Body Image

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One of my most persistent struggles in life has been over body image. It started in elementary school when one of the girls called me “fat.” It’s amazing that one girl’s cruelty could have a life-long effect, but it has. For the record, here is a picture of me in early elementary school. (That’s my sweet little brother in the picture with his dear friend, Ivy. Aren’t they cute!)

Having decided at an early age that this cruel girl was right, I went through most of my childhood and teen years convinced that I was fat. And since guys rarely asked me out (I can count the number of dates I had before I met Matt on one hand), I felt like I had good evidence that I just wasn’t at all attractive.

So, I have struggled for many, many years with how I see myself. Being married to Matt has done wonders to my self-image.┬áIt still honestly amazes me that Matt thinks I’m beautiful, but I’ve decided to accept that he does and not question it. Which brings me to my point in writing this.

Ladies, it’s time to stop listening to the “world” and it’s values in determining our worth and our standards of beauty. A woman’s worth and beauty are not determined by a number on a scale or a size on a pair of jeans. While I completely agree with the importance of being healthy, eating balanced meals, and exercising, it’s time for us to stop being so critical of ourselves and so discontent with who God made us to be and what He made us to look like.

For most of us, at our age and stage of life, we owe a good bit of our current “shape” to having had children. Why is this a bad thing? I wouldn’t trade my children for anything, not even the 28-inch waist I had before they were born. And, if “Spanx” means anything to you, you know exactly what I mean. Ladies, we are not rounder and saggier because we’ve “let ourselves go.” Our bodies bear the evidence that we are moms. Society doesn’t value that. Somehow, we are supposed to have either the bodies we had as teenagers or the bodies of anorexic, teenaged boys. But, why? Why should we look like we never had children? Please don’t hear what I’m not saying. Being healthy, eating well, and exercise are good things. Unrealistic expectations, aren’t.

As a side note, do you know why women have cellulite and men don’t? (No, I don’t think it’s because of the Fall, although maybe indirectly.) Women store fat in neat little pockets so that they can access them for pregnancy and breast-feeding. Cool, huh?

So, let’s stop the fad diets, the quick weight loss fasts, the diet drugs, and the self-loathing. Let’s remember that God made us as we are and that His love for us is not based on how much we look like the latest air-brushed model on the magazine.

“Remember, you are not managing an inconvenience; You are raising a human being”

Remember, you are not managing an inconvenience; You are raising a human being ~ Kittie Frantz

I saw the quote above recently, and it really made me think. How often do I treat my dear sweet children as “inconveniences?” Exactly when did they go from precious blessings entrusted to me by God to small, loud, challenging things sent by God to interrupt my day? (Probably when they started to talk, but that’s really beside the point.)

I remember being pregnant the first time. I remember the excitement and joy at the thought of a baby! MY baby! A sweet, beautiful, precious living creature. I remember holding Jonathan for the very first time. They placed him on my chest, and he was crying. Tears came to my eyes, and I remember thinking, “I wish you would never have to cry again in your life.” The instinct to protect him kicked in immediately.

Granted all of parenting is not sunshine and roses. My sweet, precious babies are little sinners. Just like me. And, sinners put together means arguments and discord. My children need me to teach them to behave, and that is not fun, for anyone. I am responsible for raising them and for teaching them about obedience. I am responsible for showing them and teaching them about God’s grace and mercy. I am also responsible for my own attitude.

When I start getting irritated at my children, I’m trying to ask myself a few questions. What exactly about their behavior is getting on my nerves? Are they sinning? If so, I should get off my tush and deal with it, and not just sit here and hope it stops. (or yell until it does) Am I expecting behavior that is not age appropriate? (for example, is a 6 year-old boy going to need to run off energy, or can he sit still all day?) Am I mad at them because they want my attention, and I want to do something else? Am I showing them the same grace and mercy that God shows me every day, even though I start sinning again immediately after I ask for forgiveness?

Parenting is hard. There are lots of rewards, but the day to day life of it is often not fun at all. It’s work to take care of others and put their needs first. It’s painful to watch my child struggle with sin, especially when it mirrors my own behavior. How can I change my attitude so that I am not constantly frustrated?

For me, I am trying hard to focus on God’s grace. It’s such a beautiful thing. “For while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Rom. 5:8. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Rom. 6:23. We don’t get what we deserve. We get grace. That doesn’t mean that God doesn’t deal with our sin, nor does it mean that we can just forget about discipline with our children. But it does mean that my attitude towards my children should be one of grace. The discipline I show them should be out of love and not anger. I should see my children as the blessings they are, and not as “inconveniences.”

Mom Wars

Something has been on my mind a lot lately. I am as guilty of it as the next woman. Call it the “Mom Wars.” The battle lines are drawn. Do you know where you stand?

* Stay at home, work from home, work outside the home
* Home school, private school, public school
* TV or not
* Organic or not
* Home birth, birth center, hospital
* Epidural or natural
* Co-sleeping or crib
* Bottle or breastfeeding
* Vaccinate or not
* Prius or Suburban

And that’s just a short list.

Where did we as women, especially Christian women, learn to categorize other women? Are we born thinking in these ways? Do we learn early on as we compete with each other?

Do you know the scene at the beginning of Terminator when the terminator goes into the biker bar? He’s looking around sizing up people looking for clothes that will fit him. As women, how easily do we size up a new acquaintance? From first glance, we take in hair, make-up or lack there of, clothes, shoes, jewelry. And that’s just the outside.

Just a few minutes of conversation and we have put this new person in one of two categories: agrees with me or disagrees with me. The former we use to assure ourselves that we are right. The latter we use to feel better about ourselves. As in “at least I’m doing the right thing about …, unlike her.” How easy it is to dismiss someone just because we don’t agree.

Shouldn’t we put aside our differences and support each other? Mothering has to be one of the hardest jobs out there. We need all the support we can get and who best to give it than other mothers. On issues such as those mentioned above, Scripture is silent. As such, each of us is making decisions, with God’s grace, for the best of our families.

Instead of sniping at each other, can’t we love each other and appreciate the difficulty of making these decisions. To be clear, I am not arguing for moral relativism. There are issues on which I believe there are clear right and wrong sides. These issues, however, are rarely the ones we use to divide ourselves up as moms.

As Paul wrote, “I am the chief of sinners.” I know my failings are great, and I pray God will help me. With God’s grace, maybe we can all spend our time building each other up instead of tearing each other down.