We are more visual than ever before. I believe it, I don't hate it, well, maybe sometimes I do. Regardless of my feelings towards the matter, it's the reality we live in, and it can be A LOT to take in. There are things which captivate us, things which turn our gaze, gain our attention and often, can occupy our moments, consume our days and even dictate our self worth.
The shine, the glitz, the glam, the perfectly placed, the beautifully styled, the way we perceive and want to be perceived...we are enamored by the way things appear.
Especially as women, pretty things captivate us.
Styling our home, creating beauty, hosting experiences - I believe these things are often extensions of who we are.
As for me, I am describing myself. I love the art of detail and capturing beauty. I love to see different elements come together, to see vision take on a life of its own.
I remember when I first got a job as a 'stylist' at a home-design store in Dallas, TX. It was back when the term 'stylist' was just becoming a thing. I remember it being a dream come true. I was given projects to complete such as dreaming up displays throughout the store in a way which would appeal most to a customer's eye. It was my job to make things look pretty, orderly and appealing. Being a visual person with a bit of OCD, I loved it!
This is how the process goes...
Customer walks into a store, customer sees pretty things, customer chooses their favorite of these pretty things, customer spends lots of money, store makes money, everybody wins.
There's a very involved process behind the placement of products and displays. Let me tell you; those things don't just walk off the truck looking that way.
I remember one evening so vividly. I was given the task of styling the 'luxe room' in the store. The luxe room - an array of shiny things, lot's of gold and silver going on in this collection. SO many small, shiny things. I spent hours arranging a giant three-tiered table full of everything from mercury votives to gold vases to silver wolf statues...yes, those were something. I spent my entire shift re-arranging all of these tiny, shiny objects. Surely there was a way to give them some type of orderly appearance.
I love to see varying colors, textures, sizes, and concepts come together to create a unique experience. I guess that's the art of design after all.
After hours of arranging this room, I went to grab some dinner because I was working the late-shift and would be there until at least midnight. At this point, my eyes were starting to burn from all the silver.
Anyways, I ran over to the cafe on the corner. I ordered my soup and salad combo, poured some tea, and sat down. Sweet relief. My legs were tired from all the standing.
There weren't many people in the restaurant. After all, it was almost 10 pm. I sat down in a booth, and a man was sitting rather close. As an introvert, typically I would choose the table furthest from another person, but this night I thought,
'Why not sit near someone if you're going to eat alone?'
I noticed the man, he was working on his laptop, but I didn't really examine his face, I just sat down and began eating my meal. After several minutes, I looked over at the man again. He looked like he just came from work, paint splattered on his arms and his clothes a bit dirty. I looked at his face, it appeared worn. He was intently focused on his computer screen. After a few seconds of looking at his face, I realized...I recognized him.
'Colby, is that you?' He looked up at me,
'Whoa, fancy seeing you here' he said.
He stared back at me rather blankly. I couldn't tell if he remembered who I was or if I was just a familiar face. I said,
'Last I heard you moved yourself to California, I can't believe I'm sitting next to you having dinner, how are you?'
He proceeded to tell me he was back in the area and life was still 'awful'. I told him not much seemed to be new with him then. He laughed. Colby was always known to be a bit pessimistic, well more than a bit. He was the type always to answer the question of 'how are you?' with the same 'I'm horrible' answer. I always knew that it wasn't entirely true, but he'd just been saying that for so long that somewhere along the line, this response became his knee-jerk reaction.
'Do you remember me?', I said.
'Of course, I remember you', he replied.
'I remember you, and I mostly remember that one conversation we had where you asked me if I believed in God.'
I laughed and said, 'I remember that conversation too.' 'I remember it was like pulling teeth to get you to answer. You told me you grew up in a very strict religious home which caused you to run away.' Sad, but unfortunately a likely story.
He just stared back at me, as if it had been a while since someone knew his story. We then proceeded to talk for a few minutes, but my dinner break was coming to a close. I had to get back to work. I told him how great it was to see him, and that I hoped to see him again. He said he'd be at that cafe every Wednesday night.
'Why?' I asked.
He told me he had bible study there every Wednesday with 'people'. I smiled and asked him 'what people?'. 'Just people.' he said. He always was a bit ambiguous, I think he liked it better that way. I was ok with it.
'See you aren't doing so horrible after all.' I said.
He smiled back at me. I told him I hoped to see him next week...
Colby was one of the homeless men I used to know over at the Salvation Army when I worked with Back on My Feet, an organization which runs with individuals experiencing homelessness. That guy could run, he ran for miles and miles. We had several other conversations throughout my time knowing him, but the one he remembered struck me.
I left that cafe with tears in my eyes and a greater understanding of God's divine plan for us. It's like He was nudging me, telling me not to get so caught up in the display of things.
He was telling me that the breaks are always worth it. There is nothing more valuable than taking time to see people, especially those who aren't shiny or on display.
You see, those who aren't so put together and perfectly presented, they are the gems of the earth. And those conversations surrounding things of value, well, even though they don't always come naturally, in the end, they're what give resonance to our lives! The rest is fading...
I went on my way, back into the store to complete my project. I finished. Everything had a place. Hopefully, customers would be so enamored by my hours of hard work that they'd be sure not to touch a thing. Totally opposite of the goal, but come on people, be polite and have some respect for all of my hard work!!
Mission accomplished, at least for the night.
I left work that night with a deeper perspective.
I was reminded that there is nothing wrong with investing time and energy in the way things appear, it's ok to love styling, or photography, or design. We've all been given unique gifts and the display of those gifts are absolutely to be valued.
Though, all of that stuff means nothing if we don't continually see the people in front of us. If we allow the art of beauty and display to steal all of our moments and occupy all of our thought life, then we leave no room for the supernatural to occur. This requires us to stay present, to engage, to be in tune with our surroundings and to see beneath the surface.
It's easy to become consumed by the display of things rather than fully engaged with God’s very own displayed handiwork.
Life is about the balancing act of good things and our view of greater things. I'm not saying that we should stop investing in things which bring us to life. Though we must remind ourselves that...
material things don't matter as much as the eternal.
If we aren't careful, we'll miss the mark for the sake of giving in to the false reality that perception matters.
Perception doesn't matter,
who we are matters.
How we treat people matters.
I know I've missed the mark, time and time again. Right now I'm in a place where I am constantly reminding myself of that truth. ^
It can be easy to let our desire for more dictate our days and convince us that we are simply less without it.
I hope you'll recognize your gifts and run with them. I hope you'll continue to love beauty in a way which compels you to live each day with great intention, engaged, and aware of the eternal.
Sometimes we need to take a break.
Maybe it's time spent in nature, an act of kindness you'll never tell a soul about, a conversation with an old friend, intentional time spent getting to know a stranger, an apology, diving into a good book...
It could be in a booth alone, or perhaps in a booth next to someone else. Wherever you find respite, I hope you'll find time to take a break from that which is on display today.
What matters most is who we are and how we love. Those things can't be seen on display, they can only be felt deep inside...
I hope you feel it today...
Written by: Leigh Liebmann
Beautiful Imagery by Shea Christine Photography