From Bullied to Beautiful - Part 1

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About a year ago I started a class at my church called Life on Life Discipleship (LOL) and as part of the class we were given homework. The first homework assignment we were given was to take off all our clothes and stand in front of a mirror and praise the Lord for what we saw. I had heard of the project from a girlfriend who was in the pilot version of the class, but I was not prepared for my own reaction to having to do it myself. I have always known I was full of self-loathing. I prepared my husband for it before we got married. His response was, “That’s my job to help you with that.” It was a sweet sentiment and I love him for it, but his seemingly “blind eye” to my imperfections wasn’t enough to cure me of all my hatred for myself. When I was told to do the mirror project I just felt angry. I know now that it wasn’t anger, it was fear. How could I stand looking at myself naked and praise the Lord for what I saw? I knew what I would see. I would see stretch marks & flab & sagginess & scars. So I fought with the Lord about it for a week. Honestly, by the time I actually did the project it was a little anti-climactic, but it showed me that it was time to start dealing with my issues rather than just ignoring them.

My self-loathing began before most girls are even aware of the fact that they might have imperfections. I was barely six years old. Before this time I was blissful in my ignorance. I loved being in front of people, I loved talking & playing. A friend of my mom’s discovered I could sing when I was about 4 and encouraged me to perform. I did it without pride or self-consciousness. It was fun! I sang my first solo when I was 5 in front of our whole church. No problem! I was comfortable and I had no reason not to be. I was loved and sheltered. My older sister and I went to a private Christian school attached to the church we went to in Anchorage, Alaska. My father was an Elder at the church and we had grown up there. Halfway through my first grade year there was a split in the church and my family left with half the congregation. We all went our separate ways and joined other churches and we eventually went to a start-up church that met at an old Laundromat.

As a result of the split we started attending the public school down the street from our house. This is where things changed for me. I remember my old school being light and happy, but my new school was dark and scary. I loved my old school and I don’t remember having any problems at all. It felt safe. I still remember the workbook we used had Curious George and I missed that workbook all the way through the rest of my elementary school years. Isn’t that strange? Now I know that I was grieving. There is no resolution when something like that happens and so it colored my new world. I missed my old school and old friends so much. When we started attending the new school it was already part way through the year so that was a shock to begin with. What happened that first week though changed me forever.

I was very out-going and made friends easily so faced with a new school I started right away to make friends. I could never sit still, I’m sure these days I would’ve been diagnosed with ADD or even ADHD by some professionals, but back then I just had “ants in my pants.” Naturally I was noticed. My new teacher didn’t seem to have any patience at all and tried very hard to discipline it out of me. I remember distinctly one day when she tried to spank me I kicked so hard she let me go. I didn’t understand really. All I understood was that my older sister was doing things right and I was doing things wrong. Every teacher from that point out would sigh and tell me things like, “You should try to be more like your big sister.” I did know that in my effort to please the new classmates I did a few things I shouldn’t have. I let a friend talk me into trying to kiss a boy. I ended up sitting through recess, sobbing over the 10 sentences I had to write; “I will not kiss the boys.” The other thing that happened that first week was that one of the boys pointed and laughed at my “big nose.” I still remember his name. Until this point I was blissfully unaware of my grandiose proboscis. I barely noticed I had a nose I certainly didn’t worry about the size.

What followed was years of teasing. I do recognize the difference between “teasing” and “bullying.” Teasing is something that is really essential. It helps us to not take life too seriously and to laugh at ourselves. I do know there is a difference, but when I look back it doesn’t feel different. Teasing someone because she just tripped walking on a flat surface or because she acts dopey around a guy she likes or because she snorts when she laughs is one thing, but teasing about someone’s looks is a whole different animal. It hurt. Maybe I didn’t recognize it back then, but that nose became the focus of my whole world. How had I never noticed it before? Never had I been shy about being in front of people, but by the time I got to sixth grade I couldn’t perform anymore without serious stage fright. In fact, when I was given a solo in our Christmas program by my sixth grade teacher I flatly turned it down. She wasn’t happy and tried shaming me into doing it. I still refused, but as a result of the shaming I kicked myself for being such a coward.

By sixth grade the teasing that I’m sure was done innocently had turned. “Little tiny Megan with the big long nose,” was a song that was sung by the boys in my class every time I was around. My name was also a problem because its starts with “mega.” Nicknames collected around my feet like dead leaves. I was already “Megaphone,” “Megasaurus,” “Megalopolis,” etc. “Meganose” was just inevitable. So I started to whither. I became something I wasn’t meant to be; shy. It had never occurred to me before this time that shyness had any place in my world, but suddenly there it was. Becoming smaller became my only self-defense. I still sang all the time at church because it was safe and expected. No one at church noticed my nose and I certainly wasn’t going to point it out to them.

Also during my elementary school days I learned that God didn’t really want me. The God who created me and gave His Son for me didn’t really want me. The church we were going to told me this. We went to a church that didn’t serve grace on the menu. It was a carrot that dangled in front of our noses, but something that was only attainable to the perfect person. Ours was a works-based faith even though the Bible clearly says that faith was by grace alone. We were told that keeping the rules was key to our salvation. Salvation could be lost and so I was sure I lost mine on an almost hourly basis. We were taught that if we died without confessing each individual sin we would go to hell. We were told three times every week that we had to be obedient and stay that way or we were going to hell. Hell was an ever present topic and it loomed in the future for everyone who didn’t keep the rules. So I kept the rules, for the most part. I remember being around seven years old and running into my parents’ bedroom in the middle of the night terrified I would die in my sleep and go to hell because I had forgotten a sin. There was no talk of Christ’s sacrifice covering our sins past, present & future. It was always up in the air pending our next mistake. God was not loving. God was out to get us. I describe it now as feeling like God was actively trying to keep me out of heaven. However untrue it actually is it is how I felt for DECADES!

Anxiety doesn’t just run in my family, it takes it’s time to get to know each of us individually. Mine started with school and was multiplied at church. I tried to be good & not sin, but over and over again I would fall back into patterns, habits, thoughts, attitudes, etc, that were sinful. I lied to myself and my friends and God. I hid behind the things I did right to hide the shame I had over being such a mistake. I said before that singing was expected and I meant it. It didn’t occur to me to say no because that would’ve taken away my one advantage. I realize now I had a heaping course of toxic shame on my plate. I knew I was a hideous mistake, but I was a hideous mistake with talent. So my insides were at war. On the one side I blamed God for how I looked and yet I had this thing that no one else had. So I used my talent. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy it, but it gave me something in return. I got positive feedback at a church that didn’t really preach anything positive and at a time when school was torturous. I began to dream of being a famous Gospel singer, but it had nothing to do with worshipping God and everything to do with getting people to worship me!

We were in the early 80s by now and the Pentecostal movement was full of people obsessed with demon possession and end times theology. We were rapture focused before rapture focus was made cool by the Left Behind series, which I have studiously avoided reading to this day because I had so much of it crammed down my throat. Our church watched the horrific end times movies “A Thief in the Night” series. There were four movies, but I think our parents let us skip out on the last two. Talk about scaring you into Heaven! Even Wikipedia says, “The film's premillenial dispensationalist interpretation of the Bible's end times prophecies is popular among U.S. evangelicals, but is a minority view among Christians globally.” My nightmares and anxiety got worse after that. How could I sleep if I wasn’t sure I was going to heaven if I died? My grades suffered and I was constantly sleep deprived. I would lie awake at night imagining what hell was like and imagining who would come to my funeral when I died in my sleep. Morbid, but true. I developed little anxiety habits then too. I still chew the inside of my mouth all the time, sometimes until I bleed and I pick at any bump on my arms and legs often to the point where I’m bloodied. I was maybe 9 or 10 and I was already displaying symptoms of anxiety. I really don’t think I heard a single sermon explaining God’s grace until I was well into my 20s and by then I just didn’t believe it. That was what sinful people wanted to believe, but I knew better! Any theology you are raised with from the time you are a child seems normal to you. This was my normal.

Honestly, by sixth grade I thought the teasing couldn’t get worse and I looked forward to junior high because I was sure someone else would be more of a freak than I was and the kids who teased me would just ignore me. Was I ever wrong!

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Brick House explanation

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I should also explain the name of the blog.  I may not like the way I look at all, but my husband is NOT of the same mindset!  God bless him!

When Denis & I were engaged we started meeting with our pastor about what we wanted in our wedding ceremony.  Karl Clauson asked us to make a list of attributes we loved about each other so that he could add them into what he would say during the ceremony.  Well my man decided to mention all my physical attributes he appreciated & told Karl that I resembled the song "Brick House."  Thus "our song" was decided on!  Karl thought it was hilarious, but chose NOT to mention those things in our ceremony... bless him!  Still the song is a wonderful memory of a very fun time.

When I'm writing about being uncomfortable with how I look I always have to come back to the words to this song & allow myself a moment to believe with all my might that my man doesn't give a rip about what I think about myself!  I love you Denis Cutter!

"She's mighty, mighty..."

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Why this blog?

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When I was 15 years old I got a journal at a Christmas gift exchange.  It was pink with little glitter lines across it.  I'll post a picture. 09-02-2012 sm I still have it.  What started that day was a habit some might describe as compulsive.  I love to write.  I am a visual processor and I always will be.  I wrote everyday for over 15 years.  Hmmm... I might have just identified one more reason I have carpel tunnel!  I have dozens of filled journals!  I still love to write, but I don't do it as much.  Often times I have to make a list or write out what I'm thinking about to get it out of my head.  Hmmm... I think I may have just identified one of the reasons I can't sleep! 

This blog is just a continuation of a compulsive habit I formed many moons ago.  I have things in my head that I'm processing through.  I have chosen this blog instead of trying to write an entire book because I need to process in sections and if I try to write an entire book before I let anyone see it I will never finish.  So welcome to my world.

Right now the biggest process I'm in can aptly be called From Bullied to Beautiful.  I'm going to start at the beginning and work my way through it all one word at a time.  What you have to know is that from the first time I put pen to paper back in 1985 I have not liked myself.  I have lived since elementary school believing that I am not beautiful.  Recently the Lord has asked me to go back and "reclaim the years the locusts have eaten."  This means I need to go back and figure out how my world changed when the bullying started and then take back who I was meant to be.  Next week I will be 43 years old.  That's a lot of years, but what is ahead of me is what is important and I'm not going to let anymore time pass allowing those messages to continue running through my head.

And so it begins...

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Hello World

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Hello World.

Soon this will be a cool site full of my thoughts.

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