The first time I heard the song Reckless Love by Cory Asbury, I remember thinking I never formed the opinion that God’s Love is reckless. I mean doesn’t reckless usually get lumped into that category of irresponsibility and carelessness? God, reckless? No way! In my mind God couldn’t be reckless because He is the One sure thing. Never changing through the ages, a Rock I can always trust.

I thought about these lyrics:

“Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine.”

He’s referring to a shepherd leaving the flock to find a wayward sheep. That concept seems strange to most people, doesn’t it?

Ok, this is starting to make sense, I thought! I wasn’t just out there on the fringe, a lost sheep, I was full on running as hard as I could past the border of darkness and light!

When I thought about it that way, it makes sense to me that God’s Love would have to be reckless.

I picture myself sometimes with my kids telling them “Don’t cross that line” sometimes figuratively, sometimes literally. But they probably know in the event they did cross that line I’m gonna be running towards them to grab them and make sure they are safe!

With this past week being Mother’s Day this concept really hit home. When I think about my kids, there is nothing I wouldn’t do for them. Well, except wear an orange jumpsuit! But in all seriousness, you never really know what you will do til you’re faced with a situation. The feeling starts as passionate but hey, it can get a little reckless can’t it? So true is my dedication to my children that its possible I could do something audacious if the need arose, and audacious IS a synonym of reckless that means:
showing a willingness to take surprisingly bold risks; bold, daring, fearless, brave, courageous, valiant, heroic.

THAT sounds like what I think of when I think of God.

And then I think “Wow, God thinks I’m worth the risk!”

You just gotta get goosebumps when you think about that level of commitment!

Song Credit:

Reckless Love: Cory Asbury

A neuroscientist once told me as people age their sense of sight, hearing, and taste can diminish but the one sense that doesn’t diminish is PAIN. Think about that for a minute.

When you can’t see, and you can’t hear, you feel isolation. All the wonderful things that make life grand; the splendor of a sunset, the melodic sound of crashing waves, delicious food, fresh air, the chatter of loved ones become subdued. Meanwhile pain still screams out loud and clear.

When we’re younger we often think we will always have these amazing gifts and we tend to take them for granted, don’t we?

But imagine how it must feel to come to a place where your body doesn’t work like it used to, you can’t do the things you once enjoyed and your body is breaking down and causing you undeniable physical pain, the kind that can’t be remedied by popping a couple Tylenol and then it just goes away. The mental anguish of realizing you are aging and regret and frustration add to the pain. You just feel…Broken.

Aging people in our society aren’t always valued like they are in other cultures. I’ve rarely taken a trip to a nursing home where I haven’t met at least one precious resident who has told me about how their family never visits them anymore and begs me not to leave.

When I’m out in public with my baby daughter and encounter an elder, the interaction between the two is the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen, they both gaze at each other with so much fondness. It makes me wonder how that all changes as we become adults.

Erik Erickson said it this way, “Lacking a culturally viable ideal of old age, our civilization does not really harbor a concept of the whole of life”. I think the renown psychologist was on to something. Our culture FEARS aging and death. We have made retaining one’s youth an idol and therefore we must live in denial that we will ever get old….until we do.

In many Native American tribal communities, wisdom and life experience is handed down by elders and deeply respected. Chinese children care for their elderly parents. Greek cultures celebrate aging, In Korea, respecting their mothers and fathers is a fundamental value they take very seriously. In India, elders are considered the head of the household. So why is it our culture thinks caring for aged parents is inconvenient and cramps their style?

So I’m watching this video they made for the song Broken by Seether. I usually comment more on lyrics than imagery but you can’t help but notice what’s being said here visually. Although the people in this video aren’t old, they look as if they’ve just been left in a wasteland to wonder around broken and confused. The lyrics, ‘Cause I’m broken when I’m lonesome. And I don’t feel right when you’ve gone away’ so powerful they give me chills. I can see it two ways. A elderly person left in a nursing home to die, with no visitors, or a young person crying out because they are lost; God is not in their life.

I’m glad my Mom took me to sing and play the piano at Assisted Living locations when I was a child. It inspired me to visit veterans at nursing homes when I served in the Air Force and it reminds me of how the Bible reminds us to respect the wisdom of our elders.

The truth is, I could be doing SO much more. I challenge you to search out someone you may know who is getting older and take them to lunch or go visit them. If you don’t know anyone who is elderly, isn’t it time to make a new friend?

Song Credit: Seether Broken

https://youtu.be/hPC2Fp7IT7o

Look what you made me do

It’s not uncommon in our world to hear about revenge or getting even. Many cultures have different mantras such as “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”. “Don’t get mad, get even”.  Or even acknowledging “What goes around comes around” or “They’ll get theirs” referring to the popular concept of “Karma”.  Someone’s gonna pay for doing me wrong…and human nature’s damaged psyche fuels it all.

Someone has hurt us deeply. Maybe they lied to us, took advantage of us, and we feel justified that we were wronged and now they’re gonna pay. Or maybe they exposed us, and we want revenge just to have the last word and save face.

Sitting around plotting how we’re going to feel better when this person gets what they deserve seems innocent enough, right? We might even tell ourself “I’d never really do it” or there’s no harm in thinking about it.

Ah but what a slippery slope. I bet some people who ended up on the five o’clock  news by trying to get even probably wish they hadn’t, and many of them may get to spend a really long time thinking about their regret from their prison jail cell.

According to a 2008 study, people who are more vengeful tend to be those who are motivated by power, by authority and by the desire for status. They don’t want to lose face.

Well no wonder this is a “thing” in our culture!

Unfortunately although people are generally seeking catharsis via revenge, the end result is that they prolong the pain for themselves. Paradoxically, most people think they will feel better after seeking revenge, when in fact afterwards the reality is we think about it. A lot.
The real tragedy: rather than provide closure it perpetuates the wound and leaves us with regret.

Martin Luther King Jr., stated, “The old law of ‘an eye for an eye’ leaves everybody blind”. I just LOVE that!

The recent release of Taylor Swift’s “Look what you made me do” really got me thinking about revenge. In the song, Swift seems to suggest whatever she did was spurred by the behavior of another. When I think about authenticity and accountability, it’s hard for me to condone this kind of attitude towards revenge.

As a survivor of Interpersonal violence (IPV), I have actually heard those exact words uttered to justify actions that would make your blood run cold. “Look what YOU made ME do”! It’s the projection of blame onto the victim. “I wouldn’t have had to do this if you would just have behaved like you were supposed to”. The irony of it all, I never chose revenge for this injustice. I was just happy I got out with my life.

Or what about this? Recently I was talking to my son about a so-called friend that did him wrong. He was really wrestling with the injustice done to him and I’m so glad he trusts me enough to tell me he was thinking about coming up with a way to humiliate this boy to get back at him. As we processed his feelings, we talked about the old adage “two wrongs don’t make a right” and what he would be accountable for should he let his anger spur revenge. It was then that I reminded him of a verse I always keep in my back pocket for times like these in Proverbs 20:22:

0D96F667-2059-406C-863A-9292F37DD509

To my surprise, he looked at me and said, “Wow! Mom that’s so much better than revenge!” I had to smile and wish I’d had the same conversation at age 11.

Then there’s this. If I’m out there representing as a Christian, and someone sees me plotting revenge or wishing it on someone, I’m sending the wrong message.  If I want to be real here, if I’m plotting revenge, I’m living in the Flesh and not the Spirit. As hard as it is to embrace when someone has hurt you, it’s possible that person has never had anyone model appropriate behavior that involves self-control. In another quote I love from Martin Luther King Jr., “Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

That doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences for choices people make. But consequences are defined by boundaries. If someone crosses your boundaries don’t retaliate, clarify, if they can’t respect you, enforce those boundaries! If someone wants to get revenge on you for enforcing your boundaries, that’s probably someone who needs some time alone to think, and toxic people can be distanced for our protection. Thankfully we have a justice system as well, because perpetrators of violence deserve real consequences.

On the flip side, no one can make you “do” anything that you don’t want to do. God did give us free will, but the intention wasn’t to go out and be a vengeful person.

Prior to committing my life to Christ I wasn’t very accountable for my actions. I regret the hurt I caused others when I wasn’t walking in the Light.  I liken the transformation to me being like a kid lying about snitching a cookie from the kitchen to an adult with discipline and self control. An individual with the fruit of the spirit works to exhibit those rather than seek revenge.

C631258C-51E9-4D68-9750-873E4B51575F.jpeg

Song credit: Look what you made me do – Taylor Swift

Old New Blue Jeans

Recently I put on a pair of jeans that I bought probably 3 years ago and had never worn. I bought them without trying them on and when I got home I discovered that even though they were the same size as the other pair I DID try on, and made by the same designer, they were a slightly different cut. So rather than return them, I said “I’m going to fit in these jeans one day so I’m not going to return them”. I think I might have tried them on another time or two, they still didn’t fit, and then life happened.

I was elated to discover as a newly remarried mom of two boys that I was pregnant again. I had a suspicion this was true when I went to a crawfish boil and the smell and idea of eating crawfish repulsed me even though normally I would have loved the opportunity. Later at my May birthday dinner, I passed on having a glass of wine but wasn’t sure why. A few days later a pregnancy test confirmed the reason and boy was I sooo sick. I was so moody and just really had zero energy which was tough because at the time I was enrolled in a Graduate degree program.

I decided not to immediately announce my pregnancy, and in the back of my mind I had a bad feeling. A few weeks later when I started spotting, I was taken back to memories I had when a similar thing happened with a pregnancy resulting in miscarriage. I went to see my OB and had an ultrasound; I was still pregnant but it was unsure if the baby was developing. I was experiencing every pregnancy symptom while facing the unbelievable possibility that this pregnancy could end. I had to keep going in for ultrasounds to check the progress. Although the gestational sac was growing the OB said it was 50/50 whether the baby would start growing. She said she’d seen the exact same thing with another mother who was now over 20 weeks along. I was so hopeful but also so anxious and scared.

At 11 weeks the doctor gave me the news I dreaded hearing, the fetus was not developing. I waited and nothing happened. The doctor described it as a missed miscarriage. I’d have to have a procedure done. It was around the Fourth of July now, a holiday that I couldn’t even begin to think about celebrating.

After the procedure I began feeling much more moody, and depression and grief set in. I felt so alone and sad. I began struggling to even want to get out of bed. I’d go to my Assessments class and couldn’t even process what the instructor was saying. The class was a tough one; I began to realize that I might not be able to pass the class and my school had a policy where you weren’t allowed to miss any classes. Finally I decided to talk to my Director and decided to drop the course so I wouldn’t fail it. I sat there in tears considering whether I even wanted to continue in the program because by now I was about 6 weeks in to a serious phase of hopelessness. All I could think about was trying to get pregnant again because of the gaping hole that loss had left.

Unfortunately I wasn’t seeking help or getting the support I needed. Since I hadn’t told anyone outside of my husband and best friend about the pregnancy, other people around me didn’t know what was going on and didn’t reach out to me or even seemed to reject me. I felt isolated and alone. Things might have continued to spiral downward until in late September I got another positive pregnancy test.

I was so scared I couldn’t even be happy about it. I feared it would end the same. The timing wasn’t the best; I had just started the internship required for my Masters degree. With the dropped class and now this, I wasn’t even sure if I’d be able to complete my program. If it weren’t for my best friend speaking prophecy into me that this baby would grow and develop into a strong and healthy baby girl, I don’t know what I would have done. Every day of that first trimester was an uphill battle as I was still dealing with depression and lack of support.

Around that time it occurred to me I wasn’t trusting God to help me deal with any of the intense feelings I was experiencing. I walked into Mardel Christian Books Store one day, and on the featured books table was the book “Whispers of Hope” by Beth Moore. It was a daily prayer devotional and at that moment God spoke to me and told me “Give it a try”.

As a counseling student, I knew that 10 weeks of journaling about hope could be very beneficial. So began the process of me burrowing in and this book ended up becoming my survival guide. Literally all I was doing was surviving though. I was so worried my emotions would effect my unborn child. I prayed every day for her protection. At the same time I fought a daily struggle to not drop out of my degree program. My heart and soul just felt like it was being crashed against a huge rock every single day, and I just fought to keep going, always just reaching out for hope. To be honest at the time I’m not sure how I got through. Looking back It felt like that line from the Footprints in the Sand poem; clearly God carried me!

The next year and a half from my daughter’s birth to now seemed like I was climbing a steep, steep mountain. When I came across those unworn jeans, they still had the tag on them. Since my skinny jeans had recently become loose on me, I had a suspicion they would fit and they did.

The funny thing is, I had to look back at everything that happened between then and now and ask myself if I was really happy about being able to fit in those jeans now. The person I was then would’ve used it as a measure to some sort of “success”. The person I am now just looks in the mirror and thinks “they’re just jeans, but look at the person I’ve become inside and the ridiculous amount of clarity that has been unveiled by faith that could literally move me up and down a mountain!”

Live like you were dying

I remember once being asked the question,”Would you like to know when and how you will die?” It’s one of those questions that I think most people would say “No!” to, but I didn’t answer immediately. You have to ponder whether knowing that you have x number of years to live would change anything about the way you are living now, but then there’s the flip side of knowing too much about your future, potentially resigning oneself to the outcome, or denying the notion that this sort of thing is predestined thereby removing a sense of control or choice in one’s life.

This past Sunday, a pastor challenged our congregation to consider this; what if you were told today you had 7 days til you died or Jesus returned? What would you change or stop doing? He said every person he asked all acknowledged they would sift through the junk and cut out the things that were distracting them from what was important. It definitely makes you think about the frivolous things we waste our time on.  I’m pretty sure my smartphone won’t be there as I near the end saying, “I’m happy for all the time we spent together”! 

In his song Live Like You Were Dying, Tim McGraw tells the story of a 40 something man who went to the doctor and was told his days were numbered. He poignantly asked the man the very question the pastor posed to us about how he’d live differently. The man mentions several bucket list items and then sings “And I loved deeper, And I spoke sweeter, And I gave forgiveness I’d been denying…And he said “Someday I hope you get the chance To live like you were dying.”

Isn’t it unfortunate that this man needed to be given a diagnosis to decide to do this? I’ve got to ask you, if you think you’ve got an unlimited number of days to finally get around to doing what is important, would a week be long enough to make things right in your life?

Mortality is one of life’s “givens”. Existentially, most people struggle with the idea that one day we’re all going to die.  It’s the reason some people live in fear and attempt to fabricate a very “safe” life they hope will result in living to a ripe old age, but upon arriving having to consider how much they actually lived.

img_8546

As a maturing Christian, I’m just started to embrace the idea that rather than fearing death, I need to ensure that I’m ready to go should my time come, even if it’s today or tomorrow.

img_8538-1

I saw this feather floating through the air and when it landed at my feet, I had a “Forrest Gump moment”.  If you’ve seen the movie, it begins and ends with a feather floating through the air, and for me it kind of reminded me of the circle of life.  Since I have a toddler at home, but also a teenager and a tween, there are a lot of “aha moments” as of late. I think for a while when my two older kids were younger it seemed like they’d be that way forever.  Fast forward to them talking about puberty and where they are growing body hair, the fact they are taller than me,and that I’m shopping for their clothes in the Men’s section of the store. I look at their baby sister and I can’t even imagine her being a teenager but I know it will come all too soon.

 Besides that, there have been several events this year that have really resonated with me; the mass shootings in Vegas and recently at a church in Texas, a family from my church who were headed out of town for vacation when they were in a terrible car crash resulting in all 4 of them being seriously injured, and a friend of mine’s Uncle passing away with no will and the ramifications that left for the family he left behind.

Not everyone gets a chance to sit on their deathbed and reminisce or regret the life they’ve led. Not everyone gets to tell their loved ones goodbye before they pass away, either. This year I’m wildly aware when I leave my family, they need to know that if for some reason I don’t make it back to them alive that they feel loved and they can go on knowing one day they will see me again.  I’m also not waiting to have those important conversations with them and having them now. My 11 year old and I decided to start doing devotionals together at bedtime. It’s a great way to connect and something we both look forward to. I definitely plan on adding more meaningful activities in, and clearing out the junk, so my family can see the things that really matter! 

Every year I have a “word” the Lord impresses on me and this year it’s been “legacy”. Read more about legacy and the meaning of my blog tRUTHful, here: tRUTHful Inspiration

Title song inspiration Tim McGraw – Live Like You Were Dying

Not my Mama’s broken heart

Disclaimer: this blog is not about my “Mama”. “Mama” is referring to a generation of women.

Miranda Lambert’s song compares her reaction to a broken heart with that of her mother’s.  Recently, with the astounding number of “Me too’s” that I saw and am still seeing on my Facebook feed, I couldn’t help but think about this concept.  So as the song goes, Mama is telling her daughter how she “should” act in response to something that has left her emotionally charged.  It really struck a chord with me, and I tied the two together when I read a quote from Reese Witherspoon, from her introduction speech at Elle’s Women in Hollywood event. She acknowledged that she had been sexually assaulted more than once, and then said this, “For the young women sitting in the room, life is going to be different for you because we have you, we have your back. And that makes me feel better because, Gosh, its about time.”

It got me thinking about how on the surface maybe “Mama” might appear to be able to keep it together when everything falls apart, sitting there looking demur with a powdered nose, crossed legs and her mouth closed, but where did that get Mama?  “Mama” is the voice of “just sweep it under the rug and don’t talk about it”. Say what you will about the way female expression has changed, but women just took a HUGE STEP towards finally getting the respect that we saw Jesus identify way back in biblical times!  How sad also that the Bible outlines the way women should be cherished by men but generations of women have felt like they had to put up with it or fear the consequences.

Anyway, I had a sad moment or two recalling the times that I have experienced sexual assault or harassment.  So many women are talking about assault experiences they were never able to tell anyone about! All the trauma and secrets are coming out and its sad but at the same time I know its providing so much healing.  Not only that but women are coming together to make a commitment to change things.  I challenge those of you who fall into the “Mama” category mentioned in this song, that its not too late.  As long as you’ve got breath in your lungs then we can change and encourage women to definitely speak out when they’ve been taken advantage of, teach them its not something to be ashamed of, that men don’t have the right to  treat women without dignity and that rape culture IS a thing.  If you’re not familiar with what rape culture is, its an environment where sexual violence against women is prevalent and its normalized and excused by the media or pop culture.  A common example of this would be the objectifying of women’s bodies, using mysoginistic  language and glamorizing sexual violence.  Maybe “Mama”can recognize that its wrong and its been going on for far too many generations.  I don’t even blame “Mama” for being that way, I’m sure her “Mama” must have taught her the same thing.  Meanwhile I feel like it has allowed some men to take advantage of women – and get away with it. When I think about my daughter and what I’ll teach her, one thing is certain, I hope to share a legacy that endures through ALL generations!

7ACF2D5D-9453-4011-9764-8968B92B029F

The Inspiration: Miranda Lambert- Mama’s Broken Heart

I will remember you…

Legacy.  I’m not sure I thought about what this word truly means when I was young.  I’ve always been kind of an old soul so I’m not sure how it didn’t at some point smack me in the face.  Well, there comes a time in everyone’s life I think where you must face the cold hard truth.  And for me it was a few months after I had my baby girl.

Even still, the full magnitude of the word Legacy didn’t do that whole SMACK ME IN THE FACE thing until the news of the Las Vegas shooting sent our country reeling.  When 9/11 happened, I did not yet have children of my own.  I never dreamed there would be another national tragedy that would change the very way that I look at the future and the world my children and grandchildren will live in.

After a whole lot of tears and shaking my head with disbelief, processing through anger that such a senseless crime affected so many innocent lives, I began to think about my own family. I thought about things like “Wow, what if I had gone to that concert and gotten shot, what would I have to leave behind for my children?” That makes sense, because we all want to leave our children better off when we leave this world. It’s such a heartbreaking thought that so many of those affected now have such a tragic piece to their family’s legacy.

Jason Aldean spoke about his pregnant wife and how he’s distressed about the world his children will grow up in.  I have to say that is why now more than ever LEGACY isn’t just a word to think about, it’s an idea to ponder.

Before I decided to devote my life to being a Christian I had a whole different take on legacy.  Exactly that, what money will I leave for my kids, maybe property and the story of their heritage? But now I realize legacy is so much deeper than that!  In these times, especially I want my legacy to be one of love, not hate.  I want my children to be able to live in a land where they don’t fear going outside or to special events.  If people just keep getting consumed with hate, we are not moving in the right direction. We have come too far to give up on the truth we know the Bible tells us.  LOVE WINS! It’s a little hard to believe when you watch the news, where all they do is report the negative and bad things that are happening in the world.  Sure, they mix in a little hope here and there but honestly its the reason I prefer not to watch the news.

I truly believe that evil is a force in this world that is very strong.  But there is One who is stronger and He is our Lord and Savior.  More than ever I am standing firm that if ANYTHING can conquer all, its God that can.  When it’s nearly impossible to find peace in the headlines or the words coming from the mouths of those around us, there is One undeniable place that we can go.   This is the legacy I want to share with my children and grandchildren, and I don’t want to just stop with my immediate family, because we are all in the family of God.

Recently I saw a post from a celebrity girl, Sadie Robertson, that was calling other girls to not be afraid to bring their Bibles to school. I thought it was cute that she even challenged them to coordinate their Bible with their outfit.  You can say what you want to about whether a Bible belongs in school or not but, I would love it if this idea would go viral.  Maybe one girl would see another girl with a “cute book that matches her outfit” and maybe she might like the confidence and kindness and peace she sees in the girl who caries it.  And maybe she might go and buy herself a cute Bible just because suddenly it’s the thing to do.  And just maybe one day she might sit and open that Bible and view it not as a fashion accessory but as a source of peace and truth for her as well.

I heard some backlash on this where people were saying what if she gets discriminated against for carrying a Bible.  If my daughter came to me and told me that other kids were picking on her because she carried a Bible, I think I would say two things.  The same thing any parent would say about any other issue;  You stand up for what you believe in.  And this.  There are some things that are worth fighting for.  I’m not talking about fist fighting or exchange of words here.  I’m talking about how from the very beginning followers of Christ did not have an easy path.  There were so many persecuted for their beliefs.  Even Peter denied he knew Christ because of fear.  There are places in the world where choosing to be a Christian is life threatening.  I think the beauty of it for me is that I know where I’m going, if I die young or I die old. I think of it this way: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew‬ ‭5:10‬ ‭NIV

So, if we look back at our legacy, it really starts there with a few people who believed and spread the word to others.  Look at what that legacy has become!  I am so blessed to have experienced the amazing Love and Grace of Jesus Christ.  Its so undeniable that I’d love to share how much my life and me personally have changed just by knowing Him.

As always I must give credit where credit is due for my blog title. In her words “You gave me everything you had, Ooh you gave me life.” WHAT A LEGACY!         Sarah Maclachlan – I Will Remember You

Speaking of Legacy, perhaps you’re curious about Ruth, the inspirational woman who’s name is cleverly imbedded in my title tRUTHful online. Read more about that inspiration and legacy here: Inspiration

Nothing Else Matters

So, if you’re like me you maybe spent longer than you’d like to admit trying to fit into someone else’s image of what beautiful is.  Or maybe every time you looked in the mirror you saw something different from what was actually there, because of what you thought society’s expectations were. Or maybe it wasn’t that obvious but you just felt inferior and couldn’t put a finger on why.

The realization that so many of my life’s strivings, so many of the things I anguished over and spent a RIDICULOUS amount of money and time on, don’t even matter.  I wish I  could go on a tour around the country and somehow reach (mostly) young girls who are already being unconsciously conditioned to think their looks define them.  If it wouldn’t be scary as all get out, I’d like to go up to each of them and tell them “Don’t spend your life comparing yourself to those figures you see on the TV screen and in magazines.  In the end, looks don’t matter!”  Maybe I feel that way because I wish someone would have done that for me.

If you understand what it means to be authentic, you know that it goes much deeper than what you see in the mirror.  However the superficial mask that I wore started with my self-image.  You see, somehow I got the idea that one of the worst things I could be would be to be ugly or over-weight.  It was an idea that was reinforced in my environment and consequently I found myself staring into a mirror and hating any fat I saw on my body.  I grew up in an era where fat was “out” from super models like Kate Moss, to Diet Coke and Rice Cakes!  Being a short girl and a late bloomer at that, I rarely remember looking in the mirror and ever being satisfied with what I saw.

I remember I dated a guy who was pretty open about the fact that the reason he looked at magazines like Penthouse or Playboy was because “I’ll never have a chance to be with a woman LIKE THAT.”  I wish I would have been raised to have enough self-esteem or self-worth to be able to hear a comment like that and not compare myself to the subject and come back with the understanding that I was less than.  But I did.  When I look back now at pictures of me when I was younger, I can now see a beautiful young woman, but at the time I was just trying to be something “better” or “more”, and of course a lot of it came down to being that way so that I could please others, not myself.

I never understood the concept of worth.  I didn’t have anyone sit me down and tell me that worth is far more than what you see when you look in the mirror. I remember styling my hair or choosing clothes to please people I was with.  I am so happy now when I hear people saying things like “I really want to get an undercut and fade cut in my hair but ‘Im afraid so and so wont like it” and the response is “But you would like it, right? Then who cares what so and so thinks anyway because its your hair”.  I mean if “so and so” doesn’t like you because you shave off part of your hair, then they clearly don’t like you for the right reasons.  Imagine if all your hair just fell out, would you be able to know without a doubt that that person would be right there beside you and going with you to your Drs appointments, even if you were cranky and in a bad mood and not any fun to be around?

Because at the end of the day THAT IS WHAT MATTERS. Those people that compare you to the airbrushed photos they see or tell you that wearing makeup is “false advertising” or who call you names, maybe even bully you for being different than what they have been conditioned to desire – those people aren’t going to define you.  Their cruel words or behavior do however define THEM. Why would you want to bend over backwards to please someone who would probably never treat you the way you deserve to be treated even if you somehow did fit their mold of perfection?  Because you don’t deserve that kind of conditional love.  You are beautiful exactly the way God created you, you are worthy and you deserve to be loved just like you are!

So, Moms especially, if you have boys, hear this.  Its our job to teach boys that women are not just beautiful when they are airbrushed and Photoshopped.  Start talking to boys about the true meaning of beauty.  See that expectant mom due any day standing in line at the supermarket? She’s beautiful.  The matriarch out for a walk on a cool morning   with laugh lines and a glimmer in her eye that can only come from wisdom and living a full life: she’s beautiful.   Maybe I’m doing something right because when my 11-year-old sees me applying makeup he tells me I’m wasting my time because I don’t need it, and I’m beautiful without it. Love that kid!

But don’t stop there! As women we have the unique ability to teach what beauty is in a more subtle way, by showing others that we love ourselves.  If you are critiquing your figure or hair in front of your daughter, she may decide to do the same thing to herself.  But if you say ” I feel so amazingly beautiful today’ (and do it when you are wearing yoga pants with your hair in a pony tail as often as when you are dressed up and have makeup on), then she will learn that beauty is not defined by what you are wearing or the size you fit into.  Try VERY VERY hard to not teach a girl her worth is in her beauty.  Society is already teaching her that.  It taught you that.  Why else would you be spending all that money on face cream and makeup primer? As a girl her first compliment will likely be “You’re so pretty” or “Your dress is so pretty”.  Start to point out to her the things that make her beautiful that don’t depend on her looks.

IMG_8015

It is said: “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”1 Peter‬ ‭3:3-4‬ ‭NIV‬‬ http://bible.com/111/1pe.3.3-4.niv

As much as I’d like to protect my daughter from the world that thinks differently, I know the best thing I can do is teach her that she is “Not of This World” and do my best to surround her and point her towards other woman and people who are like-minded.

So, in tRUTHful style, I have found a way to weave the words of a song into a message I hope you will consider the next time you look in the mirror.  “So close, no matter how far, couldn’t be much more from the heart, forever trust in who we are, and nothing else matters!” You are a beautiful child of God.  God is right there with you, no matter how far away He may seem at times; trust that you are His masterpiece and perfect EXACTLY the way you are! NOTHING.ELSE.MATTERS!

Listen here: Metallica – Nothing Else Matters

You Give Love A Bad Name

Shot through the heart, and you’re to blame, You give love a bad name (bad name)…
When I listen to that song I can just feel his anger, and that brings to mind a parallel idea. It’s become very obvious to me that as soon as many people hear the word “Christian” their reaction is one of disgust, anger, maybe even fear or hurt. Damaged by the church and now completely resistant to ANY Christians because of what some people did in the name of Jesus. Begin to mention your spirituality and they respond,”Nope, I know the likes of you and I’m not interested”.
So sad that this has all happened in what was supposed to be the name of Love!
     The Free dictionary defines Christian as an adjective: Manifesting the qualities or spirit of Jesus, especially in showing concern for others.
There’s also a definition that describes a Christian as: One who lives according to the teachings of Jesus. 
Jesus had a lot of teachings but I think the most basic is this:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
‭‭John‬ ‭13:34-35‬ ‭NIV‬‬ http://bible.com/111/jhn.13.34-35.niv
IMG_7794
photo credit Alexandria Bouillon http://alexandriabouillon.zenfolio.com/
But what if they can’t tell because they aren’t getting “LOVE” from you?  Can you blame them for not wanting to hear what you have to say?
     I overheard a conversation where two people were talking about how the world is so much worse now and how we are clearly in a bad time to be living. I was sitting there thinking that I am excited about the moves many people are making to love everyone regardless of their race, religion, sexual orientation or political philosophy.
Isn’t that what Jesus said to do?!?
If we really want to represent Christianity to others, we aren’t going to be successful by coming up with a long list of rules and judgementally wagging our fingers when we see people doing things that are different.
     It’s cliché now and people may laugh when they hear it, but I still like the adage “WWJD:What Would Jesus Do?”
 I mean, Jesus mixed with all sorts of people, shunned no one, welcomed everyone, labored tirelessly, and made the ultimate sacrifice. What a cool dude!
So, what’s wrong with displaying kindness, tolerance, and grace to others?
If anyone judges you for loving others that is their issue, NOT yours.
I mean, it’s not a club.  WE don’t get to decide who is worthy of salvation based on what WE think is right or wrong.  And representing Christianity that way makes it sound exclusive when its meant to be ALL INCLUSIVE!
     The great thing I think about being a follower of Christ for me is that gives me the freedom to love others without judging them. Why? Because it simply isn’t my job. Nope. And I recall a great quote by one of the greatest women to ever walk out Christianity, Mother Theresa, when she said,”If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”
I find this to be a very freeing concept.
What a great legacy to live and teach my children. I can think of no better compliment than if on my gravestone the words “Known for love” Were inscribed.
     If you want to look at it from a psychological standpoint, lets explore the idea of unconditional positive regard. What it means is that you respect the person as a human being and give them the same kind of dignity you would like to receive. Basically assuming that everyone you meet is likely fighting some sort of battle and give them the benefit of the doubt that they are doing the best they can with what they have. What most people want from us is just to be heard and understood.  They are probably dealing with their own internal thoughts and what they probably need more than anything is a smile. Not a solution such as “You need Jesus”  (interpreted as judgement) or a solution to their problem.
 As Christians, we are told “Love your neighbor”. And who is your neighbor?
EVERYONE is your neighbor.
     Being a Christian holds me to a higher standard than just liking people who are like me; that’s easy and anyone can do that. Personally, I find it enlightening when I take the time to look at something from a perspective different from my own, and gaining new understanding helps me to apply the concept of appreciating everyone, even if they do not think like I do. Finally I know my “job” as a Christian is to love others, and I leave the rest up to God.  I challenge you to do the same.
And because I know the song that inspired my title will put you in a good mood, check it out here: Bon Jovi – You Give Love A Bad Name
Photo Credit: Love One Another by Alexandria Bouillion http://alexandriabouillon.zenfolio.com/

I can see clearly now

Something that I never thought to do when I was younger was take some time to get out there and figure out who I was.  The reason why I never thought to do it is because I was so busy trying to be someone I thought I had to be; and that was an image of perfection that did not allow me the freedom to take time to make mistakes, explore different avenues, and decide which worldview I actually identified with. I think because it had been impressed in me that there was only one right way, and if I did not go that way, then I was wrong. Now, I am not blaming anyone for this.  I just was not exposed to the idea that it’s a lot better to find yourself before you go out chasing things: like relationships, in particular.

Like many others I have met, I was the type of person that had to fill my life up with so much stuff to do that I really did not have time to truly process many things that I really needed to deal with.  Now I know that was a defense that I had to protect myself from things that I thought were too painful to process.  I feel like a lot of other people out there very innocently felt, as I did, that if something bothers you or you don’t like it, you should avoid it.  I was a shy child and I did not get involved in lots of activities that involved social opportunities, for example, and I was not encouraged to step outside of my comfort zone so I could grow in this area.  I really regret not choosing more opportunities like this before my brain pruned all those pathways.

So, I just kept going and going and going continually filling all my waking hours with stuff and things to do.  I kept up this frantic pace for over 20 years, all the while not letting others in who perhaps wanted to help me, and basically feeling like I had to be in control of every aspect of my life.  This approach was taking its toll, all the while I was in complete denial that it was going on.  I had no idea how I looked to other people.  Then one day at work, a co-worker came up to me and said “I know you are going to think this is really weird, but God told me to give you this book.”  The book was a book about the Life of Mother Teresa.

image1(7)

Now, I knew who Mother Teresa was, kinda.  But I didn’t really know much about her or why someone would be giving me a book.  I took it home and looked at it and discovered that she was someone with a whole different way of looking at people than I had really ever experienced.  She said simple things that were somehow very profound. Things like:

“The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread”

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, than feed just one.”

“Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love”

She also talked about simple things like faith and trust.  Mind you prior to receiving this book, I had not exactly been on a path looking for salvation.  I suppose I felt like I believed in God and that was enough, even though the life I was living really did not reflect any of that. After my son was diagnosed with Autism I really felt like God must be punishing me or that I wasnt worthy, and that was the last straw for me pursuing my faith.

I’d like to say I got the book from my coworker and then “Ahhhhh” I saw the light and my life moved in a new direction. Basically it spoke to me that I must look pretty pathetic for someone I barely knew at the time to walk up to me and do that.   Actually, it took over 2 more years of this same coworker  constantly walking beside me and feeding into me before things really started to sink in.  What can I say, I am hard-headed! I warmed up to the idea that there might be something to this whole Love thing Mother Teresa  talked about but I was still trying to do it my way.

Then one day I walked in to work and we all discovered we were getting laid off.  It was if God was saying “Oh, you don’t want to be still?  Well here, I am going to give you that opportunity”.  And just like that I suddenly had time.  The next 3 years, even though I was pursuing my Masters in Counseling, I had considerably more time to think and just be.  I examined myself from angles Id never even considered before, and re-evaluated who I am, where I’m going and how my behavior affects others.

The result is so striking its like I am not even the same person anymore. Its like I stepped into a clearing and suddenly things are crystal clear.  I listen to songs that used to speak to me and I just think “Wow, I can cross that one off the soundtrack of my life now”! Kind of surreal, really, like I should be singing this song :I can see clearly now – Johnny Nash

Here’s what I discovered.  I needed time to discover who I am.  I spent over 20 years trying to fit myself into a mold that either did not fit, or denying the truth or things about me that made me who I am, because I either thought they were inferior or because I was in denial that they defined me.  I was totally freaked out when I lost all control of the ability to keep that charade going.  I found PEACE when I decided to let go and do the necessary work involved to become authentic.  The peace I found involved me surrendering my role of playing God in my own life and required me to trust that I was incapable of doing many things myself but with God I can do anything.

I will definitely strive to teach my children to do this much earlier in life than I did!  As they say, Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8:32). The back story of this blog is all about TRUTH! Read about it here: tRUTHful Inspiration