Tagged: woman

When You Don’t Feel Beautiful

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Having a baby changed everything about my body. Every single part. I’m gradually losing my hair, breaking out in pimples like I’m back in high school, still dealing with swollen fingers and feet, and don’t even get me started on my jello-like belly and thick thighs.

I like to talk about my postpartum body because it’s real. And for the most part, I like my body, too. I’m still so fascinated by the fact that it housed a tiny human for nine months and is able to produce the only source of nourishment that tiny human needs. When I look in the mirror, I often see a strong woman, a mighty warrior, and a great mom. But when I take the time to really examine my body, I begin to remember the way it used to look and start to notice all of its flaws.

Lately I’ve been noticing the flaws more and more. I’m no longer on that “new mom high” and I’m paying more attention to things outside of my life with a baby, like what other people are wearing or what size they are or how flawless they look on social media. I still want to appreciate my body and feel confident in my own skin, but I can’t shake the feeling that I should be thinner, tighter, and trendier. I don’t like that none of my pre-pregnancy clothes fit me. I feel frumpy in my seamless nursing bras. It bothers me that I still look like I could be four months pregnant. And if I’m being totally honest here, I feel far from sexy with this saggy, squishy body.

I could spend the rest of this post ranting about how our society has failed us –how it’s difficult to find flattering clothing for curvier women, how we’re surrounded by pressures to get rid of our baby weight, how filters and editing apps create an unrealistic expectation of how women should look, and how Victorias Secret doesn’t even carry plus-sizes (I may or may not have shed tears at the mall after discovering this) — but I know that my problem isn’t just with society. The problem also lies with me.

I’m the one who has a problem with the way I look. Sure, I call myself “beautiful” because that’s what I’m supposed to believe about myself, but I still pick myself apart like most women do. I’m the one doing the analysis. I’m the one who’s deciding I don’t like what I see.

This past Sunday evening at church, I was trying to focus during worship, but all I could think about was what a disaster my shopping trip had been that day. I went to the mall with expectations of finding clothes that would make me feel pretty and I instead left empty-handed. It’s not wrong to want to feel pretty or to want to dress up and look nice. But because I failed at fulfilling this vision for myself, I began to question my beauty as a whole. Am I really beautiful? Because I think my muffin top says otherwise and my greasy hair disagrees. How I would love to be just a few sizes thinner! Or have amazing, long hair or a smaller chest or a nicer wardrobe.

But the Lord had something to say about that.

“You don’t get to pick and choose what parts of you are beautiful. You either are beautiful or you’re not. And my darling, you are beautiful.”

Me? Really? I’m beautiful?

I let this sink in for a moment. And I had to ask myself, is it enough for the Lord, my heavenly Daddy, to say that I’m beautiful? Is that enough for me? If I stopped getting likes and comments on my photos, if I stopped wearing makeup or curling my hair, if I didn’t have anyone around to compliment my looks, would it be enough for me to know that God himself sees me as beautiful?

I don’t like my answer to that question. Because truthfully, it’s a no.

I don’t have that confidence yet. I don’t have that security in myself. I don’t have that positive body image. I want it, but I’m just not there.

Praise the Lord for grace upon grace.

I was created for more than this world, but I still get caught up in it. The Lord formed my body, but I tear it down. I am blessed with life, but I curse the vessel I’ve been given. My Father in heaven calls me beautiful, but I act like he’s a liar.

But I know there is immeasurable grace for me in my moments of weakness. And I know that if I come to him with a desire to change, to see myself as he sees me, he’ll give it to me. It’ll take time to believe the truth he whispers in my ear and it’ll take effort to cast out the lies the enemy whispers in the other, but one day — Lord willing — I’ll get there and it’ll be so worth it. I have hope there will be a day when I will be able to stand in front of the mirror without a made-up face or the pretty, frilly things of this world and fully, completely, irrevocably see myself as beautiful. From the top of my head all the way to my toes.

But for right now, when I am asked to believe that I am beautiful, I at least pray, “I do believe… but help my unbelief.”

 

When You Become a Submissive Wife

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Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything (Ephesians 5:22-24).

I’ve heard a lot of opinions on the passage in Ephesians 5 about being a submissive wife. I’ve heard it described as outdated and sexist. Many women protest the idea of having to submit themselves to any man, even their husband. Some point out that submission should be completely mutual, that Paul was implying that husbands and wives ought to be subservient to each other. On the other hand, I have also heard that it’s a beautiful, even essential component of marriage and it’s a specific calling for wives.

I’m writing this post to share what I have learned over the past year and specifically these past few months on what it means for a wife to submit to her husband. I’m not sharing this to point fingers or make women feel like they’re doing a bad job at fulfilling Ephesians 5. I’m also not sharing this so that my definition of submission can be fully adopted by others. What I desire is an honest dialogue on the struggle of figuring out what submission means in the twenty-first century, particularly when every marriage looks so different and every woman is unique.

But I suppose I have to start by sharing how I began to figure out what submission looks like for me.

. . . . .

This past summer my husband crashed and totaled his car. It was his fault. And shortly before this happened, he had changed his car insurance to where he was no longer covered like he should be for incidences such as these. So as a result, he had to spend thousands of dollars, the money that him and I had been saving for us to have after we got married, on a new car. A clunky, dirty Ford Taurus. I hate the Taurus.

And for that week that we hunted for a new car, I almost hated Grant. Because here I was, having to drive him to dealership after dealership to help him find a car. Here I was, having to say goodbye to the money that we had put aside for OUR future just so we could pay for HIS mistake. I remember complaining about Grant and his irresponsibility to all of my friends and family. I could not believe that he allowed this to happen. I was so, so angry and let down.

And then we bought that Ford Taurus. And we were fine again. Life went back to normal. Except Grant didn’t go back to normal.

I saw guilt slowly eating away at him. The harsh words I had spoken were still piercing his heart. He felt like he had lost his dignity and my trust. To this day, when we speak of that car crash, I see the fallen look on his face and the regret in his eyes. He carries that time with him, and as a result, so do I.

I now know that the men in our lives will always do stupid things. But we are often guilty of doing stupid things in response to them, too.

Beating him up for this, along with all the other mistakes that he had made over the years, always seemed like the right thing to do at the time. There should be consequences for his actions, right? Why should he be let off the hook? Why should I show him the same amount of love and respect and trust after he makes these irresponsible, immature decisions? He needs to learn his lesson, I always reasoned with myself.

But my punishments for him always ended up being punishments for myself, too. Because I was turning into a woman that no man should want to marry. My efforts to control the situation only made me feel more out-of-control. I couldn’t stop my anger from being unleashed. I couldn’t hold back my tongue from swearing and yelling and saying things I didn’t mean. And that’s a pretty bad place to be in.

How did I let myself break all of my promises to not become the monster I once was? It was always a joke among my friends in high school that I was the meanest, most demanding girlfriend, but it all of a sudden wasn’t funny anymore. Not when this man who was so good to me was carrying around so much guilt that he wasn’t even capable of forgiving himself.

My efforts to be in control, my desire to punish and yell at Grant for his actions, are what I consider to be the stupidest things I have done. And it’s these stupid things that I myself carry around with me. And when it comes up in conversation, it’s what makes my face fall and my eyes fill with regret. We both have felt deep shame of our pasts, of the things we’ve done that have affected and hurt one another.

And it was only when I finally saw this damage inflicted on our hearts did I realize that maybe showing him some respect, regardless of whether it’s well-deserved, could do a lot more for us than being in control.

And that was what I was always after, really: control.

Isn’t that part of the reason for why the idea of submission sounds so horrifying to some? Women, especially the ones who have grand dreams for their future and perhaps have been hardened by their past, just want some sense of control in their life. And if that means controlling their man, so be it. Anything to keep the attention and affection on them. Anything to have those large holes in their heart filled. Like the wicked queen from Once Upon a Time, we destroy anyone and anything in our path to what we think will finally make us happy. But happiness never comes.

I’m so thankful that I was finally able to open my eyes to just how little reward there is for gaining or maintaining control. There has been no gain to justify the hurt and anger that accompanies it. Respect between Grant and I, on the other hand, has gone a long way over time. It has even begun repairing some of the damage from that car wreck.

And the way I show respect to Grant is by submitting to him — small, daily acts of surrender. And God has used my small, daily acts of surrender to transform me into a woman who not only is able to submit to her husband, but is actually joyful to do it.

My small, daily acts of surrender may not look like much from the outside, but I know they mean a lot to Grant. They have meant a lot to our marriage. Submission has not always been convenient or easy for me, but it has been worth it.

I submit to Grant by bringing our household responsibilities before him and laying them at his feet. I maintain some control by handling most, if not all, of the budget, the groceries, the errands, and the housework (yes, I am that housewife), but I still give him a voice. I show respect for him by asking for his input on our finances and delegating responsibilities to him that I could just as easily do on my own. I trust him to provide for us instead of constantly pointing out where our money is falling short. I thank him for the things he does around the house, regardless of whether the tasks were completed in my desired time-table. Believe it or not, I even trust him to handle the insurance. Grant has given me the power to do all things for our household on our own. But out of respect and honor for him, I allow us to share the power.

I submit to Grant by holding back from making decisions without first asking him. All questions such as whether I’ll look for another job after graduation or if I’ll focus on my writing or if we’ll stay in our one-bedroom apartment or if we’ll save money for a vacation are answered through a dialogue between my husband and I. It sounds silly to bring all of these decisions to him when I could so easily make them myself. After all, wouldn’t he want me to be happy? Of course, he will encourage me to chase after my dreams and be wise with our finances. But that’s not the point. The point of bringing these things to Grant is not so that I’ll gain his approval of them, but rather so that he knows his opinions matter.

I submit to Grant by putting him first, like when I wake up at 4:00 AM on the weekend, on the mornings that I could otherwise spend sleeping in, to help him get ready for work and make him breakfast. I learned this from my mother, who does the same for my dad, and I remember many friends not understanding why my mom willingly does this. Now those same friends don’t understand why I do, too. Even Grant questions why we like to subject ourselves to cold, dark mornings for the sake of our husbands. He feels selfish for letting me cook him eggs and toast when I could still be in bed, but he lets me do it because I tell him that it fulfills something in me that was never fulfilled before.

My heart was so self-centered for so long that I felt empty and unloved the moment that Grant chose himself over me. But now that I’ve allowed myself to be more husband-centered instead, I feel whole and loved the moment that I choose Grant over myself. 

In a way, I am using the control that I have to relinquish control to Grant. And this, to me, is submission. 

I think that submission sounds like a dirty word to some women because they think that it implies a lack of power. Like women are weaklings who are only designed to serve their men in whatever capacity their men see fit.

But what I have experienced is that submission IS power. It gives me the power to let go of the meaningless things that I clung to for security and happiness. It gives me the power to become a woman who is modeled after Christ in the way she loves and serves. It gives me the power to choose a calling — the calling of a wife as a helper and family-builder — that is greater than my selfish ambitions.

The more I give to Grant, the more free I become — free from selfishness, greed, laziness, unwholesome thoughts, bitterness, and anger.

I remember when I always expected Grant to cater to me. Before we were married, I would complain when he’d leave for work because I knew that it meant I’d be alone. I would expect him to always be on his A game, planning the loveliest dates and surprising me with thoughtful actions. I made him feel immature and foolish for the way he spent his money and his time. I scolded him and yelled at him for decisions he made without consulting me. I put burdens on his shoulders that he shouldn’t have had to carry. I was not willing to relinquish control by any means. And all of this was just my way of seeking fulfillment and happiness, which never worked.

Submission, instead of control, is how I now pursue my fulfillment. And it does fulfill me. Because I get to watch my husband feel loved and respected. I get to play a part in the restoration of his dignity. And in return, I also reap the benefits of a fulfilled husband, one who is free to respond with love for me, just like the vision of the husband and wife I had always read of in Ephesians 5.

When I submit to my husband, I am sending him the message that he is capable and smart, that his thoughts and opinions do matter, that his mistakes are not unforgivable. And I realize through this that my mistakes can be forgiven, as well.

I am not perfect. I am no saint. But I am a woman who is committed to loving and respecting my husband, even when that means relinquishing parts of my life that my flesh would rather keep under my control or use for selfish purposes. I am a woman who, though she might fail to choose love and surrender in the moment, is willing to eventually put down her pride and guilt and try again.

Our marriage counselor once asked Grant and I, “What hill are you willing to die on?” And I remember realizing in that moment that I pick a lot of foolish hills to camp out on, fully prepared to give up what is most valuable for something that is hardly worth it.

I now know that I shouldn’t be picking battles with my husband. I should be picking battles with satan, the real enemy. And I bet that he hates what I’m now doing to Grant: letting him come first, letting his voice matter, letting him feel loved, letting our marriage honor God.

I have a piece of paper taped to our bathroom mirror that I look at and read every day. At first, I was embarrassed to tape it there because I knew that many people would see it and would perhaps question it or judge it. It’s a glimpse into our personal struggles, the things that many wives, including myself, would probably want people to think are under control and totally fine in their marriage. Regardless of the fear I felt, I taped it up anyway. And I’ve allowed it to encourage me on a daily basis to be the woman I know God has ordained for me to be.

It reads as follows:

I am on my husband’s/wife’s team and he/she is on mine.

I will fight for my husband/wife every day of our lives together.

I will pursue peace with my husband/wife.

I will protect my husband’s/wife’s dignity.

I will bear my husband’s/wife’s burdens.

I submit myself to my husband/wife.

I will release all anger and bitterness toward my husband/wife.

I will believe in my husband/wife.

This is my personal motto and vision for our marriage. I don’t live by it all the time, but I so badly want to. And maybe you want to live by it, too. Maybe you, like me, are tired of seeing your husband’s fallen face and feeling your own regret. Maybe you have experienced enough “control” to know that it does nothing but cause hurt in relationships. Maybe you want to be the woman that submits to her husband, even if you aren’t fully sure of what that means just yet.

Submission will probably look differently for a lot of wives, but I believe that is one of the reasons for why it is so beautiful. It is a personal, intimate act between husband and wife that will mean something special and unique to the both of you. It doesn’t have to be explained or meet others’ expectations. It just has to do its job of forging love within your marriage. And it will.

My call to other wives, and even women who are not yet wives, is to pursue what submission means for you. How can you lay down your life for your husband or your future husband? How can you relinquish some of the control that you have fought to hold onto? How can you choose service over selfishness, love over laziness, and purposeful submission over power?

It will not always be an easy decision. There will be choices that don’t seem quite so black-and-white. But I challenge you to bring even those choices to your husband and let him join you on this journey. We don’t have to fend for ourselves or be left to our own devices when it comes to figuring out how to be the wife God wants us to be. We can lift each other up — husbands and wives, women and friends, mentors and mentees — as we pursue both our personal and universal callings.

Submission matters. I needed a car wreck to open my eyes to this truth, but you don’t.

When Your Man Isn’t Healing You

Image by marguerite petite via Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/8JJZxu)

Image by marguerite petite via Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/8JJZxu)

It’s a typical romance: the girl was betrayed in her past, deeply wounded at the hands of another man. She wonders if she’ll ever be able to believe in love after having her heart broken in such a devastating way.

Then she meets a man who’s different from all the other ones. He’s willing to pick her up, restore her heart, and convince her of the reality of true love. Through his faithful love and kind words, she learns to trust again.

And they live happily ever after.

Oh, how I wish this was the way it really worked.

It’d be so lovely to be able to say, “Yes, Grant has healed me. I was betrayed and deeply wounded. I lost all trust in men. I lost all trust in love. But he came into my life and showed me that love is good and still real. He patched up my broken heart and all that was wounded is now as good as new.”

But that’d be a boldfaced lie. Because Grant doesn’t have the ability to heal me. No man does. The lies I believed before falling in love with Grant I still am having to fight today. The wounds I received before him are still not fully healed.

And he’s tried. He really has. He puts forth such gallant efforts, consistently pursuing my trust. Sometimes it even feels like progress is being made. But because he lets me down and makes mistakes at times, like every human on this planet, I end up back at square one.

Fearful. Untrusting. Deeply hurt. Empty and broken.

Recently I’ve had to be hit in the face with the fact that Grant can’t heal me. I’m having to learn that I’ve been doing things all wrong. The things I believed deep down about love and the purpose of relationships have been wrong. They must be wrong. Otherwise, what is God’s offer of healing good for? Why have a heavenly Savior you can’t necessarily see and feel when you can have an earthly savior who seems to do it all and more?

There can be no such thing as an earthly savior.

I trick myself into thinking that all I’m doing by looking to Grant for the things I need is “learning to love again,” but the truth is, I’m trying to make someone make me whole. I’m trying to get somebody just as weak and broken as I am to save me from my weakness and brokenness.

I can’t deny that Grant was my “rebound.” He knows it full well. I had only been out of a relationship for two months when I began dating him, and it’s no surprise I brought a ton of baggage with me. I didn’t give myself the time to properly heal. I didn’t bring my wounds to God and let him take care of me.

Seeking Grant during this time of hurt and heartbreak was a mistake — a mistake I don’t regret because of God’s powerful grace and ability to bring good out of all things, but a mistake nonetheless.

Does that mean my relationship with Grant is wrong and deserving to be cut off? No, it doesn’t. It mostly means we have a whole boatload of problems we both have to deal with — problems that I’ve wasted so much time bringing to his feet instead of Jesus’.

Here’s where the freeing truth comes in (because this does sound quite like a downer, doesn’t it?).

I can’t find healing from Grant, but Grant can help me find healing in God.

He can encourage me to seek the healing I need through his ability to point me to the Cross. He can fight for me with prayer when I’m feeling weak. He can hold me with his strong arms when I feel like collapsing.

Yes, he can do all these things and more, but he cannot heal me.

And if you’re a woman and all of this sounds to you like the most obvious thing in the world because you’ve been told in Christian nonfiction books and countless sermons that men can’t heal you or fulfill you, then good for you. Maybe you really do have it all figured out.

But maybe not.

I thought I had it all figured out, too. If someone had asked me, “Do you think Grant can heal you or fix you or fulfill you?”, I would’ve said with no hesitation, “No way.” I’ve read and heard the truth about man’s inability to make a woman whole many times. Heck, I’ve read Captivating from cover to cover twice in a row.

But there’s a difference between knowing it and accepting it.

No matter how much I knew this hunt for healing from any other source but God would be pointless, I didn’t want to believe it. I still thought there was hope. Doesn’t it sound so romantic to be able to look into the eyes of the man you love and be able to say, “I believe in love again because of you”?

A year later, I finally am accepting that it really doesn’t work that way. After a year of trying to get my act together and pushing Grant more than he ever deserved, I’ve realized that Grant hasn’t fixed a single thing about me. There’s still a whole ton of brokenness. If anything, I’ve been broken even more.

Please don’t mistake what I’m saying. Grant is an amazing partner who loves me very much. It’s my skewed idea of what a man’s love can and should do that has led to much disappointment, hurt, and anger in our relationship. It’s because of the lies I haven’t been consistently running to God with that I sometimes believe Grant is a poor lover or untrustworthy partner. What else is this broken, silly girl supposed to think when she hasn’t fully grasped the truth she needs?

The truth is I have been allowing myself to look to Grant for things that he has no ability to give. And I’m sorry for the hurt I’ve caused in his life because of it.

I’m sharing all of this because I think I’ve finally begun accepting what I so long denied: No one can be responsible for my healing except for God. He’s the only one who can complete the work. He’s the only one who can restore my broken heart.

And maybe you need to be reminded of this truth today, too. Maybe this thing that once seemed so common sense is starting to feel more like a foreign concept to you. Whether you’ve noticed it or not, perhaps you’ve been clinging to a man in hopes of being healed in his arms. Maybe this is the first time you’re hearing from another woman that THIS DOESN’T WORK.

The truth kind of sucks sometimes, doesn’t it?

Yet there’s hope that we will finally learn our lesson and bring our wounds to God for the healing we so long for.

What does this look like in a realistic, applicable way? For me, it looks like not running to Grant for answers or comfort or support before I run to God. This is hard for me to do. It really is. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve woken up from a nightmare and instantly called Grant without realizing. It’s become instinct. But Grant can’t do much from the other line. Sometimes he tells me stories to get me to relax or he’ll pray for me or remain silent as I try to fall back to sleep, but this has become a habit that isn’t beneficial for either of us. I’m keeping him from his sleep and I’m not allowing myself to fight forces of evil on my own.

I’m a daughter of God who has the power to cast away nightmares and all manifestations of darkness, but I’m not choosing to wield that power.

This also looks like not putting such heavy expectations on Grant. I somehow have come to believe that the only way Grant can love me and pursue me is if he’s perfect. This is the saddest, most debilitating belief I can have in our relationship because it makes him feel so inadequate. He tries so hard, yet can’t compete with my idea of what romance and relationships should look like. He has wounds, too, you know. My nagging and complaining and arguing only make his wounds deeper. It’s not his job to cure me of my insecurities. And when I make it his job, I only add onto his.

I’m a daughter of God who has access to a perfect, loving Savior, but I take my expectations and demands to a man who can’t meet them.

I must surrender my desire to feel secure in a man’s arms. This sounds like a beautiful and lovely thing to desire, but it does more harm than good. Grant isn’t always going to be there when I need him. He has work and things to do and a life to live. Oh, how I loathe when he has to tend to other matters. I cry and throw fits at the thought of taking care of myself while he’s gone. And I know this sounds pathetic, but please understand that any pitiful actions I partake in stem from my crippling fears instilled in me from past betrayal and heartache. I’ve told everyone before and I’ll say it again: I’m messed up. I’m in the long process of being healed, but I’m still messed up.

Instead of searching for security with Grant, I should be searching for security with God. He’s the one who will uphold me when no one’s around. He’s the one who will comfort me when I am alone.

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (John 14:26-27).

Instead of waiting for Grant to heal me, I should be waiting for my true Healer to do his work. Jesus is the one who paid for my sins with his shed blood. He defeated death and darkness. Does this not include the lies that afflict me and the hurt that tries to hinder me?

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
    he delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

The righteous person may have many troubles,
    but the Lord delivers him from them all;
he protects all his bones,
    not one of them will be broken (Psalm 34:17-20).

When I accept these truths, I will finally be able to love Grant in the way I should have been loving him all along: patiently, kindly, without pride or selfishness or grudge-holding. And then Grant, too, will be able to love me in the way he should have been loving me all along: protecting, trusting, hoping, and persevering.

I’ve been hindering his ability to love me with my faulty expectations and demands. I’ve been hindering my own ability to receive his love and protection and comfort. I’ve been trying to fill my God-sized desires with a human-sized love. But how much freedom will be had between the two of us when I am able to receive healing from the superior source!

I’m a work in progress, I know that full well. Yet I am still a masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10) and a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and I know the wounds I have don’t have to be so powerful in my life anymore. Not as long as God’s in control (and I let him be).

Take heart, my dear lovelies, if you’re anything like me. God is working in your life. He desires healing for your heart. Bring your God-sized desires to God alone. You and I are meant to love and be loved here on this earth, but we can’t afford to forget the source of it all.

We are meant to keep our gaze fixed heavenward as we walk hand-in-hand with the companions God brings into our lives.

What I Didn’t Know about Guarding My Heart

Photo by Tatenda Nyamande on Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/cdb8tW)

Photo by Tatenda Nyamande on Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/cdb8tW)

This morning I began thinking about what it means to guard your heart. I hear it all the time, I’ve seen it in God’s Word, I know it’s what is expected of me, and I’ve been told that men have something to do with it. But I have to admit I’m just as clueless about what guarding my heart means as I am clueless about what the heck is going on in Lost.

So I did what I do every now and then when I want to get a better understanding of something God has said. I went back to the roots. I looked up the Hebrew translation of “heart” from Proverbs 4:23 (above all else, guard your heart), and what I found was enough to get me thinking long and deep.

heart = inner man, mind, will, understanding, thinking, resolution, determination, a seat of appetites, a seat of emotions and passions, a seat of courage

My heart is complex. I knew that already. And God must know it, too, because He sees it better than anyone.

But I didn’t know guarding your heart could have so many connotations. If my heart is all these things: understanding, resolution, emotion, passion, courage… then how can I guard each of them? Apparently protecting this complex heart of mine means a lot more than what this verse in Proverbs first lets on.

For so long I thought guarding your heart just meant protecting things from coming in. Now I see it also means protecting some things from coming out.

I say this because it’s so obvious how my heart has been very much at play in my relationships. After all, my heart is where love is found, like my love for Grant (forgive me for putting so much emphasis on my relationship with Grant, but this is where I’ve been doing a lot of learning and growth this past year). Many miscommunications, disagreements, and fights that I have with Grant are stemmed from something inside of one or both of our hearts. For me, it’s usually fear, insecurity, fleshly passion, or lies.

If I’m not guarding my heart, those things can come spewing out and hurt him. They have many times. I realize now that satan wants my heart to be unguarded because it gives me the opportunity to throw this crap up all over Grant (which he surely doesn’t need or enjoy). Satan wants me to feel like “anything goes,” like it doesn’t matter what I feel or how wrong I may be; I HAVE to act on them and force them onto the poor guy sitting across from me. I let those suckers control me and make way into my relationship. This makes the enemy very happy. After all, his goals are always to steal, kill, and destroy.

The only time these harmful things inside of me are rightfully coming out is when they’re being laid before God for him to deal with. My deep insecurities do not benefit Grant. I don’t want them spilling out before him because they only bring destruction to us. And Grant is not and never can be the true healer of my wounds. That doesn’t mean just letting them stay there and hiding what is really going on, though. I MUST bring my deep insecurities to GOD so HE can bring destruction to THEM. And the same goes for all else that is wrongfully taking place in my heart.

But here’s the other side to guarding your heart: there are things that need to be protected that are good.

My resolution, my determination, my God-given passions and emotions, my courage… these are beautiful and worthy of being protected. I must fight to hold onto these things and not let the enemy distort them or misuse them.

And because Grant has taken up the task of guarding my heart, it means fighting the enemy’s attempts to steal, kill, and destroy alongside me.

It means standing up for me when I feel too weak to get up. It means praying for me and declaring truth over me when I’m facing attack and lies. It means continuing to pursue me even when I argue that I’m not worth pursuing. It means pushing me to believe again when I’m losing my faith or trust.

This isn’t something that is necessarily laid out in God’s Word. There’s no manual for exactly when and how a man should fight for a woman’s cause. But we are given a why: because Jesus fought for his Bride. Men are charged with the task of treating women with that same love and ferocity.

Guarding my heart is a task I myself must face, but I am thankful that I do not have to face it alone.

This is what I gathered from my morning venture into Proverbs, and I know I need to continually bring this to God for better understanding and application. I’ve been too careless with my heart too many times. I’ve seen the catastrophic effects. But PRAISE JESUS that I’m healing and my heart is being restored. I am being renewed through intimacy with God. And that growing intimacy with Him only enhances my intimacy with Grant.

Show me how to guard my heart today, Lord.

This is my prayer. And this is what I’ll keep praying, what I’ll keep waiting expectantly in. My heart is loved too much to be left unguarded. It’s too precious to be ignored.

And this isn’t just true for my heart. It’s true for yours.

Desperation and Bravery

Image by Katie Zilcosky on Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/katiezil03/11183859963/)

Image by Katie Zilcosky on Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/katiezil03/11183859963/)

People have been telling me that I’m brave for writing about the things I do and putting myself out there the way I do, but can I just fess up to the honest-to-God truth that I have a hard time receiving that?

I don’t feel brave.

I feel desperate.

I don’t sit down with my laptop and Bible and ask myself, “Jessie, what courageous and bold things do you wish to declare over yourself and people today?” I don’t crack my knuckles as I set to writing and feel like I’m doing something victorious or brave.

You want to know how it really goes? While crying and praying and reading and thinking, God occasionally hits me with something that I can’t get out of my head, a truth I so desperately have longed to hear. And it’s so prominent, I feel the need to immediately pull out my laptop and write a post. I think to myself that if I can write these things down fast enough and put it out there for the world to see, then maybe I can believe these things for just a little while longer. I’m desperate to grab onto these truths before they escape me and I’m faced with another frustrating, tear-stained day.

You see, there are lies all around me and they are skilled in the art of imposing forgetfulness where truth is concerned.

I’m grateful that my attempt to grab onto truth and peace means something to you, but it doesn’t feel all that brave to me. Despite the messages I receive, the gratitude and compliments that come my way from strangers and friends, I feel like just one girl who pecks away at her keyboard because she simply doesn’t know what else to do.

The idea of me being brave feels farfetched in my mind, like a label I could never earn even as it’s shoved in my face by people who don’t really know me.

Writing doesn’t feel like an act of bravery. It feels like an act of desperation.

I am desperate to push these things out of me and place them onto paper or out into the world because the things God speaks over me are often forgotten when the enemy’s lies come back.

If you were really so brave, you wouldn’t hide behind a computer. You’d say things to people’s faces. You wouldn’t be so shy and force yourself to be alone. If you were really so brave, you wouldn’t be curled up in that chair, unable to move. You’d be out there, doing things. You’d be productive. You wouldn’t need to beg for strength just to face another day.

This morning, I was curled up in my bedroom chair, unable to move. I knew I should get up and do something. I should open my Bible and sip my coffee and believe the things God says. But instead, I was staring at the wall, questioning my existence, wishing for a different and improved version of the Jessie I live with every day.

And then I got a text that said things like how God is going to heal me and He’s going to answer my prayers and bring me out of this sadness. And all I wanted to do was retort with, “but I want to be healed now.” And I meant it. I was desperate.

Get on your knees and pray, I was then commanded. Whether the command came from heaven or from my mind, I was so desperate that I somehow found the strength to leave my cushion of sorrow and do just that in the middle of my bedroom floor.

Praying like this is a rare occurrence for me. Placing my knees on carpet and bowing my head to the ground felt foreign and awkward. Yet humble prayers soon tumbled out of my mouth. I don’t know what to do. God, I need you. I don’t even know what to say. I’m desperate.

Somewhere along the way, my desperation drove me to madness. I was mad enough to spit out the words, Do something! I don’t want to be this way. I want to feel lovely and beautiful and graceful. I don’t want to feel weak like this anymore. 

I want to be brave.

As I was on my knees and these words escaped my lips, a story of a desperate woman came to mind.

When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with  him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. (Luke 7:36-38)

She was desperate. She was so desperate she was willing to enter in this man’s home, despite the judgmental things he would say about her. She was so desperate, she was willing to approach Jesus, give him her nicest perfume, and let him receive her sorrowful tears. She was so desperate, she found herself on the ground, grasping for even just his feet.

She was so desperate, she became brave.

And I realize now that maybe this is me, too. I see desperation while I am told I am brave, but perhaps the two can both be true.

Maybe I am brave after all. Not because I say bold words and write my heart out for the world to see, but because I’m desperate enough to sit down and do this. For myself. For you. For God.

I’m so desperate for the truth to be declared. I’m desperate for healing in my life. I’m desperate for God to be glorified through me. And this desperation has driven me to say things, do things, and believe things I wouldn’t otherwise. If I were this image of a normal nineteen-year-old with average hopes and stable emotions that I envision, would I have anything to say when I sit down to write?

I’m desperate and I do like to think that I’m brave. On a good day, at least. Who’s to say where I’ll be tomorrow? In the morning, you might find me again in my chair, unable to move.

But when I do move (and I always do), may my mind believe bold things, my hand write great things, and my heart know that I am brave.

This is my prayer. Not just for me, but for you, as well.

We all need to be told that we are brave. We don’t just need the world to say it; we need God to declare it.

And yes, we sometimes need desperation to drive us to believe it and be it.

A Woman’s Body

So this might be a weird thing to write about, but I feel like I’ve reached the point where I don’t really care who reads what I write. As long as one person gets something good out of it, then I’m okay with approaching uncomfortable topics.

And the uncomfortable topic for the day is: a woman’s body.

Men, you can just stop reading now if you want. I wouldn’t blame you for not wanting to dive into the realms of feminine issues in the middle of a Tuesday.

Especially considering I’m going to be discussing the dreaded “time of the month.” AKA PERIODS.

There. I said it.

Carrying on…

I’ve been reading this book by Stasi Eldredge (author of Captivating) called Becoming Myself and one chapter in particular really intrigued me because it discussed an element of a woman’s life that I don’t tend to concentrate on so much: the body.

She brings up a very good point. “I am my body just as much as I am my spirit, my soul, my emotions, my dreams, my desires, and my sense of humor” (Becoming Myself p.51)

The body matters, too.

When I really stop to think about it, a majority of conversations or thoughts involving my body are negative and filled with hate.

I HATE getting my period. I HATE cramps. I HATE bloating. I HATE being so incredibly emotional.

And even when I’m not on my period, I find things to complain about. I’m not happy when I’m bloated and I’m not happy when I’m thin. I feel too curvy one day and not curvy enough the next. The circles under my eyes are too dark, my skin is too dry, the hair on my legs grows back too quickly, and LORD ALMIGHTY, how do I control this frizzy hair?

I know I am not the only one who does this because I have friends. And my girlfriends and I are notorious for griping about our bodies together. We actually feel like we’ve bonded after ranting back and forth for five straight minutes about how gross we feel.

And to be honest, I love those conversations. In those moments, I feel free to complain and whine and get all weepy because I know that these other women know EXACTLY what I’m feeling. We even celebrate when we’re on our cycle at the same time because we know we can suffer together. It’s like we’re blood sisters (pun very much intended).

But on the flip side, we don’t have too many conversations praising our bodies. Sure, every now and then we’ll send some selfies to each other (#stunna) on days when we feel particularly pretty (or HOT, if I’m going to be honest). We occasionally gush about how great each other’s hair and outfits and makeup looks. But not so often our own. Most of our discussions pertaining to our bodies and appearance aren’t positive.

I wish this wasn’t so.

I’ve been growing into the idea of loving and cherishing my body for the past several years, but I’m far from fully appreciating it. I haven’t had children yet so I certainly can’t pull the whole “it gives life” card. I’m not married and I’m not having sex so I can’t even pull the whole “it unites me to another person in God’s design” card.

For now, my body seems to just be… my body. It’s just there. I have one. That’s all.

But ladies, there IS so much more to it than that.

This is quite revolutionary for me. I feel like I’m at a point in my life where it’s vital that I begin to change some of my perceptions because one day my body WILL be bringing life into this world and be wonderfully enjoyed by a man I commit the rest of my life to.

If I don’t accept or understand my body now, I might not be able to appreciate it for all that it is when it does do those miraculous things.

The truth is that our bodies are already miraculous.

And when we hate our bodies, it’s like we’re saying, “God, Your design stinks.”

Now I know that we probably won’t change our perception about our bodies overnight. In a few weeks I know I’m going to be griping about cramps all over again. In fact, I have a dreadful Pap smear at the end of this week (TMI maybe) and I’ve been cursing my body for the past week for requiring so much care. I don’t want some doctor investigating my uterus.

Yet I know deep down my body matters. It needs to be taken care of. It needs to be treated nicely.

And I haven’t been treating my body very nicely, at least not with my words or attitude.

I really think that it’s important for us women to start valuing our bodies. If we dedicate so much time tending to our emotional and spiritual needs through encouragement and prayer, then why not our physical needs, too?

Our body needs love.

Our body needs encouragement and prayer and affection and attention. No matter what size we are or what time of the month it is, our bodies should be appreciated. They are gifts.

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Perhaps part of honoring God with our bodies is treating our body nicely. Instead of tearing it down, we acknowledge the beauty of God’s creation. We let our bodies do their thing (menstrual cycles, gaining weight, and all) as a way of surrendering to God’s plan for our lives.

I’m still going to cling to chocolate and Ibuprofen when distress hits, but I’m going to try to not despise what my body is doing. I’ll still cringe as I have a hard time buttoning my jeans, but I’m going to try to not bash my figure. As Stasi puts it, “to be a woman is a glorious thing” (p.52).

Maybe we can just start thanking our bodies for what they go through, even if we aren’t truly grateful. Maybe over time, we really will be able to see ourselves differently in the mirror. I think self-talk really does help. Prayer, too. What if we just started acknowledging things, GOOD things, about our bodies one day at a time?

I wonder if our confidence would grow. Maybe we’d curb some of that insecurity. Maybe we’d be able to survive that time of the month without biting everyone’s head off.

I certainly don’t know what could come of this considering I’m just now starting to wade into the waters of appreciation, but I feel like it’s got to be good for us to some extent, right?

I dare you (if you are a woman) to start taking some of this seriously. Take your bodies seriously.

Your body is beautiful! That’s sometimes difficult to say out loud or even fathom, but it’s true.

Image

Image by Ana Corrales Paredes on Flikr (https://flic.kr/p/no5QMo)

That’s all I have to say on this topic. I’m sorry if this was uncomfortable to read. You could’ve stopped twenty paragraphs ago.

And men, if you’ve made it this far, I’m thoroughly impressed. Don’t be afraid to make eye contact with me after reading this. I may be one of the few women you know who would dare say such things so openly, but know that every female you encounter holds many of the same feelings, thoughts, and concerns about her body. It’s just the way we are, the way we think. I think it’s good for men to dive deeper into what being a woman is like just so he can properly love and care for her. Likewise, I believe a woman has a duty to know more about herself and also about the men in her life.

It’s important to unveil some of these secrecies and mysteries.

And now that I have peeled back this one layer, you may carry on with your Tuesday.