Does This Dress Make Me Look Judgemental?

The car lock clicked.

“Let me in. We don’t have much time.”

“Not until you go back into the house and change those shorts. I’m not going out in public with you dressed like that.”

A conversation many parents have with their children. Kids dressing themselves often turn out looking a bit inappropriate with their choices, whether it be something worn for a week so it can stand by itself in a corner, something too small or too fancy for an occasion.

This wasn’t me talking to one of my kids. It was my daughter locking me out of the car, refusing to drive with me until I changed unnamed-2out of the pair of soccer shorts I was wearing.

The shorts were clean–I’d washed them a few days before. There was nothing indecent about them–they came almost to my knee and were a little baggy. The way I like them.

The problem stemmed from the presumed hideousness of the shorts. They were about fourteen years old and had been worn by one of my daughters during a soccer season.

And another daughter during a painting day.

Deb was behind the wheel and found it inconceivable that I’d choose to wear such stretched-out, old, stained shorts in public. The fact that it was merely the grocery store made no difference. Being one of those young people who dress more for success than comfort, she looked quite lovely in jeans and a trendy shirt.

She always looks good.

I just don’t care that much.

Let me rephrase that. I do care about appearances. People do tend to make first impressions from how a person looks upon meeting them. If you dress like a slob, the chances are they’ll think you act like a slob.

I get that. But this was the grocery store, people. Not the mall.

I don’t enjoy shopping for clothes either. I hate the trying on of, the deciding about and the ultimate expenditure of funds to make it a worthwhile expedition.

I’ve birthed committed shoppers.

I’m told I’m hiding when I choose to dress this way. That I don’t want to be noticed.

Maybe. It doesn’t change the fact that I don’t want to be judged for what I look like, but who I am.

Yet I judge others by how they look. How they’ve chosen to show up.

photo courtesy of

photo courtesy of

Call me Little Kettle.

Getting to know people takes time and energy. Making snap judgments based on what I see rarely gives a person credit for who they truly are. It’s a snapshot of a moment in their lives with no understanding of the circumstances that led them to look the way they do.

Lack of money? Bad day? No time for laundry? Kids got sick all over what they’d first put on?

Jesus didn’t judge people by how they looked. The religious leaders were all about the appropriateness of their robes and accessories. He called them phonies because they cared more for the outside than the inside.

He cares about our hearts. What we’re really like when no one is looking. How we choose to show up when we thing we’re alone.

It’s not clothes that make the person. It’s the heart of the person that makes them who they are.

The fashion industry would hate me for that.

courtesy of Bob Marley

courtesy of Bob Marley



A Meaningful Mess

“Hey babe, where are those reports you ran for me?”

“On your desk.”

Very few three-word combinations strike as much unrest in me as these three. Maybe “You’re dead meat.” Or “I hate you” unnamed-5followed by a sneer and growl. Possibly “You owe me” depending on what the presumed payment needed to be.

“On your desk” implies a certain amount of capacity to find whatever is on my desk.

My desk is the holding space for all the things important enough to save. Things I need to reread. File in a non-existent filing cabinet. (“Just make folders and put them on your computer!” said one of my own who knows that the ability to do that is lacking as much as my capacity to find things on my desk.)

I’m a space filler. I do the same thing to John’s office–which is where my desk resides–because there are only so many surfaces that can hold things in our house. Putting something back? I leave it out because I know I’ll be able to find it.


I can’t really use my desk–the clutter makes working there impossible. Sitting is challenging unless I clear off the chair.

I’m not a messy person. I spend a lot of my time picking up and cleaning up. I’m not a hoarder. I periodically sort through things to give away or pitch.

There’s something about those smaller things–meaningful letters from friends that came snail mail, notes I’ve taken on talks or sermons that really struck a chord in my heart, ideas I’ve had for things I want to write or just think about–that are harder to sort through because their value is personal. They’re ideas and thoughts and encouragements from people I care about.

Lots of smalls make some pretty bigs.

unnamed-1Then there are those things that we only use occasionally. Baby items that are only necessary when a little one is on the premises. Things that are in transit from our home to someone else’s and need a temporary place to stay.

There are good enough reasons for all of that stuff being where it is. It’s still clutter. Filling up my desk, chair and room with things that aren’t helping me in the moment. They’re constant reminders of what I’m not finished with. They often keep me from doing things I need to do because I can’t find what’s necessary or have to move stuff to get to what’s important.

Inefficient and ineffective.

I tend to clutter my life with things as well. Good things. People things. Job things. Responsibility things.

Not all those things are necessary for me to accomplish. I too often use my busyness as an excuse not to make time for Jesus. It’s a whole lot easier doing for Him than being with Him. Doing comes naturally. My get-up-and-go moves into overdrive and I produce a lot on autopilot.

What He wants from me is me. Not what I do for Him. Not good works driven by guilt or fear.

Just me. Heart and soul.

I think I can find those if I’ve got some time to look.

When My Good Enough Isn’t

Folks whose faces are wreathed with smiles bring out the grins in me.

Happy often produces more happy.unnamed-3

My grandkids are pros at producing big-mouth smiles that can warm the cockles of even the coldest heart. Five live close to us. The other four are far, far away. It’s hard not to see them more frequently. Huck and Landry are in Austin, and I see their grins on Instagram. Sloane is now in Washington, D.C., and her mom shares pictures of her girl daily. Brooklyn is in Miami, and we had a chance to be with her a few days ago.

Her favorite thing in all the world is to smile.

Until the fun is gone. The diaper is full. The nap is forgotten. The food isn’t sitting very well. Too many people want to hold her.

Then the tickled toddler becomes the terrified toddler. Smiles disappear. Tears flow freely. Cries crescendo.

The grump takes the place of the grinner.

unnamed-3I like the grinner better. She makes me feel good. As if me showing up just made her day.

The flip is also my reality. When Brooklyn gets the grumps with me in close proximity, I’m the bringer of the bad. Inadequate for her current needs.

That’s what it feels like.

My expectation is that I should make her happy. Content. If I can’t do that, well, what good am I to her?

That’s not a sustainable response. No grandparent–no parent–can make their grandchild/child perfectly happy. All the time.

That lack on my part doesn’t make me a bad nana.  Or mom. It means life is unpredictable. Uncontrollable.


But if I consistently disappoint Brooklyn–or any of my kids or other grandkids–I typically deal with my expectations to protect my fragile ego. Laughing it off. Acting like it’s no big deal. Building a little silo around my heart so it can’t be destroyed by me not being enough.

Justifying who I am, what I do.

This is the world I’ve crafted for myself. I’m responsible. For the success and happiness of all those I care for.

Believing the lie is easy. That the things that aren’t going well in my life define me. That my biggest fears unnamed-4or worst contributions are all I can ever be.

The more I think about the lies–that I’m not a good enough parent or grandparent, that I’m not all that good at my job, that nobody really knows me because if they did they wouldn’t like me–the more they sneak inside my soul and play over and over on the loudspeaker of my heart.

God doesn’t see me as the sum of my failures. He doesn’t discount me because I’m not the best at something. To Him, failure isn’t fatal.

Because He’s enough. He loves me enough. He has chosen me as His, and there isn’t anything better that I could hope to be.

Will I fail? Absolutely. At many things.

Does failure make me a rotten person? No. It reminds me of my broken humanity.

Maybe embracing failure, learning from it, and thanking God that I’m still well-loved by Him is a better use of my time.

Just thinking about that makes me grin.








The Right Signature On The Bottom Line

I don’t sleep well when I have to get up early. I get panicky that I’ll sleep through the alarm, and anyone who’s depending on me to be responsible will be disappointed.

Type A’s have it hard.

Thursday I got out of bed at 3 a.m., not needing to leave the house till 5:30 to get Deb to the surgical center for the first of two operations.

Our family’s had our share of hospitals and operations lately. This one is to restore Deb’s knee so she can remain active and not unnamed-6have to worry about a knee replacement or arthritis for a few more years. Neither of us was thrilled about it. Deb’s had ACL surgery and her share of sprains, hematomas and bruises to last her a lifetime.

When Deb checked in, the nurse asked which knee was to be operated on. She told them the left; the nurse wrote “yes” in permanent marker on that knee.

When her surgeon came in to give her an overview of what would happen, he checked his charts, looked at her knee.

And signed off on it by putting his initials by the “yes”. In permanent marker.

There’ve been times when operations have been done on the wrong body part. When the wrong limb’s been amputated. When messages have gotten crossed and what was supposed to happen didn’t.

I didn’t want them to make a mistake on my daughter. I was grateful they’d come up with a protocol that could prevent the oversight. There was no question about where to operate.

unnamedThis surgery, and the one following in five weeks, are necessary for her to regain strength and mobility in her knee. It’s not been pretty. The pain is greater than anticipated. The medication they gave her makes her nauseous. She hates sitting around but doesn’t have the energy or strength to do more right now.

Sometimes, to get better, we have to go through pain and discomfort. Choosing a path of pain seems ridiculous. If temporary pain can move us to greater comfort, better circumstances, it makes it worth it. Right?

I rarely appreciate pain in life. Especially if it’s happening to someone I love. I’d rather take the hurt for them then see them walk through it. To do without pain at all? That would be awesome.

It won’t happen this side of heaven. Everyone and everything is broken. You can’t find a perfect person among us who won’t ever hurt anyone else. No matter how great our intentions, skills and resources.

Jesus said we don’t have to walk this pain path alone. For those who’ve written “yes” on our hearts to allowing Him to bear the burden of our wrongdoings, He’s signed off on us that we’re His.

He’s written a huge JC over that “yes” on our hearts. Stating we’re His. No mistake.

He guarantees He’s walking our path of pain with us. Holding our tears close to His heart. Weeping with us in our sorrow. Never unnamed-1letting us go.

That kind of guarantee makes waiting for things to be better more than tolerable.

As long as I know I’m His, I can be willing to wait.



Puttin’ On My Happy Face–Or Not


Nineteen-year-olds are full of life, ambition and possibilities.

For the most part.

My nineteen-year-old is on her last legs. She’s not wearing her age well, though she looks presentable. Her life is ebbing, and possibilities are the least of her concerns.

This would be concerning if I spoke of a person.

It’s my car.

We’ve never had a car this old. A Ford Contour Sport. Bright red. She’ll turn twenty in a few months, and I have serious doubts that she’ll make it to this banner birthday.

Age has brought quirks. She has a little shimmy thing going that increases with speed. Rather like riding on the hip of a belly dancer. Her left turn signal has gone into overdrive, keeping a quick tempo that is more salsa than waltz. Applying the brakes makes a noise that causes me to worry that something is trapped under the brake pedal. Her air conditioning works only when the temperature is below 80 degrees.

She only has 48,000 miles. My mom drove her. To the grocery store and the bank.

Then let her sit, mostly undriven, for five years before giving her to us. Not using her made her a bear to drive.

Her inactivity created a challenge for our mechanic. It took two years of sitting in his lot for him to find pieces to put her together. Those pieces didn’t work, so she broke down repeatedly.

We’ve had her towed more than the rest of the cars we’ve owned put together.

I can go into a bit of a panic wondering if today is the day she’ll putz and putter to a full-out, end-of-life episode.

She does get me from point A to B. So long as A and B aren’t that far apart.

The point is, she runs. It’s a generous gift. With three adults in the house right now, each needing to go in a different direction, having something I can drive is a gift. I should be grateful.

Fact is, I whine about it too much. Rather than appreciating the value of a car that is fully paid for, I tend to complain about driving something that is hot, stuffy and loud.

I don’t enjoy being inconvenienced.

Gratitude, according to scientific sources, can contribute to a stronger immune system, sounder sleep, experiencing more positive emotions and warmer relationships. Those who practice gratitude regularly are not only pleasant to be around but have a more compassionate, upbeat view of life.

There’s the rub. Practicing gratitude regularly. Making the choice to be grateful and see the hope in a situation. Rather than Downer Dayle I can choose to be Delighted Dayle.

My attitude is my choice. All the scientific rationale doesn’t help if I don’t practice it.

We all choose how we’re appearing to the world. We can impact how others receive us by how we show up.

Knowing I can choose well doesn’t mean I choose well. God knows I struggle with that.

He gives me the strength and power to follow through on what I know is right and good.

He also gets that I don’t always choose what’s right and good.

He still chooses me. Even when I choose poorly.

That is gratitude-worthy reality.