A Dream Deferred: A Reflection and a Resolution

No, this was not the summer we envisioned.

God is in control, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t disappointed, sad, frustrated.

Proud of my girl’s response (her blog post below) and thankful the outpouring of support by friends and pianists near and far.

A Dream Deferred: A Reflection and a Resolution.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”  – Psalm 34:18

Countdown to Summer…

Ah… April in Arizona.  The time when “spring” temps start to creep into the upper 90s and kids begin their countdown to freedom.  As of today, we have only four weeks left of school.  Four weeks full of tests and projects and papers and assemblies and concerts and fieldtrips and… how in the world will we survive it all?  Something is sure to slip through the cracks.  At least, if you are at all like me it will.

Last week (in my excitement over surviving another tax season – Boo-ya!), I forgot kid #2 at school.  Not forgot a little, forgot a LOT. Forty-five minutes after school got out I looked around and realized “something” was missing… apparently it was my brain.  Sent the DH out to get him and found that he was nearly home, drenched in sweat, and slightly sunburnt.  (I did point out that if he had remembered his cell phone, he could have called to remind me that he needed a ride that day… so maybe technically it was HIS fault I forgot.  He didn’t buy it, but you can’t fault me for trying.)

Later, same kid reminds me that he needs materials for a big science project they were starting in class in the morning.  “Tomorrow?  And you’re telling me this at 8:00?!”   Yeah… he had given me the supply list two weeks earlier and I had promised to get right on it.  Strike 2.  Good thing Target is open late.

These things never would have happened in September. September Mom would have been early; April Mom is much less responsible.  I will admit, it’s good to know that at least I’m not alone.  Enjoy this hilarious blog post from last year and hang in there, moms; it’s almost summer!

http://jenhatmaker.com/blog/2013/05/30/worst-end-of-school-year-mom-ever

A Dash of Color

What color are YOU reading?

A Bookish Charm

When we think about books, especially about what type of books we prefer, we tend to categorize them into genres, time periods, literary movements, etc. Today, during a visit to the library, my school librarian commented that The Maze Runner and Divergent are silver. This seemed a completely logical statement to me and I added that I needed a silver book as ebony (such as the works of Charles Dickens) was too deep a tinge for the moment. Then, I realized: books truly can be described simply through colors (and the occasional pattern.) This sounds whimsical, but to any serious reader, whimsy and sense are actually quite similar.

Anyway, my thoughts took the loveliest turn this evening as I considered which of my favorite books are best represented by which colors and I came to some entertaining conclusions. For example:

Anne of Green Gables– a pale, minty green speckled with purplish…

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The Trophy Generation

The year was 2002. A tall blonde girl with colorful ribbons tied in her hair that matched her jersey stepped onto the basketball court for what would be her first and last season. She “played” in every game, yet never scored a point. In fact, she only attempted two shots and rarely even touched the ball since she would duck and scream every time a teammate made the unfortunate choice to pass it her direction.

“Shoot it! Shoot it!” We screamed idealistically. Game after game. Alas, it was not to be.

If you are expecting a great comeback story or a tale about the triumph of the human spirit, you’ll need to look elsewhere. The truth is, this kid just wasn’t good at basketball and she couldn’t have cared less.

League rules required that each player participate for a minimum amount of minutes per game, so she was guaranteed time on the court. League rules also guaranteed a trophy at season’s end – win or lose – for every player. So the girl proudly stepped forward, posed for the team photo, and accepted her prize.

ball

For what? Attendance? Heavens, give me the trophy. I’m the one who drove her to practices. I’m the one who sat through loss after loss with the forced smile and the “you’ll get ’em next time” attitude. I’m the one who organized the team snack schedule. I’m the one who avoided making eye contact with the parents of kids who actually knew how to catch and throw…Where’s my trophy?!

We’ve all heard the saying “If everybody’s special, then nobody is.”   Well, that’s only partly right; no, everybody can’t be special at EVERYTHING, but everybody can be special at SOMETHING. The key is to find out what that something is. And not all somethings give trophies, but that’s okay.

You see, the ribboned girl who was miserably bad at basketball would have much rather have been home playing piano or reading a book. So, not surprisingly, those are the areas in which she has excelled.  She’s earned numerous awards for music, writing, and academics. But you know what? She tends to question their significance. “Well, there were only ten other entries.” “I don’t think they must have been scoring very hard.” “I’m not really sure I deserved this.”

What have we done? Perhaps the “prizes for all” approach has more damaging effects than we imagined.   Perhaps giving trophies for everything affects our perception of accolades for anything. Maybe those early “wins” designed to spare littles’ feelings have resulted in making them feel that there really aren’t honors to be earned, but rather that every certificate, ribbon, and medal lacks true significance because so many are simply tokens of participation.  Not only are legitimate prizes devalued, but often the work needed to achieve an actual goal is undermined.

I get it. We don’t want six-year-olds to cry. But perhaps we should worry less about hurting their feelings and more about preparing them for life. In the real world you don’t get a trophy for showing up. In grown-up land, you are expected to show up and accomplish things.  In fact, you are PENALIZED for not doing so. Better to learn this lesson early.

I fear that society is already reaping the rewards of the “trophy for participation” generation.

I work with young adults who want to enter the teaching profession. To be fair, some of the twenty-somethings I work with are really, really impressive. For example, I supervised a young man last year who was bright, articulate, responsible, wise … oh, yeah, all while battling leukemia. He never made excuses. He never missed a deadline. He was never anything other than mature and competent.

Give that kid a trophy.

Actually, he doesn’t need one. He’s got something better going for him. He’s earning a living and establishing his professional reputation. How? By being really good at what he does every day. By showing up when others don’t, but not expecting any special recognition for doing what people have been expected to do for generations – their jobs.

Sadly, this young man seems to be a rarity among his peers. It has been my experience that many twenty-somethings expect to be given an “A” for effort… and sometimes not even that. They don’t seem to realize that when they don’t show up, complete the work, meet the deadline, or work well with others, it reflects badly on them and affects other people. They expect to be told “great job” regardless of how many mistakes they make. They want a pat on the back for doing the bare minimum academically or professionally and sometimes even CRY when their errors are pointed out. Seriously.

They seem to believe that “really wanting something” is the same as “really earning something.” It’s not.

We would do well to teach this generation about working hard and that includes expecting failure from time to time and growing from those experiences. And maybe we should think twice about just giving them all trophies so that they will know what it feels like to actually earn something of worth… so that when they do, it will actually have value and mean something rather than just being another mass-produced token of nothingness.

As the old Smith Barney ad used to say, “We make money the old-fashioned way. We EARN it.” Hmmm…maybe they had something there. We can’t afford another entitlement generation. Something’s got to change.

Oh, and don’t be surprised if you see a teacher-of-the-year named “Jake” in a few years. Because there are still good reasons for trophies. I’m okay with that.

Golden

I’ve enjoyed watching the competitions in the 2014 Olympic games, but the back stories are often more interesting than what happens on the ice or the slopes.

Scott Hamilton’s glory days may be behind him, but he’s certainly a great example of a true winner… and one who happily and humbly takes second place.

Do you want to be a model? Well, now you can be…

This short video demonstrates how easily images that show “ideal women” can be manipulated… and how easily we can be manipulated as a result.

 

The women’s responses were fascinating:

“Once someone else has done your makeup and someone else has done your hair and someone has directed the way your body looks and taken away your imperfections, then there’s not much left of who you really are.”

“It’s natural to be critical of yourself… but you have to know that the ideal just doesn’t exist.”

What a powerful reminder.   For true beauty, no photoshop is required.

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

Image Conscious (part 4)

fruittreeDiscontentment is nothing new.  In fact, it’s the oldest trick in the Book.

We all have a tendency to focus not on what we have, but rather that which we have not been given.  It’s been this way from “The Beginning.”

“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of  good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that  you eat of it you shall surely die.’” – Genesis 2:16-17

But then… the distortion began, the questioning, the tempting.  “Did God REALLY say…?” 

And suddenly Eve, no longer content with the perfection God had provided, was enticed by the allure of the one thing that He had withheld.  Satan twisted God’s words, challenged His goodness, undermined His instructions.  And Eve bit.

“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.”  – Genesis 3:6

She had everything, but risked it all by following an empty promise that she could have more.  In doing so, she traded life for death, perfection for a curse, Truth for a lie.

“The Enemy succeeded in getting the woman to value physical appearance more highly than less visible qualities, such as trust and obedience.  The problem wasn’t that the fruit was “beautiful” – God had made it that way.  Nor was it wrong for Eve to enjoy and appreciate the beauty of God’s creation.  The problem was that Eve placed undue emphasis on external appearance.  In doing so, she believed and acted on a lie.”  – Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Lies Women Believe and the Truth that Sets Them Free

Let’s be honest, is your heart any different?  What lies have you believed?

  • I will never be beautiful because I am not perfect.
  • My value is defined by a clothing size or a number on the scale.
  • My appearance tells others who I am.
  • What I have/what I look like matters most.
  • The way I look is a mistake.
  • In order to be acceptable, I have to look like everyone else.
  • I am unworthy if I don’t fit the world’s current definition of beauty.
  • If only I were/had ____________, then I would be happy.

Yes, our struggles are more than skin deep: they reveal our idolatrous hearts.  Like Eve, we can be easily enticed by the allure of what we don’t yet have, believing that true happiness depends on gaining just one thing more.  And, like Eve, we have been deceived.

So, what’s the answer?  Take a good, long look in the Mirror.mirror

For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” – James 1:23-25

Focusing on the Truth of God’s Word will help you to remember who you are and WHOSE you are.

  • Never forget that you are God’s wonderful creation!  (Genesis 1:27, Ephesians 2:10)

God knows you, loves you, and purposely created you exactly the way you are – and He doesn’t make mistakes!

“For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.” –
Psalm 139:13-16

“But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’”  –Romans 9:20

  • Change your beauty focus.

Focus on developing heart traits, such as modesty, self-control, a gentle and quiet spirit, rather than putting an emphasis on externals.  (1 Timothy 2:9-10, 1 Peter 3:3-4, 1 Samuel 16:7)

“Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”
– Proverbs 31:30

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” – 1 John  2:15-17

  • When tempted toward discontentment, renew your mind.

If your thoughts are constantly focused on the world’s values, your mind and heart will easily be influenced.   Your true value comes from God!  If you look to anything else in this world for your worth, you will tend to find yourself discouraged and focused on all the ways you don’t measure up.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  Romans 12:1-2

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” – Philippians 4:8-9

  • Speak truthfully.

Your words can build up or tear down both yourself and others.  Be careful what you say – you might convince yourself of lies!

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”  – Proverbs 18:21

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” – Ephesians 4:29

“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.” – Proverbs 12:25

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” – Psalm 19:14

  • Trust God with all of your circumstances

Don’t wait for “perceived perfection;” rest in the knowledge that God is in control of every aspect of your life!

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” – Isaiah 26:3

  • Remember that Christ redeemed you at a great price.

If you are a follower of  Jesus Christ and know Him as your Lord and Savior, you are His chosen bride, covered in His perfect beauty!  When you allow yourself to become dissatisfied, you are focusing on yourself rather than His righteousness.  It’s really not about YOU!

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20

“Do you not know that youare God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” – 1 Corinthians 3:16-17

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,  for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Where is your focus?  Is it on your image or His?

We have many voices vying for our attention, but focusing on the wrong ones can fill us with dissatisfaction in the riches we have been given and distract us from the promise of paradise yet to come.  I pray that we will encourage each other to keep our eyes on what really matters and not on the temporary, superficial issues of today.

“…we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” – 2 Corinthians 4:18

Image Conscious (part 3)

We don’t have to very look far to find a focus on appearance.
In fact, we don’t have to go looking at all; the messages are hard to avoid.

The headlines at the grocery check-out and on our computer screens scream: “Lose 10 Pounds in Two Weeks” and “A Sexier You in the New Year!”

Take a look at a graphic that accompanied an article on the MSN homepage about top diets:

bestdietspic

So what’s the problem?  Look again.

If the tape measure is accurate, this woman would have approximately a 20 inch waist – 3-4 inches smaller than the standard waist measurement for a size 0.  Hardly an attainable, or even desirable, goal for most women.

Yet it sends a subtle message that says, “This is the standard and you don’t measure up.”

The impact of such influences on body image can start early…and can last a lifetime.

female-body-issues“Body image is the subjective sense we have of our appearance and our body. Unlike what others see when they look at us, our body image is often different from the objective size and shape of our body… Women in the general population report more negative attitudes about their physical appearance than do men.  Sadly, negative body image often begins when girls are young and extends far into adulthood.  For some women it lasts their entire lives. (National Centre for Eating Disorders)

There are many factors that influence body image including socio-cultural influences/media, family and friends, and personal choices.  Before we discuss how to combat body image issues and address the real underlying problem, it is important to identify influences that can distort our thinking in this area.

The Influence of Culture

In previous posts, I referenced statistics regarding the impact media can have body image; these influences are not limited to print and film sources.

You have probably heard the statistics about Barbie – that if she were human, her measurements would be approximately 38-18-34. Whether or not playing with disproportionate dolls has any lasting negative influence on girls is debatable, but the impact from seemingly innocent sources can be overtly influential even from very young ages.

barbiescaleFor example, in 1965, Mattel came out with a “Slumber Party Barbie” that came complete with a bathroom scale permanently set at 110 pounds.th[5]

The doll also came with a book entitled “How to Lose Weight” and inside  this book it gave the advice: “Don’t eat.”  A harmless toy? Perhaps, but the intended message seems clear.

Interestingly, the matching Ken doll also came with slumber party accessories, but his were milk and cookies sending a very different message.

Statistics have shown that social media can have an influence on body image as well.  Teens were united in voicing concern that utilizing social media such as Facebook and Instagram reinforced cultural norms of beauty and objectified females.  A 2012 survey found that 41 percent of 18 to 24-year-old women retouch their own photos before posting them to social media sites.  With the widespread personal use of Photoshop and image-editing, young women may find themselves “competing” with unrealistic images of their peers online.

This powerful video from Spain clearly illustrates how the images we view may have been manipulated. No translation necessary to understand the message.

Watch: “Photoshop in Real Time”

It is important that we remember that media images and messages are deliberately constructed and are NOT reflections of reality.  Advertisements and other media have been carefully crafted with an intent to send a very specific message and/or to convince you to buy or support a specific product or service.  We must be aware that the world is trying to impact us at every turn!

The Influence of Family

  • According to research by two Texas A&M professors: “media influences on behavior and self-perception often over-emphasize the media’s influence. While the media may play a role in how we react to the world around us, peers and family have a more immediate influence on our everyday lives.”
  • According to a survey conducted by the Girl Scout Research Institute: 5 in 10 girls believe their family influences the way they feel about their bodies. In fact, family was found to be more influential than the media. Only 1 in 3 believed that media influenced their body image.

So what does that mean?  Simply put, the family plays a major role in the development of perceptions in this area.  Parents and siblings have an influence – positively or negatively – by action or inaction.  Parents, we must be careful to set a good example in this area and to be careful with our words.  Do your words help build your children’s character or are you harming them?

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” – Ephesians 4:29

Moms, I want to address you specifically here:  What messages are you sending?  Where is your focus?  Do you complain about your looks?  Do you place too much attention on clothes, make-up, weight, hair?  What are you conveying to your family?  Are you more concerned with outward appearance than inward character?  The inclination of your heart in this area will have a major influence on your children.  If you struggle, you must work to resolve that and be careful not to pass the same wrong focus on to your children.

Dads, I don’t want to minimize your role because it is significant.  You may not personally feel the weight of this issue as intensely as women do, but you need to be aware of it and recognize that your influence and affirmation can do much to combat it.  Your daughters (and wives) are vulnerable to harmful messages.  Purpose yourself to speak truth into their lives be an encouragement to them daily.  They have many conflicting voices vying for their attention; make sure your voice is heard above the din that can so easily lead them astray.

The Influence of Friends

  • Although the media has commonly been targeted for its role in promoting body image issues among adolescent girls, research suggests that another factor may be more influential in the development of poor physical self-image: A girl’s group of friends
  • A study showed that members of friendship cliques do share body image attitudes.  Perceptions of friends’ behavior and comparison with friends were important predictors of body dissatisfaction and dieting. 

Yes, one’s peer group has an influence and this is not limited to teenagers!  Do you spend time with others who are very image-conscious?  That will likely have an impact on you unless you are very aware and deliberately focused on keeping your priorities straight.  Obviously, children and teens are especially susceptible to the influences of their friends. It is essential that parents know who their children’s friends are and help to guide them toward relationships that will be beneficial and not harmful.

“Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals.”  – 1 Corinthians 15:33

“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”    – Proverbs 13:20

Personal Choices

While outside factors can certainly have an influence, ultimately body image issues start within our own hearts when we have the wrong focus and believe in lies.

“Women strive to shape their lives after that which popular culture tells them is beautiful, and Christian women are no exception.  When we are preoccupied with physical attractiveness, we assert that the world’s standards of beauty matter more than God’s and we begin to reflect the values of a world that Jesus said we are not a part of even though we remain in it.” Regina Franklin, Who Calls Me Beautiful?

fruittree

Being dissatisfied with our bodies is really not a physical issue; it shows discontentment in our hearts.

It implies a mistrust in God’s provision and calls into question the wisdom of the Creator.

But this is nothing new; it is a struggle that began long ago… 

(Continued…)

 

Image Conscious (part 2)

As I was working on part 2 of this series, a headline caught my eye:

“‘Biggest Loser’ finale: Is the winner too thin?”

According to the article, “this season’s winner, Rachel, 23, went from 260 pounds to 105 pounds, losing 60 percent of her body weight.” (Ending up at an underweight BMI of 18.)
Full story here: Winner too thin?

While this article questioned whether her weight-loss on the popular t.v. show had gone too far, in a post-win interview on the Today show her appearance was praised by the hosts who exclaimed, “Congratulations. you look amazing!” and “You look fabulous!”

Watch: Biggest Loser Winner on Today Show

While medical experts would argue that this young woman has potentially traded one set of health concerns for another by allowing her weight to drop to an unhealthy low, she simultaneously received praise for her new look.  So, which voices should she listen to?

More importantly, which voices do YOU listen to?

The statistics are sobering.  Did you know…?

  • 24% of women would sacrifice 3 years of their life to be thin.
  • 80% of American women are dissatisfied with their appearance and more than 90% of 15-17 year old girls want to change at least one aspect of their physical appearance. 
  • More than 30 percent of women surveyed agreed they would consider cosmetic surgery in the future.
  • Nearly 11.7 million cosmetic surgical and nonsurgical procedures were performed in the United States in 2007.  The overall number of cosmetic procedures has increased 457 percent since 1997. Women had 91 percent of cosmetic procedures.
  • The average American woman is 5’4″ tall and weighs 140 pounds, while the average American model is 5’11” tall and weighs 117 pounds.  Most American models are thinner than 98% of American women. The average size of the idealized woman (as portrayed by models), has stabilized at 13-19% below healthy weight.
  • More than 50% of 10 year old girls wish they were thinner.
  • More than half of teenage girls are, or think they should be, on diets.  They want to lose some or all of the 40 pounds that females naturally gain between the ages of 8 and 14.  A disturbed body image is a significant component of eating disorders and plays an important role in the development and continuation of eating disorders
  • Without treatment, up to 20% of people with serious eating disorders die.  With treatment, that number falls to 2-3%.

“Ideals” are ever-changing, but our focus on appearance is nothing new. 

Whether it was squeezing into the internal organ-crushing corsets of the 19th century,

Corset          woman in corset           corset xray

or trying to achieve the boyish, flat-chested flapper look of the 1920’s,

1927flappers

we have a long history of measuring ourselves against a societal view of “beauty” – often at great costs.

We live in a world where physical “perfection” is emphasized…

Where we are subtly coerced into believing that we are not good enough.

We are bombarded by images and information

all competing for our attention

and telling us the age-old lie that we can be happy

         if ONLY…

(To be continued…)