Thursday Thoughts: Share the Love

Why do we have this weird culture of not telling each other how much we mean to each other (I mean platonically – don’t even get me started on anything else)? Why is it weird to care about people? To love your friends? We complain about being isolated and unloved but then we think it’s weird and mushy when someone is open about it. We breed a culture of ‘playing it cool’ and being aloof, and then complain about how distant everyone is. I mean, I tell the people in my life that I love them, or at least I try to. Because how stupid is it that so many people sit around thinking that no one cares about them, when actually they do, but they don’t say it because they feel weird about it? Nah fam. We’re not in high school anymore, you know? Spread the friend love. Because in this super insecure society, no one knows it unless you say it.

Friends are precious. And the older you get, the more you realize just how infrequently real friendship comes along. And you know…we’re all just people. Everyone needs affirmation sometimes. Everyone needs to know that they matter. That someone misses them when they’re not there. That in this world of super digital-ness, someone wants to talk to them and spend time with them because of who they are.

So say it. Life is short. Make sure the people you love know it.

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We’ve Been Here Before (I Recognize That Tree)

The number of posts I have written that have something to do with learning to love yourself, or becoming free, or letting yourself grow and breathe and create, are insane. You would think that by now I would have it down…that I would be an amateur expert on this sort of thing. From my posts it might seem as though I have it all figured out and know exactly what I’m doing. I Have Arrived.

Sadly, no. I wish I had arrived. I wish I knew how to do this every day, consistently, regardless of circumstances. I wish I knew by now how to love myself and let God love me and never hit a bump in the road. But what can I say? I am human and humans struggle with this. In fact this is probably one of our biggest struggles, because if we can’t love ourselves or let God love us, we’re paralyzed. Perfect love drives out fear, and lots of other things, so if that is neutralized, then we are neutralized. There are moments of freedom – it’s getting better. But it’s not where it should be.

At the end of every semester, after the chaos ends and I am left alone with my thoughts in the quiet of my room, I find myself having to re-re-learn. Because despite what I might believe and know in my head, I sometimes do still find my identity in the marks I earn. I do still compare myself to others, in academics and in every other part of life. I do still, sometimes, catch myself thinking that I can’t do this, or that I’m not good enough, or not intelligent enough, not pretty enough, not creative enough, not interesting enough, not academic enough, not <insert every positive adjective here> enough.

What is that, even? How dare I tell myself those things? I would never tell my friends that they’re not enough and I would never think that about them. I would have to restrain myself from breaking the face of whoever said that about anyone. So why do I treat myself so badly? I think that most of us do this, and I think it should stop. I think we should decide, once and for all, to believe what God says. Because we believe the other things He says, but when it comes to our identities – when it comes to passages like Psalm 139 – it suddenly becomes difficult to believe Him. But let’s just decide, shall we?

All I know is I don’t want to be 50 before I figure this out. So this is me, deciding.

Have no fear, you will
find your way.
It’s in your bones.
It’s in your soul.

Mark Z. Danielewski

Bam. Giant Awakened.

IMG_0049I have been in and out of the city for the past few weeks, but now I’m back again to stay and I’m ready. I’m ready for the year, I’m ready for challenges, I’m ready to climb a mountain and hack a path and destroy the ring and kill the bad guy and all that. Last week I went to my church again, and they were in the middle of a series about the life of Joseph, and the title for that Sunday was “Consecration: Defeating the enemies of your dream.”

The sermon was spectacular, but that title really stuck with me. Defeating the enemies of your dream. There is something very tangible about putting it that way. I have dreams, dreams that God has put there, and those dreams have enemies. And I have to defeat the enemies of my dreams.

What are the enemies of your dreams?

I can name a few of mine. Things that instantly rose to the surface when I read the title. It was like my mind was throwing them at me in desperation. “Look! Here they are! These are the enemies of your dreams. Are you going to do something about it or let them destroy your dreams? They’re here, with me, and there’s a war. What are you going to do about it?”

Fear. Insecurity. Fear again. The kind of fear that goes deep, deep down into the recesses of your soul, so deep that you can’t trace its origin anymore and you only know where it comes from because you know fear can only come from the Father of Lies himself. The irony is, I’m more afraid of myself than anything else. You know that popular quote by Marianne Williamson:

“Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate; our greatest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

flower-51726_640Well, only this year have I discovered that it’s actually true. I am terrified that if I let myself out of the little cage of safety and peace and unfreedom, and let myself unfurl these wings I’ve got and spread them as far as they can go, I might do something stupid.

If I no longer believe that I am below average, not quite there, not quite as pretty, not quite as smart, not quite as creative…well…what might I do? Will I go berserk? Will I go wild and lose control? Will I betray myself? Will I betray my Savior?

I am forced to admit that I have built a prison of fear around myself. I have already betrayed myself, because I took the enemy’s lies and declared them true. I spoke them in agreement with him over my soul. But there is a greater truth: we have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and self control. 2 Timothy 1:7. That’s right. Self control. And I kind of can’t believe I didn’t see the answer right there in front of me before, but there it is.

Bam. Giant awakened.

And so I renounce what I spoke over myself. I renounce my agreement with the enemy. I renounce the fear I allowed him to use to bind me up in a “safe”, controlled cage. I refuse to fear. I refuse to not be free. And I refuse to keep on entertaining the enemies of my dreams. And I can do this because God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self control.

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.