Wednesday, August 3, 2016

What's Wrong with Being Confident?

Everyone in life is on a journey. For some people, it's setting goals and then working step-by-step to achieve them. For other people, it might be an internal journey to heal hurts in their past in order to move forward. Everyone is on a journey, because we are all just passing through. Earth is not our home.

I certainly haven't arrived, I'm still working on walking this journey. I had regressed my thinking and attitudes so far over so many decades that I didn't realise how deeply they were ingrained in me. To build upwards, you first need to dig downwards.

For so many years, I hated the way I looked. I mean, I *h a t e d* my appearance. Whenever I looked in the mirror (when I could stand to look), I was repulsed by the sight. I didn't look like the popular girls at school. I didn't look like all the girls with boyfriends, and I certainly didn't look like the type of woman that men go ga-ga for. I was resigned to the fact that I was stuck looking this way, and so I'd better get used to being ignored by the opposite sex and getting turned away from opportunities in life because of my appearance.

When society holds up the ideals of beauty, women are bound to measure themselves against them. I can't speak for everybody, but I can certainly speak for myself. I was living in this beauty eco-system without even realising. Regardless of how adamant I was that magazines and movies and social media didn't affect me, if I was really honest.. it did affect me. More than I was even aware.

I measured myself to what I believed our society and western culture were defining as beauty. I was determining who a person was based on how they looked. I was measuring who I was and my influence on the world based on the size of my hips, and I was judging my unworthiness of being loved according to the number on the scale.

And this is where the catalyst commences.

Along comes this wonderful man who pursued me, even though I ignored him and turned him down. I couldn't believe that someone would think I was attractive enough to chase me down. I mean, hadn't he seen the size of my derrière? Had he failed to notice that I had more curves than a country road? The irony of this moment is that the thing that attracted him to me was, in fact, my shape. Could it be that there was actually nothing wrong with me, and instead, my paradigm of beauty was the thing that was distorted?

So rather than avoid social media, because after all, it just perpetuates the negative stereotypes of beauty, I followed more people. I searched for a role model with body positivity and curves and came across these two women: Iskra Lawrence and Ashley Graham.

Ashley Graham, total babe
Iskra Lawrence, blonde bombshell

These two women are plus-sized models... what? But they're beautiful! They have abs! They model lingerie and bikinis and everyone swoons over their 'fine curves'! They wear clothes that I traditionally thought a curvy girl would shy away from, but there ain't nothing shy about them. They acknowledge they have cellulite and stretch marks. They worked out and worked on their assets. Iskra looks flawless without Photoshopping, and Ashley was the love interest in Joe Jonas' latest video clip for goodness sake!

And then the penny dropped with THIS photo. Nothing poignant about the photo other than the fact she looks sexy as hell. She's curvy... and people love it.

It was at this point that I realised something... it doesn't matter your size or shape... what matters is confidence. Curves are beautiful, but confidence is sexy. You can pull anything off when you're confident. So the difference between myself and these two women wasn't really anything more than confidence. We all had curves, but these women embraced them and used them to their advantage. They loved the skin they were in and promoted body positivity. They were healthy and normal and damn it, they were beautiful.

So was it just these two women who were the anomaly, or was it my thinking that was wrong? After mulling it over for weeks, I couldn't fit them into my beliefs about beauty and what our culture had traditionally deemed as ugly. No matter how I looked at it, they just didn't fit the stereotype of what I had always considered 'beautiful' to be, and what I had feared and dreaded 'unattractive' to be - curvy.

Could it be that I was missing the mark for all these years? 
Could it be that I didn't have to hate how I looked anymore?

And this is where the journey is up to. Undoing thirty something years of conditioning is hard work, but slowly slowly, I'm getting there. One day at a time, one thought at a time, one new outfit at a time... definitely new clothes. Always new clothes.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Elegance Personified

As much as I love them, watching the Kardashians is like watching a glamorous train wreck, you're horrified, but you just can't look away.

Diana on the other hand... named after the goddess of hunting, Diana was hunted until her last breath by the media. And through it all, she was poised, elegant, graceful, and fiercely protective of her sons. 

In a world full of Kardashians, be Diana.

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Majestic in the Mundane

As a writer, it's a strange sensation to have phrases and words come to you. They pop into your mind like a gentle bubble, perfect and complete, floating in your creative space until they land on the page, forming a lovely cadence of thought or poetic construction of story. Sometimes these phrases or words have nowhere to land, and so they remain as a wandering bubble until they float into place later, maybe hours, days or week. The temptation is to take phrase and squish it into a piece of writing where it was never meant to fit, bursting the fragile bubble and causing it to lose its perfect, lustrous form.

When I was asked to write a short script for the upcoming Love SV Week at church, I knew I had finally found the perfect place for a phrase that I had been hanging on to for over five years - the majestic in the mundane.

Love SV is about serving the local communities. It's about being more than just words. After all, Jesus came to serve humanity. He came, not as someone asking to be revered and hidden away behind palace walls. Jesus came to be the bridge between the divine and the mortal, the way for us to access God's presence, for us to know God and be known by Him.

He served people. He healed wounds. He loved and touched and connected with people. He gave up heaven for me and you. He traded the wonders and glory belonging to him for the pain and disappointment of humanity's failings.

Divinity for dust, heaven for humanity, and kingship for crucifixion, He became the majestic in the mundane. And all for what? All for love, and all for us.

Writing this script, I felt entirely inadequate. Who was I to write about the enormity of Jesus' love for us? I felt a heavy responsibility to portray the paradox of Jesus' mission, that He really was the king on his knees, washing his disciples' feet even though they would betray him, deny him and doubt him. I felt the pressure of motivating people, not through guilt or manipulation, but through the revelation that Jesus was the Savior who became a servant, who came to us. God reached out to humanity with redemption and a rescue plan.

And for that, I am eternally grateful.

And so, I found the perfect place for this gentle yet powerful phrase, the majestic in the mundane. Finally, it had found its fit, and my hope and prayer is that the words in this video stir something in you to serve and love as Jesus did.

Props to our genius media team who were able to create something moving and powerful from a few humble words I gave them.

/ / /

Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. He washed the feet of Thomas, Peter, and Judas. He washed their feet knowing that they would doubt, deny and even betray him. 

Regardless, he washed their feet and healed their wounds, choosing to serve rather than being served. He was the majestic in the mundane, the king on his knees, the savior who became a servant.

I was hungry, and you fed me
I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink
I was homeless, and you gave me a room
I was shivering, and you gave me clothes
I was sick, and you stopped to visit
I was in prison, and you came to me

I’m telling the solemn truth...whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me – you did it to Me.

To love is to serve. So that’s what we’ll do.

/ / /

/ / /

If you're looking for a church in the Silicon Valley, why not check out a service at my incredible church, C3 Church Silicon Valley?

Palo Alto
Oshman Family JCC
3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto
9am | 11am | 1pm

San Jose
Trianon Theater
72 N. 5th Street, San Jose

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Power of Godly Confession

A few years ago now, many, actually, I learned the power of words. Not only in their writing, but in their saying. You see, words have the power to create. God spoke and created. We are made in His image. But there is also the power of life and death in the tongue. Just as easily as we can build, we can destroy with a few select words. Or even a few idle works. Either way, we can speak words of life or words death over ourselves and others.

When I learned the power of Godly confession, it literally changed my life. I did not have to think the terrible thoughts I had towards myself. Instead, I could tell myself what to think by speaking words of life over myself. Even if I didn't believe, I made the choice to believe them until I actually did.

Every day I would recite scripture and godly beliefs over myself to counteract the damaging consequences of thinking such negative and toxic things about who I was. I may believe a perception of reality, but God's words are the truth and they trump any lie I may have about myself.

So the journey to replace stinkin' thinkin' with new thoughts began. After spending many hours writing godly beliefs founded in scripture to combat ungodly beliefs, I put many of those truths into an extended prose piece that I, even to this day, still read over myself.

I dare you to try it because I know that I know it will transform your life :)

/ / /

God, I know that you hear me when I call because you said that you would answer. You said that you would be with me in times of trouble and rescue. You told em that you would sustain me with long life and salvation.

Thank you that you have forgiven my sins and guilt and covered them all with your precious blood.

I know that you are a faithful God and I trust in you. Faithfulness is your very character and it is as enduring as the heavens. Your faithful promises are my armor and protection.

Lord, you are my strength, my rock in whom I find protection. You're my shield, the strength of my salvation and my stronghold. You are my hiding place where I find refuge and protection. You're the one who answers me when I call and you're the one who gives me rest and peace when I sleep.

You surround me with songs of victory and you delight over me with singing. Because you sing over me, I will sing to you a new song from my heart using your gifts within me, and I will sing for joy.

God, I long to be with you and be in your presence and dwell in your house the days of my life. I long to go to your altar. You are the source of all my joy.

I know that I am fearfully and wonderfully made and I know that full well. Your thoughts towards me outnumber the grains of sand; there's no way I can count them. You're with me as soon as I wake up.

Each morning I know that your mercies are new and fresh and I've not encountered them before. You keep me from complete destruction and instead, you declare me righteous. You bring me into your presence and you see me blameless and without a fault.

You make my innocence as clear as the dawn. And you've chosen me to be holy and innocent before you had even set the earth on it's foundations.

I know that you've transformed me and that I'm not the same woman because the Holy Spirit lives in me. I've made a decision to align my thinking with your Word and because of that, I'll be a light to the world. You've made me a light to the gentiles to bring salvation to them.

I'm a new creation and the old life is dead and buried. I'm not the same and I have changed, because you've said it in your word.

You said that I'm your masterpiece. You said that you, my King, are enthralled by my beauty. Let my beauty reflect modesty, purity, and your glory.

You will never leave me or forget about me, and when I get knocked down, I will get up again because you've never abandoned me. I will be still and know that you are God. My soul rejoices that it's living for a bigger purpose other than itself.

You said that I'm like the pearl of great value and you traded everything for me. You also said that my value is above that of rubies and pearls.

Strength and dignity are my clothing and my position is strong and secure. I will rejoice over the future because I know I'm prepared for it. Please model me into a virtuous and capable woman after your own heart.

I stand on your promise that you will answer me and tell me your mysteries and your secrets when I call on you. My faithful God, I love you more than life itself.

/ / /

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Come Alive

Easter is an awesome time of year where we celebrate what Jesus did. It's huge, it's powerful, it's life-changing, and sometimes, it's difficult to put into words what the Cross means.

But, lo and behold, I was asked to craft together an item for this year's Easter service at church. The theme for the morning was 'Come Alive'. It's quite daunting putting together something creative that can be open to interpretation by people and their personal ideologies, history, and paradigms. But after spending much time mulling over what it means to come alive, and to have a Savior bring you alive, the words below formed.

Props to our creative and dance teams who pulled off a diverse and thought-provoking item, with a little bit of Mumford & Sons thrown in for good measure. And double props to Andrew our tech extraordinaire who put together the video.

It's a beautiful thing when everyone works together to pull something great off.

/ / /

There are universal themes that weave their way through our lives. They are the threads that pull us all together, the common stitches that anchor the fabric of our existence into a garment of love and joy, pain and disappointment.

We all wear this garment and whether it’s comfortable and familiar or an ill-fitting cloak that wears at our senses, our humanity and our collective threads, are common and relatable.

But it’s when these threads become loose and unravel, where the safety and security of what we’ve always known - our beliefs, the foundation of what we’ve built upon, the safety of our created reality - when these fall out beneath us, questions and desperate pleas become the rhythm of our song.

It's in this place, where the chapters of chaos and pain read the same, that a story of hope rises out of the ashes of disappointment. It's in this place, where a Savior, who is not common, who is not one-size-fits-all, comes and mends our broken and loose threads into a garment far more stunning and majestic than we could ever purchase with our own efforts and striving. It's in this place, where we cry out, that we come to realize that our pain and disappointment do serve a purpose... to draw us into a dance with the only One who can bring us to our feet again.

It’s in this place, where we learn to believe and come alive.

/ / /

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A few things I know...

I know. I said last year that I would write more regularly. I know, I know. So much for new years resolutions. I managed to keep the majority of them. Well, probably about half of them. But hey, that's a vast improvement on setting none, keeping none, right? Lame, I know.

But in all seriousness... let's get down to business.

Lately, I just can't shake this voice in my head. I've tried ignoring it, I've tried placating it, I've tried keeping busy to drown it out. But I just can't shake that repetitive mantra in my mind... I should be writing, I should be writing, I should be writing. It was like a quiet shout. No-one else could hear the yell from inside my spirit... you're a writer who has stopped writing. But I sure as hell could hear it. And it got too much for me to ignore anymore, like I was failing to recognise a limb, or forgetting to exhale a tightly held breath.

So. I pick up the pen again, my weapon and my burden, to wield the words that will cause dry bones to rise, that will bring a relieving salve to wounds long nursed but not healed, that will deliver a cathartic release to the silent prisons many face in their own minds. Wow. Lofty words. But ones I pray, in time, will come to pass.

There are a few things I know:
• I know that regardless of how good they are, intentions don't mean anything unless you put them into action. Every morning I intend on getting up early, but when that alarm rolls on around early in the morning, those intentions mean about as much as my promises as a kid to pay my parents back for that loan to buy the latest Super Nintendo game.
• I know that in life, you will stumble, trip, fall down, and bite the dust. It sucks. But it sure makes you stronger. You find all these new muscles that you haven't used to their full potential until you have to get back onto your feet.
• I know that if you don't get back up again, you'll stay down. Profound. It's okay to feel winded, it's okay to feel things. Just don't stay on the ground. You can't move forward when you're stationary.
• I know that sometimes, your carefully laid plans won't come to pass. 'A man's mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps and makes them sure' (Prov 16.9). Often our ideal pathway is God's easy-way-out.
• I know that there comes a point when you have to fight for your own freedom. People can encourage you and cheer you on and pray for you and say nice things, but, damn it, there comes a time when you just have to roll up your sleeves, pick up the sword, and go to battle for yourself.
• I know that you have to want freedom, otherwise you'll stay bound up. If you don't really want something, then you're not gonna fight with everything you have to keep it.
• I know that we don't have to do life alone, but you can certainly choose to remain solitary if you want. It's not the best choice. And we weren't designed that way. Sometimes you have to actively seek out company and friendship, not because you want to, but because it's good for the soul. Community is God's idea, it's who he is, and you're made in his image.

Just a few things I know. Maybe you already knew them. That's cool. Maybe this blog was boring. That's not cool. Either way, I'm writing again. And that's very cool.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Be Bothered

2014. It's a new year, a fresh start, a second chance to get things right throughout the next 365 days. It's an opportunity to set goals to achieve and to re-evaluate where you're going, what you're doing and where you'd like to be heading.

Today, I sat down to take advantage of this new year to set some goals, and one phrase that I could not keep from running through my head, and one that I believe is a Holy Spirit prompt:

Be bothered.

How many times in a day do you say to yourself, I can't be bothered? Maybe you don't ever say it and you're just one of those super motivated people who never stops and who never puts things off to the next day and who are just overly organised to the point that you and I can't relate and therefore will never be friends... Ahem. Sorry, I got a little carried away.

Leading a busy and full life allows me the excuse of putting things off because I just can't be bothered. Either I don't have the time or the energy to do whatever task is at hand. But I realised something today, and it's that I spend a lot of energy thinking about how I don't have the energy to vacuum or get some groceries, which can often be more exhausting than just doing whatever needs to be done in the first place. I spend time debating with myself how I don't have time to empty the dishwasher or put on a load of washing or to sort my paperwork, all the while taking up time that I could've used to get myself organised.

So today, when I was writing out my goals, I decided that I would heed God's advice and just BE BOTHERED. When I find myself saying, I can't be bothered... I imagine myself using strikeout font with the word can't and just doing it.

I feel more productive already. It's a good feeling, getting organised for the year, because in order to do what I want to do and see God move, I need to nail the smaller things in life. I like to think of it like this: an efficient engine that is well maintained will go further for longer. I don't want to burn out and drown in 'stuff' because I couldn't be bothered. I don't want to miss out on meeting people because I couldn't be bothered to get my booty over there and introduce myself. I don't want to let an opportunity pass me by because I wasn't bothered enough to grab it with both hands.

So that's it. That's my number one goal this year. Be bothered. I can't wait to see the fruit of my motivation unveiled throughout the coming months.


- N