Strawberry!!!

So, The Kiddo sometimes has trouble communicating what he wants to say.

Emotions are hard for a little boy, and he struggles more than the norm to express them.  I realized a little over a year ago that he was using something I have come to call his “sad phrases.”

Sad phrases are basically his way of trying to say he feels some kind of negative emotion, but apparently I’m one of the few who can actually interpret what he means.  Mommy privilege.  Once it hit me that only I was picking up what he was putting down, I started to realize what it must sound like to the average outsider.

Good gracious….

Here are some examples:
Kiddo when I tell him we have to go inside:  But Mama… we can’t give up!
My interpretation:  He’s disappointed and doesn’t want to stop what he’s doing.
Average Outsider reaction:  Give up on… playing? life? world peace? what?

Kiddo when it’s time to go to bed:  We can’t run out of lives!
My interpretation:  He doesn’t want to go to bed.  Tough.
Average Outsider reaction:  Run out of… does he think sleeping is dying??

Kiddo when he’s feeling any kind of negative emotion:  I’m not awesome….
My interpretation:  He feels mad/ sad/ disappointed/ grumpy/ hungry/ thirsty/ hot/ cold/ like taking over the world/ etc.
Average Outsider reaction:  Bless his poor little soul! Why doesn’t that mama affirm her sweet darling boy more often?! You are always awesome, little one! Let me take you for ice cream!

Okay, so maybe the average outsider doesn’t react that way… but that’s where my head goes some days.

Regardless, the point is that he means one thing, but he can’t seem to express it well.  Therefore, he substitutes different words that make sense to him.  He cares not if the rest of the world is on that little journey with him.

His favorite sad phrase lately has been “I’m not awesome.”  That is the catch all for any and every negative thing The Kiddo is going through.

Got in trouble at school?  “I’m not awesome.”
Feeling hungry?  “I’m not awesome.”
Missing someone and sad about it?  “I’m not awesome.”
Knocked over the dominoes before he meant to?  “I’m not awesome.”

It’s kinda cute, to be honest.  We grown folk smile sweetly and chuckle to each other about how precious he is.  Funny how we miss the ways we do the same thing.

Let me jump to something that’s going to seem completely off topic.  (If you know me, that disclaimer was not needed.)

I mentor a group of high school girls.  They keep me young, and in many ways they keep me more honest than I’d like.

One day I was feeling particularly frumpy.  Ladies, you know what I mean.  My hair didn’t “do right”.  My makeup was inexplicably all but gone.  My pants were fitting tighter than I remembered.  I just felt all-around yuck.

Offhandedly, I mentioned that I looked like a hot mess that day.  Expounding on the point a bit, I pointed out the things I felt like were wrong with my appearance.  I concluded with a definitive, “And I really want to get skinny again” or something like it.

One of my girls immediately piped up.  “But… you are skinny, J.”

My reaction was to laugh a little, point out that I was once a size negative forty-seven in high school, so it was just hard to compare my post-baby and post-30 year old self to that girl.

We went about our business as normal.

I ended my day… picked up The Kiddo (we were “awesome” that day)… and went home.  That conversation never came anywhere near my mind that afternoon and evening.

Have you ever reached that point of “about to go to sleep” at night when suddenly random points of your day just stick out?  Like… “Leave me alone brain, I need the sleeps” but it just won’t stop?

I was about to go to sleep when that conversation came roaring back to me out of the blue.  And in the midst of it, God whispered something to my heart that kept me up another hour that night.

If someone they love and respect can talk that way about herself, why should they do any different?

Whoa, what? I’m sorry.  Did I just get called out for negative talking myself because others look up to me?

Yep.  I kinda did.

It took me a lot of quiet time to unpack that thought.  I suddenly saw that conversation from the other side.  What if one of those girls sat there and thought, “She’s smaller than/the same size as me and says she’s fat… what must she think of me?”

If you’ve ever mentored high school kids before, that thought should stop you cold right now.

I spend so much time telling those girls they are beautiful inside and out, and I mean it.  But how can they believe me when I trash talk myself constantly?  What are my actions teaching them?

And let’s be honest… most of the time when those negative self-talk moments are spoken aloud… aren’t they really just our adult version of sad phrases? (See? It makes sense now!)

“Ugh… my hair looks awful today.”
Please disagree.

“I really need to lose ten pounds.”
Please tell me I look great just like I am.

“I’m an idiot.”
Please say I’m not.

Deep down, if we’re honest, a lot (not all) of our negative self-talk is a cry for someone to convince us that it’s not true.  That’s not to say we never have bad hair days, make awkward social faux paus, or would be healthier if we lost a few pounds.  But there’s a difference between making a decision or mistake and asking for affirmation.

And if we go even deeper than that, the reason we are seeking that outside confirmation is because we have still not accepted that our worth comes from God rather than our appearance, humor, or any other worldly factors.

I challenge you to do a quick interweb search on “What does the Bible say about my worth to God?” and then read those verses.  Read them all.  And don’t just read it and intellectually process it.  Allow yourself to emotionally process it as well.

“Well, J,” you may be saying, “How exactly am I to do that, hmm?”

Great question.  And I’m still working on it.

But I think it begins with letting go of the pride that whispers that I can create my own worth.  Even those negative self-images are born out of pride more often than not.  Reverse pride, but pride all the same.

And I think it begins with disciplining that outward and inward talk.

“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.  Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” – Philippians 4:8

We usually interpret that as external things to think about… but what if we started applying it to ourselves as well?  I’m not saying to take this blinded approach to our faults, but again… you know there’s a difference between conviction of things we’re doing wrong and just talking down about ourselves before anyone beats us to it.

What if instead of focusing on the things we don’t like about ourselves that day, we instead focus on the things God has given us that are honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable?  Don’t tell me there aren’t any.  I’ll come find you and thump your ear.

So, back to my girls.  I came back the next day and apologized to them.  Like… honestly and earnestly apologized.  We discussed talking bad about ourselves and why we do it.  And I made a promise to them.  I promised that I would never speak that way about myself to them again, and if I did, they were to call me out on it immediately.

And then I promised to do the same for them.

A long winding conversation followed and somehow a code word was developed for when someone started bad-mouthing themselves.  Don’t ask me how it came about, because I honestly don’t remember.  The world of conversations in that room is a sometimes confusing and mildly terrifying place.

Anyways… now when someone says something negative about themselves, one girl (or twenty) immediately calls out “STRAWBERRY!”

Yeah, I don’t know.  But it works.  We giggle.  Someone follows it up by affirming that person.  We all leave with smiles on our faces.

It hasn’t changed my thoughts yet, but it’s still early.  I can already tell that it’s changing the patterns I’ve spent years ingraining myself with.  I hope that it’s doing the same for these sweet girls before they get as many years of experience with it as I have.

But you know… it’s never too late to start.

So… “Strawberry!” folks.  Start changing the way you talk about yourself and to yourself.  Start claiming God as your worth instead of trying to make it on your own.  Start changing your thought patterns.

And go be awesome today.

❤ J 

And this is how we begin….

“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” – Psalm 27:13

“Hey!”
“Oh, hi!”
“How are you?”
“Fine! You?”
“Fine!”

If you had a dollar for every exchange that followed the above guidelines, you’d probably have enough dollars to settle the national debt by now.  It’s the standard operating procedure for greeting someone nowadays… people we love, people we know, people whose faces we vaguely recall, people who happen to walk past us in the grocery store.  It’s the most basic acknowledgement of a person’s existence and general caring about said existence.

And we all know it’s a bunch of nonsense.

We say it whether we’re actually fine or not.  It’s generally considered good manners.  It might be acceptable if you voice a better than fine state of being (just don’t get into bragging, of course)… but less than fine is strictly in the “icky social” zone.  Sure, if you know a person well enough they may ask what’s wrong, but more often than not you earn an uncomfortable “I’m sorry” and a quick, discreet plotting of an escape route.

“Fine” is just safer.

I remember a time in my life when I decided I was going to be more honest in those little encounters.  Because, you see, I was not fine. I was nowhere in the same galaxy as “fine”.

I was working full time with an infant son and a marriage that was in such shambles that I’m still a little shocked we were able to claim it on our taxes.  Financially, we were in more trouble than even my paranoid little worrybrain had ever been able to conjure up.  Emotionally, I was consumed with postpartum anxiety and the frantic desperation of trying to save a marriage that didn’t seem to want to be saved.  Spiritually, I was as close to absolutely hopeless despair as I’d ever been in my life.

Not fine.

But you can’t say that in a casual social setting.  Can you imagine it, really?

“Hey!”
“Oh, hi!”
“How are you?”
“Pretty awful actually. Probably filing for bankruptcy and divorce soon, and
I’m afraid my son will die every time I take my eyes off him!”
“Oh… … … Well… gotta go….”

Yeah, that’s about how that would go.

So I came up with a little cute phrase that I felt was more honest but would still fit the criteria of “appropriate non-icky socialness”.

People would ask, and I would say, “Oh, I’m making it!”

We would laugh.  General vague camaraderie of how difficult life was would ensue.  They would walk away feeling non-icky, and I would walk away feeling like I was at least a little honest.

In truth, I was nowhere near honest.  I was deflecting.  I was taking the immense pain and despair I was drowning in and shoving it behind a thin facade of a cute saying.  Then again, that’s what I was good at.  I could hide my pain like Waldo in those dadgum books.  You could find it, but only if you were really looking.

“Making it” was a means of throwing off the people who might be looking.

And so started my pattern.  As my life began to crash around me, I kept my wearied smile and cute saying on hand.

We filed for bankruptcy last week.  “I’m making it.”
I left my husband yesterday.  “I’m making it.”
The Kiddo and I moved in with my parents today.  “I’m making it.”
I filed for divorce a few days ago.  “I’m making it.”
I was up every two hours last night with the Kiddo’s night terrors…
for the second week in a row.

“I’m making it.”

In a way, there was an honesty about that statement.  Because I was truly “just making it”.  I was surviving.  There was no true life in my day-to-day.  I took one step after the other.  Sleep.  Work.  Eat.  Love on the Kiddo.  Rinse and repeat.

But I was still a wreck inside and out.

Then… it began to change.

I don’t remember exactly when it happened, to be honest, but I can tell you how.

Woven into my life… for decades… since before I was even born… were provisions that God had set in place for this dark time in my life.  Family that supported me.  Friends who uplifted me.  A church family that loved me.  A job that reminded me what real laughter felt like.

And slowly… over days and months and years… I began to live again.

Gone are the days of “just making it”…  and not because there haven’t been reasons that could push me back to that place.  There have been plenty, and I’ve felt the pull… the desire to slip back into survival mode.  But I won’t.  I can’t.

Because God has shown me there’s a better way.

Everything I was once proud of was stripped away, leaving me standing before God with nothing… and there I found that His love hadn’t changed a bit.

Because I can’t earn it.

That’s hard for a person like me.  I’m that overachiever that draws the rolled eyes in class projects and staff meetings.  I’m the kid that cried in second grade because she got a 98 on a test and “wanted to be perfect.”  I’m the good kid.  The dependable one.

And yet despite all that, my life fell to pieces.

Just like Job, I had to discover that God’s love for me had nothing to do with what I had done… but rather with who God is.

Someone reading this right now is saying “If God is loving… then explain why your life fell apart?”

Okay, I’m going to be honest, that’s a blog for another day, because that’s a tangent that will take an entire blog in itself.  I’ll summarize it for you, however: God’s love is not proven in my circumstances, but in His faithfulness through my circumstances.

Yes, my life fell apart.
But He never left me.

I was provided for in every way.  I had a home.  I had a safehaven to recover in.  I was able to get back on my feet emotionally, spiritually, and financially because of it.  Was my pride hurt by the fact that it was my parents’ house and I was 30 years old?  Sure.  But pride doesn’t determine the value of the provision.

And now here I am… several years and many lessons removed from “just making it.”

This blog is my journey in the process of learning to thrive in Christ, regardless of my circumstances.

It will be honest.
It will be occasionally snarky.
It will be serious at times.
It will be completely silly at others.
I may even combine all of the above.

But this is my journey.  And I welcome anyone who wants to tag along.

“Hey!”
“Oh, hi!”
“How are you?  Still making it?”
“More.”