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Category Archives: Beauty

Diversity Is Strength

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My new t-shirt arrived yesterday and I love it!

This t-shirt gives voice to my thoughts. My thoughts are anti-racism. My thoughts want to encourage and love and build people up. My thoughts can sometimes creep towards anger and hatred and other negative things when events like Charlottesville happen, but those are not the thoughts I want to voice. Those thoughts need to be taken captive and replaced with positive thoughts. The positive thoughts need to be communicated with words.

As much as I love words and sentences and wordplay and more words, sometimes the right words just aren’t there. I can’t wrangle the appropriate words together to truly capture my sorrow over the brokenness of our world. And so, when I saw this t-shirt, I knew those three words said a whole lot, and I want to wear those words as a prominent proclamation. Diversity is Strength. All of us together, with all our differences, make society better. We are greater than the sum of our parts.

When I’m wearing this shirt, I am saying to other white people, “Our brothers and sisters from other racial backgrounds are valuable, worthy, and necessary. You and I are just one shade of skin and we need all shades. Our differences don’t make us less or better, but we are all better with a collection of differences. Please join into the collective better with me.”

When I’m wearing this shirt, I am saying to people of different skin colours, “I am with you. I am for you. Your story may be different from mine and I can’t claim to know your pain.  But I can learn from you and I value you. Your opinion carries weight. Your perspective counts. Yes, your life matters. Your culture enriches mine. I am honoured to be in this collective with you.”

When I’m wearing this shirt, I am saying to my children, “This is the standard for our family. This is how we treat each other, and this is how you need to treat everyone. Family is a safe place to be different and loved, and as you launch out into the world, make sure you are a safe place for other people to be different and still feel loved.”

Obviously, diversity isn’t limited to race. I know there are a whole slew of other things. It is completely absurd to me that the cause of racial harmony is in the direst need of champions right now. But if that need is to be met and eradicated, then it needs to be acknowledged. That is the need that I am speaking into now.

There. I’ve managed to add a whole bunch of other words to a very simple message. Diversity is strength. I would also love to be able to express how perfect I think it is that my son wanted to wear his Canada hat for this picture…but I have no words.

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Posted by on August 30, 2017 in Beauty, Family

 

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A Crisis of Faith

This has been a rough month.

There is a person in our lives who has rejected the measures of help we’ve offered, but who feels very entitled to what he thinks would help him (basically enablement without any accountability). He recently decided to make us pay for destroying his life. He came to our house while we were out, and smashed in 3 of our windows and our front door.  He was arrested later that night, and then released with conditions until his court appearance. He breached those conditions by threatening to come back and do more damage, so he was arrested again, and held in custody until his court date. Last week, he was released on probation.

I can’t give many more details than that, as I’m unsure of what is yet to come regarding court dates and charges. But I wanted to set the scene for you. This is a person whom we welcomed into our lives because of our faith. This person deeply resents the boundaries that we’ve put on the kinds of “help” we’re willing to give him (see above re: entitlement, enablement, and accountability). This resentment has grown into a violent hatred towards us, which has been expressed numerous times in the ways he has verbally attacked us, made accusations against our Christianity, and now physically attacked the safety of our home.

And he is free. And he is still angry. And we are not safe.

We have taken some security measures: motion-detecting lights and security cameras. Our conversations about ‘what to do’ have included the ideas of restraining orders, moving, getting a guard dog. We have been very communicative with the police, the court, victim services, and his probation officer. But none of these things, we realize, are realistic protection. The court did not rule in the way that we had hoped and prayed for, and now there is nothing stopping him from coming back.

And so, we come back to the faith that brought him into our lives in the first place.

We have to put our faith in Almighty God. It is a daily choice to focus on His capability. We adamantly cling to His promise to turn evil plans into His good purpose.  We resist the urge to live in fear, knowing full well that He might still allow another attack, but we stand firm in the assurance that He will also carry us through whatever evil may still come our way.

This is not easy. It has made me analyze my beliefs. There’s that old saying, “Faith isn’t faith until it’s all you’re holding onto” – you may have seen those words on a poster, probably accompanied by a picture of a kitten dangling from a tree branch with one paw. It’s a stupid poster, and the words are cliché to the point of being nauseating. Oh, but the truth therein! Passive faith is just empty religion. A vague belief in the existence of God serves us nothing. Trust is easy when life is good. Faith becomes real when it’s all we’ve got.

lovewinsMy faith is work right now. But it’s refreshing work (even while it’s exhausting). As a reminder to myself (and to everyone who drives by our house), I painted one of the boarded up windows. Love wins. Not our own love (which is broken and insufficient and clearly more “conditional” than we want to admit), but HIS love. His love compelled Him to step into the midst of our mess – our brokenness, our neediness, our entitlement, our anger. His love brings healing and restoration. His love is the only security worth trusting.

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2016 in Adoption, Beauty, Family, God, Uncategorized

 

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My Treadmill Inner Dialogue

“This isn’t so bad. I can do this for 30 minutes. No wait….I’ve changed my mind. I hate this. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it!”

“Please. You’re not even running yet. You’re still warming up. You can’t hate it already.”

“Don’t tell me what I can and can’t hate. I hate this. This is not fun. People who claim to enjoy exercising are psychopaths.”

“Zip it and run. You only have 24 minutes left to go.”

“Only? You can’t just put ‘only’ in front of a number and make it sound good. 24 minutes is not ‘only’.”

“Whatever. Just keep going.”

“My back is chafing. I want to stop.”

“It’s not chafing. Keep going.”

“It IS chafing. My fat rolls are rubbing together with every jiggly step. It’s annoying and I want to stop.”

“That is pretty much the universal sign that you actually need to KEEP GOING.”

“The universe is stupid. I hate it.”

“Mutual, I’m sure. Pick up the pace, Jabba.”

“One does not pick up one’s pace when one is on death’s precipice.”

“Speaking all uppity like that is not going to intimidate me. You know we’re the same person, right?”

“Then stop being so mean to us!”

“I am helping us. This is good for us. We want this!”

“Please. Stop. Making. Words.”

“Look, you’ve been running for 5 minutes now. 5 minutes! Last week you couldn’t keep up this pace for even 2 minutes. Look at all those calories you’re burning. The faster you go and the longer you keep your heart rate up, the sooner you’ll meet your calorie goal.”

“Calories…Great. Now I’m thinking about ice cream. I need ice cream.”

“You do not need ice cream. You don’t even really like ice cream.”

“I do so like ice cream! It’s not my favourite go-to snack, but I like it. And right now I’m hot. I’m so hot and my mouth is all dry. I need ice cream!”

“No, you need water.”

“…to wash down my ice cream?”

“You can MAYBE have ice cream later IF you meet your calorie goal now. (And by the way, I’m going to talk you out of the ice cream later).”

“What was that? A whisper? An aside? You can’t do that inside my own brain.”

“I just did. You can stop me…if you catch me first.”

“That doesn’t even make any sense. Wearethesameperson!”

“But you’re still running, so it’s working. And now you’ve been running for 9 minutes!”

“9 minutes? Consecutively? Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever done that before.”

“I know, right? If you keep it up for 3 more minutes, then you can drop to a fast walk for the rest of the time.”

“Oh, if I can keep this up for 3 more minutes, then maybe I’ll just keep it up for an EXTRA 2 minutes!”

“Maybe. But not likely. Let’s just be honest, okay?”

“Listen. You didn’t even think I could keep going for 9 minutes. And you were wrong.”

“I knew you could do 9 minutes. And I know you can get to 12 minutes. But after that, I’m pretty sure you will want to drop to a fast walk. Especially because then you can pick up your book and I will stop ‘making words’.”

“Yes. Books are better. Your words make me angry.”

“My words make you motivated.”

“Same thing. Anger is motivation.”

“Exactly. Oh look. 12 minutes of running. You may slow down and read now. But tomorrow you’re doing 14 minutes.”

“Okay. Thank you.”

“No, no. Thank YOU.”

 

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2016 in Beauty, Humour, Personal Growth

 

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The Art of Creep-Free Compliments

I am quite fascinated by the video “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman”. It is fascinating to me because it is so far from my reality. Is that seriously what this woman experiences every time she leaves her house? That does not even make sense in my brain. I’m not trying to deny that it’s her reality; just stating that it is way beyond the scope of anything I’ve personally experienced.

In my 39 years, I’ve been verbally “harassed” once by a man (and I use the quotation marks because in my singular example, it was too ridiculous a statement to compare it to the harassment that is apparently so rampant for other women). When I was in highschool, I had to go get something from my locker in the middle of gymnastics practice. The halls were nearly empty except for a small cluster of guys, and when I walked past them, one of them said, “Mmm-mmm…her legs go ALL the way to the floor.” I don’t know what that means. It wasn’t offensive, nor was it complimentary. It just seemed like a really weird thing to say. Did that boy know a bunch of people walking around several inches above the floor because their legs didn’t reach that far?!?!

That was my one and only experience. Yay for me; I’ve been “harassed”. Seems like something Amy Farrah Fowler would also get excited about.

Back to my fascination with the whole “10 Hours” thing. It’s like winter camping. It does not sound like my idea of a good time and I don’t intend to try it just to prove that I don’t like it. But I am curious about the people who intentionally participate in such activities. This experiment is interesting to me, but it prompts more questions than it answers.

How would the outcome change if she was wearing baggy clothes? I am not for one second suggesting that women deserve to be harassed or abused because of what they are wearing. I do think there is a lot of room for improvement in the area of how we as women present ourselves, but this video isn’t about modesty (and neither is this blog post). She did choose a fairly middle-of-the-road outfit as far as today’s standards of conservative dress go. On the other hand, I would be curious to see the experiment repeated with her body more concealed. Would men notice her beautiful face if their attention wasn’t first drawn to her curves? What would the footage reveal if the woman had a beautiful face, but no curves? Or lots of curves but a less attractive face?

And maybe it’s not completely about what she looks like. I understand that the experiment was meant to show that she’s not soliciting this attention by acting flirtatiously, and that the attention continued even though it was clear she wasn’t interested. I’m wondering, though, if her aloof demeanour is part of the allure. How would the results differ if she was smiling and talking with a friend as she walked?

I also wonder, if the camera could catch a broader picture, how many other women walk by those same men and don’t elicit the same reaction. Is this particular woman’s experience one in five? One in twenty? One in fifty? I think she’s right to speak out about her experience, but I want to know what percentage she really represents.

I can’t answer any of those questions, but discussing it and developing awareness and promoting empowerment and demanding gender accountability are all good things. So that’s why I’m writing. To keep the discussion going. (That, plus I like to write about things that fascinate me, so there!)

There is, however, one question that has arisen from the discussion surrounding this video that I would like to address.

A lot of the men who have responded to the video have stated that they wish they could compliment a woman without it being labelled harassment. How can they do that?

Let’s be clear on one point: the things said in this video are not compliments. So if you’re trying to justify that kind of treatment of women, forget it. Go directly to jail, do not collect $200.

But is there room in our culture for a man to say something nice (even something that does NOT have any sort of sexual connotation) to a stranger? Can a man say, “That colour looks great on you” or “I like your glasses” to a woman he doesn’t know?

Sadly, I think even the most compliment-starved woman would probably find that a bit creepy. Our world has moved beyond that and we can’t go back.

So how can you compliment a woman without getting sued or slapped? Here’s the conclusion I’ve come to: strangers are off-limits. I think there’s plenty of room for you to be a nice guy, but you need to do that within the framework of a previously established relationship. Did your co-worker get a haircut? Then go ahead and say, “Hey, your hair is different. It looks nice.” If your friend’s wife brings food to your party, please do proclaim “Hot dish coming through! And she’s carrying a casserole!” because that line will never, ever get old. When your girlfriend’s friend borrows your girlfriend’s dress, it’s okay to tell her, “You look great and your taste is exquisite.”

You can be nice without being a creep.

What if you want to compliment a stranger? First, don’t. Second, work on establishing a relationship (and you can’t do that by hollering and grunting from the street corner). Engage in conversation that isn’t about her looks. Then, once she’s not a stranger anymore – when you’ve established and proven that she is safe with you – then you can compliment her.

There you have it, gentlemen. You can give creep-free compliments. And I hereby permit you to practice frequently.

 
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Posted by on November 17, 2014 in Beauty

 

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“Colour-blind” is a Detrimental Goal

All this talk about raising a “colour-blind” generation is quite baffling to me. No, it’s worse than that. It’s disturbing.

I, for one, am raising my kids to see colour!

On the surface, skin colour is a basic, physical trait – just like height or hairstyle or the length of one’s toes. I believe it’s healthy and worthwhile to notice and discuss the way our differences make for a more beautiful collective. It should not be an insulting thing, nor an exalting thing. (Unless it’s the toes. Obviously a longer second toe is indicative of superiority.) It is a simple fact that people have different colours of skin, and ignoring that variety is, well, ignorance.

But of course it’s much deeper than that.

I am a white Canadian, married to a white Canadian. Together, we produced two white Canadian daughters. And then we found ourselves living in Ethiopia for two years and expanded our family portrait with two beautiful black faces.

Our sons are now Canadian as well. I’m willing to say African-Canadian, because they are indeed both. Their African heritage, history, culture and memories are an integral part of who they are – as cherished as their personalities, senses of humour, talents and aspirations. To overlook their skin colour is to dismiss their whole being.

Race is so much more than skin colour. It is the history of a person’s lineage. It is triumph and failure. It is courage and perseverance, strength and independence. It is shared sorrow and collective victory. War, slavery, genocide, hostile occupation, religious persecution, governmental tyranny – every ethnicity has its story, either on the side of the villains or the victims. Those of us with oppressors in our family tree now have the opportunity to demonstrate a generational trend towards humility and atonement. Those of us whose ancestors barely survived unspeakable atrocities can establish a continual growth of perseverance and forgiveness. Colour-blindness repudiates those things which are at the core of our selves.

Skin colour is only one indication of what our heritage may include, but let’s not deny it completely.

One of my sons is much more open to talking about Ethiopia. The other one is somewhat reserved. His story is more painful and private to him. But that doesn’t mean you should studiously avoid talking to him about it. You can ask, and then just be respectful if he doesn’t want to tell you everything. That is much more validating than trying to pretend you didn’t notice that he is black and his parents are white.

It’s also better to ask than to assume. Point of fact, not every trans-racial adoption is international. (And not every similar-race adoption story is local.) But all of them are rich with history, and it is a beautiful thing to celebrate that history.

I absolutely am not saying that race should be used against someone in a discriminatory or demeaning way. I am not racist or pro-racism. But I do see colour. I love colour. I want my kids to see and love colour. I firmly believe that sanctioning a colour-blind generation is not only an extreme perversion of political correctness, but it strips us of our depth of heritage – as individuals, families and as a society.

Whether you’re with me or not, I choose to celebrate colour, instead of pretending I can’t see it.

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2013 in Adoption, Beauty, Family, parenting

 

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Men: Say “pretty”, please!

Ack! I can’t believe I’m still beating this dead horse. At least, I was hoping it was dead. But according to popular opinion in my circle of friends, it’s still kicking. Maybe it’s a mule, not a horse. Regardless, here comes one more beating.

Women need to feel pretty. We hate this need (especially those of us who are Christ-followers – we desperately wish we could rise above this temporal, self-esteem nonsense, and keep our hearts solely fixed on our worth in Jesus). But it’s still there. It’s not going away. We need to know that our husbands think we’re attractive.

Allow me to share M and R’s story. (M has given me permission to use this example. R is, sadly, unable to comment. But as long as there’s one woman on the jury, M will be just fine.)

M recently tried to point out to her husband that something he’d said earlier was a bit hurtful to her. She didn’t come right out and say that she was insulted, which she now realizes was her mistake in the whole scenario, but she tried to bare her soul in a private and gentle conversation. R didn’t pick up on the message behind M’s subtle words, and instead of apologizing and immediately rectifying the situation, he teased her about it.

R is generally a great guy. I know him, and I like him a lot. I know that he loves his wife and didn’t intend to hurt her. In fact, he probably doesn’t even remember this conversation (subsequent head trauma notwithstanding). The lesson to be learned is this: subtlety just ain’t gonna cut it. So I’m going to be blunt.

Men: tell your wife she’s pretty.

Flowery speeches are not necessary. Don’t feel like you’re at gunpoint to go on and on about all kinds of intricate details. You can keep it simple. You can keep it casual. “You look pretty” says a lot. A LOT.

Back-handed compliments are never okay. Here’s an exaggerated example: “Those bags under your eyes really highlight your cheekbones.” Don’t do that sort of thing. Ever.

You don’t need to lie. We know when we look like crap and we don’t need empty and insincere flattery. But you can always find something. Again – keep it simple. “That colour looks great on you.” Or “I like when you wear your hair down like that.” Or “Looks like you got some sun today. You look very nice!”

You don’t have to say it constantly. If it doesn’t happen naturally every day, that is really okay. But once or twice a decade isn’t convincing.

You may think you compliment her all the time. Take a moment and consider the words that you use. Now imagine overhearing a young man use those same words on your adolescent daughter. Do you suddenly have the urge to hurl that hormonal, lecherous scum-wad into the middle of 2014? That may be because those words have a sexual connotation. For some reason, men find it easier (safer to their masculinity?) to use those kinds of compliments.

I am not suggesting that you need to completely eliminate those from your vocabulary. Please do keep telling your wife she’s hot or sexy or smokin’ or whatever. But those are sexual compliments and should be limited to sexual context. (And just so ya know: for women, not everything is a sexual context.) If these are the only compliments you pay her, she is going to think her hoohah is the only thing you are attracted to. That does not bode well for your marriage.

Other types of compliments are welcome, too. If you appreciate the clean house or the happy kids or the yummy meal or the folded laundry or the extra income…say it out loud. If you already say those things, great! Sincere compliments about other things will lend credibility to your compliments on how we look.

This is important stuff, guys. This is a part of your wife’s inner being that wants to blossom and flourish under your attention. And if that attention doesn’t come from you, there is always a lurking temptation to catch an appreciative glance from someone else. I don’t mean that to come across as blackmail or a threat to your marriage. It’s just reality. And I’m begging you to take personal responsibility for nurturing that hidden part of your wife’s psyche.

Please, just tell her she’s pretty.

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Women: I realize I’m painting us all with the same brush here. I’m basing this on my own feelings and conversations I’ve had with my own friends. If you think I’m way off, I would love to hear about it. Is there another common point of view on this that I’m completely ignorant of? Or if you’re totally with me on this, chime in.

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2013 in Beauty, Family

 

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One Beautiful Body

Yesterday I read an article by Ann Voskamp on talking to sons about purity. Then, on the same day, Jamie the Very Worst Missionary posted an article on talking to sons about purity. The difference between their points of view was striking.

Ann’s writing is very floral. Soft and delicate. Abstract phrases intricately entwined to express profundity. Soft-filtered photos of shoes and candles – less to emphasize her point, more to set the tone. Create an aura. Welcome you into her peaceful space. Ann is tea and pastries, cushioned wicker furniture, a bright sunroom with sheer curtains, a warm breeze, intimate conversation with a close friend and Jesus.

At the very opposite end of the spectrum is Jamie.

Jamie gets up in your face and says what needs to be said. She is more about being real than being politically correct. She uses words that, in most churches, would get her quietly ushered out the back door or sympathetically invited to an Alpha course. Jamie is beer and nachos, lawn chairs around a roaring backyard campfire, choke-on-your-spit laughing…and intimate conversation with a close friend and Jesus.

Their readership probably doesn’t have much of an overlap. But that’s the beautiful Body right there. These are my sisters. They are doing their own thing as the functioning Body of Christ. They are using their own voice, their own gifts, their own spheres of influence. They both love Jesus and they are bringing their people to meet Him.

Some may look at one or the other and frown upon their methods, but they are both vital to the growth and health of the Body. They are vastly different, but my connection with them runs deep: we have the same life force pulsing through our veins. It’s all about Jesus.

Let’s keep our focus on Him and be the Body we need to be.

And since you asked (or you were about to), here’s Ann’s article and here’s Jamie’s article. Glean what you will from both and go talk to your kids about purity.

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2013 in Beauty, Family, God, Writing

 

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