To friendship.

4166182931_ccbc31bfa6True friends are the most rare and wonderful creatures in the world.

Because they can give that hug that stretches on for a few seconds longer and makes all the difference in the world.

Because when you say “I need to have an ugly-cry” they just open their arms and let you wail like a banshee into their sweatshirt until you’re exhausted from the effort. And then they don’t try to fix you afterwards.

Because they tell you to your face when you need to grow a spine and set a boundary.

Because when she comes to stay the night in your single-girl house complete with 30 pairs of shoes by the front door, hair in the shower drain, unopened mail piled on the table, and empty cereal boxes everywhere, she doesn’t flinch or get grossed out. And she’s totally okay with sleeping on a pallet made up of every single cushion from the living room furniture (because you still sleep on a twin bed).

Because he has a sticky note with your name on his wall. And he prays for you, every day. For like, the last year.

Because they know when to empathize with your pain, and when to tell you to stop wallowing in it.

Because age difference doesn’t apply when it comes to girl-talk.

Because they know you too well to put up with your crap. And you know that for Round One they will give you grace. In Round Two they will apply pressure. And if you make it to Round Three, you’d better get ready because they’re about to freaking storm the castle – and you will lose.

Because when you tell them about your most recent dilemma and heart wrenching drama, they point you back to Jesus.

Because when you haven’t seen them for months, you can pick up right where you left off. And it’s like falling back into your favorite book.

Because even though one of your biggest insecurities is the mountain range that lies beneath a heavy layer of concealer and foundation on your face, you can let her sooth and massage your bare skin and feel safe and loved.

Because they don’t give up on you. Even when you’re not the friendliest person in the world…

Because they open your eyes to a beautiful new world of colors, sights, and sounds.

Because you can spend hours together talking about Jesus and neither of you will run out of anything to say.

True friends are rare. They are valuable. They are deep. And they can love like nobody’s business.

And I am so grateful for them.

Ugly is the new beautiful.

from Trey Ratcliff at www.stuckincustoms.com

“That was very brave of you to put yourself out there! I don’t think I could do that.”

“I wish I could express my feelings like you do, but I don’t think I can.”

“That was so [powerful, heavy, beautiful, honest]! It reminded me of myself, but I can’t share it like you can.”

First and foremost, thank you for all of the response to my last post. I really appreciate all the encouraging words, shares, and texts. It means a lot to me that people enjoy reading my blog and that they like what I have to say.

But to be honest, something in the middle of all of that encouragement and positive response was bothering me. A lot.

This nifty hosting site keeps a log of all of my blog traffic, and I can go in and view all kinds of fun and interesting statistics. Like how many page views I get per day, what countries my readers are in (shout out to the Philippines, and to Bahrain and Germany – you know who you are!), and how many followers I have. My favorite statistic is which topics are most popular. And while I’d love to say that your favorite posts are the ones in which I share a thoughtful opinion, some random quirky thoughts, or my growing photography skills, that’s not exactly the case.

My three most popular posts are not happy. They’re not funny, quirky, or light. They are serious, honest, heavy, and they were hard to write. It’s when I shared the uglier side of myself that my page views shot up and my phone started buzzing with notifications from readers.

And it bugs me. It’s not hard to deduce that people tend to be drawn to drama, but there’s something so horribly backwards in knowing that if I want to draw readers in, I will need to write about the ugly things I experience. The stuff that I try to otherwise hide in all of my social media. The deeper, more truthful parts of myself.

In other words, real life.

Isn’t it ironic? We are so drawn in to the stories of hardship, brokenness, struggles, and pain, especially if they have feel-good endings with freedom, redemption, and healing. We love to know how others are coping with their tragedies. We sympathize and cry with them. But secretly, we all have that ugly story, although we do our best to hide it from the world (especially if it doesn’t have a feel-good ending).

Yeah, I’m looking at you, Pinterest-Perfect Person. You aren’t fooling me.

If my ugliest stories are the ones that impact you the most, how do you think your ugly stories might impact someone else? Do you consider how transparent you are with your friends and family? Do you ever wonder how differently the world might look if we stopped pretending like we have it all together and admit that we are all jacked up?

That’s why I blog about the hard and ugly stuff. It’s real, and it’s part of my story. I have no problem confessing my failures and shortcomings, because at the end of the day, I can say with confidence that every sin and flaw in me was done away with at the cross. It is easier to let the world see my struggles and ugliness because in that transparency, people will see Christ at the center of my being, and every day I am just a little closer to being more like Him.

And the truth is, you can be honest too. You CAN let people know you’re struggling. It does take courage and vulnerability, but you’re a deeper person than your face-value Instagram or Twitter feed. You’re a person with real thoughts, feelings, and ideas. It’s okay to stop comparing your real life to everyone else’s projected dream life, and start being humbly transparent.

In reality, we’re all ugly, but there’s something incredibly beautiful about being able to acknowledge it.

Forgive me.

rainy tree

Everything in me tells me to run. Run far away, and try to forget.

Forget the pain. Forget the past. Forget him.

My knuckles are turning white, so I let go of the steering wheel and focus instead on trying to keep the tears inside my face. Composure is key, I try to tell myself, knowing that is just a lie. The last thing I want to do is go through those doors and face him, but there is nothing I want more than to have this behind me.

The guilt, torment, and sorrow hang heavy around my neck. I repented and prayed for forgiveness, but that necklace reminding me of my shame every time I look at my own reflection is a thick, heavy chain. And it hurts to wear every day.

Every link a different sin. Manipulation, control, physical gratification, selfishness, disrespect, dishonor… Anger. Bitterness. Lies…

Hot tears spill onto the clenched fists in my lap. Crap. I need to be strong!

No, you need to be weak. Let me be strong.

How can I even get the right words out? Nothing I say will be enough. With a failed engagement and tarnished purity between us, and most of it by my own doing, how can I stand before him and admit that in just a few months’ time, I had single handedly destroyed so much goodness in him that left his heart charred, bruised, broken, and trashed? Every word of accusation and disrespect that spewed from my mouth and every glare of disapproval and discouragement that left my eyes like a sharp sword had branded him like a hot, ugly iron. Every moment of red passion that I selfishly stole from him could not be returned.

Better that I turn around and leave. Let him hate me forever. I do not deserve what I am about to ask for.

No, you don’t deserve it. But it’s still the right thing to do. You will not regret this, I promise.

Isn’t His forgiveness enough? Is this really necessary? Shouldn’t I just try to forgive myself, forgive him, and move on? Yes, that would be so much easier.

Confess your sins to one another that you may be healed.

Healing… I want that, so badly. Even more than I want to run away.

Then it’s time.

Every step between my car and the front door feels longer and heavier than the one before it, and I am half a century older by the time I finally stand at the front desk, staring into his deep, brown eyes.

He is certainly bewildered by my presence after nearly two years of bitter separation, but he agrees to talk to me in private.

Fists shoved deep into my pockets, knees shaking uncontrollably, and my voice betraying every ounce of courage I struggle to muster up, I finally say it.

“I came here to tell you that I’m sorry.”

I can’t hold the tears back any more, so I quit trying. They flow down my cheeks and under my chin as the remorse pours out of my heart and through my mouth.

He is surprised, even humored at first, but his expression slowly hardens as he listens. Slowly even that melts away and the whites around his eyes turn red and shiny.

I cry and I talk until I am gutted out. The ugliness of my heart is before me, exposed for him to see. I wait and for a moment my heart catches in my chest, overcome with fear that those three words I so desperately crave will never come, but then he finally says it.

“I forgive you.”

The chain around my neck breaks and shatters on the concrete under my shaking feet. I realize I will never wear that chain again.

Alone in my car once more, I start to cry. This time, it’s different. This time, I’m free. And at long last, the healing process begins.

Appreciating the Differences

Coffee-and-milk-coffee-909061_1024_768Let’s just say you’re arguing with someone that you love and it’s just taking them forever to realize that you’re right.

And in the midst of talking about it… she will say her point of view so succinctly with some clever metaphor that’s dear to your heart, and suddenly, you get it. It makes perfect sense.

After a little awkward silence, you realize you’re so inside her point of view, you completely forgot what you were arguing about… You have to ask.

“Excuse me, can you remind me what I was…?”

“Yeah. You said that I was…” and she’ll describe the whole thing back to you.

And you go “Oh, huh. Wow.”

And it’s sort of one of those figure ground things, and it switches and you can see it again…

I mean, you had drawn your conclusions! You had collected the data, connected the dots, you’d seen the picture emerge, you were certain.

Same dots, same data. Just draw the lines differently, different picture.

Wow, never would have thought of that!

– David Wilcox, Singer/Songwriter

Why is it that we are so bent on forcing others to agree with our perspective? Think the way I think. Hear the way I hear. Speak the way I speak. Love the way I love. Our motives are so often focused on fixing others to be more like ourselves so that we feel comfortable, accepted, and wanted.

But ultimately, I think we want to fix others so we feel right. Correct. Justified.

I guess I could preach at you the sermon you’ve heard over and over to love people for who they are, not who you want them to be. Stop trying to fix everyone. Learn how to communicate on their level, love in ways they can receive, be there for THEM, yadda yadda yadda, you know all of this.

So… why do so many people have such a hard time with just letting others be different from them? There’s little to no room for being okay with the fact that other people think, process, and just act differently than you do.

Maybe it’s just me… but lately I’ve had quite a few discussions with friends about their frustrations with communicating with the people they love most, and I hear both sides. One side is angry, saying “You’re refusing to communicate with me in on my terms,” and the other side is crying out in anguish, “You won’t let me communicate with you on my terms!”

What would happen if you learned to understand and accept that the person across from you is a different person? She thinks differently, she processes differently, she expresses herself differently, and she loves differently than you do. This is what makes her unique. This is what makes her valuable. You want to learn how to be a better friend to her? Try being okay with the fact that SHE IS NOT YOU.

And more often than not, it’s not about who’s right and who’s wrong, it’s about learning who the other person is, and celebrating it!

So when you’re in the middle of that conflict with someone that you love, stop. Just stop. If it’s real love that exists between you, you should both be able to step back and understand that the other person is not trying to hurt you or be malicious. Love doesn’t scream “I’m not okay, and it’s YOUR fault! If you would just do X, Y, and Z, things would be so much better!” (Or on the opposite side of the same coin: “You’re not okay, and it’s YOUR fault! Tell me what’s wrong – in my language and timing, so I can understand you – so I can tell you how to fix yourself!”)

Love says “This is what I’m feeling. How did this make you feel? What can I do to make this right?” (And again, opposite side of the same coin: “I can see you’re not okay. Would you like to talk about it? You don’t have to, and I won’t make you. I love you, and I’m here for you.”)

I’m either rambling or ranting at this point… I guess my point is, just be willing to look at the dots again and see a different picture. Appreciate the differences.

I’m a size 16 and I’m not happy about it.

A rising trending topic is the subject of Beauty.

As any woman on Instagram or Pintrest will admit, we see images of women we deem more “beautiful” than us, perhaps due to a thinner waistline, a prettier pout, or more luxurious locks. And on the other side of the spectrum, there are warriors out there (Beauty Redefined) trying to help womankind by flooding media with messages that translate “You are beautiful the way you are. Don’t compare yourself. Magazine models are not real women.”

I’m in the middle of an inner conflict.

It’s not that I don’t understand or even disagree with the message of self-acceptance, or that I can’t believe that I’m beautiful, no matter what the size tag says. I know that I am beautifully and wonderfully made by a Creator who knit the world together – and He doesn’t make junk.

So why is it so hard to not cringe when someone tags me in a picture on Facebook when I wasn’t aware that my lower abdomen was pouching out? Why do I have to take 327 selfies to get just the right angle where my double-chin is minimized, my legs look longer, my belly seems flatter, and my hands don’t look like sausages? Basically, in my head, I see myself as this:

pam-ferris

I’ll admit it: I am a size 16, and I hate it. I hate clothes shopping and passing the sizes that fit me 4 years ago. Mirrors and cameras (in someone else’s hands) scare me.

And I’ll be double-honest, I think I’m prettier on the other side of my face. I generally like who I am and I believe that I’m good at things and that I’m intelligent. I just don’t like to look at myself.

So I took a reality check last night as I stared in the mirror. I was tempted to criticize my sagging curls, the circles under my eyes, and the little red spots that clutter my complexion, but I tried to look past all of that and see myself with love.

Here’s what I saw:

1. I have sincere and honest eyes (that change color! hey hey!).

2. My teeth are naturally white and straight, and my smile helps others be themselves.

3. My dimples (yes… the unfortunate adorable dimples) prove genuine joy.

4. My arms are a great length for hugs.

5. You will never catch my hair looking the same way twice – and I don’t have to do a thing to it.

6. I inherited my mother’s fabulous fingernails. (Seriously, they’re like my favorite. Not too short, not too skinny!)

7. The stretch marks… well. Let’s just say every stripe represents a delicious meal. And I rarely regret good food.

I’m still a size 16. I’m still not happy about it. But I do know that I am talented, intelligent, and resourceful with more to offer this world than an attractive profile picture. And as I hit the gym and the salad bar I will remember that my goal is not to achieve a standard set by the media and my peers but to be the best, healthiest version of myself I can be.