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.

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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

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.

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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

 

 

Give me something to believe in

Recently I was told that Christians are weak and that’s why they need religion.  ABSOLUTELY!  I think I was supposed to be offended by the comment, but I found it very relatable.  I could totally relate to this perspective because of a song I listened to frequently in my angry youth days from the album Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette.  The song is called Forgiven. The lyrics I’m referring to are: “We all had our reasons to be there, We all had a thing or two to learn, we all needed something to cling to, so we did.”

You know, I realize not everyone participates in worshipping a religion, but I feel like especially in our culture, there are many idols that are worshipped  or things that people hold onto because they need strength.  And I’m not here to pass judgement.  I am just sooo grateful that I stumbled upon the community of believers that I did who recognize that people have TOTALLY been wounded by the church (as Alanis implies in her song) and that’s probably the number one reason why people turn away from it.  Some never come back.  People like me took a 20 year hiatus ( you can read about why here: Burnt Buttermilk Biscuit) But the community I belong to does not see a problem with weakness.  There is no expectation that after you attend for a while you will be transformed into someone who doesn’t sin.

On the contrary, they are a group of “meet me where I am” Christians who will walk with me through my valleys and hills as long as necessary.

To be honest I didn’t believe that people like this really existed. I was accustomed to feeling like nothing I could do was good enough and there was a long list of things keeping me from getting into Heaven. Then one day I took a chance, went to a service and heard this song: Mandisa – Not Guilty . I remember sitting there with goosebumps thinking “What?! Why haven’t I heard this perspective? People want to love me even if I’m so flawed? They aren’t just gonna tell me I’m going to Hell and I need Jesus?!”

And let me tell you, when I showed up on the scene, I was one hot mess! Like the song title used for this blog, you could almost hear me scream, Give me something to believe in!” But, I grew up not having been taught that it was ok to show weakness.  Serving in the military probably did not help with that concept either. I thought like so many people do, that no-one would like me if they knew all my flaws.

I am very thankful for other people I’ve met in my life who called me out on my BS.  One such friend told me straight up that talking about myself like I had no weakness made me sound like a total snob.  OUCH!  But I needed to hear that. A manager took me aside and told me if I wanted a promotion I needed to be seen as someone who was not so ominous!  Let me tell you that really slapped me in the face too!  But you know what, I had a thick shield built all around me at that point in my life.  I can totally see how that could make me look ominous!

Ideas like that set me down the road to discovering myself, getting out of denial and being VULNERABLE!

If I hadn’t gotten laid off in 2014 and decided to pursue my calling (to be a counselor) I never would have done the work it takes to truly understand just what it means to be vulnerable.  In my program I repeatedly had to put myself under a microscope and not only list my flaws, but explain the conceptualization for them and how they affect me and others.  Hands down BEST thing I ever had to do.  Some people would just call this taking a personal inventory.  I feel like this is so important because it’s not very likely that I could begin to feel safe being vulnerable if I did not have an awareness of who I am.

When I think about how long it took me to get to this stage in my life, I just want to scream it from the rooftops to younger women out there to do the hard work it takes to discover who you are, including your weaknesses.  It’s ironic that God used some of the very things I thought were my weaknesses to help me discover who I really am!

Inspiration:

Something to believe in – Poison

Forgiven – Alanis MorissetteIMG_7264

Taste and See

I was shopping at Mardel the other day. It’s typically a place I go to for some much needed solitude in my chaotic life. It’s like when I walk in the door I just feel peace. I can almost hear the “Ahhhh” resonate within me as I enter. And oddly enough I often hear a song over the loud speakers in there that feels like a direct connection to Heaven; it’s kind of surreal when that happens! During a difficult period of my life after my divorce, the song Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) by Hillsong United (check it out here: https://youtu.be/dy9nwe9_xzw ) would play at just the right time, not just at Mardel, but on the radio and when I visited a church over a thousand miles from my home!  I figured God was trying to tell me something, and it turns out he was! I got through that rough patch in my life not by my own strength, but by persistently holding on to my Faith.

Anyway, when I walked in yesterday I realize the store was under renovation and it wasn’t the usual quiet place I go to for solitude. Jack hammers and pounding replaced the usual calm atmosphere. The total layout of the store seemed to have changed also. How strange that even amidst all that construction noise I still begin to feel the same feeling of peace that I treasure when I go there!
So I was looking around trying to find gifts to put in my daughter’s time capsule for her first birthday, thinking about things that when she is 18 years old will speak to her about her future.
I really got very introspective about the woman that she will become and how I’m going to help her develop her spirituality and identity as a woman.
I thought about the innocence of a child and how adults expose children to faith.
Then, I thought about my own experiences with learning what religion was all about.
Then I saw it….

taste

The entire verse of Psalm 34:8 reads: Taste and See that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him (NIV).

When I saw this bag I thought “how perfect?!” I mean, isn’t that exactly what we do? We give our kids a taste of what religion is. Depending on how we present it to them, that taste can be sweet, sour maybe even bitter depending on the flavor we add. I mean, will they even want to taste it if it’s presented to them in such a way? Or are we figuratively or literally cramming it down their throats while screaming “Do as I say but not as I do?”Maybe, just maybe it can be something they savor and want to taste again and again and achieve what this verse suggests, taking refuge in the kingdom of God because we know its going to be soooo good!

spices

If you are just joining my blog, here’s the back story. tRUTHful is a blog inspired by the biblical character Ruth, being one of only 2 woman who have books named after them in the old testament.  My desire is to inspire and connect with other people interested in cultivating authenticity and character by the way we lead our lives.

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