Learning to be a Woman of Heartfelt Beauty and Sweet Grace

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I have had a blog post on my mind for quite some time now. However, I never quite knew how to put my thoughts to paper. It all started following a couple conversations I had with some ladies. One of them was set to meet someone’s parents. Of course, she was a little nervous. I mean, who wouldn’t be?

I empathized with her. I remember the fret I felt right before I met my now in-laws. I am not the best at meeting new people, let alone those who raised the man I love. I spent weeks being torn over them accepting me. I so badly wanted them to like me, just like this individual.

She was most worried about meeting the mother of the pair. She said she has never had trouble with someone’s dad liking her because dads have two qualifications to appreciate a woman: If she can cook and looks pretty, they will like her. I reiterated to her, “Well, isn’t it important for the woman to have a kind heart?” Her response, “Oh no, girl. That’s not important, just as long as you can cook and are pretty.”

As you can imagine, the conversation did not sit right with me. I was determined to know what God had to say about a woman’s beauty and her value. My heart breaks every time I reflect on the discussion. It made my heart break for two reasons. First of all, it is not biblical. Regardless of one’s heritage or upbringing, no woman should be told that a person, let alone a man, will only appreciate her if she is a domesticated beauty. God did not make women to simply nourish a man and be a trophy of beauty.

Women are designed as helpers and encouragers, as shown in 1 Peter 3:1, “In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives.” A man who may struggle to be gracious or respectful about a person or situation should be able to look at his wife and be encouraged by her behavior without her ever saying a word. I can tell you that is easier said than done.

As difficult as it may be, I consider it a tremendous gift to be my husband’s lifelong encourager. It’s sweet and remarkable to know God designed me to be the Jesus in his life. For example, we are going through quite a difficult situation, and though there are times when I want to be flat out angry and explode, I choose not to. I do so because it is the call the Lord has for my gentle and quiet spirit and it is the call as my husband’s helper. I will admit, though, I have had an angry burst about the situation at hand a couple times. I am still learning what it truly means to be a gentle and quiet spirit. By the grace of God, I will continue to reflect Him in all I say and do.

Second, it broke my heart because it sheds light on how broken this world is. Even as a woman in Christ, I have trouble with body image and beauty, especially in my high school and early college years. I have never seen a people or place reject and contradict God’s Word as much as the world. When I see women yearn to be called beautiful and accepted via a social media platform or broken relationship, it breaks my heart. I know from experience how degrading and miserable that path is. I used to be that girl.

I may be wrong in saying this, but there is nothing wrong with wanting to be loved and accepted by other’s (coming from a recovering acceptance fanatic). There is nothing wrong with wanting to look nice and take of yourself either! God does not completely shatter His desire for women to dress up and beautify themselves, as shown in 1 Peter 3:3, “Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses.” He simply says it is not merely about how we look on the outside. If God did not want women to have the desire in their hearts to adorn themselves, he wouldn’t have put it in our hearts in the first place. The two verses go hand-in-hand, much like the fine line that becomes fuzzy when desired acceptance transforms into validation and worth.

The pair of verses, let alone the whole passage, is a warning sign and encouragement for women all in one. Isn’t that pretty incredible? The passage is a warning because it proclaims outward beauty is not everything. God does not care about our outward beauty. He cares about the spirit inside of us! The passage is encouraging because God allows us to adorn ourselves and love ourselves in WHO HE MADE US TO BE as Daughters of the King.

Look, I know my words may ramble on and not make sense, and I’m okay with that. I am still trying to figure all of this out myself. It’s a hefty topic clothed in dainty flowers, much like some of the struggles women face. I pray that these words may be an encouragement to men and women. This battle within a woman’s spirit is not hers alone.

I challenge everyone in this: Men, encourage women and live outside of human nature’s standards. Show them there are Godly gentlemen out there whose intent and purpose in knowing her is strengthening her as a woman in Christ. Instead of complimenting her appearance, compliment her heart. Women, cling to Christ. He knows exactly what you are going through. He knew full well we would have this struggle as shown in 1 Samuel 16:7, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Be encouraged to know God created you to be a woman of heartfelt beauty and sweet grace.

Blessings,

Renata

The Power of the Cross: No Greater Love

1_John_3_16-3840x2160-1-660x371When I got married, one of the vows I made was to stand by my husband’s side in sickness and in health. Recently, I got a real glimpse of what that truly meant. My husband was sick all last week. Actually, he’s still a little sick now. But, he is healthy enough to go to work and that such.

My husband is one of those people who gets sick a lot worse than most. His body does not know how to process a simple two day head-cold. Instead, his illness starts off as a small cold and almost always progresses into the flu. Simply put, he doesn’t have a good immune system. Growing up, he got sick quite often, and I don’t think his body ever fully bounced back.

Now, I knew all of this before marrying my husband. Therefore, it was no surprise to me when he was frail and tired for days on end. He only slept and drank tea. I couldn’t help but drop everything I was doing to care for him and provide for him. It broke my heart to see him in such a weak state.

To tell you truth, not even a day after being sick, he was tired of being sick. I am sure many of you know exactly how that feels. Everyone reaches that point when doing anything but laying around sounds amazing, when having energy sounds amazing, when not being confined to your home sounds amazing, when real food sounds amazing. You get the point. However, amid all that, I learned one of the greatest lessons about Jesus Christ.

As I sat and watched my husband sleep, I thought to myself, “Wow, I couldn’t love you more than I do this very moment.” In his weakest moments, I loved him more than ever before. I couldn’t help but think, “Wow! That is exactly how Jesus Christ views His children.” Jesus Christ loved His children so much that He died on the cross. Doing so was not easy. But in the moments of death, He still loved us. In His weakest moments, He still loved us. He still trusted in God.

I never fully comprehended the power of the cross until I saw my frail husband sleeping. I don’t think I will ever fully understand the depth of the cross, but I do have a clearer picture now of exactly what He did. There is no greater love. Even in my husband’s weakest moments, whether physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually, I still love him. I will stand by him, not only because I vowed to, but it is the call Christ set for me.

To think that I still love my husband in those moments, makes me realize just how much God loves us. The cross is the symbol of His death for our life. I hope and pray that my heart may overwhelm with gratitude and thankfulness towards the Father when I think of the cross, much like it did when I watched my husband sleep. What I felt in that moment was only a minuscule amount of God’s love for those of this earth.

I think we so easily downgrade the loftiness of God’s love and mercy. We tend to think, “Oh, there’s no way He will love me after this.” or “Oh, how can He truly love me that much?” But, let me tell you, if I learned anything this past week, it is His love is very real and active. It does not waver or fail. It is constant and true. The death and resurrection of His Son is living proof.

As John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Dear brothers and sisters, we are those exact friends to Jesus! What a friend we have in Him! The love we have towards others is a gift from the greatest love we could ever know. Cling to the cross, friends.

If you are having trouble grasping God’s love and the cross, today or any day, I challenge you to look at those you love most, and put your love for them in words. Remind yourself why it is you love that person, even in their weakest moments. Then, look to the cross and realize the love you feel towards that person you are thinking of, is only a morsel of how much Christ loves you.

Blessings,

Renata

 

Even When It Is Hard: Why Thank Yous Matter

No Other Thanks But Thanks

Part of being a newly married bride is the task of writing thank you notes to a plethora of people—those in the wedding, those who gave a gift, those who helped plan the wedding, etc. I am currently in the process of writing all of my thank you notes. For the most part, I don’t mind doing so either.

Many individuals I know look forward to and long for a thank note, especially for gifts. Being that words of affirmation is my preferred love language, I totally get it. I love getting letters, thank you notes, cards, you name it. If it has written, personally thought-out words, I will treasure it for years to come.

Nevertheless, the process of writing the thank you cards and my own experiences of receiving love through words, have both equally taught me we live in a society where saying please and thank you is about as foreign as chivalry. Now, sadly, I am one of these people who tends to forget to say thank you. Through my experiences, I may be able to understand why saying thank you is difficult.

Let me set the scene: Almost always, my struggle in saying thank you is alive and active when accepting a compliment. For example, while carrying on a conversation with a coworker or church member, this individual admires my outfit of choice for the day. I reiterate to myself, “Say thank you. Seriously, say thank you.”

One of two outcomes typically occurs: Either, I spend so much time telling myself I need to say thank you that I completely forget to vocalize the exact sentiment. Or, I say thank you. But, not even five minutes later, I am convinced I did not, then begin to feel guilty.

My illustration is important to address and understand. First, let’s start with the basics. Quite frankly, it is utterly disrespectful not to say thank you. It does not matter who you are or where you come from. If someone compliments you, opens the door for you, or offers a helpful hand, say thank you! There should be no second-guessing.

This next statement may not please too many individuals. The only reason why one would even think to second-guess a please or thank you is out of pride. We live in a society where hierarchies thrive and breed off of each other. Millions of people tend to berate someone else simply because they think they are better than the person next to them.

I know this to be true because I have caught myself in this same trap and tug. I have caught myself judging someone else simply because of their appearance or behavior. It’s a prickly thorn Christ is redeeming me from. But that is for another post entirely of its own later on.

Another reason why I usually struggle to say thank you is because I play the victim card. I am guilty for replaying a conversation in my head over and over again, long after it is said and done. Satan has a way of crafting our thoughts to say exactly what we want to hear and believe. Therefore, if I want to think I did not say thank you, and beat myself up because of it for the next 20 minutes, Satan will find a way to make it happen. He will find a way to feed ourselves the lies we know full well are not truth.

Now, I am not at all saying that I am a flawless, imperfect human being. I am nowhere close. I am saying that I cannot sell myself short of who I know I am in Christ. I know a lot of messy qualities about myself, but I also know the great ones, too. I know that I pour into others more than my heart can handle some days. I know I am vulnerable and honest with people. I know I am silly and love to laugh. And I know I say please and thank you.

Even though writing my thank you cards can be monotonous to write some days, I will finish them. Slowly but surely, I will. I know not all brides choose to write thank you notes, but as someone whose love language is words, I get it. Sometimes, saying thank you is hard, but that does not mean we should succumb to society’s standards.

To anyone that I have not said thank you to, especially following a compliment, I am sorry. I was prideful and I was wrong. My heart and mind were not in the right place. Please forgive me. For those that typically forget to say thank you, do not be afraid to go back and say it anyway! I cannot tell you how many times I have done that. Even if I am 99% sure, I said thank you, I go back and say it again, if I have the chance. How I see it, it is better to be unsure and respectfully do so again than it is to be certain I did and hurt someone. Whether the thank you is in the form of a card or verbal dialogue, it goes a long way.

Blessings,

Renata

 

 

Embracing Messiness in Life: Run to God

Psalm 34 18

Today’s one of those days that I have writer’s block. I have so much I want to say, but none of it can condense down into one topic or idea. My life has been quite crazy lately, in a good and bad way. Right after I experience an incredible, joy-filled gift from God, I receive another challenging situation.

I know you know the never-ending cycle I am talking about—LIFE. Just when we think we won’t be hit with another trying time, bam! There it comes with no warning. I am in one of those situations right now. There is no need for me to go into detail about it. But, I do think it is important to address.

Even though I am only 21 years old, one of the constant lessons God teaches me is the importance of being vulnerable with people. However, there is also a fine line with being vulnerable and just simply trusting Him to guide you in a situation. Right now, I am straddling such line. Let me further explain.

I am not a sensitive person, in the grandest of ways. But, I do feel for people and other situations extremely deeply. My level of compassion and empathy for people is interesting. I clam up and freak out when those I love are going through tough situations. While I clam up and freak out, though, my heart breaks. My spoken dialogue tends to speak few words. My facial expressions tend to speak a thousand words. My heart tends to speak a million.

I may hardly say anything to someone when they pour their heart out to me. I may even seem unresponsive and careless. Truth be told, though, I am a sponge absorbing what you say and my heart cries out.

This is especially true when I am among my friends. I loathe seeing the people I love hurting. I can’t stand it when I know I ultimately cannot do anything to help. We have all been in those situations where the only someone who will get us through is Jesus Christ. Outside of Him, no one and nothing can truly bring peace and healing.

Again, that’s where I am right now, guys. I guess I am writing this just to say that I am struggling. It takes a special kind of person and faith to put their lives out for people to see and read, on a consistent basis. Don’t get me wrong, I know it is what the Lord has called me to do with my life and I truly do love my blog.

However, that does not mean my life is always pretty and makes sense. Right now, it is confusing and filled with a lot of unknowns, which really scares me. I am that type of person who can go days without being bothered by life’s messiness. Then, one situation comes and all the raw emotions overflow again.

Truly, I tell you, my heart yearns for much more than my outward appearance may lead others to believe. I am working towards being compassionate on the inside and outside. Far too many times in my life, people have accused me of being a cold, heartless person. They were right. Before I knew Christ, I was that way.

Now that He has a hold of me, I am just trying to make sense of my heart and what overflows from it. At times it is uncomfortable and uneasy, but it is God’s call for His people. I want to live out Romans 12:15. I want to weep with those weep and mourn with those who mourn. I am not asking to become a hyper-sensitive person. Lord-willing, if I do, though, then all right. I am simply working towards being empathetic and downright emotionally present.

Quite frankly, all I can do now is cling to the Cross of Jesus Christ. Only He will get me through. I am not sorry for posting this, even though it is slightly uncomfortable doing so. I am not asking for you all to like this. I am not asking you to make sense of this either.

Sometimes, life’s difficulties are so authentic and trying that they flat-out don’t make sense. There’s no shame in that—none. We just have to turn to Jesus. And although I am going through a difficult situation right now, I know that when I read this post months or even years down the road, God will be present and He will be faithful. I will be able to read this and say, “Yeah, I remember how difficult that was. I felt like I was in a pit, but now, my relationship with Christ is sweeter and truer because of it.”

Embrace difficulties, sweet friends. No matter how difficult they are in the moment, run towards them. When you run towards your difficulties, you run towards God. Nothing is as sweet. If you aren’t going through a hard time, be there for someone who is. Pray that the Lord may you use in someone else’s trial. You don’t have to have all the answers, just point whoever it is towards the One who does.

Blessings,

Renata