Monday, May 30, 2011

To Honor Those That Have Fallen

Sometimes no allegories are needed.  The truth is beautiful in it's simplicity.  
We honor those who have died while serving our country.  My faith teaches that all who die will live again.  Below is a message of hope and faith. 
 I hope will uplift you and bring peace to those that have lost loved ones in war and other times.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Now I See

Yesterday I spent the afternoon at my ophthalmologists office getting my eyes checked. It has become an every other year ritual since I was 14 when I first began wearing glasses and/or contacts.

Over the past few months my vision has really taken a turn for the worse. Even with my contacts in street signs were hard to read. Pretty much anything further than 15 took on a soft blur.

This visit started out like any other exam. The Dr. and I chatted a bit while he tested my vision on the big machine in the dark room (I hate getting my eyes checked.) Then, in the middle of the testing, I asked the Dr. why he thought my vision had gotten so badly so quickly. He said sometimes it just happens, but there wasn't any sign of disease or anything that should cause concern. Then Dr. said, "I really don't know. God only knows."

Normally I would have let it go without saying anything. But, lately I've been praying for more opportunities to share my testimony with those around me. So, in our half-darkened room, I simply smiled and said, "Yes, He does."

I guess he wasn't expecting that response, because he did a double take. Then, with a hint of skepticism, he asked, "How do you know God is a He, and not a she or a something?"

Now I was the one taken by surprise. I thought for just a moment before I responded.

Me: "Because He is my Father in Heaven and I am His child." (I felt so bold, like the Apostle Paul!)

Dr.:"But, God is many other things to many people."

Me: "Yes, but truth is truth, regardless of opinion. There are millions of opinions, but one truth. It is not our job to create our version of God based on our personal hopes and beliefs. We must find the real Him and base our hopes and belief on the truth."

Dr. had a scientific mind, and therefor wanted proof of His existence.

Me: "Man can prove anything he sets his mind to. Man has proven that eggs are bad for you. Then he proved they were good for you. I'm not sure where man's view on eggs are right now, but I am sure it'll change again. That is why we shouldn't rely on man for that answer. Things of a spiritual matter can only be taught and understood through spiritual means. That is where faith comes in. It is not a matter of proof. It is a matter of prayer and faith."

Dr. didn't seem too convinced. With little response he continued testing my vision. For the remainder of the exam we had fun small talk about many other topics, but nothing spiritual. I thought my boldness had fallen on deaf ears and blind eyes.

At the end of my appointment, he shook my hand. I thanked him for the exam and the new contacts.

Me: "Thanks for helping me. It's great to finally see again."

It was then that he smiled and said, "You are an interesting person. You've given me some things to really think about now."

I left feeling great. As I drove home I was once again grateful for the gift of sight. Because of my visit with Dr. I was able to see things I couldn't before. The street signs were clear and the clouds and trees once again had definition. How beautiful and clear everything was to me.

Then I smiled at the notion that, perhaps because of his visit with me,the good Dr. might be able to see things he could not before. Perhaps, as he is thinking about God and seeking Him, he might begin to see things he couldn't before. As he begins to look at life through an eternal lens, his potential will become clear, his purpose might have more definition, his trials might have more meaning, and his joy might be more full.

It brings the words to the song "Amazing Grace" to mind: "...was blind, but now I see."

Side thought - Wouldn't it be great if we could patent a contact that would allow us to see the eternal perspective? I'd call them Forever Focus contacts. When we wore them, we'd see our children as God does (even when their rooms are a mess and they aren't doing their homework.) We'd look at our trials differently. We would even look at ourselves differently. Ah, if it were only that easy!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

More Than a Just a Name

I love nicknames. Growing up I didn't like my name - Michelle. It seemed boring. So, whenever I got a nickname (which wasn't very often) I relished it. My childhood friend, Shelby, called me Ish. To my red-headed twin cousins, I was Mishka. My brothers called me Missy or Siss. My mom had a lot of nicknames for me. When I was little she used to call my Shelly-little-butt.... until I started calling her mommy-big-butt. She changed my nick-name to Shelly-Belly after that. My favorite nickname of all is one that my mother uses now. She calls me Love.

The nicknames are fun and creative. But the real reason I loved nicknames was that I knew it was more than just a name, it was a term of endearment. It was a way to share how someone felt about me without having to say it.It is an indicator of the level of a relationship, where there is love, affinity and concern for the person. Whenever I was called by a nickname, I felt loved (still do.)

I wonder if that is why Jesus has so many names? Jesus, Bread of Life, Cornerstone, God, Jehovah, Rock, Lamb of God, Exemplar, Creator, Good Shepherd, Light of the World and Savior just to name a few. Do you suppose it is because He means so many things to so many people?

To the Savior, his names are more than names. They have meaning. And, when we use them, it should be a token of our acceptance of Him, our love for Him, and our understanding of His role in our lives.

In Luke, 5:46, the Jesus teaches the importance of that relationship when he asks the question, "And why call ye me, Lord, and do not the things which I say?"

When we call Jesus our Exemplar, our Shepherd, and our Savior, we should acknowledge our role as one needing to be guided, to be shepherded and needing to be saved. Our actions should plainly manifest our feelings for Him.

If we really do call him "Lord" then should not follow Him and do the things that He says? Should we not believe that He is?

When Jesus was being question by Pilot, He again showed that a name is more just a name. Pilate called to Jesus and said unto him, "Art thou the King of the Jews?" Jesus could have answered yes. But, rather, he answered him, "Sayest thou this of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me?" In other words, 'Do you believe that I am the King of the Jews, and not just called so?'

As we call upon His name, let us remember that it is more that just a name- it is our testimony of who He is. He is our Judge, the Light of the World, the Firstborn, our Advocate, the Christ, and the Messiah.

Whenever I write to my dad, whether in email or a letter, I never sign the name 'Michelle.' I always sign "Your Daughter." I asked him once if he wondered why I did that or even noticed it before. I told him that for me it was another way of acknowledging my love for him as my father. It was more than just a title or a name at the end of the letter, it represented my pride, love and gratitude for being his daughter.

As we take His name upon ourselves we take on other names as well - Disciple, Follower, Pupil, Saved. Let our actions give meaning to the names we now have. Our works should reflect our love and devotion to Him. Let us show Him that we, too, know that there is more than just a name.

Friday, May 6, 2011

My Emancipation Proclamation

This is, by far, my most personal and self-revealing post.  Get comfortable- this is a long one.

I am apprehensive as I write.  There is a part of me that feels that I am the only one that struggles with this.  I must be, because everyone else looks so lovely, so happy, so sure of themselves. And yet, I know that there are others.  I have talked with them. They have told me they feel the same way.  But, in spite of shared secrets and fears, there still is a voice that tells me it is only me.

I am talking about feeling insecure. I want so badly to say that I am completely happy with who I am all the time, but it is a struggle.  Especially lately.

There is someone that I compare myself to.  Most of the time it is a subconscious haunting. It crops up when I walk by a full-length mirror, or stand next to someone that reminds me of her. I begin to look at myself, not for who I am, but for how much I am not like her.  I am not as thin as her, or as confident as her, or as eloquent as her.  I am not as good of a mother as her, nor am I as smart or beautiful as her.  I cannot cook as well as she can, and her house is always clean. There are times when I don't feel I am good enough- because I think I am not as good as her.

She is you. It is of no fault of your own.  You just have so many qualities that I wish I possess.  It becomes a problem with I begin to think I am not as good in whole, because I am not like you.  (You should be flattered!)

I give myself kudos for admitting that.  It takes courage to admit that I compare myself to you and other women. I like courage. It's cool.   I don't like insecurities.  And yet, I have them. I typically feel very grounded and happy, but lately the doubts and insecurities are cropping up more frequently. Not cool.

I have though a lot about the genesis of these feelings, trying to figure them all out.  Here's what I've come up with.

1. I've been a little emotional lately. I am a woman.  Women are emotional creatures with high self-expectations and a desperate (albeit sometimes hidden) need to be needed, desired, and loved. When we (I) feel unattractive outside and/or inside, we  (I) doubt that we (I) are worthy to be loved, desired, and needed.  Granted, this is a blanket statement that may not apply to every single woman- but for the other 99% of us (me), I think it applies.

2. Lately I have lost  view of the correct definition of beauty. We are seeds of Deity- daughters of God- and because so, we have an innate drive to progress, to improve, to get better.  That is a good thing.  This good thing, though,  becomes distorted when we look someone beyond God in Heaven as the yardstick for our progress, our success and our beauty.  The media is a terrible God to worship and follow.  It tells us that if we are not a size 2 we are fat.  If we do not have perfect skin, we are ugly.  It tell us that if we do not dress fashionable (again- fashion according to the Media God) than we are frumpy and out of style.  It tells us constantly that we are not good enough,.

The Media God tells us our boobs are too small, our thighs are too big, our hair is the wrong color and our face is too saggy- and we listen.  The message creeps into our minds and breeds self doubt and unhappiness. We look at other followers of the Media God and compare ourselves to them, even try to keep up with them.  So we get boob-jobs, color our hair, take diet pills, get botox, have fake tans and fake nails.  We deny the Media God's influence. We say it's not about comparing,  that we 'just want to feel good about ourselves.' But, that is not completely true.

So, I look at the celebrities in the magazine, then to myself - not the same.  I look at woman around me, friends, then to myself- not the same.  I see so many beautiful and talented people, and I see me and all my weakness, and I feel inferior.  I don't feel worthy.  I don't feel beautiful. I don't feel whole.

That begs the question: Who is the one deciding what is beautiful anyway!?!?

This is not a new dilemma for us women (and men.) In the Middle Ages, women would concoct toxic treatments to remove all facial hair- eyebrows, lashes and even hairlines- all for the sake of their definition of beauty.  In 100 B.C. Greco-Romans women would bleach their hair using carbonized beechwood and goat fat. Women of the Han Dynasty in China would ingest a powder three times a day whiten their complexion. In 2500 B.C. Egyptians applied a mixture of kohl and animal fat around their eyes as eye-liner. In 300 A.D. Japanese Women would lacquer their teeth black with iron filings. In Elizabethan times, women would painstakingly pluck their hairline back to make their foreheads appear larger.

Culture dictates what is beautiful and we conform. It has, and always will.  It is how the world works. But, we know that we are not of the world.  We have a divine lineage.  We lived before, and we will live after this world.  In fact, our lives on earth are but a minuscule chapter in the eternal scheme of things. But, we allow ourselves to become immersed in it, as it dictates who we should be, who we should follow and what we need to be happy.  We all get caught up in it.  It is inescapable.

So, the golden question is: How do we find the balance between feeling beautiful and secure in who we are - not comparing ourselves to others (or what we looked like in high school), all while staying beautiful according to God?

The answer.......... I don't know.  I don't know the formula for amazing self-esteem, impervious to outside influences and inside perception.  Otherwise, I wouldn't be feeling this way! But, what I do know is that I am done feeling this way.

So today I decided to make a stand. This is my personal Emancipation Proclamation (EP). Join in if you'd like:

I, (insert your name here),  hereby free myself from unrealistic expectations and guilt.  
I decree that I will love my muffin-top, embrace my stretch marks, laugh-lines, droopy boobs and frizzy hair.  
I free myself from the oppression of comparison.
On this day, I declare myself free from pressure to be "perfect."
Today, I give myself the right to see me as He does - and agree.
I will hereforthwith recognize and find joy in my God-given talents and strengths without apology or dismissiveness.
I do not stand with the world and judge myself.
Today, I choose to stand with God and tell the world (Media Gods) to take a hike. 
Today, I love myself.
Today I am free.

Sounds totally cheesy.  I know. But, I feel so much better now.

How do you feel as you read this?  Do you agree? Do you need an Emancipation Proclamation of your own? If so- go for it.  If not, well, congratulations!  Maybe you can tell us all your secret!

PS- If you are judging me right now, it's OK. According my EP, I don't care.  :)  How cool is that?