Beautiful is a State if Mind

“You are altogether beautiful, my darling, beautiful in every way.”

‭‭Song of Songs‬ ‭4:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

What do you see when you look in the mirror? Do you see God’s creation or do you see flaws? If you’re like me you see wrinkles, spurts of gray hair, blemishes, and many lumps and bumps from being slightly, moderately or even greatly overweight. Maybe you even do the whole suck your gut in thing in, buy Spanx or other body shaping items in an effort to smooth our your shape and buy the expensive “perfection” make-up to hide your flaws. But no matter how much you dress up your face and body, when you look in the mirror, if you’re like me, you still see ugly.

For as long as I can remember I have struggled with my looks and my weight. When I was a size 3 I thought I was overweight. In my teenage years I would only eat one meal a day for two weeks just to drop ten pounds. Imagine what my mind thinks being a size 16 now and the discouragement I feel when I exercise but don’t drop even one pound. Honestly, I avoid scales. I even reuse to get weighed at doctor appointments. If I don’t want to know my weight when then it’s nobody else’s business either. Lol I have severe anxiety if anyone wants to photograph a full body pic of me. Most of my pics are selfies because I’ve mastered the right angle to make myself look thinner. I tend wear plus sized tops typically to cover up my Puffy stomach and love handles. I also wear high heels to make me look taller in hopes it slims out my figure. I rarely go out without make-up because I think I look incredibly old and completely unattractive without it. I struggle greatly with seeing an ounce of beauty in myself and hearing it from others is very hard to accept.

Recently I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. One that inevitably could effect my weight causing me to gain more and definitely making it difficult for me to lose any. I’ve seen one specialist so far. It was a disappointing appointment to say the least. I was told there’s no cure and nothing I could to do to get better. I cried a a good stretch of my 1 hour drive home from that appointment. I also prayed. Do you know what I prayed as tears flowed down my face-“God-PLEASE don’t make me fatter than I already am.” I kept saying it over and over again. Weight gain is just one facet of this disease yet to me it’s the only one I cannot emotionally handle. But I am a fighter and I tend to fight harder when someone tells me I can’t do something. So hearing I won’t get better has motivated me to change my diet and exercise more with hopes to prove that doctor wrong. I haven’t gained any weight but I’m confident I haven’t lost anything either.

Yesterday I watched an episode of a 1980’s comedy, The Facts of Life. In this particular episode, Blaire, the girl who prided herself on being physically beautiful with a flawless complexion and perfectly coiffed hair, sustained a head injury in an auto accident. When she saw herself with this huge cut and stitches across her forehead she threw the mirrored tray she was looking into. She saw a hideous disfigured face looking back at her. She later dumped the man she was dating because she felt like she was damaged goods. The man however fought for her. He showed her some silly scars he had gained from injuries throughout his lifetime and asked her if she still loved him in spite of those scars. She admitted that those scars had no factor in her love for him. He reminded her that she was less than perfect before the gash on her forehead but that he loved all of her in spite of her imperfections. Of course in a 30 minute 80’s sitcom there’s usually a happy ending and this episode ended with Blaire reuniting with her boyfriend.

The Lord really spoke to me through that episode. In fact as I was walking down the short hallway in my home I felt the Lord show me His scars from the nails in that were driven into His hands and feet. I heard Him ask me if I still loved Him in spite of His scars. He already knew my answer would be “yes.” I also heard Him tell me He loved me no matter how much I weighed or how flawed I thought my face looked. To God, I am beautiful because I am His princess.

I went to bed last night thinking about self-esteem. I realized our self-esteem is not determined by how others see us or value us. Honestly, I always believed my self esteem was based on the people who criticized me and made fun of me growing up. But that just gave too much power to the haters in my life. Our self-esteem is how we esteem ourselves. I can have ten people pay me ten compliments but if I only see myself as ugly, fat or just plain average, those compliments are wasted words. The opposite of that of course would be esteeming ourselves too high and ignoring those who try to correct our arrogance.

My daughter has referred to herself as “ugly” before and I cringe when I hear her describe herself that way. She is truly one of the most beautiful people I know and I don’t see an inch of ugly in her. But no matter how often I call her “pretty or beautiful”, how I esteem her is superseded by how she esteems herself. Just like the “ugly” I see staring back at me exceeds any compliment anyone ever pays me. Both of us are believing a big fat lie because the truth is-God doesn’t make ugly!

God is not ugly and we are created in His image. Even Lucifer was a beautiful angel created by God. Seriously the being He knew was going to become his number one arch enemy, God. made. beautiful. If God made His enemy beautiful why on earth would He ever make you or me ugly? He wouldn’t and He didn’t. You are not ugly. I am not ugly. We are beautiful daughters and sons of the One true King.

If you’re struggling with feeling fat or ugly, ask the Lord to change your mind and to give you His eyes to see yourself exactly as He made you. Stand on 2 Corinthians 10:5-take captive every thought that is not of Christ (seeing yourself ugly is definitely NOT of Christ), demolish every argument that is against the truth (call the negative voices in your head what they really are-LIARS!) and stand on God’s truth about you. Go out in public without that make-up covered face and let your natural beauty shine. If you choose to lose weight, do it for healthy reasons not just because you think you’ll feel beautiful if you’re a size 10. Take from the girl who used to be a size 3-no matter your pants size, you will always see yourself as fat and/or ugly if you refuse to change your state of mind and esteem yourself. You are worth loving so love yourself enough to see yourself as the beauty you truly are. (And please pray for me to really put into practice what I’ve preached in this post!)

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Single-Party of One

In 9 days I will celebrate my 41st birthday.  As much as I love birthdays, each number gets a little more challenging to accept.  Considering I just entered a new decade and am still adjusting to the big 4-0, I’m really not in a hurry to turn 41-yet it’s literally right around the corner.  To those who are 10+ years younger than me, I am typically viewed as “old” and to those 10+ years older I am still seen as a “young pup”.  To me, there are days I feel “old” but there are other days I feel 16 again (and sadly, act like it too.)

Each birthday I take time to reflect on my life-I look at who I am, who I want to be, where I am and where I want to be.  I examine my life goals and see what I’ve accomplished and what I still want to accomplish.  I also realize no matter how hard I try, I will never get younger.   And sometimes that is a scary thought.  Mostly-because I’m afraid I will run out of enough time to achieve all my goals before God calls me Home.  For the longest time, my biggest goal was being married-having that one person who would commit to spend the rest of their life with me.

Ever since I can remember I have always been the “hopeless romantic.”  My favorite fairytale was Cinderella and I would dream of a prince on a white horse with a glass slipper rescuing me and the two of us living happily ever after.  I loved the romantic storylines in soap operas and my all-time favorite movie is Pretty Pink where the movie ends with Andrew McCarthy telling Molly Ringwald he loves her, always, during their high school prom and when she chases after him they end up in the parking lot, kissing in the rain.  Yep-still my favorite chick flick because there’s still a hopeless romantic in me.

I have two children-but never been married.  I’ve come close-three times actually but circumstances happened and the relationships didn’t work out.   I’ve also had tons of other dead end dating relationships.  I’ve prayed for marriage, I’ve fasted for marriage but at the age of almost 41, I don’t even have a prospect for the possibility of marriage.

For years I convinced myself that there was clearly something wrong with me-I must not be marriage material.  I also believed God clearly didn’t want me to be married.  I cried, threw many pity parties and then closed myself off.  I took a hiatus from dating-a four year hiatus actually.  I took the hiatus for the wrong reasons but ended up learning the blessing of being single.

During my dating boycott I received various feedback.  Some people supported my decision-after all, I told them it was God directing me.  Others told me I was closed off.  Still others tried to set me up with their version of my “soul mate.” The best “feedback” I received was being told I was too picky.  If you’re single I am sure you can relate to the many advices your family and friends give about why you’re still single and it usually ends up being your fault.  I’m a strong enough person and content enough in my circumstance as they are now to admit that I am single by choice.  Why?  I refuse to settle.

The past 4 years have been a road of growing my faith and discovering who God made me to be.  With that, it’s open my eyes up to the pros and cons of both singlehood and marriage.  The best thing I’ve discovered is that being single is not a curse, there is nothing wrong with me and I’d rather be single my whole life than be married to the wrong person.  I’ve also learned that my relationship status doesn’t define me as a person-being married or single is a part of who we are but it’s not all of who we are.  Yes, God created Eve because He said, “it’s not good for man to be alone. (Genesis 2:18)  But He also said, “and some choose not to marry for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.” (Matthew 19:12b)  Paul even tells us in 1 Corinthians 7 that is better to not get married (vs 8.)  His reasoning was because while a married person is focused on their spouse, a single person is more apt to be focused God.  That is certainly to not say that married people do not focus on God. I know many happily married, godlly people who have amazing Christ centered marriages.  Marriage is a gift from God, designed by God.  But, so is singleness.

That’s right-I said, being single is a gift, not a curse.  It’s a gift I have embraced and actually enjoy.  Once I accepted it I experienced that peace beyond all understanding Christ promises us in Philippians 4:7.  I no longer have an urgency to “hurry up and get married.”  I feel free and in control of whether I choose to date or not date, who I want to date and who I politely say, “no thank you” to when asked out.  I’m completely at peace saying “no” to the offers of being set-up and I can listen to other people’s love stories (which are typically their attempt to encourage me to not give up on marriage) without wondering if I’m missing out on something.  I’m not-just like God made them different from me, His love story for me is also different from theirs.  If God has a love story for me, it will be different and it will be epic. It will also happen in His time and in His way.  I won’t be too closed off to miss it or too picky that I turn it down.  I will know it’s from Him and I will embrace it.  How do I know, because I’ve surrendered my heart to Him and trust Him to do with it what He plans-lead it to love another, or lead it to live singly, serving Him.

I almost didn’t write this post. It’s pretty transparent and I had to question my motives.  This post wasn’t meant to bash marriage (I love weddings, I love being in love, I love happily married people and I pray for troubled marriages all the time.)  It also wasn’t meant to stick it to all those who seem to be an expert on my love life or lack thereof.  Which by the way-as helpful as people think they’re being, unless advice is solicited, telling someone why you think they’re single really isn’t helpful. If you want to see someone you love in a relationship-pray for them and pray for their future spouse.  And keep mum unless they want to talk to you about their relationship status.

I wrote this post because there are people out there who’s deepest longing is to get married and they think they’re life won’t be complete until they find their one true love.  To them, I want to say-your life is already complete.  Your life doesn’t begin with marriage-it began when you were growing in your mother’s womb.  As long as you are breathing, your life is happening, with or without a spouse.  So live it.  Find out who God made you to be and turn your focus on serving Him daily.  Don’t focus on what’s missing in your life-find a thousand reasons to smile every day.  Make a bucket list and set goals.  Then take the steps needed to accomplish your list and goals.   Most importantly-show love and kindness daily to the people God has placed in your life and seek out opportunities to bless others.  This life is really not about you or me.  This life is all about God and serving others for His glory.  Lastly-don’t worry about getting married or being in a relationship.  If God has designed marriage for you, It. Will. Happen.  Lay your heart’s desire at the foot of the cross and trust God to fulfill it in His time.  But remember this-if the worst thing is your life is that God calls you home before you ever get married-you’ve lived one heck of a pretty good life.

A Thousand Reasons to Smile

“When they were discouraged, I smiled at them. My look of approval was precious to them.”  Job 29:24 NLT

Discouragement is a not just a long fancy word for a spelling bee-for many people it can be a state of mind and even a state of living.  Some people live a “murphy’s law” kind of life-you know-they’re the ones that if something awful is going to happen, it’ll most likely happen to them.  Some even refer to themselves as a jinx or being cursed.   They may even make jokes about their “bad luck” but deep down inside they’re living in a pit of discouragement.

Discouragement is such an easy pit to fall into too.  That person who busted their tail for a promotion only to see themselves get passed over for Slacker Steve can entertain discouragement without even knowing it.  That football team who trained hard only to lose because of bad refereeing (yes I said it-and yes it does happen) can throw a discouragement party that may trickle into the following game or effect their whole season if they let it.  That girl who dreams of being married but rarely gets asked out on a date-she can easily be the next contestant in the pageant of discouragement.

Discouragement usually starts with a disappointing event or from expectations not being met.  How we handle it all happens in our minds.  If we dwell on the disappointment or loss discouragement grows.  Dwelling too long on that feeling can build a whole addition to our hearts and minds just for discouragement to live.  The more we dwell, the more discouraged we feel, the deeper we sink into the pit.

We don’t have to entertainment discouragement though.  We should acknowledge the disappointment or loss most definitely.  But how we take it from there becomes a battlefield in our minds.  For a lot of people negative thoughts come naturally and thinking positively is a deliberate act they have to willfully choose to combat the negativity.  I know because I am one of those stinkin’ thinkers.

When I was growing up it seemed as though every time I hoped for something it wouldn’t happen.  I convinced myself to have no expectations or to expect the worst so there’d be no disappointment.  This type of coping skill carried on well into my adult years and effected so much of who I was including my relationships and friendships.  In church I’d sing the song, “Count your many blessings, name them one by one…” but inside I was thinking, “Count my blessings?  Yeah right.  What’s there to feel blessed about?”  Did I mention discouragement brings along a roommate named bitterness? Due to entertaining discouragement for so long, I lived a very bitter life for many years.

Thankfully, God kept peeling away my layers by sending me people who could see past my bitterness and deep within my heart.  Through these people God showed me how blessed I truly am.  He also showed me how I can combat discouragement and break free from bitterness. One way-I bless others every chance I get.  With every store clerk, restaurant server and stranger I meet, I am diligent in wishing them a blessed day before parting.  Most customer service people will tell you to “have a nice day” in a canned computerized voice because it’s routine to them.  It’s like someone saying thank you and you saying “you’re welcome” without knowing why you’re being thanked. It’s just an automatic thing. But when I respond with, “Have a blessed day”, they’re whole demeanor changes-I watch slumped over tired minimum wage workers stand a little taller, their faces brighten and their smiles become sincere.  They’re tone of voice softens and they tend to say, “thank you-you too” genuinely.  Suddenly, it’s as if those four simple words made them realize they matter and are worthy of being blessed.  When I first started this I was slightly embarrassed but now I can’t wait to check out, just so I can be a blessing to their day.

The second way God is freeing me from discouragement and bitterness is in reminding me there’s always a reason to smile.  No matter what is happening in your life or mine-there’s always a reason to smile.  Even in the deepest of grief from losing your greatest love, feeling panicked because the bills keep getting bigger but your income keeps getting smaller, or feeling helpless because your infant child is in ICU struggling to breathe and the doctors can’t figure out why-God can show us a reason to smile.  It’s what Paul meant when he wrote, “Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:11-13 NLT)  Paul wrote this when he was in prison-imprisoned for preaching the Word of God and nothing more.

To avoid discouragement-I am making a list of a thousand reasons to smile.  If I ever make it to 1,000 then I’ll change the title to a Million Reasons to Smile and keep going.  Writing this list retrains my mind to squash negativity and remain positive.  It also reminds me that God is faithful and His plans for me remain good no matter what is happening around me.  Today’s list would be this:

  • My daughter telling me about her English assignment where she had to choose a fictional character she would want to be her parent. She chose Lorelei Gilmore (from the Gilmore Girls-a show we watch together) because she said the character is exactly like me, her actual mom.
  • Watching my son tackle an opponent who was bigger than him and recover a fumble in his opening football game.
  • Watching my daughter perform for the third time during the varsity half-time show with the high school marching band.
  • Having my baby brother and his wife home to attend both of my children’s events this week.
  • Getting an unexpected bonus at work.
  • Getting a phone call from a stranger thanking me for participating in a specific ministry and encouraging me to keep ministering to others.
  • Having a co-worker thank me for encouraging her.
  • Being able to bless another co-worker with Subway after sitting through a difficult meeting.
  • Taking a nap and watching movies while doing laundry on a rainy Saturday.
  • Blessing others through this blog…

Whether you’re having a “murphy’s law” kind of day or week, or have experienced so much disappointment your drowning in a pit of discouragement I want to encourage you to find a reason to smile today.  Then start your own “A Thousand Reasons to Smile” list and join me in counting those many blessings, naming them one by one.  As the rest of the song goes-it will surprise you what the Lord has done.