Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Mask or Marrow?

I have just returned from a trip to South Carolina.  It was a "Girls' Getaway" weekend! Oh, how I needed it and loved my time there.  One of my closest friends moved there this past summer.  So another friend and I went down to see her new "digs" and soak up some quality true friend time.   We laughed a ton, listened to and encouraged each other, shopped, visited Charleston, rode a historical tour carriage ride, worshiped together at their new church and sat quietly together at times.  It was perfect.   

There are rare few people (outside of close family) who I feel close enough to and comfortable enough with to spend a whole day with sans makeup, in know... raw.  I can with these two women.  I don't have to put on that facade that I do other days.  I don't have to be worried about what I look like.  I don't have to be concerned about what they think.   They know me at my core.  They know (and like) what makes me tick, what nourishes me, what is at the center of who I am.  

So, mask or marrow?  That is the question has been rumbling around in my head for the past week.  Do people know me by my mask or my marrow?   That mask is a facade.  It does serve a purpose and is much easier to look at.  It provides me with a shield of sorts. It also can enduce pride.  I want to be proud of how I look.  Two decades of being obese allowed me to be lacking in self pride and become very good at using a mask to protect myself.  I rarely was without makeup and dressing trendy and stylish (as much as I could with the clothes available for plus size women!).  
I "dolled up" the outside.......the exterior........the facade.

But what about the inside...the interior....the marrow.  Bone marrow is such a fascinating, amazing thing.  The marrow inside a bone is so rich.  It is a flexible tissue in the hollow most part of the bone that is the center of stem cell production.  One of the definitions of marrow is "the inmost or essential part".  Such extraordinary growth and nourishment comes from the marrow.  

Back to Charleston.......
As we sat, bundled up under a thick red blanket on our carriage tour ride of Charleston the idea of mask vs. marrow was the glasses that I viewed things with that day.  The architecture of Charleston is beautiful.  Streets are lined with amazing stately homes.  Each one is different from the next.  They are adorned with beautiful shutters, iron railings and balconies, and architectual details.  Some are painted, some have a flattened stucco like texture on them and some have gorgeous brick.  They are magnificent.

But as we rode past these homes I noticed that if you looked right around the corner of them you would see a different look.  The sides of the homes didn't look like the front facade.  Many times it was a different material, or unpainted, and in some cases dirty.  You can see in these photos that I took the conflicting aesthetics of the buildings.

This house was stunning.  The front was immaculate and full of beautiful details.  
But the sides were just a normal brick, no shutters, no ornate balconies....simple.

These two buildings were paintly crisply on the front and made a statement.
But the sides of them were molding and uncared for.

 This is a building on the famous Rainbow Row.  
It has been freshened up with lovely pale turquoise paint.
But if you look closely the sides of the building are mismatching brick and dirty.

We were nearing the end of our tour when we came upon this next house.....
The tour guide pointed out to us that if we looked back at the length of the house we would see what was typical of the homes that were built back then.  This was a home built by a man and his wife for themselves and their 2 teenage daughters at the time...and their 18 slaves.  You can see a large main home with the beautiful front, large windows and made of strong brick and 4 people lived their life there.  Then behind that is the mid-sized portion of the building which we were told had the kitchen and work areas.  It had fewer windows and was dirty on the outside.  Then, immediately after that came the smallest portion of the home...... the cramped slave's quarters for 18 people.  It has very small windows and was wrought with crumbling brick.

Seeing this and hearing this felt like a kick in the gut.  Why in the world did we ever treat other human beings like this?  Why would anyone make people live in lesser conditions than they were living in just 100 feet away?  But as I thought about this more the "mask vs marrow" theme crept into my thoughts.  The front of that house paints a specific picture to those looking from the outside.  Then as you walk through the house, through many rooms I am sure you would finally come to what was the heart of that home.  In the back was where all the work was done.....all the nourishment....all the endurance and perseverance.  The back room of that home was the marrow.  It was rich with nutrients.  It was the cell production unit.  It was free from image.  It was raw.

I am grateful for the people in my life who I can show my marrow to.
I need to feel free to show it to more people.
I have a long way to go with taking my mask down.
I will challenge myself to try to see beyond the mask of others.
I realize that my core is where God is my servant heart.

May you recognize the difference between your mask and your marrow.
May you look beyond others' masks to discover their marrow.
May you allow others to get to your core. 
May you learn to love your marrow and shed your mask. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Doors

I have long been a bit obsessed with doors.  I do not mean the classic rock group led by the mysterious Jim Morrison.  I mean the ones that are defined like this:
                   door (dawr, dohr): noun:
                         1. a movable, usually solid, barrier for opening and closing an entranceway,
                             cupboard, cabinet, or the like, commonly turning on hinges or sliding in
                         2. a doorway
                         3. the building, house, etc., to which a door belongs
                         4. any means of approach, admittance, or access
                         5. any gateway marking an entrance or exit from one place or state
                             to another

Doors have always intrigued me.  I love photos of doors from all over the world.  I like how a front door to a home can evoke a specific feeling.

A door is a gateway.  
To what?  To where?  To who?

The options of answers to those questions are endless.  I have been pondering these things lately, especially with the New Year's holiday.  New Year's always seems to be everyone's day to make changes, review things, and choose a new door to enter.  A new approach to how they eat, prioritize, work out, build relationships or manage money.  I look at New Year's as a choice of many doors.  So I thought I would share with you some of my thoughts on the doors that are awaiting...

Lots of choices....  Sometimes I feel like I am staring at a long hallway with many doors. All of them look the same.  How in the world am I supposed to know which one is the best one for me to open?  Overwhelming.....daunting....confusing.....but energizing and fascinating as well.  Which door would you open?

When I tap into my natural "gotta have control of things" part of my personality (and, believe me, it is a BIG part of who I am!) I wish that every door could have a peep hole or small window.  If I could just have a little peek at what is behind door #2 I would feel so much better.  I could make a much better informed decision.   I could choose more wisely.  To have a glance at what is behind that gateway would make things so simple.  I like simple ya know!  But would that be the best.  Some of the best things in life are surprises.  7 years ago, if I had been able to look behind door #4 and see a little red-headed boy that was not planned I would probably have not opened that door.  I am thankful that door didn't have that small window. 

Some doors are the only opening in a home.  They are the only source of light for the abode.  Those doors are ones that I think should always be left open.  I love the light and would never close that door.  Many people all over the world have only one door.  Those homes, if the door is left open, are very accessible and exposed.   If closed, though, these homes are protected,  private and sheltered.  All of those attributes are ones I long for in my life.  I want to be accessible to others but yet have my privacy.  A single door'd dwelling might be a wise choice........

When standing on the threshold of a door it can seem quite narrow.  It can feel like you would enter into a tight space with not much space or opportunity.  Those doors can be deceiving.  Sure, you open some and you do find yourself in a situation that is confining, restricting and limited.  But, sometimes you open it and the view gets gradually wider, deep, comprehensive and radially spacious!  Those are the doors that you look back at entering with gratitude.

Then of course there is the revolving door!  I have felt like I was in a revolving door many times in my life.  When I was a first time mom of a colicky, ear infection-plagued infant and my husband was away with the Navy many of my days felt like a revolving door.  I just went round and round in circles.  But if I take a step back that door served its purpose.  I could navigate that "path" with my eyes closed if I needed.  I could be on auto-pilot and not run into any big speed bumps or challenges.  Familiarity with the lay of the land was a good thing for me.  I also got an occasional burst of fresh air but still was protected.  It kept my sights set on a short term time line (what was around the next bend?) and not on the big long timeline (when will Craig be home?).  
A revolving door can have a positive purpose if you are open to seeing it that way.

One of my favorite doors is a sliding double-wide barn door!  You don't need to be a big, able, tough, strong person to open it.  Because it is on a sliding path it can be pushed open with 2 fingers sometimes.  It is accessible to even the most fragile of folks.  It also is extra wide.  There is room for many people (or animals) to walk in side by side.  The entryway is vast and welcoming.  If it were possible I would have a home in which the front door was a sliding barn door.  It would be smooth to open for everyone and many could stand at the threshold and feel welcomed in our home.

Then, of course, there is the church door.  It can be very ornate or simple.  People who enter these doors are hoping to encounter God within the walls of the building.  I know that when I am in our church I do. I grew up as a child feeling that a church was "God's house" and was reverant when in it.  I do believe that God is present in churches all over this world.  I believe the doors to churches are the gateway for many to start and strengthen their faith walks.  But I dream one day of going through a different door of "God's house".  I believe that the church is not the physical building but it is the people and the earth.  I have always been tugged in the direction of a different physical building and imagine that I might learn more about who God is if I chose that door to go through.  This door would be one on the front of a poorly constructed tin building in a slum or grass hut in Africa like the blue one below.  
I hope and pray to one day be given the honor to open the door to this kind of home.

There are so many "doors" in this life to choose many we have access to, can approach or gain admittance to.   How we deal with these choices can define our future.  If we stress about them or have anxiety when facing them we will never be able to truly savor the incredible gift of a choice that we have.  If we ignore the doors we miss out on many opportunities to enrich our lives.  But if we are intrigued by the doors, embracing the potential lessons and fortunes that lie beyond the opening we can be assured of a life filled with possibility, promise and...maybe even purpose.

May you have many doors to choose from.
May you resist the temptation to peek through the small window.
May you enjoy the chance to open them.
May you learn and grow from each and every gateway that life presents you with.

Happy New Year!
Happy New Door Day!