Posted in Life, Thoughts

On Buying Clothes and Feeling Beautiful

I’m no fashion expert. But I’ve watched a lot of What Not to Wear and I’ve worn a lot of clothes, so there you have my qualifications.

I like shirts shaped like this. In theory. I pull them off the rack at the store and go, “Ooh, it’s pretty!” But I’ve stopped doing anything more with them because I know from experience that when I try them on and look in the dressing room mirror, the thought changes to, “Ugh, that looks AWFUL!” This shape and my shape just do not mix well.

That’s not a problem in and of itself. But, “That looks awful,” easily translates to, “I look awful,”  and that thought repeated over and over consistently becomes the belief, “I am inherently awful-looking.” And that’s just depressing; no one wants to live like that.

So I could buy the shirt I think is pretty in theory and go around feeling frumpy and thinking I’m the problem. Or I could put it back on the rack, move on, and maybe find something like…

… this.

This is a shirt I actually own, and it’s one of my two current favorites. When I’m wearing it and catch a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror at work, I almost always go, “Hey, I look GOOD!” and it makes me smile and brightens the day a bit.

What changed? Not my shape. Not attempts to tell myself something I don’t really believe. Just my choice of shirt. That’s all.

Clothes that look beautiful on other people or on the rack might look genuinely awful on you. That’s not a problem, it’s just a fact. It only becomes a problem when you sigh and resign yourself to wearing them anyway because you think they should look beautiful.

Stop. Put it back. Find something else. There’s another shirt out there that will be better. And maybe you can’t see this for yourself, maybe you need to do some research or recruit a friend who can tell you, “Yes, this is good, see how this one shows that you have a waist instead of making it look like you’re wearing a tent, and this color complements your skin tone.” But there are options that can make you think, “I look good!”

And guess what? “I look good,” repeated over and over consistently, can at least encourage the belief, “I am inherently good-looking.” And that’s a much happier way to live.

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Posted in Life, Thoughts

Donna

I have started rewatching some Doctor Who episodes I like. Last night I watched one with Donna, one of my favorite characters.

It was her first episode. She’s about to get married, and the would-be groom turns out to be a jerk and a traitor, though poor Donna genuinely loved him.

At one point, the man says this about her: “I was stuck with a woman who thinks the height of excitement is a new flavor Pringle. Oh, I had to sit there and listen to all that yap yap yap. Oh, Brad and Angelina. Is Posh pregnant? X Factor, Atkins Diet, Feng Shui, split ends, text me, text me, text me. The never ending fountain of fat, stupid trivia. I deserve a medal. ”

The way he says it makes the comment especially unkind, but it’s probably fairly accurate. Donna is the sort of person who, if we knew her in real life, most people would find obnoxious, shallow, and boring. She’s loud. She’s brash. She’s oblivious. She doesn’t have any obvious impressive talents.

And this show takes her and gradually shows how much depth even a person like that has. Her loyalty and bravery and ability to stand up to people who need someone to tell them to stop and how much she can care about someone and how interesting she is.

I love that.

Posted in Christianity, Thoughts

Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me,” etc., seems to be a well-known Bible passage. It’s a comforting sort of one.

It falls at the beginning of a chapter. While having the Bible divided into chapters and verses is quite useful for finding things in such a huge book, I think this particular chapter break is unfortunate. Let me just get rid of it:

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times. Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”
– John 13:36-14:4

It’s so much better when you know that it immediately follows Jesus telling Peter that Peter would deny him. “You’re going to do this terrible thing… But don’t let that stop you, because in the long run, things can still be good. I’ve got this.”

Ignore that chapter break.

Posted in Life, Thoughts, Writings

Inspiration

Don’t loaf and invite inspiration; light out after it with a club, and if you don’t get it you will nonetheless get something that looks remarkably like it. – Jack London

Or, a more modern phrasing that floats around: You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.

I have been writing this blog for six years now. Every week, aside from a few when I was at church camp with no internet. So that’s more than 300 posts.

Honestly, it’s kind of hard to believe.

When I started the blog, I knew that if I didn’t have a schedule, it would fizzle out. But having a reasonable goal I had to meet made keeping it up attainable. But having to write every week has given me a lot of practice going after inspiration with a club. The weeks I don’t have a plan for my post probably outnumber the weeks I do. Somehow my friends still put up with me saying, “But I don’t have anything to write.”

Something always gets written. Always. And sometimes it’s really lame, but sometimes it’s all right, or maybe even good. And those good ones wouldn’t exist if all I did was wait for inspiration.

If you hadn’t guessed, this post has been brought to you by an, “I have nothing to write about, time to grab the club,” week.

Posted in Christianity, Thoughts

A Beautiful Picture

This year I am reading through the Old Testament books in the order the Jews used. It’s an interesting way to mix things up a little.

I noticed that in this order, Song of Solomon is immediately followed by Ruth and then Esther, and this just kind of seemed right. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that these three books together paint a wonderful picture of how to work at a good marriage.

In Song of Solomon, we see that sex and romantic feelings are – gasp! – good and important in a marriage. I have seen people try to insist that this book is only a picture of Jesus’ love for the church, and I want to ask, “Okay… but have you actually read it?” Because I do not see how you can read Song of Solomon and honestly come away with that belief. Are there parallels? Sure. A significant part of the purpose of marriage is to provide a picture of God’s love. But Song of Solomon is also about human love and touch and beauty and passion – and it’s okay that that’s in the Bible. Really.

And then in Ruth we see a woman who has lost her husband and chosen to stay with Naomi, her mother-in-law, when Naomi leaves Ruth’s country. I don’t know if Ruth desperately wanted to get married again, but if she did, she didn’t go hunting for a husband. Instead, she did the right thing: she helped Naomi. During harvest time, she went into the fields and picked up grain the harvesters dropped, which I imagine was hard work, and fairly humiliating, as this was something poor people did. But work hard she did.

Boaz, who owns this particular field comes along, and I love the ensuing conversation. “So, uh… Who’s the new girl?” “Oh, she’s the one who came back with Naomi. She asked if she could pick up grain here, and she’s been working hard all day.” So Boaz tells Ruth to stick around. He tells her he’s heard about what she’s done for Naomi and that it’s admirable. He makes sure she has more than enough to eat. And when she goes back to work, he whispers to his workers, “Hey… Drop some extra grain, just for her.”

Obviously this is all in my own words, and I don’t doubt that Boaz had the noble motive of admiring her loyalty and hard work, but I strongly suspect he was also motivated by thinking she was cute.

But anyway. My point is, Ruth didn’t get a husband by using her womanly wiles or by being desperate or anything like that. She worked hard. She showed patience. She went above and beyond the call of duty in helping Naomi. She served God and her mother-in-law, and it caught the attention of a noble, godly man (namely Boaz, if you hadn’t figured that out). The qualities she showed before she married Boaz are things that would serve her well in sustaining a strong marriage, and she didn’t practice them only when she’d caught a guy, but even when she had no marriage prospects.

Then we have Esther, who was put in a rather impossible situation. She became queen of Persia because King Ahasuerus got mad at the previous queen, gathered together a bunch of beautiful virgins to try them out to be the new queen, and liked Esther best.

Quite a start to a marriage, huh?

If you can’t tell just from that, Ahasuerus was messed up. There’s also the fact that he apparently put people to death if they entered his inner court without being summoned and he didn’t want to see them. And if you look at history beyond just what’s in the Bible, he did things like having a stretch of water whipped when a storm broke a bridge he was trying to build. So you know, Esther’s hesitancy to approach him when she wasn’t summoned was totally legitimate.

But she had courage. Even in an impossible situation. And her courage and her humility and her patience worked. She saved all the Jews from being killed unnecessarily. She did so without antagonizing her impossible husband, or nagging him, or ruining their relationship.

So we have passion. We have godly qualities cultivated long before a potential relationship exists. We have perseverance in godly qualities even in the face of a far-from-perfect husband.

What a beautiful picture.

Posted in Thoughts, Writings

Writing Relationships – Part 2

Maybe it’s becoming a series, I don’t know.

While my first post on this subject was directed more at TV shows, today’s complaint is mainly book-related.

Allow me to share with you an all-too-common sort of exert from the book I’m currently reading (Rescue Me by Susan May Warren):

Jess put her hand on his arm, squeezed, her beautiful eyes shiny, a deep aquamarine in the sunlight, the kind of eyes a man could lose himself in. Especially when her lips curled into a delicious smile.
For a second, all Pete could think about was lowering his mouth to hers, tasting that smile, letting it seep through him, fill him with her touch. He wanted a piece of all that sunshine, the way she could make him feel like he wasn’t the guy who broke hearts, but the one who fixed them.

I’m not trying to pick on this book specifically. I’ve definitely read worse. It’s just illustrative of a problem I find in way too many romance books.

I don’t have a problem with passages where the guy gets lost in the girl’s eyes (or vice versa), or wants to kiss her, of that sort of thing. The problem is that this sort of thing is pretty much the only way their growing feelings are described.

This is an issue because in and of itself, this is not love. This is physical attraction. Which is related and important and should probably pop up sometimes if you’re writing romance.

But if it is not layered over other things – emotions and comradeship and learning about each other – it just feels shallow. “Okay, you like her eyes, that’s nice, I guess, even though I’ve already heard it several dozen times…”

So writers… Stop. Use more variety. It’ll make your relationships deeper and more interesting. And a fun bonus: When you don’t use physical attraction to describe every emotion, it makes the times you do use it so much more impactful.