I have to start by saying two things.
1. I have full permission by my friend to tell this story, it would be awkward if I didn’t.
2. I’ve been dying to write this story for years because the metaphor is so impactful.
It goes a little something like this…
Over 10 years ago I met a gregarious and intriguing woman named Joy (name has not been changed to protect her identity, now all my friends are sweating…whose next?) I knew two things about her when she started going to my church.
1. She was a ton of fun, very outgoing, and smiled ALL. THE. TIME.
2. She sold Mary Kay! That gold circle pin was front and center on every outfit.
The first thing drew me in to be her friend, the second thing made me keep my distance.
Now I have nothing against Mary Kay AT ALL. I have bought products periodically over the years, have lots of friends that sell MK, and I think they have an awesome business philosophy. I simply made a personal decision a long time ago, that I rarely compromise, which is I DON’T attend product parties.
I know they can be fun, I know you don’t HAVE to buy anything, I know I don’t HAVE to give my information at the end…BUT…I have a little problem doctors call “saying no syndrome”. It’s a sad, anxiety-inducing syndrome that millions suffer from. It doesn’t take me long to show up to a party and suddenly unearth a random “need” in my life for a product I didn’t know existed an hour prior. I end up spending money I don’t have for something I don’t need. I get nervous and sick inside at the end of parties when the host asks for references or if I want to host a party at my house, purchase a product, etc…. Next thing I know I am locked into hosting a party, spent a ton of money and now 10 of my friends are gonna hate me when they get a phone call. Any fun I was having at the party dissipates. This is just my issue and because I had/have a hard time drawing boundary lines I just made it a hard and fast rule in my life to say “NO” to any invitation and pretty much still say NO to this day.
The thing with Joy is she is a born saleswoman. The woman could sell a ketchup popsicle to a woman in white gloves.(Tommy Boy…anyone, anyone???) She has charisma oozing from her pores and any rebuttal you could possible come up with for not attending or hosting a Mary Kay party could be quickly turned around. I knew this. I knew if I gave eye contact too long or if we got in a conversation one on one I was going to have the nervous-poo-inducing conversation with her that would require me to STAND MY FEEBLE ground. It was too much for me so I did what any super mature person would do and avoided any scenario that I could possibly be alone with her in conversation. Yeah…that will fix it! Did I mention I was 25 or 26…..maturity was my middle name! The problem was, I liked Joy and I really did want to be her friend.
Then came the day. The day we laugh ourselves silly about now. I had a little get together at my house with a bunch of girls from my church. I invited Joy. SAFE SPACE…my house, A GROUP; what could go wrong?
I don’t know how it happened, one thing led to another, but Joy and I were engaged in a conversation A-LONE!
At the time I was a youth leader in the senior high at our church. First came the ice breaker statement, “I hear you are a leader in the youth group!” (my eyes nervously shift over the gleaming gold pin on her shirt) Then came the question I dreaded. “Wouldn’t it be fun if you had a girls sleepover at your apartment and I came over and did facials and make overs for all of you guys? It will be a great time for everyone.”
I don’t know what came over me but I decided that normal passive Kelly was going to just nip this in the bud and turn the question back on to her. I’m sure I barely made eye contact or spoke above a whisper. I mumbled something along the lines of “I really like you Joy and I’ve always wanted to get to know you since you started coming to church but I don’t want to host a Mary Kay party. Can’t we just go out to coffee and get to know each other without doing Mary Kay?” There…I said it. I said No while still leaving the door open for relationship. What could go wrong?
She may or may not have blinked for that 5-10 seconds of silence she let my NO linger in the air before she said these words, “Kelly if you want to get to know me, then you have to get to know Mary Kay. I am Mary Kay.”
I AM MARY KAY.
Where does one go from there? I think I was fighting back tears and also dying a small death that I was in my own house and had nowhere to go. I remember muttering something along the lines that I was sorry and I hoped sometime we could get to know each other. Cue awkward clenched butt shuffle away from the scene.
I need to pause and say something about Joy. The reason this story can be told is because it is so far removed from who Joy is today. We seriously shout that line to one another all the time “I AM MARY KAY!” because it is so laughable. Joy is one of my dear, dear sister friends and truth be told, one of my most favorite people to pray with in the entire world. If you haven’t prayed with Joy…you should. She speaks so much truth and power into my life and we have traveled through so many valleys together and stood on the mountain tops of God’s mercy…I love this woman! I’m so thankful for her humor and humble spirit so that I can share the second half of this story with you for truly this is her story.
This post is titled “The Fur Coat”. You may ask yourself why the title or maybe you have just noticed how long this post is and you are only skimming at this point…shame on you! The moral of the story is coming and it is SO GOOD!
I told you Joy could sell a blue streak. She had worked herself up the ranks quickly to Director. Along the way she acquired some awesome prizes such as a fur coat (faux but super NICE!). She even had so many people under her and such good sales that she was leased a brand new Grand AM. Oh how welcome that car was in their lives. Indeed Joy was Mary Kay!
I wish I had the space to tell Joy’s whole story because it’s so good. There came a point a few years into the Mary Kay years that the Lord really began to refine Joy, refine her marriage, and in a bold and humble act of obedience Joy walked away from Mary Kay 100%. THIS WAS MAJOR!!!! It was the right thing but it came with a cost both great and small. It was a clean break in the physical sense but mentally there were some lingering ties.
The day the Grand AM rolled away was a hard one for Joy. What they ended up buying in its stead was a 1984 Honda Accord held together with bumper stickers and luck. Its the kind of car you wince when turning the key because you aren’t sure if it will actually start. It also maxed out at about 48mph. I should know. I painstakingly had to drive down the highway while she followed me to a friends house and we never hit 50mph. I thought she was messing with me until we got to my friends and she told me she had the peddle all the way down. It, indeed, was no brand new car but at least Joy got to keep her fur coat! Oh the fur coat.
Joy remembers one distinct winter day post Mary Kay. She was pumping gas into that 1984 hunk of junk wrapped tightly in her fur coat to block out the cold. She said she looked around at the people pulling in and out of the Chevron and had this distinct thought run through her mind, “Don’t you people know who I am? Do you know what I’ve accomplished?” I am seriously amazing in Mary Kay.”
That coat…the coat that held with it all the pride and success, status and measurable worth of the time spent with Mary Kay. That coat represented a season that Joy was at war with leaving behind to walk in full obedience to the life God had for her. That coat.
Somewhere along the line that coat made it into Joy’s coat closet and there it stayed for many years.
Fast forward to a few summers ago…yard sale time. The time we purge what we aren’t using, what’s taking up space, what serves no purpose. The coat of status still took up a chunk of space in the coat closet. “It’s time to sell the coat.” Joy’s husband, Brian, encouraged.
I mean it’s just a coat right….
So the coat made it to the yard sale pile. That warm summer morning of the sale it sat proudly on a hanger, fur fluffed out, a noble yard sale price attached to it noting that it had much greater value than the 10 cent pot holder sitting adjacent to it.
Soon an older lady began eyeing the coat. Joy immediately put on that familiar sales hat and came over “Hey, if you are going to take that coat can I tell you a story about how I got it?”. Yes…yes…this lady was definitely interested in the coat. A sale was imminent.
Next came the bartering. A coat that cost hundreds of dollars and represented so much, the coat left Joy’s possession for the bargain price of $5.00. What makes this an even more bitter pill to swallow is while she handed Joy her few dollars she made sure she knew how happy her cats were going to be to have this fur coat to sleep on.
Right there, on that morning, the fur coat met its final fate as the new bed and pee pad for a bunch of cats. It’s final fall from glory. An ironic and yet poetic end to that journey and chapter in Joy’s life.
I think this is one of my favorite stories because it’s so relatable. We all have our “fur coats”. We all have those areas of our lives, accolades, accomplishments, talents and sometimes tangible items that we stand behind and say “LOOK AT ME! WASN’T I SOMETHING? DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?”
The insatiable hunger of pride we fight daily is really appalling if we could just take a step back and see it for what it is. We think we are so sly. If we just word things correctly into the carefully crafted humble brag or status update. The self-deprecating humor or sometimes blatant brag we casually drop in to conversation. Oh how we love self. Oh how proud we are of self. Oh how big and grand are our accomplishments. We cinch our fur coats around our waists and fluff up our collars around our necks and give ourself a quick twirl in front of the mirror to admire our little “fur coats”. It’s embarrassing to admit and yet every day we wake up and as my friend Brian Donohue says “We fight magnetic north which points directly to ourselves.”
Jim Gaffigan paints a hilarious picture of this “self infatuation” our American society is sick with.
I once swam in a lake as a child with my brother. We had a great time laughing and playing. You can imagine our horror when we exited the lake to find each of us covered in little black leeches. SERIOUSLY, BARF INDUCING. We never felt them, never saw them, and unless you want to rip off little chunks of skin, you have to leave them there until you can get salt or a lighter. That’s pride to me. It’s so sneaky and subtle, you don’t even see the little pride leeches attaching themselves to your heart and mind. Suck by suck they start to drain the blood down to the very marrow of our soul. Emaciated people with giant egos bumping into one another’s self-important kingdoms. You see it EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. on social media.
What talent, accomplishment, or gift do I have that can ever compare to the love, sacrifice and gift of Jesus in my life? What piddly attempt at selfless love, living sacrificially, giving to others, and serving could I do that would impress the Lord? The very thought I am so “great or awe-worthy” is just laughable. Does the Lord find value in me…absolutely! I am the image bearer of HIS son. What an awesome thought that is. How that humbles me. What I do and say matters.
The Bible actually says that God hates pride. He hates it because he knows it will breed destruction in our life. It is another false lover and imitator of intimacy. What we think will drive people to us actually divides relationships….not just with people but more importantly with God. Just a few scriptures where the Lord strongly addresses this area.
- I will break down your stubborn pride. Leviticus 26:19
- In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God. Psalm 10:4
- When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. Proverbs 11:2
- Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice. Proverbs 13:10
- Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18
- I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless. Isaiah 13:11
- But when his heart became arrogant and hardened with pride, he was deposed from his royal throne and stripped of his glory. Daniel 5:20
- Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load. Galatians 6:4
- Your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God. Deuteronomy 8:14
- The LORD detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished. Proverbs 16:5
- Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 1 Corinthians 13:4
…and so I ask you to examine your closet. Poke around and see if there is a fur coat taking up space, serving no purpose, holding on to all your pride. Pour some spiritual salt upon it, sell it to the crazy cat lady, burn it at the altar and rid yourself from the false lover that whispers empty promises of self glory and fame. We have a burning desire to BELIEVE, BELONG and BECOME in this lifetime. You were made for more than this, you were made to be GREAT in the kingdom of God. You were made to bring God glory by the way you love Him and love others MORE than yourself. That is the only way to walk uprightly in a humble posture. That is the way to tame the beast of self and receive the gift of selflessness. That is the way to bear fruit in your life and to taste the sweet taste of trust in the Lord to provide your every need.
Ryan and I come from an industry that has an astounding amount of pride attached to it. You would think we were all curing cancer but alas we are just taking wedding photos. Yes, that is a lovely thing to do, a super fun career and rewarding in many ways. Sadly the good things are so grossly overshadowed by the egos attached to the majority of those working in the industry. In a deafening chorus of self promotion you can hear “I AM …..(insert the studio name) !!” It is SO UNLOVELY and not eternal. You can still be a savvy business owner and not buy into the self promoting side. It is possible. We cut ties with about 95% of everything that had to do with the wedding industry many years ago. Best thing we ever did. We consciously began praying each year that God would provide the brides we needed to meet the financial needs of our home. Guess what, he did that. Without us grappling, self-promoting, spending countless, countless hours force feeding our business to anyone who would listen. We were not Kellan Studios. Kellan Studios was something we did so I could stay home with our children and so I could have an artistic outlet. Oh what freedom that brought my mind and heart to trust in God’s provision.
THANK YOU Joy for your story, for your humility and sense of humor to let me tell your story, for your obedience to walk away from “success” when the world was cheering you on in order to grab hold of what was unshakable in the Father. Your life is a beacon of hope to others. I am so proud to be your friend and I love you so dearly!
So everyone…this is the real Joy below with her beautiful family!! They are a humble family that you would be lucky to know, to sit in their living room while Brian strums on his guitar ( he is one of the most gifted song writers, I’m addicted to his latest album) Joy knitting on the couch, girls dancing around singing their daddy’s songs…they know the good life. They live the good life.