Friday, April 11, 2014

A mirror for the surface, or the soul? -

Joining with the She-lovelies this month on the theme of mirror.  What does it mean to you?

I normally don't look in the mirror much. I don't usually wear make-up. Occasionally my reflection is so frightening that I apply some for the sake of others, but most of the time, I just shrug and figure I'll do.  I walk my kids to school with my hair unbrushed and often my daughter's is too. I prioritise getting there on time, over grooming, achieving both seems untenable at this time.

Looking in the mirror feels weird to me. I am more of a cerebral person than a sensual one.  I can be tactile defensive and most of the time I am surprised that I have a body and forget that it's what carries me in my mind around.  Sometimes I catch my reflection after I've been at a social event and I'm horrified by the idea that while I was talking with people that they saw me!  It's as if my idea of myself and my physical self don't match.  I've no idea what I think should be different about my body or my face but they just somehow feel wrong a lot of the time.  Especially my face.

I recently rediscovered a song that puts this feeling into words. It was a relief to discover that I'm not the only one who feels this way, although I do still wonder if it's a peculiarly British trait.

"When you feel a little tatty and unhappy with your face. Let it [love] breathe into us, and put you back in place"  (Let love speak up itself - The Beautiful South)

I found it encouraging that the answer to that feeling is love.  Feeling tatty is probably a symptom of not feeling loved.

I have a daughter, so I desperately want her to feel loved and also to protect her from the dangerous worldly messages that surround the female form in the public domain.  I want her to be happy with her body and how she looks but also not to be too hung up on her appearance.  So far I've used a two-prong strategy that consists of:

(1) never letting the word 'fat' pass through my lips.

She is five years old so she has learned the word from other sources but so far it has no judgment value in her understanding - it is not synonymous with bad.

(2) I tell her she is smart and beautiful.

It is imperative that she knows deep down in her bones that these are not either/or categories. I always knew I was smart: there were report cards and parent teacher meetings that evidenced that for me.  I did not know I was beautiful and I still doubt it no matter how many times my husband tells me.  Those words could have been my kryptonite so I am thankful to God that even when a boy said them to me, and I heard them for the first time, it simply gave me a little hope rather than taking me captive to a desire for compliments.  I probably still err too far in the other direction as I treat most compliments with severe suspicion but I suspect that's the Brit in me too!

What is helping me most in accepting that there is a possibility that I am beautiful is that I believe with all of me that my daughter is the most beautiful girl in the world and it turns out that she looks a lot like her mother.  Therefore, I must have some beauty.

For a while I made a habit of looking in the mirror, not at my appearance but to stare into my own eyes in an effort to see into my soul. I often find eye contact uncomfortable, and sometimes even this exercise of looking into my own eyes made me feel uneasy. For months when I did this, all I could see in my eyes was great sadness, even when the rest of my face tried to hide it.

Now when I look in the mirror, and feel 'a little tatty', I remember to look into my eyes, beyond the surface appearance of things to the soul reason for how I feel about myself.  A wrinkle or two, or a white hair, might make me sigh a little, but if I feel despair, I know it's not because of how I look - I need a mirror for my heart, not my face.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Brokenness - Faith Jam

The Princess wonders if you ever broke something when you were a child?  What did you do with it?  Did you take it to your parent, confident that they could fix it?  Did you hide it in fear, knowing that you would be blamed and punished?

Did you ever break a bone in your body and have to be helped while it healed?

Princess Morag does not have a memory of a broken toy, or a broken bone from childhood.  It is hard to pin down exactly what was broken.

Something was broken when she needed to hide her emotions.  Something was broken when she gave up trying to communicate.  Something was destroyed when she was finally rejected.

Maybe what sums it up, is the phrase sometimes used for the family in which a couple is divorced: a 'broken home'.

Princess Morag comes from a broken home.  She was sixteen, and she felt shame.  She leaned on her friends, and hid from the others.  She thought for sure that everybody knew but in reality it's likely that few knew and few cared - that's called high school!

When she met Sir Rianus three years later, she met a kindred spirit.  He knew.  He came from a broken home too!

Fifteen years later, the Princess is trying to keep their home intact.  No more brokenness, that's the goal.  A few cracks have appeared that's for sure.  But she's striving for the happily ever after ending.  It's much harder than she thought it would be.

In her broken home, the Princess gave in to despair.  In her brokenness, the Princess was silent.  In her brokenness, the Princess was rejected and left alone.

At Easter-time, we remember Jesus in distress at the garden of Gethsemane - he pleaded with his friends to stay awake with him but they were blind to his emotions as they slept.  We remember Jesus being tried for crimes, taunted and beaten and though he was innocent, he remained silent.  His body was hung on a cross and he died (though his bones were not broken).  He was buried alone in a tomb.  In all of these things, Jesus appeared weak, but really he was strong beyond belief.

He followed his path, and beyond the grave He showed us victory.

What does the path to victory look like?  Often it looks like a lot of brokenness.  Crawling through days of depression and despair can take strength that belies the sight.  Somehow keeping going, because of hope.  Because of faith in the unseen.

If the source of brokenness can be invisible, so can the source of strength.  Like it's counterpart, it comes through words and actions and inaction.

Words of comfort and encouragement.  Actions of kindness.  Choosing not to criticize or mock or shame.

Jesus came fulfill Isaiah's prophecy.  He came to bind up the broken-hearted.  How will you help him to do that today?

Thursday, April 03, 2014

My cross - Faith Jam

My cross is invisible
Constructed of the things never done,
Never said,
Not even begun.

How can you blame someone
For something they didn't do?
But when that omission
Was excruciatingly painful,
Whose fault is the wound in you?

Is it my fault, for all my expectations
Or yours for having none of yourself?

Relationships don't work by magic
An occasional loving glance or a daily kiss.
It is so easy to be in the same room,
And at the same time, completely miss.

You don't notice my sighs,
My words simply waft away
Unacknowledged, unheard
They fall to the ground.

I think of them like paper airplanes,
they are strewn everywhere,
but they are completely invisible to you.

Sometimes, when the conditions are right,
You catch one and even send one right back
But then you are gone again
The air traffic tower is closed,
The landing lights switched off.

Where am I to go?
Who will hear me?
I go to the same place as the psalmists,
They understand.

I look to the mountains,
I look to my God.
Who hears all
And sees all
And knows me inside and out.
He knows my words before they leave my mouth
He knows my heart before it spews out the good and the bad.

When I'm invisible to you,
It feels cruel
It's torture but you can't possibly know what it's like,
Because you're wired differently
Your hurts are of another kind.

I know I've hurt you.
And knowing that hurts me
But I don't think you'd get that
It requires true empathy.

That's what's missing
What is killing me softly
But I realise that in a way it's more comfortable for me
To hide in the shadows and not really be seen

When we're naked and one
I tremble not just with passion, but fear
It's then that you 'know' me
But I wonder how much you care.

Do you long to know me,
Or just to be satisfied?
We are completely united
but still disconnected.

If my eyes meet yours,
I can't handle it either.
We're oh so different,
but then sometimes we're peas in a odd pod.

My cross is not unique,
there are others like us.
That knowledge comforts me
Makes me feel less alone.

I've got to the point
Where I can thank God for my cross
When I ask him to help me
I now know He will.

This is my life,
The past, present and future
To carry this cross so it can fit me for heaven.
Sometimes painful, sometimes gloriously noble.
It was made for me.