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For the Girls

Today is the International Day of the Girl. The girl, who in so many places is denied education; is denied a voice as her future and even sometimes her spouse is decided for her; is denied a childhood as she is married off at barely double digits; is aborted or given up because she is the less desirable gender to bring into this world; is denied. Here in the United States where she’s far more fortunate, her struggles will be confined to unequal salary, to being objectified and occasionally harassed by those around her, and to avoiding being that one out of every six females over age 12 who will have a rape attempt made against her. The girl, who will grow into a woman – at once nurturing to those around her with a backbone of steel. The girl, formed of the rib of Adam, perfectly designed and destined for her partner – the only reason why life continues to cycle. The girl. Behind the innocent smiles and laughter, she will have so much to navigate in her life. And so today I’ve spent a lot of time praying for girls everywhere. I’m sharing my biggest prayers here, in the hopes that you’ll stand with me in agreement. It’s time they all know that we stand with them:

-I pray that you know you are here for a reason and nobody else can fulfill it for you. You were made on purpose, with specific gifts and callings. The world is a more beautiful place because you’re in it. So that voice in your head that says you’re not enough, that you can’t, and that you’re worthless and alone….I rebuke all that right now and call it out for the lie that it is. I pray you be who you are, boldly and freely.
-I pray that even in the deepest darkest parts of your heart you KNOW you were fearfully and wonderfullly made. That you would know you are valuable beyond words or price. That you would know there is nothing on this earth that can diminish you. No words, no abuse is stronger than what was inherently woven into your creation. Whatever you face in your life, I pray you know it doesn’t define you. Your identity comes from somewhere so much higher. You and your truth are seen, known and loved and IN THE NAME OF JESUS, may you know it.
-I pray you know your strength – and its source. You were made with authority and IN HIM you can overcome anything.
-I pray that you have freedom to access the education and resources that you need to cultivate the gifts you carry, and I pray your voice is never silenced. I pray right now against any chains or oppression that would come your way because girl, you were created to be Royalty. I pray you be infused with a faith stronger than hardship, that you would know you have a Provider and Protector even when all seems lost and it seems you’re out of options.
-I pray you honor your body. It’s the only one you get and it was created with just as much value as the rest of you. I pray you never resort to thinking it defines you, and that you never feel the need to craft your self-worth around it. Treat it like it belongs to someone you love. I know there’s a vast number of girls who live in areas where their bodies are their only means of survival and provision for their families. If you’re in one of them I pray you see that for the lie that it is. You were created by a God of abundance, who hears and answers your cries, who can fill your every need. You are never alone, you’re never forsaken and you don’t have to live as if you are.
-I pray you don’t cast your pearls before swine.There’s a time to cut your losses and move on. Know it and do it. You’re worth more than that.
-I pray you know, and I mean KNOW, that wherever you find yourself, whatever choices you’ve made or dark paths you’ve walked, you’re never too far gone. There’s always hope. Shame be off you in the name of Jesus. There’s no condemnation, not here, not in Him.
-And finally I pray you know that you are celebrated not just today but every day, and that the delight of the Father is on you always as His daughter. Let that knowledge nourish your spirit and fuel your soul.
From the newborn girl to the young-at-heart, from the girl down the street, to the teenage prostitute on another continent, I’m for you. The prayers of my heart are for you. Because you’re a girl. And today, the world stands with you.

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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.

The Mirror

Mirror

Every morning I get dressed and then head over to the full length mirror to make sure I am presentable. I smooth down stray hairs, straighten my collar or make sure my skirt is even. I sometimes find I have to try again with a different outfit because the first one made me look too old, too frumpy, or the usual culprit – too fat. I never thought much about this because I’ve always carried too much weight and I’m quite used to feeling down on myself for it.

Recently my sister and my mother came to visit me. I have been living in this apartment for several years, but this was the first time they had seen it.  At one point my sister caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. “Ugh!” she said. I assumed that like most of us, she wasn’t happy with some aspect of herself that she saw in her reflection. However, her next comment surprised me. She said, “How can you stand this mirror?” She beckoned my mother to come over. My mother then stood in front of the mirror and had a similar reaction. “Oh, this mirror is terrible. It makes me look so fat. It’s like a fun-house mirror!”

I was shocked! The first reaction for both of them was not to think that they were flawed, but rather that the mirror was flawed! I realized that when I had gone to a friend’s house I indeed felt thinner looking in her full-length mirror, but rather than think I looked good, I assumed her mirror was a cast-off from a retail store that had purposely been designed to make one look thinner than they really are. I presumed that my mirror showed my true shape and that my friend’s mirror was the one in error. It never occurred to me that it could be my mirror that was reflecting a falsehood.

It got me thinking about how we all perceive things differently and that we are easily persuaded by the images that we project onto ourselves. Is it possible that my mother and sister routinely see themselves as better looking than they truly are? Perhaps I regularly see myself as looking worse than I really do? And in either case, why do we value ourselves differently based upon the reflection of a piece of glass? How do these perceptions affect the way we carry ourselves in our day to day lives? Why do I allow the impression of a few extra pounds to define anything about me? What is it about my sister and mother that caused them to blame the mirror where I blamed myself? How much do I allow my perception of the image I see in the mirror to hinder the true reflection I wish to present to the world – the reflection of Christ?

What are your thoughts?

In His Love,

Rebekah L.

Contemplation

thoughtful

When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. ~ Isaiah 43:2

I’m going through this crazy mental time right now.  I’ve gained a few pounds the last few months and the boy is disappearing more and more from my life. I know that I’m the one who told him that I couldn’t date him. I know that I’m the one who didn’t contradict him when he said he didn’t have a pretty girl to kiss when he was down.  I know that I’m the one who said he was what I wanted, but not what I needed (because I needed a praying man).

I miss him though. He still talks to me every day, but before where it was 4 or 5 hour gap at most… it can literally be only a little in the morning or night now.  I miss feeling like he was my constant companion even when it was only via text most of the time. The niche he found for himself in my life now feels empty and a gaping hole.

Tonight, one of my guy friends texted me out of the blue to tell me about how things weren’t going well with the girl he was chasing. Said he messed up with her because he was pursuing her too much when she needed space.  This is the same guy who I said was the example of what I’m looking for in a guy.

Part of me kept wondering what in the world was wrong with her for not running towards him with all she had. Here is this amazing, Godly, thoughtful guy who truly loves Christ and she just didn’t want to date him why? because he was attentive??? I just don’t get it but all I do know is that a slight part of me wanted to be like “me! pick me! I’m here! I love Jesus just as much as you do! Open your eyes!” but… he’s never, ever offered anything besides friendship to me. I gave up on him ever thinking of me as anything beyond a friend years ago.

So here I sit, on the heels of amazing news that I passed my boards and yet my heart is still heavy…

Lord,

Help me to hope in You. I know You have all things in Your hands so help me praise You even with my heavy heart. Help me put on the garment of praise. Help me to love You with all my heart so that this stuff has no effect on me.  Shield me in Your hands. Hold me while I have a heavy heart when I should be rejoicing. Help me shed this feeling of being inadequate, of feeling like no man will find me attractive, to just re-see my worth in You again. Remind me You are walking with me in this emotional time in which things must be burned away and out of my heart.

Rebekah M.

Made Beautiful

“….Only company he keeps is the dirt caked in his hands,

Cracked shoes held together by a rubber band,

His worth shows in his eyes,

Cast down to the ground, beaten down by lies,

he’s made beautiful”.

Homeless

The above words went through my head as lyrics on the subway the other day, when I spotted a homeless man on the train. Surrounded by dirty blankets on the subway floor, filthy, with rubber bands holding his shoes together, he sat alone. His mere presence seemed enough to repel most other passengers, and the ones who were forced to share his car sat as far from him as possible.

And it struck me that this man was also made beautiful. To this day he has a Savior walking right next to him, loving him and weeping for him. He was loved so much that Jesus brought him into this world in the first place, and His perfect love hasn’t waned a bit. I wonder if this man knows that. Probably not. But either way, my heart broke for him. Broke to see someone beloved by the King of kings reduced to worthlessness here on earth.

And before I knew it, I was singing. Just an improvised song, and incomplete, but it still had verses and a chorus and a tune. And I sang it in the middle of the subway (softly). I meant to just process it all but suddenly there was a song coming out of my mouth.

And suddenly it hit me. The only difference between me and that man – so beaten down and made worthless by the world – is that I had more people in my life who followed their God-given calling when it came to me. I mean, that’s really the only barrier. I didn’t always know Jesus, His love for me, or my worth in Him. I was lost, and wandering, and an emotional wreck. I was saved. I wonder how this man started out, how he played as a child, who his friends were. I wonder if his parents showed him unconditional love, if there was anyone there to pray for his every milestone. I wonder how he got from being carried in the womb to being the ‘dregs’ of society. I wonder if anyone will ever save him.

Most of all I wonder if anyone ever saw him as he truly is – made beautiful.

I implore you all to reach out to the ‘least of these’. The world would have you walk by. But Jesus is beside them too, asking all who walk by to embrace them. Be the one who listens. Pray with them. Love on them. Show them the love that created them, and the beauty they were made with.

God bless!

~Rebekah A

A Faithless Spouse

I’ve been reading Ezekiel lately and one chapter has been jumping out at me for a couple of days now. It’s Ezekiel 16, about the faithless spouse. In this chapter, God speaks about a baby girl who was completely abandoned and left to die. He saved her, took care of her, raised her and when she was older He lavished her with beauty and gifts. Instead of being grateful for the gifts and using them to serve her Creator, she flaunted them – and herself. She used these things to get attention and whore herself. The chapter is an analogy about Israel’s behavior towards the Lord and His word, but I can’t help but feel that it’s relevant in the church today. Especially the western church.

I feel like we are blessed with so many gifts. We’re given daily little miracles pertaining to our personal lives. As a body, we’re given discernment, wisdom, prophecy, the Holy Spirit, revelations, teachings, visions, prayer language, and so much more. We’re given an identity. We’re given a destiny. We’re given an inheritance. So many gifts that we don’t even think about as gifts – most people just think they’re part of Church.

But gifts they are. Precious jewels and jewelry, bestowed upon us by the One who outshines anything this earth could produce.

And yet….too often we cloud our visions and prophecies with our own desires. Too often we scratch our gemstones with our fear and failure to move at God’s command, and we tarnish our gold and silver bracelets with our own agendas. Yes, we may still have some semblance of good. We may still go through the motions. But even if we’re giving generously, if it’s the tarnished and damaged version that we’re giving, it’s not nearly as good .

I don’t want to be a faithless spouse. I don’t want to waste these precious gives. And when I share what I have with others, I want to share my gems with all the brilliance they were created with. I don’t want to share sub-par gifts, dulled and tainted with my own weakness. I don’t want the rest of the church to do so either.

And so today I ask God to search my heart and to guide me as I pray for my own gifts to be restored to their initial flawless state – and for the discipline and obedience required to keep them that way. I ask for guidance in praying the same over the rest of the body. The polishing process isn’t always an easy or a gentle one but the end result is well worth it.

God bless!

~Rebekah A

Unexpected Blessings: Concerts and Policemen

Concerts: 

Tonight, I got to go to the concert of a conductor friend of mine.  He has worked so hard to get to where he is today.  It was amazing to me that I was there for his very first performance back in high school and today, I was able to see him conduct a powerful group of singers in a prestigious music program. My how far we can go! I was unsure if I should take time away from church (my last service here in this city) to go, but then on my way I felt God tell me it was okay. Low and behold, the last song was about putting our hands to the plow, holding on, and moving forward. The vocals were phenomenal- it reminded me that God’s creation is so amazing and perfect. That JUST voices could create such a beautiful, powerful sound struck me with awe for His great ways. To top it off with lyrics that hold such meaning….  what a blessing where I was least expecting it!!!

Policemen:

All my life I struggled with self esteem issues until Ex #1 broke up with me, I went on an over 2 month fast, and God transformed me so completely from the inside out that I realized it was GOD esteem that mattered.  It doesn’t matter what I look like on the outside, and yet I realized that God made me beautiful.  I saw who GOD saw me as and so it mattered more that I was praying than grooming time did.  I cared more for thinking of what things pleased Him than I did about how I could do things to please guys in how they saw me.  When I looked in the mirror all I saw was that God created me beautiful. Lately, I’ve felt fat.  I’d look in the mirror and for some reason, even though I haven’t gone up a size in clothes yet, all I see is the fatness.

Tonight, as I was walking back to my room at the hospital (I’m living in the hospital this month), one of the policemen that guard the ER asked me out.  He was tall, good looking, and straight up stopped me to ask me out- my kind of guy! It was just so assuring because it felt like to me that Jesus was saying “see? You are still beautiful, even when you don’t see it. I will bring you a husband… in MY timing.” For along with the feelings of physical ugliness, I just starting wishing I had a husband.  My brain would ruminate over the fact that Ex #1 is married (while I am not), so many other people are married, and so many others are also having kids and sending them to pre-school etc. etc. etc.

I want a family that lives for Jesus.  I want a husband who will lead us all on this journey towards Christ with a passion for the God of creation.  I want a man who will be a father to our children, a prayer partner that connects with my spirit, and a friend who gets my soul.  I also realized I’m pretty superficial and hope he’s CUTE! haa! Is my definition of cute the same as everyone else’s? Not always. haa haa! And this policeman was certainly good looking in my book! So I think Jesus was just saying- wait some more on ME, my child. Wait.

Jesus, 

Thank You for these unexpected blessings.  Thank You for things to make me smile and soothe my weary soul.  Thank You for Your goodness and mercy.  Thank You for reminding me You find me beautiful.  Give me strength to just WAIT. I love You Jesus with all my heart. 

Rebekah M. 

BTW- for those wondering, I told him I was moving tomorrow (because I am) so I wouldn’t be able to go on a date with him… it was still a nice way to end my day though 🙂