So last night was one of my favorite kinds: date night. I won’t gush too much. But suffice it to say I don’t take for granted being married to my best friend. I love tucking myself under his arm at a movie, laughing at the jokes together, wandering around a bookstore and laughing at off-the-wall titles, sharing real conversation that changes us right over the tops of plates from our favorite salad bar. I guess there were probably a few productive parts of the evening, but mostly we just get to enjoy each other. To revel in being an “us.”
Ask any widow, anyone who serves overseas, anyone who’s just sent their child back to college: There’s a luxury to simply being with the people we love.
Blogging about your personal life can be a little weird.
See, I’m hovering around the six-month mark of our move back to the U.S. from Africa. And when I’m truthful, this last month in particular has been a low point I haven’t hit in a long time. I wonder sometimes about what’s appropriate to share. I believe it’s Brene Brown who says she thinks it’s okay to be vulnerable on a larger scale if first she’s been vulnerable with those close to her. Yet there was also a point last year where I was like, All of this cyber-honesty is making my blog a real downer. All I need is a few posts about puppy mills and cancer and we’ll be all set!
But a common thread through all of these ideas on practical spirituality and relationships is, yes, the story God’s writing around me. Hence the classification “blog”. So I thought I’d let you peek in on my curious occupation this past week.
This is one of those posts where I’ve still got so many issues that I wonder if I should be writing it in the first place (possibly passing on my corrupted thoughts to all of you?). Body image and I have a long and gnarly history. (See the first post of this series, A Body Good: Naked Truth about Body Image…and this one.) I still wrestle with it in real-time, so consider this a post of someone thinking out loud.
In my recent conversations with Western women, I’m getting the idea that I’m sadly far from alone. Body image certainly influences our confidence. The way we spend our time. Our sexuality and marriages.
Allow me to briefly refer to a bad movie, if you would. After all, that’s what makes for a great Thursday.
Remember Shallow Hal (2001), with Jack Black and Gwyneth Paltrow? Tacky as it was, the idea of the movie is actually sheer genius. Hal, a total womanizer (this is not the genius part), disregards any woman outside of the “knockout” category. That is, until a spell is cast upon him. Within the spell, women’s inner beauty–or lack thereof–manifests as outer beauty. Hal falls hard for a woman who, to him, looks like Gwyneth Paltrow. To the rest of the world, she’s woefully obese. Hal can’t figure out why she’s treated with such disdain; why no one can see how he’s won the jackpot. She’s unspeakably kind and physically dazzling.
What I like about an otherwise dumb movie: What if the portion others see of us misleads and distracts from our actual selves?
She learned to read and write in the last decade or so, when she moved to Kampala from her village in northern Uganda. But despite my college education, she has a lot to teach me.
When I visited her shared compound on Saturday, she couldn’t wait to show me inside her house. I had to comply looking into the toothy ivory grin parting that smooth, ebony face. And when I entered, I understood why.
My seven-and-a-half year old sat near me as I typed quietly yesterday. His Hot Wheels were performing gravity-defying stunts; he rather violently hummed the Cars 2 theme song, replete with adrenaline-loaded sound effects, of course–over and over. And over. I almost quietly asked him to please desist. But then–I realized my Hot-Wheels-overlaid-with-Cars-2-soundtrack days are kind of winding down. (Sniff.)
I was eighteen, it was February, and we were all headed on a road trip that weekend to a mutual friend’s house. I’ve wondered what God thought of that day, if perhaps He was rubbing His hands together with glee. The stage was set, everything immaculately timed.
In my memory, the young man was wearing a white T-shirt and khaki shorts. His hair was longer then, curly. Upon request, he prayed for our safe travel before we left. We all left for Oklahoma City and I climbed in behind the passenger’s seat of his car. I confess the thought may have flitted through my mind that his car was a little girly. That was before I knew he paid for it and maintained it himself, and before I’d ride around in it for the next five years, happy as a clam to be in his passenger’s seat.
That day, February 5, 1999, was the day I met the love of my life. If God would’ve tapped me on the shoulder—Hey, that guy over there? Yeah. That one. You two are going to have four kids, live in Africa. He’s the kind of best friend and man you couldn’t even imagine yourself having.
Like I said. I wonder if God just sat back and soaked in the love story He’d cooked up.
Today’s quotable is from Frank Laubach (1884-1970), missionary to the Philippines. Laubach is estimated to have been responsible for teaching half of the 90,000 people in his area to read and write, and to have reached out to the Mohammedan Moros, who regarded the Christian Filipinos as enemies. Laubach wrote in the new year of 1930,
It is exactly that “moment by moment” every waking moment, surrender, responsiveness, obedience, sensitiveness, pliability, “lost in His love,” that I now have the mind-bent to explore with all my might. It means two burning passions: First, to be like Jesus. Second, to respond to God as a violin responds to the bow of the Master.* (emphasis added)
I’m including a free chalkboard printableof this last portion, in hopes that in 2017, our lives will reflect that sort of staggering beauty from His hand. Happy New Year, friends!
*As quoted in Foster, Richard J. ad James Bryan Smith, eds. Devotional Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups: A Renovare Resource for Spiritual Renewal. New York: HarperCollins (1993), pp. 101, 105.
Yesterday was one of those days when I felt like I was walking against the wind so much of the day: straining uphill, my too-thin sweater tugged around me as I grimaced, head down. As my husband and I lifted down plates for dinner, I recounted the parts that made me want to tear my hair out. (Or maybe a small tuft of my children’s. …Joking.) In the course of things, I did remember some good points. Somehow, as I relayed them, they grew a little. I tucked my head with a smile.
He put his hands on my shoulder, leveled his hazel eyes with my blue ones. “I want you to know,” he said, “that you are incredibly blessed.”
Somehow, those words triggered that out-of-body sort of viewpoint I needed, to survey my life not from the perspective of loss, but of gain. Of beauty. Incredibly blessed?
One of the sadder effects of my time back in the United States is my subtle and instantaneous body-consciousness. (This is not a cultural diatribe; I’ve got body issues.) Unpacking my jeans in the cheap hotel we checked into after flying in, I remarked to my husband, “Why is it that I just feel like I’ve gained 25 pounds?”
He shrugged. “Maybe because it’s so easy to gain 25 pounds while we’re here?”
Later I realized—nope. It’s because instantly—I must sheepishly admit image rises in priority in my mind. Yes, I am inundated with marketing, much containing women both airbrushed and well-paid to look both stunning and underweight. But, as I was recently reminded by my sister’s post, even the time to focus on image, or to work out, is a sign of all the excess I enjoy. Which means that in Africa, I have been fasting a bit from this fixation on modern instruction in beauty. It also means that the geometric shapes of my body are a little more appreciated.
Really glad you're here. Welcome to a lingering conversation--about a head-turning, undeserved kindness that's turned my life on its head. This site's about Jesus in a pair of well-worn Levi's: faith walking around in our sneakers, scuffing up against real life and real people.
I hope you'll find some questions worth asking, conversations worth engaging, compassion that's compelling, and practical ideas to knead genuine love into relationships. (...With a side of slightly irreverent humor.)
After five and a half years in Uganda, my family and I have recently returned to the U.S., where we continue to work on behalf of the poor. I write and love on my family from Colorado.