The Assignment: A closer look at the guys behind the Live31 movement

Alex Eklund had no idea that a simple Facebook status– “I’d rather have a Proverbs 31 woman than a Victoria’s Secret model”– would go viral. He says the update was “no different from the thousands of other updates” he’d posted on his Facebook page.

Now, three months later, Alex and four other Baylor University students– Michael Bartlemay, Michael Blair, Jake Cockerill and Matthew Reid– are running Live31, a movement that’s taken on larger-than-life proportions (already their Facebook page has nearly 14,000 followers). 

The movement challenges men to seek out women who exemplify the traits found in Proverbs 31. Women are encouraged to let go of the world’s message that physical beauty is everything and strive to find beauty in God instead. 

Live31 caught my attention because Rebel In Fine Linen was born from the message behind Proverbs 31. The Live31 movement is also growing rapidly and I’m always interested in the people God uses for ministry.

What I learned after speaking with these guys is that they’re on fire for Christ, they’re mature beyond their years and their families did an incredible job raising them.

Also, interviewing them made me feel old.

Because I told Matthew to make sure and tell his mom that she is a Proverbs 31 woman in his life. Because I told Alex and Jake that I’m a mother of boys and it’s my prayer that one day my guys would turn out as Christ-centered as the Live31 guys are.

Mostly, I felt old when I told them I was only 14 years older than them.  They’re 18. Basically, I’m twice their age.

I digress.

The guys took time out of their very busy college-student schedules to speak with me (and in Michael Blair’s case, email me back).

I’m so appreciative.

Below are my questions, their answers and insight into a movement sweeping the United States.

Background:

Alex Eklund; 18. Alex is a freshman; he is majoring in Political Science and Philosophy.

Jake Cockerill; 18. Jake’s a freshman; he’s majoring in Entrepreneurship.

Matthew Reid; 20. Matthew is a sophomore; he’s majoring in Environmental Health Science.

Michael Bartlemay; 18. Michael is a freshman; he’s majoring in Entrepreneurship and Marketing with minors in Political Science and German.

Michael Blair; 19. Michael is the Freshman Class Senator at Baylor; he’s majoring in Public Relations and Political Science.

Q and A:

Since I know people are wondering, are you dating or single?

All: Single

Were you raised in the church?

Alex: Yes. I’ve attended the same church since third grade. We’ve always been very active and I’ve been in youth leadership.

Jake: I grew up in a Christian home but didn’t have a regular church. That’s why my main criteria when I was looking at colleges was finding one that would allow me to grow in my faith.

Matthew: I grew up singing in a Gospel choir and ministering through music. My grandfather, uncle and cousin were and are pastors; church became a part of me.

Michael Bartlemay: Yes. I have a lot of experience with mission trips also.

Michael Blair: Yes, I was.

What is your role with Live31?

Alex: On paper I’m the CEO.

Jake: I’m in charge of marketing.

Matthew: Social media.

Michael Bartlemay: Keeping track of finances, what’s going in and coming out.

Michael Blair: I am Live31’s public relations coordinator.

What does Live31 mean to you?

Alex: The idea behind Live31 is really just an extension of myself. It’s my life pertaining to relationships, it’s my frame of mind and has to do with my own self-image.

Jake: The message is what I live my whole life for. I want to look inward and find a woman who loves Christ more than she loves me. I see people in society not living that way and they’re missing out.

Matthew: Live31 encourages women not to give in to societal things like whether they’re just dressing a certain way to please some cute guy, and encourages men to focus on the virtuous side of women.

Michael Bartlemay: This ministry is my passion because it targets insecurity, which I’ve dealt with personally. It just really bothers me and I want to help fight it. I want to make sure people are pursuing Godly relationships.

Michael Blair: It’s unrecognized service towards the promotion of God’s Kingdom.

What is your hope for Live31?

Alex: We’ve talked about expanding into live media. We’re connecting with up-and-coming performing artists for cross-promotion. We’d like to get our name out there and participate in events and functions. Eventually, maybe we’ll do our own events or conferences.

Jake: I’d like to continue to see people impacted. I want to see people turn to God and stop looking at people just on face value.

Matthew: We’re really hoping to get nonprofit status so that we can take money from donations and T-shirt sales and donate it to other ministries. If we’re able to change one person’s life, we’ve done well.

Michael Bartlemay: We’d like to grow and get nonprofit status. I think our goal is to eventually host events and attend conferences. We’re definitely moving in the direction of building our brand. 

Was there a Proverbs 31 woman in your life who, through their influence, prompted you to create Live31?

Alex: My mom. My mom does so many things for our family. She works and keeps track of the budget. She is such a Godly woman. I also have a good female friend who is always striving to be a Proverbs 31 woman and the two of us have discussed that a lot. 

Jake: My mom, both my parents really. Seeing the relationship that those two had together and how they lived with Christ at the center of their marriage had a huge impact. If I want a relationship to last, I want to do it like my parents have. To see what they’ve gone through and where they are now- they shaped me for my future wife.

Matthew: I don’t want to sound cliché, but my mother was a really big role model in my life. She was a single mom, which was difficult, but she was still able to do so much of what Proverbs 31 describes. She’s a modern-day Proverbs 31 woman in action.

Michael Bartlemay: Both of my parents impacted me. They instilled in a me a respect for women. They taught me to act like a Southern gentleman.

Michael Blair: Yes, my mom and both of my grandmas. All of my grandparents have been married for more than 50 years and my parents have been married for more than 25. They have all shown me what the true meaning of sacrifice and love are.

What type of woman would you eventually like to marry?

Alex: When it comes down to it, I’m just trying to find a person who I can grow in my faith with, someone who is grounded in the Gospel and a person who is willing to take a family in the same direction I’d like them to go.

Jake: I want to marry a woman who I can trust to raise our children. I want a solid foundation for my children’s future, like I had growing up. I want a wife who loves Christ.

Matthew: I’m praying for a wife who really takes scripture and applies it, a woman who doesn’t just believe what her religion says. I want her Christianity and her faith to be her own, not what people told her to believe.

Michael Bartlemay: I want a wife who is trying to become all that she can be in Him.

Michael Blair: Michael answers this question beautifully in a letter to his future wife. You can find that here.

What are some things that have changed for you since Live31 was created?  

Alex: We spend a lot of time working on the movement. On a more fundamental level, we’re under a microscope so we have to be extremely intentional about our relationships. We have to be positive with our self-image.

Jake: We hear people say the movement is amazing and I agree that we are under a microscope now. I really have to make sure that any feelings I may have for someone are for the right reasons.

Matthew: I work on Live31 pretty regularly. People on campus have been talking about it a lot too.

Michael Bartlemay: It’s keeping us all busy. My parents love the movement too; I call them and ask what we should do and how to pay for things. They’re really supportive. We didn’t envision anything like this was going to happen.

Michael Blair: The biggest change in my week to week schedule has been coming up with a creative blog post once a week that blesses others. But its also been great to see just how many people are dedicated to their future spouses and want to honor them even though they may not have met them yet. 

***

You can learn more about the Live31 movement at www.Live31.org. You can support the ministry by purchasing a T-Shirt. Money raised will also go to organizations like No More Tears, To Write Love on Her Arms, International Justice Mission and Rewriting Beautiful– all groups that minister to women who struggle with self-image.

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The Assignment: Baptism Sunday at Destiny Church

 

It took some careful maneuvering to get to the front of the sanctuary.

Spotlights lit the band in an array of colors, but the rest of the room was dim.

I concentrated on getting through the sea of bodies without falling or knocking someone over.

When I reached the front and turned toward the huge group, it was obvious that the members of Destiny Church in Indio, Calif. were happy to be there.

The rows were filled with people singing, swaying and raising their hands in worship.

A current of anticipating ran through the crowd.

There were people in every row wearing bright red shirts that said “I did it!”

Appropriate, since today was “I did it!” Sunday, a day organized by church staff for those who wanted to be baptized.

I could still hear Pastor Obed Martinez’s emotionally-charged message as I made my way to the adjoining building where the baptisms would take place.

“Baptism is an outward expression of an inward impression,” he preached in a booming voice. “It’s about making a public confession and leaving the old life behind.”

“Amen!” interjected church-goers.

Following a successful baptism event in October —518 people participated— Pastor Martinez and the staff at Destiny Church were anxious to organize another one.

“There’s no doubt about it,” Martinez said. “These are the largest baptisms in the valley’s history.”

Heading into Baptism Sunday, 167 people had signed up to participate, said Jorge Orantes, executive assistant to Pastor Martinez.

However, they weren’t the only ones baptized today.

A lot of the friends and family members who came to support a loved one during their baptism decided to be baptized too, said Martinez.

Including the estimated 75 people baptized at tonight’s service, approximately 370 people were baptized today, an exhausted Orantes told me over the phone.

The same thing happened during the event in October; the members of the support system see the transformation and want that for themselves, said Martinez.

“When people get up and spontaneously participate in a baptism, it’s a moving moment man,” said Martinez. “It’s so touching.”

Pastor Martinez told me that what he witnessed at the event in October moved him immensely. There were people from all walks of life deciding in the moment to be baptized, he said.

“We had parolees with ankle bracelets getting baptized. They wrapped the device or left their leg out of the water,” he said. “It was amazing.”

I observed the people making their way into the baptism room. Pastor Martinez was spot-on; the people participating were all very different. They were young, old, married, single, parents, grandparents and those with no children. Some were baptized alone, some alongside family. Their common thread was their love for Christ.

Chris, second from left, and Elizabeth, preparing to be baptized

I watched as a couple was baptized together and thought back to my own baptism a decade ago, which happened to be with my husband.  Baptism is an important step for every Christian, but marking that milestone with John by my side made it that much more meaningful.

I talked to the couple- Chris, 29, and Elizabeth, 25. They’re dating. She’s been attending Destiny for two years, he’s been there just two weeks.

“It was time to get the Lord in our relationship,” Elizabeth told me. “It’s our new beginning.”

Chris and Elizabeth, just baptized

Chris smiled at her and added, “The steps we’re taking together have already made a huge difference. What I’m seeing and experiencing, it’s hard to even describe.”

Some might ask why Christ-followers should be baptized, or whether it’s even important.

Pastor Martinez answered that question with a question of his own.

In the middle of a passionately-delivered sermon, Martinez let the room fall to a quiet hush before asking, “If baptism wasn’t important, why did Jesus do it?

Amen.

Time zones and stuff

It’s blowing my kids’ minds that their grandfather, who lives in eastern Canada, is in 2012 when we’re still in 2011. I guess time zones aren’t covered until fourth grade, or something.

This is how my attempt at an explanation went:

Me: It has something to do with the way the earth revolves around the sun and maybe the way the moon makes waves in the ocean.

8 y.o.: That doesn’t make any sense.

7 y.o.: Did you learn that in college?

Me: I studied sociology in college.

8 y.o.: Does that mean no?

Me: It means I studied the way society as a whole, and subgroups within society, function.

8 y.o. to the 7 y.o. as they leave the room: Okay, she’s making that up.  

Me calling after them: No seriously, that’s what I studied in college.

8 y.o. from another room: Whatever mom.

Me (to no one in particular): What the hell just happened?

Anyway, my whole point is…it’s almost a new year! Where the honk does time go?

Every year on Dec. 31 I take the calendar from the year that’s ending and the calendar for the new year and I transfer all the important dates, events that occur annually, birthdays, etc. Knowing this is a tradition, I always put a note to myself on Dec. 31 of the upcoming year. I sit there and think, “I’m going to think back to writing this and wonder, where did the year go?”

Apparently on Dec. 31, 2010 I wasn’t feeling overly creative because I simply wrote, “Again?” in today’s box. Total buzz kill. I wrote a freakin’ novel for Dec. 31, 2012. Not really, it’s a one-inch square, but this time next year I’ll read it and think, “How witty of me! And where did the last twelve months go?!”

2011 was a bi-polar sort of year for my small tribe. My husband’s oldest turned 18 and graduated from high school. That same son performed in his final high school theatrical production, under the direction of his dad. We were able to purchase a home, not the first we’ve purchased together, but our dream home, for sure. Our daughter nearly died. Our daughter survived. We had birthdays, holidays and other special events. We had broken bones- minor and major- and said good-bye to some old friends.

For the most part, 2011 was good to us. Our bills were paid, we have good health insurance, we didn’t miss meals. I’m humbled by the millions who can’t say the same. For all of those people, I hope 2012 brings with it peace and provision. 

I feel the rumblings of big things for my family in 2012. Good things. Times when we’ll find ourselves saying, again, “Thank You Lord!” and contemplating how blessed we truly are. Undoubtably I’ll still have the end-of-the-month jitters (that’s a lack of trust on my part, more than anything else, because God has always provided for us). Summer will make me nervous as I pinch pennies and pray that we get through until my teacher-husband gets his paycheck at the end of September. That same man, my heart, will turn 50. Our oldest will turn 9, his last single-digit birthday. Our oldest daughter will turn 8; I suspect celebrating her life will always be different now. My youngest son will start kindergarten, our baby will start preschool.

Americans will head to the polls. We may see change. We may not.

I hope all of those people who set their projects and dreams to the shelf, take them down, dust them off and have the courage to take the next step. Whatever that step is.

2012 might be the year I finally write my book.

Mostly, I want peace for those I love. I wish for happiness. Life has taught me things don’t always go my way, so I’ll strive to stand on the foundation that God has a perfect plan, that His plan is so much better than mine and all I need to do is trust.

I want to hear about God in the lives of my friends and family. Whether people believe in Him or not, He can work mightily in their lives. Following a whispered prayer, a tearful plea or an angry shout- total silence, even- God can do amazing things. I pray this year is the year that people will let Him.

And may 2012 be the year that the Niners please, please (!) make it to the Super Bowl.

Happy New Year friends.

Me, Kristen and Gray Thursday (because if a sale starts on Thursday, it should not be called Black Friday)

Two years ago I went to Walmart on Black Friday. Everything I went to get was gone by the time I got there so I ended up standing in line for 45 minutes for a $5 blanket and deodorant (because my stick at home was nearing the bottom and I was there anyway, not because I was that sweaty at that moment).

This year, my best friend Kristen and I planned to go shopping together and being the brainiac that I am I thought it would be super smart to go to Walmart. Mmm kay, so here’s where the problem started: when we walked into Walmart.

We have this thing about the cheap pajamas there. Every year we go looking for them, find they’re sold out and complain to each other. This year, we both got a pair for all of our kids…which we’re returning. Because they’re cheap. And the ones from Target are better. 

Ta-da! We risked our lives for pajamas and Kristen’s face ended up in an employee’s crotch (as far as face-in-a-stranger’s-crotch stories go, it wasn’t that big of deal. He didn’t even notice). Also, a guy in a yellow shirt had to get by and it was really, really crowded. Close enough that when he scooted behind me I said (loudly), “Whoa! That was inappropriate.” Anyway I’m pretty sure, in some countries, yellow shirt guy and I are now married to each other.

Anyway the place was a zoo, but less organized. The uppity-ups at Walmart thought they were so smart this year because they staggered the deals by two hours. That’s ingenious, especially considering the fact people started lining up on Tuesday! Also, managers at our local Walmart didn’t get the memo about 1. avoiding a stampede, 2. organizing the lines, and 3. telling the checkers to turn on their lane number lights (this probably only irritated me).

We waited in line for about 90 minutes. Today I read a story in the paper that pretty much attributed every Black Friday assault, shooting, theft, fight, etc. to Walmart stores around the country. If the checkers had turned on their lane number lights, a lot of that could have been avoided.

I know this is shocking, but the only time either of us snapped at the other was when I yelled at Kristen in Target. I’m not sure why either because we were finding the stuff we needed and it wasn’t that late. I found a Rapunzel doll with a matching dress-up dress. It was the last one at that spot. I found Kristen an aisle over, she saw it, wanted one for her daughter and we went looking. I saw a stack on the floor of one Rapunzel and several other Disney princesses and I yelled down the aisle, “Kristen!! Tangled?” I noticed someone else looking at this one Rapunzel doll box and I yell, “KRISTEN! Focus! (right here is where I did the thing with my index and middle finger toward my eyes like, “look”) Do. You. Want. Tangled?!” She said yes like it was a question (“Yes?”). Also, she seemed a little frightened. I grabbed the box and five seconds later she was all, “You know what? Hope (her daughter) looks more like Belle.” Sigh.

We spent an hour in Macy’s only to find out at the register that we couldn’t use our coupons to purchase the sale items we’d picked up.

At 5:30 a.m. on Friday, after being out since 10 p.m. the night before, we almost slept in the parking lot at Ulta. The store opened at 6 and there was shampoo on sale. Needless to say, we decided to call it quits.

So here’s what I learned on our nearly eight-hour adventure.

1. Opening the stores on Thursday instead of Friday works for me because I’m a night owl, but there were a lot more people.

2. There is nothing priced well enough to justify going to Walmart on Gray Thursday or Black Friday. Nothing.

3. Tangled is a movie, Rapunzel is a character. Note the difference, it’s important.

4. Target pajamas are always better.

5. Your ovaries will stop hurting if you pee. (Okay, I probably should change “your” and “you” to “my” and “I” but that’s embarrassing) 

6. While I’m not too old to stay up all night, I am too old to do it and be expected to fully function the following day. Alright, alright- it’s been two days and I’m still a little loopy.

7. I will not reduce myself to sleeping in a car for shampoo.

8. If someone had told me when I was 14 that once in my life I’d be at the mall with my best friend at 3:30 in the morning eating Cinnabon, I would have passed out right there. Dreams really do come true.

Thankful and domesticated

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. My favorite holiday. I’m not sure why this is. Thanksgiving  was always just okay at my house growing up. I think part of why I love it so much now is because I love food, especially comfort food. What’s more comforting than melted marshmallows atop sugar-filled yams and mashed potatoes covered in gravy? Nothing.

Since I moved out of my mom’s house when I was 16, I never really learned how to make Thanksgiving dinner. The first Thanksgiving I spent with my now-husband was when we were dating. I thought I’d be super mature and make duck….in a crock pot. A crock pot. I also made pie and rolls. We ate rolls that day.

The evening ended with us driving through the quiet desert neighborhoods, enjoying the beautiful breeze through the windows. Okay that’s how it started, but it soon spiraled out of control and ended with John yelling out the window. Also, he was shaking his fist toward the heavens. Literally. Back then, when things didn’t go well, I grew a second head. It was that second head he was really mad at.

Fast-forward 13 years and I’m fully domesticated. I get a 20 pound bird so the kids have leftovers (13 years ago I didn’t even know birds got that big) and make a ton of stuff most of which I will eat because I live with five of the pickiest eaters. Ever. I mean, what kid doesn’t like mashed potatoes? All. Four. Of. Mine.

I think I love Thanksgiving for what it stands for. It happens in autumn, which is my favorite season and I’ve already covered my food obsession. I love it because it’s a whole day set aside to give thanks. I was thinking about it as I watched my 7-year-old nap this afternoon.

She fell asleep next to me as I lay reading. I turned to face her and marveled at the fact we lay the same way in our sleep. We were a human example of symmetry, she and I. Facing each other with our backs curved out and our knees drawn up, our heads nearly touching on the long pillow, I wondered if, from above, we made the shape of a heart.

After my youngest son survived meningitis as a newborn, I thought I’d never be so thankful. Until June. Until June when my 7-year-old daughter fell and crushed her head, broke her eye socket, her cheek bone. Until June when she finally woke up after the longest 51 minutes of my entire life. Until June when we got home from the hospital and cried together as I washed the blood from her hair. Until June.

Stayg’s illness never produced a visible physical symptom. Bronte’s injuries were literally written across her face, her temple, tangled in her beautiful red hair, slithering like a serpent up the back of her skull. Stayg’s body fought hard against his illness; Bronte’s crushed under the weight of her injuries.

When my oldest- a son- was born, I became a mom. When my daughter was born, I became a mother. For those two, and the two that followed, I am grateful. I have so much to be thankful for. Bronte’s recovery was nothing short of miraculous (I firmly believe had it not been for the hundreds of people praying for her around the world, she wouldn’t have made it). The EMT’s are surprised. The specialists are in awe. And I am thankful. I am thankful for my small tribe of a family. I am thankful that God healed my broken places after experiencing Bronte’s accident. I am thankful that John stuck it out while I learned how to stop growing a second head whenever I couldn’t deal.

Tomorrow I’m going to make a ton of food. I’ll eat way too much and then feel sort of gross and then check next week’s spin class schedule at the gym. John will get a little irritated because we don’t have the NFL Network and he’s going to try watching the 49er game on the computer and the feed will be jacked up (although he doesn’t know this yet). I’ll make a very organized game plan for Black Friday even though there’s a high probability I’ll sleep through the alarm.

There will be laughter.

We may not change out of our pajamas.

And we will be thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Hold Your Breath. Don’t Move.

Yesterday was Veteran’s Day. I celebrated by having a mammogram (as an aside, I’m profoundly grateful for the men and women who fight for our freedom).

I’m 31 and that’s fairly young to have regular mammograms.

I started when I was 25.

My mother had breast cancer and nearly two decades later she had ovarian cancer. She survived. It’s quite possible that she was BRCA positive, but I’ll never know for sure (THIS,  in part, explains why).  

When I learned she had ovarian cancer, my doctor strongly suggested I be tested for the BRCA gene mutation.

A mutated BRCA gene prohibits genes from staving off cell growth. In other words, instead of fighting off certain cancers, it’s opens the door and says, “Well hello there. Come in” (I don’t actually know if the little mutated bastards are that nice, but I do know that they don’t do what they’re supposed to).

According to the American Cancer Society, women have a 12 percent chance of developing breast cancer in their lifetime. A woman with a BRCA gene mutation has a 60 percent chance. Additionally, a woman has a 1.4 percent chance of developing ovarian cancer over the course of her life. With a BRCA gene mutation, the risk goes up to 40 percent.

In 2011, an estimated 22,000 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer. 15,000 will die. That’s a nearly 75 percent death rate.

At 24 those statistics were very real to me; I decided to undergo the genetic testing and I was terrified. The test is outrageously expensive and waiting for my insurance company to approve it was maddening.

Once the testing was finally approved I needed to complete the first stage– a consultation with an oncologist and a genetic counselor. 

I went alone to my appointment because my husband was home with our two young children. I was hoping it would be quick since I was still nursing my daughter and didn’t want to be gone long.

The oncologist was kind, but I wasn’t diagnosed yet and I had both  my breasts and she had other patients who needed her more than I did. She spoke to me as she did a breast exam. I warned her that I was nursing and she said it wasn’t anything she hadn’t dealt with before. She went over numbers and death rates. She finished up by asking me what I’d tell the insurance company if my BRCA testing came back positive.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Oh yes you do,” she replied. “You’ll tell them you’re going to have a double mastectomy and oophorectomy.”

I was stunned.

Tears fell into my hair and as I sat up I felt them fall to my lap. That’s when I realized I was leaking breast milk. Everywhere. I laugh at this now, but at the time, not so funny.

I was 24 with two young children and I was told that in mere weeks I might have to decide whether to remove my breasts and ovaries. From the perspective of the doctor, it wasn’t even a choice. I dressed, rushed to my car and sobbed.

My tests came back negative.

Scientists know more about the BRCA gene mutation now; my negative results don’t mean anything without knowing whether my mother has the gene mutation also.

Consequently, I’m not in any better position than I was that day at the doctor’s office.

So that is why I began having annual mammograms when I was only 25.

As I sat in the waiting room yesterday I watched the seats fill up. There were women who flipped idly through magazines; just a routine check-up, I decided. There were women whose knees bounced and some who wouldn’t make eye-contact; I let my mind create back stories for these women, and my heart hurt.

There was one man, sitting alone, facing the door leading to the x-ray rooms. He held a small purse on his lap (I was sure it belonged to his wife because it didn’t match his outfit). He looked to be in his 50s. He was wearing a mechanic’s shirt. He hung his head low and turned the purse over and over in his hands, fingering the stitching. He looked up expectantly every time the door opened, only to drop his gaze to the floor when a stranger walked through.

“Please God let his wife be okay,” I said to myself.

The air was thick with silent prayers and I was relieved when my name was called.

My technician was nice. She had the accent of a New Yorker, veiled by years of living in California. She is a nana, she told me, and can’t wait for Christmas so she can buy her grandson gifts.

She did her thing, and I went along for the ride.

Her constant gentle directions were spoken from rote memory…

step forward now put your arm up there no the other handle i’m sorry if this hurts shoot my hand is stuck in there come toward me turn your head hold your breath don’t move i’m sorry again turn your shoulder we have to get as much tissue as possible.

When I was through, I half-listened to her as I watched my breast in ghost form creep onto the screen. I looked at a spot I hadn’t noticed in my past scans. “I like your earrings,” my technician said as she stepped between me and the image, blocking my view.

I wonder if she noticed my eyes narrow, accusingly. No doubt she was simply trying to keep me from self-diagnosing.

“Everything looks great,” she said. “The radiologist will review the scans and let you know if you need any additional tests.”

“You’d better be right,” I thought to myself. “I want to be someone’s nana too.”

I think back to that scared girl sitting in her car sobbing at the thought of losing her breasts and ovaries, and I almost don’t recognize her.

Maybe it’s what happened when I matured out of my 20s or because I’ve had two more children since that day. We’ve moved a few times. My kids are in school now. Whatever the reason, I know my choice now would be simple.

Take it all. Who cares. If it lowers my risks, if it lengthens the time I can spend with my children, my husband, then who cares?

I ache at the thought of cancer taking me before I can watch my daughters walk down the aisle or see my sons hold their babies.

So every year, when I go in for my mammogram I wonder if it will be the year that they find something.

And every year, as I watch the women, full of fear, sit in a waiting room to find out whether they have cancer or whether it’s back or whether it’s gone, I wish for a tiny second that my tests were positive all those years ago so that I wouldn’t have breasts to worry about.

But in the end, it’s out of my hands and that’s the only part of the whole deal that brings any peace at all.

Frida Kahlo told me I’m not crazy

Last week I went to a bookstore in downtown Palm Springs to check out an exhibit of Dia de los Muertos-themed quilts. I donned my freelancer hat long enough to gather the information I’d gone there for in the first place and then I put on my I-am-insanely-in-love-with-books hat (these aren’t real hats).

I sort of fell in love with the place. I would say 87 percent of the books were in Spanish, which I don’t speak, but I loved all the art on display. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit. I was heading out the door when I glanced into a glass case near the register. On closer inspection I saw several pairs of earrings. Really cool earrings. They were made of bottle caps and small paintings and photos of Frida Kahlo.

Now I’ll be honest, when it comes to Frida Kahlo the only thing I really know is that you can paint a unibrow on Selma Hayek, but she’s still not going to look like Frida Kahlo. I mean, no one is ever going to look at Hayek and be all, “Is that Frida?” So obviously, I remembered little to nothing about the artist from my art history class in college, but I still liked the jewelry.

The owner explained that the design is popular in Mexico. Bottle caps are flattened and painted and small pictures are glued in the center, then they’re attached to hooks and botta bing- kitschy wins!

Of course I bought a pair. The sepia tone picture of Kahlo is timeless and no one is ever going to tell me they saw a pair just like mine at the mall.

As I was driving home though, I wondered something. Was this a little bit of crazy in bauble form?

I asked myself the same thing when I found sparkly silver Toms (which everyone has now so they’re slightly less cool) and when I made a (very heavy) necklace (okay I made two) out of washers from my husband’s tool box and when I purchased a gaudy ceramic ring with ladybugs and flowers on it. Would my mother have worn this?

Here’s why I even care….my mother was crazy. As in, clinically. She had a personality disorder. Looking back on my childhood this was obvious in a lot of ways.

Like the time when I was nine and got lost alone, at night, in a little town in Mexico because she wouldn’t walk me from the beach to where we were staying (what ensued is another blog post all together).

Or when she started going to AA meetings to meet new people.

Or when we would drive up the coast and she’d threaten to drive off the edge of the highway.

No less dramatic, and just as nuts- she wore a tiara. All the time. To the store, to drop me off at school, to the movies.

“I’m a queen,” she’d say, as explanation.

She didn’t really think she was the queen, she just thought she should be treated like one.

She also wore some really outrageous clothes. She insisted on dying her hair a ghastly color red. She decorated our house in what she called “whimsical ways”, but it was just strange.

There was also that time she had her eyebrows tattooed on…crooked (this royal “oops!” still sends me and my sister into fits of laughter).

But it usually all comes back to that stupid tiara.

She even had me wearing one for a few short months in fifth grade. We’d go to the grocery store in our too-small-but-wonderful-town wearing sweats, t-shirts and rhinestones. It was like Grey Gardens: The Early Years.

So, when I wear a pair of glitter shoes, or make a necklace out of washers or impulsively buy a pair of artsy-fartsy earrings, I stop to speculate whether a little part of me is going crazy too.

Then I remind myself I would never send either of my daughters alone at night through a village in Mexico (even when they’re not being good listeners), I wouldn’t threaten to drive us all into the ocean and I sure as hell wouldn’t wear a tiara around town.

My mom wanted to be noticed and probably more than anything, she just wanted to be heard. She gets the award for going about it in the worst possible ways.

My goal is to teach my kids to express themselves in ways that make their hearts sing and  encourage them to listen for their creative voices, however quiet they may be.

Is there a difference? Am I nuts?

Um, yes. Not literally.

BUT, if bucking the world’s trends makes me crazy, at least it’s a totally awesome I’m-leaving-a-positive-legacy-for-my-kids sort of crazy. Hopefully they’ll learn from me that it’s okay to go against the grain as long as they’re being true to themselves and spreading light in the process.

Thank you Frida Kahlo!

Sept. 11, 2001

I remember what shoes I was wearing on Sept. 11, 2001.

It’s almost absurd to think about; thousands lost their lives and I remember cheap black shoes.

It occurred to me in the days following 9/11 that my mother often said the same thing about JFK’s assassination. “I remember where I was when I heard,” she’d point out. “I know what dress I had on that day.”

For generations X and Y, the 9/11 terror attacks are their JFK assassination.

I got up slowly that morning knowing I didn’t have to be at work early. I remember turning on the television to find some L.A. news personality looking concerned and sounding frightened. The screen image cut away to a smoking north tower. I remember wondering what happened.

Information came in chaotic bursts in the beginning and I was having a difficult time wrapping my head around what I was seeing. I was watching a live feed when the south tower was hit.

I called John on his cell phone and he said he’d been listening to the radio and knew what was going on.

“You’re coming home, right?” I asked him.

“I’m almost at school. Let me see what’s going on first,” he said.

“What if something happens near us when you’re there and I’m here?” I asked, frantically.

“Then I stay and make sure the kids are safe.”

My eyes were glued to the screen as I hung up the phone. I thought about how terrified the people in the world trade towers were at that very moment. I wondered how they’d get out. Then just like that, the south tower was gone; as though it had never taken up space in the sky. 

I wiped a fallen tear from my right shoe.

It felt like I cried a million tears in the weeks following 9/11.

On my way to work that Tuesday morning, I was waiting at a stop light and tears flowed freely down my face. I glanced to the driver of the car next to me and our eyes met. Her hand was over her mouth and she was crying too. That morning she and I, and everyone else in this country, became members of the same club.

Not long after I arrived at work, both towers were gone, the Pentagon had been hit and little was left of Flight 93 in a Pennsylvania field.

I cried for the loss of life. I cried for the bravery of the firefighters and police officers who died trying to save. For the warriors on Flight 93 who, knowing their lives were about to end, sent that plane into a field before it could fly into Washington D.C.

I cried for the children of the victims, especially the yet-to be born; for them, my heart is still broken.

My grief for the surviving wives was sometimes overpowering.

Eventually my tears flowed because of a profound sense of patriotism. Pictures of American flags whipping in the wind, people helping others- a nation galvanized.

That day changed this nation. We all awoke to one type of America and by that night, we knew She’d never be the same.

Sept. 11, 2001 was the worst kind of tragic. It was crippling fear and loss. It was dust and noise, sirens and firefighters. It was “Let’s roll!” and good-bye, chaos and heroics.

It was a day that I will never forget. It’s a kaleidoscope of images burned into my memory.

A few days ago my 8-year-old asked me about 9/11. I considered how to explain it in a way that wouldn’t frighten him; I wanted to protect him from the heartache of that day. 

“I’ll never forget where I was when I first watched the news,” I told him. “I still remember what shoes I was wearing that day.”

An entire pregnancy

That’s how much time has passed since I last posted.

Dare I say I am going to commit to posting at least once a week. The problem is, I’m not entirely sure I have enough interesting things to write about. Not everyone wants to know about succesful potty training (and the serious celebration that was had) or back to school shopping or how I can’t wait to demo the tile in my kids’ bathroom because it’s totally gross.

I recently told someone that every story is funny if it’s told in the right way. So that’s my goal. I will share stories of psycho parents in the pick-up line at school (like the time a woman left her car running in the line, blocking everyone’s exit, and my husband got in it, moved it and said woman completely freaked) or the mom who always wears too-short shorts to back to school night or whatever else happens in my wife-mom-freelancer-church volunteer-life– and it WILL be funny.

Funny is relative anyway. I think everything is hilarious.

 

How to be Rebellious

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Galatians 5:22

Jesus Christ was a rebel. He went against the cultural, societal, political and religious norms of His day to reach the masses with the Good News. He did not care that, by doing so, He was considered an outcast. His actions and his behavior, along with Godly characteristics, made Him the most impactful man in history. He literally changed the course of eternity.

One of the greatest acts of rebellion we can participate in is rebellion against the world. By exemplifying the characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit and allowing our attitudes to reflect those characteristics, we are going against how the world encourages us to behave.

John 15:5 & 8 says, I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.

In addition to reflecting Christ’s work in our lives, the fruit of the Spirit allows us to bear good fruit, which in turn glorifies God. We are identified by the type of fruit we produce (Luke 6:43-45).

Dive In:

Love: John 3:16, John 15:9, John 15:12-14, I John 4:7-12

Joy: Luke 10:21, John 17:13, John 16:22-24, I Peter 1:8,9

Peace: Isaiah 9:6,7, Romans 14:19, I Corinthians 14:33, Philippians 4:6,7

Patience: I Timothy 1:15-17, Proverbs 14:29, Proverbs 15:18, I Thessalonians 5:14, James 5:8,9

Kindness: Titus 3:4,5, Ephesians 2:6,7, Proverbs 11:16,17, Jeremiah 9:23,24

Goodness: Titus 3:4-7, Psalm 23:6, Ephesians 5:8-10, Galatians 6:9,10

Faithfulness: Isaiah 11:5, Revelation 19:11a, Hebrews 3:6, Matthew 23:23, Revelation 2:10b.

Gentleness: Matthew 11:28-30, Matthew 21:5, Proverbs 15:1, I Corinthians 4:21, Philippians 4:4,5, I Peter 3:15

Self-Control: Luke 22:41, 42, I Peter 2:23, Proverbs 25:28, Proverbs 29:11, Titus 2:11,12, I Peter 4:7

Consider how surprised you are when someone at the DMV or the Post Office is really, really kind. It stays with you and you may even tell other people about your experience. It’s because we don’t expect people in notoriously chaotic places to exhibit kindness. Now consider how awesome it is when you are kind because you’re reflecting Christ’s work in your life and what a witness that is to those around you.

Bearing good fruit will transform your attitude from situation-centered to Christ-centered. You will be defined by your attitude and your love for Christ.

Bear fruit by allowing God’s Word to transform your attitude. Rebel against the world.