Will or Won’t

Why Lord, why?? If it wasn’t your will couldn’t you have stopped me during the application process or just said no by not being accepted…would it have killed you to stop this before I didn’t renew my lease and told most people I was out of here!!!

Perhaps I should start from the beginning. In August of last year, I needed a change. I felt stuck. I was living in Houston working at the same job I’ve had for the last 2.5 years and thought to myself…’well, isn’t there something else you’d like to do?’. Post-one quarter life crisis (another story for another day :) ), I came to the decision some further schooling was in order. An out-of-state fellowship was just the thing to get me out of my funk, force me to make some new friends, and get things in order.

I did everything right. I researched different programs in different states I made my pro/con list, weighed the options, and successfully picked my program. I asked alumni of the school their opinions. I visited the school in question and was suitably impressed. I thought “ This is how I’ll know God’s will, if I get in, then obviously he wants me to go.” I applied for the position in November. I was accepted just before Christmas without an interview (I know, who gets a job without an interview these days). Of course, based on the previous logic, this had to be God’s will for my life…not only was I accepted but I got in on application alone!! Then there was nothing. No packet, no contract, no start date. Just an acceptance letter (which they signed) and a commitment form (which I signed).

I had requested to start in August so no big deal waiting the 1st couple of months. Of course they would have other things going on, and I wasn’t a huge priority yet. End of February, I started to get antsy. I decided that if I hadn’t heard anything by spring break, I would contact them and ask for a start date. Nothing really dramatic, just a ‘Hi, how’s it going, listen I was wondering when I’m supposed to start this new job with ya’ll.’ The email struck a great tone. Non-accusatory and light…the response was like the first nail in a coffin. ‘Oh, you were planning on coming here? In August? I don’t think there are positions available.’ Definitely not what you want to hear when you’re planning a multi-state move, and you haven’t renewed your lease! Not to mention, this was God’s will for my life…all the circumstances pointed to it! So I ended up having a phone conference with the director of the program. The answer to my questions…not enough resources to assure a beneficial experience, but we’ll have a definite answer by May 1st. I could go to a different campus, I could work off-campus, I could even do this hybrid thing where I went for mentorship but still worked at my present job. But there would definitely be an answer May 1st. Well, I did great for the first four weeks. I hadn’t officially announced I was leaving…word got around because of my family members (anybody else got parents like that?? :) ).

The last two weeks were rough. I didn’t sleep…worked great for my physique cause I wasn’t eating a whole lot :) but I wasn’t hugely worried cause this was God’s will, right? All the circumstances worked out because it was His will for me to go. Well since all of you know the date today, you know it’s well past May 1st. I did get an answer May 1st and the answer wasn’t just ‘not now’ or ‘wait’ oh no, ladies, that answer was “NO!!” As in there wasn’t a prospective start date, there weren’t any other options. It was just unfortunate timing…So I did what any self-respecting young female who didn’t get their way would do…I had my own private temper tantrum then proceeded to damage control.

So now we get to the crux of the article. I am very blessed in having a fantastic support system. “They are so choice. If you don’t have one, I highly recommend picking one up.” (virtual cookie for the person who can guess the quote). But I have forever heard, ‘God has a better way’ ‘This wasn’t God’s will’ ‘God is in control’ and it got me thinking. How did I determine this was God’s will for me? Do I recall asking if this was His will? How was I supposed to know?

I teach 5th and 6th grade Sunday school. The class is coed but we’ve got a class of all girls this year (much to the chagrin of my male co-teacher and partner in crime). We are currently working our way through Lifeway’s new Gospel Project series and (if you’re familiar with the program) are discussing Joshua (yeah, I know, we’re kinda behind). Anyway, we’ve been talking about Joshua taking leadership over the Israelites, crossing the Jordan, and defeating Jericho. But where I’m going is the lesson right after that. When Achan steals a carpet and some gold bars from Jericho and nobody knows (if you’re unfamiliar with the story check out Joshua 7). I always found it interesting that God just let the Israelites attack the city of Ai and get their butts kicked.

Then when Joshua laments leaving Egypt and cries out to the Lord, God just lets him know that somebody in the multitude of people had broken the covenant and that’s why they lost. So Joshua searches tribe by tribe, clan by clan, family by family, man by man until he comes to Achan. They “take care” of the problem (and yes, I totally mean like the mob takes care of problems) and the children of Israel go on to defeat Ai in a battle of worthy strategy and skill. There are lots of culprits in this story. Achan, of course, because he was an idiot and stole stuff from a cursed city. Achan’s family because nobody ratted him out to Joshua, but part of me thinks that of all the people who are to blame for the Israelites’ initial defeat at Ai, it was Joshua because he assumed circumstances meant God was with him going into battle instead of asking point blank whether there was anything he should know about. He assumed that because God was with him in Jericho that God would be with him in defeating Ai, but he took for granted going and discussing it with Him. A classic example of why it’s not always better to ask forgiveness than permission.

I see myself in this same place. How was I determining God’s will? Was I relying on hearing His voice and reading His word along with being watchful for opportunities of seeing His hand work in my life through circumstances? No, I was solely relying on circumstances. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m definitely not saying that God doesn’t use circumstances to accomplish His will in your life (I’ve seen that in my own life) but I am saying that it all has to work together. Not just the circumstances but the prayer and Bible work too.

So now that I’ve had this huge revelation, what do I do with it??? To be honest, I’m not sure yet. As of right now, I’m still coming to terms with that very clear and powerful “NO!!!” It’s rough to be disciplined like that. I will say, I am truly trying to learn my lesson and make sure all things work together. So, as of right now, I’m learning to be content.

My pastor is a very wise man who is constantly telling the church that (and this is a total paraphrase) bad circumstances do not mean that a person is not in God’s will nor do good circumstances mean that a person is in God’s will. Just because things work out for someone doesn’t mean God loves them more or is blessing them more. He causes the sun to shine on the righteous and the unrighteous. Sometimes, I think we forget that. It should be our seeking of the Lord that determines the path.

Days 3 and 4 30×30 Remix- Brightness and Blue

day3full day3access

Well, I went to bed (on the couch with all the lights on, leaning against a pile of laundry, with a DVD of Get Smart blaring) with a migraine last night, so I’m combining days three and four… No harm, no foul right?

As for day three’s outfit (above), I chose it because I had some important meetings Tuesday and this skirt is a bit dressier, but it’s also hard for me to wear because it’s so much louder than most other things I own, and I’m usually a rather quiet person. I always feel like it will surprise people to see me looking so loud!

I love the shoes, one of my few pairs of heels, but my feet were aching afterward as I’m not much used to wearing heels all day. Back to some ballet flats Wednesday, I can tell you that!

And hurray for my only piece of gold-colored jewelry, which seemed appropriate under the circumstances.

day4full

day4waist day4neck

Today (Wednesday) was blue day. I’ve been excited about this outfit, especially this chambray Izod shirt, which I got for 99 cents at Goodwill last week. It’s in perfect shape as far as I can tell. Happiness.

I love this skirt and its blue jean ruffles, but I never wear it because it’s got such a funny shape, with a lot of extra fabric in the waist. But I pulled it up to my natural waist and tied it tighter and then covered it with this shirt (thank goodness it’s long) and drew the eye away from the bunchy fabric with the dark blue belt. Love the contrast. And I love the feel of the chambray, crisp and fresh for a (very) warm spring day.

 

30×30 Remix Day 2- Smoke and Mirrors

 

I'm no fashion photographer...nor model...but I enjoyed day one's outfit!

I’m no fashion photographer…nor model…nor full length mirror owner…(I had to borrow this not so ideal location) but I enjoyed day one’s outfit!

So I’d say Day one of the clothing challenge was a success. At least I enjoyed my first outfit. The skirt and shoes both have some frills on them and I found myself a little self conscious at times, wondering if they looked too fussy. But then I realized, I like things a little frilly sometimes, a little feminine. The kind of clothes you can do a princess twirl in on the elevator when no one is looking. (May or may not have happened).

 

But because I was so intentional about my outfit this morning (more than usual) and because I’ve never worn those pieces in that order before, I found myself glancing in mirrors a lot.

A lot.

Which raises the question, have you ever noticed how many mirrors there are in everyday life?

day1mirrors

And don’t pretend like you don’t notice because you don’t really care how you look. I don’t believe you. I think most of us have days of obsessing with the mirror every time you pass it, even if it’s just the computer screen after it’s gone black, or the shiny windows with sun streaming in them, or the reflective walls of the elevator (I’m there a lot, don’t judge me).

The question is, where do you find your other mirrors?

You know the ones, the ones that exist in others’ eyes when they look back at you. It’s the picture of yourself you see in how they  look at you, talk to you, treat you.

And for many of us, it’s the only way to tell if we’re really worth anything.

This is a concept I’ve been reading about in Emily Freeman’s book Grace for the Good Girl. This book is kind of changing my life (though I’m only in the second chapter) and I want to do a more full post or several on it as I go, but meanwhile, this mirror thing.

Reading similar words about mirrors in her book sounded something like hearing my own thoughts transcribed on paper. I often don’t believe an outfit is cute unless someone tells me so. I don’t know if an idea’s a good one until I’ve run it by a few people. I don’t know if I can really make the cut, until someone invites me in and accepts me.

I’ve learned the hard way, and am in the process of learning still that the mirror system is toxic. It will burn a hole in your heart and leave you in tatters, because you can try to control someone’s perception of you (believe me I do) but in the end you can’t change how they act toward you. But you can fly into a panic trying to do it.

At the risk of sounding like I’m pinning a verse on this and calling it easy, right now I’m clinging to Psalm 62:7. “My salvation and honor depend on God.” Not just my salvation, my ability to escape sin and go to heaven, but my honor and worth here on earth. Imagine. If this is really true, then what?

Not all this panic I fight when I try to do it my way.

No, this isn’t easy at all. I”m fighting it daily right now. But when I’m threatened by the sight of my smallness in others’ eyes. Or my impression of my smallness in their eyes (complicated isn’t it?), I can repeat this over and over and over again.

Maybe someday I’ll be able to believe it.

Won’t you journey with me to try?

A clothing adventure

You know that movie scenario where the girl throws everything in her closet onto her bed, looking for the perfect thing to wear? Well I never thought I’d say this, but that scenario is becoming more and more common in my house lately.

I consider myself somewhat clothing challenged, and so this particular activity surprises me a lot about myself.

The disability started some time in my eighth or ninth grade years of school, when I became afraid of clothes. I looked around and noticed that my friends who were the most confused and unmoored in life were the ones who spent all their attention on how they looked. They acted as if it could be known who they were by how they dressed, and didn’t focus on anything else.

I swore I’d never be that way. And in the typical black and white view of a teenager, that meant swearing off caring about clothes and looks almost entirely. It also meant that I missed learning how to care about makeup and which colors complement and contrast when I think a lot of girls learn to do that instinctively.

This did not last in extreme  for very long, but it did slow me down for a while. Lately, no one’s more surprised than me to find in myself a blossoming interest in fashion and in how outfits go together. I consider this to be a bit of healing from God. I’ve come to believe He likes it when we explore our personalities, even something as surface level as what we like to wear.

As I learn about it, one of the most frequent thoughts is probably: I could never pull that off.

And don’t we all do that with clothing items? I’ll bet there’s something in your closet that you love and think is fabulous but you don’t wear because you’re too nervous. Honestly, a lot of what I don’t wear is because I’m not sure if it will match the image of myself I’m trying to build in people’s heads. And even though I’m no longer afraid to try to look cute when I get dressed in the morning, I still look at that skirt and wonder, “what will people think.”

If I don’t like the answer it goes back in the closet, to go unworn, a closet orphan that nags at my budgeting self with feelings of guilt. Don’t know how to wear it right. Can’t stand not to wear at all.

This is why I was excited when one of my new favorite blogs, Bramblewood Fashion, announced the 30×30 Remix for the coming month. Readers of the blog pick 30 items from their closet and wear only those items for the next 30 days. It gives you practice mixing and matching clothes in new ways and learning to emphasize pieces of clothing that you don’t normally wear.

I think it’s a great chance to practice being good stewards of what God has given me, as well as to celebrate who He made, by exploring my style and what kind of clothing I like.

In the days ahead we have exciting things coming to Unfading, not the least of which is we’re starting to write again! And I hope one of the things you’ll do during that time is journey with me as I learn a little more about fashion!

Here are my 30 items. I’m a day late, the challenge started yesterday, but there’s always grace, right? You’ll notice there are 31 items listed here. I’m stuck on which last one to get rid of. Do you have a vote? I’ll be deciding this evening, as well as posting today’s outfit.

All 30 of my items (hopefully) spread out on my bed.

All 30 of my items (hopefully) spread out on my bed.

 

I'm not going to worry about  a lot of shoe variety. I've got enough to learn about other clothes.

1-3 I’m not going to worry about a lot of shoe variety. I’ve got enough to learn about other clothes.

A jean jacket and two cardigans. I actually think I may use a different cardigan and jacket but both are at work so these work for the picture!

4-6 A jean jacket and two cardigans. I actually think I may use a different cardigan and jacket but both are at work so these work for the picture!

Plain colored shirts. I have the most of them because of their versatility. Notice how much of the same colors I own.

7-14 Plain colored shirts. I have the most of them because of their versatility. Notice how much of the same colors I own.

Patterned shirts!

15-19 Patterned shirts!

I adore skirts and rarely wear them, especially now that I work in a pretty casual workplace. So one of my goals is to wear them more this spring and summer. Hence the plain shirts and patterned skirts.
22-26 I adore skirts and rarely wear them, especially now that I work in a pretty casual workplace. So one of my goals is to wear them more this spring and summer. Hence the plain shirts and patterned skirts.

 

My two favorite pairs of jeans. It's hard to have so few jeans in this mix.

20-21 My two favorite pairs of jeans. It’s hard to have so few jeans in this mix.

 

This very impractical green leather jacket (real) that I thrifted for $10. It makes me to happy not to wear it till the end of the month!

27 This very impractical green leather jacket (real) that I thrifted for $10. It makes me to happy not to wear it till the end of the month!

Chambray dress.

28 Chambray dress.

 

Green knit dress.

29 Green knit dress.

Black knit dress.
30 Black knit dress.

Polka dots!

31 Polka dots!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hurry up and Wait

Me on the far left with some of the VBS team I’m privileged to work with at LifeWay

I like to plan. I may have a messy house but I’m a happy person if I have enough clean clothes in my  closet and enough meals in my fridge to last me through the week.

And I can go with the flow and pick up the slack and keep my cool in an emergency … unless someone knew it was going to happen and forgot to tell me so I could plan ahead. Nothing boils my blood faster.

I suppose that this fact is making God chuckle at me a little this week as I wait to close on my new home (eeek!!!! Momentary ecstatic freak out over being a first time homeowner!) It was supposed to be on Nov. 15. Then on Nov. 26. Then the 27th. But Monday they told me it would be Thursday the 29th.  As I write this to post on Thursday, who knows if I’ll be a new homeowner as you read it? Or not?

And that kills me.

But it doesn’t, God reminded me today, not really. It doesn’t kill me at all. I have a warm, dry place to stay with cousins who are dear to me and have graciously opened their home (and their delicious food) to me for as long as I might need it. I have a marvelous new job at LifeWay Christian Resources that I feel excited about every morning. So much so, it kind of feels more like they’re letting me in every morning to come and work on VBS materials, instead of making me be there for my working hours. Everything seems to be going really well right now, a true gift from God.

It’s just not how I planned it.

And what it really comes down to in the end, God pointed out very convictingly today, is whether I trust him to take care of things, to make them work out, even if it wasn’t how I wanted it. Do I trust him to care enough for me enough to take care of me? I haven’t always. I often don’t. But I’m trying.

More than anything, I want this home to be God’s, to honor him, and to be used to welcome people and remind them of his peace and comfort. And if it’s going to do that, it really needs to start off this way, held loosely in my hands and tightly in his so that it will always be used just the way he wants it. May it always be so. And God forgive the impatience that continues regardless of these realizations!

Unmaking

Just when the caterpillar thought her world was over, she became a butterfly…

Once upon a time there was a caterpillar. She hatched from an egg that had been abandoned under a leaf and crawled away to find a place for herself in the world, a safe place, a place with food, a place she could survive.

And she did survive. She grew to be a larger caterpillar, if plain, without some of the vibrant markings of her kin. She survived, and continued to live, day after day, seeking her safety and sustenance, taking it where she could find it.

Then, one day, it was time. Time for what, she couldn’t have told you. She only knew that it was time for something, something different, something beyond surviving, something that would change her life.

It began with the stiffening. She found herself unable to move, something new building up around her, against her will. She could no longer live as she had before, seeking out food and safety. She was bound to this place, and if there was no food, no safety, then she wouldn’t survive.

She struggled, but it was no use. The shell continued to build around her, as if she were back in the egg from which she was born. There were no doors or windows, no escape left for her. Soon, as the last section closed, near her head, she couldn’t even see the sky.

“Skyfather, Skyfather, help!” she cried. “I’m trapped, I can’t move, let me out!”

The Skyfather answered her with a soothing croon. “It’s alright, my daughter, I’ve got you.”

“If you’ve got me,” she asked, “Then why am I here? Why am I trapped here, away from the sunshine? Have I done something wrong? I tried to be a good caterpillar!”

“You’ve been a very good caterpillar,” He answered. “And I’m taking care of you. This is only for a Little While, and then it will be Better, Better than you can imagine.”

“How long is a Little While?” she asked, getting frantic. She couldn’t get free and already missed the breeze and the sunlight. “And what do you mean, Better?”

The Skyfather chuckled softly. “Even if I told you what Better was, you wouldn’t understand it. It’s bigger than your mind can hold right now. And a Little While is Long Enough.”

“Long Enough for what?” she asked, quivering.

“Long Enough for everything to be made Better, including you.”

She was quiet for a time, thinking that over in the darkness. Then something new started to happen, a sort of tingling in the skin of her sides and back.

“Skyfather, Skyfather!” she cried again. “Something new is happening! What is this?”

“It is the Unmaking, child,” he said, gently.

“Unmaking?” she asked. “I’m being unmade? But then what will I be?”

“You will be Something Better, my child. But before I can make you that Better You, the Old You must be Unmade.”

She trembled quietly, then asked, very softly, “Will it hurt, being Unmade?”

“Sometimes,” the Skyfather answered. “Sometimes, when you’re too used to Old You, it is hard to let go and be Better You.” He sounded sad.

“If I am Better Me, will I still be me?”

“You will be more You than you have ever been,” the Skyfather promised quietly.

It was quiet again as the caterpillar thought about that, and felt bits of herself come undone. “It is hard,” she said at last. “Waiting Long Enough. Is it Long Enough yet? I want to be Better now.”

The Skyfather chuckled again gently. “You haven’t finished being Unmade yet, my child. It will be a Bit Longer, and then you will be Remade. Then you will see what Better is.”

She waited, feeling the Unmaking. Sometimes there was a twinge, when she panicked and tightened, trying to keep everything as it was. Then she remembered the Skyfather’s words, took a deep breath, and let it go.

Soon she felt like she was floating in her shell, not quite sure who or where she was. But she trusted the Skyfather and knew He would make her Better, even if she didn’t know what Better would be.

Slowly, she felt things tighten as they came back together in a new way. It was uncomfortable and a bit scary, because some parts of her she’d always had were gone, and there were some new parts that she didn’t understand. She felt strange, and she couldn’t see, here in the darkness of her shell. But she clung to the promise of Better, took a deep breath, and did her best to obey the Skyfather.

“Almost done,” He said gently. “You’ve done very well.”

She blinked, then realized that there was a pale green light around her. Her shell was thinning. She felt excitement well up. She was going to come out, and she was going to be Better!

The walls around her finally split open, and she crawled out to cling to the twig she’d been anchored to. But the new parts of her, the parts that were supposed to be Better, were wet and crumpled and ugly. Suddenly she missed the darkness of her shell. Now she was exposed, where everyone could see how dirty and miserable she was.

“Skyfather, Skyfather,” she sobbed. “How is this Better? This is Worse! I still can’t move, and now I’m ugly and everyone can see me! I wish I were still a caterpillar!”

“Trust me, my daughter,” He said, in a velvety voice that soothed her fear and shame. “I’m still here, and I’m still Remaking you. You will be Better, I promise. Just trust Me a bit longer.”

She didn’t see how anything could possibly be Better again, but she made herself wait a bit longer. Skyfather had cared for her for all her life; surely she could trust Him now?

Slowly, slowly, her New Parts started to dry and straighten. She flicked them a few times, then looked back in awe. Her New Parts were wings! She’d waited, and now they were beautiful! They were blue and green and black and shimmered in the sunlight. She flicked them again, and then she did something she never imagined that she would do.

She flew.

As she soared and fluttered across the bright blue sky, in the sunlight and the breeze, she and the Skyfather laughed together in delight.

 

I’ll be back with Rebekah, Sara, and the rest of the Girls of the Covenant next time!

Seasons

Changing seasons….

Fall has arrived and as the leaves change and the air cools the seasonal allergy monster of doom rears her head once again and I find myself still in bed at 1 in the afternoon nursing my first of many battles with this annual monster.

However, on this day my thoughts are not about tissues or the juice glasses cluttering my room; my thoughts are with my mom. For several months now my family has been preparing to deal with the impending downfall of an illness that has not only clamied my mother’s health, but also her mind. Today, like many days before and many to come, I miss her.

Yet, once again in the beauty of God’s wisdom he fills my head with beautiful memories of a woman who would come and sit with me when I was sick, humming an unknown tune and resting her hand on my quilt covered knee. The memories of a woman who would just sit with me through the unattractive nose-blowing, medicane swigging hours and talk endlessly of fall decorations, upcoming holiday plans, and yes even in early October the Christmas shopping list.

It is days like today when I miss her the most and days like today that God shines the brightest in my small bedroom reminding me that He blessed me with such a beautiful picture of care and nurture. Yes, mom and I fought, but when “her baby” (and I include my older brothers in that as well) was not feeling up to par not one single outburst mattered. She would be there for us.

And today I am comforted to know that, much like my mom was always there, I have a promise of a God who will be there, too. He and my mother in a great battle against Satan and season allergy monsters.

Questions and Answers

Questions. Whether we love them or hate them, we all have questions. Questions are a sign of growth, and a sign we are alive and moving forward.  It’s natural for us to look at the questions we have and think we are the only ones to wonder about them, but we aren’t.  If we can name (question) the thing we are wondering about then someone else must have already questioned it because there are words to describe it! <— Tweet this.

The devil loves to deceive us and make us think we are alone in our situations and questions but we are not! Here at Unfading, we want to establish a community where you can know you are not alone. Questions that lead to growth a good thing and we want to grow and learn alongside you! With that, we are starting a mini question and answer series.

Here is how it works: every month we will pick a new topic and let you, the reader, submit your question in the comments. One question will be chosen and answered in the following month’s post. We would also love your input on what topics you would like to here us address and feature.

 This month’s topic is: Change. Do you have any questions about changes in your life? Or how to deal with change that you would like us to write on? And how about next month? What topic has been lying heavy on your heart? We look forward to your questions and suggestions in the comments, or in the “contact us” form with the subject Question: Change!

 

 Don’t know what a Question and Answer blog post looks like? Check out a few of the ones that I’ve done on my personal blog. Click Here.

Tagged

Fiction Friday: Girls of the Covenant

Summer Camping (Mis)Adventure, Part II: S’mores ‘n More

Catch up on part one and the intro to this exciting series before you read!

“I still don’t understand why we have to – Oh my gosh, that bug’s ENORMOUS!” Miriam shrieked, jumping back and using Rachel as a human shield.

Rachel’s face lit up, and she squatted down to get a closer look. “Ooh, you’re a little Hercules beetle, aren’t you?” she cooed. She picked the insect up by its hard carapace and put him (or her) on the shoulder of her pink shirt.

Tammy laughed as Miriam watched the beetle with horrified fascination. “You don’t seem like the type to be into bugs, Rachel,” the tall girl said. “I thought you’d hate this whole camping/hiking thing.”

“How can anyone not love them?” Rachel asked. “They’re pretty and intricate and tiny. Only God would put so much care into making something most people never see.”

“That thing’s twice the size of a quarter,” Miriam muttered. “I’d hardly call that tiny.”

“Found another pet, sis?” Leah asked, catching up to them on the trail.

Rachel plucked the beetle from her shirt and proudly displayed it, looking like she was ten years younger than she actually was. “An Eastern Hercules,” she said. “I’ll have to take a picture when we get back to the campsite – I don’t have one of those yet.”

Dinah peered around from behind Leah’s back and giggled as the beetle rotated its spiky legs and Miriam squeaked, jumping to hide behind Tammy.

Sara stopped at the bend in the trail ahead and looked back, rolling her eyes. “Are you guys coming, or am I going to have to hike by myself?”

“Coming,” Leah answered for them. She started after the purple-haired girl, with Dinah following close behind her. Apparently the small girl had decided that Leah, the quietest member of the group, was the safest person to stick to. Rachel came next, hardly watching where she was going as she scanned the trail and the nearby trees for more interesting insects, the beetle once again stuck to her shoulder. Tammy came next, with Miriam still using the tall Asian girl as a shield to protect herself from any unwanted nature.

The hike was beautiful, the packed-earth trail winding through the trees uphill, skirting ravines with creeks bubbling through rocks, as well as deeper valleys filled with giant trees that had stood for decades. They were almost even with the tops of these behemoths from their position on the trail along the valleys’ edges. Everything was cast in a cool green light from the sun filtering down through the dense foliage. It was silent, with the exception of birdsong and the sound of running water. They were far enough into the forest that they couldn’t even hear the roar of traffic.

An hour into the hike, Rachel’s search for bugs was abandoned in favor of chatting up the young, attractive park ranger they’d stumbled across.

Leah rolled her eyes. She was continually amazed by her little sister’s ability to find men to flirt with, even in the middle of the woods. It was probably a super power. She would be the first to admit that her sister was attractive, but she couldn’t understand why Rachel felt like she constantly had to be the center of attention. She was pretty and smart. Why couldn’t she see her value for herself, instead of looking for it in other people’s reactions?

Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of sliding earth and rocks and a soft scream.

Leah spun around, expecting to see Miriam backing away from a butterfly or something, but instead she saw nothing. Older sister instincts kicking in, she did a quick headcount. Rachel was to the right of the trail, deep in conversation with the ranger, with Miriam looking on, one eyebrow raised. Sara and Tammy were both staring up into an old oak tree, apparently fascinated by some kind of wildlife perched in its branches. Dinah…

Where was Dinah?

Leah raced towards where she’d last seen the small girl, leaning to one side of the trail, watching something in the valley below. Apprehension twisted in her gut when what she saw only confirmed her fears: the leaf-covered gravel at the side of the path had been ripped away, leaving only dark earth.

“Dinah?” she called, creeping forward carefully to look down over the edge, dreading what she might see. Something in her voice, some of her fear or worry, caught Rachel’s attention, making her jerk her head out of her flirting and hurry over. The other girls, terrified understanding dawning on their faces as they grasped what was happening, followed.

Dinah hadn’t fallen all the way to the valley floor, thank God. She was huddled on a ledge about ten feet down, looking so tiny in her green sweater. She looked up at the sound of Leah’s voice. “I’m okay,” she said weakly. But when she tried to stand, she grimaced and collapsed back against a tree trunk. She sank back down to the ground, cradling her ankle.

Sara was the first to slide down the slope, catching herself on tree trunks on the steep decline. She squatted down next to Dinah and eased the girl’s sock and shoe off of her injured ankle, then lightly explored the joint with her fingers. Tammy was the next one down the slope, followed by the ranger.

“It’s swollen, but not purple,” Sara said, looking up at them. “I’d guess a light sprain.” She quickly looked over the rest of Dinah’s body, checking for other injuries, but all she saw were a few scrapes. “You okay, other than the ankle?” she asked.

The other girl nodded and swallowed hard. “I don’t think I can walk, though,” she whispered.

“Let’s get you up, then,” the ranger said, reaching for her.

But Dinah shrank back from him. “Don’t touch me!” she snapped.

Everyone froze. Quiet, shy, gentle Dinah was yelling at someone?

Then Tammy stepped forward and knelt beside the injured girl. “Is it alright if I carry you?” she asked quietly.

Dinah nodded, avoiding everyone’s gaze as she clambered onto Tammy’s back, wrapping her arms around the taller girl’s shoulders. With Sara and the ranger’s help, Tammy was able to get Dinah back up to the trail, and then back to camp.

Rebekah stood up from her crouch beside the campfire. “Hi, girls, how was the – Dinah! Are you okay?”

“She twisted her ankle,” Miriam said, hovering as Rebekah helped ease Dinah off of Tammy’s back and into a camp chair. Dinah’s face was flushed and she was avoiding eye contact, clearly uncomfortable at being the center of attention. Sara dragged another camp chair over and carefully settled Dinah’s injured foot over the arm, elevating it.

Rebekah’s eyes darted around the campsite, at the tent they’d worked so hard to set up, then to the burgers she had roasting over a painstakingly-made campfire. “It might take us a minute to pack up – “ she started, but was interrupted by Dinah pulling on her arm.

“I don’t want to go back yet,” she said softly, but with a stubborn set to her chin.

Sara stepped up to the smaller girl’s defense. “It’s just a light sprain. She’ll be fine if we keep it iced and elevated and watch for any major discoloration.”

Now everyone gawked at Sara, and she blushed. “My dad’s a paramedic, okay?” she growled. “I’m not totally useless.”

Rebekah glanced back at the ranger, who nodded. “I’m working on my emergency medicine certification, and I’d say that she’s absolutely right. If it takes a turn for the worse, just let us know down at the office.” He nodded at them one last time, then took his leave.

Rebekah looked everyone over, biting her lip in indecision. Everyone was wearing the same stubborn expression. As much as they’d complained about the trip at the beginning, none of them wanted to abandon it now. She sighed, then smiled tightly. “I hope you managed to work up an appetite on the hike, because we’ve got burgers and then more s’mores than you would believe!”

 

When they finally piled into the van the next day, they were worn-out, dirty, and still sticky with marshmallow grum. But each girl was wearing a proud smile, and no ipods, cell phones, books, or video games made an appearance. Instead, the girls decided to find out more about their new sisters. Rebekah, watching in the rear-view mirror, had to fight back tears.

“So, Rebekah,” Miriam asked, pushing her curly hair behind her ear. “What’s your family like?”

The older girl smiled. “Well…”

Do I Measure Up?

By Anita Martinz (originally posted to Flickr as Makeup brush) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Do you ever play this game?  The one where you say to yourself, “If I could pick just one physical feature to change about myself, what would it be?”  I go back and forth between getting rid of my stomach pooch, making my teeth whiter, or having flawless (and tanner) skin.  To be honest, that’s probably just my short list.

But why do we as girls obsess over our looks so much?  Recently I’ve been reading articles on the beauty-body industry for one of my classes. We’ve discussed reasons such as wanting to impress a significant-other, transforming one’s outside to match the way they feel inside, or for self-worth and confidence.

And while I do think those things are part of it, I KNOW that any solutions we talk about in class will not get at the root issues.  We can blame the media, peer pressure, or men in general for the way that we obsess over our looks and the scummy way we may feel in comparing ourselves to others.  But that will NEVER change unless we find wholeness and beauty in the fantastic and mystifying way that God created each of us so uniquely.  Let’s consider…

Each of us are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).

God created very good things (Genesis 1 & 2) including mankind and womankind.

The Lord delights in his people (Zephaniah 3:17).

Are you catching this?  The God of the universe who carved out the depths of the Grand Canyon and paints majestic sunsets and dreamed of hundreds of kinds of butterflies, also made you and me as the pinnacle of creation and in His image (Genesis 1:26-27).

You may have heard this stuff before, but I think it’s something that we need to frequently be reminded of.  We are God’s beloved children, and while it’s easy to get distracted by the world, that fact ought to change how we view ourselves.  Our worth is not caught up in what our society currently deems to be beautiful (have you noticed how fast that changes anwyays?!), but in God’s unconditional love for us.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that we can’t care at all about our bodies.  After all, He did make them.  I know I rarely leave the house without mascara because otherwise my eyelashes are practically transparent.  But I can’t let my appearance be my focus or I’ll be trapped in self-absorption.  Ultimately I know that there’s nothing I can do that will increase or change God’s love for me.  And really, His is the only opinion that matters.

Tagged , , ,
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.