‘Royals’-Living The Fantasy

royals

 

Why in the world do we watch reality TV? Really though, why?

It’s because we long to escape our boring reality into someone else’s story, a story far bigger and seemingly greater than our own. Somehow the Kardashians seem to be a little bit more intriguing than changing diapers, going to the office, making dinner, and trying to find all of those missing socks (seriously though, where do they go?)

Our desire to be around greatness has created a culture of celebrity worship. Against my better judgment, I always end up on E! Entertainment. Be honest, we know you look through People and Us Weekly magazine columns out of the corner of your eyes in the Kroger checkout line. I totally get it; I do it too! We need to know which celebrity has a saggy bottom and who is getting fatter by the second. Although I hate to admit it, I’m somehow interested to see if the Bachelor has found true love (ha – ha). I mean seriously…. It’s important for me to study the downward spiral of former Disney Stars.

Entertainment pulls us in and out of our boring life’s. By switching back and forth between reality shows, are we really just seeking to escape our own seemingly dull realities?

Although we may have a dream for greatness and a drive to rule (even if it is living vicariously through someone else), not everyone can be “royals,” as Grammy winner Lorde proclaims.

And we’ll never be royals.
It don’t run in our blood,
That kind of lux just ain’t for us.
We crave a different kind of buzz.
Let me be your ruler, you can call me queen Bee
And baby I’ll rule, I’ll rule, I’ll rule, I rule, Let me live that fantasy.”
Why has this song resonated with our culture?

Lorde is not only an incredible artist with fabulous locks and my new favorite up and comer…. she is right! Not all of us will be “royals,” but in many ways we still possess a fantasy to rule. If you are like me, you have probably come to terms with the fact that you are never going to be a real life princess. In all likelihood, we will never hold an OSCAR in our hand, and will probably never even be nominated as “mom of the year” in our hometown. We realize we may not have what it takes to rule the red carpet, but it’s okay. There are still plenty of little kingdoms that we can rule. We become Daydream believers amidst our ordinary lives.

Our kingdoms can be found in the midst of laundry piles multiplying on our couches, dining room chairs plastered in weird looking remnants from dinners long ago, surrounded by our court jesters covered in peanut butter, in a cubical with one of those swivel chairs and posted notes everywhere, pews, play groups, classrooms, seminary, and even the blogosphere.

We mock celebrities for their absurdities and lavish lifestyles; as Lorde says, “Gold Teeth, Grey Goose, Trippin in the bathroom, Bloodstains, Ball gowns, Trashing the hotel room.”

We may say, “We don’t care, we aren’t caught up in your love affair,” when in truth every one of us have been in a love affair with ourselves.
Although we may have never “seen a diamond in the flesh,” oh how long to capture greatness. (Even if its just flipping through the television.)

Even if it is simply, “driving Cadillacs in our dreams.”

We were not made to be “Royals” receiving applause; we were made to give the applause to Jesus Christ – the only One worthy of praise.

Our little kingdoms will one day be destroyed.

 

Seriously….Let It Go!

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This. Song. Will. Not. Let. Us. Go.

At the Oscars on Sunday night, the Tony Award-winning Broadway star Idina Menzel belted out “Let It Go” from Disney’s Frozen. Not only did she receive a standing ovation from the crowd, but the song even won an Oscar. If you’re anything like me, you can’t get this song out of your head.

There I was cleaning the kitchen and performing what I thought was a riveting rendition of “Let It Go.” Welcome to my life – the world of Disney. It’s a magical place where dreams come true.

I was making crystal ice castles out of thin air, and my spirits were soaring along with the song. That is, until my 4-year old little girl (who is a Frozen expert), said “Mommy, you don’t look like Elsa at all!”

What! I was shocked! “Is it the nasty yellow sweatpants I have on or my seriously crazy-looking eye brows that need a good waxing?”

NO, I don’t look like Elsa, but at least my eyes are in proportion to my wrists.

Although Elsa and I apparently look nothing alike, we share one thing in common: we both love to hide.

I hide in a number of ways. I frequently cancel appointments with friends; I don’t answer phone calls. Often, I simply run into the bathroom and lock the door. Much of the time, I get lost behind the screen of my I-Phone. In doing so, I’m building my own “Kingdom of Isolation” – a kingdom in which I’m the queen.

“No, I don’t want to build a snowman. Can you just take your cuteness somewhere else and leave me alone?”

Why do we hide?

The phrase, “Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them see,” is something that many women can relate to. We know the awful, ugly, hideous sin that we are capable of and we dread the thought of others seeing it. We’re afraid for them to know the real us, because if they did, there’s no way we would be accepted (or at least that’s what we think).


Because we are petrified of being exposed for who we really are, we hide. Sometimes we simply lie and say we are doing great (when we know we’re not). If and when we speak about our sin, we tend to speak in very general terms, avoiding the details that genuine humility and confession requires. Other times, we don’t say much at all; we simply smile through the pain of the condemnation that we feel on the inside.

Be The Good Girl You Always Have To Be

Every time I hear this line from “Let it Go,” I’m reminded that in and of ourselves, we can’t be the “good girls” we’re supposed to be. In fact, the Bible teaches us that the only goodness in us is the righteousness that we receive from Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:10, 2 Cor. 5:21). The church is not for good people. It is for people that realize they need a goodness and righteousness outside of themselves; it is for people who trust in the goodness of another Person – the Lord Jesus Christ.

Even once we are Christians, we don’t have it all together. We still sin. Historically, some have held to the view that when we become Christians, we just stop sinning altogether. Even if we believe this to be impossible, perhaps we subconsciously live with this expectation of perfection. In those cases, no wonder why so many of us freak out when we sin and are sent into a whirlwind of confusion and doubt. Listen, I get it. It would be great to not sin anymore – and someday in glory, we won’t. But in the mean time, we have to, “let it go.”

Now, when I speak of sin and say, “let it go,” I don’t in any way mean to belittle the magnitude of sin, nor the hatred that God has towards it. Christian, we must not “be okay” with our sin. Rather, we must “be killing our sin, or our sin will be killing us” (to quote the old Puritan, John Owen).

However, when we think about our remaining sin, we have to “let it go” in the realization that because of the cross of Jesus Christ, we have been forgiven of all of our sins – past, present, and future. Every single ounce of the wrath that we deserved was poured out on Christ Jesus. When God let Christ go to the cross, He let our sin go with Him. Our sin record was “let go” when the blood flowed from the side of the Son of God; sisters, if God can let it go, we too, must let it go. It displeases God when we seek to pay for something that has already been paid for. Jesus died for our sin not so that we could live in guilt and condemnation, but so that we could experience peace, joy, forgiveness, and freedom.

It is only trusting in this Jesus and His deep love for us that can melt a frozen heart

Don’t be shocked by your sin. When you sin, run to the arms of Christ and be thankful that even your sin reminds you of your great need of a Savior. As one of my favorite songs says, “the only fitness He requireth is to feel your need of Him.”
So, what happens when we are found out, and we are standing there exposed? Like Elsa, do we cry, run away, and hide in a castle up on a mountain?
We cannot escape ourselves by escaping people. God uses people to reveal our sin so we can come to Him for healing.

frozen

The Christian life was not designed to be lived in isolation. If fact, it can’t be lived in isolation. We are the body of Christ. We need one another. In fact, there are nearly 60 “one another” passages in the New Testament. Without other Christians in our lives who love us enough to tell us the truth, and to correct us when necessary, we’ll never finish the race.

The beauty of the Gospel is that we are already exposed. All of our sins and flaws were exposed the day Christ was nailed to a tree. When Jesus died, He announced to the world, “She is a sinner!”

Because we’ve already been exposed, there’s no longer any reason to hide. Let us strive to be real, take of the mask, and stop concealing. We’ve been found out, and yet God chooses to freely accept us.

Paraphrasing from Tim Keller, in any relationship, to be loved and not fully known is comforting, but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved (still), is unbelievably rare, and yet that’s exactly what it’s like to be loved by God. This God became a Man and He died in our place – not because of how great we are – but in spite of how sinful and rebellious we’ve all been.

Let it go, sisters.

The War On Christmas

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“KEVIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

It’s the ear-deafening shrill of a mother realizing her 6-year old is home alone while she is on an airplane almost to Paris.   We can only imagine the feelings of desperation and horror this mother felt.

AHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

What living person doesn’t t know the trademark “hands slapping their face” in only the way Macaulay Culkin can pull it off?

Home Alone, the classic Christmas movie, will make its way through the TV Guide Christmas time slots, along with ElfWhite Christmas, The Christmas Story, and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

My son and husband love Home Alone, so inevitably I will sit and watch as my son takes notes from Kevin on how to wreak havoc on his siblings.

All of us watching have hearts aching for Kevin to be reunited at Christmas.  Young and old know Christmas is about being together – not home alone.  A lonely Christmas is no Christmas at all.

This reminds me of another Son, a Son that would leave His home in heaven.  His first Christmas would be celebrated in the arms of a 15-year old virgin, surrounded by animals.  In some ways, it was a silent night.  His father was not screaming, freaking out, going ballistic in the background worrying about the safe arrival of His pride and joy.  In fact, the idea of this Son leaving His home had been planned from the very beginning of time. No shock, no worries.  This Father and Son had a plan – a rescue mission.

Days after watching this iconic blockbuster, there is a theme song stuck in my head and I am sure yours too – Carol of the Bells.  What is most annoying about thing about this song is that I don’t have all the words memorized, so my family gets to hear new and exciting renditions each and every year.

Hark how the bells, sweet silver bells,

All seem to say throw cares away.

We tend to get caught up in the hypnotizing trance of the sweet silver bells.  We envision ourselves on a sleigh ride, strapped down, desperately searching for the “Magic of Christmas.” We become consumed in drinking our eggnog, eating figgy pudding, shopping, catching sales, cyber sales, wanting, wrapping, thinking of warm fuzzies from yester years, holly and being jolly, hanging our stocking with care, sugar plums dancing in our heads, waiting for the big guy in red velvet apple bottom jeans (boots with the fur), chestnuts roasting by the fire, Jack Frost nipping at our nose, caroling, cleaning, food, friends, more food, and family.  It’s like the Carol of the Bells on replay the entire Christmas season!  We just get caught up in the frantic, crazy nostalgia hunt.

As much as we want to “throw cares away,” we just cannot seem to stop “making our lists and checking them twice.”  Where is the “comfort and joy?”  We desperately want to have ourselves a “Merry little Christmas and let our hearts be light!”

Then, of course, we talk about sweet baby Jesus. “Oh there He is . . .” We see Him lying in the manger and we tend to think of “poor, sweet Jesus.”  He is so cute in that little swaddling cloth. It’s as if the world is saying “goochie goo!”

This is War

Kevin was left home alone. Chances are he was not going to have a warm fuzzy Christmas because Kevin knew the burglars (the “Wet Bandits,” if you’ll remember) were heading his way.  As he sat down with his back to his front door with a bee-bee gun strapped to his chest, he exclaimed, “This is it, don’t get scared now.” For Kevin, it was a declaration of war.

When we think of Christmas, the picture of war portrayed in Home Alone may in a sense be more accurate than some of the cute, blissful, peaceful images that we have in our minds.  Jesus left the comforts of heaven not to look for a sale at Macy’s, but to fight a war.   His first cry as a tiny baby was a war-cry (without the silver bells in the background).

A war against what? A war against the captor – Satan.  Satan and sin hold God’s people captive as though they were a burglar holding a house hostage that does not belong to them.  God came to the earth to set the captives free.  He may have been wearing a cute “little swaddling cloth,” but He came as a conquering, warrior King.

No, He did not set up booby traps, or window seals laced with tar and nail heads. He did not come with a plan to knock this thief in the head with a hot iron.  However, He did come to crush the head of the Enemy, but He came to do so with His own blood.

There has always been a war against Christmas, because there has been a war against Christ.  From the moment He was born (and even before), people wanted Jesus dead.  King Herod, yeah he wasn’t searching for Jesus so He could present him with an outlandish baby shower; no he wanted Christ dead.  Why? Herod wanted to be King and he did not want to bow the knee to some nursing infant.   Christmas is about worshipping the King, and yet we war against it as we listen to the voice of the serpent and “take the apple,” so that we may become kings ourselves.

Satan hates Christmas because Christmas is a celebration of Jesus.  Every time the serpent hears the Christmas story, He is reminded of the prophesy spoken to him by God in Gen 3:15, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He (Jesus) will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

The initial blow to that puny little head has already been struck, and the war has been won.  Though we still find ourselves in a battle doing war with this snake-turned-lion seeking to devour us, we are longing for the return of King Jesus where He will destroy this Enemy once and for all as He casts him into the lake of fire forever.  So, as we celebrate Jesus at Christmas, we are not just celebrating his arrival, but we are celebrating the fact that He defeated Satan at the cross, and that He is coming AGAIN!

It’s like when the burglar hears, “Johnny Gangster in the shower.”

“I’m gonna give you to the count of 10 to get your ugly no good keister off my property . . . before I pump your guts full of lead . . . (gun shots) . . . keep the change ya filthy animal.”

This Christmas I am in a war to keep my eyes on Christ

There are so many little silver bells that put me into a trance.  So many flashy-sparkly-shiny trinkets and bright lights that keep me from beholding the true beauty of Christmas – the LIGHT of the world.

The North Star shown down on Bethlehem like a spotlight saying, “He is here!  Your Rescuer has come! Look! See! Over here!”

Instead of looking for the “magic” of Christmas, I should be consumed with the mystery of Christmas.

This is a mystery and a miracle:

Christ left the comforts of heaven so that we might know true “comfort and joy.” 

Because Christ came to carry the weight of all out sin, we can have ourselves a “Merry Little Christmas” and let our hearts “Be Light”.

When your heart is being pulled in by all the lights, look to the Light of the world that would die on a cross – forsaken and abandoned by His own Father. Christ had only known the stare of affection from His Father.  But for you, He took all of His Father’s wrath and hung there alone so you would never have to experience the righteous judgment of God.  Christmas is a call to war – a war that has already been won.  Christmas is about a family being together.  Christmas is about God coming to rescue His family so they would never again have to be home alone.   Twitter

What I Learned From Taylor Swift

That’s right people; Taylor Swift is teaching important life lessons. Get a pen and paper (or whatever contraption you use to remember things) – this is huge.   I am super-pumped about this post, but before I “begin again” (yep, I did) let me explain why Taylor is on my mind.  I have been a closet Taylor Swift fans for years. I know, I know. I realize I am 30 years old, but I feel like “22” people!   It all started with “Drew” and those “tear drops on her guitar,” but now the world knows: I.  Am.  A.   Taylor.  Swift.  Fan.  Whew!! That feels good coming out.    Now before you start hating, stop and ask yourself, “Am I a closet Taylor fan?” It’s okay, it really is.  If after contemplating your love for Taylor you find that your love runs dry, and you find yourself pointing a judgmental finger my way, “why you gotta be so mean?” Granted, if she ever starts twerkin on stage, I may reconsider.

Knowing I am on the Taylor Swift bandwagon, my husband offered to send me to her last concert in Nashville.  I, of course, was jumping up and down like a fifteen-year-old girl at one of her concerts – hmm.   Anyways, my husband in all of his sweetness did not realize that purchasing the tickets would be the equivalent to our monthly mortgage.  So no, I didn’t get to go. I was not “The Lucky One” (at least not this time).

Why are tens of thousands of people willing to spend hundreds (sometimes thousands) of dollars to watch Taylor live?

Story telling.

Taylor fan or not, you have to admit, she is an amazing storyteller.  The songs capture all of our senses and make us feel as though we are there with her. It is like we are sitting on those cold bleachers in our t-shirt and feeling the rejection of watching someone else who wears “short shorts” snag the guy – unless of course you were the girl in the shorts (different frame of reference).

When she sings “15,” as though it were yesterday, we remember that first day of high school and trying to figure out where we fit in.

Think about the “Tim McGraw” song.  Every time we hear it, we reminisce back to those old blue jeans we used to wear almost every day – hoping that the loser that broke up with us really regrets it.  We share her anger as she burns his picture and hates on his stupid old pick-up truck that he never let her drive.

After listening to“22,” I want to get dressed up like a hipster (which I am still trying to figure out what that would be exactly – glasses?) and then go out dancing.  However, I typically just end up in the living room busting out mad dance moves with the toddlers.

What does all this mean?  Here’s what it means: We need to get our “Taylor on” people!

No, I don’t mean having an air guitar show in the kitchen, hair thrashing and all.  Although, I do know from experience that this will get your kids’ attention (possible parenting strategy).  It does not mean we start writing angry songs about our husband when he forgets to take out the trash.

Getting your Taylor on simply means to be a storyteller.   There is a great story to be told.  “It’s a love story baby – just say yes!”  Say yes to telling yourself this story every day.

What is this story?  If you are a Christian, you have a story. Or, as Taylor likes to say, you have a song, but “our song” is not a “slamming screen door.”  Rather, our song is the fact that we slammed the door in the face of our great love – God Himself.   We said, “forget you;” I love myself more than I love you and I am going to write my own story.  The Bible teaches that this rebellion is called sin, and as a result, we deserve death (Romans 6:23).  If the story ended there, God would have been just to simply let us die in our sin – forever separated from Him.

But the story continues.  God sent His only Son, Jesus, who lived a perfect life for 33 years. Then, He was brutally murdered in my place on a bloody cross.  Not only was He publicly executed by the hands of evil men, but even more unfathomable, He was crushed by the wrath of His own Father for our sin.  Christ conquered death and the grave and now for those who believe in Him, they can be called the children of God.   He changes “our song” by giving us His story. If you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, this is your song: you had nothing to offer a holy King but the sin that nailed him to a tree, and yet He offered you eternal life – not because you were lovely, but to make you lovely.  But not just that, this great God offers us His unending and unconditional love.  Until we’ve been loved by Jesus, we’ve never truly been loved.

We need to remind ourselves of this story daily.  That is, that we had nothing to do with our salvation.  Not only this, but there is nothing we can do to keep our salvation – not even having a good Bible study.

The fact is, though many don’t even realize it, those around us are starving for this story.  Every woman desires to be loved for who she is, in spite of all of her flaws and shortcomings.  We have a greater story to tell than Taylor, and we must become Spirit-filled storytellers seeking to capture our listener’s senses with the great love of their heavenly Father.

When my kids are fighting in the backseat because apparently my oldest will not stop committing the crime of looking at his sister, the story must be told.

When big sister does not want to help little brother clean up the toys, the story must be told.  Jesus came and spilled His blood for our sins, all while He was sinless.  He cleaned up messes that He did not make.

When our children wake up with nightmares, tell them the story.  Christ is a conquering King!  He came to destroy not only Satan himself, but all of his boogey-men.

Additionally, we must pursue authenticity in our storytelling.

What do I mean by this?

Taylor has woven her life experiences – pain, rejection, joy, and confusion – into a melody that people can’t get out of their heads.    The media often pokes fun at Swift for getting inspiration from her breakups, but this is why we love her songs so much.  It’s because they are real.  Authenticity is something people will pay to see.

I would argue that many Christians are afraid to be authentic.  “If they knew how crazy I was they would punk out!” On the contrary, I would argue that authenticity will draw people to you! Craziness and jacked-up-ness loves company.

Authentic storytellers don’t “hide there crazy;” instead, they let it all hang out. They use it to point others toward the One who holds it all together.  God will use all of our pain, rejection, fears, joy, bruises, and scars for His story.  None of our pain is wasted. He is weaving all of these things together for our good and His glory.

We can step out in grace and be real with others because the cross has already told them how big of a failure we are and that we are loved in spite of it.  We don’t have to hide anything because the cross has already exposed everything.

Your kids, coworkers, church members, neighbors, and husband need to see you living authentically in the Lord. Real Christians are not wearing a halo and smiling all the time (those that pretend to make me want to punch them in the face). So get over it!  Your kids don’t need a super-mom, they need to see your tears – and then tell them the story.  People around you need to see you fail; then they are reminded, “Oh yeah! She is not saved because she is a perfect person, but because her trust is in a perfect Jesus!” Tell them how you sin, too, and that’s why Jesus came – to rescue this woman from herself.

Be an authentic storyteller.  If you need to use an air guitar, go for it!  Twittter @AnnieEdwards01

Here are some great storytellers that have helped me:

Ann Voskamp

Give Them Grace

Sarah Mae

Sally Lloyd-Jones

Miley Cyrus: Twerkin and TRUTH

Last night at the VMA’s, Miley Cyrus wanted her audience to know one thing: she’s a “big girl” now. The innocent little “Hannah Montana” that we all once knew is now nothing more than a memory. The risqué “grabbing”-twerkin-jerkin-random-teddy bears-tongue and “sweaty bodies everywhere” seemed to shock even the most seasoned of celebrities (check out the faces on Drake and Taylor Swift).

However, the thing that shocked me the most wasn’t so much the promiscuous escapade this young 20-year old girl put on in front of millions of people; what surprised me the most was the fact that Miley Cyrus was speaking the truth – well, kind of.
Here are some of her lyrics:
It’s our party we can do what we want
It’s our party we can say what we want
It’s our party we can love who we want
We can kiss who we want
We can see who we want (2x)
Red cups and sweaty bodies everywhere
Hands in the air like we don’t care
Cause we came to have so much fun now
Bet somebody here might get some now
If you’re not ready to go home
Can I get a hell no
Cause we gonna go all night
Till we see the sunlight alright
So la da di da di, we like to party
Dancing with Miley
Doing whatever we want
This is our house
This is our rules
And we can’t stop
And we won’t stop
Can’t you see it’s we who own the night
Can’t you see it we who bout’ that life
And we can’t stop
And we won’t stop
Believe it or not, Miley is exactly right. “She can’t stop and she won’t stop.” Like each of us, left to ourselves outside of Christ, the Bible teaches that we are “dead in our sin” and that we are “following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2). In other words, when it comes to living out the lustful desires of this world and our flesh, “We can’t stop,” and “We won’t stop.” Have you ever seen a corpse get up out of a coffin? No, they are dead. In the same way, as spiritually dead sinners outside of Christ, we cannot and will not stop living the life of an “all night” party consumed with the things that are displeasing to God.
Miley is not the first to have her “Disney star gone bad” moment.
Britney Spears (although retro now) had “Hit me baby one more time.” Christina was a “Genie in a Bottle.” Selena has an open invitation for, “When you are ready, come and get it.”

They each choose different wording, but the fundamental message is the same: “We are all grown up now and free to behave however we choose.” This so called “freedom” is a lie. For example, Britney Spears was right when she sang, “I’m a slave.” In John 8:34, Jesus says, “Truly, truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” The Bible teaches that this so-called freedom to live as we please is actually indicative of the fact that we are in shackles to our own pleasure – a pleasure that is fleeting and that ultimately leads to brokenness and destruction.
At the end of the day, being a slave to mere self-gratification leads to “self hangovers.” Yes, the party is fun; that’s why we do it. The problem is, too much is never enough. Once we begin to seek to satisfy the desires of our flesh, the appetite only increases and is never ultimately appeased. We can have all the sex, drugs, money, and fun right that this world has to offer. And sure, for a while, it will satisfy. However, over the course of a person’s life (typically sooner than later), we begin to realize there is still something missing.
Have you noticed we are never satisfied? We lose 10 pounds, but we want to lose ten more. We get a promotion, but within a few months we can’t get our eyes off the next step up the ladder. Whatever we’re receiving now, we often live under the false assumption that just a bit more would finally satisfy.
Scripture is clear that each of us have sinned (Rom. 3:23). In essence, sin our declaration, “Yeah God, I know you made me, but ‘it’s my party and I can say what I want, do what I want, and kiss who I want.” The problem is, it’s not really our party. It’s Gods party and He can and will do what He wants. He is the King, and He created us not for our own glory and recognition, but for His own. The greatest commandment He has given us is to love Him with all of our heart, soul, and mind. Anytime we say we are simply going to do what we want, we are grabbing the apple off of the tree and loving ourselves more than the Creator.
Miley is exactly right, “only God can Judge ya.” The fact is, for those of us outside of Christ, He is judging us right now, and in some sense, has judged us already (John 3:18). The call of the Gospel is to turn from self and turn to Christ. We can’t do what we want and please God at the same time. We can only go to His party if we are in with his Son, Jesus.
All of the things we are enjoying in this life – people, places, food, etc., are made to point us to the Creator. All of our cravings, desires, dreams, and pursuits are to lead you to the One who made you. Instead of worshipping the Creator, we so easily “throw our hands in the air like we don’t care” and worship the creation. All of the sex, money, fame, and success, are utterly incapable of finally satisfying us. We can live with the “It’s my party” attitude, but it will only lead to depression and frustration. It is a futile effort to ask and expect broken people, places and things to satisfy a longing in our hearts that only our Maker can fulfill.
My heart literally hurt for Miley last night. What I saw was a young lady that is filled with an inner restlessness – a young lady that is looking for attention and affirmation in all of the wrong places.
Several years ago Miley gave an interview for Good Morning America where she told the reporter she spent time reading her bible every day. I remember praying for her faith that day. Still today, my prayer for Miley is that she would come to see that there is a heavenly Father who longs to love and affirm her, not because of how she dances on stage, but because He made her in His image, for His glory – a heavenly Father who has numbered the hairs on her head, and desires to call her His daughter.
St. Augustine said, “My heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.” May Miley find her rest not in the spotlight and via the applauds of men, but may Miley find her rest in the One who seeks to rescue her with his own blood.
Thanks for visiting! Join me over at Twitter @AnnieEdwards01

Beautiful Scars: How the Miss Teen USA pageant saved my life. (sisters blog)

Great word from my little sister, Kelly Beth:

 

I am convinced that eating disorders are one of the most silent yet deadly diseases circulating the world today.  The South Carolina Department of Health estimates that, “8 million American’s have an eating disorder,” and “nearly half of all Americans personally know someone with an eating disorder.” I was one of those 8 million.

The first time I remember having ill thoughts towards my body was when I was in the 6thgrade. It all steamed from a rather large scar on my lower abdomen from where two large cancerous tumors were removed.  No one ever bullied me or told me it was ugly, but they didn’t have to. I saw images on the television, on the  cover of magazines in grocery store aisles, and on billboards of who the world esteemed as beautiful. All I knew is that my stomach looked a whole lot different from the images portrayed.  I wanted to be beautiful and so, I thought I had to change my appearance in order to achieve the kind of beauty I saw in the media. This was one of the very first lies I believed from Satan. Yet still, God was whispering truth to me through His written word, along side or my family and close Christian friends.

“I can’t eat that.” Those four words began filling my head on a daily basis. I aggressively started limiting what I ate with the sole purpose of losing weight. As with any other addiction, once you start it is very difficult to stop.  Over time, I developed a distorted image of myself.  In counseling I learned that this is called the body dysmorhpic disorder. I could tell you stories upon stories of the terrible things I did to lose weight, but I do not believe that will be beneficial. It was just very evident at this point in my life that my number one concern was with one thing: ME. My body image was at the forefront of every thought and I was willing to do whatever it took to achieve the world’s view of perfection.

Flash forward 5 years and there I was lying on the hospital bed with another scar on my stomach from an appendectomy surgery. It actually got infected leaving an even bigger scar.  The Lord reminded me, though I could not possibly understand it at the time, that no tear will ever be wasted and he had a plan for yes, even this scar. Little did I know He would use these marks on my body to humble me, remind me of the preciousness of life and continually sanctify me and give me a story to tell of His beautiful grace. I think He was constantly trying to get my attention. “Kelly Beth, what defines beauty for you? If it is the world than it will always be changing, you will never be able to keep up! But if it is me, then, my dear you are already there. You are beautiful because I made you and you are mine.”  Unfortunately, these huge revelations only lasted for a little time and I was back to my old ways. God was so very patient with me.

Growing up, I watched my sister compete in many pageants.  I always vowed I would never do one because walking in high heels and wearing a pound of make-up were just  “not my thing.”  However, after a 30 minute conversation with my sister, Annie,  and learning more about what pageants entail, I opted to compete in the Miss Illinois Teen USA pageant. Now I had an excuse to eat healthier (aka not eat) and work out more. Plus, I could get away with it because I was preparing for a pageant…Right!? I continued restricting food and working out like a maniac at the gym. At one point, one of the gym managers told me he thought I was doing way too much cardio and needed to call it a night. Finally, it was time for the pageant. I arrived there only to learn I was competing against something like 190 other girls from the state of Illinois. I thought to myself, “There is no way I will ever win this thing, so I am just going to have fun with it!” As it turns out, I ended up winning the entire thing. It was completely and surprisingly unexpected.

After winning, I began preparing for The Miss Teen USA 2005 pageant. The pressure was on at this point. The thought of wearing a bikini on national television was more than enough motivation/pressure to make me work like a crazy person to get in the best shape ever. At the same time I was obsessing about working out and eating “healthy,” I was speaking at church conferences and encouraging young girls to find their confidence in Christ and not seek their identity in the eyes of the world. Too bad I wasn’t believing the truth I was preaching. The well-known verse from Proverbs about beauty, “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised,” is one I often shared with others, but took very little time to meditate on myself. The Lord was constantly convicting my soul through my daily time spent in the word, but at the time, I was not ready to let go, I was not ready to surrender all of my wants and desires before the Father. I thought my way was best.

Flash forward to the Miss Teen USA 2005 pageant. We arrived there about two or three weeks before it was to go live on national television. We had the opportunity to work with professional choreographers and photographers, as well as attend a whole slew of events.  I am not gonna lie, it is still one of the most exciting times of my life, one of which it was truly an honor and a privilege to be a part of,  but there was a dark shadow quietly hovering over those weeks. My eating disorder was with me wherever I went, constantly telling me that I wasn’t as pretty or skinny as the other girls and that  I wasn’t enough. I hate thinking about how much time I wasted thinking about myself. It literally disgusts me. I would pray every night while I was there that Jesus would take this burden away and that he would make me content with the way He made me. Even though I felt alone in my struggle, I knew Jesus was near.

The night before the pageant was to go live I broke down in my parents hotel room. I confessed to them that I had been struggling with an eating disorder for quite sometime and I needed help. I am sure they were shocked because I was able to keep it a secret for so long. See, that is what Satan always wanted. He desired for me to keep it a secret so I wouldn’t get help. He didn’t want me to experience freedom. I think I smacked him in the face that night when I reached out for help and I felt a whole heck of a lot better after I did!

When my name was called for 3rd runner up, I went up to accept my flowers and looked across the thousands of people in the audience and saw my sister. I kid you not, it was as if a spot light was shinning on her. She was pointing up to heaven with a confident grin on her face. I knew what that grin meant. “This is God’s plan. This is not a mistake.” The Miss Teen USA pageant was a wonderful experience. It provided me with so many opportunities to grow as an individual and encourage my peers. Ironically, however,  it did something that might surprise many. It saved me. I believe God used the Miss Teen USA pageant to save me from myself. My eating disorder got so bad that eventually I had to tell someone.  And I did. I finally told my parents.

The next few years were quite a painful journey. There seasons when I experienced freedom, but soon would be followed by a relapse into the darkness of my previous ways. Some of my most painful memories were during those times. I would cry myself to sleep at night and wake myself crying in the morning, begging God to heal me, begging him to take this burden away.  I went through a few  outpatient programs at various treatment centers both locally and out-of-state. At many points, not only was I struggling with an eating disorder, but I was fighting clinical depression, as well. I honestly don’t know which one came first, all I knew is that I was miserable and I could not imagine a life free of this, but I wanted it oh so badly.

In my darkest hours, I felt the Lord near me. He was constantly trying to get my attention and reminding me of my great worth in His eyes.  ”Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but 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) “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

A lot of healing came through months and months of confessing and prayer. I started opening up to my family and friends and asking them to pray for me. I had difficulty functioning in college, not only with the eating disorder, but also battling the many health problems I had from having cancer multiple times. I moved back in with my parents during many seasons of my life. I am so grateful for the amazing, kind, patient, loving and supportive parents who handled and accepted my “messiness” with so much grace and prayer. They loved me in such a way that pointed me towards the unconditional love of my heavenly Father. The Lord also blessed me with amazing, godly friendships, who were always a phone call away. I found that healing for any addiction or sin issue can not be done apart from community and fellowship, for they provide you with a specific accountability that you can get on your own.

At one point, I became so consumed with myself and having the perfect body that I actually set up an appointment to see a plastic surgeon to “fix” my stomach. After meeting with him he explained that he would be very hesitant to do the surgery. He said, “Because you are clearly still battling an eating disorder, if I did the surgery, you would, more than likely, either not be satisfied with it, or find something else you wouldn’t like about your body.” I do not know if this surgeon was a man of God, but the Lord used this doctor to speak truth into my life. More than likely, if I had what I wanted: “the perfect stomach,” I would find something else I didn’t like about my body and the cycle would continue. I am so thankful for the honesty of this surgeon. What a gift to my life.  About two or three months after I met with the surgeon, I relapsed again.  I decided to enroll in an outpatient program for eating disorders that was provided by the college I attended. I am so grateful for the amazing counselors the Lord always seemed to provide me with. I was never alone.  And then, something crazy happened….again.

I was sitting at a coffee shop reading a book and I began to have a mini stroke. At the time, I had no idea. I mean, how many 22 year olds do you know who have strokes on a regular basis. A long serious of events occurred before we found out why and how it happened, but there I awoke on a hospital bed in Charleston, South Carolina after having open-heart surgery. The stroke (s) were caused by a benign tumor camping out on my mitral valve. Another large scar on my body and this time more visible. “What the heck are you up to God?” After the anesthesia had worn off, I confessed to my mom that I had been starving myself again. Because I believe that my God is sovereign over all things, I know that this “open-heart surgery thing” had not taken him by surprise, and it was a part of his plan. I believe the Lord used this surgery to wake me up and to serve as a reminder that we are only given one life on this earth.   And most importantly, my body doesn’t even belong to me, it belongs to Christ and so, I must take care of it! If this surgery hadn’t taken place, I truly believe I would have continued in my eating disorder and ultimately, probably would have died. In case you don’t know, people die from eating disorders. The South Carolina Department of Mental Health states, “The mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate of ALL causes of death for females 15 – 24 years old.”

Just like any struggle, battle or addiction, I had to set up boundaries for myself. To some people they may sound  silly, but they are what helped me and prevent me from relapsing. Some of them include limiting myself to how much and the type of media I take in on a daily basis. For example, sometimes seeing everyone’s perfect looking life on Facebook and Instagram is too much for me and so, I have to limit my time on there. Also, I don’t keep certain fashion magazines and catalogs lying around my house. Dozens of girls have contacted me throughout the years asking, “How did you do it? How did you overcome an eating disorder?” Unfortunately, there is not a quick fix I can offer up. And really and truly the best answer I can give is Jesus.  Obviously, there were some practical things I did on a regular basis that helped aid in the healing process, but everyone’s journey is different and I do not believe there is a special formula. I will share some things I found to be helpful:

1. Reading God’s word on a regular basis
2. Spending time in prayer
3. Seeking out medical help (doctor, dietician, counselor)
4. Listening to gospel filled sermons
5. Reading good books (John PiperDavid Platt, Ann VoskampPaul David Tripp,Elyse FitzpatrickElizabeth Elliot,  C.S. Lewis, and JI Packer are a few of my favorite authors here lately)
6. Getting plugged in at a church
7. Accountability partners
8. Surrounding yourself with people who love God and love you
9. Get in the habit of telling on yourself- Have at least one or two people you trust that you can confide in when you are in the midst of your struggle Example: If you get the urge to purge after a huge binge, you can call this person before you do it and have them pray with you or even come over and be with you until the desire passes
10. Get off Facebook, Instagram, Twitter- I know it sounds extreme, but if you are serious about getting over this you will take extreme measures to cut stuff out of your life that causes you to focus on YOUR  BODY. It doesn’t have to be a forever thing, just a for now thing. :)
11. Get outside and enjoy God’s beautiful nature-Go on a hike, go swimming, go for a walk with a friend! The sun does wonders for your soul and so does getting a little active.
12. Be confident that you are never alone. God is near. Know that your life is never too messy for God. He has a plan and purpose for your life and He will never give up on His children.

I hope I haven’t fooled you into thinking I lead a life completely free of wanting to change things about myself. However, the Lord has freed me from the life-destructive habits and thoughts of an eating disorder. It did not take place overnight and it was a very very painful process, but God is always faithful to His children and overtime, He freed my soul. He also is continually reminding me of just how silly it is to be consumed by my outer appearance. This body is only temporary. And thank goodness for that, because over the past few years I have accumulated another set of scars from more cancer surgeries.  Our ultimate destination is to be with Christ in heaven. If I am constantly thinking about myself, then I am missing opportunities to serve, love and encourage those around me. Let us never ever forget that He made us EXACTLY the way we are for a PURPOSE. Let me repeat: He made you EXACTLY the way you are for a PURPOSE. Oh Lord, please teach us to be grateful for the body and life you have given us and stop trying to look like the not-so-real-because-they-have-been-edited bodies we see on the television screen. Amen.

Can I be honest? I believe a TON of people are walking around with eating disorders and are one, in denial or two, don’t believe that they could possibly have one. If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, please know that there is HOPE and His name is Jesus. The Lord is a miraculous healer. Nothing is too big for Him. Do not think that you are a lost cause. God will never and I mean NEVER give up on you.

Here are some links, if you are interested, to gain a better understanding of what an eating disorder is and the great harm it causes.

What is an eating disorder? 
NY Times Article on eating disorders
Dangerous Effects of Eating Disorders

This is one of the questionnaire’s some doctors use to determine if their patient has an eating disorder. I found it very helpful.

Scoff Questionnaire:

Do you make yourself Sick because you feel uncomfortably full? Do you worry you have lost Control over how much you eat? Have you recently lost more than 14 pounds in a 3-month period? Do you believe yourself to be Fat when others say you are too thin? Would you say that Food dominates your life? Answering yes to two of these questions is a strong indicator of an eating disorder.

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Babbling Beauty Queens: What Miss Utah’s “Epic Failure” Teaches Us About the Gospel of Christ

And the 2013 Miss USA is . . . Yep, that’s right. As an ex-pageant girl, I thought it was only appropriate that I briefly address last Sunday night’s Miss USA pageant on ABC. Miss USA and Miss America are the “Superbowls” of pageants, so don’t judge me, I had to watch (It’s like my husband feeling the need to watch every single NCAA basketball game during March Madness – even when UK is not playing).

With that being said, I have to say congrats to Erin Brady (Miss Connecticut) who won this year’s crown in Las Vegas. However, being a pageant expert (giggles), I was thoroughly convinced that Miss Utah – Marissa Powell – had it in the bag. She was breathtakingly beautiful (at least on the outside, of course I don’t know her heart). Like I tell my little 3 year old girl on a regular basis, it doesn’t matter if you are beautiful on the outside if you have an ugly heart on the inside.

Nevertheless, the stunning Miss Utah seemed to have the complete package, and as the pageant drew to an end, she was the clear favorite to win. Then it happened – one of every pageant girl’s worst nightmares (right up there with tripping in her high-heel shoes as she struts across stage in her 2-piece). It was the ever-important “final question” – the chance to either seal the deal, or crash and burn. Unfortunately, for Miss Utah, it became what one blogger is calling the “epic fail,” and what The New York Post is calling a “painfully awful pageant answer.” Perhaps these are both grossly-gracious understatements.

The question: “A recent report shows that in 40 percent of American families with children, women are the primary earners, yet they continue to earn less than men. What does this say about society?”

The Answer: “I think we can relate this back to education, and how we are continuing to try to strive to (l…o…n…g…e…s…t “pause” . . . . ever) figure out how to create jobs right now. This is the biggest problem. And I think, especially the men are…umm…seen as the leader of this, and so we need to try to figure out how to create educate better so we can solve this problem. Thank you.”

This is where I buried my head in a pillow in utter defeat. First and foremost, I hated it for her (and hurt for her), but additionally, this meant that once more I failed to pick the winner, and my husband (once more) did pick the winner (no, I don’t let him watch the swimsuit portion of the competition).

Anyway; wow! The answer to the final question was definitely an “epic fail.” However, to be fair, in order to have made it into the top five she had to have had a good interview in the preliminaries. So, although she sounded like a babbling idiot on stage, she had to have been great in the preliminary interview. Regardless, the poor girl is being ridiculed for having a brain fart on stage (sorry mom, I know you have taught me better). The fact is, we all have brain farts, and in my case, I have them on a fairly consistent basis (if you saw my grammar before I hit “spell check” on this, you would agree). It actually reminds me of a time when I was competing for Miss Illinois. A judge asked me why I was going to go to college in Kentucky. My answer: “I am just sick of Illinois and I can’t wait to get out. I need something different.” Now that was an epic fail (and no, little to your surprise, I did not win that pageant). So, we all have these moments, but the difference is most of us won’t ever be put in the position of having such an embarrassing moment in front of millions of people on national television.

Thus, my heart goes out to Miss Utah and all the other girls that were “rejected” last night. You may not know this, but it is hard work being a pageant girl. Getting yourself prepared to prance around on stage with the goal of having a panel of judges come to the conclusion that you are the most beautiful girl in the room . . . hard work (and yes, as I’ve confessed in previous blogs, such a desire and ambition CAN BE prideful – a pride for which I’m thankful the blood and grace of Jesus is sufficient to forgive).

But yes, it’s hard work. There are LOTS of hours in the gym. LOTS of volunteering and appearances (gotta build that resume). LOTS of dietary restrictions (my poor husband struggles with our current eating habits; he wouldn’t have lasted a week with me back in the pageant days). For example, I always gave up eating pasta and bread – getting hungry just thinking about such inhumane restrictions. Then, there was the interview training (learning how not to stumble over your words in front of millions of people). LOTS of money on dresses (and in some cases, various types of “physical enhancements”). It was work! This all ultimately culminates into “the big show.” There are fifty-one beautiful women that have sculpted bodies, perfect hair, and teeth as white as Chiclets. There is glitz and certainly glamour, but everything comes down to the final question. For Miss Utah, the final question sent her soaring (or flailing) into 3rd place – depending on how you look at it:)

How devastating to spend hours upon hours of your life on a dream, only to go home without a crown.

Similarly, some of us are working very hard at being “good.”

“If I am just good enough, God will love me.” However, the Scripture teaches, “no one is good” (Romans 3:11), and that certainly no one can be “good enough.” There is only one person that ever has or ever will be good enough, and that person is Jesus Christ. Furthermore, the “good” news is, He died for your sin. This is a mysterious beauty – the beauty of Christ. God came to earth and took upon flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. He is Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” Jesus, although He had no sin, laid his body against a rugged cross. There, his flesh was torn, his side was pierced, and his body was beaten. Why? For our sin, and surprisingly, for our alleged “good deeds” – the “good deeds” of which we learn in Isaiah 64:6 that even the most “righteous” of those deeds are merely as “filthy rags” in comparison to the righteousness and holiness of God).

Nevertheless, this is Beauty – that the spotless One dies for the spotted ones; that the Righteous One died for the rebellious; that the Holy One dies for the heinous; that God would die for man. Ultimately, we see in the Gospel that Jesus did not die for us because we were lovely, but Jesus died for us to make us lovely – the kind of lovely that doesn’t come from make-up, ab crunches, and plastic surgery – but the kind of lovely that comes from the crimson red blood that flowed from the side of the Son of God.

Pageants will always have judges. Likewise, there is going to be a final day when we will stand before our Judge, a perfect Judge – a Judge against whom each of us have sinned deeply. A judge not impressed by “the show;” a Judge that looks not at the outside, but at the heart. When this Judge looks at us, He’s not looking for a list of rules kept, laws obeyed, and good deeds performed. Rather, He is looking for pure righteousness – a righteousness that must come from outside of us, a righteousness that comes only from Christ. Do not be like the Pharisees, whom Jesus said are, “like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to brothers, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

Speaking of Judgment Day, Jesus says in Matthew 7:22f, “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ and then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you worker of lawlessness.’” On the great and dreadful Day of Judgment, will you say, “I have been so good! Where is my crown? Aren’t I worthy?”

This is futile, hopeless, and preposterous. If we say such words, we will sound like a babbling idiot. However, the good news is that Jesus came for such idiots (idiots such as me, myself, and I). Jesus came for the babbling, the weak, the downtrodden, the hurting, and the outcast. He came for the people that don’t have it together. Jesus “had it together” perfectly for 33 years, because He knew that we couldn’t. Then, He shed his blood for us. Now, the invitation is open for any of us: that we can turn from our “good deeds,” self-reliance, and self-righteousness; that we can turn from ourselves, and trust in Him. Pageants and crowns are inseparable. Likewise, Christians are inseparable from the matchless love and grace of God. God redeems our life from the pit, and crowns us with steadfast love. Won’t you rest in His love and stop trying so hard?

How many of us are striving so hard to “stay on God’s good side,” and working so strenuously so that someday He’ll judge that we’ve done enough? We put on our spiritual makeup and talk the spiritual lingo. We do are devotionals and pray and try being the best mom, daughter, friend, etc. But it’s just so stinking exhausting! If we are honest sometimes we wonder, “Why am I doing this? I should be perfect by now!” Recently, I overheard my son tell his father, “but mommy doesn’t know how to play (speaking of basketball).” Have we forgotten how to “play” and enjoy the small things? Playing doesn’t seem as spiritual as working. I want to live a life that is characterized by a restful enjoyment (on occasion rightly likened unto “playing”) in the presence of my Father, all the while enjoying all that He has given me. We must remind ourselves daily that He doesn’t love us because we’re good girls; rather, He loves us because we’re His girls.

Rest in Christ. We are able rest in Christ, because all of the work has already been done; in fact, Jesus told us that it was “finished” at the cross. We can and will fail. However, in the words of Brennan Manning in Ragamuffin Gospel, “The mature Christians I have met along the way are those who have failed and have learned to live gracefully with their failure. Faithfulness requires the courage to risk everything on Jesus, the willingness to keep growing, and the readiness to risk failure throughout our lives . . . .we can’t lose, because we have nothing to lose.”

In conclusion, stop trying to build your spiritual portfolio; you are probably annoying yourself and others. Take off your makeup. God already knows what you look like and He adores you – babbling Idiots and all! If you’ve trusted in Jesus, when He looks at you He no longer sees your sin; instead, He sees the Beauty of Christ. God has your entire life story in His hands – the ugly and the beautiful. He’s got this. Now go play, and rest well tonight.