Sunday, August 26, 2012

Thank You!

Thank you all for participating in A Beautiful Conversation!  I hope that it has given you an opportunity this summer to expand your definition of beauty especially in the face of disability and human limitation.  I want to extend special thanks to our guest bloggers: Aimee Libby, Steve Wiens, Connie Bromaghim, Becky Patton, and Bill Raab.  Thank you also Judy Hougen, for being a guide on the side!  If you didn’t get a chance to read their posts, or listen to Aimee Mullin’s video, take some time this week to hear what others have to say on this topic!

What’s next?
My blog is going to continue through the school year at least on a bi-weekly basis.  Along the way, I’m going to invite others to write about how they have seen God working in the midst of their disability in a special series I’m calling Turning the Tapestry.  It’s still in the planning stages, but I know it’s going to be great!

I won’t be having a specific event on Facebook like I did this summer, but you can follow using Google Reader, E-mail, Twitter (@Bibliophile84), or by friending me on FB.  You all have so much to share and we all have so much to learn; I’m excited for the year to begin! 

A Look @ Who We Are
I closing, I thought I’d give you an overview of who participated in this conversation.  Some of you fell into more than one category and were counted twice. 

Sign Language Interpreter
College Professors

Graphic Designers
People living with a disability
Public Employees
Non-profit leaders

HS & College Students
Medical Professionals
Business Owners and Corporate Employees
Parents of children with a disability or disease

Pastors/Seminary Students/Ministry Leaders


Substitute, Classroom Teachers, and other K-12 public school employees

Thankful blogger

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Mirror Lies

Bill Raab left an interesting comment on my blog when I started A Beautiful Conversation.  He wrote:   Being a photographer I see beauty in people more than I had before I ever started photographing them. It's a blessing.  Bill is a photographer and owner of Exposed to Light Photography.  Learn more:  I was curious about Bill’s insight, and asked him if he would respond to this question:

                “As a photographer, what does it mean to reveal beauty in another person?”  

There is a way we see each other that is different than what one sees in a mirror. I am guessing it is a God given gift that when we meet with and talk to someone we just overlook the physical imperfections that the person who wears the face is so keenly aware of… from looking in the mirror.
Our eyes, created by God, are infused with His handiwork. They are amazing. Mirrors created by man are infused with his handiwork. Men (and women) are all too quick to point out each other’s faults and imperfections.  Why should we expect mirrors to be any different?   God, I believe, gave us eyes with which to admire His creation and to help and guide us through this earthly life.

As most things go we as men and women can twist God’s creation… and we do.  I believe what we see and how we perceive it is directly related to the presence of God in our heart. I also believe it is related to our ability to see His handiwork just as it is… work done by the hands of God. We are all wonderfully and fearfully made.

“God did not screw up when He made you. He’s a God that loves to parade you.” --By Delirious?  from Our God Reigns

As a photographer who often photographs young women I have witnessed their carrying the mirror image of themselves rather than the God created image they bear. One can hardly blame them. We have all seen the magazines, the ads, the movies, which show us all how we should look. 

I often run into people uncertain of their appearance. I have been blessed with a knack for making people feel comfortable in front of the lens. I hardly recall purposely considering how to compose an image based upon someone’s physical imperfections. Maybe it makes me a poor photographer but mainly I just do not see them.  When it comes to being behind the camera I see:  joy, love, grace, beauty, hope, courage, life and much more at times. I think all of our eyes were made to see in this way. It is how God created them.

I see people insecure in their looks and while I can only do so much re-assuring when I am with them, my prayer is that when they see the pictures they begin to see what I have seen. The way that is possible is that I try to capture moments that exhibit the essence of the person. Images that show who that person is… not just what they look like. 

I have photographed stage 4 cancer patients and I saw beauty, and they see it too in the images. It is not by my magic, it is not by the camera I use. It is the result of seeing with the gift God has given me and translating that to an image of a person that embodies that vision.

We, all of us, every person on this planet, and every person that was ever on this planet were all made in the image of God. Yes, it is hard for us to grasp hold of that. Yes, it is hard to live in that space. Yes, it is hard to see each other in that light. But it is true and it is a core truth of our lives.
Beauty moves from the inside out. The best image I make of anyone is when I can get them to move to a place of comfortableness that they can be who they are and the inside, gets out. It happens, I have seen it. The person so certain that they are anything but beautiful becomes the very image of the beauty that God has created in her, or him.

Is beauty only skin deep? Hardly… that is something a man once said and man continues to buy into. True beauty is created by God and it runs deep. When we see in the way God has intended us to see, we can see this beauty in each other. When we view each other through the eyes of man that have been trained by man we miss so much.

This image is of my brother in law Chip, taken Christmas Eve of 2009. We did not know that in a few short weeks he would be diagnosed with cancer. Nor, those in about 8 months he would be gone. He would never think of himself as beautiful… but he didn’t see himself the way we all did. But, he saw us all the way we saw him.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Being Scarred By Beauty

While doing some research for the blog last week, I came across this quote:

“Jesus Himself did not rid Himself of the physical marks brought about by His crucifixion and death. Instead, He kept the nail marks and spear cut to demonstrate that He had died and was now alive. His broken body brings us spiritual wholeness.” Dave Andrus, executive director of Lutheran Blind Mission

Special guest blogger Becky Patton has more to say on this subject.

Being Scarred by Beauty.


There is this guy in scripture that has become my friend. In Acts he is the one that had to touch the scars of Jesus; some how just seeing was not enough, instead he needed to touch, feel and experience the wounds. Scripture does not condemn his action yet that hesitation has led us to label him “doubting Thomas.”

Yet I wonder is there more?
Jesus invites him to
come close...
touch and feel...
these scars that marked his body.
Could this physical scaring actually hold traces of beauty?

Have you ever wondered about why Jesus chose to return into an earthly body that held scarred hands, feet and side? Why keep the scars?  I mean Jesus did conquer death, I am guessing that ripped and torn skin could be replaced or remolded.

I use to believe that I would not be like Thomas, that if I had been there, just seeing the wonder and beauty of Jesus would have been enough, but I have come to realize that I, like Thomas, often have need of learning to be invited to more than just what I “see.”

Currently I am sitting next to what would be considered a site of beauty - Lake Superior. There is a slight breeze and the colors of blue are multiple in layers. The shoreline has carved and scarred rocks and cliffs that have been sculpted by the wind and water. I am invited to come climb into this picture of beauty.

How is this beauty created?

Last night this same location was covered in stormy darkness. Wicked lightening and violent winds stirred the water into angry waves that slammed into the rocky boarders of land. Electricity was lost and I was instantly plunged into dark--the kind where you cannot see your hand in front of your face. As the theatrical show of light and darkness danced through the sky, I felt an invitation to come close, to experience my own vulnerability without fear and to rest in the beauty of darkness and not rush to rescue it with light. To remember the beauty of where I had sat only only hours before, that was now being carved and scarred...

Does scarring hold beauty?
Can darkness play a role in creating beauty?

What I know from the Genesis account of creation is that “...darkness was on the face of the deep...” God pulled the light from that darkness. God was there in that first darkness because it is only one verse later that the light is pulled forth.

Could the beauty of that shoreline have been created without these storms of darkness? 

Does Thomas’ vulnerability invite me to experience the invitation to see my Savior as both scarred and resurrected?

Yes, I want to see beauty, but sometimes I need to be invited to
touch... in order to actually see it IS beauty.

If I avoid all darkness and all scars, maybe I also miss the invitation to experience a beauty that is beyond what I can see...

Becky Patton is the founder of Trueessence: Sexuality & Spirituality and the author of  Holy Sexuality: Beginning with Questions.  She also writes a blog called Holy Sexuality: Reclaiming the Truth of Who We Are.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Preciousness of the Soul

This week three of my friends and I met in a park for a picnic.  An hour later, a spouse showed up unexpectedly with a camera wanting to take a picture of us.  We all erupted in spontaneous protest.  “No, don’t take a picture!”  “My hair’s too poofy!”  “My pants are too big!”  “I’m wearing a T-Shirt!”  In the end, after some coaxing, we all gave in and posed for the camera.   

Our collective reaction to the photo shoot reminded me of how fixated humanity seems to be on physical appearance---I included.  I love dressing up, especially for church, I love finding just that right pair of shoes to top off an outfit, and I’ll never pass up the opportunity to add a little bling to my wardrobe when I know it will earn me a compliment.  It’s often, however, that I’ll look in the mirror admiring that my make-up is “perfect,” and be reminded that I am not. 

Living with a physical disability has changed how I view myself and other people.  When I meet someone for the first time, I’m hoping they’ll like me. I’m also hoping that they will have the courage and the patience to see my exterior, but also to look even further, deep into the heart of who I am.  In turn, I often find myself spurred onto a similar treasure hunt.  Knowing all too well that truly “seeing” a person takes more than a first impression, I try to dig deep, uncovering what beauty lies beneath the skin.  This is not an easy task; it takes time, patience, and repeated interaction.   

When the person has a disability, this task can become more challenging, but at the same time even more compelling.  Physical disability, I’ve found, is often perceived in sharp and unexpected contrast to what people expect a body to look like, but even initial shock or a subtle startle can provide the extra motivation necessary to enter into a deeper realm, one that carefully peers into the human soul.  

I recently came across an intriguing quote from Joni Eareckson Tada.  Joni is a quadriplegic and head’s up an international ministry to people with disabilities.
“Most churches have difficulty in ministering to the handicapped simply because of some basic fears and lack of awareness. As we move past these attitudinal barriers and misunderstanding, we’ll discover the joy of caring for someone simply based on the preciousness of their souls, not on their physical attractiveness and intellectual capabilities or social position.”

This week…
Challenge yourself.

When you meet someone new, whether they have a disability or not, take a moment to look beyond their exterior, past the things you don’t understand or find yourself afraid of to discover the beauty within; seize the opportunity to behold “the preciousness of their souls.”

Photo by N. Crist
Quote Source:

Stumbo Family Story