Arn’t you glad we’re ugly?

“You’re GORGEOUS!” says one of my best friends, time and again. I love that about her. I’ve gained weight this past year. Gaining weight has been something I’ve personally celebrated – I love my new curves. They’re especially nice to have to have babies – sleep on my chest, or hang off my hips. I’m working with toddlers this summer, and these curves will definitely come in handy!

But a couple weeks ago, I realized that I no longer fit in the majority of my nice dresses. The nice ones that I put on a hanger. The ones I save for special occasions. The ones that make me feel preeeeeetty. Just don’t fit.

I’ve never been in this place before. There used to be a time I couldn’t shop in most stores because I used to be too tiny – I used to be insecure about being too tiny. I used to be a 00 (yes a double zero) or an XXS. I haven’t been that small for a couple years – but I never saw this day coming – where I would feel insecure about being unable to zip up my dresses. It’s a bit of a shock to me. I’ve been opening up about my body insecurity with my dear friend – reminding myself – that really –  I do love my body. That really this past winter I’ve celebrated gaining some weight.

I’ve discovered body insecurity is real, no matter what size you are. What hair type you have. The condition of your skin. Doesn’t matter what you look like – body insecurity is real. I’m thankful I’ve grown older and for the most part, have grown to accept and love my body. My friends and I, we rarely talk about clothes or hair or make up or weight. But this particular friend has been sensitive to the body insecurity I’ve recently found I have again. So the other day she told me:

“Arn’t you glad we’re ugly?” And I LOVE THAT about her.

Lemme unpack that.

We’ve gone from being insecure little girls, to grown women, who don’t care too much, about our clothes or hair or make-up. Don’t get me wrong – we do care. We care to show ourselves some love and self-care. But, overall, we don’t really care. We’re truly happy with who we are.

“Arn’t you glad we’re ugly?” Is her way of reminding me of the women we’ve become – Arn’t you glad – We don’t care about societies view of beauty. We’re beautiful inside. Beautiful outside. Beautiful even when we don’t feel beautiful. Beautiful cause we have beautiful fun-loving personalities that make us attractive. “Arn’t you glad we’re ugly?” – She had me grinning ear to ear.

Today… was just one of those days, I felt ugly. I’m gonna blame it on mood swings. But then. I caught myself in the mirror as I walked by – Blue Jeans, a black & white stripped t-shirt, my go-to sweater, no make-up, my almost unibrow at this point and my gorgeous natural curls in a crazy mess from sleeping on the couch – only making them all the more gorgeous. And I caught myself looking at me – Beautiful me. God created me. And gosh-darn-it I’m GORGEOUS.

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Saxophone Romance & Trust

Swing dancing. It requires trust. All kinds of trust.

To allow a leader to lead, and to allow your body to follow the lead, to allow yourself to be twirled, swung, spun – To allow yourself to be held close by a man – And at the same time to trust the integrity of the space in between two people.

If we don’t trust as the follower, the dance becomes rigid and difficult. It becomes awkward and clumsy and soon it is no longer – dancing.

Yesterday. I learned trust in a whole new way.
It was only my second night out Swing dancing the Lindy Hop.

And at our lesson I met a young blind man – Hussein.

Did I comment on the fact that he was blind? No. Did he? No.
Did I ask him his name? Yes. Did he ask me mine? Yes.
And we learned the steps together as I did with every other man.

Soon, the dance lesson was over, and the Social part of the night began. Swing dancing to a live band. Hussein could not see me from across the room. But somehow he knew he wanted to dance with me and was able to communicate that to his friend. His friend led him over to me. And before he could, I asked joyfully “Hussein would you like to dance with me?”

And then we danced. We laughed. We talked about music as the saxophone played.
And I learned trust in a whole new way, as I let a blind man lead me in dance.

Sure, as the dance floor filled up, and the dancers around us more lively and skilled took up more space, did I have the desire to lead because I could see. Sure I did. Did we bump into a couple people as I let Hussein lead. Sure we did. But soon, I learned to be his helper and yet allow him to lead. I’d gently add pressure with my hand on his shoulder blade if we were too close to another couple. I learned to follow in a whole new way. The beautiful thing was, that he could dance the Lindy hop perfectly, and lead me perfectly, if I did not get in the way trying to lead. Each step of his, so precise, intentional and light. He knew exactly what he was doing, and I found myself safe and at ease in his arms as I let him lead.

As my left arm and his right arm made contact and he placed his hand on my back ensuring to hold me safely as we’d spin; My heart filled with compassion as he’d check in with me to make sure I was okay. Although he could not see, he made sure to make eye contact / face me, at the appropriate times of the dance, and bring his face forward while maintaining the integrity of the space between us to let me speak close to his ear.

As I found myself learning trust in a whole new way, the saxophone definitely had me feeling a little romantically inclined. Perhaps it was because the ambiance was warm, and the string lights beautiful, the band attractive and the music remarkable. Perhaps it was because Hussein held me close and firm and yet danced so lightly, perfectly and incredibly for any man, but especially blind. (I close my eyes and try to imagine what it’d be like to dance blind.) But perhaps, perhaps it was I was learning trust. And when you can trust another person, they instantly become attractive.

As I danced with Hussein, I knew wholeheartedly that his intentions were good, he held me safely, he cared for my well-being, he lead me perfectly – as long as we didn’t bump into others! Soon our time was over and it was time to find a new partner. I found I danced better, as I learned to trust the leader more fully.

It has got me thinking, that perhaps when God created the world perfectly, he designed trust. And when humankind fell in sin, trust was broken. After all, aren’t we all seeking a relationship in which we can trust the other person wholeheartedly and completely with ourselves. Our entire being – emotionally, physically, spiritually.

the grass is greener…

You know how we always feel that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence?

In my daily life, it is the reality. Quite literally, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence as it is not trampled by the dozens of children who play on the grass inside the fence.

We have a 4 yr old girl in our class, happy-go-lucky thing. Who recently lost the bounce in her step as her mom has been in the hospital in the ICU. For a couple days last week, we didn’t know if she’d live the next day.

If you can imagine a mini me. It’s this girl. Just about anything makes her happy.

To hear her tell me, “I cannot see my mommy anymore because she has infection” broke my heart. I’ve made sure to give her extra hugs, and tickles and giggles. Holding her as often as she needed these past two weeks.

This past Wednesday, she got to see her mommy again. Her mommy’s life is no longer in constant danger, but she is still very sick, or we could say, she is healing.

In the playground yesterday… this little one, standing beside me not quite in the mood to play, looking at her feet … looked down at the grass and told me excitedly in the rush of joy she experienced in that moment…

“MS. NAOMI!!! THE GRASS IS GETTING GREENER!!!”

I looked, and sure enough it was, and my heart was just as easily filled with that simple joy and excitement that our grass is getting greener.

Prayer

Father I thank you for the reflection it has caused my heart to join in that childlike joy and wonder that “the grass is getting greener”. I thank you that even after hard seasons, and in hard circumstances, our grass will once again, get greener.  Truly this little girl, has shown me a perspective in life that no adult could. I thank you that you are healing her mommy. I thank you that once again she has the bounce in her step.

…that feeling.

I can’t tell if it’s the feeling of a hollow in my chest, or a weight on my heart. Honestly it’s quite hard to describe. Can’t quite tell if it’s emptiness, or heaviness. But I feel it often.

My sister tends to tell me, you don’t like to feel.
It’s kind of true.

TOO OFTEN… that feeling is present, and I open my phone. And I pour through anything, everything, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, a Bible App. Pinterest. It’s usually in that exact order. I don’t know why I so desperately desire to distract myself from that feeling. The distraction never satisfies.

The funny thing is, I have this feeling on my heart – from both feelings that are bad or good. It’s just the fact that it is so intense that makes me squirm.

My sister tends to tell me, you don’t like to feel.
It’s kind of true.

Then there are times, TOO LESS… that feeling is present, and I pray. I don’t quite know why I don’t pray more often when I experience that feeling. I think it’s partly because it’s hard to trust that when I am praying… I am praying to an invisible Being I say I believe in. To ACTUALLY FEEL it – is hard. To actually BELIEVE it – is hard. Perhaps I feel I’m alone talking to myself. And that’s a little bit terrifying. What if God isn’t real?

oh but child. WHAT IF HE IS?
and what if HE LOVES YOU.
and I remind myself of that again and again.

When I pray, I don’t ask God to take the feeling away, but somehow, just by being still in His presence, and delighting in the fact, that the GOD of the UNIVERSE delights in me. That feeling is lifted. And I find myself in the presence of LOVE. One who cares for me dearly, ready to listen to every story of mine. Every joy, every pain. He cares. He listens better than any other. And in some precious moments, I realize He really is real.

That feeling. Is a constant reminder, that as a mere human, I dearly need HIM. Need His fulness to fill the void. Need His strength to lift the weight.

What I do like to feel is Joy. I feel it intensely and it overflows. It makes me sad when others around me don’t experience that same Joy and I desperately try to share my joy well. What I’ve come to realize however, is – that – Joy – is not mere human joy. I experience it so intensely because it comes from Him.

I’ve come to learn that to do Life, with the giver of Life, is to experience Life intensely.

In prayer, I’ve learned, to pray with thankfulness. It’s thankfulness to be in His presence – through the good, the bad, the pain, the joy – it’s thankfulness to be in His presence that brings a sweetness to prayer that can cut through the intensity of whatever the feeling is and bring peace to my heart.

And so, when I unconsciously believe, what if God doesn’t hear me? / What if God doesn’t care?  … I remind myself, oh but child. What if HE DOES!

What if HE LOVES YOU!

If I have not love…

If I have not love, I am only a noisy gong or a clanging symbol.

Perhaps I am the only one who feels this way… but I’ve noticed a trend.
It’s about the pursuit of knowledge.

In school, we pursue degree after degree, knowledge and more knowledge. One more piece of paper to prove ourselves. And we lack practical hands-on skills. We can be all talk and no walk. Apprenticeship programs, co-ops, internships, now have gained popularity because Academia has come to the conclusion that head knowledge is not enough.

I’ve seen a similar trend amongst well-meaning young adult Christians who really take their faith seriously. We are quick to read more articles, watch more sermons online, write more blogs (as I do now!) be up-to-date on the most recent releases of Christian music, debate our views on gender roles, abortion, politics, theology. Really the subject hardly matters as long as we come across well versed in the area. I know I’m not the only one. I repent how quickly it can become about being the one with the right answer, and how quickly I can drain love out of the conversation. 

Gaining knowledge is not bad! It is good!

But – I repent how easily I can watch another fascinating sermon online and not pause to pray. How I can read another book on God, and not fast. I repent how easily I can learn all about God – but not be still in His presence each day. The one who teaches me to love.

If I have not love, I am only a noisy gong or a clanging symbol.
If I have not God, I am only a noisy gong or a clanging symbol.

God’s word says:

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. – 1 Corinthians 13:1

That makes me pause – I can so easily add to the noise.

It goes on to say in 1 Corinthians 13…

2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it;[a] but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Do we really love?

Jesus, was the master teacher. The one under whom all the disciples did their apprenticeship. Where they learned to teach and love others not only with head knowledge but with their hearts as well.

Prayer

Jesus, I realize I lack the practical hands-on skills to love others well. I can so easily be awkward in a difficult conversation. Awkward in the heavy silence. Jesus, help me to be your apprentice. Jesus, I pray that I would remain close to you. Be in dialogue with you. Fast. Pray.

Teach me to love others more and talk less. Because God, You are Love. Give me that gut-aching love, that comes from knowing how perfectly and deeply you love the person in front of me. Teach me to be a vessel of Your love. Your truth. Your kindness. Your Love.

Sing to the Lord!

God’s word says:

Oh sing to the Lord a new song;
Sing to the Lord all the earth!
Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
Tell of his salvation from day to day.
Psalm 96:1-2

Sometimes it’s hard to feel God or hear God or know God is real.
Sometimes it’s our challenging circumstances. Sometimes it’s our comfort.
Sometimes it’s just the time of the month.
I’ve learned – That’s okay. We can still sing to the Lord and bless His name!

Pastor Sunder Krishnan wrote in his book (Loving God With All You’ve Got, 44):

When God commands us to sing it is not a test of our ability – it is a test of our love. Or, as Oswald Chambers said it much more beautifully, “The real issue is not whether you have a voice, but do you have a song?” The scripture says, “He put a new song in my mouth / a hymn of praise to our God” (Psalm 40:30)

I remind myself often “do you have a song?” – Do you have a reason to praise God? – And the answer is always YES. A Resounding YES.
I’ve learned that a thankful heart results in joy.

So Sing! Psalm 96 continues…

Declare his glory amongst the nations! His marvellous works to all the peoples!
For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised!

Birthdays

Today as we discussed the days of the weeks and the months of the year.. and that February ends on Thursday on the 28th. I asked my children what month comes next – “March!” they replied.

“And what very special day is coming up in March?” I added excitedly… Of course, the smart asian kid says “Saint Patrick’s Day!” – Sure Kid.
Then I ask, “What very special day for Ms. Naomi is coming up in March?” And another smart asian kid replied “Your Birthday?”

BUT GET THIS. Then I ask, and when is my Birthday? And that same smart asian kid remembers – and raises his hand again and says March 10th!

So Mindblown. I am so loved. When a five year old kid can remember the exact date of your birthday from last year from when he was four… that’s love.

Then I asked, “And how old am I going to be?” And another five year old kid remembers I am 25 and replies 26!

SO AMAZED. AND SO LOVED.

Now here’s where things get funny…

Last year I commented. “Wow. At 25 Ms. Anahita – my mom – was already married and had Ms. Naomi and Ms. Natasha in her tummy. Can ya’ll imagine Ms. Naomi having a baby in her tummy right now?!?!?!”
It sure gave the kids a good laugh 🙂
But then one little girl said last year, “So Ms. Naomi are you going to get married now?” And I replied “I guess so!”

THIS YEAR… I thought I’d humour the children again and dramatically told them: “WOW! At 26 Ms. Anahita – my mom – was already married! And had babies! So I guess I need to find a boyfriend – And get married! – And have babies!”

Then the sweetest five year old raised his hand and said in the most sweet, solemn way that a five year old can: “Don’t worry Ms. Naomi, it’s OKAY if you don’t get married this year.”

MY HEART MELTED.