Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

It is really hard. We are told that what we look like doesn’t really matter. After all, our identity is in Christ and the cross. But still, we want to look nice. Well, I do!

Up until about the age of 23 I could eat absolutely anything, in large quantities, and not expand my waistline. Since then my weight has yo-yoed, as I’ve gone through phases of jogging and watching what I eat before slipping back into my old crisp-loving ways. But when I was pregnant everything changed.

I loved my pregnant body. I mean, there were days in the early stages where I just felt plump, but as I grew bigger I loved my body more. I was in awe of what my body was doing and how it was sustaining new life. I was tired, and achey, but loved my bump… especially once I could see my little one’s movements as well as feeling them.


Since my bump has gone, I’ve felt a little uneasy and have lost confidence again. I actually lost weight during pregnancy, so I’m making sure I don’t put it back on. When I put on clothes I loved pre-pregnancy, I can’t help but feel they look all wrong. Why am I so bothered about how I look to other people?

Let’s look at what the Bible says. It says that I am fearfully and wonderfully made; it says God knitted me together in my mother’s womb; it says that beauty comes from within, from my spirit. 

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I’m glad my beholder is God. He looks at me, and he says:

“You are beautiful.”

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Vulnerability


A friend shared this image with me this afternoon, and it spoke volumes to me. “I thought this could be your mantra,” she said.

What is amazing, is that this morning I was talking to a mentor of mine about baggage. More specifically, we were talking about my baggage and how it has shaped me and continues to shape me. She then asked me, “how do you think having your daughter has changed you? How do the two link together?”

Vulnerability.

That’s how they link together. In my darkest moments, when I was really struggling with who I was and what I was worth, I was vulnerable in every sense. Since then I have spent much of my time trying to control the way I am seen and the way I handle myself, so that I’m not vulnerable. But the vulnerability actually remains, it’s just that I was hiding it from people. So my mentor and I unpicked the issue of vulnerability some more. As the thread unraveled, I spoke of how in labour I was physically and emotionally vulnerable, and since then I’ve also been vulnerable; I’ve been stripped raw. Through that rawness and my own vulnerability I’ve had no choice but to let go and make myself spiritually vulnerable too. That way I can really lean into God, listen to him, and receive from him.

It was a wonderful, rich conversation. And then I came home to this picture. Wow! What confirmation! Someone who was right there beside me in those dark moments, who knew me at my most vulnerable, bringing me such truth.

It’s ok to be vulnerable. I mean, we all are inside. But it’s ok to show it too.

How has your past shaped you? How can your vulnerability be your strength?

“I’m letting go of who I was; the old has gone, the new has come.”

Yesterday evening a friend was preaching at church. I haven’t really attended the evening service since my daughter was born, as it has been tricky with feeding and routine. Yet the service was vital for me to attend. You see, on Saturday my friend told me she was gearing up to throw down a big challenge to the church. Something about that made me realise it was important for me to be there… So I could here this challenge myself. I didn’t want to be like Timothy, and miss out on the actual event. I didn’t want to hear the message second hand.

What a challenge! In a nutshell, what are we doing in our everyday lives to share God’s love? Are we as passionate about the Gospel as we should be? She shared a picture of the church teetering on the edge of a cliff, with a choice: leap off into the unknown and trust God; or step backward into the relative safety of our lives to which we have become accustomed. The title of this post is a line from a song she challenged us to use as a response.

For the past few years, this has been a recurring theme in my life. It’s how I’ve been living for some time, with choice after choice after choice. Each time I have felt that God has been saying, “Go on! Leap! I’ll catch you! But if you’re not ready… Don’t worry!” So I’ve been backing away from that cliff for some time. I’ve not really been ready to leap fully into the unknown, and I’m still not. Except recently, I’ve been hearing God’s voice clearer than before. And his message is different. Now, he’s saying, “Go on! Leap! Even if you’re not ready, even if you stumble, trust me.” Yet I still haven’t quite done it. I still haven’t quite let go.

  

I am living a new life, as a mother. It’s the reason behind this blog: I have a new mission to explore and live out. I’ve had to let go of so much, and it’s all worth it, as I gaze at my daughter’s beautiful, happy, shining face. As I face this new mission, with so many decisions ahead of me, I must lean into God and let go completely. I must leap. I must learn how to fly.

  

A Promise for the Future

2 years ago I sat in my first teaching interview. I was a confident and calm 26 year old, smashing my final placement and assured of my final degree mark. I could do anything, be anyone. A question came up near the end, inquiring into my ability to handle stress – as I would be undertaking my NQT year which is described by many as the worst year of your life. Perhaps I should have been phased, but no. Not me. I could do anything. I could handle any amount of pressure and stress that was thrown at me. I remember, I sat in the interview, almost smug, with the interview panel looking knowingly at me. For a moment, I wondered if I’d crossed the confidence vs. arrogance line, but then I got the job, so I figured I was fine. I could do this. I could do anything. Me!

Unfortunately that wasn’t true, as almost a year later, in the spring term I unravelled and had to be signed off work for 3 weeks – just so I could sleep. It was then that the thoughts began to creep in: maybe I couldn’t do this. Me, myself and I. The pressure of the NQT year; the pressure of books to mark every day; just the general pressure and business of teaching had made me less reliant on God and more reliant on just getting through. I would think, I’ll be fine. I’ll be fine, as long as I can just get to the weekend, the evening, my PPA, half term, the holidays. I’ll be fine, as long as I can just get this set of books marked, even though it is already 10 o’clock at night. Thankfully, I found comfort in God’s word, and promise

  
I can do ALL things, through Christ who gives me power and strength… I can do it… but only if I rely on God. And so, I survived the first real low of my teaching. I’d never felt so passionately about a job before. I had to remember God is there. A God who allows me to cry out when I’m struggling.

In October, I had to reapply for my job. Obviously I knew I was sorted, as I had learned lessons and knew I could call on God to give me the strength I needed. Except… I hadn’t learned my lesson. Sadly, I just couldn’t be the calm and confident person that I was in my initial interview 18 months ago. I was a very tired, very hormonal and very emotional pregnant woman and, unlike pre-pregnancy, I have become less able to shut off the ways in which I show how I’m truly feeling. So, my nerves showed; I couldn’t blag it as confidently; I almost burst into tears; I felt sick. As I told a friend, I had also prepared myself, before I even walked into the room, for the eventuality of not getting the job. I just didn’t believe in myself, and certainly didn’t rely on God’s strength. A combination of all of these things, and the fact that there was a very strong level-headed candidate on the day, meant I lost my job. 

I was expecting sympathy from various colleagues… but what I wasn’t expecting was the small acts of kindness I experienced in the days following my interview. Cups of tea, and carrying books to the car to name just a few. But then, it began to make sense in the days and weeks that followed, through sermons and bible study. My whole attitude to work had changed in the September, from Jon’s first sermon on rest. I took my rest more seriously, but I also took my relationships with people at work more seriously. I had made friends.

But then it crept up again… I’m trying SO hard, I’m working SO hard, I’m being kind to everyone, I’m doing my job really well… But it still isn’t going right… Sure enough, God stepped in again. The youth pastor at our church gave this golden nugget during a sermon when I was feeling let down. He said answer the question, why do I bother?

So, why did I bother? This is why… because teaching is important. And because Jesus is with me. When I look back I see promises fulfilled. I see affirmation that I can trust God. Now, I’m not just on maternity leave, I am unemployed. I’ve just become a mum. And I have no idea what happens after that. Those that know me well know that I hate not having a plan, not knowing what is next. I feel uncomfortable with uncertainty. 

But I’m ok… I know that God has given me everything I need in the past, and I know he will give me everything I need for the future.