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Love Your Body

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By Erin McNew | Staff Writer

Lately I’ve been really caught up on the concept of body image. Not so much on my own, but on just how much I witness people struggling with it. I’m not even talking about struggling with obesity or acne or anything like that. I’m talking about struggling to see reality. I’m talking about those girls whose view of themselves is just so far from everyone else’s view of them. Those girls who tell themselves they’re too fat or too ugly or too imperfect to be desired. Because I’m starting to believe that this may be one of the most widespread illnesses among women.

I’m starting to think that we may be our own worst enemy. That we’re trapped within our false image of ourselves and beating ourselves from the inside out. That every time we tell ourselves we aren’t pretty enough to be desired or we aren’t skinny enough to be loved we’re simply bruising our heart and convincing our mind of lies.

You have to know you’re worthy. And you have to know that weight is not the only indicator of beauty. Nor is outward appearance for that matter. It’s okay if your thighs touch or if your bottom is looking a little big in your jeans or if some days your hair absolutely refuses to do what you want it to. It’s okay. You don’t have to hold yourself to a standard of perfection, and you don’t have to live in comparison to others. You don’t have to tear other women’s outward appearance apart to justify your own imperfections. And you don’t have to feel small in comparison to other women because your imperfections just happen to be their strengths.

That little pimple on your chin? Men don’t notice it. So your jeans are a little tighter on your bottom than they used to be? It’s totally cool – work it. Society’s perception of beauty is constantly changing. And our opinions of beauty are constantly shifting as a result of these changes of perception. But there’s a beauty that’s static. There’s a type of beauty to be found in Christ that never diminishes. And it’s rooted in a sense of worth and confidence to be found in your understanding of your position as God’s creation. Every time you look in the mirror and tell yourself you aren’t good enough He whispers that you’re perfect. Every time you pick your personal appearance apart He longs to put it back together. Every time you compare yourself to someone else He’s dying to tell you that you were created uniquely.

There’s a beauty to be found in Christ and it knows no imperfection. In fact, Song of Solomon 4:7 literally says, “you are altogether beautiful, my darling, and there is no blemish in you.” There’s a beauty to be found in Christ and it covers you only in grace.

P.S. You are enough.

Letting Go

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By Erin McNew | Staff Writer

Photo Credit | Donna Irene Photography

As a kid, I was always taught to never give up. That when you fall down you have two choices: you can stay down, or you can get right back up and keep on living. I think that’s one of the lessons I probably took most to heart growing up. And, if I were being honest, that worked out pretty well for me. But lately I’ve been learning that there’s a difference between giving up and letting go.

I’m learning that we have two options when we get hurt: we can walk around wearing our pain on our sleeve, or we can flash that beautiful smile that God gave us at everyone we see. Because you know what the latter option does? It shows people we’re strong. And it shows them that we have a sense of self-worth that is determined less by others and more by God. Because we are strong. And we’re gorgeous. And sometimes we just have to learn that pain was a small price to pay in order for us to realize that we were committing too much of our time, effort, and heart to a place where it simply didn’t belong.

Pain is less something to fear, and more something to face. It’s a battle. And honestly, in some ways I think it’s a battle in which we have something to prove. It’s a battle that grants us the opportunity to display our faith and trust in God. Because it’s those times when it is easy to fall away from Him. It’s easy to try to blame our misfortunes on Him. But it’s not His fault. It’s our blessing. And it’s our race to be won. It’s our moment to grow closer to God. It’s our moment to let our story speak to the hearts of those around us. And it’s our moment to actively discuss what we’re going through.

That’s hard, right? Because it makes us feel weak. Exposing our wound to others makes us feel weak. But the strength we have is the potential to bring others who are experiencing similar emotions yet think they’re alone. That turns our weakness into an asset. It makes us relatable. Because weakness is something we share. It’s something God granted all of humanity. He limited us in our physical and emotional capabilities that we might learn to rely on each other. Our weakness should be seen less in a negative light and more as a call to community. Because we are called to live as one body in Christ, a family. And families are built on a supportive foundation.

“She holds onto hope for He is forever faithful.” 1 Corinthians 1:9

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

P.S. You are enough.

To the boy I thought I loved

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By Erin McNew | Staff Writer

Photo credit: Jenny Haas Photography

I remember how it felt. To have you always on my mind. To think about the two of us in the context of forever. To desire being held in your arms. To do everything I could to make the two of us work as one. To make your happiness a priority over my own.

I remember how it felt. To lose myself in you. My self-worth. My self-concept. My self-esteem. My self-love.

I remember how it felt. To put all of the right energy into the wrong person. The selflessness. The generosity. The purity. The innocence.

I remember how with every step I took towards you my heart took a step away from God. How with every word you spoke I would become less of who I wanted to be. How every kiss from your lips to mine broke my heart instead of embracing it.

I remember how it felt. And he knows.

He knows the scars you left on my heart. The ones that have yet heal. I work every day to fix them. Some days we talk it out. Some days I try to push them down because they hurt. He hopes that one day it won’t hurt anymore. We have the same hopes. That’s part of how I know he’s from God.

He sees my scars and embraces them. He knows that in some ways I’m imperfect. But eyes of grace allow him to see perfection in imperfection.

He believes I’m beautiful. He doesn’t tell me my hair isn’t long enough or that my skirts are too modest. He loves me how I am.

He’s always on my mind because he’s earned a place in my heart. I think about the two of us in the context of forever because God didn’t put him in my life for the temporary. I desire being held in his arms because I know that in him there’s safety. We do everything we can to make the two of us work as one. Selflessness is a staple of our relationship – seeing one another happy brings joy to our own hearts.

I’ll tell you how it feels. To have someone stand by you as a friend while you work to find yourself. To rediscover your self-worth. To reaffirm your self-concept. To rebuild your self-esteem. To be reacquainted with self-love.

I’ll tell you how it feels. I’m finally putting all the right energy into the right person. The person God intended. The person I’ve been waiting for. Praying for.

Every cautious step I take towards him allows him to become closer to me. Every word he speaks to me captures my soul. Every kiss I get to share with him leaves me feeling fulfilled and loved. He makes every wrong person worth it and every wrong turn make sense.

To the boy I thought I loved – I found forever in the aftermath of the temporary. The baggage I thought I had because of you only allowed me to become increasingly vulnerable with the man I know God sent me. Thank you for breaking my heart – it took every shattered piece to be made whole in Christ.

“…and in Him you have been made complete…” Colossians 2:10

“I have found the one whom my soul loves.” Song of Solomon 3:4

P.S. You are enough.

Hello My Name is Scott – I’m an Alcoholic

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By Scott Weeman | Men’s Staff Writer

Photo credit: Elissa Anne Photography

I took my first drink on a late evening in May, 2002.  I was 17 years old.  “Don’t think so much about how it’s going to taste, but think about how good it will make you feel,” was the instruction I was given while walking along a set of abandoned train tracks, my cargo shorts stuffed with beer cans.

As of the day this is published, I took my last drink on October 9, 2011.  I was 26 years old.  I didn’t care what it tasted like, I just knew that it would help me not feel the way I was constantly feeling.

I am an alcoholic.  I am also a drug addict.  God has blessed me with the opportunity to know Him in a truly personal way through my recovery from alcoholism and addiction, a relationship that I’m not sure I would have if it wasn’t for the dark hole that drugs and alcohol sucked me into and the suffering I put myself through as a result.   

I drank or used drugs every day, and my life, in every way possible, was falling apart.  As the pieces have come together, God has revealed Himself to me in some very blatant and very subtle ways.  He had not given up on me like I had.

I can’t tell you how it all happened because it still remains a miracle that I don’t understand, but I can scratch the surface on telling you what my life was like, what happened, and what it is like now.

Here is my story:

Not long after my first drink I began to find that alcohol (and later, drugs) could do for me what I could not do for myself.  It offered me courage, apparent charm, and most importantly, a retreat from my worries and problems.  Although I had a thriving social life, I was isolated in all of my fears and angst.  Thus, when I found a solution to these helpless feelings I wanted nothing more but to return to the promised relief of these substances.

At the same time, I began to find that I was compromising the things that were once important to me.  My close friends were seeing less of me as I spent time with those who preferred a more carefree lifestyle.  Relationships with my parents and siblings began to slide as I withdrew from my family and those closest to me, oftentimes lying to them and deceiving them about what was really going on.  These tools of manipulation were ones that I used even before I became an alcoholic as a means to evade short-term consequences, but became more prominent and damaging as I began protecting my poor choices.

While I did not grow up with a devout sense of religious obligation, I did have a moral compass that I credit as a gift from God and very loving parents.  However, the code that I did my best to live by started deteriorating as I built a muffler to the Voice that was convicting me of doing wrong.  Integrity was something of the past, and my selfish and self-centered behavior started affecting more than just myself. 

College brought me to New York City where I was given a full-tuition debate scholarship.  I was restarting my social life from scratch.  Partly because I was a people pleaser and partly because I didn’t really know what I wanted out of life, I began doing all I could to fit in with those around me and to stand out in some way.  Alcohol had a great way of making me feel like I was successful in those endeavors, and it also comforted me when reality set in and the truth about where my life was heading was too much to bear. 

My grades slipped tanked.  Within a year I was hardly ever showing up to class and my devotion to the debate team, my friends and family back home, and anything else that got in the way of me “having a good time” took a back seat to my craving for more alcohol and drugs.  The list of extremes I went to in order to secure this lifestyle can not be exhausted in this writing, but included doing some things I swore I would never do and would have never imagined.  I was selling drugs out of my dorm room, which found me in some incredibly compromised situations on both ends of those transactions.  I was using harder drugs and for quite some time was practically homeless, had it not been for some friends that offered a bed to me.  Yet, I was still convinced that I was living “the good life”.

Needless to say, after three semesters the university retracted the scholarship I spent all four years of high school ardently working towards.  “How did this all go so wrong, so quickly?” was the question I was trying my best not to answer.  For some insane reason I thought I was still in control of my life.  A cycle of depression, drinking, and deception was one that I became very familiar with.  By the age of 21 I had multiple police citations around alcohol, including two DUIs, and found myself in an inpatient treatment facility where I would prove to myself and everyone else that I was still in control. 

I wasn’t.

I was too young.  The party can’t be over yet.  Everyone else around me is drinking the same way I am, yet they seem to be doing alright.  How am I supposed to swear off alcohol for good?  How will I be able to celebrate life?  How will I get through life’s difficulties?  What about toasting with my future wife and everyone else at my wedding?  Life will be meaningless and a bore without alcohol.  It’s too hard.  I can’t do it.  I’m not good enough. 

Everyone who got close to me had reasons not to trust me.  By all indications, I loved drugs and alcohol more than I loved anyone on this earth.  I brought everyone who cared about me along on the ride to hell.  The closer they were to me, the darker and more dreadful the experience surely was.  Some relationships are still mending from the destruction that my fearful self-centeredness left behind.

I made plenty of promises.  I swore off drinking during the week.  I tried limiting myself to just two drinks per night.  I fell in love, hoping that someone else could change me.  I moved across the country to San Diego, hoping that new scenery would offer a new lifestyle and better choices.  I offered to take random drug tests to prove my innocence (and failed many).  I became more generous.  I bought lots of flowers.  I wrote songs declaring my new-found faithfulness.  I told everyone everything I thought they wanted to hear.  I was a fraud.

I lost everything, including hope. 

The last thing I wanted, or even thought was possible, became my only option.  I stood at the turning point.  I recall thinking to myself “I’m 26 years old, recently single, living by the beach, surrounded by beautiful women, and now you’re telling me that the party’s over?!” 

The party had ended long before that.  I had to stop drinking and doing drugs.

In a moment of “weakness” (and after getting caught in another lie), I knew I needed to make a plea for help.  I was alone and miserable as I took a bike ride down to a nearby San Diego bay. Pushing my bike tires through the heavy sand, I found a spot where I could collapse.  I cried alone for quite some time before mustering the courage to call some very close friends, my mom, and my dad to tell them how bad things had gotten for me.  The voices on the other end of each phone call were not shocked by the news as they had an idea of where my life had been going.  I had no vision how positive change was going to wedge its way into my life, but I found that this moment of honesty wasn’t as terrible as I thought it might be.  I was told that I was loved and that there were people in my life who were still willing to do whatever they could to help me.  They told me that they would help me stay accountable.

In many failed previous attempts at quitting drinking and drugging I had come across a few people who claimed to actually have some long-term sobriety, and they seemed genuinely happy.  Begrudgingly and full of shame, I reached out to someone.  He introduced me to a fellowship of others who were recovering from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body.  Because everything else that I tried failed, I would give this a shot.  I was told that recovery was not possible on my own and that I would need the help of others and the grace of God to overcome my disease.  One man, whom I was not expecting to encounter warmth from, said he would give me as much of his time as was necessary for me to not drink that day.  He continued to do so, day after day. 

“You and I are going to be a taking a journey together, Scott, and neither one of us is coming back,” were the Providential words shared by this man.  He was right.  I have not had a drink since. 

I don’t know how I got through those first few days without a drink.  It was truly a miracle.  I was conditioned to drink, and now I was asked to uncover the honest and painful truth about myself without the only comfort that I knew.  Whatever was left of me was abandoned to God.  This was done not of my strength, but on the guidance of a Higher Power and the strength of others who were supposedly staying sober by helping other alcoholics achieve sobriety. 

My day-to-day life did not become easier, but slowly I was handed tools to handle life on life’s terms.  The first was the shortened Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the Wisdom to know the difference.

I said this prayer hundreds of times per day as I limped through the first couple days and weeks of sobriety.  For about the first ninety days my friends and parents were subjected to daily phone calls to let them know that I didn’t drink yet that day and that I didn’t drink the night before.  One day it dawned on me that the craving for alcohol and the mental obsession that accompanied it had ceased.  God was doing for me what I could not do for myself, and life began taking on a new meaning. 

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Upon starting this new life of sobriety I also found a community of young adults at the local Catholic church that I stumbled upon several months prior while fulfilling a half-hearted promise.  One man in particular, armed with a stern handshake and an embracing passion for what he was doing, led the group and showed a friendly interest in my well-being.  With mixed intentions, I got involved in a weekly bible study and other spiritual and social opportunities around the church. 

With my friend as a Christian mentor to guide me, challenge me, and encourage me through this new way of life I began opening up with him and others about what I was going through.  I was terrified to share my story at first, fearful of the judgement that would be placed on me and the resulting rejection.  Continuing to pray for courage, I started being more honest with myself, with others, and with God.  And how exhilarating it was!  Not only were my fears of dismissal proved wrong, but I found that honesty about what I was going through helped me get to know myself better, strengthened my relationship with God, and kept me sober one day at a time.

A great deal of guidance was offered to me as I started taking an inventory of my resentments, fears, and other general misconducts.  I began sharing what I found with those very close to me, and slowly I began to see where I was responsible for the way life was mistreating me.  I prayed for willingness, and I asked God to remove those defects of character which kept me from being the man I knew I was capable of.  There were many challenges throughout this process, many of which I handled very imperfectly, but the one thing that I successfully did each day was not take a drink or do a drug.  At the very least, that has made each day a success and continues to be the foundation of my life’s meaning.

Early in sobriety it was suggested to me that my healing must never be just “something on my plate”, but rather recovery must be the plate upon which everything in my life rests.  I have a disease that wants me to believe that I don’t have a disease, which means that I must make daily efforts to continue to do the things that got me sober.  Literature vital to the twelve-step program describes, “What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.  Every day is a day when we must carry the vision of God’s will into all of our activities.”

Constant interactions with other alcoholics seeking to turn their life around has been one way I’ve maintained that spiritual condition.  Prayer and various efforts to form a personal relationship with my Creator has been another. 

I have found that the dark past that I was forever ashamed of and weighed down by has become my greatest asset.  Understanding how my experience can benefit others has made some sense of the years of turmoil I had been through.  Recalling the darkness and loneliness that existed in my life and comparing it to the opportunities that God makes available for me each day as a sober man reminds me of the glory He has planned, all along, for myself and all those who seek Him. 

I am not healed of my disease, nor will I ever be.  By the grace of God I have been relieved of the obsession and craving to drink and do drugs, for today.  I honestly thought that would never be possible.  I was a hopeless alcoholic.  Somehow, God still found me lovable in all of my brokenness and at my lowest.  His pursuit of me changed my life.

P.S. You are enough.

What do I do when Christmas isn’t so “Merry”

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By Alanna Burtis | Guest Blogger

Photo credit | Of Hearth and Home

I have been hearing this question a lot throughout these few weeks: How do I get through Christmas when everything around me is not joyful? You see everyone else get in the holiday spirit but there is just no way you can even fathom trying to enjoy your Christmas when you know it’s not going to be the best.

I know what it is like. For a couple of years I would receive lotion and perfume for Christmas because that was all my family could afford. Yet, all my friends around me received the newest iPhone and would have hundreds of dollars to buy new clothes. One Christmas I didn’t even spend it with my family because my faith was different from my family and I was uncomfortable to be in an environment where I did not feel welcome. Do you have an eating disorder? I know all too well the anticipation and anxiety I would get just thinking about sitting down at a dinner table with those who are supposed to be the ones closest to me, but I would sit there in tremendous sorrow and grab a spoonful of green bean casserole and that was it. I know what it is like to lose someone you love just before the holiday season, my family is going through a loss, as we lost Pop last Tuesday. I know what it is like to not spend Christmas with the man you want to spend it with, how hard it is not to have a dad there and then sometimes being envious of those who do have a dad. I know what it is like to not be happy during the holiday season. But it is okay. We have Someone far bigger than our small situations down here.

Jesus was born in the midst of absolute chaos. There was a war about to break with the government. Mary, oh sweet Mary was just a teenager; virgin and pregnant with a miracle baby on the way. And when it was time for Jesus to be born, He was not born in a grand ole’ situation, He was born in a dirty manger where animals were kept. And no one at all expected this grand gift to be born in this setting, as they were thinking something grand and beautiful must happen for baby Jesus. Even their expectations were wrong and this is how we can relate to those two thousand years ago.

We want the most amazing, joyful, carefree, all-loving Christmas we could possibly get. But, what we think we should have is not what God had intended for anyone. Not even you. Trust me, Jesus and His gift of salvation, forgiving you for all of your sins, and you having a spot in Heaven is far greater than having one perfect Christmas. Without Jesus we would not have that offering, we would not have hope or have the One to direct us to where we are meant to go.

Our situations down here on Earth will always change. There will be times of deep grief, suffering, trials, and the occasional steady times of amazing seasons along with joy and happiness. But if we did not get to go through the dirt in our lives, would we ever take a look back on that suffering once we are in a place of steadiness? No. The bad stuff is used when the good stuff comes. When all we have prayed for and hoped for comes to our lives that is when we can see God, look back at where we just were and believe there is indeed Someone who loves us immensely, more than we could ever possibly imagine.

Every ounce of pain is used, if you let it be. So do not think this hard time you are going through will not be used for God’s glory, because it will.

And, I have found: the most powerful moments in my faith happened when I had the opportunity to look back and see that God was faithful through it all.

Do not give up. Keep praying. Keep searching. Keep believing. Keep hoping. 

Soon, you will look back and see His Face in a light you have never seen before.

That to you, will be a miracle.

P.S. You are enough.

That’s talk about sex and what we keep hush-hush

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The author wished to remain anonymous.

Photo credit: The Shalom Imaginative 

To all unmarried Christian ladies:

I want to speak completely honestly with you all.

I…unashamedly, without regret, without a hint of guilt, admit that I…

love the feeling of an orgasm.

Yes, I said it. And you know what? I don’t think there is a single person on this earth who would disagree with me.

Yet, as you look around at your pure and holy friends, you can’t imagine them ever saying those words, can you? You can’t imagine them ever admitting to being tempted by masturbation, porn, or sex. You especially can’t imagine them admitting to acting on those temptations.

You look around and you see two separate worlds – there are the pure, holy, good girls who are so excited for their wedding night sex (TOB says sex is great, after all!), but who currently would die before smudging their purity. And then there are the regular people who have no moral, religious obligations and have sex as often as they want because they have no real reason to stop themselves.

That’s how the world is sometimes painted in your life, isn’t it? It’s kind of black and white. You’re either religious and pure or you’re non-religious and sex-crazed.

And then there’s you. You’re sitting here, and you’re a good Christian girl. Everyone says you are. But when nobody is around, you masturbate. You watch porn. Maybe you even have sex. Yet you keep that all hidden away inside of you, maybe confessing it to a priest if you’re brave enough. You then coat your actions with shame and tuck them down deep inside of you, painfully aware that you’re a hypocrite. You wish you could release your guilt, but you think the other girls would judge you. 

Just like they think you would judge them.

Ladies, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that the line between the two “worlds,” the worlds of the pure and impure, don’t exist. Everybody is human. Everybody is tempted by sex. Some people act on that temptation, some people don’t. Some of those people are religious, and some are not.

I had an experience recently wherein I struggled with masturbation on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. I was fully addicted. I was filled with shame. As I struggled with a sin that I thought made me the devil, I became highly depressed. I ran to confession every day and cried every night as I fell into sin time and time again. I hated myself. I was miserable.

Finally, my best friend and I had a deep conversation and I confessed to her my struggles. I expected her to judge me, to look down on me, to be disgusted with me. After all, she was a good and pure girl, just like I was supposed to be.

Yet, after I admitted my struggles, feeling sick to my stomach, I remember she looked up at me, took a breath, and replied, “Me too.”

So did another friend.

And another.

And another.

One of them had sex.

Two of them had sex. 

Suddenly, so many of us… so many who had hidden our sins deep down, thinking we were the only ones struggling, found that we were not alone. We found ourselves facing the same temptations, sometimes acting on them, and always hiding away our shame for fear of judgment from each other. I cannot tell you how relieving it was to have my shame and fear melt away. I no longer felt like an outcast in the pure, Christian bubble. I simply felt human.

Ladies, I want you to know you are not alone. Let your shame fall away. You are an amazing, wonderful human being, striving to be a good person, just like everyone else. You fall, but you fall with everyone, and we are all here to lovingly lift each other up and help each other carry on. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable with your friends. Don’t be afraid to talk to a priest. Even though the world looks black and white, it’s much more colorful than you could ever imagine. And, just like you, it’s so beautiful!

P.S. You are enough.

You’re more than the size of your butt

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By Kathryn Gibbs| Guest Blogger

Photo credit: Flickr

Recently, all sorts of media attention has been given to the physical features of Kim Kardashian as well as the latest Victoria’s Secret fashion show. In a world that seems to praise women for their bodies, it is often difficult as women to truly know that we are enough without looking like that – without having a flawless body, a certain bra size, a specific waist line or a unique physique. Although any woman has the power to try to turn one man’s head with the “right clothing” and “sexy demeanor,” it takes a certain woman to turn a man’s heart. It takes a certain woman to turn a man’s heart, which always starts with virtue. As a woman myself, I do not know about you but I would much rather be able to turn the heart of a man than his head. That sounds more attractive anyways, right?

We are programmed as ladies far differently than the men around us and it is no secret that men are visually oriented, meaning they can take in a lot through their eyes. This can be a beautiful thing (just imagine how much a man takes in when he sees his future bride walking down the aisle!) but it can also be a bad thing (just imagine how much a man takes in when he searches the internet, with the click of a button, given free-access to pretty much anything). As women, I think we know men can focus in on what they see, which is why you will find all sorts of females dressing to impress at most bars on a Friday night. However, I think women should also know they are created as so much more than an article of clothing and if we don’t know that, it is time we get started! As one woman, you have the influence to determine how the men around you will look at you – how they will perceive you; how they will understand your own standards; how they will know what you tolerate and what you do not let slide. Ladies, we have the power (not the malicious, evil laughter kind of “power”) but the God-given, inherent power of our dignity as females to hold ourselves to a higher standard than what we may be assuming is normal or fair for men to reach. As a woman, you have the power to say:

“I don’t need to capture the attention or affirmation of that guy I am interested in – I can be okay with myself regardless if he notices me tonight.”

“I can believe that my body is something sacred, something not to be degraded in but something to be loved in” (and I can uphold my own self-worth even if the other girls around me seem to discard their own).

“I can wear something different tonight than what I was going to wear because guys probably won’t be looking at me as much as they will be looking at my body.”

Rather than use our dress to diminish our dignity, we should be using our dress to reflect our dignity. Instead of using our bodies to our own advantage, wondering who will pay us attention or interest, we should use our bodies to their advantage, knowing that the good men out there want to see us as more than a collection of body parts stored in their minds. The good news is that, as a female, you have the power within you to inspire and shape the men around you. Whether you are hanging with your guy friends, out on a date, spending time with your boyfriend or just getting to know someone, you have the ability to tell the men around you – “this is who I know I am and these are the standards I hold myself to.”

I bet, as women, if we held ourselves to higher standards, men would follow suit and do the same (because, well, they would have to.) Besides, your worth is so much more than any filtered picture you can upload on Instagram or Facebook sporting a bikini or showing off your cleavage.

You are not to blame for every man’s impure thoughts and actions, however, you can certainty influence or prevent them for happening based on how you conduct yourself as a woman. I’m not suggesting turtlenecks are the way to go but if you gradually allow yourself to be cheapened, chances are that the man who is interested in you will start to see you as less of a person to love and more of an object to use. Regardless of whether you realize it or not, every day as a woman, you get to choose how you invite the men around you to step up. You choose how much of yourself you want to reveal and how you uphold your own dignity and you get to do that as a beloved daughter, made in the image and likeness of True Beauty who is God Himself. What a gift this is. Besides, I am sure the virtuous men out there will find it refreshing that a woman like you cares more about attracting someone through the goodness of her soul and the depth of her personality as opposed to the amount of skin she can show. Men have what it takes and we need to make sure we are doing our part in helping them love like Christ, while affirming their goodness and strength along the way. May we reflect on all these things in our hearts, with the Our Blessed Mother as our model, knowing that we have the great reward (and task) of imitating Her as authentic women!

P.S. You are enough.

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.