Don’t Tell Me I’m Beautiful…

Some blog posts turn in my head for about 13 seconds before it spills out to be shared….

Other blog posts take months before I have words to share, and the bravery to back up what I allow others to see in me.

I was reminded this week of something our Pastor of Prayer says, “Fear is the opposite of love; not anger, but fear.”

It is always interesting when you discover a fear you have carried around for as long as you can remember, but never even noticed that it was there or that you were protecting it so severely.

What is my intensely guarded fear?: My Beauty.

I have been slowly processing with several very patient and diligent friends my thoughts about beauty… or more specifically my beauty. It has been a slow-moving journey to realizing the insecurities I have. But, probably more than that, it is an arduous task of recognizing the walls I have created to try to ensure my heart is not hurt or disappointed.

You see, I do not let people comment on my physical appearance. Meaning, regardless of the comment, good, bad, sweet, rude.. Whatever the comment, I disregard it and protect my heart from feeling or accepting the comment.

It was described to me that it is as though the comments are bouncing off my carefully crafted armor. I wanted to deny it, but the reality is, I am intensely and unrelentingly vigilant in the protection of that portion of my heart.

What I find particularly interesting is that, for as far back as I can remember, I have had this wall built around my heart regarding my physical attractiveness. More specifically, I have been disregarding compliments about my physical appearance my entire life (that I can remember) from everyone… As a young child, my mom and dad (who are amazing parents and people) would make comments to me about my beauty, and I would brush it aside with a laugh, eye roll, sigh or some sort of reasoning that they “had” to tell me these things.

I can point to a hundred different things that added to my reason to protect my heart in this area…

Most of my life I have been (gladly) in the company of guys as their friend and have heard hundreds of times over about how pretty or beautiful my friends are… To which, I definitely agree(d), but I carefully avoided the awkwardness or disappointment of not being seen as beautiful as well.

I have always loved how the martial arts has helped create me to be capable of protecting myself and others. I love practical things so very much, and the martial arts is so practical to me. However, the martial arts certainly added to my already not dainty, but definitely athletic physique that I have only recently begun to appreciate… However, many of the words I have spent my life hearing from men are about how the dainty, tiny, skinny is where beautiful is held.. So, to be effective like I wanted to be, it meant setting aside beautiful things in place of better things.

Then, on the flip side, the times in which men have told me that I was beautiful, I felt like they wanted something from me or worse found out later they had been lying to me and could not be trusted to tell me truth.. or in a couple of instances I felt like the guy wanted to devour me, and I was not safe in their care… So, I protected myself and my heart diligently to avoid any additional damage.

Then, of course people use scripture to point out why beauty should not be something I cared about anyway…

I mean, after all: “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” – Proverbs 31:30 … And yet, here I am in the depths of my heart unwilling to admit that I still desire to be beautiful. I do NOT want to be vain nor deceitful, so I rationalized that it was better to tuck it all away, and prevent others from speaking into it one way or another. I have spent my life not wanting to know if people thought I was beautiful, and sidestepping every chance I could to avoid knowing.

Throughout my life, I have reasoned that there is no possible way that I am as beautiful as some people have claimed. I rationalize their comments away as purely sentiment because my life circumstances simply do not line up with their nice, sweet or well-meaning comments.

I mean, after all: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” so their perspective does not really mean it is true anyway.

Then, to make an intensely personal and private struggle more complicated, I want to be seen in so many ways… I desire to be dynamic and unique. Full of life and adventure, leaving a trail of joy spilling out everywhere I go, seen as capable, intelligent, knowledgeable, loving, graceful, giving, welcoming, compassionate, and full of kindness.. And always reflecting Christ. I desire these things more than beauty, so I have spent my life focusing on these rather than the “vain beauty.”

But, if I am being totally honest, I want beautiful to be included in the list of things I am seen as too… Yet, even typing that, I feel it sounds vain and conceded. The struggle is very real in my heart.

I also know that sometimes your personality and character add to or detract from your attractiveness. I have long thought that I have the type of personality that makes me more attractive… but that it is sort of like a lens in which you see someone; the perspective is changed because of it, but the object itself has not changed.

Even as I process these thoughts and heart feels out with people, I often set up the rule that they too are not allowed to tell me how they see my physical appearance. It is safer to not know… But, I also do not want fake words, nor do I want reactionary comments.

To be clear, I do not want to be seen as more beautiful than someone else. I want to be my own stunningly beautiful woman that requires no one else to be less.

Because I am not yet beyond these struggles, I am once again going to ask you not to share your reactionary comments about how you see my physical appearance.

Please do not leave a comment out of a desire to make it better, that is not what this blog post is for.

The God of our Lonely Journey is Silent…

I am reading Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning, and it is hitting, carving, digging, and pulling out things in me that I was entirely unaware needed to be dealt with. There are nights that I can only read a couple of paragraphs, and then must put it down because the emotions are just too much and I need space to process… Sometimes giving myself a week or more before I drag myself back to this amazing book that plants me in emotions every time I read it.

Tonight is a night where one of the 10+ pages of quotes I have pulled out have just sat and resonated with me… I found myself overcome with the need to share.

Here are two of the latest quotes that I cannot shake:

How does the life-giving Spirit of the risen Lord manifest Himself on days like that? (he described a bad day from beginning to end that he had experienced) In our willingness to stand fast, our refusal to run away and escape into self-destructive behavior. Resurrection power enables us to engage in the savage confrontation with untamed emotions, to accept the pain, receive it, take it on board, however acute it may be. And in the process we discover that we are not alone, that we can stand fast in the awareness of present risenness and so become fuller, deeper, richer disciples. We know ourselves to be more than we previously imagined. In the process we not only endure but are forced to expand the boundaries of who we think we really are.

And secondly, I have spent months like this, finally I have words..:

“When tragedy makes its unwelcome appearance and we are deaf to everything but the shriek of our own agony, when courage flies out the window and the world seems to be a hostile, menacing place, it is the hour of our own Gethsemane. No word, however sincere, offers any comfort or consolation. The night is bad. Our minds are numb, our hearts vacant, our nerves shattered. How will we make it through the night? The God of our lonely journey is silent….

We are able, as Etty Hillesun, the Dutch Jewess who died in Auschwitz on November 30, 1943, wrote, ‘to safeguard that little piece of God in ourselves’ and not give way to despair. We make it through the night and darkness gives way to the light of morning. The tragedy radically alters the direction of our lives, but in our vulnerability and defenselessness we experience the power of Jesus in His present risenness.”

– Abba’s Child, Brennan Manning, (pp. 105-106).
(emphasis added by me)

Slowly, I feel as though I am healing. I have begun to ask for it, which I’m not entirely sure I have ever done before. And, not even healing from the last couple of years, but across the board. Insecurities created in me as a small child have come up and begun to be dealt with, healed, and restored. Issues I have struggled with my entire life have begun to be looked in the face and replaced with Truth.

It is quite the emotionally exhausting task to sift through your heart’s pain and allow yourself to feel each emotion, identifying why and where it came from, then slowly… ever so slowly, opening my hand and allowing God to examine and talk it over with me.

To say that I am tired and worn out trying to work through these things with God is laughable. I would love so much to just be done, to drop them and move on.. But, I do not see that happening overnight. Everything is a process, and so this too must also be one I guess.

But, I finally feel as though my faith is being led by hope.

So, I leave you with yet another quote from the book:

“‘The mystery is Christ among you, your hope of glory’ (Colossians 1: 27). Hope knows that if great trials are avoided great deeds remain undone and the possibility of growth into greatness of soul is aborted.

 

Decisions to Be Made…

IMG_0624My heart has been anxious, scattered, and felt unnerved lately… And, unfortunately, this may be a little bit of a jumbled post as I try to iron out some of the scattered thoughts…

Last night while I slept, it felt as though instead of sleeping and dreaming, I wrestled with questions and struggled to find my footing again. I am not sure if God and I were wrestling, or if I was just stressing…

For the first time in a long time, I find myself struggling through a plethora of insecurities… Am I good enough, strong enough, pretty enough, smart enough, loving enough, caring enough?.. Basically my insecurities have boiled down to, “Am I enough?” Sometimes it feels as though my insecurities come in waves, disappearing entirely for a while, and then crashing down on me once again. I love the seasons when they are gone because I feel uninhibited and free to dance in who I am.

I am in this weird place where I have total peace and no doubts about moving forward with my consulting work… I am doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing. I mean, it is definitely hard work, and requiring a lot of hours from me, but I love watching it unfold, and I truly enjoy the consulting itself.. but mostly, I love the people who I get to help.

It seems interesting and quite frustrating to finally feel like I have direction in one area of my life, and feel as though satan is attacking (or maybe merely just whispering to) my doubts and insecurities.

The best way I can describe it is, my inner layers are growing weary; that I desire stability and certainty, but instead what I find is doubt and uncertainty… almost across the board too, which is just aggravating. When I stop and survey all the aspects of things in my life, all of the decisions to be made, the stressors and of course all the uncertainties, I find my heart just being tired… No overwhelming emotion, just fatigue. I know that while I have a huge support system, I am ultimately alone in making decisions, and just feel exhausted at my center for at having to make them all.

I also think some of the weariness is due to trying to work towards healing wounds and insecurities, and realizing that I am probably more fragile than I care to admit or show…

True to my nature though, I tend towards being an all or nothing type person. Now that I have financial and professional direction, I want to work as hard as I can to get the other areas of my life to fall together and heading in the same direction as well.

I mean, I am certain that Jesus is my provider, and I have no doubt that He is also my sustainer. But, I would like to also feel secure and safe for a little while. There is a huge difference between knowing and feeling.

I really am thankful and amazed at all of the ways God has taken care of me, over the last year especially. Words really do not accurately describe the emotions that I feel when I think of all of the people who have stood in the gap… Because, regardless of your view of me, I really am not worthy of the amount of love and support that I have received.

On the other hand, I have felt for years, and even more so over the last year that no matter how many people love and support me, I am ultimately responsible for taking care of myself. My sense of responsibility for taking care of myself does not come from a prideful place, and certainly not from the viewpoint of not needing help, and I have no desire to do this because of an “I am woman hear me roar” attitude. However, my feeling of responsibility is more from the practical sense that, if I do not do it, there is no one else walking this journey with me, so it must be me.

I think now is a good time to pause and say that this “by myself” perspective is not at all directed at my lack of need for Christ or the Holy Spirit’s guidance.. Nor is it directed at feeling as though I do not need help.. cause I without doubt do need help. But, I am certain that my need does not inherently mean it is anyone else’s obligation to step in and help.

There are days that I feel like maybe I seek out and rely on others too much because I definitely seek out other people to talk things over with (sometimes ad nauseam) to help me figure out what and how to do all of this well. I am so, so thankful for the friendship, patience, and support of my sounding boards. But, when I climb into bed at night thinking over my day, I mull over and pray for the things that I did not do so well, the choices that need to be made the following day, and the situations that I am uncertain about, and I am reminded that this journey is between God and I.

Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you;
He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” – Psalm 55:22

Hope and Understanding…

This fall, I took some time off from my blog, I needed a break from writing; mostly, I needed a break because I was broken, but regardless I knew I needed to not write for a bit.

However, I feel like I am finally ready to start sharing my thoughts and heart again.

A couple of months ago, I felt as though I had fallen into an ocean and couldn’t swim. I felt like I was drowning.

I was in a sink or swim type of situation, as though I had been thrown into an ocean so I could learn HOW to swim.

Only, I panicked.

Instead of swimming or focusing on getting my head above water, I just panicked.

You see, the problem is, when you are in a panicked state of mind, not much gets through to you. People can tell you what to do, they can yell, or get angry, or love on you, but if you are not listening, the advice doesn’t help.. And sometimes, it just adds to the noise.

I did a lot of thinking, a lot of avoiding, a lot of watching online tv, a lot of praying, and a whole heck of a lot of sitting in silence.

However, there was exactly one conversation almost two months ago that made it through the noise and the pain, and gave me hope and understanding…

After a particularly difficult day filled with tears and despair, I was pulled aside by family friends, given some money, and told that I was being prayed for. That this person was praying and lamenting on my behalf to God, and asking why my situation was so difficult and why I was going to suffer. He told me that God had told him (although not audibly) that, I was like a tree that was being trimmed. However, I was getting pruned more than normal, so it would be more difficult and painful than a normal cutting away of the excess. Yet, he said that God made it clear that I was going to be ok, because my roots were deep enough that I would not be shaken, I would not lose my faith. I would not lose my God in this situation, that in the long run it would be better and healthy because the tree and fruit would produce more than it was ever able to beforehand. He said my roots are strong enough that I would be ok, despite how much it will hurt.

While he was describing his time with God, I saw it, I saw my tree. I knew exactly what my tree looked like before the trimming, I saw the pain of the aftermath of the branches, leaves and fruit laying on the ground. I felt the gut wrenching and sheer hurt I was facing due to how much trimming had to be done, and then, I was able to see the root system. It was massive, and entirely dwarfed the size of the now small tree with piles of branches and leaves on the ground.

Above ground my tree was almost laughably small. The left over branches looked spindly, and as though the trim had in fact killed it because it was too severe. Yet, below ground, the root system was vast and expansive, and full of life.

I knew then, that I was going to be fine, but I also know how painful this was all going to be, and I had no option but to go through the pain. I thought about and wondered, and spent a lot of time asking God if I was in fact strong enough. Did I have enough faith, and believe down to my core that my savior would save me? Every time, I realized that my faith was not being shaken. I did not have a frame of reference for what was taking place, but I knew He would be there, I also knew that I was operating on just the sensory of immense pain. Just pain.

I did not have a box for knowing in my core that I would be ok, but only feeling pain.

I am still wading through the pain. I wish I could point to one, two or ten things that have caused me to be in this situation. Walking through this intense trimming, but the reality is, it has been a long time coming, and will likely be a while before I am on the other side. Unfortunately, I am anticipating a few more breakdowns in the process.

Soon. Soon I will be dancing in the amazing healing that only God can provide. Soon I will explain to you a few of the more recent steps of growth, recovery, and healing; but for now, tonight, there is just hope, and a glimmer of understanding that I feel just as much as know deep down.