I am beautiful

I am beautiful.

Even when I choose to wear my slouchy purple cotton top, the one that hugs me and feels like a soft caress on my skin, the one that’s easy to nurse in because it has a low scoop neck and I can just pop a full boob out to feed my baby whenever she’s hungry with zero hassle, the one I like to travel in because it’s comfortable and not too hot and not too cold…

I am beautiful.

Even when I look in the mirror at ten til ten in the morning in the bathroom at work with the harsh lighting, and realize that this favorite top of mine does nothing to hide my belly pooch, or the muffin top rolls on my hips, or my bra fat around my armpits, or the back fat under my shoulder blades, and all the doughy, rolly, fatty parts of me are on not only on display but harshly accentuated…

I am beautiful.

Even when my feet, clad in the twelve year old pair of flip flops, the ones that help my aching heels and will be easy to kick off and on at the airport and on the plane, but do not fall into the category of proper work attire, and look somewhat silly below my skinny jeans and purple top…

I am beautiful.

Even when I’ve chosen to wear no makeup today, as I felt my skin needed a refreshing break, and my chin is breaking out, and that damn harsh lighting shows me every imperfection, wrinkle, broken vein, red spot, eye circles, cracked lips, and the rest…

I am beautiful.

Even when I hate my hair, need a pedicure, want a hot bath, feel sticky in places one should never feel sticky…

I am beautiful.

Even when I don’t feel beautiful.

I am a freaking goddess. I created life. I pushed out an eight and a half pound being from my body seven months ago. And I’m still feeding and carrying that being around with me and she’s strong and healthy and happy.

I am beautiful.

I deserve that front paunchy belly, and the doughy rolls, and every stretch mark and under-eye circle because I am a freaking champion mother. They are not battle scars, they are victory medals.

Go me.

I am freaking beautiful.

So self-consciousness and anxiety, you can go shove it. Good day. I SAID GOOD DAY!

 

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You don’t have to smile

You do not have to please me,
or anyone for that matter,
Save yourself.

You do not have to strive
for a thousand hands clapping
or mouths shouting accolades,
as you stand bowed, heart bound,
the smile plastered on your face
while petals rain down upon you.

You do not have to stay in flight
soaring through the daylight air,
wings spread wide beyond comfort
just so we can point up at you
and feel the swell of pride in knowing you.

If you’d rather crawl
through the midnight mud and muck,
I will be there with you.
Wherever you are, I will stand by you.

You don’t have to smile.

You do not have to dance
as the storm clouds roll over you
if you’d rather join your thunderous roars
to the chorus of the lightning song.
You do not have to search desperately
for the possibility of beauty
in the midst of your suffering.
If all you see is darkness,
I will hold your hand.

You do not have to be good, polite, pure,
or humble
to ensure my fragile pride.
You do not have to be what I see
through my milk clouded eyes
when you see your reflection
clear as the mountain stream.

You do not have to bow down to the fear
of man’s gaze upon you, finding displeasure.
You do not have to please him.
Or me.

You don’t have to smile.

New month, new writing stuff!

Folks, we are officially one twelfth of the way through the year 2013.

25 update #1: I took a picture of an awesome place yesterday, so I didn’t miss my January deadline. Hooray!

It’s only a camera phone photo, so it’s nothing fancy. But I think it’s a great place to start documenting the many awe-inspiring places of my life.

ImageThis is the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

It’s a mouthful of a title. But a big place that does such big things deserves a big name.

I am currently serving as a chaplain intern at the Children’s hospital, and let me tell you, it has not always been sparkly and vibrant. In fact, it can be downright ugly and heart stopping. But Good God Almighty, it is a beautiful place.

It’s beautiful in the conventional sense in that someone (or more likely a very large committee of someones) put a great deal of time and effort into designing the building itself. The halls are swathed in “rivers of healing and ribbons of peace,” or some similar saying. It basically means that there are a lot of swirly, flowy, ribbony type elements that make you feel more like you are in a children’s art museum than a hospital. Plus actual patient art can be found on nearly every wall of every floor. There are bright colors, photos, artwork, child-friendly statues, blown glass light fixtures, butterflies, and animals everywhere you look. It is a truly stimulating and sensual experience to walk those halls every day, no matter how tough things may get physically, emotionally, or spiritually.

But it’s also beautiful in the quality of people that occupy the space. The medical staff, social workers, child life specialists, chaplains, receptionists, volunteers, and everyone else who gives their time and energy into making sick kids feel better each deserve a Nobel prize. Seriously. I sometimes look around at these people and think, “This is what the Kingdom of God looks like.”

But I think what has been the most amazing, most inspiring, most affirming thing in my personal experience working in this hospital is my work with the patients and families. I have been present for everything from broken bones to chemo, trauma, and life-support removal. These are real people in real pain, and it has taken me a while to realize that they really know God. I think I had expectations when I first started that I would be serving as more of a teacher, reading scripture and calming fears and anxiety with prayer. I am a master of divinity student, after all. I have deconstructed and reconstructed my theology every which way. I thought I was ready to provide pastoral care. (If you are wondering, you are never ready until you actually do it.)  I vainly thought I could help bring God to these families. I was so so wrong.

What a surprise, and yet how perfectly consistent with everything I believe, to find that God is always already there, and has been there long before I walk into a room. I don’t “bring” God anywhere. I walk in, I listen, and what unfolds before me is a powerful and miraculous story of pain and suffering, which is always infused with great amounts of faith and hope. It is a testament to the human spirit and God’s strong desire for relationship with us that faith can still be found in these places of deepest hurt. I am constantly amazed at the resurrection and new life I see all around me, every single day.

The Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital is a living and breathing miracle here on earth. Even when patients die (and they do die because we live in a world which is continually being redeemed, and we wait for the Kingdom of Heaven while we actively seek to build it), the glory of God and the redemptive work of Christ is still present. This is not to say we don’t hurt and cry and scream our hearts out to God. It’s just to say God can take it. And thank God for that.

__________________________________________________________

25 update #2: I think I can say that I successfully made a new friend in January. If we want to get technical, she’s been an acquaintance since last semester, and I didn’t really ask her to be my friend until today, Feb. 1st, at the end of our discussion class. It went like this:

Me: Hey, um, S?
S: Yeah?
Me: We should get coffee sometime. Or grab lunch or something.
S: Yeah, we should!
Me: Ok, Fridays usually work for me, but I have to finish a paper.
S: Well let’s do next Friday. Fridays are usually the best for me too!
Me: Ok!

I realize now that this would have been a good place to stop the conversation, smile politely, and say something like, “Have a good weekend!” Instead…

Me: Hey, do you mind if I put you in my blog? (Immediately horrified I even asked her this. What kind of weirdo am I? Ok, I can fix this.) I mean, I just need a new friend. Can you be my friend this month? (Not helping myself out at all. I am sooooo lame.)
S: (smiling), Haha, yeah, that’s fine, I’ll be famous! Let me know when you post it!
Me: (in my head: I KNEW I liked you for a reason! You don’t care that I’m weird!)

Thank you Lord, for S.

Anyway, even though it’s February, I’m going to count S as my January friend. Because I can.

The end.