Celebrate the Beauty You ARE!

Wow, if this isn’t full circle. God has loved me back to life. I was beautiful at twenty (and didn’t know it), but feel even more so turning fourty. Why? Because of what I’ve been through. Who I’ve clung to. And, Who has never let go of me!

I started this blog off admitting and dealing with imperfection. I realize now that it’s in spite of our imperfections that our friends and family love us (or should), and it’s because of our imperfections that Jesus died for us. We can and should work on improvement, but perfection cannot be the goal. We’ll never make it.

It’s hard for me to take selfies. I do it, but it doesn’t come naturally to me. I don’t obsess over them or use a bunch of filters, I just struggle with flaunting external beauty. Maybe because of what I think of others who do or maybe just maybe because I want others to know there’s more to me. Ultimately, I need to know that myself. We all do.

I have no problem taking pictures of my daughters’ physical beauty because I already know there’s so much more…. I WANT to take my girlfriends pictures because I think they are absolutely stunning and I love them/you and I know there’s more. Maybe someone struggles like me and I’m here to help you! You are more. Your beauty is not just in how you look, but you needn’t shy away from your outer beauty either.

You are beautiful. How do I know? Because, God made you in His image. Your scars, your hurts, your fears, your insecurities, your story has made you even more so.

I love diversity. You are beautiful. The color of your skin, the size of your nose, the shape of your chin, the curves of your body. Made up or no makeup at all. The kids you’ve had, the surgeries you’ve been through. Beautiful.

How do I know?? I know because I know Your Creator. Not because your husband told you today, not because you got flowers last week, not because you have 3000 friends on Facebook. Because, Jesus Christ died for you.

We were His last physical creation. After God created woman, He took a rest. I imagine a cowboy throwing up his hands after roping a calf. Done! This is my most beautiful! Phew!

So, celebrate your beauty. Know that you ARE beauty, you don’t just have beauty. Smile, and know that He is with you. That He loves you. That He made you. So how could you not be? So smile and say Jesus loves meeee! <click>

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Always a Risk…

A calculated risk is still a risk…One thing I’ve learned in the medical field is that we can only do so much when it comes to prevention. We can and should do what we can do, but nothing guarantees we won’t be born with a congenital defect, have a heart attack, arrhythmia, or cancer.

We’ve all heard the stories about people who contract lung cancer having never smoked a day in their lives and about the women diagnosed with breast cancer and absolutely no family history. I’ve personally scanned multiple young healthy patients who have had heart attacks. They exercise every day, maintain a healthy weight, eat clean, yet still…I’ve also scanned the 500 pound smoker who’s heart is as healthy as can be.

We should do everything we can as far as preventive screening and healthy living to avoid and promote what we can. But, just like every time we drive a car, we risk getting into a wreck. Every time we fly in a plane, we risk crashing. Every time we change jobs, we risk not liking it like we’d hoped. The same goes for relationships and marriage. They both run the risk of break up and divorce.

This is not intended to be morbid post, but a truthful one. I’ve also learned that although we can never be a perfect spouse, we can be a GREAT one and still get left. Our spouse can die unexpectedly or our own lives can get cut short. Because of this, do what you can in the process of picking a mate, pray fervently, ask for God’s help, make your list, be true to what you want and don’t want, and then try and trust. Trust that if the break up comes before marriage, He’s watching out for you and if it comes after, He’s still beside you. Yes, there’s risk, but you’ll never know unless you try and fly.

So, eat your veggies, stay away from tobacco, limit your alcohol, watch your weight, wear your sunscreen and your seatbelts, get your mammograms and teeth cleaned, lock your doors at night, and give that guy a try. The one who fits. The one who has what you’re looking for, but you’re too afraid to try or what people might think. Know that every relationship, romantic and otherwise, is a risk we have to be willing to take. Truth is, we can’t experience love without potential heartbreak.

The more I learn about relationships, the more proud I am of the risks I’ve taken. I’ve tried, I’ve lost, I’ve learned, I’ve let go, and I’ve tried again. There’s so much to be said for perseverance, patience, and priorities. It takes a lot of courage to get back up on that horse after getting bucked off, especially multiple times. But, you’ll have to get back on in order to ride off into the sunset one day…

What Have You Gained?

When we lose something, it hurts. Transition is hard. And, change is never easy. But, when we look again or look back, we can see what we’ve gained.

I suffered great loss with my divorce. Looking back now, I can see what I’ve gained after it. A closer relationship with Jesus and mounds of wisdom from the pain. I got to move back to my hometown and live close to family. My girls also get to attend church school. Neither of these would have been possible if we’d stayed married. I not only get to attend the church of my childhood, but also serve as a women’s ministry leader there. I also gained this blog as a source of healing, sharing, and connecting. Such an honor and privilege. All precious gains from a devastating loss.

Fast forward five years. This spring I lost a relationship that I thought was “the one”. He was recommended by friends, we knew many of the same people, similar church backgrounds, said he was looking for someone just like me. It ended, when that changed. Another heart wrenching, confusing loss.

Since then, what have I gained? Home renovations, a new job, a new puppy, a new sense of me and what I need in a relationship, a renewed set of standards, a whole new appreciation for a loving, honest, caring, consistent, family-focused, attentive man. Yet another opportunity to be with this type of man. A sense of pride for trying and a sense of humility for sharing. All gains from another bewildering loss.

Last night, my daughters started a conversation with me about how much they both wish I had a boyfriend/husband. They want this for me, even after all we’ve been through. They have both been open and accepting of each one of my relationships. By God’s grace, never rude or unwelcoming. Rather, hopeful.

My oldest daughter told me she just wants me to be honest with her. I confided in her that I don’t open up to her as much as she’d probably like because I want to protect her. I explained that I don’t want to get her hopes up or down anymore. Still, she insisted, just as I would with her in the same situation. So, last night we had a good honest talk. She agrees wholeheartedly with what I’m looking for and why it hasn’t worked out yet. She understands so much more than I give her credit for. She asked me to be honest with her, just like I’d want her to be with me in her dating years….I consider that conversation a huge gain and a blessing after multiple losses.

Dating in front of kids is HARD, but, I’m learning it can also be a tremendous learning tool. They know I have standards, the same standards I’d want for them. When the time is right, I’ll find the courage to choose love. But, I’ll need them met first. In the meantime, I will focus on my gains, opportunities, and adventures.

With GOD there is always a gain in the loss. It might be finding strength you didn’t know you had, it might be new friends, it might be more money, it might be more time, it might be more help, but it will always be more of Him. He wants to fill every void in our lives. With Him, we can trust that each loss still has His goodness written all over it.

The next time you lose something or someone, ask yourself “But, what have I gained?” Oh, how He loves…

 

Layer by Layer

We get to know a person better over time, because we see their layers. Like an onion before you, they peel back layer by layer. How they act when they’re mad, sad, happy, scared, lonely and what gets them that way….We learn what they prioritize, what they don’t, what they’ve been through, what they’ve learned, and what they struggle with. All layers.

When we are born, we have only the layers applied by our genetic DNA. These layers may predisposition us towards certain behaviors, but circumstances haven’t happened yet. Brand new, clean slate, fully loved, and fully open to our Creator. The One who loved us and knitted us together in our mother’s womb (Psalms 139:13). Then, life starts. Bumps, bruises, brokenness, betrayals. Layers are added one by one. Individual and personal like our unique fingerprints, these layers are added to our cores. Our innocence, openness, and view of the world around us changes.

The way I see it, the world adds layers and the Lord longs to remove and replace them with His blessed layers of grace, love, and peace. The devil wants us weighed down and covered in fear, anger, and hurt over the layers added by ourselves and others. Ask God daily to remove what needs to go and replace what He wants us to have.

I also think that the layers that bring the most tears and are the hardest to pull back, bring the sweetest relief and relationship with our Savior. Only God can turn our most bitter onion layer into our dark chocolate or raspberry layer. A layer we wouldn’t trade because it drew us to Him and keeps pointing us back to Him. Our hardest layers become our sweetest layers. Because we bring it to the Light and let God in, our relationship deepens. He wants us aware that we are just as fully loved with our layers as we were fresh from the wombs. Then, His replacement work starts…

Like the prodigal son’s return, each layer that we ask God to remove brings Him enormous pleasure because we are that much closer to Him. The relief and joy it brings us pales in comparison to His excitement for asking Him in. He already knows each layer, it’s up to us to come before Him, allow Him in, and ask for His help. He wants us at our cores before Him. That was His plan since the Garden of Eden. It wasn’t until sin entered in, that Adam and Eve felt any need to cover themselves with leaves…layers.

When someone gets to know me, may my layers of pain and shame be a testimony to God’s redemptive power. May He get the glory for replacing those layers with His own. And, may God continue to peel away what is keeping me from being as close to Him as I can be. Bosom to bosom, heart to heart.

 

My Teeth!

I have some strange physical ailments. My family and I laugh about it and wonder why?? Inevitably, when the next one pops up, I get a response something along the lines of “Oh, that makes sense, because it’s you.” And, I agree. It’s very strange stuff.

For one, I was diagnosed with degenerative discs in college. No injury, no rhyme or reason, just debilitating back pain that led to MRI after MRI and pain to the point of assuming the fetal position many weekends and crawling to the bathroom. Not pretty. Not conducive to working, wife(ing), or mommy(ing). After many physical therapy regimens, consistent muscle relaxers, and multiple epidural pain injections, I opted for a laser discectomy to relieve an impinged nerve. Since then, my pain has subsided. I occasionally have an issue, but for the most part, it doesn’t affect me much anymore.

I have a cluster of lipomas behind my right knee. No idea why. No rhyme or reason. I get asked what they are and I wish I had some great answer, like a vicious dog bite or 3rd degree burn scar, but no. Just, fatty tumors right there. I’m just thankful they aren’t malignant and chose to form behind my knee and not on my face. But, still, odd.

I could go on and on…

The enamel on my teeth is thinning. So much so, that I’ve had dentists ask me if I’m bulimic or a competitive swimmer because of it. Nope. Once again no rhyme or reason. Currently, my dentist is putting together his case (for the third time) to request medically necessary veneers from my insurance company. Veneers are rarely covered by insurance because they are considered cosmetic. But, he says, for MY teeth, veneers would just get them back to “normal thickness”. The enamel is too thin and nothing else is helping. My teeth are so sensitive, that even air affects them. I’m known for my beautiful (Julia Roberts) smile. I value it. I share it. I’m thankful my teeth look good. But, they don’t feel good.

This morning, while my hygienist was cleaning my teeth with the aid of my usual nitrous oxide, a tear slid down my cheek. Once again, I wondered why? Why do I have this strange disorder too? And, then I was reminded, that the way someone looks on the outside may cover many imperfections. Are we willing to own them? Are we willing to let someone know so they can love us, imperfections and all? Can we look beyond looks?

You never know what someone may be too embarrassed or fearful to share about themselves. Emotionally, physically, or mentally. We all have stuff.

A pretty smile doesn’t mean perfection. Actually, it never does. But, to smile, knowing we are flawed and loved in spite of it is as close to perfect as it gets to me.

…But I won’t do that.

There are many things I would compromise on, but feeling loved is not one of them. My experiences have brought me to the point and realization that words fall short. If I don’t feel loved by a person, their words are just that, words.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  1 Corinthians 13:1-2 (NIV)

Looking back, It’s the same with my relationship with Jesus, it wasn’t until I felt His love for myself, that I could believe it. Once I believed it, I built my life around it. This is where transformation comes in. When His love washes over us and we realize He’s been waiting and pursuing us all along, our hearts are drawn to Him. It’s in these moments, that we worship in tears and awe, sometimes even speechless.

So, when it comes to my future husband, I will compromise. But, I will not settle. To settle would be to commit my life to a man that I’m not sure loves me. To quote Meat Loaf, “I would do anything for love…but I won’t do that.”

I questioned my ex-husband’s love for the 10 years we were together. I will not do that again. One thing I ask the Lord to provide most of all, is a deep sense of assurance. A love I can rest in. A love I can be myself with. A love I can be emotional with. A love I can be honest with. A love I don’t ever question. A love like His. Everything else comes and goes. If we find this kind of love on this earth, romantic or otherwise, cling to it and thank God for it. It’s a love from Him.