Phew! How long's it been, guys? A WEEK? Two? THREE?!Oh, how time flies. First, thanks to all who have encouraged me to keep blogging beyond January. I had no idea so many folks were tuning in, let alone enjoying this lil' thing. So, thank you times one gazillion for the sweet words and pushes to keep going.
As I previously mentioned, I recently had the privilege of leading the women of Clayton Community Church up in Concord ( NorCal) in worship at their yearly women's retreat. We nestled into the redwood trees of the Santa Cruz mountains and had a really wonderful time of reflection, fellowship and communing with God.
(This is the stage where I lead from. Can you imagine having church there every week? I got lost imagining it.)
I was poured into constantly by the women, who averaged at about 50 years old. I felt so lifted up by the way they reflected who I am back to me. I have to pinch myself sometimes when people give me compliments and words of encouragement... Like, are you REALLY saying this stuff to me? ME? ME! This kid?
Anyhow, I anticipated my time there would be formative on this new/old/new journey ( again see "Getting Out Of The Trashcan...") because I knew I'd be spending time with the incredible Mrs. Brenda Ameli. I shared a little bit about her in my last post but, lets just say she's taken on the form of part-time spiritual mom to me and countless others, and she is literally the only woman I know who really.. really loves herself.
When I say that, I mean that I've met a lot of women who tolerate themselves because its "the right thing" to do. I've met plenty of women who just suppress self-hatred because they're supposed to believe God loves them. I've known legions of women who look to the scriptures about God's love and think "That's nice" but when they look in the mirror, they see "ugly" and "fat". Brenda believes with all of her heart that she is loved and not only that, but she's beautiful, sexy even, and she frequently jokes that she's "God's Favorite". She sees women in a way that is so rebellious with love and celebration that its mind-blowing.
I was eager to share my mission toward self-love with her because I knew that she would not only be excited for me but, she'd have some tips on how to get there. We met up for some pilates ( she's an instructor) and got to chatting. I told her about this journey and without asking for it, she began to encourage me.
When Brenda speaks about this topic, its like God's heart just shines right out of her and when you're caught in the glow, oh how sweet it is. God has made Brenda a stream of living water in the vast desert of broken hearted, self-hating women. They come to her for a drink and are brought to life in new ways.
"I want God to make me like that", I told her.
"I can't wait for you to come to this side, Carly. I see you and your beauty and your story and I can't WAIT until you come to the side that I'm on!", she replied.
Brenda used to be a Weight Watchers coach, and was formerly obsessed with weight loss. She yo-yo'd her whole life and one day, she quit Weight Watchers because of how unhealthy it can be. Both of my parents are on the program and, though its been helpful to them in certain ways, it also creates a culture of obsession with points and calories and... the joy of food is kind of sucked right out of it. I would say its good for weight loss, bad for holistic health ( emotional, spiritual, social etc) Also, once you're off of the point system, it becomes very difficult to learn how to be good to yourself. As a former coach, she admitted that the program was created to enslave folks in a certain way. It doesn't want them to NOT need to program. If people stop needing it, the business fails.
Anyhow, as she was describing her journey to me, she looked me in the eyes and said "The place that I'm at came after years of fighting for it. This place has been hard-fought." and I sensed in that moment that I'd have to fight hard, too.
Later that evening, the Pastor's wife and Brenda laid hands on me and prayed for this ministry to flourish in me. They affirmed something I have been feeling, that this isn't just a personal journey of healing, its the start of a ministry. They asked God to give me the same gift for seeing myself and women that Brenda has. They prayed for deep healing of the things that lead me here in the first place. They rebuked the ways I've treated myself, in word and deed, and forbid me to ever do them again. They forbid me to call myself names, to refuse my husbands love for me based on what I felt I looked like, and to verbally reject compliments. They instructed me to look into the mirror and tell myself good things. I got squeamish because Brenda said " You need to start looking in the mirror and teaching yourself how to see yourself. You need to stop calling yourself anything negative. Instead, you HAVE to start saying 'I am a beautiful, curvy, woman. I have a WOMAN'S figure and its soft and sexy and attractive!".
Yikes. Those words are so uncomfortable to me! I've been telling myself the opposite for so many years that they sound silly. That's the beauty of having mentors to guide you down paths they have blazed: they know how to get there better than you do. Yeah, it sounds crazy to start looking in the mirror, calling myself sexy, but what do I know? I don't have authority on how to love yourself. I need help!
Just before we left the retreat space, Brenda handed me a tattered book. It was her personal copy of a book called "Nice Girls Don't Change The World" by Lynne Hybels. Its a piece about this woman's journey toward fully living into her gifts and belovedness, and how for 40 years she thought that being a Christian woman was about being nice. The book takes you through her journey from niceness to fearless, radiant, bold living by the love and calling of God.
Brenda wrote a note to me on the first page. It reads " Beautiful, Amazing Carly, God is making you dangerous and it is a thrilling thing to behold. Much love, Brenda".
Something about those words, "God is making you dangerous" has felt particularly true. I look at Brenda, as gentle and sweet as she can be, and I see that dangerous quality to how radiant her acceptance of love is. When she heard me talk about how I see myself, she got downright angry. She wasn't angry at me, she was angry at the lies I believe. I've seen her weep over how women see themselves, and express how deeply evil those lies are. She sees this culture of self-loathing for what it is and it affects her like it affects God. It makes her hate the powers that would love nothing more than for women to be oppressed by feelings of inadequacy forever. She hates it so much because she can see the true beauty in women and to know that they can't see it and instead, see these terrible lies, it makes her deeply upset. When her life is lived out of God's love for her, it IS dangerous. Its dangerous in that it shines so brightly into the darkness. It's powerful.
Lets get back to ME being dangerous. DAAAANGEROUS ( a la Michael Jackson) Nobody has ever called me that before. I love it. It makes me feel like a warrior eagle riding on a motorcycle on fire. Yeah. I said it.
I have a lot of work to do. A LOT. I have years of fighting hard ahead of me, but seeing Brenda operate out of self-love, and the gift of helping other women to love themselves, makes me believe that the fight is absolutely worth it. I'm fighting for the garden- for "naked and unashamed" to be the norm again in this world, in my life and among the women God has called "wonderfully made".
Here's to fighting hard. Here's to becoming dangerous. Thanks Brenda.
Carly Calmes the First