Through the Ginger Window: Dale Earnhardt, Jr., is my doppelganger || Some thoughts on beauty

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is my Doppelganger

{I originally wrote this almost two years ago in October of 2013 and then never posted it because…well…I don’t know why I never posted it. Looking through old drafts that’d been left to languish here in WordPress, the title jumped out at me because “doppelganger” is such a ridiculous word. I liked it. The me of 2013 must have thought it needed more editing or expanding, but 2015 me decided to leave it as it is.} 

A kid told me this week that he could tell my grandpa must have been a farmer because I had a little space in the corner of my mouth where my wheat stalk was supposed to go.

I didn’t exactly know how to take that, so I laughed until I cried.

Once a guy told me I looked like Dale Earnhardt, Jr.  I didn’t know how to take that, either.   It’s clearly every girl’s dream to be told she looks like a dude.  My favorite part is that it was literally the first thing he said to me.  Me: Hi, nice to meet you!  Him: You look like Dale Earnhardt, Jr.  Me:  Oh…um, OK then.

NASCAR auto racer Dale Earnhardt Jr. speaks wi...
NASCAR auto racer Dale Earnhardt Jr., my doppelganger. Ooh, or doppelginger? Can that be a thing, please?  Photo credit: Wikipedia

A girl once asked me what “all those holes” were on my face.  Those are my pores, thanks for noticing.  She also asked why my face was so shiny, like I had “grease all over it.”  Well, sister, let’s refer back to the pores.  Also, watch it. You’re only 8, but your day will come.

A man this week came into our office, leaned over the counter, and told me how ages and ages ago, when he was young and highly attractive, his first girlfriend had beautiful red hair just like mine and how ever since he’s always…appreciated…red hair.  Combine that with an eyebrow raise, a head tilt, and second-hand knowledge of an inappropriate story he’d previously related to another staff member and you come away feeling super creeped out.

Why do I even leave the house? I’m a hay-chewing grease-ball who looks like a dude and has hair that makes old men think creepy thoughts about me.

I leave the house because I don’t actually care.

I mean, I care about being presentable. I try to look nice and appropriate for whatever setting I’m in.  I like makeup.  I like when my clothes fit well. What I’m not worried about is what you’re thinking  when you look at me (unless you’re thinking about telling me my skirt is tucked up in back, then I care a great deal).

Is my self-esteem bullet-proof? Absolutely not.  It’s exactly the opposite.  Left to my own devices, my mind and heart can wander to some dark, self-hating places.  In fact, I have a top three.  There are three things that ever since I was really young have been on a replay in my mind as attributes that make me less than other people.  It sounds so crazy to type it out, but I think that’s honestly how we feel sometimes.   If we didn’t feel like life would be a million times better if we could just change that one little thing about ourselves, the beauty industry wouldn’t be the booming business we all know it is.

Anyway, it’s Honesty Hour here at Through the Ginger Window.  These are my three: my hair, my skin, my weight.

As a kid, my hair was crazy. CRAZY.  Google Dilbert. Check out his female office-mate.  Make her hair much more red and you’ve got me in elementary school.  I matured sooner than most other kids and got that fun skin that comes along with adolescence.  Never in my life have I been accused of being small.  Currently 5’8″, I’ve maybe grown an inch since fifth grade. I’ve never known a pant-size with only one digit.

Dilbert. My comic strip doppelganger sits just to his left.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If I weren’t honestly afraid of becoming an internet meme, I’d post  a picture of me in 4th grade.  It’s probably a sign that I haven’t fully overcome all my insecurities that I’m pretty sure I couldn’t handle my face with some random “Ermahgerd!” stamped all over it floating through the internets.

Over the years I’ve lost and gained and lost weight, tamed my hair, and aged out of the terrible skin phase.  For awhile, I felt great. My “problems” were fixed.  People would tell me how great I looked. I was confident.  I’d conquered my top three.

Slowly, subtly, and so, so sneakily, my thoughts started to drift away from my top three and pick apart pieces of me I had never really thought about before.  My thoughts had grown so used to traveling down a negative path that even when I’d removed their vehicle, they’d just jumped onto something else.  Being self-critical feels so natural. You feel like you’re just thinking things that are true.  My hair IS red and crazy. I DO have oily skin. I’ve worn some big jeans.  It’s truth.

Except that it isn’t.  It might be a fact that my pores produce more oil than the girl sitting next to me, but it isn’t truth that there’s value attached to that. There isn’t value attached to my jeans and there isn’t value attached to whether or not I look like a NASCAR driver or comic strip character.

Years ago, after I’d lost some weight and tamed the mane and settled into a skincare routine, I sat on my couch and felt pretty good about myself.  Until I thought about my nose.  I’d never thought about my nose before, but, man, if it were only smaller.  I’d be so pretty if I had a smaller nose.

Never have I heard God’s audible voice, but there are a few times when I’ve felt Him bust into my thought life.  This is one of those times.

“Rude.”  That’s what I heard Him say.  “You’re being so rude.”

When you think about God speaking to you, wouldn’t you rather He say something else? Something like, “I really love you.”  Or maybe He’d quote one of those Christian T-shirt sayings about you being a princess because you’re a daughter of the king?  When I’m starting to feel like I’m looking like a used boot, what I want is for someone to say I’m the shining north star of beauty and all other stars fade when compared to me.  Is that too much to ask?

Um, yes, it surely is. And it surely isn’t what He said.  He said I was rude.  By wishing I had anything other than what He’d seen fit to give me I was being insulting, hurtful, and incredibly prideful.  He seemed to be saying, “I let you go ahead and ‘fix’ the things you thought needed fixing, but that’s enough. Knock it off.”

This is how I know God is real.  A god I made up would never talk to me like that. A god I made up with go along with that “north star of beauty” thing that I also made up.

He let me do the work of changing some changeable aspects of my appearance, but was swift to point out to me exactly how habitually wrong my thought-life had been.  It’s one thing to think that you just happen to have a big nose, darn that genetic lottery, and entirely another to think God, who made the world and declared that it was good, somehow messed up your face.

The bottom line is, I just get to rest in the truth that God did not mess up my face. He didn’t give me faulty hair follicles. He put together the exact physical person He wanted me to be.  Can I make some adjustments to that? Cut my hair? Put on mascara? Work out? Oh, for sure.   I’m responsible for taking care of what He’s given me. And I think I’m responsible for enjoying and celebrating what He’s given me.

I’m beautiful, not because of how closely I match up with something I saw on Pinterest or because ginger hair is the new blonde (it isn’t), but because I am God’s handiwork and to think anything else is incredibly rude of me. We don’t earn beauty. We don’t lose our beauty over time. We just get to have it. It’s ours, and anything that cuts through that security is a lie.

{2015 me, back again…I eventually got over that fear of my 4th grade self becoming a meme and posted this photo on facebook: Through the Ginger Window: Dale Earnhardt, Jr., is My Doppelganger || Some thoughts on beauty

You’re welcome.  I’m trusting you, internet.  Also, the realizations in this post came before and were referenced in this post: Better Than Being Okfrom March of 2014. I have so many more thoughts on all this, so stay tuned. Maybe it’ll come up again in another two years. Ha!}

Better than being ok…

This last weekend the women of my church put on a retreat.  Like pretty much everything my church does, it was an amazing, DIY, all hands on deck experience where literally every woman in attendance contributed to in some way, whether that be planning, crafting, cooking (oh, the snacks!), speaking, singing, writing Bible verses on note cards to place on everyone’s beds, making a million espressos, etc., etc., and so on and so forth.  Several women were  asked to share part of our stories, or testimonies.  Because I’m such an organized planner, I clearly waited until the last minute and  sat down on Friday morning and wrote it all out.  I figured since I’d already written it (mostly), I might as well polish it up and post it here.  By polish, I mean add at least another half page.  

So…I’ve decided we’re all best friends.  And since we’re all best friends you get to know some things about me that I’ve up to this point really only shared with a few close friends. Totally not juicy…don’t get excited…but I feel like we don’t walk around sharing with the world our moments of, “Here’s where I felt really vulnerable and exposed and like a giant idiot.”  But we should. So here it goes.

God and I have been working through being ok with the way He made me since He and I got our start back when I was around 7.  I’m an introvert. As a kid I’d cry at parties or go completely mute.  Then I’d beat myself up later, replay conversations for hours at night, and wonder why everyone else could be ok but not me.  I’ve recently turned into a more outgoing introvert, but that comes with entire Saturdays spent mostly in isolation.  God and I have worked through being not just “ok” with who I am, but pretty excited about it.  I went from hearing really clearly from God that the way I was thinking about myself was straight up rude to that ratio flipping to where, honestly, I’m pretty happy with who I am and how I look.  That took some tweaking and refining and some lessons in self-care.  And God never affirmed me by comparing me to anyone else.  He never said, “Don’t worry about your weight…look at Adele, people think she’s beautiful!” or, “Your nose isn’t as big as so-and-so’s,” or, “Julianne Moore is not the prettiest red-head out there…you are!”  Because that gives me confidence either on the back of someone else’s or because I’ve torn them down.  Both are ugly.  Both say that God isn’t enough.  God said, “You have what you have because I chose it. It was my choice as the sovereign and all-knowing guy that I am, the God who loves you and made you and likes the result. I thought about it and decided that size 10 feet were definitely the right choice here.”  If I ever start to get into some hateful self-thinking (which is always the result of comparing myself to others or to some standard from the world) I think about Him telling me, “Hey, I’m right and they’re wrong. End of story.”

So here I go, armed with all kinds of confidence and self-assurance, into a challenge that the previous me would have completely run from. Worship team. Singing. With a microphone. In front of all the people.  And I think, “This is scary, but God and I have got this! I know I’m totally ok no matter what happens! My security is in the Lord!”  I was certain that in no time I could just carry over all the lessons I’d learned and applied in every other area of my life.  After jumping over a few quick hurdles, I’d be sparkly, happy me and we’d all be the bestest of friends.

Except that’s not how it went.  It went like me walking into rehearsal terrified that everyone would think I was bad or weird or would end up wishing I’d just stop coming.  It went like me shaking through entire services and finding a quiet place to cry in between. I felt dumb all the time and like a burden. I felt like people were just dealing with my presence. And it went like that for years.

There is nothing anyone on the team ever did to make me feel that way (in fact, it’s sort of a collection of the nicest people ever), but there I was, just like when I was a kid, crying at the party or retreating so far into myself that there were literally no words in my brain.  I couldn’t live the experience, I was just surviving.  And it made me so mad because hadn’t God and I fixed this already?  I have all the tools, all the right thoughts, all the prayers, all the scriptures.  I’d practice and practice to refine my skills and be a better singer, expand my range, become louder and less mousy.  And still I’d show up at rehearsal and on Sundays and repeat the same horrific experience.  Over and over.

I was SO MAD.  Mostly at myself.  Never having been one who sticks with a challenge just because it’s challenging, I did a weird, anti-my-personality thing.  I kept showing up.  I decided I’d keep showing up until someone asked me not to. Besides, if my fears were founded, I wouldn’t have to wait very long.  And I’d cry if I cried and fail if I failed.  God had put me in this spot and it was really hard and I wanted to know why.

Then came the Christian Musician Summit this past fall.  Signing up for that, I thought, “I’m going to feel like a giant imposter because I literally know zilch about music, but here’s a moment to learn something new and bond with my people.”  I was pretty sure it’d be an amplified version of how I felt at rehearsals.  All these super awesome musicians who know way more than I do and are already best friends are going to be wandering around, talking their music talk, and I’m going to feel like a scared, mute, idiot.  Sure.  Let’s pay money for that experience.

But, once again, my expectations were way off.  It was a great weekend, I learned lots of things.  Side note: I feel like the world can be divided into two groups of people—people with whom I have shared a hotel bed and people with whom I have not.  There’s a special, trusting place you get to with another human being, to whom you are not related or married, when you sleep side by side.  I’m trusting you to not steal the covers, have previously trimmed your toenails, and not engage in unwanted spooning.  Traci nailed it.  We’re sisters for life.

Aside from finding my chest voice, learning how to blend better with other vocalists, and having lots of fellowship time with my team, one of my major take-aways was from this guy, Tom Jackson, who works on stage presence with major acts in Nashville. People like Taylor Swift plan a major tour and he comes out to tell them how to have the most amazing show ever. He talked about how being better at being in front of people comes from giving everything you can to the people in front of you and that the enemy of that is self-consciousness.  Your energy should be pointed out and not in.  It comes out of humility, which is not that self-battering, self-loathing thing we often think it is, but accepting the role you’ve been called to do and serving the people you’ve been called to serve.  You don’t have to have it all together.  Someone (spoiler alert, it’s Jesus) got it all together for us so we don’t have to.

It hit me that my problem was not in thinking wrong things about myself, it was in thinking about myself at all. I hadn’t been sending any energy out. I’d been taking all the energy, all the things I’d been receiving from God when I’d pray over and over again for Him to come through for me, and spending them on myself.  It would all just tumble around in me, battering against all my fears, not doing any good at all.  I realized what had been happening was that my ability to love our church and love my team in the way I’d learned to do in nearly every other setting of my life was being thwarted by this fear and constantly thinking about myself.  Was I going to be ok? Was I going to look dumb?  Was I going to feel like an idiot for being scared even though I knew all the right things to do so I wouldn’t?  Oh, dear God, patch me up, make me whole. Fix this.

The thing is, He already had.  He’d already gotten it all together so I didn’t have to.  He said, “Hey, now that we’ve got you feeling good and thinking all kinds of healthy thoughts about yourself…let’s stop thinking about you so much at all.” I’d been making myself the most important thing in the room. The only thing that mattered was that I was ok. God said, “Let’s give actual humility a try.  No the false humility where you think you’re less, but the real humility where you think about yourself less.”  Then He gave me 1 John 4:18, which wasn’t new to me but had never been spoken so directly to me from Him. God never speaks to me in an out-loud voice (because I’d probably pee myself), but there’s this thing that He does where a thought so clearly slices through my own pattern and stands in such contrast that I know the source is holy.  He said, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear because fear involves torment.”  And I’d been tormented, folks.

It was like He was saying, “Hey, just be loved.  And don’t be loved so that you can feel better about yourself, be loved so that you can love.”  Verse 17, just before the “no fear in love” part, says that love has been perfected in us so that we may have boldness.  If one word sums up the thing I did not have all that time, it’s boldness.  You can’t be bold when you’re pretty sure you’re about to screw it all up.  The thing I get to be sure about now, though, is that I can’t actually do that.  Standing up, putting myself out there, and trying doesn’t ever end in flames of failure.  It ends in grace. At the end of the day I get to say, “God loves me.  I love these people.  I did the best I could.”

In Christ alone my hope is found;

He is my light, my strength, my song;

This cornerstone, this solid ground,

Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.

What heights of love, what depths of peace,

When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!

My comforter, my all in all—

Here in the love of Christ I stand.

**As an afterthought, Tim Keller has written a book that addresses this concept of humility in much more depth and with more scriptural support and wisdom than I ever could.  If you want to check out it, it’s called The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness.  If you ever pick up anything he’s written, you won’t be disappointed.  Promise.