Friday, April 30, 2010

A Choice

Childhood Love. As a child, I remember feeling the love from my parents, mostly springing up from something as basic as their smiles, the kind that made you feel like they loved you just the way you were.

Teenage love. Oh, how wonderful and yet, at the same time, how awful that love felt to me. A new crush on a boy often led to countless hours of daydreaming, my own heart racing uncontrollably when he would simply enter the classroom, and then the waiting for his much-coveted phone call. Sometimes the call came, sometimes it didn't. Eventually, the feelings faded, along with the immature love.

Marriage love. Now this is, without a doubt, the most challenging of all loves. I have learned to fully appreciate and put my trust in a saying that's stuck in my brain:

"Sometimes love is not a feeling. It's a choice."

These past few months, I have had to rely on the above statement more than I'd like to. There have been times when I'd question a lot of things about my relationship. Divorce was never an option, but I can understand how some people end up in that place. Sometimes, love is nothing more than a choice that we make in order to make the marriage work. Maybe a better way to say it is that there are times in everyone's marriage when we choose to keep loving, even though we don't feel like loving that person. Not one single bit. But we do it because we've made the choice to do it. There's not any other option.

In the long run, making the choice to love someone prevails over our immediate feelings. Feelings come and go, but choosing to love when it's the last thing we are feeling, takes much more effort. And patience. And time.

In the long run, love lasts. Feelings don't.

Love is sometimes a choice. A hard choice. There are times when choosing to love is so very difficult, almost impossible, but at the same time, when I choose to love, it turns out to be the right choice.

(This post is dedicated to Debby, whose post I just read reminded me of the saying above. Blessings to you and Tim, Debby).

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bittersweet Day

One week ago I celebrated my birthday, the fourth one since I became a "cancer survivor." And each birthday makes me realize how I need to celebrate each day of my life, not just the special ones. For all of our days are special, all are meaningful, and all are blessings.

For some reason, however, April 15th was one of the most difficult days I'd had in quite some time. It was the first birthday I'd celebrated without my father present, and my heart mourned. I missed him. A bittersweet day, for sure. I don't think that my family quite understood. I tried to smile, to laugh and pretend like nothing was wrong.

The next day while out for a nice run, I happened upon a neighbor who was also jogging. She had lost her mother around the same time that my dad died. We both stopped running, smiled and gave one another a hug. She asked how I was doing, and before I knew it or could stop myself, I said, "I'm fine, but you know, I just had a birthday yesterday, and Ann, it was a very difficult time for me."

Her eyes got huge and she said, "My birthday was on April 8th, and it was one of the hardest days of my life!" We both shared our feelings and before we knew it, a few tears fell. But it was a good cry, as they say. And we both needed to do it.

In a way, even the bad days are special, because they force me to pause, take a deep breath, and look upward instead of focusing on my immediate circumstance. The difficult times continually remind me that God's hand is in all of my days, and He will keep me going, through the good and bad, no matter what.

God's always present, each and every day. He's there, even in the midst of our bittersweet ones.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

From Virtues to Vanity

I'm reading a book that has really made me stop and think. In, "Five Conversations You Must Have with Your Daughter," Vicki Courtney articulates how our daughters' views of themselves have changed over the centuries. Specifically, she argues that young teens these days typically have a poor self-image, low self-esteem, and are generally overly consumed with their appearance. Although these sentiments are nothing new or revolutionary, they should make us ponder just what we as moms and women can do to help our daughters feel good about themselves, just the way they are. The way that God made them to be.

Here's something that I found fascinating. The author notes that if we looked at journal entries of young girls, let's say those written more than a century ago circa 1880, the young women often described themselves as being deficient regarding certain aspects of their internal character. For example, they might write about how they will strive to be more patient, or to remember to think before speaking. They might also focus on how they could reach out and help others more consistently.

On the other hand, what do the diaries of today's girls demonstrate? I'll bet that an entirely different perspective pops out. Thanks to skinny models, beautiful women portrayed in movies, and a plethora of teen magazines such as Seventeen, girls probably write about their appearance, such as their weight or their complexion. Much of their concerns most likely relate to their popularity. Virtues? Are they even mentioned?

Why the shift in focus from virtues to vanity? According to the author, one major reason for this paradigm shift can be attributed to an important invention: the mirror.

The mirror has changed the way we see ourselves. Literally. And I am as guilty as the next woman - or man. I hated the way I looked when I was bald. Back then, I couldn't even look at myself in the mirror. I remember loathing walking past a glass storefront because one slight turn of my head in that direction, and my reflection would once again remind me of my ugliness. Even with the wig or scarf intact upon my head, I knew that underneath it all, the real "me" was bald. Vanity. It sticks to you like gum on the bottom of your shoe in August.

Yesterday, I heard my thirteen-year-old daughter commenting - albeit, somewhat jokingly - about how a particular pair of pants makes her look fat. She's about 5'6" and weighs 115 pounds! Where have we failed as a society? Or am I to share some of the blame for her negative perception? Possibly.

As moms, as friends, let's try to see beyond that superficial mirror and focus instead on what's deep inside our hearts. Then, let's look into the hearts of our girls. They need us to be their cheerleaders, to let them know that they are beautiful, just the way God made them to be. Let's hope that we ultimately reflect attributes of God, not those of vanity.