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Photo by Elisa Self

By Joy Wong

Beauty’s a tough subject for me — and, I imagine, for most women. It seems that nearly every woman I encounter is unhappy about some aspect of her appearance. One woman laments the size of her hips and thighs. Another mom marvels at the ability of a lady on a blog who gave birth seven times and is still able to maintain a flat stomach. Personally, I’ve been noticing an increasing amount of freckles and sunspots on my face. I also wonder when (or if) my tummy will ever go flat again, and if I will ever lose all my postpartum weight.

What’s funny (and horrific) about it all is that it seems that my ideal self is an ever-moving target. These days, I pine for my slim self when I was in my 20s, but as I recall, back then I wasn’t happy about some other aspect…  perhaps some acne, or volumeless hair, or whatever. One of the graces I find about being a mom of three kids is that while I’m too busy to work on my appearance, I’m also too busy to spend too much time critiquing myself either.

“Beauty is fleeting,” as Proverbs 31:30 says (NIV). It makes me think of cut flowers — beautiful for a couple days, and if you’re lucky, for a week or so; but in a short time, it all starts to brown and wither. I find that roses tend to die most gracefully, but even dead roses are such a sad comparison to their former gorgeous blooms. Very depressing, especially when we think of our own beauty in the same way!

But a new metaphor is now dawning on me, and giving me a bit more hope: not the beauty of cut roses, but the beauty of a rose bush, planted in the ground. It reminds me of the tree “planted in streams of living water, which yields its fruit [or in the case of our metaphor, flowers] in season and whose leaf does not wither — whatever they do prospers” (Psalm 1:3 NIV). Or even of Paul’s exhortations to be “rooted and grounded in love” (Eph. 3:17) and/or “rooted…abounding in thanksgiving” (Col. 2:7) (NIV).

Perhaps it’s true that our beauty is fleeting, but just as a rose bush yields new flowers in new seasons, so also perhaps our lives yield new beauty in different seasons of our lives. In aging, perhaps there is new beauty in confidence, in joy, in maturation, in appreciation, in wisdom, in gentleness, in patience, in perspective… and the list goes on.

For me, something I’d like to gain is appreciation… for the beauty I have, rather than the beauty I’ve lost, or don’t have anymore. After all, beauty is fleeting, right? What I have now (and fail to appreciate), I may not have tomorrow, and perhaps I may be lamenting the loss of it in the next season. Instead of succumbing to the incessant nagging of my inner critic, I want to be grateful. Moreover, I want to be rooted, yielding beauty in the due seasons of my life.

Joy Wong has an MDiv from Fuller Theological Seminary, a BA in English from Princeton University, as well as four years’ experience in industrial distribution management.  She is a contributing author to Mirrored Reflections: Reframing Biblical Characters, published in September 2010. 

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By Wendy Choy-Chan

I joined a line dancing class recently to get some regular exercise. The instructor is around seventy years old, and some of my classmates are in their eighties already. Needless to say, I don’t know any of the “pop songs” that we dance to. I feel I am being transported to an era before my time, but these ladies and one gentleman feel right at home, dancing like stars, with the rest of the universe as audience. Continue Reading »

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By Tina Teng-Henson

Boxes of files neatly line the shelves and the center section of our garage. Some are filled with manila envelopes, each containing mementos, clippings, photos, and important documents from every chapter of my life. High school, college, every job I’ve ever had. Other boxes date back farther, containing letters from penpals in elementary, middle, and high school. What else? Continue Reading »

By Liz Chang

I am constantly in awe of the colors of fall leaves. I could probably sit and gaze at a tree with fiery red, orange and yellow leaves for hours. I especially love seeing trees that have the full gradient from green to yellow, orange, red, and all the shades in between. Continue Reading »

 

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By Debbie Gin

While “spontaneous” does not readily characterize me, I have engaged in my share of after-midnight, spur-of-the-moment beach-fishing runs and sleep-outside-on-the-stairs-of-the-college-chemistry-building-just-for-the-heck-of-it episodes. Most of these trysts with fellow rebels took place when I was younger — when I had fewer responsibilities and had less to risk. Now, older and with more to risk, I find it harder to welcome spontaneity.

To be sure, it rubs me the wrong way when the topic I was invited to speak on changes last minute or when the restaurant we’d decided on gets usurped for another, more exciting venue. As a fairly strong Myers-Briggs’ “J”, I like my world ordered. Spontaneity has little room in such a world, where “spontaneous” is a euphemism for “undisciplined” or “lacking in planning.” I also chafe at how society tends to value unshackled “creative vision” above careful “organized management” — with no imagination for a combination of these — in its leaders. So those who do welcome spontaneity by nature may find nothing to gain from this post.

In theological education (and in higher education, more generally), innovation has become a major driver. With post-2008 economic downturn decreases in enrollment and steady increases in operating budgets and tuition (for various reasons), institutions are having to defend their existence or, at least, show the return on students’ investments. In such tumultuous times, theological schools are needing to (learn to) be agile. Being agile (adaptable, nimble, flexible) is not the same as being undisciplined, however. The risk is too high to approach innovation randomly. Most newer schools are tuition-driven, while many older schools are endowment-reliant and finding themselves dipping into the endowments. They’re all finding ways to innovate responsibly. And, if books like New York Times’ bestseller The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses are any indicator, being agile means replacing 10- and 20-year strategic plans with ongoing strategic priorities or principles.

So what does this description of institutional agility have to do with individual spontaneity? Individual spontaneity comes through a strategically principled life — basing decisions on the principles that you have intentionally named for your life and vocation. I believe expressions of spontaneity in the life of the believer are experienced through the movement of the Spirit. The Spontaneous happens in the prompting to care for someone you know very little about. You experience It when a national atrocity occurs, and you rise — perhaps uncharacteristically — to fight the hate and injustice. You receive It when someone outside your community advocates on your behalf.

But spontaneity is not undisciplined; it is not irresponsible. This is good news for women, in particular, because, as typical multi-taskers, they have little room for spontaneity. Many of my women friends have had to make great professional sacrifices because they are taking care of children or elder parents or both. They are also hard-working employees and ministers, contribute to the life of the church, and keep their homes running. Their schedules are packed, so they must be disciplined. Having to don so many roles does mean they have little to no room for the spontaneous get-together with strategic potential partners, and the sacrifices they have to make keep them from benefiting immediately from a quick (i.e., “spontaneous”) decision because they have to find a babysitter, someone to take their parents to the doctor, etc. However, the disciplined life they have cultivated by necessity will hopefully have caused them to live by strategic principle, and the Spirit will ultimately bring expressions of spontaneity into that life of discipline. I encourage you (and myself) to also be disciplined in planning space in your schedules for the Spontaneous to prompt.

Dr. Debbie Gin is Director of Faculty Development and Research at The Association of Theological Schools/Commission on Accrediting, the support and accrediting organization of most seminaries in the US and Canada. She was formerly Associate Professor of Ministry at Azusa Pacific Seminary and Fellow for Faculty Development and Evaluation in the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment at Azusa Pacific University. She and her husband currently live in Pennsylvania.

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By Sharon Lee Song

Traditional Korean family culture is not a culture that is characterized by spontaneity.  I would generalize and say that this is true for other East Asian cultures (Chinese, Japanese).  There are strong familial expectations for each individual, and particularly for children to fulfill their parent’s expectations for life, career, and future family generations.  Continue Reading »

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By Tina Teng-Henson

When was the last time you did something kind…for yourself? That was good for your body?

Last week, on a whim, I walked into a little beauty school around the corner from where we live, that I’d never paid attention to before.  I’d often walked right by it over the past 5 years, nestled as it is between our pediatrician’s office and the Rite Aid pharmacy. I checked their hours and wrote down their rates for a haircut. Continue Reading »

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