atmosphere.

It’s been a week since classes started and almost two since I coaxed my little Corolla up the winding roads of Lookout Mountain. Although the campus population was primarily made up of O-team leaders, dorm staff, and scores of freshmen, my first night back was like coming home. Everybody (from those people who knew every detail about my summer to those I was but faintly acquainted with) said hey with a big smile, and the majority of them added some type of enthusiastic bodily contact to the greeting. I had thought that coming back to school after a difficult first summer home would be exhausting, overwhelming, and completely uncertain…and all of the above was accurate in some way or another. What I didn’t anticipate was how these conditions could add up to be such a beautiful situation…one that also features serenity, acceptance, and energy.

I am looking at this year as an adventure to be rushed at like a dancer gathering speed in order to produce a movement suspended in air. I don’t know what to expect, to a point; and at the same time it is all so familiar. Maybe this little community on the mountain has changed since last fall, but I would suggest the change within myself is most responsible. People in my mind are not as segregated into ages and interests and social labels; rather, I am learning to see them as lines of handwritten script on legs, constantly passing me every day, all with the same author. Halls and dorms are empty bank accounts, waiting to be invested in with the almost promise of some return…whether it be a relationship or just a slight rearrangement of the face as we both flash teeth or curve cheeks as a sign of joy. Professors and staff are multiple shelves crowded with books about life and wisdom and experience, waiting and present to welcome the arm that reaches to draw out a spine from the row.

And what is the college? How would I describe the campus, the weather, the mountain, the environment in poetic and metaphorical language? It’s breathtaking in every way. Navigating the rises and dips in the ground, conquering the stairs, or going for a run will physically leave you in slight want of oxygen. Talking off the ears of people who actually want to hear about you’re REALLY doing, laughing until you cry until you laugh (or crying until you laugh until you cry), shoving food into your mouth ten minutes before your next class, yelling and therefore absolutely killing your vocal chords at a Scots game, singing with all you have in worship to God…this, too, will force you to stop, emotionally, and take a deep pull of air. Whether the overlook features a sorbet sunrise, an ominous mass of gathering clouds, a peaceful layering of the mountain shades from light to dark and near to far, or a midnight spread of glittering city lights in the valley, you can’t help it: you might murmur a few words, but its beauty takes ordinary things like breathing or speaking or even seeing and hangs them over your head, making you jump to reach them. You are compelled to mute the white noise in your head for a millisecond and just think.

That is part of why I love calling this mountain my home. It’s great being back.

a mini Covenant-ducation

Hey, Natalie!

I’m writing this blog post to you, since you asked me directly about life at Covenant and in Founders specifically. Maybe somebody else can relate or learn or use this in some way, shape, or form…or maybe you’ll be the only one who reads it. Either way, I’ll answer as honestly as possible with advice or suggestions, and please take my words as just that. Covenant, like everywhere else you go in the world, is what you make of it. This is my personal experience and thoughts about the past year and the place where I spent it. I really loved living in Founders; so much that I’m going back to live there again. It’s pretty central to things: granted, Carter has the food and Andreas has the gym and Mac has the circle, but we have the library and the art barn and Mills and the crater, all right there. I like the culture associated with Founders; I was homeschooled K-12, so I grew up with a lot of “quiet, awkward, artsy” types. Basically all this label means is that somebody has such a passion for what they love to do (music, drama, science, ancient Greek literature) that they can forget to involve other people. Not everyone in Founders fits this description, and not everyone who fits this description lives there. But instead of pretending that this stereotype doesn’t exist, I’ll be up front with you about it in the hopes that you’ll take it in stride and accept it as you experience it.

You stayed in my Highlands room for Preview Weekend last fall, so you’ve already gotten a feel for the size of your room. Balcony rooms are exactly the same, as are most of the halls in Founders with the exception of Belz (i.e. my new home, Caledon, and the guys’ halls that lurk below). You will meet a lot of people coming in and out of Third Lobby, which is the main entrance to Founders. If the marker outside of the RA’s office is working (rare), you should always draw a smiley face for Kevin, our awesome resident director. He has a handful of kids but if you need anything and your RD can’t solve the problem, go to him. You should also know that Balcony has an actual balcony, which is where I camped out one Sunday to write my Christian Issues in Psychology final paper. And that leads me to my next point: visit other halls often, because that’s how you can connect with people you might not otherwise. I met one of my best friends at school by following the sound of Beyonce blasting and jumping into a spontaneous dance party on a hall where I knew nobody. It’s worth it to put yourself out there.

Now I’m getting dangerously close to mixing information with advice, so let’s just go with that.

Just because you have a sink in your room does not mean you should do your dishes there: the myriads of ants that my roommate and I had to battle throughout the year taught me that. Just because your space feels nice and roomy does not mean you should fill every available space with useless stuff, which is what I made the mistake of doing. I live 12 hours from school, so I packed a TON of things that I thought I needed and ended up scrambling to find a place for all of it at the end of the year. Save yourself and save some money in your budget for stuff that you can pick up at Walmart once you get here. Don’t eat everything that sounds good in the Great Hall; judge by the looks of the food and the faces of those who are eating it. Yes, you can take more than 1 piece of fruit out at a time. No, you can’t always find a clean table. Watch what you eat and how you feel while you eat. When I’m stressed, upset, or otherwise emotional, all dietary moderation is out the window and falling off the mountain to certain death. So take good care of your body and it will thank you.

If you have a throw rug or two, you don’t have to vacuum as often. If you have a reversible comforter, you can get a new perspective every now and then. If you don’t own a gnome, Balcony will still accept you. Do yourself a favor and admit that you won’t learn everybody’s name the first week of school. Do yourself another favor and don’t limit yourself to your O-team; you can start there, then move on to your hall as they arrive, and once classes start, put yourself out there. It can be scary, but it’s worth it to offer to start a study group…or even make friends with the person sitting next to you. Find a church to visit and people to take you there. Be loyal to your hall’s community and say things that build rather than destroy. If you are in a relationship, talk to your boyfriend and come to an understanding about friendships with other guys. If you are single, know that the whole marriage-mill-on-the-hill thing does happen quite frequently…but graduates with a free ring finger happen, too. Be open and understanding of others who are different from you.

Make time for school, it’s a huge part of why you are at Covenant. Be intentional about investing in your courses, and balance your social life with studying. Take professors in stride; they are all different, and they are all there for you, so go to them and ask questions about things you don’t understand or that interest you further. One mistake that I made was overestimating my ability to take notes, study them, attend lectures, watch the professor, assume I knew what they expected of me, and then do well on a test. That system sucks so don’t do it. If you have conversations with them about what you’re learning, they can get to know you as a person instead of just a student, and you can get a better feel for what they are looking for from you in their class. Stay on top of your Banner account and your emails, because important stuff occasionally wanders into that inbox. If you keep forgetting to check your Covenant email, have it forwarded to your main email account.

Above all, know this: you are gorgeous and intelligent and loved and created for fellowship with God and others. There will always be somebody at this school (and throughout life) who is better and faster and smarter and more fill-in-the-blank than you are; and that’s okay. The biggest mistake you can make is to compare yourself to somebody who isn’t Natalie, because there will always be some sort of imbalance between who you want to be and who you are. Focus instead on what God is saying to you, how He wants to use you, where He has led you up until now and where He will lead you daily. You’re here to grow, not to know it all…otherwise you’d get a degree and be on your way. Someday that will happen, but for now take the whole college deal one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time. In a way, I feel exactly the same as you. Choosing to go back to school was a difficult choice for me this summer, for personal reasons, but I’m starting to get excited about the decision to return to the mountain. I hope and pray that this year, you’ll fall in love with the people, the mountain view, and the God who created it all.

To quote another Covenant friend of mine: This year is going to be baller. Let’s goooooooo!

xo,

Marinah

(p.s. I will send you my number on Facebook; ask me anything, anytime, that you need to!)

transit(ion)

In a few short days, my life will be in transit.

I’m making the 700-mile journey back home to Delaware on Friday with my dad, hopefully to arrive on Saturday afternoon in time to get some sleep and be conscious at my well-loved and greatly missed home church the following morning. The murky little corner of the basement that I will be living in for the duration of summer is going to be facing some significant reno as I get my DIY-obsessed, Pin-spired self in there. It’ll be difficult to maneuver but I am so up for the challenge because for the first time in 9 months, I will actually be allowed to put nails in the walls and dance to music at 3 AM (sans headphones) if I so desire. Soon after getting back, I hope to knock about town for a bit and frequent my typical haunts; a coffee from Espresso N’ Ice, a trip to the library, biking through the neighborhood down the road from my house, lifting at the gym, gassing up at the Wawa and giving TJ the friendly clerk exact change (without sales tax, might I add.) But my first weekend home won’t actually be spent at home…I’m heading to a homeschooling conference with the curriculum company I work for, and I am getting so pumped to interact with families I can relate to about products that I myself have used or contributed to. Plus, the people I work with are basically the tops, so there is no small joy at returning to our sweet office environment this summer. A Spanish class at my local college will also become part of my summer, and if I am overheard murmuring random foreign phrases, that is why.

And my DE friends…oh, what can I say about them that hasn’t already been said so many times before? Two of my best friends are graduating high school (!!!) in June, which is CRAZY because that means it’s already been a year since I graduated (!!!!!). Another best friend isn’t even in the States right now, which could totally mean an adventure waiting to happen if God provided a way for me to visit her at the orphanage in Haiti where she is currently serving. Still another best friend is a beach trip, a coffee date, a scary movie night, a thrifting binge, or a photoshoot field trip away from picking up right where we left off. I love that my friendship with her (and the rest of my best friends) is that solid. I’d be lying through my teeth if I said that everyone in DE will be happy to see me return, or that I will be happy to return to their territory. The problem with anything attached to “home” (towns, churches, states) is that burying hatchets or skeletons in the backyard of familiar soil can’t ever be easy. And some of these skeletons don’t even involve other people. Some of them are simply who I used to be, the weeds I ripped out and threw away a while ago but forgot to destroy the roots, leaving them intact. Who knows what storms have washed away layers of earth from the surface, what tremors have shaken the ground and cracked through the gravestones that I so firmly installed above my past? But mercy is extended to me by God, and by His grace I too can show mercy…to both others and to myself.

With that said, I truly have missed mostly everyone from home…and yet I’ve grown tremendously from the huge challenge that it was to find friends in a place where I had none, to establish myself in a completely unexplored domain. And now I’m walking away from that for a time and returning to how it’s always been, how I’ve always been; or maybe not. Maybe I’ll walk back onto the flat land of my state and hold my head a little higher because of the past 9 months. This is due not to my own efforts, however, but to the strength that my Rock has poured into my weakness, the faithfulness that I have continually found and re-found and found again and again in His promises, the blessings He has endowed so freely over my life. I anticipate with thankfulness the ways in which He will show Himself through my growth…even on the days when I wake up wishing I was on campus instead of in the dark basement corner, when I make a reference to an inside joke from school only to realize that I’m among friends from home, when I am stressed or frustrated and hurt my family because of it, when I would rather be sitting in a class with the most boring professor instead of laying out the next phase of literature guides at work.

Because why do my wrists bear the inscriptions that they do? Why did I go through the pain of a needle in my skin to make these two words permanent: grace, power? Why did I choose to place them somewhere so obvious, so visible? Why did I choose these two words from 2 Corinthians 12:9…why are they important to me? It’s because I truly do believe that He is sovereign and compassionate and merciful, and the dominion that He holds as Creator is not to oppress but to equip, not to beat down but to build up. The power He has is not to defeat but to empower…and it’s only through my brokenness and my weakness and my utter inability to pick myself up that He can extend His hand and draw me close. Failure happens, and frequently. Failure will happen this summer; failure will happen next semester. I will fail to invest in relationships because I’m selfish with my time and energy. I will fail to work my hardest, to discipline myself fully, and to fix my eyes on Jesus instead of myself. Yet STILL HE LOVES ME. Despite all of this, He can bring glory to Himself within my broken life.

Earlier in 2 Corinthians, Paul writes about the ministry of the covenant and there are a few verses here that I just love: “But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” (2 Cor. 2: 14-15) Being in God’s homecoming parade and representing a triumphant winning team (metaphorically) sounds pretty sweet. Nobody is going to be reluctant to hop on the float of the champions; it’s a joyous captivity rather than a miserable one. The mind picture of spreading an aroma, a pleasing scent, to both believers and non-believers is such a cool way to think about how I affect other people. Sometimes I can pick up on a strong perfume on somebody right away…but more often than not, the best experiences with aroma happen a beat after they walk by you, leaving something in the air that remains for a moment. I want Christ to be what people inhale as I speak/act and then move on…and it’s only through Him that anything I do can be a glorification of Himself rather than a personification of sin. In verse 16, Paul straight-up asks, “Who is equal to the task?” I know the answer: not me, but Christ in me.

This is my goal for the summer: the humility to rely on His power (not illusions of my own so-called strength) as it is being made perfect in my weakness, and the trust to believe that His grace is sufficient for all my needs.

SUMMER 2013, LET’S GO!

xo,

Marinah

(p.s. for those of you who still haven’t seen/heard, I got white tattoos in early March on my wrists. I referenced them earlier when I mentioned putting a needle in my skin for a permanent reminder of ‘grace’ and ‘power’. They are in Greek, like Paul’s original letters to the Corinthians, and I am blessed to explain “what the heck does that even say?” to everyone who asks. And yes, every Greek professor/scholar at school has been able to read and understand them.)

this was taken in late March, mid-healing process.

this was taken in late March, mid-healing process.

summerxiety.

As I look over these bare cinderblock walls, white and silent, I’m suddenly terrified.

Rain falls outside, a dim rush of liquid hitting the earth, and I realize I don’t want to leave this room, these people, this place. Routine snatched away, cord yanked from the wall only to be plugged into the next available outlet without care or caution. My heart is so heavy as I think about transitioning into a new rhythm minus the people I have grown to love by my side. The solidarity and shared humor and memories among friends will be replaced by an awkward eggshells phase, weather discussion, and all-too-common habits that one falls back into with alarming effortlessness.

The best part is that this place I’m headed to is my HOME. What is more familiar? And yet still I struggle with the concept of long-short-term transition, the summer months that seem so appealing, but that usually accumulate humid schedules and sweaty anticipation of the cooler seasons upon its weekly shelves. I already miss the freedom of school, the ease with which interaction is sought out and the intimacy that occurs so naturally. Although the constant grind of a heavily normalized life throughout the school year seems to suck the energy out of my daily motivation, the thought of removing that security in time and space frightens me even more with the possibilities of either too much emotion, or not enough, or both.

This summer will be a time of growth, and—I pray—of rain and not drought.

more about comparison.

My Christian Issues in Psychology course is at a point where various seniors present their thesis projects to the class.

On this foggy morning, I sit down in my usual seat (second row) and come face-to-face with the title slide of a Powerpoint: swirly script that reads something along the lines of, “Perceptions of Beautiful: Social Ideals of Beauty in China and America.” My stomach sinks a little and my hands get shaky. Instinctively, my gaze shoots to those in my line of vision with whom I do that mental comparative thing during every Christian Issues class period. Then, I turn my eyes to the senior presenting, my mind still lost in its own fog. Delving into my train of thought is always painful, revealing…shocking even to me. Dare I examine them today? Do I open myself up, or do I just draw a few flowers over my notes in an attempt to block out the process, the oncoming lights and whistle and shuddering tracks? The train grows louder until I can’t divert it down another tunnel, or delay its arrival into my brain. I stand on the platform and wait. 

I made a huge mistake this morning: I looked back through old pictures of myself last summer, nearly a whole year ago (has it SERIOUSLY been that long?!?!?!). For me, this is a mistake because I start the comparison train with my own worst competition: myself. It’s no secret that I was in a whole different physical spectrum back then, at least mentally. And now I’m sitting in a class about beauty across cultures…no coincidence, I’m sure. The senior is talking about the various cosmetic surgeries that American and Chinese women undergo in order to attain a certain social ideal of beauty. Her appearance is notably ideal to me: delicate and well-defined cheekbones, effortlessly styled hair, petite body. And yet the tone she uses as she speaks is uncertain and almost timid, communicating more insecurity than confidence. Inside, I know that she (and every beautiful person I meet) MUST have some sort of imperfection, at least one thing that they hate about themselves. But that truth in my head is rapidly overshadowed by the lies that live there.

Now she is showing us a Youtube video of how the advertising industry manipulates an image to a surreal extent. I’m impressed by the unique way that this clip utilizes a time lapse camera to capture the evolution that takes place, but my heart is heavy. The more that I reflect on campaigns to expose the artificiality that exists in contemporary media, the more I grow discouraged. Like I said in my last post about comparisons, there is no Photoshop adapting the women around me every day. If someone manages to possess that waist measurement and that chest size and that amount of toned muscle, it’s real and not digital. However, one thing that I learned today was that the media is still a huge factor in my personal perceptions of beauty. Yeah, so the girls I want to look like at school haven’t been post-processed on a computer. But why do I consider them any more beautiful than me? It’s because of the chokehold that Western culture has maintained on defining what is desirable and valuable and what should be sought after or altered.

This remains with me long after the presentation is over. I linger in my seat, writing furiously in the little brown notebook that I carry with me most of the time. This remains with me during chapel, as I trace over thickening lines to express the testimonies given today into clusters of single words. “Fear, doubt, anxiety…” are spread across the top half of the page. The lower half contains antonyms of what’s above, and I struggle to pen the hope-filled letters when I don’t feel them. “Peace, order, redemption…” My insides are twisted into anything but order. I don’t hate myself, I realize as I walk back to my dorm room after chapel is dismissed. I just hate who I’m not. I hate the fact that I’m not. Brushing it off, smiling big at whoever held the door for my pathetic and cumbersome brace. I don’t know her name. I don’t wish I was in her body. Is this sin? Is it wrong to NOT covet someone? Should I feel more guilty about that than the amount of calories I ate yesterday? 

I lean over the sink in my room, examining my reflection. The mirror is shallow, without depth. It is a piece of glass less than an inch thick. Florescent light wraps my skin in a sick shade of some yellowish greenish color, and I step back. Why am I looking in this mirror? I know that the smaller one on my dresser is by the window, illuminating everything more truthfully. I cross the room and hold the cheap black compact in my hands, bright but cloudy light playing over my face. This one isn’t built into the standardized room; this one is my own. I look into my own eyes and search deeper than what rises to the surface. This mirror is special, because my mom gave it to me. It represents something greater, something different, than what is handed to me by the college.

Is not Jesus that way? Is there anything standard about the gospel, anything that makes sense in the society that I sometimes find myself drowning in? No. Redemption is not something that comes built into the cultural mindset. Value based on what I don’t quite understand (something about who I will become despite who I am) is far from common in the glittering deceit that is wrapped so nicely and forced so subtly upon us, so rarely detected. The train of thought seems strong, powerful, unstoppable…and yet it can be so vulnerable if the conductor changes. Who is controlling my mental train, fueling the journey, plotting the destinations? I turn the mirror over in my hands, knowing that it is so fragile despite its smooth surface. Why am I entrusting my reflection, my mentality, to a society that uses that very vulnerability to exploit the truth of identity? Innocence is so beautiful…something I wish I had more of. Perhaps then I could accept more fully the love and value that God places upon me, His daughter, without questioning it or limiting it to my own socially-constructed understanding of acceptance.

I set the mirror back on my dresser, carefully, and steer my train towards gratitude. Like Paul says: I do not consider myself to have grasped it yet, but I’m pressing on until I reach heaven and the ultimate realization of everything that my God was and is and will be forever. That includes grace and redemption and hope. That includes value. And that includes beauty.

xo,

Marinah

an unwelcoming sky.

The vernal equinox is decidedly my favorite time of year; a season of birth following prolonged death, a season of rejoicing following a lengthy mourning. Resurrection from hopelessness. And with these contradictories come conflict, a battle in nature between inevitable and merry change and established, stubborn habit. Cold versus hot; an opposition of melting and freezing, of vivid and monotone. The globe spins on, and the axis dictates the necessary shifts which must occur. Winter complains, protests, appeals to the court…but spring is rewarded custody of the ground over which to grow, to bloom, to rouse.

Right now, I am sitting between two dorm buildings at a picnic table. The light above me is pushing through its blinding filter of clouds. It forces my eyes halfway shut, so I can just barely make out what my computer screen looks like. Fingers of wind sweep through my hair, caressing my face for one breath and then violently whipping the next. Despite nature’s interferences, the sun is still the sun; every few minutes it shoots down unhindered to spread its concentrated heat over my skin. Each time we make contact, I am warmed, and remain so through the wind and the clouds until the next intense embrace arrives.  My senses are awakened, pushing to be freed from this broken body which encompasses them. I desire to fly at this moment, to take off and and soar far above the valley, blossoming and vivid with green and blue.

The wind is not partial to this wish; it batters against my frame with a renewed gale of fury. The clouds above seize the sunlight and angrily hold it hostage; they want the sky for their own. I use a finger to sweep some pollen off my screen, off my keyboard. Nature can only have its way for so long before incredulously blue skies and heavy summer nights take over, where the earth’s surface is begging for the slightest repose from the sun’s heat. Today I am grateful for the sun, but tomorrow when it seems to be melting me down into the hazy grass, I shall rejoice no longer. What is left, then; clouds and wind aside? How may relief be found over the warming ground? Cool, soft, cleansing release of water from around the world. Rain.

All of this conflict in the sky above my head is gathering itself for a mere storm: the first April shower.

comparison.

Tonight, a friend of a friend Instagrammed a composite picture of herself with and without makeup. The caption included the user link and hashtag “insecurelymovement.” Curious, I followed the user link and was eventually brought to a website that consisted of several such composite-type images. Girl after girl after girl, of all shades and sizes, with a first and last name on each. As I scrolled, I told myself something I have told myself so often. I am ashamed of it but I am going to be vulnerable and share it. I told myself that, even with makeup, I could never be as beautiful as some of these girls in their naked-faced pictures. Maybe every girl feels this way, but personally I work so hard to set my face and hair and outfit to match a certain ideal…only to have the result be an average one. Nothing special, nothing unique. It’s just what is expected of women. And after however many minutes in front of the mirror, I see nothing special. So, congrats, Marinah. You just spend this much time to reach what everyone takes for granted, anyway.

I’ve read the Christian literature and listened to the speakers and even seen before-and-after Photoshop software. I know the tricks that the media uses to market beauty and value…but I still largely struggle with the girl at the gym whose thighs are literally the perfect combination of toned and slim. I know she isn’t Photoshopped, because I can watch her breathe as she does squats beside me. I’m not a stalker, but I definitely pay more attention to the appearances of those around me than is healthy. Raise your hand if you’ve visited a beach on vacation for a day and managed to compare yourself to only one other person. The majority of us will still have our arms down and our stomachs sinking deeper as we remember that one super-tan, super-fit girl/guy prancing around with a Frisbee or riding waves and still looking absolutely put-together. Envy is not easily forgotten.

I attend a school where, even in a thousand students, people shine. I live in a world that constantly forces two or more individuals into a parallel for comparison, placing value on whoever comes out on top for preset standards of beauty: best hair, best face, best weight, best body parts, best smile, best outfits, best overall appearance. I can’t answer why I do this, why every single human I have ever encountered struggles with measuring themselves against others and falling short…falling into the crack between better than X but not as good as Y, that crack that so often grows to a gaping abyss by those who search that darkness for acceptance. Maybe that’s why I compare myself to the other girls in my 9 AM Old Testament class, trying to see who wins the most put-together-for-early-class award of the day. Some consider this judgement, and I would agree…it is indeed judgement, but of myself rather than of the other girls. See, the main reason why I scrutinize other females I encounter is a desperate attempt to determine whether or not I myself am good enough, whether I fall above or below the line of expectation, of the average.

Sometimes I fail to see another girl as a whole, complete person. I’ll think, “Oh, she has a great face,” or “Wow, I wish my hair looked like that.” I don’t even have to know them…I don’t know Thigh Girl At The Gym. It’s difficult for me to remember that she is a female like me instead of just a great pair of thighs that I wish I had. She has a soul, a personality, strengths, weaknesses, a testimony, dreams, a favorite color. I don’t think about these things when I see her thighs; all I think about is me and my own relentless comparisons, ending in jealousy and bitterness when I look down and realize that my thighs aren’t like hers. I know this is wrong and I know this is sinful, and my guess is that you know that too whenever you do it. And I know that God creates everyone the way He has for reasons that only He knows. I know that everything He creates has beauty and value merely because He has created it in His own beautiful, valuable image.

And I know that this reality doesn’t always make it easy to accept myself merely for that fact, for that image.

Last month, a guy friend (who I consider to be notably intelligent and analytical) asked me what percentage of Covenant girls I would estimate had/have struggled with an eating disorder. Easily half, I answered. He was shocked by my answer, and by the answers of the other girls here who he had asked. This guy isn’t stupid; he has lots of friends who are female and clearly observes those around him. Dangit, he’s conducting a survey, for crying out loud. Don’t try and tell me he’s clueless about things in his environment. And yet he would have estimated somewhere between 5 and 10% prior to his talks with girls. That is only ten girls in every hundred; maybe ten girls out of all the females in my dorm building. To the guys who are unaware of this fact: whether or not a girl has been formally diagnosed with or shown symptoms of an eating disorder, we ALL have body image issues. In fact, I’ll go so far as to extend that to guys as well. If you’re human, you compare. You are dissatisfied. It could be in relation to other aspects of somebody, beyond physical appearance. And yes, comparing your leadership skills or laps for P.E. or church involvement or degree of singing ability…that’s still the same thing.

I don’t really have a solution to this. I have been told to “take every thought captive” as it says in Philippians; to stop whenever I compare and consciously choose to be satisfied with what God has given me. And I almost fell off the treadmill because of how often I had to halt my mental train of thought and change direction to something positive. This post is just me being honest about myself. I’m not looking for affirmation, but I am (as always) welcoming your feedback. If you’re interested in visiting this makeup vs. non site that inspired me to write about body image, the address is www.insecurelymovement.com. In the meantime, I’m going to continue being brave and list my top 5 dissatisfactions and why each of them are beneficial, beautiful, or unique to me. (This is another method suggested to me by the counselor who inspired me to become a psychologist…I would highly recommend trying it at least once)

1. W E I G H T. I currently weigh 137 pounds. Before I came to school last August, I weighed 120 pounds. Throughout high school, I maintained a BMI that was borderline underweight, and enjoyed a high metabolism…i.e., never needing to watch what I ate. Today, I have to count calories like some kids count their pennies: obsessively. But I love my current weight because it keeps me from looking down on anyone who struggles to eat healthy, it helps me to make good lifestyle choices in the hope of maintaining a healthy weight, and my weight gain also indicates an increase of muscle mass, not just fat.

2. F A C E. My face is round, not cutesy heart-shaped or dramatically contoured. But I love my face because when I smile, my cheeks make my eyes crinkle and I have lots of freckles that remind me of cinnamon sprinkled over my skin.

3. C H E S T. While I’m avoiding details, I have always been disproportioned between my top and bottom halves. But I love my chest because I can be more comfortable when I’m active, wear different kinds of shirts that might be too revealing on other girls, and possibly go undercover as a guy if I absolutely had to.

4. L E G S. Like I said before, my thighs aren’t that perfect balance of toned and slim. But I love that my legs are strong and thick for running away from zombies or rapists or clowns, and I love that I have RLS in my right leg because people know I’m really asleep when I start kicking. Also, my calves are my favorite feature because they are 100% muscle and look killer in heels.

5. H A I R. My hair is thin and light enough to show when I haven’t washed it, which is one of my biggest insecurities (crappy looking hair). But I love my hair because it styles really easily, doesn’t break my brush in half when I try to resolve a tangle, and is the color of Hershey’s kisses (and, with my delightful ombre addition, golden at the tips).

It all comes down to this, what I know to be true. You are loved by the One who made you…and the One who made the person you’re comparing yourself to, as well. Both of you are equally loved; both of you are equally valued to your Creator. As we fight the darkness of the comparison abyss together, remind me of this light when I lose hope….and I’ll remind you, too. I’ll wake up tomorrow morning and struggle, and so will you. And thank God for His grace to love even us.

xo,

Marinah

Preview Weekend: How to Be a Cool Previewer.

This Preview Weekend is going to rock, and here’s why:

MY TWIN SISTERS ARE COMING!!!!!!!!

I am beyond excited.

With that said, my bossy older sister nature has begun to kick in, as well as my OCD desire to be super-informative so people won’t experience things the hard way like I did. There’s probably some psychosocial explanation for this tendency, but if it exists I haven’t learned about it yet. Regardless, here are some tips on making PW awesome for both yourself and the rest of the campus:

  • homeschoolers: untuck your shirt. private schoolers: the Scots don’t actually wear kilts everyday, so leave your uniform at home. public schoolers: we consider it legal to let our professors pray before they begin class, and you can show off that cross necklace here too.
  • Despite what it seems like, nobody is holding a gun to your head (or a complimentary Covenant College labeled water bottle to your mouth) and forcing you to apply here and now. The main point of PW is to let you see a little bit of everything here…so look around. That’s really all there is to it.
  • Attend a class or two. I know it seems like a drag, but many classes are super interesting and give you a good gist of what typical courses are like. I’m pretty sure that the admissions people will send you an email with a list of class locations and times.
  • If you want to do sports, go to athletic info meetings as noted on the schedule thingy that the admissions people will send you. Same with drama, music, art, science, etc.
  • There’s going to be a James Ward-led chapel service on Friday. Don’t feel too self-conscious if you don’t know the words…lip syncing with ‘watermelon’ still works.
  • Bring a fun notebook and write down your thoughts about what you experience. Did you like the people hosting you? How does the campus size, layout, and location meet your expectations…or not? What did you think of the professors you met? Trust me, you’ll remember the overall atmosphere of the school but forget the details that contributed to it.
  • HAVE FUN. This is all flexible…you get to choose where you go and what you do. Be wise with your time but be prepared to switch it up a little. Also, try talking to someone you don’t know. Worst case scenario, you do something amazingly embarrassing and you both end up attending here someday, which is really not such a bad setup. I was super mean to 2 guys over Scholarship Weekend of my senior year, and they both attend here now. I smile at them in passing and avoid conversation at all costs.
  • Ask questions of faculty, but also of current students. They will be optimistic but mostly honest about student life and academia, which is important when considering a school. Who knows, your current perspective of a college might be totally off and you would never know it until you talk about it with someone who attends there. Also, if you forgot something, ask anyone you’re staying with and (provided they aren’t a total dingbat) they will be happy to help you obtain it.
  • The food is never this good. Enjoy it but don’t be fooled.
  • Bring a sleeping bag and (if you’re lucky enough to have room) something soft and compact to sleep on. We college students don’t get a ton of sleep, but even we get more than you will on the hard floor.
  • Remember that some of us have tests or projects or papers due, so be respectful of your host(s) and their study habits.
  • Take your Covenant College lanyard, remove the important card from inside the clear holder, and promptly discard the lanyard. Preferably at the top of some awesomely tall structure, but you didn’t hear that from me.

Congrats: you are now a cool Previewer! Fellow Scots, add comments below if I forgot anything.

Elainah and Susannah, I’ll see you in 2 days. Remember your sleeping bags.

xo,

Marinah

(p.s. Last thing: be sure to add your PW host(s) on FB and immediately post this clip to their wall. All of their friends will instantly love you. Awesome-person-who-I-got-this-from credit goes to Marci Corea. http://lea-michele.tumblr.com/post/46979542553/gameandwatch-literally-me-every-day)

don’t snap and walk.

To understand this latest installment of The Most Awkward Story Ever Told (my life), you must first understand the layout of Carter Hall.

Carter Hall layout

Carter Hall layout

Because it used to be an old hotel back in the 1920’s, Carter has long, narrow hallways that extend the length of the building. Each floor from 2nd to 5th is designated as either male or female residence halls, and each hall is divided into north, south, and central sections. However, the central section of the second floor contains the nurse’s office, which is where I needed to visit today. For some reason, I thought it plausible that the second floor elevator would open right to where the nurse’s station was, so I hopped on and hit the “2” button.

At this point, I received a snapchat (yes, I’m ashamed to admit it) from a friend back home. For everyone out there who doesn’t use the app Snapchat, allow me to enlighten you to the fact that it is EXTREMELY UNCOMFORTABLE to snapchat a picture of your face in public. Imagine all those bathroom selfies you take, usually multiple times before the desired result is achieved. Now, imagine doing that in front of a huge crowd in a busy lobby, except with ridiculously ugly and/or scary facial expressions, and you will understand why I reserve my snapchat selfies for nice, quiet corners of the world. And so, being alone in the elevator, I took this opportunity to send a picture of my best wrinkle-nosed, fish-lipped face to this same friend. I was about to add a caption when the doors opened slowly.

Without even looking up, I began to walk forward while typing furiously. I vaguely remembered the door to the nurse’s offices being straight ahead, and so I passed through a doorway without thought. After selecting the friend’s name from a list and sending the snapchat, I glanced up…and saw clothes. Clothes everywhere…on the (barely visible) floor, on the chairs, on the bunk beds. Suddenly, something clicked in my head. Bunk beds…messy clothes…oh my gosh it’s a boys’ hall! I backed up as fast as I could and whirled around so I was facing the elevator doors. “GIRL ACCIDENTALLY ON THE HALL!” I yelled, my gaze darting around for the door to the real center of the second floor. All I could find was Justin Pennell, who graciously pointed me in the right direction.

To whoever lives on 2nd South immediately in front of the elevators: I am so sorry and thank you for being at the Student Appreciation Day petting zoo with the alpaca or stuffing your face with chocolate chip cookies in the Great Hall instead of in your room at 1:35 pm today. My future therapist thanks you, too. And never again will I snap without surveying my elevator destination environment.

With that said, go out and enjoy the rest of SAD (if you’re on campus). Stay out of elevators, too. You never know.

xo,

Marinah