Redefining Strength

Brash and fervorous;

Fictitious;

A muse for who lives inside her head;

Can I will her to come out;

To scream for me instead;

 

To be candid and raw;

Unapologetic;

Fear only known;

When it’s just foreign enough to be exciting;

 

Anger and strife and unkempt words;

Harsh and held so high;

Gorgeous without grace;

Marching through fire in solitude;

Born throwing fists before a simple compliment;

Inhuman, unfeeling, and always on top;

 

No one wants to paint a quiet leader;

But waves are not made with words;

No matter the amount of venom pouring from her tongue;

 

Woman and feminine;

Feminine and kind;

Kind and forgiving;

Forgiving and strong;

Strength does not scream the loudest;

Nor does it always have to whisper;

 

Passion manifested in every form;

She can lead;

Useful as she was made;

 

Vexation and recklessness are synonymous in nature;

There is more to strength than masculinity and aggravation;

Hone the skills you were given;

 

Boldness is not always loudness;

 

Standing firm in her beliefs;

Speaking with love;

Leading with intelligence.

 

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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)

Online Store Launch (officially, yay!)

If you’ve been in any sort of contact with me over the past 8 months or so, you’ll have heard about my plan to open up an eventual Etsy store to coincide with this blog. After countless design and product and vision changes, it is finally up and running with my first four products!

I chose to create two designs based on two bible verses that I find equally encouraging and impactful, yet still simple and encompasses who God is: 1 Corinthians 13:13 (“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”) and Isaiah 43:2 (“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.”).

Both are available as prints in three sizes. You can also get 1 Corinthians 13:13 on a tee shirt, and the Isaiah 43:2 print is available on a tote bag. I’ve attached images below, but feel free to visit my Etsy as well!

www.etsy.com/shop/live3one 

Thanks for being so supportive and patient as I worked out all the kinks!

 

watersprint2watersteewaterstotewaterstoteandprint

I Swear, This Isn’t Actually About Hair

“It’s just hair,” she whispers to herself on repeat. “It’s just hair,” her voice shakes with every falling strand onto her bathroom floor, dusting past her shoulders, dull scissors in one hand and the other white-knuckled grasping the counter. She’s trying to maintain her composure. She is healthy, she has people who love her, she does not need to cry over something as trivial as the length of her hair. The people she loves will still love her the same, she can still do good for the world, she can still be kind and fun and God-loving and she can still be exactly the same person she was ten minutes ago, just without a waterfall of curls that cascade down her back and over her face. She should not care so much about something so small, but there are annoying, pressing thoughts tangling around her rational mind. What else will she have to hide behind? What else will make her pretty? What else will be her security blanket?


That was dramatic.

Anyway.

You never know what you have until it’s gone, right? Someone please go back in time and tell that to me before I had to become the girl cutting off her own hair in her bathroom at midnight.

Long story short, I tried to dye my hair blonde temporarily. It didn’t work out, I went to a salon to have it fixed and the guy completely fried my hair. I mean fried. Dead. A tangled mess on top of my head that I couldn’t run my fingers through without the risk of never getting them back out. There was no coming back from the rat’s nest that my once Rapunzel-esque hair resembled, so I cut it off.

The hair I’d spent over a year growing out; the hair I swore I would never cut short again (actually begged everyone I know to yell at me if I ever even considered it); the hair that had always been my security blanket and the reason I was incredibly insecure circa 2015 because, for some reason, I decided to chop it all off for no good reason whatsoever: gone. Again. Except this time it’s worse because the hair that I have left doesn’t curl the way it used to and it has the texture of something resembling hay because, like I said, it’s completely fried.

Do I sound annoyed? Upset? Like maybe that little dramatic introduction maybe wasn’t dramatized at all and I actually did have (at least) one meltdown over something as trivial as my hair? Yeah, let’s move on.

I felt like my femininity was taken away the second I looked in the mirror to see the damage that had been done. Scratch that, I feel like my femininity has been taken away. I’m feeling it right now, hardcore. In a culture that glorifies being youthful and “sexy” all the time, I simultaneously feel like I’ve unknowingly joined both the Golden Girl’s and Boy Meets World casts with this short curlyish ‘fro thing on top of my head.

And that’s not to say that short hair isn’t pretty. It just isn’t me. It really isn’t me.

Who am I without my long hair that everyone used to rave about? Was my attractiveness ever about me at all, or did my long curls give me some sort of “pretty girl” illusion? I’m not going to lie and tell you that I’m happier now that I have this semi-curly/very fried bowl cut, but I am working on at least calling it a blessing in disguise. I swear, I’m trying. Hear me out.  

I placed far too much of my worth in my appearance; I wanted to be conventionally attractive so I ate less, worked out more, and kept my hair long. It worked. I received more positive attention, my friends started referring to me as “hot” (which, of course, I laughed at even though secretly it made me feel really good considering my previous nicknames tended to revolve around the word “chubby”), and my family would always comment on how great I looked. I was skinny and strong and had long curly locks, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it. I’d also be lying if I said I don’t miss it.

But while compliments and feeling good about myself were all nice and wonderful, my purpose is greater than fitting into an image of being someone simply pretty. I never wanted to be somebody with no substance beyond my outward self. I never had a lot of respect for women/men who only focus on their outward appearance (though attention to your outward appearance is great as long as it’s not an unhealthy obsession), but that is the way our culture unfortunately is and like so many of us, I bought into it. I bought into it so much that I let something like a mistake involving my hair make me stay home more often and put on a baseball cap right as I crawled out of bed today because I didn’t even want to have to look at it myself.

Hence, me walking into a beauty supply store this evening to look for hair extensions only to walk out after seeing the price for said hair extensions and crying in the car the whole way home. Most problems generally have at least some sort of solution, even if it isn’t ideal, but this does not. All I can do is wait God-knows-how-long for it to grow out. It’s a good thing I like hats.

So it’s more than a haircut. It should be freedom from my own rigid ideas of beauty and femininity; it should be joy in the fact that I was forced to look inward and figure out what really matters and realize why it is that I care so much. However, disappointingly enough, it’s feeling a lot less philosophical in practice.

Although there were a couple times when I thought, “I look like Eleven from Stranger Things,” and that made me feel a little better for a while, what’s really been going through my mind most of the time is generally something along the lines of “I look ridiculous,” “My hair was my one redeeming quality,” “My boyfriend is coming back from winter break in 18 days and I don’t know how to magically get more hair by then because I don’t want anyone, let alone him, to see me like this,” and “My days of being impulsive when it comes to my appearance are over.” (That last one is actually a positive. It’s about time I learned my lesson.)

Did you want inspirational B.S. or honesty? Because if I’m being totally unabashedly honest, I feel like garbage and it’s constantly on my mind and I wish my brain would shut up about this hair thing already, but it’s still bugging me.

However, and here is where I (finally) get to the point of this whole post, I will at some point let the lesson of this situation sink in. Sometimes you need time. I don’t know if that’s always the right thing to do, but if it helps you to not dwell on things in the long run, take a little time to wallow. Not too much; just enough to let the lesson resonate when you are ready for it. Make the best of any situation of course and don’t sweat the small stuff, but at the end of the day nothing is as black and white as it seems. Emotions are a thing and sometimes you need to feel them in order to let a lesson really hit you.

To an outsider, I probably seem like a silly girl with nothing better to do than to think about her hair. Which is fair. You, Mr. Outsider, sound like you have not experienced self loathing. Go you; that’s great. However to me, I see my sense of comfort in myself being taken away and I’m figuring out how to not let it feel so dramatic.

I swear, I’m overall a pretty calm person, just not about this one thing. We all have something that sets us off, and this is my thing. You’re welcome for that useless knowledge about my life. 

Here’s what I know I should (and swear I will) inevitably learn:

  • Don’t be impulsive. That whole “patience is a virtue” concept is actually really important. Also, do your research. (“Whoever is patient has great understanding…” Proverbs 14:29)
  • Your worth cannot be placed in trivial things like hair or makeup or perfecting your body. You can enjoy these things, but they are not what make you who you are. You are you for a reason and you were made by God as you are, so chill out. Take a breather. You’re fine. There are more important things going on. (“Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.” Proverbs 31:30)
  • You can’t let other people dictate how you feel.
    1. This means: stop comparing. Yes the woman in the aisle next to you at the grocery store is pretty and yes she has beautiful hair or she has perfect skin or a not-crooked smile, but she isn’t you. She will never have all the qualities that make up who you are. Jealousy isn’t healthy. Or necessary. (“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works…” Psalm 139:14)
    2. This also means: stop being so afraid of what other people are going to think of you. There are few times when this should be a genuine concern, like if you are not being a good influence on others or if you’re actively being a harmful representer of God. But when you run into that one guy you liked in middle school that didn’t like you back while you’re wearing sweatpants and no makeup, or when your too-blunt friend says that you need to lose a few pounds…brush those things off. Why would you let anyone else’s opinions (or assumed opinions) change your own? Why would you allow anyone to make you believe that you aren’t good enough? Especially when the same creator of the universe, the creator of your favorite flowers and every single beautiful thing on the earth, of all the people who care about you, also created you. (“Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God.” 2 Corinthians 3:5)
  • Move on, roll with the punches, learn your lesson, and get over yourself. (Too harsh? Whoops.) It’s not as big of a deal as you’re making it seem. You don’t need to take yourself so seriously. Life is full of goodness and joy and it’s not worth being upset long-term because that kind of attitude does nothing but cause yourself and those around you harm. (May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13)

So, hopefully, I’ve made my point and this doesn’t come across as me crying to my blogging friends about my dumb hair woes. It’s not about me; it’s about self-awareness and realizing what really matters and, at the end of the day, the things we worry about usually aren’t worth worrying about. “Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill,” as they say (no I don’t know who “they” are; please don’t ask me). At the end of the day, there are things greater than you going on in the world and whether it’s getting upset over someone cutting you off in traffic or worrying about failing a test or, God forbid, you have to cut off all your hair, feel whatever it is you need to feel for a minute and move on. Learn from it, take whatever you are supposed to take from it, talk to God about it, whatever you need to do, but don’t dwell on things that don’t really matter in the long run.

Introduction

Hi! You may already know me as Gabrielle, but if you don’t it’s nice to meet you. Let’s be friends. Or, at least, we can mutually stalk one another’s blogs. That’s pretty much the same thing as friendship, right?

Before I dive in, let’s just chat for a second. If you knew me as Gabrielle Gillispie then you probably know that my blog was formerly almost 100% poetry. I loved it and I got to interact with a lot of like-minded bloggers as a result, but I kept feeling pulled in a different direction. I need to give back in some way, do something that can hopefully help people, something to really base a career off of and dedicate my time to. Don’t get me wrong, poetry can do all of those things and more, and I tried, but I wasn’t always being the best version of myself and that is where I had an issue. You know when you have this gut feeling that something isn’t working out, maybe you even keep getting signs that it’s time to move on and it stops being enjoyable, but you’re just not ready to listen for one reason or another? Yep.

Life goes on though and it didn’t work out for good reason. I’ve been developing this idea for a lifestyle company (for a lack of a better term) called live3one for a while, and it’s finally turning into something attainable. Something real with the potential to grow over time. I’m so excited about this project and I hope you all like it too!

 

What is live3one?

I’ll be honest: I avoided reading Proverbs 31 for the longest time because all I knew was that it’s essentially an outline for what a woman should be and I assumed it would be rather misogynistic due to the culture at the time it was written, but this is the only time I will proudly say the words, “I was wrong!”

The (hypothetical) Proverbs 31 woman is empowering. She made me simultaneously want to become a better person and feel like I was made the way I am for a purpose. That’s why she is the center of this blog. She is admired for her wisdom and faith; she is a creative businesswoman; she is optimistic but realistic; she is dependable; she works so hard that her arms are strong and she remains emotionally strong as well; she always looks ahead and plans for the future; she gives to those less fortunate without batting an eye; she is respected, so those she surrounds herself with are also respected. So on and so forth.

I also like the dual-meaning of live3one in reference to the trinity. You know – the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit. Three in one. Yeah. I thought it was kind of clever.

In essence, I wanted to create a Christian-based community inspired by the ideals of the Proverbs 31 woman, but it is not exclusive to either Christians or women. It is exclusive to people who can read about her and think, “I want to be more like that.”

 

Community

The first time I sat down in a room of like-minded people and allowed myself to truly belong, I felt like I was letting out a breath of relief I didn’t realize I’d been holding all my life. Growing up, I wanted to belong but never felt like I knew how. Then suddenly I was (at least somewhat) grown-up and choosing to sit in a room with five strangers, all openly talking about our lives: the fun surface-level stuff like dying our hair, but also serious things I didn’t even know I believed until I heard myself saying everything aloud. As if spilling my deepest darkest secrets to a room of women I had just met was something I did all the time. It was so easy. After that night, I was finding myself weaving in and out of social situations with relative ease. l learned to have the mindset of “either I can give them something, or they can teach me something…maybe both.”

That’s what I want to recreate here: a sense of belonging. A sense of community. A place to talk about the lighthearted topics (like sharing recipes, outfit inspiration, and workout tips for example) and be able to dive a little deeper to talk about the bigger topics as well. Like sitting in a room of similar-minded people with whom you instantly know you can be completely honest with.

So the idea is for everyone to feel like they have a place, and can contribute in some way if you so choose. You can read blog posts and hopefully take something away from them, share your thoughts in the comments, join our (soon-to-be) Facebook group, submit designs to be sold on products in the online shop, tag live3one in relevant posts so I can share them, just be a part of the community. As someone who has struggled with shyness most of her life, I won’t say “Don’t be shy” like it’s easy. Instead, I’ll say “The door is open.”

 

Giving Back

An important part of being in a community is giving back to it. There is a greater community than this one which we all belong to, called humanity. (I know that was lame. I’ll see myself out.). Mimicking the ideal of giving to those less fortunate as the Proverbs 31 woman does, a percentage of the proceeds from my online shop will go to charities centered around helping people. And, while I plan on selling my own designs as well, I want the shop to be just as much a part of the community. I want to collaborate with people and give them a chance to showcase their work. If you have any designs, any ideas, don’t hesitate to contact me!

 

Of course getting everything up and running takes time, but I want to do it right. I want to share your thoughts alongside mine, share your designs, talk to you, build a place where you can meet like-minded people, and so on. Stick with me, and we’ll get there before you know it.

Have any suggestions? Thoughts? Ideas? Comment below and I’d love to know what you think!