Sunday, September 09, 2012

The Neat and Comely Balance Line

I am trying to care enough about how I present myself to look "neat and comely" while not being lifted up to pride of costly apparel.

My high point of caring how I looked was my high school/college years. Back then I had a new wardrobe of nice clothes so I dressed accordingly. What is interesting is that it was in those years that I found out, I didn't like who I was when I wore makeup. I was always acting, or pretending to be someone else when I wore makeup. And soon I realized that whenever I wore makeup on the date- that I was turned off by the guy, that it must be because I had to be someone else to get along with him- or I was just pretended to like him to "be nice" on the date.

It was also then that I was studying costuming for theater. I would spend hours picking out and trying on clothes every Sunday to dress how I wanted to present myself. I realized what I was doing when I was asked to play the part of Mary in the Christmas program. I wanted to look the part while still wearing regular Sunday dress clothes. After many outfits tried on, I settled on mid calf,  black skirt and a cream long sleeve, blouse that was very modest and had several layers of feminine touches like lace and ribbons down the front. I also worked on the right hair style for this. This costuming experience helped me realize just how little changes in our dress details can make on the impression we are giving others.

Fast Forward 15 years.... to one of my son's baptisms. The bishop was talking to Ewan about how this is special event and you can tell because of how special, and here he faltered in his speech because he wanted to say "you mom dressed" for this but then he looked over at me and changed his mind and said "your baby sister." And I remembered getting dressed that morning and not having much left in my wardrobe that was neat or comely anymore, so I ended up in a homemade plaid skirt and a white T shirt. Kinda sloppy, but after 10 years of baby fat and baby hand prints on my clothes that was about the best I could do.

However, that event did make me realize that maybe I could care a little bit more. Over the next several years I have carefully added long lasting pieces to my wardrobe that I can feel "neat and comely" in. I tried to buy good quality clothes with basic styles that will serve to show I care enough to honor the Lord through my dress, but I also tried to not look flashy or costume like, but modest in all things.

It is a very interesting line to balance on. How to be neat and comely while not be lifted up in pride of fancy apparel. At what point does it become "because I want others to see me look nice" rather than being "neat and comely to honor the Lord"? I know the Lord cares about our hearts and our service more then about how we look. And when he does care about how we look, then what is the ideal look that would be striving for?

Now, I used to love costumes and princess dresses and ribbons and bows and glitter and all sorts of decorations and apparel. But that has given way to the logic of basic clothing for mothering chores. The idea of wearing anything that slows down my ability to take care of the kids and house just is appallingly unpractical. And when I watch and look at when I feel the best about myself and who I am becoming it seems to be at the time times when I am covered in paint or just finished washing the diapers out or when I am covered in flour. It almost never has to do with looking nice.

Of course, we also are not a mirrored family. We own 2 mirrors in the whole house, neither of which show more then the upper half of you. As I have been becoming aware of trying to be neat and comely, sometimes I wonder if it would help to see what I look like before I step out of the house. Other times I think that would be nothing more then an exercise in frustration or conversely pride.

I have to admit, I have a pretty face and a nice body (or at least I used to), and it is easy to think of my looks as better then others and in this world where TV advertisements and movies put a high value on looks it is hard not to have pride on the fact that at least you are skinnier then your sister or your face has less zits then your friend. (yeah, I used to think those things). The challenge here seems to lie in not judging others but judging yourself.

And yet you know what is in your heart- so you can judge your heart, but others have to judge on what they can see of you. And the vast majority of people only see how you look. And they won't look long enough to see your actions or hear your words. So what good can you do by how you look?

Now that is a good question. "What good can you do by how you look?"


At 12/29/13, 10:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First, remember you represent the Lord's church. People will judge the church by the members they observe. Remember too that you represent your family. Does your husband deserve to be known as a guy married to a sloppy woman? Would you rather your children's teachers see them as the offspring of attentive or careless parents? Ill-fitting, unkempt attire brands one as slovenly and disrespectful of both self and others. It is just as offensive to draw excessive attention to oneself with slovenly appearance as it is with costly apparel. Us seasoned moms choose functional, modest and feminine attire made of easy-care fabrics that fit appropriately and thus show respect for ourselves and our families.


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