Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Celebration of Freedom

On a recent summer Saturday I spent my entire day celebrating the freedom I have as an American. In the morning Hubby and I took the kids to an old fashioned parade, complete with patriotic music, a military flyover, clowns on mini-motorcycles, and of course, lots and LOTS of candy. After the parade we went to a party with water games and had hot dogs and soda outside. We wrapped up the festivities by spending the evening at the Celebration of Freedom at our local city park. There were vendors with glow necklaces, carnival rides, a lifetime supply of junk food, and a fantastic fireworks display. By now you probably suspect that all of this happened on July 4th. That's a reasonable assumption. Cities all over america celebrated on that weekend. But not my city. Nope. Instead we held our citywide Celebration of Freedom on July 11. For whatever reason we have it a week late every year. This year I was feeling particularly thankful as the military men and women marched by. Tears welled up as I saw the veterans parading by and my three children waved their miniature flags provided by our local library. I felt proud to live in a country where people are free to assemble in the streets to show our feelings, favorable or unfavorable, about our government. The date on the calendar didn't dampen my feelings one bit. Though the celebration came a bit late, my freedoms were still worth celebrating.
Now that the parade is over and the tiny flags are put away, I still feel the need to celebrate. I have been set free from so much. What about you? When is the last time you celebrated all that you have been liberated from? Are you able to do things because you want to, free from feeling obligated? Maybe the Lord has lifted the weight of guilt from past mistakes. Has His work in your life freed you from following the same painful path as loved ones before you? Maybe today you find yourself taking a bold step forward, free from the fear of failure. However great or small, take some time today to thank God for His freedom in your life. If you can't think of anything you are free from, today just may be the day you have been waiting for. 2 Corinthians 3:17 tells us that "Wherever the Lord's Spirit is there is freedom." Invite His Spirit to bring freedom to every area of your life. It may seem like in some areas of your life you have gone too far. You might even believe there are bonds that will never be broken. Struggles you will never be free from. Sweet Chick, don't believe that for even a moment. It is never too late, and no one is too far gone. Your struggle is not bigger than His Spirit. Remember, even when it seems like you're the last one to the party, it's never too late to celebrate your freedom.

BetterChick would love to hear from you! Feel free to comment below each post. If you receive posts by email, simply click on the title of the post to go to the comment section. If you are not a Google or Blogger member, comment as an anonymous user! Thanks!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

It's a great day to be a Chick, isn't it! I hope that each BetterChick post is helping you to become a better version of YOU! I don't know about you, but there is nothing like bathing suit season to make me want to be a better version of someone else. I see seventeen year old cheerleaders prancing around the pool and realize I didn't even look like that when I WAS seventeen. Even more difficult are the adorable moms with the fleet of children behind them who still manage to laugh (without any crow's feet in sight), play Marco Polo without getting a hair out of place, and wear a swimsuit that looks like it's made of only a few rubber bands and a button... without looking like human sausage links. On one of those recent days at the pool I found myself fantasizing about how wonderful it would be to look like that when suddenly I had a great revelation. These stretch marks on my stomach are trophies. They were hard-earned through three pregnancies that produced three of the greatest joys of my life. These thighs, imperfect though they are, are strong. Strong enough to give "airplane rides" to a giggling and wiggling four year old. Strong enough to hike and keep up with an adventurous 11 year old. These curvy hips are my shared connection with generations of curvy ancestors before me, and eventually to my daughter. The lines that crinkle around my eyes when I smile make me look more like my Daddy and his family with each passing year. Imperfect though it may be, this body is mine. It is the faithful vehicle that carries me through the life I have been blessed with. So today, sweet Chicks, I hope you will join me in thanking God for the Earth-suit we have all been given. Show your body your gratitude by treating it well today. Maybe that means giving yourself a well-deserved rest. Maybe a walk in the fresh air or a plate of colorful fruits and veggies are what your body needs. Whether you get a long-overdue checkup or enjoy a deep and relaxing massage, find a way to bless your body today. I wouldn't be surprised if your body returns the favor!

BetterChick would love to hear from you! Feel free to comment below each post. If you receive posts by email, simply click on the title of the post to go to the comment section. If you are not a Google or Blogger member, comment as an anonymous user! Thanks!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Great Adventure

Summer is almost here, complete with heatwaves, the smell of sunscreen in the air, and for many of us the urge to hit the road in search of adventure. If I were a betting woman, I'd wager at least half of you your adventure will include a visit to some kind of theme park before school starts in the fall. I remember the excitement I felt as a little girl waiting outside the main gates of Six Flags with my family. Five minutes until opening time seemed like forever. Even though we usually planned to stay all day, as soon as the gates opened I always had the urge to run to the first ride, as though I would run out of time to see and do everything. Who am I kidding? I still feel that way now when I go to amusement parks. I dash from ride to ride, giving little thought to the layout of the park or the timing of events. Meanwhile, my dear friend, Karen, follows a carefully organized plan created from weeks of planning, piles of park maps, and online forums with advice from previous park guests. While we may approach the adventure differently, we both do our best to squeeze as much as possible into our theme park trips.
After weeks of self-analysis, story writing, questioning and searching, I hope we have ended this series of posts about living your best life with you standing at the entry gates of the rest of your life excited and eager to begin. I pray that you see your future as an adventure that is full of exciting possibilities no matter what phase of life you are in. Of course there will be great highs, steep drops, sweet surprises, and unexpected turns. Whether you choose to throw open the gates of your life and run in with abandon, or you approach it with careful planning and forethought, don't let the life you were created for be a place you always meant to go but never got around to it. Embrace your strengths, fill the roles you have been given with gusto, and make room for YOU in your life. When you do, buckle up, hang on tight, and prepare yourself for the greatest adventure of your life!

BetterChick would love to hear from you! Feel free to comment below each post. If you receive posts by email, simply click on the title of the post to go to the comment section. If you are not a Google or Blogger member, comment as an anonymous user! Thanks!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Room for a Treat

Well girlfriends, you might as well know. I have a sweet tooth the size of Texas. As a matter of fact, I think all of my teeth are sweet. I simply love dessert. I would claim myself as a chocoholic, but I love non-chocolate treats too much to exclude them. Typically if I know there is a yummy dessert to be served after dinner, I'll "save room." I sometimes imagine that there is a little room in my stomach that is roped off with velvet museum ropes, and it the the sacred space I'm saving for dessert. However, I always seem to manage to squeeze in a treat, even if I wasn't planning on it. I'll sacrifice myself a little if I have to in order to accommodate a warm chocolate chip cookie. Am I alone in this?
I have several friends who are that way about cleaning. It seems that no matter what is going on, they can always find time to clean the baseboards, dust the lightbulbs, and other things I NEVER find the time for. Many of the men we know and love can find a way to squeeze sports into any situation. The truth is that all of us tend to have a few things we unconsciously make room for in our lives. American Idol, exercise, dessert, cleaning, driving through Starbucks....there are a million things we choose to make room for or to squeeze out of our daily scheduled. The real problem comes when those choices are not made with intention, but by our no-so-trusty autopilot. You know what I'm talking about. You find yourself gobbling down second-rate pumpkin pie when you don't even really like pumpkin pie. You stay in the kitchen dusting the top of the fridge that no one will ever see, wishing you had some time to call a friend who is hurting. You sit on the couch and watch a rerun of the show you ALWAYS watch on Thursdays, even though you've already seen it. Meanwhile, the things you really want from your life, health, career, relationships,ministry stay out of reach. Is your life making room for YOU? The strengths, callings, and dreams God has placed in your heart were no accident, but bringing them to fruition won't come by accident either. Hopefully throughout the last two weeks the posts have helped you get a better idea of who you are and what makes you feel strong. This week, turn off the autopilot. Give yourself permission to make room for what matters to you most, and clear out what you may have made room for because of someone else. Put some velvet ropes around your strengths and dreams. Save Room. You're the real treat!

BetterChick would love to hear from you! Feel free to comment below each post. If you receive posts by email, simply click on the title of the post to go to the comment section. If you are not a Google or Blogger member, you can still comment as an anonymous user! Thanks!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

On a Role

A few years ago Hubby and I took a class called Financial Peace University. Our church encouraged everyone to participate in this course which was created by Dave Ramsey, a well known financial author, teacher and radio/television host. One evening I was unable to attend class, and Hubby went alone. When he returned home, he walked through the front door and promptly said, "I'm a nerd."
"I know," I answered blandly. He is a very straight-laced, smart, and analytical person, and I thought he had just come terms with being a bit less than cool. From the look on his face I soon realized I had misinterpreted his statement. You see, Dave Ramsey has a way of explaining common financial situations in ways almost anyone can relate to. In class that night he explained that in most couples one person is the"nerd," the one who wants to plan, budget, and analyze, while the other person is the "free spirit," who wants to just have fun, enjoy life, and figure out the details later. Hubby knew immediately what his role in our finances was. He is a nerd. (Don't worry girls, he knows it and says it often...when he is teaching budgeting and planning classes for other nerds.)
Last week some of you did an exercise to help you find your strengths so that you can put them to use in your daily life. Those strengths go hand in hand with the roles you fill in your daily life. It is easy to confuse roles with titles like mom, wife, teacher, or friend, but in truth they are very different. For example, in a family, the woman is always the mother and not the father....not rocket science, I know. Her title is mother, but her roles can be as varied as the hairstyles of Oprah. She may be an encourager, an organizer, a prankster or a challenger. Think about the relationships in your life. At home, at work, socially, or spiritually, what role do you seem to have wherever you go? Are you always the one getting people together for fun? Do people around you come to you when they need sound advice? Maybe people always count on you to set someone straight when necessary. The questions below may help you think about what God-given role you were meant to fill in the world around you.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
In what areas do you get the most compliments?
What do you feel most comfortable and confident doing?
What things do your friends think you’re best at?
What seems to come most naturally to you, that other people really have to work at?
What role would your friends and family say you fill?

Maybe those things that make you YOU, the traits you didn't think mattered, were deposits made by God himself so that you could make a difference in the lives of people around you. Don't overlook the amazing role that is yours.....even if you find out you are a nerd.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Get the picture?

Several years ago I decided to go the extra mile and do the one task that would officially make me "Super-Wife." You know the one I'm talking about. The thing your grandma might have done with ease and simplicity, between washing the clothes by hand and darning the socks. Yes, I decided to make my husband a Christmas stocking. With great enthusiasm I headed out to my local hobby supply store to buy a stocking kit. There were dozens to choose from, but I found the perfect one eventually. I headed straight home, sure that I would be finished in a few hours. (Those of you who have tried this before are snickering already!) I expected to open the package and find a felt Christmas tree, sequined ornaments, and a beautiful golden star, each ready to be sewn onto a ready-made felt stocking. Instead, what I found was a stack of large felt squares numbered with 256 tiny shapes to be cut out, 5000 sequins, and at least 200 yards of colored thread. In the very back of the package I found a folded paper containing cryptic instructions clearly intended for someone who knew embroidery and sewing terms. I had all of the materials I needed to make a masterpiece, and absolutely no idea what to do with them.
Girlfriend, do you know that you have come equipped with all of the tools to make your life a masterpiece? Unfortunately, you don't come with a step-by-step diagram of how to use them, or a picture of what the end product will look like. I recently read a book by Max Lucado that explains how to get a better idea of what materials (some might call them strengths) you have to work with. In it he described this simple exercise:
1. Think of times in your childhood, adolescence, and adulthood where you experienced success, and it was really meaningful to you. It may be something as simple as learning to blow a bubble with chewing gum, or as complex as helping two people you love overcome a conflict in their relationship. (Don't confuse successes with events, such as having a baby, getting married, etc) Try to think of 5-10 occasions for each of the three life stages listed.
2. Choose one of those successful occasions from each life stage that stands out the most to you. Write out the details of the event like a short story, being as descriptive as possible.
3. Look over the three stories you have written. Underline all of the words or phrases that involve action on your part. Now go back and circle the main subjects or topics in each story.
When you look over your underlined actions and circled subjects/topics you will probably find that there are common themes that run through all three of your stories. For example, perhaps all of them involve some kind of service or helpfulness to the people you love. Maybe you have a common theme of standing up for those who have been wronged. If you don't find any common themes, write out a few more of the stories from step 1. The materials you have been "packed" with WILL begin to be more evident. Over the next four weeks, we will uncover how to use these strengths, the things that make us tick, in various areas of our lives. Feel free to post a comment below with questions or with a specific area of life (finances, relationships, health, etc) you would like to apply your strengths in. I hope you will take the time to do this simple exercise. After all, you are a masterpiece waiting to be revealed!

Friday, March 27, 2009

All Rise?

Spring is in the air, and of course with spring in Texas comes unpredictable, sometimes stormy weather. Like my mother, and probably my Memaw too, rainy weather always puts me in the baking mood. Around our family, clouds and rain mean it's "chocolate chip cookie" weather. Last week, after a few days of rain, and chocolate chip cookies passed around the neighborhood, I moved on to baking cinnamon rolls. After an hour of watching the dough refuse to rise, my husband, Derek called. Our conversation went something like this.

"Hi Sweetheart. What are you doing?"

"Oh, just putting cinnamon rolls in the dishwasher."


"I made homemade cinnamon rolls. I just put them in the dishwasher."

"Are we supposed to eat them ...after that?"

"Of course!"

What my sweet, non-culinary husband doesn't know is that in order for yeast dough to rise properly, it needs a warm, moist environment. Since it was a cool, rainy day, my kitchen felt more like a cave than a bakery...not exactly optimal for tall, fluffy treats. In a moment of genius (or insanity) I realized that my dishwasher would be the perfect habitat for my struggling pastry. I had just put away clean dishes, and the dishwasher was still warm, steamy and freshly sterilized. I put the pans of cinnamon rolls inside, and within 30 minutes, I had perfecly risen buns, ready for the oven. As they baked, their amazing smell filling the air, I found myself thinking about how amazing it is that just a little heat, applied at the right time, causes a mix of average ingredients to rise, and then be fully baked to become something wonderful.

Maybe you have been feeling the heat in your own life lately. I know I have! Whether it's the economy, trouble on the homefront, pain in your body...or in your soul, sometimes the situation feels too hot to handle. But, maybe this is your moment, your time to rise. Maybe you're in the very place that will cause you to become who God created you to be. It is easy to lose heart in tough times, but know that ALL things, at ALL times are at work for your good....for your accomplish what God wants to in your life (Romans 8:28, Jennifer's paraphrase). Use the heat to make you better, to push you to being a better you. In the end, girlfriend, the reward really will be sweet!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Dear Me, .........

It had to come eventually. I've felt the question hanging in the air for at least a week. I've seen the uncomfortable look as my husband, Derek, glanced at the mantle over the fireplace, his eyes passing from one end to the other. It was really just a matter of time before it would accidentally pop out. "Are you ever going to take your birthday cards down from there?" Yes, just like my mother, I have a ritual of displaying birthday cards from anyone and everyone so that they can be shared by all. Usually, I put them away within a few days, but this year they have lingered a bit longer. Actually, I turned 35 three weeks ago, so for Mr. Clean, this bit of clutter has long overstayed its welcome. As usual, I felt the need for some personal over-analysis to discover why I have kept these love notes and happy wishes around for so long. The truth is, when we write down our feelings for others, we are usually more free than when we speak face to face. Come on girls...who hasn't fired off the over-emotional email only to regret it later? Written notes of affection often say more than we would dare say aloud. When was the last time you told someone, "I thank God for the day you were born," or, "You have brought so much joy to my life" out loud? Deeper still, how many of us could say or write these words of love and encouragement to ourselves? This week I gave myself the challenge to replace my birthday cards from others with a note to myself. For all that I can give to those I care about, I had a really hard time giving it to myself. It went something like this. "Dear Jennifer, girl!......hmmmm......" So I challenge you all to join me in the card-writing task. What do you think of yourselves? Who does God say you are? Would your card to yourself say, "Dear Christy, you are a true and loyal friend, " or, "Tiff, do you know how valuable you are?" How about saying, "Patti, you are standing on the edge of an amazing future?" Can you give yourself the gift of love and affirmation today? Will you ask your Creator to unveil your eyes and show you the real miracle of you? I'd better get to thinking, because I, for one, have a card to write!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

God doesn't give us cavities

They always say, "Out of the mouths of babes...." and Friday night, my son's honest moment with God helped me have one of my own. Grant, our four year old, seemed to have found every reason under the sun to NOT go to sleep that night. His toes were itchy. His pillow was turned on the wrong side. He was too hot. He was too cold. He needed to potty. By the time that he came to tell me he had forgotten to brush his teeth, I was way beyond feeling compassionate. I told him he could brush them tomorrow (knowing he had at least rinsed his mouth with the TWO drinks he had already gotten up to ask for). He snuggled back into bed and began his little prayers AGAIN. We follow a simple "recipe" for bedtime prayers. I say, "Tell God why you love Him," and Grant usually says something like, "I love you because you gave me a cool pirate room," or, "I love you because you make me strong and healthy." But on this night, clearly irritated that I would not start the tooth-brushing ritual at this time of night, he prayed, "God, I love you because you give me cavities. Thanks a lot!" Sound familiar? I, for one, have given God credit for plenty of my mistakes, feeble attempts, and missed opportunities, even when the blame should have landed squarely on me. Of course, I explained that God doesn't cause cavities as retribution for mothers who prevent tooth-brushing (I am sounding less perfect by the minute!). Cavities come when we don't do what we know we should on a regular basis. That seemed enough to satisfy his tender little heart. At bedtime, after we tell God why we love Him, we go on to say what we're sorry for, what we're thankful for, and what we need His help with. So Grant finished his prayers with, I'm sorry I didn't brush my teeth before bed. I'm thankful I don't have any cavities. I need your help so I don't get any cavities tonight since my Mom won't let me brush my teeth. Amen.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Better Chick???

A better chick? Better than who? Just who do I think I am, titling my blog "BetterChick?" I must be someone brimming with self-confidence, right? Probably hot, rich, and gainfully employed, right? Actually, you'd probably be surprised. The truth is, like most of you, I battle with my own self image ...every time I go to the grocery store. No, it's not because I see my own imperfect reflection in the frosty windows of the freezer cases. It's not even the fact that the shelves filled with "squeezable" toilet paper remind me of my own cushy backside. It happens when I stand in the checkout line staring at the magazine covers that scream endless taunts at me. "Walk Off the Weight for Good!" "Cook a 6 Course Gourmet Meal in Only 30 Minutes!" "Make Your Man Go Wild Tonight!" It is enough to drive a normal, less-than-perfect-but-trying girl like me crazy. Which leads me back to WHY in the world I chose to call myself "BetterChick." Sometime ago I began to realize how much people need me. My Husband needs me. My children need me. My family needs me. My friends need me. My church needs me. I need me. Wait a minute! I NEED ME!!! I don't need Martha Stewart, Heidi Klum, Jillian Michaels, or Beth Moore (though their help would be nice from time to time). Come to think of it, none of the people in my life need me to be any of those awesome women. What I need, and what those I so dearly love need, is ME. The best ME I can be. A better woman today than I was yesterday. A better person in every way. By the grace of God, I am a better woman, person, wife, mother, chick than I was, and I will be better than I am today. So, I welcome you to share the road trip to being a BetterChick with me.