How do I judge thee? Let me count the ways. I see wrinkles and some laugh lines. Wait, your style has gone astray. A little chub, a little drab, too many freckles dot your nose. Some grays are showing through that dye job. You are tired and it shows.
You are too busy and too scattered. When is the last time you worked out? Overworked, underappreciated. Oh, I wouldn’t eat that amount. You’re unkempt, trying too hard, maybe today is not your day. I’m sure there was a better outfit choice this morning. Um, you shouldn’t wear stripes that way.
I would have dressed up or dressed down. Painted my cheeks a different pink. I surely would have pulled my hair up. It would look better, don’t you think? Your face is too long, eyes too big and shoulders wide. Hide your ears, quiet your voice, stuff all your fears inside. Wear something different, that look is lame. Same favorite sweater? Lacking grace, what a shame.
Sigh. Maybe I have made myself feel better by criticizing who you are. But, it will be brief and very fleeting as selfish thoughts splinter my heart. It will take a bit of warming, a bit of letting down my guard, before I can look much deeper and see who you really are.
What I have not noticed is that you’re so unique. Creative and amazing, you are truly at your peak. I hadn’t seen it all before. But, by looking a little deeper, I can appreciate you so much more.
Girl, yes you
are too tired. Can I help you out with
that? I understand when days feel short and life’s demands have knocked you
Girl, you are
so busy. I can see you focused in. You’re climbing the ladder of success,
looking for a total win.
Girl, I commend your effort, giving life all you’ve got. You show tenacity and spirit. From you, I could learn a lot.
Girl, you could be more recognized, but it’s not approval that you seek. You’re happy if the kids are fed and you’ve kept up another week.
Girl, I do love that sweater, those boots and that smile. But what I have learned today is worth cannot be measured by a sense of style.
My friend, great job on all you’ve accomplished and for letting your light shine. I hope my passion can mimic yours and someday be just as fine.
Rachel Asks: Have we ever found ourselves on the receiving end of unkind words and criticism? It makes us feel as if life is a performance sport where we are judged constantly based on our ability to perform at someone else’s standard. Conversely, have we found ourselves on the the giving end of such harsh words and thoughts? Where we have deemed someone’s worth based off our personal opinion of them? We can do much better as women! We can do much better as moms, sisters and friends. How can you show love today? How can you reverse this trend?
The God of my rock; in him will Itrust: he is my shield, my salvation, my high tower, my refuge, and my savior…
II Samuel 22:3
It was insufferable, the agony of waking to each new day but feeling no new sense of sunlight, of purpose or relief. The weight of the previous day and the day before that, and the one before that, clung to me like a concrete brick, with the full force settling on my chest and making it difficult to do simple things like breathe. What was the sense in trying today? I had no hope on the horizon, no reason to believe today was going to be any different.
Reminded of my obligations to things like work and bills, I moved through the day with robotic existence. Trying hard not to let myself feel too deeply or get too lost in my own sorrow and self-pity, I filled my days with busy things from sun-up until sun-down. Work was mostly my outlet, my excuse to be too busy to feel. I started a 2nd job to fill in the gaps the first one left behind. I volunteered, I worked, I busied.
I had no idea why my marriage had ground to a screeching halt. It wasn’t perfect, by any means. But I had not realized it was on the brink of utter failure. In fact, I didn’t realize this until I was away one Sunday morning, returned home and found our townhouse cleared out. Not even a note.
I figured out quite quickly that life would require a great deal of commitment to survive. Thankful for friends and family who provided emotional support, who cheered me on and came to my aid, I indeed did survive.
It took me quite a long time to feel alive, however. Being a victim of circumstance was challenging. I felt as if I had lost my husband, my home, my stability, my future, my hopes and all my dreams in just a single day. Now aimless and uncertain of the future, I spent quite a bit of time in prayer. For a while, I felt aimless in that too.
I wanted to know why and how I had failed, he had failed, we had failed in our vows to one another. I could not afford our home on just a single salary and I was forced to move within the matter of a few weeks. I fell to my knees again, “God, why am I going through this? Why is this trial in my life? How can this possibly get better?”
One such prayer session it was as if I heard in my mind the words “Matthew, seven and nine.” Unsure of the verse I opened my bible to search. “Or what man of there is you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?” Intrigued, I scanned the previous statements.
Matthew 7:7-11, “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened unto you: For every one that asks receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a snake? If you then, being unholy, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more will your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?”
“God does not arbitrarily or unintelligently answer our prayers. He is a faithful father, one who responds with love and understanding.”
It hit me all at once, God was communicating to me that he was, in fact, listening. He heard all of those prayers, saw every tear, understood every moment of confusion. I was asking him for direction and as my father, he was not going to leave me faltering on my own.
Immediately, I clung to this hope. Faith is not intended to be a magic wand and God does not arbitrarily or unintelligently answer our prayers. He is a faithful father, one who responds with love and understanding. He saw the brokenness in my spirit and he gave me hope that he would meet me there for the mending.
I now realized that this trial was an opportunity. If I were willing to let him in, God could use it for my good. He could fashion something out of all my failures. I began to change my prayers. “Father, what can I learn in this moment and what are you trying to teach me? Help me to grow! Help me to trust! Help me to move forward and out of this dark place.”
This perspective and application of faith began to change the vision I had for my future. I became forward thinking again, not because I trusted myself, but because I knew the hand of the Father was there to guide me.
I began to channel my energies into productive choices. I returned to college, I looked for ways to serve my community. Instead of just being busy for the sake of filling my time, I was now passionate again about life because hope surrounded the day.
For some people they are able to recover marriages and restore those relationships once again. I am ever so thankful and excited when I see this come together for struggling families. For me, this was not my story. Although something very precious to me had been lost, God was still there in the middle of it all, working on my fragile heart. He taught me how to open my arms wider to those in need and to desire to love each day just a little deeper. He showed me the power of faith and that no matter what circumstance that I was in, that he was still completely faithful, loving and there. He was right there. Just a whisper away.
He taught me that I had not been buried, but rather planted. That I was in a process of growth that he would bring to full bloom at his appointed time. I did not have the power in myself to change the course of events leading up to this time of planting, but I did have the heart to trust God in his timing and in his process.
Rachel Asks: Will you join me on the journey of learning to trust God today? Take a few moments to breathe in and rest for a moment. Close your eyes and allow peace to come to you. Ask for clarity, for direction, for his guidance. He will meet you in this place. Allow him to meet you here.
It came out of nowhere, this rapidly beating heart and sense of anxiety and dread. I begin to scurry about, hurriedly turning things over, flipping things around. It has only been a few seconds, how could I have possibly lost them this fast? I retrace my steps, one time, two times, three…
This isn’t like me at all. Normally organized, meticulous and constantly working through a plan, I do not typically misplace things. I have systems for this, rhythms, rules.
I stop to realize that all my plans account for nothing if I have overwhelmed myself with work and tasks. My memory bank is not keeping up with my pace and now it has lent me to this mistake. I sigh, I turn and then I spy them. The bright orange wrist band peeking out from the corner of a shelf. I walk over and tug gently and out pops my ring of keys from their resting place. I whisper a prayer of relief and thanksgiving, a follow-up to the prayer I prayed while frantically searching. Truly, my heart is grateful.
It’s not that keys cannot be replaced, its the process of having to complete it since they belong to work. We have to replace the locks to the entire building, those above me have to be notified, all others who work in roles under me have to obtain a replacement, the fire department has to be called to replace the one in the lock box…the list goes on and on.
This sense of fear and dread stems from another past failure. Of misplacing something of critical importance at work that ultimately cost me my job. I wasn’t being careless or even non-committed, I had just simply taken my eyes off my responsibility for a moment and a moment is all it takes some times for things to fail. No one was personally affected by my error, but it was of importance to the company and they required me to be responsible. No hard feelings, but walking away from a failure like that leaves one totally susceptible to those fears taking over at the slightest hint of pressure in the future. My greatest personal failure is now my greatest stressor and I have to push that anxiety down over and over again since that time.
Fear has a funny way of taking it’s toll on our mind and body. As WebMD states, fear can cause our body’s sympathetic nervous system to release stress hormones like cortisol. This can cause physical reactions such as fast heartbeat, fatigue, headaches, inability to concentrate, irritability, dizziness, dry mouth, nausea, muscle tension, sweating and more. If experienced long-term, these symptoms can lead to more serious issues like stress on the heart, digestive disorders, suppression of the immune system and premature coronary artery disease.
How can we overcome the effects of fear, especially if we have experienced a traumatic life-event or significant loss? For some the pain from the experience continues long after the event, such as the loss of a loved one or someone who has experienced physical or emotional harm. Time can distance us from the event, but our memory replays like a loop in our minds, our heart feels the weight, our body realizes the effect of the stress.
For some, it is a great idea to seek therapy and speak with a professional. Counselors do much more than just listen, they are an advocate for your cause. They can direct you to the best resources to give you support.
You can also make space in your day and apply yourself to quiet times of meditation, relaxation and prayer. According to WebMD, meditation helps balance the body’s systems. The relaxation response your body receives from mindful meditation helps lower blood pressure, improves heart rate, breathing and brain waves. It can also help increase one’s attention, learning, conscious perception, working memory.
The Bible has over a dozen different verses encouraging meditation and almost ten times that amount which speak about prayer. Psalm, chapter 1 describes a person who walks in good counsel and meditates on the Lord and states that person will be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, one that is fruitful and prospers.
Meditation and mindfulness can also be a designated quiet time where you remove yourself from the demands of the day and take time to relax, breathe slowly and let your mind slow down. Even if just for a few moments, you will benefit from a pause in your daily routine. Let’s get practicing!
Rachel Asks: Take 3 minutes and devote yourself to quiet time. Set a timer on your watch or phone. Practice breathing at an even pace, close your eyes and remove distractions. Engage in prayer, if you desire. Ultimately, be calm and allow yourself to relax. Add a minute each time until you reach your desired amount. You can practice this several times per day! Check out the site below for recommendations on apps you can download to assist you in this new process.
Disclaimer: Author and LiveLoveDeep do not endorse any of the resources listed above. They are merely provided for your convenience. Please speak with a licensed and trained healthcare professional and/or counselor for your personal needs.
There are a few things in life I have not necessarily been brave enough to try on my own. First time admitting it. Feels good. Like therapy. Or at least what I think therapy would or could feel like if I were to ever try it. I am not sure if I’m motivated to afford myself, actually.
I mean I can secure a parking spot at the mall during holiday season with no problem. It does not matter that Grandma Ruth over there just wants to grab one more box of Legos for little Johnny this year, if she circles that spot more than once, she’s out. (Valet was made for one reason: for the non-decision makers of the world, I’m sure of it.)
But skydiving, spray tan booths and radical group exercises are among my lists of phone-a-friend first kind of activities. Being blonde, sometimes we make irrational decisions. Like if we have said we will NEVER do such-and-such or this-and-that it does not mean we will not wake up some random Tuesday morning and decide it sounds like a perfectly reasonable adventure. Maybe this is part of being female, too. Does it make sense to the average person, next door neighbor, best friend or even ourselves? Perhaps, not. Will it be fun? You bet!
This is how
I found myself in a body pump class in the middle of an otherwise normal sunny
afternoon. Now fitting into medium
shirts and able to do average exercises like getting in a run AND going to work
on the same day, I was feeling pretty motivated. (Otherwise major physical undertakings were
reserved for days off when my energy meter was full and no one was home to
watch me struggle to walk afterward.) I
mean, I was no longer just walking the sidewalks and jogging the
intersections. I was serious. I was
hardcore. There were a variety of ladies
in all shapes and sizes lining up for this class and my intimidation level was
moderate to low. I’ve got this. I was actually excited about it.
The weight bar was 15 pounds in itself. Still ok. I tested it out a few times, then selected a medium -sized weight with the lowest number possible. It added on another 5 pounds. Ok, cool. I mean, my groceries feel this much, at least. Our instructor was about 10 years my junior and fresh out of college. She still had ambition and lots to live for, and she decided to demonstrate it all on this day. Some electric metal music track came on and we were off and running. We lifted and lugged, we squatted and stretched, we bounced up and down and pumped our hearts out. My lungs were getting tight and heart rate had been up for a while, I was starting to feel the burn. I looked up at the clock to see 15 minutes had passed by. Oh, good…halfway over. The woman in front of me had a sweat stain the size of Texas spanning the length of her Lululemon tank and I suddenly did not feel so bad about how many times I had to gasp for air. We were all suffering for a good cause.
Barbie gave us a 30 second break, “Grab some water, ladies!” A few of the class members, who were
brunettes and of the prepared sort, grabbed the bottles next to their workout
mats and chugged away. Some stretched
out for a second and let their muscles relax.
Two of them collapsed on the floor, looks of regret for this time in
their lives they had lost and could never get back, and three of them shuffled
to the back fountain like water buffalo, fully intending on it taking AT LEAST
5 minutes to make it back to the front of the room.
A few precious seconds later our time was over and we grabbed our bars. Squatting having never been on my list of things to master or earn a degree in, I was really feeling this class in my thighs. Thank God, only 14 more minutes and I can post this accomplishment on Facebook and go on with my life. The music blasted again and we picked up where we left off. I was counting down the minutes like it was the last day of school before summer. Ten minutes left and we were doing dead lifts from our feet on up. I reach over, removed my weight blocks and let my weights rest on the floor. Surely fifteen pounds with the bar would be enough to finish. I still felt accomplished and continued on. Five minutes left and I slowed down, maybe she would not notice I was off tempo. Maybe she would chalk it up to me being blonde. Two minutes left and I stopped looking at her altogether. I stared at the trees out the window, focused on getting a little more air in my lungs and figuring out a strategy on how to stay alive for 60 more seconds. One more minute….45 seconds, 30, 15.
“Break!” She yells. “Great job, get some water, we’re halfway!” Oh no, did she say half? My arms feel like Gumby and I have lost all sensation in my toes. This is an hour class? I considered dying as an option out. I frantically looked around at my classmates to assess their reactions. Were there any other blondes here? Did anyone else see the panic across my face? A few seemed scared, but it was hard for me to see with all the sweat in my eyes. Holy buckets, where’s the door? The music started again and I jolted and started moving. I abandoned my bar altogether and tried to fake the movements along, trying to strategize how I could sneak away. 42 minutes into this class, I decided humiliation was my only option. I bent over right in the middle of Eclecto Jams and rolled up my mat. You got me today, world.
I hung my head and headed for the back of class. I heard a bunch of scuffling and fully anticipated to turn and find everyone staring at the poor short girl with the red, splotchy face and the weird sweat stains. Instead four of them were right behind me. “Go!” They said, “We’ll cover you!” We all ran like a heard of baby llamas into the hallway, laughing and snorting. “I didn’t think I was going to make it out alive!” I laughed. One of them turns, “My husband never believes me when I say I do these things, he thinks I just come and lounge by the pool or get a massage.” One of them pipes up, “Yeah, a massage…great idea! Let’s do that instead!”
I limped out to the car, shaking my head. I wonder how buff my legs will look tomorrow? That’s the best 42 minutes they’ve seen in a while! I might buy some new sandals and a shorter dress. Oh, yeah baby…life is sweet.
Rachel Asks: Who is hitting their workout goals this year? How are you staying motivated? What is your favorite workout? Comment below!
Let the life sustaining air that he created fill your lungs and give you strength for the next moment.
Sometimes prayer does not feel like enough because there are not words to describe what your heart truly needs. Sometimes worship seems distant, unobtainable, impossible to behold with all life’s circumstances.
And in again.
Until it feels like peace washing over you. Until the spirit runs through your being, filling in the broken, missing, empty spaces longing for wholeness, healing, completion.
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