21.4.12

"You are beautiful, my darling! Beautiful beyond compare..."

This is a post from Jen Wilkins blog, The Beginning of Wisdom. Written in light of New Year resolutions fraught with good intentions about exercise, weight loss and goodness knows what else, and considering how many of us have probably failed them by now, this post speaks to me about the pressure women feel to be skinnier, prettier, or more perfect. Every time I see young girls in churches  striving for attention to confirm their worthiness, or when I look in the mirror and struggle to like what I see, the sentiments in this blog post resonate in my heart. Read and consider;

A new year is upon us, and unless this one is much different from others, our conversations will be laden with talk of fitness goals and holiday diet missteps. The New Year is traditionally a time for resurrecting our self-control, so this is no surprise. But this New Years' I have a different form of self-discipline in view - one with potentially longer-lasting impact than dropping a dress size.

I recently came across an article showing ads from the 1930’s and 40’s selling products to help people gain weight. The ads made claims that sounded completely comical to our 2012 ears: “Add 5lb of solid flesh in a week!” “Since I gained 10lb…I have all the dates I want!” I showed the ads to my daughters, whose response was “Mom, I don’t think those are real. Have you checked that on Snopes?”


But they’re real alright, despite how preposterous they seem. My first reaction, I am ashamed to admit, was that I was born too late. How great would it be to live during a time when well-padded women held the glamour-girl title? (As long as I’m being honest, I had a similar reaction to learning that in South America women get implants in their bottoms to achieve their culture’s ideal shape. By some cruel twist of fate, had I been born on the wrong continent? Why couldn’t I live where hips were hip?)

But of course, to seriously entertain these thoughts is to drink a Kool-aid that has been served up to women since the dawn of time: the belief that ideal physical beauty exists and should be pursued at all costs. For much of human history, the curvy beauty has prevailed. Statues of women from ancient Greece and Rome celebrate a body type we would call “plus-size” today, as does Renaissance art. Historically, padded women were considered beautiful because only the rich and idle could achieve such a figure, and because curviness indicated fertility. For women of past generations curviness was extremely hard to achieve unless you had the money to eat well and work little. Thanks to trans fats and high-fructose corn syrup, this is no longer the case. Ironically, the rich and idle of today strive to look undernourished and overworked. And the rest of us rush to follow suit.

So, would it have been better to live during a time when well-fed women were hailed as beauties? I doubt it. Because the issue is not “fat versus thin” – it is “perfect versus imperfect”. There has never been a time when women have not defined themselves by (enslaved themselves to?) some ideal of physical beauty. Though its definition may change across the centuries, one element remains constant: it is always a definition of beauty that is just beyond our reach. We want what we cannot have. If curvy is hard, we want curvy. If thin is hard, we want thin.

The expectation of physical perfection hits modern females early and often. In middle school, girls cut themselves to deal with the pressures of conforming to the ideal. In middle age, women do, too – but allow the surgeon to hold the knife. We carve the record of our self-loathing into the very flesh of our bodies – a self-marring, a literal carving of an idol. Increasingly, physical perfection is the legacy of womanhood in our culture, handed down with meticulous care from mother to daughter, with more faithful instruction in word and deed than we can trouble to devote to the cultivation of kindness, peacemaking and acceptance that characterize unfading, inner beauty.

In this as in all things, there is hope and good news for the believer: one day we will be free of our self-loathings and will live in harmony with our physical appearance. We will be given new, incorruptible bodies – bodies that are no longer on a collision course with the grave. We dare not reduce this future hope to that of an eternity with thinner thighs or a smaller nose. We must celebrate it as the day when vanity itself is dealt a fatal and final blow.

But how should we live in the meantime? By all means, we should steward the gift of our physical bodies – but for the sake of wellness, not beauty. Two women can step onto two treadmills with identical fitness goals and widely different motives. Only they will know the real reason they are there.

January is typically a time when we talk a great deal about calories, work-outs and weight loss. What if we didn’t? What if we didn’t talk about body sizes at all? What if we made it a point not to mention our own calorie sins or victories in front of our girlfriends and daughters? What if we started living in right relation to our bodies now, instead of at the resurrection? What if every time we looked in the mirror and were tempted to complain we said “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, laying claim to the future hope that our bodies will one day celebrate function in right relation to form, living in the glorious truth of that future hope now?

What if this New Years’ we decided to fast not from food but from body-talk? Sure - hit the gym, eat the Paleo diet, run six miles a day, wear Spanx from neck to knee  - just stop talking about it. Stop telling your friend she looks skinny – instead tell her you love her sweet spirit. Choose compliments that spur her to pursue that which lasts instead of that which certainly does not. If someone comments on your own shape, say thanks and change the subject. Banish body-talk to the same list of off-limits topics as salaries, name-dropping, and colonoscopies. Apply the discipline you use to work out to controlling your tongue. Do this for your sisters, and by the grace of God, we could begin a legacy of womanhood that celebrates character over carb-avoidance, godliness over glamour.

Sister in Christ, physical perfection is not within our grasp, but, astonishingly, holiness is. Where will you devote your energy in the New Year? Go on a diet from discussing shape and size.  Feast on the Word of Truth. Ask this of yourself for your sake, for the sake of your friends and daughters, for the sake of the King and His Kingdom. On earth as it is in Heaven.

“Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” Matthew 15:10-11

19.4.12

Monsters are afraid of pajamas anyway.

Lately, I've been plagued by fears.
Fear that I am not up to standard. Fear of failure. Fear of loneliness. Fear of vulnerability. Fear of facing reality. I have been all too aware of the monsters hiding under my bed, and instead of sitting up and switching on the light, I have been huddled inside myself, wishing them away.
Biologists tell us that fear is good. That this instinct protects us, equips us for survival, and once upon a time helped us to not be eaten by a sabretooth tiger. If we didn't have this chemical reaction in our brain and this terrifying feeling in our gut, our species wouldn't have survived very long. I think that fear can be good. It gives us a checkpoint for the decisions we make, and allows us to balance the risks we come face to face to every day. But I think I am also beginning to realise that the fears I have been wrestling with, these are unhealthy fears. Monsters that inhibit me from reaching my full potential and pin me on the ground each time I try to stand up and walk tall.


Psalm 3 says, "LORD, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me,
“God will not deliver him.”
 But you, LORD, are a shield around me,
my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
 I call out to the LORD,
and he answers me from his holy mountain.
 I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.
 I will not fear though tens of thousands
assail me on every side."


I have no need to fear failure, or loneliness, or vulnerability. Because for me, God has failed and been resurrected in the face of death. He has experienced immeasurable loneliness and rejection so that I will never be without Him. He coaxes me to open up to Him even though He already knows the inner workings of my heart. My fear lies redundant in the face of Gods love. I don't think I will ever fully comprehend this, but I know that next to God these monsters that hide out, waiting to pounce on me as I close my eyes and my breathing softens, in fact fall away, stunned by the light that His presence brings.
And it is ok.

18.4.12

Super sister.





I am so incredibly blessed with this 
wonderful
beautiful 
and hilarious
big sister. 
Yesterday, she graduated 
from university with 
a Bachelor of 
Biological Sciences with 
first class honors
what an inspiration! 
I am amazed and 
so grateful 
for such a bombshell 
in my life, 
and am reminded that
determination
hard work and 
a freakishly big brain 
can get you places in life. 
Congrats sis, 
I love you so much!

10.4.12

Shalom.





I sit, atop a peninsula. Gazing out across the endless ocean, I am lulled in to a place of awakening. Alive. Cicadas calling, crickets chirping, pohutakawa sings along the blue horizon. Golden sunlight croons over my skin and I feel in my heart, You.

It is not the sight of the spiritual dimension that leads me to You. No, it is what this present world hints at that leads me to another. It is this unmistakable yearning. It is the constant hunger, the desire for something more that I know cannot be satisfied in this place. It is the deep ache that throbs within me, that comes alive when I see something beautiful, something full of grace, something that hints at these intertwined worlds and the relationship between the physical and the spiritual. It is the sadness that springs up from joy, the inability for mere physicality to satisfy a deeply spiritual wound. It is the incomplete beauty that the absence of You creates that awakens my thirst for You.


Papa, give me faith. Quiet my doubts and wrap me up in peace. This tornado of sand, sky, waves and stars is tiresome to my soul. It is in moments like these that the green of the sea speaks to the darkness in my heart, that new life begins to bloom and all I desire is You.



Shalom. This view of beauty pierces my soul so, that I cannot see such delight without experiencing sorrow. Such beauty shows me a paradise that has no place on this broken Earth, and taunts me with a glimpse of my Creator.

4.4.12

Self-professed nerd.

Coffee fueled sentences and lines falling off the page. This is what my life is like. I love what I study...every now and then in the middle of a lecture, I grin and remember to appreciate the fact that I am blessed to be studying at a tertiary level. I routinely grumble about the amount of work that I have piling up on my desk and the ridiculous amount of readings that are assigned for each class, but the truth is, I am a complete and utter nerd, inside and out.

I enjoy the taste of words as they roll off my tongue. I struggle not to find my worth as a person in my grades. I tingle with satisfaction when I see the footnotes in my essay all formatted correctly. I have a crippling fear that I am going to fail my degree, but even then I think, at least that means I can stay at university and study some more. I love to proof read other peoples grammar and punctuation, and there is nothing more irritating than a spelling mistake in the middle of a beautifully constructed piece of writing. I also share a deep affinity with Hermione Granger and I like to imagine that if I was a character in Harry Potter, we would be great friends. I struggle to understand why people wouldn't want to read for a living. I devour books in the holidays like they are a staple food in my diet, and during semester when I don't have time to read anything but textbooks and case studies, I feel like a small part of me is being fatally neglected. 


This nerdiness is but a fraction of who I am, yet it defines so much of what I do, and what my goals are. And I find that so ironic, because if someone had told me 6 years ago that I would be studying Law, Development Studies and Maori Resource Management at Victoria University of Wellington, I would have laughed them off and told them that a) there is no way that I would move to Wellington, b) there is no way I want to be a lawyer and c) I am instead going to travel the world with nothing but the clothes on my back (imagine me in a long hippie skirt and multiple strings of beads) and a copy of Keats complete works. The latter is still most definitely going to happen, with plans to travel to Afghanistan and Cuba having been thrown in the mix. But here I am. Sitting on top of a hill at Victoria University of Wellington, drinking my third coffee of the day, eyeing up my 11 page essay and half-wishing that I could just sleep all day instead of attending class. Still not explicitly wanting to be a lawyer, but implicitly falling in love with the way our world works, its cracks and bruises, and the potential it has to heal people. Falling further in love with the tangata whenua of this country, who they are and what they can teach me about guarding this gem of a land. 

It is all leading me towards this culmination of passions and experiences, the light at the end of the tunnel, the place where theories, people and reality meet. I won't just be studying the development of indigenous peoples in South-East Asia; I will be living it, loving them, learning them. I won't just be writing case studies and quote legal principles; I will be a part of it, acting justly and loving mercy (Micah 6:8). I won't just be feeling butterflies of  excitement in my stomach as a lecturer talks of Hua Parakore, te ao Maori and Organic Produce Certification; I will be sinking my hands deep in to the rich earth and feeling the wairua within the land and its stories.  How exciting is that?! I am in the middle of a painful yet wonderful affair with my degree. 

2.4.12

Senses, and senseless.

Do you smell that familiar scent,
does it awaken your hearts beat?
Do you inhale the hope that lingers behind,
the senses that are left of mine?
The taste, the sights, the sounds of your voice.
The scents of hope.

The senseless hope.
In the middle of a dream,
the place between awake and asleep,
where hope meets promise...
are you are rendered speechless?
Rendered black and white.

I render the world in tones of grey,
convincing myself that there is no line,
no boundary between you and I.
But the sun throws a shadow
in front of my fingertips,
coloured white and black,
senses fighting back,
senseless fighting back.

1.4.12

Unfinished.


captive resting
heart strains quietly
quietly while
train tracks linger
in her eyes

half spoken words
parting lips
a small child reaches
neither seen, nor heard

while we speak
while we strive
for that embrace
the train tracks scream
searching for that place