In defiance of the muffin top

Have you ever deleted a photo of a happy occasion because you didn't like how you looked in it? I have. But I want to defy that...


We hosted a barbecue for some friends and co-workers today. It was a festive, delicious, happy affair: the lawn freshly mown, kids jumping on the trampoline, and stories shared over a potluck feast.

My husband and I had been happily hosting: each attending to kids and guests and let-me-show-you-to-the-restroom. We crossed paths while lunch was being served, and I leaned in to hug my partner and love. We stood there a minute, enjoying the scene of people feeling at home and savoring the buzz of happy chatting.

Our son was underfoot: taking his new LEGO creation on a maiden voyage. We scooped him into our arms, asking him if he would like to be the peanut butter in our parent-sandwich. He giggled and told us he couldn’t be peanut butter because he had a rocket in his hand, and my hubby and I joked that maybe we should change to being a roast beef sandwich, because beef goes well with rocket (hardy har har – I’m lame like that). Our boy snuggled and giggled and pressed in close… while unbeknownst to us, a friend saw our montage and snapped a photo, melting over the cuteness of the moment.

She sent it to me later.

muffintop2I nearly deleted it on the spot.

Confession: I was horrified to see what a pronounced muffin top was showing over the top of my jeans. My outfit had passed the once-over test in the mirror this morning, but I had no idea I looked like that in action, and I was ashamed. The ten or so pounds which have been sneaking up on me stared accusingly at my from the photo, and my finger trembled over the delete button.

But then I looked at the photo and saw a glimpse of what my friend had seen: not a photo to shame me, but a moment she was celebrating for its love, joy, and rightness…. and I realized I was missing it: I was blinded by an extra inch of muffin top.

In truth, this photo is all sweetness. My boy will one day be too big to pick up and press into a sandwich, and we will look back on these days with misty eyes and hearts swollen to bursting with remembrance. Of all the things that are significant about this time: surely my waistline should not factor into my reckoning?

I looked at the photo several times during the afternoon; trying hard to quash the accusatory thoughts and to focus on the good ones. It is hard, repetitive work this: this teaching myself to be kind to myself and my body. I struggled with me all afternoon.

The guests were gone and we were chatting with our kids before bed time. Our youngest asked for music (“Pandowa?”), and the eldest quickly rallied: “Dance Party!” I considered the moment. The last thing I felt like doing was shimmying my fat, but  recalling that I was trying to mark the day with mommy-win-moments rather than mommy-shame-moments, I jumped up and joined her as we let Miley and Beyonce and Maroon 5 belt out tune after tune.  We twirled and jumped and kicked our legs high, and then I scooped the boy child into my arms and twirled him until he giggled drunkenly.

Mid jig(gle), I looked up and spotted a dozen or so flies on the ceiling, miscreants who had obviously sneaked during the earlier festivities. “We have to interrupt our dance party and get those flies!” I yelled to the kids. “Yeah! We’re a SWAT TEAM!” shouted my son, and I belly-laughed at the awesomeness of his pun. Armed with fly swatters and rolled up dish towels, our Swat Team of 5 launched a full-scale attack on our little winged enemies.

Our youngest began to get frustrated that he couldn’t reach, so after a while I offered to be his portable crane truck. He swatted haphazardly, chortling with joy all the way. Again, a photo was snapped.


Again, I noticed the muffin top. But this time, I also noticed the smiles, felt the joy, savored the moment.

I post these photos and write these words in defiance of the muffin top. We moms need to do a better job of staying in the picture, literally. The photos of my children’s childhoods should not just be documenting their joy and smiles, but who they were joyful with (me!) and who they were smiling with (me!) These are photos of triumph, not shame. No one else is looking at my waist. 

I dare you. Post a photo in defiance of the muffin top. Because really, it’s the least important thing in that picture.

Doing it Gangnam Style

Last weekend I found myself in the charming city of Hilversum in the Netherlands, speaking at a women’s conference on the wonderful-and-very-serious topics of redemption, justification and adoption. (I’m starting to write up some of the talks – click here for part of the justification talk, here for my post on one of the implications for us in church life, and if you have 43 minutes – click here to see the video of the first talk). If you’ve ever wondered what I look and sound like in person, here is talk 2 from the conference:

Looks like I have it all together, doesn’t it?

Well, let me share with you that just minutes after this talk finished, the women at the conference had organized a stretch-your-legs ice-breaker. All of us were asked to stand up and dance to the 15 second clip of music being played. The leader would then call “freeze” and we could laugh at the ridiculous poses we found ourselves in.

They played a waltz. We all laughed and 1-2-3-ed around the room. They played the can-can. We laughed some more and kicked our legs high into the sky. We did the twist. We did the robot. And then they played Gangnam Style, and before we had a chance to freeze the leader of the activity looked down on the sea of awkwardly writhing bodies, and she called me out. “You”, she said, “come up here and do Gangnam style for all of us.”

Are you kidding me?

But a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do, and so up I got and did my very best attempt at this:

Let me tell you, I did NOT have it all together. Whatever you’re imagining right now, let me assure you it was more awkward than that. MUCH laughter was had at my expense, and I blushed a very furious shade of scarlet. But when I returned to my seat, one of the women leaned over, still laughing, and said “Yes! Now you really belong to us!”

Which leads me to think: maybe sometimes the best gift we can give to people in helping them belong is to be the fool. To be the silly dancer. To be the one with the messy house. To be honest about not having it all together. To let others see you cry.

We feel we belong not when our very best self is accepted by others, but when we know our worst self, our failed self, our real-me-self is accepted by others.

Go ahead, I dare you. Do it Gangnam Style.

Don’t hijack my rainbow!

Princess castle cakes. Airplane cakes. Green dragon cakes. My Mom could make them all. Every childhood birthday was celebrated with a creative masterpiece made of cake and frosting.

I did not inherit the culinary-awesomeness gene, and so when my daughter requested a “rainbow party” for her birthday, I was more than a little relieved. Foods in ROYGBIV? Cherry Tomatoes, Oranges, Pineapple, Green Grapes, Blueberries and Juice – DONE! Rainbow Cake? Easy to arrange. Party decor? A few colored streamers here and there – DONE! I was getting excited.

But then the questions began: “Are you really going to throw a rainbow party in this (very liberal, very LGBT-friendly) town?” “Do you think that’s really (deep breath and hushed tones) … appropriate?


Me: “but it’s a birthday party for a 2-year old!”

Concerned friend: “I know, but…. it’s a rainbow party, and you know what rainbows represent.”

I do know what rainbows represent. Rainbows are a sign of God’s promise to us, of His continued commitment to His creation. That blessed mingling of refracted light in suspended water is our visual “wedding ring” – it’s a sign of His promise.

South Africa may use rainbows to celebrate it being a “rainbow nation” – a multi-ethnic country. The LGBT community may use rainbows to celebrate gay pride. The Irish may use rainbows in their folklore to direct people to leprechauns and pots of gold. But none of them get to hijack the rainbow.

Rainbows don’t belong to South Africa, leprechauns or the gay community. They belong to God.

The miracle of DNA doesn’t belong to science. It was crafted by God.

Sex doesn’t belong to Hollywood. It was invented by God.

Truth isn’t determined by courts. It is spoken by God.

Music doesn’t belong to iTunes. It existed with God in eternity.

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” – Psalm 24:1

“Every good and perfect gift comes from God above.” – James 1:17

We had a rainbow party. It was awesome.


Don’t let anyone hijack your rainbows. Joy, truth, beauty, mathematics, music, the rain that falls from the sky… it’s all from Him and through Him and to Him.