The Masks That We Wear

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Today I was reading an article about the beautiful Cara Delevigne (my eyebrow role model) and she was speaking candidly about her struggle with depression. The journalist then commented saying how shocked she was to hear these words coming from the mouth of one of the world’s most renowned super models who supposedly “has it all.” Yes, her exterior comes across as if she is a girl full of fun and laughter, but below the surface there is much more.

It’s the same in our own lives. With the growing phenomenon of social media, people are sharing what seems to be their whole life with the world, but are we really? Most of the time we just post the best parts. You don’t see many Instagram posts saying “throwback to the day I couldn’t get out of bed.”  Of course it’s ok not to post every little thing that happens to you online, in fact I don’t recommend doing that. The thing with this is that it easy to think that everyone has a better life than you, you think you must be the only person to have a rubbish day. But trust me everyone has those days.

It’s not only online that we cover our real problems with a mask. I know for me my mask is my extremely smiley and loud personality. Yes, usually that is how I genuinely act and feel, but not all the time. And the only person who I’m affecting is myself. Imagine every time someone asks you how you are, you answered truthfully. Most of the time I say “good, thanks” without even thinking about how I really feel.

But the thing is, its ok! It’s ok not to always feel ok all the time. In fact, it’s more than ok. In the Bible Jesus speaks on the sermon of the mount about how broken people are blessed. The amazing thing is that God doesn’t only love us if we are perfect, He loves us for exactly who we are, unconditionally. We don’t need masks, in fact they are pointless when it comes to God because he sees the depths of our hearts, he sees the hurt and the pain and the laughter and joy. Not one bit of us goes unnoticed by him, “the very hairs on your head are all numbered.”(Matthew 10:30)

Just remember, the next time you are putting on your mask, you don’t need to! God sees the real you anyway and still wholly and unconditionally loves you.

He’s Got it Covered

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This week my mum and I took on the challenge of painting my bedroom in our holiday house in Bushmills. Originally the walls were painted bright pink and purple, looking back it wasn’t the best decision-but hey we all make mistakes. At long last my sister and I decided we wanted a change and we opted for the mature (and slightly boring) colour, cream. The room eventually will hopefully have a vintage theme, but for now it’s a bit of a mess to say the least.

Over the duration of two days we painted the wall with three coats of cream paint and the pink and purple is still shining through. At certain points I thought we were never going to get rid of the bright pink and purple, however I am now hopeful that with one more coat the pink and purple walls will only be a distant memory.

This got me thinking about our lives and our sins. Sometimes I find myself thinking about something I’ve done and it’s hard to forgive myself so I try to forget about it. But somehow, just like the pink and purple paint, it lingers in the back of my mind. When this happens it’s hard to comprehend how anyone could forgive you and it’s even harder to move on from it.

But the great thing is, God isn’t like the cream paint that didn’t completely cover the previous colours. All we have to do is ask for forgiveness and he covers our sins and transforms us. This way it is so much easier to move on knowing we have been made clean, that we have been given yet another chance. Of course, we still need to have integrity, we can’t use God’s grace and forgiveness as an excuse to do whatever we want.

Isaiah 1:18 speaks beautifully of how God forgives,  “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. “

It’s so great knowing that no sin is too big or too small for God to forgive. He paints over our sins, so we no longer have to worry about them. Jesus already died for all our sins even before we had sinned. Amazing.

Just remember, once we’ve asked for forgiveness God has got it covered.

The Non-existence of Normal

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The other day I came across a Buzzfeed post in which women of all different shapes and sizes were trying on clothes which were labelled as “one size fits all.” The women each tried on the different items and usually it only fitted one of the girls well, if even. One item which stood out for me was this ridiculous skirt which didn’t fit anyone. This skirt, that was so called “suitable for all body shapes and sizes” went round one woman’s leg and that was it! At one stage one of the girls even said it made her feel bad that she didn’t fit into something that was supposed to fit everyone.

This got me thinking about our society and our obsession with being “normal”. That video was a visual representation of our society, as girls squeezed into clothes which were labelled as “one size” it was showing exactly what’s happening today, people are being squeezed into a supposedly normal-shaped mould. But this is impossible. We have all been made uniquely by God for a unique purpose. This completely contradicts the media’s idea that there is one type of beauty, one normal size, one way to be.

But that’s the thing, we can’t be defined by this, we can’t have one type of person. We were made to stand out,to be unique, we shouldn’t feel bad about being different, but instead embrace it. Yet again and again people talk of being “normal.” To me this makes no sense how can we be unique and normal? Surely being normal suggests that you have to be like others to be accepted and that’s just not true.

The same goes for being a christian. Many, including myself, thought that to be a “good christian” I had to do certain things, act a certain way, but in fact God doesn’t want us to try and be like everyone else, but to be different. Bob Goff speaks of this in his book, Love Does, saying “God doesn’t want us to be typical.” And this is so true, in Romans 12:2 it says, “2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” In order to fulfil God’s purpose for us as individuals, we have to embrace our uniqueness.

So the next time you feel different or don’t feel like you fit in, remember no one should have to “fit in.” You are “wonderfully and fearfully made” by the King of Kings, you were made for a purpose, a unique purpose, so embrace it.

Be Bold!

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Everyone has that one place where everything feels perfect, where they are infinite and feel like no one can stop them being the way they want to be, but what happens when you leave it? Suddenly the soft sand that hugs your feet becomes the tiny pieces of gravel that shoot canons of pain through your soles.  Once again the insecurity begins to fill up inside of you, and you begin to change yourself to fit the mould of society. But really our place of refuge and comfort should not be a physical place, but instead be God. In Psalm 91:2 David shouts to the Lord saying, “You are my place of safety and protection.” Therefore wherever we are in are day to day lives we should remember that God is always there and that we can always be in our place of comfort if we just have faith.

Sometimes, yes, we fight for our individuality, but most of the time we fight a battle with ourselves, we fight against how we really feel until finally we win and our beliefs become the same as the person next to us, but why? God created us to be bold in our faith and to not be shaken by what others think, but yet we are sometimes scared for people to know how we really feel and what we really believe in.

How I feel on standing strong for God is definitely summed up in Philippians 1 verse 20, “For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ.” This verse really struck a chord with me when I thought about the situation in parts of the world where Christians are being persecuted for their faith. It made me think that if they can stand strong in their faith in the midst of such hatred and danger, what is stopping me?

The Art of the Swallows

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The Art of the Swallows
As evening approached I walked down the familiar lane that lead to a warming smile and a glowing fire. I watched the golden, fiery sphere descend into the candy-floss clouds. The swallows flew swiftly to their nests, how I wished I could join them. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. There in that moment I felt safe, I felt like nothing could get me, it was just me under the watchful eye of my God.
It was the first time I had felt satisfied with my life in a long time. I used to be happy, but that was before Steve. This year had been a blur, I put myself in a bubble of isolation. I was silent.
It was a beautiful summer’s day and I had worn my hair up, the way he liked it. He said it brought out my eyes. He sat across the room from me and I knew he was watching me, making sure I didn’t ‘step out of line.’ As I spoke to Jen, I knew she was concerned, she wasn’t good at masking her emotions. Finally she plucked up the courage to vaguely ask the question I had heard a million times, “so, how are you and Steve?” And I gave my rehearsed answer, “never been better, thanks for asking.”
The problem was we had been better. He was so controlling. I couldn’t speak to another guy without being in constant terror that he would explode with jealousy. Maybe it was a good thing, it showed how much he loved and appreciated me, right? This was the lie I told myself on a daily basis and every time I convinced myself it was the truth.
That day was so striking and Steve and I looked like a perfect couple, his tie matched my dress and we walked together in perfect rhythm with our arms interlocked together. To many people this was a sign of security, but not for me. I felt like a caged bird dreaming of breaking free, but I knew it would only ever be a dream. Let’s face it, I was trapped.
The wedding had been beautiful, Steve and I had sat beside my parents during the ceremony. Everything was going well so far. Then came the reception.
After my catch up with Jen, I began to walk back to Steve to ask him to dance, I didn’t want to, but I knew I would pay for it later if I didn’t. Suddenly a man was running towards me with his arms open wide. It was Keith! I hadn’t seen him for years, he had been my best mate for years, but we had gone our separate ways after school.
I couldn’t believe he was here. Steve had moved to the back of my mind as I began to glide around the dance floor with Keith. Of course I was asked the usual question, “how are you and Steve?” and as usual I gave my habitual response, “never been better, thanks.”
I left the reception with a grin on my face, the only problem was Steve. His grip was tighter than usual as we advanced to our room. He opened the door for me, like any gentleman would do, but Steve was anything but gentle. Before I knew it I was moving through the air towards a wall and then THUD! I landed on the beautifully woven carpet so hard I could have sworn the floor was about to cave in. But it didn’t. Never have I prayed so hard in my life, “Lord, make him stop, please Lord make him stop.” I was silent on the outside, but inside my lungs were exhausted from screaming. I knew from experience silence stopped his fist advancing at a faster speed.
He was yelling now, “What the hell were you thinking Erin!” I felt like I was miles away from him as he roared, “You slut! The only man you should have been dancing with was ME!” I was soon reminded of how close he was as his knuckles crashed my temple and… blank.
Dazed and in a lot of pain I squinted as the sun shone into the bright room. Where was I? Quietly I tried to get up, I didn’t want Steve to hear me leave or I would be a dead, but I couldn’t. Every time I sat up I fell right back into my pillow. Finally a woman in a white coat came over and told me everything was ok and that I must have been hit pretty hard to earn the lump that was now settled on my forehead. I urged her to be quiet, I didn’t want her to wake Steve, but as I leant forward the penny dropped- I was no longer in the hotel room. I was in hospital.
Suddenly Jen came barging through the doors, a newspaper in her hands. “Are you all right?” she cried, “When I saw this I came straight here.” A large image of Steve was now directly under my nose and the headline read, “MAN SENTENCED TO 18 MONTHS AFTER HOTEL ASSAULT.” I couldn’t believe it, I didn’t know whether to feel overjoyed or embarrassed. All I knew was that I was free.
As I sat and watched the sunset from the small hospital window, I saw the swallow’s fleet freely to their nest and I eventually knew that I was now free. I had mastered the art of the swallows.

Fear of Food

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Every Summer I had told myself I would be productive, and every summer I lounged in my bed and slept. This summer was going to be different, I was sure of it.

As I sat reading Company magazine I dreamed that one day I could write for them, writing amazing stories, my own bye-line was all I had ever dreamed of. If only.

I had sent my story off to Company’s young journalist competition months ago and still I had heard nothing. Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be.

The next morning I was awoken to a pleasant surprise, in the form of a white rectangle which enclosed a very pleasing letter.

“Dear Miss Sarah Milton, I am writing to congratulate you on winning Company Magazine’s ‘Young Journalist of the Year”

Tears blotched the next phrase, I was overwhelmed with delight! Just as I had given up hope, I had once again been lifted back to my feet, but best of all I was going to London Fashion Week!

As I read on I discovered that I was going to be given the chance to interview the one and only Sierra Gelado, then my story will be published in Company’s Fashion Week special. My life-long goal had been reached sooner than I thought. My very own Bye-line. Wow.

Before I knew it I was on a flight to London, the butterflies in my stomach where fluttering franticly, I was so excited. I knew this summer would be different, but who would have imagined this. A 15 year old girl from a small village in Northern Ireland on her way to interview Sierra Gelado at London Fashion Week.

Standing back stage at the run way, I could hardly contain myself. My nerves and excitement had fused to create an emotion I had never felt before, but I knew I was ready, ready to do this for the rest of my life.

Looking around me, I suddenly became very self-conscious, all around me were beautiful, tall, skinny models. As I left the hotel earlier that day, I had never felt more confident in my brand new Topshop dress, but now my confidence had decreased significantly. I felt like a fat gnome in a world of tall, thin princesses. They were perfect and I clearly wasn’t.

Finally after a 30 minute wait Sierra arrived, all those years of looking at her in magazines, watching her strut her stuff on the runway and now here she was, right in front of me and I was about to interview her!

Sitting in the small green room with Sierra was a life-changing experience. I couldn’t wait to hear all about her background and of course her beauty tips. As I stammered through my first question, my eyes were drawn towards her rigid frame, I could practically see every bone on her body and I could tell that behind her make-up her face was ghostly. She was literally wasting away right before my eyes.

I soon forgot about my strange observation and continued with my interview, I was in my element. Soon I learnt that all her life Sierra had dreamed of being a model when one day she was scouted by a modelling agency to replace a model who had broken her leg in a horse riding accident. As she told me about her spontaneous luck we were suddenly interrupted. My pen, which had been gliding constantly for the last 15 minutes, came to a halt.

A small woman walked into the room with a plate full of the most intricately decorated cupcakes I have ever seen, they were covered in swirls of silky butter cream and topped with small edible, beaded butterflies. They looked so delicious, I didn’t want to ruin them with my monstrous mouth, but my mouth was watering and I couldn’t ignore my stomach’s cry for food any longer.

As I indulged in my divine cupcake, I watched Sierra looking at the cupcakes with wide eyes. I politely asked her if she would like one and out of the blue she burst into tears. Confusion flowed through my body, I had no idea what had just happened. She sat with her head in her hands and sobbed quietly into herself, I watched her bony, staccato shoulders move up and down almost in time with her sorrowful sobs.

Finally Sierra began to come round and nervously began to unravel a story very different to the pleasant story she had told me just a few minutes before. This was the story of her battle.

As I wrote and Sierra spoke, both of us fighting back tears, she explained that to reach her dream of being a model she had to be thinner. Her manager saw potential and took her in anyway, but forced her to throw up after every meal. He forced her to stop eating. I soon came to realise that this was not the interview I had expected, it was much, much better.

Sierra was a mess, things had gone too far and they needed to be stopped. The problem was she didn’t know how. She explained to me that she didn’t care anymore, but now she couldn’t keep down her food, she no longer had to make herself sick, her body forced her to.

I soon came to the conclusion that this story was too much to put in a light-hearted magazine, it needed to be published on a larger scale. Both of us thought for a while, people needed to know the truth about models and what better to do it than in a book.

Soon Sierra got on the runway and forced her skinny frame to walk elegantly, whilst I spectated as an insider, I now knew that being a model wasn’t all glitz and glam, it had a horrific back story to it, which no one should ever have to endure.

This summer was different and most definitely productive. I may not have got my bye-line in Company magazine, but I got something much more rewarding. The chance to help someone tell their story and to warn others that even if something seems perfect, there is always another side to the story.