A few years ago, my parents bought a new lawnmower. It isn’t just any mower. Oh, no. This bad boy is a zero-turn, superspeed, grass-chomping terror mobile.
It has a seatbelt.
It needs a seatbelt.
It’s one of those mowers with the handles that move in opposing directions to steer it. My mechanically-inclined brother swears it’s very easy to steer. I beg to differ. You can’t convince me that those handles aren’t arbitrary doomsticks, producing random results with each push and pull. It’s like a slot machine on wheels, only with sharp blades and tons of horsepower.
Side note: I am a pianist. I’m quite used to my right and left hands doing different things at once, while my feet do something entirely different. But this mower. THIS MOWER. I am telling you– it’s sentient. It scoffs at my ambidexterity.
While I was visiting my mom this week, I offered to mow her lawn. Now, when I say “lawn,” you should be picturing several acres, dotted by trees, flowers and other beautiful obstacles, just waiting to be crushed by 1,000 pounds of steel. It’s the penultimate Mario Kart track. I’ve never driven this mower (let’s call it “Megatron”) for longer than a few terrifying seconds on my parents’ driveway. After considerable effort and a number of lucky guesses, Mom and I successfully get Megatron to start, and I buckle up and ease out of the garage, hand trembling on the throttle. Megatron bucks and roars and veers every way except the way in which I wish it to go.
I avoid approximately 4,000 trees on my way to the open field that Mom suggested as a good “starter patch.”
So far, so good. I’m sweating a little, but I haven’t hit anything. Oh, wait…I just hit something. Did Mom notice? No? Onward.
I make it to the field, feeling very much like Bambi stepping out into the meadow.
I make it one lap around the field.
Surveying my work, it looks like a badly failed field sobriety test. Another trickle of sweat drips down my back. Just as I start to ease the doomsticks back into some sort of forward motion, I see the neighbor approach the fence. I gingerly climb off Megatron, careful never to turn my back on it or break eye contact with it as it roars at me and inches nearly imperceptibly down the hill. The neighbor looks at Megatron, then back at me, then at the bead of sweat running down my face.
“Is it that obvious?”
He gazes over my shoulder at my mowing progress, which looks a bit like the gameboard from “Chutes and Ladders” and then back at me.
I say, “I hope that if God lets people peek down from Heaven on loved ones, that Dad isn’t peeking at this mess right now. He was an expert on this thing. Made it look so easy.”
The neighbor smiles at me and says, “You’ll be fine. Here’s what you need to remember: You can’t white knuckle it– makes it even harder to control. Use a light touch. Secondly, when you’re in the straightaway, use that time to prepare for what’s next.”
Light touch. Prepare for what’s next. Got it.
Climbing aboard Megatron once more, I baaaaaarely touch the doomsticks in the direction I want to go, and miracle of miracles– it works. As I breeze down the straightaway of the field, I think about the sharp turn ahead and mentally calculate what I need to do next.
I am ready for it. And I make it.
I mowed that whole field (only hit one pole just a little), another open area and the whole front yard with its smorgasbord of traps (hit a power line guidewire just a smidge. It’s fine. We’re all fine). Megatron was placed back in the garage, appropriately humbled to have been broken by a mere mortal like me, and I went triumphantly into the house to pat myself on the back (Literally. Had to check myself for ticks).
I love a good analogy, so here it comes.
I’m a (slowly) recovering control freak. I white-knuckle my way through most things. And the more I latch on with my death grip, the more out of control things seem.
This isn’t all up to me. Life is a machine made up of many different parts– all working to make the whole thing go. It’s not all doomsticks and death grips. There are other mechanisms to help us steer.
When I pray, I let go a little. When I read my Bible, I let go a little. When I talk through my feelings with my family, I let go a little. And it all feels more manageable when I do.
And that advice about using the straightaways to prepare for the curvy parts? That’s genius.
Our kids are entering new and unknown seasons of life in different ways. I’m entering a challenging, but exciting season in my career. Life is changing at breakneck speed.
Now is the time to prepare for what’s next. The twists and turns that we can see, but also the ones we can’t yet. Be present, but be prepared. Life is anything but predictable, but we can still handle it with a light touch. It takes practice and patience. I am not there yet, but I’m easing my way out of the garage, anyway.
Get out there and show your Megatrons who’s boss, friends.
When I was a little girl, my mother, who at the time, I thought was the most unfair, vindictive, Amish mother in the world, made me wear very modest swimsuits. You know the ones. Not just one-piece, but one piece with a skirt. A skirt! Oh, the injustice! Oh, the stifling of my personal expression! While my tiny little friends sashayed around the beach and pool in their adorable bikinis, I was billowing around in my layers of body-covering rayon, so very aware of my too-tall frame among such petite lovelies.
Oh, mom. I am so sorry. Sorry for saving up my money and secretly purchasing those hideously neon bikinis from the clearance rack. Sorry for shoving them deep down in the recesses of my sock drawer, or once you caught on to that, between my fitted sheet and the mattress pad (the only hiding place for anything I might have slipped past you). I am sorry for leaving the house in my rayon swim-burka, only to hastily change into a bikini when I got to the pool. I totally, 100% get it now.
Do I think there is anything inherently wrong with wearing a (respectably cut) bikini? No. It’s a hot topic among Christian women, and I see both sides of the debate, but no. I do not. In fact, throughout my college years, I competed in the Miss America pageant system wearing a modestly cut, body-flattering bikini and was completely at ease doing it. The whole point of the swimsuit competition (the original point, y’all. Not the media-sensationalized point) is fitness. It’s called the “Physical Fitness in Swimsuit” competition. It’s designed to show that a young woman competing for the title of Miss Indiana/Miss America/Miss Whatever is the whole package. The brains to rock an interview chock full of current events, the talent to captivate the audience with a well-done performance, and also the desire and ability to be physically fit and invested in her health. Finding time to go to the gym and eat healthy is not easy, right?
Bikinis weren’t required in the swimsuit competition. I could have worn a one-piece. Truthfully, I wore a bikini simply because my abs were sick, you guys. Two babies later, I can say that without any ego, because my abs are no longer sick (in that sense, anyway). I look at those photos from the glory days of my mid-section, and it’s like looking at a younger, hotter long-lost cousin. I have mixed feelings of admiration and hate for the girl in that picture. I totally underappreciated the tummy of my youth–my goose that laid the golden egg of scholarship money.
RIP, old friend.
Oh, stop. I can hear you gasping in horror.
Anyway, back to life now. So my daughter, a fashionista at the tender age of 6, desperately wants me to let her wear a bikini, and I will not do it. I will not. We’re at the stage where she won’t wear the tutu one-pieces anymore, so I have acquiesced to the tankini. It covers everything a one piece covers but comes in two pieces. Easier to pee. What’s not to love?
My little girl, however, still so young by the measurement of years, but so mature in appearance and intellect, thinks I’m terribly unjust for refusing to let her wear anything less covering than her tankinis.
“Why can’t I wear a bikini? They even make them for two-year-olds, Mommy.”
“I know, but I wouldn’t let my two-year-old wear one either.”
“You wear one sometimes.”
“I know, but I’m a grownup. I don’t want creepy people looking at your body.”
“Do you want creepy people looking at your body?”
Well…shoot. Swift shut down from a 2nd grader.
My sweet little girl is growing up so fast. Her physical development is one step ahead of her emotional development. I experienced the same tug-of-war at her age. Navigating a body that changes so quickly, you hardly recognize it day to day, while your brain bounces between wanting to watch cartoons and wanting to catch up to your body. I remember knowing I wanted to wear a bikini and makeup and high heels and perfume, but not knowing why I wanted to. It’s an odd instinctual pull, the desire to embrace the idea of womanhood while you’re still only a child. I grieve a bit for the little-girl-me and the fight she had to navigate those strange emotions. People look at you differently and make comments about you that seem vaguely uncomfortable to your young brain, but you’re not exactly sure where the discomfort lies or why.
Yes, knowing Jesus helps–but at that age, there’s something a little weird about being like “Hey, Lord? Why are my hips wider than all my friends’? Also, I held hands with a boy while I was roller skating, and I didn’t hate it. What’s going on? Boys are gross, Lord. You made them. You know this. What’s happening to me?” We are free to come to Him with anything and He deeply cares about all of it, but still– I can’t help but imagine Him fielding some of my more angsty prayers back then with His hands over His ears going “Lalalalalalala! I can’t heeeeeeear yoooooou!”
I am holding on to my daughter’s innocence with white knuckles. I am not going to let go. I will protect her for as long as I can from the sideways glances, the comments that are callously made within her earshot, and most of all from a society that wants her to desire bikinis and boyfriends long before her tender heart is equipped for any of it. In hindsight, I am grateful for the struggles I had as an “early bloomer” and the perspective it gives me on how to pray for and talk to my precious daughter. I can still feel the same awkwardness of growing up as if 1987 were just yesterday.
We’ve got this, my sweet girl.
I stand by my statement that bikinis don’t ooze sinfulness just because the hem of the top piece doesn’t meet the hem of the bottom piece. I will stand just as firmly, however on the fact that my tall, curvy, lovely daughter doesn’t need the masses at the pool to be privy to this vulnerable time of growing up while she’s trying to figure it all out. That’s just where we are.
She might be six, going on 16, but she’s my baby. Please treat her as such, World, or I will cut you.
Suffice it to say, my collection of bikinis has since been boxed up. Tankinis, here I come. I draw the line at anything with a skirt, though.
A girl has her limits.
I am sure you have all heard sayings and motivational speeches that talk about how change is this special, wonderful thing that happens in life and you just float along on a magic carpet driven by a team of unicorns, blissfully waiting to see where life will take you next. “Embrace change.” “Change is good.” Umm…no. No, it’s not. Change is a horrifying, fire-breathing monster, just waiting for people like me to come along and stumble into its jaws. That’s how it feels to me. I know, I know. That’s not exactly the case. Some of the best things in my life have been a result of change that petrified me at the time. Becoming a mother was a scary change. Becoming a mother of two, getting re-married, becoming a step-mother, changing careers—all incredible blessings in my life that seemed like gaping holes of potential failure to fall into at the time. When I am faced with change, my brain and my body team up to create a panic so mighty that I can barely move. I pray and I hold onto promises that I know are true—God has plans to prosper me and not to harm me. God knew what my life held before I was even born. His love is bigger than any circumstance of any kind. I know this. I do. So why can’t I adapt to change more easily?
That brings me to the latest change in our household. We are out of room. Out. We have a little girl who is sharing a bedroom with two of her brothers. The clock is loudly ticking on that one. On a half-whim, half-wish about a week ago, I checked the real estate list that we receive every couple of days from the last time we decided it was time to either move or build on (soon after which I spun into a panic and went to my go-to strategy of “Never mind; let’s just ignore the problem. Wheeeee!”) I emailed a few potential houses to my husband with the usual attitude of “Meh. These are okay.” And then—I saw it. A house that had almost everything on our wish list, at a great price and in a beautiful neighborhood. Oh, man. Before I had time to talk myself out of it, I emailed our realtor (who has the patience of a saint) and asked if we could see it. On the way there, I talked myself out of it pretty handily. “Too far from school.” “Too many trees.” “Too far from Target.” As soon as we stepped in though, it felt right. Maybe not even the house itself, but the process. I need God to practically hit me over the head with a blinking sign sometimes before I can shut up the Doubt Committee in my head and move forward. I am panicking hardcore about this move, BUT whether we get that house or not, and whether it happens in a month or a year, I can feel God breathing His will into our plans so far, and that helps. You guys, I rented a storage unit yesterday so that we can box up our excess stuff and stage our house to put it on the market. Me–the Anti-Change! The goal is to make it look like a normal family could move right in, instead of potential buyers thinking “This is like the clown car of homes. How many people live here?!?” That 10×15 rented room makes this all real. That’s so scary.
Last night in the shower, I had a good, long cry about the process (I have my best emotional breakdowns in the shower—highly recommend it). I let myself be sad about the thought of leaving the home where I rocked and snuggled and loved on my newborn babies. I let myself mourn the loss of the beautiful yard and trees and peaceful neighborhood where my kids learned to ride bikes, and grew from sweet, helpless infants to lovely, capable children–almost overnight. I will miss our friendly, considerate neighbors and the long, summer walks around our circle. I will miss the “Fire Truck Parade” every 4th of July. I will miss sitting under our covered patio, watching thunderstorms roll in. I’ll miss roasting hot dogs in a fire pit that is entirely too close to the house. It all hurts to leave behind. That said, I know that there are equally wonderful memories to be made wherever we wind up. I may be leaving the house I’ve called home for so long, but I’m taking what’s in it. Yes, I’m talking about my shoes.
Okay, okay…fine. I’m talking about my family.
So here’s to moving when you’re barely moving, and trusting that it will be wonderful at the end of the unknown. We would appreciate your prayers for God’s continued guidance as we figure out how to pack up our circus and where to set up our tent.
In the meantime, we’ll take ALL your empty boxes, please. Another 97,000 should do it.