Cheers to the Messy Beautiful Becoming

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“Cheers!” is heard most often in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand to mean “Thank you” and “Goodbye” (and many other innocuous definitions). In North America, we say, “Cheers!” when we toast a couple at a wedding or gather family at Christmas. It’s a special occasion kind of word. Sometimes we root our favorite sports team on with a fist pump or give our kids a high five (which is the more common and singular usage of “cheer” in the U.S.) But we reserve cheers for toasting and commemorating.

This week I’ve been trying to say “thank you” and “goodbye” to the mess in our library. I’ve sorted through games, papers, and boxes and watched it rain for six days straight. (What a way to open summer!) Today as I looked at the room, almost sorted properly, I realized the toys and stacks of papers are the work of two lives that crashed together, birthed two more beautiful ones. I suddenly remembered how much my kids love to toast glasses at the table because they are born with the innate gift of celebration in the midst of the mundane.

//Let us clink our glasses like this

Every single day of the year

So we know we belong

Here at a table

Together over wooden legs holding up our firm bounty

Of plates and people and lives being made,

Connected in goblets ching-chinging, sloshing life over glass rims.

Cheers to the unnecessary act of toasting

Our past,

Our children,

And every time you will press your hand into the small of my back

Or press your lips to mine in the black kitchen

Lit by candle and flame.

We trace our lives

Round a transparency

That feels an awful lot like the lump in my throat

When I see your forefinger tracing your glass,

That delightful smirk comes upon your face,

Yes, our glasses are full.

Oh, crazy tribe that we are, I could almost swear, we are becoming something worth celebrating. //


Your Turn

What’s beautiful in your life right now? What are you celebrating?

Every Friday I join dozens of other writers at the most encouraging writing community I’ve found online: Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday challenge. This week we are writing for 5 minutes on the word CHEER. (// indicates the start and stop of five minutes.) Ability and experience do not matter, just the simple act of writing. It’s creative. It’s free. Join us?

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How to Stop Comparisons and Embrace True Beauty (by Emily Conrad)

Untitled design (1)

“Don’t we all compare people all the time? Sure, we generally don’t come right out and say it, but don’t we pick which strangers to talk to at conferences, events, or even in the checkout line based on how they look?” As we continue the Beauty Rewrites series, Emily Conrad shares how a flippant comment divided her soul and a friend’s. The experience brought up her insecurities as well as the fight within all women: how to stop comparisons.

Another Emily—Dickinson, that is—also writes about the biting edge of comparison and judgement.

508

I’m ceded—I’ve stopped being Theirs—
The name They dropped upon my face
With water, in the country church
Is finished using, now,
And They can put it with my Dolls,
My childhood, and the string of spools,
I’ve finished threading—too—

Baptized, before, without the choice,
But this time, consciously, of Grace—
Unto supremest name—
Called to my Full—The Crescent dropped—
Existence’s whole Arc, filled up,
With one small Diadem.

My second Rank—too small the first—
Crowned—Crowing—on my Father’s breast—
A half unconscious Queen—
But this time—Adequate—Erect,
With Will to choose, or to reject,
And I choose, just a Crown—

via PoemHunter.com

What I love about this poem is her rejection of first rank. Instead, she embraces a self-confident adequacy, the kind that crowns the most beautiful women I know.

Emily Conrad challenges us to make the servant-like choice of this secure woman:

“We are different but equal. Because of our differences, we can build each other up, fulfilling a mission greater than obtaining the thickest eyelashes, the skinniest waist, or the most sparkling personality.”

I want that. Don’t you? Follow me over to Emily’s blog to read more


Beauty Rewrites is a series about getting on good terms with our bodies. Join us each Tuesday with ways to forget unrealistic expectations and embrace who we truly are.

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Rescued from Revolving Doors

By Dan4th Nicholas [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


By Dan4th Nicholas [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Hoper, dreamer, great expecting one.

You and I know the revolving door well

That swings glass casements on a hinge

And we, the children, darting in and out,

Hoping to be taken for a ride

It’s not really about what’s on the other side.

We want to be lost in the spin

Of freedom

Until we realize we’re trapped.

The door has stopped,

And we’re not strong enough to push bar or pane

Into the future.

We’re stuck in what we planned

To be an entrance into something grand.

A place we cannot see.

A place we want to be.

Try the other side. Push the other way.

Still

Stuck.

Look down.

Bang fists.

Stomp feet.

Cry out!

(Muffled.)

Suppose we are here

Forever.

Enclosed.

Without.

We can see through

That place we are supposed to be.

Our parents, a friend, a sister,

There. Waiting. Waving us on,

“Get out!” they say. “Push your way through!”

Doesn’t anyone understand?

We just wanted a little

Fun

To take us somewhere,

To make us dizzy and light

A deep joy ride

Glee rising

Round upon round.

Until now.

Thrust all your little weight against 

What you want to budge.

Please.

Beg.

A great thwumph

Knocks forehead to the pane,

Hard.

Feet moving without knowing,

That we are actually going round

And round.

A great familiar hand pulls us into fresh air

Just when we thought we’d never get out.

We didn’t have to see the smiling man

Who pushed the door from behind us and walked out into the street,

Chuckling as he does sometimes.

I love Five Minute Fridays, the day I get to free write for 5 minutes (and always a little more) with other creatives. If you’re a writer, come on over and give it a whirl. Who knows what you’ll find on the other side of the door.

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What Being Homecoming Queen Did to My Body Image

1959-1960 Homecoming Queen by Northridge Alumni Bear CC BY-SA 2.0

1959-1960 Homecoming Queen by Northridge Alumni Bear CC BY-SA 2.0

You’d think it would be nice to be homecoming queen. But high school is a breeding ground for a lifetime of body image issues. Anorexia. Boulemia. Obesity. Bullying. Dating problems. Sex. Cutting. What happens in those tender years of a young woman’s life affects her core identity for good or bad. When I set out to write this post about an experience that formulated my body image, what came to mind immediately was a moment I had wanted my whole life.

On Being Noticed

You would think being homecoming queen would build up a girl’s self-esteem. It might make her feel important and noticed.

It did.

You would think the chance to dress up in a white floor-length dress with high heels, wear a tiara in front of the entire school would make a lasting impression on her youth.

Sure enough.

You would think the applause and attention would do something for her self-confidence.

You’re right.

Almost twenty years ago I got the coveted experience. It was the ultimate moment of being seen as beautiful. The moment I could own it.

What made it so powerful was that I was a girl who longed to be beautiful. In elementary school, my idols were Whitney Houston, Miss America, and Olympic ice skater Katarina Witt. But I was pudgy, wore plastic eyeglasses, and never took one dance class. Homecoming queen was never on my radar.

Yet, at 17, I found myself standing in the middle of a basketball gymnasium filled with cheering students. The floor length dress, the heels, the makeup artfully covering my acne, bangs swept to the side just so. It felt like a dream.

False Empowerment

You’d think it would be a moment of positive affirmation. Celebration. Even empowerment.

Who doesn’t want to be liked and wanted? Voted best in class? But it wasn’t. I was just an everyday girl who wanted to be loved for herself. Not for accolades, praise, and temporary platform.

That moment gave me a false sense of superiority, flattery from fake friends, and flirtation lessons with the opposite sex. I started to believe I was worth more when I was all made up than who I was at home in my T-shirt and Umbro shorts.

After homecoming, I was never quite beautiful enough or good enough. Every pretty girl became a threat. Every cute boy turned into an object to attract. The soaring sense of security took me straight to the top and then all the way back to the bottom of self-doubt.

The best way to hijack the good in a girl’s body image is to put her on a platform and tell her she’s pretty, over and over.Tweet This

You see, I was at a crucial age in which I needed to be affirmed for who I was, not for what I did or what I looked like.

When I met my first and only boyfriend a few months later, he told me I was beautiful, and he meant it. I couldn’t even say, “Thank you.” I had heard, “You’re pretty,” so many times, the words rang hollow in my ear, and I was beginning to believe I was ugly.

Love Me For Me

This post has proved more difficult to write than I want to admit. It stirred up regrets and longings that still cry out in my 37-year old heart. Questions about accepting the grace of aging and will I see my own dear daughter’s growing beauty as a threat?

But then the other night, my sweet girl said, “Mom, you know you don’t have to be anything other than you, right?” She has enough sense to hear the heart’s cry pulsing through all our veins.

The world’s praise will leave us wanting for more. AlwaysTweet This

I have a soft spot in my heart for homecoming queens because I know they have body image issues, just like the rest of us. The nice part is, we don’t have to hope for glory in vain. We can take off our tiaras and high heels and wear our old T-shirts together. We’ll remind each other the ground we walk upon is eternally leveled in love.

Your Turn

What experiences have altered your body image for bad and good? What voices guide you to a healthier body image?

Further Reading

This post is part of the Beauty Rewrites series, a 3-month body image series for women to help us get on good terms with our bodies. Join us every Tuesday through July with posts from blogger Ludavia Harvey at NiftyBetty.com, fiction author Emily Conrad, and me. We hope this series inspires us all to stop pursuing perfection and learn to embrace what’s true and sacredly beautiful about ourselves. Forget Ideal. Embrace the real. 

You are Beautiful. Believe It. (by Ludavia Harvey)

What No One Told Me About My Bikini At The Church Baptism

How Scars Make Your Story Beautiful

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Roots and Other Slow Growing Shenanigans

Untitled design//So you want God to stop the shenanigans and move your life faster than a slow growth forest.

All your selfishness is bound up in a tangled root ball, all twine and knotted.

You don’t want to be dug up, your burlap slashed,

And you don’t want a new spot to grow. Ever.

There’s a good old Bible on your shelf. Everything it says in its pages about growth involves

Wisdom,

Maturity,

Time.

But you say, “I’ve been waiting forever.”

“I’ve been good.”

“Look at me, God!”

You want things to go like a marathon, on and on, as fast and as hard as you can push them.

You want to see progress in feet, not inches,

Blossoms, not sprouts.

But that is not His way.

He will take shears to your heart.

He will clip off disease and deadhead your withered blooms.

It will hurt and if a plant could cry, you might burst tears like pollen in spring.

“I’m not writing all this as a neighborhood scold just to make you feel rotten. I’m writing as a father to you, my children. I love you and want you to grow up well, not spoiled—“

Give Him your brokenness and He will plant you

More deeply than a quick fix potted plant.

“…There are a lot of people around who can’t wait to tell you what you’ve done wrong, but there aren’t many fathers willing to take the time and effort to help you grow up. It was as Jesus helped me proclaim God’s Message to you that I became your father. I’m not, you know, asking you to do anything I’m not already doing myself.”-1 Corinthians 4:13-16 (MSG)

What will flourish must be pruned.

What will bear blossom must be replanted.

What will bear weight of storm and tree swing are deep roots.//

Nathan Foster says,

“There is something so appealing about the cultural lie that if I could be more, do more, then things will be okay – the grand illusion of control.  I’m not sure where I got the idea that I’m entitled to have an easy life, free of suffering and struggle. But it too is an illusion, one I often cling to, an idol of sorts.

“I remember watching someone desperately pour out a question to my dad: ‘What do you do when your pursuing God feels empty and dry? What do you do when you’re lost in pain, mystery, and God seems completely absent?’ Very simply he replied, ‘The same thing you do when all is going your way. You remain faithful and obedient.'”

God, like every good thing worth waiting for, sometimes takes His own, sweet time.Tweet This

Go on.

Grow.


I write most Fridays with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday community, a band of creatives writing for 5 furiously wonderful minutes. Join us, if you like. (// indicates the beginning and end of 5 minutes.)

Your Turn

What do you struggle to let God grow? How do you really feel about roots and slow-growing things that take time?

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Beauty Rewrites: You are Beautiful. Believe it. (by Ludavia Harvey)

Beauty Rewrites (1)

Do you believe you are beautiful? It’s a question I’ve struggled with my whole life. Today we are kicking off Beauty Rewrites: a body image series for women to help us get on good terms with our bodies. Join us for the next 12 Tuesdays with posts from blogger Ludavia Harvey at NiftyBetty.com, fiction author Emily Conrad, and me.

Worth. Skin. Makeup. Size. Image. Confidence. Comparison. Aging. Culture. Clothes. God.

These words bring up questions about who we are and where we find our value as women. We’ll be taking a closer look at each of them. We hope this series inspires us all to stop pursuing perfection and learn to embrace what’s true and sacredly beautiful about ourselves.

Today Ludavia Harvey kicks off our series by offering three ways to emit true beauty, the kind you can truly accept.

She says,

Let me tell you this in love: you are more than a number on a scale and a beauty product. You are a woman who smiles at strangers and brightens their day. You are a woman who builds others up. You have an awesome heart. You bring beauty to this world. Believe it. Walk outside knowing you are beautiful.

Forget Ideal. Embrace the real. Follow me to Ludavia’s blog to read more…

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