I don’t know who you are yet. I don’t know what you look like. I don’t know the color of your eyes. I don’t know the color of your skin. I don’t know your name. There are a lot of things that I don’t know about you, but there are a couple of things that I want you to know.
You’re Already Beautiful. Congratulations, babe, you did it. You are already beautiful. Seriously. If beauty is a game, you’re a pro. You are perfect already. You were beautifully and wonderfully made. You have nothing to fix. Let me say that again, you have nothing to fix. God did not mess-up on you. I know what society is telling you. “You have to look like this, wear this, and have this in order to be beautiful.” Nope. You’re already beautiful. Beauty is more than what…
I’m sitting on my bed, listing to indie-esque music, eating straccitella gelato (what is straccitella anyway?) and dreaming of when I’m going to be in Europe in a few months. I’m so excited and yet so scared at the same time. I’ll be separated from everything I’m intimately acquainted to by thousands of miles and millions of gallons of water and it’s going to be full of things I’ve only seen in pictures and only dreamt of seeing.
The rational part of me says that I’ll be fine, thousands have done it before me, hundreds through the program I’m going through, and I’ll be with people I know fairly well. (Not-so) Deep down, I’m terrified. Not that I’ll be kidnapped and sold into sex slavery or killed or something like that, but more like “Can I actually do this? Can I really go and experience these things and have fun? Can I afford to do this?” And all the “what ifs” come and start clawing at me. (What if I get stranded? What if I run out of money? What if I fall in love? What if my faith is weakened by this? What if… What if… What if?!) And I still want to go and have this grand adventure and really get to claim to have wanderlust and I can’t wait to board that plane and get out over the Atlantic, but at the same time, I want to back out, and just stay state-side where I’m comfortable.
And I have until 4:00 PM tomorrow to pull out.
But I’m not going to pull out.
Because this may just be the most exciting and exhilarating and growth-inducing thing I ever do.
I remember when I turned 10. I thought I was going to be all that and a bag of chips. I was important, I was making the double digits for crying out loud! I was going to be queen of the hill, ruler of my domain. I was excited to be turning 10. Now, I’m on the brink of 20 (18 days!) and I’m terrified. This past decade was not what I expected. I got kicked around, my family suffered terrible blows, I found God. I have had to face massive amounts of insecurity and felt persecution, harsh judgement, and fear. It certainly doesn’t feel like a decade has passed since that day.
I am more of a scared little girl now than I was ten years ago. I am facing adulthood, and I am scared. I feel alone a lot of the time. The pressures of adulthood are pressing down all around me, and I feel like I can’t turn to anyone for help. It’s me, myself, and God. I struggle to remind myself daily that God will provide for my needs. He will make sure I have what I need to survive, and will put people in my path to help me. But when I lay in bed at night and wonder how I’m going to be able to afford the gas to get back to school in a couple of weeks, a knot of fear forms in my stomach, and I don’t know what to do.
I have legally been an adult for almost two years, but I have been able to rely on being a teenager still. I wasn’t really an adult, but once January 20th happens, I can’t use that excuse anymore. I will be an adult with adult problems and worries and adult things to deal with. Logically, I know that I’m not alone. Logically, I know I can get help from my family if I need it. The problem is that I know that they are dealing with a lot as it is, and they can’t afford to help me financially.
I guess part of my problem is not that I feel alone, it’s that I make myself alone. I can’t help my family out financially. I spurned the faiths of my parents, because I realized how wrong denominational Christianity is. I decided to follow that faith and go to a school 700 miles away from home. I’m too far away to help take care of my brothers, or help them deal with life. The only thing I can really do is take care of myself as much as I can, and not ask them for help, even when I feel like I desperately need it. I forget that my parents love me and would do anything for me. I tell myself I can’t rely on them, for a lot of reasons. I tell myself “If God blesses me with children, I will raise them to be confident in the Lord, and confident in me. I will always provide for them in a manner worthy and pleasing to God. I will not subject them to some of the things my parents have subjected me to.”
I’m realizing how vulnerable I am, and the only cure for vulnerability is reliance on God. He is constant, and He is loving. He will give me everything I need, and I need to have that confidence in him. These are some passages that come to mind.
“And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow, they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things shall be added to you.”
-Luke 12:22-31, ESV
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because he cares for you.”
-1 Peter 5:6,7
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread will gvie him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
And while these passages are well and good and encouraging, it doesn’t mean that having complete faith is God and trust that He will provide is easy. It takes diligence, it takes daily immersion and meditation on God’s Word, and prayer, a lot of prayer. It takes courage humble yourself and say “I don’t know what I’m doing. God, please, help me, show me what I need to do. Help he have the strength of will and character to do it. Help me have the humbleness to ask for help when I need it. I need You more than anything else in my life. Your strength is made perfect in my weakness. Strengthen me today so that I can make more right choices. I am weak, and I am sinful, but You are almighty and holy, and perfect in every way. Help me follow your plan for salvation, and be a light for the rest of the world.”
So for the others out there who feel the same, I encourage and exhort you (and myself) to become more reliant on God this year, and let Him come in and be your strength, and have the courage to ask for the help you need.
It took me a while to decide where exactly to start with this, but I think this is probably the easiest place to start. This will by no means be a complete list of lies that Society (or the world, as the Bible often refers to it,) tells us. And as I was coming up with that list, I came up with more and more things that Society tells us. There may be another part to this later, but I haven’t decided. Let’s dive in, shall we?
Lie #1: You don’t need religion
If you are reading this blog, you probably do not need me to refute this for you. (This is a blog for Christian ladies. If you did not know that, you should now. If you abhor the idea of Christianity or women, don’t leave me nasty comments. I won’t allow them to be shown. There is no need for that. Just leave, and don’t read this blog again. If you have no urge to leave nasty comments, please continue reading, and share this blog with people you think may be interested!) I can personally attest that I need God. I need the relationship found with him through the blood of Jesus Christ, and I can only have that relationship because I was washed in the blood (and water) for the remission of my sins.
And if we are all real with ourselves, we recognize that we need religion. Some believe that they can find that in other religions, but I beg to differ.
Lie #2: You should not believe you are beautiful.
Ladies, don’t buy into those magazine titles that speak to the contrary. I think it’s safe to say that nine times out of ten, they don’t actually say that you are beautiful. They offer ways to make you look “more beautiful,” “sexy,” “hot,” “make x part of your body look so much better,” “dress for your body type,” and so on and so forth.
If you really look at what those articles are saying, you should find that they telling you “You are not beautiful as you are, so you need to do X, Y, and Z in order to make yourself look more pretty.”
In addition, just about every photograph of a woman shown has been edited. You may have seen this video:
And this is not the only video of it’s kind. It is so sad that women and young girls compare themselves to models who have been digitally altered to seem and say that they want to look like that. And there may be some articles and publications that genuinely promote good self esteem and the idea that all women are beautiful, I haven’t found any of them.
Lie #3: You must use your body to get what you want.
Magazines are a huge perpetuator of that. I’ve scattered some magazine covers throughout this post, and a lot of them include at least one article on how to snag a man, or get that promotion or whatever, and they all include the way you dress, and the way you talk and use body language, and usually they are the “feminine charm” type of things. Don’t buy into that. Yes, dress professionally and speak professionally during interviews or when interacting in a professional setting. Do not wear revealing or suggestive clothing and act provocatively to get that “hot” guy to go out with you. (If that’s what it takes to get a man, he’s probably not the right kind of man.)
Lie #4: You must always strive to have a bigger, better X, Y, or Z.
Be it a house that is huge and immaculate, a fancy new car, bigger breasts, new wardrobes, nicer furniture, fancy vacations, and any number of other material possessions. Do you really need a huge house? Do you need a brand new car every few years? Do you really need the seasons top trends? What is wrong with your current home, your current car, or the clothes in your closet now?
Lie #5: You need to make more money.
Not necessarily true. I’ve read blogs about people who live on less than $10,000 per year. I’ve been told by numerous people not to become a teacher because I won’t make any money. (In case you were wondering, national starting salary was an national average of $35,672, according to the NEA website. Another website shows median salaries of between $40,744 and $45,620 depending on the grade range and content area. Sources: <a href=”http://www.nea.org/home/2011-2012-average-starting-teacher-salary.html“>NEA</a> <a href=”http://www.payscale.com/research/US/All_K-12_Teachers/Salary“>Payscale</a>) And there are certainly some people who make minimum wage or a little better, and they need more money. There is no shame in living paycheck to paycheck though. And sometimes we have to give up things we want (smartphones… cable… exotic vacations…) in order to keep the things we need. (Transportation… water… electricity… food.) A lot of people forget the resources they have though. (I’ll probably talk about that later. And there are a lot of blogs already talking about frugal living.)
Lie #6: You don’t need morals.
Yes you do. There are things that are right and wrong. And if you follow the Bible, like I try to do, things like premarital sex, lying, swearing, abortion, are all things that society and Christianity tend to butt heads on.
Ethics are important in the professional world, and if you follow Christian ethics, it seems to follow that you will be successful in all other areas of your life. Following Christian ethics should lead to a respectable, honest, trustworthy, humble and gracious person. (It doesn’t always work that way, but no one is perfect.)
Now, these are just 6 lies that Society tells. There are many, many more. And notice that some of these magazines do have articles about good things. But also notice that they are usually not in the largest font on the page, and there’s rarely more than one or two per magazine. Whether you buy these magazines or not, that is up to you. But I suggest laying off them for a while. See what it does to your self esteem and your focus. Do you think as much about what you look like, or how to make yourself look better? Do you feel as bad about your body or intelligence or your self perceived worth?
When I went to Church Camp (NOCYC to be specific), we would sing a song in the girls’ village, especially at our nightly devos. I think it’s called “I’ve Got Confidence.” It’s the first line of the song. You may have heard it. And it was fun, and we loved singing it, but I’ve noticed that confidence is something that is seriously lacking in women today. They think they are too dumb, too ugly, not clever, not talented, no good for anything. They feel unloved and moreover, they feel unlovable. And to tell you the truth, I have struggled with it too. And a lot of it has to do with media and with society.
Yes, the time has come for me to get on my soap box about media, society, and women’s self concept.
And here is why we have the issues with confidence that we have. We are looking to the wrong places for affirmation, acceptance, attention and support in the wrong places. We are looking for compliments for the wrong reasons. And Satan knows that! And destroying self-image is his specialty. He is so good at it, that you might not even realize he is at work. He uses media, other people, even our own thoughts to make us doubt in our abilities
It’s a cycle that we have to (and can) break. Will it be easy? No, probably not. Is it necessary? Absolutely.
We need to place our confidence in the Lord, ladies. He had, has, and will always have our back. He has, does, and will always love us unconditionally and over abundantly. He knows we are beautiful, and if we have put on Christ, he calls us his Princesses.
There is no need to think that we can’t do something because we aren’t “enough.” God has a calling for each of us, and if we are going to do that we need to let go of our insecurities and become confident in the Lord and know that his grace and strength is sufficient.
Consider this an introduction. This is a really big issue and I can’t cover all I want to cover in one post. (And I wouldn’t want to read a wall of text like that.) Look for the first part of my discussion on confidence on Tuesday! (If I don’t get it up then, it WILL be up Friday!)
Last Saturday a group at church was going kayaking. I was going, and I was super excited. I had never been kayaking, but I had been canoeing last August as a part of Interface (a program for new students at my university) and had a bunch of fun. I’ve always loved the water, and I thought it would be a good way to fellowship with some of the other people at church, seeing as I had just joined.
Let me tell you, it was glorious. I will definitely be going kayaking again. I had so much fun, I’m probably going to buy my own kayak after I graduate college. I had fun getting to know some other people, and learned quite a bit from the guides. I even ate a piece of Cow Lilly root. (The two male guys were very good looking too… which was nice. Anyway…) I think the best part was when I was sort of separated from the group and just kind of drifting down the Waccamaw River. I felt so close to God, and often would just say a little prayer and hum one of my favorite spiritual songs. It was really just an amazing feeling. (To be completely honest, those moments were my favorite during the trip, and why I want to do that again.)
The real reason I am writing about this though, is because I (as predicted) flipped my kayak.
I knew I would roll the kayak, and once I was in the kayak, I knew which side I would roll the kayak. And because the guide said that coming out of your kayak was fine, just don’t flip the kayak over, I knew for certain that was what would happen. I’m that talented, that I would do such a thing, and I would do it at the most awkward time possible.
So we start kayaking. Everything is going fine and well, we’ve had cow lily root, saw some snakes, learned about black water systems. The guide tells us to stop, because he’s going to show us something (probably another snake.) I stop, and I’m right up alongside some other people, and then BAM! I’m in the water with a life jacket up about my nose, flip flops and all my other things floating in the water. A few seconds of flailing and I’m upright in the water, trying to catch my breath and getting used to breathing while I’m treading water. People gathered up my stuff, and moved away so the guide and I can work on getting me back in the kayak.
Now there are 2 methods of getting back into a kayak when you cannot touch the bottom of the river and there is no bank. Put your head toward the back of the kayak, throw your right leg over the side and haul yourself over, or, go to the back of the kayak, grab on to the back end and pull while simultaneously kicking as hard as you can to propel yourself back into the kayak.
We tried the first one a couple of times, but I felt a muscle start pulling, so I said no. (This was also after I whipped the life jacket off because I couldn’t move my arms or see.) then we tried the other way a few times, and there was no way that was working. Finally the guide said my best bet was going to be the first method. We had be at this for about 5 minutes at this point, and I was ready to say “Listen, just let me swim this one. I can handle it. I grew up on Lake Erie, and I swam in a pond at my grandparents house all summer since I was knee high to a grasshopper!” But, I trusted the guide, and managed to get back into the kayak. (I used my noodle and planted my foot on a foot pedal, instead of just throwing it in there all willy nilly and expecting it to work.)
And as I was kayaking away from that event, I got to thinking. That was a trust building exercise, and it’s kind of like our relationship with God. He helps us into the kayak, he shows us how to use the paddle, and he tells us not to flip our kayak. He warns us of the dangers that are ahead, but assures us that we’ll be okay if we trust them. And when we flip out of our kayak, he helps us get back in, but we have to trust that he knows what is best for us and will get us back into that kayak. So many of us, however, give up, and won’t trust that God will get us back on track that we say “Forget it, I’ll swim” and shut him out. And then we put ourselves at the mercy of all sorts of things. Exhaustion, alligators, drowning, and probably a host of other things I didn’t consider at the time.
I have found a love of kayaking, but I know that I need a guide if I don’t want to get lost or die or something like that, just like I know that I need God in my life because otherwise, I would fall victim to all sorts of sin, and I would be ensnared by them for ever.
Paul Angone has really made a splash with his book, “101 Secrets for Your 20s,” or at least he has in my opinion. I’ve been following his blog All Groan Up (www.allgroanup.com) and I have been privileged to read the book for myself. (At this point, I’m going to apologize to Paul, because I was supposed to have this up quite a while ago, but life got in the way.) Anyway, this book has been a serious life changer for me. I’m on the cusp of 20-somethingness, but that didn’t make this book any less applicable to how I feel sometimes, and how I’m sure you feel at times too.
Paul has put himself out there to say what most people feel, but no one talks about. He talks about how alone and lost and scared we are as we are starting out into this brave new world we’ve landed in, and tells us two things. One, it’s okay that we feel this way, but we aren’t as alone as we feel, and two, how to feel less alone. Whether its humorously telling us we may (or may not) be as adult as we think we are, or seriously telling us to seek the help of a therapist (or psychologist, or trusted mentor) for the help we need, or semi-seriously teaching us Wineology so we are never cast out to the kiddie table again, Paul manages to help us feel at ease and feel like we are talking to someone our age, who totally gets it. And he gets it because he’s gone through it, and to some extent probably is, right Paul?
And that probably teaches us another good lesson. That as much as we think the only ones who understand us are our peers, but that older people– coworkers, parents, aunts/uncles/grandparents, neighbors, elders, etc. went through these things and do know how we are feeling, and want to help. We just have to ask.
Paul wanted to help, and that is why he wrote “101 Secrets for Your 20s.” And that’s why I’m telling you to get this book. Paul will challenge you to change your way of thinking so you can pursue those dreams that you have rattling around in your head, because he wants you to succeed and he wants you to live awesomely. Even if you don’t totally agree with everything he has to say, or believes, or some of these “Secrets” aren’t really applicable, the amount of them that are, is so worth the price. You won’t find something cheaper that will be this immediately applicable to your life. You’ll come back to this book again and again, looking for the solace in its pages.
You’ll have to buy the book and see for yourself, or convince someone else to buy it for you.
Since I decided to become a Christian, I’ve heard a lot about the “Heart of a Servant.” We are supposed to have one. I did a quick search on biblegateway.com, and kicked up 934 results. Now a lot of those results are talking about actual servants, but if you just look at the New Testament, I found 156 specific verses. Many of the New Testament writers start their letters with “[Name], a servant of Jesus (Christ)…..” or some similar introduction. There are songs about being a servant. Servitude is an integral part of being a Christian, and it has become one of the focuses of my life. One of the most important parts of my personal code of honor is that if I can help someone, then I will. It’s a hard call to live up to. Have there been times when I could have helped someone, but didn’t, especially since I became a Christian? Yes. Have there been times when I have willingly decided not to help someone I know needed it? Certainly. But that is where my imperfection shines forth, and it is one of the things I know I have to work on.
Mere servitude is not enough though. We have to be willing servants, who are happy to help others and willing to do what is needed. I recently got a job working as a cashier. I enjoy my work because I get to serve others. It’s not always easy. There are times when customers are disgruntled, or someone brings a huge order to the express lane, or people ignore the instruction to leave certain items in their cart. But many people are pleasant, and almost every single one is thankful for the service I provide. I do everything I can to be quick and efficient at my work so that the customers are happy and so my managers are happy. I like helping people, and in my mind, I see it as service to others, and that is why I enjoy it so much. Even though by the end of the shift my feet hurt, and sometimes my back hurts, and I’m tired and just want to go to bed, I still make it a priority to smile and greet customers, and be pleasant with them. It isn’t their fault that I’m tired or sore. I remember that I was put on this planet to help others and serve them, and if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it willingly.
Take last night, for example. I was supposed to check out at 9:00 pm. My grandmother was waiting in the parking lot, but right then, it seemed like everyone and their mother decided to check out. I didn’t realize the store had that many people in it! I looked at the time, looked around for my supervisor, shrugged, and started taking customers. When I saw my supervisor, she asked if I would take more customers. I gladly accepted. Finally, (at her request) I turned my light back on, because the rush was not easing up, and there were lines at the other two open registers. The store manager even came down to help me bag, since I didn’t have a bagger. I ended up staying an extra 45 minutes so that we could take care of the customers quickly and efficiently. Once the rush died off, I asked if it would be okay if I left, and clocked out. It wasn’t something I “had” to do, but I knew it would make things easier for my coworkers, my bosses, and my customers. I was happy to do it because I knew I was helping others. I didn’t take it out on my customers, and I didn’t do it for the extra pay. (I make minimum wage, so it’s an extra $5.43, whoop-de-doo.) In fact, I was more concerned about my supervisor getting in trouble for keeping me over my scheduled time, but I don’t think she will, because the manager thanked me for staying.
I’m not saying this to toot my own horn, or raise myself up. This is just the best example I can give, and the reason I decided to write about this today. (I’ve been trying to think of something meaningful to write about, which is why I’m so overdue for a post.) My point in telling you this is that we all should strive to serve willingly. “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Col 3:17, ESV) Or, if music is more your thing, here’s the chorus of Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Do Everything”
Well let me remind you, it all matters just as long
As you do everything you do to the glory of the One who made you,
Cause he made you,
Every little thing that you do
To bring a smile to His face
Tell the story of grace
With every move that you make
And every little thing you do
Faith in God requires action along with that faith. In the 2nd chapter of James’ letter to his Christian bretheren (and sisteren), that “Faith without works is dead.” (Verses 17, 24, 26, ESV) Everyone is called to service, but that doesn’t mean everyone is called to the same service. For example, I am good at teaching. So I intend to work as a teacher, both in schools and at home, and in my church. But I know I am better at teaching older children and adults, more than little children. I have not developed the patience for it, and I don’t have the attitude for it. But I know others who are marvelous with younger children. I know some who have a knack for yardwork. They serve congregations by working on the grounds of the church, and by helping older members with their yardwork. Some people are really good at working with technology. They serve by helping others with technology problems and putting together powerpoints for services. Some of the brothers and sisters I know are excellent conversationalists, and they have taken the time to learn how to encourage others, and that is so important. Servants take their talents and put them to use for others. They help others profit by their abilities, and in doing so, they serve God. We all have strengths, and we need to learn to utilize them so that we can serve others.
This isn’t something that happens overnight. I used to be incredibly selfish. It has taken time for me to learn how to take joy in serving others, and I grow more from it day by day. There are more ways I can serve, and I need to start utilizing those opportunities. And you may find that is the case too. Take an inventory of your talents. How can you use those talents to serve someone else today? Ask your church elders how you can serve your church, if you aren’t doing something already, or if you know you can do more. Find a soup kitchen or food pantry and help serve food, or help a neighbor with some yard work. Offer to help an elderly person with their shopping. Go on a mission trip. Find ways to serve others.
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’
Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?
And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?
And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’