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.

On Being a Mother

No one ever told me how emotionally taxing and exhausting being a mother would be.  Sure, people talked about the sleepless nights, the terrible twos, the “I know everything” teenagers and the process of letting a child grow into adulthood, but no one ever talked to me about the fear, the doubt and/or the gut-wrenching, cut to the bone, overwhelming sense of responsibility that consumes you the second you enter motherhood.

Motherhood is hard.  I’ve been a mom for 2 1/2 years and although my boys bring me more joy than I ever could have imagined, I am consistently overwhelmed by being a mom.

I 100% believe that my feelings of fear, doubt and responsibility are intensified greatly because of the fact that I have spent the better part of my 2 1/2 years as a mother studying and practicing clinical social work, causing me to learn and experience first hand the devastating impact of poor parenting, however I do not believe that I am alone in my feelings.  Every mother I have ever shared my heart with has echoed my fears, doubts and sense of responsibility in some way or another.

So, in the spirit of honesty and sharing my heart in an attempt to normalize motherhood, here are the things that make me feel fearful, doubtful and overwhelmed with responsibility:

  • I fear that my children will get hurt.
  • I fear that I won’t be able to comfort them when they do get hurt.
  • I fear that I won’t be a good mother.
  • I doubt that I have it in me to be the “good enough” mother that is required for a child to adapt.
  • I fear that my children won’t grow up to know, love and follow hard after Jesus.
  • I doubt that I have the ability to be a Godly example of a woman who knows, loves and follows hard after Jesus.
  • I feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of raising children to know, love and follow hard after Jesus.
  • I fear that I have misused, will misuse and constantly underestimate the period of time in which children learn and form appropriate attachment styles.
  • I doubt that I have done or will do everything I need to do in order to ensure the mental health and proper attachment styles of my children.
  • I am overwhelmed by the responsibility of ensuring proper and “good” mental health for my children.
  • I fear that I won’t want to hang out with my kids when they are teenagers.
  • I doubt my children will want to hang out with me when they are teenagers, which breaks my heart, because I know a family in which this isn’t the case and I want it so badly.
  • I feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of raising Godly, productive, strong, genuine, patient, kind and selfless members of society.
  • I am overwhelmed by the responsibility of teaching my children that they are unique and special but that those qualities do not entitle them to anything and that selfishness, entitlement and greed are ugly, ugly characteristics to display.
  • I fear that I will not know how to let go and allow my children to become independent adults and therefore I will not be able to have healthy, lasting, adult relationships with my children.
  • I feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of raising children to value and cherish purity of heart, mind and body, especially knowing how little I have cherished these things throughout my life.
  • I fear that I will be a judgmental, outspoken, mean-spirited, meddlesome mother-in-law (because I am all of those things as a person, wife, mother and friend) and that my relationships with my children-in-laws will be tense and stricken with mistrust and obligations.
  • I fear being the mother of a girl.
  • I doubt I know how to mother a girl.
  • I fear I won’t be able to parent differently in the areas I want to change and parent the same in the uncountable ways in which my parents did a phenomenal job.
  • I am overwhelmed by the responsibility of “breaking the cycle” regarding so many personal and family unhealthy habits.
  • I doubt I know how to raise physically healthy, active and confident children.
  • I fear that my baggage will become my children’s baggage.
  • I am overwhelmed by the responsibility of being the first representation of Christ’s love to my children.

Truthfully, I could keep listing my fears, doubts and overwhelming feelings of responsibility but for my own mental health, I have to stop.  Because, you know what?  These are tools of the enemy.  Feeling these things is natural.  Using them as motivation to draw nearer to my Maker and to being the mom that He created me to be (flaws and all) is helpful.  But dwelling on them and allowing them to consume and paralyze me (as I often do) is exactly what the enemy wants.  He comes to “steal, kill and destroy” and every second I dwell on these fears, doubts and overwhelming feelings of responsibility, he is destroying me as a woman, wife, mother and most importantly, child of God.  I refuse to allow the enemy to steal the joy that comes from being mother, to kill my ability to mother with love, patience and confidence or to destroy my relationships with my children because of it!  When I dwell on these things, I allow the enemy to win and do not allow myself the grace required to be the best mother that I can be.

I tried to write this blog about 4 1/2 months ago, right after Noah was born.  I was experiencing postpartum depression and the enemy was winning.  I had no perspective and couldn’t get through the first paragraph without becoming paralyzed by my fear, sobbing and doubt.  I decided to wait until I wasn’t so hormonal, sad and tired.  Sometimes, that is how motherhood goes.

So here’s to you mommy friends who feel intense fear, agonizing doubt and an overwhelming sense of responsibility.  You are not alone!  There is hope and it is found in the peace of Christ.  It is found in His love, strength, grace, forgiveness and gentle embrace.  It is found in the mother He created and equips you to be.

And take heart, mommy friends who are paralyzed.  Know that the enemy has been overcome by one who is greater and can be overcome in you.  Get out of bed every morning prepared for battle.  “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Guard your heart and do not allow yourself to compare.  Pray endlessly and rest in His assurance that even if/when you do fail, His grace has covered you.

This motherhood thing is a wild ride; harder and more emotionally exhausting that words can say, but you are not alone.  I am not alone.  You, my friend, just like me, must trust in the mother God has created you to be!

The Struggle

“Worn”– Tenth Avenue North

I’m tired I’m worn
My heart is heavy
From the work it takes
To keep on breathing
I’ve made mistakes
I’ve let my hope fail
My soul feels crushed
By the weight of this world

And I know that you can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause I’m worn

I know I need to lift my eyes up
But I’m too weak
Life just won’t let up
And I know that you can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause I’m worn

My prayers are wearing thin
Yeah, I’m worn
Even before the day begins
Yeah, I’m worn
I’ve lost my will to fight
I’m worn
So, heaven come and flood my eyes

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause all that’s dead inside will be reborn

Though I’m worn
Yeah I’m worn

To caution all drivers on the road in Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington, if this song comes on when I am driving I simply cannot control my reaction, which I am sure causes me to be one of the most unsafe drivers on the north coast.  I can do nothing but cry, lift my hands in surrender and thank Jesus that someone else gets it; that someone put words to the state of my heart and therefore I can express my heart through my favorite art form.  I didn’t have the words before hearing this song to express the tiredness of my heart.  I bought the lie again that I was alone and that no one could possibly understand what is like to walk around feeling like the life has been sucked right out of you and feeling like you should be able to fix it.

Anyone who has ever dealt with addictive sin knows what I am talking about.  You know that feeling of hopelessness.  That feeling that you are the one to blame and that if only you were better at controlling yourself, life would be perfect.  You know how the cycle goes.  Things are great for a while; you are succeeding in your battle and life feels good.  Things begin to fall into place and you start to believe that maybe this is the time that you will completely overcome.  Then life happens.  You get arrogant or stressed or whatever is your trigger and you say, “just this once” except just this once turns into one more time and one more time and before you know it, you are completely out of control and right back where you said you would never be again.  For some people their addiction is obvious to those around them and the impact of the sin is not at all subtle.  For others like myself, addiction is easily hidden and the impact, while present and painful, isn’t quite as obvious.  It takes months and months for me to begin to connect the dots between just how out of control my sin is with my tired heart, tired relationships and general dissatisfaction with life.  Im-So-Tired

You would think that connecting the dots would be enough to stop, but it isn’t.  Justification, by this point is so deep in my veins that my heart is hardened to the idea of stopping.  I begin to ask God why He doesn’t just take it from me.  He knows how hard I’ve tried in the past.  He knows how tired I am.  He knows how much I desire to be used by Him but feel held back by my inability to stop.  One of my dreams is to speak on the Women of Faith stage someday, but I can’t even begin to fathom working toward that when I feel like a hypocrite and don’t have anything redeeming to share.  I hear the stories of other survivors, of people who have overcome their battle and they get to stand there and talk about the goodness of God and how there is this HUGE change in their life because of Jesus’ saving grace… that isn’t my life.  It is exhausting.  It hurts and is devastating to try and understand how God could put this desire in my heart and not free me from my addiction.  I want to know that what has died in me, because of my own choices, can be revived.  I want so desperately to be who God created me to be, yet I know that I’m holding myself back.  I don’t understand how the passions, gifts and dreams God has given me can be fulfilled when I keep giving into sin.  I want to see redemption win and I want others to see it in me, but it hasn’t happened and it doesn’t feel like it ever will.

This is typically when I begin to doubt my own salvation.  My heart is burdened with the idea of not being good enough, of not really repenting.  True repentance is followed by change.  That is what I’ve always known and believed.  I’ve heard it in a thousand sermons… in fact, I just heard it again a couple of weeks ago.  Godly sorrow doesn’t leave you in mourning but spurs you toward change.  If these things are true, then clearly I haven’t repented.  Clearly I’m not sorry and I probably never will be.  These are the lies that invade my heart and build even more walls between myself and my God.  I stop talking to Him at all because I am so ashamed, so frustrated and frankly, mad.  I’ve said I was sorry so many times and failed to change.  I’ve asked for help and begged Him to free me from it.  I’ve asked why and I’ve, at times, asked for help from other people.  It never works and it hurts.  I feel abandoned by a God that I profess to love and follow and at the same time, I desperately worry that I’ve allowed my heart to harden so far that even if He was trying to help, I’d wouldn’t know it.  Someone once told me that the fact that I question these things and fret about them are proof that my heart isn’t as hardened as I assume, but even this doesn’t take away my doubt.

There is another song on the radio right now that completely makes my heart ache.  If I didn’t already hate myself for not being able to overcome, even with the help of a God who, deep down, I know loves me, the first two lines just pour on the guilt even more.  The song says, “Who can stand apart from your presence? Once we have tasted, the goodness of Your love.”  My sin, my decision to partake in sin requires that I stand apart from the presence of God.  The more I give in, the further I get from Him.  According to this song, I wouldn’t be able to make that decision if I had truthfully tasted the goodness of God.  I HAVE tasted to goodness of His love.  I have experienced His love and lived sweetly in it.  But I’m still human and this thorn in my flesh has not come out despite my best efforts.  photolibrary_rf_photo_of_exhausted_man

I heard, on the radio, the lead singer from Tenth Avenue North explaining why he wrote this song and while his feelings of being worn are so far from my feelings of being worn, he said something that really resonated with me.  He said that “sometimes God redeems us from the struggle and sometimes God redeems us through the struggle.”  I’ve heard something like this before.  Someone I know who struggles with addiction as well once told a sanctuary full of people that once while she was begging God to take her struggle from her, He asked if she believed He could.  She said yes and His response was, “would you still trust me knowing I could take it, even if I didn’t take it from you?’  She had to really wrestle with this idea that maybe God’s plan for her life was for her to struggle and that he might not ever fully redeem her FROM the struggle.  As someone who is tired and worn, these are not encouraging words to me.  I want to be redeemed FROM the struggle.  I want to be able to share my redemption story and have it be meaningful and encouraging.  I am TIRED of being redeemed through the struggle; it doesn’t feel redeeming.

Accepting that God may redeem me THROUGH the struggle seems like a risky decision.  It feels like an open door to give up… to stop trying… to simply give into to every whim and desire associated with sex and justify it to myself.  If God is redeeming me through the struggle, do I really have a responsibility to fight against the addiction?  Does it matter whether or not I try to rid my life of this destructive and painful sin if I know I’m never going to overcome it?  Of course it matters; I know this (Romans 6:1).  However, my fear is that accepting that I, like Paul, must maintain the thorn in my flesh for a lifetime, feels like an easy justification when I am tired of the fight.  I don’t even want to begin to imagine what my life will be like if I stop fighting to get better… fighting to recover.

If you’ve read any of my other  blogs, you know that one of my favorite artists is JJ Heller.  Her music resonates with my heart in deep, powerful ways that I cannot put words to.  Her newest single, Who You Are, is no exception.  In this song, JJ sings about dreams not met.  She sings of a woman who has begged for a child of her own but has not been given a child.  She sings of a father who loses a child unexpectedly.  She sings of hurt and pain and unmet expectations.  JJ also sings of the Father’s love, though.  She sings of His love that is found in these unmet expectations.  She says, “I don’t know what you’re doing, but I know who you are.”  I actually was typing those words right as I was listening to them be sung and it brought tears to my eyes.  What an amazingly bold statement of faith.

I have spoken in the past about learning to be okay with living in the tension.  The idea of living in the tension deals with accepting the mystery of God as something that is beautiful and romantic, not something that turns us away from Him.  I think this is exactly what JJ’s new song is saying; just because I don’t know everything that is happening, everything about You, the one I love and follow, doesn’t mean that I don’t KNOW you or KNOW your character and what you have promised me.

I have absolutely NO idea what God is doing in my life when it comes to this struggle.  I don’t know how it will be used or if my dreams will ever be fulfilled.  I don’t know if I will ever be able to say “I used to struggle” instead of “I do struggle.”  I don’t know if a song will rise out of these ashes or if my tired heart will be restored.  What I do know is that my God loves me.  I know that He is love.  I know that there is purpose.  I know that He will not give me anything I cannot handle (1 Corinthians 10:13).  I know that redemption has ultimately won and that one day, this too shall pass.  I know that my God hears and cares for my aching heart and that He has not left my side.  I know WHO my God is and just because I don’t know what He is doing doesn’t make Him any less loving, compassionate or tender.  Because I know who my God is, I have hope.

Letter to Micah

In the spirit of Mother’s Day, here is my letter to my sweet, sweet boy who made me a mother just over a year ago.

Micah Dean,
You, my son, changed my life. I wasn’t sure if I wanted kids or if I would know how to be a mother but the first time I held you in my arms all of that changed. Your breath melted my fears and your heartbeat changed my life. In an instant I knew love differently and more deeply than ever before.  I never knew love could be so full of joy and peace and compassion until that moment when daddy placed you into my arms. I know God’s love and grace deeply because of you; He gave me you and I did nothing to deserve such love and blessing in my life.
Micah, my boy, I have been praying for you and for the man God has created you to be since the first I saw “pregnant” on the home pregnancy test. I knew that I would not be enough. No matter how good of a mother I turn out to be, you will only achieve your potential through Him. I pray that you grow into a relationship with your Creator, that you grow to know and love him deeply. He has so much planned for you and will lead you there if you let him. I pray that you become a man of courage who exudes tenderness to the world. A man of boldness who expresses grace and mercy in all of your relationships. I pray that you know your worth and value through the extravagant relationship you cultivate with Christ. May you learn from others’ mistakes so that your pain and sufferings are minimal. Know that growth comes from seasons of pain; the act of pruning is painful but He is continually shaping you into the man you have been created to be.
My sweet, loving, joyful boy… I want you to know that there is nothing you can ever do that will make me stop loving you. You have my heart, no matter what. I may, at times, be disappointed by your choices or hurt by your actions, but my love well never end. May you know that my love is imperfect because I am not perfect but my love, by the grace of God, is a reflection of His prefect love for you. He has granted me the privilege of expressing His love to you so that you may know Him more fully.
Micah, my love will never end; however, God has also given me the privilege of allowing you to see His love even more fully through your relationship with your wife. I pray that you love her deeply. That you honor her and respect her in all you do and say. Know that it is your responsibility to serve your wife; to be a reflection of Christ to her. Son, gentleness, compassion, understanding, courage and honesty are the aspects of love that are going to empower her, to allow her to continue to grow and will point her to the love of the Father. It is a huge responsibility, my dear son, but I already know you can do it. You will fail and it is going to hurt, but you have the ability to humbly repent and know that you will be forgiven. Son, I pray that you choose wisely when picking a spouse. Follow after His heart and He will lead you to a woman who is perfectly suited for you. Remember in your dating and hormone fueled years that God is preparing you a wife, a woman, not a girl.
Micah Dean, I love you so much. You have changed my life and brought me so much joy in just one year… I am so excited to continue to know and love you. Thank you for loving me and for allowing me to be your mother. As the song I sing to you every night reminds me, “the love of God is evident in the miracle of you, little one.”
-Mom

Lullaby- JJ Heller

Go to sleep little one
May it be peaceful
May you dream of lovely things
And awake to find them real
Little one

Close your eyes little one
This is your lullaby
The love of God is evident in the miracle of you
Little one…

I Lied

Have you ever had a conversation with someone and when you leave it, you think, “I MUST remember all of what was said because that was HUGE and some day it will be VERY important!”?  I remember every detail of conversations like that and as I continue to move through adulthood, with my own life, my own family, my own etc., those conversations often flood the forefront of my mind because now is when they are important to me.

A couple of weeks ago, I sat at the dinner table with my family of four and faintly mentioned something about body image.  The beautiful, inquisitive 13 year old who sits across the table from me every evening asked a question and I lied.  I lied because of the VERY important conversation that had been tucked away in my heart for so many years.

One of my mentors told me once that she makes certain to positively comment on her body when he daughter is around.  She explained that she did not want to pass down a legacy of negative body image, but rather of health and positivity.  She said that even if she isn’t feeling great about herself, she will purposefully force herself to compliment herself, out loud, in earshot of her sweet, precious daughter.  She told me of one time that she was getting ready and happened to be in her under garments when her daughter walked in the room.  She had no less than twenty seconds ago, picked apart her body while looking in the mirror, but now, with her daughter in the room, walked to the mirror and out loud praised God for perfectly piecing her body together.

This conversation, I remember, made me fight tears the whole way through it.  I remember thinking, “I want to do the same for my daughter some day!  I want to do the same for the girls who are in my life intimately!”  The legacy that has been passed down to me is a legacy of weight loss and dieting and therefore an inherent displeasure with my body and weight.  Without meaning to, the women in my family spend a lot of time focusing on weight and we have passed that down from generation to generation.  I see it in my grandmother, my mother/aunts and now in the generation of women of which I am a part.  This is NOT the legacy I want to pass down to the next generation.

So, when the 13 year old asked her question, I lied.

I said something like, “I like my body.  I am not worried about what other people think.  I try to be healthy and try to make sure that my husband is pleased with my body, but I don’t let either of those things define me.  God gave me everything I’ve got; He made me knowing that this would be me and I’m happy with that.”

After I said it, there was a weird feeling that rushed over me.  I wanted all of the things that I had just said to be true, but in my heart, I knew they weren’t.  I struggle with body image just as much, if not more than most women.  I am not pleased with every inch of my body (mainly because I feel there are too many inches around and too few inches lenghtwise, lol) and if I had all of the money in the world, I probably would waste a large chunk of it altering things about my body.  I want to be taller, thinner, prettier, …ier.

None of what I said to the impressionable girl across the table was fully true, however, I knew it was my opportunity to change the cycle of such a negative legacy.

(I have recently had the incomparable honor and opportunity of “junior editing” Shannon Ethridge‘s new book and I HIGHLY suggest that when it comes out, every person reads it because there is a section on body image that has the most amazing story of changing negative body image legacies.  I wish I could share it with you right now, but it is my joy and honor to point you towards Shannon’s book for now.)

I guess the question I have to ask myself, though, is one of morality.  We teach the 13 year old that lying is not okay.  She is often grounded or on restriction from some privilege because she hasn’t been entirely truthful.  In our home, we tell her, there is no circumstance when lying is acceptable.  Yet, I lied.  I broke our own rule.  I had good reason, but I still lied.  Was I wrong?

There is the whole idea of “fake it until you make it” and I think that was my intent when I told the lie.  I want what I said to be true and I suppose that if I speak it often enough, it will be true (out of the heart, the mouth speaks?), but I feel like such a faker in the meantime.  I desperately want to leave a legacy of contentment, pleasure and gratefulness when it comes to body image to the girls I have the privilege of encountering, but do I have to lie to do it?

My prayer is that it won’t be a lie forever.  I pray that I am able to love what God has created and that I am able to some day speak the truth when I attempt to pass down a legacy of health and appreciation.  My prayer is also that I am not alone in this.  How devastating it would be to work so hard to pass on a beautiful gift of loving our bodies only to have the world/other women contradict what I am trying to do.  I don’t want my daughter(s) to leave me only to find out that the world won’t accept her for who she is, no matter what she looks like.  I want my daughter(s) to be confident in who they are and to surround themselves with women who feel the same way; women who will also pass on a legacy of positive body image.  I can’t do this alone.  None of us can.

Barlow Girl- Mirror

Mirror, Mirror on the wall, Have I got it?
‘Cause Mirror you’ve always told me who I am
I’m finding it’s not easy to be perfect
So sorry you won’t define me
Sorry you don’t own me

Who are you to tell me
That I’m less than what I should be?
Who are you? Who are you?
I don’t need to listen
To the list of things I should do
I won’t try, I won’t try

Mirror I am seeing a new reflection
I’m looking into the eyes
of He who made me
And to Him I have beauty beyond compare
I know He defines me (Yeah)

Who are you tell me
that I’m less than what I should be
Who are you?
Who are you? (Yeah)
I don’t need to listen
To the list of things I should do
I won’t try, no, I won’t try

You don’t define me (You don’t define me)

Who are you to tell me
That I’m less than what I should be
Who are you?
Who are you?
Yeah!
I don’t need to listen
To the list of things I should do
I won’t try, no, I won’t try
Yeah

Who are you to tell me
That I’m less than what I should be
Who are you?
Who are you?
Yeah
I don’t need to listen
To the list of things I should do
I won’t try, no, I won’t try

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!