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!

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!



Stereotypes are terrible.  I have lived my life knowing that I am NOT a stereotype, which has been liberating at times, but more often than not, it is an incredibly lonely place to be.  Not fitting into a stereotype inherently means that you are different.  A stereotype is a generalization based on what is thought to be true for most of people within a group.  If one does not fit that generalization, that means they are on the outside of the expected norm and it has been a very tumultuous experience to live on the outside of the stereotypes.

In junior high and high school, it became VERY clear to me that I was not a typical female (of course, I internalized this as not being “normal” and that there was something wrong with me).  Unfortunately, growing up in the church only intensified this feeling.  In youth group, all I ever heard was that girls had different struggles than girls in terms of sexuality and sex.  Girls, I was taught, wanted love.  Boys, wanted sex.  All sitcoms and movies also portrayed these stereotypes.  The men all griped about not getting enough sex and the women all griped about not getting enough love.  Don’t get me wrong, I do long to be love.  I have a deep, sometimes unhealthy, desire to know that I am “worth something” and to feel cherished.  My heart dances when someone finds me captivating because it makes me feel that they see depth in me and depth that can never be fully discovered.  Love is high on my list of needs.  However, I am NOT the girl who dreads sex, who isn’t visually stimulated or who has a lower sex drive than a typical man.  I have been this way for as far as I can remember and it has always haunted me.

This concept of being a female has been the most troublesome concept in my life.  I grew up feeling like God had made a mistake; he made me with girl parts, but everything else about me was boy.  I thought like a boy, I played like a boy, I was built like a boy and I even had the sex drive of a boy.  As I entered junior high and on into high school, I became VERY aware of just how different I was.  My girlfriends talked about how cute a boy was and how they hoped that one day they would get to hold hands or cuddle and I thought about how cute a boy was and how amazing it would be to enter into some kind of sexual relationship with him.

In the height of my questioning whether or not God had made a mistake, I distinctly remember a conversation I had with my dad.  I was sitting on the couch and said, “Dad, I hate my legs; they are so big!”  My dad said, “Don’t hate your legs; you have your dad’s legs sweetie!  You are muscular.”  This pretty much solidified it all for me; I was supposed to be a boy.

However, none of this ever prevented me from dating or getting into sexual relationships.  Before I met my husband at age 19, I had had eleven boyfriends and seven or eight sexual partners.  You would think that because I felt so much like a boy, I would have a hard time entering into these kinds of relationships, but I think that these kinds of relationships made me feel alive.  These relationships were the only reassurance I had that I was, in fact, a girl and that I was a ” normal” girl, because guys wanted me.  I lied to myself and made myself feel better by pointing out that what made me different also proved that I was in fact a female.

Growing up in the church made this all the more difficult for me.  Not only did I have this exaggerated awareness that I was not “normal” and that God had most likely made a mistake in creating me, but I also lived in the bondage of my sin because I didn’t understand the freedom that comes through Christ.  Church was not an ideal environment for me.  While I accepted Christ at a young age, I also accepted guilt and judgment at a young age.  The church taught me all about sin (murder, sex outside of marriage, cursing, etc) and taught me all about guilt.  Every time I learned of a new sin, I took on a new layer of guilt, as I was guilty of it all.  The church told me that God loved me, but I lived my life wondering if He would take that love back because I was REALLY bad!

As I mentioned, my core sin was sex.  As a VERY young child, I began dealing with this sin.  I specifically remember being as young as seven years old and masturbating (although I am sure I masturbated long before that, seven is just my earliest memory of it).  The sight of someone giving or receiving a kiss on television would send me into a frenzy and I would do whatever I could to get to a place by myself and relive that moment in my mind while releasing the tension that had risen within me like an all consuming fire.  My life revolved around when I could be alone in my room, the bathroom, or anywhere else in my house or a friend’s house so that I could masturbate.  I specifically remember thinking one time, “if watching someone kiss practically brings me to orgasm, what will I do when I am actually kissing someone?”

Assuredly, I do not have to explain in depth the amount of guilt with which this provided me as a child in the Christian church.  I prayed every night for forgiveness and prayed with fervor that God would make me stop “having sex with myself” (it wasn’t until seventh grade when I learned the term “masturbate” and that it was a fairly normal pubescent occurrence for boys).  Yet, the next day, it would be the same thing.

As I got older, masturbating stopped being enough for me.  My fantasies grew and grew and eventually started to become reality.  I entered into several sexual relationships, some of them at the same time, and became addicted to the high I got from such sexual pleasure (as well as the feeling of being wanted or desired by another human being).  I would participate in some sordid sexual act, which did not usually involve any reciprocation from the male counterpart and then go home and masturbate while reliving the experience in my head.  Kissing on television no longer got me excited, but the second someone discussed or alluded to sex, I was back to the little girl who could not contain her desire to be alone and release the tension.

In high school, I had a phenomenal Youth Pastor and mentor who both allowed me to be very honest about my struggle and constantly challenged my beliefs about what it meant to be a female.  Honesty helped a little bit, but after a while, it only added to my guilt.  I knew that admitting to another person that I had failed yet again would only make me feel worse, so I began lying about it, which as you can imagine added to the guilt.  There was no guilt free selection in my life.  Grace was discussed but for some reason, it never applied to me and I could never figure out why.

I knew that if people knew who I really was, they would be disgusted by me.  I knew this by the way sexual sin was discussed among my conservative friends and family.  I knew that I was a hypocrite.  I knew that every Sunday I got on stage and helped lead my fellow high school students in worship and that I would most likely go home and before falling asleep that night, fantasize about someone in that group while masturbating.

While all of this is something that I still struggle with, it is on a much smaller scale and often in very different forms.  Late in high school and early in college, I had incredible people (personal and professional) who allowed me to work through my thoughts and feelings on the issues and it was a very necessary step for me.  However, regardless of how much I worked through my issues, sometimes it feels like nothing will ever fully shake the loneliness that comes from not fitting into the stereotype of a female.

Another stereotype that I just do not fit is the stereotype of being a pastor’s wife.  I am not quiet and sweet and I do not want to get to know every person who walks through the door.  I have no desire to run the women’s ministry, or even be a part of it currently.  I am not soft spoken and standing at the door to greet people sounds like the most painful thing in the world to me.  And, to top it off, I am not a stereotypical female, which is one of the main components to being a wife.  Now, I know a few other pastor’s wives who do not fit into those stereotypes, but they are few and far between.

I have had countless people make some sort of comment to me about not being a “good” pastor’s wife, which is very hard on me.  I understand that I have been provided with a wonderful opportunity to grow and I am not backing down from that opportunity, but I also think that I have to learn to be okay with who I am, as hard as that it.  If I listened to every person who has an opinion on how I should be doing my job as a pastor’s wife, I would hate myself.  I would never get a break from stereotypes.  I know that I don’t fit the mold, which is hard, but I have to learn to be okay with it, because, yet again, this is a really lonely place in which to live.

I have a personality disorder, called Avoidant Personality Disorder. (I know wikipedia isn’t always the most reliable, but this is accurate and in layman’s terms)  Living with this has been very difficult, but as a pastor’s wife, it seems impossible.  I think the loneliness that comes from not fitting into the stereotype is intensified by the fact that even when I want to change, it seems impossible to do so.  It isn’t simply a matter of getting over it and changing, which I think most people assume it is, which is hard.

Luckily, in this current place, God has been so faithful and has blessed my husband and I with a staff that doesn’t expect anything of me.  We can’t control what the congregation expects, but we can work together to help them to have realistic expectations.  I am who I am; I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  God has made me who I am and has put me in the positions and places that he has for a reason.  I am stronger because of all of the stereotypes that I do not fit.  There is freedom in Christ.  Having a relationship with Christ is what frees me to be me, regardless of stereotype.  I don’t have to worry (although, sometimes I do) about not fitting the mold.  I can take refuge in my God who loves me and made me perfectly.  He did not make a mistake and he is growing me through my flaws.  God’s grace applies to me every day.  The loneliness is not from God, it is a trick of the great deceiver who longs to keep me away from my loving Father.

So, this blog is to those of you who don’t fit the mold.  Be strong.  Be brave.  Be you.  Please know that there is a God who loves you, who created you and who longs to allow you to be the best you as possible.  Know that in Him, there is peace.  Know that in Him, there are no stereotypes; You ARE the mold.

True Things- JJ Heller
I’m not the clothes I’m wearing
I’m not a photograph
I’m not the car I driveI’m not the money I make
I’m not the things I lack
I’m not the songs that I writeI am I am who I am
I am who I am

There are true things inside of me
I have been afraid to see
I believe, help my unbelief
Would you say again what you said to me
I am loved and I am free
I believe, help my unbelief

I’m not the house I live in
I’m not the man I love
I’m not the mistakes that I carry

I’m not the food that I don’t eat
I’m not what I’m above
I’m not my scars and my history

There are true things inside of me
I have been afraid to see
I believe, help my unbelief
Would you say again what you said to me
I am loved and I am free
I believe, help my unbelief

To your love I’m waking up
In your love I’m waking up