Beautiful Scars | Faith

I very vividly remember getting my first tattoo. It was a bitterly cold day in February 2011, my sophomore year of undergrad. I was sitting in bedroom in my on-campus apartment (which I shared with five other ladies), when one of my roommates popped her head inside the door.

“I want to do something reckless before I turn 21,” she said. “Will you get a tattoo with me?”

I had already wanted a tattoo, so I quickly agreed. After deciding what we wanted and discussing how painful it might be (it really wasn’t painful – we were just scared), we (along with another roommate) jumped in the car and headed off to the tattoo parlor.

Did I mention we drove there in the middle of a blizzard?

That was my first tattoo: “love never fails” written on my foot in script, with a small red heart next to it. Although that phrase is from 1 Corinthians 13, I was going through a difficult time in my relationship, and it was a reminder to myself that God’s love is perfect and never fails –  even though human love fails us constantly.

For me, there is an element of redemption in every tattoo. Each prick of the needle is a reminder that I have been permanently impacted by an event in my past, and that event has shaped who I am. I have overcome significant battles and, although I still struggle with the scars they’ve left on my heart and mind, I am better and stronger because of them.

Tattoos are reminders of my victories, permanently embedded on my skin.

They hurt for a fleeting moment, and what’s left is a beautiful scar that takes time to heal. They are carefully bandaged, protected, and softened with moisturizer. Slowly, over time, the old skin flakes off and a new skin is born – this one with a permanent reminder of our victories.

Aren’t we much like tattoos? We were wounded, but others came and helped us heal, protecting us from the elements and reminding us who – and Whose – we are. We end up becoming someone with a new, better, stronger skin – this one with a permanent reminder of what we’ve overcome.

We are beautiful scars, living reminders of the moments that scarred us and the Redeemer that healed the pain.

I think it’s important we don’t forget our struggles. In the moment, it’s hard to see anything but darkness and feel anything but pain. Yet, on the other side of the battle, we emerge victorious and realize just how strong we really are. Pain can grow us if we let it. The challenge is finding the light – grasping onto that flicker of hope amidst the blackest night.

Cling to that hope – the hope and promise that He will redeem your story and make all things new. 

Three of my five tattoos are centered around this idea of redemption. The foot tattoo I already mentioned. I got the sparrow tattoo in the midst of one of my lowest and most broken moments, in the midst of my most broken relationship. The anchor tattoo is a reminder that God is my strength, even when the future is filled with the unknown, with a reference to Proverbs 31:25:

“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.” 

There is something beautiful about seeing how far we’ve come, don’t you think?

loverae1

The Practice of Receiving | Faith

I think it is safe to say that most of us struggle with seeing the positive in ourselves.

When others give us compliments, we are quick to dismiss them, simply saying they aren’t true or trying to talk ourselves down. Sometimes this happens with talents. “You have amazing style!” or “Your cakes are beautiful!” or “You are musically gifted!” becomes “Oh, this old thing? I just threw it on. I don’t know anything about style,” or “I could’ve done better, the icing isn’t perfect and the cake tastes dry,” or “I just play a little bit, I’m not as good as [insert name].”

We belittle ourselves all. the. time.

And we call it humility. But really we just don’t have confidence in ourselves. 

While this happens a lot with outward talents, I think, unfortunately, we belittle ourselves more when it comes to actual qualities that define who we are.

Someone tells us we hospitable, we say we just hosted because we were asked.

Someone tells us we are trustworthy, we say we’re not and start thinking in our head about how we lied or gossiped earlier that day.

Someone tells us we are a protector, we say it’s a weakness.

Someone tells us we are empathetic, we say we are too emotional.

My point is that we have a hard time receiving the truth others tell us about ourselves.

I think it is way easier for us to accept a criticism of who we are than a compliment of who we are. 

Why is this? Why can’t we understand that we were created the way we are for a specific reason, and God gave us these particular qualities to shine light and build His kingdom. Yes, maybe sometimes these qualities can cause us to stumble. But, for the most part, when others tell us qualities they see in us, we need to start simply accepting their compliments. Instead of firing back with a comeback, simple smile and say “thank you.” Then try to receive what they said and believe it as truth.

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For three years I helped lead a community of young adults seeking to become disciples of Christ. A couple times of the years, we practiced doing exactly this – receiving the good things people saw in us. We sat in a circle, and one by one we each took a turn. The person being complimented had to sit and be still – we were not allowed to say anything after someone had given a compliment. We could smile and say thank you, but that was about it. Each person in the circle then went around and took a couple minutes to tell that person qualities that shine through them. You are radiant. You are a lover of people. You are trustworthy. You give others value. You bring others together. You are confident. You are creative. You are brave. You are transparent. You have an energetic and vivacious spirit. You are a leader.

It went on and on. It was easy to tell by the looks on everyone’s faces that is was difficult to simply receive what was being said and not combat it by tearing ourselves down.

It’s not prideful to know and embrace the qualities that make us shine. And it is not humility to tear ourselves down. 

I encourage you to practice affirming character qualities in others this week, and to receive compliments others give you instead of giving a rebuttal.

Who am I? I am fiercely loyal, exceedingly trustworthy,  a protector of my friends. I am emotional, empathetic, creative, and hospitable. I am constant. And I care.

I am who I am because God made me that way, and I will strive to see the positive in who I am instead of the negatives the Enemy puts in my head. And I pray you will, too.

loverae1

Why I’m Not Moving To California | Faith

It’s interesting, I’ve gotten a lot of questions recently about why I chose to stay in Ohio after I had very seriously started making plans to move to California.

I really, truly thought I was moving. I put in my notice at my job, and I started looking for jobs and apartments in Pasadena. I started getting rid of most of what I owned. I started looking at on-campus classes instead of online classes. I started planning a cross-country road trip and looking at Air BnBs and picking which National Parks I wanted to visit along the way.

And then, I stayed.

And now I have my own apartment in Cincinnati.

So what changed?

When I tell people I really felt God calling me to California and then just as quickly I felt God calling me to stay, I get some rolling of the eyes and some “yeah, I don’t think He really called you there just to change His mind in a few weeks.” Or I am told I had personal motives for staying.

I was skeptical too. But I really think the whole situation was directed by God.

I was set and ready to move. I wasn’t incredibly excited about it, but I felt God wanted me there. I prayed about it a lot. And a few times while I was praying, I kept thinking of the story of Abraham and Isaac.

If you don’t know the story, Abraham was told by God to take his son, Isaac, to the top of Mount Moriah and sacrifice him on the altar. Abraham loved his son and didn’t want to do that, but He trusted God. So he took Isaac and some wood and began the journey. Isaac asked where the sacrifice was, and Abraham said God would provide the sacrifice. And right as Abe is about to kill his son… God says STOP IT.

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He never wanted Abe to sacrifice his son. He wanted to test Abe’s obedience to God and see how far he would be willing to go. Would he sacrifice his son whom he loved for the God he loved and served?

Yes.

I feel like moving to California was a moment like this for me. God wanted me to trust him and be willing to leave everything I have here in Cincy to move across the country to a new place with new friends and a new job and a new house. I said yes, I would go, even though I didn’t want to do it. And then I felt God say, STOP. It’s ok. You were obedient. You can stay here if you want.

So I stayed.

Yes, a lot happened in those few short weeks, and a lot has happened since I stayed. But I’m confident the whole situation was led by God and that I made the right decision to stay.

Life is messy. And usually it doesn’t make sense.

But God can change our circumstances in an instant, and even though it might seem unlikely to us, His plans are better than ours ever were or ever will be.

I don’t know what is coming next for me, but I know 2017 will be a big year filled with change. And I’m looking forward to whatever that may be.

loverae1