Tuesday, July 30, 2013

When We Lose Confidence

When is it, exactly, in our lifetime when we start to lose our self confidence?  When is it that we start to feel self conscious?  When is it that we start to lose sight of what makes us come alive, and rather choose to act in a way that we feel “safe” in the eyes of those around us?

Just a few weeks ago, I realized that my oldest child, a mere 6 ½ years old, is starting to feel less than adequate in some areas.  And my heart broke in a whole new way.

Twice a week, we try to quick clean the whole house.  It’s amazing how quickly things around here can clutter up and get grimy!  To make it fun, we play some upbeat tunes, set a timer, and see if we can finish cleaning the room in the allotted time.  It’s become our favorite way to get our chores done, and I’m often asked on non-cleaning days if we could “just do timer cleaning on just one room, pleeeeaaaase!” 

Once the timer is set, and our playlist is queued up, dust rags, vacuums and mops join the chorus of many voices singing, little fists pumping in the air.  Yes, cleaning day over here is wild and loud, but we don’t mind getting our chores done!

Just a few weeks ago, as I sprayed everyone’s dust rags during one of our favorite cleaning songs, I noticed one less voice joining our chorus.  There stood my oldest, cleaning, but clearly feeling awkward, restraining himself from joining in our family fun. 

I took him aside to see what the matter was, thinking he wasn’t feeling well or that perhaps he had something else on his mind.  I didn’t expect him to say, “Mom, it’s just that I don’t sing as well as you or Noah, so I thought I wouldn’t be a bother and not sing at all.”  Of course, my first response was, “Honey, of course you’re as good as us!  You should still sing!”  His little brother was listening and also rushed into the scene, attempting to encourage big brother and tell him he sings beautifully. 

Later that day, my dear son said he wanted to talk.  “I know I’m not as good as you are at singing.  I also know that I am good at other things.  I just don’t want to do the things I’m not good at anymore.” 

Time to be honest:  as much as I absolutely, beyond a shadow of a doubt, LOVE to hear my son sing, it’s true that he’s not going to be recording a Billboard hit in his future.  But my heart was to encourage him not to quit.  Singing is praising, and the Lord only requires us to make a joyful noise, not a perfectly harmonic noise.  Besides, who is to say who is good and who is better?  And furthermore, who says that you can’t improve if you just keep trying?

These are all the things that were whirling through my head, but all that came out of my mouth was “for now let me pray about this and we’ll talk later.”  Thank you Lord for teaching me a little restraint!  The more I thought about it, the more I realized, our choice to restrain ourselves, sometimes resulting in fear, comes from our inability to realize who we were created to be.  The truth is, we were each designed specifically by the Creator of the Universe, who chose to place stars in the sky, give me my curly hair, and give my son the voice He gave him (which by the way is one of the sweetest sounds I have ever heard in my life).

I realized that I am just now entering into a season of knowing who I am, and not in the sense of what I want to be or do with my life.  No, in being who I am unapologetically.  In knowing that my sense of humor is a gift, and that my intelligence is not a bad thing.  In feeling comfortable in my own skin and with my own voice. In passionately following things He placed in my heart with no excuses, no restraint.  I will not be the best at anything I do.  There is always going to be someone more creative, more proficient, smarter, more organized.  And I have let that silly truth stop me in my tracks so many times.  But my Creator has made me exactly who I am, and has told me in 2 Timothy 1:7 that I have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind. 

And the more I prayed about what to tell my son, I realized that I would be supportive no matter what he chooses, as long as he walks along in the confidence that God intended for him.  There are other ways to praise, and he is my one who reads and loves the Word.  He speaks truth over each one of us.  I know that he desires a relationship with the living God, rather than religion.  But still, he is 6.  He has a lot to learn, develop, and practice.  So we sat down and examined some Scripture together to figure this one out.  Here’s a sampling of what we discussed:

1 Peter 2:9 says “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness in to his wonderful light.”  (emphasis added)

Psalm 139:13-16
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

1 Samuel 16:7
“But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’”
Matthew 5:13-14
"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.”

1 Peter 2:5
“You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

I looked at his little face and told him how precious he was not just to me and our family, but to His King who made him just the way he is.  As his smile spread across his face, it seemed like a light bulb came on.  He apologized for not singing…indeed, he wants to sing…and dance…and play instruments…this boy was a fountain once we tapped into him!  I reminded him he doesn’t sing for us, but for His King…I think he gets it now.  He’s been singing louder and longer ever since, even writing some of his own songs.  I cannot help but ask myself what if we never talked this one through?  What would have happened to this passion that I see in him now?

When do we lose our confidence?  When is it that we abandon what is in our hearts for something that is seemingly acceptable? 

When we lose sight of who we are living and breathing for.  When we choose to please the created rather than the Creator.  When we have enough self awareness to finally learn what sacrifice might be.  But in sacrificing what others think of us, we rest in a place of true joy, walking in confidence, and becoming the person we were destined to become.

Here are some of my boy’s latest worship lyrics:

            God, you are my King,
            The best King,
            The only King.
            You are more powerful than anything.
            You are my King.
            You are my King.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Permission to Be Beautiful

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye.”

– Miss Piggy, The Muppets

While I start my morning ritual of scrambling eggs and blending our smoothies, my toddler daughter starts her own morning routine.  After at least 12 hours of beauty sleep (which is God’s gift to both of us!), she wakes up, finds her necklaces and shoes, and after adorning herself, she promptly grabs a baby doll or two, kisses them, and wheels them into the kitchen, snuggled up in their tiny pink stroller. 

When I’m rushing to get everyone out the door, making sure the boys have taken that last fateful trip to the bathroom, counting the number of diapers I have packed, and making sure I remember to look in the mirror myself, she’s waiting patiently to get her hair done.  She sits up straight and still, and always wants to look in the mirror when her styling is complete.


My husband and I laugh.  If you know me, you know how simple I am when it comes to my “routine.”  My hair is usually in a pony tail, and I have minimal makeup on, if any at all.  My only piece of jewelry that I sport 99% of the time is my wedding band.  So my pretty princess did not get her desire for all things pretty and shiny from me at all.

Her innate desire to be beautiful has caused me to sit back and wonder what God has written on her heart.  This was a deeper ponder than I wanted to have pondered.

Before my daughter entered into my life, I would have told you that beauty wasn’t important to me.  But now I can say that that would have been an ignorant, quickly dismissive statement.  Logically speaking, who doesn’t love to look at something beautiful?  Who doesn’t want to feel like they live in a beautiful place, or to vacation somewhere that they consider beautiful?  Who doesn’t appreciate the beauty of nature?  Who doesn’t notice a handsome man or a beautiful woman as they walk by?   We, by nature, appreciate beauty. 

Who doesn’t love a compliment?  Even in my hard-hearted days, a compliment made me feel alive inside, whether or not it showed outwardly.  And though we should not give other people’s opinions power over us, our emotions and our thinking, their words of encouragement tend to give us joy. 
Logically speaking, then, beauty is important to me.  I like beautiful things, and I love receiving an unexpected compliment.  Why then have I flippantly dismissed beauty for such a long time?
Well, my pondering has brought up many reasons.  And much (but not all) has to do with the way I grew up.  I didn’t have the mom figure telling me I was beautiful or guiding me through what I call “the awkward years.”  No one taught me how to dress for my figure, or do my hair and make up.  But arguably, many women, even with mothers, have that same absence in their lives. 

Some women take it upon themselves to learn, because they are honest with themselves that they desire to be beautiful.  No, not me.  I hid from it.  I saved all the insecurity of my awkward years in a box, right next to my 3 makeup items and hair appliances I rarely use.  And when I walk into the bathroom on a quest to look how I want to feel, instead of reaching for my mascara, I take out that box, sort through it while looking into the mirror, and walk out resigned to never be beautiful.

Now, I’m being totally honest here.  I have gone to enough teachings, enough small groups, and read enough books on what beauty is.  And I’m a firm believer that beauty does not define you.  It does not give you confidence.  It does not give you joy.  You know what it gives you?  Beauty.  It is, of itself, something to behold.  It is something created to celebrate.  And we are something created to celebrate. 

I watch my daughter adorn herself in the morning, and look at me with such joy.  I watch her older brothers finding her so adorable for acting so feminine.  And I wonder when and why I decided to not allow that freedom and that joy in my own life. 

I hid behind my intellect, reasoning that God looks at the heart, not the hair.  And that’s true!  Don’t get me wrong.  But my heart was not right.  Because instead of seeing myself as He sees me, I saw something different…something undesirable…something that wasn’t worth investing in.  And I hid behind the lies of busyness, and priorities, and excuses in order to not deal with my heart issues.

I hesitate to write all of this because it is difficult, especially for Christian women, to invest in themselves without feeling vain.  We don’t want to be that fleeting beauty, but we want that Proverbs 31 character.  While the Word says that God looks at the heart, He also looked at the beauty of His creation and saw that it was good. 

I think of all the times when my husband has paid me a compliment, and I’ve struggled so much because internally I’m thrilled but externally I roll my eyes and play it off.  I think of times when I get together with a friend and they tell me I look great and I begrudgingly say, Oh geeze, thanks, but I don’t feel great, completely not receiving that compliment.  And then I think of God looking at me, a created woman, and as He gazes on my, dare I say, beauty, He says that it is good.  Man, am I convicted. 

My beauty that He created is good.  I see that every time I watch my daughter twirl in a pretty dress, with her pigtails and necklaces.  She is beautiful and not vain.  She is beautiful and not proud.  She is beautiful and knows it, but does not chase after it.  I pray that she stays humble and confident, chasing after the eternal, but always knowing how precious and gorgeous she was made. 

So I decided to confide in a friend a few weeks ago about my quest for beauty.   And when I say friend, I mean the kind where you know that before you were born God just knew you were going to be friends forever kind of friend.  I confided in her because she has known me most of my life, knows all my secrets and insecurities as well as my strengths and confidences.  She is beautiful on the inside and out and knows how to make women feel the way they were created to feel.

We had a great conversation about how beauty is something that God made, and that is o.k. to want that.  I want my daughter to feel beautiful, but I think my heavenly Father probably wants that for me too.  I confided that I feared trying to look nice because I was afraid of what others would think…Oh, this is you trying to actually look nice?!   But through our conversation, I realized that I was perpetuating the same perversion of beauty that I logically tried to avoid.  I was placing my beauty in the context of other people and not my own. 

Here’s when the Miss Piggy quote comes in…I am beautiful.  And if others don’t agree, they probably just need a perspective adjustment.  I can list for you the things I don’t like about myself, but the power of life and death is in the tongue, and I want to appreciate who God made me inside and out.  While I know He looks at the heart, the way we perceive and fall out of gratitude for who He made us on the outside can start to make our hearts grow sick.  I am on a journey of health and wellness, and it includes healing my heart from years of insecurity and denial and embracing the way He knit me together uniquely and divinely. 

The Epilogue:

Here’s the fun part!

My very beautiful friend, who I confided in, asked me to meet her at her house last night for a surprise.  She’s a make up artist, and I had asked her to give me a few tips to update my look.  She did such an amazing job of accenting all the beauty in my face, teaching me little tips and tricks along the way.  After our make up session, she whisked me off to a beautiful salon to get a new cut and some styling tips from a really great hair stylist.  I felt as if there should have been cameras following us along on our journey!  I was living a real life make over totally steered solely by my very own friend.  She went out of her way to schedule time with me, which is no small task for a busy mom of three little boys!  She set everything up ahead of time, even sending my picture to the salon so that they could be ready with some ideas.  And when I walked out feeling fresh and new, we went out and laughed and had some great conversation.  It was a night I will never forget! 

I woke up this morning with my newly styled hair and makeup tips and took only about 10-15 minutes to put myself together.  Hmm, it’s not that difficult after all.  And I made myself a promise.  My friend thought I was beautiful and wanted to invest in me, and I want to steward that investment.  Instead of looking at my flaws, I’m going to enjoy the beauty God has given me.  So without further adieu, I proudly present you with an updated me...and it feels great!

I want my daughter to see the world through His eyes.  In a culture obsessed with looks, trends, and perfection, I know it will be a challenge to keep her eyes focused on what matters most at times. But I want her to see herself the way God sees her…the way her dad and I see her.  She is absolutely stunning.  She is amazing.  I treasure her beauty, and she has inspired me to treasure my own.