Grief Attachment

One of the things we’ve learned through the grief process is that people have rituals surrounding death because it gives us something to attach the grief to. Lots of people have asked if we’re going to have some kind of memorial service for Ella, and that would be something to attach grief to, but neither of us wants to have one. I’m really not sure why, but it’s just not something we want to do. When we were in the hospital, the chaplain came and did a blessing for her, which looked very much like a baptism. I held Ella, and Will held me, and the chaplain said some things I cannot remember, but that I remember being really beautiful. And she sprinkled some water on Ella’s tiny forehead while we cried and tried to understand what was happening.

Just thinking about that moment makes me cry, so I know that some of my grief is attached to it. The only problem with trying to attach all of your grief to a ritual is that your grief is much larger than that. You can’t just have a funeral and move on. You have to work through it. In the process of working through it, though, there may be other things you can do to memorialize your loss.

Box It Up

babyboxI found an Etsy store that makes personalized keepsake boxes. I really liked them, and I could have the box say anything I wanted. I got one that has my daughter’s name and birthday. It also says, “forever in our hearts,” to remind me that although she is no longer physically present with us, she was real, she was alive, and she is not lost. I put all the things that remind me of her into the box: ultrasound pictures, a bracelet with her name that the nurses made for me, the positive pregnancy test, the tiny hand- and footprints they made, and a “birth certificate” the nurses gave us. (They told us that they don’t do official birth certificates for babies born that early, but they made a little keepsake one for us.)

I knew that I wanted to keep all of her things in a special box just for them, but I didn’t realize how therapeutic it would be for me. As soon as I got everything in there and closed the lid, I felt a sense of relief. It was like she had a place and I would always know where to find her.

Plant a Tree or Garden

I haven’t done this yet, but I’d like to. I haven’t done it yet because we don’t have a yard, and I am a terrible gardener. But one day, when we have a house with a little patch of grass, I will plant a tree, and I will watch it grow over the years. And should we sell that house and move, I will plant another one. Alternatively, you could plant a garden. I read a story about a family whose friends and neighbors all contributed items to a memorial garden. They set aside a section of their yard for the garden, and they planted everything they were given. Then every year, they added to it and watched it grow and bloom. I love this idea.

Get a Tattoo (or a Necklace)

My mom will be happy to know that I have not gotten any new tattoos…yet. I might later, but I’m going to start with a necklace and see how that suits me. A very sweet friend sent me a necklace from this website, but there are also tons of Etsy stores where you can buy necklaces or other pieces of jewelry that suit your taste and style.

Do Something Creative

I am not super-artistically talented. My students laugh at my stick figures almost daily. But a friend who is very gifted at painting surprised us with a painting she did as she prayed for us, and it is beautiful.

But art is not only painting. Make a mosaic, write a story, article, song or poem, cook, dance, knit, crochet, cross-stitch, make pottery or jewelry or film. Do something creative to express what you can’t say, or to make something you can keep and enjoy, or just to keep your brain and your hands busy because God knows you have to keep yourself occupied or you’ll remember what happened, start thinking about it too much, and fall apart again.

Help Others

After they measured, weighed, and cleaned her up, the nurses put Ella in a little knitted (or crocheted?) blanket so we could hold her. I didn’t think to ask where the blanket had come from, but it was clearly a handmade, non-hospital-issued blanket, and I think now that it might have been made by someone who cared a lot about helping parents who’d lost tiny babies. It might have even been made by someone who’d lost a baby herself and who kept her brain and hands occupied by making tiny baby blankets and donating them to the hospital.

You can use the fruits of your creative labor to help others, or you can help in other ways. If you know that a friend has lost a baby, you can clean her house, take food, organize food deliveries and visits for her, or just send her pictures of cute animals. Or you can give to your favorite charity in loving memory of your child.

Get Involved

Rather than just giving money to a charity, get involved with one. Participate in a walk/run to raise money for a cause you care about, host a fund-raiser or charity auction, volunteer at a hospital, school, or other community organization. Do something to remind yourself that life is good and precious and that you have a lot to offer the world. Do something to contribute to the greater good and connect with people because connecting with and offering kindness to others will help you to heal. Do something special for your baby because he/she did something amazing for you, and because your love for your child doesn’t end when his/her heartbeat stops and you need an outlet for your love as much as for your pain.

The Deva Cut

Several weeks ago, I wanted to get my hair cut. Curly hair, though, is tricky because when you wash it and then cut it wet, you have no way of predicting what it will do after it dries and curls back up. To get around this problem and save some money, I used to cut it myself back in college. It was extremely short at the time, so basically what I would do was pull a curl from the back around to the front, and if it was long enough to see it, I cut it shorter. I had a hair stylist friend at the time who shouted at me about it, so eventually, I went to a salon. The stylist looked at it dry, and I told her I’d been doing it myself. Her response was, “Well it doesn’t look bad.” I know, right?

Then she washed it, combed it out, saw how uneven it was, and said, “Oh…”

But here’s the thing: If you wear your curly hair curly, nobody ever sees it wet and combed out. If it looks good curly, that’s all that matters. Why do we feel the need to cut all hair types the same way?

Enter the Deva Technique.

I’ve heard it pronounced “deeeva” and “deh-va,” and I don’t know which one is right, and I don’t care. What matters is that it makes sense for curly hair. Here’s how it works (just imagine the tree is my head):

See how he’s just cutting branches all willy-nilly? Yeah, that’s how the Deva cut works. Of course, like any artist, the stylist has a vision in mind for what the hair will look like in the end. The rest is just removing the unnecessary hair to fit the vision. So you go in with your hair styled as usual so they can see how it curls and how each curl lies. Then they get straight to it, cutting it dry so they can see the style take shape as they go. When they’re done with that, they give you the fancy head-massaging wash treatment. After that, I sat under a dryer for a while, and when my hair was mostly dry, she did some touch-ups.

There’s a dude in Raleigh who does this for like a million dollars a pop. It’s not really that much, but I would be just as likely to pay a million dollars as I would be to pay what he charges, so he was immediately out. I found another salon (a cool one in Durham…because that’s where cool things are) that charged less than half of what the fancy guy was asking, so I made an appointment.

I enjoyed the experience and appreciated having my hair taken care of in a way that seemed more fitting than the way it’s normally done (the way straight hair is done). But on the way home, I thought, I just paid her to do to my hair exactly what I used to do to it myself in college. I could be doing this for free. And y’all know how cheap I can be.

Well then, as if to encourage me further, my hair dried the rest of the way and curled up in a real funky manner on the sides of my face. I didn’t like the length it was right there once it was completely dry, so when I got home, I took my own scissors to it and was much happier. See, I said to myself, you can totally do this.

So my verdict on the Deva cut is that it’s good. Curly hair and straight hair are different, and they should be approached differently. But I don’t know if I will pay for it again. I mean, I would have to screw it up ROYALLY before I’d pay someone to do what I can do for free. And now, I have a curly-haired friend who understands and can help me to the back! Bonus!

Conclusion: Expect some exciting hair experiments in 2014, y’all. This is going to be fun.

The Very Worst Mary Kay Lady

Background #1

Some of you may be familiar with Jamie the Very Worst Missionary. If not, the short story is she and her husband were missionaries in Costa Rica (they’re now in California), and she’s awesome. She is only about 3% what you’d expect a Christian missionary to be, and that 3% is just that she’s a Christian. The tagline on her blog says, “inappropriate remarks, embarrassing antics, and generally lame observations from a Christian missionary,” and her latest post is a picture of her cat in a neglige. Not what you’d typically expect from a missionary.

Background #2

Some of you may know that right out of college, I was a Mary Kay consultant. If not, the short story is that I was a Mary Kay consultant. Also, if you look at pictures of me from that time, my skin looked AWESOME.

I never considered myself to be a very good Mary Kay lady, partly because my mom was my only real customer, partly because I felt duped into spending a whole bunch of money on a whole bunch of products that I never sold, and partly because I just didn’t feel comfortable with myself in the role. I had to wear a suit and pumps and pantyhose, and I had to chat people up – complete strangers – and give them eye shadow samples. It just wasn’t me at all.

I don’t blame anyone for any of this. The friend who got me to sign up wasn’t manipulative or pushy at all. She was a very sweet friend who simply believed in the product and the business opportunity, and she wanted to offer me that opportunity. I still appreciate her for that.

I was never successful as a Mary Kay lady, though, and when I moved to New York for grad school, I sold all of my product back to the company and got out of the business.

Background #3

I consider my time in New York to be the time when I really started discovering myself and becoming who I wanted to be, who I truly am. Back when I had an eHarmony account, one of the profile questions asked me to tell about a person who had influenced me the most (besides my parents). I said that rather than a person, I would have to say the whole of New York City had influenced me the most because it’s a safe place to experiment with who you are and make decisions about who you are becoming. If you want to wear a Spiderman costume every day, NOBODY CARES. The tourists will look at you in wonder, and the locals will look at you with amusement if they notice you at all, but no one will judge your fashion choice. New York was where I started slashing up my t-shirts and wearing hats. It was where I started cuffing my jeans. It was where I started experimenting with more unusual/daring hairstyles. It was where I got my nose pierced. These were all pretty tame experiments as fashion/lifestyle experiments go, but for a girl from Wilkesboro, NC, they felt risky.

I am eternally grateful for my time in NYC because it helped me to discover who I am, and to be comfortable with myself. If I could go back and do it again, I would, and I would push myself even further out of my comfort zone because I loved who I became there (in spite of my sour subway face).

Foreground?

I say all of that to lead up to this. Back in May, a friend who was also engaged won a free Mary Kay mini-facial and was allowed to bring friends. She invited me, and I went. It was the first time I’d used Mary Kay in about ten years, and I loved it all over again. The product, that is. The sales pitch, the business opportunity, the scripted feeling of it all, I could do without, but the product, I absolutely love.

And since I’m cheap, and as a consultant, you get 50% off, I signed up again to sell.

Well, not really to sell. Just to get the discount.

But I keep feeling like there’s something more to this thing. Like now that I know myself better and am more comfortable in my own skin, and now that I know my limits and am REALLY good at saying “No,” now I might be the Mary Kay lady that people who normally hate Mary Kay ladies like. Now I might be able to set my discomfort and ego and the pressure of “should” aside and let people make their own decisions about a product without it affecting my own personal approval rating. And now, I might be able to have some fun with it.

Beth, the Very Worst Mary Kay Lady

Here’s what I propose and promise. If you’ve ever been curious about Mary Kay, or if you think it’s grandma makeup that you would never in a million years use, or if you had a traumatic experience in a Target fitting room with a pushy MK lady trying to give you her business card, an eye shadow sample and a Tootsie Roll, or if you just love pretty things and feeling good about yourself, hit me up.

And I promise I will:

  1. NEVER use the word “pamper” (beyond this sentence).
  2. NEVER call you all cheerleader-excited and tell you about a great opportunity I have for you (unless that opportunity involves squirrels on water skis, concert tickets, auditions for So You Think You Can Dance, booze, a scavenger hunt, murder mystery dinner theater, or meeting a famous person).
  3. NEVER push you to purchase anything. If you like it, and you want it, you can buy it. Just like at Target. If you don’t want it, don’t buy it. Simple as that.
  4. ALWAYS answer all your questions about starting/running a MK business honestly. Completely honestly.
  5. NEVER coerce you into giving me your friends’ names and phone numbers and then harass them to host a party.
  6. ALWAYS work with you to have a party if you want to.
  7. ALWAYS wear something I’m comfortable in to your party, which probably means jeans. Shoes optional.
  8. NEVER be upset if nobody comes to your party, or if you host one and nobody buys anything.
  9. NEVER speak to you from a script.
  10. NEVER attempt manipulate you in any way.
  11. ALWAYS work with you to make you look however you want. If you want something classic, done. If you want something punk, I would LOVE to make that happen.
  12. ALWAYS be completely myself.
  13. ALWAYS encourage you to be completely yourself.
  14. ALWAYS respect you and think you are beautiful no matter what.
  15. NEVER put my business or money ahead of authentic connections with people.

These promises may make me the very worst Mary Kay lady, but they may also make me the most content.

Addendum OR Getting a Taste of My Own Medicine

My husband and I are both writers. He writes fiction; I write non-fiction. We would both love to be able to make enough money with our writing to just do that all the time. I mean, who wouldn’t want to work from home in their jabambas, saving money on gas and car maintenance, and saving sanity by not having to drive on I-40 every day? Currently, however, neither of us is makingany money on writing projects, so we both have “real” jobs. To be fair to our “real” jobs, it’s important to note that we both like them. I actually love mine and would probably miss it if I quit entirely, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

My point is this…

After months and months of saying he wanted to finally write his freaking novel already, and after many conversations wherein I told him it would be hard, but he just needed to suck it up and make it happen if that was what he wanted, he is making progress. Since we got back from our honeymoon, the dude has been getting up at 6:30 every morning to write. I don’t know how he does that, but I couldn’t be prouder. Even on mornings when his brain can’t wake up enough to write anything before his writing time is up, he’s still doing more than I am.

So last night, when I was saying I also wanted to do more writing, I don’t know why I was surprised to hear my own advice coming back at me.

  • You just have to make time for it and stick to your schedule. No procrastinating.
  • A little bit at a time is ok. Every little bit counts.
  • So if your book needs to be 60,000 words, you break it up into, say, 20 chapters, and then you just write 2,000-4,000-word chapters.

Friends, I’m here today to tell you the eleventh thing that changes after you get married: Your spouse picks things up from you and uses them. It’s like a mirror. You give advice, and you get it back. You give encouragement, and you get it back. You say a certain word or phrase all the time, and you’ll start hearing it come out of his mouth. This is potentially dangerous, but it’s also potentially amazing, and y’all are smart enough to understand what I mean by that, so I won’t explain it any further. I’m just going to go ahead and count this instance as amazing.

Awesome April Adventures!

Well, with just a couple of days left in March, I’ve been hard at work on my list of Awesome April Adventures. Thanks to all of you who made suggestions, the list is really quite superb. Now, they are numbered so I would know when I had enough for each day of the month, but the numbers do not in any way correspond to the dates on which I will do them. Some will clearly need to be done on a weekend due to the time they will require or the time they will require me to go to bed, but the others could happen at any time. Please let me know which ones you’d like to participate in, and I will get up with you to plan. Refer to the actual activity and not the number. You know I don’t do well with numbers. So excited, y’all! April is going to be awesome!

  1. Sidewalk chalk a driveway.
  2. Salsa dance party in my living room.
  3. Swing! (aka play on a playground)
  4. Story telling night.
  5. Four square tournament.
  6. Random dress-up night.
  7. Photo scavenger hunt.
  8. Iron Chef: Cookies (bake cookies using ingredients found in the kitchen).
  9. Beach trip! (complete with sand castle contest).
  10. People watch – make up stories about the people.
  11. Public craft night (invite passers-by to join in).
  12. Picnic.
  13. Make a friendship bracelet/mail it to a friend.
  14. Stargaze.
  15. Kickball game.
  16. Field Day!
  17. Segway tour.
  18. Rock/Wall climbing.
  19. Progressive dinner.
  20. Offer to do people’s caricatures in the park.
  21. Send a silly package.
  22. Spend a day in a podunk town just looking around.
  23. Finger paint.
  24. Bake cupcakes and give them to my neighbors.
  25. Let a child pick out an outfit for me at Goodwill. Wear it to work.
  26. Buy a plate from Goodwill, paint it to commemorate my Awesome April Adventures, and display it on my mantle.
  27. Set up a free face painting table downtown.
  28. Ride a horse.
  29. Go somewhere after hours.
  30. Ride the carousel at Pullen Park.

Adventure Time All the Time

There’s been a lot of talk in my life lately about adventure. Basically I want one. All the time, always. And I’m willing to go to great lengths to get one, which often means I leave the country. It’s almost like a drug, and my addiction to it started in high school with small things. I grew up in a small town that did not offer much in the way of wholesome entertainment for adolescents, so we had to make our own fun. They were silly things really – go to K-Mart and take pictures of each other inside big trash cans (clean ones they were selling, not dirty ones they were using), put weird things in friends’ mailboxes, sidewalk chalk friends’ driveways in the middle of the night, throw a frisbee onto the roof of the church, compile elaborate and precisely designed medleys and choreograph lip-sync routines for them. And this may come as a surprise to some of you, but we did all of these things totally sober.

The silliness continued into college, but as I got old enough and started making enough money to go on grander adventures, that is what I wanted to do. Ringing and running people’s dorm rooms just wasn’t as fun once we realized we could be at the beach at dawn and still get back in time for our 11:15 classes. Then it was driving through the night to catch a concert in Virginia Beach, a wedding in New Jersey and another concert in Raleigh all in about a 36-hour period. And before I knew it, I was on a plane to Honduras, then I was living in New York, backpacking through Europe, sleeping in airports with strangers, working at a community college in Raleigh…

Wait. Did anyone else just hear that record scratch?

The thing I love about adventure is that you come away with the best stories. I’m learning, though, that you can go on a big trip and not come away with a single awesome story, or you can stay right where you are and make your own adventure. When we were in high school, we didn’t even need to leave the neighborhood to do something we’d still be talking about fifteen years later. Shoot, when I worked at Caswell, we didn’t even have to leave the camp.

The secret is to find or make the fun wherever you are, and it can be as simple as doing something totally out of the ordinary. G.Lover and I were just on our way home from Durham, and we started talking about The Hunger Games. She hasn’t read the books yet, and I told her she could borrow my copy of the first one, but I thought it was at work. I work in a church building, and if you can believe it, those suckers gave me a key, so I suggested we go over there and get the book out of my cabinet. It was 10:30 on a Saturday night, so of course there was no one there, but we were both sort of nervous that there would be an alarm or a security person or something. And even though I’m at this place every day of the week, it felt completely wrong to be there on a weekend night. The red light coming from the exit signs was alarmingly bright, all the shadows were different, it was eerily quiet, and I was sure that the police would show up at any moment. On top of that, the book wasn’t there.

Another way to make your own fun is to develop your sense of curiosity and amusement. When I lived in New York, I was always fascinated by the people – who they were, how they became that, what they wanted, where they were going, why they were doing what they were doing. It was a never-ending source of entertainment. I miss that about NYC. I feel like people here are blander than there (friendly for sure, but nothing like this guy), but I’m starting to wonder if I came with that preconceived notion and therefore set Raleigh up to be boring before I ever arrived.

What if I spent more time out amongst the masses? What if I did more people watching and made up more stories about them? What if I made riskier mischief? What if I chose to be amused rather than annoyed? What if I spent less time watching Netflix and more time watching cloud formations or kids at the park or couch-to-5k-joggers at the lake? What if I were less concerned with my to-do list and more psyched about my karaoke song list, less worried about losing 20 pounds and more excited about salsa dance parties in my living room, less afraid of what people might think of my writing and more curious about what my characters might do? What if I had more fun on purpose? This sounds pretty awesome.

So here’s what I propose: For the month of April, I will do something creative, out of the ordinary, borderline crazy or just totally different every day in the name of fun and adventure. If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments. I’m not promising I’ll do all the suggestions, and I will not sacrifice my morals or my sleep for any of them, but other than that, I am open to taking risks. And if you want to join me for any of them, I’d love that. Love it. Please join me.

Suggestions can be little things I can do it five minutes or big things that’ll take me a whole weekend. Whatever you’ve got, shoot.

Procrastination: A Tutorial

I’m supposed to be finishing my lesson plans for next week right now. Technically, I was supposed to do them yesterday, but since I’m the one who set that schedule, I was also able to issue an executive order to obsessively look at Pinterest and watch Psych instead.

That’s lesson number one, friends. If you set the deadline, you can change it too.

So here I am. Blogging. Something I’ve also procrastinated on quite a bit of late. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Oh wait, I do. There is nothing going on that is of any interest to anyone. So lesson number two: Find nothing of value in your activity, and you will not have any motivation to do it.

Because I didn’t have any trouble at all focusing for an hour last night at craft night on making my Madonna skirt. Nope, none at all. I even recruited L-Josh to help. Because I had a party to attend, and there were going to be boys there. That’s right. I’m a 31-year-old woman who is still highly motivated by the presence of boys at a party. What? Don’t judge me. What motivates you? World peace? Pshh. A likely story.

Lesson three: Turn your procrastination into a discussion of something else entirely, AND make that discussion about someone else. That way, people forget that this is about you not doing what you’re supposed to be doing.

If only boys at a party could motivate me to finish my lesson plans. Could I do a whole lesson on flirting? I’m pretty sure this week’s list could be a list of bad pick-up lines. Oh, it’s starting to come together. But I only do lists on Thursdays, and I still have to plan for Tuesday. I suppose I could do a list of slang words for good-looking one day and the list of pick-ups the other. And I could teach dating terminology like “blind date,” “go Dutch” and “crush.” What else?

And just like that, I’m back on track! Thanks, y’all.

Better than Twiggy the Waterskiing Squirrel

Yesterday morning, I heard a radio commercial for a boat show in Greensboro this weekend where everyone’s favorite waterskiing squirrel will be performing LIVE!! I got a little excited and then a little nostalgic about my own encounter with Twiggy, but not quite enough to make me want to drive to Greensboro and pay money to attend a boat show.

Little did I know that small, furry, woodland creatures would be a theme for the day.

I later entered into an email conversation with Mrs. Emily Furr Hogan that turned at some point to the topic of transferring VHS videos to DVDs – something neither of us is capable of. She then made the following statement:

I’m pretty sure Matt’s grandma knows how to do this. I need to call her. And yes– I did just admit that a lady in her 70’s knows perhaps more about technology than I do. I think she uses the VHS / DVD thing when she’s making videos of her chipmunks. I’ll find out details.

Now look, friends, you cannot say that someone’s grandmother makes videos of chipmunks like it’s a normal thing and just leave it at that. It is not a normal thing. Please acknowledge that. Since Emily and I had not previously established that things of this nature must be adequately presented both for their creativity and incredulity, I requested more information. Here’s what I got:

It’s all true.  She sets up these dioramas on her back porch and lures the chipmunks that live in her yard to come into the dioramas via a little trail of sunflower seeds.  Before you know it, you’ve got a scene that features a chipmunk driving a covered wagon.  Or hanging laundry out behind its teeny tiny house.  Or “wearing” a santa suit in a little Christmas scene.  (She props up the outfits & as soon as the chipmunk stands perfectly behind it, she snaps a photo.)

This stuff is AMAZING, and I’ve been dying to get my hands on some of it.  She’s got video and ALBUM UPON ALBUM of these types of photos.  I remember her expressing genuine, deep excitement upon finding the tiny covered wagon.  “And I told the store clerk that this would be just PERFECT for my chipmunks!!”

Y’all, this story expresses so many things I love about Emily:

  • She knows someone who builds dioramas for chipmunks and then lures them into tiny covered wagons with sunflower seeds.
  • She is related by marriage to this person.
  • She sees both the humor and the amazingness in such an activity.
  • This sort of thing comes up in the course of a normal conversation for us.

I must see these photos/videos, but more importantly, I must find a single cousin of Matt’s to marry so that I too might join this family.

Bust a Move

I’ve decided to forgo professionalism today. If I have to work on a snow day, I’m going to do it in the comfort of my jabambas by the fire. Plus, who wants to go outside today? Not this girl. And if I’m not going out, why shower? I’m just sayin’ is all.

So yesterday I had a ballroom dance lesson, which just confirmed to me that I’d really like to have dance lessons/classes regularly. This doesn’t surprise me (it probably doesn’t surprise you either), but for the first time yesterday, I started to wonder what it is about dancing that I find so appealing. Here’s what I came up with:

  • I love music. I think in song.
  • Dancing flows naturally out of music. Even now, my big toe is involuntarily tapping to the beat of the Christmas music I’m listening to.
  • Dance is a good way to exercise, and when you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which make you feel good.
  • Ballroom dance requires you to touch another person, and hey…we all need that.
  • Research indicates that at least 80% of communication is nonverbal. To me, that says that ALL the massive amounts of talking and writing I do still only account for 20% of what I have in me to say. Girlfriend needs to get some things out in other ways. I’m not sure that’s the best logic, but it makes sense in my head.

And then wouldn’t you know it? I came home last night and read some more of that book I was telling y’all about the other day, and the next chapter was about dance. AND Christmas! BONUS! Check it out:

There is something primal about dance that transcends all of the conventional concerns. Dancers embody the very ideal of the arts and fuse the spirit with the body. In other words, dance incarnates, and dancers bring this fusion in their bodies. God appeared in flesh via the babe in a manger, bridging eternal gaps in the incarnation: Flesh, therefore, is given the weight of glory [a C.S. Lewis reference]. God came, supped as a man, and bled to bring our bodies and spirits to merge into heaven. He defined humanity within his own body. As Dutch art historian Hans Rookmaaker famously stated, “Christ did not come to make us Christians…but that he came to redeem us that we might be human in the full sense of that word.” Our Lord humbled himself to have a body, to make himself vulnerable, to be lifted up in ignominy, and to find resurrection in that glorious body. A dancer, in a single leap, seems to hover in between the indescribably gap between time and space, taking us with him or her. By doing so, the dancer embodies our souls in the public arena, and perhaps that is the dancer’s grand adventure.

Christians should be the first in line to see and applaud this fusion of body and soul. Christ is not an ideology, a sentiment, or a mental image, but a fusion of body and Spirit. Scripture speaks of how God turns our “wailing into dancing” (Psalm 30:11). Our bodies are not empty shells to be filled with souls but are mysterious and inexplicably tied to our redemption. Our Lord will dance with us in the coming age, and we should begin to prepare for that day.

I’m on it.

Merry Artistic Christmas

My very good friend and favorite Skype companion, the lovely Miss DLF, recommended a book for me to read probably two years ago. I got it and started reading it, but then I got distracted from it somehow and put it down. Well. I picked it back up this morning, and wouldn’t you know it, the chapter I read was about Christmas. “How appropriate,” thought I, “I should share this with my blog readers.” And that’s exactly what I intend to do.

The book is a collection of reflections on art, creation, culture and faith, and how we can view each one and the world through the lenses of the others. DLF recommended it to me because she had enjoyed it so much and felt that as a fellow artistic type, I might also enjoy it. And so I pass along the recommendation to anyone who considers him/herself an artist. The book is “Refractions” by Makoto Fujimura, and I’d like to share with you an excerpt from the chapter I read this morning just to give you a sense of what it’s like and to give you some food for thought so close to Christmas.

I know that many of you don’t think of yourselves as artists and might, therefore, think that this does not apply to you. Let me just say right now that it does. And also, we are all artists in one way or another. If you create anything – whether it’s words, photos, paintings, fruit displays, pottery, jewelry, music, acting, floral arrangements, dance, architecture, film, graphic design, cookie dough Christmas ornaments, CAD drawings, animation, a remodeled kitchen, recipes, origami boxes, scrapbooks, ridiculous/hilarious scenarios, or a really good batch of cookies – you are an artist. And this is for you.

“A Japanese pastor wrote that the most important message of Christmas is that Jesus was born as a babe, weak and vulnerable to the world. A baby is utterly dependent on a mother and a father, and others helping the baby to survive. Imagine, one who would claim to be the all-powerful Creator in flesh, becoming vulnerable and DEPENDENT on fallen human beings like us!

But when you think about it, a baby’s strength also lies in this weakness, as he or she draws people together. The message of Christmas is a paradox. It is through the weak that power is displayed. It is through the vulnerability that true, lasting security is gained. It is through being utterly dependent on others, that a true community is created.

The message of Christmas, then, can be applied to what we do as artists. What would our art look like if we truly believed that through our weaknesses, through even what we are ashamed of, we could create something that is lasting and meaningful, and incarnate hope back into the world. What if the power of a community is not in the display of power, but in the acknowledgement of our weaknesses? Artists can play an important role in helping a community to be authentic and honest. Japanese aesthetics already embraces the idea that weakness is beautiful: that what is wearing away and what is imperfect actually points to eternity.”