When Your Worth is Measured in Square Footage and Bra Sizes

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I look at this new-to-me kitchen window, the one overlooking the quiet, manicured space that I now call home. With wide white cupboards and the sheen of granite tiles, I curl into its comfort. There are drawers for everything, there’s a proper pantry, everything fits!

Looking out the window, my eyes are quick to wander to the line-up of shiny cars, of children shuttled to All-Star practice and gymnastics and piano lessons. There’s something in the shiny that repels and attracts me. The gleam of success makes me just about as dizzy as the roundabouts I drive through to get to my suburban tract home.

I’m caught right in the middle.

My soul was home in the Intermountain West with mountains and fresh air. I took comfort in my city-center particularities: the man who walked by wearing a cape, the blind man crossing the street, the screech of Fire Engine 5 wailing down our street, the bus stop outside our door and the tire swings we’d stop at as we walked to the grocery store.

But now? There is a Starbucks on every corner and everyone is fighting for their own piece of the pie. Now, I live in the American Promised Land, where golden sun falls into the ocean, with salt and sea and sand. Everywhere I turn there is the promise of more, with success around the corner, with the lure of transformation if I could just find that golden nugget in the river. I’m surrounded with reminders of the constant pursuit of more, where worth is measured in paychecks and square footage and bra sizes.

So I tell myself a different story. A narrative where I’m better because even though I don’t have blonde hair and a hefty paycheck, I’m deeper and more highly educated. I create my own categories to rise above the sliding shiny surfaces of the suburban gods.

But I’m no different. I hear the siren call of plenty and I want to gather it to me, my arms heavy-laden with treasure, with the promise of more: more ease, more time to myself, more perfection. I pendulum swing between giving into the suburban gods and eschewing it for my own categories where I always come out on top.

But as I’m finding, both lead to death.

Sometimes desire is wrapped up in shiny packages that don’t satisfy, like gum wrappers where the sheen wears off and the taste is quickly lost. Sometimes desire makes me dizzy with the wanting. And sometimes desire roots deep and breathes life into dry bones.

So I repeat wise words handed down: just as there are no little people, there are no little places.

Home is where we can thrash about and find ourselves loved and wanted.

I’m aching for a desire to turn me over and inside out, to finally break me free from the to-and-froing between shiny surfaces and self-promotion. I’m aching for the clean, plain white robes, for a feast that fully satisfies. I’m longing for dried tears and a freedom from navel-gazing. I want to simply be caught up into something so much grander than myself.

Like Amber Haines says, I want a story to swallow me whole.

So like a child at bedtime, I will ask for the same old story again and again and again. I will sing it on my lips and repeat it when the sun sets. I will write it on my doorposts and hang it from a chain around my neck.

I invite you to sing along: No matter where you are from, no matter where you live, no matter your background, no matter if you give into the gods of right where you are, or think you’re above it all: you are loved. You are seen. You are fully known. God is present in my paved suburban walking paths and he is present in Esther’s yurt. God is present in the cultural prowess of the city and in the immigrant slums. If he can use things like bread and wine, loaves and fishes, and fresh linen grave clothes to point to his turning upside-down of all things, then I, too, will learn to sing a new song.

Sing with me: We are loved. We are seen. We are known. And all places can point us home.

Ashley Hales

Ashley Hales

Writer and Editor at aahales.com
Ashley Hales holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. But she spends most of her time chasing around her four children and helping her husband plant a church. She writes at AAHales.com and loves to make friends on Twitter.
Ashley Hales
  • Nicole Walters

    Oh, I love that I am not the only one who feels so torn. Some days I feel so “above” all the American dream and I want to run through my house and trash all the stuff we have so we can live more simply. Others, I feel the subtle creep of envy looking at how easily others appear to have it and wish “if only it were that easy for me. I don’t want a lot, just a little less struggling would be nice.” So glad you are finding God present wherever you are!

    • Glad to know I’m not alone either, Nicole! Thanks for reading and commenting and sharing. 🙂

  • Gayl Wright

    Beautiful, Ashley! “Sing with me: We are loved. We are seen. We are known. And all places can point us home.” Yes, God is with each of us in our particular circumstances wherever we are. I will sing with you! 🙂

    • Yes, let’s sing together again and again — no matter where we are, no matter what we’re each struggling with! Thanks Gayl for reading and being present here.

  • Jody Ohlsen Collins

    On our return trip vacation a few weeks ago, I too, was overwhelmed at the Too Muchness of Orange County. I know there is life there and peace and real….but I think it will be found in the people, not the things. Praise God He’s given your soul the thirst to keep searching for home….His Kingdom, right where you are.
    You’re on my mind most days, Ashley. May God bring refreshment and help and strength to you both.

    • Ha, yes Orange County is a special place. It’s where I live and grew up so I get it; but having moved around there’s also the sense of being *other*, too. Thank you for your prayers and thoughts, Jody; I SO appreciate it.

  • I’m feeling torn lately, too. Longing for a simpler life and also for something I’m passionate about, that “turns me over and inside out.” I was just talking with my friend this morning who feels the same; we are trying to get our thoughts and ideas out there but tired of feeling the need to market ourselves instead of just doing what we love. And, yes, we do need to remember that God sees us and loves us and is rooting for us.

    • Amanda, thank you — so happy to have someone else torn between two ways to live. Re: marketing and promoting yourself, I really loved Emily Freeman’s “Simply Tuesday” as she takes the idea of platform to mean a bench to have a conversation on. I loved that. And yes, let’s keep remembering how God sees us and cares deeply for us, no matter our brokenness.

  • Oh I feel this. Dreams above my head, reality under my feet; my desire for neither and both. Today, I worked my way back to the Now, the sliver of space where I become peaceful, grounded because I am loved and I love. Your words here a beautiful reminder of how I reached that place.

    I will sing it on my lips and repeat it when the sun sets. I will write it on my doorposts and hang it from a chain around my neck.

    • Marcy, you put the wavering into words so well. And yes the “now” becomes the golden moment doesn’t it, where we can lose and find ourselves. Thank you for your presence here.

  • pastordt

    Beautiful, Ashley. Thank you. Thank you.

    • Thank YOU so much for reading and commenting. It encourages me and helps me feel less alone.

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  • Lois

    Pure gold title!