Wednesday, November 30, 2011

On Testing

If you've heard more than 5 sermons in your life, you've probably heard the orange analogy.  When you squeeze and orange, of course orange juice comes out.  When you squeeze a Christian, Christ should come out.  There are many areas in my life that, when pressed, produce beautiful things like trust and faith and love.  But being a mother has put pressure on me in a different way, and and when I'm pressed I wish that patience and kindness and gentleness and self-control is what came out.  More often than not I see the exact opposite flow forth.

I am an emotional person, and I know that's how God made me.  The wonderful benefit is that I empathize without trying, love deeply, and have a unique understanding of my heavenly father's big soft heart.  The downside is that I tend to view everything through the lens of how I'm feeling at any given moment and lead with my emotions.  My head is full of drama.

So many times I've had to put Isabella down and walk out of the room feeling completely overcome with emotion, adrenaline pumping through my system.  That fight or flight thing is no joke.  Every parent has had this kind of moment, I just feel like I have an inordinate amount of them, and I just don't know how to step back and settle.  I have lots of good ideas now, but they all disappear when I'm caught in the moment, baby screaming uncontrollably in the back of the car while I'm stuck in traffic and can do nothing else but yell and cry and beat my dashboard.  Not that I've ever done that.

A dear friend was telling me today that sometimes God continues to give us circumstances that push us until we are able to overcome them.  We encounter the same challenge again and again precisely because it's such a issue for us.  For her, it's money and the ability to trust in God's provision.  For me, it's a hot temper and the ability to find my peace in Him.  Here's the thing- God is merciful to us.  He never gives us an "F" on a test... He simply allows us to retake it.  Again and again and again.  As many times as it takes to truly understand the material.

I feel like I've been taking the same test every day for the last 10 months.  How do I pass it?  Next time I feel the wave of adrenaline rushing towards me, how do I get on top of it instead of sucked under it?

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

On Shaving My Head

About 4 months ago, I shaved my head.  I had long curly hair at the time, and shaved it clean off, to about an eighth of an inch long.  A friend who had recently done the same thing told me, "if it's really in your heart to do this, you won't regret it for a second."  And I haven't.  I give the same advice to everyone who asks me about it, or says wistfully, "It looks great on you, but I could never pull that off."
long red hair- shortly before I cut it off 
When people asked me why I did it, I had a standard answer.  Isabella is always pulling my hair, I don't have time to shower every day so it looks nice, this is easier and faster, I haven't seen my natural color in 10 years.  Which is all true, but I was motivated by something much deeper.

When Izzy was tiny, I would read to her while she nursed.  One book I chose (because it was the only book I could reach on my sister's bookcase from where I was sitting): Captivating- Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman's Soul by Stasi Eldredge (the partner book to Wild At Heart).  I had avoided this book for years because everyone and their mom has done a bible study on it but, for lack of any other options, cracked the spine and started reading.  I was hooked after the first chapter.

As I read, God did a massive work in my heart.  He began to show me that, because of my history of sexual abuse, my view of femininity was incredibly distorted.  I've always equated sexuality with femininity.  I've thought of beauty as something dangerous.  Thus, I've spent most of my life alternately giving the middle finger to anything stereotypically feminine and secretly desiring being objectified.  I've written diatribes on this blog about being catcalled at while at the same feeling in my heart of hearts validated by the behavior.

My hair has always been an expression of this confusion over my femininity.  Most people who know me would say that I don't care what anyone thinks of me, that I'm a nonconformist and that I do whatever I want, societal expectations be damned.  But everything I've done with my hair has been in hopes that I would be perceived a certain way- it's been every color under the sun, long and short and straight and curly and everything in between.  I was desperate for someone to tell me who I was.

I'm not saying there's anything wrong with expressing yourself with your hair- it's fun- but I did it to make myself into a certain person.  I've been goth and emo and punk and hippie and pin-up and flapper and although it often does change the way people perceive me, it hasn't helped me accept myself.

Stephen cutting my hair before
we taking clippers to it
So when I shaved my head, I started fresh.  I cut off all of my striving, all of my needing other people to tell me who to be.  And I'll never forget the way I felt when I looked at myself in the mirror for the first time, curly locks laying around my feet.  I felt beautiful- really beautiful- for the first time in my entire life.  I felt settled, comfortable in my own skin, imperfections and all.  Suddenly the things I dreamed of doing seemed possible.  Suddenly I felt comfortable in any situation, sure of myself, and not desiring validation from anyone.

It seems counterintuitive to get rid of one of the things society tells women they need in order to realize your worth and power and beauty as a woman, but isn't that just how God works?

Me with 9 month old Isabella