Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Ladies, you've embarrassed strong women long enough.



Lately, there's a certain group of women consistently in the spotlight. Women who really love talking about their genitals. And, I'm just going to say it, they're humiliating the rest of us.

Where do these pussy hat wearing, free contraceptive demanding, abortion-on-demand glorifying, public breast exposing, poor me whining, nasty woman celebrating, genital obsessing, free bleeding females come from? And do they talk to their mother with that mouth?

These women revel in dropping the word "vagina" into any conversation. They brandish it like a talisman, capable of bestowing undisputed relevance.

Stephen Colbert: "Cate Blanchett, what is your moral compass? Where does kindness and humanity sit in a brutal world? Because those are important questions right now." 
Cate Blanchett: "In my vagina." 

That sounds uncomfortable.

The Apple Has Fallen Far


I'm baffled anyone - the media, the culture, Stephen Colbert - takes these women seriously. When did we start mistaking vulgarity, shrieking, and anger as strength?

Some will blame it on political viewpoints, but I disagree. My girlfriends with differing political or religious viewpoints than I are all classy and kind, funny and joyful, giving and intelligent and successful and just...cool. None wear genital costumes.

What women are actually facing is a crisis of identity. Being a female has become nothing more than a thought. Even a man can be one if he so chooses.

It's way past time for strong women to take our gender back.


The Strong Woman Manifesto


Strong women have been beating down the mangled, overgrown path ahead of me my entire life.

I've watched them face unbearable pain with nobility and charm. I've watched them struggle through financial destitution; the loss of marriages, spouses, parents, and children; the challenge of single motherhood with disabled children; the ache of loneliness; the heartbreak of infertility; the mortality of life in all its shades and tints and textures. And still they do it while enchanting us with their heart and laughter and that incorrigible wink of mischief.

I know what strong women look like because I know their names.

In honor of them, and because they deserve better representation than what they've been getting, here are 8 of the many life lessons they've taught me: 

Strong women don't feel sorry for themselves.

Bad things happen to strong women. It's actually the rough edges of their life that have shaped them into the curvaceous, bodacious Amazonians that they are.

That doesn't, however, mean they don't have their weak moments. It means they take those moments, recognize them for what they are, accept they come, soak in the unfairness of it all, then refuse to be defeated by it.

Strong women face challenges with determination, not self-pity.


Strong women respect their bodies. 

Self-respect cannot and will not happen without respecting your body. It's the outer presentation of your inner self. Pretending otherwise is a lie. So it must be protected. And honored. And clothed.

Do you want to be viewed as a chalkboard? Then don't expose your breasts to write messages on them.

Strong women use posterboard.

Strong women love strong men.

Dear Lord in Heaven, yes.

Please.

And thank you.

Strong men are beautiful creatures. We need more of them, not less. I've never seen a single strong female be intimidated by a strong man. In fact, they thrill her. Strong women know that strong men are their equal, while gloriously different, counterparts. They support them, encourage them, respect them, because she knows true strength never needs others to be less.

Only bullies push others down to feel powerful. Strong women admire strength wherever it is found.


Strong women control their tongue.

You don't have to say everything you think. Really, it's best not.

You also don't have to infuse your verbal dictionary with excessive descriptions of your reproductive organs. The women I admire in my life are always worth listening to because they always have something of value to say. And when they don't, they shut up.

They also keep talk about their private parts private.


Strong women welcome opposing viewpoints. 

Disagree with her. She really doesn't care.

A strong woman won't agree with people often. Because she has her own mind. She's a maverick, a pioneer, a free thinker. But she also knows she can gain insight and wisdom from hearing differing opinions...about everything!

What she doesn't do is send f-bomb tirades on Twitter when someone says something she doesn't like.

Want an easy test to tell a strong woman from a weak one? Disagree with her. Then stand back and watch.


Strong women are hard workers.

I've never known a single strong woman who doesn't want to work. Not a single one.

Whether their job is with a company, for their family, or raising the next great generation, strong women embrace the hard labor of life because they want the rewards - self-respect, education, discipline, achievement, better life, more options, sense of fulfillment, and a chance to show off, baby.


Strong women are survivors, not victims.

I've seen this too many times, in too many glorious ways, to believe women cannot and do not overcome some of the harshest circumstances in life. The strongest women among us never see themselves as a victim, even though society would gladly approve them for the label.

They refuse.

They want to be more, prove more, and have more than what victimhood provides. Yes, they have obstacles to face and tears to cry. But they face them. They cry them.

Then strong women go kick ass.


Strong women are more than their gender.

Being a woman is fabulous. And strong women are nothing if not fabulous. They love indulging their relational nature, delighting in their femininity, celebrating and displaying beauty, and exploring all the ways their minds work differently than men.

A strong woman takes great pleasure in being female, but she does not worship it.



The next time a woman starts dropping the v-word, tell her to stop embarrassing herself. And while she's at it, stop embarrassing the rest of us, too.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The storm your meteorologist isn't talking about.



It's March in the heartland.

That means it's time for Oklahomans to burrow into the ground with our water, flashlight, and battery-powered radio. Park our vehicles in a garage or under the awning at Sonic. Gather our family so everyone is ready to take the situation seriously when that fifth tornado siren goes off. Check into social media every ten minutes to write funny posts so it doesn't sound like we're scared. Charge our phone battery so we can record video when the floods come and hail falls.

And go one more round with Mother Nature to see who wins.

Of all our standard severe weather practices, the most important one is that we never let a tornado take us by surprise.

Which means we live in vigilant fear for one season and constant dread the other three.

Keep an Eye on the Forecast


We don't actually. We're just aware that bad weather does come. It always comes. We won't make it through this season without it so being shocked when it arrives would seem...well...stupid.

Spring comes every year. And bad weather comes with it. Every. Year.

You cannot separate the two, just like you cannot separate life from problems. The former doesn't come without versions of the latter. Believing we can get through life without facing disappointment, difficulty, challenges, or struggles would seem...well...stupid.

But I do it anyway.

You?

The only thing to fear is schizophrenia itself


I'm that person always warning others there are rumblings on the horizon. It's obnoxious. Trust me. But I can't seem to help myself. I see patterns in life my friends believe is a side effect from all those drugs I took in the 60s.

But I've been doing it forever.

My guess is it's leftover hypervigilance from a few traumatic experiences of my childhood. You don't get tossed off the roof of a burning house as a child and it not make an impression. Or get yanked out of a church building on an Easter morning while the floor is collapsing under your feet and not wonder if you're a marble and the planet is a Hungry, Hungry Hippo.

For years, my life was so exciting I didn't need an imagination.

Beware the Ides of the Other Shoe


Accepting that life can be an obstacle course has rarely been my challenge. For me, it's believing that life isn't only an obstacle course.

But if I can do it, anyone can.

Yes, we must face the harsh realities of life. When we don't, we become those people who sob on the front lawns of universities when we realize anything of value costs money.

Let's never be those people.

But acceptance doesn't mean obsession. Or fatalism. Even though the weather, our circumstances, life itself, often tries to convince us the struggle will never end. It does. It will. Just hold on.

Because, outside, the weather is going to do its best to convince us every day is nothing but another chance for the wind to draw blood. But that isn't the weather always and won't be the weather forever. As most Oklahomans know, not every breeze turns into a storm. Not every storm turns into a tornado. Not every tornado causes irreparable damage.

Eventually, the new norm changes into another new norm. The winds die down. The sky stops churning. The thunder rumbles off. And spring, each and every year, turns to summer.

So, while we wait for this tumultuous spring season to pass, whether that's the weather or our circumstances, I'll leave you with a blessing my grandfather often repeated that's been a comfort to me:
"May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace." Numbers 6:24-26
And I'll add: May your storm shelter be fortified, roomy, and have wifi.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

7 Unwanted Emotions and the Uncommon Advice To Overcome Them


You don't want to feel what you feel, but you do. You don't want this emotion, but you've got it.

Oh, I've been there, am there, was there, will be there again. Rotten feelings are normal and expected. But that doesn't mean we have to like it. Or succumb without a fight.

When negative emotions get their hook in, we need a way to yank them out.

Carefully.

Painlessly would be groovy.

At the very least, thoroughly.

First and foremost, I recommend prayer and honest, quiet, focused scripture reading. But, sometimes, we need to add some fresh perspective to the mix. We need someone not in our head to give us a new viewpoint.

Recently, I had a series of meet-ups with friends. All of whom are brilliant. Brilliant and interesting. A necessary combination.

After each conversation, it struck me how all their insight, advice, or just conversational thoughts - collectively - touched on a variety of negative emotions all of us face. And usually repetitively.

It was stuff too good not to share. So...my friends...here's some words from...my friends...on dealing with 7 of the most common negative emotions:


When you feel Defeated: 

“You’ve got to live your life. Not anyone else’s. That means it moves at your unique pace. And there’s nothing at all wrong with that."
I loved this freeing thought because I'm definitely at war with time. I have exactly one clock in my house. One. That's all I can stomach. But, even though time is rarely our friend, it doesn't have to be our captor.


When you feel Jealous: 

“The way I look at it, I still have something to work toward that others with more than me don't. I haven’t achieved everything I want in life, yet. That means I have desires that motivate me to keep moving forward and gives me something to look forward to experiencing." 

This thought reminds me of a scene in Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael, a movie my girlfriends and I watched too many times in our teen years.


Gerald Howells: Gosh, I want to kiss you so bad, Dinky.
Dinky Bossetti: It's good to want things.


When you feel Anxious: 

“Your shoulda’s will kill you. I should’a done this, I should’a achieved that, I should’a had that by now. That’s what builds anxiety. You have to stop setting these rules and simply accept your pace of life.”
Those shouda's really will kill you.


When you feel Confused: 

“We don’t see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." 
Acceptance is the first step to recovery. And clarify.


When you feel Disappointed: 

“When you look at the horizon, all you can see is a comparison of where you are and where others are. And you’ve got to let it all go. God wants to step in, but He’s waiting for us to move out of the way.”


That song from Frozen got stuck in my head for a solid four hours after.


When you feel Hopeless: 

“The relationship was dead. I’d given up. There was no saving it. But God showed up and, I tell you, it’s amazing what He can do.”
Hope until the end. Hope with your last breath. Life is simply too mean, too harsh, too cruel to face it without hope. And, make no mistake, holding on to hope may be the hardest thing you'll ever do.


When you feel Offended: 

“Don’t you need confrontation to face things you haven’t faced on your own?”
It's time for brutal truth to make a comeback.

***


I'll leave you with one of my own favorite quotes. I honestly don't know if I compiled it from a compilation of scripture and other quotes or I stole it verbatim. But it's awesome so I'll take credit until I'm challenged:

When you feel Despair:

"God loves doing the impossible because He's the only one who can." 



Until next week.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Everything needed to be happy I learned from an outhouse




Grandma Birdie was a natural redhead, a color my tomato bisque turns when I add extra cream. She laughed frequently, listened intently, and anytime she had Keebler fudge striped cookies, I went home with a handful of them.

She made sure of it.

What she didn't have was indoor plumbing. Visiting her and Grandpa on their rural Oklahoma farm meant traveling back, back, baaaaack to an era where water was pumped from a well and the bathroom was a good 100-feet or more from the house.

Trust me. You wanted it that far.

They lived on the original 160-acres my great, great grandfather claimed during the Oklahoma Land Run and raised their four children in the original settler house, which consisted of three rooms - the kitchen, a living room, and a bedroom.

Visits to my great grandparent's farm meant lots of time sitting outside under an enormous elm tree and, yes, hiking to the wooden outhouse when nature called.


Just do your business.


You didn't dawdle in Grandma and Grandpa's bathroom. You got in, got done, and got out. In between times, you tried to ignore the smell, the flies, and the wasps buzzing overhead.

This was the beginning of my love affair with plumbers.

Water was found in two metal bowls in the kitchen. One was for washing your hands. One was for drinking. Both were filled by pumping the water out of a natural spring well, which kept the water abnormally cool and super duper delicious.

Just don't confuse which bowl was which.

That's so unfair.


I don't know how that remarkable woman lived every day where simply going to the bathroom at night, in the cold, or in the rain was a miserable chore. But she did.

Every morning, Grandma headed to a local restaurant where she worked as the cook, while Grandpa farmed. Then both came home, sat in their comfy furniture, ordered Chinese take-out, and binge watched 24.

Yeah, no. They came home and worked more.

You were never around either of them and heard a word of complaint. Or even a grouchy attitude. They were lovely people. Funny and smart. Quick to laugh, quick to give out hugs, and always thinking of others, even when others had so much more.

(Is that kind of strength and graciousness hereditary? Um, some. My mother has it. But it skips a generation.)

Thank God for every flush.


Ask me what I want in life, and I could rattle it off alphabetically. Ask me what I'm grateful for and I need a minute to think.

Hey, I'm a work in progress.

Grandma Birdie was the opposite. She never focused on what she didn't have but what she did. And it served her well.

I think of her nearly every time I turn on my faucet, take a shower, run a load of laundry, get filtered water from my refrigerator, or stumble to the bathroom at night. She's the image in my head reminding me that, no matter what happens in life or what I face, I can always live with a grateful heart. And it'll serve me, well, too.

It's really too bad more didn't have the chance to know her.

Maybe then the people complaining about not having free college and free healthcare, demanding raises they didn't earn and a lifestyle they can't afford, emotionally distraught over opposing viewpoints or lost elections, could find happiness in their self-imposed misery.

Because - and I'm only guessing here - I bet they have a toilet that flushes.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Love's a Lover AND a Fighter

I'm repurposing this blog from 2014, with a few added revisions and thoughts. It fits me most Valentine's Days because the fight of life doesn't take a break even for a day beautifully dedicated to chocolate consumption. (I'm a dark chocolate junkie in case anyone is itching to send me some.) If your day is more about warring than loving, know you are loved even when you are called into war. 
X's and O's
Tara Lynn



"Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, 
and endures through every circumstance." 

1 Corinthians 13:7

Love, I've wondered, may be made out of mohair.

It's warm, fuzzy, cute, and when you're wearing it, everyone around you and everything you touch is sprinkled with a little piece. Strands of mohair also stick to your lip gloss and love might do that, too.

That's the cutesy side to love. The flowers and candy and such. The fat, diapered baby with arrows. The rom-coms and date nights. And there's not a bloody thing wrong with any of it.

So it's cheesy. So what?

Revel in it, my friends. Enjoy the ridiculousness. Life has lots of serious moments so never discount the lighthearted ones.

The soft stuff, however, isn't what I'm thinking about today. Today of ALL days I'm thinking about fighting. Real left hook/right hook kind of fighting. No holds barred style. The kind that hurts and usually draws blood.

In other words, today I'm thinking about love.



This song by Switchfoot found me months ago on a day too heavy to live underneath. A day I was driving myself to the hospital, yet again, to get more bad news, yet again, and all I could think about was how I didn't have any fight left in me.  I was tapped out.   

At that moment, I'm not sure I loved anything enough to throw a punch for it. Not even my own life. It was a day after a long siege of days where pain and struggle and uncertainty were the only things on my horizon or scheduled for tomorrow.

I drove, but I drove without hope. And that's when this song came on.


Down but not out


Life at that moment wasn't worth the fight. Neither was my future, my dreams, my faith, or my hopes, which had faded like draperies in east-facing windows. But I had no options but to keep moving forward because, in life, there's no such thing as reverse.

So I drove. And I listened to this song.

This is what the Switchfoot frontman Jon Foreman said once about the thoughts behind the song:

"From time to time we all come to those difficult moments of struggle when life becomes a fight. Maybe we are depressed and can't seem to find a way out. Or maybe we're dealing with the loss of someone we love. And maybe in that existential moment we begin to wonder what we're living for, what we're aiming for, what we're struggling for."

Love, he explained, is the only thing worth fighting for.

Take it to the mat 


In the middle of nothingness, when I'd lost all purpose and heart to take one more hit or go one more round, God was showing up to tell me if all I had was Him, then He, alone, was worth the fight.

Not the life I had wanted but didn't have. Not the plans I had designed but couldn't complete. Just God. Just love. That's all I needed. If He was the only thing left about my life, then it was still worth fighting for. And He would be its Savior.

Again.

During recovery, this song became my anthem. I played it A LOT. Still do. And on days when all I can do is put one foot in front of the other, I still put on my headphones, turn on this song, and put one foot in front of the other.

If this finds you in that kind of a moment, or that kind of a month, year, or decade, then all I have is one piece of advice:

Love, all by itself, is worth fighting for. Even in the moments you don't feel it or see it. Even if you think all you have is the hope of love.

Don't give up, my friends. Don't grow cold or hardened or detached from the hope that things can and will improve, that God will answer you one way - one day - or another. Whatever in your life has died, you have a Savior who specializes in resurrection.

Happy Valentine's Day.


Thursday, February 9, 2017

Prove the doubters wrong. The audience'll love it.


At halftime, the game was over.

The Patriots had gotten on the board, but only by the instep of Stephen Gostkowski, who scored a field goal as a backup plan. By the third quarter, the scoreboard was napping. The Patriots hadn't drained the Falcon's first quarter juice. And, with Tevin Coleman sipping Mai Tais in the end zone, the 25-point lead could be cemented and left to dry.

The pundits. The fans. The experts. Everyone knew Super Bowl 51 was done. Just ask them.


If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your Super Bowl predictions.


People are calling it the "greatest comeback in Super Bowl history" and it's the first to ever go into overtime.

The year of the underdog, apparently, isn't over. Not even after the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA finals, Coastal Carolina won the College World Series, Brexit won in the UK, Donald Trump won in the US, and the Chicago Clubs' defeated the Curse of the Billy Goat.

Everyone destined to lose just keeps winning. How glorious.

If anything, 2016, and now 2017, is teaching us there are no guaranteed winners and no written in stone losers. What is guaranteed, however, is that there'll always be a buttload of doubters.

Discouragement approaching from the north.


Whatever your hopes or dreams, you've likely faced opposition, naysayers, questions, skepticism, and doubt. It all comes as a standard package.

But separating the doubters from someone only speaking the hard truth is like peeling apart two layers of phyllo dough. Pieces of one often stick to the other. Even people only doubting for doubt's sake often have historical precedence and even reality on their side.

Think about it. Who wins a Super Bowl in overtime? Until Sunday, no one.

So how do we tell the difference between what is doubt and what is reality?

Um, yeah. I don't think we can. But do we need to? Fourth quarter comebacks are only thrilling when we don't know they're coming.

Take doubt with a stiff upper lip.


I have a doubter in my own life. (Several actually, this guy's just more vocal about it.) He thinks my dream of being a novelist is a joke that just keeps on giving. I try to avoid him but my tries don't always work.

When we do cross paths, I'm forced to go through the exact same conversation every time. Not kidding. Exact.
"So...sold any books lately?" Laugh, laugh, laugh. 
"Yes."
"Really?"
"Yes."
"Are you going to write another one?" Laugh, laugh, laugh. 
"Yes."
"Really?"
"Look! Up in the sky! Is that an asteroid on a collision course with earth?" Run, run, run.

Now is not the time to take a knee.


If you're struggling to see your dream materialize, I hear you and I'm with you. But, even in my most difficult moments, I know I can't stop moving. Even an inch forward is forward.

We will get discouraged. There's an entire world out there itching to predict our failure. But no one can see the future. (Refer to, pretty much, the entire freaking year of 2016 for evidence.)

Tom Brady could have slowed down, let the inevitable happen, and accept what everyone else was seeing on the scoreboard.

But, he and the Patriots decided...nah...we'll keep playing football.

I love how one sport's writer explained the game's sudden shift in the fourth quarter, "Brady was making clutch throw after clutch throw..."
Confession: I had no idea what that meant so I looked up the definition of "clutch" and it's awesome.

Clutch:
"...the phenomenon of athletes under pressure, often in the last minutes of a game, to summon strength, concentration and whatever else necessary to succeed, to perform well, and perhaps change the outcome of the game." 

Whatever else. Whatever is necessary. Whatever energy you have. Whatever talent is untapped. Whatever diligence you can maintain. Whatever ideas you can execute. Whatever courage you can summon. Whatever humility is required. Whatever hard knocks you have to take.

Whatever else is needed to prove the doubters wrong. Do whatever else.

What's my whatever else? Book number two. It's coming out this year, hopefully. And, who knows, maybe the next time I see my doubter I can hand him an autographed box set.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Can anything calm the nation's civil unrest? Well...there is this one thing.



"Who is your God?"

A guy asked me this once, while my dad slept in St. John's Surgical ICU after having emergency brain surgery. It was my 26th birthday. And, to celebrate, my dad had a slow-bleed aneurysm.

We do birthdays big in my family.

I was, understandably, upset. But calm. It's a sleight of hand trick I do with my emotions:
See the emotion? Perfectly normal emotion, yes? Now...watch closely. Don't take your eyes off it. Poof! It's gone. Where did the emotion go? 

The guy, someone I was casually dating until that exact moment, decided this was a great time to instruct me. I mean, why not? I was at leisure. Just hanging out listening to my digestive juices feed on my stomach lining.

Because I wasn't weathering this emergency with zen-like faith, because I feared for the future, he believed it was a good time to question my love for my father and for God.

I decided to get some air. So I went outside and set a limo on fire.

It's the end of the world as we know it.


People are upset, apparently. You can tell by all the genital costumes. The current national climate, if nothing else, is doing wonders for the poster board business. There's nothing quite like an angry, violent mob to make you thankful your parents spanked you as a child.

I get that people are anxious. I think some are even genuinely so. But, like all mob mentalities, some are just there for the feeling of mobraderie. Others because they're paid. A few because they like playing in the street. And some because they're pyros.

For those truly afraid, I'm sorry. Fear sucks. Whether founded or unfounded, it's a lousy emotion.

And, since you're afraid and this is the perfect time to ask, "Who is your God?"

He is Who He says He is.


The question comes off jerky, right? I thought so, too.

The crazy thing about jerks, though, is sometimes they put their foot in their mouth and say things that bring comfort instead of their intentioned rebuke.

Poor jerks. Can't catch a break.

When that guy asked me that question oh so long ago, I began to hear the "who" as a homonym (** a word that sounds the same but has a different meaning.**) Not "Who is your God? Is it your father?" but "Who is your God? What's He like?"

What is His character, heart, personality, and what has He promised He will do? If I could remind myself WHO God is, wouldn't that help me face what I feared?

So, in that moment of terrible unrest, while my father underwent yet another emergency brain surgery only a few days later, I asked God to remind me Who He is. And His answer helped me then, has helped me since, and I hope helps you now:

"Be strong and courageous for I will never leave you. I will never forsake you (Deut. 31:6). I watch over you and I never sleep, never slumber (Psalm 121:4). I never take my eyes off you. I hear every cry of your heart (Psalm 34:15). I am here now, holding your hand, and I'll help you always (Isaiah 41:13). Calm your troubled heart and trust me (Romans 15:13). I will give you peace even in the midst of your fear (Philippians 4:7). And, wherever you go, I will be with you (Joshua 1:9)."

I hope this helps. May you find peace even while crazed people burn trash in the street.