Reminder: You Can Swim

When I was little, I wouldn’t talk to people. I mean it. I didn’t talk to anyone except for my mom and dad. If I let out a peep it was only to tell my mom I wanted to leave wherever we were and to go home, or to cry because people scared me. Seriously, ask any of my family members or kindergarten classmates. Lol can you say issues?

As I grew up, I came out of my shell little by little (thank God), but usually only enough to say things that I thought other people would be okay with me saying, all the while trying to be like “everyone else.”

It’s only been within the past year or two that I’ve realized that this stemmed solely from doubts and insecurities.

My whole life I’ve grown up with the insecure voices in my head that we all do. You know, those voices in our head that tell us everyone else is beautiful, but for whatever reason, you’re not?

I know that people tried to tell me otherwise as I grew up, but it really took me until recently to actually accept and believe that those voices were nothing more than Satan feeding me lies in hopes of getting me to believe that I didn’t have anything to offer.

Before I realized that the voices were from the enemy, I did what I think a lot of young kids do, and was tricked into accepting those voices as truth.

If you’re like me, the thoughts of doubt and worthlessness in your head can be scary. I used to hate them. They caused a lot of anxiety and hurt for me, and I’d be scared of what terrible truth they might show me about myself, or what dream of mine they might squelch in a given day. So for a long time, in an attempt to find a solution, I’d try to drown the voices out.

When I’d hear Satan telling me things I didn’t want to hear or believe, I’d try to distract myself. I’d watch tv and would fill my head with nonsense in hopes of overpowering his lies. I’d gossip with people about other people so that I wouldn’t have to think about the chatter in my own head. I would eat (or not eat) until I was so full (or hungry) that I wouldn’t be able to think clearly enough about anything except the fact that I was so stuffed (or starving).

In hopes of helping anyone who’s experiencing something similar, let’s think about these voices metaphorically. Picture ourselves swimming at the shore of an ocean, and picture these lies Satan feeds us as waves approaching us on the shore. Trying to stop Satan’s lies from entering our heads is equivalent to trying to stop the waves of the ocean from crashing over us when they approach. It’s an impossible feat.

Satan will always make it his mission to tell us that we are not worthy of life, of love, of success, of whatever, just as the waves of the ocean will always come. The solution is not to stop the waves from coming, but rather, to recognize that when they do come, we are not slaves to them, but instead, can rise above them.

We don’t need to fear the voices of doubt, or try to stop the voices of worthlessness altogether. We need to remember that we really can swim, and when we do experience a wave of insecurity or doubt, we can allow it to crash over us, uninhibited, and respond by calmly rising to the top and continuing to swim forward in our lives.

To think of it another way, picture an alarm clock. (Yes, I’m switching metaphors. I love metaphors, so sue me). If your alarm goes off, and you’re, for some reason, not able to shut it off, but can still hear it, it’s similar to Satan’s lies in our head.

At first, it makes you jump, right? You panic, assume something is wrong, and want to immediately do something to shut it off. Eventually though, as time goes on, you become accustomed to the noise, and recognize it’s not a cause for panic. The alarm continues to go off, but you’re able to continue about your day, and to do the things you need to get done. It’s just noise…

Is it annoying at first? Yes. But does it inhibit you from progressing forward? No. And what happens after the alarm goes off long enough without being touched? … It shuts off on it’s own! And so it is with Satan’s lies.

So to any girls (or guys) out there thinking about unnecessarily changing something about yourself, because you’ve been duped into thinking you are not enough, remember that you don’t need to change a thing. You are more than enough, just the way you are, and to lose yourself in hopes of becoming someone you were never created to be would be stripping the world of a vital part of its truth.

You don’t need to look to other people for permission to allow your true self to manifest.

“To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he has made us accepted in the beloved.” Eph 1:6

Created to Create

For a long time, I didn’t let myself create for fun. I grew up thinking there were generally two types of people in the world: creative people and non-creative people. I cringe even writing that, because I know now how flawed that thinking is, but for whatever reason(s), that’s what I thought.

Being told I was a numbers person as I got older caused me to then jump to the conclusion that I belong in the latter camp of people, and it’s taken me a solid 23 years to realize what a mistake it was to assume that, and to make strides to reverse it.

I’ve realized that just because our name isn’t Picasso or Monet, and we don’t have a career in the arts, doesn’t mean that we can’t grow our artistic muscles and discover what creativity means to us.

I’ve only recently been allowing myself to explore what creativity looks like to me, and it’s been really eye-opening. Turns out I like to write. Who knew?

Am I the best writer? No. I’m not even a great writer. But writing for fun makes me feel like I’m doing something good. Like I’m fulfilling some sort of purpose, and making something of value, even if the value is just simply me having an avenue for me to get my thoughts on paper.

I think it’s because we’re all creative beings. We were created in the image of a creating God, and just as God creates, so should we. And it can look different for everyone. Writing (articles, poems, songs), drawing, gardening, photography, painting, building, dancing… the sky’s the limit.

I think it would do us a lot of good to all find a hobby that allows us to create, and to then allow ourselves to pursue that hobby without putting pressure on ourselves to become the best at it. In a society that gets so caught up in goals (myself included), for once we should allow ourselves to just do something for the sheer joy of doing it, and for the way that it allows us to explore, understand, and get to know ourselves and other people.

It’s a Gift

I have a problem…

I could take this post in so many different directions right now, because Lord knows I have a lot of problems (lol), but the problem that’s on my mind today is the fact that so many of the things I do in my life, I do for the wrong reasons.

Let’s use going to the gym as an easy “for instance.”

I attest to the notion that exercise improves health, and is a good thing for us humans to make a habit of. Because of that, I try to go to the gym, or get some form of exercise in at least a few times a week. It’s been only recently though, that I feel like I’ve actually been making an effort to go for the right reasons.

People who know me know I have a tendency to get caught up in extremes, and a lot of times it’s not until I swing from one end of the spectrum to the other that I realize the best space to be in is neither extreme, but somewhere in the middle instead.

So I’ve been a gym-goer now for over 8 years, and when I first started going, I went because I felt “less than.” I had to lose weight. I had to gain muscle. I had to look better. I had to fit in. I was insecure. I had to work out, because I wasn’t good enough. Working out was a punishment for being not enough.

Then, after I realized that wasn’t good, I incidentally swung the opposite direction. I went to the gym because it made me feel “better than.” I went to feel good about myself. I liked getting up at 5am to work out, knowing that the majority of society was still sleeping, because in my head that meant I was more motivated and had more drive than those people. Working out was a reward for being better than other people. Working out made me prideful.

God’s reminded me lately that neither of those reasonings were valid for working out. I am not any less than others, nor am I any better than others, and to think that going to the gym could affect my worth in any way at all was silly and altogether incorrect thinking.

Going to the gym is not a punishment. Going to the gym is not a reward. Going to the gym is a gift.

We’ve been given bodies to steward in this life, and it is a gift from God, and nothing we could have earned, to be able to use those bodies to their fullest potential.

The goal of going to the gym for me has now become an effort to contribute to the health and vitality of my body, because as I increase my strength, I increase my capacity to work for the glory of God. The more that I can thrive as a result of getting proper physical exercise, the more I’ll be able to help in spreading Love throughout this world. What an opportunity!

Working out is no longer something that stems from insecurity or from pride, but instead is a celebration of the capabilities that God’s given us through our bodies.

Plus, the physical act of pushing myself to become stronger and continuously change myself for the better in that way, serves as a powerful reminder to me that we have the ability to push ourselves to places we’ve never been before both emotionally and spiritually, as well.

Life is not a punishment. Life is not a reward. Life is a gift.

Water Your Roots

If you ask me (I know you didn’t ask me, but I’m going to pretend that you did), we are far too absorbed in things that don’t matter in this day and age.

I see girls (and guys) all around me so concerned with what they look like, how they come across, and how others perceive them… it makes me kind of sick tbh. It bothers me so much, because these are things I have a tendency to be far too concerned with myself, if I’m not careful.

If we think about our lives as plants, really simply put:

We’re watering the wrong end of the plant.
 
So often, in an effort to be accepted, we focus on making ourselves look really nice, and look like we have things all together.
We put on more makeup. We fake a bigger smile. We exercise and alter our eating to try to lose weight. We act happier than we really are, to trick people into thinking we really are “fine.” We pretend to be “Good. (And you?)” when people ask us. We’re all about the appearance.
Continuing with the metaphor, picture a gardener spraying the leaves of a plant, washing them clean of any dirt, making them look nice at first glance, but completely missing the roots, causing the plant to, in actuality, be starving.
I feel like that image represents so many of us in this country. We create the illusion that we’re thriving and succeeding, but underneath it all, we’re thirsty, sick, and desperate for water and sonlight (See what I did there?).
It makes me sad, because if people are anything like me, then a lot of times the reason for putting on this fake front stems from insecurity, and a desire to be accepted.
We think things like, “If I eat less and lose 10 more pounds, then I’ll be happy,” or
“If I go to the gym and get back that six-pack that I used to have, then everyone will like me,” or
“If I wear this name-brand jacket and buy these expensive jeans, then they’ll think I have money, and will respect me,” or
“If I act like I’m confident, then they’ll think I really am confident, and then they’ll view me as their equal,” or
“If I pretend to have it all together, even though inside I’m a mess, then I’ll be worthy of that relationship/of that job/of the accomplishment of that goal/of whatever.”
The problem with all of these “if, thens” is that all of them are contingent upon the assumption that our worth is ours to create, grow, and prove to others. This reasoning completely contradicts the Truth that teaches us that our worth is not ours or anyone’s to determine except for our Creator’s (which He already did long ago).
God’s reminded me of this a lot lately, thanks to his Word, his Church, and especially his people, who continue to speak the truth in Love to me (shoutout to all of those beautiful people).
The key is to look to God for true and life-giving nourishment, and to allow his Love to continuously grow us. As opposed to futilely and unnaturally trying to prune our own selves, if we give God the shears (yikes, taking this metaphor a little too far, I know), only then will we be able to organically rid ourselves of the bad fruits and allow good fruits to grow in their place.
(See next post for tips on how to deal with the insecurities that result in these futile efforts in the first place).
“He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,” Titus 3:5

No Ragrets (Part 2/2)

So again, the question in my head lately has been:

Why do we not do the things we know we would regret not doing if we were to die tomorrow, because we could die tomorrow? 

When I think about what it would look like to really eliminate regret, and actually use the time and gifts I’ve been given to their fullest in this life, I think about:

  • Not letting the lack of apparent feasibility of a goal keep me from following my calling
  • Not letting what others may think of me dictate my actions
  • Not letting people’s expectations, or my expectations of myself, hinder progress
  • Accepting and appreciating everyone in my life, and letting everyone, from new friends to family, know that they’re loved

The list goes on…

The fears that so often stop me range from:

  • Fear of failure, to
  • Fear of success, to
  • Fear of the unknown, to
  • Fear of rejection, to
  • Fear of embarrassment or vulnerability

Some of these fears are one in the same, but for the sake of time, I’m going to just ramble about fear of embarrassment or vulnerability, as it relates to appreciating my mom and dad and letting them know they’re loved. My parents are the two people in my life that know me the best, and have loved me unconditionally (in spite of that)… so I’ve been wondering lately:

Why do I not go out of my way to let them know how much I care about and appreciate them? Why do I so often take their presence and their love for granted? Why do I feel I’m entitled to treat them, of all people, with contempt if I’m not having the best day, even when they’ve been the ones most unconditionally loving and gracious towards me?

If I were to die tomorrow, would I regret leaving things in the state that they are in, in this moment?

The answer to the last question is, “Crap… Yes!” Now, I don’t think I’m a terrible daughter, and I’m not saying that I never tell my parents that I love them. We actually have a great relationship, relatively speaking. What I’m saying is there is a lot of room for improvement, and I’m wondering why I’m not working to make those improvements more proactively, given that life is so fleeting.

I’m going to steal a quote that Jan Carlberg quoted in her latest post, because I think it relates:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable,” (C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves).

Recently, I’ve made a vow to myself to not let fear of rejection and embarrassment as it relates to vulnerability keep me from being my true self. This is the beginning of a journey that doesn’t have an end, and I’ve already failed a LOT in trying to doing this, but I’m convinced intentions like this are what allow us to climb the ladder of life to the top with the most Love in our hearts. Baby steps, right?

Yesterday I talked to my parents about all of these thoughts I’ve been having. I cried and told them I love them and appreciate them, and the whole thing was so unbelievably terrible and ugly, but also so liberating and Good.

This is what I’m learning:

Success isn’t eliminating fear. Success isn’t not experiencing rejection or embarrassment.

Success is being scared, but still being willing to experience the things we fear regardless.

Success is vowing to not allow fear to cause you to wait for a reminder of death to prompt you to live the way you know you’ve always been meant to live.

Success is knowing that the lies that the enemy feeds us in our heads about how we are unworthy of life, love, and success, are absolutely false.

One of the biggest things I fear is that the reaction I will get from putting myself out there, from pursuing my calling, from telling people how I feel, might affirm the lies in my head, thus making them true.

Success is knowing that if that does happen, it doesn’t make the lies any more true. The enemy will always try to tell us we are worthless, whether it’s through our own insecurities, or through the manifestation of other people’s insecurities in our own lives.

Remembering that we are more than enough, not because of what we’ve done, but because Christ has made us more than enough, will put Satan in his place, allowing us to rise triumphant as we boldly carry out our callings for the glory of God. I hope that we can all build each other up as we work to each become our true selves.

No Ragrets (Part 1/2)

I’ve never been one to advocate living life with no regrets, because sometimes, I do have regrets.

I don’t think having regrets is such a bad thing, like a lot of people make it out to be. To me, having regrets just means that you’re willing to admit you didn’t (or did) do something you wish you did (or didn’t) do. It means calling yourself out on your shortcomings and admitting you’re not perfect.

As the incredibly wise Miley Cyrus once said, “Everybody makes mistakes. Everybody has those days. Everybody knows what I’m talkin’ ’bout… Nobody’s perfect.” (Well said, Miley. Well said.)

I do think there’s a way to regret well, and a way to regret poorly, and that’s an important distinction to make before I go any further.

There is a difference between regretting something, dwelling on it, and allowing your negativity to catalyze you into doing more regrettable things, versus regretting something, asking God (and when applicable, others) for forgiveness, forgiving yourself for it, and picking yourself up and learning from it.

I am, of course, an advocate for the latter. Anyway, all this to say, I have regrets… the biggest one being, really simply, I’m not using the time and gifts I’ve been given in this life to their fullest potential. I’m not living life to the fullest. (See last post for details on what got me thinking about all of this in the first place).

Then this past Sunday, the pastor spoke about regrets. This happens a lot. When God is trying to tell me something, I think about it in my head, and it’s confirmed in different areas of my life – a lot of times through the sermon the next Sunday. Anyway, the pastor shared that in New York City, there is a chalk board set up where people can write down their biggest regrets. It turns out, people’s biggest regrets almost always are not things they did do, but things that they intended to do, but didn’t do.

So the question I’ve been asking myself lately is this:

Why do we not do the things we know we would regret not doing if we were to die tomorrow, because we could die tomorrow? 

A little bit of a run-on, I know, but the answer I’ve come to is simple: fear.

See next post for expansion on thoughts about fear/regrets…

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is: his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)