I Love My Body

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”       (Psalm 139:14)

 

I love my eyes.  They see the beauty of the natural world around me and guide my path every day.

I love my nose.  It smells delightful aromas such as flowers, freshly baked bread, and wet grass after a rain shower.

I love my mouth.  It has been perfectly designed to enjoy food that sustains, comforts, excites and delights me.

I love my skin.  It protects me from the elements and holds me together.

I love my voice.  It is the perfect instrument to speak love, truth, encouragement, wisdom, and humor.

I love my breasts.  Though mine have never nursed a baby, I know there are countless women who have been granted this miraculous gift.

I love my heart.  It beats daily to worship my Creator, share His gospel, love my friends and family, and it compels me to feel compassion.

I love my hands.  They were skillfully crafted to allow me to write, create, greet, fix, play, doodle, and speak without words.

I love my stomach.  It proves to me that I am well nourished.

I love my arms.  They have the ability to support the weak, hold the devastated, motivate the lazy, and push open doors of opportunity.

I love my legs.  They carry me faithfully to any destination I choose.

I love my feet.  They direct me away from unhealthy situations or guide me to help others in need.

My body is perfect.

The Paper Girl

The paper girl came into being on the day that Judy Lancaster, age five, drew her on a paper napkin at McDonald’s on a cold November evening.  She had no name.  She had no distinct features, other than two arms, two legs, a very large head, two long strands of hair, and a smile.

The paper girl appeared everywhere Judy went.  To restaurants, theme parks, play dates, or simply in the quiet of Judy’s bedroom.  Everywhere Judy went, the paper girl would be created and carted around with her creator.

There were times that the paper girl couldn’t see very well because Judy forgot an eye or she became too frisky with the crayon and her hair would cover her eyes.  But paper girl didn’t mind.  She liked seeing the world of Judy as simple or grand as Judy’s imagination would permit.  Judy would do a quick sketch, hold up paper girl, and tell her all about the magical land she was visiting.  Some days it would be a fantastic forest with giant trees, colorful flowers, and green green grass.  Other days, the villainess Weather would hunt her down as raindrops pelted into paper girl and washed her away.  She never liked Weather very much.

Mostly, paper girl loved how, as Judy would draw, she would speak to paper girl, as if they were the best of friends.  Judy always drew paper girl’s head first so she had opportunities to see Judy as she worked.  Some days, she would laugh and draw.  Other days, she would be focused.  Paper girl knew when Judy was focused because she would furrow her brows and stick her tongue out the side of her mouth.  It was in those moments that paper girl had all the time in the world to study her maker.

She loved her.  She loved that Judy took the time out of her day, several times a week, to create her.  She loved that Judy told her stories and occasionally drew special magical lands for her to spend time in.  But mostly she loved the way Judy talked to her, as if she were the most important thing in the world.

One day, Judy did the most amazing thing.  She gave paper girl a name.  Peggy.  Paper girl could not believe her great fortune!  Judy had drawn a picture of herself and paper girl in the same picture and as she finished coloring in the picture, she carefully printed her name above her own image and “Peggy” above paper girl’s.  She held the drawing up, smiling big, and said, “Peggy.  You are my best friend.”

Peggy (no longer paper girl) had such great love for Judy in that moment.  She had given her a name!  Her own name!  Normally, Judy would give her pictures to Mrs. Lancaster, who would smile and say, “That’s lovely, Judy.  Do you think she (for Peggy had no name yet) would like a spot on the fridge?”

Judy would giggle and say, “Yes, mama!”

So the old picture of Peggy would come down and the new one would go up.  As Judy matured, Peggy’s features became more defined.  She felt more coordinated, prettier, and more proportioned.  No longer did her legs feel thin and weak, or her hair quite so heavy atop her head.

Peggy enjoyed the fridge because she could watch the family at dinner time.  Mrs. Lancaster would prepare dinner.  Mr. Lancaster would come in, grab a taste of whatever was in the pot, and scoot away before Mrs. Lancaster could push him away.  Peggy knew she wasn’t mad, though.  Mrs. Lancaster always smiled and she shooed him off.  Peggy thought Mr. Lancaster did it on purpose because it made his wife smile.

Judy’s little brother, Joey, would sometimes come into the kitchen and do mean things to her like draw over her eyes in black pencil so she couldn’t see, or tear the paper and cut off her legs.  Peggy didn’t like Joey very much.  He always wanted to make Judy angry or sad.  Some days, he would even snatch Peggy from the fridge and crumple her up.  That made Peggy afraid until, the next time, Judy would draw her once again.

The times between drawings seemed like an eternity to Peggy.  She had no body.  No mouth.  No ears.  All she had was time.  Time to think.  Time to dream.  Time to wonder.  Time to worry.  Some days Peggy worried that Judy would draw another friend and Peggy would only exist as a memory.

Right around the time that Peggy would start to grow fearful, she’d feel the familiar caress of crayon and feel so much better.  Judy still loved her.  As the years went by, crayon was replaced by pencil crayon, pastels, or simply a Bic pen.  Peggy blossomed from a simple stick figure to a young girl and, eventually, a teen.  She and Judy grew up together.

Judy, now thirteen, would sketch Peggy and tell her all her secrets.   Most of them were not a surprise to Peggy.  She’d grown up with Judy.  But Peggy loved that Judy shared with her.  It meant a lot to her that she was Judy’s secret friend.  Sometimes, Judy would draw a heart and her initials along with the initials of a boy she liked.  Other times, when she was upset, her tears would fall onto Peggy and begin to wash her away.  In those times, Peggy did not fear extinction, she simply wanted to make Judy’s tears go away.

Peggy wished and dreamed that one day she would be able to speak.  Or blink.  Or move.  If only to show Judy how much she cared about her.  But try as she might, she was a spectator in her own existence.  If Judy placed her in her pocket, she could imagine what she was looking at, but mostly she only saw the inside of fabric.

As Judy grew up, Peggy’s world changed.  No longer were there elaborate details and grand landscapes in which Peggy would hold center stage.  Her existence became doodles once again.  Judy didn’t speak to Peggy as she did when she was a child.  She was seventeen now and much too grown up for such things.  Peggy missed her confidences with Judy, but she was grateful for the times she’d peek out from a textbook, or as an aside in a diary entry.

Once, Joey, now a teenager, got hold of a sketch of Peggy and humiliated Peggy more than she could bear.  He erased her clothes and exposed her private places.  He drew male genitalia near her image and wrote coarse words.  Peggy saw the look on his face.  There was no love.  No affection.  Just cruel and selfish pleasure in defiling an image Judy had so carefully created.

Peggy felt ashamed.  She wished she could move her arms to cover herself, but all she could do was bear the humiliation.  It worsened when Joey crammed the picture into his pocket and showed all of his friends at school the next day.  The boys laughed and pointed at Peggy’s private places, passing her around from hand to hand to hand.  She was helpless and distraught.

Luckily, one of the teacher’s discovered the picture and Peggy’s existence was extinguished with a lighter.  The flames burned hot and it was scary to disappear in such a distressing way, but Peggy welcome the momentary agony.  Once the sketch was burnt, she fell back into nothingness once again.

The next time Judy drew her, she was angry.  Not at Peggy.  But at Joey.  She’d long ago stopped putting Peggy on the refrigerator, but now she would lock her door, too.  She mumbled, maybe a little to Peggy but mostly to herself about privacy and respect.  Peggy wholeheartedly agreed.  Judy folded her up, placed Peggy in her scrapbook, and there Peggy waited.

This time, she waited a very very long time.  Judy didn’t sketch her on a napkin, or a receipt, or even the corner of her school notebook.  Time began to move slowly and Peggy felt herself become faint.  She could feel herself ebbing away.  Was this dying?  Was Judy forgetting her?  Peggy didn’t know, but it made her sad.

Soon, Peggy didn’t remember days.  Or weeks.  Or months.  She didn’t remember what Judy looked like, or her teen voice.  She only remembered, vaguely at best, moments.  Snapshots.  Judy’s voice as a child.  A knowing smile from Mr. Lancaster.  Joey, thankfully, became hazy, too.

Then one day, much to Peggy’s amazement, her eyes came to be once again and she looked up at Judy.  But this time, Judy wasn’t a teenager.  She was a woman of thirty.  She held up Peggy and then turned it around.  There, before her, was a child version of Judy.  The little girl laughed and tried to reach for the picture of Peggy to stuff it in her mouth, but Judy held it back.

“She is my favorite childhood friend, pumpkin, you can’t put her in your mouth.”

Peggy wanted to cry with joy.  Judy turned the paper back around and looked at Peggy for a long while.  Something in her gaze grew wistful, then she smiled.  Her voice was quiet, she was only speaking to Peggy now.  “Hello, Peggy.  It has been a while.”

Peggy wished she could nod.  Or speak.  She would tell Judy how much she missed her and loved her.  How proud of her she was that she created another wonderful being.  Peggy even had a moment to meet Judy’s husband, Andrew.  He was handsome.  He seemed kind.  He hugged Judy and told her she was an exceptional artist.  Then he asked her why she never sketched more often.

For a time, Judy did sketch more often.  Once again, Peggy had center stage in the kitchen and she would be able to watch Judy and her family.  First it was just pumpkin, who later turned out to be Mary.  Then along came Ruth.  Finally, a few years later, they were joined by Christopher.  Each day, from her place on the refrigerator, Peggy would lovingly watch the (now) Simpson family live their lives.  Some days, the girls would come by and greet her.  Other days, they would draw their own friends and Peggy would smile at them.  They would smile back.  It was wonderful to be loved.

Years passed, eventually Peggy was replaced by the children’s artwork and Peggy was placed in a drawer.  For a time, she’d catch a glimpse of a family member, but as the drawer became more full, papers or pens or grocery receipts would end up obstructing Peggy’s vision.  Soon, all she could do was wait and wonder.  Eventually, Peggy was packed away in a box with other artwork and keepsakes.

And time slowed once again.  The near-end.  Peggy heard the whispers of the other sketches in the drawer with her.  They were afraid.  They worried the girls had forgotten about them.  They were fearful of forgetting themselves.  Peggy understood.  She tried to reassure them, but the ending was a part of the beginning.  It happened and there was nothing they could do about it.

After a time, even the other pictures did not speak.  There were no words.  Only memories that grew gray each passing day.  Hope faded.  Time slowed.  And eternity set in again, dark and lonely.  Peggy grew weaker.  Her memories dimmed.  She waited for the end.

One day, she was pulled from the box by a lady of about 40 years.  The lady gasped in surprise when she looked at Peggy.

“Oh my gosh!” she cried.  “David, come here!  Look at this.”

Exhausted and tired, her eyes dim from crinkles, Peggy looked up at the man’s handsome face as he gazed down at her questioningly.

“What’s this?” he asked.

“My mom drew this years ago.  I had totally forgotten about it.”  The lady’s eyes crinkled at the edges as she smiled.  “I think this would make her happy.  I’m going to take it to her.”

“Great idea, Ru.  She’ll like that.”  The man squeezed Ruth’s shoulder and kissed her on top of the head.

Peggy was cleaned up and placed inside a very expensive frame.  It felt strange to have glass press her in, but she was so crinkly, it was hard to keep upright anyway.  Soon after, she heard the wrapping paper and tape.  She was a present.

Peggy hoped Judy would be glad to see her.  She wondered how she was.  Had she changed much?  Would she remember Peggy?  Peggy was so excited, she tripped over her thoughts as they came rushing back.

Finally, the wrapping came off and Peggy at long last had a chance to see Judy again.  Judy was in a hospital bed and her hair was white and her face crinkled like Peggy’s.  She had a long plastic tube that came out of her arm that attached to a bag on a silver pole.  She looked tired and weak, like Peggy.  But when she saw Peggy her eyes widened and she smiled.

“Oh, Peggy,” Judy whispered, her voice barely above a caress.  “Please, Ruth, bring her here.  Let me see.”

Ruth placed Peggy on the table in front of Judy.  Judy stared at Peggy for a long time.  Then she smiled tiredly and said, “I’ve missed you.”  Ruth and Judy spent some time together, but Ruth had to leave to take care of her own children.

Peggy and Judy spent all of their time together.  Judy caught Peggy up on her life and, once again, told Peggy all of her secrets, fears, and dreams.  Some days, Judy was too tired or too sick to spend time with Peggy.  Peggy didn’t mind.  She would watch over Judy and that was enough.

One day, Judy did not wake up.  They placed a sheet over her head and took her away.  Peggy was afraid that one of the people at the hospital would throw her away, but Ruth rescued her.

Ruth cried, but she took Peggy with her to the pretty park with cement crosses.  She brought Peggy into a special room with a wooden bed and a lid and people wore dark colors.  They cried sad tears over Judy.  Peggy recognized some faces, though they had aged quite a bit.

When the ceremony was over and people had finished saying nice things about Judy, Ruth placed Peggy with Judy inside the wooden bed with the lid and gently placed Judy’s hand over Peggy’s frame.  The lid closed, but Peggy wasn’t afraid.  She was with Judy now.  Forever.  Peggy was tired.  This time, she was ready.  She knew it was okay to go away.  Judy hadn’t forgotten her at all.  She had just gone to sleep.

Peggy took a final moment to remember that special day in McDonald’s so many years ago, and then she ceased to be.

10 Things You Don’t Say To Your Mate When Arguing

I’ve had plenty of arguments over the years.  Some of these I’ve used.  Some I haven’t.  Usually, however, if I did, the fight got worse.  Sure, I may have felt temporary pleasure over that “zinger”, but did it really serve me over the long run of the argument?  Not really.  Amazing, isn’t it?  The people we care about most in the world are the ones we let loose the rampaging rabid dogs of war the quickest.

Top 10 Things Not to Say:

  1. “Whatever.  I’m done.”
  2. “You obviously don’t understand.”
  3. “If you loved me, you’d know…”
  4. “I don’t care.”
  5. “It’s not my fault if…”
  6. “You always…”
  7. “I hate you.”
  8. “I never wanted…”
  9. “You’re such a…”
  10. “Shut up.”

It’s pretty clear why these don’t work, but – for the uninitiated – things like sentences that start with “You always…” are impossible to defend against.  Because they’re not true.  Obviously no one always does something.  If that were the case, they’d be doing it all day long, 365 days a year.  About the only thing you can accuse someone of always doing is breathing.

This gem is reserved for spouses and boyfriends.  The “If you loved me you’d know…” comment presumes mind-reading.  And if there’s one thing a man is not equipped to do when it comes to women, it’s reading her mind.  Believe it or not, ladies, we don’t think alike!  You know how you go out with your girlfriends and you finish each other’s sentences, and there’s all that, “I know, right??” that goes on?  It’s because we think alike.  We see things in relatively the same way.  We are built emotionally in-sync.

Men, however, are not built like us.  This is why when we whine and complain they want to “fix it” and we get irritated.  Our girlfriends don’t tell us what to do, they just listen, commiserate, and offer up another bowl of Ben and Jerry’s.  We’re hardwired differently.  Maybe some guys really want to “talk it out” and get all deep in the emotions and really gab, for hours and hours, about what’s bothering them, but most guys just want to say what’s on their mind, fix it, and move on.

Guys want us to respect them.  Love is easy for us.  Respect is hard.  Respecting a man means not embarrassing/criticizing him in front of his friends or family, not making him feel “less”, not attacking him for something he didn’t know he did, not assuming you know what he is thinking or feeling (lack of mind-reading goes both ways), not presuming his intentions, not talking to him like you’d talk to your girlfriends – he doesn’t think like they do.

Women like to marinate.  Men like to flash fry.

Here is something we should remember:  Productive arguments have conclusions, not concussions.

Top Ten Things To Say:  (and mean)

  1. “I’m sorry.”
  2. “Let me just see if I understand you right…”
  3. “I admit that I…”
  4. “Thank you.”
  5. “Do you forgive me?”
  6. “Can we take a minute?  I’m getting upset and I want to figure out why.”
  7. “I’ll be quiet and listen so you can make your point uninterrupted.”
  8. “I love you.”
  9. “I didn’t realize I’d done that.  What I’d meant was…”
  10. “I forgive you.”

Oh, words.  They’re so easy and cheap.  That’s why I put the “(and mean)” in there.   When we were younger, my sister would smack me and immediately say, “Sorry.”  Then she’d smack me again.  Again, another “Sorry.”   The word is meaningless if you don’t follow up on it with action and that usually means not doing the same thing you were sorry for over and over again.

As a woman, my particular brand of live ammunition is – you guessed it – words.  I can mire myself down so deep in the details of what my husband has said that, by the end, I’ve utterly tied him up in knots.  I’ve “wordsmithed” him into feeling frustrated and helpless.  That’s like having a debate with someone and having them throw in ridiculous curve-balls like “define logical”.

So as you gear up for that next round, consider this:

  1. Would you say that to your grandmother?
  2. How would you feel if the other person said that to you?
  3. Do you really mean that?
  4. Is this the most important person in your world?  Why are you treating them less than you would a co-worker, girlfriend, Starbucks employee?
  5. What is your goal in this argument?  Winning?  Understanding?  Compromise?
  6. Words are permanent.  People remember things long after the “I’m sorrys” have been said.
  7. Accepting responsibility and asking for forgiveness is strength, not weakness.
  8. Admitting mistakes is difficult, necessary, and builds wisdom.
  9. Love may conquer all, but it is not just a verb, it’s an action, too.
  10. Conflict is inevitable.  Choosing our response to it is 100% all us.

Ideally, the best thing to do is to recognize that you’re getting miffed, define it (what is really agitating you about what that person said or did?), own it, and articulate it.  If you can sort things out before the yelling starts, then you just saved yourself some grief.

I know, words are easy.

Love and Respect

 If I combine the years of marriage from my first and second marriage, the number is roughly 16.  And before that, I was dating from the time I was 15.  So, let’s do the math and tack on another 7.  Okay, so I’ve been in one “relationship” or another for approximately 23 years of my life.  That’s over half, people.

Now for the sad part. 

I never truly understood what it meant to be in a positive relationship.  Truth be told, I was carrying around some pretty serious baggage.  Let’s see if I can recount some of the previous ideas I had on dating / marriage:

  • If it feels good, do it
  • It’s fine as long as no people or animals get hurt
  • Only stay as long as it’s fun and easy
  • If the passion fades, it’s time to move on
  • If he truly knew or loved me, he’d know what I’m thinking
  • If I don’t show how much he’s hurt me, I win  (Ice Queen Syndrome)
  • Never lose your cool  (Ice Queen Syndrome, Part II)
  • Win the argument even if wrong, don’t accept responsibility for mistakes
  • My position is the one that matters
  • If he’s willing to be intimate with me that means he cares about me
  • If I can’t talk to him then I shouldn’t be with him
  • It’s not my fault I can’t say what’s bothering me, it’s from my past
  • My past is why I can’t …
  • My past is why I don’t …
  • My past is why he should …
  • Men will let me down
  • Men can’t be trusted
  • I will just keep this inside so his feelings don’t get hurt
  • My relationship should work, even if I don’t put any real energy into it
  • Love fades
  • If I’m not “in love” with him, I shouldn’t be with him
  • Love is an emotion not a verb
  • Can’t he see what I’ve done for him?
  • If a guy likes that kind of person, I’ll be that kind of person (even though it’s not who I am)  because I want him to like me

Admittedly, none of these philosophies has ever served me very well and I’ll tell you why.  My entire focal point was one of two things: 

  1. Everything is about me (or)
  2. Everything is about him.  

You can’t have a decent relationship with someone when they’re choking the life out of you, or you’re choking the life out of them.   There’s no room for growth and there’s definitely no room for effective communication.

Ah, that dreaded word:  communication.

It really is something you have to work at and, I’ll be brutally honest here,  I hate that.  I have always believed that if you’re meant to be with someone then communication should be easy.  Well, it’s not.  Really and truly it isn’t.  And there is a reason for it. 

Here’s the reason:

Men and women think, feel, and see the world very differently!

The Love and Respect Class I took at my church, combined with attending church on a regular basis, has really helped me pinpoint all the ridiculous notions I had about life, love and relationships and to learn some incredibly valuable (yet obvious!!!) lessons on making a marriage work.  Actually, this information isn’t just helpful for a spouse, it’s helpful for a male cousin, nephew, uncle, grandfather, etc.   Men need certain things from women when it comes to communication so this is helpful all over the place.

Before you sniff your nose up at the whole “church” and “God” aspect of things, hear me out.    There is a DVD set out there that you can watch in the privacy of your own home that will teach you about how to talk to your spouse, how to understand why your spouse does what he/she does, and how you can better communicate with them.  AND…it’ll give you the very real realization that your marriage isn’t doomed or lame when everyone else’s is great.  We all struggle with our mates, we were built to have conflict.  It is what it is.  But conflict is an opportunity to grow and to grow closer (believe it or not).

So, take a look at the video below for a real quick introduction to Dr. Eggerichs.

 

 

By the way, I didn’t even go looking for this class, this website, or this video.  My husband discovered it.  Women are usually the communicators, the talkers, the fixers and I managed to drop even that ball.  This series utterly changed the way I look at relationships and showed me just how far I had fallen as a mate because my ideals and expectations were completely unattainable and unrealistic.

If you want to see more, go to the Love and Respect website.  In particular, check out the Media section because that’s where Dr. Emmerson Eggerichs is videotaped live at his conference.  He doesn’t preach at you, he tells stories about his own life, he makes you laugh, and – above all – he makes you go, “Ohhhh!  I get it!”

If I could buy a copy of the DVD series for every single married friend (male or female) that I have and send it to them, I would.  I don’t normally jump up and down and scream, “You have to see this!”.   Hey, I don’t even like chain emails, but this is one series, I strongly recommend.  Did I mention strongly? 

Definitely, check it out.

http://www.loveandrespect.com

~Melissa

Disclaimer:  The commentary above is free insight into my strange and humbling past relationship-world.  I don’t get a single red cent for the purchase of Love and Respect DVDs, the classes, or the conferences.   It just so happens that I am so passionate about this information that I’m willing to talk about it with unashamed excitement so that everyone who reads will learn some very valuable lessons, just like I have.