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Friday, May 20, 2016

who told you you were naked?

This morning, my six year old crumbled into a mess of tears, admitting to me that a friend had been mean to her.  Her normally confident, expressive body that never stops exuding energy curved in on itself, literally concaving as she heaved big crocodile tears.

She was experiencing real world hurt for maybe the first time.  Not a "I didn't get my way" or "She didn't want to share with me" kind of childlike hurt, but a hurt that changes her view of herself.  A hurt that steals a little bit of her innocence, a little bit of her uninhibitedness, a little bit of her blind faith that she is perfectly made and perfectly loved.

I've been dreading this moment.  The moment that my bubble bursts and is no longer big enough to protect her from a world that will scratch and dent and mar her into thinking that she is either "too" this or "not enough" that.

Did you know that at the age of five, 90 percent of the population measures "high creativity?" And that by the age of seven, that number drops to 10 percent?

What comes between 5 and 7?  


Exactly right where we we are.  Oh my God.

With her growing body, comes growing maturity that opens her eyes to see that she is unique.  However, our culture values the box and more importantly, being inside of it.  The thief of comparison will come in the night and whisper to her that fitting in is better than standing out.

She will one day stop dancing furiously because she will become aware that someone is watching, and not with the loving gaze of her parents or her Creator, but with the critical gaze of judgement.  Her arms will flail a little less wildly and her feet will start to match the beat, because that's what she's "supposed" to do.

Finley Eversole writes in The Politics of Creativity,  "Our creativity is destroyed not through the use of outside force, but through criticism, innuendo, by the dirty devices of this world.  So we are diminished, and we forget that we are more than we know.  The child is aware of unlimited potential and this munificence is one of the joys of creativity."

When I think of the word creativity, it encompasses for me the idea of the truest form of ourselves.  Me. You. At our very essence, living into the fullness of all that we are.  Unafraid. Unashamed. Unmuted.  Uncompared.  I believe that we are all Created by the Creator, and since the Maker formed us all in His image, we too are creators, full of the richness of His creativity.  

According to Eversole, by adulthood, "high creativity" in our population drops to only 2 percent.  I have to believe that number is not really indicative of lack of creativity, but more so of it being covered over, pushed down, and buried underneath self-protection and conformity.  It is the world that dims our light.

How do I protect my daughter from the inevitable?  

I look to God for answers, as he was in fact, the first Parent to the first children, Adam and Eve.   The Bible tells me that he, too, was heart-broken as his children were deceived into believing that eating the fruit of the forbidden tree would make them more, when in fact it made them far less.  Knowledge gained included self-consciousness, shame, and fear, which set off an avalanche of hiding, covering, and trembling.  Less, less, and less.  Not more.

God comes into the Garden and asks, "Where are you?"  Even though nothing is outside of God's omnipotent gaze, and he knows exactly where they are, he still asks, "Where are you?"  Where are your beautiful, innocent, creative, unself-conscious selves?

His next question though, is more heart-wrenching.  "Who told you you were naked?"

That was my question this morning as I watched her tears fall and fought back my own, realizing that all my love isn't big enough to protect her.  "Who told you you were naked?"  Who told you you weren't smart? Or couldn't dance? Or looked funny? Or were too loud? Or too big?  Or not enough?  Who told you that?

Memories flooded back of my seventh grade year.  Back to the year a girl in my class decided to bully me and then systematically turned every other seventh grade girl against me.  I was ridiculed, barked at, laughed at, verbaly harassed, ostracized, handed my school picture in a million tiny pieces, and emotionally abused all that year.  I was essentially told I was naked, and they were all laughing at me.

That 12 year old girl had never before known that she was anything other than fine, had never looked in the mirror for any reassurance that she fit the mold in size and shape, had never known how cruel people can be.  That year, I went from being vibrant and courageous to doing everything that I could to blend in and not stand out in any way that might garner criticism.

While I've come a long way from that seventh grade girl, I have carried the baggage of that year into every road I have travelled, every encounter with every person I've ever spoken to.  I carried it into my faith and into my marriage.  I carried it into motherhood.  It still holds me back in so many ways, and I am still working to combat the insecurities that grew out of that experience.

At some point, we all realize that we are naked. God, in his heartbreak, caringly stitched clothing from skins for Adam and Eve, but he also banished them from the garden. You and me, we don't live in Eden anymore. We will all experience suffering and loss, and it is in fact necessary for finding our authentic selves.

My heart might split clean open thinking about this happening to any of my children. And yet, I know that it will. And even yet, I know that their greatest wounds might one day be their greatest accomplishments, greatest stories of redemption, and greatest platform for the empowerment of others.  

Ephesians 2:10 says, "For we are God's Masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago." I am His Masterpiece. You are His Masterpiece. We are His finest work that this world scratches and dents and shatters, and over and over again, God tenderly pieces our fallen fragments together, creating us into better versions of ourselves.

We are left with the question of how we go from being shattered to being a mosaic - beautiful in our brokenness and stunning in our wholeness.  The answer I'm convinced lies in revelling in God's love.

Erika Morrison's words say it best:
...I'm convinced that our job as parents is not to protect our kids from human experience - the double-edged sword that will cut them wide open - but to give them the tools that will help them make a resurrected return, again and again, to the brilliant allure of the divine gaze, the tools to know that any stare other than the divine gaze is not the true story and that finding themselves in the gaze is the foundation of self-knowledge.
So, I will unashamedly ask my children to look for God in their world and in themselves.    I will walk with them through hurts and help them face their fears.  I will teach them to hold His gaze, because in it lies freedom and wholeness and a 6 year old girl laughing at statistics and dancing furiously for the rest of her days.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

On Art

I hate the term Christian artist.  Am I an artist who is Christian or a Christian who is an artist?  Why must we be labeled?  And why, in our society, does that label provoke people to think then that our art is lesser than?  Why have we opened the door to that being true a lot of the time?
I am a passionate woman, a follower of Jesus, wife, mother, dancer, writer, lover of people and beautiful things.  Being a Christian is who I am.  It is inseparable with what I create.  Being an artist is what I do.  I don’t think about trying to craft Christian art…I simply open myself up to create.  What comes out is the manifestation of God in me, communicating through me.  I can’t take God out of me, and therefore can’t take God out of my art, whether or not I intend for it to be inherently “Christian.”  Most of the time, it’s just a smattering of bits and pieces of my story, mixed with movement and emotion and truth, sprinkled with grace.  I offer it (or not) and God does what He will with it.  Sometimes, it’s surprising.  The things you think aren’t your greatest work often impact people the most - maybe that’s just because I finally got out of the way and let God. 
But please don’t label me.  I am an artist - for God, with God, by God, through God.  I am an artist.  I see the world magnified.  I feel deeply the in-betweens and the underneaths.  I long to interpret and make sense of this world.  Dance is simply my medium, my body is my instrument, and being Christian, well, that’s just understood.  
Twyla Tharp wrote, “– Without passion, all the skill in the world won’t lift you above craft.  Without skill, all the passion in the world will leave you eager but floundering.  Combining the two is the essence of the creative life.”  

I’d like to replace the word passion with God, if you will, Twyla.  It would then read, “– Without [God], all the skill in the world won’t lift you above craft.  Without skill, all the [God] in the world will leave you eager but floundering.  Combining the two is the essence of the creative life.”  

We must have both.  Artists of God, we must have both…or else we risk being labeled or stigmatized.  And then, our art tends to be blocked from reaching the very people who need it most.  Be salt and light.  Be dancers.  Be writers.  Be painters.  Be free to explore your faith, free to worship, or free to just move.  Be impactful.  Be inspirational.  Be artists.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016


Pippa fell asleep in my arms last night.  After a scorcher of a day, her upstairs room felt more sauna than nursery, and we sweated together as she drank her bottle and I rocked her.  She rarely is asleep before I put her in the crib, but last night her little eyes grew heavy in the heat and she drifted off.  I was hot.  She was hot.  But I didn't want to let this moment pass.  I wanted to savor it.  Every day she's a little bit older.

With my first two kids, I was so aware of their firsts.  First time sitting up, first time crawling, first word.  With her, I'm more aware of her lasts.  Last time nursing, last time sleeping in her bassinet, last time falling asleep in my arms.  The tricky thing about a last, though, is you often don't know it happened until after it passed.  There's often not a cheering contingent like there is on those first steps.  It drifts by silently, unseen by most.  Unseen even by me until I look back and think, when was the last time I carried my six-year old on my hip?  I have no idea, but I know that she certainly doesn't fit there anymore.  When was the last time I carried her that way?  When was the last time I spoon fed my son or rocked him to sleep?

When my oldest was a baby, I felt like it would never end.  I was wrapped up in this whole transition to motherhood with a colicky baby, and the days ticked by ever so slowly.  That season felt endless and I couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Then one day, I woke up and that season was over.  One day, she stopped crying and one day, she started sleeping, and one day, she became a little girl.  I think we have to go through that with our firsts, to understand that while it seems like it will never end, it does.  It changes.  For good, for bad.  It changes.  And especially, just when you feel like you've got it figured out.  It changes.

Normally, at bedtime, our goal is to get kids into bed as quickly as possible.  Sure we read to them and pray with them, and maybe even snuggle them a little if they ask, but in my head I'm usually ticking time down and thinking about those dishes that need to be done or how badly I just want to sit on the couch and veg out after a long day in front of a tv show.  So, I keep a running tally, score, if you will, as each one makes his or her way into dreamland.  Pippa's down!  1-0.  Leif's down! 2-0  Scout's not down!  2-1.  One more glass of water.  One more tuck in.  Finally Scout's down 3-0!  And the crowd goes wild!!!

Last night though, I wasn't keeping score.  I felt the enormity of her little soul snuggled in my arms, and I didn't want it to end.  Soon enough, my arms won't encircle her entire body and I won't be her everything.  So, I must remember to slow down.  To stop.  To breath in her sweet smell and these sweet moments when I can.  Moments where time stops and I can really see and feel and smell and taste how good my life is.  Last night was one of those.  Beautiful sleeping baby in my arms.

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