Sunday, April 15, 2012

Fashionista goes bashinista

I struggled to open the large glass doors that were twice my size. Managing to awkwardly wedge half my body between them, I squeezed myself in and let the weight of the doors shut behind me. I was on a mission to find the nail salon for which I had purchased a groupon. This girl was getting a 50% off mani/pedi and to say that I was in need of one was a massive understatement.

I have not permitted myself to wear open-toed shoes yet. Nor have I taken my socks off in pilates class at the gym. No way. They would have called me Wilma Flintstone with the atrocity that was the current state of my toes. And today was the day of bringing beauty to that which was lost - the polish on my toes.

I found my way to the salon and endured the foot scrubbing. I hate it because I'm extremely ticklish; the nail technician probably hates having to deal with my leg convulsions even more as my uncontrollable leg jerks away from her hand anytime she reaches for a heel scrub. While she trimmed the cuticles, I gripped my magazine so tightly that I creased it. I don't even enjoy the process of getting a mani/pedi. It hurts and I'm ticklish. But no pain, no beauty gain, right?

The mani/pedi was complete and I was quite pleased with my Frair Frair Pants on Fire OPI color choice. Happy that I had endured the scrubbing and pricking, I decided to venture out around the mall with the extra time I had on my hands and see if I could find a shirt for work. The dress for my office is business attire. Let's just say I weekly cross the line of what should be considered business attire as I mix and match clothing articles I wore in college.  I throw a thin belt around a shirt and some heels on and voilĂ !

There were two stores in which I was interested to see if they would have a cute button-down collared shirt for my budget of $1.50. Grin. In the first store, I tried on several pieces of clothing and put them back. The second store I wanted to check out was on the complete opposite side of the mall. By the time I'd made my way there, I was completely disinterested in trying anything on and couldn't even make myself walk through the store. I was done


Perhaps it's because I haven't stepped foot in a mall in many months. Perhaps it's because I'd spent that afternoon in solitude. I turned on no television. I called no one. I text no one. I wrote in my journal. I sat outside with our 65 lb. boxer mix Hudson and watched the birds. I spoke aloud to the Lord. I jealously guarded this rare Saturday in which I was by myself with the Lover of my soul and had little responsibilities.

There are likely a myriad of reasons involved in why yours truly, fashionista, went all the sudden bashinista on the mall. I walked slowly back through the mall to get to my car. Overstimulated with sounds and sights, I got the heebie jeebies there in the midst of the women's makeup section. It was just too much. (Mind you, this is coming from a woman who loves makeup). The larger-than-life posters on display that tried to tell me I wasn't pretty enough. The beautiful clothes every inch around me that tried to tell me I needed them in order to be in style. The individuals in the mall decked from head to toe whose mere hipness contrasted against my Saturday favorites: a white v-neck tshirt and a boyfriend style pair of jeans with holes in them (on the knees of course). The mannequins and employees alike whose proper appearance and form marketed that thinness was in and anything else was not. The absolute excess of all things that advertised one would need more to be happy.

As much as I love clothes and style, I got out of that mall. A battle had taken place in my mind where beauty, form and excess took an unforeseen jab at my spiritual gut. And I briefly fell victim to its power. That's when I made a u-turn in the mall and headed to my car. With each step back, I declared my lack of agreement with what I saw. I looked at certain store signs and window displays and quietly told them how much I did not need them, how beautiful I was, how pursued I was. Under my breathe, I spoke to inanimate objects to be sure they knew I had been beautifully and wonderfully made. (Don't tell me a particular poster or image hasn't shouted back at you in the mall before about how not good enough you are.)

I understand this sounds so completely hyper-spiritual. You must know that I am too girly at heart not to love shopping, good clothes and fashion. I love it. But what I don't love is that our fashion and shopping culture too often dictate the impossible, either in image, worth or financial stewardship. And during my unsuspecting stroll on Saturday, the enjoyment of that which can be good turned into a battle of ugly.

I'm sure I'll be back at the mall before I know it. But one thing is for certain, when I'm older and grey, I don't think I'll join the ladies' walking group that makes laps in their local mall. Nope. I'll take my sweatsuit into the great outdoors amidst the beauty of a creation that still doesn't reflect the beauty of God like you and I, who were made in His image.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Emma and the unanticipated

I couldn't sleep. I was restless, tossing into excitement and turning into nervousness. Four hours away from me, a miracle was to embrace the world any moment. And it was such an unspeakably timely miracle.

My younger brother and his sweet Lindsey were expecting the birth of their baby girl. It would be the first baby on my side of the family and we were all about to burst at the seams with excitement. I remember the day I found out about their pregnancy. I thanked my brother for 'taking one for the team.' My Mom has been unashamedly asking for a grand baby since Nate and I said 'I do.' But since that's not quite our season, I gave a big grin to my brother and thanked him for taking the attention off of us.

The months prior to Emma's arrival, I climbed in and out of the invisible vortex that exists in baby clothing aisles. I had to create a budget that I wanted to break every day for a child that wasn't mine. Something about the firstborn child on our side of the family had melted my heart. I was becoming that crazy Aunt and in complete acceptance of it.

At 4 am, I received that long-awaited text letting me know that Lindsey had begun labor. Relieved with the idea that finality was approaching, I went to sleep. I arose a couple of hours later and went to work, mentally preoccupied with anticipation of Emma's birth. I tried to busy myself in excel charts and analysis, the world in which I typically am lost in from 8 to 5 p.m.

I got the message that she had been born late afternoon. And that's when the unexpected emotional reaction hit me. That's when the overwhelming weight of the sweetness, mercy and redemption of her birth flooded over me in such a way that I sat at my desk and sobbed. I cried out of pure joy. I cried out of relief. I cried out of the privilege of being able to partake in her life as an Aunt. And I cried over the piece of healing being offered to me that I didn't even know I needed.

The present season I was walking in at that time begged for His glory to show up. It was challenging, unfair and hard. The unlit stage was set for the light of His glory to come fill the place. Around me, and within me, I saw varying levels of emotional death. I believe some of it was the enemy coming to steal, kill and destroy and some of it was the death necessary to experience resurrection life. Either way, it was not pretty.

And there, in the midst of the unfair, stripping, demoralizing season that I was seeing all around me, Emma came. And she came as Emma Presley Bland. Bland 

My maiden name. The name I cling to on those quiet days when I secretly and internally ache so deeply for my Dad. It's a last name that still exists through my brother and sister, but something happened when there was new life attached to that name. And it was new life in the midst of emotional darkness. It was light bursting forth, unrivaled by any looming shadow. It was healthy, strong, unshakable, undeniable. And lastly, it was a small living piece of my Dad.

Two weeks passed before I was able to go see Emma. And as God would have it, for reasons I can't actually recall, I ended up holding her for the first time while everyone else had stepped out of the room. She slept while I let my tears drop down on her teeny little frame. She had no idea what her life had done to my heart. And I had no idea that God would use the event of her birth to bring further healing to mine.

He's so good in that way - offering a sweet balm of healing when perhaps, in my tough-girl mode, I'd become unaware of a hurt that had lingered. But not Him. He wrapped His arms around me and whispered into my spirit how He loved me so.

And I breathed it in, allowing my soul to be stilled and quieted by His presence. And there, in my arms, I stilled and rocked Emma who I don't think will ever know how much I love her. I suspect our God thinks the same towards us.

To know this love that surpasses knowledge (Eph. 3:19)