Modest Is REALLY Hottest In Hell (Christians & Bikinis)

 

modest is hottest

Modest is Hottest; it’s also true in hell.

What will you be wearing on the day of judgment? Scantily-clad or not, we could be in for a surprise. The Bible tells us that on the last day there will be many seemingly good people, who in all likelihood dressed quite modestly, to whom Jesus will say, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23).

These individuals will be DEVESTATED because they thought they were GOOD. After all, they were covered in good deeds.

They were covered in humble dress: one-piece bathing suits, tankinis, and shorts to their knees,

They were fully-clothed in church attendance, giving to the poor, and a near flawless morality.

Wearing a one-piece or not, these individuals may soon find themselves swimming in the wrath of God for all of eternity.

How shockingly scary. This verse ought to shake our souls out of slumber and compel us to cry out for those trusting in their own goodness for salvation.  We must examine our own fragile estate and make sure we are resting on the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ and not our own triumphs.

To the religious crowd who was trusting in their own morality for salvation, Jesus said, “For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and uncleanness.” (Matthew 23:27)

Looks can be deceiving. We can look wholesome and clean on the outside, and yet our hearts can be a million miles from God.

Heaven is not a place for good girls – prudes properly celebrating each other’s goodness for all of eternity.  On the contrary, heaven is a place for those who have realized they are completely jacked up and in desperate need of being saved from their own goodness. Jesus looked through the swimsuit we were wearing and saw deep into a soul that was plagued with sin. He didn’t come for the healthy and the modest, He came for the sick and vile.

Christianity is not about wearing a bikini or one-piece.   Our hope is only found in wearing the righteousness of Christ – a garment none of us deserve or have merited.

If you have not read part one of The Swimsuit Edition: God Loves The Hoochie Mama, click here to jump in the conversation.

Let’s continue to walk through the process of deciding what to wear this summer.

 

Does it cause another to stumble?

More specifically, does wearing a Bikini cause others to stumble.  Yes, of course it does. Victoria’s Secret created an empire off of lust. Frankly, it’s difficult to see how some bathing suits are that much different from panties and  push-up bras. One might say, “It’s okay because we are at a beach.” But does lust go on a vacation at the beach? Umm . . . no. I would argue lust is very much hot and heavy on the shorelines and at the local pools. Lust has no regard for context or culture. Men and women are sinful at beaches, pools, kitchens, shopping centers, America, Spain, France (in nudist colonies), strip clubs, and church pews.

What causes us to lust? Is it leggings, cleavage, short skirts, bathing suits, smoldering Latin accents, handle bar mustaches or chiseled abs?

handlebar-moustache

Sin causes us to lust. We are all sinners who lust, and we are all in need of Jesus.

We would find a way to lust even if everyone was covered in burlap from head to toe. All of a sudden necks and earlobes would be the new sexy.

As Christian women, sometimes we simply say, “It’s my body. I can do what I want.” But again, it’s actually not our body; it’s His body.   Our bodies were purchased with a price – the price of the Son of God (1 Cor. 6:20).

Other times we’ll say, “Well, men are going to lust no matter what I wear, so why does it matter? It’s not my problem, it’s their problem.” Well, maybe that’s true, but does that mean it would be wise to dangle a crack-pipe in front of a drug addict, and just tell them to “man up” and gain some self-control? Of course not. Sometimes we make decisions not based upon what we have the freedom to do, but based upon what is in the best and most loving interest of those around us. Jesus calls us to love our neighbor as our self. If what we are wearing will in a unique and obvious kind of way likely cause our neighbor to stumble into sin, are we loving them (as Jesus commanded)?

Side note:  I am  convinced that many times women are choosing what outfit to wear in order to impress other women.    We are just as bad as men when it comes to checking each other out…I’ve seen it and I am sure you have too…A woman walks into a room and she is devoured from head to toe by other women!  We can cause one another to struggle with lust(non-sexually) by stirring up insecurities of the soul.  I wonder how many eating disorders, depression, anxiety, anger, and fear are birthed from seeing other women half dressed.

 

Can we help one another lust less?

What it really comes down to is that when we become Christians, it is no longer about our body, it becomes about being a part of HIS body – the church.

It is no longer about good tan lines and getting attention. Our lives becomes one in which we die to ourselves, considering others in the body of Christ. We exists for one another.

Our brothers and sisters have told us that dressing immodestly causes them to lust, and when our family is hurting (or struggling), we should be hurting. To love a brother in Christ isn’t to tell him just to get a grip on his lust. To love a brother in Christ is to sacrificially and selflessly go out of our ways to guard and protect him the sin that so easily besets him. They struggle enough as it is; let’s not do anything to complicate the matter. Are guys going to struggle with lust regardless? Yes, probably. Yet God forbid that we be the reason for them to fall into sin.  Jesus said in such a case, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”

The bikini was named after an atomic bomb. I wonder if it sets off an explosion of lust in the souls of others.

I often hear women say, “Well my husband is ok with what I am wearing.”

Husband, I am sure you love seeing your wife naked (you should and I hope you do often) but encourage her to save that sexiness for your eyes only. Don’t allow other men to take visuals of your wife into the bedroom with them at night to play in the rolodex of their minds.

To be honest, my passion for helping our brothers has grown tremendously since having sons. OH. MY.

I did not have any brothers growing up so I was in shocked to discover how entirely different boys are from girls. Fixated on anatomy…just saying.

I want my boys to be great lovers one day when they are married. I want them to be naked and unashamed with their wives. I want my kids to have fantastic sex lives.  This comes through understanding who God has created them to be and the boundaries that He lovingly sets up for his children.

Yes, I want their eyes on Christ, but this is so hard because there are so many shiny things everywhere begging for their attention.

One of those things is beautiful women. High schoolers running in bra-tops, virtually every commercial they see on television, and even their sister’s Barbie dolls . . . they are all asking my boys to glance their way and stay awhile. So we tell them to “bounce” their heads when they see something inappropriate, but sometimes you can just about get whiplash trying to avoid sin.

I want to fight for their eyes, but I realize that the battle is not for the eyes; it is for the heart.

Women are to be treasured, respected, honored, and valued. Yet the media tells them women are for sex and merely objects to be used.

Women also can make this exact same statement with their clothing.

What should our take away be?

This posts asks the question, “What should Christian women be wearing at the beach this summer?”

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Freedom

“It is for freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Gal 5:1)

“But He rescued us to be free, so why are you trying to put the heavy yoke of a modest swimsuit on me?”

(I have a friend who compared a one piece bathing suit to a cocoon, in which a beautiful butterfly was trapped inside of.)

Do we say, “Let freedom ring, lets put on a string?”

We are free from the slavery of sin, not free to do whatever we want. We are free to love God and to love others. We are free to be loved by God.

A woman who is covered by love is going to look different from the world.

Following Christ changes our talk, dress, eating . . . it changes everything!!!!

Sometimes loving looks more like dying. Before Christ we were white-knuckling our life – afraid to let go. Christ took our lives, and now it is not our own.

Christ set the example for love when He laid down His life for us. We are free to lay down our life for others. We are free to be servants laying down our lives for others and for the glory of God. We are free to be extend peace to parched eyes, but how can we show the peace of Christ when we are waging war on the eyes of others and fighting for their attention, groveling for their applause?

Finally, we are free to take it all off!

Let’s take it all off this summer! Take off all of our pride. Take off all of our selfishness. Less is more. Let’s clothe ourselves in humility, love, and respect. Let’s be a people that bear each others burdens, instead of baring it all.

Let’ bare our souls before the eyes of God, instead of our bodies for the praise of men and women.

We don’t dress modestly because we are ashamed of the bodies God has given us. We cover because of love.

How can we make this summer a selfless summer? Just remember you are choosing more than a swimsuit this summer.

There is no doubt this post will offend people that why it has taken me so long to write about this topic. My hope is that this will start a conversation that will challenge our thinking, making us hunger to love Christ and others more.

Christian, we should not be rolling our eyes at cleavage hanging out and huffing and puffing over short skirts. We should run to these women and welcome them into our homes because they are no different from us – just different struggles.

Let us clothe ourselves in humility summer.

Stop Hatin’

Remember this ancient saying…… “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.”

Love covers a multitude of sins (I Peter 4:8).

 

 

 

God Loves The Hoochie Mama (Swimsuit Edition)

bikini

 

In the beginning God created bikinis.

No, that’s not right . . . there were actually no bikinis, pants, shirts, shoes, underwear, boxers, or briefs.

God did not intend for us to be strutting around in bikinis. He intended for us to walk around as naked as a jay-bird.

God created Adam and Eve, and then He placed them in the garden. Here, Genesis 2:25 tells us, “the man and his wife were both naked and not ashamed.”

Everyone was naked, and everything was perfect.

BUT . . . (no pun intended) Adam and Eve disobeyed God and decided to eat out of the only tree from which God told them to stay away.

Lusting after a mere piece of fruit changed everything. When Eve saw that the tree was, “good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desired to make one wise (Gen. 3:6),” she took a bite and shared it with Adam.

At that moment, sin entered the world. At that moment, Adam and Eve (and the rest of us to follow) lost their free pass to let it all hang out. The nudist colony was officially shut down (at least in public places). Instead, the Bible tells us the couple tried to hide themselves with fig leaves because they were ashamed. It was like one of those nightmares where you go to class and you look down and realize you are naked. For the first time in human history, exposed genitalia caused faces to blush.

Why were they ashamed?

They knew that they had sinned. And guess what? We would have done the same thing (eaten the apple and ran).

God Covered Them In Love

God could have left them in their nakedness, plagued with shame and insecurity.   Instead, in a gracious act of love, He covered them with, “garments of skins and clothed them.” As the Scripture says, love covers a multitude of offenses (and in this case, love covered a multitude of awkward body parts).

This is the message of the Christian faith; it is a loving God clothing us in love. A God that opens His arms to the spiritually naked and ashamed and says, “Come, let me take your shame and clothe you with righteousness.”

The Bible tells us a story in which God says, “See my son Jesus, yeah the one hanging out with all the prostitutes, drunkards, lepers, downtrodden, and outcasts? Yeah, Him. He has obeyed me perfectly, and He is going to be sacrificed on the cross for your sin of lust, greed, discontentment, self-righteousness, anger, and failure to obey. Then I am going to take His righteousness and cover all of your flaws and shortcomings. I am going to exploit my Son, so you don’t have to be exploited. I will hang Him naked and ashamed on a cross, so that your sins will be covered by His blood. I will forsake Him so that I can accept you.”

The Gospel reminds us that we no longer have to be ashamed, because we can be hidden in Christ.

Christian, our arms should be wide opened to the naked and ashamed because our Savior pursued the naked and ashamed with His entire life. Jesus loves the hoochie mama, and you better believe that includes all of us because sisters, we were all harlots and we were all whoring after the gods of pleasure, power, and praise.

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An Explicit Summer

Summer. Oh the season when temperatures rise and clothes come off. A time when it is “okay” to be uncovered.

Our culture celebrates nakedness with songs like, “It’s getting hot in here, so take off all your clothes.”

There is nothing to be ashamed of, they tell us. After all, “it’s your body. Do what you want with it! Take it off! Get rid of those fig leaves. There is no need to hide. Don’t be ashamed of who you are!”

Let others do what they want with your body. Lady Gaga sings, “Do what you want with my body.”

Of course this makes sense for a culture that has itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny thoughts of God.

Growing up, dressing modestly was something that my youth group strongly encouraged. I remember at camp we would have to make sure our shorts were longer than our finger-tips. I always hated the fact that my arms were so freakishly long (#TallGirlProblems). Our youth pastor always encouraged us to, “guard each others hearts.” I always thought to myself, “If those pimpled face youth boys can’t control what goes on in their pants when I am around, that is their own fault. They need to get it together. Show some self control! I am going to dress however I want. After all, God gave me this body – why should I hide it? Besides, Jesus came in the flesh so they can keep their eyes off my flesh. I am actually giving them an opportunity to show the power of Jesus over sin (such compassion).”

Regardless of all of the speeches that I had heard, I put on a bikini because I wanted to look good and have amazing tans lines.

Then I took it to an entirely new level when I decided to compete in pageants and wear a bikini in front of hundreds of people on a stage with a spotlight on my rear.

I LOVED THE ATTENTION. It wasn’t just the men who were staring. The women noticed the power of the bikini as well. To say that I was on a power trip would be an understatement. Winning “swimsuit” competitions did not help with my pride that was inflating by the second (held up by an underwire pushup bra all the while). Having all eyes on me was awesome. Women were jealous, and men wanted me (or at least that’s what I thought).

One night when Jamus and I were dating in college, I remember going coming down the stairs in a pair of shorts (with “Wildcats” across the rear-end) that were entirely too short. The look on his face told it all. I had his attention, and this is what I wanted – power. I knew that I was causing him to stumble, and yet in an incredibly sinful kind of way, I liked it.

At the end of the day, God created our body to glorify Him. Psalm 139 says, “I was fearfully and wonderfully made,” in that we bear the image of God Himself. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians that Jesus purchased our body with His own blood; thus, we should “glorify God with our bodies.”

It makes sense that those outside of the world are naked (or at least close to it) and unashamed. But what about Christians? Is it okay for us (those who have been called from the darkness into light) to wear bikinis?

Here are some questions we should ask ourselves in making a decision on what to wear this summer.

First, does the Bible speak clearly to the issue? In particular, does the Bible prohibit bikinis?

2 Timothy 2:9 says, “Likewise also women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire.”

Let’s be clear. This verse does not say, “Thou shalt not wear a bikini.” However, what is implied is that women should dress in a humble way that does not draw attention to themselves.

A great question to ask ourselves is, “What is my purpose in wearing this outfit? What is my motivation? Does this article of clothing glorify God (or me)? Am I making much of God, or myself? Am I asking others to look at me, or Him? Does this make me feel powerful?”

The reason I will not be wearing a two-piece bathing suit this summer (besides my muffin top) is because I would be wearing it to grab people’s attention.   My tendency would be for people to think, “Man, she has been to the gym! Wow; she looks hot!” I’m certainly not implying this is the case with every woman (maybe it’s not this way for you at all), but for me, that’s just how I would roll. My ears love to hear the applause of people.

Does it hurt us?

Although we may look powerful strutting our stuff across the stage of life revealing all of our amazingness, we are actually hurting ourselves. We live in a sex-saturated culture where men and women are simply looking for the next wave of stimulation. It is all about an image, isn’t it? When we look like the culture, we are asking to be a selected for their visual stimulation. “Can I be your next image? Will you desire me?”  “Let me be your eye candy!”

Is this outfit causing me to be seen as a sex symbol? Am I blending in with my surroundings?

This is the first part of The Swimsuit Edition.  Follow me here to find out when the next one is published.

Lets start a dialogue about this topic.  Share this post and lets start chatting.

What are you thoughts concerning what Christians should be wearing this summer?  Should we let it all hang out or cover up?

 

‘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.

 

Goodbye, Bravermans

ash
“Mommy, WHAT is on your forehead?”

How do I explain ashes to a very confused four year old? How do I tell her of frailty and mortality?

“Honey,” I say, “this is a reminder.”

Ellie says, “A reminder?” She’s obviously still confused, although very aware of her mother’s forgetfulness (keys, phone, wallet, school papers, etc.).

I reply, “Yes, a reminder that mommy needs Jesus.”

She says, “But MOMMY, you already have Him.” (Score! At least she recognizes that I “have Jesus,” because I’m sure that some days she has to wonder).

Then I say, “Yes, I have Jesus, but sometimes mommy forgets that I need Him every day – even this very moment. These ashes on my head remind mommy that I am not a superhero, and I am in need of rescuing. Jesus rescues me!”

Why Ashes?

Living in the land of entitlement where we feel as though we deserve the car we are driving, the house we are living in, the food we are enjoying, and the entertainment we are consuming, we need to be somberly reminded that the only thing we actually deserve is hell. We are entitled to God’s wrath and judgment; after all, Romans 6:23a teaches us, “the wages (or payment) of sin is death.”

I will confess that so many times, I think God owes me comfort. I deserve to sit here, watch Parenthood, and eat my popcorn because I worked hard today. “God, I did laundry all day; I deserve to sleep well tonight.”
bravermans

In a dark sanctuary lit only in candles – singing songs of brokenness and repentance – I would join a line of other sinners, who like me, were in need of a reminder. It was our sin; it was my sin that nailed Jesus to the cross.

Looking into a mirror, I take the ashes and paint my forehead with a cross. From dust I came and to dust I will return. No, I am not immortal. I will die. Someday soon I will find myself lying in a casket. Looking in the mirror, I pray that I would see myself for who I truly am – a sinner in need of grace. But there is more to it than that. I was not left to merely be consumed as ashes, but Christ covered me with beauty through pouring out His blood on the cross.

There is something bittersweet about mourning. My husband tells me I am really good at mourning. Lament could possibly be my spiritual gift. I find myself thinking and turning my thoughts towards why I sin. Oh how often I feel the heaviness of sin, and I cannot wait to see heaven’s gates open up. Then, and only then will I no longer have the desire to bow down to other loves. God’s wrath was poured out on Jesus for my sin, and He has not wrath remaining for me. Therefore, I can run freely to His throne. I don’t have to hide my sin; He knows it all, and yet He still loves me – and it’s all because of Jesus.

Mourning may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5).

And so we turn off our television set, not to show how much self-control we have, or even that we are keeping ourselves from something the Lord has given us to enjoy. No, we turn of the tube to ask the Lord to remind us that all we really need is Him, and that all things are a gift, even watching the Bravermans.

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.

Beyonce, The Grammys and When I Almost Kissed Another Man

Beyonce grammys
“You need to grow a pair!”
These are the words I yelled to my husband the night he told me I couldn’t kiss another man. Other profound statements that immediately followed were, “You are just insecure;” “you’re just not man enough.” Marital bliss was surely on the verge of destruction all because I wanted to kiss another man and my pastor-husband was not okay with it. Really?!? Are you kidding me? I am about to land the lead role of Maria in West Side Story and you are going to let your insecurities keep me from my dream! So what if I would have to have a pretend love scene with another man – it is acting. It’s called art. Plus, an opportunity like this does not come around every day.

My husband was jealous for me. He did not want to share me with anyone – even if it was just for entertainment. The thought of me pretending to love another man made him nauseous and angry. Mistakenly I accused him of being insecure when what was really happening was my husband was seeking to protect and cover me in his love. Like Boaz on the threshing floor with Ruth, he had placed his blanket over me and vowed to love and protect me, even if that was protecting me from myself.

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Drunk On Love

There is no doubt Beyoncé gave an intoxicating performance at the Grammys singing “Drunk On Love” with her husband Jay-Z. It would be more appropriate to title the song “Drunk On Beyoncé.” Leather. Wet hair. Bumping and Grinding. Racy. Sexual. Sultry. It was everything the producers could have hoped for and more –it was scandalous to say the least. They forgot to include chains and whips but these bondage devices were unnecessary because everyone’s eyes were chained to the pop star- like wax before an open flame.

Still, many of us saw Beyoncé’s performance and thought to ourselves, “Well, she must think she is something – sitting up on that chair like a goddess!” I get it! Most of us would not want to do a chair dance for the world to see, but so often we still have a desire for power. Lorde was right to sing that although most of us realize, “We will never be royals,” we still have a fantasy to rule. So we sit on top of our thrones and attempt to rule our own kingdoms. “This is my party; I can do what I want! I can marry whomever I want, touch whatever I want, eat what I want,” etc. Though outwardly we appear to be a dominatrix taking control of our lives, whipping everyone into shape, we end up paralyzed and tangled in our own chains of bondage. We become a slave to the “wave,” literally stuck out in an ocean of sin (on our little surf board) just waiting for the next big wave, only to be disappointed the fun did not last. Yet this so-called power is only an illusion.

lorde

Shocked? No, I am not shocked by a pop star twerking half dressed on stage or grinding on a surf board. I was more shocked when 17 year old Lorde kept her clothes on during a performance!! Sad is the word I would use to describe how I felt after watching this married couple grab each other on stage. Don’t get me wrong; I am all about married couples enjoying sexual intimacy, and I am also all for women feeling good about themselves after having babies – but do we need the entire world to see?

It crossed my mind that somewhere in time the married couple had to have the following conversation: She said, “Honey, I think I am going to do a chair dance on stage for millions to watch.” He said, “Sounds GREAT!”

After watching Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s “Drunk On Love” performance at the Grammys, I was reminded of how thankful I am that my husband 8 years ago took a stand to keep me for himself and didn’t share me with the world. My husband was jealous for me.

Jay-Z was ok with his wife spreading her legs for the entire world to see. Jay-Z apparently saw no problem with millions of men taking his wife to bed that night – a leather thong playing through the Rolodex of their minds.

Even Jamie Foxx admitted openly and casually to America the fact that he could not stop thinking about Beyoncé’s smoking hot performance. If a man walked up to my husband and said the same thing, I shiver at what would happen to that man.

Men – young and old – are being trained to exploit women.

Performances like what we see at the Grammys is a training-ground for young eyes. We are shocked and horrified that human sex trafficking is taking place in America (and rightfully so). But we should also be angered at artists who encourage men to view women simply as objects instead of individuals created in the image of God.

The culture is teaching my sons the following:

They need to be looking for the next exciting, sexy image. So they flip through the channels until they find a stimulating image – always flipping back and forth – never satisfied long enough.

Women are not to be respected. They are objects for a man’s viewing and using pleasure, and when you get bored, you simply move onto the next hot thing.

Women are for sex. Her face is replaced with genitals in a way that is depersonalizing. The pornography industry is the epitome such.

Our boys are learning it’s all about conquering women instead of treasuring one woman.

They are learning to be an abuser instead of a protector.

They are being taught that women want a guy who will come and get it.

Not only is the culture communicating something very harmful to our boys, but our girls are hearing mixed-messages that their entire self-worth is based upon how well they perform.

My little Ellie, for example, will be faced with the questions: Is she pretty and sexy enough to get a man’s attention? Can she entertain him? Can she keep his attention with her performance? Dress? Talk? Texting?

Where a man is looking for a vivid image, our daughters are learning they need to be that image (and that they need to be as skinny as the girl on the cover of the Victoria’s Secret magazine).

She is learning to be exploited, used, and rejected – over and over again. Is this what we want for our children? To be exploited?

Oh how we need a love that will not exploit, leave us, take advantage of us, and merely use us?
Yes, women need love from a Man, and that Man is Jesus.

Christ was exploited. He was punished for sins that He did not commit. His love is unfathomable. Jesus’ love is a love that longs to cover us. It is a love that does not ask us to do anything to merit its affections. We don’t have to perform. We don’t have to entertain. We don’t have to be the prettiest or the best. We’re accepted not because of how beautiful we are, but in spite of how spiritually ugly our sin can make us. Jesus’ love is a love that covers all of our ugly sin and clothes us in his righteousness.

Bitter Sweet

Finally!! The 10-pound bag of Halloween candy that was wreaking havoc on our home has been “donated” to a good cause (aka, destroying the sanity of another unsuspecting family in our church). To be honest, I was eating more candy than my kids, so it had to go. It was a bad-day-binge-session waiting to happen.

However, before I parted ways with the bag of refined sugar, I needed one more high (yes, I’ll be drinking a green smoothie after to make up for it). I tore into a bag of Skittles and was expecting to taste a bit of “rainbow” in my mouth but this wasn’t just any Skittle – it was a sour Skittle. SICK!!! I was repulsed. My jaw locked, eyes started to water and just as I was about to spit out the bitterness, I started to taste something . . . sweet. What a nice little surprise for my taste buds; hidden within the bitterness was a chewy sweetness. The rainbow tastes good! The entire bag was devoured. I was amazed at how sweet the Skittle tasted compared to the sour punch in the beginning.

Our sin is something like my snack of sour-Skittles.

As a Christian I will still sin, but why am I so surprised when I do? It always gives me an unexpected sucker punch to the gut.

In these cases, typically my shock is quickly turned to anger, because I am once again reminded of the painful and bitter reality that I am STILL a sinner. “God, if you are all-powerful, then why I am I still so messed up?” My poor kids are going to be so scarred because of me. If only they could have a good mother, I think to myself. My “imaginary goodness,” as Charles Spurgeon calls it, was merely setting me up for failure. I was definitely not “okay” with “not being okay.” So often I wear a mask pretending to have it all together, and at times even convincing myself that I really do have it all together, only to be abruptly reminded that I’d deceived myself once more.

I wanted to spit out this foul taste of bitterness in my mouth – that is, the admission that I’m still a sinner – so I did.

This day ended with me lying in the fetal position on the bed. Yet all I needed to do was to accept the bitter-sweet. Because I was refusing to accept the bitter, “yes, I am still a sinner,” I was not allowing my soul to taste the sweetness of His grace.

What good comes out of sin? How can God takes something bitter (my sin) and make it sweet?

1.) Sin reminds us that we are still . . . “not good.”
We don’t have it together; we are unfaithful; we love ourselves more than God and others. Sin is a big reminder that we can’t do it. We cannot be good enough, love enough, smile enough, serve enough – our very best will never be enough.

Although we may be in shock to find out that we are not “good,” Jesus is not remotely surprised. In fact, He died for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). He died for our past, present and future sin. However, we must remind ourselves that as bitter as this sin may be, we do not have to drink the bitter cup of God’s wrath. Jesus drank that cup for us, and not one little drop of God’s wrath remains for His children. Sweet!

2.) When compared to the bitterness of my sin, GRACE is amazingly sweet.

When I think I am sweet in and of myself, I don’t get grace. But when I accept that I am a sinner, all of the sudden GRACE becomes incredibly SWEET! Grace becomes an unexpected and undeserved surprise. Much like the crazy flavor to follow extreme bitterness of the Skittles, it catches us off guard. Grace can uniquely catch us unaware, and yet there is no surprise in the world that can compare.

Truth be told, yesterday, I was feeling guilty because the Lord was opening up speaking opportunities at churches. I was thinking, “God, I know you don’t make many mistakes, but this seems fairly close.” I do not feel qualified to teach other women when I am so sinful! I do not feel worthy of this honor. God was pouring out His grace upon me and I was struggling to accept it. I like to know that if I do “A,” then I get “B” in return. However, grace gives regardless of how I perform (or don’t perform). When I deserve it least, it still comes. Don’t resist the sweetness; let it flow!

3.) My children get to see a mom who is totally messed up, and this is SWEET. Why? Because while on one hand they see their mother’s sin, at the same time they get to hear that God still loves their mommy. They are seeing the Gospel living out right in front of their eyes. Yes, they see their mommy sin, but they also get to hear their mom repent and ask for their forgiveness.

More Sweetness!!!

4.) Through the bitterness of sin we are experiencing the sweetness of grace. As the Puritan Thomas Watson said, “The glass is emptied first before you pour in the wine. God first empties a man of himself, before he pours in the precious wine of his grace.” Until we see how messed up we are (bitter), we will not taste His sweetness! Until we realize how messed up we are, we’ll never see how glorious Jesus Christ is. Until we see our own poverty, we’ll never see His riches. We’ll never put on a robe of Christ’s righteousness unless we realize that we are spiritually naked. Jesus Christ will never be beautiful to us until we realize how ugly we are without Him.

Grace is shocking, isn’t it? Unexpected sweetness

Let’s Talk About Sex: I Hate These “Blurred Lines”

Robin Thickes’ Blurred Lines has been topping the charts all summer long and has even been called the “anthem of the summer.”  However, despite the song’s worldwide popularity, it has been banned by the Edinburgh University Student’s Association (EUSA). This organization claims the song trivializes rape and promotes an unhealthy attitude towards sexual consent.   For the EUSA, apparently non-consensual sex is far from a “foggy” issue – I completely agree.

The main chorus from the song includes the lines: “I hate these blurred lines,” “I know you want it,” and “must get nasty.”

Columnist Brendan O’Neil says, “I’m sorry, but if you look to popular music for moral guidance, you’re an idiot. That’s not what it’s for. Its aim should be nothing more than to make you hum, sing, smile, tap your toes, and maybe even swing your pants. Blurred Lines does that in spades and that is the only basis on which it should be judged. Leave it – and our pop and private lives more broadly – alone. ”

O’Neil is at least partially right.  If we are looking to popular music for any kind of guidance whatsoever, indeed, we are idiots.  Nevertheless, the truth is, as we our humming and singing Blurred Lines in our cars, we are preaching a message to ourselves.  In fact, as we turn up the radio, we are actually turning up a sermon.   I would pose this question: is the music we are listening to “blurring the lines” between right and wrong, especially concerning our sexuality?

Billboard Top 100 does not own sex.

MTV does not own sex.

The multi-billion dollar porn industry does not own sex.

Hugh Hefner does not own sex.

Robin Thicke does not own sex.

You (and I) do not own sex.

Sex is God’s.  He created it for His own glory and for our enjoyment (in the context of marriage). He is the “sexpert.”  However, we often think like the nudist, Don Schrader who said, “If you listen to most religious people talk, you would think that God created the head, the arms, the torso and the legs, and then the devil slapped on the genitals.”  For many of us, even the mere thought of putting “God” and “sex” in the same sentence makes us blush.

But, the Scripture teaches that God created man and woman (and the sexual act that made them “one flesh”) and said, “It is good!” God did not have to create men and women in such a way that they would receive pleasure from sex.  He could have made us like bumble bees where we just go around pollinating each other.   Instead, he created sex as a gift to be celebrated and enjoyed in the context of marriage.

We are living in a sex-saturated culture – a culture that has “blurred the lines” between right and wrong.  Rap-star Pittbull tells us to “Grab someone sexy and tell ’em, ‘hey Give me everything tonight, because we might not have tomorrow.’”  It is true; our last breath on this earth could be tomorrow, and as a result we should live with reckless abandonment toward the purpose for which we were created.  Our purpose in life is not to have casual sex with any sweet talker that comes along.   The Bible teaches us that we were created to glorify God through knowing Him and making Him known.   All of us have failed miserably.  Robin Thicke does not have a clue; there is no such thing as a “good girl,” as he claims in his song. In fact, the Bible says we are all bad girls in need of a Savior.   Instead of worshipping God, we have worshipped His creation.   Anytime we love someone (or something) more than God, we are idol worshippers.  Some of us worship popularity, money, religious activities, and yes, sex.  When we worship anything other that God, our hearts will not be satisfied, and we keep having to come back for more.  We become addicts that can never find the right high.  What happens young women when we “give it all tonight,” as Thicke encourages?

What about the next day? What if you have a car accident that mangles your face, or if you gain twenty pounds?  Will he still love you?

How about when you are old and wrinkly and not able to provide for him sexually anymore?

Will he still desire you with the same passion?  How about when he knows all of your ugly secrets and weaknesses – what then?  Will he stay?

God knows you.  He sees your ugly.  He knows your worst sins that you would be embarrassed to reveal.  And yet in spite of all of your flaws and shortcomings, He still chooses to love.  In fact, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Jesus didn’t come to die for us because we were lovely, but He came to die for us to make us lovely.

Additionally, God made you with cravings that would ultimately lead you to Him.  Stop drinking from empty cups that cannot satisfy and only leave you longing for more.  Rather, find fullness in Christ Jesus, the true “living water.”

In order to see through the grey fog of living the blurred lines, we must look to the Word of God – the authoritative Word that is “living and active, sharper than a double-edged sword, judging the thoughts and actions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).  The Word of God pierces through the lies and blurred lines.  Our sex-saturated culture is humming you a tune about your sexuality, but dear one, your sexuality is not your own.  Neither is your body your own.  Rather, you were purchased; you were bought by the blood of the only Man who was willing to lay down his life for you.  However, lines become blurred when we listen to culture for advice on what to do with our bodies.  God has not given you blurred lines about your sexuality; He has spoken very clearly.

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24).

If a boy is not willing to “put a ring on it,” he is not worthy of your body.  As my husband says, “Ladies, if he loves YOU as much as he ‘likes’ your body, then he’ll give you his last name.  If he won’t marry you, he’s not committed to you” (listen to this sermon at http://www.pleasantvalley.cc).

Let’s trust the One who created us – and our bodies – for an incredible plan and purpose. God proved His unwavering love for you on the cross where He turned his back on His son, so He would never have to turn His back on you.  Jesus Christ paid the ultimate price for you, so that you can turn from your sin that never satisfies and find true satisfaction in Him.  There are no blurred lines concerning His love for you, He died to make it crystal clear.

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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