Manna Meditations

seeing into the future …

Manna Meditations, Day 31

Yesterday, in a moment of joy, I lifted my iPhone to a dogwood branch knotted with small dark buds – the hope of things to come.

By accident, though, I snapped a photo of my own upturned face, lit with quiet wonder.

I offer these two images today in humble recognition that they are both, in a way, photos of the same thing:

Unguarded Hope.

And also, beauty.

Because really:  anyone who can see hope outside herself is someone who harbors it safe within, too…

And that, friends, is a deeply beautiful thing. ❤

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Confessional

The Day the Light Overtakes Me …

Yesterday, I walk into the woods and into autumn’s first blush:  red dogwoods and the crackle of dry leaves underfoot.

And I find myself breathing a deep sigh that feels — strangely — like relief.

Autumn is usually a hard season for me, in spite of the goodness of hot cider and apple-picking, boots and flannel and blankets.  I guess that’s because I’m a summer girl, and fall spells the end of a season in which I feel most alive, most myself.  Usually, I walk into the red-tinted forest and feel the first breath of winter on the wind.  The death of everything green.

But this year is different.

This year, along with the fear, I feel hope.

*

Can I tell you a secret — a secret that those who love me best already know?  This has been a hard summer for me.  I’ve made some terrible relational decisions in recent months — trusted people I should have held at arm’s length.  Allowed my patience to be mistaken for permissiveness. My kindness stretched into shapes that felt all wrong.

And believe me:  I don’t say this with even a hint of self-pity…  This is no one’s fault but mine.

As a result, I’ve walked around for half the summer with a shadow perched on my shoulder, the way some old ladies carry a trained monkey or a pet parakeet.  On the bad days, that shadow dug its claws into my clavicle, pressed a beak to my ear and muttered the same three mocking phrases over and over again — I won’t repeat them here — until it was hard to hear the song of the cicadas.

The wind in the treetops.

The water over the rocks.

But…

*

In the midst of this season of shadows, I’ve been finding light strewn across my path right and left.

I can’t even begin to put into words the way my cup has been overflowing lately:  the way new friends and old friends and complete strangers have showered me with love and affection, openness and positivity and joy.  They’ve done this without being asked to do so, without even knowing why I needed it.  Sometimes I’ve felt like a beggar on the side of the road, opening my palms as each stranger passes, and one day God himself walked by and, instead of dropping a coin in my cupped hands, he heaped on me so many handfuls of gold that I don’t know what to do with it all.

And I know I’m mixing metaphors.  Leaving so much unsaid.  So I’ll just say this:

Like so many things, the joy and the pain, the shadow and light come wrapped together in the same box.

And this, too, is beauty.

*

So yesterday:  I walk into the forest.

The light is lying there on the path, hard-angled and very gold.

And I don’t know why, but suddenly I want to know what my face looks like, in this moment.  I want to capture the sight of myself in this strange season — a season of Shadow and Light — which is beginning to feel not at all like Autumn, but like a second Spring.

So I pull out my iPhone.

I hold it up and take a photo of myself without looking.

I take another photo.

And another.

And after a moment or two, I look down again and scroll through the images I’ve just taken, and I see this:

light4

And this:

light2

And this:

light3

I see myself for exactly what I am:  a frail, foolish and good-hearted creature, being overtaken completely by the Light.

light5

You, too. ❤

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{Wondering why I take photos of myself?  Self-portraiture is one of the best and most beautiful things that’s happened to me.  You can read about my body-image project, Same Body, Second Glance, here.  I hope you’ll take a few photos of your own. <3}

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Second Glance

Same Body, Second Glance: Day Nineteen

July 19, 2014

day19

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{{Wondering what’s going on here??  Almost a year ago, I found myself on bad terms with the person in the mirror.  So I made a commitment:  every day for forty days, I’d take *one* photograph of my body that I could honestly see as beautiful.  Want to follow my journey?  Start here.}}

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Second Glance

Same Body, Second Glance: Day Fourteen

July 14, 2014

day14

Let’s talk, for a moment, about the hard parts.  The portions of our bodies that are difficult to accept.

The picture I’m sharing with you today is a picture of my knees.  They’re a little strange, as far as knees go.  If I stand with my ankles together, they point slightly toward each other, and there’s a narrow gap between my bowed legs from ankle to thigh.  It’s the sort of thing the average person would never notice — the result of a slight anatomical anomaly, a twist in both my femurs.

Years ago, I was a ballerina, and a decent one — the kind of dancer displayed at best advantage with both feet off the ground.  There’s a term in ballet called ballon (accent on the second syllable), which is the ability to hang suspended at the top of a leap for a longer period than usual.  It is, in essence, the illusion of making time stop while you’re in the air.  That was my gift.  It made me a fun dancer to watch, but more importantly, it brought me joy.  In the middle of a jump, I felt just a little bit transcendent.  

When I was a teenager, and finally just reaching the point where I began to take that art seriously, a certain dance instructor sat down with me to talk about the problem of my knees.  She suggested that if I wanted to go much further with ballet, I’d reached a point where I ought to consider finding a surgeon who could break and reset my legs to improve their lack of linearity.  Ballet is all about the perfection of line, and my legs were plainly imperfect.  No matter what kind of crazy stunts I could pull in the air, those curved lines would always hold me back. 

It wasn’t much later when I quit ballet.

To be honest, I’ve never quite gotten over the feeling that my legs just aren’t right … that there’s a fatal flaw in the machine, one that can’t be overcome by passion or power.  I don’t like myself from the waist down.  Aside from my pajamas, I don’t own a single pair of shorts.  But lately, I’ve begun to believe in the idea that I can see beauty there anyways, if I just teach myself how to look.

Over the next week, I’m going to try to re-see this part of myself.  You’re invited to join in the process.  I welcome your encouragement, and I can’t tell you how grateful I am to share my process with you.  It’s a joy, truly.

Thank you. ❤

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This post is part of a series.  To read more, click here.

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Second Glance

Same Body, Second Glance: Day Ten

July 10, 2014

day10

Learning to see myself with compassion and wonder…

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{{Wondering what’s going on here??  Almost a year ago, I found myself on bad terms with the person in the mirror.  So I made a commitment:  every day for forty days, I’d take *one* photograph of my body that I could honestly see as beautiful.  Want to follow my journey?  Start here.}}

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Second Glance

Same Body, Second Glance: Day Nine

July 9, 2014

Today, this is what courage looks like …

day9

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{{Wondering what’s going on here??  Almost a year ago, I found myself on bad terms with the person in the mirror.  So I made a commitment:  every day for forty days, I’d take *one* photograph of my body that I could honestly see as beautiful.  Want to follow my journey?  Start here.}}

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