25 January 2013

Am I pretty?

"Daddy, am I the prettiest girl?"
"Yes, Amelie you are very pretty."

She twirled in front of him showing off her new dress. The dress spun out in a bubble around her legs and she smiled confident that she looked beautiful.

I regularly see evidences of Amelie's deep desire to be recognized as pretty. She no longer wants to be called cute but asks if her clothes, jewelry, shoes, hair, ultimately her very beautiful self is pretty?

Of course I reassure her that she is SO pretty! Often I also remind her of the other amazing qualities that make up Amelie. She is funny, sweet, caring, smart, creative, kind... While she lets me list these other compliments, she ultimately asks again, but am I pretty?

Oh how that desire to be beautiful in someone else's eyes is so deep.

Before Christmas, after I had already spent over an hour in the kitchen, Amelie came behind me while I stood at the sink deep in a pile of dishes. Armed with her pink feather boa and a flower petal headband, she asked me to bend down. With sudsy hands that crack and bleed all winter long, hair pinned back in a mess just to keep strands from falling in my face, my mom uniform of jeans and a comfortable white shirt I knelt down.

My sweet girl wrapped the boa around my neck and pushed the petal headband onto my head and exclaimed "Now you are more beautiful than just wearing that ugly white shirt."

And so I continued through the pile of baking sheets and bowls with a feather boa and petals that made my face look like a flower. I admit I did feel more beautiful.

It seems like not long ago when I twirled and whirled in my Sunday dress wondering and hoping that it made me pretty. Deep longings of wanting to be a beautiful princess filled my imagination and I wondered if I was pretty enough and if I measured up to everyone else. I remember hoping to be pretty enough, wondering how I measure up to everyone else and trying to figure out what I could do to become more beautiful.

Honestly those questions never end. The questions have matured and moved beyond the basic "Am I pretty" to
"Why am I not able to lose just a few more pounds?"
"Why don't I look as good in these jeans as the model looked?"
"Why doesn't my hair look fun and cute instead of sticking out and silly?

As an adult the pretty question has translated beyond just my own person to my house, my kids, my life in general. Am I pretty enough? Do I measure up to everyone else and this vision I have of what the standard of perfection is?

My critical eyes generally suggest I don't measure up. I'm not the prettiest girl, my house won't win a prize for being beautifully decorated, and my style these days leans heavily on the practical without much attention to beauty.

But Amelie's innocent desires for beauty have reminded me that pursuing beauty doesn't have to equal vanity. She changes to wear a special necklace for naptime and a different sparkly headband for getting in the car to pick up Asher from school, and then different shoes to wear waiting for Daddy to get home. Dressing up for these mundane daily activities when no one will see her other than her family fills her with joy simply because she enjoys the beauty.

She doesn't wait for a special occasion, and doesn't save her favorite sparkly beautiful things so they don't get broken or ruined, but she enjoys them in the everyday for the pure delight of beauty.

This delight has challenged me to go ahead and wear my favorite shirt rather than saving it for a special occasion. Look for sparkly scarves and necklaces to dress up the plain. Wear the knitted treasures because really I will enjoy them more now rather than next year when I want the next latest and greatest.

I have been taught by Amelie's pursuit of pretty. Sparkly, glittery and beautiful still have a power to bring me joy and remind me of how enjoying beauty can be pure delight.

15 January 2013

Careless in His care

Asa is in love with his stuff.

At 1 1/2 his "stuff" consists of two blankets - the blue Winnie the Pooh one and the yellow dotted one, Snoopy, Eeyore, knitted bear, Llama, elephant, Mouse, Hedgehog/Elephant, and owl.  Over Christmas Jingle Bear and moose joined the club and occasionally Amelie decides she doesn't want frog anymore so Asa gives him love until Amelie suddenly needs to take him back.

He loves these friends and insists they follow us throughout our day.  They all need to come out of his bed every morning, be taken downstairs, then a few select are stuffed into the backpack we take in the car. At nap time we reverse the craziness and take everyone back upstairs into his bed. Of course they he can't go back downstairs without them and you guessed it back upstairs for bedtime.

I feel like a Sherpa. Someone needed simply for my abilities to carry the stuff.

The stuff is organized on the couch and five minutes later looks better on the floor but then not much later and they are reorganized back onto another couch.  We spend a lot of time moving his stuff around.

Through this new job of mine I've recognized Sherpa tendencies with my things as well.  Way too often my mind is trying to figure out where to put something.  Clothes need to be sorted in closets.  The Christmas stuff just got put away and the everyday things put back out.  We have bags of stuff to go to Goodwill in various closets and then there are all of the things for a garage sale someday. 
My boy may be simply modeling what he sees the rest of the family doing...loving our stuff.

Honestly I'm so sick of the stuff and despite my love of shopping, I find great pleasure in throwing things away.  (Asa has joined me in this love as well although I'm usually not ready to throw away the things I often find he has put into the garbage can.)

This morning I was reading about God's provision for us.  Matthew tells how Jesus asks us to let go of our worries and frets about our food, clothes, and all of the other things that consume too much of our thoughts.  Rather than spending so much time worrying over our stuff God asks us to be "careless in the care of God."

What freedom to be free of caring for all of our things.  God cares for us and provides what it is we need. What would that look like - to be careless in God's care?
Oh yes, Careless in His care.

02 January 2013

Petty prayer?

In a moment of desperate tv watching, we tuned in to a show I previously recommended myself  never watch. The show was mildly entertaining, but I found myself judging the people on screen for something I didn't expect to be judging them about.

Their prayer.

In much the same way as I would pray, I watched as they asked Lord Jesus to "bless" a creation they had made with items stolen from around the hotel because "we promise to return them when the pageant is done."

Seriously? Asking God to bless something they had stolen with a seemingly trivial end purpose??

Immediately I felt bad for judging their prayer request because I know God does promise to hear us when we call out to Him.  I believe He wants us to talk to Him about all of the things we struggle with.  I spent the rest of the show fighting with my judgement as they continued to ask God to bless things that seemed obviously out of God's plan.

Theologically I think God always hears and also always answers.  He always answers according to His will, which might not always fit with mine, but is ultimately best.

This morning my usual over analyzing mind flipped back to that prayer and the way it seemed so trivial to me - but clearly not trivial to them and therefore still heard by God.  My mind wandered to the question of what in my prayers is trivial, petty, clearly not in God's will?

Is it my cries for meaning to days?
Or my pleas that I will have opportunity to sit a read for 20 minutes this afternoon?
Maybe it's crazy to ask that Amelie will get dressed without drama today.

A Chinese believer who is suffering for owning a Bible or a woman living in poverty whose daily chores never ever end might equally scoff at my struggles to maintain a consistent Bible reading plan or my regular battles over finding worth in the daily routine chores in that fill my days.  They might judge my prayers to be ridiculous as I sat in judgement of the tv show prayers.

From my perspective my prayers are heartfelt outpourings of where I need God to intervene. The people on the show also felt they needed God to intervene. Suffering Chinese believers need God's intervention and so does the hard working woman around the world. 

We pray to request, to thank, to acknowledge, and to connect with our Creator.

Wouldn't it be cool to hear all of the prayers that reach God's ears? As a human, I would laugh at how trivial some are and be burdened beyond comprehension at the pain in many others. But I imagine God, Abba Father, listening with concern each time a prayer reaches His ears.  He would gather the tears into a bottle, maybe smile at the sweet requests of a child, and nod with patience at those that are seemingly less important.

No matter the request, there is a promise that God does hear and also RESPONDS to us all.

That is amazing love and individual caring beyond my comprehension.