Perfume for Jesus’s Feet

Angelica came to me yesterday and told me she made a cross. She had drawn a cross – and put my favorite scrapbooking bows all over it. 

I have been letting Angelica go into the craft room by herself and use materials she likes for several months now. I’ve been sharing craft supplies with her her whole life, but until recently I supervised 100 percent of the time and chose the materials she could use. Angelica is growing up so fast though that lately that I let her come and go in the craft room alone or with Grace, her wonderful babysitter. She can use any paper, stickers, ribbon, washi tape etc that she wants.

Yet I had a moment of dispair when I saw she had used some of my favorite little pieces all at once and on one project. I was happy to see her artwork, and thrilled by her devotion to Jesus, but I did feel a little twinge when I realized I couldn’t use those for still lifes again or for a collage or scrapbook page. 

Then I had a revelation. Angelica loves these bows too. She didn’t give one thought to giving all the best bows, at once, to Jesus. It is a given she will never have those supplies again. She knows that, and she didn’t hesitate. Angelica gave her perfume to Jesus. My job as a mother is to help her grow in her faith and continue to pour her best bottle of perfume on the feet of Jesus. And yesterday, I learned from her.

I Met Another Headcoverer!

I was in Petsmart picking up some litter box bedding for Parsnip, when a girl stopped me and told me my veil was beautiful, and asked if I was Christian. She is too, and she wears veils to church! She’s Catholic, and in her parish headcovering is not uncommon. She said there’s even a couple of churches around here who do a Latin Mass and require women to cover. She said she’s thought about covering full time like I do, but she just isn’t sure yet. She always covers at church though.

It’s so refreshing to meet another woman who wears veils. She gave me a good recommendation for where to buy more infinity veils and mantillas, and I gave her a recommendation as well. I told her I was a Methodist and she was definitely surprised, which makes sense because headcovering is pretty uncommon among Methodists.

This may sound silly, but it warmed my heart to meet another woman who headcovers, even if she does not do it full time. I sometimes get looked at negatively for wearing veils. Some people really love my veils and I get compliments, but still many more are put off. It’s nice to see that other young women are wearing them too, and of course it is always nice to hear that someone likes my veil! My veils are beautiful to me, and it is lovely when someone else appreciates one of them.

She told me headcovering is coming back in the Catholic and Orthodox churches, and I think that is wonderful. I hope that someday more Protestants (besides just the Mennonites) will start to cover. I am in some headcovering groups online, and I know there are a few Lutherans, evangelicals, and nondemoninationals veiling now. Just not many. Headcovering is such a beautiful, reverent thing and can bring so much joy. Once upon a time everyone practiced headcovering, especially in church. Yet in so many churches, especially Protestant churches, headcovering is now eschewed. I pray this beautiful, scriptural practice is revived. But whether it is or it isn’t, I will continue to wear my veils  in obedience to the Scripture that has been laid on my heart by God. My conscience is convicted.

It just filled me with joy to meet another sister in Christ who believes in headcovering!

A Violet

Therese Lisieux was a Carmelite nun who lived in the latter half of the 19th century. Although she lived a very short life, dying at 24 from tuberculosis, the writings she left behind about flowers are compelling and influential in church thought. As Therese would meditate on flowers she would learn lessons about God. Her writings on flowers were compiled into a book called The Story of a Soul.

Sometimes she wrote about individuality and our place in God’s Kingdom. In one passage she wrote, “I realized that if every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness and there would be no wildflowers to make the meadows gay.”

What that really drives home to me is that whether you live your life in the Limelight among other people or not, you are important and God thinks you contribute to the beauty of creation. The violet is no less worthy than the rose. She goes on to say that the Saints are like lilies or roses and that we must be content to be the violets or daisies that God smiles at when He looks down. What I think this means is that while Saints’ souls have been perfected by fire, we are beautiful too. We can’t all be Saints, and we should not all be Saints. We may not stand out in a crowd of souls like they do, but if the world was filled with all the same kind of people everything would get very monotonous. Everyone’s variety and individuality is needed. It makes God smile, and anything that makes God smile is a necessary thing. God uses a macro lens when he sees us, examining our beauty in detail so that even the smallest of us flowers is gorgeous to Him.

Along those lines, Therese wrote that all of us can be perfect when we become that which God designed us to be. Popular culture seems to focus so much on perfection. And in Christianity we avoid the very concept because none of us are without sin, and to be truly perfect is to be sinless. But this is another, interesting idea of perfection that I like. God has designed each and everyone of us with a unique personality and temperament, with different skills and interests, and with different purposes. When we live out our purposes and function in the way He designed us, we are perfect. Obviously our souls are not perfect because we are sinners. Everyone needs Jesus. But our personhood can be perfect.

Then the question becomes, what are my gifts and what is my purpose? How can I fully live in accordance with my design, including my personality, temperament, and life circumstances? To what degree am I already doing this or to which I might have already fulfilled my purpose at least by and large?

I know that I was meant to be Craig’s wife. So day in and day out I fulfill that purpose. I was meant to be Angelica’s mother. God chose me to be her mother. So I try to fulfill that purpose to the best of my ability. God designed me to be very creative. So what is the purpose of that creativity? Although I enjoy making art I am by no means proficient at it. So what is the purpose? It could just be so that I can enjoy it. God wants us to be happy. He wants us to be holy first, but wherever possible we should be holy and happy. My life provides the opportunity to be happy and gives me chances to work on myself to be more holy. I should take advantage of both opportunities. What role is creating things or doing photography supposed to play in my life?

What about my writing? As a writer I sometimes feel so isolated. I always thought I would go to grad school, get an MFA and then a Ph.D, and start teaching at the college level. I thought that I would know other writers from my days in grad school and that I would be publishing books. But I was not destined to do that. God had other plans for me, better plans. But my passion for writing poetry remains, and I have very little opportunity to use that voice above a whisper, at a volume that other people can hear me. So what am I supposed to do with all my poetry? What is the ultimate purpose to me being a poet? I might get a book published but I might not. I may try to publish more chapbooks since I really enjoy chapbooks, but there is no telling if that will come through and I have not submitted in a very long time. Is God’s plan for me to have a book published? Or does He have other plans for me and my little poems? Do I need to start submitting again? Or am I supposed to take some other avenue?

Moving to Colorado with my husband has brought about tremendous change in my life. New place, new people, new schedule, new terrain, new opportunities. I am sure that this move was important. What am I supposed to be doing with it? I’m getting involved with my church and I feel like that’s the right direction to go in. I don’t know what will come of my involvement, but maybe my hands are needed. I want Angelica to really get something out of living in Colorado for 3 years, whether that is simply amazing and beautiful experiences, or a friend that she’s supposed to make, or maybe getting plugged into this church will make a big difference in her life.

Like everyone else, I have so many facets to my personality. I’m kind of a mixture of Victorian lady, 1950s housewife without the good organizational skills, and a dark, Gothic princess. God made me these things, and there must be a reason for each one of them. So how can I live out my life in such a way as to be authentically who God made me, fulfilling his design for me and reaching perfection in what He wanted me to be?

I may never be a rose, either in God’s eyes or the world’s. You never know, but probably not. But sometimes I don’t want roses when I go to the market. I want a nice bouquet of daisies, or maybe some violets. How does God want me to bloom?

Benefits of Submission

Mantilla

I recently received some new Infinity veils and mantilla from Catholic at Heart. I love them. The mantillas are longer than what I am used to but so, so soft. And this one is particularly beautiful. If you look carefully you will see that it is covered in big hearts. I feel so feminine when I wear it.

I wear a head cover to show submission to my husband and God, and because of the Angels. And it’s really interesting what a power that had covers have. When I wear one I am reminded to be less short-tempered with my husband. I wouldn’t call myself a short-tempered person, but that doesn’t mean I can never be snippy. I just get impatient or I don’t feel good or I don’t even realize that I sound aggravated until after I said something. And while I wouldn’t say that wearing a head cover reminds me to be better about that all the time, it definitely does help.

It also reminds me to follow my husband’s leadership and let him make the decisions. At least the big decisions. He consults me and cares about what I think, but ultimately it’s not my call. And that’s actually really freeing and liberating. Some people would see that as bondage, but I promise it isn’t. A while back I had to make the decision about whether or not to have a second child. As you may know from this blog I am bipolar, and pregnancy presents great difficulties for me. I have to alternate between going off medication or taking medication that is not very effective because it’s as close as I can come to finding something reasonably safe for the baby. My pregnancy with my daughter was an absolute nightmare and I dreaded going through that again, especially because after she was born I was still bad off and I never really bounced back. I had years of instability and even now when I have a mood swing it’s worse than it used to be before I ever got pregnant. The doctors told me it was my new normal. But yet I really wanted a second baby. My heart yearned for a baby. And I knew that my husband wanted one too. And I was racking my brain trying to figure out which decision to make. I felt agonizingly torn between wanting to bring a new life in the world and wanting to be able to take care of the precious life that I already had.

This decision was giving me sleepless nights and I didn’t know what to do. And finally I realized that it wasn’t decision I had to make. I am married. And I’m supposed to follow my husband’s lead. Even in a totally egalitarian marriage a decision like that is between both spouses. When you are trying to submit to your husband it’s doubly true. So I took the issue to my husband and told him that I wanted him to decide. We both really wanted a baby and if he decided that it was worth taking the health risks, then we would try for another baby. If he was worried about having to deal with too much stress from a severely mentally ill pregnant wife and take care of a small child then we would not have another child. Each part of the decision had its pros and cons. Obviously if we chose to have a baby we would have the joy of having another little person to take care of and raise. But there is also a chance that in addition to a nightmarishly hard pregnancy that the bipolar issues would severely deteriorate my brain and I might not be able to do much of the caretaking or live much of a life. If we didn’t have another baby I would be safe and Angelica would have stability, but she would never get to have a sibling, and we would never know what it is to bring home a baby from the hospital again.

My husband didn’t take 10 seconds to decide. He said that he did not want to have another baby at the expense of my mental health and that we should stop at one child. I had a period of grieving after this. I so wanted another child. But I knew my husband was right and I was relieved that the decision was made. And the fact that he made the decision told me that he was satisfied with it. If I had made the decision I would not know for sure that it was the decision my husband wanted. But I put it completely in his hands and he told me what he wanted. And it relieves such a burden from me.

Dieting With God

I am beginning to not only pray for success with my diet, but to try to actively incorporate God into my process. This morning I ate a delicious snack and then had some lunch that was not healthy but kept me within my calorie limit roughly. And since then I have honestly not been hungry, and I finished that food at 11:30 in the morning. But yet I still been finding myself tempted to eat some of my favorite chips or to get a little bit of Nutella for dessert or to have an ice cream sandwich or to have some wonderful parmesan peppercorn dip.

My diet does not preclude me from eating any of this. I’m going purely on a calorie-counting diet. Within my alloted calories for the day I can eat anything I want. That way I want I’m eating I’m getting food I really enjoy and killing at least some of my cravings. Believe me, I do not have the self-discipline to stick to any other kind of diet. And I believe that food should be enjoyed so when you are eating you should eat something that you like.

But for the past few weeks, basically since I have not been doing well, I have started to crave food even when I am not hungry. I just get cravings for salt and vinegar or for something sweet or for something cheesy. Just now I was in the kitchen and I went to grab some salt and vinegar chips. But then I remembered. I’m not hungry. I’m not hungry at all. I haven’t eaten in hours, but when I did eat I ate a pretty good amount and it was food I really liked and I don’t need anything else. So what is it I am really searching for? I mean some of it probably is the food. I really like food. Everybody says that but I really mean it. But part of it must be something else. What goes on in my mind or in my soul that makes me want something that you are supposed to partake of when you are feeling famished? Maybe I am famished, in some other way.

I want to start relying on God a little bit more for my diet. Partly of course for the selfish reason that there is no greater power in the universe than God so if God will help me who or what can stand against me? It seems silly to me now that I’ve been trying so hard to do this successfully, and I haven’t even asked the Lord for help except in passing. I haven’t sought Him out when I am failing. But tonight as I stood in the kitchen I said to myself, out loud, you do not need chips. You are not hungry. You need something else. You are not hungry. And then I asked the Lord to help me. Maybe the Lord can fill me. Maybe he will fill me with self-discipline, or help direct my mind to other things that I can think about and do that will leave me with no mental space for preoccupation with food. It is time to come to my God who loves me and wants to help me. If he doesn’t help me then I’ll know that my answer is no and either I’m in some sort of test where I need to do this without any help, although I feel like I’ve already been in that situation, or that maybe He’s telling me that this is the weight that I’m going to be and that I need to be less focused on getting slim again and more focused on something else. God never fails to answer a prayer. It’s just that sometimes the answer is no. But hopefully I won’t get a no. I need to lose weight not only because I want to be able to buy smaller clothes, but for my health.

I believe that God will help me when I need help and will bring me to whatever weight I should be at. If I practice self-discipline and count my calories, and if I lean on God to help me resist temptation, then my diet will continue to be successful. I need to pray more and talk to God when I feel tempted. I need to keep diving in the Word to keep close to Him and be filled with the Holy Spirit. Having lost about 40 lb, I have already come so far and I do not want to lose the hard won progress I have made. I feel like if I do I may never get back to this point again. I need to keep pushing ahead. I need to remember that like it says in 2nd Peter, men are slaves to which has mastered them. Food will not master me.

Teaching my Daughter to Submit

Yesterday my daughter Angelica pointed to the veil on my head and I asked why I wear it. I hadn’t really intended to address that topic until she was older, but since she asked I decided to go ahead and explain it. I told her that the veil meant that I would obey her daddy and that he would be the leader of our family. It means that my husband is my leader and that I submit to him, meaning that I follow his authority. I told her that one day she will have a husband and it is important to let him be her leader.

I also explained that I wear the Veil out of obedience to God. Wearing a head cover is not just for married women. I headcover out of reverence for God. I also headcover because of the Angels, but I decided not to get into that with her at this age.

This topic may seem a little bit mature for a child who isn’t quite yet 5, but I figured if she is old enough to ask the question then she is old enough to get at least a basic answer to that question. Perhaps it is better to teach her about submission young. I hope she will choose to wear a veil or some sort of head covering. The Bible says that that is what we are supposed to do, and furthermore I have found that wearing one reminds me to be a better wife. But even if she decides, based on her interpretation of scripture, that she does not need to wear a head cover hopefully she will learn lessons from me about submission and letting your husband lead. I want her to learn The importance of being a helpmate, and letting her husband be the leader that God designed him to be. I believe this is biblical. But I also believe this will give her a happier marriage if she understands the difference between the role of a man and the role of woman. Part of my job as her mother is to teach her to be a good wife. I’m not teaching her to be a doormat. But I do want to teach her about submission. Maybe it’s time to start and this was a good first step. She seems interested in wearing a veil herself, so maybe she will pick up on the more important aspects of respecting and honoring her husband as well.

He Will Take Great Delight in You.

God delights in us. He loves us as His children. Just as we take delight in our children’s first steps, happy faces, school accomplishments, happiness, and talents, so does God with us. No matter how old you are, whether you are on spiritual milk or solid food, God loves you as His sons and daughters. We make  God happy. He likes to watch over us. Our happiness is His happiness, our triumphs His triumphs. Our pain is His pain, our hurt His hurt. He is deeply connected to us. He wants to watch us lead good lives, live out our holy purpose, follow Him, and follow our dreams.

Just my happy thought for the day!

Dreaming With God

This is an interesting biography/bible study written by a ballet dancer. It is about following your dreams while walking with God. There are some good questions at the end of each chapter. There’s only a little space to write, so if you want to journal through the book you should probably get out a separate notebook. But the book is a worthwhile read and the questions are good to ponder. It talks about a couple of things, well several really. But the two messages that stand out are 1. to be open to what God is trying to do in your life and go where He is trying to send you. 2. To realize God gives you your gifts and your dreams for a reason, and you should see where you can go with them. It is an inspiring little book and an elegant read.

Creativity is Frightening

I recently read Vinita Hampton Wright’s book, “The Soul Tells a Story.” In it she talks about how creativity is frightening and can make us uncomfortable. It can, too. Sometimes I am too afraid to write poetry. I want to write a poem, but I’m afraid to dive in. I’m frightened of that place in my soul and my mind. It’s so deep that I’m almost afraid I won’t be able to get back out again.

I ordered a bunch of books about the intersection of Christianity and creativity. A couple are old favorites, but some are new. There were a bunch more I wanted, but I’m going to have to wait to get those. I am fascinated by the intersection of Christianity and the creative life. There’s a seminary program I’m interested in that centers around that very subject. It’s worship arts. However, I can’t spend a year in Dallas, so it simply isn’t going to work out.

When we create, we are being like our Creator. There is immense power that flows through us onto the page or the canvas. People talk so much about mirroring God and they mention so many great things, like mercy, justice, and sacrifice. But they leave out a key component. If you want to be like your Creator you must create. My drive to create poetry comes from my Creator. Most of my individual poems come from Him too, even when they aren’t on religious subjects.

We are made in the image of God in so many ways, and this is definitely one primal, fundamental way we are made to be like God. Create a new recipe in the kitchen. Draw a portrait. Write a poem. Write a novel. Scrapbook. Make digital art. Dance. I believe we are stronger mentally and spiritually when we engage in some kind of creative outlet. God calls each of us to do things a different way.  Human beings are like snowflakes – no two are alike. Although it is a cliche that has embedded itself indelibly in our cultural psyche, it is true.

Lately I’ve been so creative that I think I’ve been overwhelming people. I’ve been writing poem after poem. I’ve made dozens of faith collages – collages where I take beautiful art and photography I find online, make collages out of them, edit them, and add Bible verses. I am bombarding my blog and my Instagram. I can’t hardly help myself. Sometimes I am more creative, sometimes less. But right now my cup overfloweth. I know at some point I’ll hit a wall and need to rest my head for awhile, but until I’m there I’m going to create as much as I possible can. I may start creating abstract alcohol ink paintings, which are my favorite. I actually bought a little alcohol ink painting on tile when we were on vacation and I love it. It is in my curio cabinet. I think I’ll do alcohol inks when I’m done with collages for awhile.

Right now I am so deep in creativity that I am wearing my mind out. I have allowed myself to dive all the way in, to fall into the glittering abyss of creative passion. I am expressing myself and dying to myself at the same time. My creativity runs me. It is as though I am a mere conduit for ideas that come from somewhere outside of me, and I think they are from above.

Sometimes you have to create for you or for a few friends. I know some people, even many people, don’t like my collages. Not every one likes loud colors, especially so many bright images together – and I edit images to be loud! But I love them, and I make them for me as an act of worship to God. They reflect my joy in Him, and my personality. I share them because a few other people seem to like them and if even one person enjoys the scripture or the images I will be grateful.

Create something for God. Create something for you. Create something to share with other people. The more art, literature, dancing, and theater there is in the world, the better the world will be.

 

 

Eternal Life

So many things leave us unsatisfied, disappointed, wanting more. Sometimes that is just the result of greed and avarice. But sometimes it is because things or people really have been disappointing. Sometimes friends disappoint us. Everyone has that ex-friend who is out of their lives for a very good reason. Sometimes even our own families disappoint us. Sometimes our relationships with them leave us wanting more, leave us coping with hurt or disappointment or even rage. Some of them mean to fail us. Some don’t.

God never fails. God never disappoints. His love is unfailing. God is reliable. His Word slakes a thirst that water (or an ice cold Coke!) never could. God does no wrong – to anyone. His ways are righteous. He does things for our good, not to harm us.  When you can’t count on your family or friends or coworkers or whoever to do right by you, you can count on your just God.

Friendships change. People betray us, the drift away from us, they let us down. Family cannot always be counted on.  Sometimes other people, even those we are close to, are bitter, vindictive, controlling, petty, selfish, dishonest,manipulative, and mean spirited. But the one constant in life, in my life, is God. He gives me things I can’t get anywhere else – unconditional love, grace, peace.