Dear Ginger: How can I be happy?

dear ginger

Dear Ginger,

…I have convinced myself that I am the most self-conscious person on earth. Which is probably true. I have never believed truly that I am beautiful or that I am a good person. And after reviewing your website I wish I had the help you receive from God. Truthfully I am not the most religious person out there… Right now in my life I am absolutely self-conscious about everything I do, unaware as to what I will do in my life, or how to be happy in life. So my question is this, “How can you achieve a happy life? With no doubt in your my mind that you are beautiful on the inside and out and that you can rise from the ashes and become something new.” It seems so easy to say but impossible to achieve. I am sorry for the long letter, but I’ve really never really opened to anyone or asked for help. Thank you so much for reading this letter…

Best Wishes- S

Dear S,

Thank you so much for your heartfelt and beautiful note. I finished reading and immediately admired your maturity and honesty. Thank you for taking the time to write and share so much of your struggle with me.

I am so sorry that you’ve never felt lovely, good, or confident in whom you were made to be. I hurt knowing that you’ve been bullied or made to feel less-than by anyone else in this world. But I can also hear the glimmer of hope in your question: “How can you achieve a happy life? I have no doubt in my mind that ‘you are beautiful on the inside and out’ and that you can ‘rise from the ashes’ and become something new.”

Thank you for entrusting me with this precious question. First of all, let me say that I don’t know if I will be able to answer in such a way that you will feel any immediate change in your life. My own growth and self-worth have taken place over several years and dramatically over the past year through counseling. It’s true; my faith plays a huge role in the way that I see myself. My belief in God does influence how I handle the worst days. So even if we come from a different spiritual place I’m just going to speak from the heart and pray that something I type encourages you in your own journey.

I remember when I was in fifth grade and played soccer on my school’s team. We were called the Lions and proudly wore purple and gold. On one particularly sunny day I was dressed in uniform and standing on the sideline just waiting for my chance to play. Only I wasn’t really ready. I had completely stopped paying attention. Out of nowhere, a soccer ball came flying in and hit me hard in the face. It was a pretty rude awakening. Not only did the ball burst the blood vessels in my left cheek, but it also raised a pretty nasty bruise in rapid time. Of course fifth grade pictures were scheduled for the next day. True story. Pull out the yearbook and the rest of the class is all facing forward in their photos. I’m the only one facing a wall in profile.

We can quickly lose sight of the fact that we are in a battle here on this earth – and that’s a dangerous place to be. If we don’t recognize that we are in the middle of a fight, we are left vulnerable. There is no such thing as a sideline when it comes to battle. We don’t call time out. Think of the movie Lord of the Rings or any big battle scene from an epic film. The soldiers are ready for war, the challenge has been given, the screaming speech has been delivered, and now the two sides are running toward each other in slow motion.

Now picture those thousands of men fighting when suddenly one of them starts daydreaming. He notices a spread of wildflowers on the ground and promptly sets down his battle-axe to gather a bouquet. Highly unlikely, right?

We’ve got to keep our heads in the game! It’s those times when we forget we are actually warriors in an army that we incur the greatest injuries. Just like my soccer ball to the face scenario, I allowed my weight struggle to influence my self-esteem to such an extent that I was crippled for battle.

Here’s what I mean by battle. I believe that we were created for a purpose. You weren’t a random speck of dust or anything close to an accident. The God who created the universe imagined and designed you to enter this world at a specific time. I believe that 100%. God created both you and I as human beings with a mind and a heart, with fears and desires. Not only that, he created us to live out an incredible story during our time on this earth. Sometimes though we let the distractions (our worries, stigmas, body issues, fears) keep us from living out the role that we alone were created to fill. It is a daily battle to not get discouraged from that very purpose.

Here’s the thing I’ve come to know and believe about God: He doesn’t force himself on us, but He does invite us to participate in His effort to overcome the conflict and junk in this world.

That’s where I think lasting happiness originates. (Confession: I’m not “happy” every day but I have found a source of joy that’s more than momentary.) When I drop the distractions of how I look and feel and just pursue loving others and living an exciting story – I find joy, peace, and contentment. No amount of journaling, self-help, or positive thinking changes my outlook for long. It’s the living that changes my perception and brings fulfillment. The recognition that my smaller story has a HUGE part to play in the bigger story God is telling gives me purpose each and every day.

“What if the positive and negative turns of your life have prepared you for something great? …Do you know that the world needs something from you? There are probably days when you feel like the world would be better off if you stayed in bed but it isn’t true. God created you and He created you with the power to bring light into darkness and order into chaos. You are necessary. And the sooner you believe that, the sooner you’ll bond with God in living a great story.” (Donald Miller, Storyline)

So where do you start? Find yourself a quiet place, maybe the library or your bedroom. Turn off distractions and take time to really consider the story your life is telling and the one you want it to tell. List out all of the gifts that make you unique, the things you enjoy and are good at. What do you like to do? What are some goals you want to accomplish in your life? Take your time.

If you need somewhere to start on your list I can already tell you that you are a gifted writer! I didn’t post your whole letter today, but you should know that you have a powerful way of conveying ideas. I’m so glad you were willing to be vulnerable and ask for help.
Take the vulnerability you have on the page and translate it into some of your relationships. If you continue to struggle with eating or cutting at any point please, please take a step and share with a trusted adult. I believe you have an incredible life ahead of you filled with both happy and challenging moments. The hard moments make the joy that much sweeter in the end.
Your story matters. You matter.
Praying for your journey,

Prove It!

How many times have you thought or heard the following: it doesn’t matter what THEY think, it only matters what God thinks!?

It’s easy to turn that truth into a trite little saying, but here’s the thing… How God sees us should be the only opinion that matters – after all, He made us. He made us! Since we are His children, our identity should only be found in how He values us. He made us and loved us enough to give us free will, the choice to love Him or leave Him.

Let’s go back to the very beginning and get the story straight. God created us. It started in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. He gave them everything and told them simply to “Enjoy!” Sin entered the picture and because of that, Adam and Eve (and the rest of us from there on out) were exposed to death. We were separated from the God who created us. The penalty for Adam and Eve’s sin… and our sin is death; the payment is blood. Thankfully our Father considered us valuable enough to buy us back through the death of His son, Jesus.

Think about it this way: we determine the value of something by how much we are willing to spend. If I walk into a store intending to buy a flat iron, without having done any research on flat irons – I’m limited to two things: what the box says and how much the flat iron costs. Of course the box is going to talk up the product. I have yet to see the company gutsy enough to print: “Fairly decent flat iron. Let’s face it. You’re paying $20 for this. Don’t get your hopes up.” So if I can’t trust a box to tell me something more than the voltage and information about a warranty, I have to go by price. I immediately rule out the cheapest brand and if I have the money, I will probably take the top of the line. Why? The price indicates that this flat iron is worth the extra money. The value of the flat iron is indicated by the expense. While I may not be willing to spend $185 on a new flat iron, I certainly might be prepared to pay that amount for some new photo editing software. I place a higher value on my photos than a flat iron. (Let’s face it; my hair is already straight as a stick.)

Do you know how frustrating it is to lose something you just bought? I seem to do that with new pens. I have a certain kind I like – chosen for grip, writing ease, and ink flow. I get a package of three and sooner than I would like – they’re gone. I’d like to believe I’ve misplace them, but I know that my co-workers sometimes just need a pen and they reach for one off my desk. I don’t think anyone intentionally steals my pens, I just think they forget to put them back. But imagine my frustration if I watched someone take and use my pen and then only agree to give it back if I paid them a fee. I already paid for MY pen once; no way I’m doing that again… especially if they raise the price.

I’m notorious for shouting the phrase, “prove it!” to my friends when they make a bold statement. Usually I’m joking around, but sometimes I want them to put their money where their mouth is. “I can run a five minute mile!” My response? “Prove it!”

God proved how much He valued us by what He was willing to spend. You can shout “prove it!” all you want and He will always have the best response ready for you. Remember, He already owned us once before. He bought us again with the life and death of His only son, Jesus. Jesus had done nothing wrong to deserve punishment, and yet He died in our place. He died for me. He died for you. The cost of that sacrifice shows that you are a priceless treasure of the King of Kings. The gift of His son Jesus demonstrates God’s great love for us.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

You are valuable. I am valuable. He’s proven that fact once and for all.