Monday, December 22, 2014

And We Think Our Christmas Presents are Cool

Hi there! It's getting closer to Christmas, which for me means a fire going constantly, shiny things everywhere I look, a house that smells unendingly of caramel, and the constant knowledge that "the snow glows white on the mountain tonight" all night, every night; in fact, it's snowing now. :) It also means I spend way too much time digging for the right change so I can, you know, pay for the Christmas presents I'm buying my three siblings and my parents, and waaaaay too much time wondering frantically if they'll like it. Pride point: I can get some pretty cool Christmas presents. Every once in a while, I'll pick something out and I just know it's what my sister never knew she always wanted. I have a couple of those this year; I'm just waiting for Thursday to confirm my suspicion.
Christmastime is all about gifts. I know in church, we always focus a lot on God's "ultimate" gift-Jesus. Not going to lie, he really is the gift none of us knew we all so desperately needed. But in this post, I actually want to focus on another gift, one that is indescribably precious, that only God could have ever thought of and created:
Yes, you. Whether you believe me when I say it or not, you are a gift. Your unique and individual beauty is a gift. We are all immeasurably precious to God, all indescribably beautiful in his eyes. He has designed you exactly the way he wanted you, and he gave you your beauty as a gift, as a measure of how much he loves you.
We as humans don't do that. Instead of giving beauty we give beauty products. Instead of giving life we give suggestions on how to make life better. But the more I've thought about it, the more I've realised that no matter how shiny they are it isn't the presents that make Christmas beautiful; it's the look on my sister's face when she pulls the wrapping off and is excited not even because of what's inside but just at the thought that I got her something. It's my family sitting together at a table and eating the best caramel-cinnamon roles ever to exist and not so much enjoying our food, but each other's company. It's knowing that God gave us his Son so that we would have a chance to experience this kind of joy.
Have you ever watched little kids on Christmas morning? As I've seen it, they'll respond to Christmas in one of two ways. Either they think Santa brings everyone presents and their face lights up when they see what "Santa" brought them, or they've helped choose presents for mom and dad and maybe siblings too, and they are full of uncontainable anticipation because they want their mom to see what they've gotten her and they’re so excited to see her smile and be happy. This is the beauty of gifts, to experience a kind of gratitude and elation at knowing someone has cared enough about us to give us something special, and at being able to give something back to them.
Why should beauty be any different? Every day when you look in the mirror, you are experiencing the gift God has chosen specifically for you because He loves you. Do you feel that elation? Or do you feel dissatisfied, feel like you have to find your concealer and your mascara and you have to repaint your face into what you think it ought to be? Perhaps even more importantly, do you allow others to share in it? Will you share with them your smile, your voice, the time you would otherwise have spent in front of the mirror? Will you share with them your inner beauty: your compassion, your kindness, your passions, you joys? Beauty is a gift. Do you treat it as one?
I know I don't, more often than I really care to admit. Even on the occasions when I wear make-up, I never feel like it's "right", like I measure up. People offer me compliments and I brush them aside. I actively avoid people some days because I'm too wrapped up in my selfish musings about my appearance to give them the only thing they've ever asked of me: time. A person to talk to, a shoulder to cry on. Someone to give them a hug and stroke their hair and offer what some of them have never truly received--love. Every single one of us can give that whether or not your eyeliner is magazine-worthy, whether or not you feel like you look halfway-decent. Sometimes, I think the biggest thing that keeps us from being beautiful is the time spent trying to make ourselves pretty. Never once did God use "pretty" to describe a person in the Bible.
“You are altogether beautiful, my darling, 
and there is no blemish in you."
                                                       -Song of Solomon 4:7 NASB
Not "you look pretty today". "You are altogether beautiful". The New Living Translation says "You are altogether beautiful, my darling, beautiful in every way". As you're wrapping presents, maybe finishing up your Christmas shopping, think about this. And when you're giving and receiving presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day or whatever your family tradition is, remember that you have a gift no one can measure. Beauty is a gift. Will you treat it as one?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Drama people are weird. Any of you who have ever met one ought to know. I left Thursday morning for Colorado's Thespian Conference, which basically means three days of hanging out with some of the weirdest people I know. Between then and now, here's what went down.

  • My choir teacher said she really can't picture me in black leather. 
  • I apparently can't count. Turns out eight comes after seven. 
  • I got lost trying to find the bathroom I'd walked right past three times. 
  • One of my best friends tried to get herself run over in the Target parking lot because she was picking up a penny. 
  • I tried to get myself run over yelling at her for trying to get herself run over. 
  • Did you hear about the man who lost his whole left side in a car crash? Don't worry; he's alright now. (If you don't get this, try reading it out loud.) 
  • I learned to beat people up. 
  • The aforementioned friend tried to convince me to go to the thirteenth floor of our hotel at midnight tonight. Something about defying her triskaidekaphobia. 
  • My other friends were traumatised by a greaser. 
  • I wrote the first and last scene of a play in under ten minutes. 
  • I turned around and yelled at a girl I don't even know for getting a song stuck in my head. She then proceeded to compliment my VeggieTales backpack. 
  • I skipped through the streets singing "Under the Sea" with my drama buddies. 
  • I'm sitting in a Mexican restaurant typing a post and watching my friends "salsa dance".
My friend Savannah, doing the "salsa dance"
  • I was just asked if I wanted sugar with my chips. 
  • The girl sitting next to me (another friend) turned up her hat. I told her it was the most attractive look I'd seen all day and her face made me laugh. Turns out, Chile rellano doesn't go well down the windpipe. 
  • I tried to salute my drama teacher and hit myself in the eye. 

  • Got up at 6:45 to work out. Any day where I burn 200 calories before breakfast has to have something good in it.
  • Swing dancing is the bomb.
  • I have skills. Try this: overloaded Subway sandwich in one hand, cup in the other, having a texting conversation and walking down a crowded street.
  • CHOCOLATE!!!!!!!!!
  • Just watched a girl do a cross-body cartwheel. Never going to learn to do that without killing myself.
  • Actually learned to salsa dance. Seriously fun. Anyone else ever tried this?
  • From left to right, my friend Jordan, Brittany (the one who tried to get herself run over) and, of course, me. We are in the theatre at the Denver Convention Centre getting ready to watch a play.
  • Les Miserables is the best musical ever. Watched it for the first time. Oh. My. Gosh. It was beautiful.
  • Didn't go to bed until 1 am. What was I saying about not needing sleep?
  • Totally did not get up for a workout. Don't tell my dance teacher.
  • Tried the same thing as yesterday, but with a Chipotle burrito. Bad life choice.
  • Book shops are my best friend. Found a Mary Higgins Clark thriller for $4. Score!
  • Does anyone here know what slam poetry is? (It's great.)
  • Our bus was 45 minutes late picking us up. Yay.
  • Ate Chick-fil-a for the first time ever. I love chicken.
  • My mom became a secret agent.
  • I just taught my sister how to mop the floor.
All in all, it was a fantastic weekend. How about everyone else? What kind of weird/interesting/super-exciting things have you done recently?

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Sleep is Optional

No, this isn't actually my philosophy on life, and I don't recommend taking this approach. Any one of my friends could testify that I am always complaining about how inconvenient it is that human beings need sleep, but since we do, I try to get what I need. This, however, doesn't always happen. Let me outline my week for you:

SUNDAY: woke up at 7am, showered for church. Went to church. Came home. Finished a psychology project that wouldn't save right; didn't get in bed until midnight.
MONDAY: 5:15 I was up for daily devotions and left my house for school at 6:50. The school bell rings at 15:07. I cleaned up my seventh hour room (my seventh hour is a cadet block in which I have the opportunity to teach a sophmore English class). Found my dad, got food, went down for a dress rehearsal of our high school's fall musical, Annie. Left my school around 21:45, home by 22:30 (allowing for snow), homework, went to bed 23:30ish.
TUESDAY: same basic routine, except a little bit later getting home and getting into bed. By this point, I was thoroughly exhausted. This is roughly how the last three weeks of my life have been, which explains why it's been so long since I've blogged. Sorry.
WEDNESDAY: first performance! Up at five, left at 6:30. at the school, costumes, makeup, the whole shebang. Exhausting but enjoyable performance, cast pictures afterward. Around 14 I crashed in my drama teacher's room with Hairspray playing in the background. Speech and debate practice afterward, then--miracle of miracles--I went home! Ate dinner with my family, got in bed by 20, it was great.
THURSDAY: same morning routine as Monday and Tuesday. After school, I hung around with some friends, ate dinner, and headed down to drama at 17. Opening night was great, left the school at 22:23, in bed late.
FRIDAY: same as the day before but got home slightly earlier. Babysat my English teacher's overly energetic 5-year-old daughter after school, which was exhausting but amusing, as she "taught" my friend Alex to dance. Suffice it to say he'll never be a ballerina. :)
SATURDAY: today. Dragged myself up at 10:04 because my family was having breakfast. Currently, I'm sitting at my computer in my pyjamas writing a blog post and composing a cryptogram for my music theory class. My brother is home from college, my grandparents are here, we're officially on Thanksgiving break, and my sister Sage is cutting my youngest sister's hair. We have one more performance tonight and then I'll never sing "Tomorrow" again. :)

Needless to say, I've been busy. That's where the "sleep is optional" idea comes in. But there's another thing that has kind of become "optional" over the last few weeks: time with God.
Compare how much time you spend with God vs how much time you spend looking in the mirror. For me this usually isn't a problem, but that's because I don't spend any time looking in the mirror, not because I spend lots of time with God. When we get busy, it's super easy to consider that makeup and mirror time are mandatory, but time with God is the first to go. It's almost an automatic reaction.
I'm not going to challenge you to document your mirror time and your devotion time. But it's something to think about. Sometimes, it's okay to just drag a brush through your hair and leave it at that. Makeup is not a must. And unless you're planning on joining a musical, leave the drama to the professionals and try talking to God instead of the mirror.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Outfit | Flashback Forties

Or, How I Finally Learned to be Smarter than the Camera.

That is, of course, me you see below. I've posted pictures of myself once before and will probably do so again. I dislike taking pictures of myself, nor do I particularly care for posting them online, but I'm learning to get over that by trying out unusual camera angles and trying to capture my own unique sense of style. Sometime, I'm going to need to share one of my super-snazzy scarf ensembles because I love my scarves. :)

The Outfit
I wore this outfit to church today and I enjoyed it immensely. I've actually had this skirt for a while but never worn it because I simply couldn't find a top that matched. I finally picked this white short-sleeve up at Goodwill a week or two ago. Pretty sure the skirt was a hand-me-down from a friend. Hat as well.

This is the "flashback forties" part. This style of outfit-skirt and looser shirt pulled in at the waist with a wide belt-is very forties. It's probably my favourite way to wear skirts; it's classy, stylish, and cute, but at the same time just unusual enough for people to notice. You'll see in all of my outfit posts (I'll try to put one up at least once a month just for fun) that my sense of style tends to be a little bit quirky.                                                                             You can almost see my necklace in this shot. It's a small gold cross-gift from a friend-worn to match small gold earrings. You can't see in these pictures, but I'm also wearing a brown corral anklet and simple black leather flip-flops.

I took all of these pictures on the deck outside of my house, so you can see the trees in the background. These two shots were actually taken in the same place, but I used different photo-editing techniques to improve the effects of the sunlight behind me (it was around 4:00 when I took them, and the sun was starting to set). I couldn't decide which one I liked better, so I put them both in. I like to call this my "contemplative" pose. Or I'm talking to myself. Whichever you prefer to believe. :)

The Camera
In my last post, I made the comment that I am "photo-clueless", and that's pretty much true. I can't work a camera to save my life. But I discovered something the other day when I was glaring at my camera and wondering why it wouldn't do what I wanted: I have a flash-timer.
I don't actually know if that's what you call it, but it's the fancy little timer thing that you set for ten seconds or whatever so you can run around, get in front of the camera, and pose. Super-cool, right? Yeah, so I have one of those, and I used it, and now I look extremely self-absorbed because I have two dozen pictures of myself on my camera. I then pulled my favourites into my computer to edit. I had planned to use Adobe Photoshop to edit my pictures, but my Windows 8 computer doesn't have it, so I pulled the pictures into PowerPoint and edited them that way. Seriously, you would be surprised what you can do with basic Microsoft tools. I didn't do anything major; just to alleviate some of the problems I was having with the light.

Here I am again. You see the lighting problems. For future reference, I don't do any editing with relation to how I actually appear in the pictures; just to make sure you can see me. I'm wearing very minimal make-up in this shot-mascara and a little bit of gold eyeshadow to emphasise the simple gold of the jewellery I was wearing. The way you see me is the way I am, and I will be totally honest and open about that fact.
This is a long post, and since I'm writing it with the Fellowship of the Ring Original Movie Soundtrack playing in the background, I'll leave you with this:
"I sang of leaves, of leaves of gold, and leaves of gold there grew:
Of wind I sang, a wind there came and in the branches blew.
Beyond the Sun, beyond the Moon, the foam was on the Sea,
And by the strand of Ilmarin there grew a Golden Tree."
-from Galadriel's song of Eldamar, The Fellowship of the Rings, JRR Tolkien


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Checking In

Hey, there!
So, I had really great plans to share one of my outfits with you this week because it was a great outfit and I was really excited about it, but two things happened.

1) I could NOT get a good picture of it! I tried everything I could think of, but it never came out looking right. If anyone who reads this knows anything about photography, leave me a tip because I am photo-clueless.

2) I discovered something very interesting. I was talking today with a friend who reads my blog, and she became very, very confused when I mentioned that I don't have Facebook. "But I see your posts on Facebook," she said. At which point, I became very, VERY confused because I don't have a Facebook and have never posted anything on there. Which means that someone is taking my posts and putting them up on Facebook.
If this is you, I would really appreciate it if you would tell me who you are and what you're doing with my posts. I didn't know this was happening and I would really like to know what is being done with my posts. Thank you.

For the rest of you: has anyone else been seeing my posts on Facebook? And again, that photography thing. Help!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Thanks, Siri; I Love You, Too

Me: Siri, do you love me?
Siri: you're looking for love in all the wrong places

No joke; this actually happened. It was possibly the most hysterical moment of my week, and I immediately decided to share it with you all. Aside from being funny, I think Siri actually has a very excellent point: we're looking for love in all the wrong places.
I don't like Siri. We are not now and never will be friends. But--for possibly the first and last time in my life--Siri said something that I agree with.
"Looking for love" is a phrase most of us have heard from one place or another, and it's very relevant and very true. We, as young women, often spend a lot of time looking for love.
The word "love" has always fascinated me. I speak a fair amount of French in addition to English, and I've always found this to be interesting: to say "I love this dress", I would say "j'aime cette robe", using the word "aimer" meaning "to like". To say "I love you", however, I would most likely use the word "adorer", meaning to love. Two different words in French, but the same English word covers it all.
In Greek, there are actually four different forms of the word "love": eros, storge, phileo, and agape. Each word means something different. I'm not going to go into all of that right now, but you can look it up if you want. But consider this: if they went through all the trouble to have four completely separate words, the concept of love must mean a lot to them. What does it then say about our culture that "I love you" and "I love pizza" both use the exact same word?
Looking for love is dangerous. I know, I've tried. All it does is turn your life into one gigantic mess, and I know that for a fact, but I continue to do it. Why?
Maybe because I'm human, or maybe because I'm just extraordinarily dumb; you can offer your opinion on that later. :) But I think the key may lie in this verse:
"Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field;
do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires."
-Song of Solomon 2:7
You know the theory that sometimes it's better if you don't know what you're missing? Maybe whoever made that up was on to something. I never really went "looking for love" until that first encounter. Was it love? No. But the point stands that until that time, I was content, and now I sometimes find myself trying to attract attention because I'm no longer satisfied with where I am.
Don't get me wrong; I'm currently single and I have every intention of staying that way. My goal is to make it through all of high school without once being actually asked on a date. I like being single. But people--and especially, I think, women--are created with a unique need to feel loved. But if we go looking for it, we're not going to find "love". We're just going to end up getting hurt.
If you're my age and you're not "single", please don't feel like I'm trying to tell you that you're all wrong and you should dump him here and now. But I encourage everyone--myself included--to analyse our relationships and our behaviour, and see if we really are trusting God to bring the right person to the right place at the right time. It's hard. We all struggle. I've been told it's worth it; anyone feel like testing that with me?

What do you think? Do you find yourself "looking for love" sometimes? Do you think waiting is worth it? Why?


Saturday, September 27, 2014

What We See (and What we Don't) Part Two

So, I noticed something when I got onto a different computer to check the comments yesterday: the image in my last post doesn't always show up. I don't know why that happens, but I now know that this was the case; sorry about that. I think it has something to do with the file format of the picture. I'll try to avoid that for future posts. :)
At any rate, I hope these pictures show up. 
This is the picture I posted earlier this week. One of my friends thought they looked like candles burning in the dark. I still think of falling stars. Would it surprise you to know that this picture
is the same as this picture

is the same as this picture?

 This is a screenshot of the weather forecast on my iPhone. I cropped out everything but the raindrops on the sides (which is the picture above) and--using only the photo-shopping options available on my phone--turned it into the first picture you saw. Pretty cool, huh?

Yes, I promise there is a point to this, other than showing off my super-iPhone photo-shopping skills. :) You see with these pictures how easy it is to make something look like something it's not. You don't need an iPhone to do it, either. We do this every day. Think about it: have you ever been lying in bed on a Sunday morning and really not wanted to go to church, but you made yourself get up just so you wouldn't look bad to the other people at church? I, as the eldest daughter of our youth pastor, feel this way all the time. No, I'm not actually "photo-shopping" anything, but it's the same concept: manipulating something to make it seem like something it isn't. I'm trying to make myself look like a "better Christian" even though my attitude is all wrong.
We do this with beauty, too. I have always had trouble shopping for clothes with my mom, because she'll tell me something looks great in the store, but then I wear it and I feel like she always tells me there's something wrong with it, but she waits until after I buy it. I'm sure some of you feel the same. Have you ever complained to your friends about how strict your parents are--about modesty, about dating, about anything? I know I have. Sometimes, I even complain about decisions that I agree with-the jeans are too tight, the shirt is too low, etc. This is also "photo-shopping".
Everyone photo-shops. Wearing make-up is photo-shopping. Inventing a boyfriend so we don't look so alone is photo-shopping. Gossip is photo-shopping. And the purpose of much of this is to make you, the average Christian girl, look and feel inferior. "I have a purity pledge" becomes "she just can't get a boyfriend". "I don't wear make-up" becomes "she's so sheltered she doesn't even know what make-up is". "I dress modestly" becomes "she doesn't know what's cool". Don't buy it.
Our biggest challenge with this is to look through the photo-shopping to what's really there. I see girls every day who walk around with a boyfriend on their arm, wearing immodest outfits and layers of make-up, and they treat me like I'm inferior, but when I look past all of that, I see girls who are insecure and scared because the world has told them that their worth comes from having a boyfriend and looking "sexy". They're photo-shopping their lives to make themselves look and feel better, and most of them don't even realise it.
As Christian girls, we need to fight against this trap. Christ is the freedom we all desperately need, and He will use us to bring it to everyone, including the people we go to school and work with every day. But first, we need to see--as they do--that photo-shopping is better left for the iPhone.

Monday, September 22, 2014

What We See (and What we Don't)


Can anyone tell me what this picture is? I know it's a little bit weird. To me, it looks a little like a meteor shower, but blurry. Falling lights of some kind. Post it in the comments; I'll pop back in Wednesday and see what you think. :)

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Voices in My Head

Hey, guys. I know I haven’t posted for a little while, but last week was just rough, and I didn't have the energy or the heart to put anything up.
Right now, before you read the rest of this post, I recommend that you take a moment to pray. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably reading this because you have a 3-minute window between activities in your massively-overloaded schedule, but trust me; take time to connect with God, even just for a minute. It’s worth it.

Even writing this post is hard. This issue is so close to my heart, and for many of you, it’ll probably be hard to read, because it’s something we all struggle with: insecurity.
A week or so ago, I said something in school that made it very clear to everyone around me what my views are: I stated that I believe homosexuality to be a wrong and unnatural way for people to live. I’m not really going to focus on what I actually said, though; that’s really not the point I’m trying to make. The point is that the instant I said it, I felt almost every person in the room turn to look at me. Then down at my shirt. Then back at me. My shirt said “Property of Jesus” on it.
Again; this isn’t really the point. I’m not looking to have a “homosexuality and the Bible” discussion; not right now. But wearing a shirt that identified me as a Christian and offering a controversial and rather unpopular opinion, I felt very marked. Very marked and very, very insecure.
I try to live totally uncompromising when it comes to God’s Word. But when everyone around me is trying to tell me the opposite, it gets really, really hard. For me, a Christian girl in a public high school, few topics are harder to deal with than purity.
I have a purity pledge, where I’ve promised myself to God and to the man He has chosen for me. But when no one at school notices me because I wear mostly t-shirts and jeans, it can be so tempting to pull out that v-neck, or that cute-but-low-cut sweater, just for the satisfaction of being noticed. I was told once, by a fellow high school girl, that if I would just “let go and draw a little attention to myself, guys might actually think you’re pretty enough to be noticed.” Whether or not she meant this to be insulting, I will never know. But the point remains that it hurts. While most of us don’t hear it this directly, we feel this message being thrown at us every day, and it’s hard to be secure in our purity.
But Jesus knew that the world was and will always be giving us this message, and in John 7:24, he commands the Pharisees, “‘Stop Judging by mere appearances and make a right judgment.’” We are not to focus on what we look like to other people, or what they look like to us. Still, though, it’s hard. It will always be. What do we do when we just can’t seem to get over the feeling that we’re not beautiful enough o ever be noticed? When we feel overcome by our own insecurity? When we can’t hear God because there are too many voices screaming at us that we aren’t worth anything? I hear these voices in my head almost every day, trying to make me believe these lies. How do I handle it? What do we do?

Run to Jesus. If I had a dime for every time I’ve cried myself to sleep begging God to show me that someone really will think I’m beautiful, I would be rich beyond compare. There’s no shame in crying out for God to just get you through one more day. Some nights, it’s too hard even to pray; I just have to trust that He knows what I need, and that He’s holding me.
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” –Psalm 34:18

Saturday, August 23, 2014

It Begins

Yes, school is here, ladies! Whether we like it or not, it has arrived. Some of you I'm sure are still in school, while others of you may have children starting school. Whatever the case, summer is over and it's time to get back to work.
This is me. I didn't actually take this on the first day of school; I forgot, hehehe. Fortunately, my second-day outfit worked just as well. Since my lovely friend CJ cut my hair short last March (and my mother has so kindly continued to trim it for me) I've been wearing headbands and scarves a LOT. They're so much fun! I like this scarf; it's colourful and unusual, and it draws just a little bit of attention. Do you wear scarves? Do you have a different favourite type of accessory? Tell me about it!
With school comes a big personal challenge for me: how to walk openly with God when public school and the people around me are often pushing the opposite. It always has been and always will be a challenge, and as the year progresses I'll probably look into that a little more. Right now, I would appreciate your prayers for myself and all of the students and teachers who are trying to shine a light in a public school system desperately trying to extinguish it. Pray that God will give us the strength to battle temptation and the courage to stand up for the Truth and tell people why we refuse to compromise.
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” -1 Peter 3:15

Have a great week, guys! I'll keep praying for all of you as well!


Friday, August 15, 2014

Beauty’s Core | Generous, Merciful, and Loving

Last one! I’m not giving a full week for this one, because I want to get it out before school starts! I’m really excited for school and how God’s going to use and guide me this year, and I’m excited to share all of that with you guys!

Okay, so “generous” is a bit of a weird term to apply to God. He gives good things to those who ask. It is us who should be generous with what God has given us. Clarification, in case anyone was confused.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
 Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!” –Matthew 7:7-11
This is kind of a weird way to explain how we should be like God, but I don’t believe in doing things the normal way. J This is part of the Sermon on the Mount; it’s Jesus talking. He promises essentially that if we seek God and ask things according to His plan, He will give them to us. He gives good gifts to those who ask.
Unfortunately, truly giving gifts requires one thing: selflessness. That’s not something I have in great supply. For my part, gift giving is largely restricted to birthdays and Christmas. But what about the simpler gifts; the ones we should give on a regular basis? Love and encouragement are two that I often neglect to give freely. We all love to be complimented, but if none of us take the time to give compliments, how can we receive them? Sometimes, I think we need to pay attention not to what is asked outright-“can I have the salt, please”-but what is asked indirectly. Have you ever just felt really low, and suddenly someone just out of the blue came up and said “wow; your hair looks really fantastic today; how in the world did you get it to stay like that?” or some similar comment, and they’ve somehow managed to say just the right thing to make you feel a little better? Maybe it’s because they listened to what your heart was asking, even if you didn’t voice it.
Of course, this goes to giving actual gifts, too. You never know what will happen when you give up your self-centred concerns in favour of generosity until you try it. And it goes FAR beyond our circle of friends. We can give innumerable gifts to people in third-world countries, people who have been begging for help for decades. And though I’ve never done this myself, I’ve heard that people who really take that step and fulfill that need are viewed as absolutely beautiful by the people they have helped. And the more you become like Christ, giving to those who ask and reaching for the poor, the more beautiful you become on the inside.

This goes back to the whole being hurt thing I talked about in my last post. I on my own am a very vengeful person. “Forgive and forget” doesn’t come naturally to me. But what if someone came to me and asked my forgiveness for something they’d done to hurt me? Would I be merciful?
I want to say yes. Really, I do. But it would be hard. The New Oxford American Dictionary (courtesy of my iPhone) defines “mercy” as “compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.” God is certainly merciful. He extends His mercy and grace to all of us, because we are all sinners who deserve to be punished, and God is more than capable of doing so. Sometimes it’s hard to forgive. For me, mercy has to come first. I have to decide that I’m not going to attempt to “punish” a person, but it may be weeks before I have truly forgiven them in my heart, and the Lord is working in my heart to change me into a more forgiving person, but the point is that we are to extend the same mercy that God has extended to us, just like in the parable of the unmerciful servant, as it is labeled in my NIV. I happen to know from meeting a few that girls who are always out to get you, who refuse to be merciful or forgive, are rarely well-liked or admired, and while the admiration of other’s isn’t necessarily what we should aspire to, it plays a role. You can’t be beautiful if you’re always out to get someone; spreading rumours and gossiping and trying to steal her boyfriend. It just makes you bitter. It won’t fill you. But Christ can.

Always save the best for last, and I think I have. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we might be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1) “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” -1 John 3:14-20
That was a long passage; sorry. I love 1 John. Love is the greatest commandment; the entire New Testament is about love! Love your neighbour, love your enemy, love your brother as yourself, love the Lord your God above everything else. Love, love, love. And yet every day I see and hear of people who claim to be in Christ and yet are not loving toward each other or toward those who do not yet believe. “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer.” The Bible doesn’t skirt around this at all. Jesus loved us. And we are called to love one another. If we don’t, we’re no better off than anyone else.
Let’s boil it down: it’s not about the rules. In 17 ⅔ years of living on this earth, I have had so many people throw so many rules in my face that I don’t even know what to do with them all. But Jesus didn’t come and die to convince us to follow the rules. He came because of love. If we truly believe in His sacrifice, shouldn’t we also do the same? I talked about giving gifts to those who ask; does not every human heart cry out for love? What greater gift could we then give but to love them and share with them the love of God, so that they will know and be satisfied?
Please allow me to clarify. Having a boyfriend who holds you and tells you you’re beautiful is not love. I’m not here to judge your relationships; that’s between you and God. But the world defines love all wrong. Love is sacrifice; it is selfless. And it is beautiful. We are beautiful when we choose to love. God made us to be beautiful and he made us to love. The first is dependent on the second. It doesn’t matter what you do or how you look or what you wear or who you are; without love we are nothing.

Thanks everyone for letting me go through these. I enjoyed it, and I hope God has used me to speak to each and every one of you individually. I’m hoping to keep with a regular posting schedule during school, so expect to hear from me next week sometime! I’ll be praying for you all. Have a great day! J

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Beauty’s Core | Faithful and Forgiving

(I know, I know; I didn’t list forgiving in my original post. Oh, well; I’m covering it anyway because it ties in here.) Over and over and over in the Bible it is mentioned that God is faithful; if anyone wants some of these verses, feel free to ask, because I’m not going to use them all here. One verse I do want to focus on is 2 Timothy 2:13
“If we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for he cannot disown Himself.”
I know I’ve been hurt. I know we all have. But I want you to think for a moment. When you were hurt or betrayed by someone, how did you react? I lash out. I go out with the intention of punishing this person for the hurt they’ve made me feel. But this isn’t what God did. As he was dying on the cross, one of the most painful deaths a person can experience, Jesus doesn’t shout out curses or ask for God’s wrath to descend upon the perpetrators of his agony. He cries “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) Do you have any idea of the strength it would take to look beyond that much suffering and pray forgiveness upon those causing you to suffer? I can’t even comprehend that.
Not only is God forgiving beyond comprehension, but He is faithful no matter what. Go back to the verse I mentioned earlier. Not only has He forgiven us completely, but when we walk away He stands and waits for us to come back. Isn’t that amazing?

Think about a time when you felt you were betrayed or hurt by someone close to you. I’m willing to bet you weren’t friends afterward. But that’s exactly how God treats us, and how we are then supposed to treat other people. It takes an amazing amount of willpower to look betrayal in the face, say “Father, forgive them”, and then to wipe the slate clean and continue to love them and reach out to them, even if they hurt you again and again. Seven times seventy times.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Beauty's Core | Constant, Just, and Righteous

I'm going to see if I can get my whole list from last week into three posts, so we'll see how this goes. If any of you want me to go deeper into one of these, or if you have something to add that I've overlooked, please leave a comment in the comments section! :)

Constant and Just
James 1:17 tells us that "Every good and perfect gift comes from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, _who does not change like shifting shadows." In other words, God is always the same. He doesn't deal differently with Americans versus Russians, and he doesn't have random mood swings that change his judgment. No; He is always the same! Unfortunately, I don't think any of us can truthfully claim that for ourselves. I know I sometimes behave differently depending on who I'm with. And I can be very temperamental at times, randomly changing what I think and feel. This also heavily affects my judgment, meaning that I hold people to different standards.
I think a lot of us can relate to that; it's a pretty common human affliction. For us girls, I think this can weigh heavily in the judgment category. I, for one, feel like I'm always judging other girls, and holding myself against them to see how I measure up, and trying to make myself feel "superior" in some way. But God commands is not to judge this way. We often judge other people by appearances, but 1 Samuel 16:7 says that "'The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.'" In this way, we know that God's judgment is always true, because he knows and sees everything about us. We, then, should strive to withhold judgment about people we don't know of understand, because our judgment can be incredibly hurtful.
Being different depending on our company really goes into this whole judgment thing, except it places us on the other side. Afraid to be judged poorly by our peers, we try to mould ourselves to fit whoever we happen to be with at a given time. Often, this sort of double-standard leads to gossip and hurtful behaviour, and not only is this far from God's intent for our lives, but it's a glaring smear in our lifestyle of beauty. I know that when I do things like that, I don't feel beautiful; in fact, I tend to feel pretty awful. The same is true when we judge people unfairly. We are called to be a reflection of God, but a mirror is no good if it has big black smears across it. That's not a very good example, but I think it makes the point.

“I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” –Galatians 2:21
The Bible calls us to be righteous; that’s something I’m not really going to cover, because it’s made pretty clear. If you want something more specific, let me know and I’d be happy to send you some verses. What I want to focus on is how we’re called to be righteous. In the Old Testament, righteousness was living an upright life and following the Commandments. But now that we have Christ, everything’s changed. We recognize that we are sinful people and upright living won’t get us anywhere (go back to Galatians 2:21 at the top of this section). We need Christ to get there. 1 John 3:7 says “he who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous.” God is righteous. As children of God, we are called to take part in His righteousness.
So how does this tie into beauty? Let’s start with a more modern definition of “righteousness”: reflecting God and rejecting the world’s influence everywhere in our lives. The worldly influences that are most likely to afflict us are pretty obvious. Immodest dress and impure relationships are two of the most prominent. (If you’re curious how I define those, don’t be afraid to ask via email or the comments section.) Proverbs 31 talks about a woman, describing her as hardworking and dignified; in many ways, righteous. “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” (Proverbs 31:30) I encourage you to read this whole chapter, but for now I’m just going to point something out: of all the things to focus on, Proverbs 31 focuses on her character, and the way she fears the Lord, not her looks. Not only that, but it says “she is worth far more than rubies” (Proverbs 31:10)
Finding righteousness in the Lord is beautiful, and people will see it. It’s a struggle, but hey; someday someone might describe you like the wife in Proverbs 31. I know I would be honoured by such a description.

Next week, Lord willing, I’m going to cover Faithfulness and Forgiveness. Have a great week!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Beauty's Core | God's Children

Hi again! I’m back and I want to expand some on my last post. The first thing I kind of thought I should hit is that we really are children of God. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” (1 John 3:1, NIV) John certainly isn’t trying to make this concept hard to understand. We are children of God, which means that we should bear resemblance to our Father.

This is the image of God in Michelangelo’s painting “Creation of Adam”, painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican sometime between 1508 and 1512. Well, I for one don’t have a beard, nor do I have little curly-haired angels all around me, so I think it’s a safe bet to say that when we are called to be like our Father, this isn’t the kind of “resemblance” we’re supposed to bear. Starting with this post, I’m going to hit a few of the major characteristics of God that we, as His children, should mirror. Of course, God is perfect and we are not, so we can’t really be any of these things the way God is. The focus is on being a reflection of God; on letting God work in our lives and shape us to be like Him, because we can’t be any of these things by ourselves. 
The seven traits of God that I want to look at (this may change depending on the Spirit’s leading) are:

  • God is constant
  • God is loving
  • God is righteous and holy
  • God is compassionate and merciful
  • God gives good things to those who ask; he is generous
  • God’s judgment is true and just
  • God is faithful

The reason I’m calling this set of posts “Beauty’s Core” is because these traits help form a foundation for the lifestyle that will really make us beautiful. I for one don’t want to just be noticed for being “pretty”; I want to be beautiful in God’s eyes, and that can only come from being a reflection of the only good thing: God.

Praying you all have a good week, and I'll talk to you soon! :)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Just a Note

Hey there! I've been super busy and haven't really been able to post this week; sorry. But I did just want to throw one thing up here for you all to think about until next week: how do you view yourself as God's child?
I know that's a little weird to say. But really, how often do you look at yourself and see a child of God? How often do you judge yourself by how your characteristics measure up against others, rather than the One whose standards are perfect?
Every child carries traits from their parents. I, for example, have almost exactly the same hair colour as my mom does, but I inherited my dad's short temper and rebelliousness. Anyone who knows my family can see my parents in me. So the question is, if God is truly our father, can people see Him in us?
That's just something to get you thinking until next week, when I'm hoping to go deeper. One thing I would love for you to do in the meantime is this: after you read this post, go to the comments and leave a comment naming one characteristic of God's that you personally would like to see in yourself more clearly. Then name one thing preventing you from displaying that characteristic.
Have a great week, everyone! When I return from my camping adventures this weekend, I'll pop in and go deeper.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Dangers of Caring Too Much

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us through off everything that hinders and the sin which so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
-Hebrews 12:1-2

Sometimes, I've found that our struggle with beauty can be a weight; a hindrance designed to drag us down and make us turn our eyes from our Creator. Think about it: do you spend more time contemplating the glory of God or the imperfections you saw in your face in the mirror? I myself am often guilty of worrying more about the opinions of people rather than the opinion of God. This is a hindrance. The Devil doesn't want you to fix your eyes on Jesus; he wants you to invest in the treasures of this world, so that your heart is here and not in heaven. For girls our age, that often comes in the form of this never-ending quest to be "pretty." When we focus so much on how we look that it overtakes everything else, beauty has become an obsession that will only tear us down and make us feel worthless. This is when we come to such drastic measures as eating-disorders and self-harm; because we cannot fulfill our obsession.
There's really only one way to solve this problem: throw off everything that hinders, or-as in some versions-cast off every weight. Just like our rocks, things of this world can weigh us down and prevent us from truly running this race. This includes our quest for beauty. If we are focusing more on how we look than on how we are shining our light, it becomes a hindrance that we need to get rid of. In order to do this, we need to come to terms with a couple of things:
     1) we are created beautiful, so we need to stop trying to be.
     2) we cannot please everyone, especially ourselves. No matter how hard you try, you cannot impress everyone, so focus on the one who does matter, and who sees the beauty in your heart: God.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Throwing Stones

"The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the groups and said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘if any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’
‘No one, sir,’ she said.
‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.’"
-John 8:3-11 NIV

Everybody sins. We all make stupid mistakes. It’s a fact of life. In this story, we could all easily take the place of the woman, condemned and about to be punished for our crimes. But instead, let’s for a moment imagine ourselves as the teachers of the law; the ones doing the condemning. Let’s imagine ourselves holding rocks.
Every one of us has a rock representing some insecurity or fear. Mine was fear of being mocked or laughed at by my peers. We cannot seem to let go of these rocks, but it hurts to hold onto them, so instead we prepare to throw them. At others. At ourselves. We will do two things with our rocks: we will find someone else and throw our rocks at them in the form of condemnation in order to distract from our own wrongdoings, or we will turn and use our rocks to beat ourselves for the shame we can’t seem to be rid of. Either we feel so driven to cover up our own guilt that we gossip and tear down other girls who may be struggling just as much as we are, or we grow so disgusted with our own faults that we deem ourselves deserving of abuse and hurt ourselves mentally, emotionally, and sometimes even physically.
The struggle with rock throwing is that we are never offered an alternative by our world. There is a part of our culture today that tells us that this is normal; that it’s a part of growing up. With this mentality, our society actively condones these actions which bring nothing but hurt. My friends, this is not the way we were meant to be, and while it may be normal in our sinful world to throw rocks, that does not mean it is how we were intended to live. Does insulting another girl’s appearance truly make you feel better about your own? Does inflicting pain upon yourself really heal the pain in your heart? Not for long.
Rather than throw rocks, let us instead leave our rocks behind and recognize that when we identify with Jesus Christ, there is no need for this mudslinging. Only He can make you see your own worth independent of others, and only He can bring real healing, because in Him we are blameless and feel our sins no more.

So what about you? Do you want healing? Or are you just going to keep throwing rocks?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Basis of Biblical Beauty

It all started in the beginning, including your quest for identity and beauty.
"So God created man IN HIS OWN IMAGE,
in the image of God He created him;
male and female he created them."
-Genesis 1:27
If God is perfect, and we are all made in the image of God, then the only logical conclusion is that we have been made perfectly! Of course, we are human, and we are filled with sin and wickedness from birth, but there is absolutely nothing "wrong" with your appearance! "Don't fix it if it isn't broken!" If there is nothing wrong with your face, why cover it with makeup? If there is nothing wrong with your skin tone, why suffer endless sunburns trying to get a tan? If there is nothing wrong with your hair, why spend so much time complaining that it doesn't lay just right, even after being dyed and stripped and dyed again and layered and trimmed and highlighted? You were created EXACTLY as you were meant to be. Don't let anything tell you otherwise.