Speechless

A world of words inside my soul; how can I explain it? All the words I know can’t come close, all the pretty prose and turns of phrase are useless.

Can you translate the whispers of the deep into spoken words? Can any amount of music or painting come close to revealing true beauty? Can the glory of the sun compare to the essence behind the sun, to the lifeblood which gives it its glory? Can a foggy mirror produce the same clarity as the thing it reflects? Does the moon shine as brightly as the sun, whose light she mirrors? Sing, my soul, and speak, my mouth, although all falls short of God, although all falls short of the depth of feeling. Though I fall short, still I give my all.

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The Phoenix and the Flame Lily

This is not the name of a cool new book I’m working on (although, now that I think about it, maybe I should use the title and run with it…NaNo 2015 anyone?). The Phoenix and the flame lily (pictured) are two significant symbols that God has used with me in my life. In a way I suppose this is very personal, but there are aspects that apply to all of us, so I’ll just leave those thoughts here.

A phoenix is, as you probably know, a mythical bird of fire which goes through cycles of death and resurrection. It dies rather violently, bursting into flames and disintegrating into a pile of ashes. But then the heat of the ashes actually makes it regenerate itself, and it is hatched in that heat, and grows up again to be a glorious, fiery bird. It not only comes back from the dead, it does so with grace and beauty. It is resilient and unendingly so. It rises from the ashes of its own death.

The flame lily is extraordinary in its own right. It looks dainty, but lilies are tough flowers that usually last a long time and can withstand quite a lot. They are fragrant and look delicate and fragile, but they are strong (it is a lie that we have to be one at the expense of the other). And the color is amazing. The petals look like actual flames blazing up from the dark green stem, and they look more like creatures than flowers.

With the help of Christ, we are all like the phoenix. Things may happen, horrible things, things that shake us to our cores and shake our faith in God and His love. But because of Christ we are resilient and we will continue to rise from the ashes, stronger and better than before.

Everything around us continually says that we have to be strong, that we can’t care or feel because then we’re open to hurt and disappointment, that we have to be like granite stones, not affected or changed by anything. But the key is to have a balance; to bend when the wind blows but bounce back up when it passes. To allow things to change us in the sense that we are rough rocks being made smooth. To keep what should be kept and let go of what must go. Growth, letting go, new life, new things. That is how our life with Christ began, and that is how it will continue.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
-2 Corinthians 5:17

Letting Go (in a non-cheesy-90s-song way)

“I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you are not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.”
-F. Scott Fitzgerald

Change and pain are often partners in crime. The very nature of change, whether it is voluntary or involuntary, means that something is lost or given up. The old must go away to make room for the new. But it is always worth it. You’re going through a storm and it’s dark for days, maybe weeks…until one day, eventually, you look up and see a ray of sunlight, and suddenly you’re in a new place and the whole awful journey now becomes precious to you because of all the things you learned and because of how strong you’ve become.

This is the time of year when everyone starts evaluating. How did I do this year? Did I grow? Did I regress? Did I make use of opportunities and learn from my mistakes? Did I get just a little bit closer to That Person I know is somewhere inside me, fighting to get out? Did I let go of the right things and fight for the things I should have? Was I the best I could have been for my friends, for my family, for God?

But I think that this often becomes a session of failure-wallowing. I did this wrong, I failed there, I should have called this person more, I could have been like this by now if I’d only done that…et cetera. So I would like to say this. Yes, we can all always do better. We can all always look back and find things we did wrong. We make mistakes. This happens to be a fact of life, or it wouldn’t be life and we wouldn’t be human. It is also a fact of life and of being human that we cannot go back and change what is past.

One of the best things we can learn in life is to note a mistake, learn from it, and move on. Move on here meaning “not hold it over your own head until you die.” If God forgives us when we repent of sin, who are you to hold yourself in captivity over much lesser things? We have the fantastic ability as humans to change. To grow. But our growth is massively hindered when we don’t let go of things in the past. Learn from it, give it to God, and trust Him when He says “It is finished.”

You Are Beautiful: Part 2

I don’t have flaws. Ha! What a freeing thing to say. I don’t have flaws, I have differences. Let us not be another generation taken in by the world’s flawed definitions.

I will be real. I will be the beautiful that I am.

Instagram filters, photo editing, lighten exposure and add contrast. Why do we spend so much time taking away the things that make us human? That make us look real? Photography as an art is one thing, but must we edit every selfie, every profile picture?

578317_10201177694108591_22046003_nGuess what: I’m a human being. I have blood in my body. When I blush, when I’m warm, when I’m experiencing some beautiful human emotion like love or anger or happiness, my cheeks redden. I am healthy and I am able to perspire – let’s call it what it is – sweat. My face can have a healthy glow. It’s not excess oil, it’s being alive and able to get rid of toxins.

And speaking of excess oil: know where it comes from? When you’re a teenager, it’s caused by your hormones. Your hormones. Not things to be hated or suppressed, but the things that enable you to grow and develop. They’re good and healthy and are a beautiful part of the human experience.  Why do we insist on hating our own natural assets?

Where did your definition of beauty come from? I’ll tell you. It came from the TV, the magazines, every media image all around you every moment of the day. Because when you look at a mountain, it’s jagged, but you never think “if that crack was gone or it was smoother, it would be really beautiful.” No, you don’t even question its beauty. Why do you question yours?

406663_10200470189861427_1229666087_nWho decided what a flaw is? Who decided that the things that make me stand out from you and you from me aren’t unique beauty marks, but flaws? Who decided that a good way to get people to embrace their own beauty is to say “Your flaws are what make you beautiful”?

I don’t have flaws. Ha! What a freeing thing to say. I don’t have flaws, I have differences. Let us not be another generation taken in by the world’s flawed definitions. We aren’t flawed, their standards are. Be healthy. Be real. Be the beautiful that you are.

Click here for Part 1.

You Are Beautiful: Part 1

Today I caught myself thinking, “I wish I was beautiful.”

But then I did something I would never have done in the past. I caught the thought and held it and looked at it, and then I sat down with myself.

“I am sorry,” I said, “for all the times I let you think that and didn’t object. I am sorry for all the times I allowed this thought, these words, to roll like a movie reel in your mind. That’s my bad.

“And I need to tell you the truth today, because this thought won’t go away. It’s a fact of life today, with all the movies and TV ads and magazines, blah blah blah. You’ve heard this before, but never from me. This thought will come again, and again, and again, and it will continue to assault you when you’re not feeling 100% – or even when you are.

“So I need to tell you the truth. ‘Beauty’ is totally skewed. They way you think of beauty is wrong. It’s defined by the world, and yeah, the world can be pretty convincing, but you have to have the real definition of beauty lodged in your mind. It doesn’t matter what you think guys are thinking when they see you. It doesn’t matter what you think girls are thinking. What matters is that you know, to the core of your being, that you’re beautiful.

“You’ve heard this before, but not from me. Beauty isn’t perfectly plucked eyebrows or long, shiny hair, or even the color of your eyes. Beauty isn’t tall or short or skinny or fat (or in between) or long fingers or short fingers. Yeah, that’s right, I’m telling you what you’ve heard from other people, but haven’t heard from me. Because there’s always the possibility that other people are being insincere, but I’m not. I’m you. I can’t be insincere with you. Duh, you’d know. So now you’re hearing it from me: beauty isn’t any of those things.

1497765_10202861333120050_251278528_n“This is what beauty is. Beauty is the innocence it takes to show the world who you really are. Beauty is you coming through your skin, your eyes, your mouth, your hair. Beauty is when you respect yourself and love yourself and then that love overflows to the people around you. Beauty is you embracing you and not restricting or constraining yourself anymore. Beauty is the opposite of fear, and fear can’t handle beauty because it’s so steadfast and so strong and so solid and immovable. Beauty is when you begin to realize the truth: that you, with all of your “flaws” (i.e. things the fashion people photoshop out of pictures to make you feel inferior) are unique, individual, human, striking, lovely.

“And I’m going to show you tough love. I’m not going to let you get away with thinking ever again ‘I wish I was beautiful.’ I’m not going to let you get away with thinking ‘I wish I looked like that’ or ‘I’m not good enough’ or ‘no one will be able to love me.’ Every time you think that, whether it’s in the middle of a lecture, or in traffic, or at home at night in your bed, I will stop everything and sit down with you and tell you that the definition of the beauty you’re thinking of is the wrong one. And that you are beautiful, and that you don’t have to think these things ever again.”

And then I hugged myself, and the only regret I had is that I didn’t have this talk with me a long, long time ago.