I was surrounded by models.
Not model toys or planes. That would have been a bit easier than my situation. I had moved to New York City and somehow found myself thrown into a group of people that not only looked like Greek gods and goddesses, they were also paid big bucks to place their faces and rock-hard bods in pictures and on catwalks all over the world.
At the time, I wasn't exactly what you'd call 'secure.' My entire life, I had thumbed through magazines and parked on television shows that displayed society's supposed perfection—secretly coveting what I saw with envy that sparked nothing but comparison and insecurity (eventually ending up in a rehab facility for eating disorders.) So to now be sitting in a room with the very people who had been the greatest reminder that I wasn't, in fact, perfect….well, let's just say it was anything but easy.
To make up for my lack of supermodel credentials, I had somehow fooled myself into believing that I needed to make up for who I wasn't. I'd lug my guitar over to our hangouts, singing and entertaining when I could in an attempt to give them some reason for wanting to hang out with simple ole me. (This wasn't true, of course, but it was my truth and I believed it more than I believed the sky was blue).
One beautiful Saturday afternoon as we sat overlooking the Hudson River from one of their high rise, ritzy apartments, someone finally piped up and said, 'Sing us a song, Christa.' I didn't object, of course, secretly hoping for hours that the invitation would arise. With chiseled faces and statuesque figures looking in my direction, I pulled out my old guitar, opened my mouth, and began to sing.
The song ended, my task complete. But instead of the normal praises, cheers, and smiles I was accustomed to, I noticed one breathtakingly gorgeous European model off to the side who looked a bit like her head was about to explode, which probably wouldn't have been very good for her modeling career. The 6'0" tall, size 0 girl who had walked every catwalk between here and Milan sat with her long arms crossed in disdain, her foot shaking as if nervously wanting to bolt out of the room, and her face morphing into a fiery red.
"Lauren, are you okay?" I asked timidly, choosing my words carefully. "Did I say something wrong or offensive?"
Her response wasn't quite what I had expected that summer day in New York City.
"No, I'm not okay!" she blurted in a thick Belgian accent. "You have the voice of an angel and all I do is walk the catwalk and pose, pose, pose—click, click, click—beauty, beauty, beauty! You have ALL the talent and I have NO talent. It's not fair! I want to be you!"
Silence suspended in the air between us as I scooped my jaw up off the floor.
For as long as I could remember, I had compared my reflection in the mirror to her perfect physique. I wasn't thin enough or I didn't have big enough boobs. My knees were knobby or my hair didn't flop around like the girl on the Pantene commercial. What I saw was never enough, no matter how good it was. And yet, here was the object of my deepest desire—the top tier of world models—throwing a temper tantrum because she'd rather give up her looks and have my talent.
The grass truly is greener on the other side.
That moment was a defining moment for me. Some call it an, 'Ah-ha' moment. Instead of looking at myself and seeing all the things that I wasn't or could never be, I began to look deep inside the unique nature of my beautiful, one-of-a-kind soul and ask, 'Ok, Christa. What were you created to be that no one on earth was created to be, and how can you become so secure in the treasure that is you, that you find out what it means to live in real peace?"
Peace has come, and is still coming. The more I find out who I was created to be, then becoming that girl, the more my green pasture seems to be just fine.
***FREE SONG DOWNLOAD!! -- The first five readers to Tweet about this blog and tag both @jfreakhideout and @godlovesuglybk will be given a free download of Christa's song "The Grass Is Always Greener!"***
Excerpt taken from Chapter 3 of Christa Black's book, God Loves Ugly:
I got to my hotel in Washington D.C., dropped off my bags as quickly as I could, and headed out in full patriotic fashion to explore my nation’s capital. I only had several hours to wander before my gig with Michael W. Smith and was determined to see as much as possible. So with camera in hand I headed out on foot.
I was glad to be heading out alone, exploring at my own pace without being tied to a big group or a fact-jabbering tour guide. I strolled across the grassy mall, sat by the beautifully serene fountain in front of the Washington Monument, and stood in front of a stoic stone Lincoln while filling up my camera with every angle possible. Agenda-free meandering finally led me in front of the Jefferson Memorial, all the while feeling wildly patriotic as choruses of I’m Proud to be an American paraded through my head.
In an instant, menacing clouds eclipsed the clear sky, thunder clapped, and I turned around just in time to see huge sheets of rain begin to pound the hot summer streets. The storm hit so suddenly that there were no vendors ready to exploit tourists with ridiculously priced umbrellas. At that point, I would have been grateful for them and paid just about anything.
I stood there for five…ten…fifteen minutes watching the blackness pour, and unfortunately, the sky didn’t look like it was going to let up any time soon. The more the rain came down to cool off the earth, the more my blood began to boil.
“I just washed my hair this morning. I don’t have time to wash it again before I have to play my show! My clothes, shoes, my purse—everything is going to get completely soaked if I walk outside to even try and hail a cab! Good grief! I don’t have time for this, much less want to deal with the inconvenience. Doesn’t the rain know better? How dare the rain drop in and ruin my perfect sightseeing day!”
I brooded in self-pity for a good while, feeling sorry for myself at the hands of this annoying predicament that had plowed in and demolished my plans. Annoyance rapidly turned to anger, and since I didn’t know exactly who or what to get mad at, I got mad at everything: the rain, Washington, me for being so stupid and forgetting to check the weather, the non-existent umbrella salesmen, my shoes for not being waterproof, and, of course, the hotel for being so far away. If you had walked by and smiled at me, I would have been mad at you for being happy in the midst of my misery.
In some situations anger can be justified, but in others, it does nothing but ruin the moment that you are in and everything around you. This nasty type of anger can be a poison that consumes everything in its path without rhyme or reason. The second I gave myself permission to agree with its talons, the feeling permeated like red dye in clear water, quickly changing the entire glass. One part of me didn’t get angry—every part of me got angry, and I saw the entire world through that fiery filter.
After several minutes of loathing, a very unexpected light bulb went off in my head.
“Hmmm, so I’m mad at the rain, but is my anger actually doing anything to stop the rain? No. And I’m mad at myself for not checking the weather, but why would I check the weather on a perfectly clear, sunny day? I wouldn’t. And I’m mad at my hotel for being far away—good grief. How ridiculous am I being right now?”
Being mad at the rain did nothing to stop the downpour. It only ruined a day that I could never get back. I realized at that very moment that I always had a very clear choice: 1) I could get angry at something that was completely outside of my control and be miserable or 2) I could accept my wet fate, throw a forced smile on my face that might turn into a real one, and go puddle jumping.
I hadn’t had that much fun in a storm since I was a little girl. I’m sure the strangers who happened to catch my sideshow thought I was crazy—singing, dancing and jumping around like an idiot. But I didn’t care. I had just discovered a secret, a jewel, a treasure of the universe. I had found the power I possessed inside of myself to choose life in any situation, regardless of what my emotions were instinctively telling me to do. And let me tell you, it took an act of my will. It was anything but easy to push away anger that came so naturally and turn towards something good, but the strength and power for overcoming is inside us all, and I had just found that power.
I began to write and sing the chorus, “Black Monday, you can’t get me down, no, no, no.” And with every note, with every word, with every sloppy puddle jump, I got further and further away from an anger that would have ruined a day I could never get back.
***FREE SONG DOWNLOAD!! -- The first five readers to Tweet about this blog and tag both @jfreakhideout and @godlovesuglybk will be given a free download of Christa's song "Black Monday!"***
"Sometimes you just have to fake it 'till you make it. Well, at least that was the case for me when I wrote the song 'God Loves Ugly.'
I knew all the right words to say and all the right truths to spout off. I had the appropriate scriptures memorized as a good preacher’s daughter should, and could paint on a big, teethy smile on command, masking the volcano of emotions bubbling underneath my perfectly applied makeup.
You see, I knew the truth in my head, but I didn’t believe it in my heart. Yet.
Growing up, I’d heard the phrase ‘God loves you’ more times than I’d eaten Cheerios. That one was simple enough to believe and seemed to make sense. God created us as His kids, so He loved what he had created. Fair enough. But then I began to hear things like, ‘God loves you no matter what you do—and there’s nothing you actually can do to make Him love you any more or any less than He does at this very moment.’ (Thank you, Mr. Max Lucado, for hammering that subject home on my first tour with Michael W. Smith in 2002).
Whoa, now hold on a hot minute. Isn’t love contingent on performance? I mean my best friend in elementary school loved me as long as I shared my Ludens cherry cough drops with her. Then my high school comrades liked me because I was funny, partied, and kept them amused—oh, and it didn’t hurt that I was stacked with admirable talents. Talent always scored a few extra points for acceptance. Rejection felt worse than walking barefoot across shards of broken glass and almost always came when you did something below the bar. So how could God love me as a constant screw-up? Didn’t He remember all the times I had lied, cheated, stolen, got wasted out of my mind, laughed at His people, or yelled at Him in anger and disgust?
Then on top of all that, I had this heart that seemed more like a pincushion than anything. The devastating daggers of peoples’ words sliced and diced my soul like a carved tomato. You know, things like, “You’re ugly and no one will ever want you,” or “We can’t stand you,” or…well, the Rolodex of tormenting phrases liked to flip through my head on a regular basis.
I sat on my bed in Nashville, Tennessee, listening to the planes fly overhead in the deep blue sky. Holding on to precious truths I was desperate to believe, I picked up my guitar and began to play. I knew that I was loved so completely and so fully, that nothing I had ever done or could ever do would take that love away or make it wax and wane. I didn’t quite believe it enough to live it yet, but I wanted to. I was determined to. And I knew that writing a song that declared those truths over my life—that championed my own mouth to sing in faith, to hear the words, to water my tattered soul—just might be the actual medicine I needed to get to that high peak of believing.
Hoping for something never changes anything, but believing produces action. And action changes everything.
I sat with my guitar, letting the contents of my soul bleed out onto paper.
You said that I wasn't pretty
So I just believed you
You said that I wasn't special
So I lived that way
With critical gazes and brutal amazement
At how my reflection could be so imperfect
With all of my blemishes how could somebody want me
But God loves ugly
He doesn't see the way I see
God takes ugly
And turns it into something that is beautiful
Apparently I'm beautiful ‘cause You love me
I tried to clean up the outside all shiny and new
Worked overtime to thin up and look right
But inside I knew
Deep in the bottom were secrets I thought I could try to ignore
Old ghosts in my corridors never get tired of haunting the past that's in me
Help me believe why you love me
Cause I know you see, you see everything
Help me believe why you love me
Cause I know you see inside and you still say I'm beautiful
You're telling me I'm beautiful
You're screaming out, so beautiful
And I'm finding out I'm beautiful
You're making me so beautiful
And I can see I'm beautiful
Cause you love me
I’ve sung this song hundreds upon hundreds of times. And every time I sing, I let the words marinate my soul a little deeper, like pouring warm honey over the broken cracks of my past. I sang this song until I believed this song.
And I don’t just believe the words, friends. I’m living them.
I believe that I’m beautiful because God has loved the barren places of my life into lush, green, breathtaking reflections of Him. I believe I’m healed because of His love, that I’m whole because of His love. In fact, His love has been the answer to every problem I’ve ever faced, the medicine to every sickness of my heart, and more precious to me than my next breath.
Being loved unconditionally really does turn the ugly places in our lives into something beautiful.
And I’m living proof of it."
***FREE SONG DOWNLOAD!! -- The first five readers to Tweet about this blog and tag both @jfreakhideout and @godlovesuglybk will be given a free download of Christa's song "God Loves Ugly!"***
"I shut the door to my bedroom, sliding down the creaky brown wood onto old carpet I usually wouldn't have wanted to touch. Today, however, there was no time to be particular. Today, and every day for as long as I could remember, I just needed a place to cry.
Another day living in the hell of addiction.
I couldn't remember lighter days. I knew they existed, but I couldn't remember the way they tasted or smelled--the way they apparently laughed around you like a sweet breeze crossing a clearing full of daisies. All of my memories seemed to include this cage--this dark, ugly, prison of a cage.
When 'the blackness' would fall, there were very few things that could pull me out of it, especially since I usually retreated into isolation, shutting myself off from the rest of the world with its laughter and sunshine. In fact, very few people even knew I was battling depression or struggling with an eating disorder that choked precious moments from my life.
I wiped my nose on my sleeve, pulled myself up from the floor, and slowly walked over to my violin case. This was the instrument that had journeyed with me through it all--the highs and lows, the success and the failure. It had been played the same time I was learning arithmetic, and practiced alongside my first attempts to drive a car. It had been dragged out to entertain family every Christmas, and used to make breathtaking, angelic masterpieces come to life. I pulled out the German-made wood and bow and placed it under my wet chin, drenched in tears.
The deep inside of me began to play.
It was a private song from a desperate soul. It was a song of longing and a song of truth. It was as if my fingers knew how to touch the strings and actually give sound to the crying of my heart. I played, sang, and wept. I wept, sang, and played. And with every note, with every breath, with every sound, the iron-clad drawbridge of my heart began to slowly crank down.
Hope had appeared somehow, ever so small. It was faint and it was fragile, but it was there. The more I sang, the more determined I became.
Yes, the wind had come to destroy. Yes, the storm had taken me out more times than I cared to remember. And, yes, the rain continued to flashflood my soul. But no matter how the hurricanes of life had fought and raged, I knew one thing.
If I was still there, it was for a reason.
And I was and am… still here."
***FREE SONG DOWNLOAD!! -- The first five readers to Tweet about this blog and tag both @jfreakhideout and @godlovesuglybk will be given a free download of Christa's song "I'm Still Here!"***