How God Feels About You: A Reminder, Courtesy of Pixar

So last night I was watching Pixar’s Inside Out again (because sometimes you just want to make yourself cry, you know?) and I came to the scene where Joy and Bing Bong have just fallen into the Memory Dump. Everything has gone downhill. Joy and Sadness are both lost from “headquarters,” and without them, all Riley (our protagonist whose head we are inside of) can feel is Fear, Anger, and Disgust. She’s also missing her “core memories” which are what make Riley who she is. Without them, she is losing her love for family, friends, hockey, silliness, and honesty. She is losing herself. Because of this, Riley has just decided to run away from home. Joy knows this, but has no way to get back to headquarters to help save the girl they all love so dearly. Riley’s emotions are shutting down altogether, and she is becoming lost in a state of hopelessness and depression. In this moment, Joy is overwhelmed with the love she has for Riley and her desperate desire to help her.

Here is the scene, if you’ve never seen it:


As Joy picks up different memories of Riley, she recalls the special things about her that she loves so deeply. Looking at a little Riley coloring, she says, “Do you remember how she used to stick her tongue out when she was coloring?” And holding a memory of Riley telling silly stories, she earnestly adds, “I could listen to her stories all day.” Finally, looking at a memory of young Riley laughing joyfully and feeling overcome with sadness herself, Joy cries, “I just wanted Riley to be happy.”  

It struck me as I watched this scene that there are people in my life who feel this way about me. Chiefly my parents, but I know there are others too. Probably more than I realize. People who look at me and recall memories and feel love for me simply because of who I am, people who want joy for me. And then I was openly sobbing on my bed because I realized, God feels this way about me, too.

More than she represents anyone else in my life, Joy represents God in this scene. I picture Him, the Lord of all Creation, weeping over my heartbreak. I picture Him holding memories of a young Princess Jade and smiling sadly, because He just wants life for me. He just wants joy for me. God is holding little globes of my memories and whispering, “Do you remember how she always tried to catch lizards? She was so unafraid of the world.” He picks up another, “I could read her poetry all day—even the ones from middle school. She put so much life into them.” Another, “Her laugh is so full, so loud. I miss that sound.” He picks up a glowing blue memory and holds it to His chest. It’s me, a puddle on the floor, wracked with sorrow, crying out for someone to help me. And God loves me as deeply in that sad memory as He did in the joyful ones. He loves me for every single one. For every part of me, even the ugly memories that I’d rather forget. And He cries, “I hate it when she hurts,” He says, “I died so she’d have freedom and life. I just want her to have life.”

That’s real. That’s not make believe. That’s not a Disney movie. That is real life, happening right now. God feels that way about you right now.

God despairs for us. He feels pain over our pain. He aches for us to have joy and is jealous when we seek it elsewhere. God is looking at memories you can’t even remember anymore and loving you for them. He knows every single inch of your brain, has the blueprints memorized, can recall every single detail there is to know about you down to the number of atoms in your body and the amount of blood in your veins, and HE. LOVES. YOU. He knows you, and He loves you. And He desperately, desperately wants you to let Him save you.

Watch the video again. And this time, picture God instead of Joy, and you instead of Riley.

And believe it. It’s real.

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From The Inside Out

No matter who you are or what your story is, you will be touched by this movie. It was truly profound.

No matter who you are or what your story is, you will be touched by this movie. It was truly profound.

Just a quick disclaimer: If you haven’t seen Pixar’s Inside Out yet, you should. Whether you have kids or not, enjoy animated films or don’t, just go see it. I’ve done my best not to include spoilers in here, and if you haven’t seen the movie, you in no way need to in order to read this post. But, still—read this and then go watch it.

On the surface, Inside Out is just a fun kid’s movie about an 11-year-old girl named Riley and her five main emotions: Joy, Anger, Disgust, Fear, and Sadness. When Riley’s family moves from her hometown in Minnesota to San Francisco, her emotions go a little berserk. In the end, the movie is really about discovering what Sadness’s true function is, and it is played out so beautifully. However, as the movie continued and Sadness lost control of herself more and more, I began to see something else between the lines of this sweet children’s film. I saw a reflection of what my brain had looked like while suffering through depression. I saw Sadness touching everything I thought about; I saw Joy lost from headquarters, completely forgotten; and I saw a profound representation of what it had always felt like when my emotions seemed to simply shut down. And I’ll be honest with you…it was a little unsettling, all of those memories being brought back to the forefront of my mind.

She looks cute, but she brings a lot of true emotions out of you.

Through middle school, high school, and college, I suffered through seasons of depression. I remember coming home from school one day and collapsing on the floor of my bedroom. The lights still off, my backpack fallen on the floor beside me, I curled into a ball and began to sob so hard that I could barely breathe. In that moment, I couldn’t even think long enough to know the reason why I was crying. I just knew that everything I thought about had been touched by sadness, and it was so heavy that I couldn’t bear to even sit up or hardly breathe. I remember sitting on the floor of a car having an anxiety attack because my best friend had been grounded and I didn’t know what I would do if I was left alone with my thoughts for that long. I felt honest, out of control fear that if I didn’t have someone there to distract me, my sadness might swallow me whole. I remember staring at the ceiling each morning in my freshman year of college, willing myself to fall back asleep because I couldn’t find a single reason to get out of bed. It was years of this. It was years of being terrified of the month of February, because it was when my depression always seemed to win after I’d battled with it all winter long. For so much of my life, my depression defined who I was. It owned me. It was as if I had placed a label on my own forehead reading “BROKEN,” and I was absolutely, 100% convinced that no medicine, no person, nothing could ever heal me. I knew, with all certainty, that if I wanted a normal life that didn’t include months of feeling worthless, I was going to have to be on medication for the rest of my life.

I haven’t been on medication for three years. I’m not against medicating for depression—I understand that some of us have a chemical imbalance, and medication can help our brains remember how to work right. I just know now that there’s a hope beyond medication. A hope for healing. A hope for joy. A hope for a future that makes every day worth living.

Yes, Inside Out reminded me of my depression. But it also reminded me of how I overcame it. I went 19 years of my life in a cloud of darkness, unable to find anything to save me from it. It’s not a coincidence that when I gave my life over to God, that darkness finally started getting pierced by the light.

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Finding God was like finding Joy, after she had been lost from Headquarters for so much of my life.

I was standing on a ledge, staring down at the emptiness below me, with the monster of my depression breathing down my back—and it wasn’t until I took that leap and let God carry me that my monster finally started to fade. I have still faced sadness at some points over the last three years. Life has beaten me down a few times. The difference now is that it’s not crippling. I’m not weighed down by these feelings of hopelessness anymore, because now I have a hope that can literally never be taken away. When I start thinking, “What’s the point?”; when I get overwhelmed by the enormity of life and the pain that comes with it; when I start to forget joy, I remember one simple truth: I am a daughter of the living God. Because if I don’t have a job, if I’ve lost all my friends, if I struggle in school, or hate my body, or can’t even remember who I am anymore—I am always a daughter of God. And that’s enough. That’s the point. I’m a daughter of God, and if I just keep fighting through this race, I will receive a great reward at the end. Let me show you.

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, I am making everything new! Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.” – Revelation 21:1-6

That’s the point. That one day I will go there, and there will be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain. I will be made new. And in the meantime, I need to spend every moment inviting as many people as I can to come with me. But I know from personal experience that sometimes the pain is too much to focus on the future. Sometimes we need to be helped in this moment to be able to make it to the next. And Jesus Christ knew this, too, which is why he said:

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”Matthew 5:4

Crying

Just like Sadness, God knows that there is a time for crying and mourning.

Inside Out seemed to almost have been inspired by this verse, and it is such a relief to know that even Christ does not expect us to be filled with joy 24/7. Christ knows that there are times when we need to mourn, and He is here for us in those hours of pain. And if you need further proof that God is aware of our depression and can conquer it, turn to the Psalms. They are one of the best places to go to be reminded that God is with us even in our sadness.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God. – Psalm 42:5

He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds. – Psalm 147:3

And, finally, if these verses haven’t helped you feel a little more healed, there is a man that died for the sole purpose of our healing.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.Isaiah 53:5

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24

ChristWon

Even if you feel like you can’t defeat your depression, know that Christ already has.

We’ve been healed! Jesus did not die on the cross so that I could walk around with a label on my head saying, “BROKEN.” He bore my sins to bring me peace, so that I could walk around with the label, “HEALED!” God knows about our depression. He knows that this world is ugly and hard—His son experienced it firsthand. And He didn’t leave us alone here to deal with it on our own. He gave us the Lord, Jesus Christ, so that we could be healed from all of these sorrows. So that we could one day go to the place where there is no mourning or crying or pain. This is why I haven’t been on medication for three years, and yet I haven’t felt depression “win” once throughout that time. Because Jesus won. He won.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”John 16:33

Pixar did a beautiful job at explaining what depression looks like, from the inside out.

God did a beautiful job showing us that He can heal anything, from the inside out.

From the Inside Out, Lord
My soul cries out, “Lord!”

Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall: Why Don’t I Feel Fair At All?

MemeYou know those memes that say, “What I think I look like” and “What I actually look like” with a picture of someone really attractive and a picture of someone looking really awkward? Well, when I was in middle and high school, I had this same problem every time I looked in the mirror. For some reason, I had this image of myself in my head where I looked like Kate Beckinsale (you know, the really gorgeous woman from Van Helsing and Underworld?) and every time I stepped in front of a mirror, my expectations were shattered. Looking back on it, I don’t know how I thought that was a realistic expectation, given that I was somewhere between 13-16 and Kate was like 32, but nonetheless, it was partially for this reason that I was never satisfied with how I looked.

Kate Beckinsale, everyone. I mean...wowza.

Kate Beckinsale, everyone. I mean…wowza.

There was always something wrong with me: whether my eyebrows looked hideous, or my nose was too big, or my eyes were too small—you name it, I noticed it. And the problem only moved south when I got into college—the only part of me I was happy with, my figure, suddenly started to change and grow and all of a sudden I didn’t love my face or my body. Even though I have never been “ugly” or “fat,” I refused to accept anyone’s compliments, always denying anything positive about myself. Looking back on it now, I think part of my problem was that I saw everyone else doing the same thing. Someone calls you pretty? Immediately shoot that compliment down. Someone tells you that you look nice today? “Oh, please, I’ve never looked nice a day in my life.” And somehow, it felt that if I did anything other than deny these compliments, I would be in the wrong.

It took a long time before I was able to look in the mirror and be content with what I saw. In all honesty, it really only happened this past year. Part of it was that I got away from some toxic relationships and found people who love me for exactly who I am. Most of it was that I learned to accept God’s love. But in the words of my very wise husband, what it really came down to was that I learned to value myself.

Because, in the end, it isn’t really about how we look. I could diet for years and work out every day, but if I don’t value who I am as a person, it isn’t going to matter what I look like on the outside. It was my insides that needed to be loved. The real question is, why don’t we love ourselves? Why don’t we love our outsides, or our insides?

The reality of the situation is that God loves you. God made you.

Genesis 1:27a says, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them.”

So, not only has He made you, but He also made you in His image.

Romans 5:8 is one of many verses that tells us God loves us: “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

So, we know that God loves us even in our sin—even in the worst kind of ugliness.

And Psalm 139:13-16 describes how intimately He created us: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

Psalm 139Let’s really look at what these verses mean. If we say we’re not happy with the way we look, are we saying that God could have created us better? Are we saying that the creator of the entire universe, who made this beautiful earth and the heavens and everything around us, that He messed up? If I hate my face, or my stomach, or my butt, do I hate God’s handiwork? 1 Peter 2:9 says that we are God’s “special possession”; are we hating what is most special to God? We know from the previous verses that God made us with great care and purpose, and yet we are spitting on His masterpiece every time we tell someone, “No, I’m so ugly.” Furthermore, we’re made in HIS IMAGE! That’s like if someone said, “You’re so beautiful, just like your mother!” and, with Mom standing right there, you replied, “Ugh, no, I’m hideous.” Truth be told, in not loving who we are and what we look like, we are spitting on God’s plan, His work, and His image.

What it all comes down to is acceptance. We have to fully believe what Psalm 139 says, we have to let the fact that God made us perfect wash over us, until we’ve completely accepted it. Letting in the love of God is the only way to truly learn to love yourself. And it’s a process. It takes time, and effort, and a lot of hours looking in the mirror and reminding yourself that you’re beautiful, you’re perfect, you’re valuable to God. He made all of us different for a reason, and by degrading yourself you are degrading that special purpose that He made you for.
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Look at that face. Why don’t we smile at ourselves like that?

To finish off, I’d like to leave you with some royal examples of how to love yourself exactly the way you are. One Little Mermaid gives quite the illustration, in my opinion. At one point in the movie, Ariel is woken up suddenly, out of a dead sleep, and when she makes the assumption that it’s her wedding day (thanks to Scuttles), she looks in the mirror, fluffs her hair once, and rushes out to see her man. She doesn’t brush her teeth. She doesn’t comb out her bedhead. She doesn’t change into a pretty dress and put on some makeup and rub out her eye sleepers—she looks in the mirror and, confident in how she looks after just waking up, goes to see her man. Another great example is Jasmine. Sitting in front of her vanity brushing her hair, she doesn’t turn away from the mirror, ashamed of how she looks. She smiles at her reflection. Not only that, but she has enough self-confidence to know that she is worth so much more than all the money the snooty princes keep bringing. “I am not a prize to be won!” Remember? Now, that’s a whole other topic for another time, but that’s some self-confidence if I’ve ever seen it. Shouldn’t we, as God’s special possession, see the same worth within ourselves?

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Don’t try and tell me you’re not more beautiful than that ugly sea witch.

Lastly—and this one really hits the nail on the head, I think—let’s look at how the sea witch Ursula looks at herself in a mirror. In this scene, she is using her magic to appear as the lovely maiden Vanessa. While looking in the mirror, she sings a song about her evil schemes and laughs devilishly, clearly very proud of herself. As she tilts the mirror towards herself, we see her not as the vixen Vanessa, but as Ursula, the octopus woman. And yet, she is grinning and laughing at her reflection, confident and proud despite her looks. Now, if Ursula can even look at herself in the mirror and feel confident, can’t we at the very least look at ourselves and be proud of our own dastardly accomplishments? Because, let’s be honest, you are not uglier than Ursula. So if she can look in the mirror and be happy with what she sees, why can’t you?

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Me first thing in the morning! Loved, created, and made perfect by God!

The truth is, loving yourself takes work. Accepting who you are, inside and out, requires a lot of effort. So I’m going to leave you with a “GO” challenge, as we like to do in my church’s college group. I want you to take a picture of yourself first thing in the morning—no makeup, no rinsing off your face, no fixing your hair. Use the very first picture you take, regardless of how it looks, and look at that picture once a day. When you’re looking at it, tell yourself, “This person was made by God. God created them in His image. He created them perfect. They are loved and wanted by God, just the way they are. They. Are. Perfect.” Do this every single day until you can look in the mirror and say it to yourself, out loud, and really believe it.

And, remember, if worse comes to worse, you can at least remind yourself that you are more beautiful than Ursula, and laugh wickedly with pride.

Author’s Note: I apologize for taking an obscene amount of time to make another post. I was getting married, and buying a new kitty, and going on a honeymoon, and a bunch of other things. I will be making a much more pointed effort to post once a week from now on! Thanks for reading!

Introducing: The Lost Princess, and Her Favorite Princess

The most important thing for you to know about me is that my favorite Disney princess is Cinderella.

Hair

But seriously, that hair. Not fair.

Now, I’ll be straight with you: growing up, Ariel held that special place in my tiny heart, swimming into the number one position mostly because it was my dream to: 1. Live underwater and 2. Have hair that looked that incredible when wet. I also, as a brunette, may have had a slight vendetta against all of the blonde princesses, which didn’t help Cindy’s case either. But, since leaving high school and freeing myself from the authority of blonde-haired cheerleaders whose morning two-hour hair and makeup routines made me look like a potato in my standard jeans and t-shirt, I have gotten over my subconscious animosity toward the light-haired princesses.

If you knew me but knew nothing about my Disney preferences, you’d never guess Cinderella is my favorite, though. She’s nothing like me. Most girls pick a princess because she reminds her of herself: “I love to read, just like my favorite princess Belle!” “My favorite princess is Ariel, because she has a tail and can breathe underwater like me!” (Still the dream.) But Cinderella–who is devoted to kindness, shows unbreakable patience, and is grateful for every single minuscule gift that is given to her–shares very little in common with me.

HaveCourageAnd that’s why she’s my favorite.

In the first lines of the movie, a narrator introduces Cinderella by saying, “Cinderella was abused, humiliated, and finally forced to become a servant in her own house. And yet, through it all, Cinderella remained ever gentle and kind, for with each dawn she found new hope that someday her dreams of happiness would come true.” Every time I hear those lines, I’m reminded of what I’m striving to become. Ever gentle and kind. Though I may struggle with patience, gratitude, and unwavering kindness, Cinderella is an inspiration to me that in the harshest of conditions, these three characteristics are still achievable. And it reminds me of some other words, which weigh even heavier than the introduction of my beloved Cinderella:

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” – Galatians 6:9 (ESV).BeKind

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” – Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV).

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” – Colossians 3:12-14 (NIV).

You see, what you learn about me in knowing that Cinderella is my favorite princess is that above all the things I am (impatient, hot-tempered, selfish) and all the things I love (Disney, my fiancé, my family), I’m a Christian. And my strongest desire in life is to work to be a better Christian each and every day, striving towards the goal: my future home in Heaven. And Cinderella, who portrays so many of the qualities Christ calls me to put on, helps remind me of that goal every time I watch her movie.

Nightingale

You can almost hear her voice, “Sing, sweet nightingale, sing, sweet nightingale…”

And that is why tonight, as I finish writing my first blog post, I am watching as Lucifer chases after Cindy’s dear friends, Jaq and Gus (boy, is there some juicy context written between those lines—but I’ll save that for another post), and Cinderella herself scrubs the floors while singing a cheerful tune. A gentle reminder to thank God in every circumstance, even when your evil stepsisters tear up the beautiful dress your mice friends made you.