Thursday, July 30, 2015

you are lovely

The thought came to me this week as I was trying on dresses for my niece, Claire's, wedding,
that I could sure do with some of the muscle tone I had almost twenty years ago
when I got married.
It came to me with some other thoughts like,
If I am holding in my stomach, why doesn't it look like I am holding in my stomach?
Why is the skin on the top of my knee trying to fold over on itself?
Stay where you are, knee skin...STAY. WHERE.YOU.ARE.
Let's be real. The lighting in Ross is so harsh.
Things have been shifting the last year or so.

I told my doctor I think I have skin cancer and a hormone imbalance
and I am possibly going blind....
I have dark spots showing up on my skin, I have to fight to fit into my own pants
and my eyes are so dry that my eyelids want to stick to my eyeballs..
She laughed and said, "You are fine. Those are age spots and you are just getting older."

I kind of wanted to hit her.
But she is super nice and I thought she might not see me again if I took to violence.
So I have been putting on cream that says it defies age which is a lot to expect from any cream,
counting calories and wearing glasses.

And here I am left with my age spots and my feelings.
And I have been talking to myself. (Another sign of aging?????)
Because I am not a twenty year old girl any more.
I don't have to plunge into self doubt because my pants are tight.
I am a woman who knows some things.
I have been speaking some deep truths to my own soul.

1. That feelings are feelings...and they can change.
And they will change.  As a woman, I reserve the right to change how I feel
about any moment...any day of the week.
2. I am getting older and this is a good thing...
the other option is going to heaven...which I would like to put off for a while.
3. This body has done some good hard work in the last 20 years
birthing people, planting churches, chasing kids and getting me places in general...
I should be singing its praises...
"Good job, body parts!"
"Way to keep doing what you are doing!"

Here is the thing...I think it is important to feel good about yourself.
I am not knocking a new dress and a strong pair of spanks. (Thank you, Lycra.)
Let's keep everything looking good and where it supposed to be.
Let's keep exercising and eating Greek yogurt and lotion-ing up.
It is good stewardship...taking care of these amazing bodies we have been blessed with.

But the truth some point, say in our mid-80's,
we will realize there is NO CREAM that can truly defy age. (Sorry, Oil of Olay.)

Here is the other thing.... 
regardless of age, thigh circumference, and nose size?

Beautiful is what we are.

Whether we believe it or not.
With our various ages, unique faces and different shapes and wide varieties of hair types,
we, as women, are beautiful.

When we are brought low by the thickness of our ankles or our overly large ears,
the deep truth that needs to wedge itself in our hearts is that
the One who created us made us in his image.
His glorious...unfathomable...beautiful image.
He likes what He made. He took great delight in the details of
shaping our high foreheads and sturdy legs and strong hands.
And he loves us.
He thinks
He thinks you are lovely.
He thinks I am lovely.

So I telling myself that, too.

4. I am lovely.

Because it is the truth. Not a feeling.

I want how I see myself  and how I feel about myself to be tethered to what He thinks of me...
instead of how I fit into my pants.
How I fit into my pants is changeable. Apparently, from week to week.
How He feels about me is not.
How He feels about you is not.
He loves us completely...wholly....with his entire matter what.

And beautiful.


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

sometimes the Holy Spirit teaches me lessons because of the tv...really, He does.

Our television died the day before yesterday.
Or as our children would say....their only reason for living is gone.
We are deep mourning over here.
One minute the Disney channel was on...the next?
Eternal blackness.

There have been real tears shed.
What. In. The. World.
What is this world coming to?
Where is the love?
Does Love = Hours spent in front of a screen?
If it does...the love is gone.

I am a little sad myself.
All of my So You Think You Can Dance inspired hip hop routines
are going to have to be put on hold. (So sorry, Nappy Tabs....)
But it's okay.
This is real life over here, people.
The boys are learning hard lessons.
Grown Up People lessons.
And we all have to learn them sometime.

The immediate question was, "When can we buy a new TV?"
To which we said, "Since no one has been able to find the magic money tree....
we will not be getting a new TV any time soon."
More tears. (Some of them may or may not have been Scott's....)
1st Lesson: You can't buy a new TV when you don't have money for a new TV.

The next question was, "Can we not eat any more food so that we can buy a new TV?"
This coming from the child who has been known to eat an entire pound of cheese
in one sitting.
2nd Lesson: Food is more important than TV.

It may not feel like it but it is.
A 3 week fast for preteen and teenage boys is not really an option.
I haven't even seen a 3 hour fast happen in the last year for that matter.

One of the boys came in my room last night with a look on his face that was distressing.
Such unhappiness. I really thought something horrible had happened.
I asked him, "What's wrong, buddy? Are you okay?"
There was a hint of tears glittering in his eyes.
I thought maybe one of his brothers had hauled off and punched him in the nether regions...
because that happens around here quite a bit.
Instead he whispered, "No TV."

Being the loving and caring mom that I am, I said something like,
"No. I don't think so. We are done with this. We are all disappointed but
you don't get to pout endlessly about not having a TV.
We are not crying over not having a TV."
I was even a little angry.
I almost went off a mini rant.
Because we have every single thing that we need, don't we?
We have food, clothes, shelter, and each other.
We have even had more than the usual amount of ice cream this summer!
And doesn't he know that his Dad and I do EVERY SINGLE THING we can
to provide him and his brothers with everything they need?
Doesn't he?

I could feel the righteous anger building in my chest.
I was going to lay into this kid and let him know what was up.
And right before I got ready to open my mouth to remind him about all the children
I felt the Holy Spirit give me a little poke and say,
"Man, he sure sounds a whole lot like you when you were talking to me this morning
about what you need...
almost like you don't think I have given you enough...
almost like you are not thankful for the gagillion blessings I have lavished on you.
And by the way, 
don't you know that your Heavenly Father does EVERY SINGLE THING
He can to provide you with everything you need?
Don't you?"
Sometimes the Holy Spirit is sarcastic.
I think He does it for effect.

And so I kept my mouth shut.
About all the children in the world.
Because apparently, I have a giant redwood sticking out of my eye while
I am so concerned about the TV sized speck in my son's eye.
3rd Lesson: Keep your mouth shut when the Holy Spirit tells you the truth about

So today...I am focusing on the great mercy that my Heavenly Father affords me.
That He didn't flick me off of the planet yesterday for being ungrateful and on top of that,
judging someone else for being ungrateful.

And I am thankful that He is so gracious as to use my own children to point out
my shortcomings so that we can both learn this important Grown Up People lesson
at the same time...
even though I am 30 years older than they are and should have already learned this lesson.

And I am saying these things out loud today ...
with a fresh, clean, un-complaining, non-whining voice...
God is so good.
He is so loving.
He is so faithful.
He is so kind.
He never fails us.
Not ever.
And that is way better than TV.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

i still want more things

Hi, My name is Susanna...and I am a coveter.
And lately, I have been coveting a lot of things.
Like houses and new shoes.
A better salary and more kid workers for our church's kids program.
I want more likes on my facebook page and more time to relax.
I want more miles so I can fly and see my parents in Colorado
and I want more dates with Scott.
I am an out and out coveter on all fronts.
And the worst part?
The wants? They don't go away.
Every time a want is fulfilled? A new want arises in its place.

Case in point?
We have two very old cars.
One of them decided to finally die.
So we made the leap and bought another used car.
But it is a beautiful used car that is only 5 years old...instead of 15 years old.
So now we refer to our cars as the "new car" and the "ugly car".
Not one of us wants to ride in the ugly car.
It smells like 6 year old milk.
In fact, we all want to ditch the ugly car entirely and get another new car.
See what I mean? The wants? They keep coming.

Getting more doesn't seem to make us want less.

It is hard to sift through the wants that are good and healthy
and the wants that are just filling me with discontentment.
I think there is a reason that coveting is listed in The Ten Commandments.
Thou shalt not covet.
I think it is because the wants seem to empty you of all gratitude.
They suck the joy right out of your day and you forget to thank Jesus for the things
He has given you like the ability to breathe and move and live, in general.
I think that is why the Holy Spirit keeps bringing it to my attention
each time I want to veer into the Ross parking lot
and see how many cute shirts I can get for $20.
He is saying,

You think that this is what you want....but it isn't.
What you really me.
What you need to look me.
What you need to focus me.
If you are chasing me...everything else will fall in place.
(p.s. you don't need 7 shirts from Ross...even if they are on sale.)

There is a verse that He has recently brought to mind....
Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness
And all these things shall be added unto to you.

It's funny.
Somehow it always comes back to Him.
His deliverance.
His mercy.
His grace.
If I take care of putting Jesus first.....
He takes care of everything else.
And if I am being honest?
That is all that I really...want.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

dreams can be fun

A while ago,  I started plotting about how I could marry two things that I love:
kids and writing
writing and kids
I came up with the idea of Camp Long Story Short.
A week long creative writing camp where you use play and interactive lessons
to teach the important themes of writing..
like developing character....charting the hero's journey...perspective...the writer's voice, etc.
I thought about it. Talked to friends about it. Mulled it over.
And two years is finally happening.
Sometimes dreams take a while to marinate.

The night before camp started I set up centers in our patio room and backyard.
A book corner.
An area for author posters.
A tiny camp tucked away in the garden to inspire young minds.
Jack had manufactured two gallons of bubbles for our bubble making area.
Along with filling a baby pool with bubble solution, a hula hoop and a stool so that each
young writer could experience what it was like to be encased in a giant bubble.
I got their baskets ready with their camp mug, composition books and pencils,
a blank book for their story and bubbles...everyone can use some bubbles.
I prepped our boys, "Okay, you guys, I am going to need all of your help for this to work."
Scott was my back up adult in case of emergencies. Jack was my co-teacher.
Will was a junior helper and Addie was a participant.
They said they were in. Even though Will and Addie could care less about writing stories.
Even though Scott had sermon prep and webinars in the works.
They were willing to do what had to be done to help me out.
Sometimes dreams take an all hands on deck approach.

And I prayed. Three important prayers.
"God, let us have some fun...let us learn something....and don't let anyone die."
The last one was especially important. No one wants to die at camp.
Sometimes dreams need a little prayer covering.
Okay...dreams always need a little prayer covering.

And then it happened.
Camp Long Story Short.

7 campers. 2 helpers. 5 days. 15 hours. 25 activities. Lots of snacks.
We had fun. We laughed. We bubbled.

We explored.

We molded.

We raced.

We dreamed. We wrote. We created.

And no one died. Thank you, Jesus.
On Friday our young authors read their stories to a proud
audience of parents and grandparents.

and then celebrated with home made ice cream.
Because sometimes...dreams are a whole lot of fun.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

river dancing to kill bugs is a thing

I have this thing with bugs.
I don't actually like them.
But if they promise to keep their distance and not to touch me,
I will let them live their little buggy lives in peace and I will live mine.
Unfortunately, they keep trying to make friends.
Especially, the ones with wings.
Some of you who have been reading here for a long time remember the
Cicada Incident of 2003....most of you probably do not...but here is the thing....
bugs should not be allowed to fly.
I get it. They need to get places.
It just that I don't want to be their destination of choice.
Just the other day, Scott said to me casually, "Oh, there is a bug starting to go down your shirt."
That is not something that you just say to a person.
Because I come from a line of people who are willing to shed clothes when
critters are trying to go up or down them.
I distinctly remember my very modest Grandma Blakeley telling me once that
she had a lizard go up her pant leg while picking almonds in the orchard and
she said if she hadn't been able to shake it out, her pants were the next things to go.
It seems reasonable to me.
There can be no restrictions in place when trying to rid yourself of said critter.
Scott's statement resulted in a wide variety of movement from me.
Shaking. Jumping. Arm flailing. And screams of:
"Where is it?" and "Is it gone?" and "Why aren't you helping me?"
And he just stood there taking it all in and laughed.
It's not that funny. I have had one too many bug run-ins
I have had:
1. a grasshopper fly into my hair during an outdoor wedding resulting in the undoing
of a very pompadour-ish hairstyle,
2. several cicadas dive bomb me and land on my person,
3. a praying mantis (at my children's school) take up residence first,
on my right leg and then as a result of a very high cheerleader kick, land on my left leg,
4. some kind of flying bug land on my lips during a Bible Study which
resulted in a lot of raspberry sounds mid-exegesis,
5. don't even get me started on how many moths have tried to beat their felt-y wings
against my forehead, (sidenote: why are moths gross and butterflies cute? I don't know...)
and these are just a few examples.
The bugs? They love me.
The other night a junebug flew into our kitchen and started flying towards me.
First of all, don't junebugs live in Arizona? Or New Mexico?
And secondly, don't we pay a gagillion dollars to live in the Bay Area to NOT
have flying bugs in the summer?
If we are going to start having bugs, I want my rent lowered.
And thirdly, just don't fly into my kitchen, junebug. Just don't do it.
It took a pass at my head and then landed at my feet where upon I proceeded
to a do a river dance of stomping and high stepping to try and kill it.
I was getting some height and lift on those high kicks, kids, I really was.
Which caused Scott to say, "Sue, you are going to throw your back out again."
And then Addie said, "Where did it go?"
So at that point I had pulled an upper thigh muscle and had a flying bug on the loose
in the house.
I retired to my bedroom and closed the door. I was done for the night.
No, thank you, junebug.
And then this morning a wasp flew straight at my face when I was out watering the plants.
Don't even get me started on bugs that inflict injury.
They are clearly a result of the fall.
A clear menace and blight upon all the goodness that this world has to offer.
I am pretty sure I woke up the neighbors with my screams and the Maori slap dance
that I performed in my backyard.
The sad news is that I feel like the bugs are ramping up.
There has been an increase in bug activities and sightings in our yard.
They just don't give up.
So..where does that leave me?
Mostly, it leaves me thinking I need to do more stretching to limber myself up.
If the bugs want to try to dance with this partner?
It will be their last dance.
I will be BRINGING. IT. Have no doubt.
I will high kick, jazz hands, river dance,
and stomp my way through this entire summer if I have to.
If you are in the area, feel free to stop by.
It could be quite a show.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Richard the Great Adventurer (otherwise known as my dad)

Today I don't get to be with my dad.
He is in Colorado probably at church talking to people
or there is the possibility that he in Washington DC or
on a short trip to Mumbai....he is hard to pin down at times.
I am here in California in my kitchen trying to figure out a way
to let him know how incredibly thankful I am that he is,
in fact, my dad.
My dad was a missionary's kid.
At age 3, he sailed from New York Harbor with his parents and sister, Lou Anne,
within months of World War 2 coming to a close.
He remembers the shell shocked harbor of Naples, Italy, and
survived a bout of malaria within his first year of arriving in India
At the age of 4, he was shuttled up to the tea plantations
in the Nilgiri Hills of India to attend a  British boarding school.
He learned about bananas on toast, sipping tea and VERY PROPER table manners ...
which he tried (with no avail) to pass on to his children.
(How can you sit up, keep your elbows off the table, take small bites,
chew with your mouth closed and not sing...all at the same time????)
His parents worked, teaching students, hours away at a small Bible College.
He saw them a couple times a year.
This would have shattered some children.
For my dad, it only seemed to cement in him the adventurous spirit.
He had crossed the Atlantic and Indian Oceans...
He conquered the hills of India and the British Boarding school system....
He had defied a life threatening illness....
All before the age of 7.
His question?
What next?
It is the question that has propelled him through life.
Through college, grad school, church planting,
college presidenting, countless speaking engagements, overseas trips, mentoring gigs,
and now authoring a book.
He just did a life plan with a life coach....he is seventy three.
Because, clearly, retirement is out of the question.
That would be boring.
Every day, for my dad, is an adventure to be had.
A new person to meet.
A new friend to make.
A new story to tell.
24 hours of endless possibilities.
There aren't a lot of "no"s in my dad's vernacular.
Instead he says things like,
"How can we make that happen?"
"I think we should do that!"
followed by
"Wouldn't that be fun?"
And then you see the wheels start spinning in his head because,
He is going to make that happen....
He is going to do that (whatever that is)...
and he is about to have some serious fun.
If you stick around him long enough, you get to get in on the fun.
We Foth kids got in on the fun and are richer for it.
Some people say that I remind them of my Dad.
Which is fantastic except when it comes to his baldness.
This is something I could do without.  I would like to keep my hair. (No offense, Dad.)
But I want to be like my dad because I love how he looks at life.
With great expectation.
With a great love. (For my mom, for us kids and grandkids, and mostly for, Jesus)
And with a sense that his best adventure is just around the corner.
And knowing my dad? It is.

I love you, Dad.
Thank you for loving us so well and including us in your adventures!

I hope you have your best Father's Day...EVER.
And I guess my only question to you is.....
What next?

Friday, June 19, 2015

i am not pregnant...but I am writing a book about it

Thirteen years ago, I flew down to LA for my first, true meeting with a publisher
about my first book that ever made it through both editorial committee
and publishers committee.
I was thrilled.
It was a gift book full of pregnancy poems and prayers.
I had been promised a contract.
It had been 4 long years of going to writers conferences and
rejection letters and all my dreams were coming true.
Scott and I were getting ready to move across the country to
work with my parents and Mark and Lora Batterson at National Community Church
in Washington, DC.
We were youth pastoring at the time and had moved into an apartment behind the church
that was so tiny we could sit on the couch in the living room and
open the refrigerator in the kitchen.
Scott would not be youth pastoring for the the first time in 14 years.
We were excited and sad all at the same time.
Excited to embark on a new adventure and sad to leave our church,
our family and our friends behind.
I was newly pregnant with my second, Will.

There was a lot of nausea and mood swings involved.
Basically, we were in upheaval.
Both literally (me)  and figuratively (Scott).
Pregnancy seems to do that for you....
even when you are not planning a cross country move.
And then I got the call.
No. They did not want to publish my book.
They had changed their minds.
Even after it had been approved and the style of artwork had been decided.
Getting published is a perilous process
and a book can be dropped at any point in the journey.
They were so sorry.
I sat down on the couch and wept.
In the space of two weeks following that disappointment,
I got two more rejection letters.
One of them  was the harshest I have ever received,  telling me that my writing was
"crass" and "gross" and "that I was better than that".
The editor was referring to a chapter I had written on being nauseous while pregnant.
It was clear the HE had never been pregnant.
There is a bit of grossness involved. I'm just saying.
As I threw up for the gagillionth time that day, I thought to myself,
I am crass and gross.
I told Scott, "I think I am done writing."
And I was.
It hurt too much.
The next few years I put my computer away and was lost in a haze of babies,
toddlers, sleepless nights and another cross country move.
National Community Church was sending us back out to California to church plant.
It was 5 years after that before my writing dream was realized and
my first book came out.
And now, here we are 6 years later...and we have come full circle.
The gift book of pregnancy poems and prayers
along with newly penned devotionals for pregnant moms ....
will be coming out next year.

Expectant Blessings: Prayers, Poems and Devotions for You and Your Baby

And I couldn't be more thrilled.
When I got the call that, "Yes! They would like to publish my book,"
I wept again.Tears of joy and almost disbelief. And then I laughed.
God has a funny sense of timing.
I haven't been pregnant in nearly a decade.
I am trying to remember what it felt like.
The two thoughts that I remember having during my pregnant years are:

1. I feel huge.
2. Can I be done now?

I am not sure how many devotions I can write on those two themes.
But there is one more thought that keeps popping up.
I had it in the throes of pregnancy and I am having it now.

3. God is good and his blessings overwhelm us.

I don't understand His timing. I probably never will.
But I am going with it. Whole heartedly.
Joyfully. Hopefully. Expectantly.
And I will do my best not to be crass or gross along the way.