Call me His

When I was in my early teens, I was certain that God had made a mistake when creating me.  I grew up in the church, so I had been told many times that God does not make mistakes, but I was sure that I was the exception to that rule.

My shoulders were broad, my legs were muscular, my hands were short and fat, my arms never fit in the armholes of girls shirts and to top it all off, I had the sex drive of a teenage BOY.  I swore up and down that I was a boy, stuck in a girls body.  I always felt like the odd girl out, despite having a lot of girlfriends and being one of the “popular girls”.  I also had a lot of relationships, several of them lasted over a year (which is practically a lifetime in early adolescence) and was baffled by the fact that boys were attracted to me, even prior to understanding the perks of my teenage boy sex drive.  To me, I looked and felt like a boy and that was proof enough that God had made a mistake.

I don’t remember when I first heard the term transgender, but I know it was not until my late teens, maybe even early twenties.  It was likely in one of my early social work classes in my undergraduate program, but even at that point, I did not understand what transgender was.  When I was in my early teens, no one was talking about anything other than heterosexual relationships and norms.  It was before the time where LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) was discussed, accepted and advocated for.  Never in my wildest dreams would I have believed that if I wanted to, I could take the feeling of “God made a mistake” and transform myself into what I felt inside.

If I had been born about 15 years after I was, I likely would have considered myself transgender at some point.  It was lonely to feel that way.  I did not feel safe to talk about my feelings with anyone.  I believed that there was something terribly wrong with me.  I discussed it in passing with a few people, but more in terms of the typical body shaming that teenage girls do while standing in the mirror together.  I never came out and said, “I think God meant to make me a boy.”  identity

I am so glad that I struggled with my identity then and not in our current world.  I am grateful that when I was struggling the most, I did not know about being transgender, because I am fairly certain I would have made some decisions that I would come to regret and that would not have allowed me to find my true identity in Christ.  I know that I would have been loved by the God who created me, but I also know that changing my gender, would not have given me the peace and happiness I longed for.

There is nothing more liberating than finally understanding and being who you were created to be.  I don’t think anyone would argue that point with me.  There is something so freeing about finally getting to be who you are, without any guilt and shame.  It is empowering to finally begin to do the things that you were created to do, knowing that you are free to do them.  Coming to an understanding that God did not make a mistake with me was one of the most pivotal points of my life.  Finding my identity in Him changed who I was.

“For you created my innermost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13).  Before I was even born, the God who loves me more than anything else, knit me together.  He gave me my broad shoulders and muscular legs.  He weaved together my personality, sex drive, hopes, dreams and fears.  He knew who I was and who I would be.  He knew that I would wonder if he had made a mistake and knew that he would redeem those lonely feelings in a way that would glorify Him.  “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart” (Jeremiah 1:5a).

During college I learned so much about the God of my childhood.  He went from a loving God who made a mistake to a God who loves and cherishes me and has a purpose for EVERYTHING about me.  I experienced a heartbreak that to this day sometimes creeps up on me and aches.  I had a relationship with Christ prior to this point in my life, but I did not understand the depths of it until then.  It was during this time that God healed my heart and solidified that I am His and that He does not make mistakes.  He reminded me of His unending love and showed me some of what he had planned for my life.  He laid out a path of vulnerability, openness and gifting that I am still on today.  He spoke to my heart through scripture, music and women who love the Lord.  He revealed Himself to me in ways so much bigger than I could have ever imagined and reminded me of who He is.

Who-You-Are-In-Christ  This blog has been stirring in me for quite a while now and has seemed to be overflowing from my heart since Bruce Jenner introduced himself as Caitlyn Jenner a couple of weeks ago.  It has been difficult for me to write.  I don’t always like the vulnerability that God calls me to, but I trust that if He calls me to it, He will use it.  Recently, I was teaching a lesson on having faith that God will use what we offer him, regardless of how big or small, and I couldn’t help but chuckle at the timing of that lesson and this stirring in my heart.  I have to have faith that God will use my vulnerability to bring hope and healing to others who are struggling or have struggled in the same way that I did.

Because our world is so accustomed to it now, I have been able to learn a lot about the those who are transgender.  I have read or heard some of them discuss finally feeling free to be who they always knew they were.  They have said that they hated having to hide who they were and the pain of feeling like they were in the wrong body.  They have expressed a feeling of shame that no longer exists now.

I know those feelings.  I know that pain.  I know that shame. 

I also know the freedom of being who I know I was created to be.  I know what it is like to be released from the shame of hiding.  I know who I am because my identity is firmly in the God who created me, loves me and has a plan for me!

So here’s to you, sweet sister who is weeping over your lack of identity.  And here’s to you, dear brother who is trying to find your way.  My prayer for you is that you come to know the God who created you and has a purpose for you.  May you seek His love and His unending desire for you to find your identity in Him.  Rest in the peace that comes from knowing and loving your creator.  This journey you are on is a difficult one; figuring out who you are is never an easy task, but I assure you that the creator of all things knows who you are and is just waiting to reveal it to you.

You do not have to change your outward appearance, your name or your body to find your identity in Christ.  He will make you whole.  There is grace abounding in a relationship with Christ, regardless of where you are in your journey to finding who you are.  

You are loved.  

You are cherished.  

You are valuable.  

He has a plan and a purpose for your life, wherever you are right now!  I love you.  He loves you.  

You are His.

That Bridal Glow

I am all for individuality.  In fact, I embrace it.  I want it for myself and I want it for others.  However, some expressions of individuality leave my heart heavy.

As I have mentioned before, I spent the large majority of my formative years believing that there had been a mistake and that I was supposed to be a boy.  Now in my mid twenties, I can see how outlandish that fear was because the only thing that really made me feel like a boy was that I had the sex drive and thought life of my fellow teenaged boys.  Yes, I also felt that I had the body of a boy, but that was the lie that insecurity fed me.  After all, how many young men do you know who started wearing a bra at the age of eight?  I did NOT have to body of a boy.  Regardless, during these years of insecurity, one thing remained true; I was a girl!

I remember looking in the mirror after having my hair and make up done and getting my dress on for my first winter formal.  I was shocked.  I had never felt that I looked so pretty in my entire life.  I even cried a little.  For someone who swore up and down that she was supposed to be a boy, there was something absolutely breathtaking about my done up self.  I think, for the first time, I saw myself as beautiful.  It was as if all of this longing that had innately been in my heart to be beautiful was finally fulfilled; I knew that I was beautiful.

Beauty and desire, for women, go hand in hand I think.  Whether it is our desire to be found beautiful or our desire for something beautiful, I think we would be hard pressed to separate the two.  As a woman, I want to be found beautiful.  I’m not talking about being lusted after, I’m talking about someone knowing me so intimately that I am the most beautiful person in the world to them inside and out.  I did a quick poll on facebook and on a scale from one to ten, the average answer in response to how great of a need they have to be found beautiful was 8.2.  That is a pretty strong desire expressed and I would probably put my personal desire slightly higher than the average.  I want to know that I am beautiful and I think part of that is being able to express my beauty in a way that accentuates it.  I don’t want to quench my beauty.

Every year starting about a month before our anniversary, I start telling my husband that I think we should celebrate our anniversary by having another wedding.  In fact, I think we should have a wedding every year.  It took me a while to figure out why I always want to have another wedding but when I did, the answer was as clear as day to me; I want to feel beautiful and wanted.

My wedding day, although it wasn’t an extravagant wedding, was the perfect fairy tale.  Every ounce of my need to feel desired and beautiful was fulfilled on that day.  I was wearing the most beautiful and expensive dress I’d ever worn.  My make up and hair were done just right.  I felt good about myself.  I felt beautiful.  And then, I walked down the isle to a man who could not take his eyes off of me and promised to spend the rest of his life with me.  Talk about feeling desired.  Someone pledging to spend their life with you… the good you, the bad you, the pretty you, the ugly you… now that is being desired.  To top it off, my husband had done this before.  He had promised his life to someone else.  She left.  She broke her promise.  And lucky for me, I ended up with a man who knew better than most grooms what it really meant to say “forever” to someone.  I felt even more beautiful and desired because he was willing to risk that heartbreak again, FOR ME!  Why wouldn’t I want to recreate that feeling as often as I can?

There is a MercyMe song on the radio that got me thinking a while back.  It is called Beautiful.  Have a listen.

Days will come when you don’t have the strength
And all you hear is you’re not worth anything
Wondering if you ever could be loved
And if they truly saw your heart
They’d see too much

You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful
You are made for so much more than all of this
You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful
You are treasured, you are sacred, you are His
You’re beautiful

Praying that you have the heart to fight
‘Cause you are more than what is hurting you tonight
For all the lies you’ve held inside so long
But they are nothing in the shadow of the cross

You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful
You are made for so much more than all of this
You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful
You are treasured, you are sacred, you are His
You’re beautiful

Before you ever took a breath
Long before the world began
Of all the wonders He possessed
There was one more precious
Of all the earth and skies above
You’re the one He madly loves
Enough to die!

You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful
In His eyes

You’re beautiful!
You are made for so much more than all of this
You’re beautiful!
You are treasured, you are sacred, you are His
You’re beautiful! You’re beautiful!
You are made for so much more than all of this
You’re beautiful! You’re beautiful!
You are treasured
You are sacred
You are His

I have to admit, at least the first fifty that times I heard this song, it meant nothing to me… mainly because I am a dumb blonde.  I thought that the lyrics said, “You are treasured, you are sacred, you are big…”  (I know, I know.)  It wasn’t until I finally heard the lyrics correctly that this song really impacted my heart.  I was driving to the beach with my husband and my baby boy and all of a sudden I heard, “you are His.”  I laughed at myself at first but then I got goosebumps.  It took me right back to my wedding day when I finally knew what it was like to be his.

As a woman, I can inherently relate to the idea of being the bride of Christ better than a man can.  Whether you have experienced being a bride or not, we women know what it feels like to know that you are treasured, sacred and his.  It doesn’t matter if we have ever felt these things before, we were created with a desire for them and therefore know them.  Our heart rate speeds up at even the thought of being loved so intimately and being able to be called his.  I know that when we first started dating, my husband would say, “your my girl” and I loved it.  He wasn’t saying it in a possessive manner, rather he was speaking to my need to be wanted and set aside for only one person.

Shortly after realizing just how amazingly perfect this song was, I spent some time discussing with my mother in law the idea of being a woman.  We talked about how true it is that women want to feel special, pretty and desired and then we talked about what happens when something  smothers or suppresses our God given desire to accentuate our beauty.  Different women do this in different ways, but I believe that all women accentuate their beauty in some way shape or form.

I think that although accentuating our beauty can be done in many ways, there are two categories in which all ways fall: outward and inward.  While, in my opinion, the Christian world has had good intentions, I believe that we have stifled our young girls’ need and ability to express their beauty outwardly.  I also know that there are a lot of girls and women who have been abused in some way and have stifled their own ability to express beauty on the outside as a defense mechanism.  We have taught our girls and ourselves that our bodies are sinful and that there is something to be ashamed of, which is so incredibly untrue.

Please, do not misunderstand me.  I am NOT advocating for a lack of modesty.  I believe modesty is so special and important.  However, I am advocating for teaching ourselves and our young girls to express outward beauty.  Dress up a little.  Put on some make up.  Shave your legs and put on some heels.  Do what makes you feel beautiful.  We have to have faith in our own beauty to be found beautiful.  Granted, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and inward beauty typically enhances outward beauty, but there has to be some kind of balance.  My heart aches for those who are ashamed of their beauty.  I know, personally, a couple of women who hide their outward beauty in every way possibly and it makes me sad.  We have the freedom to express outward beauty, I promise!

(Check out Shannon Ethridge’s “Hot Tip” [which is for married women] that completely echoes my point)

Buy What Makes You Feel Sexy!

I was in Target this summer, frantically shopping for everything I needed for my 3-week New Zealand tour. Topping the list — a pair of flats to travel in (translation: shoes comfortable enough to sprint through airports in, as I so often find myself doing!).

I was in the shoe department, when my eyes glanced across a pair of wedge sandals that made my heart skip a beat! Now, I’m not a huge “shoe girl.” I don’t have a different pair of shoes for every outfit, nor do I care to. I like to keep my wardrobe as simple and practical as possible. Yet, there I was, salivating over a pair of shoes that I had NO idea what I could possibly wear them with!

I couldn’t resist the temptation… I slipped off my flip flops, and slid on the wedges… and no lie, I suddenly felt like Heidi Klum, strutting around that shoe department in denim shorts and wedge sandals! I liked the feeling so much that I wore them right on home. Only $14, yet I felt like a million bucks.

And because I felt like a million bucks in those shorts & shoes, seducing my husband when I got home seemed like the natural thing to do. Had I come home in those ratty flip flops, quite frankly, I’m not sure I would have felt such an urge.

And that is when I knew I’d have to do a Hot Tip about simply splurging and buying a little something for yourself that makes you FEEL like more of a Sexually Confident Wife than you really are! Dress the part, and fulfilling the role doesn’t seem like such a stretch.

Funny little side note… I took my son to register for college classes shortly thereafter… and I was wearing those wedge sandals as we walked across the parking lot. We like to raz each other a lot, so I jokingly inquired, “Hey, Matthew, do I look like Heidi Klum in these shoes?”

**crickets **

(even a 16-year old boy knows when to keep his mouth shut)

Then I added, “Or do I look like a frumpy mom who’s trying to look like Heidi Klum?”

That brought hysterical laughter. From both of us. Turns out, he couldn’t have agreed more… with the latter statement, not the former, of course.

But ask my husband what HE thinks when I sport my new sandals, and you won’t hear any crickets chirping. You’ll hear a happy man giving you the same advice – WIVES, BUY WHAT MAKES YOU FEEL SEXY!

http://www.shannonethridge.com/email/1108.html

Ladies, when is the last time you looked in the mirror and cried a little because you finally felt that you looked beautiful?  When is the last time you knew that you were treasured, sacred and His?  These are important things to know and feel.  God created you with a desire to be fulfilled, first and foremost by Him and He can do it.  So, my dearhearts, here is to embracing your beauty inside and out.  Don’t let your desire to be an individual, your past abuse or some absurd belief that it is wrong keep your from showing us just how beautiful you are.  Here is to knowing that you are loved and desired.  Be careful to not quench your beauty (inside or out) and hey… live a little.  Put on something that makes you feel good and strut your stuff (even if it is only in front of the mirror).  You are beautiful!