A Cheerful Heart is Good Medicine

This is the year my friend and I set once upon a time ago to go exploring the streets of Paris, the workshops of Rome, and retrace steps in Germany. I brought it up and we both smiled and agreed Europe would have to wait.

Now that my closest friends are scattered and plane rides instead of car rides away, my tickets and destinations are not to landmarks and yelped haunts, but to familiar faces. Who knows when Paris awaits, but yesterday, I smiled and laughed more in one day than I probably have all year. It is so good to see old friends. It refreshes my heart like nothing else.

Closer

“So are you guys close?”

There have been three questions I’ve heard on repeat since my brother got engaged.

1. “Ohh, will you be a bridesmaid?!” (No.)
2. “So, when is it your turn?” (Oh, bug off… This is not about me.)
3. “So are you guys close?”

Sometimes it’s a “How do you two get along?”

And the answer to the third question is tough. Am I close to my future sister-in-law? I’ve know her for about as long as my brother’s dated her. Six years. We know quite a bit about each other. But, in those six years she’s been off to college, then out of country for her job, and I moved out of my parents. I haven’t seen or spent much time alone with her. Which is not what I expected. I expected my future sis to reflect Nathan’s personality completely: sometimes loud, often funny, very outgoing, and a big conversation starter. Which is she not. She is complimentary to him and unique. Her replies are often diplomatic and carefully spoken before opinionated and sarcastic. I basically put all these expectations on my future sister in law and found out she wasn’t what I planned but is everything I wanted. But you know, I expected us to magically be BFFs since day 1.

She loves my family. She genuinely cares about all of us. Even the family dog.  She loves my brother wholeheartedly. They are totally devoted to each other. I admire how both have grown and planned for their upcoming big day. They’ve endured rough times and know how to resolve quarrels lovingly. Seriously, no one could be more perfect. And she helps challenge areas where he needs change.  She brings new perspective and ideas. She is brilliant and self motivated and I love that. I admire her resourceful nature and gravitate towards her ideas and am inspired. What more could you want in someone marrying your brother?

Wedding planning and all the life events leading up have given us more time together. Through all the planning before the wedding day, I’ve gotten some precious candid moments with her. Times where we joke together, conspire to bake brownies, just talk about our day, and do little things. And in those moments I realize how she’s evolved since day one and how our relationship has grown. How we’re more open with each other about big things but also able to chit chat and be comfortable in each other’s presence. And I realize we are getting there. We are closer. And I have all their married years to  grow even closer. To finally say, “Yes. We’re close.”

Eleven Greeting Cards

The Breakdown:

Mother’s Day card: 1
You’re Just like a Mom to Me card: 1
Graduation cards: 3
Wedding shower card: 1
Wedding card: 1
Birthday Cards: 3
I’m Praying, Keep Being Strong card: 1
_____________________________________
May events with cards : 11
The Feels: Priceless

I’ve got a lot happening very soon. I’m sorry if I fall off the blogging radar for a while! My brother (who is one of the graduates) is getting married this month and that is one of the apexes of the month (who am I kidding, year!) The other really awesome event is what I’ve dubbed “friend christmas”. I have a bestie that most years can make a trip out to our hometown and it’s like Christmas day waiting for our annual get together! She’ll be at the wedding and then we have a girlfriend trip which I’m really looking forward to.

Friends and bloggers that pray, please keep my friend and her family in prayer. They’ve dealt with a lot the last few years including a big move states away. After finding a place of their own last year, they found a horrible mold issue that gave the family respiratory issues. The complex they are at denies their proof and because of their “pestering” they’ve denied them the option to renew their lease. The family of 5 need to be out by the end of their month. They are only able to afford a 2 bedroom apartment but most places will not make an exception of more than 2 to a room, even if they are little children. They need to find a place willing to work with them on pricing for a 3 bedroom or that will allow the boys to bunk all together in one room. She’s beyond stressed by hopeful that God’s got the details. She’s my keep being strong card.

How about you? Any fun things happening this month?

Purging Update

This is taking much more effort than I thought. I think I like “stuff” too much.

Clothes given to friends: 5
Clothes in a box to be donated: 37
Bags of trash: 3

I still have a lot to do. I’m finding I’m a hoarder. I find safety in numbers and buy things in BOGO sales and hardly find myself using products until the bottle is empty. Take for example the Victoria Secret sprays I’ve had since college….why are they still around? And when did I truly need to buy 5 all at once? Makeup too…if I’m honest I only rotate through 10 items and have a lot of junk I never use. That’s going to go. Office supplies? Art Supplies? Those items are dangerous. I’ve got a problem with having too much but conversely, buying those items on sale is crucial otherwise they can cost me significantly more.

Goals for this week:

1. Clear the laundry baskets that are perpetually full of folded clothes. I either have space to hang them or they’re not worth keeping.

2. Organize my office and art supplies so they can be kept in one area neatly in sterilite drawers.

3. Weed out accessories. Yeah Claires earrings with animals, I’m talking about you. Yeah green tinted cheap stuff I shouldn’t be wearing around my neck or putting in my ears, I’m talking to you.

4. Work on putting things away immediately.

Taking time today to finish my Lysa TerKeurst book! Review coming soon.

Maiden Names

Have you decided what you plan to do with your last name if you marry?

I remember how “rebellious” it was to keep your last name growing up and now I don’t see it as a big deal. It’s a personal choice and people shouldn’t read anything into it. In the last few years, a friend of mine decided to keep her last name for professional reasons. She married right before graduating and it is just easier bigger picture. She loves her husband dearly and there is no negativity to her not changing her last name. On the contrary, I don’t feel that it makes one lesser to take on their husband’s last name. Or combine them. You are a unit now, decide as a unit what’s best for your family…

My brother and I are the ONLY TWO carriers of our last name for our ancestry line for the current generation. Our relatives have married and taken their husband’s name and so that makes my brother the last one if I change my name.

I plan on keeping my maiden name by adding it to my middle name for this very reason. It is the way I want to honor our line.

Modest is Not Hottest – How I Woke Up About Modesty Standards

Sorry everyone, long post!

As a Christian, modesty has always been a hot topic. I used to be on the modesty standards bandwagon until I realized my views on modesty was more personal opinion than biblical! I wanted to do workshops on how to dress and teach the preteen/teen girls I mentored what I grew up hearing… and you know what? I’m glad my workshops never happened. It was God’s way of sparing them from bad information from me!

I started thinking and wondered…

1. Why do we use a sexualized term to promote modesty?
2. Why do we define modesty with rules based on visual opinion?
3. Why do we focus on women more than men?
4. Why do we judge people as prude or “holier than thou” when they define things differently?
5. Why does men’s opinion mean more than God’s opinion?

I posted an article a few years ago that called out the phrase “Modest is hottest.” In fact, it was titled, “Modest is Not Hottest” and that title alone was enough for someone to attack my character. I had someone reply on my facebook post with just a verse reference:  “matthew 23:25.” They didn’t bother to ask me to explain…they didn’t question anything. They just went straight to accusing. That’s when I realized that a lot of modesty issues are just ways people unjustly judge others.

This is what Matt 23:25 says:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.”

Ouch, right? What are we telling the world when a fellow Christian is that quick to judge? I’ll admit I was hurt.

So, here’s what I think about modesty:

1. “Hottest” is a sexual term and I don’t like the association.
Using it to teach children/youth about modesty is counterproductive. It also associates a term a person uses while checking someone out. It’s catching someone’s attention in a sexual manner. It tells them indirectly that guys will find you more sexually attractive if you’re modest. But is that really true modesty?

2. Modesty is as simple as Romans 12:1-3.
Romans 12:1-3 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship.” Modesty is something personal, between you and God. It is Him whom one should please, NOT OTHERS. This was my wake up call. Who was I to please? Who was I accountable to for my actions, how I dress, and what I do with my body? God!

3. Modesty is a personal decision to please God, not your parents, not your friends, not your pastor.
I believe modesty is a personal choice – not a social obligation. Be careful whom you are pleasing! This also applies for parents raising up boys and girls. I loved gaining my parents praise and approval growing up. If I am told that I cannot do x, y, z growing up because it is a rule, that does not mean as an adult I’ll feel the same when I’m outside of my parents’ instruction. Modesty is not about rules, really. And I honor that each family has different standards for dress, and do not judge, but I personally don’t think they should enforce it as a modesty issue. I think it’s better to enforce it as a family rule. For example: “The Smith family rules is no shirtless boys and no mid-drifts for girls.” I think when teaching modesty, it should be taught as PERSONAL obedience from the start. I would like to be open with children in their dress and attitudes and have them decide what they find is personally immodest and what is pleasing to God. I want to nurture an outlook that will last them a lifetime, not a rule that only lasts in my household.

Which brings me to my next point…

4. Modesty is a heart issue rooted in obedience.
This is why I don’t like rules and regulations regarding modesty. Suggestions and tips are great, but the real matter is their heart. Why should I judge a fellow Christian in a 2 piece bathing suit when she is in charge of her modesty and that is between her and God? Her accountability is not to me. Is barking at that teen girl for showing 2 more inches of thigh really going to pay off? Shouldn’t I be more concerned about her walk in general and focus on more important issues, like how her week went and what I can pray for in her life? I think we nitpick and focus on little things rather than the bigger picture at times. What message am I truly conveying if I feel I can tell someone to cover up but have never gotten to know them? Surely, if I am to disciple them, there are more important things I could spend my time with them about. How about that Christian gym trainer guy who keeps winking at ladies and gets really flirtatious? Can I rule him off as a “bad Christian” just to find out this is an area he struggles with and is personally working on? I also have no idea if that random person is a new growing believer and if my words would hurt them more than grow them. I am also certain that in the lifetime process of sanctification, God will reveal to them if their dress or attitude need work. They may not be quite there yet. That’s okay.

5. Head coverings, skirts, covered collarbones etc. does not mean people live under a rock or oppression.
Guys, I am so guilty here. I have judged in the past the ladies and gentlemen who have personally decided that modesty for them includes a few more personal standards. I’ve mocked head coverings. Shaken my head at guys who only wear slacks and suits. I’ve complained that it’s ridiculous that collarbones need to be covered and that some ladies never wear pants.

You know what? That’s just as bad as judging those short shorts on a gal or shirtless guys. I have no right to call one outdated, prude, or extreme for having a view that does not look like mine. I have no right to say they have gone overboard. It is between them and God. I also need to see them as people and understand that there are more important things than dress in their sake too. Am I prejudging them based on what they wear? If so, I’m at fault.

6. But wait, there’s more!
I’m not going to neglect that there is more to modesty than what I’ve addressed. While modesty is personal, there are ways it affects more than me. The Bible does instruct certain things to consider as one outlines what obedience is with God in regards to modesty. 1 Corinthians 8 talks about being mindful in consideration to prevent causing others to stumble and using our freedoms wisely. 1 Timothy chapter 2 goes into some details based on Paul’s feelings but again, I want people to read this and draw from it what the Holy Spirit reveals to them, not my opinion. 1 Cor 6:19-20. Matt 6:28-30. Titus 2:11-12. So yes, if someone’s thinking, but wait, there’s more! There is! But that is between you and God, as my modesty is between me and God. My only advice would be to pray for discernment for the details.

In a nutshell, what I’ve learned is that modesty is an inward heartfelt decision of obedience to God and that it translates differently outwardly for each believer. It’s not as complicated as people make it out to be!

Redefining and Refining

I’ve got quite a bit of downsizing and organizing ahead of me and as I work out what is truly worth keeping and what really has value, I’ve decided it’s time to refine my style and space a little bit. I have too much stuff, and as horrible as it sounds, stuff often makes one’s life more complicated.

Instead of a closet full of clothes, I have a closet, chest of drawers, and a few laundry baskets full. Do I really need that much? I probably wear about a quarter of it regularly, yet when it’s time to get ready, half my wardrobe lands on my bed as I try this and that.

Boxes of old school work, writing, and drawings. Do I need to keep all of it? I don’t need all my doodles from college.

I tried asking a friend and my boyfriend what my fashion style was to help define my wardrobe and got the worst answers! My friend said, “I don’t know…sometimes you dress American and sometimes you dress Asian.” Umm…okay? My boyfriend said, “I’d say you dress like a grandma.” Painfully true, as I joke about that quite a bit. I’ll take comfort over fashion but I still like to look put together and avoid appearing frumpy.

Here’s what I’ve written down as both those answers hardly help!

Style:
Romantic (Floral prints, lace, soft grey/cream/brown colors)
Royal/bold hues
Comfortable/Casual
Edgy (Ruched items, color block, rock inspired)

Colors:
Black
Red
Royals (Blue/Purple)
Jewel tones (violet, magenta, mint, turquoise, emerald, aqua, teal)

Bedroom Style:
Blues, whites, greys

White/light furniture
Soft or neutral grey
Soft or neutral beige
Blue bedcovers and curtain panels
Metallic or ornate accents

Things to Get Rid of:
Souvenir/one line saying tees. They’re not versatile nor work appropriate. I hardly wear them.
Mismatched/worn out PJs. I’m a lady. I want to look classy even at bedtime.
Old/worn tank tops and undershirts.
Vee necks that tip too low to wear alone. Over it.
The jeans I swear I’ll fit again one day.
Fussy coats and cardigans with iffy buttons. I need stuff that lays nice on my full chest.
Button ups that also don’t lay well or pop open because of my size and chest.
Ugly undies. Again, I’m a grown lady. No more ugly undies. I want to feel refined even if that confidence boost is just for me.

Here goes nothing! :)

Weight Discrimination…from Both Sides.

Opinions from outside:

A lovely lady whom I look up to for her natural health knowledge wrote a beautiful article about weight discrimination happening to someone they love. It was really dear to my heart because it is written so thoroughly and from an outside perspective.

Opinions from Inside:

Yesterday I was at a bachelorette party and realized that while I’ve worked very hard at accepting myself and having body peace, I was still being critical of self. The rest of the girls at the party were typical sizes and I was the only plus size girl. I wore black slacks and a fun top and ruched jacket over it while everyone else had modest mid thigh black dresses and showed a little leg. First, I felt bad that I might have been underdressed, and two, I didn’t have the fancy heels and club-type apparel like the rest of them. I even spent an unnecessary 10 minutes debating what covered my arms best and realized I shouldn’t have felt ashamed to hide them.

We all carpooled, 5 of us total, in one car. And that’s where my self-discrimination started setting in. I panicked for a second wondering if they’d make me sit up front because I’m biggest or if people would complain if I was sitting in the back.

“Bride to be in the front!” The driver called out. She deserved the front passenger seat and they didn’t even think twice about her being up front.

I took a deep breath and slid in the back and tried to pretend I could take up less space. Nobody complained on the ride to our destination or on the way back home. Nobody called out my black slacks instead of dress. Nobody questioned my kitten heels when everyone else had stilettos. They treated me kindly. I was my worst offender.

Sometimes we are the worst discriminator. We make our weight a big deal when it’s not. I know this is something I need to work on. Yes, I am conscious that I take up more space, but I shouldn’t make it a bigger deal than it is. I rob my own joy when I self-consciously think about myself as being fat when I should be enjoying my time around others.

When the night ended, I was grateful that nobody made my size a big deal, and that I needed to worry about it less. I should reinvest those thoughts into encouraging reasons to exercise and eat right, if anything. And in hindsight, I wore kitten heels because I knew they’d be cute but comfortable with my top, and WE DID do a lot of walking and standing. I would have hated myself if I wore anything taller. And, I wanted to wear pants because I wasn’t in the mood to wear a dress. So, lesson learned. Be content of self. Have a good time. Don’t fret the details. Be grateful for people who see you as a person, not a large person, and treat you like everyone else. :)