Authenticity Begins Within You

By Bindu Adai-Mathew

What do you want to be when you grow up?

For many of us, it’s a question we were asked quite often when growing up.  For some of us, it’s a question that we often ask ourselves still.

When you were growing up, what did you envision for your life? Was it being a doctor? A lawyer? A movie star? A writer?

When you look at your life, was it what you had always hoped it would be? Or is it even better? Worse?

It was 2004, and I was newly married and had just moved to Florida. I was working in a job that I wasn’t thoroughly enjoying, and I couldn’t help but feel I had taken a serious detour in my career path. How had I gotten here?  Like many parents, especially Indian parents, my parents had just wanted me to be a doctor, but back in college, I deeply felt I had a different path that God wanted me to follow. So I pursued my English degree and my writing aspirations…Well, sorta. I admit I didn’t write…well, back then I was in my 20s! I didn’t have time to sit in front of the computer all day as I tried to wait for inspiration to flow out of me!  I had friends to hang out with, and, of course, my Mr. Right wasn’t going to magically bump into me while I sat sequestered in my room writing. I needed to be “out there” living and doing my thing. And dreamer that I was, I also had a practical side and still worked a “day job,” too, to pay the bills and save for retirement.

But flashforward back to 2004…I’m married, living in Florida…but I still wasn’t writing. It was around that time that my husband, too, began prodding me. Didn’t you tell me you wanted to be a writer? How come I never see you writing? Ouch.

A few weeks later, one of my friends sent me an excerpt from a book that a co-worker of hers was working on. She asked me to critique and edit it because her co-worker was seeking some feedback, and my friend wasn’t a reader or writer so she thought of me instead. When I read it, my thought was that it seemed more like an essay rather than an excerpt from a novel. So I took out my editor’s pen, added some dialogue, added some description, some metaphors, etc. And badda bing, badda bang, I handed back what I considered a very well written page to inspire her as she continued her novel. My friend’s co-worker immediately responded by asking me if I had published anything because she loved what I had written. Sheepishly, I had to admit that besides a few paragraphs here and there over the years, I hadn’t written anything. Oh, wait, a short story or two…but no, nothing to resemble a novel and certainly nothing that was published. Yet.

I later read over what I had written, and I couldn’t help but feel this surge of joy and excitement over that one page. I loved the way the words flowed together. I loved the scene I described. And most of all, I had just loved the whole creative process. Why wasn’t I writing, I asked myself. And then I knew it was time. It was time to start that novel I had always talked about.

So I did. I started it. Life got busy, and so I had to stop. But I soon got started again, stopped, started, stopped, started, stopped. Started. Stopped.

Sigh.

Why couldn’t I just write already? In hindsight, I realized I had much to learn about the creative process. Sometimes, to be honest, it’s just not that creative. Sometimes, you just gotta write even when you don’t feel like it. You gotta write when you don’t have time.Yes, discipline. Something I had never applied to my writing.

But I have to admit, there’s nothing like a significant birthday and the feeling that you’re getting old to kick you into high gear. I had one of those and a year and a half later, my novel was finally complete.

After many years of dreaming about it, talking about it, I had finally done it! I had written a novel!  But when I did, no streamers magically fell from the ceiling. No Publisher’s Clearing house “Congratulations” check magically appeared at my front door or in my mailbox. Besides a “I knew you could do it” from one of my best friends, nothing changed…Now what? I had finished my novel, but that didn’t mean I could quit my day job.

Little did I know I had just done the easy part. The much, much, much harder part is to get it published. And if I listen and believe the statistics, I probably will never get my first novel published. In fact, “they” say that it’ll probably take my second or third novel before I get something published. I have to write another one? Now? You mean I’m not going to be a Nicholas Sparks or a Stephenie Meyer and set the publishing world ablaze with my very first novel? The idea of writing another novel was very appealing but not when I have to squeeze in the time between work and taking care of my baby. Oh yeah, a month after finally giving birth to my novel, I also gave birth to a real baby, too! How was I ever going to write another book between working full-time and then coming home to a hubby and baby? I looked with dread at my black laptop workbag, realizing that yes, I wouldn’t be quitting my day job for a long, long time.

Sigh.

But I have to admit, even now, when I go back and read what I’ve written, I feel a deep satisfaction from my soul. And while I may not be successful in the world’s eyes, I know I have done something that gives me great meaning and makes me feel I’ve left my little imprint on this world, if only just my laptop.

So what do you want to be when you grow up?

And what, may I ask, are you doing about it?

Authenticity must first begin within us. Authenticity to ourselves requires unearthing, rediscovering, pursuing the talents, gifts, skills that God has given only you. Authenticity requires knowing that God made you unique and beautiful and for a purpose, and only by drawing ourselves closer to God can we truly discover those gifts.

I will praise you; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are your works; and that my soul knows right well. Psalms 139:14

Loving Yourself When You Don’t Feel Beautiful

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By JMathis

Ecclesiastes 3:11 (New Living Translation ©2007)

“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”

I don’t feel beautiful when I have my period.

In fact, I find myself feeling downright unlovable during this time. Plus, I’m not exuding that much love towards others during my “ladies’ days”, as all this self-loathing makes me grouchy and surly towards anyone who crosses my path that week (yeah, I admit—not my greatest WWJD moments). Every cycle just seems doomed to present itself to me in exactly the same way:

1)      “Huh??? My period is here?” (This is despite the fact that I am as regular and consistent as the rising and setting of the sun each day.)

2)      “What is on my face, and why is it growing a pair of eyes?”

3)      “To heck with my diet. Find Ben and Jerry and get them here—STAT!”

It is at this point that I feverishly calculate on my abacus-like fingers if my weekend plans to drink Bloody Marys will be ruined by the arrival of, well, Bloody Mary, herself.   

While New Agers would love to see menses as a time of cleansing, rejuvenation and meditation, it’s very hard for me to focus on all of that hooey when my jeans won’t zip up that week. Frankly, loving myself is just not on the menu during my period, especially when my face is covered in acne-fighting gunk and chocolate syrup goop (cut to pity-party scene from Bridget Jones’s Diary, where Renée Zelwegger is singing “All By Myself”…Don’t Want to be…All by Myyyy…Self…Anyyyy…morrrre!!!”)

Yet, without fail, the day after my period is done, there is an extra spring in my step (translation: doing the Running Man in front of my bathroom mirror) and a special song in my heart (“Oh yeah, Destiny’s Child!! Gimme some of that Independent Women!!”). The cramps and road rage from three days before are just a distant memory. I find that I’m in love again…with myself. (“Hey, baby, you come here often? Why yes, I live here–remember??”)

Bring on the weekend!! I feel beautiful once more! The birds are chirping, the sun is shining and I’m ready to embrace the world with open arms!



Now, why can’t I just feel this way all the time?

I guess I’m just one of those ingrates who will never fully appreciate menstruation as an expression of God’s brilliance in masterfully crafting a woman’s body for the role of procreation. In fact, I will always have some choice words for Eve around the same time every month (suffice it to say, *love* is not one of those four-letter words I scream at her).

However, when life starts beating me down, when my love for all of my quirkiness turns into disappointment over all of my failures, and when everyday starts feeling like another day “on the rag”, it is then that I must remember that God loves me madly and passionately, and that I am fearfully and wonderfully made in His image. According to Psalms 139:14, everything that God makes is breathtaking. So, guess what? That makes me beautiful, even when I don’t feel beautiful and no one else thinks I’m beautiful. That makes me lovely, even when I don’t feel loved and no one else thinks I’m loveable.

This year, I have to learn to love myself—without criticism, without judgment. This is the year that I choose to see myself the way God sees me, and to love myself the way God loves me. I just have to trust that God’s redeeming love makes all things beautiful in their time. Even me.

Prayer: Lord, I have no idea what you’re about to do in my life this year, but I trust You and I love You beyond measure. Help me not to second-guess Your ways when my world starts falling apart all around me. I know that You are transforming me into something beautiful, even when I don’t feel loveable. Make me beautiful and help me to accept Your all-encompassing love for me. Make my words beautiful so that I can love others around me; make my paths beautiful and let my steps be adorned with Your love; make my life beautiful so that Your love shines through me and brightens the darkness that surrounds me. Make me beautiful like You, Lord. Make me lovely like You.

Keep Your Hand Up!

Do you systematically underestimate your abilities as a woman–especially when it comes to work and ministry? Are you taking a back-seat approach with your God-given gifts and talents due to the current busyness of your day-to-day life? Has it become easy to forget that God has big plans for you?

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 NIV

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. Psalms 139:14 NJKV

He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6 NIV

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Check out the discussion below led by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, as to why there are so few women leaders throughout the world.

Maybe you have no desire to be a CEO or to reach the highest levels of your workforce. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, and certainly, those jobs should never be viewed as the ultimate measure of success for one’s life. At the same time, could Sandberg’s words possibly still apply to other areas of your life, especially when it comes to your calling, dreams and aspirations?

“Well, I’m in grad school. I’ll get involved with my community when I’m a real adult.”

“I have two kids. God will understand if I go to church later…when I have more time.”

“I’m unemployed right now. My first priority is to pay the bills.”

Click here to hear Sandberg’s discussion…

To use Sandberg’s words, do you no longer keep your hand up? Have you “left” before even leaving? Have you dropped out of the race?