Last night, just after folding the last few loads of laundry and putting the last kiddo to bed, I set my phone down to plug it in and noticed I had received an email. My blog alerts me each time I receive a comment and, although it was late at night and I shouldn’t have been anywhere but asleep, I decided to read it. As I scanned through the words, I immediately could feel my face getting hot and my hands begin to tremble…embarrassment, fear, anger, sadness…right away the lump in my throat was there.
An unnamed critic had decided to let me know what they thought of me…and it wasn’t good. What do I do? Do I respond? How do I respond? Do I ignore it? Do I listen to this person? Do I take their advice? Which parts of this are true? Am I able to sleep with this on my mind? After talking it through and spending some time praying, I decided to write back…
And here’s 9 reasons why…
- For my own sanity. The man last week who sent an email full of curse words calling me a satanist was easy to blow off. But it’s the comments like this with half-truths that pull on my heart strings and press up against my own longstanding insecurities. These are issues I’ve spent countless hours/days/weeks/months/years fretting over…am I able to be “me”? Will people just stand back and judge? I know how far I’ve come and how He has grown me…and writing it out sure does help keep me grounded. Help me, Lord, to walk in the freedom you say is mine. Help me to walk carefully…help me to refrain from doing what I do – and NOT doing what I don’t do – simply to please others.
- To keep my flesh in check. The knee jerk reaction is to blow it off, get angry, or just take it personally and cry. But forcing myself to really think through a response helps me to be of sound mind and to work through how I feel in order to write out a loving response.
- To encourage my own heart. When I think of who I would be apart from Jesus, it is someone who would never in a million years put herself “out there” for others to see. I’m far too scared of what people think and would call myself a recovering “people pleaser.” But praise God, there is so much freedom now! As I learn more of who He is, and who I am in Him, I am continually humbled and rejoice in the freedom to be brave and be who I am made to be, enjoying how He has created me. Learning how to respond to people who miss who I am and what I’m trying to do reminds me of what I’m doing in the first place. Responding is a chance to re-focus once more on who I truly am in Him.
- To encourage others. I can think of four very close friends of mine who have recently expressed a strong desire to begin speaking more boldly, using their words and lives to proclaim Jesus. One has a love of food and want to use her skills in the kitchen to also speak of Jesus. Another has a keen eye for home decor and wants to use decorating homes as another way to speak of Jesus. Another is amazing at studying the Word…and wants to teach others, specifically women how to study on their own and how to enjoy it.
Yet when I ask these friends about the hesitation they have each has responded with fear of what other’s might think. “I really want to but what if people don’t like this…or that…” And to you I would say, “go for it!” There will always be people who miss your heart and miss what you’re aiming at…but let them only sharpen you, humble you and help you again realize that your true identity is rooted in Jesus.
- Because this is a real person. Sure there will always be trolls out there who only wish to cut down and cause harm, but behind each word, email or comment there is also a soul. Although I am saddened by the negativity, I do still wish to treat people with kindness. Having soft hearts as I describe in marriage actually applies to other relationships too…even ones like this.
- My response matters, and yours does too. Responding may have far less to do with whoever actually receives my words…my responses to things like this likely has far more to do with my own heart learning to love those who are difficult to love. Learning to walk in grace and by faith pulls me toward Jesus, which only builds character. After showing this comment to a few friends the resounding response was to not give this person the time of day…but I know that how I respond to these things helps me grow stronger and is yet again another opportunity to speak of Jesus.
- In case anyone else out there is struggling with my blog in the same way. As mentioned below there are quite a few articles having to do with image, photography and what we put our hope in…but I’ll use this as another chance to say it once more. Apart from Jesus there is NO hope…apart from Him there is no good whatsoever in my life. Yet God is a good Father and He gives us all good things to enjoy, which includes photography, fashion, style and clothing…when put in they’re rightful place.
- I will not carry the ‘grenade’. Sometimes receiving critical comments feels like someone just dropped a bomb in your lap. And sometimes that bomb is meant to be picked up, examined and absorbed…as sometimes the things people say are right. Sometimes there is truth wrapped up in hurtful words and it would be beneficial to look past the sting and hear them. But sometimes that bomb is meant to be lovingly handed back to the one who dropped it. Sometimes what a person says is not true and that grenade that’s now sitting in your lap isn’t meant to stay in your lap. Praying through it, seeking wise counsel, and moving out of it means there’s no need to remain holding on to that grenade…don’t carry what isn’t yours to carry.
- To extend grace. Grace is undeserved merit or favor. Grace is giving when you know the other will only take. Grace is loving like Jesus does, who gave up His very life for our sake while were His enemies, and there’s nothing I want to learn more in life than to love like Him.
Below is the comment I am referring to. And under that is my response. My greatest hope is that in reading it you would be strengthened, firm and steadfast in your identity in Jesus. My prayer is that you would be free to live beautifully however you have been created, using whatever gifts, skills, talents, interests, or passions you possess for His glory and for the good of others.
May we not walk in fear of people’s opinions…you and me both. For those of you who are on the fence with a strong desire to step out in faith and use your life to speak boldly of Jesus, I cannot encourage you enough to please do so!!!! There is no fear and no condemnation in Christ Jesus!!! Be brave, sweet sister! Be brave in Him.
Comment: “Do you ever get tired of posing? I’ve never seen anyone blog who posts more pictures of themselves than you do…why can’t you let your words be the focus? It’s hard to take you seriously, I think you have some great words and valuable things to say but you are constantly putting your face and body and “beautiful life” as the front and center. I can’t ever work past the vanity to truly appreciate what you are offering as I feel you are using your platform to promote yourself. I always wonder if you just pay someone to walk around following you as you pose everyday for a new photo shop…it completely cheapens who I think you really might be and who you want to be. Stop.”
I see I have clearly touched a nerve within you to have warranted such a response. I do apologize that you dislike my content but feel your lack of softness makes your own message a bit blurry to hear. I was unsure as to whether or not I should respond to you because it would seem you are not desiring to begin an actual conversation, or help, as much as you desire to just put me in my place and make your opinion known. I do genuinely care for you as a reader, even without knowing your name, so I’ll give this an honest attempt.
To answer your first question, no, I don’t get tired of posing. I’m actually, within the past year, just beginning to be okay with pictures being taken of me at all. My nerves are slowly easing up and each time I’m becoming a bit more “me” in front of the lens. I’ve hidden on the other side of the camera for a long time and have finally realized that there is joy in allowing myself to be okay with photography and fashion.
Why can’t my words be the focus? Well, with all due respect they are. At many points along my blogging journey I have desired to simply be a fashion blogger. Some of the girls I follow are insanely successful just posting about what they wear and styles they love. It’s very tempting, for many reasons, to join in with them…but seeing as how clothes, style and the way I fix my hair are meaningless in comparison to the Truth and hope we have in Jesus my heart just can’t allow it to be solely that.
Yet, I would ask…does it mean there ought to be no place at all for such things? Does it mean there is no room whatsoever to enjoy photography, clothes and style? I have wrestled for a long, long time on this issue. Does loving photography, fashion and style automatically equal vanity?
And here is where I land…I believe God is a loving Father who has given us all good things to enjoy…for our good and for His glory. My face, my body, what I put on my body AND my words are all intended to be used for His glory. However, life is ultimately not about any of those things. Our clothing will rot, as will our bodies…they will fold up like tents and will fade away into dust one day.
Yet between now and then there is grace to enjoy all He has given. I’ll care for this tent as best as I am able, and I’ll use this tent to share truth and I’ll enjoy what I get to put on, and in, this tent. I do love fashion, I love hair, and I love being healthy and strong…and I love writing…but I love Jesus most. My plan for this blog is to take whatever I have been given, combine ALL the things I love and put them into a little space I call my blog.
To answer your next question about paying someone to take my photos…the answer is a resounding no. We don’t have the money for that…and even if I did I would loathe the idea of someone following us around all the time. My children have absolutely loved learning how to use a camera…one we’ve had for over 12 years but somehow still works decently. The 7 and 8 year olds have told me they’d like to be photographers someday and they argue over who gets to take the pictures each time. Sure, some of the pics are blurry, but I absolutely love the fact that they have learned a skill they will use for the rest of their lives…and more than that I adore that my blog is filled with photos taken by their sweet hands.
My amazing husband also takes my photos. He has encouraged me to be more bold and to be more brave in taking more pictures of myself as he knows the blogs I am most drawn to are the ones that have real photos of the writers. I love blogs with big pictures, colorful ones that fill up the whole screen, real ones of the actual author, not ones that have been purchased from someone else’s site. I dreamt for a long time of creating content similar to what I admired in others…and it’s taken far too long for me to be okay with creating that myself. Photography and style are two loves of mine…a creative outlet, an art form, something I celebrate…but in it’s rightful place.
I fully believe those peripheral things in life are not evil. Pictures of myself, or of me with my kids or of our outings/vacations together as a family are not wrong and I celebrate that my blog is something like an ongoing scrapbook made with and by the little people God has entrusted to me. I grieve that you feel my freedoms in being creative cheapen my words, but I would ask for you to read carefully the words I write when it comes to fashion, images of “perfection” and what true beauty really is. There is a dying world out there…one where people feel that great pictures, the “perfect” life and upholding their “image” is all that is worth pursuing. I desire to engage with that world and share a different story…a better ending…true life that can only be found in Jesus.
From the bottom of my heart I thank you for your perspective. It’s good to know how to pray, for you and for others, and how to continue to write. But at the same time I do plan to still use creativity, photography and fashion in this space. I would like to take the opportunity to encourage you to use your gifts and your passions in life fully as well, without fear of others opinions and without reservation…for your own joy, the good of others, and for His glory. Making much of yourself or myself is meaningless, but using your passions, talents, and gifts to point others to Him is surely something to celebrate. I would urge you to make life beautiful in your own unique way that others might see Jesus more clearly in all that you create and all that you enjoy.
I would also love to encourage you in the future to be slower to speak and to use your words to build and lift others up instead of tear down. When you have a grievance with someone it’s always best to begin a conversation by introducing yourself and speaking in a way that is helpful and welcomes a response. It isn’t loving when you simply assume you understand someone and let out your opinion without the plan for relationship. the Bible would refer to that as a “noisy gong.”
I’d also like to encourage you to ask more questions about people’s hearts/motives instead of assuming you see the whole picture. Humbling yourself to seek to get to know someone better might give you some clarity or perspective that you wouldn’t otherwise have had, or it very well may confirm what it is you feel you already believed to be true. Either way, the fact that you made a loving attempt to hear someone out will give you a much clearer voice to the person you wish to correct.
And lastly, if you do love Jesus, and if we are siblings in Him, then I would urge you to treat people as you would want to be treated. Treat them as you would your own family, because in Him we are family, and to do so with kindness and compassion.
Grace to you,