Wear Clothes…Please

bathing beauties

Before you race to the pool or water park, may I share a heartfelt confession?   I really don’t want to see your belly button.  I’m sorry.  I don’t want to see your belly button if you weigh 400 pounds.  I don’t want to see your belly button if you weigh 100 pounds.  There are just parts of the average American human that I don’t want to see unless we ran off to Vegas and got married.  Did we get married last night?  If not, I’d like to pass on seeing your belly button and other crevices beyond description.

The last time I went to a water park it was a bizarre experience in human behavior.  My, oh my.  People completely forgot their clothes.  I saw things that should only be seen in a horror movie.  By the end of the day, I felt like I had married half of Indiana.

Don’t get me wrong.  I have no problem with the average one-piece bathing suit.  I have no problem with shorts or tank tops.  I don’t even have a problem with a fat hairy man wearing a swim suit with no t-shirt (as long as it’s not a Speedo).   Oh friend, trust me,  I’m all about tolerance in the area of bodily imperfections.  SO, whether you’re school-glue-white and chubby or whether you’re tan and toned, in my book you are equally welcome to come to the water park and enjoy a day in the sun.

What did you say?  Oh, what’s my feeling on men who have a lot of hair on their backs?  Again, I take a broad-minded view of tolerance and openness.  Hairy-backed men or women with a lot of cellulite or children with dirty finger nails are all to be treated with kindness at the water park.  All are welcome, friend!

Just wear decent clothing.  That’s all I’m requesting.  Stop and think before you leave the house.  Look in the mirror and ask yourself a few pivotal questions.  Are ALL bodily crevices covered and/or contained by this swim suit?  When I jump in the water will all bodily crevices REMAIN covered and/or contained by this swim suit?

Whether you weigh 400 pounds or 100 pounds, your clothing choice shouldn’t make you the center of attention.  Are you wearing something that makes everyone drop their drink and say, “Lawsy, I’m glad my granny isn’t here to see THAT.”  Yeah.  Might want to re-consider being an offense to the grannies of the world.  I know.  Some people like being the center of attention.  They need to get over themselves and give the rest of us a visual break.

In summary, don’t wear a swim suit that’s too small.  Men, you should never wear a Speedo.  Yes, I said never.  What?  You say you work out two hours a day and you’re 22 years old?  Yeah.  Still no Speedo.  Sorry.   Women, save the graphic visual display for your honeymoon.  Leave some things to the imagination.  Never forget the “no crevices” rule.  OK.  My work here is done.  Happy rest of the summer!

Cell Phones in Church?

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Technology.  Most of us love to rail against it while simultaneously checking Facebook like a chain smoker.  Today we’re going to feature a question from a reader and my response which I know will cause people to both love and hate me.  Don’t worry.  I can take it.  Here’s to our love/hate relationship with those blasted cell phones.  Lord, give me strength.

Dear Lisa,

I have witnessed numerous teenagers bringing their cell phones to church and being too busy texting to hear their Sunday school lesson or better yet the preacher’s sermon. Is this disrespectful to God or is it just me being from an older generation where this was unheard of?  I don’t know if this is anything you’d like to write about, but I wouldn’t mind reading your thoughts regarding this problem. I would also like to remain anonymous.

Thank you!

Sincerely,

Concerned Citizen Tired of Young People Being Ridiculous

(Okay.  The letter is real.  But yes, I made up the name.  You already figured that out, right?)

Dear Concerned,

I often long for bygone days when cell phones were only owned by brain surgeons and bail bondsmen.   But alas, now the average 14-year-old is evidently in such incredible demand that he or she needs to be on call 24 hours a day.  Personally, I don’t know one 14-year-old who could bail you out of jail or remove a tumor from your cerebral cortex.  So it makes no sense to me.

But despite our disdain, cell phones are here to stay.  Well, unless something even cooler than a cell phone comes out.  Don’t be surprised if manufacturers figure a way to install a chip in your child’s brain which will give them the power to instantly “message” friends day or night with important information about American Idol and the cutest boy at school.  Yes, I know.  They could also message back and forth about the history assignment.  But they won’t.  Go figure.

However, you may be a bit surprised by my answer regarding cell phone use at church.  My husband is a techie.  He hasn’t read a Bible with paper pages in years and years.  He reads the Bible on his iPad and his iPhone.   When we read the Bible together in the mornings, again, it’s always on an electronic device. I can assure you he stays on the text during church or sometimes scrolls down for reference materials related to the text.  If the pastor is speaking about the temple, I’ll look over and see that Phil has pulled up an illustration of the temple on his iPad.  It’s a great reference tool.  So, just be aware that some church-going techies might actually be on the Bible lesson being discussed.  In fact, this is becoming more and more prevalent.

Now, to those who are actually messaging or receiving messages during church (or ANY place where someone is speaking up front) allow me to be crystal clear.  No.  Just no.

Church is a joyful sacred time to hear the word of God and encourage others with the gospel of Christ.  So, dear precious readers young or old, unless you’re on call with a job or  you need to remove a tumor from someone’s head, please stop messaging during church.  Stop checking FB to see if your old high school friends are thinner than you.  Stop looking at cute cat videos on Instagram.  Stop reading emails from your stock broker.  It’s rude and frankly, ridiculous.  I hope that was clear.  If not, feel free to message me (just not on Sunday morning).

 

Teenagers Need You!

Arkansas 4H

I don’t wear skinny jeans.  If I did wear skinny jeans, the jeans could no longer be called skinny.  I wear orthopedic shoes too.  You know the kind of shoes your grandma wore?  Yes.  I love those shoes.  I embrace those shoes.  Those shoes keep my 55-year-old feet happy.  And when a woman’s feet are happy, the sun shines brightly all over the world.

The truth?  I wasn’t cool even when I was sixteen.  I was awkward.  Painfully awkward.  Of course, now I’m thankful for that teenage awkwardness because I learned so many things that help me as a speaker and a writer.  But at the time, I remember thinking I couldn’t wait to be free from the whole teenage scene.   I would happily be a grown-up and never look back.

So you can imagine my shock a few years ago when people started to ask me to speak at events targeted at teenagers.  My first thought was, “Are you kidding?  Absolutely not.  I am NOT the right speaker for teenagers.  I don’t wear cool clothes.  I never went to prom.  I hate current pop music.   I refuse to use teenage lingo.  Oh, and I wear orthopedic shoes, remember?”  But by God’s grace, I didn’t say those things aloud.  I simply said, “Yes.”

I still remember that first event years ago.   I stood in front of 500 teenagers in Nashville and said, “I get it.  I’m not cool.  Let’s be honest.  I’m not even as cool as your mom.  I’m probably not as cool as your grandma.  I drove a ’73 Gremlin in high school.  Most of my high school classmates don’t remember my name because I was invisible back then.  Truthfully, being in front of you today kind of terrifies me.  But I’m here to tell you something important because I care about you.   The life inside these walls?  This teenage world?  Well, it’s not the real world.  Not at all.”  I pointed to the auditorium door and the crowd fell silent.  “The world out that door doesn’t care if you are ‘somebody’ in this high school.  Not one person outside that door cares if you were on every page of the yearbook or if you didn’t even show up for pictures.  They don’t.  That’s just the truth.”

I talked about the things that matter in life.   The things that never stop mattering.  Kindness.  Selflessness.  Elbow grease.  Humility.  Respect in guy/girl relationships.  I reminded those teenagers that their intelligence is a gift but it would never insure their success.  Not at all.  I’d rather hire a kid with average or below average intelligence who will work cheerfully than a smart kid who complains.  Whining makes young people (or adults) seem immature and ridiculous.  Yes, I told funny stories.  I tried to season my words with humor and humility.  But mostly?  Well, mostly, I just told them the truth.

We live in a world filled with adults trying to be “cool enough” to relate to teenagers.  But that’s completely backwards.  Teenagers don’t need lessons on how to be teenagers.  They need lessons on how to be grown-up.  They’re crying out for someone to love them enough to tell them the truth.  Trust me.  They won’t even notice your shoes.

Big Deal Proposals

Pride and prejudice

 

There’s a trend in America right now.  Make everything a big deal.  A really big deal.  Let’s take marriage proposals.  There was a day when a marriage proposal was pretty simple.  A young man didn’t even consider spending money on the proposal.  He didn’t spend months planning it either.  He looked at the young woman lovingly.  He may have even gotten down on one knee or held her hand.  But the words were simple.  “Will you marry me?”  She said, “Yes.”  They got married a few months later.  Was it a big deal?  Absolutely.  It was a big deal because they were actually getting married. To each other.  The proposal didn’t have to be rocket science.

 

But now everyone wants to do something worthy of a viral YouTube video.  They jump out of planes.   They propose in scuba gear under the blue waters of the Caribbean.  Some have the proposal written on a Jumbo Tron at a Cardinals’ game or flying across the sky behind an airplane.   Some men even hire a stringed quartet and rent out a whole restaurant.  And that’s fine.  Really.  If you want to rent a hot air balloon and jump out of it with the words “Will you marry me?” written on the parachute, knock yourself out.  Literally.

 

But one creative marriage proposal in California disturbed me greatly.  A man recruited 300 friends and associates to ride motorcycles in such a way as to shut down Interstate 10 with a massive traffic jam.  He then proposed to his girlfriend right there in the middle of the interstate with friends and family watching from a nearby overpass.  He later commented that the commotion and terrible traffic jam was worth it.  Worth it?  Was it worth it to the people trying to get to work or another obligation that afternoon?  That, my friends, is the height of selfishness and narcissism.  A word to the wise.  Don’t marry someone who would shut down traffic on a busy interstate highway because he thinks the world revolves around your undying love for each other.  It doesn’t.

 

The good news?  If you’re a young man who wants to secure the undying affection of a good woman, you don’t have to stop traffic or don scuba gear.  You don’t have to hire a private pilot or a stringed quartet.   You don’t even have to think of a proposal that will go viral and land you a spot on the evening news.

 

I suggest you do something far more meaningful.   Be kind even when you don’t feel like it.  Be considerate of her needs.  Man up and work hard at your chosen profession.  Ask forgiveness when you hurt her.  Ask her to join you in the great adventure of a life built together…with all the sacrifices, difficulties, and rewards.  Be meticulously faithful.  Tell her you’ll love and protect her until death.  Then do it.  Day after day after day.

 

If you do that, you’ll probably never be on the evening news.  Your marriage may never make the papers.  But you’ll be a stand out, friend.  A stand out in a selfish world that desperately cries out for real love.   And trust me.  That’s a big deal.

Christmas Decorating? Don’t do it!

Halloween candy was still 50% off at the local grocery store when some of my friends put up their Christmas trees.  Seriously.  Friends, if you’re still eating pumpkin-shaped candy corn that tastes fresh, don’t put up a Christmas tree.  If the mums on your front porch haven’t turned dark brown yet, put that reindeer wreath back in the hall closet.  If your Thanksgiving turkey is still frozen or it’s still walking around on a turkey farm in Maine, step away from the Santa Claus candy dish.

I understand a retail business decorating for Christmas a little early.  They’re trying to sell stuff.  But when my Facebook timeline began to show friends’ homes lit up for the Christmas holidays during the FIRST week in November, I wondered if the heated political climate of the last few months had caused folks to lose a grip on reality.

May I make a suggestion?  All of you need to pick up a Norman Rockwell calendar. You need to run your life by that calendar.   A Norman Rockwell calendar will clearly and beautifully illustrate what every American is supposed to do and when they’re supposed to do it.  The November page of the calendar always has that classic picture of the friendly chubby grandma bringing a golden-brown turkey to the table.  That chubby grandma is trying to tell you something, friend.  She looks old and wise so you should probably listen.

In November, you’re supposed to think about Thanksgiving.  You’re supposed to plan for Thanksgiving.  You’re supposed to spend the whole month being thankful.  If you want to decorate, it should look like the Brady Bunch home of the 70’s.  Orange, brown, avocado, and harvest gold.  If your pumpkins haven’t rotted yet, you can leave them on the porch.  I’ve usually killed all my mums by now.  But this year, I’ve kept them alive.  It’s a Christmas miracle…uh, I mean, a Thanksgiving miracle.

I love Christmas trees.  My family loves Christmas trees too.  We love icicle lights.  Who doesn’t love a long string of fake icicles made from little white lights?  Wreaths?  We’re big fans.  Really tacky Popsicle stick ornaments made by Kindergartners?  Absolutely.  I’ll even cheerfully tolerate a can of fake snow sprayed around your bathroom mirror, if you’re so inclined.  But let’s all slow down a bit on the Christmas celebration.  Remember to celebrate Thanksgiving with great joy and appreciation.  No matter what you think about our country’s political situation, our blessings are many.

The truth about our first year of marriage…

happy couple

Our First Year of Marriage…

I don’t tell many people about our newlywed years.  It’s not that I’m embarrassed.  I’m not sure what it is really.  It’s probably fear, fear that people won’t understand or maybe a fear that people will feel hurt by our story.  Yeah.  I think it’s that last one.  We want our lives to encourage and never discourage, to bless and never harm.  But lately I’ve been realizing that our story is important to tell.  Along with other newlywed stories, ours is a testimony of His grace alone.

Our first apartment was a one bedroom/one bath upstairs space with ugly dark brown carpet and a tiny galley kitchen.  Moving in wasn’t hard because everything the two of us owned could be put in the back of Phil’s pick-up truck.

Phil left for work every day at 4:00 pm and returned home at 3:00 am.  I greeted him at the door at 3:00 am as though it were late afternoon.  “Hey Honey, how was your day?”  We’d sit and eat together in the middle of the night.  We’d laugh.  And then we would find solace in each other’s arms.   Every day.  And that ugly little apartment?  Well, we both thought it was lovely.  We had waited…both of us…until the day we got married.  Phil always said the parking lot of that factory where he worked had his tire marks emblazoned near the front exit.

We both agreed I wouldn’t work as long as he was working nights.  Because of his odd hours, if I had a day job, we’d never see each other.  And we couldn’t bear that thought, the thought of not seeing each other, of not being together.  Phil made $9.49 an hour and it was sufficient for everything we needed because we needed so little.

Truthfully, we lived in our own little world.  We were involved in our small church and with our families, but most of our time was just spent together.  And it was wonderful.  Ridiculously over-the-top wonderful.  And maybe that’s the thing most people don’t understand about the first year of marriage…that it has the potential to be wonderful.

We’re blessed with books, radio programs, and testimonies about how terrible those first few years of marriage can be for so many couples, maybe for the majority of couples.  We’re reminded how important it is to hang in there when it’s all so very bad.  We’re encouraged to not give up when everything inside makes you want to give up.  I can’t tell you how much I appreciate those testimonies.  We desperately need those testimonies.  But along with those stories, there’s a place for our story too.

We had a simple wedding.  You know, those afternoon cake and punch weddings?  Our actual honeymoon only lasted two nights.  Phil had just gotten the job at the factory, so he only had two days off.  We spent those two nights in Las Colinas, about 30 minutes from our newlywed apartment.  With money gifted to us, we stayed at the Marriott.  According to Phil, we stayed in Room #2614.  He has remembered that room # for almost 28 years.  He says a man will never forget some things…and I’ll leave it at that.

Phil was doing factory work.  I was turning a pick-up truck’s worth of stuff into a home.  But we look back on that time and remember it as being euphoric.  Passionate.  Beautiful.  Rich.

Why were we both so deliriously happy?  For the first time in our lives, the two of us were building something.  Together.  Something bigger than ourselves.  Something vitally important.  Important to God.  Important to our future children.  Important to the people God would bring across our path.

We weren’t building a house.  We could barely make rent.  We weren’t even building careers at that time.  No.  We were building a HOME.  A family.  The two of us were becoming one physically, financially, emotionally, and spiritually.  We were learning the joys of putting another person’s needs above our own.

I know.  Some of you are just waiting for me to spill the beans.  Waiting for me to get on my soap box and explain a detailed formula for such bliss.  But a beautiful romance shouldn’t be described with bullet points.  There’s a mystery to it.

Yes, there are basic truths.  Be kind.  Love and honor each other above all others, and I do mean, ALL others.  Above friends.  Above immediate family members.  And yes, above parents.  It would have been a joke had someone…anyone…tried to stand between the two of us.  We were a team.  A unit.  (And just a shout out here to our parents.  They never did anything but love and support our desire to build a strong bond with each other).

We were blessed with the understanding that it’s always a bad idea to try to “fix” the person you’re married to.  So we didn’t bother.   When a spouse suspects he or she is a “project” to be fixed…it’s a romance killer.  Did I say romance killer?  Because that’s exactly what I meant to say.  A romance killer.  We both knew it was our job to do the loving and honoring and it was God’s job to do the fixing.  And the funny thing?  God used all that loving and honoring…to do more “fixing” than our words would have ever been able to accomplish.  And the romance stayed intact.

During our newlywed years, we were especially blessed by our church family and we stayed involved.  We learned from those who were ahead of us on the journey.  We learned from their wisdom and also from their mistakes.

Phil and I once heard a great teacher say, “In marriage, sex is the icing on the cake.  It’s not the cake.”  We understand what he was trying to say but we beg to differ with his terminology.  Sex is not referred to in the Bible as a pleasant afterthought.  It’s not a little “added bonus” to the really important stuff in marriage.  Honestly, sex is the difference between being married and just being friends.  Phil and I didn’t get married so we could share the light bill or file joint taxes.  We didn’t even get married out of respect for each other’s character (though we certainly did respect each other’s character, and still do).  We got married out of a fiery attraction to each other.  God said that it would be so.  It doesn’t take Him by surprise.  Yes, we had good counselors.  And yes, we loved each other in a lot of ways that have nothing to do with the physical.  But we’re disturbed by how much the physical side of marriage is sometimes downplayed, as though it’s “noble” to be above it.  Trust me.  It’s anything but noble to downplay the importance of physical intimacy in marriage.  I know.  Some of you are probably thinking, “But what about when you’re really really old or one of you becomes ill and that activity is no longer on the table?  Is marriage of no value then?”  Of course that’s not what we’re saying.  When it comes to the beauty of marriage, most would agree the latter years are the sweetest of all, the years we will lovingly take care of each other, serve each other.  But make no mistake.  The sweetness of those years comes on the heels of the investments made in the earlier years.

So to all of you preparing for marriage, be encouraged, friend.  Love with open arms and great abandon.  Don’t seek to be served, but to serve.  Marriage is a strikingly beautiful institution, designed to display the deep love between Christ and His church.  We’re not giving up on the beauty of marriage and neither should you.

I hope Phil and I will get to sit together on the front porch for many more years to come.  I hope we’ll live to see grandkids and even great grandkids.  I hope we’ll be able to pass on the things we’ve learned to the next generation, with kindness and a lot of grace.   But God knows the future and we trust Him.

If we do live to be old, I’m convinced I’ll still be able to reach out for his hand and ask, “Sweetheart, on our honeymoon, what was the room #?”  Phil’s wrinkled face will smile, and his green eyes will still twinkle as he softly whispers, “#2614, Dear. #2614.”

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or contact her at http://www.lisasmartt.com

Christmas Sadness

sad Christmas

 

There’s a problem with this time of year.   Those who experience grief, sadness, or disappointment experience it all the more as the rest of us run around putting up lights, singing of Christmas cheer, and wondering why some people can’t even muster the energy to care about the ugly Christmas sweater party. If you’re grief-stricken, sad, or disappointed this Christmas, I’m very sorry. This column is lovingly dedicated to you.

 

Have you lost a family member this year? Or last year? Or even ten years ago? When you put up the Christmas tree, do you have to sit down and cry a few times as certain ornaments cause you to recall precious memories of the one who will be glaringly absent from Christmas dinner? Do you find yourself wanting to avoid parties, dinners, or the merriment of the season because you’re just too sad to care? You’re not alone.

 

When you watch Christmas movies or Hallmark commercials that feature parents and grandparents passing down long-held holiday traditions to their perfectly-dressed children, do you wonder what that life would have been like? What would it have been like to be loved and supported? Cherished? Respected? Do you wonder what people would think if they knew the violence, agony, and difficulty of your own childhood? Do you find yourself wondering why your own parents couldn’t have been more like…well, like parents? You’re not alone.

 

Did you experience the agony of separation or divorce this year? The one person who promised to never leave you walked right out the front door, never looking back. You wonder if anyone understands the searing pain of loneliness. You’re not alone.

 

Are you financially strapped this season? Already in debt up to your eyeballs? Behind on bills? Wondering how to pay the electric bill much less buy presents? When people say, “Christmas isn’t about all the presents,” you find yourself thinking, “Yeah. Tell that to my family members.” You’re not alone.

 

Did you always picture what it would be like when your own kids were grown? Did you envision them marrying lovely and supportive spouses and having beautiful respectful kids? Every Christmas they’d all gather around your table and everyone would be happy. Thankful. Blessed. A life pulled right from the Norman Rockwell picture hanging in the dental office. But it didn’t turn out that way. Perhaps addiction, rebellion, or selfishness crept in and ruined your vision of the picture-perfect Christmas. You raised your kids to be one way. But they chose a different path. I’m sorry. You’re not alone either.

 

Christmas is a magnifying glass of sorts. When you’re happy, you’re all the more happy in December. When you’re suffering, you’re all the more suffering. I can’t solve that problem. I can’t make the disappointing loved ones in your life less disappointing. I can’t bring back those who have passed on. I can’t go back and give you a more ideal childhood. All those things are out of my control. And out of your control too.

 

Hallmark movies are great but Christmas is not, nor has it ever been, about a perfect family or a perfect life. Only one person led a perfect life. And blessedly, Christmas is about Him. This Christmas I take joy in celebrating the one who completely understands us and all our disappointments. The one who is not surprised by the suffering, the grief, depression, or even the addictions. I celebrate Christ because He offers us something glorious…hope, redemption, love. A love that never fails. So, here’s to all the bruised and broken. You are loved. Merry Christmas.

 

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