Pretty Girl

I started writing this piece several months ago. I am reluctant to share this because I feel that there is still more to add and talk about regarding this issue. Perhaps I need to completely rewrite it, but I decided to post it as is for now.  One blog post is insufficient to cover this topic, that our culture’s vanity issues reach far and wide, but my hope is it will be a stepping stone or a starting point for a larger conversation. Though many are refusing to give in to our culture’s pressures, will their decisions change the culture? How do we change a culture? How do we change our wiring as human beings? I realize that beauty and physicality isn’t just a female issue, but I do not explore that here, because simply I’m a woman writing from my experience and observations.


I started watching FX’s American Horror Story shortly after the first season aired. I don’t tend to watch movies or shows of the horror genre, because I have a great imagination and can easily freak myself out , but after hearing from a friend I trust that it was worth the watch, I pressed play. Though by the end I had lost a few hours of sleep and had spent a few evenings with all the lights on, I am so glad I took the time to watch it, particularly because of the episode set on Halloween night.

One of the neighbors of the murder house, Constance played by Jessica Lange, has a down syndrome daughter named Adelaide who desperately wants to be seen and receive affection from men and her mother. Adelaide asks Violet, the girl living in the murder house and dating Adelaide’s brother,  to make Adelaide “a pretty girl” for Halloween.  Violet does Adelaide’s makeup and hair. Adelaide is so happy with the results: she feels beautiful. Constance doesn’t see her daughter’s non-conventional beauty, but sees an “ugly” down syndrome girl in makeup and curled hair as a joke: she plops a Barbie mask and wig over her daughter’s head and sends the girl on her way.  Watch the following montage to see what happens. (Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a better video. If you find one, post it in the comments. Thanks.)

As is alluded to, Adelaide is hit by a car because she can’t see well through the mask, and later dies. Though as Adelaide is dying, we see Constance’s love for her daughter, it is easy to surmise that Adelaide is dead because of Constance’s superficial view of beauty.

I wonder how many other people have died from suicide and eating disorders, or are walking around completely depressed and miserable because of the shame of not adding up to a perceived standard of beauty.

A few days ago, I watched Monuments Men for the first time. First of all, I loved it: I laughed; I cried; I was entertained. And as with all movies about World War II, I was reminded of the horrors of the Holocaust. (There are no spoilers, if you keep reading.)

In one scene, one of the main characters finds a barrel of small gold pieces, which are gold teeth from Jews killed in the concentration camps. The concentration camps were places of sheer demonic horror and cruelty. As I thought about the ideology of the Nazi’s which derives a person’s value from their race and “perfection,” I realized that Nazi way of perceiving a person’s value has not been completely wiped out.

Nazism as defined by good-old Wikipedia is  “the ideology and practice associated with the 20th-century German Nazi Party. Usually characterized as a form of fascism that incorporates scientific racism and antisemitism . . . racial hierarchy and social Darwinism, assert [ing] the superiority of an Aryan master race, and criticized both capitalism and communism for being associated with Jewish materialism.”

Jews, though one of the majority, were not the only one’s imprisoned in the camps: Poles and other Slavic people, prisoners of war, the physical and mentally disabled, homosexuals and transgenders, social deviants, those who helped the Jews, non-Aryans, Christians and others were killed in the camps. To quantify what was lost in World War II and the concentration camps is impossible. The numbers of those lost vary from source to source, but below are the some statistics from one source:

Ukrainians      5.5 – 7 million

Jews (of all countries) 6 million +

Christians 3 million +

Russian POWs    3.3 million +

Russian Civilians       2 million +

Poles   3 million +

Yugoslavians    1.5 million +

Gypsies 200,000 – 500,000

Mentally/Physically Disabled    70,000- 250,000

Homosexuals     Tens of thousands

Spanish Republicans     Tens of thousands

Jehovah’s Witnesses     2,500 – 5,000
Boy and Girl Scouts, Clergy, Communists, Czechs, Deportees, Greeks, Political Prisoners, Other POWs, Resistance Fighters, Serbs, Socialists, Trade Unionists, Others    Unknown

Pop culture worships perfection and beauty. People are either respected, and put on a pedestal because of their beauty, or dismissed, made fun of because of they’re fat or ugly. Just look at the fronts of gossip magazines: stories about celebrity breakups, drama, and vacations. They are filled with pictures of celebrities, who are the gods of our society, dressed for the red carpet or going about their daily lives. Also, look at the number of fashion and health magazines in publication and the number of TV shows about people losing weight— Biggest Loser, Extreme Weight Loss— or about getting a makeover? Or on the ABC shows The Bachelor, or Bachlorette, how many ugly or fat people do we see on the show?

Fat people are dehumanized: called stupid and thought to be lazy. People are baffled by the confidence of large or chubby young women, women who aren’t the size-zero ideal, like Lena Dunham who is frequently naked in her show Girls. In a recent cover story for Glamour, Dunham remarked that she is tired of talking about her body. Jezabel an off-shoot of Reddit with feminist overtones leaked her unretouched photos for Vogue saying “[Dunham's] body is real. She is real. And for as lovely as the Vogue pictures are, they’re probably not terribly real.”  All cover pictures for magazines are doctored, why single out Lena Dunham’s? Oh it’s because she isn’t a size zero. Other confident young women who carry more weight are Rebel Wilson and Gabourey Sidibe who recently responded to a reporter asking how she as a large woman could be so confident saying, “Go ask, fucking Rihanna.” All of these women are incredibly talented, so why are they bombarded with superficial questions? Why aren’t they asked about their creative process, or what inspires them, etc.? I admit I do find cover stories that tell an actress’s beauty and health regime interesting, but the cover pieces I enjoy the most are those that talk about who the woman is, what makes her who she is, what is important to her. . . .

Oriella Caszzenello, an 85 year old Italian woman paid 10,000 Euro to a Swiss clinic for assisted suicide because she was no longer beautiful. Her picture was posted and she was, in my opinion, still very beautiful. Caszzenello’s family did not find out about her death until her lawyer delivered her death certificate and ashes to them.

Early this year, Sandra D’Auriol leap to her death just a day after undergoing a 13 hour face-lift procedure by one of L.A.’s top plastic surgeons. Though the reasons for her death are uncertain (a psychotic break, drug reaction, etc.), one can speculate that, despite her procedure to become more beautiful and youthful, she was not happy. Regardless of the cause, I truly feel sorry and sad for her and her family.

Beauty isn’t a bad nor is self-improvement, taking care of ones body, and spending time on one’s appearance.  The problem is accessing a person’s value based on their beauty, weight, popularity, and relationship status.

I have seen older people, large woman, and other people who “don’t measure up” treated poorly. In my experience I’m generally treated better, given better service when I am wearing makeup, versus when I don’t.

The problem is qualifying beauty is impossible. What is pleasing to the eye to one person may not be pleasing to another person. The ideal has changed. In the mid 1900’s, women with an hourglass shape were celebrated. Today, models who are stick thin, without boobs and hips are celebrated. Statues of Greek and Roman woman whowere considered most beautiful, today would be seen as carrying an extra 20 plus pounds. In ancient China, fat women were considered beautiful, and in parts of Africa having an unnaturally long neck is considered beautiful. Most woman know of the elusive thigh gap; Beyonce doesn’t have a thigh gap and she is considered one the most beautiful women in pop culture.

How many middle schoolers do we see on Instagram “pimping themselves” by taking sexually suggestive pictures. They’re in middle school, and probably haven’t even had their period! How many young woman are consumed with their weight and their beauty, and are completely miserable, because they can’t seem to reach their ideal BMI?

Enough is ENOUGH! How many people have to die from an eating disorder before we wake-up to the extent of the problem? When is just being a fellow human being, enough of an “excuse” to treat a person with dignity? Is beauty so important that we want to exterminate other human beings that don’t measure up? Well, then we might as well “Heil Hitler.”

The root of the problem rests in the means of measuring a person’s value. How do you measure a person’s value? And what reason do you have for measuring a person’s value in that way? What’s your belief system and what is your foundation for that belief system?

My foundation is based on what God has made known through the Bible: every single person, no matter their race, sexual orientation, or past is a valued person to him. He carefully “knit” every person together in their mother’s womb. Each person is a result of intelligent creativity, with a purpose and the capacity for great good and great evil, therefore I should treat everyone with dignity, even if I don’t like them for one reason or another, or think they are pleasing to look at.

A few months ago, I asked myself, what would happen if for one day everyone’s outer appearance mirrored their virtue the condition of their heart: if he/she is a good person, he/she would be outwardly beautiful, if he/she isn’t nice, then he/she would be ugly . I wondered what I would look like. What would you look like? Who would be the most beautiful?  Would those who are outwardly beautiful remain beautiful?

If you aren’t buying into pop culture’s pursuit of the ideal, congratulations! If you are working on having a healthy view of yourself and your body, that’s really awesome! If you try to treat others well, that’s another congratulations for you! While trying to live right everyday and those little interactions with strangers does evoke change, how do we change the culture? How do we help the problem on a larger scale?

We may never wear fatigues, but we are in a war for our hearts, for our minds, and for our very souls. The phrase “heil Hitler” may (and let’s hope) never uttered in it’s true sense, but if we as a culture continue as we are, perhaps much of what we lost in that great war was for naught.

By 15 cubits

This year I decided to read through the Bible in a year. As with past attempts I have fallen quite behind, whatever . . .

The last few weeks, I have been slogging through Leviticus and Numbers. Anyone who has read through these books can tell you that they are very boring, and seem for the modern-day reader very pointless. (Also I hate math, numbers. Most of my math classes, except Geometry felt like, as Mike McClintock from Veep would say  “math prison, where they rape you with numbers.”) Leviticus is 27 chapters of ancient Jewish law detailing all the gory details of sacrifice and cleanliness. (I swear I read 19 chapters about unclean skin diseases.) And Numbers, well, it deals a lot with numbers: censuses, some history, and details of boundary lines.

Today, I read the last chapters of Numbers, chapters 35-36, and honesty, rejoiced that I was on my way to more interesting material, but one thing came to mind as I was reading about how many feet a town should be from a wall, and the protocol for someone who accidentally murdered someone: I was reminded that God is in the details.

It seems through these boring books that when God told the Israelites to do something, he gave them all the information that they would need to complete the task that he was giving them or carry out a moral judgement. He didn’t leave them hanging; he thought of everything!

So how does this apply to us today who don’t have to make blood sacrifices (Thank, God . . . literally.), or build an ark big enough to carry every specie and three months of their poop (maybe they threw the poop overboard?)?

I think we can conclude that God will tell us all the necessary information (which is usually less than we like) that we need, to do what he tells us to do; though, we will probably have to proceed with some questions unanswered, and faith that God knows what he’s doing.

When I graduated from college, I wasn’t sure what to do so I prayed about it. I felt like I didn’t really hear from God, but some lovely friends asked me to be their roommate in West Hollywood, and so I thought, “why not?” I never heard a “no” from God so I proceeded with my plans. After almost a year of struggling financial, being a fresh-out-of-college English and Film grad, I started to wonder if I should stay in L.A. or if I should move home to Colorado. I prayed and God answered me twice: first he said, “what do you want?” and I was like “I don’t know, I asked you?”and then he said move home to Colorado.

Then fast-forward a year later, I hated my job that I had found after moving home to Colorado, and wanted to quit, but I felt in my heart that I shouldn’t yet. A few weeks later, I was talking to someone who I saw at work regularly, and was able to show someone kindness who really needed it. Afterwards, I felt God telling me that it was time to quit. I didn’t have any job lined up, but I trusted that God was going to provide for me. A few days after my last day, a friend told me about a job opportunity that had just become available, and that I needed to move fast if I wanted it, because the employer wanted a replacement pronto. I got the job, which has been in so many ways, perfect— just what I needed; a place of creativity, where I could show my individuality, and make some really great friends. God didn’t just give me a job that satisfied my financial needs, but also my personal needs.

To be honest, God sometimes seems a bit vague, but then later I find out that he had all the details in mind, but didn’t need to tell me because I needed to learn to trust him. Or that he wanted me to use my brain that he gave me or my experiences to make a decision. Then looking over my life it has seemed like he has had a unique and specific plan (or story, as I like to think about it) for my life.

So regardless if you’re a fresh graduate or a ninety year-old cat lady, God will guide you: if he calls you to build an ark, he’ll tell you where to put the animal poop (like I said, throw it overboard?), or guide you to someone who knows about boats and sanitation. He cares about your sense of smell and the other little things in your life.


Live Free, Die Hard

Helloooooo . . .

I promise I’m not dead, I’ve been busy working, and doing life, and have been burnt out on blogging.

But I’m back.

And I’m unemployed. And I’ve never been happier.

For the last year and a half, I’ve been working a retail position, a vendor at a grocery store. The job had it’s perks and was good for a season, but during the last few months, I felt like I’ve rather jump off a cliff, than go in one more day to work. Many things added to my general frustration, but the main aspect that I’ll mention here is it was boring, and I was depressed.

And I didn’t notice how depressed, and how much I was being affected by it, till I quit. The job was available when I needed I job after moving home, I met a friend who has helped me find my way, and it was what I needed for a season. But that season is over and it’s time to move on.

The moment after I emailed my two weeks notice, immediately I was relieved, and my whole outlook on life changed. I’ve been the happiest that I’ve in a long time. I finally feel like myself, and I can finally be creative. Though creative work is very much work and not just done when “inspiration” hits, I had been completely dried up. I’ve found myself saying my inner creative baby is dead, mummified, or in a coma: not completely gone, but pretty close.

I’ve finally been able to write poetry! Something that I avoided for a time because of feelings that I didn’t want to deal with, and then eventually just couldn’t do it. I have been overwhelmed with creative ideas, and thoughts in the past feel days, freaking out because I don’t know where to start.

But the greatest thing about quitting, is not just that I’m returning to my happy, creative, excited self, but that quitting was my decision, not something someone suggested, and I quit without another job lined up, confident in God’s provision, and confident in myself, that I am good enough to find something else. I didn’t care what the consequences might be, I wanted to quit and so I did it: I took the risk.

Granted the amount of risk is lessened by the fact that I live at home with parents who already help me financial, so I definitely have a huge safety net that I’m resting in. But still, I do have expenses that I need to pay for that will become a burden if I don’t have my own income, and I also recently became convicted that I need to tithe, but that’s a thought for another time.

All of this happening in the last few weeks, has caused me to come to a few conclusions, and to be reminded of some of my core values.

Never settle. Settling, to me is synonymous with death, because settling is not really living. It’s living in fear, and I can’t live like that. For some settling is fine, it’s safe, but I don’t want safe. I want the best, and I want to live life to the fullest that it can be.

Negativity sucks, be positive even if it hurts. One of my defense mechanisms is to cut myself down with negative self talk, because then I will have beat other people to the punch, no pun intended. But I know the power of words. I’ve seen how repeating truth and positivity can change my outlook on life, myself, and I’ve become aware how much negative thoughts affect who I am, and I become someone who I hate: bland, boring, quiet when I’d rather speak.

I would rather look like a fool, and I’d rather fail in positivity, passion, than to never try and live life halfway.  I hate failing, and I hate looking like an idiot, so this is a big deal.

Dream. I second guess myself, my ideas, my talent all the time, oh, and I over think a lot of things. I stress myself out, because I’m trying to think of all the outcomes of my decisions and thinking twelve steps ahead, when I really should just be pondering the next three steps. My goal is to dream and just go for it even if, I fall on my face.  Many who have created something extraordinary or made a difference failed or was told “no” many times before they found their yes. I can’t create without positivity and without dreaming. I plan to just go for it, and see what happens.

My life is MINE. Though my decisions do affect others, and I am financially dependent, my life is ultimately my own creation. I sometimes find myself waiting for life to happen or I seek out everyone else’s opinions instead of just doing what I want and making my life what I want. No one has ever lived mine or your life before. Why let everyone else dictate what it should be? A quote that has been floating around my head lately is this:

“Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.”

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

One of the greatest feelings of freedom I have had is the result of taking control of my life. I will probably be fine even if I don’t find another job soon. But taking a risk when there is minimal possible negative outcome is practice for decisions with bigger risks. And making a decision for one’s own self is always a beautiful thing.

I’m still insecure in many ways, but making this decision has given me confidence. I’d rather crash and burn doing something I decided then be unhappy doing what everyone else wants me to do.

Today I came to the conclusion that I would rather die alone, than die anything but free. The renewed sense of my dreams has also brought me to the idea that I don’t care if I never marry, as long as I’m living the life I want, and following after my dreams. But don’t misunderstand me, I don’t want to be alone. I really want to get married, and I hope that I can one day marry someone who is also following their dreams and will want to live life’s beautiful adventure, together.

So I’m feeling pumped. I’m excited for the holidays, excited for the future, and excited to see what is over the horizon.

I hope what I’ve said encourages you to live the life you have with all your might, with all of your love, while enjoying the ups and downs of the adventure. I hope that you too will discover the freedom in taking a risk, and living your life in such a way that makes you happy.

I believe in God and I believe his promises that he has good plans for me. I struggle sometimes to really trust that he does have good for me because of some of the things that have happened to me, or because I seem to fail in the same areas over and over again. But if I doubt and live less than I can, how can God really give me all that he wants for me? How can I say that I trust him, his word, that he loves me, and cares about me, and that he has a good life for me if I don’t live life fully?

What risks have you and/or do you want to take? What was the result? What are you afraid of?

I Confess, I Drank the KoolAid

I started writing this a few weeks ago. I cringe at the thought of posting this, because somehow this topic feels more personal and makes me feel incredibly vulnerable, but I hope with sharing this, that others will be challenged to be more than a body. I hope that this will encourage others to remember that they aren’t alone in the crippling fear and discouragement of a skewed body image. I feel like I have made some progress in the last few weeks, but more on that later. Here is my struggle.

I’ve realized lately that I have been short-changing myself. I have limited myself down to a pretty face and a perfect body.

Actually, I’ve limited myself, because I don’t have a perfect body, and I don’t feel pretty.

I’ve realized that all I have been thinking about is how to develop my body so it will be better, and I guess, my version of perfect. And I’ve been spending a very limited amount of time thinking about my inner beauty and my art.

If you’ve read any of my writing before, you would probably know that I preach being more than a body, and being a strong, purposed woman. But as with nearly everything, it is easier to know what should be and impress others to do that, and struggle to apply the same principles to yourself.

I want to have a perfect body for several reasons. First, I express myself through the clothes I wear and don’t want to be limited by my dress size. Also, it’s summer — swim suit season. . . .  Second, I want to be desirable to a guy.  And lastly, I want to reach my weight loss goal. I’ve been seeing a nutritionist for health and weight loss reasons for a year, and I just want to reach my goal, a.k.a. win!

But I wonder when I reach my goal, will I be happy? Will I be satisfied? Or will I have become a more attractive girl on the outside, with a sad, ugly, and probably lonely heart?

Honestly, I don’t think anyone could convince me that I’m good enough, not guys, not my friends, and most certainly not my parents. Though it doesn’t hurt when a guy looks my way, or a friend compliments the way I look, I think this is a battle that I will have to fight and win on my own.

So, I don’t have the answers as to how to be satisfied and confident in outward “imperfection,” because I’m not at the conclusion, but I do have a few more thoughts and reflections on the matter.

The other day, I was hiking with a friend. It was only the second time we’d hung out, and the inevitable question popped up: Are you dating anyone? I said no and talked a little bit about my circumstances and then confessed that I sometimes feel like I needed a better body in order for someone to want me. (Even as I type this I squirm a bit in my seat. I have definitely drank pop-culture’s KoolAid.) My friend answered that if he’s the right kind of guy that he won’t care, and that guys like “real” girls. This concept makes me uncomfortable and I don’t know why.

I know what she said was right, but I still can’t seem to shake my conviction that I have to be perfect— that I have to weigh about 20 pounds lighter, get rid of the love handles and cellulite.  The bottom line is that I am uncomfortable with my body, and the thought of someone else touching it and feeling of all it’s imperfections, freaks me out, even though it is something I definitely want.  And how could a guy like me just the way I am?

Desiring to be healthy and to reach a goal, to fulfill a commitment to oneself is not a bad thing, but I don’t know how to be okay with what I have.

I have tried to tackle this subject before. I started writing another blog post which started like this:

There’s this girl. She’s about 5’6″, 160 lbs. She wears a 36D bra, a medium-large shirt, and 10-12 pant size. How many of you know who this girl is? You actually have no idea who this girl is, because these measurements are clinical. What if I were to describe her as having a bubbly extroverted personality, but with introverted self-reflective tendencies. She loves rock music and loves anything creative. She wants those that she comes in contact with to feel like the special person he/she really is. She wants to change the world. Now do you know this girl?

Many of us girls, if we’re honest sometimes think about our pant size more than we think about who we are. I was in group therapy for a few months that focused on beauty and body image issues. The group was all girls, all of whom at the time were smaller than me. One session we were to bring in pictures of what we think is beautiful and how we see our body. Nearly all of us dissected our bodies, complaining about our “thunder” thighs, pudgy stomach, or our fat shoulders.

 “I used to think there was just fat and skinny. But apparently there’s a lot of things that can be wrong with our body.” ~Cady from Mean Girls

I have a physical condition called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. PCOS is a complicated condition, but one of the aspects about my case is that it makes my body gain weight easily. Sometimes when I’m beating myself and my body up for not being what it should, I remember other people whose body doesn’t function, who may die, or can’t walk, and then I stop the body bashing party and say a thankful prayer for a body, that allows me to run and explore the world, and other than the PCOS is very healthy.

As I said, lately, I have spent more mental energy thinking about my body and planning to make it better than I have on becoming who I am supposed to be and about my art. The other day I thought about how sad would it be if I died tomorrow and had spent all the time I had on earth working on my body when the next day my body would be useless and would be thrown into the ground to rot and be forgotten. At funerals, I have never heard someone talk about how fat someone was: I’ve only heard them talk about who the person was and what he/she did.

A few nights ago, my mom asked if I wanted to watch the latest episode of a TV show that she and I have been watching together. I agreed excitedly that we would watch it as soon as I got home. As I drove home I remembered that I hadn’t worked out and that I really should right when I got home, because there really wouldn’t be time later, but then I wouldn’t have time to watch the show with my mom. I opted to watch the show with my mom, because I decided that in this instance, spending time with my mom was more important. I guess I am making progress.

As with all skewed thinking, I know that I will have to play the mental game of arguing with my unhealthy convictions and thoughts. And over time, I will have a better thought process. I know that I will have to make right decisions to eventually naturally have the right priorities. And I know I can do it, it’s just going to take time, and probably some tears, and risks.

But it will be worth it.

I’m not going to stop working out, weighing twice a week, or trying to eat right, because I should take care of my body and stay true to my goals and to myself. But it is my hope that as I work toward my goals that I don’t neglect the other important parts of life, and lose what’s most important.

Are you struggling with a similar issue? What helps/helped you? I’d love to hear your thoughts and about your experiences.

Waiting for the Fog to Fade

I wrote this a few weeks ago . . . a reflection on feelings and reality.

Today I thought about suicide. Calm down. Several years ago you would have needed to be concerned. Not today.

Today I was reminded of a 7th grade girl who I knew from association who took her life a couple weeks ago. She became a Christian six months ago and fought hard to have hope, but could not win over her circumstances. As I listened to the speaker talk about this girl, I gripped the cup of iced coffee in my hand and started to shake. I was broken, sad for her. She had not had the chance to experience that life does get better.

On a surface level, I understand how she felt. At such a young age, I remember I hadn’t experienced the ebb and flow of life and the in between. I hadn’t had the chance to really have hind-sight.

At that age, I hadn’t had the chance to know that I would make new, better lifelong friends I could count on, that I would lose the weight that I could never seem to lose, that I would find myself and figure out that I don’t have to fit in. I wouldn’t have had the chance to see the Northern Lights while traveling half-way around the world. And I wouldn’t have figured out that the way I was feeling was partly physical, well felt pain, misconceptions about life, and part of who I am.

Though I have moved out of danger of taking my own life, and now know how to handle my depression, and discouragement better, I still feel hopeless sometimes. Sometimes, I feel like no matter how hard I try that I will never get some of the things I want, and that I will never escape the crushing pain of loneliness. And even though I have learned to look past the way I feel today, I do still wonder if things will ever get better.

Especially, when the PMDD hits. PMDD stands for Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder and affects women in a variety of ways. For me, my emotional situation prior to the menstrual cycle determines how the sever the PMDD will be. Usually, I become extremely melancholy, sensitive, and lonely and in the past before I got help, I would become very suicidal.

Even though I know when my period will be and that PMDD is a part of it, sometimes the despair I feel hits me like a freight train out of no where. I wonder why I feel so down and why my insecurities of my body and my relationship status seem to be hounding me. Then I finally remember, or someone who knows me well reminds me that “it is just that time of the month.” Though I know these feeling are just part of life, I still become frustrated. I know that I have to be careful— get enough sleep, take care of myself, and “ride the week out.” Other times I just want to sleep the week away and feel as though nothing is ever going to get better. I feel like I am in a fog unable to think clearly until the week is over.

What hope do we have? What do we have to cling to when we feel like we don’t matter, that we are stuck in a cycle, that it seems like life never changes, when no seems to believe in us?

Colorado (where I grew up and am currently living), has each of the four seasons. And by the end of winter, I can’t wait for spring and summer. I am tired of being cold. Then in July and August when the scorching heat comes, I can’t wait for coolness of fall and the coming of the winter’s joys including the feeling of sipping a nice hot cup of Starbucks, snuggled beneath a warm scarf, while the crisp cold licks at my cheeks and nose. At the end of each season we wish for the next.

And life, how we take it for granted. And just like the end of winter, we wish for what comes next after life, because we don’t have to put up with what the current conditions. But even when it seems like life is crushing, there are “little hopes” to keep us going along the way like the beauty of nature: the sunrise or sunset; silly little animals like birds or their beautiful song; the stars against a blue-purple sky in summer. And people . . . the random kindness of strangers, the unexpected mercy and grace or thoughtfulness of someone close to you.

Being a stubborn, competitive, ornery sort of person, I relish the fact that I’ve made it this far, that I can say to those who have doubted me, to the Enemy who has repeatedly tried to get rid of me, to those who have treated me badly, I have won. I am still here and I am stronger because of all that I have gone through. And I mean to, no matter what, dig deep and stick it out to the end despite it all.

And what I feel doesn’t determine or show the reality of life. When I feel lonely, I know that I have many people who care about me. When I feel like I never am going to be successful, I know how far I’ve come and how I’ve worked for it. And when I feel like I will never be good enough, I know that I am a work in progress: and there is One and others who like and love me just as I am.

The fog will fade: life will get better.

You just have to be willing to give it a chance: life may (probably will) surprise you. Don’t check out early, because you will miss out on life, its small pleasures, and you never know how your life might change. You may miss out on life-long friendships, on meeting that special person who you never thought existed. You may find out that you were never meant to fit in, that someday there will be a group of people who will accept you for who you are, beauty and bristles. You won’t have to hide anymore. You just have to wait it out. You just have to dig deep and vow that you will make it to show them, the world, yourself that your flame will not be put out that easily.

I almost killed myself in high school and I have no regrets for not following through. I still get discouraged, and I still am frustrated, but the joy, the beauty of life that I have and am experiencing is worth sticking around for. And I know now that even when I feel like my life is spiraling down into darkness, that spiraling feeling is just a feeling, it’s not reality.

And I believe the same for you. I beg you to try a little longer. Life is so full if we make the effort to see all that it encompasses. And if you’re young, know that elementary, middle school, high school, and college are just blips compared to the length of your life and do not determine the way your life will always be. You do have the power to press on, to make changes, to tough it out, and you will be rewarded, for character and strength are the result of hard fought battles.

Just wait and see.

Psalm 23 in New Light

I wrote most of this a few months ago, but didn’t finish it. I hope it reminds you of the promises, we can find peace in as we start the new week.

So these last couple of days I have been reflecting on Psalm 23. The verse came to me as I was writing to my Compassion child. Though Psalm 23 is usually a chapter quoted for it’s comforting words, it had become overly familiar to me growing up in a Christian home, going to church, and attending Christian schools first grade through college. Even as I read the verse to myself, my mind would wander off and I would have to force myself to concentrate.

But, as I said, lately it seems familiarity has worn off and this chapter has meant a great deal to me. Here are some of my reflections on the chapter and why Psalm 23 is meaningful to me once again.

Since I graduated college in May 2011, my life has felt like a canoe in which I’m paddling standing up: I’m perhaps getting somewhere, but it’s slow progress and I feel like I’m going to fall in many times. I’ve realized that “the way life is supposed to be” is a fiction, and I am more okay with not knowing exactly how my life is going to be and enjoying the ride. Anxiety about the future still sometimes overtakes me, and that is especially when I crave the peace that these verses give.

Psalm 23 begins “God is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters. . . .” Recently, I have struggled to understand our and God’s role in our lives: how much has he determined versus how much do I make happen. Honestly, I haven’t figured it out, other than I need God’s wisdom to help me pick the right direction in life, and I also need to take action as well. Since moving back to Colorado, I have struggled at times to understand why God directed me here. Certain things have happened that I am excited and happy about, but yet I am at times I am very unhappy and lonely.This verse reminds me that God is good and leading me to have a fulfilled life.

“he restores my soul.” I think this can also be read, ” he mends and heals my heart.” Since the summer after graduating from high school, God has been healing my heart of several deep wounds. I prayed to him that he would heal my heart and he has been doing exactly that through a variety of means. I believe that God has long term plans to restore my heart, but he also encourages me or sends encouragement in the moments I feel discouraged, hurt, or forgotten.

“He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Sometimes I accuse God of letting bad things happen in my life, because he is unfair and “poor me, this always happens to me.” Then I end my pity party by remembering that life sucks sometimes and bad things happen because bad things happen in life. God doesn’t lead me down paths to ruin. Why would he? It would reflect badly on him, not to mention that he doesn’t want that for me, because he loves me: he delights in me.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me . . . ” Right now in my life, there are times when I feel as though I’m floundering. I’m not sure where I’m supposed to be. But I feel that God is somehow directing my life so I get to where I need to be. About a year ago, I almost died read about it here. At the time, I had been angry at God and was giving him the silent treatment. He still saved my life and when the smoke of the accident cleared I saw that he had been with me the whole time, even though I thought I was alone.

“your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” If I recall correctly a shepherd’s rod was used for discipline. Though I don’t enjoy discipline— who does really— God disciplines those he loves, as a parent disciplines his/her child to keep them away from harm or to make them into a better person. Sometimes the shepherd would gently lay his staff on the back of his sheep to let them know that he was near. I remember many times when I felt the warm presence of God wash over me and tell me that he loves me. He also shows me that I am loved through other people, their affection and encouragement.

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” So, I really like this part. It speaks of justice. There are a few circumstances in my life that I am still angry about, because they seemed unfair. God has given me more tenacity and a thicker skin to defend myself, but I also have greater faith that he will bring justice where justice is due, whether in this life or the next.

“You anoint my head with oil . . .” God has given me a purpose. During the biblical times, anointing was a sign of setting apart for a specific and holy task. God has given each of us a purpose for our our lives, as well as, the general purpose of loving him and loving others. My name Kristen means “anointed one” and I feel a great sense of purpose. I am a dreamer and desire to change the world or do something great, but am not always sure what I am to do. I believe that he will reveal what that purpose is.

” . . . my cup overflows.” Sometimes life looks bleak, but when I “count my blessings,” I see his providing and that trumps the things I don’t have. He has given me more and better than I have asked for.

“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life. . . .” This verse spells good fortune for me in the future, that God will be with me all the days of my life. An old friend had a dog named Goodness. I remember that dog when I read this verse and think of the warm, loving, and forgiving way in which a dog follows his master around.

“. . . and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” This is so comforting to me, that no matter what happens in my life that I will eventually be with God forever. Though at times while I’m on earth, I run away from him, or I distrust his intentions towards me, I can not fathom being separated from him: it terrifies me. Though I want to live a long life here on earth– I have lots of dreams and life to live– I also can’t wait to be with my Savior, my God.

Selfish Art = Bad Art

Last night I was watching Part 1 of the Project Runway Finale and realized there may be such a thing as selfish art. For this episode, each of the finalists came back to New York with a 12 look collection. Only three designers could show at fashion week, and so there is a mini show for the judges featuring three looks from each designer. Afterwards, the designers talk about their collection and about each piece, and the judges critique.

Designer Michelle brought her A-game and had a compelling story for the collection that was clearly illustrated: the collection was centered around a lone wolf who has lost her pack. Patricia also had a theme, a modern twist on native American culture. When Stanley and Daniel described their collection, they seemed to lack inspiration and Daniel’s in particular seemed to be more about him: he described his looks as pieces that showed his variety of strengths and briefly mentioned that nebulas inspired him.

I understand that in a competition like Project Runway, a person must show what he or she can do, but as I heard Daniel comment about being eliminated, from what he said it seemed that his being successful was more about him than about making good art. I don’t know Daniel personally so this assessment might not be correct, but that is just what I observed.

Daniel wasn’t the only designer on the show this season, that seemed to have the same perspective. He and the others that fell into similar ways of thinking seemed to have weaker points of view and ultimately not create the best pieces.

The times that I have created something, or pursued a creative endeavor caring more for myself than the work at hand seemed to be the times that I lacked inspiration, and in many cases, did not create up to my potential. And inversely, when I have created for the sake of the piece or the sake of a person or cause, I feel that I have been inspired and have created something beautiful, and I worked closer to my potential.

The arts are incredibly competitive and so we must be concerned with ourselves, and show our strengths in our art. Also, there is such a thing as therapeutic art— art created for the sake of the artist. And I know we must be marketable and commercial, but perhaps when we step back, take our eyes off ourselves and create, would we create something really good that naturally shows our skills versus our forcing our skills upon the work? Would we be more innovative? Would our art be more fulfilling? Would we be more successful?

Just some food for thought.

I’m Back from South East Asia

Hey so some of you may be wondering where I went for almost two months, or maybe you’re not, but regardless, you’re going to find out.

March 1st I left for southeast Asia and was there for about ten days, was very sick for another two weeks, and then had to catch up on work.

I had never been out of the country other than Mexico and Canada. And after a day of travel I left like I was in a completely different world. I had been to third world Mexico, but what I saw in Asia blew my mind in it’s beauty and poverty. I was part of a medical team that held clinics at several schools. I helped run the children’s program that occurred while the children’s families were seen at the clinics.

This experience has given me so much perspective. One perspective that this experience gave me, really had nothing to do with being in a third world country, but everything to do with showing me how big the world is.

I have trouble sometimes being myself. After getting a glimpse of the vastness of people and cultures of this planet, I thought to myself, “how sad would it be to not be myself, and cater myself to a group of people, that in perspective of the world, are a tiny blip? Why do I do this? And why do I do this, when I’ve experienced love and acceptance from some of those people that I struggle around?” Many of the communities that I have been a part of have changed, and looking back I can see how much energy I wasted on trying to fit in or be approved, by everyone else. Some of those people I don’t talk to anymore and may never see again.

Paramore’s song “Anklebiters” off their new album says “Fall in love with yourself/because someday you are going to be the only one you’ve got/someday/why do you want to please the world/ and leave yourself to drop dead?/the same day you’re going to be the only one you’ve got.”

Just some food for thought.

I have a question. And I want your answers!

My question is “How separated, or how not separated from the world should Christians be?”

I am working on a piece about this topic, and would like to hear your opinions. Probably all of us, Christians and non-Christians alike have heard the phrase “not of this world,” at least as the slogan for the clothing company that makes Christian clothing with fashion forward graphics. Some Christians seem to pride themselves on how not like “the world” they are, where as others pride themselves on the very opposite. Is there a black and white margin of separation or non-separation, or is it a gray area? What would Jesus’ attitude be towards this idea and the ways Christians uphold it?

If you aren’t a Christian how do you view Christians who talk about “not being of this world” or say or do things in the name of this idea?

If you are a Christian or of another faith, how far is far enough “separated” or how far is too far? What does this phrase mean to you and your faith?