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All Saint’s Day

Happy All Saint’s Day.

Today we remember the lives of those that have gone before us.  We raise a toast to those who have seen their faith become sight. We remember the lives of those who worked to embody the life of Christ, who have known Him and who have made Him known.

We remember and are thankful that life does not end in death, that in fact death breathes new life and that when this world has melted away we will be found whole, complete and entirely enveloped by Christ.

Today I am thankful for a God that speaks, that is alive and that is present. I am thankful for examples of faith, for mentors, for parents and for friends who have helped light the way. What a blessing it is to be surrounded by such a cloud of witness and to receive such a wonderful inheritance.

 

Big ships and daily commutes. 

  
When I was younger my dad took my mom, my siblings, my cousins and I to visit a crew of sailors who were, with their ship, abandoned by their employer in the Port of Vancouver. We brought them round orange Indian sweets and they gave us the tour of a lifetime. We visited in the bridge, and climbed down into the vast cargo holds. We walked the ship from bow to aft and explored the engine room. I remember very clearly hearing the whisper of adventure from the bow of that ship and from the stories of the sailors as we made small talk and they talked about blazing hot days and beautiful starry nights during their days at sea. My new commute includes riding through Vancouver Harbour and seeing these huge ships as they pass through, full of goods and wares. They remind me to enjoy this new adventure and to be thankful for all that it brings. These huge ships remind me that you and I are part of a bigger story. One full of possibility, goodness and unexpected joy. 

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Spend MORE time in the mirror

#beautyfilledyear

“I just avoided that problem until it solved its self.” No one, Ever.

This post was originally titled “Spend less time in the mirror”. It was supposed to be a post about how spending less time fussing in the mirror can make you happier and liberate you from all of your self-imposed standards and negative self-talk. It was shaping up to be a great post full of wisdom and ideas. Then I met Jane.* Jane is a middle aged woman of average height, average build and average beauty. She has a great smile, a hearty laugh and she draws you in with her caring tone and empathic eyes. She has raised two children, loved her husband and cared for her aging parents. She has pursued dreams and known heart ache. However, all of these are not the reason that she stands out to me.

As a hairdresser I have learned to have full conversations without eye contact. I have connected with people through the 4foot by 3foot mirror on my ever cluttered station. I am used to looking at every client, every co-worker and every guest in the salon through that mirror. I have a front seat to how people interact with their reflections. I have seen it all, from duck faces to side glances, to remarks about suddenly visible chin hairs. I considered all of the above normal behaviour until Jane. Jane did something I have never seen before. Jane could not look at herself. She did not interact with her reflection at all. Every time she wanted to say something she turned her head to make eye contact with me. When I politely asked her to stay still she simply closed her eyes and continued talking.

She could not and would not look at herself. Even when I passed her a small mirror to admire her new ‘do, she couldn’t glance for more than a few seconds. This broke my heart. She wasn’t comfortable to take in how her new highlights framed her rosy cheeks or how the new length of her hair slimmed her out instead of weighing her down. She couldn’t secretly celebrate that her grey hairs were made blonde again and she couldn’t step back and take in the beauty of the possibility of her new style and new found confidence.

When I was a camp counsellor, during teen girl week every year without fail someone would think that an appropriate stand against negative self-esteem was to run around and cover all the mirrors. I believe they thought it was a lesson in beauty from the inside and I believe that they had the best intentions. However, avoiding a problem is not going to solve anything, and as I much as I believe that beauty comes from within, there is a deeply physical component to it too. Giving up your mirror and avoiding your reflection is not going to teach you to love yourself more. I think, in fact, that it may teach you to love yourself less. What will teach you to love yourself more is the quality of time that you spend interacting with your reflection.

I heard a speaker years ago talk about how many people have no idea what they look like naked. There are herds of people who are afraid to face their reflections out of fear, disgust and self-loathing. I think that Jane was one of those people. Instead of embracing her reflection, no matter how imperfect it might have been, she avoided it at all costs. Are you like Jane?

Have you forgotten what you look like, actually look like? When you see yourself do you marvel at your strength, stature, and beauty? Or do you succumb to fear and listen to the voices that tell you that you are not worthy to be gazed upon? This week spend more time in front of the mirror. Not in a way that beats you down but lifts you up. Marvel at your eye colour, the shape of your nose and the lines of your jaw. Step back and enjoy the curves of your waist and your hips, the strength in your thighs and the contours of your calves. Be thankful that your body works, often without your command. Embrace it. Think back to the first time you remember being told that your body was not good enough and obliterate that memory. Don’t let someone else’s (uninformed) opinions destroy your chance for a peaceful relationship with your body.

You were made to enjoy being in your skin. Your body is not a curse, it is a bountiful blessing.

*Jane’s name is changed to protect her identity.

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My deepest wound

In my deepest wound I saw your glory, and it dazzled me.

-St. Augustine

I used to hate my body. Somedays I still do. I was never one of the pretty girls, to this day I struggle to fit into that crowd. My wild red hair danced around my acne covered face. My smile gave way to braces, my waist was never tiny, my thighs have always rubbed together and there was always, always dirt under my fingernails. Every year February would hit me like a sack of bricks and I would retreat into myself. My bones would ache and my spirit would suffer. This always coincided with the end of the school term making it near impossible for me to truly succeed at school. “You are so bright,” my teachers would always say “I just don’t know what is going on with you.”

I was used to being failed by my body. So I learned to live outside it. I sought after God in sunsets, thunderstorms, and starry skies. I looked for spirituality in books, music, relationships. Anywhere but my body. By the time I was nineteen I was convinced that my body was evil, vile, ugly. I was sure that no good could come from it. I longed for the days of Heaven, when I would be with Jesus and this earth wouldn’t even be a memory. All the teasing, all the failing, all the times I didn’t measure up would simply wither away and I would finally see what God was doing with my spirit.

This theology worked for me. It was comfortable. It demanded my attention and let me avoid all my questions, doubts, and insecurities. Until a dinner conversation with some trusted girl friends challenged me to think outside my own box. The truth and conviction stayed with me throughout the next few weeks and the remainder of the season. The truth is this. Jesus came to earth, fully man so that He could engage with our physical bodies. He didn’t descend as a voice, or a philosophy, He came in a robe and sandals. He touched people, attended parties and died a physical death.

Over the course of a few weeks my theology began to feel less and less like truth and more like a lie that I had told myself to let myself be happy. Yes, God cared about my spirit, and He came to redeem my soul, but those are all just parts of a whole. A whole which isn’t complete until I include my physical form. It occurred to me that my relationship with my body was intensely broken, and it occurred to me that maybe this was the piece of the puzzle that I had been missing all along.

I have long agreed with the fact that magazines, TV shows, and movies do nothing to inspire self-worth or positive self-image for everyday girls like myself, and yet I was so under their spell I didn’t know where to start in my effort to untangle my truth from my lies. That’s when someone encouraged me to break a piece of pottery and try to put it back together. Although I was hesitant at first, something about it appealed to me. I went to the store, bought a piece of pottery, took it to my back yard and threw it at the concrete.

Seeing all the pieces laying there, sprawled out on my patio didn’t scare me or overwhelm me. They were simply broken pieces of pottery laying in a safe and peaceful environment. As I swept them up and laid them out I noticed that bits of dirt and sand came with them. I painted a canvas with oranges, reds and yellows on it arranged every single piece of pottery and dirt that I had collected. It was a joyous exercise and in it I began to see God as a joyful, boisterous creator. It felt as though repairing and redeeming my brokenness was not just a chore that God “had” to do, but rather a process that he enjoyed and one that held for infinite possibilities.

One of my greatest wounds in my adult life comes from ignoring and neglecting my physical body. I know that I have a long way to go to rebuild and restore what has been broken, but in the midst of this brokenness I have been dazzled by the glory of God. A sculptor, visionary and artist, who knit me together the first time and will do an impeccable job this time around. Our bodies are gifts from Him, and play a bigger role on this road to heaven than we might think. Embrace your body, for all of its flaws and perfections. Use it, find God in it. He is there.