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"called to build the kingdom first through the romance and adventure of our home..."

 

My Embodied Wardrobe | Capsule + Essential

“The significance - and ultimately the quality - of the work we do is
determined by our understanding of the story in which we are taking part.”
― Wendell Berry


A made a secret board and to it I only pinned images that I ADORE and images that I felt like showed a "part of me." "This looks like what I feel like." Or "This looks like who I am." Not just clothes... sights and food and furniture and homes and the like. Anything that stirred up that "Oh yes!!!" sensation in me. (You know, the way I feel walking down Main Street Disney or watching Mrs. Maisel or listening to The Andrew Sisters and Vivaldi). That made me not just "like it" but know it. I found an interesting pattern... lots of lines, pops of red, smiling/sass, memory-making, and black and white and black and white and black and white. Hm. I know I love blue, but I don't think I realized how drawn my spirit is to red. I knew I loved "playful" but I don't think I realized how sweet a more tailored, classic look could be. I KNEW I loved black, and then I remembered why all over again!

It's so easy to got swept up in the trends and think you love a color or look because it's what is popular, but there are few things I love more than when I am seeing a "creation" of a friend (their outfit, their home, their music, etc) and I can say: "That looks like or feels like you. That's YOU in living room/chorus/clothing form!" I also realized that if I were styling a photoshoot, or producing a play, I would be crazy-attentive to the colors and costumes! It tells a story. Thinking of myself as a little theater show, and having the fun of using all elements to tell my narrative was so fulfilling! As opposed to what I often feel when looking at fashion/passing through stores/etc. Usually the "I want I want I wish I wish!" kicks in, but after this I've found myself so content... so happy with my presentation. It feels true to my spirit. It feels (drumroll!): embodied.

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With this little exercise behind me, and using tips from lots of different "Capsule Wardrobe" posts on Pinterest, I did as I was told: emptied my WHOLE closet and sorted through each item one by one. Only that which I LOVED could stay. I also knew I was intentionally pairing down to a color story and vibe for the time being. Put big patterns, lots of color, florals, etc into a bin in the garage. And just keep my favorite items. I ended up being a few pieces for $1.50-$3 on Swap.Com to fill out the corners. I've known what I've loved for a long time, but I definitely "get distracted" from it and end up with pieces that were a waste of money and space. Turning to a more focused, intentional, patient way has been fun.

My closet has a little over 40 pieces (minus pajamas, exercise clothes, bumming-around-cleaning-t-shirts-and-stretchy-workout-pants, etc). I took a whole trash bag to GoodWill and have one box sitting in the garage to re-evaluate in a few months. No clothes shopping whatsoever until then! See ya in May, stores! hahah.

It feels SO HAPPY to open my closet door and see my colors! My trim and piping! My stripes! My brown leather bags!

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I left all my shoes in my closet because the just go on their shelf and it doesn't make my life harder to have them there. But these are the main ones I wear day-in day-out!

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I also reaffirmed my love for "crystal"/"diamond"/vintage jewelry. It's like wearing a little art deco 1920's window on your ear. Oh! And as for sunglasses? Tortoise shell pattern in vintage shapes or aviators. Those are my ride-or-die's. 

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- My Clothing
Honed in the qualities I most wanted to embody, I brainstormed words, created mood boards, and paired through the “pieces of art” that I will dress my form and narrate my spirit. The defining words I came to were: “Classic, merry, and sensible.” Classic both for “standing the test of time” and also “classy-ness and elegance.” Merry, a vintage-sounding word for a mix of happy and whimsical. And sensible: both clothing that is practical for a mother of two who really isn’t going to galas or luxe-anything’s, and also “that makes sense” for a woman in 2018 to be wearing… modern not costume-y. (My post detailing the final line-up and more of the process is here)

- My Artistic Details: (this relates mostly to “how I clothe myself”)

Texture
Denim (I love how it’s sturdy)
Silk/silky (I love how it’s soft)
Cotton (I love how it’s functional)

Patterns:
Breton Stripe
Small Check
Polka Dot

Shape:
Wide/open/interesting necklines
“Womanly”/structure mixed with curve
Wraps/ties

Details:
Piping and trim
Brass Hardware (buttons — also buttons in general, snaps, zippers, etc)
Sunglasses

Hair Style:
Down + Curled
Headbands
Pencil Up-do’s

Jewelry:
“Gold”
“Diamond”/Crystal
Timeless design

Other Notes:

Love one pop of color against neutrals
Love color-blocking with shades of the same color
Love beads or “crystal” sewn into clothes

Things I noticed: I don’t prefer lace on me, most floral patterns, entirely loose and flowy cuts, stretchy/spandex-y/body-con type fabrics (unless I’m wearing dem yoga pants), graphics/writing on clothes, chevron and buffalo check, geometric or natural stones jewelry, excessively trendy pieces, turtlenecks (but man I love them… they just aren’t my happy place on me. Something for me to admire on others hahah).

The Embodied Vacation | Childhood Memories Edition

TAKING THE INTANGIBLE (OUR CHILDHOOD MEMORIES) AND MAKING THEM... TANGIBLE
(GIVING THEM BACK TO OUR CHILDREN AS THEIR OWN CHILDHOOD MEMORIES...)

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It is no secret that we love to travel, and we've been dreaming of a multi-month trip (or more!) in other countries our entire relationship ... as we're building Caleb's career base here in Florida we can't take off for 3-6 months yet, but we're anticipating and working toward that "someday!"

We positively thrilled big 2018 adventure: a month in Europe, chasing down the story locations and inspirations that make up some of our sweetest childhood memories.  Last year, for our Italy trip, we booked it last minute (about eight weeks in advance) so, while it was pretty-dang-close-to-perfect, our kindling wood was stoked for an even longer, "more special" trip. 

And it's pretty sweet how often something regular turns into something special by just the slightest adjustment of perspective, or simplest moment of pause to build excitement, be in awe, or remember.

So, with lots of time to prepare and increase wonder, revisit old books and movies, have them on repeat for our children, and learn some extra details ourselves, we're heading on The Morris Grand Memories Tour in Fall 2018!

Here's a little peak into our journey, and we'd love any feedback, "must-sees," and tips from you! I'll also be sharing "how I find those travel deals" as I do (our flights, for all four of us, round trip were $1100 including taxes and fees. We fly into London on $99 one-way flights! INSANE. PrimeraAir.com and IberiaAir.com are where we found these deals! We booked a few weeks before Christmas when their October calendar opened up... so if you're wanting to get the same deal, maybe check that time of year next year!)


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  • PRIDE & PREJUDICE \ In 2005, when the new Pride & Prejudice came out, my dad amazed us all by being absolutely smitten with the film. He would have streaks where he'd watch it three times a week, sometimes twice a day. Now he probably keeps a steady pace of once or twice a month. The soundtrack filling our home, with dad in his chair muttering the lines to himself in an A+-for-effort British accent , and turning around at his favorite ones to see if anyone else had the joy of hearing it too. "Oh, that's such a good line." A few of us kids have mentioned that we'll have to play "Dawn" or "Your Hands Are Cold" at his funeral. When dad saw me hours after getting engaged he said "I cannot believe that anyone can deserve you. But it seems I am overruled." (We'll visit some of the locations the movie was actually filmed at!)
     
  • MARY POPPINS \ Not only do I have countless memories of watching this as a child, with mom in the background singing along, but the month mom died was the month "Saving Mr. Banks" came out (the movie about author P.L. Tavers, her life, and Walt Disney's relationship with her that led to the movie being made.) We had plans to see the movie with mom, but she never got there. My best friend found a pirated version she sent to us, so in mom's last night we had "Saving Mr. Banks" playing on the laptop next to her so we could watch it together, like she wanted. "To My Mother," from the soundtrack, will always be sacred to me... I play it to go back to her that night. (Planning on reading this to Rowdy in the coming year).
     
  • CS LEWIS \ and Chronicles of Narnia. Need I say more? Why not. When I was pregnant I read this portion of the beloved-book: "At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in it's inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the start of the holidays or the beginning of Summer.” It was what secured the name "Summer" for our girl to my heart. Plus, on my second trip out to Oklahoma the family went to see Prince Caspian on theaters and I was with them. Good timing ;) 
     
  • PETER PAN \ If you made Caleb sit down and tell you his absolute favorite part of being ages 5-15, he would say "Going to Pap's lake house." It's the fulfillment of every good thing. His grandpa lives right on a lake, and they would go boating, inner-tubing, swimming, drink lots of pop, and watch cartoons on TV in what was perfect, time-standing-still summer days. And the only Disney movie he grew up watching was the one he'd watch at Pap's during this magical days: Peter Pan.  In his own Neverland. (We'll visit a few places like these, and really hype up that "Captain Hook's ship landed in the park!" for the kids...)

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  • SABRINA \ While my mom introduced me to the magic of Disney, my dad introduced me to the dearness of romance. We were chick-flick buddies growing up. The two I remember watching with him were "Somewhere In Time" and "Sabrina." The themes from both were the music for our wedding processional. The height of romance to me. (Sabrina Theme / the 2:00 minute mark and on... gets me EVERY time.) Sabrina was a young, sheltered girl who went off on a photography internship to Paris, doing rainy shoots in front of the Eiffel Tower and becoming a woman not a girl. When I graduated highschool and left for my photography internship in Chicago dad hugged me goodbye and said "Have fun in Paris."
  • MADELINE \ My mom was VERY proud of this story: when I was 18 months old I could recite/"read" (not read, but I knew when to flip the pages) the whole book. She says she is not exaggerating to guess she read Madeline to me a thousand times. "Three or four times a day for years..." Rowdy can recite almost the whole book now, too... and he has asked on his own to see "the place where Madeline lives." It's one of his favorites. 

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  • MOZART / One of the most moving works of music Caleb listened to in his childhood was Mozart's collection. "Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major", "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik," and so mnay others played an enormous role in his passion for the feeling and power of music. Salzburg is Mozart's home town, so we plan to absorb him and his world!
  • SOUND OF MUSIC / Another favorite of my dad's... you haven't lived until you've see him sing "Do-Re-Mi" in a soft, lady voice. "These are a few of my favorite things..."

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  • THE PILGRIMS / Reading books like "Stories of The Pilgrims" during elementary school years gave Caleb a fascination with Holland. He loved the descriptions of windmills, wooden shoes, tulips, and cobble streets. Whenever he's thought about "traveling the world," the image that comes to mind is seeing little villages like the ones the Pilgrims settled in before heading to America.
     
  • VAN GOGH / We did an art history series when I was in second grade. My teacher was so enjoying teaching us the material, it was evident and made me love what I was learning far more. My favorite artists from those lessons were Georgia O'Keefe and Van Gogh. The week mom died my aunts and uncle went to the National Gallery of Art in DC and I looked at "Wheatfield with Cypresses" and heaven felt near.

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  • Though none of the stories have real countries cited as their setting, Disney was openly very taken with parts of Germany, Switzerland, and France. The movies I grew up on feel so "fairytale Europe" and were indeed inspired from places there. We hope to see lots of timber frame, French chateau, and thatched roof! 

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Embody | Part 3 | Beauty vs. Sexuality

EMBODY is my "word of the year" for 2018. It's become a pillar for me and came as the culmination of a long, negative "relationship" with my body that I have been vigilantly trying to correct, understand, walk into joy with, and hopefully help any like me along the way.

1. The Realization of The Body (The Literal Embody)
2. Embodying What Is Beautiful
3. Comparing and Contrasting Beauty and Sexual/Physical Desirability

4. Practical Steps
5.
The Creativity and Artistry of Bodies
6. The Embodiment of Others

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Defining my terms:

In this post, when I refer to “sexy” I’m using it as such: the word that sums up hotness, gorgeousness, the-physical-look-romantic-partners-want, cultural ideals physically, “what you look like,” idolized image, erotic or romantic physical attraction, etc. 

I know that there is a sensuality of spirit, and that “sexy” is a vague, overused, kind-of-taboo word… and there is more to it than look. But that’s how I’m using it.

I started my last post on the topic of embodying beauty (and defining it) with a series of questions that run through my mind  (along with other similar ones) every day, and, to some degree, have for the last 18 years. 

Why is it devastating to so many to not be “the most” beautiful, especially physically? Can being just one of the physically-beautiful (in general or in a specific category) people in the world be enough? All the while being able to admit there are plenty of other beauties, including many far greater ones? Why do we have to live in denial to be “at peace” with ourselves?

In short, how come some people get to have sexy-hot-culturally-ideal bodies and faces, and how come some don’t (regardless of personal effort). And to what extent should those “who don’t” (or don’t anymore, or could have more, etc) go to achieve “that”? And how do we accept our bodies with great joy to ourselves and those around us? I’ve sought to process this through three different (helpful to consider, I think) dynamic categories that impact so much of our life experience:

1. The Fear
2. The Money
3. The Reality

 

FEAR

While sexuality and being desirable have always been prized throughout history, from what I understand, there has been in most past eras a greater comfort and naturalness with bodies and the desire of the body, that has been twisted in our modern, media driven times. There were natural limits on comparison (you know, not having access to the internet, for example) but there was also natural freedom. People lived and slept and made love and gave birth beside each other… and raised kids who married and then often lived and slept beside you still. People of past generations were much more comfortable with the reality of death (from killing animals to eat, to watching sickness take many loved ones in your lifetime, to war, etc) and also had a deeper sense of honor for the body—both in life and in death.

 

We could talk about arranged marriages and marrying for “function not love,” the Catholic Church, the Victorian Era, or the (often misunderstood) Puritans. We could study and stew over marriage-and-sex and sex-outside-of-marriage and polygamy and monogamy and adultery and The Patriarchy, and so much more… but I think the simple broth we’re left with (once all the bones and vegetables have been taken out) is essentially this:

Sexiness indicates desire, and what is desire but “that which I want”… so sexiness is “wanted-ness.” 

And we become afraid. For those of us insecure about how we look, I think ultimately we’re insecure about whether we are or deserve to be wanted. I have gleaned from conversations, personal reports, and the writings of strangers, that there is a nice-sized swath of people who may have their insecurity or two, but in general don’t have consuming “self-loathing-body-issues”; but the vast majority that I’ve talked with or read from in this category are people with somewhat “ideal bodies.” White, slim, clear-skinned, feminine, long-haired women. They “fit.” They belong in The Wanted Box. Of course it’s good that they don’t have self-loathing! But there’s an element that’s like “Well… of course you don’t. You didn’t have to do anything, or barely had to, and you’re wanted!”

Last post I mentioned a podcast from TED Talk Hour discussing beauty. Every segment of it fascinated me, but I think my attention was especially caught by Cameron Russell’s words. In our modern day, there probably isn’t a much higher standard of “ideal sexy beauty” than a Victoria Secret Runway Model. Her candor on her life, success, and body were refreshing:

“For me, being fearless means being honest. And I am on this stage because I am a model. I am on this stage because I am a pretty, white woman, and in my industry, we call that ‘a sexy girl.’ I'm going to answer the questions that people always ask me, but with an honest twist.

So the first question is, how do you become a model? I always just say, ‘Oh, I was scouted,’ but that means nothing. The real way that I became a model is 

I won a genetic lottery, and I am the recipient of a legacy, 

and maybe you're wondering what is that legacy. 

Well, for the past few centuries we have defined beauty not just as health and youth and symmetry that we're biologically programmed to admire, but also as tall, slender figures, and femininity and white skin. 

And this is a legacy that was built for me, and it's a legacy that I've been cashing out on.”

Well… dang! There you have it! And she’s exactly right. If you’re one of the few who won the lottery, in this time in history, you can be paid, marveled at, envied, and prized because of your sexy body! 

“When I was writing this talk, I found it very difficult to strike an honest balance, because on the one hand, I felt very uncomfortable to come out here and say, ‘Look I've received all these benefits from a deck stacked in my favor,’ and it also felt really uncomfortable to follow that up with, ‘and it doesn't always make me happy.’ But mostly it was difficult to unpack a legacy of gender and racial oppression when I am one of the biggest beneficiaries.”

 Cameron Russell

Cameron Russell

 Cameron Russell 

Cameron Russell 

 Aphrodite - Goddess of Beauty and Sex

Aphrodite - Goddess of Beauty and Sex

 Aphrodite - Goddess of Beauty and Sex

Aphrodite - Goddess of Beauty and Sex

 Venus - Goddess of Love and Fertility 

Venus - Goddess of Love and Fertility 

 Venus - Goddess of Love and Fertility

Venus - Goddess of Love and Fertility

I’ve talked dozens and dozens of times with Caleb about what a bummer it is to have missed out on Greek and Roman life in the age of mythology, or the Italian Renaissance… I would have been it back then!

“Venus is the Roman goddess whose functions encompassed love, beauty, desire, sex, fertility, prosperity and victory.” “Aphrodite was the Greek goddess of love, desire, beauty, sex, affection, and the attraction that binds people together. Apart from her natural beauty, she also had a magical girdle that compelled everyone to desire her.”

The physical difference between the pinnacle, ideal sex-and-beauty goddesses of old world and today are… stunning. The slimness valued in our age would have been thought of as sickly and not ideal for mothering children, enduring hard-working farm life, and longevity. Robust softness was an indicator of higher chances of a happy, safe, long life… makes sense why it was appealing. And, yes, while proportion, symmetry, and health have always been valued and received as “beautiful” and everyone has different preferences, the push for “more more more” led to sexiness becoming more and more narrow. Instead of imaging a vast majority of women, throughout time and history, the ideal has become smaller (literally). The female form isn’t just sexy on it’s own anymore (according to “them”), it’s the female form that looks really similar to mannequins in mall windows… or Barbies. Form that is rare, and makes the chase for it extra exciting. Form that almost always requires computer tools, professionals, surgery, or genetic lottery winners.

This can leave those who aren’t (either lottery winners or professionally re-crafted) heavy with disgusting-ness and weighed down with a heap of desire…and nowhere to put it.

For people like Caleb and I (and we aren’t the only ones), you have to add to the equation the distance we tried to keep from our sexuality, as we came into it, because of being frightened. Afraid to dishonor God. Afraid to dishonor our future spouse. Afraid to lose something we could never get back. Afraid to become damaged. Afraid to have regrets. Afraid to fail. Afraid… afraid…

“Perfect love casts out all fear.”

I, personally, was not just afraid of the sensations my body… but of my body itself. Who it might “cause to stumble.” Or who it might lure to real or mental adultery. The difference between attraction, admiration, lust, sin, goodness, desire, respect, healthiness, dignity, knowledge, anticipation, and, well, love were harmfully blurry for me.

So, we open another can of worms: given how much both culture and church openly discuss sexuality (“Sex is liiiiiffee! Do whatever it is you feel!” and “There is basically nothing worse you can do than mess up sexually.”), there is also a startling canyon of silence on the topic. Between millennials and their parents (and their parents, etc). Between spouses. Between close friends. I realized recently that there is a real Bermuda Triangle at play:

1. Sex and money issues are the number one cited reasons for divorce (supposedly. I can’t find a statistic… but I hear that often).

2. Sex and money are intensely taboo subjects, among even the most intimate friends and family. You can talk about most anything… but not that. That’s too personal. That’s distasteful. That’s private. Sssssshhh.

3. Yet, there is probably nothing society/money-makers at large talk to us about more than what to think about sex and how to spend our money (“go for it”; “buy my product”).

Couples are, undeniably, crashing to ruin, over sex, while having nowhere to really turn to heal this part of their lives, while being force-fed sex sex sex/desire desire desire/want want want every single day. No wonder it’s all a mess. No wonder we’re scared.

Scared of not being wanted.
Scared of being un-wanted after being once-wanted.
Scared of ruining everything.
Scared of caring.
Scared of God.
Scared of addiction. 
Scared of rejection.
Scared of not getting to have and grow love; or family.

Being afraid has caused a panic for affirmation, and a spiral-of-despair if it’s not found, when it comes to sexual desirability.

MONEY

Other than dress for royalty or very specific occasions, clothing for most of history, for most people, has been about function. With limited resources and a great need for protection against the outdoor elements in which they lived and endured, clothes were made as a tool for life.

Couture Fashion is traced back to the era of Marie Antoinette, her world at Versailles, and France during the late 1770’s. But it wasn’t until the early 1900’s that the modern day, made-to-wear, accessible to “most” (not just the royals) came into existence. The Industrial Revolution is one of my favorite times of history to study (worldwide), observing all the technologies and advancements that made the way, the time, and the money for wide-spread frivolities and fun — allowing ‘commoners’ an unprecedented joy in human history.

It was in the 1920’s that the beauty industry erupted, following closely on the heels of fashion (which makes perfect sense). Advertising, cities, and small-business were mid-explosion and all those small family trades had the chance to “make it big” instead of being isolated in their little town or village. Soap and simple cleaning products from companies like Proctor & Gamble got the ball rolling, but it wasn’t long before powder, lipstick, and mascara were in the hands of the public. The 1920s can claim the beginning of “Vogue”, “The Queen,” and “Harper’s Bazaar.” By the 1930’s, fashion and beauty were widespread and “household.” (Read this, among many other essays and posts!)

Earlier this summer in the midst of researching all of this for my own benefit, I was booking a flight for my grandmother. I asked her for the date of her birth and when she said it my jaw-dropped. “1936?? You were born in 1936??” My grandma. Sitting down the road right now, struggling to make sense of her iPhone, in 2018. She was alive when Revlon first introduced nail polish. Oh my gosh.

It hit me how new all of this is. Not beauty or desirability, of course. But the in-your-face-ness of this industry. Megan from @bodyposipanda writes often about the way companies could (and did) decide something was “a flaw,” create a product “to fix it,” and then happily take your money… off to work on the next “flaw fixer.” Hire the models, paint and sculpt them, edit their images, pass them around everywhere, and offer this little bottle of perfume… this little bottle of desire. Like giving candy to a baby. (Cash or credit?) Women desperate to be chosen (and kept) made great effort to be choosable and keepable (Mrs. Maisel, anyone? Watch it if you haven’t…).

The obsession grew. People hadn’t had the luxury to care so much about their aesthetic! Now, first world could. And it didn’t take long for human nature to take over advertising. Of the Seven Deadly vices, Pride and Envy are at the “top” (bottom?) of most ranking lists. “According to St. Thomas Aquinas, the struggle aroused by envy has three stages: during the first stage, the envious person attempts to lower another's reputation; in the middle stage, the envious person receives either ‘joy at another's misfortune’ (if he succeeds in defaming the other person) or ‘grief at another's prosperity’ (if he fails); the third stage is hatred because ‘sorrow causes hatred.’” I receive emails and see online ads every day, to this day, specifically marketing based on jealousy, flaunting, pride, manipulation, and discontentment. And we fall for it. “Every time I wear this I get showered in compliments!” “Be the star of the show, and make your friends jealous!” “Everyone will be green with envy this spring!” To make ourselves feel better we have to put others down. Show up more impressive, more enviable, more desirable. And when they do, we find pieces to nit-pick and bash… “I’m not vain and self-absorbed like she is.”

From Love Thy Body (By Nancy Pearcy):

“The Body Obsession, The Body Rejection

Is it true that Western culture devalues the body? Don’t many people place a ridiculously high value on physical appearance and fitness? Consider the widespread obsession with diets, exercise, bodybuilding, cosmetics, plastic surgery, botox, anti-aging treatments, and so on. We are surrounded by Photoshopped images presenting unrealistic ideals of physical beauty. 

A Christian college professor once told me, ‘It seems to me that people tend to go in the opposite direction—they make an idol of the body.’ But to be obsessed by the body does not mean we accept it.

“‘The cult of the young body, the veneration of the air-brushed, media produced body, conceals a hatred of real bodies,’ writes theologian Beth Felker Jones of Wheaton College. ‘Cultural practice expresses aversion to the body.’ Even the cult of the body can be an expression of the two-story dualism. An obsession with exercising, bodybuilding, and dieting can reveal a mindset akin to that of a luxury car owner polishing and tuning up an expensive automobile. Philosophers call that ‘instrumentalizing’ the body, which means treating it as a tool to be used and controlled instead of valuing it for its own sake. When we do that, we objectify the body as part of nature to be conquered. Feminist philosopher Susan Bordo writes, ‘The training, toning, slimming, and sculpting of the body . . . encourage an adversarial relationship to the body.’ These practices express the will to conquer and subdue the body—and ultimately to be liberated from its constraints."

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REALITY

 

It would drive me batty if someone genuinely suggested that all photographs are beautiful. They all might be valid. They all might (potentially) have worth (even if just emotional worth). They might contain a beautiful subject. But all pictures are NOT created equal, and without question, some are better than others. More… beautiful. It’s offensive to suggest otherwise. Offensive, because, of course, in this case I am the artist. “Don’t lump my best work in with my awful work and act like ‘it’s all the same!’ It’s not!”

Certainly businesses and people with power have fed a beauty myth… however, I think there is some legitimate standard for physical beauty. And I think it’s okay to recognize it, accept it, and have fun with life… even if you aren’t one of the “top 10%” or “1%” or what have you. There are so many kinds of beauty, so many ways beautiful qualities create an actual physical beauty, and so many freedoms to a beautiful self-awareness. 

"Now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good." (John Steinbeck)
Now that you don’t have to be obsessed, you can enjoy.
Now that you don’t have to reject, you can partake.
Now that you don’t have to overreact (either direction), you can be content.

Now you can just calm down, admit so-and-so is more physically desirable than you, and be merry. You don’t have to try so hard, now you can enjoy yourself. There is something so freeing about the truth!

It’s okay! You aren’t the first place winner! You aren’t last, either! Some people find you attractive, some don’t! You’re prettier than some people, and you’re not as good-looking as others! And it’s very fluid and subjective and case-by-case anyways! And it matters… your body is a part of you. And you matter. Phew. Okay. Onto the things that are worth building a life on, strong enough to hold the foundation of you, and things that do just matter more.

EMBODYING THE DESIRE TO BE DESIRED
+ EMBODYING CONTENTMENT

 

I have found a lot of freedom and comfort in my own skin with acknowledging and wrestling through these things. There are not fast band-aid answers. This was a super flyover starting point. It’s been a full year and a half now, after 17 years of deep struggle, of intensive note-taking, private study sessions, thousands of hours of conversations, lots of tears, and getting to a healthy, stable place to start the trek “out.” I’m deeply grateful to have a husband like Caleb to get in the trenches with me… robotic answers or passive niceties won’t do here. This was and is the big stuff of my heart, and he is my fellow soldier with whom I have a strong foundation of love. But I know not everyone gets to do this journey with a devoted soulmate like him. Either alone, or with a not-so-helpful partner, or anything else… I just want to encourage you to keep going, and find someone you can really talk to. Message me! But don’t give up. This is too important and the conversation and comprehension of all these topics needs to change for the good of men, women, and children everywhere.

The desire to be pleasing is of God and wonderful. The desperateness to belong and “be known and loved” is also directly from His heart and is outstanding. Being confused by the strength and force of “in your face sexiness” and the true beauty of it is very reasonable, because it is…a handful. 

I’ve come to think of “sexy” like a well-placed adjective. (Brilliant, huh? Since, ahem, it IS an adjective? ;) ) When writing or speaking there are few things more thrilling than having the perfect descriptor come to mind. It tells the story, the point, the message, just as you meant. I love how many adjectives are available. I love how I can people-watch and discern what a person is like, then describe them. Thoughtful, flustered, calculated, charmed, flimsy, meaty, blue, sensational, wobbly, fine, lovable, wise, sincere, careful, gracious… sexy. Some characters in this story get that “universal, cultural adjective” as a descriptor for their looks. It tells the story of them. Or at least part of it.

They are not worth any more. They are not capable of any more happiness (maybe some advantages, but not happiness… but there are disadvantages too…), they do not escape pain, boredom, anxiety, or depression. Sure, maybe some have an unhealthy way of embodying rivalry, superiority, and intentional belittling. Maybe some do it unknowingly. And maybe some (as Cameron Russell appears to) handle the reality with grace, honesty, and a dedication to what is good, at least as far as she understands it (research her a bit, she’s a fascinating woman!). You have not a bit less value, gift of experiencing pleasure (in all forms), or joy.  Choosing to see the beauty in what is beautiful, giving us eyes to more forms of beauty everywhere - including in our own lives - is one of the healthiest things we can do. Instead of zeroing in on our insecurities, we can open wide to the many lovelinesses. Instead of hating what we don’t have, we can celebrate what others do have. Instead of chasing the wind on a treadmill, we can be deeply, happily content. Instead of complaint, we can have gratitude to the Beautiful Artist.

We can combat our fear with bravery, not become disillusioned with the prompts and teases of people making money off of our desire for good things, and being as honest with the truth as we can… all carried in a bag made of Joy and Good Humor… this changes everything.

Up Next: PART 4 - Practical Steps

Embody | Part 2 | Embodying What Is Beautiful

EMBODY is my "word of the year" for 2018. It's become a pillar for me and came as the culmination of a long, negative "relationship" with my body that I have been vigilantly trying to correct, understand, walk into joy with, and hopefully help any like me along the way.

1. The Realization of The Body (The Literal Embody)
2. Embodying What Is Beautiful
3. Comparing and Contrasting Beauty and Sexual/Physical Desirability

4. Practical Steps
5.
The Creativity and Artistry of Bodies
6. The Embodiment of Others


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Before I could get into the thickest cut of meat in my soul, I had to step back and answer some fundamentals.

Before being able to figure out “Why do I have this unquenchable thirst to be physically desired and thought of as beautiful?” or “Why does not having as much of it as I want, or as much as others have, make me spiral into sickening wallow?” or “Why can’t I do something (lasting) about it if I care so much?” or “Does physical beauty even matter at all? Isn’t it about the inside anyway? Should I just learn to turn this off?” or “If it doesn’t matter, really, what’s the harm of absolutely giving myself to being the most culturally-ideal version of myself possible?” or “Gawd, why do I hate my body so much? I want to be pretty/thin/beautiful/sexy so bad.” I had to answer:

What is beauty?

Like love, people use the word to communicate such different concepts.

That’s a beautiful sunrise!
That’s a beautiful presentation of garden vegetables!
That’s a beautiful limerick!
That’s a beautiful set of lady legs!
That’s a beautiful baby name!
That’s a beautiful story you told!
That’s a beautiful flowering tree in a city!
That’s a beautiful sensation on my clean, bare feet!
That’s a beautiful smile!
That’s a beautiful masterpiece of paint!
That’s a beautiful chemistry moving to salsa music!
That’s a beautiful piece of dead cow!
That’s a beautiful combination of air, brain waves, throat, and ear drums!
That’s a beautiful grief.
That’s a beautiful pair of breasts!
That’s a beautiful woman in labor.
That’s a beautiful royal Highness in her palace.
That’s a beautiful athletic achievement.
That’s beautiful intellectual genius. 
That actually tastes so beautiful my body has chills and I practically have tears in my eyes. I’m moaning. Let me mash more of that around with my saliva and molars upon my tongue.

How can the same word be used for all these? What binds them together? Does it detract from any given electric, pink sunset in Tampa that there is an even better sunset happening in Fiji, or that The Northern Lights exist? Is beauty a threat to itself? Is it really important that it be graphed, charted, lined up in order of rank, and critiqued on the spot? Or can beauty just… be. Even in the slightest degree. And in it’s is-ness… can it just be appreciated? Adored even? Hunted for and blissfully discovered anywhere? Even *if* a greater source of it exists elsewhere?

Why is it devastating to so many to not be “the most” of it, especially physically? Can being just one of the physically-beautiful (or in certain ways physically-beautiful) people in the world be enough? All the while being able to admit there are plenty of other beauties, including many far greater ones? Why do we have to live in denial to be “at peace” with ourselves? (Spoiler alert: it’s not working)

Lots of questions, as you can see.

Here now enter: My Podcast Warriors.

The week I saw Beth Joyce’s “I’m obsessed with being a woman comfortable in my skin” post, I listened to two episodes of “Mystics & Makers” titled “Beauty Will Save The World Part 1 & Part 2

I’ve listened to it, oh, maybe 10 times since then? It’s Stephen Roach interviewing Brian Zhand on his book (and life theory) that “Beauty will save the world,” which is a direct quote from Fyodor Dostoyevsky in his novel “The Idiot.”

These are two Christian men discussing the essential virtue of beauty. I have never heard this before. It was ground-breaking.

“Even though we have an eye for it, and we recognize it, it’s hard to say what it actually is. But no matter what else we would say about it, beauty seems to be connected to form. So that whether it’s a poem, a painting, a song, a sculpture — it’s something about the form, the structure, the arrangement of the piece that comprises it’s beauty.” Brian Zhand

I started gasping with the connection of the dots. I’d been stuffing myself was as much “embody” as I could the past 72 hours, a word in which almost every definition includes “form”… and ‘out of the blue’ I’m hearing beauty boiled down to: the form. 

Zhand continued:

“Ancient philosophers identified the three prime virtues: the true, the good, the beautiful.

As virtues they are not utilitarian. They are not a means to an end, they are an end in themselves so they need no further justification. 

So we would say: 

We want the true because it’s true.
We want the good because it’s good.
We want the beautiful because it’s beautiful.

Later in the church we come to understand these virtues as attributes of God himself.

We have a long history of Christian apologetics (this is a Christian defense of truth as understood through Christ.)
We also have a long history of Christian ethics (this is the good as defined in light of Christ).
Christian aesthetics, though, have had a mixed history. 

There have been times when the church has been good at it, but in modernity we have, along with the wider culture, gone ahead and dismissed beauty as a prime virtue of Christ. We’ve come to think of it as mere adornment.”

[Read that again]

“In modernity we have, along with the wider culture, 
gone ahead and dismissed beauty as a prime virtue
We’ve come to think of it as mere adornment.”

“So, what does it mean for us as Christians - Christian artists and thinkers - to portray or embody beauty? How do we embody the aesthetic beauty calls for?” Stephen asks in response. Great question, sir. What does that mean? And look at that word… showing up again. Embody. The unpacking these two did of Jesus, his life, the cross, etc as the pinnacle of all beauty is just magnificent, especially since (as I noted in the previous post) “He had no outward beauty or form that we should desire him.” This seems crucial. “What is the beautiful form of Christianity? I would say it’s the cross. Which was an intentionally hideous object, devised and utilized by an occupying military empire to physiologically terrorize the populaces that it dominated.” It wasn’t physical desirability, beautiful as that may be (and is!).

As I was outlining and preparing this series over the holidays, another podcast appeared *perfectly timed* in my line-up. TED Radio Hour aired a compilation of Ted Talks on *dun dun dun!* beauty!

The episode includes parts of the following Ted Talks:

(To start just listen to this summary on TED Radio Hour , but along the way go ahead and listen to their entire presentations.)

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I loved what I heard. A highlight was listening to Bill Strickland, head of Manchester Bidwell Corporation: “Manchester Bidwell combines many seemingly disparate elements – adult career training, youth arts education, jazz presentation, orchid and floral sales – into a dynamic whole with a proven record of positively changing the lives of underserved populations in Pittsburgh and the surrounding region.”

These are Strickland’s words from the podcast, describing elements of his facility and training center:

“We have quilts and clay and calligraphy and everywhere your eye turns, there's something beautiful looking back at you. That's deliberate. That's intentional. 

We even have flowers in the hallway, and they're not plastic, those are real. And now that I'm giving lots of speeches we had a bunch of high school principals come and see me and they said, ‘Mr. Strickland, what an extraordinary story and what a great school, and we were particularly touched by the flowers and we were curious as to how the flowers got there.’ I said, ‘Well, I got in my car and I went out to the greenhouse and I bought them and I brought them back and I put them there. You don't need a task force or a study group to buy flowers for your kids.’

Literally, students walk in the front door on any given day and there's an orchid that greets them at the front desk, which is the first thing that they see when they walk in the place. And I believe in introducing those magical moments on a work day, not just on a weekend, but on Monday morning. Many of our students who have never been in touch with orchids or seen them before, are now having them become a part of their vocabulary.

They're assuming that the world is made up of pretty things like orchids, and they're absolutely right. 

And the world that they're going to enter into, they're going to be seeing a lot of orchids.”

There isn’t a student or trainee who enters Manchester Bidwell’s doors who doesn’t personally understand the reality of ugliness in this world. Strickland’s wise emphasis on convincing them there is beauty has had stunning results.

In Richard Seymour’s portion of the TED Talk he says: “We don't always understand what's beautiful until we know the story behind it, the narrative, right? Here, Look at this. What are you feeling about it?” Mr. Seymour shows to his live audience “a clearly naive picture, but that is drawn with a crayon and is of a butterfly taking off from a flower.”

He continues: “Is it beautiful? Is it exciting? I'm watching your faces very carefully. There's some rather bored looking gentlemen and some slightly engaged looking ladies. Now I'm going to tell you what it is. Are you ready? This is the last act on this Earth of a little girl, called Heidi, five years old, before she died of cancer this month. That's the last thing she did. The last physical act. Look at that picture. Look at the innocence. Look at the beauty in it. Is it beautiful now? 

Stop. Stop. How do you feel? Where are you feeling this? And I'm watching your faces because your faces are telling me something. There's a lady over there that's actually crying, by the way.

I like to look at people's faces when they're reacting to things. When someone's reacting to something that they often think is exquisitely beautiful, their face isn't doing what you think it would do. You'd think, wow, they'd be sort of loving this, or there'd be a big smile on their face. 

It's not like that. You've usually got steepled brows and more something that looks like pain than it looks like beauty. I think it's the bitter-sweetness, 

the tension between the sweetness and the bitterness 
that often creates this heightened sense of beauty in something.”

Phew.

What is beauty?

“There are few synonyms for the word beautiful. The word is difficult to define. If you look up in a dictionary you’ll read it and say ‘Mmm, yeah. That’s true enough. But that still doesn’t seem to capture it.’” (Brian Zhand)

“Beauty is a particular series of sensations.” [But isn’t that the effect of beauty, I wonder?] (Richard Seymour)

Wabi-sabi, a Japanese term for “the discovery of beauty in imperfection; the acceptance of the cycle of life and death.” [Anyone else hear this on this season of Project Runway? Ha!] (And discovering beauty still doesn’t define what it is)

Vorfreude, a German word: for your pleasure (but has more to do with longing or anticipating, not “having”)

“I always hear myself saying, ‘She’s a beauty!’ or ‘He’s a beauty!’ or ‘What a beauty!’ but I never know what I’m talking about, I honestly don’t know what beauty is.” (Andy Warhol)

“We find beauty in something done well.” (Denis Dutton),

After mulling over, and not quite nailing it, and reading, talking, listening, thinking some more… I think I’m convinced that beauty is:

Form and/or narrative done well.

I think sometimes the form, even if there is hardly any story or “meaning,” just is. It’s been created so well that it is definitely beautiful.

I think there are times that form can be “less than” or at first (or second or third) glance unappealing or unattractive (like Christ), but once the narrative is told, the subject becomes beautiful.

And I think skillful narrative is a version of form, so any story or account done well is intrinsically beautiful.

So, the way that I embody (exemplify in form), and also narrate myself, my life, all that I experience and am responsible for, and The One Who Gave It All To Me is what constitutes my ability to live beautifully. To be beautiful.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.” Ecclesiastes 3:11
The Book of Daniel refers to “The Beautiful Land” for which they strove to enter.
In Acts a man, “lame and disabled from birth,” would be carried daily to the temple gate named (wait for it) Beautiful where he could sit and beg for money. One day, at Beautiful, in the name of Jesus, Peter commanded him to rise up and walk, he did. His feet and legs were made strong, he jumped and celebrated. “When all the people saw him walking and praising God they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.”

This is what beauty does: invokes wonder and amazement… from simple crayon drawings of a butterfly about to fly off a leaf into a new world, in a new form, by a dying girl… to orchids… to almost any kind of sunset… to absolute physical healing… to hamburgers… we see how these all connect. The well-done form and narrative needs no justification, only admiration. “Wow.”  

I’m convinced this little story from Acts is an analogy for us. When we’re “the beggar” and life has inflicted it’s bitterness on us, we go (and when we can’t go ourselves, we allow to be carried), and sit at the gate named Beautiful. And we wait. Small beauties, every day. This forced sitting gives us lots of time to look around and observe. To pay attention to the world and the people, and to connect the dots. To be grateful for a few coins clinked into a little cup; to be thrilled with a spilling cup! “Wow! What a good day! Thank you.” And someday, we will be called to rise up out of our pain and limit, and walk. The form will transform, the narrative with culminate, the orchestra will soar. People will remember who you were, what you went through, and be amazed. Endure well. It is so beautiful.

And sometimes, we’re the onlookers. Life is as normal. Not paralyzing. Putting about our days. What a loss to miss out on that sort of beauty because we were too *fill in the blank.* Wonder and amazement is too good to overlook. Stop. Stop. Are you feeling this? Is it beautiful now?

“…discover connections that, even if obvious, seem to escape detection.”

Don’t let it pass you by, and, for me… that means my body. Don’t let the health, the power, the miracle, the pleasure, the physical attractiveness of being 20-something and *me,* the love quite a few people have for my body pass me by. Self! Stop. Stop right now! Are you feeling this? Is it beautiful now? Don’t let it escape your detection. Don’t distractedly or numbly miss this wonder. Don’t write an ugly narrative over your form.

Embody beauty itself, and thereby be Beauty.

Up next: Part 3 - Comparing and Contrasting Beauty and Sexual/Physical Desirability

Embody | Part 1 | The Realization of The Body

EMBODY is my "word of the year" for 2018. It's become a pillar for me and came as the culmination of a long, negative "relationship" with my body that I have been vigilantly trying to correct, understand, walk into joy with, and hopefully help any like me along the way.

1. The Realization of The Body (The Literal Embody)
2. Embodying What Is Beautiful
3. Comparing and Contrasting Beauty and Sexual/Physical Desirability

4. Practical Steps
5.
The Creativity and Artistry of Bodies
6. The Embodiment of Others

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The Realization

In my intentionality to work through what has been life-long self-loathing of body (and all the ramifications that has on me, including but not limited to how I view other people and their bodies, how I am able to enjoy events/life moments given the haunting and constant ‘voices’ of hate, how it impacts my marriage, how it impacts my motherhood, how it impacts the mindsets of other women, what my daughter and son will hear from me in my home, the importance of the motive not just the action, etc). I’ve stumbled onto a moving realization. An obvious one. An incredibly un-smart, simple one. But one that changed the direction of the tides for me.

Earlier this fall I saw an Instagram post by Beth Joyce, an illustrator (mostly of women as her subjects), captioned “I am obsessed with becoming a woman comfortable in my own skin.” The same day, on a “hippie tribe” feed I saw an image of a woman looking upward, chest lifted, eyes closed with the caption: “Being An Embodied Woman.” I felt the ripple of the four words extend into my thighs when I read. I read it again. I looked up the word. 

I am no stranger to unpacking the complexity of this. I have been for years now. For our entire relationship “my thing” is “this thing” and Caleb and I come back to it over and over. Learning to chase a feeling, not an image. The importance of health over looks. The difference between inner and outer beauty. Cultural ideals. Money made off of the pursuit of “beauty.” “Everyone is beautiful!” (but… how come many seem so much more desirable?? Is it all big-business and power-trip lies?). Why do I need to feel this way so badly. Body Positivity Movement. “Don’t embrace your flaws, reject the notion they are flaws to begin with.” The ugliness of catty competition. Bodies as objects. Objective beauty in bodies. Subjective beauty in bodies. The beauty of motherhood at the expense of the beauty of “your youth.” What a topic to reconcile! Why doesn’t it seem to matter as much for men (though I know it’s there to a lesser degree). How you do you find peace? Insisting “you don’t care! This doesn’t matter?” But aesthetic everywhere else does… the look of this world, the look of art, the look of food, the look of architecture. How do looks not triumph or lead, when they are all people can know about you to begin? With not a word spoken, without a heart’s secret shared, with no character qualities known, without a single story, or dream, or devastation, or personal history detail, but simply when seen a stranger knows *something* about me. Even if all they know is how I look. How I look IS a part of me.

Hm.

The most casual stranger might percieve a bit of my personality and “vibe.” Maybe my emotions in that moment. To the more perceptive stranger they might translate body language, color story, my wealth, and my public persona, potentially able to guess at my inner self if they studied my eyes or my posture or way I hold the things I have to cart around with me in life.

EMBODY

“be an expression of or give a tangible or visible form to the intangible (an idea, quality, or feeling).” 

“to give a concrete form to.”

“to represent the immaterial in material form; personify.”

“to represent a quality or idea exactly in form.”

My experience of life has been one full of profound connection to my mind, opinions, values, and “vision” for life, relatively disconnected from “my feelings,” and opposed to and rejecting my body. I haven’t liked, enjoyed, been comfortable in, or absorbed life through my body in a good way. I tune it out, berate it, feel guilt, and have often said “I wish I could be here but just be invisible. I want to talk and think and explore and enjoy this world, I just don’t want to be seen doing it.” My body seemed only to contribute two things besides basic function: potential sin or failure (whole different topics).

Marriage and motherhood have slapped my cold, wet pain on my raw cheek, and I haven’t been able to avoid the necessity of overcoming this. I don’t think it takes marriage or motherhood (or grief or or or…) to stir the process, but those are what did for me. I’ve been desperate to connect my body to my mind, heart, spirit, character, personality, and anything unseen that I think is “me” and what the Lord has made. What a joy it has been to ponder the embodiment of God.

God, The Father, The Holy One, The Maker. 
Artist, Creator, Inventor, Builder.
Painter, Composer, Scientist, Architect. 

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He took the untouchable of Himself and gave it touchable form. He took His qualities and feelings and truths and made them into something like butter or blueberries... able to dissolve on my tongue, developing more flavor in the process, and then with this beauty sustain my life.

It’s not rare to hear that this universe and earth and all that is in it is His artwork or handiwork. But it dawned on me that it is Himself. It’s not just that He likes/loves or values these (He does!), it’s that He IS them. “I am Beauty, so here is beauty.” “I am a Writer, here is word. Here is a story… including the stage, costumes, sound effects, and cast of characters.” “I am Holy, here is perfection.” “I am Good, so here is good.” “I am vast.” “I am detailed.” “I am constant.” He didn’t create water to communicate that He was wet, but that he was refreshing and quenching and nourishing. So on and so forth. “This is what I’m like.” Here is fascination, here is texture, here is delight, here is abundance, here is safety, here is taste. “Do you see? This is who I am ‘inside,’ go forth… experience in material form.” This world embodies God’s attributes; ideas and qualities and feelings made physical.

Then He sought to exhibit the part of Him that is "Life," or more specifically The Living Self. 

“Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into His nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”

He made the human body. The embodiment of life. We are routinely told in church about being “made in His image.” It’s hard to let that pack it’s punch. My mind quickly goes to Walt Disney’s report that Mickey Mouse is an embodiment of himself. A playful, positive-attitude-ed, spunky, sweet, old soul, who spent his life battling dark depression, being a workaholic, enormous personal tragedy, and isolation. Mickey wasn’t the embodiment of all but of a part. A part Walt needed to cling to and longed to bring to life (in his own life!). A part dangerously close to becoming swallowed up and lost for good.

God was the first cartoonist.

But of course, this world and all the immaterial souls wiggling around in material form, weren’t His final embodiment. Jesus. The Concrete Form of Absolute Holiness, Perfect Love, and Literally Every Good Thing. The spirit of God took human form. And, this is where my hate begins to lose it’s traction: Jesus is described as having “no beauty or form to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” (Obviously he had beauty but not cultural, physical, desirable-to-a-stranger beauty. More on that in the next post.) He was absolute perfection. Aesthetic and beauty and “how the things look” matter. It’s undeniable! But we find ourselves with a God who is not physically attractive in any stand out way. I’m sure he was just an average guy.

He is called (or calls Himself) and embodies everything from food (“The Bread of Life”), to nature (“Rock,” “Vine,” “Branch,” “Rose”, “Seed,” “Root”), to objects (“A Door,” “A Cornerstone,” “A Horn”), to animals (“Lion,” “Lamb”), to a creative (“Author,” “Creator”), to a role (“Captain,” “Shepard,” “King”, “Witness,” “Messenger,” “Counselor”), to qualities (“Faithful,” “Glory,” “Blessed,” “Holy,” “Consolation,” “Truth,” “Almighty), to a family member (“Father,” “Heir,” “Groom,” “Son”) and so much more.

Scripture describes God as cloaked, wrapped, adorned, and clothed and also offers guidance to how we should be as well.

“Adorned with glory and splendor, 
and clothed in honor and majesty.”
We read of His armour and of His royal silk robes.

To us:

“Clothe yourselves with humility.”
“Adorn yourself with honor and grace.”
“Strength and dignity are her clothing, 
She smiles at the future.” 
“Skirted with gladness.”

I don’t just have the joyful privilege of getting to develop the inward beauty of God’s qualities, but I have the gift of being able to wear them, to look like them, to be “ideas and truths in concrete form” (or let’s be honest… Caleb is the concrete form, I’m like… the cookie dough form. Ba-doosh.).

Just like the rest of all art.
Just like the rest of all aesthetic.
Just like the rest of every sensory pleasure (or disgust).

And, gosh, I see it! I get it!

As the sound of horse hair on wire, pressed and pulled *just* the right way can make the sound of ache.
As the form of leaf veins look like wrist veins. (I love series’ like these that detail the body and this world as connected:
As some clouds look like a dragon with a ball or a pair of legs in boots.
As spicy food tastes like spicy attitude.
As the outer layer husk of an onion feels exactly like when your spirit is fragile and thin, yet still holding it together.

Steve Jobs said “Creativity is just connecting things.” Amanda Palmer said “Collecting the dots. Then connecting them. And then sharing the connections with those around you. This is how a creative human works. Collecting, connecting, sharing.” W. I. B. Beveridge said “Originality often consists in linking up ideas whose connection was not previously suspected.” Paul Rand said “The role of the imagination is to create new meanings and to discover connections that, even if obvious, seem to escape detection.” Stephen Roach said “The role of the artist isn’t journalistic reporting but rather to help us attend and see again that which we may have missed.” 


Some people look a little bit like an alley cat.
Some people look a little bit like Santa Claus but as a child.
Some people look a little bit like a Honda Civic.
Some people look a little bit like a radish.
Some people look like Woody from Toy Story.
Some people look like an oak tree, and some look like a fuzzy shrub.
Some people look like mystery.
Some people look like tender.

Look like strong.
Look like soft.
Look like hard.
Look like Type-A order.
Look like the wind.
Look like warmth.
Look like light.
Look like beauty (more to come).
Look like humor.
Look like intelligence.
Look like fun.
Look like innocence.
Look like experience.

Like threat.
Like relief.
Like confusion.
Like a garden of budding flowers.
Like weariness.
Like discipline.
Like comfort.
Like envy.
Like royalty.
Like sweet.

You can probably do it. Think of someone who looks like comfort. She probably came instantly to mind. Think of someone who looks like spunk. Oh man, you can see it in their eyes, can’t you?? Think of someone who looks like a warrior. Who looks like a swan. It’s so easy.

Not “exclusively” of course, but I’ve been able to identify how much my external has been personifying jealousy, desperation, numb-ness, disdain, effort, and discomfort. (Isn’t it great how someone who is uncomfortable looks exactly like what discomfort feels like? Oh, it’s uncanny.) Gosh, how sad to spend my life embodying envy or superiority complex or spite.

In “Walt Manner” I made myself a list of the primary “soul untouchables” I want my body to bring to life. Not all but… given my life thus far, who God created me to be, and my preferences, what do I really want to aesthetically look like? What do I want my body to, well, embody!

My Greatest Sensory Pleasures
- Story and Word
- Light and Shadow
- Taste/Flavor

My Greatest Roles
- A Wife
- A Mother
- An Artist

My Best Qualities
- The desire to make all things meaningful/beautiful
- My pluck and moxie
- How intrigued I am to know, understand, and experience/“A Scout” (as detailed in this piece)

What God Specifically Notes
- Dignity
- Strength
- Grace
- Humility
- Salvation

Wow. My body can look like a story (“The Story of a Mother,” “The Story of The Afternoons on The Beach,” “The Story of Surviving A Death,” “The Story of Pizza Enjoyed, And Kombucha And Organic Multi-Vitamins Too,” and on). It can look like courageous curiosity in the shadows (like when Belle asked the Beast to step into the light so she could take a good look at him, and then without flinching boldly walked to his face and said “You have my word.” and volunteered herself to become a monster’s prisoner in order to set her beloved father free.) It can look like a piece of art, freedom from shame, and Someone’s Lover. It can look like flavor tasted, "a time to rest in the shadow of the tree," and a light in the distance or light bursting through the perfectly placed picture window.

I understand how simple this is, but goodness… I have become captivated with the concept. How I wanted to be invisible, and how I’ve come to love the chance I get to make the invisible visible. I’m obsessed with becoming a woman comfortable in her own skin and story.

My mind lurches to identify the qualities others embody:

Caroline looks like adorable and she really is “inspiring of great affection; delightful; charming.”
Sara looks like a peaceful deep well and she has explored the cold, lonely holes of this life and they’ve led her to river banks.
Summer looks like feist.
Becca looks like comfort. (Just spend one afternoon with her. One.)
Megan looks like genuine confidence.
Ally looks like joy.
Mrs. Maisel looks like colorful nerve.
Shannon looks tough.
Dumbo looks bashful and precious.
One of my dad’s longtime buddies looks like a St. Bernard, just as playful and loyal too.

And on it goes…

Collect the dots. Connect the dots. Share the connections.

Praise the Lord for His skill, for His design, for His installations and art, for Himself. And let Him flow out from every place, including the literal, physical body. May I and we embody the best things well.

 

Up next: Part 2 - Embodying What Is Beautiful