What I Learned, What I am Into, and Live Small, Love Big (or all the things to link to Friday)

I am so excited that I am almost finished with getting the new blog space ready. I have almost read everything I’ve ever published for the Internet, and folks, that is a lot – I deleted some things because some of it was a lot of junk that had no business on the Internet, and I learned a lot about myself that I had forgotten. I have a lot left to do with the site in order to make it user-friendly, but if you want to take a peek, you can click over to jamiesampieriharper.com, which is where eventually this webpage will link to – hope you will stick around. My blog had taken a serious turn, what with writing about ontology and reforming church and whatnot, so today, I am linking up with some fun end of the month link-ups, because… fun, hello, even if I am still semi serious. Luckily some of the stuff overlaps for each link-up. First some photos from February:

what I learned, what I am into, and live small, love big

First on the list – what I learned for Emily Freeman’s link-up:

  • Emily’s post taught me a lot about how to know what I learned. So if you’ve never thought about what your month has taught you, she gives great tips on how to start.
  • I love to sit in a circle and teach preschoolers bible stories about love and their memory verse, and how to teach Ephesians 3:18 with hand motions to remember it by. Hello joy!
  • I am a slow reader if the book is non-fiction, even if I enjoy it.
  • I learned a whole lot about homeschool, from the different cover schools around town, types of curriculum’s, co-ops, support groups, and even the various ways people I know do it. I don’t yet know if I will use any of this knowledge, but we are prayerfully considering it for one of the kids.
  • Even though I have a house full of books to read, I will still find a plethora of books to check out at the library, and that if I so happened to resolve at the beginning of the year to read only my house books, I will fail at that resolution pretty quickly.
  • I am learning how important routine is and how to stick with a routine, and even how comforting it can be at times.
  • I need to break the blogging rules in order to love blogging.
  • The idea of homeschool, even if it is something I’ve wanted to do, scares me and energizes me at the same time.
  • Wen hair products do not work for me.
  • Buttermilk is dreamy in a cake.
  • Jesus really knew the Scriptures really well – that most of everything He says in Matthew alludes to an Old Testament passage, and that when he talked about the bridegroom and the old and new wine, it seems like He wanted His listeners to think about Hosea – that in fact He was calling Himself a better, more complete, version of the God the Israelites believed in. I keep falling in love with Him in the Scriptures, even when the Scripture does not appear to answer my life circumstantial questions, I meet Him when I read.
  • The most surprising thing I learned that is although sometimes I wonder if I am really a Southern Baptist (the denomination I belong to), I learned that maybe I still am, based on the notion of soul competency in the quote below:

“The central theme of this book is soul competency – the notion of a free soul that stands alone before God and is therefore competent and responsible for its own decisions without the need for any other mediator – and how this Baptist distinctiveness shapes (consciously and unconsciously) the identities of Southern Baptist women. These women are more complex, more thoughtful, kinder, and usually more rebellious than outside observers might think. This book reveals that complexity and suggests that even in the midst of patriarchy (in which they are often willing participants), Southern Baptist women create ways to claim their own identity and to act independently because they are, in their own eyes, competent before God.” – Susan M. Shaw, God Speaks to Us, Too, Southern Baptist Women on Church, Home, and Society

Next on the list – what I am into for Leigh Kramer:

  • I have been reading Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor. It is the first one of her books I have read. The blogosphere is enamored with her stuff, so I thought I would try it, although it seems very non Southern Baptist of me to read it. She was an Episcopal priest and ended up leaving her role as priest, so some of what she believes is very different from Southern Baptist me. At the end, I could not decide if she became an universalist, which I don’t believe in. However, what we seem to have in common is the way to commune with God in nature and in every day acknowledgement of His nearness. I will read her works again.
  • The other book I have been reading is the one I mentioned above – God Speaks to Us Too by Susan M. Shaw. It called to me on a shelf at the library, from a section I had never ventured down. If you are a Southern Baptist woman, you might like reading it, even if like me, you may not be a feminist.
  • Other books I’ve glanced at include homeschooling and puberty because yes, one day I will have to deal with puberty.
  • Downton Abbey – Who done it? Will Tom leave? Will Mary ever marry again?
  • Castle – from serious to silly, how could you not love Beckett and Castle and their crime solving antics?
  • Daniel is into Survivor, which just restarted. As a stay at home mom, am I a “no collar” now? From white-collar to no collar, I have found this is an eternal struggle for me as a former professional who may never re-enter the workforce in the same way again, but that could be its own blog series that I will spare you.
  • Favorite blog reads, although let the world know that even though I subscribe, I do not read every post they write:
    • I like to read Modern Mrs. Darcy because she writes about books and highly sensitive people and her just everyday ordinary things are fascinating to me.
    • My new favorite is GraceTable, which is a contributor blog about biblical hospitality.
    • I now added a man’s writing to the mix – Timothy Willard. I wish I could write half as good as many of those I read, especially Tim.
    • Emily Freeman, Ann Voskamp, Kayse Pratt, Dana Butler, Erika Morrison, and Soul Stops are my regular reads.
  • Southern Living recipes
  • meal planning
  • The Best Yes bible study

And finally, Live Small, Love Big with Lori Harris:

I don’t have a lovely story to share like Lori shares on her blog because I’ve taken most of the time just being a person and recounting every day average things instead of writing a story. However, I recently discovered Lori’s writing, and the way she shares is so relatable and relevant to me, so I cannot wait to read more from her. I love to bake – cakes, cookies, breads, cheesecakes, pies. If you can bake it, I love to make it.

Unfortunately, the sugar does not always like me. I have been thinking about starting a little business where I bake homemade treats for others on demand and then use the monies to save for mission trips or charitable giving or a the kids college funds. Except, I am not a business woman.

So what I have been doing occasionally is baking and giving it away because I love it so – I even just give goodies away on fb sometimes. This month, I baked a cake and shared it for Valentine’s day with my family and my mom and in-laws, and it was intentionally baked for them.

This week, my husband really wanted some homemade bread, so I made some honey-wheat bread. I ended up with three loaves. We gobbled up the first loaf quickly, but I decided to give one away to whoever the Lord showed me to give it to. To me, this feels very small. To bake and love others with baked goods, but honestly, I am learning that it is these very ordinary, but very joy-filling things are where my calling lies. In today’s fast paced busy world, this is definitely how I am living small and loving big. :)

How was your month?

Also, linking up with Truth and Grace.

One Simple Way to Find Your Elusive Calling

Sunday night finds me watching a few clips and pieces from the If:Gathering 2015. When I saw that Shauna Niequist was interviewing her mom, Lynne Hybels, I wanted to watch. I had seen Shauna speak on what her mom taught her about calling on the web sometime last fall, and it encouraged me. But it stirred up all. the. many. questions. about. my calling. The more I thought about it, I happened upon one simple way to find your elusive calling.

Monday morning, I am tired, and I want to snuggle in bed longer, to linger. But instead I get up and take a shower. In the shower, I think about life and motherhood and this thing called calling and how I wake up some days wishing I was a Beth Moore or one of the beautiful ladies who spoke at the If:Gathering, not because of their fame, but because they have found their calling. They know who the Lord has designed them to be, and they run after it passionately. I envy their knowing. Instead, I feel as though I am approaching 40 wondering if I my writing is beautiful or good and why in the heavens, do I still feel like I am looking for this thing called, “calling,” not to mention that life and being a wife and momma seems to conflict all. the. darn. time.

Since October, I have been working on a new Internet home for this blog. One that is more thoughtful of you and more focused on serving you as readers, but since December, I have not written a thing. It is the first time since I’ve started blogging in 2008 that I’ve been silent and simultaneously peaceful. Often, I need to write to quiet myself, but how can I write in service to you if I am serving myself?

I thought about that – about how I am finding home and finding peace outside of what feels like my calling, and I realize that in the quiet and still, I am able to bring myself before the Lord, and lay my writing and dreams upon the altar and ask Him to do as He wills in a very honest way. This week my soul, however, began nudging me to come back to writing.

one simple way to find the elusive calling

I think about calling like I have come to think about a soul mate. A soul mate is the world’s romanticized version of true love. That’s not to say that soul mates do not exist – it’s to say that even the most unlikeliest of peoples can marry, and with God in the midst, He can take and make them into soul mates over the course of a life time. Being a single woman and looking for a mate, I married based on a dream, but even a dream does not make a marriage. A marriage comes together with God first, love, sweat, and tears, hope, faith, and continually working. Marriage is hard work – the best and hardest thing I’ve done.

Sometimes the doors of opportunity and calling don’t swing wide. Maybe some people like Beth Moore are made for specific callings, and they are so gifted in what they do that the door swings wide and opens easily, but even Beth testifies to a lengthy process of finding her calling (if perchance Beth ever reads this – I love you dearly, it’s just that looking at well accomplished ladies is hard for us “average” ladies). What if, like soul mates, maybe most of us are made for many callings, and as we do something, we become something. The problem when searching for the elusive calling is that we often give up while looking for it. We want it to be easily found. This is how we get stuck.

While I don’t know much, this is what I know. Calling is something active you do, but it feels easy and provides rest for your soul most of the time, but it is still work.

The easiest way to find the elusive calling, however, is simple. Stop looking for your calling. You can read all the books out there, and I am not saying those books are not helpful or important in finding your calling, but if you are like me, you’ve read them all, along with every blog post, even gone so far as to take how to classes on it, and still you wonder, what the heck, where is my calling? Instead of seeking calling, do this one simple thing.

Follow Jesus. You know He said, “Come, follow me.”

Later the same day I was asking my girlie friends, “How do you know the difference between dying to self and living abundantly?” as if they were mutually exclusive, because let’s get real, dying does not seem like living.

But I was careful in how I worded it because one of those girlies has a special needs son, whom she homeschools right now, and for her, looking for an elusive calling is not so much a choice. That’s when I realized something. Looking for a calling is not actually a biblical thing, and it’s kinda a first world problem, not to be harsh, because again I have spent hours, many hours, thinking about my giftedness, both naturally and spiritually; I have thought about my personality type, my experiences, and I’ve been through every thing known to man to find out how to really live happily, abundantly. All those things can be very important for finding the calling, but honestly, there is one way.

When we approach calling as if we’ve been made to do this one important thing, we’ve made the calling the treasure. Jesus is always the one important thing, and when we follow Him, before we’ve even noticed it, we’ve found this thing called calling. Maybe it looks small and undistinguished. Maybe finding your calling looks more like dying and cross bearing than abundant living. Maybe it is simply falling in love with a Savior and saying, “wherever He leads I will follow.” For me, it looks like persistent persevering and seeking the Savior.

“Come.” He says. I come running, simultaneously dying to dreams, dying to self, and living an amazing, abundant life of loving Him. How does that looks specifically for me? It changes every day. Sometimes it looks a lot like cleaning house, other days it looks like I am a writer, sometimes, it looks like a mom who loves her husband and kids. Sometimes, it is all very ordinary.

“Come.” He calls. This is the calling. And in Him, I find home. I am found and called.

When Christmas does not feel Magical

As a child, Christmas to me was pure magic. There was nothing like opening a million packages and the anticipation and joy of Christmas. As an adult, childhood seems a utopia of abundant living. What happens when Christmas does not feel magical? and joy is hard to find?

when christmas does not feel magical

Top: my sister and me, Bottom: my sister, me, and my cousin, Christmas of 2nd grade

I grew up and lost the magic I found as a child. Much of the joy I’d remembered was centered on opening and receiving presents – things I’d waited all year to ask for and receive – many of which I no longer remember. It would be wrong for me to deny that this is a little of the reason Christmas began to seem less mysterious and wonderful to the adult version of me. Gone was the anticipation of something I’d waited all year to receive. Gone were things asked for and hope fulfilled. Adulthood meant the death of wonder, whimsy, and fun, and in it’s place was practicality in the form of cash, gift cards, and a pair of pants.

These feelings of longing proved that the thing Christmas most was to me was receiving gifts of toys, gadgets, and books. It was also about traditions and family. The loss of my dad, granny, and PaPa changed our traditions, and family celebrations halted or were no longer the same. The more I entered the adult world, the less I believed in the magic of Christmas. The less I believed in the magic, the more I sought the reason for the season – Jesus, a God turned baby-King and Savior.

What is more magical than a God who is all-knowing, all-present, and unbound by time placing Himself into the womb of a woman named Mary and wrapping Himself into the flesh of a baby? God becoming a man is the most magical thing I can imagine, and it is not a fairy tale – it really happened.

Every year, despite my best efforts, I find myself hating Christmas. It does not seem like the most wonderful time of the year. From the death of whimsy and tradition to the loss of family at the table plus the introduction of stress, responsibility, and the weight of life, I keep trying to recreate the joy of childhood by searching for thoughtful, meaningful, or fun gifts, which becomes a new burden and stress. I am not a wizard that can say a magic spell dispelling the magic of joy into wrapping paper or trees, but I secretly hope I am.

What I think I most need is the whimsy and wonder of a child – the child born in a manger in Bethlehem. Each Christmas He comes again, and I threaten to say, “no room here,” with my stress, busyness, and responsibility.

nativity

What would happen if I had the childish heart of Mary who simply said, “May it be to me as you have said?”

What if I noticed the light that appears brighter than all others and spent days seeking out the meaning of this light, like the wise magi of old?

What if, like the shepherds, I believed the angels declaration of great joy and began to look for Him in the simple, common, every day places – wrapped in cloths in a manger among the animals? What if I too could find him in the unlikely places of my common life? What if I were to bring praise instead of stress and busyness as my offering?

That becomes the problem – the idea that I should be happy and holy and focused on nothing but the joy of Christmas when in reality my heart is overwhelmed and empty. What does it look like to bring stress and busyness as my offering to the baby Jesus? What if, like the little drummer boy, I bring my poverty? I want to bring something greater like gold, incense, or myrrh, but what if instead of simply believing and bringing praise, I need the help of the manger-baby who knows what it is like to be empty, born among animals? What place do those who struggle to believe have in the Christmas story?

Maybe some of the magic of Christmas is that He accepts my weak and empty gifts and turns them into gold and praise upon my lips? Is this not the God we hope to worship – the God who brings beauty from ashes?

But perhaps there is some work for me to do too. I don’t often marvel in the miracle of the ordinary. I want my life to be full of grandeur and pomp and circumstance, so I miss the joy, deep abiding joy of the miracle and magic of God coming to me, coming to you.

Christmas treeWhen we got out the Christmas tree this year, my children began to decorate it. Watching the kids work happily made my heart swell with joy and happiness. Those are the moments that if I hurry, I miss.

I used to have a life philosophy, even as a Christian, that life sucked. It felt like all of life was out to get me. I was pessimistic and my hope was dead. I look around, and I see others who feel that way too. What if we were to open our heart each day with room for Him? Would we not become Abraham stars shining like that special star in Bethlehem guiding others to the baby Jesus over and over again? What glorious magic is this? God in flesh, God in man, God dwelling among us every day – eternity already here.

Daily allowing room for Jesus resurrects my hope. Even when Christmas gets busy, stressful, and threatens to snuff my light out, I return to the wonder of a God in babe and my heart wells up with praise, overflows with joy. Perhaps I don’t hate Christmas after all – only the lack of abundant living masquerading as more stuff.

The inn in my heart is open – sweet baby Jesus – won’t you fill it with joy?

Unwrapping Christmas

Blessed are the Chaos Calmers

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“Blessed are the chaos calmers for they will be the children of God.”

As a mom, I have seen my kids do a lot of things. They have broken my heart a few times in only 9 short years. Sometimes they forget I am a person, but sometimes, I have forgotten that they are people too. I forget to notice the things that are important to them. We push and pick at one another’s soft spots, until hurt oozes out and anger is tossed around or tears flow. I can get so caught up in the doing of motherhood that I forget to be about the being of a mom too. You know the mom that knows and sees the tender, hurting ache.

Sometimes, when neglected even the tiniest amount, children act out. They do things they know they should not because they need attention. In those moments, a child needs discipline, yes, but it is not the most important thing. The most important thing is a gentle hug, a holding until the weeping stops, or the thrashing softens, until they know they are truly seen and that they are not alone in whatever the ache may be. In the moment of hurt, it does no good for me to pick a side – to tell them they are wrong or even to agree that they are right. Negative words alienate, and alienation is not what they need. They need healing. They need peace. They need someone to help them calm the chaos beating within so they can be still, be known, and be able to gain control.

This year God has been teaching me about hospitality. I’ve always known I am not so good at it. My heart is one hundred times bigger in the closet at home than anywhere else. Intention without action is meaningless. I ask myself, “If love is not acted upon, is it really love?” or just a grand idea? a novel concept.

When I went to Allume in October, the theme was hospitality. I don’t know that the world needs hospitality now more than ever though that would be the popular thing to say. But the world needs love – love reaching down and out, and over and beyond, spreading out, near and far and wide until love has covered the earth in the name of Jesus. What if each and every one of us are all just longing for home?

We like to say that the United States has turned its back on God and Jesus and that our world is going straight to hell. Sometimes I say it too. When we say these things we proclaim that love has not prevailed.  But that’s not true – the Word of God says that LOVE never fails. Love prevails.

What has happened is that we have been given a gift of sight – a gift to see how we have not clung to the Truth. We see that our nation is not united in thought, in body as a “Christian” nation, or in the spirit of self-evident truths of equality. Why is this a gift?

When I thought I was a good girl, I did not know my need of the Savior – I thought my striving was enough. When I knew the depths of who I truly was and how lost in sin I could be, I knew my need, and I could truly know I am poor in spirit and thus inherit the kingdom of heaven.

Over the last few years as I’ve blogged and seen controversies develop, I see a nation that needs the Lord, that needs the tenderness that only He can give. He’s wrapped His arms, His love, His presence, and His very nature and being in me, and you if you too believe. He dwells among us, and This. Is. Monumental. We can be Jesus to the hurting who need Him so. Like those in Ferguson.

But not only are we Jesus, Jesus is every one we meet. This, too, is important to remember. If we held each person in the same esteem as we hold our beloved Savior, He would reign here on earth indeed. Whatever we do (or say) to those we think the least, we do to Him. My least of these is not the same as your idea of the least of these. Those you tend to discredit and clash and war internally with – that right there is where you need to see your “least of these.”

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You see hurting people hurt others. They don’t care if they are right or wrong or about anything else but relieving the pain. We are not talking about children acting out from a tiny amount of neglect but generations of frustration. What if you were born into a people group who often does not stand up for marriage and fatherhood, that kills one another, that struggles to find its identity apart from slavery, and racism, and discrimination? and every time your son went out you worried about what kind of trouble he would find himself in? whether he was doing the right thing or whether or not somebody acted out of fear against him or not? What if your skin did not afford you the luxury of choice? What if, instead, it bound you to a life of poverty, of hatred, of loss?

I am not black, and so I truly only speculate here as I listen and watch.

Step with me though back into time, into the days when Jesus walked in his own skin and  not in mine and yours. Those were the days when if a man divorced a woman, he made her an adulterer, and not just Jesus calling women adulterers. No, a woman would be cast out onto the streets left to fend for herself by prostitution or grappling to find a new husband via adultery. To divorce a woman was to impoverish her, to take away every thing that made her human.

How many times do we unknowingly cripple and impoverish others when they are down? It should be the very thing we dare not do.

There is no side I want to take here. I am simply deeply sad. Our nation continues to pull itself apart, and we cannot continue to speak condescendingly to one another in the matter of righteousness – it just keeps on the cycle of abuse and distrust and hatred and fear.

We Jesus followers are meant to be peace makers. We are meant to be the ones who bring unity not division. Our voices are sacred, and we must use them as such. It is true that as we reach out to those lashing out we will experience pain, we might get hurt, we might even be crucified. My kids almost always struggle before the calm, before they accept the hug they want and need.

What if love was not kept in the closet or fed as a novel idea? what it was acted upon?  What if we did not spit on Jesus with venomous words, but took up His cross and helped the world to heal? What if we were the chaos calmers marching to the beat of peace? What if hospitality stopped being about loving a stranger and simply loving Jesus?

Would we all not find our home – thy kingdom come on earth?

 

P.S. I took those photos last year in downtown Birmingham. I don’t know who wrote those hopes and dreams, but they appeared to be written by city youth.

Shared with Holley Gerth’s #CoffeeforyouHeart and Meredith Bernards’s Woman2Woman

 

Why I am not going to finish the series

So, perhaps, you may have noticed that I have not been posting the rest of the series as I said I would. Well, I went out of town for a blog conference, and I tell you, I stopped everything to get ready, to leave, and to be present at the conference. I am not giving up on the series, as I would like to finish it and give it to you in an ebook, but I will not be posting any more Image Reflections here in this space for now. :)

Actually, I want to do a better job of being your hostess in this space, so I plan to take the months of November and much of December off, and we will hopefully meet again after Christmas. I went to the blog conference thinking there were some things I wanted to change, and coming home, I just felt them solidified. There will be some changes – hopefully for the good of both you and me.

I love you, readers; you are valuable treasures.

Before I say adieu for the moment, I need to tell you about something fun. I am participating along with some other bloggers in a giveaway this week. We are each giving away one of our favorite things, and I am giving away a Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook! One person will enter all the things. Exciting, right?

favorite things

  • Kayse is giving away a collection of Martha Stewart Office items!
  • Britta is giving away a ConAir Power Facial Cleanser!
  • Jennifer is giving away a “Be Still” print!
  • Monica  is giving away a Let It Go (by Karen Ehman) Study Pack!
  • Erika is giving away a super cute coffee cozy of your choice!
  • Carey is giving away Cravings, a daily devotional for moms!
  • Kristin is giving away 2 books by Angie Smith – For Such A Time As This & Audrey Bunny!
  • Anna is giving away a candle, tea, and chocolate!
  • Bethany is giving away a Ginger & Lime Sugar Scrub & a 5ml bottle of Wild Orange Essential Oil!
  • Jamie is giving away a Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook!
  • Amanda is giving away a framed print and a $10 gift card to Starbucks!
  • Leeann is giving away a set of linen notecards!

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Should we give a child a self-image?

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I realize I am hardly blogging by the outline or by the 31 day schedule. Confession: sometimes writing can overtake real life, and I just needed to attempt to put back in order some of my life chaos. It is tempting to just quit and stop writing the series altogether because of that, but I’m still showing up. I hope these words find each of you well and that you are pondering the things of God. I hope that you will be encouraged by His good news in some way or fashion. May all who are reading these words be blessed.

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One of the most profound questions Madeleine L’Engle asks in her book, A Circle of Quiet, is “should we give a child a self-image?” She writes that one of her pupils, Yetta, in one of her short term classes, states that a child should be given a self-image, and then Madeleine herself ponders the answer and truth of this throughout the book. Her immediate reply to Yetta is,

“Hold everything, Yetta. All my little red warning flags are out. I sniff danger here. Do we want to give the child an image of himself–mirror vision? Or do we want what is real?”

This question of giving a child a self-image is contrary to what is taught in schools today. Without a doubt, educators are trying to give children self-images, and most of the time, we mindlessly agree. At some point in the book, she asks, “How do we give the child a self?”

As an adult looking back at my childhood self, I see things differently than how I perceived them at the time. I wish for things to be different. I wish that my “self” had been seen and nurtured. Since I’ve always struggled with identity, I wish someone had guided me in my strengths and weaknesses and helped me explore who I was, who I am. Yet how can the glance back be what is totally real? My perception versus others thoughts and perceptions are often not the same. It is easy to look back and place blame on a parent, and now as a parent myself, I am sensitive to the fact that much of what I am doing could at some point be seen as damaging to my child later. As a parent, I shape my child, but ultimately, in Christ, He uses every thing happening in our lives to shape us, to mold us into His image of who He wants us to be. We are His creation, and while we are the created, we are still being created.

Ultimately, Christ gives the child a self, but how can any adult be a facilitator of this giving the child a self without knowing the child? And who can ever fully know anyone else?

My daughter is half of me and half alien. :) I joke. We are very similar. There are parts of her that I so identify with, and yet, there are aspects of her that I have to dig for, like mining treasures, I seek to know her. She, being like me, is hard to know, but I must keep trying to get her “self” to rise to the surface and come out so that I can know her, understand her, love her. My love is always an incomplete love, because I am unable to fully know her. Jesus’s love for her is complete, because He knows her fully. He sees the depths and heights of her heart.

“Am I going to do a good deed? Then, of all times, – Father, into thy hands: lest the enemy should have me now.” George MacDonald

Madeleine L’Engle on the above quote: “George MacDonald implies that as long as we put ourselves in God’s hands, then maybe something good can happen, not because of us, but because He helps.”

We must shape our children asking God to use us as His tools.

“Grandma gave me herself, and so helped to give me myself. Is that what Yetta was getting at? Yetta being Yetta, I think it was. But it’s one thing to talk consciously about giving oneself away and another to do it, for it must be done completely unself-consciously; it is not a do-it-yourself activity. No computer can teach it; no computer can show a child compassion, or how to allow people to be different, to experiment, to love. Almost all the joyful things of life are outside the measure of IQ tests, are beyond the realm of provable fact. A person is needed. But if any teacher, no matter how qualified, no matter how loving goes into a classroom thinking, “I am going to give a child a self,” it can’t possibly happen. -Madeleine L’Engle, “A Circle of Quiet”

Image Anomalies

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I was in the fifth grade when I started taking piano lessons. Fifth grade was the year I started middle school, and probably the year that I started looking in all the mirrors, so piano became this amazing thing for me, as it was the only way in which I remember being encouraged creatively. Ms. Stewart was my teacher, and I remember on our first meeting, I did not think she was attractive. She was a voluptuous woman with medium build. She wore red lipstick which occasionally smeared onto her teeth, and she had longer dark brown hair that she curled. She looked like a personality if you know what I mean, but she was a nice Christian lady who dressed modestly. There was just something about her that was different from the women I was used to.

As I took piano lessons, my heart and her appearance started to change. No, her appearance did not really change. Everything about her looked the same, but I saw her as beautiful. It was because I loved her. It was the first time I realized that a heart is the not the same as the outside.

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When we went to Disney World, the younger two kids and I were sitting on a bench eating a snack, and a special needs man on a wheelchair came driving up to us and gave us Mickey Mouse stickers. He was the happiest, most beautiful person I have seen in a while. He conversed with us, and then drove away. I was hoping the kids would see him too, you know with heart eyes, not their eye-eyes. I chatted with them for a bit, but neither had found him strange or unusual – that they voiced to me anyway.

I don’t have special needs kids, but I have friends who do. Listening to their stories and watching their children has taught me about image anomalies. Those are the people who the world would not necessarily call beautiful, but that seem to understand the world the most in so many ways – like how to treat people and how to look in the mirror without shame. Now, certainly these people do not have it easier. The world is always shunning and shaming them and trying to get them to confirm to the world’s mirror.

Because I am a Matrix fan, I see these image anomalies as a “glitch in the Matrix.” The Matrix (a movie from 1999) quote says this, “ A déjà vu is usually a glitch in the Matrix. It happens when they change something.” I see these “glitches” not as a glitch but as something special God has given us to see what life could be like if we saw with our heart eyes too.

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The most beautiful man to walk the face of the earth was Jesus, yet Isaiah says this of him, “Out of emptiness he came, like a tender shoot from rock-hard ground. He didn’t look like anything or anyone of consequence—he had no physical beauty to attract our attention.” The image of God had no physical beauty of which to attract our attention. Yet He is all that is beautiful.

I guess Jesus, Himself, was an image anomaly. Surely these image anomalies exist purposefully to teach us true beauty.

Take no notice of his looks or his height. He is not the one, for the Eternal One does not pay attention to what humans value. Humans only care about the external appearance, but the Eternal considers the inner character.” 1 Samuel 16:7 (the Voice)

This post is one in a 31 day series of posts called Image Reflections: asking questions of being. You can see all the posts by clicking here.

If you would like to receive all posts from this series to your inbox, you can subscribe here.

Looking in the True Mirror

I missed Monday because I was visiting my sister for my niece’s birthday. I was snuggling my 3 month old nephew and had a thought to share with you. I missed yesterday because I was exhausted, and I almost missed today because…first world problems. Good thing I had already started this one.

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As I held the baby, my daughter, Annabelle, was enamored with him. His soft skin, his total dependence, his cries for needs to be met – his image is perfect.

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As I caressed his skin, I thought about how we all want baby skin – no wrinkles, super soft, sheer perfection. In contrast, my skin is calloused. Don’t you think that’s why a baby’s skin is soft and ours is not as soft? We’ve built up a thicker layer of epidermis for our protection and endurance in this world, and then we spend the rest of our lives using creams and lotions and having procedures done to make our skin be more baby-like.

I thought about his scarlessness, and me, I have scars. I have a scar from giving birth to Annabelle. I have scars from cysts removed and fears of the c-word (though I was young and somewhat fearless). I have scars from being in the sun too much – age spots on my face which signify that I am closing in on 40 instead of 30, and I like to wish these spots away and pretend that they are not there. I have scars from burns on my arm just this past year. I have stretch marks from carrying three babies in my belly, and my belly button is stretched out, the elasticity of my skin in that area gone. As I age, I will continue to change shapes, wrinkles will be added to my face, more sun spots will freckle my skin, my hair will continue to gray. A body rarely stays the same. Even a baby has birth marks – the evidence of the trauma of entering the world, the evidence that this world scars. Our bodies are maps of who we are, who we have been, and who we are becoming. Yet often, we are ashamed of the image our body presents to the world.

We are all lumps of clay, and the Maker, He is shaping us. It feels as though we are formless when we enter, but He is aware of our form and of who we are and who we are becoming. He places in each of us certain talents and gifts, desires, and passions, and this all just as created children. Then when we come into his family as adopted children, He gives us spiritual gifts. Some of us are geniuses, some are influencers, some are inventors, and some are story-crafters. Some reach their full potential and some never do, and maybe that’s because we don’t feel awake and alive yet. Maybe we’ve not been made alive and awake yet. Are we like Alice in Wonderland dreaming a great and fantastical dream or is it real?

Looking in the True Mirror

Before the world began, there is only this idea that God was. He is “I am” – the constant, and the hint we have to who we are before the world began is that He chose us. In my mind’s eye, I feel like He had us created and with him, and then in time He sent us to earth, but honestly, perhaps He just saw us in our Today, and we were not there alongside him in Eternity before earth. He is God – not I.

But He blows His breath into us and says go, and a seed is planted in a womb, and our forms grow inside our mothers’ wombs. When He created man, He said, “It is good,” and it is not as though He did not know that we would fall and sin would enter the world, and yet, though He knew all you or I would do, He called us good.

There is this precious time in childhood when we are, and we are not ashamed. It is our Garden moment in which we are naked and need no covers. Then about grade 3, 4, or 5, we start to worry about our image. We no longer walk in who we are, but begin to walk in the image of who we want to be or who others think we should be, and the journey of self-image begins. It is when we start looking in all the mirrors. We need an image. At some point, we become the walking dead chained to all the earthly mirrors. We need a resurrection to be fully awake, fully alive so that we spend the rest of our days chasing Him with all that we are, whether you know who you are or not.

He has made You.

You are known.

His mirror says this,

O Eternal One, You have explored my heart and know exactly who I am;
You even know the small details like when I take a seat and when I stand up again.
    Even when I am far away, You know what I’m thinking.
You observe my wanderings and my sleeping, my waking and my dreaming,
    and You know everything I do in more detail than even I know.
You know what I’m going to say long before I say it.
    It is true, Eternal One, that You know everything and everyone.
You have surrounded me on every side, behind me and before me,
    and You have placed Your hand gently on my shoulder.
It is the most amazing feeling to know how deeply You know me, inside and out;
    the realization of it is so great that I cannot comprehend it.

Can I go anywhere apart from Your Spirit?
    Is there anywhere I can go to escape Your watchful presence?

If I go up into heaven, You are there.
    If I make my bed in the realm of the dead, You are there.
If I ride on the wings of morning,
    if I make my home in the most isolated part of the ocean,
Even then You will be there to guide me;
    Your right hand will embrace me, for You are always there.
Even if I am afraid and think to myself, “There is no doubt that the darkness will swallow me,
    the light around me will soon be turned to night,”
You can see in the dark, for it is not dark to Your eyes.
    For You the night is just as bright as the day.
    Darkness and light are the same to Your eyes.

For You shaped me, inside and out.
    You knitted me together in my mother’s womb long before I took my first breath.
I will offer You my grateful heart, for I am Your unique creation, filled with wonder and awe.
    You have approached even the smallest details with excellence;
    Your works are wonderful;
I carry this knowledge deep within my soul.
    You see all things; nothing about me was hidden from You
As I took shape in secret,
    carefully crafted in the heart of the earth before I was born from its womb.
You see all things;
    You saw me growing, changing in my mother’s womb;
Every detail of my life was already written in Your book;
    You established the length of my life before I ever tasted the sweetness of it.
Your thoughts and plans are treasures to me, O God! I cherish each and every one of them!
    How grand in scope! How many in number!
If I could count each one of them, they would be more than all the grains of sand on earth. Their number is inconceivable!
    Even when I wake up, I am still near to You.

I wish You would destroy all the wicked, O God.
    So keep away from me, those who are thirsty for blood!
For they say such horrible things about You,
    and those who are against You abuse Your good name.
Is it not true that I hate all who hate You, Eternal One?
    Is it not true that I despise all who come against You?
Deep hatred boils within me toward them;
    I am Your friend, and they are my enemies.
Explore me, O God, and know the real me. Dig deeply and discover who I am.
    Put me to the test and watch how I handle the strain.
Examine me to see if there is an evil bone in me,
    and guide me down Your path forever.

Psalm 139, The Voice

For we, His people, are works of art. Me, you – yes, great masterpieces (Eph 2:10), and as He works the lumps of clay we are, we become. He continually making, remaking, and shaping.

He calls us, saying, O, sleeper, Awake!

Like Neo from the Matrix, we do, and we learn a whole new way of living, defying constraints through His power.

 

Interesting links on image I saw this week (I’ve been seeing image in everything lately):

 

This post is one in a 31 day series of posts called Image Reflections: asking questions of being. You can see all the posts by clicking here.

If you would like to receive all posts from this series to your inbox, you can subscribe here.

Pinnable Bible Verse

Genesis127

Downton Abbey quote on image

DowntonAbbeyquote

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