Bringing Out the Blue Hair

On Monday I picked up new, adventurous glasses (retro!) and yesterday I dyed some of my hair blue.

BlueHair1I pretty much love my new look, but it’s a big jump for me. I’m not really known for my daring fashion. I’ve been a solid-colored tshirt and jeans girl for most of my life with the occasional blip into something more expressive.

Which is interesting, because I am a pretty expressive person. I write. I paint. I sing (not always well, but whatever) and more and more, I dance. But when it comes to how I dress, I generally try to fly under the radar. There are probably many blog post’s worth of reasons for this, but it’s something I’ve been noticing a lot lately.

Through my fashion (or lack there of) and in a couple of other ways, I think I’ve been trying to hide in plain sight. (Does that make any sense at all?) I’m unsure of myself, so I try to fly right in the middle of tragically-uncool and fashion-forward.

I admire more expressive people, but for me I play it safe. I think things like, “I probably can’t pull this off,” and “Maybe if I lose twenty pounds,” and “What if people laugh at me?”

For a couple of years now, I’ve thought about dyeing my hair blue. I loved the idea of doing just the bottom of it, but didn’t know quite how it’d turn out. I mean, what if I looked like a clown? I talked about it so much that Ben bought me As-Seen-On-TV hair chalk for Christmas. (I wasn’t sure I trusted it, so predictably, it’s still in the box.)

Got to hang out for a while in an alien space pod!
Got to hang out for a while in an alien space pod!

Then we moved to Austin, where hair of every color abounds. I told Ben, “I really do want to try to the blue hair thing.” To which he said something along the lines of “Just do it already.” I guess my contemplation of blue hair is not as compelling a conversation topic to Ben.

My choosing-glasses convo was eerily similar. I’ve always gone simple, and while I loved the frames I wasn’t sure I could “pull them off.”

And you know what? I think these hesitancies are just symptoms of a root lack of confidence. A root unwillingness to be truly seen because what if people laugh or criticize?

And then I decided, who friggin cares? Don’t like me? Get over it! Ha!!

This is the year in which I dance. I’m done hiding. So I bought the glasses I love and dyed my hair blue. You might hate it. You might be wondering just when I went crazy. But when I look in the mirror, I think, now I look like me (And not at all like a clown, thank God).

It's harder to see the blue hair in this one, but you can see my totally rad new glasses :)
It’s harder to see the blue hair in this one, but you can see my totally rad new glasses :)

I’m not angry at the world or anything. I’m still pretty clean-cut and I still love Jesus. But I’m a little edgy, a lot artsy, and a tad bit more “colorful” than my church-going friends sometimes appreciate. At least for today, I think my “look” matches my self.

How great is that?!

 

Misfit

Misfit
Eccentric
Nonconformist
Unconventional
Loner
Rebel
Dissenting
Insurgent
Unique
Unusual
Weird
Radical
Original
Progressive
Exceptional
Outcast
Outsider

messiahs misfits

I don’t fit in. I have NEVER fit in.  Anywhere. That’s just a fact of who I am, who I have always been, and most likely, who I will always be.

When I was very young, I don’t believe I was fully aware of my uniqueness. Looking back on it now, I see that I was always sort of on the outside looking in. My earliest memories are of myself playing alone, since I was an only child until I was nine years old. I remember playing in groups of kids, but sort of being on the periphery.  When I started school, I had a few friends, but was never part of the bigger group.  And then we moved to the U.S–I was a child in a whole new country, new customs, new language… I spent the rest of my childhood as an outcast. Not popular, bullied, with a small group of other outcast friends.

My teen years weren’t much different, and I cried my way home from the 8th grade every single day. In high school, I found a home among the misfits, created friendships that would last a lifetime, and watched the popular kids, again, from the outside. I didn’t particularly like high school.

Then came college. College was different. I had fun at college, I again made lifetime friendships and for the first time in my life, I didn’t feel like an outcast.  But I was still… different. I still spent quite a bit of time on the outside, looking in, watching.

The funny thing about becoming an adult and joining the “grown up” world of jobs and careers is that… well… nothing changes.

There are still the “popular kids” the “in crowd” the “lunch cliques”…and the bullies, the mean girls, the geeks, the outcasts.

They’re all there.

So, it goes without saying that my feeling of not quite fitting in has never really gone away. I’ve had jobs where I’ve made great friends and jobs where I barely spoke to anyone. But no matter where I ended up, I always felt like I still didn’t quite mesh.

This feeling hasn’t been limited to school and work either.  It has followed me in church, youth groups, at parties, in crowded places, within larger groups of friends, at the gym and grocery store. This feeling of “I don’t belong here.”

Along the way I’ve met others like me, and we created a sort of “merry band of misfits.” My eclectic collection of friends who are nothing like me, yet exactly like me. Who live in this world, but never quite feel OF this world.

“But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they might have My joy made full in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” – John 17: 13-14

We question, we antagonize, we fight, we love, we challenge, and we persevere.

We watch the world from the outside and then dig our hands in, up to the elbows in the mess of it all, whenever we see the need, the space, and the call.

We don’t fit the mold, we don’t quite measure up to the social expectations, and, as we mature and grow and learn, we don’t really much care.  We love our weird misplacement.

Some days it is harder than others. Some days, while I sit alone somewhere, listening to the giggling conversations of those I’m not quite a part of, I feel the sting of rejection. I feel the pain of a 13 year old 8th grader being told she was weird and uncool.

And then on other days I smile at the knowledge that my world is so full of color simply because I’m allowed to SEE. The view is better from the sidelines, from here I can better gauge the best spot to dive from… the best time to jump in…

I’m not sure I’ll ever “fit in”… I’m beginning to realize I hope I never do.
misfit

Self-Kindness and Holy Space

Ben and I are about to move into our new apartment in Austin, and we are super excited! Last week, I was able to prayer-walk our apartment. I prayed over the spaces in our apartment which we hope will bless our neighbors–the kitchen, the living room, our balcony, and the common spaces. I blogged about it over at my personal site.

But while I was there, I prayed in our other spaces, too. I prayed in Jack’s room, for how his personality will develop, over his health, that his room would be a place of peace and rest and joy. I prayed in our bedroom, that it would be a space that nurtures our connection, and that we would manage the dual purposing of work and rest well (Ben will be working out of one corner).

masterbathprayersAnd I prayed over the spaces where soul care is most important for me: the master bath and the kitchen. These are spaces where I sometimes lose my way.

What would it look like if the our master bath was a room marked by kindness and worthiness. It’s in this room that I’ll step on a scale. It’s in this room where I’ll get dressed, do my hair, put on makeup. The closet is through that door to the right–this is the room where I’ll try on those jeans that might not quite fit yet, where I’ll get dressed for the everyday moments and celebrations in the coming years.

Father, make this a space where I am kind to myself. Make this a space in which I remember where my identity is anchored. 

kitchenprayersAnd I prayed in our kitchen. How can this space be a place where we nourish our family well? A while back, I posted a blog about being on a food journey–what are the next small steps that I can add in? How can I get better at eating the right foods for the right reasons?

Father, may this be a life-giving space. May I make choices that lead me toward wellness and protect this body, which is a gift. 

How about you guys? Have you prayed in the spaces of your home? How affirming is your master bath? How restorative (and dare I say, romantic?) is your bedroom? How nourishing is your kitchen? How do you protect these spaces?

Will I Be Pretty?

I came across this video again today, and I had to share it with you guys. This poet’s performance is fantastic, but don’t watch if you are deeply offended by the F-word.

Do watch for a hard-hitting look at the age old question, “Will I be pretty?” The poet, Katie Makkai shares her own hard story with the word, and challenges everything we’ve been taught about beauty. She calls us out as women “who will prowl 30 stores in 6 malls to find the perfect cocktail dress, but haven’t a clue where to find fulfillment or how to wear joy, wandering through life shackled to a shopping bag.”

Oh how I want to wear joy.

As the video concludes, Katie’s got a message for her future daughter. But you know what? I think that we should all take it to heart.

What I learned while jean shopping…

Currently, I find myself on this illusive mission to find a pair of jeans that fits comfortably.

Surely I don’t need to explain to any woman what a task this is.  I’m pretty sure since the day Levi invented denim women everywhere have been searching far and wide for that ONE PAIR of jeans that fits just right.

Until a few weeks ago, I owned about 20 pairs of jeans (we’ll discuss my former addictive shopping habits at a later date, I’m cured…mostly).

And yet, on any given Saturday morning, when I just want to throw on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, I find myself trying on 5 or 6 pairs, giving up, and throwing on a maxi skirt instead.

So I purged. I narrowed it down to about 5 pairs, but even those aren’t “everyday” jeans. I have the “can only wear with heels” pair, the “make my butt look amazing, but they’re more for a night out” jeans, the “I’m only keeping these until I find the right pair” jeans…I NEED new jeans.  So this weekend I headed out to try on jeans.  And after a frustrating few rounds in fitting rooms, I came home empty handed and discouraged.

Recently on my other blog I talked about a discovery I had when I stepped on the scale a few weeks ago. (You can read the whole blog post here, I hope you will).

What I discovered was that currently I weigh just about the same today as I did 6 years ago before I lost 30 lbs and got healthy. The difference is that this new weight is mostly muscle.

And a lot of that muscle seems to have settled on my thighs. Now, this is a good thing.  I LOVE my new muscular body, I particularly love my legs. Between running, squatting, dead lifting, and all the other work I put in at the gym, I have developed strong athletic legs.

Trouble is…they don’t make jeans for legs like mine. They don’t make clothes for muscular girls.
normals

I can’t find jeans that fit over my thighs without looking baggy and ridiculous around my hips and waist. But it doesn’t stop there. Because not only do I now have a more muscular body, I also happen to be petite (I’m only 5’2”) and curvy. They don’t make clothes for petite…let’s call it what it is: SHORT…curvy girls.

Oh, and for good measure let’s throw in the fact that I’m also quite busty.

When I head out to shop for clothes, I start to feel like the shape of my body must be completely foreign to designers.

But when I look around at the other women in this very real world I live in… I wonder how it is that any of us ever find anything that fits. Designers don’t have a clue what real women look like.  Or more likely, they don’t care.

We, women, beat ourselves up in those fitting rooms, or in our bedrooms, regardless of our size, shape, fitness level, we all do it. We expect to take a “size” that is meant to fit a variety of shapes and have it perfectly fit. It can’t. It won’t. Ever.

Because we are not a size. We are curves and edges, perfect imperfections (borrowing from John Legend, because he has it so right). We are not the problem ladies. This clothing industry and its ridiculous sizing system is the problem.

It makes absolutely no sense. I brought jeans into the fitting room with me from a size 6 to a size 12. Just for kicks. For various reasons, in many different ways, NONE of them worked on me.

Is it any wonder women feel so defeated by the number on the clothing tag? Stuffing themselves into a smaller size to fit some idea of what they are supposed to look like? How are these numbers an accurate appraisal of anything but an industry’s dictate?

Why is it that men’s clothes are sold by measurements (waist, length, neck, etc), and women are limited to “one size fits none” numbers? And let’s not even get into the fact that a size 4 by one designer is equivalent to a size 10 by another. How are we ever to know what our “size” is?

No wonder I love shoes so much. My shoe size hasn’t changed my entire adult life.

When will this stop?  When will we stop judging ourselves by numbers… on the scale, on our waistband…

I’m not doing it anymore. I’ll have to continue using these “sizes” in order to have a bit of an idea where to at least begin when I’m shopping, but I will not allow those numbers to say anything about me.

Whether the next pair of jeans I buy is a size 6 or a size 12, it shouldn’t really matter all that much. The more time I spend taking care of my health, both physical and emotional, the less those numbers mean.

I will no longer refer to myself (or any other woman) as a “size.” Let’s stop doing that to each other…  to ourselves… we’re so much more than a number.

On Mascara and True Beauty

The other day Jack and I jumped in the car and headed to a meeting together. As usual we were running late, and since the red lights didn’t work in my favor, I sat in the parking lot an extra minute or two to throw on some mascara and lipstick. And as usual, Jack had some questions.

“Mommy, why are you putting that stick in your eye?”
“Uh, well, it’s not IN my eye. It’s called mascara, and I use this stick to put it ON my eyelashes.”
“Why do you want… mas car a…  on your eyelashes?”

Walked right into that one.

But I was in a rush, so I dodged the implications of the question and my own self-reflection, and went with simple; I said, “It makes my eyelashes look pretty.” By that time I was opening his door and holding his hand as he climbed out and we ran in to meet our friend. (In case you were wondering, Jack was so well behaved that even I was impressed.)

This morning while I was still bleary-eyed, Jack asked me, “Mommy, why aren’t your eyelashes pretty?”

Uh… #GuessIShouldHaveHandledThatBetter

And also, crap. So we had a faltering conversation about makeup. How you don’t need makeup to be pretty, but sometimes a girl likes it and it makes her feel good. Like when you wear a nice shirt instead of a Tshirt.

“I don’t like nice shirts.”
“Yes, I know.”
And so on and so forth.

Friends, I did the best I could.

In case you’re dying to know, here are my not-all-that-well articulated thoughts about makeup: If you like it and it makes you feel a bit more confident, then wear it. But let’s also try not to tie our beauty or worth to it.

A little easier said than done. And not so easy to explain to a 3-year-old! The truth is, I like my eyes! I like their color and my smile lines and my eyelashes.

There are definitely things about my face that I like a lot less. As women we are pretty hard on ourselves when we look in the mirror, and I am no exception. I’d go so far as to say I was discipled in the art of self-critique. We are constantly apologizing for ourselves, aren’t we?

Which brings me to this little bit cheesy but pretty darned poignant little Ted talk:

Let’s get better at how we talk about our own beauty. Let’s be kinder to ourselves. Whether or not makeup is involved, let’s take note of our best features. And hopefully at least some of that will rub off on our little ones.

And If you’ve got a great makeup speech to give kiddos, I’d love to hear it!

The Perks of Peer Pressure

If you were in elementary school during the 80s, chances are you grew up hearing a LOT about the dangers of peer pressure. And there are tons of dangers. Everyday, people–be they second graders or grown adults–do stupid crap because “everyone else is doing it.” Sometimes they do it because their peers are actively shaming them. A lot of the time, they do it because they fear feeling ashamed. Either way peer-shaming leads to bad bad things.

But for the past couple of months, I’ve been thinking about a different kind of peer pressure. Earlier this year, I blogged about braving my first group fitness class EVER. You see, Junior high and high school gym provided enough shame for me thank-you-very-much. So in all these years of my health and self-image evolution, I’ve stayed far away from group classes. I even joined a Bally’s along the way, and considered step and zumba, but the room was basically a glass fishbowl in the center of all the weights, machines, and running track, and I never did get over my fear enough to try a class.

But if you’ve been reading along, my first class was actually pretty awesome. And it wasn’t because there was no peer pressure. Partly, it was because there was.

Let’s reframe it: Let’s call it peer-encouragement. The people in my class were kind. They asked how I was doing and high-fived me between sections. They assured me that they struggled when they started, too. The instructors gave me permission to pause if I needed to, to do “low” options. And when I needed to, I did those things.

But even though I wasn’t entirely positive that I’d survive, I didn’t give up. I wish I could tell you it’s because I am just that committed to fitness, but if I had been alone trying to keep up in my living room, there is a 0% chance I would have finished. They provided some pressure for me, to be sure. But they were my cheerleaders, not my bullies.

I was surrounded by people who were hanging in, and I wanted to show them that I could finish. And so I did. Booyah.

YMCAIn March, we moved to Austin, Texas. And one of the first things I did was sign us up at the local YMCA. And I’ve been going to classes! I’ve been hanging in there with the yoga crew, even though I didn’t know half the terms they used in my first class LOL. In fact, I’m typing this feeling sore, but accomplished, because yesterday was my first day back to Austin after a trip, and I kicked off the week with a class. And I followed along easily (well, I understood what she was say easily. I don’t do “The Dancer” easily at all, but I’m getting better!)

And you know what? I wouldn’t have made it through with a video in my living room. So here’s to group classes and peer encouragement!

How about you guys? Are there people in your life pushing you toward greatness? Are you journeying with people who have similar goals and are actually moving toward achieving them? Because if you are, then peer-pressure can be a gift.

I hear Him calling to me…

picasso

How do you know what your gift is?  How do you discover what God’s plan for you entails?  How do you decipher your calling?

I think I learned very early in life that I was a compassionate soul, that I had a special gift for listening, supporting, counseling.  Friends would come to me with their problems and their doubts, and I would listen, advise,  offer a shoulder, encourage, inspire.

Before I even knew what I was doing, I was embracing my calling.

To a fault at times. I remember very vividly being so stressed out about everyone else’s problems in high school that I blurted out “if one more person tells me they’re thinking about killing themselves I’m going to ask them what bridge so I can jump with them.”

Obviously, I was not yet equipped to deal with the depth of the problems being brought to me, but none the less, people opened up to me and I listened. And I tried my best to help, sending them in the direction of those who could help them (The friends threatening suicide then are all alive and well today, for the record).

As I got older, I learned to use this gift more effectively, I learned to step away from the draining, always-in-the-middle-of-a-crisis personalities. I learned to put limits on how involved I would get.

But I have always been the friend who counsels, and I’ve always felt blessed that I can be.

With my current group of friends, I’ve found we take turns fulfilling this role. They do for me as much as I do for them. We have an even exchange of wisdom, compassion and grace.

When I was in my 20’s I became a big sister through the Big Brother Big Sister program, and I began using my gift of compassion and empathy to mentor a young girl through her life. She is 21 now and still very much a part of my life.

Through the years I’ve also been involved in running many youth retreats, and through those I have met many young people, and especially young women, that I have taken under my wing, as their mentor and friend. I still get random emails or phone calls from some of those girls asking me to have lunch so they can update me on their life, run something by me, ask my advice, or just share their successes.

I treasure these relationships more than I can express.

Sometimes, caught up in the routine of my day job, my schedule, my every day activities, I forget where my heart lies. I become absorbed in my own life and don’t hear God’s whisper to answer His calling.

And then something will happen that will remind me of what an amazing gift He’s given me.

This past weekend, I helped run yet another youth retreat. I led a small group in discussion, I gave a witness talk on prayer, I listened, I shared, I learned and I taught. Together, we laughed, joked, cried and prayed.

At one point during the weekend, while I was telling the group that they should respect themselves as they are, love themselves as they are, because they are creations of God, and God does not make mistakes, EVER… a teen girl asked me, “Do you have any kids?”  When I answered that I do not, a teen boy jumped in to finish her thought “Well, you definitely should.”

I was floored.  Speechless.

Teenagers are a tough bunch. Not easy to please or appeal to. And let’s be honest, they’re not exactly all that excited about parents or parental figures. To be thought of as cool by teenagers is pretty awesome.  To be thought of as so cool that I should be a mother? BY A TEENAGER?  TWO of them?

That might be the biggest complement I’ve received all year, if not all decade.

I must be doing something right here.

The kids this weekend were amazing. They were trusting and open, they were intelligent and generous, respectful and compassionate. Beautiful souls who gave me hope for our future. Teenagers get a bad rap, but the more I work with them, the harder I find it to believe society’s misgivings about this generation.  The kids I meet make me feel optimistic about our future. When the weekend wrapped up and I headed home, I felt fulfilled. Blessed. Grateful.

They say your career is what you are paid for, your calling is what you are made for.

In a perfect world I’d find a way to meld these two together, but my day job, although a good job, at a great company, doesn’t really allow me the opportunity to use the heart gifts God has given me. I am blessed that He is constantly providing ways for me to utilize these gifts elsewhere.

How do you know what your gift is?  How do you discover what God’s plan for you entails?  How do you decipher your calling?

Just listen.  Your heart tells you. Again and again and again.

Experimenting

At the recommendation of my pal and creator of BeBeloved, Kimberly, I borrowed Practicing the Way of Jesus by Mark Scandrette from a friend. With the first chapter under my belt, I’m pretty captivated by the idea of experimenting with “life in the kingdom of love.” The idea that resonates with me is the Jesus Dojo; instead of pursuing spiritual formation in a classroom where we absorb information in a mostly intellectual manner, we need a dojo, or ‘place of the way’, where we can learn by training and experimenting with what it means to truly follow Jesus.

image

The idea of experimenting with the ways of Jesus brings freedom to me in a way my inner Pharisee would never allow. Since you aren’t sure if an experiment will work, it seems scary, because it might lead to failure. In the past, I thought I couldn’t afford to fail. I’d lose the hard earned approval of others. I might damage my reputation or look foolish. But as I began the book, I feltexcited, hopeful, and as if my heart had fresh eyes for the world and my place in it, regardless of my performance or ability to garner the approval of others.

Then life hit. Life hit hard. Kids, tricky relationships, big changes on the horizon for our family, city citations because of a developer wanting to “better” my neighborhood, PMS (TMI?) and stress all came at me like a ton of bricks. I was drowning.

I put the book aside for a week while we scrambled out from under the bricks, and now I’m up for air again. Ready to forge ahead, dream about my life in a way that doesn’t keep score, embrace “failure,” and find grace and abundant blessing where it might seem in short supply.

There is an amazingly supportive group of people I’m privileged to live my life with, and I’m so grateful. I take them for granted too much and I’m sorry for that. Here’s to experimenting in the Ways of Jesus together!

A Breath into Stillness

Be still…

One drop, one moment, brings newness.
One drop, one moment, brings newness.

Two simple words carrying the ability to transform your world, to transform mine. This transformation takes place within, and yet also beyond. Mine starts with a stirring inside of me, a call to take a break from my movement and the movement around me, to let my body come to rest. The stillness whispers relax, let go, be. I shift my mind till my only movement is the breath within me. The breath that gives me life, that makes me full, that enables me to do all I do. The quietness of my body and mind stretches to my spirit–the part of the known and yet unknown, that which makes me wonder about things I cannot fully put into words, and it leads me to know there is more than what I see.

The words “Be still” are echoed throughout every culture and religion, and every gender and generation from craddle to grave.  It is a thread that binds people together. What is it about these words that they beckon to all of us? Why is there a call to be still?

I can only answer for myself. I am on a journey to learn the essence of being still. I have two challenges in being still: The first is creating a place for rest. I have wished, hoped, and dreamed of being still, but unless I intentionally carve out time on my calendar, it does not happen. But even when I carve out the space, I am challenged by my own expectations. I have to let go of my expectations and rules as to what being still is “supposed” to look like. Each of us are different, we are not clones of each other, not even twins have the exact same DNA. So why do we compare ourselves?

I know this, and yet I have times when I compare myself to others in being still. I have pushed and probed myself trying to fit into the stillness. Yet, the ironic thing is, every time I “try” to be still, I am not being still, my body is moving, and my mind is not at rest. Both are scheming to win this victory. It’s actually easier for me to find the stillness when I am tired. When I feel like I am near the end of me – with my physical body tired and mentally and emotionally drained, I release my grip. I release my control. I release my expectation.

The sound of the shofar soothes and quiets me into stillness.
The sound of the shofar soothes and quiets me into stillness.

The wave of peace washes over me. It blows like the wind. For we can not actually see the wind, but we see the affects of it’s presence. I feel the presence of peace.

Being still is full of beauty and mystery for the more I am still the more varied the expressions.

What does stillness look like in your life? I’d love to hear how you find your stillness.

 

 

 

 

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