Rubies and Pearls

I was 7 years old the first time I can remember believing that I was not good enough. You pinched my thighs and laughed while calling me “thunder thighs.” I was 7.  

At 13, you sent  a note around to all the boys in the class asking who they thought was prettier, me or you. You, my “best friend” at the time, acted shocked when all but 1 boy picked your name.

At 15, you stood over me and when I looked up at you to talk, you pointed at me, laughed, and said that I looked like “bugs bunny with a tan.”

At 18, you let go of my hand when we were walking in the mall, embarrassed to be seen with me because of the 10 pounds I gained the summer after high school. The next day you bought me Hydroxycut and a gym membership.

At 22, after I gained 30 pounds in 3 months due to undiagnosed PCOS, I officially understood fully that in our society, being fat is the worst thing you can be.

I can’t remember a time in my life where body issues have not consumed my thoughts. My entire life I have struggled with feeling like I needed to lose weight in order to matter. I have taken every diet pill possible, gone on fad diets, exercised obsessively, and starved myself. There are still times that I have a hard time eating in front of people, worried that I will be judged and laughed at. I sometimes wonder if people look at me and think “why is she eating?” Certain social events can produce an unnecessary  amount of anxiety as I wonder what am I going to wear, how can I make myself look smaller, are people going to be taking pictures, do people think about my weight as much as I do, are they going to secretly point out my flaws. I feel like I have been on this lifelong emotional roller coaster where my self-worth has always been directly correlated to weight and body image.

I have learned though that it didn’t matter what size I was. I have been at both extremes – skinny in high school (though I didn’t realize I was at the time) and overweight after PCOS and depression took a toll on me. At both ends of the spectrum I still felt like I wasn’t enough, like I had nothing to offer. There has always seemed to be a higher level of perfection to strive for. And let’s face it, according to our society, I’m not enough. I don’t measure up in any way. But that’s not really the problem is it? The real problem is that somewhere along the way I was taught that my self-worth is directly linked to my body image. Through all the words that people have said to me, whether in jest or to validate their own self-worth in some way, the lie was planted in my heart at a young age that I couldn’t possibly have any worth unless I was physically perfect. 

Being bound to physical perfection and body image is crippling. I can never be good enough when measuring myself against the world’s standards of beauty. Its an impossible goal to achieve really. How could anyone possibly meet this level of perfection when it’s always changing? I struggled for years knowing that I needed to get free from this way of thinking but not knowing how to.  I tried so hard in my own power to forget what people had said to me. I pretended that I wasn’t affected by their comments, but deep down I continued to drown in this vicious cycle of self-loathing. But then I became a youth leader and things started to change.  God broke my heart for what young girls go through and the damage that is done to their own self-image at such a young age. He began to speak to my heart and teach me that I could not help them find freedom while I was still bound. How could I tell a 16 year old girl that she is valuable and adored and treasured when I stood in front of the mirror that day and picked myself apart? How could I explain to her that she has so much more to offer this world than her body when I would cry while getting dressed because I hated the way I looked? So I began to fight for my own freedom, because fighting for my freedom meant fighting for her freedom too. 

God has really taken me on a journey these last few years of understanding how to expose the lies that have been spoken over me and destroy them at their roots so they can’t regrow in my heart. And at the root of every mean word or action by the people listed above is satan’s desire to destroy my future and my destiny, to cripple my mind and inhibit me from becoming everything God created me to be.  It has been a hard and slow process of learning how to break old habits and old ways of thinking. For so many years I allowed myself to be affected by what people had said or thought about me, and He began to show me that unless I died to the opinion of man, I would eventually die from the opinion of man. I had to replace the negative thoughts with the truth about who God says I am. When thoughts fill my mind that I’m not good enough or when old words that have been spoken over me and to me affect how I feel about myself, God gently whispers to me “your value is far above rubies and pearls.” When I’m in public and look around at everyone and start to compare myself and  criticize who I am, I can hear Him tell me “daughter you’re beautiful.” He is (very) patiently teaching me to be kind to myself, to not be harsh and negative towards His creation. He reminds me that He knew me before I was formed in my mother’s womb and that I am a masterpiece to Him. He intimately knows me and loves me just the same. He is the creator of the universe and yet calls me His own. I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine. And in that truth alone do I find my worth.

I’m so sorry if people in your life have not been loving and kind towards you. I understand what it’s like to hear words that cut through you and make you feel so worthless. But please listen to me – you matter. Who you are matters. You weren’t created on accident, and your presence touches more lives than you realize. Fight for your freedom. Understand that who you are is solely defined by Whose you are. There may be facts about us that just don’t measure up to the world’s standard of beauty, but the TRUTH is that we are unconditionally loved by a Savior who doesn’t care if we have a thigh gap or not. And that truth will set you free :)

But if not, He is still good

Grief. The greatest equalizer of all mankind. Grief doesn’t care if you’re rich, poor, affluent, unknown, etc. It hits all of us at some point and when it does it can leave us reeling, trying to make sense of what happened and struggling to hold our heads above water. Grief can come from many different things in life. Loss of loved ones, tragedy, the death of dreams, plans, and hopes for the future. It demands our attention, demands to be felt and dealt with. Grief comes in waves. Just when you think that you are okay, the pain comes crashing back down on you, knocking you over and leaving you struggling to breathe once again.

My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to Your word – Psalm 119:28

So what do we do? How do we walk through life knowing that pain is inevitable? How do we keep from hiding and trying to protect ourselves from heartache and loss? I have asked this question over and over throughout the past two weeks. I have walked through my share of grief before, but so much has happened these past two weeks that I was caught off guard and found myself questioning God’s plans and promises. I found myself in a place where I didn’t even know how to pray or what to say. In two short weeks I have watched my family walk through sorrow and have felt as if my own personal dreams have died. Grief once again reminded me that it is no respecter of persons. Sadness and feelings of hopelessness have wanted to become my best friends, filling my head with doubts and fears.

I was reminded this week of the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Three men of God who resolved to serve the Lord at all times. When King Nebuchadnezzar demanded that everyone worship his golden image, they refused despite the threats of death in the fiery furnace. When confronted by the king, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego said something so profound. They looked the king in the eye and said “Our God will rescue us..but even if He doesn’t, we will not worship your golden image.” Even if He doesn’t, we will still praise Him. Even if He doesn’t, He is still good. Even if He doesn’t..

I will bless the Lord at all times: His praise shall continually be in my mouth. – Psalm 34:1

This is the answer isn’t it?! How we walk through seasons of grief, how we hold our heads up and refuse to allow fear to overtake us, how we continue to stand on God’s promises despite what things look like around us. The answer is found in the resolve to say but even if He doesn’t, I will bless the Lord at all times. The answer is found in the place where we can stand on God’s word, remember the things that He has done, and draw our strength from His very heart and character and presence in our lives. The answer is found in our deep beliefs that He is good at all times, no matter what happens. We have to understand that we live in a broken and fallen world and bad things happen. Life hurts and is hard and we don’t understand. But He is good. We lose people we love and our dreams can shatter in pieces. But He is good. We endure sorrow and trauma and tragedy. But He is good. May this always be my focus. May my eyes always look to Him and His goodness and faithfulness. May I determine to focus on nothing else, as Paul said, but Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

But if not, He is still good. And that my soul knows very well.

 

11 things to do while waiting on your spouse

I’m 27 and single. When I was younger, I never thought that this is the place I would find myself in at this age. 25 sounded so old to me as a teenager, and I thought for sure that by that age I would be married with at least 1 child. Well, it turns out that God had other plans than what I dreamt up for myself. It’s not always easy being an older, single female.  I have learned just how much young marriages are praised and encouraged in the Christian culture and how older, single women are often viewed as if there is something wrong with them to have not “earned” a husband yet. It’s been an interesting journey, but one that I am grateful for as God has used this time to pour into my life and teach me more and more about His character and His plans.

I have noticed several different articles online all listing out different things to do while you are single. While some of them are great and have really good information, I’ve noticed that there are so many things that I can’t apply to my life. For instance, it seems to be a trend to tell single girls to live it up, party all the time, sleep around, etc. So I thought that for girls like myself who are seeking God and waiting on His promises in their lives I would write out my own list of things one can do while waiting on their spouse. I by no means am claiming to be an expert on any of this, but these are the things that I have learned and have worked to apply to my life during this season.

1. Get free

Seriously. I think this is the most important thing anyone can do before getting married. We all tend to carry around so much baggage from the different things we have gone through in our lives. Be it childhood pain, past relationships, or insecurities, there are so many things that have affected our lives and until we are set free from them, they will affect our reactions, emotions, and relationships. Take time with God and allow Him to show you in what areas of your life you need freedom. Be vulnerable with Him and let Him reveal things to you and show you the stuff that you still need to be healed from. I don’t think there is any greater gift you could give your future spouse than a healed, whole heart. Two people still in bondage from their pasts will eventually emotionally destroy one another, but two people who are free and secure in who they are in Christ will set the world on fire.

2. Make friends with yourself 

Learn to be kind to yourself. Learn to view yourself the way that God sees you. Get to know yourself deeply. Find out what you like, what you’re good at, what you’re passionate about. Learn who you are. I think that it’s so important to know who you are and to love yourself before attaching yourself to another person. If Jesus calls us His friends, we need to learn how to be our own friends as well. Friends advocate for one another, cherish each other, stand up for each other, push each other to be their best. Become your own friend.

3. Get your finances in order 

Take advantage of this season to get out of debt and save money so that when you do get married you and your spouse are not immediately swallowed up in debt. Finances are one of the main things that couples argue about and ultimately divorce over. Take care of that now to avoid future problems!

4. Take care of your body 

Focus on yourself during this season and learn to treat your body right. Not for the sake of material reasons or because of society’s standards of beauty, but because we are temples of the Holy Spirit and need to honor and care for our bodies. It takes a lot of self-discipline to make good, healthy choices for yourself and that same practice of self-discipline will then be carried over in to other areas of your life. Get healthy for yourself and for your future.

5. Live alone 

I know that this isn’t feasible for everyone, but if it is, living alone is one of the greatest things you can do before marriage. You learn so much about yourself by living alone it’s unbelievable. You learn your own strength and independence, as well as how to enjoy your own company which is vital in making friends with yourself. Understanding that you don’t need a husband to provide for you will lead to you choosing someone based off of God’s will and not your emotions.

6. Go on a mission trip 

It’s so hard to be able to travel once you are married and start having children. Find an organization that sends people on mission trips (one of my favorites is www.adventures.org), pick a trip, and GO. Let your heart be opened up to the needs of people around the world. Let God break your heart for what breaks His. Step out of your comfort zone for a little bit. You will never be the same. Being exposed to the needs of the people around the world will create a compassion in you that you didn’t necessarily have before, and that compassion will be carried over into every relationship you have and ultimately create a stronger marriage.

7. Travel alone 

Traveling alone is not easy. Last year I was able to go to Oklahoma to help do disaster relief after the terrible tornadoes. It was a 9 hour drive from where I live, and I was alone the entire time. The year before that I was able to fly to Pittsburgh alone to visit my brother for Thanksgiving. I love traveling and before these two times had never traveled alone . I think that traveling alone empowers you. You become more confident and you realize that you dont’ always have to have someone with you. If there’s somewhere you want to go or something you have been wanting to do, just go! Don’t wait for others to jump on board to pursue your dreams! Theres freedom in being able to do things alone. Find that freedom :)

8. Get an education 

Now I realize that college is not for everybody. I know that there are so many successful people living out their God-given purpose and calling who never went to college and I think that’s great! But if a higher education is something you want to pursue, what better time than right now! Go after it. Once you are married you won’t have the same opportunity to chase certain dreams!

9. Face a fear 

Is there something you have always wanted to do but fear has held you back? A dream in your heart that over and over again fear has silenced? Now is the time to face those fears! Whatever it is, stand up with courage against what is silencing you. For me, my fears have always been the opinion of man and what people thought about me. I have had to choose to face that fear by stepping out regardless of what people may say and pursuing the things that God has placed in my heart. You can do the same things! Know that God is for you and fights for you. Stand up to some fears today!

10. Become part of a community 

Use this time to surround yourself with people who love you, encourage you, and bring out the best in you. Get plugged into a church, join a small group, be intentional with your relationships with friends. We are created for community and to participate in life with one another. The relationships you take time to cultivate today will be the same people who stand with you through trial after trial for the rest of your life. Surround yourself with those who constantly speak life and love you through the hard times of life and who always point you towards Christ.

11. Enjoy your life!! 

The absolute worst thing you can do during a season of waiting is mourn. Having a husband and children is not going to magically make your life better or solve any problems. There are so many people who are married with children who actually envy the life of a single person, regret getting married young, or end up in abusive relationships that they can’t get out of. Trust God’s timing and live life to the fullest! Choose joy every single day. Do something you have always wanted to do. Love your friends and family deeply. This is not a time to mourn or wallow in self-pity. It’s a beautiful season of life that should be celebrated! There is always always something to be thankful for. Learn to recognize all the gifts in your life and then take advantage of this season of complete freedom in Christ to become the person God has called you to be.

These things are in no way a guarantee that someone will have a long, healthy marriage. They are simply the areas that God has pin pointed in my own life that I needed to focus on during this season of singleness. Let God show you what you need to work on and take advantage of this time to grow in Him and know Him deeper. And please please remember, there is nothing wrong with you . I don’t know why God plans for some girls to get married at 18 and some to get married at 40. All I know is that if you love and seek the Lord and do what you can to follow His will for your life, then you are on the right path. Your life doesn’t have to look like someone else’s life for you to know that God is for you and working on your behalf. Let us become people who celebrate and rejoice in what God is doing in everyone’s lives, whether we understand it or not,  because everything God does is good.

 

Robin Williams and the stigma of mental illness

Like the rest of the world, I was shocked and saddened to hear about the death of Robin Williams yesterday. I fondly remember watching his movies and being amazed that one person could play so many different characters and evoke so many different emotions. To know that a man who brought the gift of laughter to the lives of those around him was struggling with secret pain is heartbreaking and brings to light the stigma that has been created around mental illness.

Statistics show that nearly 30,000 Americans commit suicide. That’s 30,000 wives, husbands, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, friends, etc who quietly struggle with emotional pain while the rest of the world goes on around them, sometimes completely oblivious to the pain of others. For so long people have been shamed into silence when it comes to things like depression, anxiety, panic, eating disorders, and other mental illnesses for not being “strong” enough to overcome. This culture of shaming leaves people feeling like they have no place to turn to for help, for support, for friendship, especially in the Christian church. We expect our Christian brothers and sisters to have the ability to encourage themselves in the Lord, pull themselves together, and get it together. It is hard for us to understand or believe that someone who loves the Lord could battle mental illness without it somehow being their fault.

There are so many different kinds of battles that people face in this life. Mental illness is one of them. People who are struggling don’t need shame and judgement, they need love, grace, and mercy. They need people in their lives who will support them, cheer them on, cry with them, pray with them, and sit quietly with them. They need people who will speak life over them and encourage them. I think it’s important to remember that we all struggle with something, and we are all in need of grace. If we allowed ourselves to be real and vulnerable, I would say that most of the stigma surrounding mental illness has to do with the fear that “that could be me.” We would rather turn a blind eye, act like it doesn’t exist, or shame those who struggle rather than accept the reality of mental illness because that means that it could very well try to enslave us one day as well.

But friends we have a choice. Every day we have the choice of helping set people free or tightening the chains on their prison. It’s time that we become a safe place for those struggling, hurting, questioning, and battling. Let them bring their secret pain, fears, hurt, and doubts because Jesus can handle it all. People struggling with mental illness often shame themselves enough as it is. Why can’t I just be happy, why can’t I stop having panic attacks, why am I not strong enough?  The last thing they need is more shame. They need community, relationship, friendship, and real love. May we always be people who help the hurting introduce their pain to the Healer. Choose to speak life friends. Grab someone’s hand and show them the love of Christ. It’s only there that we can all find freedom.

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About Me

I think this is where I am supposed to tell you all about my dreamy life and how I have everything together.

Hahaha.

Let’s be honest and start with some facts. My name is Angela – I am 27 years old from a small city in southeast Texas, but my heart’s home will forever be Bogota, Colombia where I was born. By day I am a social worker who visits families and writes reports for Child Protective Services. By night I am a daughter, sister, aunt, runner, aspiring author, and ice cream enthusiast who deeply craves to see hope restored and the light of Christ brought to the ends of the earth. My life doesn’t look anything like I thought it would by this age, and I am slowly learning that it’s OK. God has taken me on a journey of learning how to make friends with freedom and uncertainty and trust His heart one step at a time.

I have thought about starting a blog for a long time now, but have always talked myself out of it because I didn’t think I had anything valuable to say. What would people think about me? Would they like me, judge me, criticize me? Fear and doubt have stolen my confidence time and time again. I can’t promise that I will always have a lot to say, or have all the answers and the most magical writing skills that leave you feeling like you just talked with Jesus Himself. What I can promise is that I will always speak truth and give grace. I want this blog to be a safe place where people find the truth of who Christ is and the beauty of His love for us. I hope you see something here that leaves you hopeful and calls out courage from the deep places within you. Together we can truly light up the darkness with the Light of Christ.

All my love, Angela

About

I'm a daughter, sister, aunt, friend, Jesus Feminist, and social justice wanna-be. I believe in women finding their freedom and living out their callings without permission or apology.

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