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How to Climb a Mountain in High Heels

How to Embrace your Flaws

I started 2016 like someone who walked into a wind-tunnel. I moved out of my dream apartment where I lived and slept alone. I was a happy single thirty-something. I took “instagrammies” of all my perfectly curated spaces, special pretty dinner bowls for one (crumbed artichokes with home-made allioli). It was the perfect space to hide my flaws and embellish my life as I celebrated conflict-free independence. Now, at the bookend of the year, after 11 months with four early-twenty-something extroverts, I have fewer crockery, my special spatula has been lost on a mission somewhere but I am also engaged and have made the first sensible career move of my life.

The problem with independence is that its such a convenience to be able to shut the door on your bad days, your period pain days, your anti-fungal footcream, the spots on your left butt-cheek and your not-so-feminine hairiness, but what good is an escape if it means your adversary is still there waiting for you outside. I started the year on anti-depressants after a visit to the doctor for burn-out and made quick enemies in the house. It took a while for me to stop being a selfish control-freak. I think I’m still not righteous, but I am grateful for what I have gained this past year. I am grateful for the loving grace of my housemates. I am grateful for being teased and challenged. I am grateful for the space of preparation it was for me to fall in love with my now fiancee.

New relationships bring with it all the joy epitomised in couple selfies, but again it brought with it challenges to my constant vigilance for independence. Even more so now that I am engaged! I am so confronted with my flaws. So much so that I have flatly refused to let my fiancee see my feet. Such ridiculous measures to keep my flaws hidden. My excuse? “I don’t like them”. To which my very wise future husband replied that we don’t get to choose what we like and what we don’t like about our bodies, that it’s like choosing to love one child over another. Although I think his argument is extreme (I am quite obstinate, in his defence) there is certainly truth in it. Some flaws can be worked on, I’m not saying we should opt for entropy, but our bodies, our histories and our circumstances are often what God has given us according to His good pleasure. So too, our perceived flaws.

In my case, learning to embrace the feet, these legs, my unsuitably-sized chest… things God has created me with. In this season perhaps to learn to stop desiring the world’s standards, but instead to look to God’s standards of inner beauty, godly character, humility and love. The things that last when the body dies. The legacy I will leave behind. The effect my life will have on those around me that will by far outlive whether I give myself “flawlessly” to my husband when we get married.

For now the fruit of my flaw-fixation serves only to separate me from others, and so, this morning I rubbed up my feet with oils and spoke over them, “Beautiful are the feet of him who brings good news. Beautiful was Jesus’ feet because of how they served, not because of how they looked.”

Has my fiancee seen my feet yet? No. Will I keep avoiding those infernal Christian foot washing rituals? Probably. But I am working towards swimming with him at the beach this summer with my bare-naked toes…and enjoying the fact that I am completely accepted. Just as I am.

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How to get just a bite of Paris

 

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Alice in Paris is a refreshing food travel show on Tastemade that shares some of the best Paris experiences in gusts from the life of Alice, a quirky student living in Paris. I won’t overwhelm you with bland over-chewed information. Just sit down and check it out. It will only take a minute (and a half). Click on the image above to visit the youtube channel, but can also be viewed on Tastemade online or apple TV.

[image sourced  from tastemade and is not my property]

Daily Beauty | Hope

IMG_1462Psalm 129 : 2 “Many a time they have afflicted me from my youth;
Yet they have not prevailed against me.
The plowers plowed on my back;
They made their furrows long.”
The Lord is righteous;
He has cut in pieces the cords of the wicked.

Spoiler Alert: This post is going to be a long one…

Since the winding down of the year has properly set in and I have allowed myself to let go, as if the foundation of my house suddenly became hot rubber and all the most delicate china started tumbling and crashing from their shelves. I spent three days crying uncontrollably and indulging the cacophony of head until I finally called halt and decided to let a few things go in order to cope. I, of course, called it fasting and gaining perspective, because those sounded a lot nicer than just not losing it. I decided to “get serious” with God about what He was saying.

I have often secluded myself like this. Part of my coping is shutting out everyone else and retreating into my head which I religiously often sugar-coat as a fast or a retreat. It never lasts. I crack after 12 hours and want to eat food and find excuses why I needed to do the things I decided to give up for said time. Praise God, I sat down the night before, got my journal out and wrote down my commitment. No phone, no social media, no music, no social appointments outside the house for four days, and on the first day, I kick off with a full fast (no food just water). I just want to add the disclaimer that all these would have meant nothing if I hadn’t spent time in the Word, listening and praying…but mostly listening.

Day one kicked my butt cataclysmically. I came home from work a wreck. I had heart palpitations and I couldn’t keep my eyes open. No sign of God talking to me. I took a nap, which I hoped would shut my head up and take care of my anxiety. I woke up just as groggy and anxious and went for a walk in the forest.

God has been speaking to me about my coping mechanisms and has waged war on them a while ago…I apparently did not take Him seriously. He has also been speaking to me about Christ as my hope. As I walked into the pine forest, I couldn’t find peace. I ended up going off the road and stood in a patch of saplings. They smelled fresh and their furry needles provided a nice covering and as I stood amongst them I sincerely felt safe. For some obscure reason I started praying in Korean, which I don’t usually do, but because of my limited Korean, my regularly lengthy prayers turned into a simple prayer:

God, I’m alone. I want to be alone, I don’t want to be alone. I’m afraid. Help me. Help me. 

Nothing happened. I made my way home navigating my way to the exit by walking downhill, when the voice came: “Where is the Mountain?” I turned around and looked up the incline, but I couldn’t see the mountain, because all the trees were obstructing my view (even though they are much smaller than the mountain). The voice came again: “What will those little saplings do for you? How will they help you? They are fragile themselves.” I thought, “Great, but what do I do now?” and the answer followed: “Come, sit with me.”

Psalm 129 : 2 “Many a time they have afflicted me from my youth;
Yet they have not prevailed against me.
The Lord is righteous;
He has cut in pieces the cords of the wicked.

I spent the day delving into scripture about hope. I made this giant document with a list of scriptures containing the word hope. I mean I KNOW Jesus is my hope, but why is God telling me this now? Why won’t He just give me an answer? In-between I only listened to worship songs that dealt with Jesus and who He is. Not how we feel or how miserable we are without Him. Just who IS He. Concretely. I felt so convicted. God gave me a lot of scripture that obviously spoke to me. He wanted to move my perspective from my circumstances (which die with my physical body) and to focus on the real promises that should matter to me more than my life.

OK, but what about the answers I need NOW? Are they not importnat? Do we just hang out on earth and wait to die? God showed me that He cared about both. I had mixed emotions, but asked God to deal with me as He wished.  To move all of me to where He wanted me.

 

By day three I started looking for Christ as the Bridegroom. I always loved those scriptures in Song of Solomon about how the Shulamite goes into the city looking for the groom, because she cannot bear to be apart from Him. I am far too proud to ever allow myself to feel that way about someone, much less communicate it, and here was God revealing His love and desire after us. The language of the scriptures is passionate and without pride.

Isaiah 62: For Zion’s sake I will not hold My peace,

And for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest,
Until her righteousness goes forth as brightness,
And her salvation as a lamp that burns
.…And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
So shall your God rejoice over you…

I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem;
They shall never hold their peace day or night.
You who make mention of the Lord, do not keep silent,
And give Him no rest till He establishes
And till He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth.

 

Here is the Mighty God, creator of the universe, chasing after my unfaithful heart like Hosea after Gomer. Urging me and constantly reminding me that his desire is to be united with me, to dwell with me for eternity, and that He has every intention of keeping His promise. That He has never abandoned me and that He never will.

 

John 14:2-32 In My Father’s house are many mansions;if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.

So what is this Hope that I have?

My hope rests in the fact that God made me to be in relationship with Him. He cares for me and provides for me and loves me (this is the bit I was comfortable with). My Hope is that as Jesus Christ made good on His promise to sacrifice Himself in my place, so will He be faithful  in restoring me, in setting me free, in causing me to see and the love-message, in coming back for me.

Luke 4: 16 So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. 17 And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,[j]
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”[k]

20 Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 And He began to say to them,“Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

How to Connect two Washing Machines

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The year is winding down, and so I have a few extra minutes a day to explore and enjoy new music. My playist landed on Bombadil’s “Laundromat”. What is our fascnination with laundromat romance? I remember how I used to go to the laundromat on Sundays to wash my clothes and read and I think I always harboured a fantasy that there would be some guy, preferbly one that was reading something awesome like “Architecture of Happiness” , and then after weeks of somehow being on the same schedule we would finally succumb to curiosity and start talking. We would be the perfect halves of each other and spend time together doing mundane things in the most extroadinary way in a fast-paced montage of utter unbearable happiness.

What is so dreamy about people coming together in a somewhat clinical public place to actually do something quite private, which frankly, is a bit of a tedious chore. According to Bro Bible, a laundromat is the no.1 idealised romantic spot which isn’t actually romantic. I have never met anyone interesting in a laundromat and in the hours I have spent there, I have only really noticed the hurried actions of people who just wanted to get the job done and go home. No one else sat there reading and watching the way I did. No one else seemed to be seeking connection.

I guess the theme here is connection. That ever evasive thing that we all crave and that tender place where most of us malfunction in the most spectacular way. We all just want someone to wash our dirty laundry with and to have us be seen as beautiful an exquisite, even if it is in over-lit fluorescent light while we’re wearing that outfit we only ever wear when there’s nothing else left. When we have no special pretence on offer.

Fountains of wayne – Sink to the bottom

This morning I showed my housemate how to find his way around the quirks of my washing machine. Our little laundromat fits inside a box in the men’s wing of our blue and white house and has laundry bins stacked on top of it like in a dorm. I have no romantic aspirations in our house. I am the mom of the house however our house has the chaos of comfort and family. It may be freaking me out at times, but on the inside deep deep far far down where the OCD ghouls are too afraid to go, where the true inside of me lives, there is a knowing that this is exactly what I need.

The challenge is not so much, I think, to find connection as it is to be connectable. To not be a smooth and perfect surface that life can just slip off of, but to be a little scoured and rough enough for the glue to take.

Famous laundromat scenes in movies

Image is not my own: For source click here from “The Lowly but Lovely Toronto Laundromat”

 

How to leave the Hermit behind

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I am delaying the inevitable. I have only 10 days left before I leave my place. It seems silly to be so melancholy about a place that only I have memories of. I am challenged this week on my comfort with being alone. When I picked out the flat I’m currently renting I was looking for a place to share. A place my boyfriend and I could watch movies and be comfortable, a place that I could fill with dinner guests and late night conversations, and in ways I had small quantities of that. I fell in love with it immediately but not for the reasons I initially had. I loved the skylight above the tub, I loved the dreamy loft bedroom and wide windows. All of the alone spaces.

I had a few guests stay throughout the year, but once my relationship had ended I quickly settled into a busy work routine and late nights of listening to music on my earphones sitting on my bed staring out at the city lights in the distance, the in-bath-cinema system I figured out with mildly little engineering, the leaving of dinner plates and long evenings with the cool breeze flicking hair into my face as I lie listening to the dim ambience of the people living around me. It allowed me the space to withdraw into my own world. It afforded me the comfort of never being confronted with myself. I actually like me quite a lot it seems…I just hope my new colony of housemates will enjoy me too.

 

Today’s shower concert consists of:

How to sleep, perchance to dream

Continuing on my theme of vulnerability vs violence this week, I found something which caught my eye. I am, of course tempted to rant on how a depiction of forced vulnerability is temptation to be described as beautiful and instead force myself to focus on the fact that these images have moved me into thought and more importantly action. Therefore, allow me to share it with you.

I can only imagine that Hamlet’s catch 22 speech must have an unkind familiar resonance to the too-young muses of photographer Magnus Wennman’s portrait study called, “Where the children sleep”. This collection of portraits deals with the subject of mostly Syrian refugee children and the paradox of sleep they face. The full collection is available on his instagram account or can be viewed at Afdonbladet . One of the most haunting of these is of 5 year old Tamam.

 

Image and quote are not my property. Image and quote sourced from: [click to be redirected]

 

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Tamam, 5 years old

AZRAQ. Five-year-old Tamam is scared of her pillow. She cries every night at bedtime. The air raids on her hometown of Homs usually took place at night, and although she has been sleeping away from home for nearly two years now, she still doesn’t realize that her pillow is not the source of danger.

How to avoid Vulnerability

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I don’t care much for vulnerability. It consists of a duality I cannot comprehend. I cannot understand how this horrible place of being acutely aware of one’s weakness is described as a strength. I just can’t help but feel like it is often something unsuspecting people get thrust into unwillingly. I cannot equate it to beauty. I cannot equate it to courage.

I spent a few hours listening to a story of a woman who had left a life of prostitution behind and I went home feeling like I swallowed half of her emotions – (I cannot imagine how all of it must feel) and had been pumped full of soda gas and been shaken…and I felt left with all her vulnerability inside me feeling both naked and full. I didn’t know how to get rid of it.

Even as I spent time pondering this topic today, I searched for illustrations of “vulnerability” on pinterest and found all sorts of beautiful quotes concerning the merits of being vulnerable and I think the art actually made me dislike it even more. Scrolls-full of naked and exposed women who made me feel more like an exposed object than anything else. What am I missing here? Are we not inevitably likely to wonder, “Is my vulnerability good enough?”

The worst part is that vulnerability seems to be expected! If you don’t produce enough of it in your relationships then you are not giving enough of yourself. I hope that I give of myself in other less filling myself up ways. The idea of exposing yourself in the hopes that some other person is going to cover it up again seems like a pointless and idiotic exercise. Not to mention dangerous. It’s like saying that getting in front of an oncoming bus is brave.

Being vulnerable in front of God, I get. It makes sense that He is allowed in that space where He works most to heal and perfect us. It doesn’t make it easy…but I can at least understand that. Perhaps I have just seen too much of what people do with other people’s weaknesses to know that it is rarely “covered” or “protected”. In many cases this cruelty is not even intended and then we are either left with the guilt of not reaching the unattainable expectation or scarred with the horror and panic of having been exposed. On the other hand we have a fair selection of people in our society that abuse their vulnerability to extort others. Best we all just wear our suntan lotion or stay out of the sun.

I

Image is not my property: click here for source

How to Read the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

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I woke up this morning at 4 am to cook breakfast and do a few designs for a project. One of my new kids were still sleeping in the guest room after a long night of studying and I hoped the early morning would will me to do something amazing and all the while I experienced this deep, inexplicable sorrow. Not knowing what to do with how I felt, I wrote down a sentence:

Oswald felt a deep, inexplicable sadness as morning departed and a hot beam of sunlight willed him out his chair and thrust him into the day.

…a few people liked my sentence…though, I think neither of us knew why. That made me feel a little bit better, but I still felt like I needed to somehow define my inexplicable sadness to make it understood. So I did what any respectable person of my generation would do: I asked google. Google suggested John Koenig’s “Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows” which contains pages full of emotions one might have found yourself trying to explain lengthily, but which now have words dedicated to themselves, like plant species. Here’s a few from: The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.

How to make a Shelf for your Head

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I found a new home! I’m still super bummed about giving up my loft with the city scape, but I’ve been adapting to the idea of the move and caught myself in moments while chewing on lunch where I plot out my new living space. I know I probably allow these ordinary life spaces to rule my expectations way too much, but in a way I find that one’s home is the thread that holds the chapter together around the back of the spine. You don’t notice it until one thread snaps loose and then all the pages fall apart and things run amuck, and the only way to keep it all completely together is to have a home unshared.

Alas, God has picked a date to end my comfort zone, and He is moving me in with a rowdy group of youngsters. All five of us will be sharing a rustic house on the edge of town with a herb garden and a tremendous lotus pond. The fellow dwellers comprise of a horticulturist, and engineer, a psychologist, a community developer/ would-be politician…and me. We hold house-meetings where food distribution, technology, agricultural uses for the garden, appropriate toiletpaper ply numbers and pet-choices are discussed and argued while I slap eager hands out of my plate of lunch, mock vigilant of my boundaries. Trying hard to appear cynical.

In preparation for the move, I have been timing my drive between work and the new house and looking for alternate routes in case of traffic. In the process I found a place so beautiful that I can only imagine it must, at some stage, have been the home of an entire colony of unicorns. Right at the top of the road that runs along the vineyards that separate us from the last neighbourhood is this huge piece of land covered in a plantation of pine trees that run up along the mountain. As if the setting sun dusting the tree trunks in red isn’t intoxicating enough, the walk in amongst the cool shelter of the trees is filled with the sweeping sounds of the breeze between the pine needles and that fresh forest smell… I’ve been there twice now and struggle to tear myself away when the last cyclists and joggers head home as the sun sets and the comfort gives way to an eerie unsafe feeling.

Perhaps I can move my head and my heart here when it’s weary and let them lose to hang or play among the trees.

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Oh! Here’s the song I woke up with this morning. Totally unrelated.

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