Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Long-anticipated Post

Well, long-anticipated for me.  After my last post, I encountered the inevitable writer's block.  Maybe because I unloaded so much of myself in that last post...and maybe because I didn't know how to follow it.  It's one thing to SAY we need to change our views of beauty and another to actually DO it.

But I don't want to focus my entire blog on beauty and body image.  I also want to talk about the slightly more broad topic of self-worth or self-esteem.  This discussion seems to be cropping up more and more frequently these days.  Even in my church and small group.  We're in the middle of a series called "Climate Change," and last week's episode was entitled "An Unstable Climate."  If you're interested, you can watch it here.  Jeff Henderson does a wonderful job at explaining how labels affect us, and how our insecurity is directly connected with those labels.  He goes through society's "solutions" to insecurity, and then the true answer to this issue: acceptance. More specifically, acceptance through Christ.  When we realize that our Creator accepts us where we are, it has the power to change everything.

The phrase that hit home from this message was this: "The climate of your relationships will change when you see you as God sees you."  Well how does God see us?  In my Sunday School class, we are teaching the kids about creation.  Our verse for the month is Genesis 1:31 - "God saw all that He had made, and it was very good."  As part of God's creation (arguably the most significant part), God sees us very differently than we tend to see ourselves.  We are not "only okay" or something that "could be better" or even "so-so."  We are very good.  Now, if God, the creator of the whole universe, the maker of the sun and a billion galaxies, can see us as very good, why are we so hard on ourselves?  We have the stamp of approval from the only authority that really matters, and yet we insist on beating ourselves up over little things: gaining a few pounds, finishing second in the big race, missing out on that company retreat.  Despite all these things, God still sees us as VERY good.

Now this doesn't mean He doesn't want us to work on bettering ourselves.  But He doesn't want us to do it alone.  That's why He meets us where we are...so He can guide us to where He ultimately wants us to be.  God doesn't expect us to change overnight, but He does expect us to work daily in His will.

C. S. Lewis once said, "I think that if God forgives us we must forgive ourselves.  Otherwise, it is almost like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than Him."  Once we realize that Christ wants to meet us here and now, and that He loves and accepts us as we are, we can work on where He wants us to be.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

I Feel Pretty

Sorry about the lack of posts lately...I've been trying working on this idea for the past few weeks, and I just didn't know how to approach it until a few days ago.

Body image.

It's something all girls and women struggle with...and no, it's not just because we're hormonal or shallow.  We are held to the impossibly high standard of the Barbie doll and runway supermodels.  I find myself constantly frustrated that the majority of the "in" fashion is made to look good when draped over a rail.  Don't get me wrong...I have nothing against skinny people.  I'm just frustrated that skinny is the only form of beauty that a lot of the world accepts.

And I'm not alone.  Everyone is trying to change people's view of beauty in today's culture.  Including one of the biggest style shows on television: "What Not To Wear."  This show, while it has always been a favorite, has recently become part of my morning routine.  I couldn't figure out why I was so fascinated at first.  And then I realized that the majority of these women chosen for the make-overs fit into one of the following categories.

1.  They were never told they were beautiful.  When I first heard this, I was honestly shocked.  How could someone go through life without hearing they are beautiful??? After thinking about it for a while, though, I realized that, while my parents told me I was pretty on occasion (usually only when I got dressed up), it was not something that was said on a regular basis.  I think part of this (oddly) came from growing up in a Christian home.  Placing focus on what is on the inside, instead of the outside, was a major part of what I was taught.  Obviously, there is nothing wrong with this teaching, and I am very glad that my parents reiterated that lesson regularly.  However, by not also telling me that I was beautiful or pretty as often as I was told to focus on my actions may have inadvertently led me to believe that I was not beautiful.  I never believed I was ugly, but beautiful was not part of my vocabulary when it came to describing myself.

I should mention that my parents also constantly told me that God made me exactly how He wanted me to be, and that I was made in His image.  Looking back on it, that was one way they tried to communicate that I was beautiful, not only to them, but also to God.  But let's face it...a teenager isn't going to read that deeply into that statement.

2.  They have been told they are beautiful, but cannot accept it because they are not the "ideal" form of beautiful. It was not until I went to college that I was told by someone who was not my parents that I was pretty. It was a night that I hadn't even "tried" to look pretty.  The notion was strange to me, and it was something I struggled to comprehend throughout my freshman and sophomore year.  I couldn't tell you when exactly I started to believe it, but it was sometime after I had a conversation with my peer mentor in the theatre department.

Both of us have mothers who place a good deal of emphasis on living a healthy lifestyle.  Eat right, exercise, etc.  My mother's undergraduate degree is in dietetics, so she often tries to reinforce healthy habits in my family.  Again, not a bad thing to teach, and again, I greatly appreciate these lessons.  However, being a typical stubborn teenager as well as a bit of a geek, I hated exercise.  After having half of my thyroid removed after my junior year of high school, my metabolism slowed quite a bit, and I gained weight.  At some point in my early college years (sophomore year, if I remember correctly), my mom (with only good intentions) mentioned that I could stand to lose a few pounds.  It was only out of concern for my health, but she mentioned that "the first thing a boy sees is appearance."  Unintentionally, she made me feel vulnerable and undesirable, which did nothing to help me through this period of insecurity.  My mentor was going through a similar struggle with her mother, and during one of our late-night life talks, she helped me realize that, ultimately, a few extra pounds is not going to matter to the right guy, and that weight does not equal beauty.  Once I began to tell myself on a regular basis that I AM beautiful, I started to believe it.

3.  They once thought they were beautiful and some life circumstance (usually pregnancy and/or weight gain) caused their view of themselves to change. One thing that people often miss about feeling beautiful is that it's not about making yourself beautiful.  It's about being comfortable in your own skin, no matter your complexion, dress size, hair color, or height.  By telling me that I needed to lose weight with potential boyfriends as the reason, my mom subconsciously put a standard for beauty in my head...one that did not match what I looked like.

Looping back to "What Not To Wear," one aspect of the show that I love is that Stacy London and Clinton Kelly tell every single participant that they are beautiful and that everyone deserves to feel beautiful.  If each person believes that they deserve to feel beautiful, then they should show that in how they present themselves.  Stacy (yes, I refer to them by their first names...I feel like we could be BFFs) has a quote that I absolutely love: "I believe every person is beautiful.  What you do with that beauty, how you develop it, is up to you."


One thing that has helped me with my body image is my faith.  In the past few places I have lived, I have written on the mirror in dry erase marker, "You are fearfully and wonderfully made."  (Psalm 139:14, paraphrased).  Once I started telling myself I was beautiful, I began to better understand what my parents tried to tell me about being made in His image (Genesis 1:27).  It is one thing to hear that God made you the way you are, and that in and of itself is beautiful, and another to really see that beauty and understand that because you were created by a perfect God and made in His image, you are not only beautiful.  His beauty and majesty shine THROUGH you, just as they shine through every other part of His creation.

Since my ultimate goal in life right now is to become a high school teacher, I am trying to work on ways I can reinforce in my future students that they are all beautiful.  Because I struggled with this for so long, it is an issue very dear to me.  I hope and pray that God will allow me to be an example to those young women, and that they will see that once they accept their God-given beauty, they can accomplish so much through being themselves and who God wants them to be. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Blog Changes!

So, as you may have noticed (or maybe not, if this is your first visit), I've made a few changes to the blog, including the title and address.  I felt that, while the majority of my posts ARE about my spiritual journey and where God is taking me on this crazy road, I need to give a little more personality and pizzazz to my posts.  Not many people will want to read this if it sounds like I'm constantly preaching at them (which is exactly what I wanted to avoid when I started this blog).

So, to update you on my life (which I have neglected to do in a while):  I am currently living at home with my parents and little brother.  After a year working in the theatre and entertainment industry, I felt led to come back home and go to school again.  Not that I don't love costuming anymore! I still get all giddy when I go to a fabric or craft store.  No...I just feel like my main focus should be on teaching others...it's something I've always felt passionate about, and I've just started rediscovering how much I want to be a teacher.  So I am patiently (ish) waiting to hear from one of the local colleges about whether or not I've been accepted to take prerequisite courses beginning this spring.

Also, I'm on the hunt for a part-to-full-time job to pay for said education and other daily expenses.  To anyone out there job hunting, I sympathize with you...it's not as easy as it looks.  I've had four interviews in the past three weeks with no follow-up.  It's kind of difficult to explain how one's background in wardrobe can be useful in the retail industry, apparently.

Anyway, I'm going to try to start posting about some of the issues plaguing my generation, and how I try to handle them on a day-to-day basis.  Make no mistake, there will be biblical references, but there will also be quotes from some of my favorite people (like J. K. Rowling!) in the mix.  I can't separate my faith from my blog, because it is such a part of who I am...but I want people to be able read this without feeling like they're being "preached at"...it's one of the things that often turns me off of certain religious leaders.  I like to know that they experience the same struggles that I do, and that they are not just pulling advice from thin air.

So please give my blog a chance.  I'm still developing some writing skills, and my paragraphs may not always be perfection...but I'm trying.  And I hope you enjoy taking this journey with me. :)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Count It All Joy

One of my favorite things to do when I was younger was listen to Adventures In Odyssey, a children's radio show produced by Focus on the Family.  It appealed to me on many levels, both artistically and spiritually, because it was easy to relate to the characters and their dilemmas.  On the top of my most-listened-to episodes was one called "Count It All Joy." The episode centers around the Biblical principle of joy, and the difference between joy and happiness (two words that most people consider synonyms).  The verse given is James 1:2-3: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith produces perseverance."

As the episode goes on, we learn that just trying to be happy all the time is not what this verse is talking about...and it's not exactly healthy either.  As Christians, we are often expected to always be happy. And why shouldn't we be? If our faith is as awesome as we profess, why should we ever be upset? As nice as it would be to always have a smile on, we also have to realize that we're only human.

This verse is not telling us to be happy when we lose our jobs or face illness or just feel off every once in a while.  No...joy is much more than plastering a smile on our faces no matter what.  Joy is the assurance that Christ is with us, even during our toughest times.  The trials we face are meant to produce perseverance, or patience as another translation states, and bring us closer to Him.  Simply bottling our true feelings up under false pretenses will only lead to an outburst, most likely aimed at someone who did nothing to deserve it.  Instead, we should be aware of our feelings and realize that all that we endure is meant to bring us closer to our Savior and Creator.

So, even though we may not face the most ideal situations in life, we should always look to God for what He wants us to see in each of our circumstances.  :)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Being Still

Haven't posted in a while, I know...and I'm going to try to get better at it, especially since I now have free time in abundance.  I was recently laid off from work, and I have moved back home for a while...partially out of financial necessity and partially to help around the house.  With Dad doing his med school rotations out of town and Mom's health being a bit precarious at the moment, I've taken on some of the household responsibilities.

In addition to helping around the house, I'm also getting back into going to church on a regular basis, as well as joining a small group (first meeting tonight!).  Putting my focus back on God and His purpose for my life is a huge focus for me right now.  Working in the theatre and entertainment industry really has a way of distorting your priorities, mostly because your job becomes your life, and you have little to no time for anything else.

Part of refocusing includes learning the art of being still before God.  As I said in my last post, I have the tendency to go, go, go and not want to wait for anything or anyone else.  Part of this comes from working in such a fast-paced environment, and part of it is just living in a "give it to me now" society.  These days, you rarely see anyone just being still, not worrying about anything else.  The technology available to us keeps us constantly checking our email, Facebook, and Twitter accounts from the palms of our hands.  Not only does this desensitize us to the people around us, it also puts a buffer between us and our Creator.  When we are constantly throwing Angry Birds or trying to get to the next level of Tetris, or even just texting about that party next weekend, how can we ever expect to hear the plans our Heavenly Father has for us?  Is it even possible to listen over the din of noise in our lives? Well, it definitely is not easy.  And it definitely requires a conscious effort on our part to allow the Spirit of God to speak to our hearts.

"He makes wars cease
    to the ends of the earth.
 He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
     He burns the shields with fire.
 He says, "Be still and know that I am God;
     I will be exalted among the nations,
     I will be exalted in the earth."
 The Lord Almighty is with us;
     the God of Jacob is our fortress."

~Psalm 46:9-10