Trying to find beautiful: On body image and relationships

I have a complicated relationship with the word beautiful.

The first time I remember telling myself I was fat was in junior high.

I’d like to think it had to do with a changing body and hormones, but I don’t think that was it.

There is something about being suddenly aware of boys that throws a girl into new beliefs about herself. I’d like that not to be true – and it may not be an issue for some of you out there – but for many of us that’s just the way it is, and we need to be honest about that. From a very early age, our beauty is tied up in the relationships around us. It actually makes me want to cry a little bit, that our beauty would be wrapped up in what a someone thinks of us. There is something off there, something so connected to the way it’s supposed to be, but not quite right, and it’s hard to figure it all out, so we plunge ahead on weird courses trying to make ourselves feel better,

trying to find beautiful.

In high school, I remember exercising for beauty, rather than health or strength for the first time. Maybe if I did just the right amount of sit ups I would feel better. I remember healthily and not healthily saying no to chips and Snickers bars and pop, because maybe then I’d be pretty and my hips would stop making pants so dang difficult.

I thought with marriage my body image issues would be better. With a husband to tell me I’m beautiful, what can go wrong? That pit of disdain (or at least discomfort) when I weighed myself or looked in the mirror would melt away in the arms of someone who loved me unconditionally.

But it didn’t get better.

Shocker, but a man didn’t solve my problems.

Even as an adult, the word beautiful played games in my head, taunting me with something I’d never be.

I’m not girly.

I’m not graceful.

I’m not good with my hair.

I like food a lot.

And then, one day I turned to my left and saw my daughter. The words taunting me, I heard from her mouth. That was when I demanded that something had to give. I pleaded with God to help me. Lord, I want her to see beautiful in herself, in her friends, in me… instead of maybe ok.

God’s answer, as always, was the Word of God. He picked me up, dusted off my shame, and sent me to the Scriptures.

When I studied and then wrote through the Song of Songs, I began to see that beauty has a lot less to do with pretty and a lot more to do with strength than we think. It has to do with a Savior, and is more intimately connected to His sacrifice and death than I can wrap my head around. It has to do with honor and kindness, even when it holds onto its very physical properties.

And it’s relational.

No wonder I struggled with my beauty based on boys. We understand beautiful in relationship – any and all relationships, romantic, friendship, or familial. That, I believe, is Scriptural Truth.

Healing our beliefs about the word beautiful will be changed in the Word, yes, but God is teaching me that it is also changed in community with each other – in friendship, in life together, in calling out beautiful where we see it, and in proclaiming God’s workmanship in one another – not just to our daughters, but to one another’s daughters, to wives, and to women everywhere.

If you have a complicated relationship with the word beautiful, here is what I want to tell you:

God makes beautiful and God defines beautiful, I don’t get to. I want to believe Him instead, be covered by Him instead of my own ideas about my body and myself and this one word – beautiful,

but we can only do that together.

I’ll never conquer this by myself. Our brains weren’t designed for that. The battle wasn’t meant to be lonely.

Dig out your phone. Text a friend. Tell them they are beautiful. Sing it over them. They need you and in the midst of that, God will heal this weirdness about beauty and beautiful and boys and all of it.

Altogether beautiful, friends.

Let’s help each other begin to believe it.

Click here for a free sample of Altogether Beautiful: A Study of the Song of Songs 

Freedom to Speak Up (Chasing Freedom)

If we’re honest, this life feels weighty.

You feel a little bit of this when you’re a kid – families have struggles, people we love pass away, and other kids aren’t always kind.

It starts to feel heavier as a teen – choices aren’t as easy, we struggle with right and wrong, decisions aren’t all up to our parents and teachers anymore, we begin to see that God is calling us to our own lives, our own faith, our own paths.

Then adulthood crashes in and you suck in your breath. What the heck?! Where did all this junk come from? The world is falling apart, families are more messed up than you ever knew, and life is hard. There are literally decisions to be made every day, every moment it seems and they matter, they really matter.

First, take heart. There’s grace. God always has grace for us. More than that, He gives us grace packaged in the form of freedom.

Galatians 5:1 –

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Paul challenges us to simply live in the freedom we’ve been given.

Each week, in our Chasing Freedom YA podcast we’ll look through a passage and find some freedom we may have been missing.

This week – Freedom from Apathy, Freedom to Speak Up

All that weightiness. It can crash in like waves against a rocky crag and it’s so easy to curl up into what’s easy and what feels simpler – tuning out – rather than tuning in and letting God do His thing.

It feels easier to only care about the moment, only care about ourselves, and only care about the fun stuff, but God is calling us to something bigger, something bolder in this life, something better.

Let’s look through 1 Timothy 4:4-14 and find out more about this beautiful life and freedom in Christ that we have been called to.

Your voice matters. Please use it.

You are free – speak up!

Question of the Week: Where can I speak up and speak hope?

Dear Girls, He is Not Your Savior: Addressing our desire, our value and our worth

I’ll be honest, middle school was not my finest.

It was so difficult for me that when I started coaching a very fine group of 5-8th grade cheerleaders on a whim, I felt like I was stepping back into my 8th grade year and my internal anxiety was through the roof.

Who really wants to walk back into middle school?

No one, ever.

I have a theory that middle school is hard because we desperately want one of two things:

To be noticed or to be not noticed. Or the third option…a little bit of both.

In middle school we don’t know our desires, as girls, as budding women, or as people, but as we grow we begin to identify them more clearly.

We want to be loved.

We want to know we’re valued, worthwhile.

We want to feel safe, physically, emotionally, and relationally.

There’s probably more, but I think those are the big three, particularly for girls.

Some thing weird happens too, sometimes we have no idea where to find them. We start searching, searching, and searching some more…we look every where, but we mostly look at men to tell us, what only God can –

We are loved.

We are valued.

We are safely held by Him for eternity.

A few months ago, I wrote this article for Concordia Publishing House –

Dear Girls, He is Not Your Savior

It’s about our deepest desires, the problem of sin, the struggle of Satan trying to hide what is good from us, and the weight of expectations in relationships.

As the months passed, I wanted to hash all this out a bit more; to understand why my wild, young, and rebellious heart looked everywhere but to God for fulfillment in this life, and why it’s a struggle still today.

Why do I so often want a man to fill me, when I know good and well that only God can?

You’ll find a few of the answers I found here, in this new podcast episode: Dear Girls, He is Not Your Savior.

It present 5 things I think we’re searching for, a few good questions for evaluating our expectations in our relationships, and also offers encouragement, whether you’re single, married, young, old, wild, or tame – to run to God, run. He’s already got you anyway.

You are loved by Him.

You are valued by Him.

You are safe in His arms.

I’d love to hear from you. Tell me your experiences, your thoughts, or send your questions. We’re all figuring our this life together, led, and fully filled up by our Savior.