when I write for others: The Refined Woman

Occasionally, I get to write for magazines, newsletters, blogs, and everything in between. It's neat to go back and read my words from another time. There's always room for grace and growth and a smile or head nod. Here's a piece from July 2016. Check out the original post here.

I’ve always been small. I’m shorter than most of my friends and have had long hair for most of my life.  My face is covered in a faint smattering of freckles, and I’m usually described as cute.

I used to hate it. I wanted to be prettystriking or hot. Nowadays, I tolerate it. There are worse things than being thirty and cute, right?

But here’s the thing – I’m starting to feel beautiful. This might be the most beautiful season I’ve ever experienced as a woman.  I’m not talking about just my looks, because most days, I don’t feel as attractive as I did before four kids came out of my body.

So what’s changed over the last few years? I’ve cultivated influence. I’ve married, acquired stepsons and had children. I’ve built a ministry. I’ve invested in solid, ride-or-die friendships and built relationships with the next generation. I’ve made it my mission to dig deeply into my community. I’ve committed to a new level of vulnerability with the people I call home, to allow them to bring out the best in me and point me to Jesus.

These days, people are looking at me. Like, really looking at me –not judging or whispering as I walk by their lunch table. They’re asking how my heart is. They’re digging beneath the surface of small talk. And they’re asking me to look at them, and pour into them.

My family looks to me for wisdom, advice, and a soft place to land when they fail. My friends don’t hesitate to serve me with feedback, encouragement, love, affection, and correction. The teenage girls I lead value my opinions on their eyebrows, personal style, and how far they decide to go with their boyfriends. On any given day, people all over the world might read my blog or scroll through my Instagram feed and make a split-second decision about Jesus, just from peeking through my lens.

None of these groups are mind-blowing in number. I’m not talking about big stats and monster platforms. This is real life. Family, friends, the folks I bump into on the Internet.

But here’s what those groups have in common — me.

In some shape or form, I come into contact with all of these people. I touch them. They touch me. And it’s my choice whether or not to lean in, and be careful with their hearts in the process. It’s my choice whether or not to acknowledge the gift I’ve been given with them… my influence.

Strange as it sounds, once I began to feel the weight of the influence I carry, I began to see the beauty in it.  Influence is beautiful. Sacred.  As I brushed up against the idea that I could take hold of my influence and use it for good, I began to feel more beautiful. For the first time in my life, I could see clearly what my purpose is – to love God and love people. That’s all I ever have to do in this life.

Influence is freedom, and it is beautiful. It’s holy work, and I’m honored to do it.

Accepting responsibility for my influence made me care more about beauty than ever before, but in a healthy way. I started working out regularly — not to get skinny, but to take care of my temple. I actually don’t have time to feel insecure or negative about my body because I’m doing holy work.

So now I put in a few hours a week at the gym and try to watch what I feed myself. I pay more attention to my wardrobe. Not because I want approval from people, but because I know that teenage girls are watching me. I care deeply that they grow up to believe that God’s definition of femininity and sexuality exists to give them the best life possible.

I believe that Jesus is big enough to bring things full circle.  He’s kind enough to use our unique personalities in ways that teach us things about Him. I may forever be short and cute, but I’m beautiful because He’s asked me to use my influence over the small tribe He’s given me, and equipped me in all the right ways to do it.

To simplify the bedroom.

I’ve been back in school for three years now. Combine the workload with my day job as a nurse with a season of raising small children with the personality of an introvert, and it’s easy to see how my bedroom became a sanctuary. My husband painted it white for me as soon as we moved in. We went with simple bedding, minimal furniture, no pictures, no clutter. The kids know to always knock first if the door is closed. We don’t even have a lock on that thing. They don’t even touch the doorknob.

I spent hours reading my Bible there, typing out papers, and reading for pleasure before bed. But there were also naps and conference calls that weren’t necessary. There were also black holes of internet scrolling with the blankets pulled up to my chin in the middle of the afternoon.

For some folks, the bedroom might be an helpful spot for a home office or destination getaway. For me, over the last few years, my bedroom became home base. Remember playing tag as a child? If I could just get to home base, I’d be immune and safe. I could close the door and disconnect. It was easy to use my mom voice, “I need a minute – please leave me alone.” But that minute turned into an hour or more, valuable time that could be spent doing more to fill my soul and less to focus on myself and how hard this season is.

So in 2019, the bedroom changes. I still need a space to sneak away for a minute when needed, sure. But I don’t need a black hole in which to numb. My kids understand the complexity of our family’s schedules and respectfully give me time and space whenever I ask, but there’s no good or healthy reason for me to disappear for hours on end to my bed.

Practically speaking, here’s what it looks like for me…

A technology-free bedroom. My phone is out. I bought an alarm clock on Amazon and removed the phone charger from my side of the bed. Sometimes I take calls in there if I need quiet, but I try to park my phone on the hall table every time I walk into my room. It charges in the adjacent room at night, ringer on high for emergencies. Additionally, my computer is out. No more school work in bed. I sit in the dining room with the door closed if I need to concentrate, but I try to do most of my work in the kitchen where my kids can access me if needed.

A task-free bedroom. I no longer take whatever I’m working on into my bedroom. This could be eating, or meal-planning, or reading my Bible. I’m spending a lot more time in the den, even if nobody else is at home. I’m trying to build healthy habits and take up healthy space in my house.

To simplify the bedroom is to engage in spiritual warfare. For me, at least. I know what happens if I lie horizontal too long. I know what happens when all of my lines get blurred and routines run together. Life begins to feel foggy, and I lose sight of the God who called me to this life and sustains me to keep at it.

And so, I fight. I sit upright and read my Bible and find my Heavenly Father in its pages. I plant my rear end on a hard chair to type papers and count the days until graduation. I choose to only participate in sleep and sex (and an occasional argument or two) in my bed, to protect my space and my heart and my family. My bedroom is still a sanctuary, but now the whole house is too. Because my God is big and powerful like that.