Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Journey · Imago Dei: Beauty

When you look in the mirror what do you see? What does that quiet voice in your head tell you? Are you hearing lies or truth? Are you believing what you hear? As a society, we are held captive to the images we see in television, movies, magazines and the internet. We are bombarded by our culture’s message that you are only as valuable as you are beautiful, and as a culture we are constantly searching for the beauty secret that will keep us young and beautiful. According to the media, beauty is found in a product, a treatment, a work out or a clothing line. We are told by the world that beauty is external and purchasable, and if you don’t have “it”, you don’t count.

It is a harsh message to which we are all vulnerable and therefore we strive toward this empty image of perfection. However, God’s word tells us differently. God tells us that we are valuable simply because he created us. He tells us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and as his creation, our job is to reflect his glory into the world. We literally get to wear his beauty and it is his reflection in us is that makes us beautiful.

The enemy of our hearts does not like it when we feel beautiful because of who we are in Christ. So often, when we seek our own reflection in a worldly mirror, we cannot help but compare ourselves with others and feel “less” or “empty” or just “not enough.” Believing the empty promises of our culture, we believe there must be some way to improve the way we feel, so we try more dieting, more make up, more free weights, more surgery or more accessorizing (whether it be cars, handbags, the latest and greatest shiny object, jewelry or shoes).

The truth is that real beauty sometimes has wrinkles. Sometimes beauty has white or gray hair or may have none at all. Sometimes the most beautiful smiles radiate from mouths filled with crooked or imperfect teeth. Beauty can be found in a laugh, in a listening ear or in encouraging words spoken with intention. It cannot be bought. Our earthly treasure can only buy empty imitations. However, God paid for our fractured hearts with the life of his son, and called us “very good.” In the search for true beauty, his is the only currency that has value.

Despite our struggles, Jesus looks at us and whispers “You are enough. You are lovely. You are on your way to becoming the beautiful person I designed you to be.” He longs for us to be kind to ourselves in how we see and treat our physical bodies. The beauty we possess simply by being children of God is both life giving and essential. When we rest in the assurance that we are his chosen child and are beautiful in his eyes, joy overflows from our hearts revealing a beauty whose regimen was never meant to be kept a secret.

Mirror, Mirror on the wall, Have I got it?
'Cause Mirror you've always told me who I am
I'm finding it's not easy to be perfect
So sorry you won't define me
Sorry you don't own me…

Mirror I am seeing a new reflection
I'm looking into the eyes
of He who made me
And to Him I have beauty beyond compare
I know He defines me…
~ Barlow Girl, “Mirror”

§ If you are interested:  click here for The Journey in Word format and click here for the Journey in PDF format. For more resources, feel free to visit the Journey Devotional page by clicking here.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

8 Months

My Sweet Little Guy,

Today you would be eight months old.  I cannot believe it.  Time feels like it is moving both fast and slow at the same time.  I see pictures of your friends and know you would be sitting up, playing, discovering your voice and so many other adventurous things.  Your dad and I have missed you more than ever this past month as we marked many anniversaries in our story with you.  Your life continues to inform who I am becoming in so many amazing, surprising, heartbreaking and beautiful ways and I'm so very grateful. 

We are going to see your uncle soon, and I wish so badly that you could be with us.  I ache when I see the little Halloween costumes for little guys like you and imagine what you would have been dressed up as this year and can only dream of how cute you would be!  As the seasons change from summer into fall, always know that my love for you knows no seasons. It is constant and forever true.  You are always my little guy and I'm missing you with thousands of tears.   I pray and believe heaven is beyond as beautiful as I imagine it to be and I know I am another month closer to holding you again.  I love you my sweet Luke.

love and kisses,
your mom

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Facing Fears

 Six months ago when I was home on my maternity leave, I made a list of all of the things I was scared to do and the list was l-o-n-g and frankly, I could not even imagine making it to August at the time, so I felt pretty safe when I realized that everything on the list would have to be dealt with and faced by August (just by the nature and timing of the events on the list).  So when I pulled it out earlier this week to look at, my jaw dropped as I read over it and could see all of the things I had pushed into and faced over the past six months.  I was just in awe of how God not only brought me through August, but that he also brought me through almost all of those fears, situations, conversations and circumstances...each in their own time.  Step by step, one at a time and while our situation is practically the same as it was then- actually a little worse if you take into account Joe losing his job- I can plainly see, that I am not.

I am a different girl then I was six months ago.  I'm not healed, but I'm healing.  I'm not happy, but I'm happier. I'm still grieving, but I'm not grief stricken.  I still cry almost every day, but I no longer sob every day.  I do not feel strong, but I know I am stronger.  Making these realizations about myself and seeing that even though I do not feel like it most of the time, I am making progress and I am continuing to move forward in hope and toward our future...whatever that may be.  (Which sounds so simple to write it out, but the reality of the recognition for my own self was huge.)  I'm so grateful for the way God allowed me that glimpse and reminded me that he is working in the every day details and moments and for the way he has brought me this far through this desert season in my life.  I'm not where I am going yet, but I can see that even though I feel like time is moving in slow motion, my life and healing are not.

The good thing about facing your fears head on is that you really only have to do it once, because after that first time or encounter, it will never be as hard as it was to do that very first time and from there will get a little bit easier the next time and then a little bit easier and then a little bit easier and so forth on through the process.  I also want to recognize and honor the fact that the pain that is often the companion with some of these fears really does not diminish as you move through the process of facing your fears.  The pain simply just becomes easier to identify, and manage.

I feel like I have just become much more aware of myself, my feelings and my "typical" responses in certain, expected situations.  For example, prior to our church's baptism at a community park, knowing it would be a deeply painful experience, Joe and I went out to the park alone the day before to spend time there without anyone else around.  I wanted to be able to cry and be sad and remember our little family's happy, beautiful day from the year before without a crowd of people around me.  I knew I needed to be at the baptism because it would be a difficult milestone to honor, and for that reason alone, I wanted to push in and face it head on.  But I also wanted to give myself an avenue to express all of the emotions that would obviously be present, so by going out the day before and crying and praying and just sitting in silence remembering how happy we had been in that place all together, I was able to actually feel okay and present on the actual day.  But on the other hand, there are many other times where I have not been prepared or have planned poorly and have walked into a situation completely unprepared for my emotional reaction and response.  It is a hard thing to understand, but I'm learning that no matter what your fear or situation you are struggling with facing, the only way to face it is with a willing heart and by taking one step at a time (and it helps if you carry some Kleenex in your purse too!)

Although my list of fears to face from February is pretty much miraculously completed I am not saying that I am without fears or worries for what is ahead on the path for me.  I know there are many more difficult days, situations and encounters ahead.  However, I understand so much better now than I did in February, that by digging in and being willing to practice courage, you don't become weaker...in fact, quite the opposite.  Your heart beats stronger, you learn so much about yourself and sometimes, you even feel like you can fly.  It is truly amazing to recognize that the fears that have held you prisoner for so long... whether in thought or reality, when faced with strength, bravery and prayer, eventually become the very things that end up setting you free.  I'm so grateful for such a beautiful truth- even if it is a paradox!