Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Feeling Beautiful: Self-esteem

I call them my “fat ugly” days. My hair looks awful, my clothes don't fit, or I just feel sludgy and desperately want someone – my husband, children, or friends, to reassure me that I am beautiful and lovable even though I don’t feel like it. My friend Rhoda, a homeschooling mom with four kids, was having one of those days. When she made disparaging comments about herself and how ugly she felt, her husband didn’t take the hint. He didn’t encourage her with the sweet compliments she had hoped for. And that made her angry. Why couldn’t he see she needed reassurance?

Later, she confided that the surlier she became, the less likely it was that he would want to shower her with tender affection. What she needed was an escape to the spa. With her kids and husband otherwise occupied, Rhoda retired to the bathroom where she put on soft music, lit candles, and took a long bath. She scrubbed every inch of her body with a loofa sponge and deep conditioned her hair. Energized by that, she painted her nails, applied makeup, and styled her hair. To top it off, she dressed in an outfit that made her feel pretty.

As she cared for her body, Rhoda also refreshed her spirit in the Lord. She reminded herself that even when she feels frumpy she is still beautiful and valuable to her Savior. She knew that truth all along, but the fog of emotions and weariness of motherhood had hidden it from her sight.

Two hours later, she felt like a new woman. “After my bath, I went out and gave my husband a big hug and kiss. He looked up at me and his eyes popped.”

“Wow, you’re hot, Babe!” he said with appreciation.

“Yes, I am,” she thought with a smile. “Thank you, Sweetheart.” Even if he had not noticed the change in her, Rhoda knew she had that assurance deep within.

By the time she got to our meeting that night, Rhoda was able to share what she had discovered with us. It’s something every woman needs to know. “I realized it’s not my husband’s responsibility to make me feel beautiful; it’s mine. It’s my job to take care of myself, stay connected with God, and do the things that make me feel pretty. When I do, I can be confident in myself and have more energy to reach out to others.” Then she smiled mysteriously. People often remark about the ethereal look on Mona Lisa’s face. Maybe she had learned the same beauty secret as my friend. True beauty comes from inside.

~ (c) Beth Vice, January 2010

Monday, January 25, 2010

Update on Listlessness: Grace is not earned

For all you list makers out there, you understand how hard it has been for me to refrain from making a daily to do list for two whole months (see "Incredible Days of Listlessness"). God is using the fast I took throughout November and December to teach me some amazing truths.

It was unsettling at first, but also freeing to not have a list to refer to throughout the day. I actually waited for God to give me directions. It was an intense kind of listening I normally do when I am in the Word or in prayer. But now I was seeking God in the middle of the living room, or the car, or the bathroom! I began looking to God for His go ahead even about seemingly mundane details. And there were moments when I could feel His presence nearer than my skin.

At the end of the days I truly followed God's agenda instead of mine, I went to bed without regrets, fully satisfied. There were still the things I had wanted to get done and didn't, even some that seemed rather urgent to me. In all, though, there was a deep sense of trust that God had it all under control. That didn't happen every day though, especially when Christmas drew near and all our children were coming to stay or visit.

As for my tendency to try and earn God's approval, I actually felt more connected to Him than ever before. Even on the days I thought I hadn't accomplished much. I wanted to please Him even the way I rested. I pictured myself as His little handmaiden waiting for His nod to take action, fighting the urge to "look busy" while I waited.

However I have to admit I'm still in process. As soon as the fast was over it was a temptation to go right back to my old ways. I have to remind myself daily to practice what I learned and not let it slip away.

This is what my days of listlessness impressed on me:

* People are the most important part of any day. They are not items to cross off as "done" but fragile and beautiful souls who were created, like me, for relationships.
* Everything worth doing takes time. It may not go smoothly and will most likely be interrupted more than once. I need to expect that as normal. And if it does go well, don't squeeze in 3 extra jobs with the time I saved.
* Even if I only get one thing done each day that God wanted me to do, I have done well. If I get 10 things done that were not of God, I have accomplished nothing.
* People may praise me for living at a frenetic pace, but God intends me to live a life of peace and purpose. He will keep me busy, but not frazzled.
* It's okay to have fun! Where did I get the idea that fun is never on the list unless it's vacation or a holiday? As pastor Rob Baker says, "Give in to the joy!"
* What important to God is sometimes hard to evaluate. Errands, housework, appointments and projects are measurable. How can you calculate the worth of listening, writing encouragement notes, or fighting unseen forces in prayer?
* God seldom tells me what He's up to. He may urge me to go, or speak, or give, or be still without telling me why. He loves it when I trust Him and participate in His work.
* It takes courage to let God lead. I can either fight Him for control, or accept the freedom of being His follower.

So that's my story. This is a continuing saga and a huge learning curve for me. I think of all the things we cling to in this world for comfort, security, or our sense of identity and value: coffee, the daily news, Facebook, chocolate, texting, movies and TV, shopping and so much more. What would happen if you fasted from one of these and depended completely on God to meet that need? If you take the leap of faith He won't let you down. I can't wait to hear your story!

~ (c) Beth Vice, January 2010