Tag Archives: Beauty

Clothed in Purple

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She picked the project, she picked the style and she picked the color—a soft purple. One of my favorite things about helping facilitate the Widows Encouraging Widows Fellowship is seeing how the ladies know what they need so much better then I ever could. For the first sewing project, Rachael, knew exactly what she wanted to teach her fellow widows. They needed to make a uniform, she said, a full-length round-necked meri blouse. Complicated, I thought, for a first time sewing project. I probably would have chosen to make a pillowcase or something like that, but okay. As the name suggests, a meri (Pidgin English for woman) blouse is the common item of clothing that women in Papua New Guinea wear. They can be compared to a long peasant blouse, loose fitting and very much expected to be worn especially during childbearing years. (As if a woman didn’t already feel huge during pregnancy why not wear a small tent). At least the meri blouse cuts down on the cost of maternity clothes as one size gets you through to the end. But, I digress.

Uniforms, or matching meir blouses, are common here for conferences, church groups and things of that nature; so it made sense that Rachael wanted this to be the first sewing project for the ladies. As she picked out a bolt of purple cloth, I had to smile. Purple—the color often associated with royalty during Biblical times. Lydia, who is mentioned in Acts 16:14, made her living from selling this special purple cloth.  During Biblical times the dye used to produce the deep, rich purple color came from a marine mollusk called Murex trunculus. It was not an easy process to extract the color as the shells of these mollusks had to be broken in order to access the milky fluid that was used to make this natural reddish purple dye. It is said that it literally took thousands of mollusks to dye a single yard of fabric. The process was so intense that 1½ grams of pure dye is said to have had a value of more then 10 grams of gold. No wonder purple was considered the color of royalty. The average person would not have been able to afford it.

So, purple, the color of royalty a fitting choice for a group of women who are precious in the sight of their king. Seven meri-blouses were completed during the first sewing class thanks to several seamstresses from church who came and helped the ladies with their first project. Several of the widows had never touched a sewing machine before and there was an abundance of laughter and joking as some touched their foot to the machine’s petal for the first time. Some were hesitant to make their uniform because they did not want to spoil the beautiful material in front of them but with future classes confidence grew, and by the third class the ladies had organized themselves into teams of two or three and were sewing the blouses completely on their own.

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Watching those moments of learning, seeing confidence being gained, hearing the laughter and singing that takes place during those classes is sweet music. These ladies truly are walking along side each other, encouraging each other learning and growing together—what richness, what beauty even more beautiful then that royal color purple.

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Freckled Lilies

 

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I read a story. I don’t remember where or when. I was quite young at the time. Just a short story about a little girl, but it stuck with me. The little girl had a face full of freckles and envied those with more clear complexions, so she went in search of a cure. I don’t remember all of the methods she tried. I believe lemon juice was on the list, but nothing worked especially her final attempt of a homemade mud mask that left her face bright red and rather sore. The girl’s grandpa tried to comfort her telling her that God made different types of beauty just like He made different types of flowers all uniquely special. Unconvinced, the young girl responded with a mumbled, “flowers don’t have freckles.” The next day she woke up to a beautiful bouquet of freckled lilies lying next to her pillow.

I’ve always liked my freckles, but the story still suck with me. In my mind lilies became a symbol of the beauty of variety and learning to see beauty where others might not. Tiger lilies are my favorite. Some would say they are a weed because they spring up along roadsides with wild ambition. But, I’ve always loved them and thought in the back of my mind that when I got married it would be fun to carry a bouquet of lilies.

I got engaged just over a month ago, and with a winter wedding in mind, I had given up the idea of having lilies in the wedding. I mean lilies aren’t exactly taking over the fields in December. The day my fiancé and I got engaged we stopped at a friend’s house. After hearing of our engagement my friend’s mom offered to let me use the flowers from her other daughter’s wedding which had just taken place. I knew my friend’s sister had had more of a rainbow of colors in her wedding. I was leaning toward more of a green rustic/winter theme, so I wasn’t sure if using her flowers would work well. But, we had a little time before we were scheduled to head down the road so my friend, and I swung by her mom’s house to take a look at the flowers. The first thing I saw when I walked in the door was a stunning bride’s bouquet. A beautiful arrangement of different colored speckled lilies mixed with other wild flowers. It was absolutely perfect.

I must admit, I’ve been a little nervous about planning a wedding while spending several months right before the wedding in Kenya. My sister recently got married, and it was a fresh reminder of just how much planning has to go into even a simple wedding. That bouquet of lilies gave me hope. I felt like it was  God’s way of smiling down on me and saying. I know you—I know you better then you know yourself, and I’ve already got everything taken care of.

“Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” –Luke 12:27

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Smooth Sailing

I’m finding that trains are the best place to write. They are fairly quiet, comfortable, and are a nice little break in the midst of amazing experiences. I’m taking a bit of a risk titling this blog “Smooth Sailing” because Treena and I are only part way through our journey to Northern Ireland, but the last two days in Edinburgh have been an oasis of calm in a beautiful country. Even as I’m typing, I keep looking out the train window and whispering wow. It’s hard to describe, but the landscape is a lush green with strips of vibrant yellow tucked in between the hills and outlined by mountain crags. As the Scots would say it’s “brilliant.”

 

Train to Edinburgh

 

Pulling into the Edinburgh Waverley train station at 10:20pm and seeing familiar faces waiting for us on the platform was a beautiful sight. Heather and Adrian have the incredible gift of hospitality and my friend and I instantly felt at home. Heather had even put our names up on the door of the rooms we were staying in cutely spelled out with Scrabble tiles.

 

We enjoyed some tea and toast before heading to bed. After sleeping in a bit the next morning, we hopped on a bus back into the city’s center. During the day we saw the Sir Walter Scott Memorial, toured the Edinburgh Castle, had lunch at the Elephant House, and walked down the lovely Victoria Street. Later that evening Heather drove us to Forth Bridge, so we were able to enjoy that view as well.

 

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Sir Walter Scott Monument

Sir Walter Scott Monument

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Since starting this blog post we have taken two trains and two buses and now we are on a ferry crossing the Irish Sea. It’s still breathtakingly beautiful. The bus ride along the cost of Scotland was extra stunning. It’s going to be hard to go back to any kind of normal life after this trip. It is just so calming and inspiring being in the middle of all of this beauty.  I feel close to God seeing such diversity in landscape and culture, and it makes my heart happy. I’m thankful that I’ve been able to take this mini trip on my way out to work in Kenya because it reminds me just how big God is and how creative and amazing His creation is as well. I’m just seeing a slice, but it is mind-blowingly beautiful slice. The trip has also reminded me how incredible the body of Christ is as people have hosted us in their homes and have been willing to partner with me on this journey. God is good. He has provided each step of the way, and I’m thankful that this portion of the trip has been smooth sailing.

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Perfect is Boring

I have probably watched more television this last year than I have the rest of my life put together. Ironic seeing as I don’t actually own a TV, but thanks to Netflix and Hulu I’ve been able to catch up on entire TV series.

Watching one series at a time works well for me. I get disconnected waiting week to week to watch the next episode of a show and am rarely free when an episode airs on TV, so Netflix and Hulu are wonderful.

I’ve always been a multi-tasker. Usually when I watch TV I’m running on the treadmill, washing dishes, painting, or folding laundry. I set my laptop up in the corner and work and relax at the same time. Lately, I’ve been on a bit of a reality TV kick. I never got into American Idol but, for some reason, I love the X Factor. The most fascinating thing about competitive reality shows is watching gifted contestants interact with each other. So many start out strong and full of confidence. They know they have talent. They are used to being on top— then they meet the competition. Singing, modeling, dancing- it doesn’t seem to matter. Some of the strongest contestants start to crumble, not because they are any less talented, but because they start looking around at everyone else instead of looking ahead.

Dr. Michael Easley once said, “Comparison is the kiss of death of gratitude. When you start comparing your lot in life to somebody else’s you stop being thankful for what God has given you. Comparison will stop gratitude every time.” It seems so innocent to compare, but it can be so deadly. When contestants start to compare themselves, you can often see the confidence get sucked out of their eyes. They often start to lose their nerve and lose the special something that made them so good to begin with.

We are a society plagued not only with the desire to compete; but also the tendency to compare. Which kid is cuter? Whose bike is better? Who is the more talented singer, actor, writer, photographer the list is endless. Somewhere in the middle of it all, the idea that different people have different styles has gotten lost. One particular style isn’t necessarily better than another style; it’s just different. If everyone looked the same, sounded the same, or even had the same style of painting how boring would that be. Model Tyra Banks likes to say, “Perfect is boring, human is beautiful.”

Being human means being an individual and liking a unique combinations of colors, foods, clothing, and even hobbies. It also means that not everyone will agree with you all of the time, because you have different thoughts and feelings. It means you are an original and not to be compared to anyone else.

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Putting the World on Hold

Some weeks my mind goes blank when it comes to writing. It’s a rare occasion because I love to write so much that I usually blog about once a week, journal, then of course there is the newspaper which often comes out to two to three stories plus a weekly editorial, and I recently started writing a monthly article for Rejoice Always a magazine in Northern Ireland. I love to write so much that I think I would write even if no one ever read a single word. Although, it is much more rewarding when people do actually do read it.

Writing helps me process and connect with experiences and people, some of whom I’ve never even met. It makes me slow down and truly experience an event, such as a hike through the woods, or capture a moment like listening to the sound of rain hit the roof as I fall asleep.

When I write, it’s as if life is put on pause just for a second, and I get to wander through the enchanting world of words picking out that perfect phrase to describe a feeling. I stop and taste the wind, feel the touch of spring day slowly awakening, revisit a memory, a sound, or an elusive moment of pure contentment. I know I can’t stay in that safe place forever, but writing helps me hold on to it just a little bit longer. The world slowly starts to make sense to my confused little head.

It seems to be true that the more you know the more you know you don’t know. Sometimes that feeling can be depressing. When I graduated from college I felt like I had less answers and more questions then when I started not only about life and my area of study but about myself. Writing helps the world make a little more sense even if it is only for a moment. But, it is not only my little world. There are times when I’ve written about something and someone will say, “that’s it. That is exactly how I feel.” Two worlds connect, and that is a beautiful thing. A while back I stumbled upon the blog Everyday-isa and starting following it. I look forward to each new post because they are so deep and full of feeling. I always seem to walk away from her words feeling refreshed, challenged, and inspired.

In college, one of my communication teachers referred to certain experiences as an apocalypse which, in old English, refers to something being uncovered or revealed. I think this idea of apocalypse is why most passionate artists work seeking to uncover a truth or a feeling, something almost other worldly, a connection with the soul. It is a God-given piece of us that makes us human—the desire for something more than this world, the hope of something almost magical that causes someone to forget where they are and imagine so much more. But, in the end, this feeling allows us to fully enjoy this life living each day with wonder and feeling.

Some people paint others sing. Some people sculpt, run, dance, and create films that make other people cry. Whatever it is that makes you feel alive, do it. Find beauty and cultivate it. Find your talent and grow it even when that means failing at times and having days when you have no idea what to write about.

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Beautifully Painful

During the recent Hunger Games movie craze I talked my dad into going to the movies with me not to watch the Hunger Games but to see October Baby. I had planned to go with a friend but due to some bad planning on my part it didn’t work out, and at the last minute my dad graciously agreed to go with.

I’m the kind of person who believes that watching movies should be a shared experience. On occasion, I’ll watch one by myself, but generally I want to talk about what’s going on, and if you talk to yourself people tend to give you strange looks. I have a bad tendency of talking during movies usually asking questions and occasionally threatening to throw a pillow at the screen if a character becomes particularly aggravating. My older brother and one of my friends from college hate watching movies with me because of my tendency to ask questions. “I don’t know what’s going on either,” my brother will say. “I’m watching this for the first time too. Stop talking and just watch the movie.” I’ll be quite for about five minutes before blurting out “What did he do that for.”

My favorite movies tell a good story preferably one based on a true story like Miss Potter or The Pursuit of Happyness. Although with true stories, I tend to get so interested in the person’s life  that I start reading up on them and often end up disappointed when I find that my favorite part from the movie never actually happened.

But back to October Baby. It was an extremely well done movie and what piqued my interest was the fact that the movie was inspired by the story of abortion survivor Gianna Jessen. What made me actually go watch the movie was seeing an interview with actress Shari Rigby who plays the role of the mother who attempted to abort her child. When the film’s producers asked Shari to play the part, they had no idea that she had had an abortion earlier in her life. She said she got the script and was just stunned at the similarities between her story and the one she had been asked to play. Shari said the movie turned out to be a healing experience for her as she journeyed with her character who ultimately receives forgiveness from her daughter and comes to forgive herself as well.

It was a beautifully painful movie to watch, but those are the kind of movies I love the best because life is often beautifully painful. Sometimes I get annoyed when people try to give simple answers to everything that happens in life. The older I get the less answers I see and the more brokenness I encounter. But there can be a beauty and growth in brokenness and a sense of maturity developed during times of pain. Of course we all wish life wasn’t so  painful and that situations like abortion, genocide, break ups, and terminal illness didn’t exist, but often it is the things that we want the least that, as humans, bring us together the most and develop us into the person we seek to be.

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Skinny Thanksgiving

Two days after Thanksgiving is a strange time to write about anorexia I know, but it’s been on my mind this week probably because I spent a good portion of the holiday with a box of tissues next to me. My immune system has been down, and it’s my own fault. I haven’t been eating right lately or getting enough sleep—end result, an annoying cold.

It’s not fun having a cold at Thanksgiving. Food just doesn’t taste the same when you can’t smell it, and it’s hard to eat when you can’t breath through your nose. But as I said, I haven’t been eating right lately. Excuse number one—I’ve been busy. When my life gets crazy I compensate at times by skipping meals. When life seems to be out of control. I often lose my appetite and carefully control what I eat. While I’m not sure if I would label myself anorexic, I do have had some anorexic tendencies at times which scares me.

According to the National Eating Disorder Association, 10 million females and 1 million males in America are said to struggle with an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia. When you think about it, anorexia is an ironic illness for this land of plenty, but then again is it really? Anorexia is not as much about food as it is about an internal struggle. The struggle to be beautiful, perfect, and in control. It’s a symptom of an often unseen battle.

It is no great wonder that the lives of so many Americas are touched by this disease. There is so much pressure to always look good, to work hard, and to have life perfectly together. We don’t take time out for siestas, instead we are asked to give one hundred and ten percent all the time. With beauty pageants there is the idea that thin equals beautiful and that same idea is constantly reflected on TV and fashion runways. It’s not about what is healthy; it is about what looks hot.

Ever since jr. high I’ve had people tell me they were jealous of my weight or compliment me on my slender form. In high school I struggled with severe acne. In the back of my mind I always thought, “at least I’m not overweight.” I was determined to keep it that way. It was the one thing I could control.

But just as being overweight is not healthy for your body so is being underweight. 20% of people with anorexia die from complications related to this disease. A sobering statistic seeing as anorexia has become the third most chronic illness among adolescents. But is this really surprising when 50% of girls between the ages of 11 and 13 see themselves as being overweight? Think about that 50% for a minute, and if you know a girl who is between that ages of 11 and 13. Tell her she is beautiful just the way she is. It may save her life.

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