No less than a dozen times a day I have to utter these words in my classroom,
"Stop taking selfies and do your work."
or occasionally I'll just photobomb them.  #bestteacherever
or I've even considered bringing in one of those duck billed whistles for the next girl that insists on taking a dozen pictures with her best ducky face.

I love my Instagram, but I can make it through several days with out adding any pictures. And the selfies are rare.  Part of me just doesn't get how these kids can't make it through a 45 minute class period without documenting their face.

I thought maybe it was teenage vanity. Or that sense of just wanting someone to like them. Like literally. They brag about their number of likes and followers and I am oh so glad that all I had to worry about in my day was a silly spiral slam book that might get passed around in secret.  These kids are documenting their every second and getting immediate feedback for it. I am even more thankful that there was no such thing as facebook or Instagram to document my less than stellar moments in college.

There is plenty wrong with this way of documenting every little second. Sometimes kids take it to a terrible level with in appropriate photos or see it as a forum to be unkind from the cowardly standpoint of the internet. They do just like the rest of us and compare themselves to everyone else. But. Then I saw the video below on redefining beauty via the selfie (thank you to Dove with best ad campaigns ever)...and had to pause and think that maybe we could learn a few things from these teens.
That maybe there is something to the selfie. Duckfaces and all.

Watch the video and then read my reaction.

As a teenager, I weighed at least 30 lbs less. My forehead didn't wrinkle. My abs were flat. My arms didn't jiggle. And I'm pretty sure my skin glowed. I spent more time on my hair for one day of school, than I usually do now in an entire week. My clothes consisted of much more than yoga pants and khakis. I look at pictures from high school and college and think...who was that skinny girl and why didn't she wear a bikini Every. Single. Day. I like to say that if I had the body I had at 17 with the confidence I have now I might not have worn clothes. Ever. Which would have saved about my entire allowance that I spent on expensive jeans. Instead. I thought my chest was too small. My teeth too yellow. My hair not straight enough. Or curly enough. My hips too big. I thought I had cellulite. My nose questionable. I thought I had too many freckles and that the mole on on my chin needed to go. I wished I could put on eyeliner all smoky and sultry like in the magazines...but just about every time I tried I ended up looking like a raccoon. And I was a girl without too many body issues. I knew plenty of friends who were eating tictacs for lunch, throwing up in the bathroom or working out like Jessica Spano.  I'm sure they had it way worse.

Comparison is still a terrible thing, but I think it might have been just a tad bit better to be comparing myself to real selfies rather than overedited photoshopped pictures in a magazine or movie.

I grew up and never quite learned to embrace all those faults. (like Anne Lammott who named her hips "the girls").  I still dread bathing suit shopping, or anything involving wearing a bathing suit for that matter.  Instead I buy coverups. And creams. And moisturize. And whiten. And add on more miles or count calories when my pants start to get too tight.

When it comes to pictures of myself....I feel awkward and embarrassed. I try to show my best side or smirk so that my teeth don't show or my forehead doesn't look too big and try to avoid pictures below the shoulder. But. Sometimes I catch myself in the rearview mirror and I think that my eyes look really green that day. Or that maybe I like my freckles after all. Or I am wearing a fun hat. And suddenly I want to take a selfie. In the car. Just like every other 16 year girl on the planet. Occasionally I do. Try to choose a flattering filter. Post. Not looking for likes or comments but just liking that version of myself and wanting to put it out there.

My students might be a little vain. And most certainly are off task....but they know something us grown ups don't.
They put themselves out there a dozen times a day.
And the pictures aren't even always good ones.
They might have the worst motives. They might want to be liked. Or want approval. Or to be noticed. But don't we all? That doesn't magically go away when we turn 30. or 40.  My 5 year old beams when told she is pretty and I'd guess it would make most 50 year old's day to hear that as well.
My students might not like their hair that day, or think their smile is a bit crooked.
But they are posting and smiling anyways.
They are showing people who they are. At least on the outside. And that is at least the tiniest of starts.

Recently I have taken a few risks and tried to show a few people I don't know all that well who I really am. It is hard and scary...and just like selfies...the outcome is not always good. Sometimes it isn't well received. Sometimes it isn't all that pretty. Occasionally it reveals just a bit too much. There may not be an Instagram filter for that. And life, like all things posted on the internet, can't be deleted or taken back even when you are afraid it was too much or that maybe my double chin was showing. But, I am going to try to not be embarrassed about that. My too much or my crooked smile.

At sixteen, I doubt many of them really have any true idea about who they are.
but they are trying to figure it out. One picture at a time.

I'm still going to keep up with my "put away your phone" and photobombing routine. But. I think it wouldn't hurt us to take a few selfies ourselves.
To let ourselves to seen.
To let ourselves feel pretty.
To maybe pick a good filter, attempt to show our best sides...but show a few of our faults too because maybe those are just the things that make us who we are.

I will however, never embrace the duckface.

side effect

Recently I've been taking a lot of pills.
Prescribed ones, in the right amounts, before you decide to stage an intervention for me.

They are for some unusual symptoms. About 2 months ago I started getting shocks on my face.As in really painful electrical feeling shocks, when I bit down on something hard, dried my face off with a towel, rubbed in my makeup and even when I kissed my daughter on the top of her head. Some days they just happened once or twice. Others a dozen times. At first they were so painful and caught me so off guard that I would panic every time they happened. One poor waitress almost ended up wearing the contents of my entire wine glass. Eventually I got used to these taser-esque shocks to the face that I could tolerate them without throwing things or swearing. Which was really good for my day job.

They persisted so I called my doctor and the nurse suggested that I had a sinus infection and maybe that my swollen sinuses were pushing on my cranial nerves causing them to fire.
She prescribed some antibiotics.
These antibiotics made me sick at my stomach, but I took them hoping for relief from the shocks and headaches that came with them
The relief was only slight, but on the plus side my sinuses cleared up.
I went back and a different person with a stethoscope realized I had a nerve problem and prescribed some steroid anti-inflammatories.
These pills totally offered relief.
I felt very little pain, but I slept even less. My blood pressure went up and they made me edgy and rude to my friends. After a few days of insomnia and roid rage I developed a large and painful painful abscess on my back. This is because those meds limit your immune system and make you vulnerable to infection. My back hurt so bad, I could hardly notice the nerve pain in my face. I did also go get to visit my dermatologist who put me on MORE antibiotics and said that as soon as my cyst ruptured it wouldn't hurt so badly. I don't know about you, but I don't like anything on my body to "rupture". But these magic pills (as fun as they sound) are addictive and you are only allowed a 7 day supply. After my 7 days were up, I started sleeping again...but the shocks and headaches came right  back.
I went back to the doctor. This time they gave me a more accurate diagnosis (trigeminal neuralgia) and the medicine prescribed this time was to treat my specific symptoms. This  class of drug works on nerve pain and seizures by decreasing abnormal excitement of the brain and changing how your body perceives pain and even tries to prevent some nerves from firing.
It works better than the almost 100 Advil I've taken over the last few weeks. The neurologist I was sent to (yet another doctor), assured me that this is a very safe medicine that I can take every day for the rest of my life (because I may have to) and mix with other meds. I don't need to worry about liver damage, addiction, more cysts or anything like that.

After multiple doctors, multiple prescriptions...I've finally found something relatively safe to numb the pain.

There is only one problem. It numbs way more than my face.

I've been taking it for about a week and a half now and feel like I've been moving in a thick fog. The first night I took it, when I woke up to let the puppy out...I had a hard time remembering how to walk. Imagine that drunk feeling without the warm fuzzy happy part. The side effects and the nurse warned me that it would make me tired and dizzy at first. To give myself a few days to get used to it and then double my dosage. The labels on the side of the bottle warn me as much. That I shouldn't drive or operate machinery until I know how they will affect me. And I'm assuming they are not referring to my Kerig as machinery because that has required quite a bit of operating. Unfortunately the other morning in my stupor, I forgot to place my cup underneath it. I hadn't noticed my entire cup of coffee spilling onto the counter until it began to drip onto my feet. My brain feels slow. I need a nap after my nap. And just about everything around me feels thick and heavy. To put it in perspective for you, I went to sleep in the middle of the season premiere of Downton Abbey. Yesterday my mom offered to take me shopping and I declined so I could take a nap instead even though I desperately need new pants because another fun side effect is weight gain.  The neurologist assured me that my body just needed a little bit to adjust and that eventually I wouldn't feel like a zombie but I'm not so sure.

I was supposed to double my dose several days ago, and instead I have been reducing it. Taking less of the medicine that keeps me from getting shocked.

Because if I have to choose between pain and being awake. I choose awake.

I've been a  Brene Brown fan since her first ted talk and one of the big things she says that prevents us from living wholeheartedly is numbing. She says this,

"I believe we all numb our feelings. We may not do it compulsively, which is addiction, but that doesn't mean that we don't numb our sense of vulnerability. And numbing vulnerability is especially debilitating because it doesn't just deaden the pain of our difficult experiences, numbing vulnerability also dulls our experiences of love, joy, belonging, creativity and empathy. We can't selectively numb emotion. Numb the dark and you numb the light."

And that quote hits me like a shock to the face.

And here is another quote, same author different book.

"I’ve spent most of my life trying to outrun vulnerability and uncertainty.  I wasn’t raised with the skills and emotional practice needed to “lean into discomfort,” so over time I basically became a take-the-edge-off-aholic. But they don’t have meetings for that. And after some brief experimenting, I learned that describing your addiction that way in a traditional twelve-step meeting doesn’t always go over very well with the purists.
For me, it wasn’t just the dance halls, cold beer, and Marlboro Lights of my
youth that got out of hand – it was banana bread, chips and queso, email, work,
staying busy, incessant worrying, planning, perfectionism, and anything else that
could dull those agonizing and anxiety-fueled feelings of vulnerability."

Another shock to the face. Mostly one of recognition.

On my worst days I've decided not to feel with the help of wine, tylonal PM, quacomole, episodes of mindless TV and scrolling Facebook looking at pictures of people I don't really care about or hardly know.  On my best days it is with getting things done, putting away the laundry, a long run or grading papers rather than talking to the people in my life or pursing things I hope for.

But, the truth is, just like my new medicine....that kind of behavior or drug doesn't just block out the bad.
It dulls everything.
It makes everything less. 

It is a really bad side effect. And just like all the different meds I've been swallowing for weeks now...these things can't be avoided. Whatever we do to numb the pain comes with unwanted byproducts. I'm playing with my dosage trying to find a healthy balance. One to keep my pain at a level that still allows me to function, but where I can still be awake. Even if it means that it is going to hurt on occasion.

In my own life I'm seeking that balance as well.
It would be dumb of me to throw and my meds and just try and deal with the nerve pain. I'd be where I was a month ago won't headaches and shocks that prevent me from doing the things I love.  By the afternoons my head would hurt so bad I could hardly hold a thought or carry on a conversation. I've lived recklessly like that before. Been vulnerable with people who didn't earn it. Done things so risky and foolish that they left me broken and aching and not much use to the people around me.
Lately I've been playing it a little too safely. Overcompensating. Not risking in relationships or work or writing because I don't want to end up in pain again. I don't want to fail or be disappointed. And it has been fine and easy enough.  Until I stop watching TV or scrolling through Facebook. Or I put down my glass or wine or book long enough to realize that fine and easy is the same as boring and safe.  That maybe my dosage is a bit too high.

You have to let yourself feel some pain, or else we miss the joy.
And everything else.

Now, if you'll excuse me....I need to go take a nap.

Pretty Woman

The story of Hosea has always intrigued me.
When I don't know what to read but feel like I should try dusting off my bible for a change, I often end up here.
Probably because it isn't exactly the kind of story that would ever come up in a children's Sunday school and even enough to make most adult ones uncomfortable.
If you aren't familiar let me summarize.
God tells Hosea to go out and marry a known prostitute.You might think, especially if you watched Pretty Woman, that if a man knows all your dirty secrets and choses to marry you anyways.....that maybe you'd change your line of work.
Not Gomer.
They have 3 kids. God tells Hosea to name them horrible things them divorce her and charge her for being a whore. And if this sounds more like Jerry Springer episode than the Bible to you,  I assure you it is in there. Just read the first two chapters of Hosea.

What comes next gets even crazier. He tells Hosea To go find his promiscuous wife and to buy her back.
To go get her.
To speak tenderly to her.
To marry her all over again.

And it is such a weird story,
Some crazy biblical version of Pretty Woman with a built in sequal.

At our core we are no better than Gomer.
We have all been unfaithful.
And we have certainly felt the scorn of being unloved.
I think deep down. Sometimes we wonder if we are not His.
Wondering if there is something innately wrong or broken in us.

I've read that is some people's greatest fear. Larry Crab says this:
"But most Christians vaguely sense that they long for so much more than what they experience on a daily basis, and they suppress a terror that no one could no them fully and still want to be their friend."

And those are the good guys. The ones showing up on Sundays. Having a quiet time. Following the rules. The ones that secretly feel at least a little bit better about them selves because at least they are not...
Like them.

God always seems to pick them doesn't He?

The sick.
The children.
The unpopular.
The unclean.
The scorned.
The prostitute.

Instead of recognizing this ...we just keep making new groups of people to leave out.
To call them.
To feel better than.
Instead maybe we should take the lead from Hosea.
Because in this story,
We are the whore.
Like most stories in the bible, This isn't a story of deception. Or even one of judgement.
Gomer  was a whore from the beginning.
God chose her anyways.
To be his bride.
This. Is our love story.
Our fairy tale.
Our chance to be chosen despite who we really are.
Our chance to be loved anyways even after that ridiculous promise and still finding ourselves unfaithful.
But best of all our chance to be sought after and brought back.

The Voice says it like this

     "But once she has nothing, I’ll be able to get through to her.
        I’ll entice her and lead her out into the wilderness where we can be alone,
        and I’ll speak right to her heart and try to win her back." Hosea 2:14

I think most of us have had some experience in the wilderness. And we do not remember if fondly.
But to God it is a place where we could be alone.
A place to speak right into our hearts.

And that alone is an amazing story. Even more shocking than the one staring Julia Roberts or any daytime talk show.

But I haven't even mentioned my favorite part yet.
The names.

Hosea was told to name his first son Jezreel.
Which means "He sows"
And in this case means he sows destruction, judgement and punishment.
Next, they had a daughter that they named. "Shown No Mercy"  or "Unloved" depending on the translation you read. Lastly they had a son, named "Not Mine" or as the Message so bluntly puts it, "Nobody".

And that all sounds like a terrible way to sign your Christmas cards.
Punishment, Unloved and Nobody.

From Abraham to Paul, the bible likes to give people new names. And he saved the best of Hosea's offspring.

Regardless of the version you read the name changes are beautiful. Only Jezreel's name  stayed the same, but instead of sowing retribution he sowed love,
To those unloved. He called love, not my people - mine. Nobody -Somebody.

        I’ll sow into My beloved land and plant the people in the land and make them My own.To the one who has not been shown mercy,
        I’ll rename her Mercy.
    I’ll tell Not My People,“You are now My People."  Hosea 2:23

This time he sows love.
He comes and gets us.
He renames us.

When I was a kid, I didn't think I really looked like a "Michelle"
I thought "Ashely" was a much cooler name. And for a week in 3rd grade I asked people to call me that and even wrote it on some of my papers.
My daughter often announces that she is no longer Tess and that she would like to be addressed as "Tiara". Or "Princess" or "insert any Disney princess here".
I know what it is like to want a new name. To want to be someone else.
To let myself feel Unloved. Unworthy. Unfaithful. Unforgiven. And Not His.
Occasionally it takes the wilderness, or an old testament prophet or even a prostitute to whisper....
I will give you mercy.
I will love you anyways.
You are somebody.
You are mine.
You are loved.

 (This pic has nothing to do with my post, except he is the cutest puppy I ever laid eyes on....even if he keeps me awake at night. And his name is Lando...just in case you were wondering).