In spite of everything…Peace

“Whenever we feel lost, or insane, or afraid, all we have to do is ask for His help.
The help might not come in the form we expected, or even thought we desired,
but it will come, and we will recognize it by how we feel.
In spite of everything, we will feel at peace.”

~ Marianne Williamson ~

© Joy Cannis and Even A Girl Like Me, 2012

I am walking into a time of uncertainty.
It’s exciting and terrifying all at the same time.
It’s both beautiful and wretched.
And the thought of it makes me feel free.
Possibilities are once again within reach.
Those things that I thought had withered and gone
are springing to life
and waking the potential that the future holds.
Fear can be paralyzing
or
fear can be liberating.
If it’s going to come regardless of circumstances,
why not use it for certain change?
Why not seize the change that awaits?
Why not relish the opportunities that are waiting just beyond
this one act of faith?
Uncertainty is capable of breeding dissension
or
providing the way to enlightenment.
I choose the latter.

Pardon me while I compare my insides to your outsides

© Joy Cannis and Even A Girl Like Me, 2012

While shooting pictures yesterday for something unrelated to birds on a wire, I turned around and saw this site that had to be captured. It goes right along with how I have been thinking and feeling. It was as if it was placed there just for me and all I had to do was look up.

I laughed while thinking, “I wonder if this bird ever looks around and thinks, ‘Why don’t I look like they do?'” You have to admit, he kind of stands out. Do you think he sees his uniqueness as a blessing?

My temperament is one that craves relationships and interaction with many different people. I invest heavily in the lives of those I love and enjoy doing so. However, when I am experiencing inward turmoil I want to retreat and be quite. Lately, while going through certain stress I have been unable to withdraw which forces me to interact with others when I am out of sorts. This can be disconcerting.

In the past couple of weeks I have found myself looking around and thinking, “How does she do that?!

“How does she work full-time, grocery shop during the week, run her children back and forth from soccer practice, gymnastics and piano, keep her house clean, volunteer at her church, serve on the PTA and have dinner waiting when her significant other returns from work? And what about doctors appointments in between and the unexpected illness?”

So tell me ladies, are you one of these women? If so, are you really doing everything that it appears you’re doing? Do you have hidden super powers? Are you saying affirmations in the mirror multiple times throughout the day to keep up the pace?

Most days, I feel more like this chick…
I can relate to the white bird on the wire. Sometimes I feel that my uniqueness is a gift and adds to my awesomeness. Other times I see it as a hindrance and something to be overcome. Here is what I know about feelings, they are constantly changing. Feelings in and of themselves are not to be trusted. So I must rely on truth, grace and the love that I know to be unchanging.

What are your thoughts? Am I way off base or do you know exactly where I am coming from on this?

Intimacy ~ It’s not what you think

What is the first thing that came to mind when you read the title of this post? For me, it’s sex. The truth is, intimacy is so much more than that.

After conversing with people from all walks of life, it’s incredibly clear that there is a real disconnect when it comes to intimacy, sex and being vulnerable.

This is something worthy of discussion. And not just once or twice. Ongoing. Admittedly it’s a tricky subject. I don’t want to make any career altering statements and at the same time I want you to understand that it’s not about where you’ve been as much as where you are.

Women, I don’t know what you’ve grown up hearing about sex, but here is what I know to be true…
It doesn’t have to be dirty.
It’s possible to relinquish everything that has happened and start fresh.
Nothing feels as good as redemption.
When you give yourself permission to stop sorting through the wreckage, you discover a new kind of freedom.

Men, don’t treat us like a whore. We don’t want to feel replaceable and when we look amazing, TELL US.

I cannot say everything I want to say. Nor explain in detail where my heart is on this because, quite honestly, it wouldn’t be pertinent to everyone and there are things in my relationship with my man that are just ours. Sacred things that allow us to look across a crowded room at each other, confident that we are fully known.

Love in it’s purest form. Transparency without limitations. Trust beyond comfort. The unalloyed definition of relationship. A safe haven. A source of life and freedom. Being pursued and overtaken by someone who wants every part of you, and you them. Heart, mind, body, past and present. That is intimacy.

If you are in a committed relationship and you are not able to do this, something is missing. I didn’t say, “Something is wrong.” I said, “Something is missing.” Marriage is your golden ticket to “get your freak on.” Not in a crazy sadistic sort of way, but in a fun, exploratory sort of way.

If you don’t believe me, If you are someone who can’t even be naked in your own presence without shame and embarrassment, I would encourage you to start with the following…
Stop making small talk or expecting a long conversation before being physical. When you are at a level of true intimacy, it’s possible and at times more beneficial to communicate without using words.
Be comfortable in your skin. It’s okay to be naked with the lights on.
DO NOT, under any circumstance, discuss perceived flaws of your physique.
Learn about your body. We are complex creatures. It doesn’t go down the way it’s depicted in movies. It’s better!

Now, go send your hunka burnin’ love a suggestive text message… even if you’re right next to them. It may be their go-to while sitting in that budget meeting tomorrow at work.

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Five Minute Friday: Enough

It’s #FiveMinuteFriday free write time! Where a flash mob of folks spend five minutes all writing on the same topic and then share ‘em over here.

GO:

When I saw the prompt for this week I couldn’t help but smile. This is something I have been thinking of daily for the last several weeks. So much so that when certain thoughts creep into my mind I ask myself, “What exactly is enough?” “When will it ever be…enough?”

I have always been challenged when it comes to balance. I am excessive. If I like it, I want more. There are times when this way of thinking has me defeated before ever beginning. And it is a daily struggle.

When I walk into my closet and see the rows of shoes, each in their separate clear container, My immediate thought is, “excess.” Ew. That isn’t a positive word. Many things in my life associated with that word aren’t good. Excess weight, excess waste, excess worry…and many more. How do I combat that?

My goal over the next 7 days is to train my mind to say, “It’s enough.” “I am enough.”

I wrote a post several months ago claiming my word for the year. Enough. However, a year is too big for me. It’s excessive. I give up before starting. I must live in this 24 hours given this moment given. This moment is enough.

So enough excuses. Starting now, it’s time to re-train my brain, in small doses of course…as things arise. To do more than that at one time deems me useless.

“It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?”
Henry David Thoreau

STOP

A letter…to myself

I wrote this back in November. Many of you have already read it. After several asks about “The Letter” I decided to re-post it. So, if you have already read it, read it again. Maybe you will find something that wasn’t there before. If you haven’t, maybe it will serve you in a way that you needed today.

Writing letters to myself or to those with whom I can no longer speak, is nothing new to me. I have not done it in quite some time, but it’s not a new concept. Therapists, institutions, sponsors and spiritual advisers have been using it for years.

For months I have been thinking about what I would say to my 13 year old daughter, Isabella. Not about very specific things, but about life in general. The overall picture. What it looks like when there are several chapters and one can flip back through the pages.

I have been completely stumped.

She and I talk about everything. I do not sugarcoat or hold very much back with her. I want her to know what the world is like without paralyzing her with fear. I want her to be armed with knowledge so that she has the necessary tools when things arise.

I want her to grasp that God is loving and forgiving. And at the same time know that there are decisions one can make that will carry a heavy price and be with you for the rest of your life.

It was not until about a week ago that it occurred to me to write the letter to myself.

The picture is one that I chose my first year in sobriety when my sponsor told me to think of how old I was when I abandoned my true self.

She told me to put it in a beautiful frame and place it beside my bed and every morning when I woke up and every night before I went to bed, I was to say to that little girl, “I’m sorry I abandoned you all those years ago. I’m here now and I am picking up your hand and will walk through this with you.”

I thought she was crazy, but I did it.
I did whatever she told me to do because I was desperate and fighting for my life.

She had been sober for more than 24 hours so I knew she had something that I didn’t.

Now, more than 9 years later, I can understand exactly why she had me do this exercise and why she made me make my bed and tell the truth about absolutely everything as I would have lied about things as simple as, “Did you brush your teeth this morning?”

The picture is no longer by my bed. It has been tucked away in a drawer where I can look at it whenever needed, but I don’t feel the need to apologize to the little girl staring back at me.

So here is my humble attempt at giving myself advice…if I could…which of course I can’t…but I can give it to Bella, when I have the courage. What she does with it is entirely up to her.

Dear Joy,

If you remember nothing else except this one paragraph, you will be okay.
It’s this, God is good, all the time, even when it doesn’t feel like it. He has a plan and purpose for your life. It will have very little to do with outward appearance and everything to do with your heart, mind and spirit, which I believe encompass your soul.

I know that you are only a child, but if you will take these things I am going to tell you and trust them as if your life depended on it, you will look back with fewer regrets, less sorrow and more fulfillment.

Learn all you can. Keep your mind open to the beautiful things that God puts in front of you everyday. Find a scripture that you love, it can be one sentence, memorize it and hide it away in your heart. When the world begins to tell you lies, and they will, quickly bring it to the forefront of your mind and bathe in it’s truth.

Know that, though your parents are far from perfect, they are doing the best they can with what they have including the knowledge they have been given. There will be times when you don’t understand their decisions or rulings, but just know that there is a reason that many years ago God was telling children to respect their father and mother.

Ultimately, you are accountable to God and no one else. However, until you are of age to understand this concept and use it in a wise way, you will sit under the authority of your parents.

Don’t get so caught up in appearance. Honestly, looks fade and eventually what you have on the inside begins to show more than what you look like on the outside. There is a transparency of sorts that happens over time that is beyond your control and if you have not been nurturing your spirit, you will not reflect the light of the Father as you are capable of doing.

Boys are going to notice you. You will not be ready emotionally for this kind of attention. This is when you take shelter under the authority of your parents. You may not agree with everything they say, but there is protection from things that you have yet seen.

If you remember whose you are, you will remember who you are.

There will come a time when you feel lost. That’s okay. Again, this will probably happen while you are still under the authority of your parents. They won’t understand. That’s okay too. This is when you can begin to build a solid relationship with your Heavenly Father. It is in this time, He will be the only one who understands.

You don’t have to abuse your body by restricting food or overusing substances. Your body truly is a temple. The Holy Spirit lives in you and though this is your earthly shell, you will have it for some time and how well it runs is up to you.

You do not have to give yourself away. I don’t just mean physically. I mean mentally and emotionally as well. If you could pour all of the energy that you use seeking approval from others, into learning and owning what the Father thinks of you, you will build an unshakeable foundation.

Life does not come without difficulties. If someone tries to tell you otherwise, run as far and as fast as you can away from them.

There will be pain. When the pain comes, the thing that will serve you most is your faith in Christ. Knowledge is great, but you will always be told that you need more of it, there is never enough. Faith is what will come to your rescue in times of darkness.

There will be times when you make decisions that you regret. That’s okay. Deal with them promptly and move on. God says that when we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us and remember them no more. If the Creator of the Universe is capable of that, you certainly can be.

Don’t allow anyone to make you feel small. It is not without your permission that they will intrude on your heart. Keep your mind strong and filled with truth so that you are able to quickly combat anything negative that is thrown at you.

You are a child of the most high King. Beautiful, treasured, sacred in His eyes. Rest in the promise that His plan is perfect. He has the best life that you are capable of living all laid out for you. I know you can’t see it now, but you will.

One day, as you look back, you will see how it unfolded before your eyes like a well written story. That’s what it is really. You are His story. Better yet, His masterpiece and there is no one better to write your story than He.

You are the co-author. Don’t forget that. You most certainly have to do your part, but He is ultimately the Author and finisher.

You are beautiful. Not because of the clothes you wear or the attention from others or anything exterior. It is because you are a light in a dark world.

Others will see that light and want to know how to have it themselves. Be ready to share your faith. Everything that you are learning is leading you to a place where, when the time comes, you can share eternity with the lost.

And truly, nothing matters more than knowing the One who created you, who had you in mind before He formed you in your mother’s womb. It is a lifelong journey seeking Him. But along the way, you will have the opportunity to share what you are learning and grasping, which could in turn change a life.

I know, you will question whether you are someone who God can use to help others. Believe me, you are. He is grooming you for greatness. Making you more to His likeness. Whispering truths when your heart deceives you.

All the while, using your life, your gifts and flaws, to win others to Him.

There is no greater purpose.

I Love You!

In Her Skin

As I said in yesterday’s post, my beautiful Bella is the author of this week’s post on self-image. She told me to edit anything that I didn’t think should be included. I think all of it should be included. Some of it made me sad yet hopeful. Bella is unique. She has a rare gift that makes people uncomfortable to talk about. She is exquisite. I’m so grateful that she’s mine.

I asked her seven questions. I told her she could add and/or takeaway. I also told her to write whatever came to mind. Here are her answers.

What would you say is the most difficult thing about being a 14 yr old female today?
The hardest thing for me would be insecurity. In these circumstances perfect model images – don’t help. I often find myself comparing my image to everyone else.

What is your biggest fear right now?
Fear itself. I have constant anxiety, so there is no biggest fear. Practically everything can trigger an image-or as you people call it fear. When I am in darker times I try to remember 1 John 4:18 – There is no fear in love, for perfect love casts away all fear. The one who fears is not made in perfect love. It’s also hard because sometimes I feel OCD which causes me to obsess over even the smallest things. For instance a phone call from a stranger that goes unanswered would be obsessed over for who knows how long.

What does the word “beauty” mean in your world?
In my eyes the first thing that comes to mind is image-but then I think about inner beauty. My friends sometimes tease me about my boyfriend who they do not think is attractive. I think he is very attractive. There is a soul to this comment. I have never wanted a guy unless I fall in love with his personality- who he is. If a relationship is based off of image, I might as well be a cat lady. Now let me get back to the part where I have found what my friends could not find in him. With the inner beauty locks the worlds image from my eyes, I find what others can’t see, and that is attractive. It even helps me see the person in the attractiveness God gave them. For a fourteen year old, the word beauty, in the “REAL WORLD” means, how do I look-what’s wrong with me?

On a scale of 1-10, how important is the way you look to you? To your friends?
To me I would say it was about a ten-same probably for my friends. That dose not mean I don’t care about my “soul” image. I still want to be as beautiful on the inside as was meant to live up to my full potential.

How important are the relationships in your life?
They are extremely important to me and it is particularly hard for me because I try to balance them out. A fault of mine is that I am intensely open with people and for that I got stabbed in the back. (Figuratively speaking of course.) I had a situation in fifth grade that shows just how open I was. I had a truth or dare thing at my birthday party, and it did not end to well. I kept being nagged to tell someone and I did. I can blame whoever I want for it but it was originally my fault. What happened was that rumors got spread about me, and the worst part was that one of the people was one of my closest friends who knew everything about me – and it was used against me. I never forgave myself for that – and there are many other things I am not going to say over the internet that I will probably never be able to forgive myself for, but the best part is that Jesus does. That is another relationship that is important to me. I have trust issues with Jesus, and for what he does, I have no right not to trust him. I want strong relationships with friends and family, and I still need to work on them. I want to build a relationship, not to knock it down, but to build it up. In other words, yes relationships are extremely important to me.    

What is the first thought that comes to mind when you think about God?
Father. He is the dad you always wanted but never had. He is love, He will not turn his head from me when I mess up- he forgives me continuously and approaches me with open arms every time. I have no reason not to trust and love Him. I want my life to be built on his unconditional love, and so I want to work to get there. I have to move.

What is one thing you hope this next year will bring?
I want stronger relationships with friends and family (and my boyfriend). I also hope to become more mature and humble in God’s presence. Oh, and I want to make mistakes so I can learn, because if you stand back and watch-you will never experience the change and growth. YOLO.*

* YOLO is an acronym for “You only live once.” You probably knew that, but I had to do a Google search to define it.

Is there anything that you would like to ask Bella? Something that you wish I had asked? She loves reading your comments and hearing your thoughts on her writing. Please take a moment to leave her a note.

Other guest posts by Bella:
You Are Not Alone 
Secrets are to Sickness as Openness is to Wholeness
Guest Post: Bella’s Cross

 

Beautiful Scars Series with Leanne Penny

Leanne has started a series called Beautiful Scars. I had the privilege of being part of her series by writing about my own journey through darkness. These stories are a glimpse into what God can do from seemingly insurmountable circumstances and pain.

“And Then The Morning Comes”
by Jennifer Little

It’s easy for me to say I was molested for the first time as a nine-year old. It’s not, however, easy to sift through and relive all those years (27 to be exact), since I was visited in the darkness. That was when the safety of my pale pink bedroom shattered into millions of tiny pieces that would later cut deep like glass.

When I first began writing this, I fooled myself into thinking I could whip up an account that has, by the way, blossomed into one of hope and love and forgiveness. The truth is, though, there is no way for me to share the light without first revisiting the dark—the secret, the fear, the loneliness and wild anger. It’s been a long time since I’ve been there, thank God.

Thank you, God. It’s been a long time since I’ve been there.

Head over to Leanne Penny’s blog to read the rest of Jennifer’s story.