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Standards of Beauty

整形外科 - Plastic Surgery

整形外科 (Plastic Surgery)

I am currently on a company trip to Hong Kong, Beijing, and Taipei. This post is just an observation about the beauty standards that are prevalent here. It’s not really a spiritual post, it’s just some things that have been going through my mind since I arrived. I think it dovetails nicely with Rebekah M.’s last post, The Monster in the Mirror. Please don’t take this post as criticizing the culture. I am well aware that my own culture is just as flawed and has just as many ridiculous standards. These are just my thoughts and observations.

There is an impossible standard of beauty here. This is true the world over, but it seems especially prevalent here. It amazes me that I can take a walk and get handed packs of tissues from at least three different plastic surgery outfits on a single street.

Plastic surgery is increasingly common in the west, but it’s still pretty much relegated to celebrities and the super rich. Here, it’s not uncommon for your average woman to seek it out. There’s nose jobs to be had, chin chiseling (to get that impossible heart-shaped face), double eye-lid surgery, liposuction, and the surgery to help you get rid of your radish legs. In other words, surgery to change you from something perfectly normal to something supposedly more attractive. There’s even a strangely popular procedure to turn your areolas into hearts. Really? Who would want or need such a thing? Especially something that so obviously can only be accomplished through surgery?

All of the constant focus on beauty here makes me feel really insecure. I do not live up to my own culture’s standards of beauty and really don’t live up to this culture’s standard of beauty.

Honestly, I think those women with the extreme heart faces look weird. It’s unnatural. I think the surgery to get a double eye-lid is a disheartening attempt to appear more “western”. Maybe I’m wrong about that, but that’s sure what it seems like. And radish legs? Seriously? I always thought your thighs were supposed to be wider than your calves. This is considered something so ugly that it bears it’s own insult?

I guess it can be compared to the teenage obsession in the US to have a thigh gap. A few months ago I saw a picture one of our youth at church posted on her instagram account. She had photoshopped the picture in order to give the appearance that she had a thigh gap. It was a rather poor photoshop job so that’s how I knew and it made me so sad because she is a beautiful girl. An absolutely gorgeous girl actually. But there’s that impossible standard of beauty everywhere. Pretty girls are not exempt.

So I know it isn’t unique to this area, but perhaps because I’m in a foreign place it’s even more obvious to me. After all, we tend to do a lot more observing when we’re in an unfamiliar environment. Here most girls don’t flaunt their bosoms the way they do back home. You won’t often see low-cut tops, but you know what you do see? Super short skirts and shorts. Legs seem to be the body part of choice to show off. Therefore, they need to be perfect.

Then there’s the whitening creams, celulite reducers, fake eyelashes, and round contacts. The obsession to look…different…better…younger is everywhere. This goes far beyond the typical fat shaming which is done en masse, but also focuses heavily on things that are completely beyond personal control.

For example, being short is an insult. Being someone of short stature myself, I find it interesting. On the one hand, I love coming here and not always being the shortest one in any given gathering. Back home everyone is taller than me. Here, most people are still taller than me, but the difference in height is much less pronounced. I might be the shortest in a group, but it will only be by a few inches rather than by a foot or more. It’s an amazing feeling to be with a group of people and actually be able to talk to them face to face. I have spent my life literally looking up to people. Taller people are often unaware of how uncomfortable it is when they stand too close. The closer they stand, the sharper the angle my neck has to be at in order to look at them (keep this in mind when talking to small children). I sometimes wonder if this is the cause of my chronic neck pain, but that’s another story.

Anyway, this amazing feeling of not being quite so short here is dampened by the fact that here being short is an insult. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone describe another person as “plain and short” as a way to say they aren’t worth anything. They don’t deserve a boyfriend etc. because they are so “ugly – plain and short”. It’s strange to me. Back home being short is just a description, it’s not an insult. Your friends might kid you about it, but you’ll never hear someone call a person short in the same way you hear people call someone fat; like it’s a horrible thing to be – but here you do. It’s strange to me. At least when you insult someone for being fat (which I’m not a fan of either) the person likely has some control over whether they’re fat. When you insult someone for being short, you’re insulting something that they have almost no control over. It’s determined almost entirely by genes. Good nutrition in early childhood can make a difference, but that isn’t something most kids can control.

I say all that to point out how ridiculous the standards of beauty are. There’s actually a ton more examples of this that I could share, but the point is that many of them are literally unattainable (or only possible with surgical intervention). People grow up hating themselves. Hating the bodies that God gave them. If only they knew that they are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).

In His Love,
Rebekah L.

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God Provides

testToday at work I received a payroll check for one of our employees. The check was a replacement for one that was originally issued more than three and a half years ago that was somehow never cashed. The employee had no idea this check was coming. I live for these moments.

When I saw her I exclaimed that God had sent her a blessing as I handed her the check. Bewildered she stared at it and of course inquired what it was for. After I explained, she nearly broke down. Recently, she has been struggling financially as she had to take a cut in pay last year. She told me that her bank account is currently $33 in the negative. She said that she had committed to sending $100 to a missions work in Cambodia and even though she didn’t have the money, she sent it anyway. She told her father that God would provide the money. Her father was skeptical and said, “How is He going to do that?” She said she didn’t know, but she believed He would. The check she received today was for more than $1200!

Let me be clear that I am not advocating for anyone to be financially unwise. We need to budget and plan accordingly. However, if God places it in your heart to step out in faith and give, and you make a commitment to do so, don’t back out of your commitment. Trust that He will provide!

I live for these moments. It is wonderful to watch God provide for His children and strengthen their faith. She stepped out in faith and God opened His windows of heaven to pour out a blessing! Yes, it was technically already her money, but it was money that she didn’t need or miss at the time (nearly four years ago) and instead it arrived exactly when she needed it! God’s timing is impeccable. She kept her commitment to the souls in Cambodia and put her trust in God. He provided. It is a testimony to her father and it is a testimony to me. To God be the glory!'GOD' 'ALWAYS' ‘PROVIDES' - Philippians 4 verse 19

Thank you, Jesus!

In His Love,

Rebekah L.

PS. Please share your recent testimonies with us.

We love to hear them!

Learning to Love like Jesus

LI have this little problem. I love hard. I love deep. I love people too much. Rather, I love people too selfishly; with too many expectations. I get frustrated when people don’t love me the way that I love them. I find myself feeling disappointed when I don’t receive love back the way that I give it out. Even when people actually love me better than I love them, I have trouble recognizing it when it comes in a form that is unfamiliar to me. In my disappointment I have often told myself that the solution is to love them less. If I didn’t love them so much, it wouldn’t hurt so much when things don’t happen the way I think they should. I have tried countless times to love people less and I fail miserably at it. Why would I try to love someone less? Because the more neutral your feelings toward someone, the less the things they do (or don’t do) affect you. I’m tired of feeling hurt and disappointed. I am tired of hoping things will be different and finding they never are. I’m tired of feeling like I love people so much and they don’t love me back. It’s a lie from the enemy; People do love me. I’m just not that good at recognizing it.

Thank God Jesus is not like me! The truth is that I don’t need to learn to love less; I need to learn to love differently. I need to love with a pure love. A love that doesn’t ask for anything in return. A love without expectation. When the people didn’t love Jesus the way He loved them, did He give up on them or walk away? Did He try to love them less so that it wouldn’t hurt so much if they didn’t love Him back? No, He loves unconditionally. He loved us so deeply that He hung on a cross and died for us. That’s the kind of love I need. I need to learn to love more, not less. I need to learn to consistently be compassionate, turn the other cheek, and forgive. I need to learn to love like Jesus.

Lord, teach me to love like you love. Teach me how to see people the way that you do. Teach me not to view things from my selfish perspective, but to always see them through the mercy and love of the Lord. Teach me to love like Jesus.

In His Love,
Rebekah L.

Freedom from Harassment

For the past two years I have been dealing with blatant sexual harassment from a co-worker. It started when this man asked me out on a date. He was a pastor of a denomination similar to mine and had always been very friendly with me. Although not well known by the English speakers in my company, he was highly respected among the Hispanic employees (He is Latin American) and I was intrigued by him. I agreed to the date.

We had a nice time and I readily agreed to a second date. I began to wonder if it might be God’s plan for us to partner together for the work of the Kingdom. I wanted him to be the one, but I couldn’t shake this feeling in the pit of my stomach that something just wasn’t right. It was after the fourth date that I found out that he is married! He never wore a ring and had never mentioned a wife so I really had no idea. This was not even a case of him being separated, he is a fully married man! Obviously, that was the end for me.

But it was not the end. Not for him. Not by a long shot.

He refused to accept that I was no longer interested in him. He refused to back down. He would not leave me alone. He would beg me to give him a chance. He would come to my office and tell me the explicit things he fantasized about doing with me. He would tell me that I was in his heart and mind. He would plead with me to have sex with him “just one time. Just one time, por favor.”

Suddenly the man who had always seemed so friendly became aggressive and frightening. It didn’t matter how many times I said no, he wouldn’t stop. He began purposely trying to intimidate me. He would block my exit from my office. He would follow me into the women’s restroom. He would be waiting at my car when I tried to leave for the day. If I wrote all of the things he said and did over the last two years, you would be amazed (and perhaps judgmental) about the fact that I did not do more to stop it. For a while I was paralyzed by it. It was scary to me. I didn’t know how to handle it.

I determined in my heart that I didn’t want to be the reason that this man lost his job. He has a family to support. I kept praying that God would have mercy on him and grant him a heart of repentance. I prayed that he would get a revelation of God that would change his behavior. When things didn’t seem to change I began to pray that God would get this man away from me. I didn’t really care how it happened; I just wanted it to happen. I prayed he would repent and leave me alone. When it seemed he wasn’t going to do that I prayed he would transfer to another location in our company. When that didn’t happen I prayed he would find another job or quit. I just kept praying for God to get him away from me.

It took a while, but eventually I began to see things differently. God helped me to fight the battle spiritually. He helped me to recognize that this man is under the influence of Satan and he needs deliverance. He never changed his behavior, but the effect it had on me changed. I stopped being afraid. I stopped letting it linger in my mind. I just kept giving it to God. Somewhere along the way, the peace of God began to replace the negative thoughts and feelings I had. I began to focus all my prayers on his soul. He is a man who is spiritually in a very dangerous place.

Yesterday I got notice that this man is being laid off. Finally, he will be away from me. I pray that he is able to find another job quickly, but I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that I feel relief. I find it interesting that it wasn’t until I found peace in the situation that the answer to my prayer came. I’m not saying that he is being laid off because of my prayers, but it is an answer to my prayer. I could have had him fired a long time ago, but I didn’t want to be personally responsible for him losing his income.

I have mixed feelings about this. I rejoice in my deliverance, but I grieve for his continued bondage. I pray that he does not become a problem for someone else. May God have mercy on his soul.

Have you ever experienced something like this in your walk with God?

In His Love,
Rebekah L.

Send Me

I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me.” -Isaiah 6:8

I have exciting news. I will be going back to China and Taiwan! It will be another short trip through my company similar to the one I went on last year. It won’t be for a while, perhaps not until spring, but the plans are falling into place. I have no idea what the spiritual significance will be, but I have no doubt that this is the will of the Lord. I had to go through several steps over a period of months during the selection process which entailed completing an application, submitting an essay, getting letters of recommendation, having a panel interview, and taking a Chinese proficiency test. At each one of these steps I prayed for the Lord to either open the door or close the door according to His will. From a human perspective I am far from the best candidate for the job so I know that being selected was only by the hand of the Lord. He has a purpose for allowing me another opportunity to go and I am humbled, grateful, and excited. I pray that He will allow me to be a vessel to reach the souls I come across. Lord open doors, open doors, open doors!

In His Love,
Rebekah L.

Rahab Gets Married

rings“As God by creation made two of one, so again by marriage He made one of two.” ~ Thomas Adam

For those of you who have followed my Rahab series over the last two years, I have some exciting news! Hint – It’s in the title of this post. 😉 Yes, the lovely young woman referred to in these posts has gotten hitched.

This is significant because it represents a total separation from her past. As a woman who was forced to sell her body (by her own parents no less), she did not even dare to dream she would ever get out of her old life. She had resigned herself to the idea that she would have to endure her “profession” until she became too old to continue attracting clients. She often worried how she would support herself when that day finally came. The idea of marriage was so far beyond her realm of possibilities that she couldn’t even entertain the idea.

Starting when she was very young her father told her repeatedly that as a member of his family she belonged to him and had no choice but to do as he told her. He said, “Until you have a family of your own, you belong to me. And no one will ever marry someone as filthy and used up as you are. You will never find a man who is willing to marry someone like you.” He was the reason she became “filthy and used up”, but yet used that as the rationale that no one would ever marry her and that she was doomed to always be his property to be rented out as he pleased.

But God!

Oh how God can take all of man’s plans and turn them on their head! When the world saw someone who was filthy and used up, God saw a woman to be redeemed! Jesus Christ is still in the business of cleansing and making new! He took a woman of ill repute and completely turned her life around! She now knows the Lord; she has been delivered from her life of degradation, and filled with His Spirit.

God has seen fit to give her a godly man as a husband. Even by her father’s twisted justification, she is free from him by virtue of having been married. The thing she never thought possible has come to pass by way of Jesus Christ. God took a terrible circumstance and used it for both her and her new husband’s good. They met through a series of cruel tricks by both his parents and hers. He never saw the deception coming, fell right into their trap, and committed a serious mistake. By all outward appearances this should have ended very very badly.

But God!

This man repented of his sin, and became a representation of Christ to this woman who was so desperately lost in darkness. He modeled love. She was filled with anger and bitterness. She fought back at him with sharp words and a hateful attitude. He kept reaching out in the love of Christ. He ignored her hurtful behavior. Through every angry word and difficult encounter he continued to show godly love in a way that she had never seen. In fact, she had never experienced any kind of love at all. Not from friends. Not from men. Not from family members. Not even her own parents.

But God!

God used this man to show real love. And real love prevailed. Through it all God kept reaching for her. He did a miracle in her life. She surrendered to Him and it changed everything.

Her faith in Him is incredible. I have seen her grow in spiritual maturity so quickly. Her prayers are deep and strong. Her level of commitment is rare among Christians. She has already become a role model for the women in her church. She is a woman who knows what God has done for her.

There is no greater freedom than that of living for Jesus Christ!

Congratulations, Rahab. May your marriage be as strong and resilient as you have been. May the goodness and mercy of the Lord follow you both all the days of your lives. May you and your husband be blessed with a love that grows stronger every day and moves you ever closer to the Lord.

In His Love,
Rebekah L.

More in the Rahab Series:

Being Rahab (Part 1)

Revisiting Rahab (Part 2)

The Faith of Rahab (Part 3)

Praying with Rahab (Part 4)

Survived Another Childless Mother’s Day

Phew, I have survived another Mother’s Day! Honestly, I feel guilty even writing that because I know there are many people for whom Mother’s Day is a much more painful event than it is for me. Especially for those mothers who have lost a child. I cannot imagine how unbearable that would be. And don’t get me wrong, Mother’s Day is a wonderful day to honor our mothers and all that mothers the world over have done for us.

But I struggle with it, and I know I am not alone in that struggle.

I wavered about whether to post this or not. It feels whiny, oh, poor pitiful me, and entirely too self-focused, but in the end I decided to go ahead and post it anyway because we strive to be real on this blog. My feelings – right or wrong, are very real, and as I mentioned, I know that I am not alone in these feelings. Perhaps another woman will read this post and know that she too is not alone in her pain.

When I was young, like most girls, I assumed that I would grow up to marry and go on to have children. In all the times I “played house” I never imagined a scenario where children would not be part of the equation. Recently I read an article by Melanie Notkin called My Secret Grief. In it she discusses the hidden pain of circumstantial infertility. Unlike the pain of medical infertility, circumstantial infertility is not caused because of some biological issue, but rather because (as the name infers) circumstances never lined up to make motherhood a reality. Notkin put down in words many of the things I’ve never been able to say.

If you are childless (not by choice), it can be difficult to express the feelings that go along with it. If you try, well-meaning people will say all kinds of things which sting and cut at you in ways they cannot comprehend.

As a Christian I struggle with the sadness it brings me. I know that I should be content with what I have (see Philippians 4:11, 1 Timothy 6:6, Hebrews 13:5), and mostly I am, but there are hard days. Really hard days. For the last few years, Mother’s Day has ranked among the top for really hard days.

I vacillate between trying to face reality so I can move on from my desire to be a mother and trying desperately to hold on to the hope that it may one day still happen. I don’t know how to give up my hope of being a mother, but I think I might be happier if I could figure out how to. The Bible says that “hope deferred maketh the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12). As a never married, single, childless woman I know the truth of that verse all too well.

As My Secret Grief points out, when you get to a certain age if you are still childless it is assumed that you either never really wanted children or you just didn’t try hard enough. I have had countless people tell me I should just go out and find a guy to make a kid with. “Why wait for marriage?” they say. This world doesn’t understand the concept that fornication is a sin. Or they tell you that you should just get a sperm donor, or adopt.

Here’s the thing: I honestly think my child deserves to have two parents. They should have both a mother and a father who is present and active in their childrearing. I understand that this is not always possible and there are many many wonderful single parents out there, but it seems selfish to purposely put your child in the position of only having a single parent. Again, please do not think I am disparaging single parents out there. The majority of them work tirelessly to provide good lives for their children and should be commended for that. But to deliberately deny a child a father just because I would like to be a mother is unfair to them. Perhaps I could manage to get pregnant (this is still medically questionable) or adopt (financially prohibitive) without the presence of a husband, but for the sake of my children, I wouldn’t want to do that. In the eyes of the world this is seen as not wanting it bad enough. Trust me; I’ve heard enough comments to know the reality of this view. The truth is that I do want it that badly; I just don’t want it that selfishly.

I struggle with how heart-broken I am over being childless. I feel guilty because I think my desire shows an inherent lack of gratefulness for what I do have. And I have been blessed! Abundantly blessed! But the sadness and longing remain. God designed women to be mothers and most of us feel that pull to our very core. The Bible gives us seven examples of barren women in the Bible who later went on to give birth. What strikes me about them is that they all cried to the Lord over their situation. Granted, it was tougher in Biblical times because women were mandated to give their husbands children and those who could not were seen as cursed. It was a much more dire situation, but I have no doubt that the tears they cried were much like my own. The Bible says that Hannah prayed with great weeping (I Samuel 1:10). The King James Version says that she was in “bitterness of soul” and that as she prayed she “wept sore”. This was a woman who knew the heartache and sorrow of being childless.

Yet, all seven of these women had husbands. I cannot cry to the Lord for a child (though I have) until I first have a husband. And time has so quickly passed me by. I had to give up an ungodly relationship when I was saved – knowing confidently that the Lord would provide for me. I waited five years to meet a man in the church, but there just weren’t any. I found a sweet man who became a Christian. I wasted five more years of my life on that man and he ended up getting another woman pregnant while we were together. Heartbreaking.

We are told not to be unequally yoked, but there are literally NO single men my age in my church. I know of a total of two single men (both younger than me) in our entire church district. I know dozens of single women in this same age group. And I am not confining myself to a man within a few years of my age. I’m talking within a 15+ year age range; there just aren’t any available men. Let alone a man that would be a good match for me and I for him. It’s difficult to remain hopeful.

Well-meaning friends and relatives tell me that they miss the single life. They wish they had more time for themselves and for the Lord. I have no doubt this is true. If I were married with children, I too would miss my current single life at times. But most of the people who have said this to me weren’t single for all that long. They moved out of their parent’s houses and within a few short years they were married. They never had that much time to themselves. I moved out of my parent’s house seventeen years ago. Seventeen long years ago. I’ve come home to a silent, empty house day after day, week after week, month after month, for years and years and years on end. Most of the time, I’m okay with this. Most of the time, I am content in the Lord. But there are days. Really hard days.

Mother’s Day is especially difficult because I feel I am mourning the family I never had. My pastor, bless his heart, loves to make a big deal out of Mother’s Day. I actually really appreciate him for this because mothers deserve to be recognized for their endless hours of tireless sacrifice for their families. The work they do is acknowledged far too little. Mother’s Day is the one day that people set aside to honor them. It is wonderful and important. But it is difficult. More than once I have been the only adult woman left in the congregation after he calls all the mothers to the front. I want to sink into my seat and just disappear when that happens. I don’t want anyone to see me sitting there by myself and pity me. For the last couple of years, I have made it a point not to be in the sanctuary when this happens because it is just too painful for me.

Is it selfish? Yes. Yes, it is. Mother’s Day is not about me. I should be there to encourage and honor the godly women in my life who give so much for their children. But I hide. I hide because I can’t stand the feeling. I can’t stand how every year someone will say to me, “Next year” when next year never seems to come.

But the day comes and goes and I find after it’s over that I have survived. I’m still breathing. I’m okay. The Lord has granted me strength to get through another day. He is my Provider. He is my Comforter. He is my All-in-All. And after all the feelings have passed, I am reminded that faith is not a feeling. I am blessed. The Lord is MIGHTY in my life. He is my Strong Tower. He is my hope. He is my Loyal Friend and Husbandman. He is enough. I so love and appreciate Him for that. When I feel I am alone, I am never alone. He is with me day after day, week after week, month after month, for years and years and years on end.

And He is with you too.

In His Love,
Rebekah L.