F-A-T

Fat. The grim reaper of women’s self-esteem has entered my five-year old’s vocabulary and I am livid. Not with her, but with our world. With myself. With you. I want to throw a tantrum. A hair pulling, limbs flailing tantrum at the unfairness of society’s persistent hypersexualized, dysmorphic, skewed glorification of beauty that NO ONE can achieve without starvation, photoshopping, surgery, and insane contouring.

I’m sick of billboards advertising a woman’s way to a cellulite free life.

I’m sick of hearing women praised for waist training. I can’t believe that is even a thing.

I’m sick of seeing magazine covers that “out” celebrities who were “caught” sans makeup and who are then picked apart for being, dare we believe it, human beings.

I’m sick of the accepted objectification of breasts, while breastfeeding mothers are publicly humiliated and shamed.

I’m sick of average size women being referred to as “plus” size, and I’m sick of dehydrated and hungry women being hailed as the ideal of beauty.

And while I believe that most agree that our beauty standards are unhealthy, I am sick and tired of the lack of collective voices demanding that enough is enough. A child shouldn’t worry about her physique and a woman having negative thoughts about her body image shouldn’t be the norm. Men and women, we are diminishing ourselves. We are collectively damaging the mental and physical health of those we love, and we should be outraged.

My first confrontation with the F-A-T word was in the third grade. It’s one of the few memories that I have of this age, and it’s crystal clear. We left our classroom and were walking down the hallway. I remember my little girlfriend casually whispering to me over her shoulder that all women get fat, and that when you become a woman, you have to start sucking in your tummy. This was brand new information to me. “We should start practicing now,” she said, and so we immediately sucked our bellies into our scrawny, nine-year old frames. I remember staring at my concave reflection in the glass trophy case as we filed by, disturbed by my new understanding of womanhood.

And now it’s my daughter’s turn. My beautiful, active, healthy five-year old was told by someone that if you eat too much food, your tummy will be fat. I learned this as we were getting ready for church on Sunday. She was getting out of the bathtub while I was putting on my make up, when she asked me, “Mommy, is my tummy too fat?” I whipped around.  The smile that usually dances in her eyes wasn’t there. The telltale giggle that usually erupts from her lips when she’s telling a “joke” was silent. My girl was serious. I dropped to my knees and we had the first of what I am sure will be endless conversations about being pretty enough, thin enough, good enough. Conversations that will be steered towards being strong enough, healthy enough, curious enough, kind enough, brave enough. I hugged my sweet girl, silently praying that her estimation of her self-worth will be grounded in her faith, rather than raked over the coals by the world’s ridiculously unnatural measures.

After that it seemed that the only sensible thing left to do before getting dressed for church was to stand side by side in front of my mirror, flex our arm muscles, and shout at our reflections, “I am beautiful! I am healthy! I am strong! God made me special!” The beautiful laughter and light that usually exudes from my girl returned, and we promised we would do that every day.

Later that Sunday we meal prepped for the week. By we, I mean I slaved away, while my little person tasted everything in between entertaining me with stories and dance performances. Meal prepping is no joke around here. There may be only two of us, but we eat for 10. We are active, we are hungry, and we are cranky when we’re without food for more than three hours. For dinner this week we prepared a spicy Thai mushroom curry, a cheesy pumpkin pasta, and some whole wheat berry muffins for fun snacks. I just pray that as we continue to build a home centered around nourishing our bodies, minds, and souls, that the destructive outside voices will be quieted enough for my girl to let her inner super woman flourish.

whole-wheat-berry-muffins

I yelled at a stranger’s kid today

It was a normal summer day for us. We ran, we ate, we swam, and we ate some more. Today was a normal summer day, barring one exception, that being the moment when I found myself parenting a stranger’s child.

My daughter has always been fearless in the water. Up until last summer she would enthusiastically shout, “watch me dive” before throwing herself into the pool. I would watch her sink to the bottom for an obligatory thirty seconds, before fishing her triumphant, squirming body out from the shallow depths. Every now and then there would be a fellow momma that would be wading by, chasing after her own mermaid or merman, who would stop just long enough to let me know that my daughter was drowning. Never mind the fact that I was standing over her, arms outstretched, laser eyes focused on my child. I would disguise my annoyance with a laugh and swear to myself that I would never be that woman. I would never assume that I knew better or usurp another momma’s autonomy. But who am I kidding? There are many moments when I become that woman.

There was a boy today at the pool, the same age as my little person. I knew we were in for an interesting afternoon when he kept squirting me directly in the face with his projectile water apparatus. His grandmother was there with him. She was confidently rocking a bikini, and rightly so, and I wanted to hug her in between being soaked by her grandson. Thankfully, he soon set his water torture device down and asked to play with my daughter’s diving rings.

My girl loves to share her diving rings, and often uses them as a way to make friends with other kids at the pool. She is by no means perfect. There are days when sharing means she bosses the other kid around. There are days when she feels jealous of someone who is a stronger swimmer. And there are days when she is sugary, sweet perfection.

They started out playing well together, each taking two rings. Then our new friend decided that he would rather grab the rings that my daughter had just retrieved, than dive for his own. I could tell she was confused when he latched on to the rings in her hand and began tugging at them. Hard. I was sitting in the water a few yards away and started to get up. Then my brain started screaming, “Whoa helicopter mom, sit your butt back down!” So I did. I sat on edge, watching various emotions play across my daughter’s face, and I felt my stomach twist in knots at the life lessons she was potentially learning.

Here was a boy, aggressively tugging my daughter back and forth, attempting to pry her toys from her hands. He was ignoring her words, words that I have taught her to use when people invade her space. I saw her face, her smile that didn’t reach her eyes as it normally does, trying to figure out if this was play or if this was mean. It was only a few seconds, but it felt like a lifetime. A lifetime in which I recalled moments from my childhood of being thrown onto the ground at recess by boys that “liked” me, or so my teacher said. Moments when I was too naïve or too sheltered to realize that a boy who I out “wrestled” was angry, not just because I had won the “game,” but because I didn’t succumb and allow myself to be kissed, as my more experienced friend had. Times when being tossed and dunked in the pool by a boy meant that he wanted to be my boyfriend.

I knew what was coming next and I sprung up. Sure enough, just as I started to move towards them, he reached out and shoved her head under water. Before I realized it, my teacher’s voice was bellowing at him for all to hear, as I crashed through the water. I didn’t care. Grandma was laying out on the other side of the pool, but to her credit she jumped in at the sound of my voice. By the time she reached my side, I had finished lecturing her grandson about shoving people under water and how he needed to ask nicely for toys that he wanted to play with. As she began to rip into him, I turned to my daughter and told her that she should still share with him. At first she protested, but then she handed him two rings and he apologized. I then played pool police for the next thirty minutes, tossing rings for each of them to dive for.

The truth is, he was a sweet kid, and only his parents know whether or not he knew any better. I want my daughter to know better though. I don’t want her to equate hurt with affection.  I knew she was watching me as I chastised this stranger’s child, and I realized that as much as I wanted to whisk her to the other side of the pool, I couldn’t. She won’t always be able to run away from the boy who shoves her on the playground. I have to teach her to stand her ground and set boundaries, without losing the kindness that radiates from her core. So I made an effort in front of my daughter, to play with this kid as long as he followed my boundaries. When he chucked the rings back at my face, I told him he had to hand them to me if he wanted to play, which he did. The afternoon ended peacefully, and we all amicably said goodbye when it was time to go.

I don’t know if they way I reacted was right or wrong. I just pray that as my daughter encounters similar situations, that the sweet kindness of her spirit will not only be unharmed, but that she will also become unafraid to fiercely protect her boundaries.

We made veggie pot pies for dinner and a bell pepper salad with some unique farm-to-table produce that a sweet friend shared with us. Comfort food for a normal, slightly odd kind of summer day.

Good Morning Prayers

Every morning on the way to school, my little love and I say our “good morning” prayer. As we drive, I say a little prayer for a day filled with safety, love, and gratitude. Then my sweet girl says her prayer. This morning she remained quiet after I finished, so I turned up the radio and we drove along peacefully. We were about a minute from her school when she urgently said, “Mommy! I didn’t say my good morning prayer!” She then earnestly prayed for my shin splints, before praying for my sister and her new baby. I noticed that her words were selfless and intentional. I told her that I was so touched by her thoughtfulness. She was quiet for a minute. Then she explained, “I think God told me to pray. He reminded me to pray. Not with words, I can’t hear him. I feel him in my heart.” My eyes were brimming with tears as we pulled up to her school, in awe of the way God moves in our lives. Hand in hand, we walked into the play yard. The hardest part of any day is the moment that I have to let that precious hand go and walk away. Today though, my momma’s heart was full of thankfulness and reassurance that my daughter is not only watched over by loving teachers, but that she is watched over, without fail, by a mighty and loving God.

“Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” Matthew 19:14

Fourteen Miles

Sunday was an overcast and humid day. Looming rain clouds threatened to dump cascades of water on us at any moment. The trail on which we ran was quiet, the water beside us was peaceful. We pointed out turtles to each other and the brilliance of what little sun there was reflecting on the water. We laughed at the angry geese charging down our path and teased each other along the way. We ran by choice, therefore we could relish in nature’s beauty. We ran by choice, therefore we didn’t feel desperate when we grew weary and hungry. Our run, this challenge by choice, would end in celebration. We would have a fun meal with my parents and daughter at a trendy brunch spot. We would be able to soak in a hot bath, ice our aching joints and spread tiger’s balm over our sore muscles. We would fall asleep safely and securely in our homes.

It hurts my heart to imagine how desperate refugee mommas must feel as they endure dangerous and exhausting journeys to safety. Their treks do not end with a family celebration, a delicious meal, and a hot bath. Their children are not waiting for them at the finish line, happy and healthy, cheering them on. I will be forever grateful for the encouragement, prayers, and financial support friends, family and strangers provided for Maria, and for other refugee women and children like her. It was an honor to run for these brave women, for these momma bears, for these heroes.

I at this mustard cauliflower pasta all week long to fuel me for this run. I modified the recipe a bit and loved every bite.

I ate this mustard cauliflower pasta all week long to fuel me for this run. I modified the recipe a bit and loved every bite.

Baked Eggplant with Swiss Chard

Sliced EggplantFear is a funny thing. It can take over our lives and turn us into the worst versions of ourselves. It may cause us to become bystanders, when we should be defenders. It may cause us to be followers, when we should be unpopular leaders. It may cause us to lash out, when we should dig deeper for compassion. Fear is a monster, and one that we all wrestle with.

There is much to fear now, with terrorism destroying lives around the world. It too often feels as if terrorism itself is knocking on our doorstep. Its violence is no longer the “isolated” problem of a few countries that we may or may not have heard of. It is everywhere.

Chopped Swiss ChardThis weekend my friends and our families had the opportunity to attend a prayer service at a church where refugees from Burundi, Sudan and the Congo gather for worship. Their former lives razed by terrorists, America has granted them asylum. They worshipped through beautiful songs and dance, and through prayers of thankfulness for compassion and provision of their needs. They thanked us for praying with them, yet it was us who were blessed by them. My heart is forever touched by the faith and hope they possess, despite having their lives and families brutally destroyed. In the face of hate, they choose love.

Swiss Chard Beans Tomato SauceBodies of the world’s most vulnerable are washing up on the shores of freedom, but fear incites us to call for border closures. Fear begs us to reject those who are escaping rape, kidnappings, bombings, beheadings, torture, and slaughter. When I feel fear creeping into my soul, I try and imagine myself in their place, my world turned upside down by savage violence, helpless to save my daughter and loved ones from the most brutal of circumstances. I imagine myself clinging to my child, starving and gutted, desperately knocking on doors that could provide relief and basic safety, only to find that no one will answer because they are afraid.

Baked Eggplant Little Foodie SliceWhen we succumb to hate driven fear, when fear of self preservation stifles sympathy, when we harden our hearts towards suffering, fearing it is the only way to protect our families, we lose a little bit of our humanity. We re-write the DNA of the world we will leave behind for our children. To love and hope in spite of fear is a choice. To have compassion in spite of fear is a choice. I pray to raise a daughter within whom fear will bring her to her knees in prayer, because her soul will be Baked Eggplant Fiesta Waregrounded in the conviction that she was created not to fear, but to hope. If fear wins our hearts and our homes, then terrorism wins, despite how fiercely we tighten our borders, despite how many weak, beaten, and weary we turn away.

I pray that God’s word will be imprinted on my little one’s heart, so that when the time comes for her to understand the suffering of others, either from afar or in her own community, she will respond with compassion. I pray that as her mother, I will be an example of reaching out my hand to others in love, despite my own fears.

Baked Eggplant with Swiss ChardMy heart was heavy as I prepared dinner. We were trying a new baked eggplant recipe with swiss chard and white beans. Perhaps because I was distracted while I was cooking, talking with my little foodie about our new friends from Africa, and catching up with family over the phone, I forgot to add most of the tomato sauce and used twice as much mozzarella as it called for. It didn’t matter though, because we had full bellies, a safe home, and our family nearby. We have blessings beyond measure, and I pray that we may be blessings to others.

 

 

 

Family Dedication

Clay Shapes LoveOver the past month, I’ve realized that my identity is not defined by the term “single mother.” I know that as far as labels go, that’s what I am, but it’s not WHO I am. I’m just a mother, like any other. Although I was still married for the first two years of my little love’s life, I was parenting alone. I’m grateful for that now; that I had to learn how to be a single mother from my daughter’s birth, not halfway through her childhood. I think it must be a lot like having twins, before you have any other children. It’s the only way you know how to parent, and even though it’s difficult and challenging, you don’t know any other way.

I recently went through a family legacy class at my church, in order to prepare to have my little person dedicated. During this time, we worked to be intentional in our parenting, and intentional in setting goals and a direction for our family. It was through this class that I had to face myself as a mother, in the here and now, and own my family.

If Then Chalboard ChartBefore the first meeting of our class, I nearly had a heart attack. I was overwhelmed with mixed emotions of joy and anxiety. On the one hand, my prayers had been answered, as we finally seemed to be finding a place within our church family, while on the other hand, the anxiety of being the only person in the class without a “dad” next to us almost convinced me to back out.

Family CovenantI don’t have these insecurities very often, but when I do, they can be crippling. The truth is, I love our life. We have been so blessed by the love of friends and family, both within and outside of church. God has blessed us with a fullness in our lives, preventing any void from ever being created. Our family and friends have provided the support and care that a partner or father would, without ever having to be asked. When God gave me the greatest gift of my life, my daughter, he also raised us up a village of the most wonderful people.

Towards the end of our class, as we were preparing to write our family covenants, it hit me like a ton of bricks. My sweet girl and I are a family, right now. We are not two people waiting for our forever family of the future; we are already there, a perfect little family of two.


Texas Bluebonnet

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for my family. Thank you that you are a God who safeguards and protects family values. I am so humbled by the love and support that you have filled our lives with. Thank you for blessing us as a family. I pray that my sweet girl will forever be surrounded by loving family and friends, and that you will guard and protect her every step. I praise you, that you have created us for nothing less than good.  Amen.