Author Archives: tclaytor

About tclaytor

Tatyana Claytor is primarily a lover of story and truth. As an English teacher, she is surrounded by the stories of the ages, but as a lover of God, she is enveloped in the Story beyond all ages. Her desire is to know the Author of this story as clearly as possible that she might help others see God’s truth in their lives and His plan in their stories. She currently lives in Cocoa, Florida with her three story-loving children and her husband, a minister of Youth and Missions. She has a Master’s degree in Education from Nova Southeastern University and a Master’s degree in Professional Writing from Liberty University. She is also the editor for Growthtrac Ministries, a website dedicated to helping marriages.

God’s Patience and Bird Box

woman wearing black blindfold facing sidewaysThe popular Netflix movie Bird Box explores what happens when people are exposed to the absolutely worst thing they can imagine. In each scenario, the characters’ response is suicide (unless they were mentally ill).  To protect themselves, the surviving characters walk around with blindfolds on.

The movie made me consider what would be horrible for me. Maybe it would be seeing a true reflection of my heart or witnessing the pure evil in the world. Even now, I am easily overwhelmed by the horrors that happen in our world–a few minutes of the news, and I am ready to blindfold myself. What if we couldn’t walk away though? What if we were subjected to not just a segment of the worlds’ sin, but all of it, all the time?

We Can Walk Away

I am blessed that, for the most part, I can walk away from the ugly reflection of our sin. God, however, cannot. He endures every act of violence, every injury to a child, every misalignment of his character for all time. God could end it too. He could stop the sin and suffering by bringing His mighty judgment.  However, it would have to be one that wipes out the earth though since none of us is innocent. 

Ironically, this seems to be a theme in Bird Box. Those who are insane deliberately try to get others to open their eyes and call it a cleansing.  But this is a cleansing without mercy and without hope. 

God’s response is neither to blindfold himself or to destroy us. Instead, He makes a way out that both respects the grievous effects of sin and the suffering it causes.  

Read the rest here.

How to Have a Great Valentine’s Day: Connect, Don’t Expect

people forming heart shapes with their hands. Photo by Kristina Litvjak on Unsplash

Valentine’s Day is a day that evokes a variety of emotions. Some look forward to it with excitement about celebrating their love. Others dread it because they are alone and this day is a reminder of this. And then there are those who are in a relationship but hate Valentine’s Day because of the pressure to make some great romantic gesture.

Ironically, the origins of St. Valentine’s Day have more to do with martyrdom than romance. The legend states that St. Valentine was imprisoned and later executed for illegally marrying Christian couples and helping persecuted Christians. This is a beautiful picture of love–a sacrificial act that helped bring others together.

What is love?

Fictional stories also teach us about love. In a time of great social change right at the turn of the 19th century, E.M. Forster wrote a book called Howard’s End. In this story, the main characters have very conflicting views on radical ideas such as social justice, the women’s vote, and other topics. The two main families, though very different, end up connecting in a way that brings these viewpoints into conflict.  The Wilcoxes are rich capitalists with an aversion to emotion and a belief in a strong work ethic. The Schlegels consist of three orphaned adults in their twenties.  They are creative and progressive, relishing an intellectual life.

Through a turn of events, the father of the Wilcox family (the most opinionated and loud of the Wilcox clan) is widowed and falls in love with Margaret Schlegel (the eldest of the Schlegel family). Margaret’s younger sister, Helen, is horrified. Here is this man who speaks against the women’s vote, who shuts down emotions, and who has little sympathy for those who suffer. What could Margaret possibly see in him?

Connecting, Instead of Changing

In a touching scene in the BBC’s rendition of the novel, Margaret explains that she is not marrying him to change him–she only wants to make a connection.

Though the novel goes into much more detail concerning their odd and complicated relationship, the movie ends showing them both happy, though both still different. It is not your traditional love story.  He is much older than her, and they seem to have little in common. She is bold and authentic, surprising him constantly. They have totally different worldviews that neither is willing to bend on. And, yet, a connection is made.

This is, of course, a fictional account, but it hits on something important that is often overlooked when considering relationships. Sometimes, the best way to love someone is to come with the purpose of connection instead of transformation. What if we didn’t approach our spouse or loved one with the intent to change them but instead came to them simply to connect in some way?

Read the rest here.

Marie Kondo and Loving Our Lives

white surfboard beside white wall white wooden cube bookshelf inside the room Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash

“I just got KonMari-ed!” sings the husband from the Holderness Family’s hilarious parody “Tidying Up: The Musical.” In this video, he jokingly complains about all the changes his wife has made based on an organizational strategy spearheaded by Marie Kondo.

This strategy was launched into the limelight when Netflix released a series called Tidying Up featuring Japanese consultant, Marie Kondo. Her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up which has been out for a few years has been a bestselling hit. Her teaching, much of which is satirized in various memes, focuses on keeping items that “spark joy.” She also explains that organizing should be done by category instead of by room, with sentimental items being organized last.

She has other techniques such as using small boxes to organize drawers and folding clothes in a unique way so that you can see what item of clothing it is. Storage bins, she suggests, should be clear to enable you to see the contents as well.  These strategies are all very helpful in having a clearer and accessible vision of the contents of your house.

She also teaches a sense of appreciation for the house. In her show, she makes a point of kneeling on the floor and greeting the house. In one episode, the couple was brought to tears from this moment, explaining that they hadn’t really considered how grateful they were for their home and the memories it held. In addition, before getting rid of an item, Marie Kondo requests that you thank the item.

A Popular Trend

While many have mocked her approach, it has taken the country by storm. A quick look at Google Trends documents the rising popularity, particularly after the Netflix release. Social media, especially Instagram, shows images of organized closets and drawers of people who have “kondo-ed” their houses.

I myself have been inspired by the simple approach she takes to organization.  I love that the goal is not to remove everything but instead to enjoy the space you live in. While some of her antics seem hokey, her emphasis on appreciating and enjoying what you have is appealing to me. Many of us live in our homes with a sense of shame–too tired or overwhelmed to make it work.  We see our cluttered closets, bursting garages, and jumbled drawers and just feel like failures. We live in our homes, but we are also quietly exasperated with them also.

The physical houses we live in aren’t the only ones we have such mixed feelings about. Many of us have the same sense of shame and discontent with the bodies we live in. We see the many areas that need improvement and are locked in shame–without enjoyment of our bodies and without motivation to improve it.

What can we learn from the Marie Kondo method that can apply to our lives as well?

First, we need to appreciate our home, the body.

Before we come to it with any idea of change, we must come with an idea of acceptance, and yes, gratitude. Just as our homes serves its purpose of providing protection from the elements, our bodies serve its purpose of movement and interaction. We should be grateful for limbs that move and organs that work. We are alive because our bodies are working, however inefficiently we think that might be. Just stop and remember all the millions of processes going on in your body right at that moment just so you can be alive. This makes me immensely grateful for this life and all that has to work together so I might be here.

Second, the goal isn’t to look the same.

What I loved about watching the Netflix series was that people, for the most part, did not change the way their homes looked.  They didn’t update their style or decorating ideas or even replace furniture. They maintained their own sense of self–what had changed was their ability to move within the space more easily. Their home became more accessible, not more trendy. They were able to be more in sync with the home they had already created.

We don’t need to achieve some ideal body image in order to love our bodies.  We did not get to choose our bodies like we got to choose our houses, but we can learn to appreciate what it has to offer. What is special about your body? What does it do well?

Perhaps we can learn to look at ourselves and others, not in comparison to some impossible ideal, but in appreciation of its unique contribution. Our goals for self-improvement could be for ease in movement, instead of to conform to a shape that might be popular for the moment. Being healthy and feeling good should trump being a specific size or feeling attractive.

Finally, be empowered to improve your life even when you cannot change it.

I think it’s important to have a healthy idea of what we can accomplish in our lives. We love the messages of nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it, but we all know this really isn’t true. We can always, always improve, but we cannot always change. I cannot change the fact that math is difficult for me. I can improve my math skills though.

What makes Marie Kondo’s method so effective is the sense that we can all do these small things to improve our lives. Even those of us who are organization-challenged can look at her goals and find them doable. No one is perfect, and she even admits that she herself has areas in her house that get cluttered.  

We must offer ourselves some grace with who we are. This is the body that God has chosen for you. The body’s purpose is not to bring us everlasting joy or security or a sense of value. The fact that there are limitations on our bodies is a reminder that we are ultimately not in control.

I can and should try to enjoy my body, my home, and my life, but I also know that this is not all there is.  My hope is not in my ability to pull it all together since there are many things that are impossible for me. My hope, instead,  is in the fact that nothing is impossible for God. While I have limited control over my life, there is nothing He cannot do. God, and God alone, is the worker of true transformation of both body and soul.

I will continue improving my small part of the world while expressing gratitude for the many resources that are available to me. However, I know that my goal is not to make this life perfect. Instead, I put my faith in the One who is perfect and learn to walk in this life that has been gifted to me. In this way, we can all live lives that “spark joy” for us and others.

Loving Those Who Consider Abortion

person holding belly photo

Several days ago New York made changes to their abortion laws by allowing abortions up to nine months in some situations. New York Magazine’s headline boldly states “New York has finally updated its archaic abortion law” revealing their happiness in this change. This law change came mainly in response to the current administration’s plan to overrule Roe vs Wade. Those who voted in favor believed that this was their attempt to keep abortion available to women no matter what. The courtroom erupted in applause after the vote because they felt they were protecting women’s rights.

Even still, much of the United States was shocked. They argued that celebrating the right to kill our country’s most vulnerable is horrifying. Ever since this moment, social media has been broiling with anger coming from both sides.

The question is: how do we as Christians respond?

First, we must not lose heart.   It’s tempting to be overwhelmed by the cultural changes that are decidedly un-Christian.  However, we must remember two things: 1) The original disciples lived in a world much more hostile to our faith. They were completely outnumbered and many believed their sect was ridiculous and/or dangerous. We all know about the arenas where Christians were fed to the lions and many have heard how Nero himself used burning Christians as lights in his garden. 2) They didn’t set out to change the world–only to proclaim His Gospel. God did the transforming work Himself.

In fact, the impact the early Christians in many ways lay in their acts of sacrificial love.  Rodney Stark, a historian, notes in his book The Rise of Christianity that during a plague Christians refused to run. Instead, they chose to stay and care for those who were ill, no matter how dangerous.  This radical picture of love turned many people to faith.

So what does that look like for us?

We should absolutely not stop lobbying for anti-abortion laws. However, in the meantime, we need to do our best to love those who would consider abortion.

Read the rest here.

Faith in A Plan

One of my favorite type of books is the one where the main character has a plan and the audience is left out of it.  We observe, like the other characters, the preparation, and execution of a plan that looks ridiculous. Some even look doomed to failure. Then, at the last moment, a final piece falls together and everything is resolved. The great plan is revealed and the audience is stunned.  There are many examples of this in films like Now You See Me and The Illusionist.  My favorite literary example though is Sherlock Holmes.

Over several stories, we come to trust in Sherlock’s amazing analytical skills. Instead of watching things unravel with fear or concern, we are excited to see how he will pull all the details together, knowing that it is basically impossible for him to fail.

I wonder if this is how it was for the disciples as they watched Jesus do his work. I’m sure his actions seemed bizarre at times. He seemed to wander around with an agenda no one else could recognize. He didn’t even heal people the same way every time–sometimes a word, sometimes they would have to do something, sometimes he made mud and covered their eyes, and so on. Any time they felt they had him pegged, he would do something surprising.

The worst surprise of all was his arrest and crucifixion.  Though Jesus warned them, this did not seem to make sense at all. They were broken and lost–Jesus (or their idea of him) had completely failed them.

Perhaps you feel the same way. Maybe you thought you understood how God worked, but then he did something surprising or allowed something painful to happen or continue. Suddenly, when you thought you were in the know, you realize you don’t actually know what is going on. You feel betrayed by the One you were following so diligently.

I know I have. Surprisingly I thought that if I played my part well, then God would play His. I prided myself on being one of those who “understood” God–who knew how to please him. I did not see that, in reality, my obedience was my way of trying to control God. And God will not be controlled.

When my father died without making a choice for God, my world was shattered. I had prayed, I had shared the gospel, I had done my part and it seemed God did not do his. My father had a heart attack–his final reaction was fear and swearing. He died in the ambulance next to strangers. I don’t have words to explain how much this tears my heart apart. Since the moment I became a Christian as a teenager, I had envisioned what it would be like when my Dad became a believer. But it did not go as planned. I spent months wrestling with God about the possible culmination of one of my worst fears.

At the end of it, I decided to trust that no matter what God is good. I decided to believe that even though it seems God did not care, that He loves my father more than I do. I am choosing to believe that there are things going on that I can’t see.

This speaks to me in the various random things that occur that seem nonsensical. Philosophers argue that chance rules the universe–there is no meaning in the chaos. This is where we can speak our anthem of faith. We trust that somehow all these random events (like the unraveling of even negative events in the movies and books we love) somehow will work together in the end for an ending we couldn’t imagine.

This means we must release our normal, God-given need for resolution for every situation. There will be times when we cannot make sense of things. As Christians, a  large part of our message is about how God can turn things around. Our Christian movies like Facing the Giants and God’s Not Dead have decidedly happy endings for Christians.  However, we know this is not always how things work.  Movies and books like Shusaku Endo’s Silence accurately depict the challenges believers face when there seems to be no point to the suffering, and God seems silent.

Scripture beautifully shows us both–the rejoicing in seeing things amazingly resolved and the lament when we do not. Hebrews 11 reminds us that faith is celebrated when people choose to believe, no matter what the results are.

And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.  Women received back their dead by resurrection.

[Notice the switch here]

Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life.  Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised,  since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. (vs 32-40)

This second grouping of stories tells of people who “did not receive what is promised.” They did not give up faith though and the author of Hebrews lets us know that God has a plan. Our job is to trust His plan.  We are allowed to lament (the psalms demonstrate this without a doubt), but, we must continue to believe. One day, we will get to see the end of the story and what a surprise ending it will be! I have a feeling, it will be one that we will be glad we did not miss!