I’m in denial about my age.  Maybe it’s because I hate being piegeon-holed into a category.  Who really is a Missy or a Junior?  And what comes after that?

In my head I’m still about 22.  Not a forty year old woman.  Big, HUGE sigh………

No matter our size or shape, I firmly believe every person struggles with body image at some point or another, and some of us struggle a bit longer in life than others.

Obviously, everyone at some point has made a conscious effort to create the image of themselves that they want to portray to the world. Much as a sculptor forms an image from raw material into art.
It begins around adolescence, (when we realize that our mothers actually had a good idea when they made us brush our teeth and do our hair), and hopefully it changes and morphs until eventually one presents him/herself to the world the way they want to look.
We start with a costume of sorts to fit into whatever crowd we associate ourselves with (depending on how hard we are trying to not look like our parents), and then, somehow, we spend the rest of our lives trying to look like whatever unrealistic, airbrushed picture society tells us to emulate.

What bothers me is that we have this picture in our mind of how we should look, and then we base our success or failure on that image in our mind.
What also bothers me is how much we are compelled to dwell on our outside sculpture and how much less we are compelled to shape our inside.

Really, what shows more?

At the end of the day, aren’t you more moved by the encounters you’ve had with people than the way they presented themselves.  What did you notice?  How they behaved, or what they were wearing?

Today, I was blessed to run into a man at the grocery store that I met only a few times, but he hugely impacted my life.  He was used by God to speak life into my world at an age when I had NOTHING going for me.  I happen to know he has impacted literally thousands of people in the same way, yet all these years later he knew my face.  Our spirits had connected once upon a time and again today.  I wept in the baking aisle as I thanked him for making room in his world for me.

I have no idea what he was wearing or if he had gained any weight over the years.           Wouldn’t that have been ridiculous to notice?

When I looked in his eyes, I saw the image of my God reflected.
“God created man in His own image.” Genesis 1:27

Typically, when I step out for the day, I have spent nearly an hour preparing my outside to look as good as it’s going to look.
But, how have I prepared my heart, my mind, my spirit for any encounters God has planned for me?  What do people remember from a moment with me?

I’m facing the fact that I’ll probably never find perfection in a three-way mirror.  But, I have the opportunity to look into the eyes of several people in any given day and reflect a different image of One Who I’ve allowed to shape me.  Hopefully, its an image that looks a lot like pure love.

Because He is the three-way reflection of me that tells me who I really am.

The voice of my Sculptor Who loves me is the One I want to hear.  Not the one in my head that usually spews lies.

The following is a love letter that gently screams truth.  This is going to be printed tonight and put on my bathroom mirror and that of my girls.

This is the voice I choose to hear…

“My dearly loved daughter, I love you with an everlasting love, a lavish love. You are my princess, the apple of My eye. I gather you in My arms and carry you close to my heart. I rejoice over you with singing.
Carefully and skillfully, I knit you together in your mother’s womb. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Every hair on your head is numbered. Every smile catches My eye. I think of you constantly. Were I to count the number of times each day I think of you they would outnumber the grains of sand on the seashore. I know you completely. I know when you sit, and when you rise. I know your thoughts before you think them; I know the words you say before you speak them.
Daughter, let me have all your worries and all your cares for I know all that concerns you. I know the thoughts and plans I have for you; plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future. Open wide your heart and I will fill you with My holy love.
My love will satisfy you. My love will fill your deepest longings. Keep your heart bound up in Mine, for with Me you can do all that I have called you to do. My love for you is higher, deeper, wider than you can possibly imagine. I’d do anything for you–I gave My Son’s very life for you.

I love you, precious one.
Your Daddy

And if that doesn’t convince you, take a few minutes and listen to this amazing song from Cody Carnes. It changed my world.

Love letter borrowed from Lorraine Pintus–author of Jump off the Hormone Swing