For someone who loves clothes and shiny things, I find myself with nothing to wear.
Actually, I have clothes, a lot of clothes. However, although for a good portion of my life my wardrobe was perpetually covered in the stains of motherhood, you know, spit-up, sticky handprints, and miscellaneous cheese food, my current wardrobe is stained with something new.
And yes, I will get to that. But like with almost every other aspect of my life, the new stains are a reminder of how God moves.
In preparation for the podcast this week, Fashionably Charming, I decided I needed to take a serious look at my closet. Overwhelming would be an excellent adjective to describe it. I confess, if I don’t like something, I get rid of it. At the same time, if I love something, even if it doesn’t fit anymore, I keep it.
Among the fashion forward pieces neatly hung in my closet, there are a few pieces that are either too precious to part with or too important to ever forget.
I stopped to recount, a maternity dress. I wore it only once. It was purchased on a Monday, on clearance for $12.88. I wore it the next day, on a Tuesday to my Master’s Orals, the last leg of my graduate studies. The next morning, Wednesday, I gave birth to our second child. A son, John Oliver, who grew into a strapping young Marine.
Hanging behind the blue maternity smock is a darling yellow seersucker dress with a sailor collar and tiny daisies embroidered on the cuff, size 18 months.
It has a dainty matching sweater. I bought it in 1996. My oldest daughter, Maggie wore it on an Easter Sunday. My youngest daughter, Sophie wore it to a wedding in 2003. And then, our foster love wore it to our youngest son’s adoption hearing in 2016. The picture of Joy Baby in that dress, toddling the halls of a court house is forever burned in my memory.
A few short weeks later, Joy Baby would be gone from our lives.
And what is it about such things, clothes or fabric sewn together in specific detail, that cling to our memories and hold tight to our hearts?
Whatever it is, it prompts some to pay as much as a down payment on a house for a wedding dress instead. In other cases it is something just so beloved, for nostalgia,comfort or convenience, that allows us to justify wearing it long after it should have retired. Still, I propose, clothes matter.
Perhaps not in the ways of salvation or status, although, I prefer to be dressed in both instances. But they matter in the ways of life and living, who we are and where we are headed. And as I sorted and slated blouses, t-shirts, sweaters, dresses, slacks, jeans, and sweats, I noted the newest stains on my clothes.
Nearly everything I own has paint on it. Even things I promised myself I wouldn’t paint in, yes, those pieces too.
Yes, clothes are just a covering. But I am most intrigued by how they attach themselves to our identities and our identities attach to them.
I am an artist. My clothes will tell you some of my favorite colors. Not because of what they are made of, but what they are stained with.
I use a lot of Admiral Blue and Ballet Slipper Pink.
The practice of wandering about my walk-in closet prompted me to start pulling things off hangers. Much of it cannot be given away, unless there is a clothing charity in need of paint stained designer tops and jeans. So, I made a pile of recyclables. Next, I moved the lesser stained pieces to one side, decidedly so that I might only paint in them.
Then, I found the t-shirt I wore when I finished my first book, Stolen Jesus: An Unconventional Search for the Real Savior. I gave that shirt a new hanger and hung it behind the little yellow keepsake at the back of the closet. I don’t recall what I was wearing when I hit send on my second manuscript, but I am certain it was pajamas or yoga pants. Definitely, I was disheveled and out of my mind with grief. Just two days before I had buckled our foster love, Joy Baby into her car seat. I have never seen her again. The slacks I was wearing when I collapsed in the driveway on that heartbreaking day, I gave them away a long time ago.
Next, I came upon a collection of T-shirts, shirts I designed, and my husband, Justin printed. They make me smile. Hopefully, they will inspire and make others laugh. But it was then that I was most struck by how God moves.
Back when I donned a tent-like bargain bin maternity dress, I fully believed I would make a career in counseling. I dreamed of neat pantsuits and comfortable, yet impractical stilettos. And yes, I assumed that would be my trademark.
That worn-only-once maternity dress reminded me, I dreamed of helping young mothers build a sanctuary in their home. It would be a place where they loved well and provided for themselves and their children. It was my whole heart, I was most passionate about it.
I could have never known then, I would never punch the clock in a single counseling office.
But as I folded yoga pants, y’all, an obscene amount of yoga pants, my eyes welled with tears. I have helped young mothers build a sanctuary in their home… a place where they love well and provide for themselves and their children. I did live out that passion, in foster care. Nope, I didn’t wear Red Bottoms, and I didn’t get promotions or Christmas bonuses, but I did it.
And no, I couldn’t have known the first time I saved the little yellow seersucker dress, who would wear it next or never again.
Which brings me to my fancy “Speaker’s” section. I always loved to talk, moreover to be on stage. But if I am honest, which you know I will be, it never occurred to me I would write books or have an opportunity to speak. Still, there is a section of my most favorite outfits, ones I never paint in and only wear when I am “preaching” the Good News.
Those are clothes He knew I would need, and for that, I am most honored.
Tucked between those fancy pants is where I spied a red peasant blouse, again, I wore it only once. I remember the place and I remember the disappointment. I was in Hobby Lobby buying flowers for a new arrangement for my foyer, did I mention I am a certified florist? I don’t have clothes for that.
Back to that peasant blouse, my literary agent called to give some news. It was not good news. She doesn’t know this, but after she told me, I threw up in the parking lot. There was no barf on the blouse, and although I have never worn it again, I did have it dry cleaned. And even though that was a bad day in a great blouse, I decided to move that blouse to a satin hanger. And I put it behind the yellow seersucker dress.
Were it not for that day with bad news, I would never have arrived at the place where I am on this day…
standing in my closet with t-shirts I designed and loads of clothes covered in paint. I am not a fan of the saying, “God doesn’t close a door without opening a window.” I have seen too much, much that was not authored by the God of my heart, to believe He is slamming doors in hopeful faces.
On that day in the Hobby Lobby parking lot, had you said to me, “All things work together for good for those that love the Lord!’’ I most likely would have punched you in the throat or vomited in your direction. But on this day, here in my closet, I can testify that it is true.
After I threw up and blew my nose, I went back into Hobby Lobby and bought 4 canvases and a collection of paints and brushes. I didn’t write another word for over a month. But, I painted. One month later, I met an art agent at a spa… we were in line for a colonic.
I can’t remember what clothes I was wearing.
Two months later that art agent signed me. And last week, right after signing my third book deal, that agent sold my first piece of work to a major retailer. I can’t tell you what or when yet, but I can tell you when I found out, I was wearing one of my very own t-shirts – “Be Still, Seriously, Y’all Need to Calm Down. Psalm 46:10.”
And had there not been that bad day, there wouldn’t have been any of the good things that followed.
Here among the outfits I adore and the others I promised to fit again, I believe in the plans He has. No, I do not subscribe to the idea He dishes out loss and misery. In this world, we will face hardship. He overcame the world. I have made many mistakes. Yes, I will make more. But my sin and the sins of those around me are not the end of His means of restoration.
He is just good.
And He is exactly who He says He is.
He moves how He moves and He saves how He saves.
I believe Him and I trust Him.
He can right every wrong and make beauty from ashes.
My best fashion advice?
Dress for anything… there is just no telling what amazing thing He will do next.
Jesus be all over you! Love, Jami
Proverbs 31:25 She is Clothed in Strength and Dignity and She Laughs Without Fear of The Future
Check out my latest podcast with Rebecca Huff of That Organic Mom! Fashionably Charming!
- Road Sign: Avoid the potholes of deception – while what we wear does say something about who we are, our clothing does not define us. The Bible says that Satan was so beautiful and charming that they called him the Morning Star. He was also so popular that angels left God to follow him.
- Scripture: 1 Peter 3:3-4 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.
- Book Recommend Stacy London of TLC What Not to Wear has a book called The Truth About Style
Healthy Bite: Tips for a Self Care Day Off
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