The one where I get a little bit “ranty”

If I could petition the nerds who run the dictionary business, I would request the word “beautiful” be stricken from its pages.

Why? Because I don’t appreciate anyone or anything trying to trap “beautiful” within any kind of boundaries. How can we so easily define a word that encompasses more than outward appearance but also a mindset and lifestyle?

Perhaps I’m deflecting my anger. The dictionary people aren’t the problem – society as a whole is. And while a definition for “beautiful” has been crammed alphabetically, in an impossibly tiny serif font for longer than I have been alive, the concept or standard for beauty has been trapped and crammed within every piece of pop culture for even longer.

And it’s all disgustingly surface level.

Romantic comedies portray beauty in the form of a thin, athletic woman with no split ends.

Rap music portrays beauty as curvy, buxom women with no inhibitions.

Books portray beauty in whatever is the object of the heartthrob’s affection. (Because that’s all that makes her worthy, of course!)

I could sit here for hours and list every piece of crap we have subconsciously consumed and let define our own personal definition for beauty, but that would just make me mad – mad at media and at myself.

It’s not that I don’t think Gwyneth is beautiful – I do. And I hate to disparage her or her beauty, but she’s a little nuts. (If you’ve never perused her site, GOOP, then you’ve been spared the torture that is rich elitism.)

But her extravagant “Spring must-have” list is not what bothers me, it’s her extreme diet I have an issue with. Truthfully, I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t have a pint of ice cream stashed at the back of their freezer for emergencies, but I especially don’t trust anyone whose sole treat is one cigarette a week simply because it has no calories.

Gwyneth’s slender physique is not a crime. Being skinny is not a crime any more or less than being fat is. It’s the method we should all be concerned with because it’s setting a standard that THIS is what the world should find universally beautiful and THIS is what it takes to achieve it.

Ok, I’m just going to say it. Gwyneth is annoying. She is probably the most narcissistic celebrity around, and I would never have lunch with her. I don’t agree with Gwyneth, but I don’t hate her. In fact, I feel sorry for her. I’m saddened by the overwhelming sense of worthlessness a person must be struggling with to survive off kale juice and hummus almost solely. But because she is outwardly beautiful – she gets to set the standard.

She is a rich woman who has made her eating disorder and extreme dysmorphia into a lifestyle brand and is marketing it worldwide. That is a serious problem.  And it is a serious problem for media to support it.

I’m not unaware of my own hypocrisy. I am a hypocrite for belittling Gwyneth’s accomplishment because she doesn’t fit MY definition for beauty. And I am a hypocrite because I’m against “The Most Beautiful Woman Alive” but I’m all for “The Most Beautiful Man Alive.”

But men and women are not the same. Things are not equal despite our best efforts. If a man suffers an eating disorder, it is serious news. Eating disorders for women are called “dieting.” There is a gross standard in this country for women. It only matters what you look like on the outside, and whatever lengths you must go through to achieve that appearance are justified by compliments about your hair or makeup rather than about your soul.

My heart aches for the women in this country, myself included, who will look at Gwyneth on that cover and wonder why we can’t be that. My heart aches for the women who will drag themselves through a grueling workout tonight for the sake of a number on a scale rather than for health. My heart aches for the little girls who are watching us every single day and believing the lies we think they can’t hear or see.

We can do better than this. We can care more than this. We can love better than this.

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Surviving the Terrible Two’s: Dolla Dolla Bill, ya’ll.

Today is the last post in our 20something series. I have been so honored to do this with Micaela. Her spirit and appetite for life inspires me to embrace adventure. I love that Kiwi and am quite sad to see this series come to an end.

Our last post tackles the topic of FINANCES. Money falls into that same category as politics and religion of “things you shouldn’t talk about in public.” Well, consider us rebels because we are talking about it.

Her post, which you can find HERE, is so relevant and perfectly honest. Make sure you check it out and subscribe to her blog. You won’t want to miss any of her future posts. She’s a world-changer, that one.

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I live in the land of many smells. Most of them are quite unpleasant. There’s the stench of oil wells, oil refineries, and, when the wind blows just right, the smell of dairies or feedlots.

The older generations say “that’s the smell of money!” I’m sorry, but I would rather my money smell like the leather of a new Kate Spade bag (preferably this one) or Steve Madden boots (these). And it always struck me as funny that anyone would associate such a ratchet smell with money. It seems that wouldn’t do much for money’s reputation.

Not that money has a very good reputation as it is.

When preparing to write this blog, I spent a lot of time reflecting on money in my life and money in the lives of others. I found plenty of differences; obviously, some people drive Lexus, BMW, and other luxury brands and I don’t. But I found one constant – at some point we have all become frenemies with money. Whether our argument with money is because we have too much or too little, there is a point in our lives where we become dissatisfied with its existence and the strings attached to it.

And it seems to me that our fall-out with money happens at some point in our 20s.

I have had my fair share of money issues. I did not grow up in an affluent home. We had everything we needed and most of what we wanted but never in excess. I was perfectly content with life in the middle class until it came time to face college expenses. After being laughed at by those FAFSA jerks, I became displeased with “enough.” I didn’t want just “enough,” I wanted more than enough so that I could pay for college. There was even a point when I wanted less than enough just to receive grants. I was bitter toward money and I still am. When I consider grad school and the ridiculous cost of higher education, I begin to despise money all over again. I pay my loan installments on time every single month but always with a grimace and an expletive.

That doesn’t stop me from loving what money can give me though. How paradoxical.

I can’t answer financial questions. I don’t keep a specific budget. I pay my bills as soon as I get paid and hope for the best for the rest of the month honestly. So, I often turn to men and women I admire for advice on the topic.

What my Dad taught me:

  • Have a savings account. Always. Even if you only have $100 in there – it’s helpful.
  • Be generous. Always tip and tip well – regardless of service.

What my Mom and sisters taught me:

  • Buy pretty things you can afford – ask Dad for what you can’t afford. (That’s my favorite advice.)

What Lore taught me:

  • Tithing is not just writing a check. It’s a calling from God, and it doesn’t have just one face. I encourage you to read her powerful words on the topic of tithing here and here.

What America taught me:

  • Don’t live beyond your means. Credit isn’t the devil, but he often hangs out there.

What I can do better:

  • Start focusing more on what I NEED rather than what I THINK I need.
  • Give more of myself but also of my resources.
  • Stop worrying. I’m not going to wake up one morning and all of my money is gone.
  • Most of all, trust in God. He is concerned in all aspects of my life – my bank account included. I often think “Oh, He doesn’t care that I overspent this month.” But He does. I think “He is too busy to be bothered with my financial woes.” He’s never too busy. I don’t know when I will finally get that through my thick skull, but hopefully one day. My greatest wish is that I will believe in His power and sovereignty in my own life with as much faith as I have in Him in the lives of others.

I don’t think money and I will ever be good enough friends to gab over a pint of ice cream or have a “Friends” marathon, but I’d like to at least coexist in peace. Every single day is a new lesson in finance, and I hope I can apply every lesson toward creating a better tomorrow for myself and maybe a future family. Until then, I am avoiding Dave Ramsey like the plague because I’m pretty sure he won’t like what he’d see in my bank account, and he kind of scares me.

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SWL!!!

Rather than making resolutions this year, I opened myself up and asked God to challenge me. And one of those challenges was to put more effort into my writing and step back and watch how He would work through it. What blows my mind is that when God gives us a challenge, He’s already holding a trophy because that’s how great His love and confidence for us is.

God is never wrong, and to prove it, I’m pleased to announce that I am a guest writer for So Worth Loving today! I have admired the wonderful people behind SWL for a while now, and I’m so honored that they have welcomed me into their family. They have given me the courage I needed to quit hiding behind humor and silliness and finally bare my soul.

Check out my post on their FABULOUS site. And buy a shirt too! Here’s the linky-link. 🙂

 

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Surviving the Terrible Twos: I’m single and it’s complicated.

Here we are for week two! This week, Micaela and I are talking about DATING. And, no, I don’t have a Taylor Swift lyric for this post because, despite my love for her, T. Swizzle has a terrible dating ethic and one I do not support. TAKE SOME ME-TIME, TAY.

Check out Micaela’s post HERE. Xoxo.

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If this were the age of typewriters, the floor of my bedroom would be littered with crumpled sheets of paper full of rejected drafts. Lucky for rainforests and myself, my struggle with this piece is not harmful to any ecosystem. So I’m good there. But it doesn’t change that this piece has a deadline, nor does it help me write it any faster.

I’m stuck because I’m making this too damn complicated. That’s right, I’m making a simple blog post about dating culture in your 20s too complicated. Yeah, the irony isn’t lost on me either.

So let’s uncomplicate (pretty sure that’s not a word) things, shall we?

My students often come to me with their life problems. Not because I am full of wise, meaningful advice, but because I am in this stage of life that makes me approachable. I am not really an “adult” in their eyes but I’m not a “peer” either. I’m not ruined by the harsh cruelties of the grown-up world, but I’ve moved beyond petty, high school drama. Honestly, they’re pretty idealistic about life in your 20s, but I’m not going to burst their bubble. Yet.

Dating advice is what they most often seek. Which, given my lack of a dating history, they are really barking up the wrong tree of information. I rarely have answers to their questions. But like I would admit that! So I ask them “what about this situation do you know to be true?” 1) It sounds super smart and counselor-ish and 2) it doesn’t show that I have no idea what to tell them.

I’m going to use the same tactic here. I don’t have all the answers about dating, nor do I even have a tried-and-true method of scoring yourself a hottie. I mean, I still haven’t managed to get Ryan Gosling to break up with Eva Mendes. That says it all. But these are things I know to be true.

Self-help books about dating are, in fact, not helpful.

This is dating propaganda, and it’s not helping. Christian books can fall into this category as well. That just offended somebody, but it’s true. These books create an idea that there is one way to date, and that if you follow the “rules,” you’ll have your mate in no time. Let me blow your mind – THERE ARE NO RULES. People are different, and thank God for that. You are not going to find your mate the same way that your best friend did. It will be unique to you. All of these old adages of “don’t text him first” or “wait for him to ask you out” are archaic and useless. Make your own rules. And for the love of Prada, stop listening to Cosmo magazine. Absolutely clueless.

Lists are for grocery shopping – not dating.

Ladies, you know what I’m talking about. “The List.” The list you’ve been curating since you were 6 years old and fell in love with a Disney prince. It’s been through every stage of your life and once you hit your 20s, that list is truly something to behold. You’ve put more time and effort into that thing than our Founding Fathers did when drafting the Declaration of Independence. You’re proud of it. It fully encompasses what you’re looking for in a man. The man who meets this list will be your soulmate. BURN IT. Seriously, torch that damn thing. That list is a monster. We compare every single man to that list, and it’s not fair to ask them to compete with a fictitious being. I’m not saying “lower your expectations.” Please, NEVER lower those or your standards. But it is time that we stop assuming that we know what or who is best for us. If you were to ask those blissfully happy married friends of yours if their significant other would fulfill every single “requirement” they were looking for in a mate, chances are they would say “no.” On a Biblical note, I’m pretty sure Gomer was nothing like Hosea’s list, but he loved her despite. (That was a bit of a Jesus juke.)

Singleness isn’t the end of my life. It’s actually the beginning.

If complaining about singleness was an Olympic sport, I would be Michael Phelps. Mmmm… Michael Phelps. Sorry, back to the issue. I’ve often thought this part of my life was a curse or punishment for something I did terribly wrong. It’s not. And being single doesn’t mean something is wrong with me either. I’m not defective or broken. I’m just single. In the past year, I’ve learned to embrace this as a gift and the freedom and independence that comes with it. Most of all, I’m learning how to be happy alone because if I can’t be happy with my own company, how can I ask someone to enjoy my company? And I’m learning the importance of being more concerned about meaningful and lasting relationships with people rather than a fleeting courtship with one person. My whole life can’t be wrapped around a potential mate, and, much in the same way, I can’t center my growth as a person and woman of God around becoming a wife. That would be cutting my potential substantially. Being a wife sounds wonderful, but it won’t be the completion of my life or journey with the Lord. I often hear women say “I really feel the Lord is preparing me for marriage.” Truthfully, His work in our lives goes far beyond someone putting a ring on our fingers. I don’t want to miss God moving in my life because I’m overly concerned with taking a step toward the wrong altar.

Of all the parts of life in your 20s, dating is definitely the roughest road. The heartbreak is harder. People are harder to understand. And, honestly, it’s just plain complicated no matter how hard we try to uncomplicate (again, made up word) things. I guess the one thing I know to be truest about dating is that single doesn’t mean “alone.” True, no one sent me flowers on Valentine’s Day, but I was showered with love from my friends and family. We do life together as a community. And instead of being jealous of all the married people, let’s be jealous of ourselves and this awesome, independent adventure we’re on together. However, I will totally abandon this ship and all of you when Ryan Gosling finally discovers that I am his one true love.

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Surviving the Terrible Twos: Careers and cupcakes

In the words of my girl, Taylor Swift, your 20s are “miserable and magical” all at the same time. Actually, they’re about 70 percent miserable and 30 percent magical if you want the honest-to-God truth. But, thankfully, we don’t have to do this alone. Recently, my pretty New Zealand friend living across the pond, Micaela, tweeted pretty much the same sentence that has been running through my head since college graduation.
“No one tells you how hard your twenties will be.”
Kindred spirit, right? And that’s what brings us here. For the next three Wednesdays, Micaela of The Underground Micaela and I will be opening up and sharing our personal trials and successes with Careers, Dating, and Finances and offering a few tips along the way.
Life as a 20-something is messy – let’s not sugarcoat it. But it’s also that moment in your life where anything feels possible and you haven’t quite let go of your invincibility. It’s full of heartbreak and mistakes, but also full of those friends that are more soulmates than anything else. So maybe it’s more magical than I thought.
We hope you enjoy this series and can relate in some way. Make sure to comment, share, like, tweet, eat cupcakes, or whatever strikes your fancy.

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On Thursdays, I struggle. It’s when I’ve not only hit my productivity level for the week, but I’ve surpassed it. Which should be cause for celebration (celebration here meaning the weekend), but there is still one more day to go…

And that’s when I get whiny and subsequently lose all sense that I’m 24 years old. It’s at some point between the compulsive Amazon shopping and wild, emotional tantrums about my job and everything wrong with it that I begin to realize the problem.

I simply need to slow down and calm down.

I can’t tell you how often I have to tell myself this, but I can assure you that it’s daily. Truthfully, I had an idealistic perception of adulthood when I graduated college. I was sorely disappointed to find that it’s not the “ice cream for breakfast/travel the world/get rich” image I was relying on. I had unrealistic expectations for work, as well, and because of this I developed a lot of poor habits and approaches to life as a “careerwoman.” Luckily, the Lord is really good at shaking some sense into me. If the image of Jesus shaking me violently and telling to chillax offends you, so be it. Because Jesus knows that I’m stubborn and a bouquet of “persevere” balloons does not work for Samantha Jo Berry. What He has taught me in three years of the workforce has been invaluable to me as a professional and, also, as a person.

1) Stop seeking approval

The majority of our lives up until adulthood has been full of constant feedback. That’s what grades are! Good or bad – it is someone always reviewing your work and telling you what you’re doing right and what you are really screwing up. Work is not like that. In fact, you will rarely be called into your supervisor’s office for a praise session. This was really hard for me to overcome. I’ve blogged about my attention addiction before, and that issue manifested in my career with some pretty intense bitterness because I felt like all of my hard work was going unnoticed. It wasn’t going unnoticed, but why on earth would anyone make a big deal out me doing what I was being PAID to do? The powers that be hired me with the notion that I would do a good job, and that, in and of itself, is a compliment for someone to invest in me like that. My advice? Pack your ego away. Your position and work is important to you, but don’t expect it to give you importance in the eyes of others. Surround yourself with uplifting people who believe in you and your work. And on days that you need encouragement, be an encourager to your coworkers. They are probably needing it as much as you. Cupcakes help too.

“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10

2) Limit the negativity

I love to whine. I’m good at whining. Get me started and I will whine for days… or a year. Yep. I whined all the way through my first year as a professional. Negativity is a sneaky foe. He plays the part of a good listener and comrade, but he’s destroying you from the inside out. He is planting seeds of bitterness and entitlement while dressed as your biggest cheerleader. He is not your friend. In the same way, don’t surround yourself with those that have clearly made friends with him. And don’t think that you are going to be that uplifting person that changes everything for them. Did the lifeboats on the Titanic stick close to the sinking ship? No, they got as far out of the way as possible to avoid being sucked down with it. Be uplifting – from a safe distance. And don’t let circumstances rob you of joy. Carrying that unhappiness from work on your shoulders will impact your personal lives. Friends and family are always there to listen, but even they have a breaking point. Negativity will destroy your relationships. Shut that jerk up with a cupcake.

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22

3) You’re only human.

And humans have needs. One of my biggest mistakes as professional, and one that I still make frequently, is ignoring my body, mind, and soul for the sake of my job. You will get sick, and that is OK. Don’t push your body to the breaking point of sickness – physically or mentally. In the same turn, take steps to avoid physical and mental breaks. I have a few rules that I do my very best to abide by. I’m a teacher, and one of the blessings of that is a shorter work day. But if I always take advantage of that and leave right at 3:40, I will have to take work home. I make a special point to keep my work and home lives separate. So, I stay at least an hour later most days, but I leave at a reasonable time. Doing so frees up my evenings for friends, family, relaxing, etc. Eat well and exercise. I can’t stress this enough. Another rule is I admit when I need help. This rule/practice has come about within the past year, but I’ve seen my professional life transform. Be transparent before your boss and coworkers. If anyone understands your struggle, it’s them. Ask for help. Weakness is not a crime. I encourage you to take the time to set your own limits that will help you prosper professionally and personally. And have a cupcake.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Work is not easy. Adjusting to work after college, high school, etc. is not easy. Being a 20-something professional is not easy. But it’s worth it. This is the time in our lives where we have very few strings holding us back. Listen to that call of adventure beating within your soul. Don’t let responsibilities or career-pursuits keep you from experiencing life. Be joyous. Be honest. Take care of yourself.

And eat cupcakes. I swear they help. Especially on Thursdays.

Nesting

It’s time to redecorate. So, here is my current wishlist. Feel free to buy any or all of this for me. Click on the pictures for links to the websites!

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I am absolutely obsessed with this. Which is saying a lot because I spend more obsessing and stressing over a duvet cover than I even did when choosing a college major. I love the simplicity of this and the color and that I won’t have to change my whole scheme to fit it in. It updates my current vintage-cottage look but isn’t a complete flip. According the reviews on the website, the shams don’t match the spread exactly so instead, I”m thinking….

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So. Cute. I love.

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I’m pretty obsessed with elephants. I’ve loved them since my Dumbo phase and the time my mother took me to ride one at a carnival. It was the kindest, most gentle animal. I have been in awe of them since. Though, as an adult, I’m pretty pissed that this poor creature was essentially a slave to bratty, snot-nosed kids.

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Ugh. Why can’t I have a bottomless bank account?!

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That one time Walmart proved me wrong

One of my favorite things about life is when something you expect is terrible actually turns out quite wonderful. Like when I thought I hated guacamole, but then tried it on a dare and realized that my tastebuds are all about the guac. Same with black beans.

Well, yesterday, Walmart proved me wrong. I was under the impression that Walmart is ALWAYS the lobby to Hell, but I found that there is a time in the day when Walmart is actually quite magical.

RIGHT?!

Seriously, I know exactly what you’re thinking right now, and I understand and respect your reservations. But Walmart at 10 am on a Thursday was a completely wonderful experience. 1) I got a parking spot in the same zip code. 2) I got a brand-new, non-busted cart, and I’m not even sure when the last time that happened (if ever) was. 3) All the employees were smiling and cheerful. 4) There wasn’t anything spilled on the floor. 5) I didn’t have to witness any children getting spanked. 6) More than one register was open (!!!!!). And, finally, 7) IT WAS QUIET.

It got me to thinking. If Walmart could prove my perceptions wrong, what else could? What else have I closed myself off to because I had made up my mind that it was and was always going to be awful?

It was a scary thought. One plagued with visions of missed opportunities, unlearned lessons, and rejected blessings. In the middle of my wonderful, magical, like-seeing-a-unicorn Walmart moment, I faced a demon that I didn’t even know I struggled with. (I’ve seen a lot of demons at Walmart, by the way.)

I have let perception hold me back from living a full life.

Someone once told me that “perception is reality.” Which was excellent advice when applied to how I consider how others perceive me, but not so excellent in the reverse. All of these perceptions and expectations stored in my mind are creating a false reality. One where I can hide behind an opinion because it’s safe and easy. One where I can shut someone out because my perception of them is less than generous.

It’s also pretty terrible advice in terms of how I approach opportunities. I’ve said it all more than once. “Ew. I’ll live anywhere but there.” “I couldn’t do that job.” “That place just seems terrible.” All perceptions based on here say or expectations, and none based on experience. Sure, so-and-so could have really hated that job, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to. Or my really good friend’s boyfriend’s sister’s mother-in-law could have hated a certain town, but that doesn’t mean I will.

When I deny myself an experience, I’m living a life full of someone else’s stories because I’ve allowed their adventures and misadventures to become sufficient enough for my reality.

I’ve had one wish for 2013 – that it will be a year full of change, growth, and new experiences. And, as we approach the fourth month of the year, I’m troubled that I’ve possibly shut the door on a few opportunities already. I want my reality and perceptions based on experiences – be they incredible or incredibly terrible. I want more moments when I find that my perception was wrong, I want to fall in love with things that I thought I hated. I want things, places, and people to change my mind. Because, truthfully, my mind could use some changing.

Truth time: I still hate Walmart. It’s still terrible, just significantly less-so at 10 a.m. on weekday mornings.

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Good enough. Important enough.

Before I could even walk, I had two trophies to my name. My mother entered me in a baby beauty pageant because she was very proud of my blue eyes and chubby cheeks and quite proud of herself for helping to create an aesthetically pleasing baby that was only slightly coneheaded. I’m still pretty coneheaded.

While my mother never made me do another pageant, my competitive nature was sparked and I threw myself into any activity available. In the midst of this, a seed was planted. A lie was told. An addiction was established.

What I did became who I was. Winning became an affirmation of my importance. I needed accolades to survive.

I tied my identity, body and soul, to whatever activity I was in the middle of. Why? Because I was afraid that without a label or title I would not be good enough. How could anyone love me if I wasn’t always in the limelight? I threw myself into every activity with the intention of winning. Winning first place, winning your attention, and then winning your love. When I was winning, I felt complete. Second place was never good enough; that was just the first loser. Winning made people notice me. Winning made people care about me. Winning made me important to people.

Talk about a lie from the pit of hell.

But it’s what I believed. I didn’t win for the gold medals or blue ribbons or because it made me feel good. I didn’t join every activity on the planet because I was some prodigy. I did it because I needed people to notice me and to feel that I had made them proud. Every attagirl was like a drug. I craved it. I needed it. I wanted people to need me. I needed them to need me.

Somewhere in my childhood, Satan planted a seed. He became a constant voice in my ear singing me lies hidden in kind words.

“You can do it. Win that contest. Then they’ll see how important you are.”

“You need to win. They won’t respect you if you don’t.”

“Join another activity. Exhaustion is worth being the best.”

“No one cares about your feelings. They care about how YOU make THEM feel. Don’t bother them with your emotions.”

As a result, all of my worth was invested into my performance. And the saddest part? I didn’t even realize it. I truly believed that someone was only as good as the awards they could lay at the foot of the Throne. I had this image that at the end of my life, I would stand before God and He would take stock of what I had done for the world rather than who I reflected to the world.

My favorite story in the Bible is also the one that wrecked me to my core. Martha and Mary. In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus comes to visit the sisters. Mary sat with Jesus to soak up every moment with Him possible. Martha, on the other hand, was pulled by what she felt was her duty to the Lord. Of course, homegirl gets pissed. Here she is in a hot kitchen cooking up a feast for The Messiah, the Son of God, and her sister is just chilling with Him. Martha storms into the living room (pretty sure they called it something else then) and demands that Jesus notices her labor and her sister’s lack. Jesus, being the raddest of all dude’s in existence, acknowledges Martha’s work because He sees the importance of that to her. But then He explains that she is cooking a feast He never asked for because HE is the feast. He didn’t want sandwiches or cheese and crackers – He wanted her to sit and feast on His presence.

THAT’S IT. ALL HE WANTED WAS TO MEET WITH THEM.

There have been many lies in my life, but the biggest one was that I had to earn God’s love and grace. I have spent my life trying to pay a debt and earn a spot in His presence when He already paid my debt and has a spot reserved just for me.

If you’re struggling with this lie, allow me to assure you that He sees you just as you are loves you unconditionally. His love for you is not tied up in your performance or in how the world sees you. Your importance to Him can best be summed up by the Cross. If you were the only person on the planet, Jesus still would’ve gotten on that Cross and defeated death for you. FOR YOU.

I wish I could say with confidence that I have overcome this lie. But I haven’t – not completely. I think I’ll always want the world’s acceptance and to feel important, but will I need it? No. Because every day the Lord is romancing my heart and reminding me that He has a purpose for me. And while the enemy will continue to dress up his insults in fancy clothes to distract me, I have been given the authority to turn away. Jesus will never hide Himself or His goodness. His love is ever-present and available at any moment because of how important we are to Him.

I don’t remember what it felt like to win that baby beauty pageant, but it doesn’t compare to the fact that I never have to compete for God’s love.

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An Open Letter to Julian Fellowes

STOP. If you haven’t seen Season 3 of “Downton Abbey” yet, don’t read further. The following contains SPOILERS, and I don’t want to ruin the surprise. Don’t put that on me.

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Dear Mr. Fellowes,

You might prefer me to call you Julian, but I would prefer you don’t rip my heart to shreds on Sunday nights. I guess we both lose.

For real though, I’m worried about you. Season 3 was rough. You know it, I know it. Let’s discuss.

Are you sad? Sadness is ok! Just ask the Season 3 writers of The OC. I mean, they killed Marissa Cooper. MARISSA COOPER. There was some serious depression going on in that writer’s room. I’m still not over that. I don’t understand how anyone could rip Coop from Summer. It’s just hateful and rude. And Ryan never really loved Taylor. They took us to a dark place that even Seth Cohen couldn’t save us from.

Sorry. Back to the point.

We forgave you about Sybil. It doesn’t mean we liked it, but we forgave you. Childbirth sounds really hard. Health class taught us that it’s perfectly possible to die from that. Which is why adoption is so rad. Less mess. Less death. Win-win.

But I just can’t forgive you for this. I’m going to try but I can’t. You made me love you, Fellowes, and then you broke my heart. You brought Shirley Maclaine to Downton. You gave us Maggie Smith and Shirley Maclaine on the same screen. That’s special, Julian. You tamed the shrew! The bandwagon for Mr. Darcy was getting much too crowded, and you gave us another British man to fall in love with. That’s what made me love you.

But I guess my love wasn’t enough.

I’m not giving up on this, Julian. I won’t quit Downton. But you need to step it up, sir. And bring Shirley back. She and Maggie are the only ones who can save this ship. (On a side note, I really believe they could’ve saved the Titanic.)

Don’t screw this up,

Samantha

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Circumstances

I often struggle with the goodness of God.

I know He is good. I trust He is good. But I don’t understand why He is good to me?

An old adage is “Jesus accepts me for who I am but He loves me too much to leave me that way.”

It’s cliche and trite at times, but it wouldn’t be as popular as it is if it didn’t hold some water. It’s the second half of that sentence that really gets me. He loves me too much to allow me to be complacent and comfortable. He loves me too much to allow me to be less than what He has planned for me.

It gets me every single time.

Instead of deeming me a “lost cause,” He looks at me and makes a plan to make me better. That’s where circumstances come into play. I have spent a great deal of time looking at circumstances and wondering why. I have also spent a great deal of time looking to see how I can change or mold my current position instead of really taking a step back and looking at it all through His eyes.

My new favorite quote is from “Love Does” by Bob Goff. Which by the way, is a must read. I am not an avid reader of devotionals or anything non-fiction, but this books is literally wrecking everything I thought I knew about love and God’s love. Please read it. Plus, he’s hilarious and within the first half of the book he tells a farting story. Clearly the way to my heart.

Anyway, in his book he says “I used to think I could shape the circumstances around me, but now I know Jesus uses circumstances to shape me.”

Wow.

Talk about a concept that completely shifted my thought processes at the moment. Truthfully, I have experienced a rough month. Things have not gone as planned, and I have spent a lot of time wondering how I can change things. Maybe I’m not meant to change this. Maybe this is all part of becoming who I am meant to be. While I fervently believe that God is perfect and is not the giver of bad gifts, I have also seen that God believes in me more than I believe in myself. I have used the words “I’m done” more in the past two weeks than ever in my life only to be met with God’s patient response of “Not yet.”

I can’t change the circumstances I am in at the moment because I can’t control every small detail or every person in my life. All I can do is pray through it and look to see the lesson in all of it. God uses all things for His glory, and He won’t waste a single moment of my life despite my desperate attempts to.

In the midst of my ugliness and bitterness, He continues to seek me. Instead of backing off and letting me “cool down,” He pushes me to overcome and face the things that threaten to tear me down. He does not delight in my struggles or pain, but He believes in me.

And that’s all part of His goodness. Which I’m still struggling with because I can’t see myself the way He sees me. But in the middle of circumstance of sometimes pain, I see His goodness. I see His love falling down on me and His grace pushing me through it all.

 

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