Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Problem Isn't Your Neckline ~ A New Perspective on Modesty ~

You don’t have to scroll very long on social media to come across an article on modesty. They tend to range from one extreme of “Cover up! It’s all your fault if a man lusts!” to the other extreme of “Girl power! Wear whatever you want, you’re not responsible for a man’s thoughts!”.

Personally, I’ve understood and related to both sides of the argument at various points in my life.

I remember the “one piece or T-shirts” rule in youth group when it came to summer camp. I also remember the insecurity I felt when I was a young newlywed driving past the Hooters billboards with my husband. And I remember sharing a fitness progress pic on social media and a church member asking me to take it down because it wasn’t appropriate for a group leader.

There’s so many opinions, and I get them all.

But I realized something recently that gave me a brand new perspective—and it has to do with tidal waves.

You know what I mean. That feeling that comes when you’re standing in front of the mirror, trying to squeeze into your skinny jeans. Or when you’re eating chips and watching TV and a commercial comes on featuring models who probably haven’t eaten a chip a day in their life. Or when that lady at church asks when your non-existent baby is due. Or when your husband didn’t notice your new lingerie.

It hits hard—a tidal wave of body shame, guilt, regret, and hopelessness. A seemingly inescapable tsunami of the worst emotions possible, washing over you all at once, drowning you in depression, anxiety and desperation.

The tidal wave is bad enough, but the worst part is typically what we do when the wave recedes. When the deep waters of insecurity and defeat retract, we’re left standing coated in a lot of grit.

And as women, there’s a variety of ways to wash it off. Sometimes that means stuffing our hand back into the bag of chips. Sometimes that means torturing ourselves with an hour of cardio. Or sometimes it means a shopping spree. When we feel insecure and less-than, we will try to seek validation in any form within reach.

We’re wired that way and we know it. So the best means of offense is to wash ourselves in pure water. Instead of going to food or the mall as means of washing off the grime, we must plan ahead of time to go to the Word. To worship music. To godly friends who will build us up.

Having a plan in place serves as a guardrail from additional pain. Because with the other methods, the consequences bring new waves. Like numbers inching up on the scale or our savings account dwindling into the red or our hearts breaking from seeking out misplaced affection.

I’ve known this wisdom, but I often struggle to put it into practice. When my heart aches, I want to shut it up. Sometimes that means chocolate, sometimes that means extra hours at the gym, and sometimes that means new shoes. I’ve done it all—and so have you.

But let’s get honest. More often than not, it means seeking out male affirmation.

When I was single, especially post-divorce, this was my go-to. If I could get a double-take or a wink, I’d be okay again. A little bit of that insecurity would wash off with every flirty text from a guy friend. The lie of “you’re not enough” would quiet with every “like” on social media.

Now that I’m re-married, I see it differently. I see the way my husband makes effort to stay pure by setting up guardrails so he’s protected emotionally and visually. That means everything from setting filters on his phone to finding male accountability partners to completely avoiding popular TV shows. He makes those efforts because it glorifies God, but also because it honors me, his wife.  

When I was struggling a while back with a particularly fresh tidal wave, I found myself seeking out that second glance again. I wanted to feel attractive and validated because of the lies and negative self-image attacking daily. I wanted a reprieve, and in my pain, I was defaulting to my old methods instead of defaulting to the Lord.

Until my husband told me about a morning when he was at the gym and a suggestive woman walked by. His reaction? He literally closed his eyes (while jogging on a moving treadmill!) so he wouldn’t do a double take.

It was an “aha” moment for me, because I’d never considered it from that angle. When I strut around, looking for affirmation for my wounds, I’m more often than not tempting a married or committed man. While I’m trying to feel better by gaining a second glance, I’m creating the exact feeling of insecurity that I’m trying to rid myself of inside another woman.


My husband works hard to stay pure. I’d never want another woman to intentionally lead him astray. What a betrayal against our fellow sisters when we do the same thing!

You might feel better after posting a sexy selfie on Instagram when you’re rejected or having a “fat day” and watching those “likes” stack up. But at what cost? What are you doing to your fellow woman and her marriage/relationship?

Next time you’re in front of the mirror, debating whether your dress is too short or your bathing suit too revealing or your neckline too low, don’t get caught up in the unanswerable questions of deciding if modesty is fully your responsibility or if a man’s lust is your fault or if girl power rules after all.

Instead, get specific. Ask yourself if you’d want another woman wearing that in front of your husband or boyfriend. Look for the motivation of your heart in wearing that particular outfit. Is it to fix an ache, or are you wearing it because you feel pretty and like the colors? Is it to look suggestive and get attention, or because it’s comfortable and flattering?

Face it. Some men will struggle with lust whether a woman is wearing a string bikini or is fully covered in a pant-suit. The point isn’t taking responsibility for another person’s sin—it’s in not creating more sin within your own.

Because when we seek affirmation and validation from a source outside of the Lord, it’s empty, pointless and yes—sinful.

The cultural modesty debate will continue, and you’ll likely find yourself leaning toward one side of the fence or the other at different times. Our responsibility as women is to navigate this as purely as possible within ourselves, and that means putting our sisters in Christ first. Philippians 2:3 (ESV) “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

This doesn’t mean we wear shapeless sweatshirts and never don a bathing suit or post a selfie on a good hair day. It simply means we frequently self-check our heart, stick close to the Lord, and learn to hear His whispers of truth and beauty over the lies of the enemy.

Friday, September 9, 2016

That Time You Got Dumped and Found Yourself in Jail...

Sometimes you get dumped, and nine days later, find yourself in jail.

(Not in the way you think, though that probably happens too)

The ties of a long-term relationship were suddenly severed, and I found myself hanging by a thread. I desperately needed to get my mind, emotions and focus off myself. So, at the suggestion of a friend, I signed up for a jail outreach with a local ministry I’d participated in off and on the past year. This was my first time to attend this particular outreach, and I had no idea what to expect visiting women in jail who had been arrested for prostitution.

The only thing to do was don my “Sometimes Warriors Wear Heels” T-shirt, and dive into the unknown.

I just had no idea at the time how deep Jesus wanted me to swim.

The air was stifling and heavy in the lobby—downright oppressive. The spiritual veil thin, the silent battle around us nearly audible. People waiting to see family members and friends, wrangling their kids, listening for their number to be called, paying at the chipped blue booth for their loved one to have spending money from behind bars. It was like stepping into an entirely different world.

And I thought my normal had been rocked of late.

I hadn’t sensed defeat and discouragement in one place so tangibly in a long time. I was anxious and jittery myself, and hadn’t eaten. Yet despite my growling stomach and my uncertainty, I was so blown away by the ministry opportunity that lingered right there in the lobby. So many people waiting to visit inmates—I thought if this was a hospital, it’d be easy to ask if someone wanted prayer. Religion is pretty popular in the waiting room of the ER, where vulnerability and brokenness is expected. But there, at the jail, everyone had on their game face. Hard, brittle, guarded masks that refused to shatter or let anyone in. There would be no getting past those walls tonight.

So I silently prayed for the young woman behind me with the blue streaks in her hair. And for the woman who hugged her significant other tightly as he was released from his sentence. And for the family of the little girl in the Princess T-shirt, who was handing out those free apartment brochures from the magazine rack and charming my entire row, like this was a normal Thursday night for her. 

When the inmate’s names were called for my group, the three of us navigated our way through the metal detector (which I set off because of the button on my jeans) and waited to be given our visitor passes. We assumed we’d all be going to the same area because of the similar charges of our assigned inmates, and I was more than grateful to stick with my ministry leader and friend.

Except my pass was green. And theirs was not.

Mental Ward.

Any sense of adjustment to this foreign world I’d found myself in fled right quick, along with the blood from my head.

Sometimes you get dumped, and you find yourself alone in a never-ending corridor, light-headed and unsure. And your heels echo loud on the shiny floor, and your heart shouts a protest with every step, but you move anyway, almost as afraid to go back as you are to go forward.

I had no idea what I was doing. My normal had been all sorts of shaken upside down and inside out. What would I do? What would I say?

What did I even have to offer in my own brokenness?

I walked on, shaky with nerves and the fear of the unknown, which is sort of how I’d felt for nine days now. And I prayed that somehow, despite my fragile state, the Holy Spirit would use me. That hallway was long. So long. And so was the next one.

But I kept going.  

Because sometimes the only way out is through.

I finally found the green door that matched my visitor pass, and had to talk myself into opening it. When I did, I was facing yet another stairwell. By now I’d abandoned all hope of ever finding my way back to the lobby, and followed a typed sign and hastily drawn arrow toward the female mental health ward. (this door was open, thankfully, because otherwise I might have still been standing there)
I stepped through the frame into a tiny cubicle area, with chairs and phones and heavy plated glass. The lights were dim, the shadows long, the area deserted. Even the guard’s desk around the corner sat empty.

I stood and waited, and prayed. Paced. Wondered if I was in the right place. Looked up and glimpsed a shock of dark hair through one of the windows of the cells. Cells that were rooms, with doors. Solitary, confining. I didn’t see the face under the hair, but glimpsing those brunette waves told me a real live soul was stuck in that room, fighting who knew how many demons, and how ill-equipped was she to do so?

Something broke off in my spirit.

A guard finally saw me, mere minutes later that felt like forever, and we proceeded to have an awkwardly shouted conversation through the glass about who I was there to see. She went to find her, and I marveled anew at how lifeless the entire area was.

And I thought I’d been battling discouragement the past week. 

Something else broke off deep inside, and what was left hissed and sparked to life.

And as I stared through the glass, at that wave of dark hair across the room in a solitary cell, at the two story rows of shut and locked doors, clutching my green tag with the words MENTAL stamped across the front in large print—because aren’t we all? The only thing I could think was: but for the grace of God.

Like the inmates arrested for prostitution, I too had once sought healing for my brokenness post-divorce in all the wrong vices. Like the inmates, I tried to fix my broken all on my own, and ended up with more shards than I knew what to do with. I could relate to what it felt like to be repeatedly betrayed, rejected and abandoned, to feel as if you had to desperately strive to prove yourself and gain validation in the only ways you knew how. Even if those ways gleefully imprisoned you.
It wouldn’t take much at all to be on the other side of that glass.
But for the grace of God.

My hurt? Suddenly, it didn’t ache as much. My problems? Diminished. My definition of lonely? A total joke.

I wasn’t nervous and unsure anymore. No, I wanted to burst through the glass. I wanted to run to each room, shouting truth against the lies echoing all over that dark space. I wanted to unlock each door and proclaim how I knew the Chain-breaker Himself, and that they could too. That I was a writer, so I knew this didn’t have to be the end of their story—that their Author was good and trustworthy and loved them no matter what had landed them there. That it wasn’t too late—was never too late.
I almost choked on all the words caught in my throat, mixed with unshed tears. I felt like I had the keys, but I just couldn’t make it to their cells.  Jesus, please go to their cells.

The guard returned, alone. The inmate didn’t want to see anyone. It was time for me to leave.
Disappointment, along with a fiery determination, carried me back to the lobby. I never got to talk to my assigned inmate—she has no idea how much she taught me in such a short time. But the Holy Spirit was there, and no door, lock or alarm can keep Him out. His ways and timing are never wasted.
I’m praying for the young woman I didn’t get to see. I’ll mail her a card and let her know that she has purpose that she can’t even fathom right now. That she’s never too broken to be healed. That it’s possible through Christ to experience freedom even in the midst of our darkest prisons. I’ll go visit her again.

Because sometimes, you get dumped and find yourself in jail—and find liberty and hope you forgot even existed.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Warrior Princess Training

My daughter was afraid to brush her teeth.

Afraid to make the short trek down the hall and to the left to the bathroom, where in her seven-year-old mind, something lurked dark and deep. A fear unnamed and yet not unknown, a familiar fear that caught her in a cold-fisted grip too many times to count. You never knew when it was going to grab and clutch, you just knew at some point, it would again.

She wanted me. My company. My presence down the hall.

But I knew she needed More. Needed His company, His presence.

The only way to fight the dark is with light.

I told her I’d be right there, in the kitchen, and she could do it. But she couldn’t, and the tears came, hysterical and sure. I wiped her cheeks and whispered reminders of who she was. Daughter of the most High King. Child of God. Beloved.

She tried again. Failed. Feet frozen in fear right at the start of the hall.

This went on for a solid half hour. False starts and foiled attempts.

I finally pulled her back in close. She begged me to come with her. Bargained. Pleaded. Bribed. I said I couldn’t, that this was important. She needed to remember who she was. I promised I’d come as soon as she made it in there and turned on the water.

Then I leaned in tight and whispered a secret. “Remember—you have a superpower.”

She blinked, eyes hoping, wanting to believe but not quite able.

“A real superpower. Not like Elsa’s. Because of Jesus in you, fear doesn’t control you.” I whispered softer. “You control the fear.”  I told her to rebuke it in Jesus name. That when she did, because of her authority as a follower of Christ, it had to leave. It had to.

She lined back up, shoulders back, staring down the hall. She whispered something soft. Then whispered again. Teary eyed, panicked, spun back to me. “It didn’t work, Mama!”

“Did you say in Jesus' name?”

Her head dropped. “No.”

“That’s the most important part.”

Red faced, puffy nosed, swollen eyed, she tried again. “I rebuke fear in Jesus’ name.” She took a step.

She. Took. A. Step.

Crying, speaking louder. “I rebuke fear in Jesus’ name!” Another step. Tiny and slow. “I rebuke fear in Jesus name.” Stronger. Clearer. “I rebuke fear in Jesus name.” Tears came fresh as she trod out of my sight and around the corner, interrupted only by sporadic, tear-soaked and broken declarations of “I want Mama!”

My heart would burst. “Keep going baby! I’m right here.” I wanted to go to her so badly. But victory was more important than comfort.

Crying harder now, but speaking louder now. “I rebuke fear in Jesus’ name.” Shuddering breath. “I rebuke fear in Jesus’ name!”

The water turned on. And I ran to her side.  We celebrated, with foamy toothpaste grins and high fives and victory dance from her beloved stuffed giraffe.

Sometimes, my heart is seven, and I’m standing paralyzed in the hall, afraid to go any further. Afraid of the door behind me shutting forever and afraid of the one around the corner that I can’t see. Afraid that maybe I’ll get there, and it’ll be locked too. Afraid that I’m truly alone and on my own and the goal ahead of me is too large, too impossible, and too risky.

And then my Wonderful Counselor, my Prince of Peace, my Comforter, leans in close and reminds me who I am. Whispers that the same power that resurrected Him resides in me, and I am never alone.

I blink, eyes hoping, wanting to believe but not quite able.

I whisper His name.

And I can take a step.

My foot weighs a thousand pounds and I realize that maybe I don’t want the destination so badly after all.

That it’s too much. Too uncertain. It hurts too bad.

But victory is more important than my comfort.

So I walk.

The next week, she came to me from her bed in the nights, tears flooding. “Mama, I’m scared something’s going to happen to you. I can’t sleep.” Struggling breath. “I can’t make the bad thoughts stop.”

I walk her back to bed, my tired eyes desperate for sleep. I knew she’d pass out hard and fast if I allowed her to sleep in my bed with me—but no. There was another battle to fight. A bigger one than either of us knew.

So I tuck her back in her own room, the fear so strong now she can barely breathe around it. I hug her close as she cries, praying for peace, and remind her that the devil is a liar.

And I remember how often I forget that. How often I let the bad thoughts fly free. Let them circle and swoop like vultures, picking at the remnants of my joy. Snatching hope with sharp beaks. 


I tell her that the fears she has were not true. That we were safe. And that God had a big plan for her. That because of what she had been through and conquered already, she was special. Her heart was sensitive for a reason, and this was training. Warrior Princess training.

She pulled the covers up to her chin and half covered the smile trying to peek through the tears. She liked that. “Mama? Have you finished your training?”

I let out a half laugh, half cry. Finished? No. I still fall. Still get up. Brush off the dirt and smear the sweat in my eyes and get back into the ring, despite the blood stains. Stronger. But definitely not finished.

I only shake my head. “No, baby. I’ve come a really long way. But I’m not done yet.” I kiss her, tell her that I’m going to bed and she had everything she needed to fight. She had Jesus. She had memorized Bible verses. And she knew what to do with them.

Then I prayed over her, anointed her forehead with oil, and walked out of the room.

Because sometimes, the only way to teach the warrior to fight is to give her a war. 

She stayed. She fought. She won.

And I realized the power in being still. In pausing in the thick of our individual battle fields, breathing deep and knowing who God is and who we are in Him. Yet our instincts are to duck and dodge, to cower low, not brave the front line. Never that. Our defaults shout to run to safety, to Mama’s room, to pretend like it’s all a bad dream and bask in false security instead of the real kind.

We are fully equipped. We only have to utilize the weapons He already gave us. Victory is ours.

When we stay.