In January, on a whim, I flew down to Houston, Texas, to do something that I felt compelled to do. You see, I had fallen in love with this little blog called Chookooloonks. I don’t even remember now how I found it… but oh, am I ever-so-glad that I did. Though the photography is just beautiful, it was the spirit of the blog that just kept me going back day after day, without fail. It felt like a comfy space. A beautiful, comfy space.
It was months before I got up the nerve to e-mail Karen, the woman behind chookooloonks, personally and tell her how much I appreciated her words and admired her photography. When she responded, she was, of course, lovely and gracious and just as sweet as she could be. Her frequent message to her readers is, quite simply, that the beauty of our lives is worth celebrating and that we are all worthy to be considered beautiful. Worthy… it’s not a word she uses frequently, but it is infused in every bit of encouragement or uplifting post she writes. It was a feeling I consistently felt when I visited her blog.
And it is something that I have struggled with all my life. Feeling worthy. Now, I don’t want to get all creepy-like and say something really crazy like “Chookooloonks saved my life!” No, but chookooloonks was an open door. A warm, sunny, beautiful (albeit virtual) space where I was not preached at, but gently encouraged to think of myself and my life as worthy and beautiful, and this is important, to see worth and beauty on my own terms. It’s really difficult to describe how it all unfolded, but for lack of a better way of putting it– it just created a space in my own thinking. Just a bit of quiet space that, in time, drew me to prayer, and reflection, and contentment, and allowed me to reconnect with myself, my Lord, and my own spirit. I so desperately needed it at that time.
As time went on I secretly wished that I was a more serious writer/blogger/writing professional so I could justify going to one of these huge BlogHer conferences where Karen sometimes speaks and perhaps meet her or some of these other cool women who are such excellent writers and do such wonderful things to build a network and community among all people, but particularly women on the web. Smart, cosmopolitan, cutting-edge types that are managing to have damn-near it all in terms of career, and a family, and talent, and notoriety, and fabulous shoes. I just didn’t see myself and my worn out Clark sandals as being a part of that crowd. I’d feel uncomfortable and out of place.
So when Karen announced that she was going to take pictures of ordinary folks for her upcoming book The Beauty of Different, and that she was seeking volunteers for anybody who would or could be in the Houston area during MLK weekend, I felt compelled, compelled I say, to do it. 1. Because I was dying to meet this woman. 2. Because I relished the opportunity to tell her face-to-face that her vision of what she wants to do in the world through her blog is working. 3. Because I finally felt like I could be worthy of being considered for such a project even though, I am convinced, I have the most ordinary looking face in the world. Didn’t matter. Karen, I thought, will make me look beautiful because I’ve never seen a not-beautiful person in her pictures.
So I flew to Houston with my niece Leslie and I did it.
And it was grand because… because… well… for lots of reasons. Because I got to run down an airport terminal to board the plane at the very last minute before take off, just like in the movies! Because I got to have drinks at 1 p.m. in the afternoon… and then I got to have more that evening. Because I got to hang with the coolest niece in the world. Because I got to go to a new city. Because I flew in a plane and didn’t cry (I don’t much like flying). I got to stay in a swanky hotel. But the best part, without a doubt, was meeting Karen because, well… she is the real deal. She was so warm, and kind, and encouraging, and real. Two years ago I never would have had the nerve to put myself in a situation to meet her because I would have been intimidated by the fact that she is so well-educated, had traveled so widely, has such ability. A woman like her must have, like, a gazillion friends and I would just be a waste of her time. I’d have been too self-conscious. But see, that’s what’s changed over the past two years… with a daily, little, gentle nudge of encouragement from her blog. So, you see, I had to go and tell her so.
So I went, and just the whole experience of doing this for myself, it happened at the right time for the right reasons. And I have to tell you that I so wholeheartedly agree with Karen’s perspective on beauty. I know that I am not the only woman who has struggled with feeling beautiful or worthy or deserving or good enough. But she is absolutely right when she says that we are ALL beautiful. Her book, The Beauty of Different, celebrates this truth, and I encourage you to buy two copies: one for yourself and one for someone who needs to be reminded that he/she is beautiful.
This is the photo that Karen took of me that day.
When I look at this, I don’t necessarily see beauty, but I see worth. And I see strength. Two things that, for a long time, I had been feeling a lack of, but I do not any longer. So to my friends, to my family, to Karen @ chookooloonks, and especially to my husband and children, and Jesus… I say thank you. Thank you.