I’m trusting that the message would reach the hearts of those who need to hear it, that it would be a stepping stone to freedom from many women. We all have beauty stories. I’m taking a guess here, but they probably contain brokenness, hurt or confusion. Let God transform your story and find healing.
His name is Olu. He’s from Nigeria.
I met him by the elevator at work. He looked confused. He was wondering how to get to the travel clinic. It was his third day in Canada. He was a refugee. I called J-M and he came for dinner that night. Continue reading
22 truths that took me 42 years to learn… and, by all projections, a lifetime to perfect:
1. Get your sleep, eat well, go for a walk. These are the best first steps to solving what ails you. If nothing else, it puts your mind in a better place to tackle the problem(s).
2. Pay attention to the words of those who stammer, stutter or blush because they are spoken with courage.
3. Embrace your tears. Those who know me know I cry almost daily. One friend has taken to calling me “Tina Tears.” Their involuntary appearance STILL takes me by surprise and, truthfully, sometimes embarrasses me. But I’ve learned to welcome them. I was marked with them in my early 20s when I received Christ. In welcoming these tears, I’ve discovered that they are a good gift. Tears detect beauty, break down walls, open the heart, and speak grace. They adjust my eyes to see what Jesus wants me to see. When your tears make a surprise appearance, acknowledge this good gift.
4. Welcome interruptions. Like tears, most gifts from God are not the things we planned or expected. The things that were/are an interruption in my life: my husband, my kids, my friends, and, well, 42 showed up kind of suddenly… I can’t rightly say what good thing in my life wasn’t born out of interruption, even the things which initially seemed troubling. So welcome it all as God’s benevolence.
5. Banish offence. I believe it is possible to live a victorious life if we rid ourselves of offence. To qualify the term, I’m referring to when someone insults you either directly or indirectly, whether real or perceived. Root it out with prayer, kill it with kindness, walk through life unscathed and free.
6. Love others by keeping a record of rights. We know from 1 Corinthians 13 that when we keep an account of offences it is unloving behaviour. We like to either hold onto our offences and nurse them and/or throw them at others like a weapon once we’ve accumulated a good number of them. Is it possible to love by keeping track of, placing importance on, and speaking of the good things we see in others? I tried it. Suddenly, my husband is the most interesting man in the world, my kids are angels, I love Monday mornings, I have the best friends a girl could ask for, and I am saying hello to strangers on the street. Gratitude is the outcome when we keep track of the good things.
7. Practice good gossip. Get caught talking well about other people. (That Karen is so amazing. Bob sure throws a great party. Don’t you just LOVE our pastor? And so on.) Start a new trend in the workplace, build the joy in your home, revitalize your church through good gossip.
8. Asking for help is an act of generosity. Be specific with your needs and those who love you will thank you that you’ve let them in.
9. “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another.” Guidelines for life and social media from Romans 12:15-16.
On parenting (teens)
10. “Good for you!” “Use your words,” and “Play nicely” remain solid parenting principles well into the teen years.
11. Your teens actually do want to spend time with you. Force adventures on them, even if they resist. Do things together that make you hold your breath, use your muscles, tempt fate (within reason), laugh out loud. You’ve all just received a shot of perspective and joy. Now repeat.
12. You are the boundary your teen needs to push against. Confirm for your teens that their home is a place where are they are safe to wrestle and doubt. Parents, this is Part II of your labour pains. There will be great rejoicing at the end of it.
13. Parents of teens, you will need to add a sense of humour to your arsenal. No doubt about it, your kids will laugh at you, but if you join in, it means they are laughing with you. Believe me, they’ll show you just how funny you didn’t know you are!
14. Making the bed together is the best first thing to do each day. Bravo, you’ve accomplished something together. Now go, rock this day. It’s the two of you against the world. I also highly recommend unmaking it together at the end of the day, if you catch my drift…
15. Dissatisfaction is never the other person’s fault, it belongs to you. Once you identify this truth, you can save/build/enjoy your marriage by ending the blame cycle and attending to the necessary changes in your own heart.
16. This one is for the wives. I’ve learned this little tip over time. (Don’t tell J-M, but it works like a charm). Whatever question you want to ask of your husband, ask it three times. This is what it takes to get: 1) his attention, 2) the jokes out of the way, and 3) his real response. Try it and report back to me. We might be onto something.
17. Lighten up. If I may generalize, I think this is one of the brilliant things a man adds to a marriage – an easy going perspective. Women can place such importance on their deep thoughts and over-processing the minutiae. If men and women are polar opposites in their thinking, perhaps the truth can be found in the happy medium. Emphasis on the happy.
18. Faith is our spiritual muscle we must activate and exercise or else we become ineffective and unproductive. Train like an athlete. Digest good nutrients (truth). Work it off with strength training (service). Don’t get spiritually obese by only taking it in and never putting it to use. Don’t run yourself dry by always serving and never replenishing your reserves. And, just as importantly, rest once a week.
19. Worship God completely. Like, use every part of you – your voice, your strong legs, your wingspan, your thoughts, your heart, your eyes, your touch, your gut – to love and praise him. Discover how he wants to heal and restore every inch of you.
20. Thank God for the activists. They increase our proximity to the heart of God. They help us see and love the poor, the needy, the abandoned, the destitute, the lonely. So next time you see an activist coming, don’t squirm in your EZ chair, receive their good intentions and consider how you might take action with them.
21. Trade in Karma for Grace. Jesus paid what you owe. Best deal ever.
Final Word (For Now)
22. Seek after beauty. I have spent the past two years trying to understand what beauty is, where it comes from, where it can be found, who owns it. I can say with great joy that there are very real answers to these important questions. They all lead to a Creator God who decided that beauty is the way in which he would communicate his message of love and truth. Look for beauty, find God.
Related Post: 40 years to learn
The other night over dinner, our family had a conversation about other things (riffing off my last post) people might consider giving themselves permission for.
I explained that these would be things people do or don’t do because of some unnecessary pressure. I asked them to think deeply about something they might suggest people give themselves permission for.
“Fart” and “poo in public” came out of the mouths of certain members of the family. They had a good long belly laugh about this while I waited, arms crossed.
“Family, please. We can do better than this.”
Secretly, I agreed that they should give themselves permission to do these things, but I certainly wasn’t going to.
Which is a good reminder that considering decorum is part of the task. It is important to give yourself permission with regard to how it might affect others. It should not be the exclusion of others’ peace and frame of mind.
If you are a person who is highly relational, giving yourself permission can be a difficult task. Women inherently struggle with this – which is why we do too much all the time.
Giving yourself permission should be necessarily thoughtful, but, ideally, it should give you a freedom that then promotes freedom in others.
Giving yourself permission is about delineating false guilt from real responsibility.
The fam finally came up with one serious submission: Give yourself permission to fail.
Thank you, family, for the fodder on the dinner table and for my blog. I’m proud of you again. Go back to the events of your day.
When we start a new journey or take the step of pursuing our vision of where we believe we should be, we never do this alone. We drag people into it with us. Start a new business, you need customers. Start a new ministry, you need volunteers. Become a missionary, you need supporters. It is your supporters, volunteers and customers that feel like a responsibility, what keeps you tied to your vision, even when the tide changes.
There is a time to let go. Often those people we’ve brought with us are the barometer of our success. Their joining us gives us wings; their leaving deflates us. They are most often the reason we won’t let ourselves fail (even when the barometer is speaking loudly that you’re already headed there.)
Reconsider that you are accountable to your followers, not responsible for them. There is a difference. As I see it, responsibility means your efforts are about controlling others; accountability means your efforts are about benefitting others.
Yes, it is important that you put your money where your mouth is. You must consider who you are leading and to where you are leading them. But when it isn’t working out – or it has worked out and now it’s not – there is a time to give yourself permission to stop and learn the lessons that have come from your attempts.
Our true responsibility is to listen well.
This is the beauty of faith in Christ. Believers don’t have to continually assess the risks and benefits when we follow him in simple obedience. Our striving is only to hear from the Holy Spirit. He carries the burden and ours is light. When his voice is loudest, the weight is lifted and our failures (every last one of them) are redeemed.
Our failures can actually clarify our vision; we see purpose beyond the success of our dreams. Our ultimate goal is his will realized, because he makes beautiful things out of dust.
The vision was never just for you; the lesson wasn’t either.
This might be time for a new vision, that says to others, “learn something incredibly valuable from my mistakes.”
I’ve known pure and utter failure. I have discovered that devastating defeat is almost always a disguise for good and necessary change . On the other end of it, having moved past failure in many forms, I no longer fear it, but embrace the lessons that come with it. Those lessons are: pray to the Father, reach out to Jesus, listen to the Spirit, walk humbly, and take others with you, through the failures too.
Others may perceive the Spirit’s whisperings in your ear, the result of his guidance, to be failures, but know that he is taking you on a path of rich experience and joy that will bring you to a place of deep gratitude and worship.
Give yourself permission to fail. And some time after that, give yourself permission to celebrate your failures.
It would be interesting–horrifying?– to discover exactly how many “beauty” messages we are subjected to every day from advertising alone. The general consensus is that it’s in the thousands. And if we know anything about advertising, whether specifically for a beauty product or not, it relies heavily on “beauty” and “sex” to sell. (Which goes to say, we are told thousands of times, daily, what beauty is and should be.)
We know this, right? Media literacy was part of our school curriculum growing up. I can remember dissecting a page from a Sears catalogue to see the 101 ways they used sex to sell a twin set!
Even with such awareness (and in some cases, hype), I believe I have become an unwitting adherent to the dogma of beauty as it has been presented to me in all its printed and digital media over the past 40 years. Without thinking, I’ve wanted to buy what they’re selling; namely, eternal youth, flawless beauty. Give it to me.
I am in cahoots with beauty ideals from media as truth – mixed with the formative messages I’ve received via my family, friends, and the current cultural norms. They yoo-hoo at me and I follow. These ideals are what motivate me every day to style my hair, put on makeup, and select my clothing (or gripe when “I don’t have anything to wear”). They are what make me colour my hair every four weeks to hide the ever-creeping grey. They are what have me buying and applying decadent creams with Glycolic Acid and Retinol and AHA and any other anti-aging chemicals I’ve been told I should slather on my fine lines and sun-damaged skin. I hoist the anti-aging flag!
At the same time, I am deeply discontent with this “truth.” It would have me dread every passing day as my treasured youth pulls away from my grasp simply because I’ve lived to see another day. It would have me begrudge certain physical traits I was born with and others I’ve “earned” over time.
Oh, and let’s talk about “earning” signs of aging because here comes the pendulum swing. There’s that defiance we muster up when we just can’t keep up any more. We ask to a sympathetic ear (ourselves), “How long must I fight this losing battle?” Or we declare, “My wrinkles are my war wounds!” We become aggressively, falsely proud of our slowing metabolism and sagging skin. Fine, we’ve been found out! That’s how we wanted it to be anyway! Ha, fooled you, I’m not young and I don’t want to be! (Not today, anyway, mostly because I can’t be.)
All the time we’re receiving these messages of beauty, we’re doing the tough (albeit subconscious) work of categorizing them or embracing them obsessively or discarding them aggressively.
Thousands of messages, coming at us daily, telling us who we should be and what we’re worth.
Dare I say, there has got to be a better way!
This is a recent track I’ve been on, looking for the foundation of my own dissatisfaction, trying to figure out where the truth resides. All this searching has me getting excited (uh oh, there’s that word I like to use!) about what I’m learning.
That is, God actually cares about beauty.
We tend to relegate discussion of beauty to the shallow end of conversation and things to think about. But God’s got a beauty message for us to rival all the others, one that runs deep and brings healing. I don’t know about you, but that’s SUCH a relief to me.
So I say we look into this. By the fact that God has written about this, we are invited to adopt a foundational, God-infused understanding of beauty. I want to be beauty-marked with this understanding, so that it becomes the filter by which I see myself, others, and those thousands of messages coming at me everyday. This new and true understanding could and would have the effect of making swift work of our insecurities by settling our minds about where true beauty/our worth is found, and–importantly–what that looks like.
Over the next little while (weeks? months?) I’ll be exploring the topic of beauty/physical appearance from a biblical perspective. I hope you’ll dig deep with me!
I confessed to my friend Christa (see the Heirloom Tomato Sauce post), over a dinner neither of us cooked, that I was afraid I was out-of-touch. “I’ve come to believe that in some ways I’ve created my own reality for the past seven years. From ministry roles to owning small businesses, everything has been my doing and I’m not sure I totally know what real life looks like anymore.”
This may have sounded like false humility as I processed out loud with her all the “my doings,” but I was speaking specifically about relating to others. I’m glad Christa tilted her head in the way she does and asked me to explain what I meant.
I was wondering whether I was an effective voice to and for the every day woman, who doesn’t have the same opportunities I’ve had. Do I truly understand the woman who has a boss to serve and bills to pay and a dress code to follow? What about the woman who does shift work and has limited sick days and co-workers and a policy and procedures manual? Do I know her story? I used to know her well. I used to speak her language. I used to be her.
By the grace of God, he had me on a trajectory that took me out of the “work force” into the “mission field.” This is what my brother-in-law refers to as the “Africa phase” as we inevitably bring up a story from our “stint in Ghana” in conversation.
Since then, since the “Africa phase,” since having my reality SHAKEN and AWAKENED, I sought to bring what I’d learned through the experience into my life and the life of my family. In business, I never wanted it to be about the money. In ministry, the message was pared down to putting God and people first. In my family life, slowing down and simplifying was an imperative for our soul survival.
My experience changed me, does this God-gift of truth not have the power to change others through my testimony?
It is not a good sign when someone responds with:
- Easy for you to say
- Wouldn’t it be great if we could all go to Africa
- Yah, but you have freakishly well-behaved kids
- Must be nice to be married to a pastor
Since that conversation with Christa, there appeared a crack in my blessed reality and what I had, up till then, speculated about became a factor. My North American business was suffering from my “African phase” mindset – I was mostly volunteering my time and more interested in making friends than a living wage. My husband asked me to get a job.
The story from there is one that is months long with many connecting dots resulting in God answering my prayers very specifically to find me work.
I am a working woman now.
Which already means fewer coffee dates, less time on social media, zero time to write or dust… Haha! about the dust.
Strangely I’m not quite ready to share this whole story of answered prayer, and you know I love to share… even though it isn’t “easy for me to say,” has nothing to do with Africa. My pastor husband’s “lack of faith” (in quotes!) was the impetus for it, and my kids, well they’re teens now… Therefore, I should have your rapt attention! But no, this answer to prayer is a new page to be written, not yet the story to be told.
When I got the job, of course I told Christa and then I told her that I was worried about it. Would I be able to keep up? Would this be too quick, too big a change? How was I going to go every day to the same place, to the same job, day after day? And could I give up the spice of life I was accustomed to? Was I even capable of what was being asked of me?
“Oh don’t worry,” she said, “Knowing you, you’ll find a way to be all PASSIONATE about it.” She did not roll her eyes at all, something on the ceiling caught her attention.
Three weeks in, I will say this, I have a boss and co-workers and a job description that is so great I sometimes forget it’s work. I’m so sorry, but I AM passionate about it!
But I have ventured back into the reality of alarm clocks and bed times, of which I am currently truant. And my husband (and friends) have a new reality too. I’m not as available. I use a daytimer now to sneak in quick lunch dates here and there. J-M has quickly learned not to talk to me after 10 because, regardless of the fact that I’m sitting beside him on the couch, maybe even typing on this laptop, I’m already asleep.
One last thought before I move into REM. I would hate for you to think that this is like glamping (which our women’s ministry is, by the way, undertaking in a couple weeks’ time… which is still too close to camping for my liking). I am not working to scuff up the appearance of luxury with a little dirt. Trading my favourite pasttimes to work for a living is not my first choice – is it anyone’s? But I do believe, that it is my ultimate choice because it is orchestrated by God.
To those of you who know this existence well (I suspect there are many of you), to you who are in the trenches, perhaps living paycheque to paycheque, possibly dealing with demeaning bosses or bad morale or low pay day-in and day-out. What sustains you? What helps you to stay centred in the reality of Christ?
We need to hear from you.
Leisha, Karen and I had some good discussions in Ghana about what we were experiencing during our visit. It was painfully obvious of the lifestyle we are accustomed to is worlds apart from the women in Bolgatanga who make the baskets.
While we stayed here,
they slept here.
It didn’t feel right for our differences to be in such close proximity to one another.
The hotel where we were staying is in the process of building a pool, which will be open next year. The 40 degree heat made us wish that it was ready right now please. On the other hand, we’d have to ignore some realities very close by in order to feel the freedom to enjoy it.
And yet, is the answer for us to sleep where they sleep? Would it make sense for us to give up our homes, our jobs, our businesses in order to start farming the land or living in a mud hut?
Inevitably, after a visit to this reality, one brings a new perspective home as a souvenir. I return to my home, look around and ask, why do I have all this stuff? What do I really need?
I remember when it surprised me to discover that I was needier than a Ghanaian in a mud hut. Modern day conveniences have incapacitated me, so that I rely on so much just to get through the day. If we had a food shortage, I’d have no idea how to grow my own veggies or raise my own livestock. If I didn’t have electricity, how would I do my work? How would I Facebook? If I didn’t have access to running water, how would I brush my teeth or shower or wash my clothes or… If I didn’t have Google, how would I know anything?
There was a wicked thunderstorm one of the nights we were in Bolga. The next morning I saw our host use the water from a puddle that had accumulated in a plastic chair to wash his hands. It came naturally to him. I can honestly say I would never have thought of a puddle on my patio furniture as useful.
Perhaps that would change if I were forced to live in the situation. But would I choose it? Should I choose it?
In the passage of the rich man who asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus instructed him to sell all he had and give it to the poor. I believe the passage is intended to challenge us all to release the things we hold onto tightly, the things we put in place of God, in order for God to be at the centre of our lives. Jesus’ instructions were about what it takes to be perfect. They were about generosity.
Jesus acknowledges that he’s asking the impossible of the rich man. He always asks the impossible – to take the focus off ourselves and put it on God and others. He knows that in our humanness, we can’t possibly do it. But he also promises that with God it is possible!
A human response to poverty is to feel fearful or threatened by it.
A Godly response to poverty is to see our fellow humans with value beyond their circumstances, to minister to them and meet their needs.
A human response for the rich is to hold on tightly to our wealth and trust in it as security.
A Godly response for the rich is to be generous, understanding we’ve been entrusted with a blessing that was meant to be given.
I certainly don’t have the particulars of what this Godly challenge looks like for every individual. Lord knows I’ve struggled with the details for many years.
I do not believe it means the world living in mud huts, without electricity. But it does mean letting go of the hold our wealth has on us (and in some cases that literally means selling what we have). It means listening to the wisdom of Jesus and letting it resound above all other voices. It means practicing true generosity, putting others above ourselves. It means relying on God to see us through.
It means accepting the challenge of doing the impossible.