Leotards, body image and me.

"Okay Nikki, go grab a leotard and a pair of tights, put them on in the dressing room and meet us in rehearsal room 1."

It was my first day of dance class and very quickly my excitement turned into dread.

"I'm supposed to just wear this, in front of everyone," I thought to myself as I picked up the black leotard and the darkest pair of tights I could find and headed in to the dressing room.

Growing up, I never felt comfortable in my own skin. I wanted to be taller, have straight hair, have a smaller waist and didn't want to be the biggest girl in a leotard in a room filled with ballet dancers.

I started taking dance classes because it was something I had always wanted to do. My best friend was a dancer and if I started taking classes we would be able to do it together. I never really thought about how it would make me feel about my body. Where it should have made me feel strong and capable, it instead led me to thinking that I was the DUFD of the group...the designated, ugly, fat, dancer.

The mind is a powerful place. It can grab hold of your attention, warp your reality and make you to believe that this flesh that you live in, is not just your home but also your worth. That the number on the scale and the size on the dress determines how good you are and how much value you add to the world.

Instead of basking in the joy of being a dancer, I often drowned in the weight of not feeling like I leveled up. Like the dance room was a place I never belonged and dancer was a title that was never meant for me.

Have you ever felt like that? Like your looks disqualified you from fitting in or doing something that you really loved?  A feeling that your mind grabs hold of and instead of replacing it with truth, enforces the lies and cements them as facts.

I haven't taken a dance class in over 5 years but my mind is still often visited by the lies. The lies that I'm not skinny enough, that my body doesn't fit the mold, that I need to work harder and eat less. That I'll never measure up and who I am will never compare to our world's standard of beauty.

The beauty of it all, something that it took me years to learn, is that the world does not determine my worth or what makes me beautiful. The bible says in Psalms 139:14  "I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works."

I am fearfully and wonderfully made. When the truth of that statement grabbed a hold of my soul it changed the course of my thoughts. I'm not a dress size or a number on the scale. I'm an educator, a daughter, a writer, a singer, a sister, an aunt and most importantly a fearfully and wonderfully made child of God.

My body is not something that I work against anymore but rather something that I work with. The food I eat is fuel for me to be able to have the energy to impact the lives of student, pour into friendships and relationships and to live a vibrant, Christ focused and joy filled life.

My body doesn't define me. It doesn't determine my worth or the value that I bring to this world and your body doesn't determine your value either. Marvelous are the works of God, every single one of them and that my friend, is truth.

"I will shed all of this skin, down to the very bone beneath it, if that's what it will take for you to come to the realization that appearance is not what makes a human beautiful."

A Better way to pray.

About a month or so ago my older brother tagged me in a post on Facebook. It was on the page of a well-known Pastor based in Colorado Springs and it was reaching out to bloggers and writers to give them the opportunity to review one of his books before it's re-release.

I thought to myself "what the heck, it's worth a shot," emailed them a link to my blog and my Facebook and waited for a response. A few days later I got an email telling me that they had reviewed my content and believed that it aligned well with their mission and message and that attached I would find a copy of the book.

The book is called A Better Way to Pray and it's written by preacher and author Andrew Wommack. I was introduced to Andrew Wommack and his teachings years ago by my father and I've followed his work ever since.

I'm really excited to share my thoughts about the content of this book but also to share with you some things that I took from it that I think are beneficial.

Let me just start by saying that if you've never heard Andrew Wommack preach or read one of his books before, he has a very distinct tone. His words, though filled with love, are quite direct. He doesn't hold back with his use of exclamation points and he words things in a way that makes sure that the message is always very clear.

I often found myself laughing out loud while reading this book because I could hear his voice jumping out from the pages and I couldn't help but to giggle.

With that being said the message within the pages, though at times convicting, is truly life changing. While taking notes I found that there were so many things that stood out to me that to try and write about them all would take up too much space. So instead I decide to point out three keys thoughts that really stuck with me from the book and last but certainly not least how the book has affected my prayer life.

1. The importance of thanks.

Whatever we focus on is magnified. If we focus on our issues, they grow bigger but if we focus on our gratitude it becomes the biggest thing in our lives. Prayer is a time where we can lavish God with our thanks and gratitude towards him.

Does God needs to hear us say thank you? No, not necessarily but when we spend time thanking God for what he's done for us and acknowledge our many blessings our problems become so small in comparison. Chapter 5 entitled Make a prayer sandwich emphasizes the importance of starting and ending our prayers with praise and thanksgiving. It's through that process that we magnify God and all that he's done for us instead of magnifying our problems.

When we begin our prayer time by expressing our gratitude by the time we get to our requests we're not only reminded of how small they are but more importantly how BIG God is. I encourage you to spend  the first five minutes of your prayer time thanking and praising God. I think that you'll be pleasantly surprised by the outcome.

2. The primary purpose of prayer.

The primary purpose of prayer is not receiving from God, yes that is A purpose but not THE purpose. Prayer is a time of fellowship, intimacy and relationship with Christ. God knows every single thing that we need in this life. The Lord knows that we need to eat and make money and provide for our families, he knows these things. When we come to him constantly making requests, he's not upset but we're missing the true blessing that comes from prayer.

Prayer is a time for us to commune with God. It's a time for us to share our lives with him, to laugh, to cry, to simply invite him into the most intimate parts of our souls. This book reminded me that God is not just some magical genie waiting to grant our wishes. Rather he's a father, waiting to be invited into the lives and hearts of his children. A Better Way to Pray emphasizes the fact that God wants us to talk to him not only about our problems and our concerns but also about the things that make us come alive.

God wants to be our closest friend and most intimate relationship and prayer is a time for us to build that dynamic with him. I invite you to explore the beautiful relationship that you can have with Christ by spending your prayer time getting to know him rather than just getting things from him.

3. Loving God is all that matters.

We were CREATED for intimacy with Christ. It's almost to simple to grasp but it's the truth,we were solely created for the purpose of loving and being loved by him.

Of course, when you love someone, you desire to do their will and to do the things that make them happy but if all we ever did on this earth was love God, he wouldn't be upset with us. Through this book I was reminded that God is love and everything that he does and everything that he calls us to do comes down to that same thing. It is and will always be about loving God with all that we have.

God sent his son to die on the cross for our sins so that we could spend our days in fellowship with the king. When we realize that Jesus is not our escape route but rather our invitation to community, we are then able to enter into a life filled with love and a relationship with our best friend, Jesus Christ.

Ways that my prayer life has changed.

After reading this book, I realized that the majority of my prayer life and my relationship with Christ has been spent seeking things instead of just basking in his love. I realized that though I claim 'Christian' as the most important title to my name that I rarely take God at his word believing that he'll do what he says he's going to do. I realized that though I'm willing to walk away from relationships for my 'beliefs' that I don't even truly know the God that I'm claiming to have devoted my life to.

I didn't walk away from this book feeling condemned or bad about myself but rather I walked away from it feeling like I was about to embark on a life changing journey. I finished this book and I honestly felt so much freedom. This book equipped me with the tools, the confidence and the knowledge of who God is to be able to pray in a way that's not only effective but also a way that edifies and glorifies God.

Now the adventure starts to make this not just knowledge floating around in my head but rather something that I believe and know to be true in my heart.

I know that this post was EXTREMELY long but this book has truly given me a new thirst for God and who he is. It's made me realize that in John 10:10 when it says that Christ came that we may have life and have it more abundantly that it involves so much MORE than what I've experienced with him so far.

For those of you who are interested in checking out this book, I have an extra copy and would love to send it to one of you! Comment your name and email address below and in a few days I'll randomly pick a name and send that lucky person a copy!

Until next time friends.