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You’ll miss out if you keep looking back

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By Erin McNew | Staff Writer

Photo credit: Donna Irene Photography

It’s finals week here at Texas A&M. And our greatest tests are just beginning. Because let me tell you, ladies, the true tests we face in life don’t involve a textbook. They have nothing to do with a class. They aren’t proctored by a professor.

It’s been a difficult week. A trying and stressful one to say the least. And, for the first time in my college career, finals are just the icing on the cake rather than the cake itself. That’s a step forward for me. I struggle with pretty incredible test anxiety, so that’s most definitely a statement I’ve never been able to utter until now.

With that in mind, I have a little bit of a letter for you.

Ladies,

You are not your struggle. I saw the most incredible video online today. It’s called “Wilderness, Depression, & the Stars in the Sky,” and it features one of my new favorite quotations. “It’s as if sometimes there are things we can only see in the dark.”

Sometimes we fall upon difficult times and situations. We’ll wonder why they happened to us. We’ll find ways to take blame. We’ll brood on the scars it’s inflicting on us. We’ll ask God to give us things. But we’ll neglect to do the things He’s asking of us.

Your story is incredible. But with that incredible nature sometimes come incredible flaws or trial. Don’t focus on the struggle itself. Ask for the eyes of God. His perspective is clarifying and perspective granting. He will show you the reasoning for the context you currently reside in, in His time if you only remain patient and allow Him the opportunity to make His timing manifest. His timing is different from ours. What may be years to us could be an instant to Him. Know that your waiting is purposeful. And He wouldn’t place the burden of waiting on you if it was not going to serve His means.

It’s not your fault. You could not foresee your situation or the wrongs committed against you. There’s this incredible quote that says, “you can’t see the bigger picture from inside the frame.” Don’t place pressure on yourself where pressure doesn’t belong. It’s easy for our eyes to be made blind when the intentions of our heart are incongruent with what we see. Don’t make yourself out to be foolish or insufficient because you looked with your heart. You were put in your situation for a reason. You were allowed to endure your struggle because God knew it wouldn’t break you. He knew that it would only make you stronger.

Don’t brood on your scars. Embrace them. You have a story. And though parts of it may be difficult to come to terms with, they’re all yours. They’re a testimony to God’s grace and love if you only allow yourself the time to discover it. But you can’t see what’s right in front of you if you are distracted by what’s behind you. Keep your chin up. You are still beautiful. You are still loved. You are still you.

Ask not what God can give you, but what you can give God. Take a deep breath. You have the ability to control your situation simply by approaching it with a healthy and rational mindset. Don’t always just ask God to give you peace or a resolution. Ask Him how you can act according to His will. Ask Him what you can do to gain peace. Ask Him how you can draw closer to Him in your time of need. I promise you those answers reside inside of you or will make themselves apparent.

You are loved, beautiful. God won’t let you fall. He won’t let you go. You were given this struggle because you are equipped with the strength through your Heavenly Father to handle it. Have faith in Him and in yourself. He’s holding your life in His Hand and all He longs to do is enrich it with his grace, forgiveness and understanding. Allow Him the opportunity to do so and watch your potential blossom. The most beautiful flowers bloom in adversity.

Praying for you always, darling. Keep your cute little chin up. You’ve got this and He’s got you.

“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.” – Hosea 2:14

P.S. You are enough.

Hey, I Don’t Even Know You, But We Are Getting Married

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By Erin McNew | Staff Writer

Photo credit: Donna Irene Photography

Over the years I’ve become really infatuated with a poem called I Will Wait For You. It presents a really modern and relatable stance on chastity that I just can’t get out of my head, and, more importantly, it talks a little about the side of chastity we often neglect to address, emotion chastity. Now, this could just be me, but the emotional side of chastity is, in my experiences, much more difficult than the physical side. Some of you may be confused at this point. Aren’t they the same thing? Not even close.

A big part of emotional chastity is understanding that just because you have feelings for someone doesn’t mean you’re going to marry them. As obvious as that seems, I think it’s a lot easier said than done. Emotional chastity always calls to mind a quote from 500 Days of Summer for me, actually. The little sister tells her brother that, “just because she likes the same bizarro crap you do doesn’t mean she’s your soul mate.” As ineloquent as that is, I know that I am just as guilty as some of you probably are of thinking this way. Just because you have a few kind of obscure things in common with someone does not mean you are meant to marry them. In fact, those of us that are not currently bound by the institution of marriage can scarcely understand it. Honestly, I’m learning that sometimes you don’t even have to have similar interests to get along with someone. We treat marriage like the answer to an equation. Like the combination of Y and Z must equal X. Like if someone possesses a particular set of qualities we set forth upon entering a relationship then they must be the one. But that’s a lie. Love is unpredictable. We look and look and look for it and the minute we stop looking it sneaks up behind us to pinch us in the butt and make us blush. And from that minute on we realize that everything is different. And, in the process of looking for love we forget the value of single living. We forget how much we still have to learn about ourselves and how much preparation our heart still requires in order for us to love like we were created to.

I often encounter a lot of criticism from people when they find out that I am committed to chastity. People view it as being too traditional and unnecessary. But my belief is essentially the polar opposite of this, I try my best not to judge people who chose not to commit to it, I do believe that it is an appropriate approach to love. A person’s body is the ultimate gift they can give someone. I find it to be more easily controlled than the heart. And, assuming that God put someone special on this earth for us, I figure that the least I can do for that person is save the greatest gift I can intentionally give for them.

Another question I often encounter from people is whether or not I would be okay with marrying someone who was not committed to chastity as an adolescent. To this, I basically have one answer: if I am called to love my spouse with the love of God, how could I possibly hold that against them? The love of God understands our mistakes, forgives us for our transgressions, heals our hearts, and accepts us as we are deserving of love. If someone is willing to respect my values and love me, who am I to turn them away?

Don’t ever forget that you deserve the absolute best. Bruises and scars do not define you, the love within you defines you. You deserve to be loved. And someone does love you. Don’t discourage, and don’t ever believe that your past defines your future. They are two separate entities connected only by the present. And you control the present. Seek the guidance of our Savior and put your heart into everything you do. It’s too beautiful a thing to keep hidden away.

P.S. You are enough.

ON THE VICTORIA’S SECRET FASHION SHOW

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By Emily Wilson | Recording Artist

Photo Credit: Donna Irene Photography

“Time to starve because VS Fashion Show is today!”

“Nothing can make me feel so inferior as a woman than looking at pictures of VS Angels.”

“Like I don’t even feel upset that I don’t look like a VS Model, I feel suicidal.”

“RIP self-esteem.”

I’ve been thinking about writing a piece about the Victoria’s Secret fashion show for a while now as it will be airing tonight. To commence the research for this, I took to Twitter to read what girls say about it. All of the above is what I found as well as lots, lots more.

So where do I begin?

The feelings of insufficiency this show cultivates in young women crushes me deeply every. single. year.

If you are unaware, this show is a major event among girls all over the world. Girls throw parties to watch together and social media blows up over the event. Girls claim it makes them feel “girly” and love to get in the spirit of the show. But this show is not exactly known for the product it is “selling” – it is known for something very different – its effect on the self-esteem of young women everywhere.

As is apparent in the tweets above and the hundreds of others that are posted on the evening of the show, this show has a horrific effect on the self-image of young women. The “angels” in the show are beautiful yet very thin supermodels who, by society’s standards, have achieved perfection of their bodies. They have long limbs, gorgeous faces, and stunning smiles. These models are said to spend hours working out, intensely watching their diet to prepare for the show. In a UK Telegraph article about Angel Adriana Lima, she states that for nine days before the show, she doesn’t eat any solid food. She works out twice a day and drinks a gallon of water. This is not a normal lifestyle for anyone who holds a normal job, goes to school, has a family, etc. Yet to girls who see these angels, it’s real. It is attainable and they haven’t attained it. This cultivates and magnifies the lie many girls just cannot shake… “I am not enough.” The perpetuation of this lie that takes place in many girls because of the fashion show is tremendously sad and very unhealthy. The amount of self-criticism that grows from this can be damaging in many different ways.

While I am crushed by the show, I am also always angry about it, too. There is ceaseless talk about women’s empowerment in our culture yet the media continues to glorify the treatment of women as sex objects. This focus has led to so many immense struggles for women – too many to name them all – and it has become so commonplace that we hardly notice it anymore. There is unrelenting noise about empowerment, but there are so few women leaders standing up for the everyday women and teen girls who are hurting, lost, and affected terribly by the media. We need more powerful women who stand up and talk honestly and openly about what true beauty is and why it is important to focus on it. We need more women who, in whatever walk of life they live, truly empower women by helping them believe in beauty – the true definition of it.

With all that said, my advice to women everywhere….don’t watch the show. Love yourself enough to know that you are not the sum of what you look like. Spend time focusing on loving you for you, not trying to be another girl. You have a soul, you have dreams, and you have so much to offer the world – I truly don’t believe this show helps any woman remember that or know that more deeply in her spirit. Even if you consider yourself to be a woman who is unaffected by these images and confident in your looks and body, watching it at all supports the culture of sex and selling women. There is no way around that. We, as women, need to take a stand against it – to let the world know that it is not okay to treat women this way.

I also have a plea for men…please don’t watch the show. It is apparent that you aren’t watching to see the new products, and whether we as humans realize it or not, watching something like that normalizes those images in our head – and most girls don’t look like that. The way this show presents women as sex objects further cultivates that lie in the minds of men – that women can and should be looked at as things, not people. This lie strongly affects the way you see women which has the power to ruin your relationships, influence the way the women around you see themselves, and perpetuates our sad, pathetic pornographic culture that is completely destroying our world. When I asked my boyfriend his thoughts for men regarding the show, he told me that to men it’s obviously all about the women and not about the “clothing,” making it a lust show rather than a fashion show. I could not agree more. What we truly need is more men in the world who look at women for their true beauty rather than lusting after them. We desperately need men like that. In my ministry I have talked to enough young men to know that the struggle you face if you are trying to be a man of integrity in this world is often so intense it cannot even be put into words. As a woman, I know I cannot understand that struggle of constant bombardment of pornography and incessant presentation of women as sex objects when trying to stay away from that. I may not understand but I have met enough good, strong, amazing men to know that it is possible to be a man who honors women in this culture. It is possible and you are accountable for being a man who lives virtue, who seeks to encourage, respect, and uplift women in everything you do.

In closing, when it comes to self-esteem and body image, I always encourage the young women I meet to live a healthy lifestyle. Balance is important. Balance is wonderful. Be active, go on hikes, find what you love that keeps you healthy and strong. If that’s surfing, great. If that’s boxing, great. But go out to eat your favorite awesome burger and fries every once in a while. Eat some peppermint bark and have fun. Be good to your body and focus on being healthy and strong rather than being perfect.

Most importantly, just shine on. Shine on like the glorious girls you are, perfect the way God made you no matter what you look like. Know that you are joyful and radiant. Believe in yourselves and your power to affect change in this world. As I have told you before, believe in the grace that you were created for a divine and altogether stunning purpose. Know that you are enough – more than enough – exactly as you are in this moment – living, moving, and breathing in the hands of a good, good God. And never forget to keep your hearts up.

P.S. You are enough.

Emily Wilson is a speaker, writer, worship leader, and recording artist. Follow her amazing work through Facebook, Twitter and her Website.

Broken and Beautiful

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By an anonymous guest blogger.

Photo Credit: Flickr

I was made to be loved, cherished, and protected. I was made to be beautiful.

But, through carelessness I was knocked to the ground and broken. Shattered to pieces.

So many pieces that surely I was of no use anymore…And certainly not cherished or beautiful.

My pieces were so jagged and sharp that people were wary and even scared to touch them. Myself included.

My Divine Gentleman looked down on me, but did not see a broken mess.

He stooped down in love and gently gathered my brokenness in His hands.

Slowly and with purpose He started to put me back together. Not in my original self, but a new self.

A mosaic.

Pieces started fitting into pieces and a brand new image started to appear.

People could study this mosaic forever and never fully see all the love and intricacies the Artist put into it.

And if you truly understood this new creation, you would see the Artist Himself reflecting back at you.

But, then I realized…

We are all broken.

I think that He takes little bits of us because they are the exact fit for another’s brokenness, and they are the exact fit for ours.

I think that the sacrifice and suffering we take for others is the act of touching another’s broken pieces. Touching their brokenness.

This is why we are called to love one another.

We are all broken.

And if we let Him,

What a beautiful mosaic He could make of the world.

All of it reflecting the Divine Artist.

P.S. You are enough.

Broken things are precious. We eat broken bread because we share in the death of our Lord and his broken life. Broken flowers give perfume. Broken incense is used in adoration. A broken ship saved Paul and many other passengers on the way to Rome. Sometimes the only way the good Lord can get into some hearts is to break them. – Fulton Sheen

MIHI changed my perspective of Eating Disorder Recovery

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By Alanna Burtis

Photo credit: Donna Irene Photography

Thanksgiving is tomorrow and this will be the first holiday ever in my four years of having an eating disorder where I am not currently relapsing. There is such grace in all this, God’s Hand has pulled me into a time of Victory; He has won. But I need to declare: this has not been easy. I have wanted to give up numerous times. I struggled for many, many, exhausting years. I would not be where I am today without Made In His Image, my friends and family, or my amazing Church leaders who have invested their time and prayers in the midst of my frustrations of not being “normal” by not having a mind where it would stop giving me eating disorder thoughts. I would cry because I wanted to just be done. I wanted to be done with the pain of not feeling good enough. I wanted to be done with the comparisons I would make throughout all of my days. I wanted to stop staring at models and their pictures for hours on end, thinking of what I needed to tone up next. I wanted to stop exercising at ungodly times; so early in the morning and late at night.

I wanted to be free.

The key to eating disorder recovery is wanting it for yourself. You will not change until you want to change. You have the up-most power because it is your body and your mind. No one can change how your “eating disorder schedule” is until you want to change it for yourself.

It was in April of this year and I had everything I wanted. I was doing well with my position of serving in my Church, was doing amazing with my studies and had an amazing boyfriend. But then I went through a relapse and this relapse took everything from me. It took away my pride, my thought of having a future and took most of my energy out of me. It was a relapse that I knew was not healthy at all. I saw my ribs becoming more evident on my body and felt my hip bones poking through. I was so satisfied! I finally had the body I always wished I would have, but I still did not feel like I was skinny enough. I indulged in only drinking hot tea, protein shakes, and working out vigorously. I heard every day I was pretty and good enough, yet nothing anyone was saying was enough for me. I wasn’t enough for myself. And once I realized the self-hatred I had of my body, I knew I had to change. I could not be depressed about my own self any longer. I broke up with my boyfriend to start from the bottom and build my way up during recovery. I wanted to learn to love myself by myself.

I did. But it was a very slow process. I remember it took me an hour and forty-five minutes to eat my first meal. Beef, rice, and green beans, I cheated by drinking a sip (more like a gulp) of tea after every bite. I refilled my glass of tea so many times. I was an emotional wreck. It was not normal to take so long to eat food. But then I realized: an eating disorder is not normal. I was not normal. This whole process of being “free” from my eating disorder will feel awkward, will have a lot of tears and fears, but it is supposed to be. A life without skipping meals was foreign to me. But I gained my strength by reading numerous blogs on Made In His Image’s website, would hear from other girls and their stories, and was encouraged by Maura and her grace to love those who are going through the same thing she went through. You are not alone. Feeling like a stranger to everyone else, including yourself, during recovery is not different to us who have been fighting this fight.

I re-tore my ACL while on a mission trip in July and had to get ACL reconstruction surgery. This  was a test of how strong I am in my battle of defeating my thoughts of relapsing and staying healthy for the purpose of getting back to my athletics and running again. I was very upset that I re-tore my ACL, especially since cheerleading was the cause of my injury, and cheerleading was the cause of my eating disorder. I was angry at God, but I had to get over myself and believe in His Victory. I know God did not make me re-tear my ACL but I know He was teaching me an important lesson of relying on Him even in my weakest moments after my surgery. I wanted so badly not to gain weight after surgery, but I did. I wanted to skip meals because I could not run my first 4 months after surgery. Satan wanted me to act upon my thoughts, but I said no to him and his lies. I know my Victory is in Jesus and through His grace I haven’t relapsed in seven months. It is such a marvelous mystery to me because years ago I thought I would never have a break from my relapses, and God has been with me through it all, through my highs and lows, He has never left me.

It is such a grace to share my story with you. If you are struggling with this battle please know you are not alone. Made In His Image has been such an inspiration for me throughout my years of battling my eating disorder. You get to see a glimpse of some personal stories and see the greatness of God just breaking through and healing hearts. Your heart is not too weak to be healed by our Father. Your cries are not too loud or small for God. He is there to wipe away the tears running down your face when you feel like you are not enough or cannot possibly move forward with this horrible disorder. Your worth does not rely on what your mind is telling you or by what pictures you are looking at. You are made in His image. He calls you lovely. He calls you redeemed. He calls you enough. He calls you beautiful. He calls you precious. He calls you His beloved. Believe in this Truth my dear. You are worth so much more than what you think you are.

P.S. You are enough.

You are worth being pursued.

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By Erin McNew | Staff Writer

Photo credit: Jenny Haas Photography

You’re beautiful. Has anyone told you that lately? Because that fact stands independent of others’ recognition. You are beautiful. The way you live and the way you love make you unique and special. They’re direct indicators and effects of God’s love for you and of the work He’s doing in your life at this very moment. I know it can be easy to lose sight of. But I promise you, beauty is a quality that can be ascribed to your existence on any and every given day.

You’re special to God. He knows you. He knows the imperfections in your smile, the quirks evident in your eyes, and just what puts a spring in your step. He is well acquainted with the way you live. And He’s forever pleased with being invited to be a part of your life.

Sometimes I feel as if we spend our lives just waiting to be noticed. And we neglect to recognize that we are. We always have been. Whether we were vying for the attention of others or shying away from it, we were forever basking in the attention of our Eternal Father. He’s complimentary when we need it, supportive when we’re falling, and loving always. He’s our ultimate friend. And he sees things in us we sometimes fail to see in ourselves. He sees beauty where we see imperfection. He sees life where we see death. He sees hope where we see despair. He’s always whispering those things in our ear that we long to hear from others.

I sometimes find myself questioning why God isn’t enough for us. Why we long for the affirmation of others over His. Why we seek the help of others before we ever reach our knees. Why it takes being down to nothing to utilize our most incredible resource and Friend. I know I’m just as guilty of it as anyone else. I know that in the light of claiming to be a good and loyal Christian, I sometimes chose to remain in the darkness of solitary. I chose not to turn to God. I talk to other people and expect them to lead me to answers that are known only by the heart of Christ. I turn into myself because I don’t think anyone will understand. And, deep down, I know those tendencies are fruitless. Whether driven by laziness, mistrust, unfamiliarity, or discomfort, I know they are representations of faults in my faith life.

With imperfections abound, Christ’s love for us stands in stark contrast. It stands an image of perfection. When we fail to see ourselves the way Christ sees us, when we fail to love Him rightly as He does us, when we fail to recognize His importance, He never fails. He is perfect. He is recognizing. His sight is clear. His love is pure. He is forever pursuing us.

The ache of singlehood can be a strong ache for some. As women we desire and yearn to be wanted, cherished and loved by a man. We desire to communicate and share our hearts and lives with someone. To be happy and to love life with a best friend. If we stop for a moment and reflect on our lives, do we love and spend time with our Father, the giver of love and all things? Do we believe that He hasn’t forgotten about us? And that He has the perfect love story written just for you? Let God pursue you so that the man He has for you will find you in His heart. Because I promise you this dear one, you are worth being pursued by a man. 

“He counts the number of the stars; he gives names to all of them.” – Psalm 147:4

P.S. You are enough.

You are beautiful – Scars and all.

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By Maura Byrne | Founder of Made in His Image

To the girl who stands in front of the mirror criticizing every inch of her body, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

To the girl who thinks she needs to lose 15 pounds for a man to ever love her, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

To the girl who can’t keep her dinner down because the number of calories consumes her every thought, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

To the girl who starves herself all day and binges at night, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

To the girl who exercise for three hours a day because she is driven to lose weight, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

To the girl who cries on the cold hard tile of her bathroom floor, bloody razor in hand, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

To the girl who wears a long sleeve shirt in the middle of July to hide all of her scars, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

To the girl who gulps down pills just to feel normal for a while, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

To the girl who stays in bed all day crying because she’s too depressed to get up for class, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

To the girl who thinks she constantly needs to give her body to men for attention, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

To the girl who reveals her body for all to see, when all she desires is to be seen for the beauty in her heart, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

To the girl who yearns for physical touch and craves attention and affection, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

To the girl who drinks more alcohol than water to drown her thoughts and feelings, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

To the girl who watches the one she loves fall in love with someone else, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

To the girl who’s mother tells her she isn’t enough, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

To the girl whose father beats her, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

To the girl who locks her bedroom door whenever her dad’s been drinking, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

To the girl who won’t go home at night because her parents are always fighting, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

To the girl who feels hopeless and alone, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

To the girl who doesn’t want to live anymore, you are beautiful. You are valuable. You are enough.

Sweetheart always remember that a bruised and broken heart is actually quite beautiful, because it reveals the tenderness of the human spirit. Don’t journey through life thinking you have to be perfect in order to be enough for someone. The truth is, we are all broken.

P.S. You are enough.

You are not damaged. You are not baggage to be managed.

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By Erin McNew | Staff Writer

Photo credit: Donna Irene Photography

It is absolutely incredible how we learn strength out of brokenness and righteousness out of misadventure. I’m six months out of what I hope to be the worst relationship of my life and every day I find new blessings in healing. I find strength in painful memories and resilience in sight of the face I once thought I’d spend forever with.

I guess I kind of have someone new in my life right now. And as weird as it is, I truly feel that whatever way it ends up it’s a blessing. He walked me home a few nights ago leaving me with a kiss on the forehead, and, upon entering my room I just plopped down on my bed and cried. No joke, ladies. Six month later and that pain still sneaks its way out sometimes. I cried because I realized that everything I thought was normal in romance was wrong. That there was a man out there who thought I was smart instead of naïve. Strong instead of childlike. Who saw innocence as something to preserve rather than test. Who would make me a priority instead of an option. Tear after tear fell and with each bit of pain and each memory that crept up into my head I felt lighter. I felt that pain turning into strength. I started to feel like I’d been waiting to feel for so long.

Ladies, every day God is making me new. He’s showing that a bad situation has the infinite possibility of being turned into grace. And, if you allow Him the opportunity, I know He’ll do the same for you. He’ll show you that your instance of abuse doesn’t have to be a pattern. That you can stop it in its tracks by taking refuge in His embrace. He’ll show you that it’s not normal to be mistreated. That love can be passionate without raising its voice. That connection can be established without forced touches. That you can be seen as small in a man’s arm without him having to make you so with loveless words. You, darling, deserve the absolute best. And your story of abuse? Consider yourself blessed because, though you may not realize it yet, it ends in hope.

You are beautiful. You are strong. You are whole. You are moving forward. Your abuse does not define you. Metaphorical and literal bruising will heal. You are not damaged. You are not baggage to be managed. You are just loved. In every sense of the word. Ladies, don’t give up on yourself. Because I’m not giving up on you. And God’s not giving up on you. Your family is not giving up on you. And there’s a man out there who will never give up on you.

You deserve to be cherished. There is beauty and blessing in leaving it all behind.

Broken things are precious. We eat broken bread because we share in the depth of our Lord and His broken life. Broken flowers give perfume. Broken incense is used in adoration. A broken ship saved Paul and many other passengers on their way to Rome. Sometimes the only way the good Lord can get into some hearts is to break them. – Fulton Sheen

P.S. You are enough.

Brittany Maynard: Suicide and Suffering

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By Maura Byrne | Founder of Made in His Image

Photo credit: Donna Irene Photography

It was Sunday evening November 1, and while taking an apple pie out of the oven, I glanced at my ringing phone. Having a pie in my hands, I couldn’t answer. A few minutes elapsed, I picked up my phone and skimmed my newsfeed. My heart sank. Brittany Maynard, 29-year-old woman with brain cancer, has committed suicide. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs, NOOOOOOO. I opened the article to read it, just to see if it was really true, sadly, it was.

Brittany was diagnosed with incurable brain cancer and committed assisted suicide after moving to Portland, Oregon. She ended her life by swallowing a fatal dose of barbiturates. Oregon is one of the states that legally allows assisted suicide.

Now, I’ve never been diagnosed with an incurable illness and have absolutely no idea what that feels like. I am not writing this to judge Brittany, her family, or anyone. I am writing this because suffering has meaning, suffering is beautiful.

In all candor, I haven’t always thought that though.

In college I was plagued with suicidal thoughts. It’s only through the grace of our Heavenly Father that I am still alive. Suicidal thoughts are scary. People would say, just think happy thoughts. I would silently be thinking, you have no clue what this is like. You have no idea what it’s like to see your own bottle of prescription drugs and want to swallow the whole thing. Or how it feels to want to jump off every bridge you see, drown yourself in the pool, smash your car into the median on the highway, or pray that you just don’t wake up in the morning. Then the morning comes and you can’t get out of bed. Brushing your hair becomes an accomplishment, washing a load of laundry earns you at least a four-hour nap, it was that exhausting and getting out of the house feels like running a marathon.

The darkness feels like it’s going to suffocate you. You can’t think about tomorrow or next week because that’s to overwhelming. You can’t even think five minutes from the present moment, thirty seconds is enough. The pain is relentless. You feel like you’re in a dark hole and you can’t seem to find the light. You want to get out, but you don’t know how. You are always tired, even after sleeping for fourteen hours. It’s a bleak place to be, and you just can’t stop crying, it doesn’t matter where you are. 

There is only one thing that keeps a person alive in these situations. And that is hope.

I understand that Brittany’s situation wasn’t like this, but hope is universal.

My heart goes out to Brittany, and I pray that she is now resting in the loving and gentle Arms of our Heavenly Father. Imagine how scared she must have been knowing that she was going to die? That anxiety compounded with excruciating pain, the poor woman must have been terrified. I don’t think most of us have experienced pain and anxiety like she did. She loved her life and didn’t want to die. 

Brittany told People Magazine, My glioblastoma is going to kill me and that’s out of my control. I’ve discussed with many experts how I would die from it and it’s a terrible, terrible way to die. So being able to choose to go with dignity is less terrifying.

Five years ago I watched a woman with brain cancer die, and I assure you of this, this woman died with dignity.

During the summer of 2008 I went to Kolkata, India to serve with the Missionaries of Charity in their home for the dying. While in India, I witness some of the most courageous souls I’ve ever seen, men and women who were dying. The poverty, destitution, illness, smells, heat and intense noise were aspects of their lives that they had grown accustom too. Families lived under garbage bag tents, with most just living on the street. Their children were naked and sleeping in filth not knowing where their next morsel of food was going to come from. The poor would hang on us begging for food and money and people went to the bathroom, bathed, slaughtered animals and threw trash right in the street. The filth and stench were enough to make a person pass out, and at times one did.

Kalighat is Mother Teresa’s home for the dying, and it was her desire that all of those who came would die with dignity, knowing that they are loved, cherished and wanted. While at Kalighat, we would be washing the patients clothes with our hands and feet and see dead bodies and amputations being brought in and out. But these were not just bodies or body parts, these were the bodies of precious souls who had suffered until the very last moment of their lives. These were souls who had died with dignity. One woman there, who suffered from brain cancer, particularly captured my heart and showed me what it was like to die with dignity.

Early one morning one of the nurses called me over to the bedside of this dying woman. She asked me to help her cut the skin covering her deteriorating skull, which then fully exposed her worm invested brain. Looking at this woman’s brain was like studying the brain in a biology book. I’ll never forget the look on her face as we proceeded to pull worms out of her brain with a tweezer and the way in which she would squeeze my hand to alleviate the immense pain she was in, as we had no pain medication to give her.

The last day I served at Kalighat was an incredibly hard day, as I didn’t want to leave her. I loved just sitting with her and holding her hand. She never smiled at me or made eye contact, which I attributed to the excruciating amount of pain she was in.

During my last hour at Kalighat, I got some cream and lathered her whole body at least five times as she slept; her skin was so dry that the cream would immediately dry up. Before I left, I wanted her to know that someone loved her a great deal; I wanted her to feel the love she had given to me.

Ten minutes before I left Kalighat for the summer, I placed both my hands on her head and prayed over her as she slept. My last prayer for her was that if God willed it, He would take away her pain for as long as He desired and give it to me so she could die knowing that she was incredibly loved. I wanted to feel what this woman felt. I prayed that if she felt loved, she would make eye contact with me and smile, something she had never done

Nothing happened and she continued to sleep as I traced the sign of the cross on her forehead. As I walked away, I turned to take one more glance at her, she had opened her eyes at this point and I ran back to her side. She reached for my hand and tenderly squeezed it, and for the first time it wasn’t a squeeze of pain. One tear fell from her right eye as she looked directly at me and smiled! I had tears in my eyes and got the chills in the 115 degree heat.

This woman died with dignity. 

While watching this woman die I learned from her that suffering has a purpose. She never spoke to me, but she didn’t have to, her example was sufficient. Christ Himself, was a Man of few words, when He stood before Pilot He remained silent, He didn’t need to flaunt His power because He came to serve us. He came as a servant to die for us, so that we could have life. Suffering has meaning because we are called to mirror Christ, we are called to lay down our lives for one another and for each person this will look different.

But we can all share in the same beauty of offering our suffering up for the good of another. Imagine seeing Christ face to face when you die and hear, Well done My good and faithful servant. You suffered well for Me. That gives me goosebumps just typing that and I desire nothing more in my life than to hear those words from Our Father. I literally have tears in my eyes right now because I think that’s so beautiful how we can love one another through our suffering.

Who are we to know what God had planned? Maybe He is sending us a certain trial or illness to test our faith? To draw us closer to Himself? Maybe He has a miraculous healing in store? Maybe He wants us to suffer to lead others to Him? We just don’t know. And we can’t play God, His plan is a mystery.

Someone might argue, well that’s easy for you to say since you don’t have an incurable illness. And they would be correct, I don’t. But I do know that God doesn’t send us anything we can not handle with His grace. 

Suffering is a gift – though, like all gifts, it depends on how we receive it. And that is why we need a pure heart, to see the hand of God, to feel the hand of God, to recognize the gift of God in our suffering. – Blessed Mother Teresa

P.S. You are enough.

For All of My Single Ladies

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By Kathryn Gibbs | Guest Blogger

Photo credit: Donna Irene Photography

A lot of my friends right now are struggling in their singleness, either battling the shame of past decisions or the hurt of past relationships. While I understand what they are feeling, I think that maybe God gives us those experiences, along with the hurt, to know what we deserve, who we are capable of loving and what we should refuse to settle upon. There are so many of us ladies who get weighed down by what we believe a man to be – with thoughts like, what if no guy out there finds me desirable? or  Oh I’ll never find a man with all those qualities. Or (my personal cynical favorite), well all guys are like that. But maybe those assumptions, regretful memories, and past hurts are the devil’s way of holding us down from hoping there could be anything better, that our hearts are capable of more, a love story that God Himself has designed.

Just like love is a choice, hope is a choice and I get to choose to hope. I get to choose to hope that one day, I will gaze upon a handsome, faithful man in a sharp suit who will be my husband, waiting for me at the altar. I get to choose to be hopeful for the men in my life, which includes my brothers in Christ who are struggling with their own crosses. I get to choose to let Christ surprise me with a love story far better than my simple-minded limitations could give me.

Just like all women, I want a man who will fight for me, who will pursue my heart and see the beauty God has created in me, but somehow I forget. I forget that Christ is a Man who always chooses me and constantly fights for me on the cross, never giving up on winning my affection. We forget that what we yearn for in our hearts has been placed there by a God who yearns even more to be desired by us. Jesus is always at the altar, wanting to give of Himself entirely. Christ is pursuing you, giving you an example of how a man should be pursuing you – actively, relentlessly, unconditionally. He is the world’s biggest romantic (just look at any sunset) and He wants to give you every desire your heart longs for.

In order to do that, He wants you to first know who He is as Love before He can replicate that in your life. He wants you to know who you are, even if that means making the dark corners of your heart vulnerable to Him. If you’re going through a dark time of heartbreak or doubt, give Jesus a chance to romance you, as corny as they may initially sound. When I find myself caught in moments of isolation or loneliness, I ask Christ, Could You show me how You love me today? Could you wrap Your Arms around me right now so I find strength in Your embrace?

Sometimes I think Christ gives us periods of heartbreak and singleness to cry out to us, “No, no my darling, can’t you see how much I long to hear from you in the same way you long to hear from him? Don’t you see how I long to be noticed by you in the way you long to be noticed by him? That I wait for you in the same way you wait for him? That I don’t want you to let Me go in the same way that you don’t want him to let you go?”

I think, as women, if our hearts ached for Christ in the same way that our hearts ache after a bad break-up, we would recognize more how we are truly capable of being loved and how we should be loved.

Ladies, if you are struggling right now, wishing your situation was different or dwelling in the shame of past guilt, God is right there with you by your side, especially in the moments where you find yourself thinking, How am I going to get past this? and Why does this have to hurt so much? Let God hold you in His healing Arms today, He can bear looking into the hurt in your heart and would be honored to do that for you, trust me. And just remember, you can embrace the pain, heck, even after His resurrection, Christ still had scars. But you are not defined by those wounds, have confidence in Our Good Father that He knows all of His daughter’s needs. Here’s a prayer that has helped me along that way that might help you too.

Be Satisfied with Me (by St. Anthony of Padua)

Everyone longs to give themselves completely to someone,
To have a deep soul relationship with another,
To be loved thoroughly and exclusively.

But to a Christian, God says, “No, not until you are satisfied,
Fulfilled and content with being loved by Me alone,
With giving yourself totally and unreservedly to Me.
With having an intensely personal and unique relationship with Me alone.

Discovering that only in Me is your satisfaction to be found,
Will you be capable of the perfect human relationship,
That I have planned for you.
You will never be united to another
Until you are united with Me.
Exclusive of anyone or anything else.
Exclusive of any other desires or longings.
I want you to stop planning, to stop wishing, and allow Me to give you
The most thrilling plan existing, one you cannot imagine.
I want you to have the best. Please allow Me to bring it to you.

You just keep watching Me, expecting the greatest things.
Keep experiencing the satisfaction that I am.
Keep listening and learning the things that I tell you.
Just wait, that’s all. Don’t be anxious, don’t worry
Don’t look around at things others have gotten
Or that I have given them
Don’t look around at the things you think you want,
Just keep looking off and away up to Me,
Or you’ll miss what I want to show you.
And then, when you’re ready, I’ll surprise you with a love
Far more wonderful than you could dream of.

You see, until you are ready, and until the one I have for you is ready,
I am working even at this moment
To have both of you ready at the same time.
Until you are both satisfied exclusively with Me
And the life I prepared for you,
You won’t be able to experience the love that exemplified your relationship with Me.
And this is perfect love.

And dear one, I want you to have this most wonderful love,
I want you to see in the flesh a picture of your relationship with Me.
And to enjoy materially and concretely the everlasting union of beauty, perfection and love that I offer you with Myself.
Know that I love you utterly. I Am God.
Believe it and be satisfied.

P.S. You are enough.