Sunday, February 5, 2012

Reflecting back on my 30 years

I’m actually nursing right this minute. When you’re on the third kid, the skills of nursing while doing other things just become second nature. I had my sweet baby boy this past October. That makes a total of three boys, ages three and under. This life I live is absolutely nothing like the life I used to live. It is so incredibly different that I hardly even remember my life before them. I know people used to tell me that they couldn’t remember their life before kids either but now that I’m living it, I understand. I can see how moms might forget who they are after having babies. Sometimes I forget who I am too. It is just so natural, and maybe too easy, to put everyone and their needs before our own. I really don’t think about it and it’s not an obvious thing that happens. It’s not like one day I wake up and say, “Today, I will put myself last and not think about myself in any facet at all.” I’m thinking it happens slowly and gradually until one day I do wake up and think, “What about me?” Then- “How can I be so selfish to think about me?” Then think, “Me? Who am I anymore?” If I was a betting gal, I bet this has crossed the mind of many a mom.

I remember getting dressed up and spending way too much time on my hair and accessories. I remember seeing my imperfections through a magnifying glass and totally blowing it out of proportion. Can you believe I still have those tendencies? These days I just don’t have the time to worry about things like this, but if there was time, I bet I’d fall back to a degree of those critical thoughts toward myself. In a way, I’m thankful for the distractions. I’m definitely less superficial and I see how much of a waste of time it all really was.

Right now I am around 25 lbs over what I’ve weighed for most of my life. This is now my third time dealing with being very overweight after a pregnancy. Those suppressed insecurities come seeping out of the woodworks when that happens. I’m actually kinder to myself than I would have been years ago. How many times have I said, “OMG, you’re so fat” “How can anyone look at you like this, so gross.” “Don’t even leave the house without that mask of makeup on because you’re just hideous.” “How can you even walk with those nasty legs, you need some kind of surgery to fix that major problem.” Thoughts like these try and raise its ugly head every now and again but thank God I’ve learned to not entertain thoughts like these. I now know those come straight from hell to make me feel hurt and empty. Back then I was actually full of youthfulness and vibrancy. There was nothing to be embarrassed about, but I can remember feeling it eat away at me, almost all the time. This battle in my head about what to believe about myself was always raging. Not a soul on earth would have ever known about it. I remember after someone would compliment me I would never really believe them. I would say thank you but just thought they were so nice to say something so not true to make me feel something I wasn’t. It’s pretty comical looking back on it all. I don’t think I met a girl in high school that was not starting a new diet, on a diet, struggling with a diet or figuring out what diet to go on. The constant emphasis on image and desirability was so exhausting. Who could keep up? I even remember wishing I was someone else and thinking I had nothing to offer. For such down trodden thoughts you would have never known. I think I appeared fairly grounded, but yet the battles of the mind remained. My faithful mom would try and persuade me to believe how beautiful I was, but I just couldn’t believe it… not compared to this person or that person. The comparisons were so burdening!

When I went away to college I met the best of friends- as Anne of Green Gables would say, “Bosom friends.” I slowly felt loved for who I was. Gradually I began to see God in it all. I saw the beauty and uniqueness in others and maybe for the first time just appreciated it in them without desiring it for myself. Sounds so simple, but what a long time it took to do! I started to see the gifts that God had given to others as gifts for them and then I started to actually see the gifts within myself. This is an ongoing journey, as these gifts manifest itself in different ways based on the season of life I’m in. So I would say during my college years my eyes began to see something that I was very blind to before- real beauty.

During my first years working as a teacher I had an epiphany that I’ll never forget. I was sitting with some of the other teachers in the teachers’ cafeteria and another teacher was talking about how she needed to lose weight and get fit. She went on and on about it. What she was saying was nothing really out of the ordinary. But just then and there my eyes were opened and I almost said out loud, “Oh my God, it never ends!” It was like I just realized the same insecurities, dissatisfaction and self improvements just never end. Here this teacher was in her 60’s and she was still struggling with the same issues I was when I was a young teen. I remember feeling so sad. Not necessarily sad for her or me, but for all the woman out there. The culture we live in is so pervasive, it’s so strong and it infiltrates everything. We literally cannot get away from the messages they are sending. Messages that this is what beauty is, this is what’s desirable, this is what men want, these are the things you have to say and do… Who could measure up? Women are unknowingly in bondage to this made up standard that no one person can attain.

This is why knowing God is so important. He tells me who I am. I don’t have to guess or wonder. He calls me His beloved, His child. He rejoices over me with singing and has set me apart for Himself. He picked me up from the grime and placed me in the heavenly places. His spirit intercedes for me and He sends His angels to guard over me. He sticks closer than a brother and gives us the ultimate gift of Himself for eternity.

As I hold my precious little baby in my arms, the love I have for him just cannot even be measured. It is insurmountable. I would die right now to save him from harm without even a bit of hesitation. To even imagine that anyone could love more than this is really unfathomable; yet the way God loves is so much deeper than this. It’s beyond the human capacity to understand. It’s something to always be in awe about.

I feel like I knew that God loved me my whole life, yet I still struggled with such deep rooted insecurities. I knew this truth in my head but not in my heart. In my core I don’t think I really grasped this agape love or understood the magnitude and depth of it. It is so great!

Now that I’ll be 30 years old in exactly 9 days and as I sit in my favorite sofa and reflect on my life, I can actually say that I am finally content. Yes, I’m at least 25 lbs overweight, I still see all my “imperfections”, I have the smallest wardrobe of my life, my shoe collection consists of sneakers and flip flops, and my stretch marks are forever ingrained in my belly. Being the prettiest person in the room is no longer my aspiration. I just sit back and am amazed at how far God has brought me. Every hurdle I’ve gone through, every person I’ve met, every friend I’ve had, every disagreement I’ve experienced has led me to this point. I can honestly say that when I close my eyes at the end of each day I know who I am. It has nothing to do with my husband, my kids, my family or friends. It has nothing to do with my fashionista ways (or non-ways), my creative projects or my skill level in writing. It has everything to do with knowing and believing what the Bible says about me. I believe even as grown women, we need to constantly be reminded of it in order to keep the freedom of living a contented life- 25 lbs heavier or not.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

What is Love?

When I least expected it, when I least deserved it, He did it again. My Maker, my Savior, my God out of nowhere took me back for Himself. I now know- that I know- that I know that He is a jealous God.

I was just driving down the road not thinking about anything in particular when I felt my heart being directed toward gratitude. I started feeling like I couldn’t process it all, that it was somehow too much for me to grasp, to understand. It came as a flood and I felt completely inundated with this gratitude. I will admit that sometimes I really get emotional about all the blessings that God has poured out on my life… but today was different.

It had nothing to do with life’s circumstances, my beautiful boys or my amazing friends and family.

*It wasn’t about me*

It was as though God just decided, “I’ll meet you where you are and surprise and delight you with Myself.” For a moment that felt like forever, I just basked. The way the sun’s rays warm the skin on a summer’s day and put a shimmering glow to the face- so it was with my soul.

I knew only peace, only hope, and so free- the freedom!

This truth touched my spirit and all I knew was love.

I’ve sang a million times in a million songs about God’s love for me. But when it goes from knowing to tasting; from reading to experiencing- that’s God.

He IS love.

I was overwhelmed and overcome with the love of God. Who am I that He should give me this gift? All I saw and all I knew was perfect peace and contentment. Although I’ve read scripture before, today I believed the truth that He is sufficient. He is enough. In fact, He is more than enough. These gifts, these blessings- the happiness in our days, the challenges we overcome, the courtesy of a stranger, the sacrifice of a friend- these are things we are right to be grateful for. Not because God somehow loves us more because we have these things but because all these things point us to Him.

It is He who is our prize! He is our treasure.

It finally makes sense that perfect love casts out all fear because there is no fear with God.

Everyday, in all things good, He is there- shouting to us through all things beautiful that He loves us. We so often just miss it- we miss Him.
After reflecting on the riches of His goodness, I found myself sobbing- tears just rolling down my cheeks. I was just touched by my Creator. The lover of my soul, my friend.

Just as fast as it came upon me, it left. This perfect place I was at was met with the harsh reality of life. It left me in want- in desperate need for more. I knew I needed to read His Word. Not to check off one more thing from my to-do list, but to really meet Him and experience Him once again. I needed Him. I lost my way and forgot what I was missing out on! What a reminder that it’s not about me after all. How kind of Him to give me a sneak peak into a world of unspeakable grace and love. Oh- the Love!