Image Reflections: Overview and why does this matter?

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Today I am kicking off a new series and participating in the October write for 31 day challenge put on by the Nester. For the next 31 days I will be asking and somewhat answering questions about “image.” This series was sparked by the church series that I started and have not finished yet. With the new changes at my church, it felt like we were redesigning our church image. Then I asked if we were purposefully trying to attract a certain type of person, but the answer was no. This series, though sparked by the questions of my own church, is not about my church.

I sat down at a coffee shop to brainstorm ideas and found myself surprised and excited by this topic. I was asking questions that were bothering me about church. As I reflected, I realized that I had just read a beautiful book by Madeleine L’Engle addressing similar questions. Why not try to address the modern problems we have with “image” that are plaguing me as I think about church?

As my church has undergone change, I’ve struggled with my identity, and I’ve found that I am not alone in that struggle. How much does branding define us or do we define our brand? My church was becoming younger and hipper and it felt like hipsters were dominating our culture. I have lots of hipsterish thoughts so I am not outside that subculture, but found myself mindlessly cutting my hair asymmetrically. I was having a sense of identity crisis because my church was (is?) experiencing a climate change. The focus of its identity felt as though it was shifting. I was not trying to be hipster in fashion or thought or even trying to fit in. On my own, I was struggling with my “self” as my church shifted.

Once I began addressing the questions, I stopped struggling with “self.” However, the questions remain: how much are we affected by the culture, even the church culture we are in? How much are we affected by the images we see on social media? How much do these things cause us to mindlessly build idols to create similar images? And how much of our comfort or discomfort is simply because of our own idolatry?

I ended up cutting my hair back to my usual pixie once I stopped struggling and felt re-grounded.

Recently, I wanted to spike it up into a fauxhawk-ish do because what else can one do with a pixie? It is not as though I can style it much differently, and that can get boring for me. It is not cut short enough for a real fauxhawk, but I played with it and thought it could be fun.

As I did this, I got some interesting feedback from my daughter, who is growing in identity and has image struggles of her own.

I styled my hair outside of her comfort zone, and she wanted to know if I was going to leave the house looking as I did. I said yes. She told me that moms are not supposed to look like I was looking – that they are supposed to look like people you can look up to. In her mind, moms don’t have tattoos or style their hair in fauxhauks (because she told me she equated the two). I am not a makeup-y type mom, but I suppose she expected me to be your typical soccer mom. Later that night she said that I should photograph myself, so I could one day look back and say, “What was I thinking?” We were laughing.

Well, she had a point, but not about my style that day. The asymmetric style I had early in the year? Yes – I have no idea what I was thinking other than my appearance reflected my internal struggle with change. I was looking for myself in the midst of what felt like church rebranding.

Are we not all looking for ourselves? Don’t we all want to know who we are? If we are created in the image of God and we are not to create false images, then image is far more important than we credit it for, and authenticity is a value. Will I get anywhere in 31 days? Can these weighty questions really be answered? I don’t know. But I do know, God is taking us on a journey to “I am.”

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Like last year, I will write on the weekdays. On Saturdays, I will share a pinnable quote from an author or TV show, and on Sundays, I will share a pinnable bible verse. If you are new from the 31 day challenge, I’d love to have you join along. If you are an old friend, and don’t want to get 31 days worth of blog posts, feel free to unsubscribe and come back later. You can check out my tentative outline here. See you tomorrow.

Broken and Whole

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She calls me as I am leaving the school parking lot. I’m leaving the carpool line where I’ve dropped off Annabelle and Elijah at school, and Lisabeth and I are headed home. She wants to know if I will meet her for breakfast. I haven’t slept much the night before but I agree. She asks me where I’d like to go hoping to please, but I am too tired to make a decision and hope that she will just decide for me. She does, and we meet her at a quaint Birmingham bakery, which on this particular morning is not crowded. Lisabeth gets pancakes, and because Lisabeth also wants eggs, I order eggs, bacon, biscuit, and grits. My mom orders the same, with her eggs sunny side up, the only difference from mine scrambled.

She tells me about hosting bunco, and I listen to the details of women too cold and some too hot, and some who load their plates tall with leftovers to carry home. I sit quietly as I almost always do. Ours is a complicated relationship – this woman who has known me longer than anyone on the earth, who carried me in her womb.

I rarely write openly about family including my children, because I tend to hold these relationships close to my heart, including the hurts and joys. I don’t mind being vulnerable about me, but I don’t want to share the stories of those close to me who did not choose for me to talk about them. So writing about this relationship is not easy.

Painting a picture of my mom through my eyes – I am always a child listening to my mom gripe about dad or asking me for advice. Some of my most broken times have come as a result of this relationship, so I don’t trust myself to tell you the truth as I see it or to even know what the truth is.

On this particular breakfast meeting, the man who delivers our food, Marcus, stops when he sees mom and gives her a hug.

He says, “Oh my God, do you know who this is?” asking me.

I say, “Yes, she is my mom!”

He says, “She is so special. She is so special. I remember her being so sweet to me.” He goes on to say that he has not seen her for 6 months or so. I was there for the meeting he referenced, but he does not remember me.

I just smile and nod. I get quieter than I already am, and if my mom notices, she does not acknowledge it. I am thoughtful about the scene. I wish that I could cast off all of the hurts and memories and hopes and dreams and fill all of the cracked places in our relationship with something that would make us whole again, that would give me back the rose-colored glasses because my mom is sweet, kind, and good. Yet, I don’t know if she really knows me, and I long for her to really know the depths of me.

I think about how I want her to approve of me or to say some sort of word of encouragement. As sweet as she is, she doesn’t give me the approval I crave. Thinking that she is just not as advanced enough in technology to read my blog, I subscribed her to it last year, but even then, she just opened and deleted the emails. I was hoping at least she read, but when I started talking to her about a post one time, she said, “I haven’t read it,” and it was in the same conversation she mentioned how she used to swipe to delete, but now she has to open to delete an email, so then I knew.

We finish our food. We stay and linger, and I tell a story about a funny meeting I had, and then I get my daughter to tell stories of school. My daughter goes and sits in my mom’s lap. It is rare for my mom to listen to my kid’s stories with me present, but my daughter and my mom have a relationship like I had with my granny. Lisabeth absolutely adores her nana, and my mom craves the attention my daughter gives her. I tell her that Lisabeth has gotten in trouble for hugging and kissing in school – that she came home saying that the teacher said no touching in school. My Lisabeth is an abnormally loving and touchy feely little girl. She says “I love you” multiples times a day, and there is not a day that goes by in which she does not initiate hugs and kisses with me. My mom says, “She is like me. Loving and caring like Marcus said.”

I just smile and nod softly. She wants my approval or to hear me voice something about what Marcus did, but I am only quiet. I am left wondering – “Am I sweet?” I am certainly not touchy-feely, and perhaps I seem cold and distant and wrapped up in my thoughts, because I usually am.

We leave, and as we drive off in the same direction before I turn off, and I think, “We are so cracked and broken,” and everyday I wonder if this is the day we will be made whole.

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Coming next week, a 31 day series called, “Image Reflections: a 31 day series asking questions of being.” Join me! I hope to have the outline up soon.

Happy Harper Home Journal 2: on staying

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Family Life Summer has ended, and school has begun. For the first time, I wasn’t nervous for school to come. I found its presence to be the same as the day before – only the flip-flops are at home, and the tennis shoes are on, and the house is silent. There is a familiarity in […]

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childlike me

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She pitter-patters into the room even in her four-year old body. I suppose it is more like a hop-skip-leap of joy that she does. She is my girl, and all the mysteries of the world live inside of her. She is full of life, joy, and love. She tells me about her blankie. I ask […]

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Thy Kingdom Come: to love a stranger

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Sometimes when you stop writing, it is hard to begin again. It’s physics. Just me, as a former engineer, I oughta know. An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted upon by an external force. I’ve been an object at rest. However contrary to that first rule, which also says that a body […]

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Blog Hopping – answering questions about writing

My friend, Amy, asked me to participate in this blog hop. We met first online via my friend, Rebekah, who I will introduce to you below. Amy attends and ministers in a country church in my hometown. I love that we have Cordova in common. Then we were together in a incourage writer’s group online, […]

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Reforming church: selling us

This church stuff is a weighty topic, thus the reason it has taken me much longer than anticipated to write this – not as though I don’t love weighty topics, but I want you to hang out with me because this post is going to need some “‘splaining to do” said in my very best […]

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On Speaking Life

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I know this woman. Every time I am with her it is like I am in a torrential downpour of negativity. There is no dam to stop her flow of words and thoughts. They come at a rate of hurricane status, and never once do her words slow to ask me how I am or […]

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Happy Harper Home Journal 1: on stillness and quiet

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It is quiet. My kids are up, but the only sound I hear is the fan blowing in my bedroom and my fingers clicking the keys, and the occasional pause, as I pause to reflect on what to say and to type. Summer is over half over here. I begin to mourn a bit for […]

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How to Give when everything says Give Up

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I will be back next week with Reforming Church, but since this week is VBS, I will give you a glimpse of that. ***** ┬áThe good church girl is not supposed to say that next thing I am going to say: I dread the week of VBS. Oh I remember how when I was a […]

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