Every Single Strand

And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. Matthew 10:30

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It is no secret that our home has been a breeding ground for one “learning” experience after another. So, it is no surprise that our home would start to breed other things as well.

Like…lice.

Yes, I know. Yuck. Gross. My thoughts exactly! The mere mention of them makes my skin crawl and my head itch. If that is not enough to make you cringe, then just take a look at the head full of hair in the picture above. Yes, that head. The one with the dark tangled curls. That is where our new problem decided to breed.

And, yet again. God hands me a lesson in the midst of our new problem.

“Mommy, this is why I hate my hair.”

And, I get it. I remember feeling the same way about my own long, curly locks. But, I don’t want my little girl to feel such contempt for her looks, so instead of agreeing, I simply said: “Hayley, your hair is beautiful. It is exactly the way God wanted it to be.”

And, with her best oh-mommy-you-are-so-dumb look of annoyance- “God wanted me to get lice?”

“Well, yes. And you know what? God knows exactly how many strands of hair are on your head. And, believe it or not. He knows exactly how many of these strands also have lice eggs (except, he certainly was not letting me in on this little secret!).

While I certainly did not want to be picking these gross things out of this head full of hair, He wanted me to.

Maybe it was for the simple fact that I couldn’t think of the last time I had actually spent 3 hours just hanging out with my daughter.

Or, maybe it was to make me understand that He not only knows everything about my little girl, and still loves her; He feels the same way about me as well. That the same messages of His love I try so hard to get her to understand, also apply to me as well.

To remind me that while I may use His word to keep the world and its messages of what is beautiful from corrupting the self-esteem of my daughter, I need to heed these words as well. Even if I have been beaten up by a cruel and harsh world.

Like me, my mom always made sure I knew that the many strands of curly hair on my head were beautiful, but it didn’t change the fact that I still looked different from my classmates.

That those strands were a source of ridicule.

That those strands would be the very thing a harsh and cruel world would focus on.

The very strands I began to hate. To loathe. To scorn. Until I moved on to hate and scorn other parts of my body. My upturned nose. My short legs. My strong arms. My crooked teeth.

The very things that God loves about me, and the very things that set me apart from everyone else.

So, He could have made me look like everyone else, but He chose to give me thick, curly, brown hair. Just as He knows the number of strands on my daughter’s head (and the number of lice, too….yuck!), He also knows the number of hairs on my head.

He knows my fears. He knows my doubts.

He knows my strengths. He knows my weaknesses.

You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts when I am far away. Psalm 139:2

And, He also fashioned all my parts. My body. My teeth. My nose. My hair.

Unlike the cruel and harsh world that often does not appreciate the very things that make us unique, God loves every part of me. Of my little girl. Of all of us.

And this is something I won’t allow the world to take from my beautiful daughter.

This is something I can’t allow the world to take away from me.

From the tips of my toes, to the hairs on my short-stranded head-God loves all of me!

My Go To Therapist

This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. Psalm 91:2

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There is something therapeutic about spending time in the salon. If the completely selfish date with oneself is not enough to make you feel better, than certainly the head massage that magically soothes a migraine, the silky feeling of a blowout, or how fabulous you look when you first walk out the front door can add to the appeal of a day spent getting pampered for a bit. Add to this a few minutes of talking to your “head” therapist about life, kids, and your daily gripes, a few hours in the salon chair can be a much needed escape from an otherwise crazy reality.

Besides the fact that I was in desperate need of a cut and root touch-up this past weekend, the few hours I spent in a chair, or under a dryer were definitely a reprieve from the dark mood that had taken over my spirit that very morning. I needed to get out of the public for a while, and chat up the stylist, or my “head” shrink for the day.

And, it sure is a good thing I had decided to leave Facebook alone for a while, because on this particular morning, or the entire day for that matter, I certainly wanted to let everyone know what kind of morning I had. I left my wallet AND phone at home, and discovered this after I had pulled into the gas station, on empty, mind you. I was now 15 minutes late, behind a log truck, stuck in horrendous traffic thanks to the arrival of students and parents, and by 9:15, I was fed up with anything and anyone who happened to cross my path.

Once I pulled up in front of the place responsible for my once a month “me” sessions, I could not wait to tell someone about my crummy morning. 

And for about 3 hours I chatted to my stylist about my life, my kids, and my gripes.

Then I thought about something.

I had not once chatted with God about what I was feeling. And, I have certainly never chatted with him for 3 hours!

I cry out to God: yes, I shout. Oh, that God would listen to me! When I was deep in trouble, I searched for the Lord. Psalm 77:1-2

While, there is nothing wrong with a little beauty shop therapy, God wants me to communicate and share my struggles with him with the same intimacy and intentionality with which I share them with my stylist. He already knows what my struggles are. He already knows my gripes. He already knows about my kids, my life, and my circumstances.

And, he also wants to be my therapist. He wants to be the first person I seek when I need a few selfish “me” moments to share gripes, praises, and requests. 

He wants me to seek Him when I want to blow-up in traffic. He wants me to seek Him when I want to scream in the car on the way back home for my missing wallet. He wants me to lean on Him when I just can’t handle one more thing. He is just as selfish about His time with me, as I am about my “me” time under the dryer. 

No, God can’t touch up my roots, but He can definitely touch up my mood. God can’t trim my dead ends, but he can groom the frazzled pieces of my heart. And, while my stylist may require an appointment for the three hours I spend in her chair, God never requires that I make an appointment with Him, just that I make Him my go to therapist. 

 

In Another’s Eyes We Are Beautiful

You are altogether beautiful, my darling, beautiful in every way. Song of Songs 4:7

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Some days just start out bad, and yesterday just happened to be one of those days. Besides the fact that it was Monday, I was exhausted, I couldn’t do anything with my hair, and since it is summer, my kids can’t seem to get motivated to get out the door, making me late for work, AGAIN! I didn’t feel like putting much effort into anything else, so I reached for the first and easiest article to put on, a dress in my least favorite color-yellow! Bad hair day, cranky kids, even crankier Mommy, and yellow? Yep, today was going to be NO good!

But, then that same dress, in that color I hate became the subject of a random and unexpected compliment: “I just had to stop and tell you how fabulous you look in yellow!” What? You mean despite the fact that my hair is an unruly, curly mess? That I have under eye circles that would put a raccoon to shame, and I absolutely hate yellow? Someone still saw beyond all the other things I have criticized myself for this morning?

I was reminded of a Sunday School lesson I did several months ago. One that resulted in the portrait above, along with self-portraits of several very self-critical 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade boys and girls.

As I asked a group of 8 to 11 year olds how many had something about themselves that they didn’t like, I was amazed at how many hands were raised in response to the question. Nearly every hand shot up, along with a few comments about skinny knees, big noses, and crooked teeth.

“Do you realize all those things about yourself that you do no like, God loves? And, that he wants us to show how much we love Him, by loving how He has made us?”

And, so began a lesson on self-love for a group of 8 to 11 year olds. Which made me start wondering where exactly our distorted view of beauty and self-worth comes from. Why would a young child be so quick to raise their hand to point out their flaws, and not what makes them wonderful? And, why do we, the adults, do the same?

We can start placing blame on media. On fashion magazines that continue to glorify pin thin (and airbrushed, mind you!) models. We can blame this on the 50 plus years that Barbie has been around, had babies, grown older, and still managed to stay unrealistically skinny. We can blame it on a history that has scorned and ridiculed people who dared to look different, or be different.

Or, we can recognize the problem that lays before us and teach each other how to love once again.

How to love God. How to love ourselves. How to love each other. Despite our differences. Despite our flaws. Despite our size. Despite our cellulite. Despite our unruly hair, raccoon eyes, skinny knees, big nose, and crooked teeth.

For we are God’s masterpiece. Ephesians 2:10

The truth about our image does not lie in the pages of fashion magazines or swimsuit catalogs. It doesn’t reveal itself in the Barbie aisle at Toys R Us.

It reveals itself in the Word of the One who created us. Who created us as His masterpieces.

“Now, write three things you like about yourself. Your classmates will then do the same with each portrait.”

Recognizing the good. Not the bad. Celebrating our strengths. Not our weaknesses. Building each other up in love. Not tearing down with self-hatred, and self-loathing.

“Ms. January. Someone wrote pretty and cute. I am not those things!”

“Sure you are, honey. Because, God made you that way. And someone else sees you in this way, too. In another’s eyes, you are pretty, cute, and beautiful!”

Just like I was yesterday morning in a Starbucks parking lot. Just as I am every morning in the eyes of God.

Just like you are.

A beautiful and wonderful masterpiece!

 

Beauty in a Mess

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Yes, that picture is exactly what you think it is…a jumbled heap of Legos. First, let me say, I am not a fan of Legos. But, Hunter likes them, or rather, he likes to watch us put them together while he sifts through the pile for just the right piece. And, I will never quite understand how someone who is thrown off his sensory radar with a simple touch, or too much noise, is not so much when it comes to these Legos.

Of course, he isn’t the only one who has searched for just the right piece to make something glorious.

Yes, just like the small and big hands that will try to construct the Lego fire engine that is sure to be in that pile somewhere, God did something infinitely greater with the work of His hands.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1

But, he didn’t stop there. With His hands he put the stars in the sky. He decided when the sun would rise and set. Where the waves of the ocean would meet the shore. He selected every water creature, and every animal on earth. He molded every majestic mountain, and carved every valley in between. All with His Hands. Just like carefully selected Lego pieces, He created the masterpiece in which we live. Beauty from one dark and empty mess.

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Psalm 139:13

With His hands he fashioned every part of who we are. Our eye color, skin color, and whether we would be short or tall. Our laughs. Our personalities. Every little thing that makes us unique was carefully selected by God. Wonderfully, fearfully, and beautifully made by His hands. Beautiful despite the fact that we may consider ourselves to be complete messes.

“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender responsive heart.” Ezekiel 36:25-26

Even when we are complete messes, God makes us new. On those days when we feel like a crumpled heap of Legos, or when we don’t know if we will ever find that piece that makes us whole again, God reaches into our mess, grabs our stony, stubborn hearts and gladly gives us a new one.

Making us magnificent. Making us marvelous. Making something beautiful in the midst of the mess.

More Than a Dress Size

Let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 1 Peter 3:3-4

It had been one of those mornings. One of those mornings many women across the globe have, even thin women like me. On this particular morning I was having THAT day-the “there is nothing in my closet that fits and everything is too tight, too frumpy, too something” kind of day. Even my husband was subjected to my self-pity as I threw belts, hangers, and dresses; and griped to him that “Nothing fits!” “This dress won’t even zip!” “I have on tights, so I can’t just throw on pants.” “Where are my Spanx?” Yes, skinny chicks need Spanx too!

Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7

God tells us he doesn’t care about our dress size, but yet, we still worry so much about our outward appearance. We look upon the external appearances of others. We allow society and the media to tell us that we must lose that baby weight in 3 months or less, because if Kim Kardashian can, certainly we can too! We let fashion magazines and runway models tell us that we must all be a size 0, and we define each other by our sizes, too. I, although appreciative of any and all compliments I receive, have been the subject of dress size comparison when listening to comments on my thin frame- “Oh, you could wear anything! What, you are a size 2 or something, right?”

Right….courtesy of Spanx.

“For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come.” Mark 7:21

Those evil thoughts begin on days like the other morning when I feel like nothing in my closet is the least bit flattering. I must not disappoint all those who give me such wonderful compliments on my appearance. I must be a size 2! I have to be a size 2! Everyone expects me to look like a size 2! The self-loathing continues through the day as I pull on the fifth dress I managed to make work. A dress that is still too tight! (Where in the world are those Spanx!) The ever present critical voice that inhabits my head on occasion and that fueled an eating disorder in my teens and twenties slowly creep back in. I must be a size 2. It has been five years since my last child, and I should look like Kim! I am so not worthy!

“God created each one of us in our own unique way. Just like a snowflake we all hold a blueprint that differs from one another. It’s great to lose weight and keep our bodies healthy and strong, but it is also important that we appreciate who we are today-with or without extra pounds.” -Candace Cameron Bure, Reshaping it All.

Please don’t be offended. I certainly appreciate the flattery, the compliments. I know I am blessed with a smaller frame. I like having a neat and tidy appearance. Don’t worry your flattery is not breeding another eating disorder. And, yes, I realize I am a size 2, and many folks believe that I could not possibly know what it is like to wrestle with weight loss issues. body image, and the struggles of food. But I do. And I also know I am more than my dress size. More than my tiny frame.

Why do we women think that our dress size equates to worthiness, when God does not require us to be a certain size at all?

Why do we look in the mirror and only see our cellulite? (Yes, we thin chicks have that too. I’m telling you, Spanx are a sound investment!) Why do we focus on what is on the outside, and not look at all that we have to offer that has nothing to do with the size on the hanger or on our tags?

Why do we allow the devil to fill our heads with such self-hatred just because we do not fit the standard that society says is worthy and beautiful enough to be on the cover of a fashion magazine?

As I pulled and tugged on my dress THAT fateful day, I started to ask myself: Will anyone truly recall my dress size when it is all said and done? “That January. Such a fine young woman, and she was certainly a great size 2!” I certainly hope not!

Does God care that there are some days I feel a little “puffy,” or that my cardigan may be hiding the fact that my dress does not actually zip up in back because it is a tad bit too tight?

My size will not be a factor in how I love others. It will not be a factor in how I love God. It is not a factor in how I serve him. How I serve others. It is not a factor in my ministry, in my friendships, my marriage. Nor is it a factor in my walk with Him.

While size may be precious to society, it isn’t precious to God. He loves me and you regardless of the size on the tag of clothing we are wearing. Regardless of the number on the scale. Regardless of how long it takes us to lose baby weight. Regardless of whether or not we ever do!

God loves me-not my size. God thinks I am precious and amazing-Spanx and all!

Beautifully Made by God

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. “ Psalm 139:13

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“Hayley, your hair looks extra pretty this morning. Your curls are so soft and shiny,” began the bus stop conversation with my middle child. However, the effort to compliment my daughter on her beautiful head of curls quickly turns into this: “Yuck, I don’t like them! They are ugly!”

 Really? This self-loathing starts at six?

 “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139:13

 I remember my love/hate relationship with my own head of deep brown, unruly curls. As much as my mother tried to tell me how beautiful they were, how much people pay “to get hair just like yours,” I never listened to her voice of encouragement. Instead, I based my appearance on those around me-all those other girls who looked nothing at all like me, who had perfectly placed, straight strands of hair, who could brush their hair without fear of the brush getting stuck in the tangles at the end, whom I sure didn’t have tears of pain in their eyes from an early morning hair-pulling and detangling session. I was different. I stood out and was singled out, all because of my hair, and I didn’t like it!

 “I praise you, because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:14

 I took no solace in the realization that God made me just as I am, even those messy, unruly curls. I placed my self-worth in the opinions of others, in the images of those around me. Unfortunately, as time dragged on, it wasn’t just my hair I began to hate, but my nose, then my crooked teeth, until my self-esteem was gone. So, I hid my curls in buns, stopped smiling, and well-still hated my nose.

 “My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.” Psalm 139:15

 After this mornings conversation, I begin to remember another one Hayley and I had, not too long ago:

 “Mommy, I want my hair cut like *Sally’s. She doesn’t have tangles.”

“Well, honey, Sally has straight hair. You can’t cut yours like that. It will still tangle because it is curly.”

And the six-year old response, the I-don’t-want-to-look-different response of my beautiful daughter: “Well, then I want straight hair like everyone else.”

 “The very hairs on your head are numbered. You are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.” Luke 12:7

 So, this morning, I told my sweet, yet sassy child what I wish I had been able to grasp 20 plus years before. “Honey, your hair is beautiful. You are beautiful. You know why? Because you were made by God. He wanted you to have those curls, so embrace them as part of who he made you to be.”

 “Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good.” Genesis 1:31

 It will be forever tempting to measure our self-worth against the beauty we see in others. We may have had mothers who encouraged us to embrace our differences, but we will all at some point fall prey to the comparison trap-even our six year old daughters.

 “You are altogether beautiful, my darling, beautiful in every way.” Song of Songs 4:7

 I am not sure when I finally accepted my different appearance. Up until about 3 years ago, I still hid my curls in a tangled bun, until I finally decided to let go of the temptation to compare my looks with that of others and chop off my hair all together. I still look different. I still have an upturned nose, crooked teeth, and in between haircuts, a head full of curls. However, now I hold my curly head high, I smile, and don’t even think much about my nose. God thinks I am beautiful. He thinks you are beautiful as well. He thinks the present six year old version of my former self is also beautiful. God chose me. He chose you, and he chose Hayley-our eyes, our noses, our smiles, and yes, even our unruly hair.

 “For we are God’s masterpiece…” Ephesians 2:10

 That’s all the reassurance any of us will ever need.