Monday, June 24, 2013

pizza crust and epicness

I have an issue with dough. Pie dough, cookie dough, pizza dough. Not an issue with eating it. Unfortunately, I am waaaay too good at that. My issue is with any recipe that contains the words, “Roll out dough . . .” I hate rolling. Hate. It. Seriously, any substance that glues itself to a rolling pin that tenaciously needs to have its edibility questioned.

But you know what I've discovered recently? You can skip this step. Really. I made gluten-free cheese crackers to mail to me gluten-free daughter recently (who, by the way, did not even appreciate them and mentioned the words “wet cardboard” more than once) and, in the place where it said, “Roll out dough,” I handily substituted, “Shove dough into pan and pat down until flat, or until it calls on its rights to refuse search and seizure.” The last time I made pizza dough, I followed the same substitution. And pie.

You know what? It worked. Now, I am not a culinary genius, and I will never claim anything that emerges from my kitchen will taste like Rachel Ray. (I mean like her food, not actually like her. Ick.) But I will claim this—I know how to decide what is an important use of my time kitchen-wise and what is not. From now on, rolling dough is on the list of “not.” Maybe my pie crust will never be flaky fresh or State Fair fluted-edge gorgeous. This is a trade-off I can accept.

It occurs to me this is a lesson I can use elsewhere. In the College/Career group I'm leading at church, we're going through Donald Miller's Storyline workbook. His basic premise is that we all have a story that is our own, and we all need to decide how we're going to make that story happen epically, not just coast along through life like a bike ride in a cute rolling meadow. Or like a bicycle ride down Telegraph Hill in San Francisco, depending on the speed at which you have no idea where you're going.

Deciding how to make your story happen epically means deciding where you are going, why, and how you're getting there. It means—cutting out the things that use up your time that don't forward that story. Don't mistake what I'm saying. I'm not suggesting we all go around thinking, Hey, if I want a real life, I can't have any fun anymore or do anything completely useless like checking Facebook or playing Frisbee golf, or reading pointless blogs because, darn it, I need to be business all the time 24/7 from this moment forth.

No. Fun is good. We need fun. Even occasional pointlessness. And we need people, even people who don't appear to serve much function because, oh hey, it's not all about us and we might forget that if we dispose of people who take too much time. So don't do that.

What I am saying is—we all know places we're spinning our wheels pursuing things that don't forward our story. We hang onto doing those things because we feel guilty, or attached, needed, or at least wanted. We feel we ought to do them. But they maybe could move to our “not” list, because they don't add to the story. They suck our time but don't feed our passion. We grumble every time we do them, but we don't have the guts to stop.

Stop. Stop rolling the pizza crust. Just stick it in the pan and move on. Really. It will be OK. You'll still be wanted and needed because you'll be doing the things God meant for you to do, and that makes you a great person to hang with.

What's sucking your time lately that you know you need to let go of? How can we help each other?

Monday, June 17, 2013

spider gladiator

My daughter taught five year olds at church yesterday, which necessitated bravery she never expected to need in a church basement.

Mom—I had to kill a spider today! Myself! Those little kids were watching me, and I had to be the big girl. But . . . I. Killed. A. Spider!”

If you knew child #3, you would know that's a level of bravery somewhere between getting in a shark tank and taking a bullet for her mother. I'm not going to speculate on which of those would be easier.

It made me remember my own moment of bravery beyond expectation.

For twenty-some years, I was a baby about needles. No, not a baby. Babies may scream, but they're basically immobile passive creatures. I, on the other hand, was the only kid to kick the doctor giving me a measles shot so hard he had to do it again. I suspect some level of spite may have been involved in his do-over.

I whimpered, whined, crawled under exam tables, and clasped my arms together like an armadillo facing a jaguar rather than have a single needle prick. Let me tell you, it's a tough squeeze to get under one of those tables when you're almost thirty.

Until the day I went to get my blood drawn and toted along my little girl. Not quite two, child #1 watched as I rolled up my sleeve and prepared to be the last gladiator standing. As I saw the nurse approach me with the needle of doom, I had one of those parent moments. I realized what would happen if I dissolved in terror. She would, too.

She would never understand that it was a momentary terror for me that would be over quickly. She would only know that mommy was scared out of her mind and, seeing that, she would assume the worst. She would know, in her little on-year-old mind, that these people were torturing mommy, and the end of the world was at hand. Terrified as I was of needles, one thing that morning was far more important to me. Not to cause my little girl terror of her own.

I had to be the big girl. I had to face that needle without flinching and not let her see the fear. (If this, incidentally, is where she got her strange fascination with phlebotomy, I claim no responsibility.)

I had given no thought until that morning to the effect my fears might have on others. Since then, I've given it a lot of thought. You have to when you've got three kids watching you. If you fear, they fear, and I did not want that crippling my baby girls. Not that I've been a textbook example. Ask them how I feel about making phone calls or talking to strangers. They know. Some things you just can't hide.

So the question today is—who's watching you when you don't know it? Who's taking his or her cues by what you run from? Or, possibly, what you kick and scream and dive under tables to get way from? Someone is. 

That made me sit up straight and smile through the fear, and you know what? That stupid fear of needles disappeared. Because when you stop allowing yourself to anticipate something in terror, it almost always loses its power. Which was a good thing, because between three kids, a thyroidectomy, and a kidney transplant, Iv'e been stuck with needles approximately 90 million times since then. Diving under that many tables is not an option.

I suspect my daughter will kill a few more spiders in her lifetime, and now she knows she can. Someone was watching her, and she needed to put them first in that moment.

I hope realizing that someone is watching you deal with the things you fear helps you sit up a little straighter today and smile through it. It works—I promise. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

ten seconds to validate your life

What's in your list of top five favorite movies of all time? Mine is a bit of a cheat, since three of them are in the Lord of the Rings series. That only leaves two slots to work with. But the first movie to make one of those slots did so way back in high school when I was introduced to Chariots of Fire. I didn't fully appreciate it then, but I soon did. I mention this because it contains one of my favorite scenes, and it is terribly appropriate for what I am feeling about now.

Harold Abrams waits for the culmination of his lifelong fight--winning an Olympic medal. While he prepares for the ten-second race that will validate his life, he faces his biggest fear. He fears that, once he reaches the pinnacle, he'll find it empty. He won't find that elusive validation there. He'll have no idea what to do.

For the last two weeks, I've been sensing that some of my hard writing work is about to pay off. There have been too many pieces falling into place, too many "coincidences" of God's word, too much perfect timing, even for me, the perpetual skeptic, not to see this. So--elation, right?

How about terror? This reaction was so not expected. Unlike Abrams, I am not afraid of being let down. But I am terribly afraid of letting others down. I'm afraid that I'll be found out. That I'm really not good enough. I can't write. I've been a poser all along, and now everyone will know it.

Plus, what might happen to my life? It would change. It would require work. Hard work. And adjustments to my schedules. And doing things I don't like, such as actually talking to people. I am totally unsure of whether or not I like this. And this reaction comes as such a shock.

I'm convinced, though, that the fear of success isn't all that uncommon. In fact, I suspect it cripples a lot of us. It's so much easier to stay where we are, where we know we're not challenged, where we're not exceptional, but we're comfortably OK. To chase down and tackle our dreams invites failure. Failure stinks. To succeed invites change. Change is scary. It's safer to coast.

What do you think? What do you do when you're scared to scale the peak you know is in front of you for a reason? Or is there a peak, and you know it, but you're pretty sure you'd rather stay safely on the plains?

I'll climb if you will. Actually, I'll climb even if you won't, because I have to do this. But I'd love it if you came along.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Baggy Sweats, Burqas, and Beyonce

An open letter to my fellow conservative Christians (and anyone else who cares to listen in, because you never know when those strange evangelicals are going to do something entertaining):

Today's topic makes me angry. I've thought about it for a long time, especially because I am attempting to bring up three young women to be as normal as it gets around here. Another young woman's blog post this morning put me over the edge just enough to rant about (um, discuss) it today. You definitely should read her post.

I write about fears here, big and small, imagined and otherwise. But one I truly hate both because of the damage it does and the lies it tells, is the prevalence of shame young women get about their bodies. It happens everywhere. But when it happens in church, it's a straight up lie about God and the beauty of his creation.

I've read these ideas in Christian books, heard them on talk shows, and listened to them from youth leaders. And they are lies.

“Oh honey, guys just can't help themselves. You've got to make sure you don't provoke them.”
“Don't make these young men sin by the way you look.”
“If boys think you're a certain kind of girl because of the way you dress, don't blame them for what happens.”

Why has the church embraced the idea that, in every other area of life people make their own choices and are responsible for their own mistakes, but in the arena of sexuality, boys will be boys? And girls must, therefore, be ashamed of being girls.

Girls, therefore, end up with intense guilt over simply being female. At an age where they can't possibly understand it and are trying to come to terms with their own confusing maturity, they're told what they're becoming is an embarrassment to God. Nothing is so untrue. God created woman and said his work was very good. There was nothing to add or to hide. We've done that.

Women, of any age, should not have to fear their own bodies, nor other peoples' reactions to them. Period. That's God's assessment of his creation, not my opinion.

No girl should have to dress in baggy sweats because she is afraid of condemnation or starve herself because she is afraid she's not good enough or stuff herself because she's afraid of attracting unwanted attention. Young women, if you're doing any of those and no one has told you yet, the way others react to your body is a reflection of them, not you.

I am not suggesting ladies saunter into church (or anywhere) wearing off-the-rack-Beyonce and expect to be put in charge of youth group. Covering yourself is respectful to everyone, yourself most of all. (Guys, we're talking to you too, here. You have no idea how many times Ive stood in a line and wanted to tap the guy in front of me on the shoulder and ask, “So, are those pants on their way up or down? Because either way, they haven't made it, and the indecision has got to be killing them.”) Yes, girls, putting it all out there for public view does send a message, just not the one you're told. It says, “I have zero self-respect.” Which is another topic.

But there's a difference between modesty and internalizing the message of shame over a normal, healthy body. We, good church people, have done the latter too much.

Plus, guys, are you not also angry? I have to wonder, do you not feel frustrated at being labeled nothing but a bunch or hormones with no self-control? Should you not be at the forefront of this argument, asserting that you are, in fact, fully functional human beings with brains and judgment? That you do not live at the constant whim of your, um, male parts, and nothing else? And, if you are a male pastor, writer, or youth leader, should you not be saying this?

Yes, you should. And as a female pastor, I just did. Let the comments fall where they may. I have three girls to raise with self-respect. Please don't lie to them anymore.