The scars. The dents. The ink scratched unseemingly upon its finished and polished bark. As I wipe it clean afternoon crumbs scatter the floor. My child lies in a sunbeam on the wooden floor and she whispers to the imaginary bees, “It’s all right. It’s going to be all right.” I am living a memory… this moment has already passed even as I wade right into the middle of it. I clutch my wet dishrag, return to the sink. Plunge it in.
We were made to be worn. Scathed. A serving surface with marks to show the miles. Like chairs that creek and wobble from holding so many bodies. There are better tables to be had but this one, it’s the one I sat at as a child with my family before everything fell apart. There’s power in symbols. Redemption to be had. So I rescued it out from under motorcycle parts to serve my husband and daughter at it instead. New life.
I wake that night from a dream where someone died. It’s 2ish in the morning. The house stands quiet and still as it always is when one of its members wakes when they shouldn’t but the mother’s fear lies thick around me. I tossed and turned for the better part of an hour as worst case scenarios paraded through my sleepless mind like a bad picture show. Then the faintest breath of life, the scripture comes.
She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. – Proverbs 31:25
It is sobering to acknowledge that I don’t know how to do that or how to be that. In a way I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Security and safety wasn’t anything I experienced as a child. We moved often, changed schools even more. My sisters and I made stories in the air, fairy tale homes of sticks and branches in the apartment woods until neighborhood boys gleefully tore them down. Nothing was certain. Nothing.
Even with proof of the past, I fear the future scars, the dents and the scratches that I know in my heart of hearts are really what will make me all the more beautiful. It’s easy to look on a beat up table with fondness but what of our own bodies when they fail? Or the beloved flesh of my flesh when marriage seems more toil than reward?
Are the sweet moments made so much sweeter when you know they could be ripped from you at any moment? Or does the sweetness suffer from the ever expectant dread? Dear God I want to be that: fearless. Open armed. Full of holy courage that comes from knowing even the faintest lines on the palm of the One who has written it all. Knowing and accepting all from those hands, like Job. So I scribble down thankfulness on a simple piece of paper taped to the cabinet door in the kitchen. Gratitude for pain and pleasure alike. And slowly, slowly, the seasons of my heart will turn til I find the pattern of Him in it all.
Confession: I've thought it before. Floating blissfully through a day where my child behaves wonderfully and impresses friends or I get to take part in a knock out shoot that has me drooling, impatient to dive into the editing process. I would step along, prideful, and feel the beaming joy inside... unaware of the crooked twist in the bend ahead that leads to my own black insides. Ah yes... I'd think. I lead a charmed life!
As long as I can remember, I've struggled with wanting to be the woman others want to be. Mediocrity is my own worst nightmare. And then I committed to this crazy "no self centered spending for a year" thing and all of a sudden tons of other stuff is coming to light. Like whether or not a "charmed" life is even a real thing and what this desire to be admired says about me.
Now Moses is one of my favorite people (historical or present day) and I started recently to think for the 83rd time about what he'd been through, focusing on "stuff". He'd have enjoyed all the luxury a royal son of Egypt would for years followed by the sharp realization that he wasn't Egyptian royalty at all. The blood in his veins named him, murmured, "slave." And so doesn't every believer eventually have to step into that identity? Even though initially like Moses you may have run as far from it as possible, isn't this what each of us are called to experience? This being in the world but not of it? Eventually the glittering and flashing around us must fade when our eye focuses, fixed on a man bent 'neath rough wood smeared with sweat and dirt. But we still crave the charming.
1 Corinthians 7:22 "And remember, if you were a slave when the Lord called you, you are now free in the Lord. And if you were free when the Lord called you, you are now a slave of Christ."
As I mentioned in my last post, Ann Voskamp challenges readers in "1,000 Gifts" to see the sovereignty of God in all tragedy, the Creator's hand in every moment, ready to redeem each wound and weary soul. And then we find "charmed", a word that in Latin originally referred to a song, verse, or incantation.
1.(of a person's life) unusually lucky or happy as though protected by magic.
What protects you? What incantation do you live under? We all live under something, even if it is our blithe disregard for it. There is only One who completely answers the question of suffering in this world, who breaks us to make us more beautiful and there is no charm to life apart from HIM. We find it sitting at the feet of He who knit us, this One who is singing the great song of salvation over us.
Maybe it's because I was going to be turning 40 in a few months. Maybe it was because I had recently discovered yoga. Maybe it's because I finally stood up to an unethical boss and resigned or because I met the love of my life a few years ago. It could have been my beautiful family or the fact that I grow more spiritually connected with every step I take away from religion. Maybe it's a combination of all of those things that have made the last 12 months feel like a transformation.
Transformation" is not the word I would have expected to identify with at the start of this journey one year ago. Yet, here I am transformed. Transformed into someone I finally recognize and yet never knew I was looking for. A woman who is confident, kind, and loves herself first because she finally understands that's what it takes to love others unconditionally. A woman that feels more glamorous than she did at 20 and knows she's more beautiful inside and out, a spirit that finally understands her intuition and the "knowing" she's always felt but never acknowledged. Yes, this year I have transformed.
While I hadn't thought this deeply about it when Lauren asked me to model and participate in promoting her Portrait of a Lady transformation shoots, seeing that very first photo made me realize how "transformed" I really am. I believe completely in the beauty of #nofilter photographs and the natural essence of a person without retouching & Photoshoping. I am my most beautiful, inside and out, when I emerge from the yoga studio sweaty and in that place of bliss that comes from deep connection and meditation. My cheeks are flush, my makeup's gone, and I am simply me in my purest form. So why would I agree to a transformation shoot? Because I finally know that all parts of my soul are equally as beautiful and this gave me the opportunity to acknowledge a part of myself I don't see every day.
Life being what it is, dressing up Veronica Lake style doesn't always fit the schedule or my every day style. I knew this photo shoot would provide me the opportunity to indulge that part of myself. What I didn't expect was that it reminded me not to lose a certain part of myself during this time of transformation. I've always put in effort with my appearance but this shoot reminded me that taking a minute to put on lipstick really can lift your spirit during the day, as can taking a few extra minutes to do more than grab the standard "go-to" dress out of the closet. It reminded me that transformation means different things on different days or even in different hours or moments of the day and that each of those moments should be honored.
Kim, the stylist and makeup artist, is a Goddess who understands what it means to transform someone into who they are deep inside rather than turning them in to someone they're not and Lauren's desire to work with women to build upon on who they already are & what they value shines in her photographs. She is a leader in her heart, soul, and work. Working with the two of them has been such a gift. They sincerely respected me, not the woman they wanted to see in pictures, but the everyday me in every moment of the afternoon we spent together. If you're considering something fun to do for yourself or for someone you love, I highly recommend a transformation shoot with these two lovely women. It's a tremendous opportunity to explore the woman within who you might not remember was there.
Do you know the story? The one of this modern day Job... he lost almost all. A successful lawyer at the time, the 1871 Great Chicago Fire destroyed him financially. An economic decline in 1873 hurt him further. But these were barely blows, such small wounds compared to what was to come. In a spur of the moment decision, he chose to send his family (a wife and four daughters), ahead to Europe on a ship while remaining behind to try and manage business prospects. The ship collided with another and in the great, dark coldness of the ocean, all four of his beautiful daughters perished. The telegram his wife sent read, "Saved alone..."
A father drained of finances, unable to protect or save the ones he loved the most. If there is anything that lays bear my heart, it is this: man or woman undone. As his ship crossed the same waters carrying him to his grieving wife, he was alerted when they drew near the place his daughters had drowned. Standing on the deck, hands curled knuckle white at the rail, surely weeping, the words left trembling, tear salted lips.
"It is well, with my soul."
It was a moment that became inspiration for one of the most powerful hymns of the century.
But how? How could a mere man stand stripped down to inescapable pain and still manage to praise God? To find thankfulness instead of hate? It is Christ, only Christ. Job 5:18 states, "For He wounds, but He also binds up. He injures but His hands also heal." Everything happens for a reason. Everything. Or, as a character in one of Denzel Washington's latest films, "Flight" states when asked what form of cancer he has, "Fibromyxoid sarcoma. Soft tissue sarcoma. Very rare. God chose me. Once you realize that all the random events in your life are God you will live a much easier life. We spend all our time trying to control all these things that happen to us, it's bullshit. The plane you're flying goes down? Out of your control. God gives you cancer? I have no control over that. Did God give me cancer? You bet your ass God gave me cancer. You think God would have given me cancer if I asked for it? I don't think so because I begged for God to take it away - and guess what? No control over that either."
(see entire scene here)
Perspective and gratitude. They change everything. Recently I finished reading the book "1,000 Gifts" by Ann Voskamp. Amazing writing from a woman with an amazing heart. I'd highly recommend it. She challenged me personally through her writing to take a stance of thankfulness and start grabbing the beauty in EVERY moment of life. The sink full of dirty dishes moment. The quiet evening hour on the porch with the one you love moment. She challenged me to preach to myself every day the truths I want my children to learn because at the end of the day I need that truth just as much as they do. I am lost without it.
And so I've begun to compile my own list. I'm calling it my "It is Well" list to remind myself of Horatio Spafford, the man who buckled under deep grief yet did not question the One whose hand ordained it, who let himself be used to greater measure than imaginable (he and his wife went on to have three more children and found a mission that served the poor in Jerusalem).
The timing of all this in my own life is no coincidence. They don't exist. A week ago I received news that my youngest brother, the one who used to sleep slumped up against me in a packed family van, had taken a dangerous drug just before school and been hospitalized in serious condition after having a neurological response to it. My heart ached. Images of him seizing uncontrollably on the classroom floor haunt me. Three days ago, we confirmed that our home will need to have the roof replaced within the coming months. My heart sank.
But all is well. I cling to that, and I dig deep to find the thankfulness in all things. Thank you that my husband is wise with finances and we have a warm home we are blessed to replace the roof on. Thank you that my brother has suffered, that he is living, and that this might wake him to the deadly tightrope he is walking.
I'm no Eckhart fan but his words move deep under the ribs. "If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough." Enough... as Voskamp says, thankfulness always precedes the miracle. The minute we stop and give thanks for the little we have, it becomes enough. This will probably be my last post for the year and as far as last posts go, I can't think of one better. May you have a beautiful season... may you be thoroughly saturated by it, may it be well with your souls.
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