I Know the Mirrors
Janice Townley Moore
I know the mirrors
that are friends,
the ones in semi-darkness that hide
the hard crease of jowl,
or the ones with the correct distance
to fade the barbed wire fence
above the lips. But skin breaks
like dry river beds.
Rooms must become darker,
I grope for a solution,
knowing that no woman
ever looked better with a beard.
We were going to use false lashes to make her look more cartoonish but, not being familiar with such fanciful accessories, I neglected to buy adhesive. “Hold still,” I told her when applying the mascara we decided on as a last minute alternative, but she squirmed and grimaced anyway. “I’m never wearing this stuff when I get older,” said my daughter. “Good,” I replied. “You don’t need it.”
She is young and bright and taut and smooth. Youth is kind to our complexions, but a little draining on the emotions. I remember like yesterday when the lines snaking like tributaries around my face were nonexistent. I felt immune to the physical wear and tear of speeding through one day, one month, one year to the next, but so very vulnerable to the sting of rejection.
Presently, staring down my fortieth year on this earth, I am satisfied with my place and identity. “What are you dressing up as?” My kids asked me in the car this morning. “Your mom,” I answered. “See the dark scary circles under my eyes and the kitschy sequined spider web t-shirt I’ll be wearing to your classroom parties?” And we laughed – laughed at ourselves and each other. I laughed because my oldest was totally pulling off this retro look in the passenger seat next to me:
While I’ve embraced with open arms who I’ve become: a wife and mother. I wish I could tell you in all sincerity that I’ve also risen above the vanity that every once in a great while still hits me upside the head with an:
Oh My Gosh, what happened to you? When did your gut, your neck, your thighs start to sag so?
Sometimes it feels like a costume I can’t unzip and remove, this middle-aged body of mine. And for my daughters’ sake, I have to internally fight back hard against the B.S. societal assertion that femininity equals a one-size-fits-all formulaic desirability.
What is beautiful, my darling? Approachability, ears that listen, hands that hold and create, arms that hug, a mind in awe of Mystery, a soul being purified, an infectious smile. Dress-up in joy, generosity, kindness, contentment and above all else, peace. I will redouble my efforts to exemplify this kind of healing beauty for you. Let us free ourselves together from the stifling upkeep of competitiveness and affectation.Read More
Community means caring: caring for people. Dietrich Bonhoeffer says: “He who loves community destroys community; he who loves the brethren builds community.” A community is not an abstract ideal. We are not striving for perfect community. Community is not an ideal; it is people. It is you and I. In community we are called to love people just as they are with their wounds and their gifts, not as we would want them to be. Community means giving them space, helping them to grow. It means also receiving from them so that we too can grow. It is giving each other freedom; it is giving each other trust; it is confirming but also challenging each other. We give dignity to each other by the way we listen to each other, in a spirit of trust and of dying to oneself so that the other may live, grow and give.
- Jean Vanier, From Brokeness to Community, pp 35-36
1. Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) was a German theologian, pastor, preacher, radio broadcaster, and prolific writer in the 1930s and early-1940s.
I am 38-years-old and I live with my mom and dad …I mean we live with my mom and dad: my husband, our four children and I. This unusual, for this day and age, arrangement was not stumbled into out of necessity but rather rigorously thought through and carefully planned out. We’ve combined our resources, finished our basement, and committed to helping one another as our kids grow, and as my parents age with dignity in the house they know and love. Oh, and my brother and his family live right around the corner.
“I can’t imagine,” I’ve been told, repeatedly, “spending that much time with my family.” People wince when I even mention it, picturing decades worth of childhood baggage all out there and open, complicating every interaction entered into from morning till night. And I admit, this might have been a more difficult transition in my twenties when I was very sensitive about having my decisions questioned, assuming the worst about innocent comments and keeping my “new mom,” “new wife,” “new adult” guard always up and ready for an attack. But I’m older now, and a lot more comfortable in my own skin.
This is not to say there wasn’t an adjustment period to get through; living with family is a whole lot different than visiting with them. Open and honest communication is absolutely essential for sharing a home. There is no room for grudge holding or passive-aggessiveness. On the other side of working through the initial kinks, however, lay a comfortable rhythm as we learn what it takes to make this particular household run smoothly and each participate in that process by applying our unique gifts and considering our different schedules. We’ve carved out areas within our house for needed privacy and downtime.
I have treasured the special relationships I’ve developed with my brother’s girls, and the powerful bonds my own kids have forged with their cousins as they float freely between our house and their house, feeling at home and unconditionally loved in each. We’ve built a rock solid support base for the children, and for each other, in which our values and beliefs are shared, validated, and celebrated. We gladly receive guests into our lives, as often as possible, again making use of our distinct strengths (and square footage) when it comes to hospitality. My brother and his wife have extra bedrooms. We have the larger kitchen. My sister-in-law, Paige, is an excellent baker and delights in pouring loveliness into even the smallest of welcoming gestures, my mother a meticulous housekeeper and detail manager enabling our home to be ready at all times for impromptu visitors and maintaining order and calm for us. I’m good at following directions and delight in conversation and fellowship.
Living in community has demanded a lot from me. I can’t just think about myself anymore; I am but part of a whole. My actions, or lack thereof, effect everyone. I’ve had to work harder at guarding my tongue, letting go of sweating the small stuff, and habitually giving others the benefit of the doubt. Living in community is teaching me discipline, self-control, empathy, humility, and gifting all of us involved with a fortifying sense of rootedness.
Community living is most definitely not for everyone, nor a venture to be undertaken lightly. But I’m here to tell you neither is it impossible, outlandish, backward, a really harebrained idea. We’ve leapt outside the box and not only have I lived to tell about it, but I am thankful. Being available to care for my parents when they one day need our assistance, and receiving so much physical, emotional, and spiritual support from them now is …beautiful. We’re prayerfully taking it one day at a time – serving one another, forgiving one another, and learning more about ourselves as we go.
And for my dear on-line community, please click on the Close to Home “Facebook Page” link (and then “Like” that page) at the very top of this blogsite for all updates regarding new blog posts, podcasts, speaking engagements, etc. Thanks!!! xoxoxoRead More
The kids are on fall break. Yesterday was unseasonably bright, and warm. We invited my nieces to come to the zoo with us. We wanted to experience it through two-year-old Annie’s eyes – our own eyes having grown a little callous to the wonders of zebra stripes and neon bird feathers. Her face was bright, and her belly laugh deep, as she fed goats from her hand and lead us from one animal exhibit to the next saying, “I show you! I show you!”
And speaking of bright, and by bright I mean exuberant, energetic, vibrant, my youngest son turned ten yesterday, the day we soaked up the last bits of summerish sunlight by strolling the Halloween themed zoo grounds. He loved the zoo, like he loves the art museum, the library, the YMCA, the grocery store; everything, and everyone, is his favorite. “For my birthday,” he told me, “I just want God to let me live a long and peaceful life…well, that and an iPod Shuffle.”
Have a bright and hope-filled weekend! Share the bright, be the bright, dwell in the bright!
And come join us over at Amber’s Photo Friday project!Read More
I spent the weekend in Portland, Oregon where I was treated ever so kindly by the warm and hospitable ladies of St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church. Have you ever been to Portland before? I hadn’t. If you’re into awesomeness, you’d love it. I felt healthier just looking at all the bike trails, walking trails, vegetarian restaurants and organic grocery stores lining its scenic landscape. I’d like to go back someday and take my time exploring more of Portland’s fascinating regional treasures.
This particular trip was a whirlwind. I arrived on a Friday afternoon and flew back home early Sunday morning. Those brief hours were jam packed, however, with valuable insights and meaningful interactions. I was there to lead a Women’s Retreat but found myself being ministered to by the attendees themselves – everyone of them so kind, sincere and earnest in their desire to work out their salvation with fear and trembling.
It’s incredibly encouraging to every once in awhile come away from my computer, exit my cozy little house, little town, and get on out there and witness Orthodox Christianity being lived and embraced by sisters in The Faith. With every heartfelt conversation that took place between us, I could feel my resolve to love God and neighbor strengthening, and the clouds of earthly concerns hindering my view of the one thing needful clearing. We were mercifully designed to depend on, sometimes carry, and uplift one another.
On the second day of our retreat, the topic of beauty came up – the kind of beauty that inspires one to ignite their every day with sparks of radiance and creativity. We spoke of nature and pieces of music, literature and iconography. Then one woman told a story of meeting a monk from Mount Athos whose face, she’d assumed before seeing it would be stern, austere and serious, was surprisingly luminous and cheerful. His joyful expression bore into her, soothing her anxious spirit. I was moved by her unexpected account of peace and hope being gifted wordlessly.
It’s becoming rare to be greeted by passersby on the street or in the store with eye contact, or a genuine smile – a respectful look that says, “You are here. You exist. I acknowledge you.” We tend to keep our heads down and our focus locked in on the iPhone in front of us, shuffling from here to there in our own little self-absorbed bubbles of worries and to-dos. I am guilty of this myself, believe me, which is why I’ve been driven to figure out what it is that most often prevents me from, not just glancing through, but actually seeing the people around me. What was I missing out on by self-protectively keeping my distance?
Half of my problem is just plain forgetfulness, quite frankly. I wake up in a rush and neglect to seize a moment in which I prayerfully evaluate and reorder my daily priorities in light of eternity. As a result, I often find myself swept up in impetuousness, and overly concerned with many, ultimately inconsequential, things. I allow my attention to drift to tomorrow where confusion, restlessness and confoundment abound.
The peace of Christ is only here in the present, where I am supposed to be. The peace of Christ is beyond reason in that it overrides the bumpy ups and downs of my changing circumstances, freeing me up to act decisively – to choose beauty, to choose joy, to choose gratitude, to choose love even in the midst of chaos and uncertainty. Recognizing and addressing the person in front of me, with sincere interest and gentleness, is also a deliberate choice – and a risky choice at that, in that it invites a conversation to take place that might very well infringe on my time and agenda. To be fully aware of this potential inconvenience and yet in faith proceed anyway is a spiritual sacrifice.
I’ve tried it a few times now, on the plane, in the airport, at the grocery store with both predictable and unpredictable results. I’d anticipated looking someone full in the face and saying “Hello, how are you?” would lead to follow-up statements on their part and eventually a dialogue. I heard about: a daughter leaving for college, what it was like growing up with nine siblings, playing on stage once with Jimmy Buffet, and a favorite recipe for spicy guacamole. What I hadn’t foreseen, however, was how these tiny connections would bring such purpose and meaning to my day, mysteriously diffusing the stress and aggravation of always go, go going in a million different directions. It just plain put me in a better mood to step outside of myself for a minute.
“Joy is thankfulness, and when we are joyful, that is the best expression of thanks we can offer the Lord, Who delivers us from sorrow and sin,” said Elder Thaddeus. For joy to be miraculous and healing to others, and ourselves, it must be irrational – independent of our circumstances, and fierce in its determination to combat darkness and despair with intentional hopefulness and light.
I long to see you. I am bound to you. I feel whole when I am weeping with you, and rejoicing with you, and caring more about you than my own wants and whims. In spite of the hatred, evil, vulgarity, and egotism threatening to drown out what is redemptive and lovely and good, I choose, I choose, I defiantly choose joy, for your sake, and my sake, and in resolute anticipation of the Kingdom which is to come.
We arrived to sunny skies and above average balminess, beach chairs slung over our shoulders. Even my sons showed up, having scrounged up a small gang of neighborhood boys to toss around a football and run wild with. Priscilla is coached by her father; I get a kick out of watching the two of them talk shop, and strategize. She adores him; they adore each other.
At the onset of the first half the wind swept in, leaves were spiraling in the air like they were dancing. Then came the clouds, the distant thunder. In a flash, the rain, then hail, then rain again, opened fire on us. My niece and I ran back to our house behind the park to grab rain coats, a travel mug full of hot coffee for my husband, and an umbrella.
The game was delayed but not cancelled. All fired up by the collective determination of the team, each girl continued to dribble, pass, hustle, and encourage one another to keep their heads in the game despite the unfavorable weather conditions. I was touched by this, and even by the rough and tumble camaraderie of the neighborhood boys, all drenched and boisterous – laughing, tackling, howling shirtless in the storm. My oldest was wearing his Church pants, I noticed too late, and I didn’t even care that they were muddied.
We arrived home smelling damp, looking dank, but feeling warm and oddly satisfied, having participated in the life of our small community. This seems all kinds of right to me now: finding contentment in stepping outside of myself to belong to a Whole that is way bigger than myself and my petty preoccupations. Simplicity, humility, present-tense living, habitual gratitude, being kind to another and interacting face-t0-face with another – there is holiness in that, and healing.
“A community is only being created when its members accept that they are not going to achieve great things, that they are not going to be heroes, but simply live each day with new hope, like children, in wonderment as the sun rises and in thanksgiving as it sets. Community is only being created when they have recognized that the greatness of man is to accept his insignificance, his human condition and his earth, and to thank God for having put in a finite body the seeds of eternity which are visible in small and daily gestures of love and forgiveness. The beauty of man is in this fidelity to the wonder of each day.”
― Jean Vanier, Community And Growth