We Are Free to Struggle

The Struggle

By Beth Winze

“The hardest struggle of all is to be something different from what the average man is.” ~ Robert H. Schuller

When Christ calls us to Him, He does not just ask for certain parts of our hearts, but instead He asks us to give up everything we have to Him. Being a Christian is not just a title, but rather a life-style. Christianity is not throwing a “thank-you God” in the end of a Grammy acceptance speech, but it is how you lived before getting that Grammy award that defines your claim. A common misconception among believers is the fact that once you accept Christ’s gift of salvation and live for Him, all your struggles disappear or become so insignificant they are mere potholes you can easily avoid. But on the contrary, these struggles seem to be emphasized after becoming a Christian. This is not a way to blame God for struggles whatsoever, but if God did not allow us to struggle through life, who would really prove they desired to live for Him? Struggles can be confining and make a Christian feel chained and incapable of escape, but Christ wouldn’t allow His children to be chained up and left for the wolves. When He sent His Son to earth to die for us, He broke all those chains holding us down. The real struggle is when we allow ourselves to hold onto the chains He has already broken. We aren’t chained to the ground anymore, but in our finite minds, we refuse to let Him take control of the struggles.

Tenth Avenue North, a Christian worship band I adore, has a song titled The Struggle. After purchasing this CD to add to my collection, I really listened to the words that were blasting through my speakers. Throughout their songs they mentioned the word “struggle” several times. I never thought, before listening to their album and some deep-thinking on my part, that it is okay to struggle. I had fallen to the thinking that struggling as a Christian was weak and showed a lack of faith. But one line that they sang in their song really solidified my new thoughts. “Hallelujah we are free to struggle; we aren’t strugglin’ to be free!” In fact, here is the song. The words capture my heart every time I listen to it.

Christians are going to struggle. When someone is determined to live above the burdens and yearnings of the world, they are going to tussle with pressures. It is a lifestyle change not accepted by the world’s standards. Struggling is a natural part of life and an even more natural part of Christianity, but we shouldn’t allow our struggles to chain us to the ground. Satan wants us to believe that we are chained to keep us from drawing closer to Christ. If he can keep our minds enslaved, there is no way for us to move forward. At a retreat this weekend, the speaker stated this simple but pivotal sentence, “When you go to God it doesn’t make your struggles easier, but you have someone to walk through the storm with you.” God sent His Son to die for us because He loves us so much he refuses to watch us continue to be broken by our chains.

Another thing that tends to cause us to struggle is our persistence in dwelling on our pasts. When we run to God, he forgets our pasts, but the Devil consistently offers it back up to us on a silver platter making it look appetizing again. As the speaker, aforementioned, stated this weekend, “When Satan brings up your past, remind him of his past and his rapidly approaching future of desolation.”

“Our chains are gone and we’ve been set free, so Children drop your chains and sing!”

 

The Danger in Reading – A Different Perspective on Reading

By Beth Winze

 “If you want a happy ending that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.” ~ Orson Welles 

All my life, reading has been essential in my maturing from early childhood to my late teenage years.  I cannot tell you exactly when my fervor for reading came about, I think I simply have to accept the fact that it just did.  Throughout school I was told that reading was the paramount way to absorb new information and it only made your brain “think tank” abundantly superior.  No, it was not a chore for me to pick up a book when the teacher told us it was reading rest-time.  I remember running my index finger along the worn binding of the books setting on the shelf wondering what adventure I would pick up that day.  I would open the book and relish the crinkling binding, as I smoothed my hand over the inked pages, never hesitating to stick my nose right in the center of the book and inhale the adventure stuck in its pages.  (Of course, only when no one else was looking.)  There was simply something completely captivating in books.  In not just the words, but in its appearance, shape, weight, smell, and look- books just stole my heart.  It was the idea that I could live in another time period or experience a different culture without ever having to leave my bed.

Growing up, instead of being grounded like the normal pre-teen, I would have books taken away from me.  This was positively infuriating.  Props to my mother for finding a punishment so affective.  Crying, begging, yelling, and whining quickly ensued my book removals.  My mom would not hear the end of my discourse until she placed the book safely back in my grasp.

When I would open a book and the first line would be, “Dear reader,” I was immediately transfixed.  The book became personal to me in those two words- like there was something written amongst those pages that would reach into my deepest soul and captivate my person.

Whenever I received a new book I would flip to the very first chapter and read the first word on the first line.  And I would continue on to flip to the last chapter read the last sentence’s last word.  It was almost as if these two words I read would somehow give me a pre-emptive glance into what I was about to read.  It never did of course, but looking back now, my old habit has become symbolic.

I never thought of reading as dangerous.  No, to say such a thing is horrible.  But from the deepest part of my soul, I have come to believe it is.

“Books can be dangerous. The best ones should be labeled “This could change your life.” -Helen Exley

I am currently reading for the second time The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.  This book attributes to the recent realization of dangerous reading.  (Not in a bad way of course.  In fact, this book is my favorite book.)  I of course, being that old habits die hard, read the first word and the last word of the book, “late” and “do”.  Reading this book before, I can remember the treasure it held between its pages.  But these two words hold so much more meaning than my lame attempt at guessing an entire 318 page novel.  The words signify that this book will begin, and this book will end.  Whatever my heart decides to do between these 318 pages is not up to me.  I become completely vulnerable to the novelist and the story he has woven.

Another tragically dangerous thing about reading is the connection you make to the characters.  From Pride and Prejudice Mr. Darcy to The Fault in Our Stars Augustus Waters, you cannot help but emotionally tie yourself to this realistic work of fiction.  When they go through a whirlwind romance, you cannot help but hold future spouses to these impossible standards.  (Sorry future husband of mine, you will never be able to reach the same level of Mr. Darcy)  In being a vulnerable reader, one knows the immense power one single character of fiction can do to you.

 “When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

So I the writer, encourage you the reader, to embark on a perilous journey not for the faint of heart.  Open your heart, mind, and senses to an entirely different emotional connection. Countless times have I lain on my bed sobbing through the last few chapters of a heart-wrenching novel because of a character’s death, loss, heroic rise, or wedding.  And in those last few moments of a book, when you can see the last sentence in sight, you realize the emotional journey you have been on is ending.  No longer will you be able to laugh at a character’s mishaps, or sigh at their first kiss, and cry when they hold the hand of their dying parent.  Just as all things in life that are good must end, so will the book.  But here is the most beautiful part.  As this book ends, another book is sitting somewhere on a shelf waiting for its binding to be crinkled as it opens, for hands to run along its smooth, inked pages and for another vulnerable heart ready to fall in love with a whole new set of characters and words.

This…..this is the true danger in reading.

Beauty 2.0

By Beth Winze

Dropping $25 on cosmetics anymore is a no brainer for most females.  It is a stress-free and swift solution to eradicate wrinkles, dark eyes, frown lines, and enhance your skin.  Magazines plaster painted faces, photo-edited curvaceous bodies, and flawlessly shaped eye brows on their glossy, alluring covers.  With mantras in bold-faced print on the front, such as: “Feel Beautiful All Year Round with [insert brand] Line of Makeup”, “Create Flawless Skin in fewer than Ten Minutes”, “Cover-up Those Wrinkles with This New Formula”- no surprise the majority of females in the United States have lost the meaning of true beauty.  In my reading this morning, I grasped just how much I have accepted the excessively manufactured make-up dynasty that controls my life.  Cosmetics that were designed to help enhance our natural beauty have now become our security blanket to hide any “inadequacies”.

While cat-eye eyeliner and orange-y face exteriors may put us under the misconception of flawless skin, it does not aid in covering up our true feelings about our beauty.  Every girl fights with beauty insecurities.  What makes a sixty-five year old woman look in the mirror and decide it is time for skin firming treatment?  Those wrinkles and crow’s feet show a life of joy and laughter, but she wants to appear youthful again.  What does the twelve year old girl in the mirror think right before she slips on bright, red lipstick?  No, make-up is not wrong when using to enhance the natural beauty in you, but when it is used to hide “imperfections” than there is a problem.

David Spellman, a clinical psychologist with Lancashire Care Trust states the ever-growing obvious, “I think the culture we live in and the magazine and TV images we see … affect children’s psyches – there does not seem to be one honest picture in the images we see in our doctored beauty culture. We are being increasingly particular of how we look and at a younger age.”

Not only are Victoria Secret models cavorting around in the skimpiest of boudoir apparel, but they are also giving the impression that evocative hair, make-up, and clothes make one prosperous in life.  What kind of image is this leaving in a seven year old girl’s mind?  Definitely not the right image of true beauty.  Not only are these models giving girls false pretenses, but when teenagers and adults little girls look up to do not display the confidence they need to see, these girls are found pining for reasons to consider themselves beautiful.

It took a shocking statement for me to realize how much I accept a lack of self-esteem.  A younger girl I am dear friends with looked up to me one day and said, “Beth, I do not understand why you do not see yourself as beautiful.”  My response came out somewhat befuddled, as I never chatted damagingly about myself in front of her, “What do you mean?”  She simply said, “I can just tell with how you act.”  Then she strolled off and I was left dumbfounded.  She could tell I was not solidly based in my true beauty.  This statement was enough to make me do a 180 and reconsider the way I saw myself.  I stopped the heavy make-up, and the desire to always be dressed to the nines in public.  I have found great confidence in only mascara and sweatpants.

Back to the glossy magazines that tempt us as we stand in line at the grocery store – they are completely phony.  It is easy to say but it is hard for our minds to accept the fact that those models are edited, and over-done.  You have probably seen the before and after comparisons of models, but just to drive the point home, here is an example:

Image

(Picture Source: http://www.news.com.au/news/gallery-fn78rwin-1226525944743?page=5)

Yes, the girl on the left is the same as the girl on the right.  It is amazing how lipstick, blush, eyeliner, eyebrow pencil, mascara, hair, a painted on beauty spot, flashy earrings, lip liner, contacts, and teeth whitener bring out the true and natural beauty she was born with. *sarcastically said* “Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s Maybelline.”  It is a terrible thing when a photo-shopped image can make us hate our mirror appearance.

I believe in models, but not the runway, lingerie, Abercrombie models – role models.  There is a world of difference between the two.  Use your natural beauty, and your personality to influence those around you.  Your deep passions and love will shine through and show your true beauty for what it is really worth.  I am not saying that all models are corrupt.  Look at Kylie Biscutti for example.

Kylie Biscutti won an online lingerie competition, at the age of nineteen, to walk the Victoria Secret runway as an angel for one show.  Biscutti modeled previously for boudoir shoots, but her Victoria Secret show placed her on the fashion model map.  Her husband prayed throughout her entire modeling career, but supported her descion to continue modeling, if that is what her heart desired.  Biscutti eventually had an epiphany and released everything and walked away from Victoria Secret modeling.  Her epiphany?

“My body should only be for my husband and it’s just a sacred thing. I didn’t really want to be that kind of role model for younger girls because I had a lot of younger Christian girls that were looking up to me and then thinking that it was okay for them to walk around and show their bodies in lingerie to guys.”   

(Full Interview Link Here: http://lifeteen.com/goodbye-victorias-secret-an-interview-with-kylie-bisutti/ )

Biscutti walked away from her fantasy profession in order to preserve her faith and image as a role model.  She went on to write a book titled “I’m No Angel”, in which she targets girls aspiring to be models.  In interviews she made it clear that right after the models come off the runway, it is not uncommon for them to collapse and/or pass out from botched crash diets.  Numerous models are covertly hospitalized after shows because of grave eating disorders and shortage of proper hydration.  Biscutti says that while she was in the modeling business, her managers would call her telling her she was gaining too much around the thighs and needed to drop in a horrifically short period of time.

Wearing make-up is not wrong, modeling for the right reasons is not wrong.  I will still continue to wear make-up, but I choose to use it as a natural beauty enhancer.  I do not want to hide under layers of fake disguising the real me.  My personality shining through is what makes me beautiful.  Everyone is beautiful.  We are all created in God’s image and we are wonderfully and fearfully made.  On my mirror are taped two verses.

1 Peter 3:3-5a – NIV translation

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.  Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves.”

Philippians 4:8-9 – Amplified translation

“For the rest, [sisters], whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things [fix your minds on them].  Practice what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and model your way of living on it, and the God of peace (of [a]untroubled, undisturbed well-being) will be with you.”

Getting ready in the mornings is a bit more convicting when these two Bible verses are right in your face.  Write them out and put them on your mirror and you will be forced to look at yourself differently.  The idea of make-up is not so important when you’re staring at the reflection of a princess.

Little Hands and Sparkling Eyes Alight

By Beth Winze

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” E.E. Cummings

Tiny hands reaching for the whipped cream bottle, foam spray splattering everywhere, cookie chunks disintegrating to the floor.  Squeals of amusement resonated through the air as the mess left behind anticipated me.  I wanted to gripe at the preventable untidiness the customer made, but I could not.  As the grandma’s time-worn hands, held the child’s chubby, youthful ones, I could not help but miss being a child.  As the grandmother paid, the endearing child, despite the clutter made, stretched, with sparkly, bright eyes, to grasp her treat.  The child giggled and scampered over to the sofa to indulge her taste buds.  I grinned and recollected back to when I was the young age of six.

No longer do I clutch my grandmother’s hand, or find as much joy in a bowl of frozen yogurt as this child did.  I missed the tranquil joy that comes along with being childlike.  When did I grow up and abandon finding delight in the little things?  It seems like the older I get the more I regret.  You can go ahead and say that I am only eighteen and that outlooks like this should not be happening already for me, but honestly, they are.  Maybe it is because I feel submerged under piles of scholarship essay drafts, and work agendas.  Or maybe it is because young children and their unexplainable ease of elation have been around me more than ordinary.  Either way, I miss my younger years.

I recall being told as a pint-sized girl, to never hope to grow up faster than I have to.  I, of course, did not take their intelligence and only fantasized of the days when cosmetics, driving, shopping, and being employed would become mine.  I coveted growing up faster than I should have.  Pondering on why I did this, I could only come up with one answer.  I never looked deeper behind all the “glam” that comes with age.  I did not see the tension in other’s eyes.  I only looked at what they possessed, and anticipated having that.  In that case, age was what I craved, and I got it.

There is nothing I can do to stop growing up.  But I pine for the days when I would scuttle into mom and dad’s bed on a Saturday morning and snuggle with them until they rolled out of bed.  Or the father/daughter dances every year when my mom would place some blush and eye shadow on me, and my dad would dance with me, making me feel like royalty at a ball.

Now, contemplations of college, and the attempt at trying to grasp the thought of moving out inhabit the majority of my mind.  I cannot crawl into bed with my parents when I get scared of a thunderstorm, or have mom give me a Band-Aid over a boo-boo that I convince her is really there.  I suppose that is what hurts the most about growing up.  Those things I continuously took for granted are not there anymore.  College is fewer than six months away for me.  No more mom tucking me in at night.  This is what makes growing up tough.  Letting go of the fading familiarities of life.

As that grandma was returning her wallet to her purse and turning to go, I simply said “Make sure that she understands how important appreciating her youth is.” And her grandmother turned to me, rested her hand on my own, and sympathetically said with misty eyes, “Are you missing your youth?”  I just nodded and half-smiled back at her as my eyes began to pool tears.  “Do not worry about what you have left behind in your youth,” she responded, “but anticipate what is coming up in your future.” She patted my hand and called her grandchild to her side.  With that, they strolled out the door together, hand in hand, side by side.

I realize the significance of reminiscing.  It does not make it easier to grow up and think about your impending future, but it does not make the upcoming quite as frightening.  I am not ready to be mature enough to be on my own.  But it is essential to move on to my next phases in my life.  As the grandma that associated with me at work said, “Do not worry about what you left behind in your youth, but anticipate what is coming up in your future.”  I do not know what my future holds, but as I draft my scholarship essays and work for paychecks, I am only going to appreciate it for how it will spring-board me into my future.

About Stealing My Heart

By Beth Winze

Dear Future Husband,

Hunny, Babe, Boo, Hubby – I do not know what I am calling you at this point.  I promise it will not be Snickerdoodle.  I do not know you as I pen this, or, maybe I do.  I love you so much already.  I daydream about what your appearance is, how you talk, and any funny little nuances that you have that I will unrelentingly adore.  My mom prays for you as I do, quite frequently.  Let us just say that I cannot wait for you to ask me to be your wife.

But I need to tell you something about stealing my heart.  My heart has already been taken.  By two others.

I was created by a King.  I am a Princess of the definitive His Majesty.  My Creator has my heart resting securely in His affectionate hands.  Through Him, you and I have been fashioned.  I hope that I will not be the first one to capture your heart.  My desire is that I have to draw nearer to God to get closer to your heart- that He embraces in His hands.  This I truly wish.

The other one that has my heart is my Dad.  He has been there to remove my bicycle’s training wheels and give me the unsteady momentum to independence on two wheels.  He drilled my first and last effort at being a part of a soccer team.  He laced up my cleats even when I did not want to go.  God could not have given me a more picture-perfect example of a godly man.

I have kept my standards high.  But you will have to do a few things to get my heart.

First off, you need to get through God and yearn to repose in the palm of His hand, next to my heart.  It is there to stay.

And secondly, you have to tell my Dad what your intentions are with my heart.  He safeguards it and keeps me responsible with what I do with it, and will not let me offer it away to just anybody.

But do not let this alarm you!  I want you to have it as well.  I want you to know it entirely, inside and out.  You are the anticipated pulse it will beat in time with.

So, about stealing my heart, you have to go through some key preliminaries to receive it.  But once you do, know that I will love you with all my control that I have in me.  A love so strong it will be impossible to break.  Only commitment, adoration, comfort, and faithfulness will flourish from it.

This, I believe.

Love,

Mrs. Beth (your last name inserted here)

“Guard your heart more than anything else, because the source of your life flows from it” – Proverbs 4:23

 

Which Emotion is Stronger – Love or Hate?

By Beth Winze

Upon scrolling through my Pinterest home feed this morning- a most addictive routine of mine – I staggered across a mind halting phrase.  Which is a stronger emotion – hate or love?  Being the hopeless, starry-eyed romantic I am, I instantly forfeited that love was the strongest emotion. Upon additional brooding, I needed to question my hasty solution.  Is not love just as controlling as hatred?  What is it that pushes a human to relinquish an organ to save another, but also cause another human to pull the trigger and finish someone’s life?  It hinges on on your attitude on life.  If you have a cynical assessment, hate could conceivably feel like the stronger of the two, but if you choose to look through rose-colored lenses, love may be the stronger. I trust that no one is stronger than the other.  They both pull equivalent weight in our souls, it just depends on which one we let lead the way.

Is it not a love and hate that affects a terrorist to crash an aircraft into an American metropolis?  A hate for the country his birthplace hates, but affection for his country to the point of martyrdom.  Not to defend these disturbing occasions at all, but don’t these two go hand in hand?  I have heard stories of how love will make you do irrational things.

“The moment you have in your heart this extraordinary thing called love and feel the depth, the delight, the ecstasy of it, you will discover that for you the world is transformed.”  – Jiddu Krishnamurti

For example, in the cherished romance of Romeo and Juliet, the story concludes with both characters committing suicide because they could not live without the other.  While this is an extreme example of a unfathomable love, once apprehended, love will take one to places they never would have gone formerly.

“Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame.” – Benjamin Franklin

Hate can be so sufficiently exhibited in many of school shootings.  It is usually a method of vengeance to nurse the pain the shooter was caused at some point by his peers.  Sadly, the shooters hate usually ends to his own demise as well as many others.

These two instances are only one of millions you can discover on love and hate.  It is peculiar to think that these two emotions can control one’s entire life.  Are we going to allow love to rule our hearts, or hatred?  To answer the posed question, I do not think one emotion is superior to the other, I think that it truly depends on which one you convey.

The greatest case can be in the King of the world.  He came down out of love to save us from our sins, but in anger to defeat sin.  He gives us the flawless sample of immeasurable love.  His anger towards sin, and our sinful lives initiated Him to give us a Savior of assurance.  And that’s a love, I will never comprehend.

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Romans 5:8 ESV

 

Twenty-six Letters – A Writer’s Origin of Passion

By Beth Winze

“Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly — they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.” – Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

How often we take words for granted.  If you want to simplify them to their most embryonic form, it is a simple re-use and re-organization of twenty-six altered letters.  That is it.  But the use and construction of these letters can make an influence of greater inspiration than we can even begin to fathom.  They are like a steaming pot, with a volatile potential to overspill and leak everywhere.  Twenty-six letters that can be used to ignite fires in the hearts of a pastor’s congregation, but also used to tell a fading man about his medical test results.  Resorted to as a mother murmurs words of relief to her child in the pandemonium of a storm, and the husband tells his wife of his un-dying adoration on their wedding day.  It is the authority of the word that stirs in our cores as writers.  It generates an insatiable appetite for more.

I think there is a moment in every writer’s life, right before we truly determine our thirst for these twenty-six letters, in which we are struck by the use of the written word.  Books were my world growing up.  I let them sweep me away on expeditions that were only restricted by the volume of imagination I put forth into them.  This craving for reading, lead to my yearning of writing.  I wanted to be the author someday that could take a body down the rabbit hole and through a tale woven from playing cards, a delirious girl, and a Cheshire cat- all birthed from twenty-six letters.  Imagination takes over our concentrations, and we can’t be told the skies the limit, when man has walked on the moon.  Our ideas are our own, carried to term and birthed from our formed creations.  Our stories, essays, poems, articles, journal entries, and blog posts are our babies.  Nursed, taught and raised under our vigilant eyes.  They become a part of us and we take pride in our accomplishment.

The surface potential of words is enough to drive us mad in pursuit for the unsurpassed way to access our sensations.  When a writer is moved, it’s all that consumes our concentrations.  It can be in a quote from a book, a single word skimmed over in a text, or words articulated to us.  When we find the organization of twenty-six letters alluring and beguiling, we cannot be stopped.  It is seared in our brains until the nearest piece of scrap paper captivates our spirits at that instant.  Until those notes are turned into our pieces, it sojourns with us.  The worst feeling for a writer is having a pot of effervescing ideas, and having to let it boil over because no paper is obtainable.  If we cannot let our notions out, we feel as if we may merely combust.  It is an anomalous emotion, but it can, more times than not, reach the point of a natural high.

“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” – Rudyard Kipling

Artists paint to express themselves; singers’ pen lyrics packed with sentiment; the musician performs late into the night; and writers arrange twenty-six letters into their exact form anticipated.  The most insightful part about writers is that no one of us is comparable.  Our imaginings vary from dark mysteries to whimsical fantasies.  Not one true writer will duplicate another.  We appreciate the work and exhaustion that is put into our pursuit of passion.  It is a joint community of deference and admiration.  We are the most individual group of artists you will ever meet.

Twenty-six letters fuel a collection of individuals.  Twenty-six letters snatch our lives and flip our passions around by the head.  That is the true origin of a writer’s passion.  Twenty-six letters modest letters.

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” – William Wordsworth