How these Superbowl Ads are Going Against our Culture

The Superbowl commercials have been celebrated for decades. We watch with great expectations. To laugh. To cry. To groan. To cheer. Mini-movies which make us laugh, cry, groan, cheer, fall in love, and of course, want what they’re selling.

And yet, my friends, for years I avoided the commercial breaks. The message many of the ads sold was simply sex. Or rather, men: want these women. Lust after them. This is what you want. This is what will make you happy. A bit of breast. A piece of a$$. We know you only think of one thing. Let’s settle and give you only that.

Let’s forget that you are so much more.

But every day I watch my husband. I see him struggle against this culture which reduces him to one desire. Which forgets that he is a father. Ignores that he is a husband. Neglects that he is a strong, complex, capable, feeling, thinking man.

tim reading to jack

Every day my husband takes care of our kids. He gets them dressed. Drops them off at school. Works HARD at his business to support them. Takes care of their laundry. Feeds them. Snuggles and tickles and wrestles and plays with them. And every evening, I get the front row seat to him reading their bedtime stories before kissing them goodnight.

This year it seems that people have finally noticed: Our men are so much more.

Men love. Men cry. Men have passion. Men fear. Men hope. Men dream. Men make a difference.

Thank you, Nissan. Thank you, Dove. Thank you for affirming the men in our lives. The dads who build up our children. The people we love.

If we can all follow in their footsteps. Stop laughing at the mistakes men make. Stop mocking their different styles of parenting. Stop expecting them to be like women.

Start accepting their tears. Start listening to their fears. Start encouraging their hopes and dreams. If we can start supporting them to change a diaper, hold our child, be an active dad – the dad their kids so desperately need. If we can trust them for a night or a weekend alone to experience 24 hours with their kids, what would happen? They might not do it the same… no, they might do it better.

For once they might be built up in who God created them to be. Not a 2 dimensional character in a godaddy commercial, but a strong man who has gifts, talents and abilities. For once they might shine in their expression of love. For once they might be equipped to support their family beyond their finances. For once they might be seen as respectable contributors to the holistic well being of the family.

What would change in your family if you entrusted your husband with your child? What would change in him if he saw you respect him? What would change in your kids? What would change in you?

** I want to make a note to you friends whose husbands have proved themselves to be untrustworthy because of abuse. Please know, this is not for you. My prayers are with you. Bless you.

How I am rising above shame (and the winner of Fight Back with Joy)

The past week was full. Full of tears, grief, sorrow, and pain. Full of joy, laughter, hope, and excitement. Full of new people, new friends. Abundant. Overflowing.

At times I was overwhelmed, felt behind, wanted to crawl in a hole to sleep, because it was almost too much for this girl who gets over-stimulated. And in all of the goodness and pain (which are not mutually exclusive) I knew I had forgotten something.

fightbackwithjoyI forgot to announce the winner of Margaret’s book. (see below)

Now, this might be a small thing most people would not realize, but to me, in my desire to do things right, shame creeps in. Failure speaks: “You screwed up. Who do you think you are? How could you forget something like that?

I have a choice: I can either listen to the shame, absorb its message of failure, become paralyzed in guilt, horrified by remorse. OR I can accept my inaction. I can acknowledge that I did not follow through, apologize (I’m sorry, my friends, I am), forgive myself, and work to rebuild my integrity.

As I choose the second path, I also choose to see who I am. In the face of shame which puts me down, I can stand and acknowledge how God has built me up. This work is difficult when I am tempted to see only the negative in me. But God has created me and his works are wonderful. I am “wonderfully complex” (Psalm 139:14 NLT). I am vulnerable. I am strong. I am compassionate. I am loving. I am passionate. I am wise.

With humility I see both of my failures and my gifts. I offer them to God. Use them. May I be a blessing to someone today.

What is shame speaking to you, today? What is the truth about who you are? Hold them both in your hands before God. You are his masterpiece. He has created you to do good. And that work He has began in you? He will complete it. Amen.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. – Ephesians 2:10 NLT

 


Thank you everyone who shared your stories of grief and joy on my blog two weeks ago. You blessed me with your truth.

The Winner of Fight Back with Joy is Lynnae McCoy. Congratulations, Lynnae!

 

How Grieving Has Brought Me Joy :: A bit of my birth story (and a Giveaway!)

When my son was born, the experience was anything but what I anticipated. We planned for a natural birth, but 12 days before his due date an ultra-sound told us he was breech, amniotic fluid was low, and the cord may or may not have been wrapped around his neck. We were already in the maternity ward for an external version, so within an hour Jack was delivered via c-section.

prepping for surgery

prepping for surgery

My memory of that hour is fuzzy as my eyes blurred, my heart pounded, my anxiety built. I held my breath during the spinal and tried to control my body one last time as I lay down only to be reprimanded by the surgeon. I searched my husband’s eyes for hope as they put the pressure on my belly needed in order to squeeze Jack’s 6 pound 12 ounce body through the incision. My ears strained to hear my baby’s first cries from the other side of the blue sheet which divided me from him.

As they wheeled me from the operating room I wondered, “Did I just give birth?

It was hardly the story I envisioned and, in a state of shock, not one I could rejoice over.

But I had a healthy baby. And that’s all that mattered.

Or so they said.

_______

What do you do when life should be joyful, but it’s not? A fight breaks out the third day of your honeymoon, your beloved infant develops unexplainable colic, a dream job turns out to be beyond your ability to handle?

As Christians we are often taught to bite back the tears, cling to “the joy of the Lord,” put on a happy face, and move on.

But according to Margaret Feinberg, “When we don’t allow ourselves to grieve well, something inside us dies.” (Fight Back with Joy, p 79) Grief is not an experience to be swept aside, but an opportunity that is vital to our ability to have joy.

“Sometimes we need to give space for grief in order to make room for joy. No one is immune to sorrow, and only those who learn to grieve well can recapture the healing it brings. Just as light needs darkness, so joy needs grief.” (FBWJ, p 72)

________

At the end of my pregnancy with Ben, I received the news that he was also breech. After many failed attempts to flip him (including somersaults in the pool, standing on my head, and an external version), I faced my second unwanted c-section. For the first time I let myself feel. Feel the disappointment, the pain of Jack’s delivery. I wept over my sense of failure. I lamented my fear and shock. I mourned the loss of a vaginal birth (which I still inexplicably desired).

Grieving the painful circumstances of Jack’s birth freed me from the negativity of my past. Mourning my experience enabled me to see God’s work at the time. Fear of my feelings was replaced by confidence in the good grief brings. For the first time in three years I was able to say with certainty that I gave birth to Jack. And I would give birth to Ben the same way.

If anyone knows about seeking joy in the midst of the worst circumstances, Margaret Feinberg does. Diagnosed with an aggressive cancer before the age of 40, Margaret decided to not only fight the cancer, but to Fight Back with Joy. Her new book (Fight Back with Joy) documents her journey through the diagnosis, chemotherapy, grief, loss, and pain all with the firm belief in the power of joy.

morethanwhimsy

I am treasuring her words as Margaret shares her story in Fight Back with Joy with vulnerability, courage, and hope. She is teaching me, the often pessimistic, perfectionistic, mother of two, that Joy is possible. Even when it is least expected.

_________

fightbackwithjoyTo win a copy of Fight Back with Joycomment below on how grief and joy have coincided or collided in your life, subscribe to The Toothless Grin blog, share this post through your favorite social media, like my page on Facebook, Follow Me on Twitter. Up to five ways to enter! Be sure to let me know how you have entered by writing a comment below! (if you already subscribe, like, or follow me, then just tell me!) Giveaway ends on January 22, 12:00pm MST.

This post was written as part of Margaret Feinberg’s Partymob blog tour for the release of Fight Back with Joy. To purchase a copy of Fight Back with Joy check out Amazon or Barnes and Nobles. Or for the 6 week bible study DVD series for your small group, click here.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. – Jesus (Matthew 5:4)

Fight Back With Joy 6-Session DVD Bible Study Promo Video from Margaret Feinberg on Vimeo.

I am Reclaiming Date Night

Before children we were so good. On Tuesday nights we would get dinner, sharing an entree, going to the cheap theatre, being together. We took walks in the moonlight. We held hands. We chatted. We were together.

16d5 4580_93990421388_562111388_2424922_3889001_n a007 9-16-2006-04.

Then Jack was born. We went on our first date as parents when he was 6 weeks old and struggled to talk about anything except him. A few gracious friends offered to babysit that first year and we got out every once in awhile, but, you know, we were just. so. tired. Going out took energy and money and time.

Slowly, date night fell away. Until it didn’t exist anymore except on that rare occassion when it was unearthed like a rare gem. We stared at it and each other, uncertain what to do with it. We tried to enjoy it, but it was so unique… what do we do with it? Pretty soon, it was buried, forgotten again in business, stress, fatigue.

Until this December when I looked up from my phone to look at my husband and realized I don’t feel I know him right now. He has his inner world of thoughts, feelings, hopes and fears need to be invited to be shared. Unlike my prattling and verbal unloading, Tim is careful with his words. Not one is wasted. If I’m not listening, they won’t be said.

If I don’t take the time to be with him, I might never hear his words.

Common wisdom says that the secret to being good parents is being a good spouse. Or that we love our kids best when we love each other best.

I have fallen into the cyclical pattern of tending to those who are loudest. My kids whine, pout, scream, shout for my attention, while my husband silently waits for his turn. When the day is over, I’ve spent all of my energy on the boys without reserve.

This is not good, friends.

This is a habit that is hard to break. A reaction instead of an intention. Acting without purpose and instead in frantic fear of controlling the littles who are instead controlling me with their outbursts.

So I am turning to dates to break this pattern. A bump in the week that pulls me away from the children in order to gaze solely at my husband. I am hoping to arrange one a week for awhile. That sounds like a lot. But you guys, we need it.

date night

We need to start living out those vows of love and commitment instead of letting the days go by with little more than  peck on the lips or a side hug greeting.

So, on Saturday, I took Tim on a date. I anticipated it. I looked forward to it. I got all dressed up for the movies and Fazoli’s. I danced to “Shake it Off” Radio on Pandora while I dried my hair and did my make-up. I left light hearted, expecting the best. The best of the movie, the best of conversation, the best date in months.

Tim saw me excited and I think it made him a bit more light hearted. I let him see me be happy to be with him. I giggled and flirted and engaged.

For the first time in weeks, we laughed. We talked. We held hands. We snuggled. We kissed.  We were together.

I am looking forward to our future date nights. I am pinning ideas, looking for “at home” solutions, seeking out sitters, and anticipating more great times with my husband. My beloved. My friend.

What about you? What would it take for you to reconnect with your spouse?

sos 6_3

What our friends need most from us…

Day 27 of 31 Days of Connecting

I fully intend to listen well. To be a good friend as my friends have been to me. To support them as they have supported me. And yet, I find myself doing it again. Focusing on me.

While she shares her struggles feeding her baby boy, I’m trying to think of ways to fix him as I “fixed” my sons (sort of ignoring the reality that her struggles with reflux, allergies, and other traumas are nothing like mine).

While she shares her problems with her marriages, I find myself comparing her relationship with her husband to my relationship with mine. And instead of listening, or letting her know I was listening, I am now rattling off my own story.

Or, while she is sharing a triumph, a milestone with her kid, I find myself feeling defensive and as if I am failing in some way because my sons didn’t walk until they were 19 months old, didn’t talk until they were 2 years old and are generally clumsy with the gross motor skills.

And the worst yet, is that while she is crying over her struggles, her pain, her need, I find myself uncomfortable with her circumstances and instead of sitting down and mourning with her, I am emotionally distant, offering my well-meaning-yet-missing-the-point-entirely advice, followed by an emotionally empty truism.

The unfortunate thing is that we think that when we’re doing these things we are empathizing. Unfortunately, the reality is, we are not focused on the other person or caring for their needs at all, but are thinking of our own. We are uncomfortable in their pain and while we think we are trying to make them feel better, we are actually trying to make ourselves feel better.

What our friends need from us is not to hear how our circumstances were worse or better. They often don’t even want advice – (a safe rule is don’t give it unless asked). What our friends need most is for us to get down with them, offer a shoulder to cry on, and to be with them.

What our friends need most from us is us.

Screenshot (10)

And that is what makes all of the difference. When we do this for one another, suddenly we are not so alone. Suddenly, our circumstances seem manageable. Suddenly, we are validated in our needs, our feelings, our very selves.

The next time I am with a friend, I will try again. I will shut my mouth and let her talk. I will put myself in her shoes and allow myself to feel her pain. I won’t try to make myself feel better by trying to fix her situation, or minimizing it, or allowing myself to feel like a failure. I will just be with her.

As she has been there for me.

Day 27

 

31 days of connecting

I Will Not Tell A Lie

Day 13 of 31 Days of Connecting

31 days big

Today I had a choice:

Be honest. Be truthful. Or hide.

Say what was hurting me. Or put on a mask.

Encourage my kids to speak out. Or tell them to be silent.

Over and over again this past week I have been encouraged by those who have told me I have been brave for speaking the truth about the loss, the pain, the struggle that I have encountered in this life.

And over and over again I have read stories other women have written about their own heartache. About their addictions. Their infidelity. Their loss.

It is their honesty that keeps me going.

When I read my friend’s blog – and her commitment to be authentic for 31 days – that’s when I knew I needed to speak the truth.

We live in a culture that encourages falsehood and masks. From internet trolls who will smash the most vulnerable to photoshop that “corrects” a beautiful body, we are told we are not enough – that the truth isn’t good. And even church culture can tie the mask on tight. We encourage one another to “trust in God” when we don’t even know where He is in our own lives. We smile and say “praise Him” when inside we are weeping.

We encourage one another that we can tell the truth, but inside we’re afraid that if we speak up we will lose… again.

What would it look like if instead of giving a quick platitude we told our crying friends we don’t have the answers either? What would it look like if we just held them instead of trying to make them (or us) feel better? What would it look like if we learned to embrace the discomfort of honest emotion?

I am convinced the loneliness that surrounds us exists because we have not yet discovered the ability to be truthful. And it’s understandable after being rejected. Or rebuked. Or abused.

But we have to keep trying.

We need each other.

We need to be heard.

And we need to hear that others have experienced the same things, too.

day 13Is there someone you have that you can speak the truth to? Who is it? If not… who would you like it to be? Start looking and praying… I didn’t always have that someone either. And until then, be that person for someone else.

What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ’s body we’re all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself. (Ephesians 4:25 The Message)

For the first time, I acknowledged my loss…

Day 8 of 31 Days of Connecting31 days of connecting

My journey of 31 days is taking a little turn. Over the next days – as many as it takes – I want to share my recent story with you. It started here, yesterday. Please start there. I pray that hearing my story of connecting – of REconnecting – will help you connect with God, others, and yourself.

In January 2013, I felt life was going really well. Ben was one, Jack was four, my depression was under control, I had excitement for Scum of the Earth Church and sensed that God was bringing something new to our community through a movement of prayer and worship.  I had hope of redemption and faith that God brings things around for the better – hope that I had been missing for a few years. At last God had reminded me that He brings joy to life, not just endurance.

So, when we held our first night of prayer and worship at Scum, I was filled with anticipation and expectation of what God would do.

The evening was beautiful as people came and saught the LORD. And God was moving. He was redeeming. He was encouraging. He was speaking. I was honored to be part of it and more confident than ever that this was where I was supposed to be.

Then one of our leaders asked my husband, Tim, and me to pray for his health. I prayed. Tim prayed. When we finished, he turned to Tim and told him how impactful his prayer was. That there was power in his hands.

He said nothing to me.

I felt myself fall to pieces. My confidence vanished. I was hurt that he didn’t recognize God’s work in me – I feared maybe God wasn’t working in me. I battled with my insecurity and shame until I finally told Tim, “I feel useless.”

Tim then wanted to ask that same leader we prayed for to pray for me. I was horrified and scared to discover where these feelings were coming from. Was I under spiritual attack?

But we asked the leader, and he prayed over me. Then he said the thing I least expected. He said that fear is often connected to grief. He told me I need to consider what I’ve lost in my life and how that has affected me and caused me to fear. My fear and insecurity was not an outside attack, but God was healing me by revealing my deep pain.

I was bewildered. I had never considered myself as needing to grieve. However, within 24 hours, I had a list of lost relationships; more than 20 individuals whose relationship with me had been severed in some way. From middle school friends to professional mentors. From relatives to peers. From best friends to boyfriends. Deaths. Illnesses. Moves. I had said goodbye to so many people and I felt the hurt of them all.

For the first time I acknowledged my loss.

And my pain.

I wrote in my journal:

Sometimes I fear no one loves me as deeply as I do them. That Tim could not be as crazy about me as I am about him. Or that friends don’t want my friendship. Or even, Lord, that I have to earn your favor… Now, being away from family, having few friends, or even close co-workers, I feel afraid of losing more, being rejected all over again…

I began to grieve.

day 8to be continued…