My Best Friend Doesn’t Know She’s Beautiful

  Let me tell you about my best friend: She’s absolutely hilarious. She has bright strawberry blonde hair and blue eyes. She’s the only person I know who understands my love public health and loves it too. She’s wicked smart. She the type of person you want to be on your team– fun and hardworking; she gets along with most everyone. She’s good with kids and with adults. She loves animals. She’s a safe driver. She’s a bad singer but that doesn’t stop her from belting out her favorite tunes. She likes sports and musicals. She’s pretty much up for trying anything. But she eats her food plain. She’s always willing to talk when I need her. She’s travelled the world but is still close with her childhood friends. We met on the first day of uni and we’ve been friends ever since. She takes my sass and deals out some her own too. She’s the best listener. We were once reprimanded in a college class for talking too much. She’s held me when I’ve cried and I know things about her that no one else knows. When we’re together, we’re better. We laugh louder, we smile bigger, we talk more, we give more.

And she doesn’t know she’s beautiful. This absolutely breaks my heart. I should have told her every day since we met. But even then, I don’t know if she would believe me.

We were hanging out on Monday, drinking hot chocolate, chatting non-stop, and doing a puzzle. Then matter-of-factly she asked, “do you think I don’t get dates because I’m not pretty?” I was stunned. I didn’t know what to say.

Why do girls feel like something is wrong with them if they don’t get asked out on a date? We live in a society where everything is first based on looks. This is especially true in college. We believe if we could just look better, we could be fulfilled. My best friend is beautiful. She shouldn’t change a thing. And yet, she thinks something is wrong with her and that she has to change for others to like her.

God made us in His image (Gen 1:27). We are the only creature in which this is true. He knows the hairs on our head and knitted each of us in our mother’s womb. This is exciting and why God seeks a relationship with us. He’s our Father. We were made by Him are loved by Him. And it’s so painful to know this is true and still feel like you don’t measure up.

But we were not made to measure up to man’s standards. We are called to love ourselves. I believe when we love ourselves, we can love others better, as we are also called to do.

God made the beautiful Carolina sunsets my best friend and I experience nightly. He made the roaring ocean and the soft sand. He made silly, playful dogs. He made the beautiful trees on our university campus, along with the beauty of all our other favorite places. And He made me and you and my best friend. He saw fit that in this world we exist with a purpose. We’re made beautiful in our own ways, yet still in His image.

When we accept this to be true and accept Christ as our Savior, we are made new. Our sins are washed away. Our identity is now found in Christ. We are no longer of this world in the way we once were, seeking approval from man.

And when you look in the mirror, it’s hard to remember all this and feel like it’s enough. You still don’t have a date; your thighs still feel too big; your dress size still feels too high; and your hair still seems to not being doing what you want. I want to encourage you to seek God in this moment. Ask for God to transform how you think about yourself. These negative thoughts are a waste of energy. Pray that you will become the woman God wants you to be; ask Him to redirect your thoughts. Ask for forgiveness for all this self-hate. Thank God for your health. Thank Him for the strength he gives you to do His works, through strong legs, helpful hands, a warm smile… And if you see fit, pray for your future husband and those you will encounter that you can encourage since going through this struggle. Ask God to prepare you for these people.

And never forget, you have me– your friend who loves you, who cherishes you and this friendship, and finds you beautiful in so many ways. I love you, best friend.

 

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Happy Tuesday!

  
Started this morning early with AlyP at Starbucks before walking to our Public Health senior seminar! I can’t believe it’s our last semester. 

Today was finally cold enough to wear my Barbour jacket, although I wore it all the time in Glasgow in the summer!

Immanuel

I started this post around Christmastime but it’s just as relevant today as it was a few weeks ago. And by ‘started’ I mean I saved a draft with this title in the hopes of reflecting on it at a later time.

Immanuel means ‘God with us.’ God sent His Son to earth in the most humble of ways– as a helpless baby, so that He could become flesh.

Matthew 1: 22-23 says:

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

I love how reassuring it is to know that He is with us and not just when we’re praising Him at church during Christmastime. He’s with us no matter what– when we’re struggling to pay rent, and when we’re trying to stick to New Year’s resolutions, when we’re having a tough conversation with a friend, and when we have nowhere else to go, but He’s with us also when things are going really well– like when Costco is giving out cupcakes as a free sample, and when you’re best friend actually becomes your fiance. We’ve all been in scary moments, sad moments, and joyful moments and He’s there with us no matter what! Even when we feel alone, we’re not.

Reading this should be comforting, not frightening. God being with us is a good thing. He knows of our trials whether or not we come to Him in prayer. No matter how far we stray, He is still with us.

Today was my last first day of undergrad! My first class wasn’t until 5:30pm and I was almost late because my nails were still wet! #senioritis

I walked to Panera this morning/afternoon to have an early lunch with my friend L. It was so good to see her and catch up! She has the cutest new puppy! We also read the Bible together and what’s better than Jesus + bread bowls + long time friends? We’re old boarding school friends and our friendship has taken a turn where God has allowed me to be a spiritual mentor to her.

We read the story of Jesus and the woman at the well from John 4. We reflected on how sometimes we feel like the woman, an outcast, alone. And other times we feel like Jesus, able to share with others about ‘the Living Water.’

We admitted that it’s hard to share God’s love to someone that seems unlovable. Sometimes we need to admit that things are hard. That’s where grace is needed.

Then I came home and did some unglamourous laundry and watched Lie to Me while doing one of those adult coloring pages (which sounds dirty but isn’t!). But in the afternoon, I received an email that said the University owes me money now that I’ve dropped ballroom dance class (haha), which was a huge a blessing because textbooks are expensive! Thank you, Jesus!

Then I talked with my [sometimes] sweet sister Hannah on the phone and we discussed Ruth 1! She got a new Bible for Christmas. Although we were raised in a Christian home, Hannah has very little experience interacting with God’s word in the Bible. It was so GOOD to be in open discussion about the passage. We retold it to each other, keeping accuracy in mind, which is a practice that helps me be able to share passages with others.

Then I went to my only class of the day: The Life and Letters of Paul, which is totally different from the public health classes that I take for my major. I also finalized when the Bible study I’m leading will meet: Monday nights! It’s a ladies Bible study where each week we will focus on a different woman of the Bible.

I went to Zumba with my bestie, where we looked like fools but had fun doing it!

I really felt close to God today (because He wants to be close to us– Immanuel: ‘God with us’) and that this is the kind of life I want to be living: full of time spent in the Word, full of spiritual conversations with believers and nonbelievers, and lots of fellowship.


And just in case you thought I had my life together, let me share with you that I said a very bad word after this happened to my nails: See exhibit A. And I drove through Wendy’s drive-thru between class and the gym (oops) because well, life is messy– just like me eating a burger in my car in the gym parking lot. Sometimes it feels like there isn’t enough time, we get frustrated and stressed, and we forget things like snacks. Yet even in the mundane and messy, God is with us.

 Exhibit A

The Stats: In 2015, I …

  • traveled to 1 new country and 1 new state
  • read only about 10 books
  • took 33 university credit hours
  • worked what felt like a million hours at the dance store
  • watched 219 episodes of Criminal Minds (obviously my proudest accomplishment this year)

2015 in Review

  

 January: This was a month that has been blacked out in my brain, unfortunately, due to anxiety. Not a great way to start the year! But I could only go up from here! 🙂

February: Moved into my new apartment! The Lord rescued me from a really unhealthy living situation at just the right time. As weird as it was to move mid-semester, it was necessary and I love where I live now. I got the worst haircut of my life this month.

 

Found out about my internship in Scotland: My fiancee, J, was on the board that placed me on my Scotland missions team, talk about a conflict of interest. 😉

Spring 2015: The spring flew by! I continued to struggle daily with anxiety and was eventually diagnosed with a General Anxiety Disorder. I chose to fight anxiety with counseling, medication, and a determination to find my “zen,” where I finally found balance in my life.


Finished my term at Carolina’s Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM) as the missions fundraiser. In this role I found a love for creative event planning and an even greater love for missions. I believe all Christian Believers are called to love others and share with them the Good News of Jesus Christ coming to Earth to take our punishment for our sins. I love being part of people’s journeys to love others better and share with others about their faith.


May: Left for Glasgow, Scotland! Dreams do come true! I moved to Scotland for the summer! I worked with a great team to share the Gospel message. I lived in a nice flat with the sweetest girl named Fayla, also an American university student.

On the train to Endinburgh, Scotland

June: Fayla and I visited Edinburgh and realized we loved Glasgow a whole lot more! We celebrated American National Donut Day by eating our weight in Devon Doughnuts at Greggs, Fayla got her third tattoo by the awesome Leslie, we visited Loch Lomond and Stirling Castle, we met our sweet friend K (an American living in North Africa), and visited countless museums. This is when I rediscovered my love for yoga. By the end of the month I too, had a tattoo– something I never thought I would say!

 

Loch Lomond, Luss, Scotland, UK


July: This was my second American Independence Day spent abroad (2012’s holiday was spent in Paris) and we celebrated all weekend long with s’mores on the balcony, board games, late night drives through Glasgow looking at the city lights, and a US Women’s National Soccer Team win in the 2015 Women’s World Cup! I went to the IPC Swimming Championship and St Andrews to see the Old Course right before the 2015 British Open. Fayla and I ended July with a whirlwind day trip to London! A quick trip to Largs, Scotland to end the month.

 

 

I’m feelin’ 22!

August: Back Stateside and it felt very bittersweet. Glasgow instantly felt like home and I would love to go back. My family spent the first week at the beach and I celebrated turning 22 at the seashore. J and I were reunited, which felt so good! I started my senior year of university.

 

September: I started speaking about my time in Scotland, which really helped me process my time there and how far God had brought me in my faith and my own personal growth into a more kind and confident person.


October: SC Flood! My city suffered devasting flooding and my university was closed for a week. I saw wonderful acts of kindness and a national out-pouring of love for my small city. My  baby sister turned 19! I went to Texas for the first time during my fall break and I fell in love with the work of Roman Vishniac at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts.

 

Why cant I get this picture to upload correctly?

November: School stress really got to me as I tried to figure out which path to take concerning future plans. J and I got engaged, which is so exciting! We celebrated Thanksgiving together with my family. I bought my wedding dress at a charity event for $200!

 


December: J and I traveled all over SC spending time with friends and celebrating the Christmas season. I become obsessed with handlettering. J and I went to the Nutcracker Ballet (for free!). I finished my fall semester of my senior year. I started wedding planning and discovered I wish I could elope. I’ve applied to seminary for the fall of 2016.

 

There’s still a few days before Christmas and I’m now home for the holidays and my parents’ house. Here’s to making the end of 2015 count, with time spent with family!

 

God has brought be so far from where I was in the beginning of the year. He’s blessed me abundantly by answering prayers and providing for me in ways that I did not even know I needed providing.


The year of 2015 was exciting! And 2016 looks to bring even more excitement and changes! Up next: last semester of college, more wedding planning, graduating university, getting married, moving?, and hopefully more blog posts. 😛

Christmas Cards


Yesterday I sent Christmas cards to friends all over the world. They came from Target (of course) and are so very sparkly. Writing and mailing them got me thinking about how blessed I am to have such wonderful friends.

That led me to reflect on how far God can bring a person in a year.

This time last year my generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) was starting to eat me alive. It was just the beginning. To be honest, I don’t remember much of last fall and winter– it’s blacked out.

But I do remember how wonderfully my friends and family supported me. Not everyone understood it (most people don’t) but my friends know and understand me. They carried me when my anxiety was crippling and managed things for me so I could spend time focusing on getting better. That’s such a blessing. Not everyone has that support.

I finally got a hold of my anxiety disorder in the spring and I went on to Scotland. It was here that I realized the importance of community.

I had to leave the comfort of my community to realize how important community is while walking with Christ. In Scotland, I knew a handful of Christians and between them and me there was so much love. It’s because of love that I was able to overcome struggles like the darkest part of my anxiety disorder, Christ’s love for me, learning to love myself, and love from my people.

And that’s why I send cards for holidays and normal days: because it’s important to claim your people and tell them you love them.

  
This past weekend J and I went to Summerville, SC to stay with his best friends, Robbie and Meg. I was just meeting them for the first time after hearing lots of good things about them. They immediately welcomed me because in their eyes, I already belong to J and J is one of their people.

If you know anything about anxiety disorders, you may know that it is often incredibly difficult for a person who struggles with anxiety to meet new people and stay with people they don’t know well, away from home (away from their own bed!) overnight.

But I went for it! We went to Early Bird Diner in West Ashley for a late dinner (I recommend the pancakes and the Nutella ice cream) and then to see the lights on James Island. The next day, the girls enjoyed a Pinterest craft party and brunch, while the guys enjoyed burgers and football.

J sent me a text from across the living before leaving for lunch to ask if I would be okay without him, left with strangers in a strange apartment, for a few hours. He knows me so well! And I was okay with it. Robbie and Meg are so sweet. That’s Godly hospitality if you can instantly make someone feel welcomed like a friend.

J and I later talked about how much God has moved in my life this past yea in regards to me being generally less anxious and more friendly. By getting my anxiety disorder under control, I can now open up to people, something that before took a really long time. This sense of community is so important to me. God has really rescued me from a very unsafe situation (the initial trigger) and brought to light what it looks like to let go of anxiety and walk into the light.

For a long time, probably soon after J and I became friends, he became a bit of a security blanket. He made me feel safe and has always been hyper-aware of me and what I may need. When I didn’t want to attend events and the anxiety was taking over, I would tell myself, “J will be there, so I’ll be fine.” He’s always been my person.

So for him to ask if I would be okay if he left to spend time with his best friend, while leaving me with Meg & friends, who I’ve just met, and it not even phase me was HUGE. God surrounds us with just the right people at just right the time.

 

The Love Yourself Problem

 In Mark 12:31, Jesus commands us to “love your neighbor as yourself,” He says this after telling the crowd that the most important command is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:29).

The second most important command is to “love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no greater commandment than these (Mark 12: 31).

YIKES. Jesus is my Lord and Savior. I love my neighbors, those around me, even when it’s difficult. I love living in community. I’m the first to send a greeting card, have people over for a festive party, and always up for conversation. That’s how I show love.

But I fall down on actually loving myself. It’s really easy for me to be a friend to others, but I’m not always a friend to myself. There are days when I say things to myself that I would never say to anyone.

The other night, J and I were horsing around, as usual. No one can make me belly-laugh harder. But that’s where the problem comes in: when his hand grazed my stomach through my t-shirt, I instinctively pulled away.

That’s the spot where I’m most insecure. It started with just feeling self-conscious in a swimsuit, but now I’m to the point where I won’t even let someone who loves me deeply even accidently graze my stomach.

He brought it up and promised to love me through it, reminding me how he finds me beautiful– on the physical level and on an emotional/spiritual level.

He was telling me something kind and beautiful, but it wasn’t enough. I’ve undermined how I think about how beautiful the Lord created me with thoughts about how self-conscious I am about how my stomach isn’t perfectly flat.

I read a very timely blog post by Soul Scripts (http://thesoulscripts.com/?offset=1448125611784) and I began to repent and pray.

Things got better for a bit until it came up again. J, always gentle with me, told me how beautiful he finds me. And my immediate thought was, “well as long as he finds me beautiful, that’s enough.”

NO!!! THAT’S A TRAP! I instantly regretted thinking that– perhaps it came as a spiritual attack.

My worth is in Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ alone I find my worth. The Lord created me in His image for good purposes. How am I supposed to listen to Him and carry out those good purposes when all I hear in my brain is negative thoughts about how much I don’t love myself?

God has surrounded me with people that love me just the way I am; they are carrying out the command to love their neighbors. I’m really working on accepting their love and accepting the command to love myself.

I like to give to others. I can give to them my full attention when I stop playing a soundtrack that sounds like, “Enough with the cookies, you’re stomach isn’t flat enough, cover up, don’t believe the nice things people say…” What a distraction and a waste of energy, kind of like leaving your iPod on all day while you try to do something else.

My body is not perfect. Even if I had six-pack abs, I would still find fault. But my feet follow the Lord’s calling in my life, my knees will bow, my arms lift in worship, my eyes look for opportunities to give and evidence of Christ, my ears are alway ready to listen, I try to use my mouth to speak kind words.


Don’t forget, self-love is part of glorifying the Lord.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

This past weekend I was taught a lot about sin.

We live in a world where Christian Believers can’t even decide on what is sinful and what is not considered sinful.

Someone very close to me opened up to me about a very personal sin that which he has been struggling. When he told me, I cried. I cried for selfish reasons, where I instantly felt I could not trust him or could no believe anything he said.

He cried too as he witnessed the earthly consequences of sin.

I was overcome with how selfish I was being, in a moment where someone was confessing something so painful. He was covered in shame. In that moment, I asked God to guide me in navigating this difficult situation. I remember thinking, “this is where the rubber meets the road.”

In moments like these, this is the time where we need to practice grace and forgiveness. You know, the grace and forgiveness that is so easy to talk about but not so easy to practice– especially when the sin affects you.

I admitted that I could not understand this sin. The fact that we sometimes can’t understand the sins of those closest to us creates even more pain and shame. But I do understand sin.

Of course, I understand sin. I’m a sinner. And I find most people can’t understand my crippling anxiety that causes me to struggle with control.

I understand sin because I am a sinner. But I’m also saved by the grace of God.

And now this was an opportunity to remind this person, who I fiercely love, that he too is forgiven by God. Turning away from sin is not easy, but it’s so important.

I want to be someone that encourages others to turn away from sin and turn to healing that comes from forgiveness. I want to offer grace and forgiveness as an example of God’s love for us.

I want to lavish grace on others because, despite my sinful nature, God calls me calls to him and loves me. He forgives.