Prayer

Thursday’s kind of suck.

They’ve proven to be my busiest and most challenging day every single week. I go from one job to another job to school to sleep and that’s it. From screaming kids to more screaming kids and a workload way too heavy for what I get paid to a three hour class and so on…it’s a lot for one day. I barely eat or stop running around for even a second. My daily schedule is hectic enough – wearing me out both physically and mentally without fail, but Thursday’s are particularly challenging.

Yesterday I was near a breaking point. I was reclusive – unable to talk more than I had to to the people I work with because I couldn’t bring myself to put on a fake face of having-it-all-together, the tremor in my left hand resurfaced, I broke out in hives, I cried when a baby I was holding started crying, and I even managed to fall asleep standing up at one point…in the middle of a task at work I just found myself dozing off and eventually being suddenly woken up by the sound of kids – fresh off the school bus – running toward the computers beside me. It all sounds so dramatic and I know everyone has a busy schedule, but this is beyond anything I’ve ever had to handle. I’ve never known the severity of stress and how much it can physically affect you until recently.

Last night, after all that went down, I made a point to do something for my own mental stability. Just a small thing to keep myself from having an evening that was just as challenging as the rest of my day had been.

I got to school a few minutes early, sitting in my car with my music turned to a soft hum, and I opened my prayer journal. As the golden 6 p.m. light illuminated the page I was scribbling (almost incoherently) on, I felt at peace for the first Thursday in a while. Or, really, any day in a while.

With a rush of calm coming over me, I closed my notebook, took a breath, and walked to my classroom finally feeling prepared for the hours yet to come.

And as I turned the corner to my class, I see a girl who typically sits across from me – a mix of exasperation and relief on her face. “It’s cancelled,” she said. Both of us paused for a moment before letting out a laugh. I think, somehow, she and I felt exactly the same in that moment.

As I got home, with the typical I’m-so-tired-I’m-acting-drunk feeling beginning to creep up on me, I fell asleep with ease. No stress; nothing keeping me awake. Normally I’m kept up by thoughts of everything I have yet to accomplish long-term, everything I didn’t get done today, everything on my to-do list for the next day.

But not last night.

And as I sit here on a Friday afternoon, still in my pajamas, I’m not even a little bit stressed out. Usually by this point I’ve already worn myself thin again, having pushed myself to doing more than one person should be doing in a single day – on my day off. But there is still so much peace leftover from one simple prayer – one 5 minute conversation with God.

Today I woke up hearing God very loudly telling me to make myself a weekly schedule, before I could even allow myself the opportunity to think about getting stressed out today. So I did, and now I know exactly what to expect everyday. I know that Friday is now my “Sabbath Day” in which I am not expected to go anywhere or do anything in particular. I’m still going to take the time to clean and probably do something along the lines of studying, but I’m not allowing myself to get stressed about a single thing. I’m allowing myself to breathe, to sleep in, to do one thing I enjoy today.

Sometimes I underestimate the power of praying just because it doesn’t always give me immediate powerful results. Just because I don’t always get what I want. But seriously, what an incredible reminder this has been. I asked God in pure desperation, on the verge of a mental breakdown, to give me peace. I also asked Him to help me find a way to successfully handle a busy schedule without losing myself – which is exactly what has been happening.

I’ve never been the type to let a lot of stress get to me, not to this level at least, and I always try to be a generally upbeat person who sees the good in most situations and most people…but I haven’t been that way. I used to be resilient; that’s what my mom always told me, but not these days. I’ve been letting every inconvenience push me to the point of tears and wanting to give up. All of it has been a result of letting myself think I can handle everything alone, but all that that accomplishes is putting more unnecessary pressure on myself.

I have a tendency to think I can do everything on my own – that God already gave me the tools necessary to handle everyday life, but that’s not the case. Sometimes all He needs to hear from you is that you haven’t forgotten about Him. Sometimes all He’s waiting for is a simple question – for you to recognize that, yes He can and will equip you when the time is right, but you just need to ask for help first; let him know, not only that you recognize He is the one who’s taking care of the situation through you, but that you know when to ask for help. You know when to step back and say “I’m only human, and I’m only one person.”

Pride is an ugly thing and it’s often hard to pinpoint, it’s easy to justify, but thinking that you don’t need help is pride in itself, no matter what way you try to twist it.

So I’m not saying that everything is magically better now. I’m not saying that next week will roll around and I’ll be so happy-go-lucky that it’s like I’ve forgotten what stress is. What I am saying is that I asked for help and God intervened. He took the first step for me, I chose to recognize what He did, and with that recognition comes a lesson that I can handle what is in front of me. God will equip me, as long as I ask for His help and continually talk to Him honestly.

He gives you what you need, when you need it.

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“It’s Hard to Listen When You Preach”

I wrote an entirely different post prior to this one that was supposed to be inspirational or encouraging or something along those lines, but it felt wrong to be handing out advice that I don’t yet follow…because most things are much easier said than done.

I made valid points that I stand behind, but they shouldn’t be my points to make if I can’t listen to them myself. I’m obviously not perfect, I have a lot of lessons yet to learn and sometimes I’m hesitant to learning them. I’m human. Maybe a little too human sometimes. I’ve always just shared my thoughts and experiences while offering a listening ear. I’m not here to be disingenuous, and posting advice on a subject I don’t know first-hand seems to be exactly that.

As Bono puts it so eloquently, “It’s hard to listen when you preach.” (If you haven’t listened to the song Every Breaking Wave, I implore you to do so. It’s heartbreaking in the kind of way that makes you reevaluate where you are in life and with God, especially if your life isn’t in the best spot at the moment. I’ll link it here if you’re interested.) So instead of preaching at you about stuff I don’t personally relate to, I’ll stick with telling you about something that I’m actually learning right now. Long story short, here is a lesson that is personal to myself (as I hope you get something out of hearing about my journey with it to this point):

Living in the moment.

It’s a cliche expression that people overall have a tendency to use in order to justify bad decisions (in the realm of YOLO, except no one really says that anymore…I hope), but I have to constantly remind myself that this right now is my life. It’s happening as we speak. It’s happening as I’m sitting in my bed at 1 a.m. writing this. Every second, every breath, all of it is happening in real-time. And it seems so obvious when it’s written out in front of me, but for all of us detail-oriented/future-thinking/keep-moving-forward thinkers, it’s often a challenge to take a step back and realize that life isn’t going to start in three years. It won’t start when I reach a specific goal or accomplish something important. Life started, in my case, 21 years ago and it’s not going to stop until my last breath.

Goals are great, they keep us motivated, but it’s best to maintain a healthy balance in all things and not wish your life away (thank you, mom, for teaching me that lesson…it only took about a decade for it to sink in).

I love certain aspects of my current position, and I’m not as fond of other parts. Yes this is, admittedly, a particularly challenging time of my life, but no matter what stage I’m in there will always be plenty of both positives and negatives – good parts, bad parts, and stuff to look forward to.

So I’ll make the best of right now, while not completely losing sight of the future. I can make right now just as important as tomorrow.

I can appreciate the good in every moment – not just the highlights yet to come.

And that’s what I’m currently in the process of learning. It’s still a process, I’ve faltered and will inevitably do so again, but I’m making progress everyday as I remind myself that every second is equally important to the next.

So this is less about giving advice from the perspective that I have already reached the metaphorical finish line – that I’ve learned the lesson to it’s fullest extent, I’m a finished product, it’s not a challenge for me anymore. Of course it’s still a challenge. I’m a work in progress, and always will be. But I am progressing, and that’s what is important!

I’m not good at telling people what to do because that’s just not my personality, but mostly I personally think there are way too many people out there who are telling everyone else what to do without admitting any personal fault. So I’m saying that I am just as flawed as the next person, but this is what I am learning right now and I hope someone else can benefit from hearing about it. That’s what I can offer, in good conscience.

 

 

Trying (to Find Peace)

I’ve been tired for a while.

The past year has felt like saying “I’m trying” on repeat. And that’s exactly what I have been doing – still trying to curb my rising stress levels, still trying to go wherever God leads me, still trying to make progress in my life, still trying to improve myself so I can be better for those around me, still trying to find a healthy balance between being constantly focused on what lies ahead and living for what is right now.

Still, I’m trying.

One of my biggest fears, for example, is the potential need for my dream of being an author to be altered. The older I get, the more that seems to become a reality. When I was younger I’d sit quietly at lunch listening intently to other kids tell stories and prattle on about their daily adventures, and later while they ran around on the playground getting their energy out, I was alone regaining mine – writing down their stories and making them my own – playing fantasy games like they did, just a bit more quietly. Writing has always felt both like home and an adventure, and in more recent years, it makes me feel close to God. It’s the one thing that I don’t feel the need to be the very best at, because it just feels good to do it; but in doing so, I also improve. So, with this intense passion for writing I have developed from the moment I could string sentences together comes an intense dread for compromise. For settling. For giving it up because life may one day get too much in the way. Yes I will always be a writer, but I may not get the opportunity to write in the way I always hoped I could, and that saddens me. Even though I’m aware God has a plan regardless of what happens (as long as I keep putting in the necessary effort and listening to His guidance) what will be will be and I will make it through, the idea still keeps me awake some nights. I’m human; I falter, but I’m improving. I’m trying.

There’s so much to stress out about; to make me want to hide from the world and hope it stops nagging me. But I have a Music Appreciation test tomorrow and pages of notes still yet to take, I have a job to go to in the morning, a book to finish writing at some point, and laundry to fold. So much laundry. The world isn’t going to ever stop nagging me to do a thousand things at once and pulling me in every possible direction. It won’t stop giving you or I reasons to feel inadequate or scared or stressed or, more likely, some annoying combination of all of those and more. The world will throw problems at you left and right. Some bigger than others, of course, but it’s the daily stressors that sneak up on you – building up until you feel like you’re going to burst. (Luke 21:34)

But God’s just looking at you, probably stroking his beard, tapping his foot, whistling as He waits; wondering when you’ll finally realize you’re going to be fine. He’s got this. Even if you have no idea what’s going on, thank goodness He always does. (John 14:27)

Believe me, I have to remind myself of this about ten times a day and I still have my moments where I question it entirely. A million questions starting with “…but,” pop in my head daily, and yet I’m still okay. I’ve made it this far and every situation I didn’t think I would get through, I did. “Just calm down and stop overthinking” is a phrase I use mentally about everyday. The only way that phrase has any weight, the only way it ever works, is when I combine it with prayer – when I direct it to God. Life just seems easier to handle when I pray everyday, and that’s no coincidence. The only time I truly feel at ease is when I prayer journal, which I’ve been getting back to doing at least once a day. You can’t expect anything from God if you don’t ask, you can’t expect answers if you don’t listen, and you can’t expect change if you can’t handle honesty. “Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the One who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.” (Max Lucado)

So my point is that life is stressful and uncertain and there is a lot to worry about, but you don’t have to let that hinder you. You don’t have to be held back by fear of the unknown, because God knows what lies ahead. Talk to Him about it and then build some true faith. What will happen will happen and you can choose to make the best of it by talking to God and being open to what He has to say.

I’m going to wrap this up with a story about a woman I visited in a nursing home today, because she inspired this entire post:

One of my closest friends and I decided we wanted to start scrapbooking, which she ended up mentioning to her grandmother. A week later, we were on our way to visit her so she could lend us some of her supplies. I tagged along, unsure of what to expect and wondering why someone I’ve never met would be kind enough to lend me things that are precious to her. But we get there and I’m greeted by an older woman with a kind smile and upbeat attitude, and I instantly feel at ease around her. She giddily shows us around the building while leading us to the small apartment-style room she and her husband share. When she opens her door, it isn’t the size of the space that I notice right away, but the fact that she made it feel warm and inviting. I didn’t notice the hospital curtain until the end of my visit, because all I initially saw was an inviting couch, photos of family members on most of the walls, and an overflowing crafting table. She talked endlessly about family and friends, but what struck me the most was the fact that she was open about her hesitation with living there. She did not want to move to this place. She’d given up her car, her home, and her friends to live in an assisted living home in which she can’t even cook for herself and her husband. It took her a long time to adjust to the environment. Though she hadn’t pointed it out herself, it was obvious that she was in the best shape, both physically and mentally, out of probably anyone else in the facility. She didn’t feel like she belonged there. She was depressed for a while, and still goes through some “weepy days” as she put it, but she said all this with a smile because she was learning to make the best of it. She put her crafting abilities to use and holds weekly card-making classes, she charges a couple dollars for her pre-made cards (as she pulled out a hundred cards she had made to show us what she can do), and she is lobbying to hold a craft fair so all the ladies in this community can have the opportunity to sell what they make as well. Her crafting classes have gone so well that she has gone from using her own supplies to the staff saying “buy what you need and we will reimburse you.” She proudly told us, “I found my niche,” and she went on to tell us that she believes she was put there to be a caretaker of sorts. To be a ray of sunshine to these people. She took her less-than-ideal situation, made it a God opportunity, and through it she found an overwhelming sense of peace.

She gave me hope that I hadn’t realized I needed until today.

She ended our visit with a piece of advice: “I’ve seen the top of a mountain, and the while the mountain itself is just rock and ice, the view is amazing – like nothing you’ve ever seen before. But it is in the valleys that the wildflowers and grass grow. Both are equally important.” (James 1:2-4)

 

 

 

 

 

I Went For A Run (And Learned Some Things)

I went for a run today.

Okay, so it was more of a brisk walk with a few spurts of jogging…but I did it!

Before I get into my reasons for spontaneously going on a three mile (sort of) jog-ish thing, you’ll need some backstory. Last week I went running with a friend (who is actually a runner, so she has also been acting as my motivator for getting back into shape) and after talking about it for ages, she finally convinced me to go with her. What ended up being a disastrous turn of events also turned out to be a huge push for me in the right direction.

We got lost as we distracted ourselves with talking, assuming the trail would eventually loop back around to where we parked (surprise, it didn’t). All in all we ended up walking/jogging a total of ten miles. My left foot is still not very happy about that excursion, but the rest of me is thankful because I forgot how much I actually enjoy exercising. I forgot how much my body is capable of if I’m having a good time – that I’m not as weak as I always think I am. I forgot that I love to run and let my anxieties melt away. I forgot that I don’t really equate running with working out, because I only ever “worked out” to look better and never actually enjoyed it, but running feels like an escape from reality.

I wanted to go again, alone this time, and though I needed a week’s break after those ten miles for the sake of letting my foot heal, I found myself back on the familiar mulch track she and I started on seven days prior.

I’ve been pretty transparent on here about my past struggles with body image and one thing that held me back from exercising for the past year is how I have abused my body in the past. I spent a lot of time not eating and in that time I was exercising relentlessly – hours upon hours upon hours of trying to tone and shrink the body I taught myself to hate. Since then I have had an aversion to anything involving exercise because I’m afraid of becoming obsessed again or doing it for the wrong reasons. Which is a silly thought because it’s been a year since I’ve seriously struggled with it and while I know some fears may never fully go away, I also know better than to believe something so miniscule could ever be more powerful than the strength God taught me to find within myself.

Today I woke up knowing that I needed to be alone, just God and I. I needed to reevaluate some things within myself and allow for time in which I could reassess a few lessons I have let fall to the wayside. So I escaped to the familiar quiet park where I could reflect, and while I planned on simply sitting on a bench and reading my Bible or praying, I felt God tell me to run instead; to let go and feel free for a little while because I’ve been in a constant state of stress. So here are some things that I learned.

  1. It’s not always about being the best or the fastest. Sure, strive to be the best you can, but also keep a rational mind. I felt God while I was running; I felt Him in the sound of the sea breeze moving gently through the trees above me and the distant murmur of children on a playground. I felt close to Him because it was just He and I in that moment; the world still existed, yes, but it was more beautiful than I’ve seen it in a long time because I saw it all as God’s. It was very meditative, but it wouldn’t have been if I was solely focused on “go faster,” “push harder,” and so on. It’s more about the journey than the destination, or however the expression goes.
  2. Take detours when you can. I found a path off to the side that I knew wouldn’t lead me in the direction I had intended to go, but it was beautiful. I’m all for being focused on your goals and whatnot, but sometimes a distraction is necessary. Sometimes a distraction is put in your place to give you some perspective – a chance to reflect, breathe, and take a moment to be introspective. I ended up enjoying myself the most on my ten minute detour. There was an expanse of grass with benches to sit on, trees towering over me for optimal shade, a place off to the side where someone had a bonfire the night prior, and there were birds everywhere – from huge turkey vultures lurking in the corner to a baby bluejay hopping in the grass. It was serene and a little magical, like it was hidden away just for me to discover right then, and I found myself really smiling for the first time since I had started running. That’s where I felt God the most, but I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy it if I had been so focused on staying on the path that I didn’t allow myself to explore at all.
  3. Don’t eat Skittles before you exercise. This may not seem like a real lesson, but I’m just telling you that you should make better decisions than me because I was fully aware that I should have eaten something healthy, but as I sat in my car for twenty minutes psyching myself up to actually run I realized I had been tearing through a bag of Skittles in my purse. It was like someone else took over my actions in that moment and I didn’t realize what was happening until it was too late…and by that I mean I was really hungry, I only had skittles readily available, but I honestly probably wouldn’t have chose anything else even if I had had the option. Baby steps. I’m getting healthy in baby steps. But still, don’t do something that dumb. Jesus would be smart enough to eat a salad or something, but I chose Skittles and very much regretted it. Just FYI.
  4. Speaking of sitting in my car for twenty minutes psyching myself up, that’s a thing I did. And that’s possibly the biggest lesson learned today (or, actually, more of a reminder since God and I have been over it a few times at this point): stop allowing fear to keep you from doing what you should. Stop allowing yourself to be your own worst enemy. Stop allowing unimportant things to hold you back. I was anxious about people watching me run because I don’t do it often and I don’t always go into new situations feeling super confident, but there’s a reason God spent all of last year making sure I was alone learning independence in spite of useless fears. Today He reminded me that I allowed fear back into my life and it’s time to let go of it, so I did. And I ran. 

God is in every part of life, not just in church or the Bible, and He can teach you a lesson in sometimes the strangest, most unexpected ways. Today was one of those strange, unexpected lesson days and I’m grateful to have a God that calls me out when I need to readjust my thought process and actions.

 

Change

Last summer I spent an evening in Savannah, Georgia. My mom and I embarked on our yearly trip to meet some family members in Tennessee, and what was supposed to just be a fun rest stop amidst a 14 hour drive turned into a sort of turning point for me.

After a bad breakup and several attempts to find love (or more like comfort, in hindsight) in all the wrong places, prior to this day I hadn’t thought about how much I needed a new outlook . My mom has always been the person who understands me better than anyone else could dream of, and a week of me and her on the road did more good for me than I realized at the time.

To most people, this photo looks like nothing more than a semi-blurry picture of a girl in a restaurant. But I see a hundred problems hiding under the surface: a girl who has lost her sense of direction in life, who is beyond frustrated, mentally counting the calories in the meal she just ordered, and wondering how much longer she can stand to be alive.

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I was obsessed with appearances. I had to be the skinniest, prettiest person I could turn myself into. I had to be fit, working out for hours upon hours everyday until I felt sick. I learned to love the feeling of an empty stomach. I still do, though now I wish I didn’t. I  piled on makeup to the best of my ability and wore outfits that I thought made me look smaller. I had to fix everything, but found new problems with myself everyday. I took selfies and posted them on Instagram to prove to others and myself that I had confidence.

There is nothing wrong with taking care of oneself, or wanting to look nice and be healthy, but I took it to an extreme. I loved when my extended family commented on how great I suddenly looked. I loved that boys suddenly paid attention to me and girls wanted to be my friend. I loved that I had a secret, that I could reinvent myself by choosing who I spent my time with, that I could pretend to fit in with people other than my immediate family for a change.

But those things did not equate to happiness. I did not find salvation in any of them. All I felt was a constant ache for more, but I didn’t get anything more until I proved that, while I may not necessarily deserve it, I could work hard for better things. I could have the best intentions, be positive, and be genuine as often as possible.

I needed God, and acted (even believed at times) that He and I were perfectly okay with each other, but I found that I couldn’t simultaneously be abusing/lying to myself and be in a healthy relationship with Him. Praying means next to nothing if I turn around and act irrational the next minute, whether that be in the way I treat my body or the poor decisions I make to feel less empty.

Relying on frivolous things like appearances, other people’s validation, and success to bring you joy will only result in feeling worse off in the end. I was never more broken than I was at that time, but it was in the brokenness that I was able to make a change.

I didn’t figure everything out on that trip. I didn’t suddenly turn into a new person or have a great relationship with God in a day. Even now, our relationship falters. I’m human and while it’s not an excuse, it is a fact that I’m not going to be perfect. However, it was a turning point.

Throughout that single week, I made decisions that I truly believed would better my life. And sanity, if we’re honest. I had incredible conversations about salvation, thought a lot about what God wanted me to do and how He wanted me to treat myself, and it was because of those decisions that I finally was able to move forward with my life.

I have never been able to say that I am happy. Even in the best moments, I didn’t feel a constant sense of joy. But even on my darker days, I have hope now. I wouldn’t have that if I hadn’t made difficult, but responsible decisions back then. I had to face reality instead of complaining about it, and as soon as I did, my entire outlook on myself and my existence changed. I changed. I grew.

Everyone Is A Bit Of A Mess

I am broken.

So completely, unabashedly broken. Well at least the “unabashedly” part is a work in progress.

There is no definitive line between having it together and falling apart. Daily life is not set in black in white; even if it’s not always a rainbow of colors, it’s at least hundreds of variations of grey. Depends on the day.

Lately, I’ve been having some grey days. There are ups and downs, because among the “downs” I choose to let myself have some “ups,” which is an important lesson I wish I had learned a long time ago. But in the grey days I have learned to look closer at the reality of other people’s lives.

I am not the only person facing demons. Far from it, in fact.

Sure that seems obvious when actually saying it aloud or putting pen to paper, but it’s so easy to get caught up in your own head and not realize that your problems, while they have merit, are not exclusive. I would be wasting my time trying to compare my life to other’s because I can see their lives in easy black and white moments – I’m not feeling everything they feel or seeing every detail exactly like they can. To put it more eloquently, Steven Furtick says “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”

Even with the people I am closest to, with whom I get a glimpse of most of their good and bad moments, I could still easily point to all the ways in which they have their life more figured out than I do.

Me? I feel like a mess 24/7. I’ve never not felt like a mess. I’m a terrible communicator when it comes to my emotions (and I have a lot of them), I procrastinate out of fear, I push some people away and let in some that I shouldn’t, I think too much about self-improvement to the point of not actually doing anything to improve, I don’t pray enough. I’m going to stop there. You get the point.

Your immediate reaction, if you’re anything like me, may be “Yeah, but…”

But nothing. I am a mess in some ways, but not in others. It’s just not always easy to look past the ways in which you are a mess because those qualities tend to be more prevalent and problem-causing. The people in my life that I admire for their abilities to handle things all the time have their own faults and shortcomings that I’m not paying attention to because I’m too busy thinking about how much better than me they are.

A better use of time is, if you notice a quality you like in someone, point it out to them and learn from what they do. You can’t always mimic what other people do because you still have to be your own person and focus on the gifts that God gave you, but maybe there’s some sort of lesson in there for you as well.

Otherwise, calm down. Get it together. You’re fine. Everything is fine.

That’s pretty much my mantra when I’m freaking out about anything ever. But seriously, calm down and do something productive. Even if it’s not perfect, move in some sort of positive direction because sitting back and watching other people live their lives “better” than you is only going to bring you down and get you nowhere. My mom says something to the effect of, “If you’re not moving forward, you can only go backwards.” There is no safe middle ground.

Everyone else does not have it all together and you aren’t 100% a mess. Most of us are somewhere in the middle; our shortcomings are just way more apparent than other people’s. However that’s also no excuse to sit back and say “I’m doing fine.” It means that you may not be exactly where you should be, but you can work on that. In doing so, you can also remain positive and remember that no two people are doing or have done this ‘life’ thing the exact same way.

We’re all trying to figure it out.

 

Insecurities, Trials, and John 13:7

Thank God for a God that actually cares about our well-being.

“Jesus replied, ‘You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.'” (John 13:7)

As we live in a culture obsessed with bodies – equally our own and each other’s – there will likely be many times in which it’ll become difficult to keep our opinions about ourselves in perspective.

Is it sometimes shallow? Maybe. Is it a challenge regardless? Absolutely. I, as does everyone else, struggle with insecurities about my personality and capabilities but that’s another topic for another day. Right now we’re focusing on the stuff that shouldn’t matter nearly as much, but does anyway: outward appearance.

After having relatively short hair for well over a year and being semi-overweight, I decided that I wanted neither of those things for myself ever again. I was convinced that if I was stick-skinny with hair that hit my waist, I would be considered “pretty.” My long thick hair acted as a shield to hide behind as well, so that was an added bonus.

When I achieved both the long hair and stick-skinny body, big shocker, I was still insecure. Sure I felt better about my appearance in some ways, but my attention just shifted from one set of insecurities to another.

On top of that, once I reached my goal it wasn’t enough. I needed more. It seemed counteractive to stop after all the time and effort I had put in, so I didn’t. I worked out for hours upon hours, kept a journal in which I made sure every bite throughout my day was accounted for, ate so little I got used to feeling dizzy and loved that I never felt hungry anymore. I made secret Pinterest boards of tiny girls with long hair as inspiration to keep pushing myself. I took notice of the sudden increase in positive attention I was receiving.

I haven’t touched my calorie-counting notebook in months. I still have it at hand, I know exactly where it is, but I haven’t touched it. I’ll get rid of it in due time when I know I won’t be tempted to simply start a new one.

The reason I’m mentioning some details of my problems with food is not to garner attention or sympathy of any kind. Dear Lord, this is not about me saying “Hey feel sorry for me even though I did this to myself!” I debated whether or not it was a good idea to share any personal information at all, but in the end I decided that it serves a purpose. I’ve learned a lot from it and while I’m only skirting over the details here, the lesson in the end is what’s worth sharing.

As Joyce Meyer says, “I may not be where I want to be, but thank God I’m not where I used to be.”

I’m at a point where I have gained weight because I’m actually eating consistently. Though sometimes I still tell people I have eaten when I haven’t. I’m finding myself comparing my body to the women on Instagram who have unnaturally contorted their bodies, no matter what size, to appear curvy in all the right places. With my slouchy posture and my bodies natural tendency to send all my fat to my belly and face, I often feel quite literally like the grossest person to walk the earth. But man, I can eat and actually enjoy it most of the time. I don’t panic anymore because I don’t have the time or energy to work out for 5 or more hours everyday. I don’t panic when I don’t get to work out at all, though granted I probably should move around more than I do now. I can think about things that actually matter and leave the house without looking “perfect” and be okay with it.

God did this thing to me that I absolutely hated, and I’m still not loving, but I am beyond grateful for. He took away all my crutches at once. He made me feel uglier and more insecure than I have ever felt.

I decided my hair wasn’t good enough anymore. That it desperately needed blonde highlights. So after my failed attempt and a 5 hour hair appointment in which they turned my long curls into an actual rat’s nest that I couldn’t run my fingers through, I had to cut my hair insanely short. And it was a bad cut. Really. Bad. Hair: gone.

I felt like God was pushing me to quit the job that kept me working out consistently (for reasons beyond just that). Also I was at home more often due to taking a break from school, which meant quicker access to food and more people to keep me accountable for how much I ate. Weight: gained.

As an added bonus, my acne came back and it hit me even harder than it did when I was 15. Face: irritated and scarred.

When this all happened, I was embarrassed. I didn’t want to leave the house, I didn’t want people to see me, I didn’t want people to think I was okay with looking the way I did even though there was nothing I could do about it right away (and I didn’t even look bad, nor was it a big deal at all, but obviously my head was not in the rational thinking zone at the time). There was a lot of crying, some anger on my part, but thank God it happened because I learned firsthand about the difference between taking care of oneself and being obsessive.

I’ve never been satisfied with the way I look. I’ve had multiple drastic style changes, hair changes, makeup changes, weight changes, anything you can think of. I like to try new things because it’s fun, but mostly I do it because once I get an idea in my head I somehow convince myself that I need to do it or I won’t be complete. Which, obviously, is completely illogical. However, the insecure part of my brain convinces itself that that one change is what will make me feel better. Again, illogical, because it never works.

But God broke me of that mentality. Not only did he take away the things that made me feel “pretty” and comfortable so that I would be forced to appreciate the person He made me to be and stop freaking out about every insignificant and minor detail, but He also put people into my life who unknowingly helped a lot.

He gave me a close friend who supports me, talks about the way I look and dress positively, but would 100% kindly tell me the truth if prompted. She often greets me with an enthusiastic “You look so cute,” and looks for positives in the things I am insecure about.

He also gave me a boyfriend who doesn’t cater to my every whim. He loves me, he is kind, he does things for me, he compliments me often. He also recognizes that while he can encourage me, that’s all he can do. So many women look to their significant others to save them. To worship the ground they walk on and baby them every time they get a little bit down on themselves or knocked down by every little problem, but that only perpetuates an emotionally dependent attitude. I’m grateful that I was given a relationship in which we can support, love, comfort, and talk to each other about anything as a team, but at the end of the day we know we can’t change the negative things in one another. He can’t make me be less insecure and I don’t expect him to because that’s my problem I have to face. And in hindsight, I wouldn’t want a boyfriend who showers me with compliments solely to make me feel better because I know that every time he calls me beautiful, every time he hugs me tighter when I’m about to leave, every time he does anything romantic or kind or loving he wholeheartedly means it. Romanticism for the sake of romanticism has no real heart and I’m grateful that God gave me somebody who won’t coddle me.

So yeah, I’m not going to lie and turn this into some huge redemption story. I’m still insecure. Everyone is insecure to some degree. Confidence is just faking it until it doesn’t bother you anymore, but with God I was able to really put things into perspective and see how little the problems I have with myself matter. I still have moments throughout the day when I look in the mirror and I’m not happy with what’s looking back at me. I still have moments when I fail. I still have moments when I let my emotions get the best of me.

But they are moments. They will come and they will pass and we are given the strength to choose how we will respond to them and we can be forgiven when we mess up. I can choose to sit around and mope all day about the way I look, or I can get up and do something else or even go (healthily and within reason) do something about it.

God taking away what made me comfortable was what pushed me to realize how ridiculously caught up in myself I was, but I could have easily chosen to ignore it and feel sorry for myself instead. We are not made to be complacent bystanders, and God often puts us into situations and expects us to turn it into something positive and useful. Whether it is bettering ourselves or being able to relate to and help others with similar situations (or, more likely, both of those things simultaneously), there are no coincidences if you choose to look beyond only your feelings.

“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” (1 Peter 1:6-7)