The Sweatpants of Defeat

I recently wore sweatpants to a family birthday party. My brother just stood there in his black V-neck sweater, sleek tie and fashionably slim pants, looked at me disapprovingly and shook his well-groomed head. I asked him what the problem was and he told me, and I quote, “People that wear sweatpants in public have given up on life.”

I laughed in his face and told him that I wear sweats to the store, to friend’s houses and that if it was socially acceptable, I’d wear them to work. While he was still recoiling from that bit of news, I told him, “Shoot, most of the time, I don’t even do my hair – I just let it dry and hope for the best!”

(I must admit, that approach to curly hair is kind of a crap shoot. Sometimes it works out fine, other times I look like I’ve been chased through a very humid jungle.)

I think he was tempted to disown me right then and there because as he put it, no self-respecting person would present themselves to the world that way. Like our father, he sees it as an expression of unabashed laziness and a deplorable lack of class.

I’m sure many would agree with them. I know he’s got somewhat of a point, and I would agree that sometimes what we take for granted as a lowly sweat suit is really just people wearing the defeat they feel inside.

I love my sweatpants, though. My sweats love me and don’t give me any grief about gaining a few pounds. They give me room to breathe and space. They extend themselves for me.

My jeans, however, are not so forgiving. I feel like I owe my pants a deep apology for stretching them to their limits and embarrassing them in public with front pockets so puckered and stretched they look like mouths gaping in horror. They’re aghast. They’ve been abused, and now they’re screaming because they can’t take it anymore.

I am currently trying to get rid of those unwanted pounds because frankly, it’s cheaper to lose ten pounds than replace an entire wardrobe.

Other than that, I’m pretty comfortable with myself. Sure, I have a few hang-ups about my body, and I still think swimsuits are the devil. But I honestly don’t care what my appearance says to strangers as long as it doesn’t lead people to believe that I think I’m better than them.

I guess I should be offended that my brother implied that I looked like a bum, but I’m not. I know he still loves me, even if he thinks I’ve joined The People of Walmart.

While some are wearing their failure, the rest of us just don’t feel like putting on a show. We don’t feel any less fetching, and it’s not a cry for help. We’ve got all the love and attention we need.

I am ok with myself. I’ve got God on my side and supportive friends and family. I have a husband and kids that love me when I’m ugly and when I’m at my worst. In a lot of ways, they are like my favorite sweats. Just think: when you’re sick, when you get tired of sucking in your gut and you just don’t want to impress anyone anymore, you want sweats. Sweats, like great friends, allow you to let it all hang out. They keep you covered and hold you together when you’ve let yourself go. They stretch with you and don’t judge. Everyone wants friends as forgiving and comfortable as a pair of sweats. It’s the kind of friend I want to be.

So when I’m in my sweats, I’m not wearing defeat, I’m actually wearing a metaphor for the life I want to live: humble, tolerant and always ready to receive people just the way they are.

Take that, David! (Just kidding, I’m pretty sure he never reads my blog.)


Another One Slipped Through

I was at the grocery store the other day when I was surprised to be welcomed by a young man sitting by the door. He was a greeter for the store and was surprisingly young and attractive. He looked like he should have been working in a trendy shop at the mall instead of sitting in the corner of a grocery store surrounded by carts and holiday fliers.

But when he opened his mouth, it was clear that he was different. He talked to my son about his dragon toy and how much he liked the movie, “How to Train Your Dragon” and was clearly not just being kind to my young son. There was something less developed about him, less sophisticated than a man his age should have been.

Immediately I felt twinges of fear and sadness for him.

In a world that is always looking out for number one, people like this are often overlooked or ostracized.

Then I thought of how many kids I knew in my teen years that needed a buddy and some that desperately needed professional help. I thought of kids I spend time with every Sunday at church or have met at camps that are clearly struggling but don’t have the skills or support to deal with life and end up repelling the friends they need with their anger and brooding.

And now, I think of the Sandy Hook massacre. From Columbine to now, these tragedies have continued to crash upon us like a relentlessly whipping wave, each rushing wave pulling back only to gather more strength and more fury to sweep away more innocent lives.

Whatever you feel about gun control or mental illness, I think we can all agree that this world is hurting.

While I understand the need for creating laws and procedures to protect our citizens, no law no matter how complete or perfect will heal a hurting soul.

These horrific events should be a wakeup call to people everywhere, especially Christians. To not just surround and protect your own with love, but to be on the lookout for others that need help and encouragement.  As Christians, we must be a safety net for those teetering on the edge and the hand that swiftly grasps those about to fall into the cracks.

We need to tirelessly pursue others with the message of the love of Jesus and His saving grace. We must show that God desires wholeness – body, mind and soul.  And above all we must share our hope: we are not doomed to destruction and defeat because Jesus has conquered it all.

Let us be quick to respond to others with genuine friendship and pray for God to move our hearts with true compassion for those around us. Let our words be saturated in godly love and intention before it’s too late. Let’s not wait until the hurt is so deep that our words can’t be heard over wailing grief.

Goody-Two-Shoes Got Pregnant: Portrait of a Christian Girl

I was nineteen and unmarried when I got pregnant with my daughter. As people in church began to find out that I was pregnant, there was one reaction in particular that I’ll never forget.

“Wow! Goody-two-shoes got pregnant! I never thought you had it in you,” was the almost impressed reply.

I really think this response summarized what a lot of people were thinking: I may have been self-controlled and pious on the outside, but based on this recent news, I was probably just a wild child waiting to be loosed. They probably assumed I was one of those “still waters run deep” cases where no one really ought to be surprised if they were paying any attention.

But nothing could have been further from the truth. I wasn’t attention-seeking, wild, promiscuous, or even in love. Nothing that was the typical titillating fodder of church gossip could explain why a nice christian girl like me with apparently sincere beliefs would end up falling so hard and so publically.

When I look back at what took me to that point of throwing caution and my convictions to the wind, I remember some growing feelings:

I was exhausted. My dad died halfway through my sophomore year in high school. Only one week after my dad’s funeral I dove into thirty grueling months of zero hour, after school classes, summer school, some evening classes at the community college and even piano lessons. I had to complete four years of school in just two and a half because I was homeschooled while dad was sick. I needed to help take care of my baby sisters. And I needed to spend every possible minute that I had left with my dad. I had a lot to catch up on and very little sleep to keep me going.

I was alone. I had friends and family, but I was alone with my feelings. I didn’t have anyone I could share my sadness, frustrations, fears or secrets with that understood or had the maturity to support me through what I was experiencing. Not willing to be the party-pooper or a “burden” to anyone, I kept most of my feelings to myself.

I was numb. Three and a half years of watching your father writhe in pain and lose his mind will do that to you. Seeing my mother lose weight, sleep and the love of her life to the soundtrack of crying babies that ached for her but had to settle for me will wring tears dry. Then there were all my own fears and hurts that scraped across my heart so many times that any feeling was lost to survival.

No one just throws away their life, their beliefs, their dreams and goals freely with both hands. It’s wrenched from them. Wrestled away, not in one instance, but over time by insecurity, betrayal, pain, confusion, fear, loss; and then one day you just can’t fight back anymore and you give it all away.

Then you’re left with nothing and you want something. You want to feel alive even if it’s all wrong. It’s in that vulnerable state that you do and accept things you wouldn’t have before.

And indeed, a lot of things went wrong, not all of them my fault. I let myself get buried in my pain when I should have been reaching out for help. I chose to be led by my needs and not my God. I made bad decisions. But I also really needed people to surround me with persistent friendship, support and prayer; to remind me when I was too tired to think that I was loved and my God was able to meet all my needs.

We are not meant to live or struggle alone. God created family, friendship, love. Jesus had disciples, and even God is a triune being. Never miss an opportunity to feed, comfort, support, love, listen, protect or befriend. Your presence can make a difference in someone’s life. Your kindness could be the strength someone needs to claw out of the rubble and clasp God’s hand.

Angie D 6/7/12 ©

Sibling Rivalry: Trying to Distinguish Yourself When You’re Wearing the Same Genes

There are five of us siblings in my family, and if you asked each one of us what the most annoying thing about being in a large family is, I’m sure you’d get five different answers. But I’m guessing we’d all agree that one of the most irritating things about having siblings is the comparisons people always make.

When we were little kids, I remember my brother getting a lot of attention. People would stop my mother everywhere we went just to gush about how adorable, how handsome, how blah, blah, blah beautiful he was while I stood by, completely unnoticed.

My brother and his beautiful bride-to-be

While my brother was a little Adonis, I was paunchy and hirsute. I evoked all the beauty and charm of a badger and the constant furrow of my eyebrow (yes, just one) completed the picture of hissing discontent.

It would only take a quick glance in my direction to snap them out of their beauty-induced reverie. Then with a faltering attempt to recover from my evil glare, they’d squeak out, “Oh…but you’re all beautiful! This one really looks like her dad.”

As in, I looked like a hairy little man.

Then as a teenager, my younger sister Christina stole the show. She was the budding star of our youth group: she sang beautifully, she was a bold speaker and a natural leader, so she was very popular. She looked almost identical to me, so people often thought I was her, which wouldn’t have been so bad except that once they realized I wasn’t her, they would start asking if I could do all the things she could do.

Was I a great singer like her? She’s so funny, was I hilarious like her? Did I always look like her?

And on and on it would go.

After a long list of asinine questions, it was always topped off with, “I just love Christina, you’re so lucky to have a sister like her!”

(L-R)Christina, me, mom, Rachel and Becca

Yes, so very lucky.

Now I feel that way…but when we were younger, not so much.

These days I don’t really mind being compared to my siblings because I know it’s just a natural part of being human and living in families. Comparisons are the simplest way to understand something.

Sometimes I wonder how Jesus’ siblings felt about him.

I don’t doubt that Jesus would have been the best brother to ever have. The kindest, the most compassionate, not to mention the most perfect.

But did they ever feel like they were in his shadow? Did people compare Jesus’ brothers to him and speculate if they’d be as wonderful as he? Were his brothers ever bitter about the multitudes that followed after him just so they could hear his voice and see his face?

Nothing could stop God’s plan for Jesus, but I’m curious if it was ever difficult for his siblings to make room for his greatness.

I wonder if Mary and Joseph had to remind the others that they were also loved and talented and that they needed to be happy for Jesus. I remember my parents doing their best to teach my siblings and me to support each other and encourage one another. It’s something that will be important to communicate to my own kids – especially the part about being happy for the other’s success.

I believe this goes well beyond the bounds of family life, especially as Christians. We can’t concern ourselves with the comparisons people make, we must instead lift each other up and believe in the perfect plan God has for each of us, even if it seems greatness is given to one and not the other.

I wonder how long it will take some of us to finally realize that we aren’t just in the shadow of a brother or sister, we are in the hands of the Most High. God had a magnificent plan for Jesus and though it was specific to him, the victory was for everyone. As God’s children, he has great plans for us as well. We need to be content with that and instead of fearing that our brothers and sisters will outshine us, we need to root for each other and let the world see our light shine as one.

Angie D 4/5/2012 ©

New Year’s Resolution Inspiration: Fondue Pots, Friends and Family

I’ve been thinking a lot about what people are known for.

My daughter once told me about a friend of hers whose uncle got drunk and bought his niece a fondue pot.

At first when I heard what he bought his niece I thought, either this man is an idiot or a really lousy gift-giver. Drunk or not, who gives a ten-year-old a fondue pot?

(Then again…I was a pretty robust fourth grader with a grown man’s appetite. I bet I would have loved it if someone gave me a vessel for melting cheese and chocolate to dunk treats into. Who knows? This kid might be a budding connoisseur of cheesy snacks.)

I’ve heard of mean drunks and funny drunks, but not gift-giving ones with a foodie bent.

I don’t think if I was drunk that I’d go buying gifts for people. But, what a charming thought, that when most people would be doing stupid or harmful things, you go out and do something generous – even if it’s a little goofy.

I bet this guy is famous in his circle of friends and family for giving big.

Here’s what some of the people in my life are known for:

My husband is a faithful and caring husband, father and friend. If you need someone to help you, he’s the best kind of volunteer; he comes early and stays late and not only works hard, he puts out his best effort. 

Gill is an amazing chef, upbeat, hardworking and one of the most fiercely devoted people I know. She’s the quintessential friend that will root for you, but keep you in check.

Angela is a giver. She works hard to help meet the needs of families in our community through grocery gives, toy drives and backpacks stuffed with school supplies. She also gives the best presents!

Shelly is honest and supportive. She possesses the rare combination of being a great listener and has the wisdom to tell you what you need to hear when you need to hear it.

My mother is welcoming and the queen of hospitality, my daughter is thoughtful and loves giving gifts, my grandparents are dedicated servants of the poor and needy in their community.  

Honestly, my list of people could go on and on because I am blessed to have so many admirable people in my life. These people teach me, inspire me and support me and have gotten me seriously thinking about my own “reputation”.

Now, I’m not usually one for New Year’s resolutions. I have half-heartedly made a few in the past, I must admit, but it’s not something I take very seriously. I honestly had absolutely no intention of resolving to do anything this year, until I started thinking about all the people that have greatly blessed and influenced my life.

While it’s not an official “resolution”, I am determining from this moment forward to be energized by the examples of all my amazing friends and family. I plan to be intentional in my pursuit of God and purpose to see that his name is exalted and let my “reputation” be merely a by product of glorifying him.

Angie 1/2/12 ©

My Family Killed the Birthday Song

Birthdays are a really big deal in my family. As there are thirty-one birthdays to squeeze into just twelve months (that’s not even including the out-of-towners), we do family birthday parties every month or so and celebrate several at a time.

Now we are a pretty frugal and eco-conscience group, so we don’t require cards and presents for everyone and we certainly don’t spend lots of money on food, décor or location. It’s a potluck style dinner at my uncle’s house every time.

But while we are never extravagant with the menu and trimmings, we go completely overboard with singing Happy Birthday.

This would be my grandma’s fault.

She insists on singing it to each and every person. The most recent party was for nine birthdays. Now the song is already naturally aggravating, but imagine singing it nine times……my eye twitches just thinking about it.

To make matters worse, we thoroughly abuse the song with the musical equivalent of kicking Happy Birthday in the groin: kids punching every few beats with “cha-cha-CHA”, grandpa’s slow operatic bass rumbling along the bottom, grandma’s thick Cuban accent pummeling every syllable with over-enunciation and only a few of us trying to keep some semblance of the song by staying vaguely in tune. Alas, the once sprightly song has been beaten down and bedraggled from having every note stretched out to accommodate all the weirdos in our group.

Our rendition of Happy Birthday sounds more like a dirge than a celebration.   

It’s annoying, it takes forever and it feels like a reckless waste of precious minutes – and we are working with some very short attention spans.

But she will not bend or budge. To my grandma, it is of upmost importance to honor every single family member celebrating a birthday. While the rest of us are cringing every time another child sprays a mist of hot breath and spit on their round of candles and song, grandma is beaming. To grandma, they are precious and worthy of stopping everything to honor them and sing their name. After all, if they weren’t born, we would never have the pleasure of knowing them, so the day of their birth is an important anniversary that calls not only for celebration, but deliberate recognition.

Sometimes, I hate to admit, I treat Christmas with the same impatience as our family parties. Every year seems to go quicker and time for squeezing in the festivities gets away so darn fast. In my selfishness, I want to just have the parties and treats and skip the honor and recognition because it brings everything to a screeching halt.

The family of God is crazy bunch. Weirder than my relatives, stranger than any uncle you may have (you know, the ones that corner you to tell you the much-too-intimate details of their colonoscopy), yet he welcomes us – that alone is enough to get excited about. But more than that, he truly loves us, enough to give us the ultimate gift of his Son.

So let’s stop the party in its tracks to honor him this Christmas, because if Jesus wasn’t born, there wouldn’t be a party for all of us weirdos to celebrate.

Angie Derrick 12/9/2011 ©

  • I believe in Jesus, loving people, living fully and creating good things. Whether it's art, food or finding solutions, I am always in "creative mode". With this blog I hope to encourage and help others to live in whatever "mode" God has called them to.

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