They Do Exist.

Beauty

Are You Too Afraid To Feel Beautiful?

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Editor’s Note: Today’s beautiful words are by Renee Roden. At the end of this post, you may want to sit down and write out a moment that you felt truly beautiful. And if you’ve never felt it, ever? Wrestle why you feel afraid to feel it. Renee blogs at finnabealightbearer.blogspot.com – Lauren.

Photo by Christine Reid

There are some days—we all have them—when you look and the mirror and simply groan.

Your reflection is just not what you wanted to see.

On those days, all you can notice is that scar on your chin, or the blot on your nose, or how your eyebrows need trimming. You are incapable of noticing how bright your eyes look that day, because you are too busy trying to erase the dark circles underneath them. Your hair seems to be varying between wildly frizzy and completely untamable, and dead and flat, looking absolutely lifeless, lacking any volume. Those are the days that you wince each time you walk past a mirror.

But there are some days, for some magical reason, you feel as though you are floating in a cloud of beauty.

Your confidence in your own radiance is unflappable and unshakable. No mirror, tape measure, or scale could possibly do away with your solid belief in your own beauty. You step is lightened, as you walk through the world, feeling beautiful from the tips of your split-end-riddled hair down to your un-manicured toes.

Those moments are little lifelines to hold onto in a world that shoves conflicting, confusing images of beauty in our face.

We are constantly being pulled between different standards of beauty. When it comes to being beautiful, there seems to be a never-ending stream of dos and don’ts being shoved in our faces.

One magazine devotes pages and pages to products that will give its readers perfect hair and skin; while another touts ideal BMIs and the perfect weight goals, and provides its audience with rigorous diets and exercise stratagems to achieve them. One of our friends pines for curves and complains that she has no chest; while another comments on how big her hips are and how she needs to lose weight.

Although it seems that beauty standards, styles, and fads are perpetually in flux, and changing at a moment’s notice, there does seem to be one consistent trend. None of us can manage to be satisfied with how we look.

We all seem too busy being dissatisfied with our appearance to take the time to appreciate our own unique beauty.

There is one moment in my life I always remember as a moment of unshakeable beauty.

I was at senior prom, and I walked into the girl’s bathroom.

The bathroom was very softly lit. The floor and ceiling sparkled with a very deep blue, almost black, glossy tile, which had little flecks of mica embedded in them. That bathroom looked like a little nook carved out of the night sky. 

When I walked in, my dark blue dress mirroring the starry sky of the bathroom, I felt as though I walked right into a constellation. Everything sparkled: the very air was iridescent.

I looked into the mirror, and I softly caught my breath. There was a girl in the mirror looking back at me, and she was beautiful.

And I was that girl.

It was shocking.

I remember looking in the mirror and being surprised. I was surprised that how beautiful I felt matched exactly how beautiful I looked. Or that how beautiful I looked matched how beautiful I felt. It was a moment where my interior beauty I knew was there was somehow present in my face as I looked in the mirror.

That starry little bathroom was filled with joy. I’d never felt such a joy in being beautiful.

I looked at the mirror and smiled at myself. And blushed at the audacity of doing so. I saw a girl with long cinnamon curls and sparkling eyes smiling back at me. Her cheeks were flushed from dancing, and her entire body was reverberating with excitement.

That girl in the mirror and I smiled at each other, basking in the radiance of the beauty I’d just discovered. I felt like the brightest star in that luminous sea of shimmering lights.

No matter how many bad hair days I have, or how blotchy my skin is, or how full or bloated I feel after eating a large Thanksgiving dinner, I will always look back at that moment and remember that I felt beautiful right then. There is nothing that can shake my confidence in my beauty at that moment.

We are too scared to talk about our bodies as though we actually love them.

We forget to rejoice in having a body uniquely our own, and glorious in its uniqueness. It’s easy to find beauty in nature around us, or look at all our friends and find their beauty so evident. But it’s harder to look in the mirror and acknowledge the beauty right in front of us.

It’s hard to accept a compliment on a day you feel particularly not beautiful. It’s hard to accept the fact that our point of view is not the only one that matters: there are people who love us and find us beautiful even when we cannot see our own beauty. We are too afraid to acknowledge that we are worthy of being loved, and beautiful because of that.

We are too afraid to rejoice in our own beauty.


Fear Of Causing My Brother To Stumble Almost Gave Me Scoliosis

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Editor’s Note: Today’s post is written by Crystal Sprague. She is the director of MyRefugeHouse.com. Has your posture or health been negatively affected by this fear? Leave a comment and let us know. I have bad posture/lower back problems for the same reason, and I’m really curious to know how many others there are out there. – Lauren

I’ve had pretty severe back problems for years.

A few months ago, I tried out another Chiropractor.

X-rays confirmed that the abnormal grade of my spine was somewhere around 7% off with the unnatural curves in my upper and lower back extending in opposite directions. I don’t look terribly abnormal when I stand up, because the two sides balance each other out, but underneath the skin, my back is a bit of a mess.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to try Physical Therapy. The first thing the doctor said to me was: “Stand up straight. Stick out your chest. Pull your shoulders back. Stick out your butt. Your back is supposed to have an arch. Why aren’t you sticking out your butt? Like THIS.”

And then he proceeded to pull my posterior into a position that was not only uncomfortable from a decade of disuse, it also made my inner soul scream out in mild panic.

You see, as much as I loved my church in high school, and my pastors, they were pretty passionate about not hindering men/boys with unnecessary thoughts of lust.

When I say “pretty passionate,” what I mean is, it was usually a source of conversation weekly. And wearing something “inappropriate” would get you a private counseling session as well.

Because this is the thing: I was the girl whom God saved, wholly and passionately. He was filling my hurting little heart with grace and strength to push forward in a life that doesn’t always (or ever) make sense. And I wanted so desperately to please that God, AND the church who wrapped their arms around me so lovingly, that I went the extra measure. Or an extra 100 measures, if I thought I could.

With my whole self I wanted to please God. And if that meant not causing my brother to stumble, than I would go to every. single. measure. Even if it meant hiding my female body. And if I wasn’t accomplishing it, I must be at fault.

Cue baggy clothes, weight gain and over a decade of unhealthy self-worth. Cue standing in ways that hid my chest, my butt. Cue hunched shoulders and the inability to stop guilt and mild panic when men look at me. Cue eating disorder. Cue extreme back pain.

It wasn’t really my pastor’s fault. He saw an eager kid with a willing heart in a sea full of teens who often just didn’t want to listen. And I learned things during that stage of my life that have shaped me and changed me, in every way, for the better.

We live in a world of extremes. All in or all out. Yes or No. With us or against us.

But if I could go back, I would beg someone to show me a bit of balance. Plead with someone to show me that it’s ok to not be perfect in this crazy world, even if God is in your heart. Appeal to someone to show me that extremes are easy, and balance is more challenging… but much more sustainable.

And if I could go back, I would beg someone to tell me that my body is beautiful and a gift from God. To tell me that yes, I can and should stand up straight.


My Heart Was Broken At 17 When He Chose A Cheerleader Over Me

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Editor’s Note: Today’s story is by Lauren Bersaglio. She has created the Libero Network to bring awareness to and support for those recovering from eating disorders, depression, addiction, anxiety & abuse. She also tweets at @lauren_b_sag! – Lauren

“Thus the end of the commandment is love, and that twofold, the love of God and the love of our neighbor. Now, if you take yourself in your entirety,—that is, soul and body together,—and your neighbor in his entirety…you will find that none of the classes of things that are to be loved is overlooked in these two commandments….When it is said, “Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself,” it at once becomes evident that our love for ourselves has not been overlooked.”

-St. Augustine

Photo by Branden Harvey / / Design by Lauren Dubinsky

My heart was broken at the age of seventeen when he chose a cheerleader over me.

I assumed his decision was based on one thing: Me.

I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t pretty enough. And, most importantly, I wasn’t skinny enough. Never did I consider that maybe his choice had less to do with me and more to do with him. No, it was all my fault.

I would lie awake at night, praying, pleading with God: “God, if You love me, please, please just let me wake up skinny.” And usually I’d throw in the classic: “I’ll never ask for anything else again.” But despite my negotiation, my prayers weren’t answered. So I did what many of us do: I took matters into my own hands – I stopped eating.

And the self-destruction began: weighing myself, starving myself, over-exercising, cutting myself, weighing myself again – I was at war with my body and that is a battle one can never win.

A few months and too many lost pounds later, I decided to ‘smarten up’.

I started eating again, but mostly because I felt if I went on much longer my cover would be blown and my ugly secret would get out: I had an eating disorder. That couldn’t happen. So I kept on pretending that I was OK, painting over the wounds with denial.

I became obsessed with eating only ‘healthy foods’ and avoiding anything that years of diet commercials and ill-informed ‘health’ articles had convinced me was ‘bad’. I later found out the term for this obsession: Orthorexia.

As my disordered eating and compulsive exercise continued I would still flirt with old behaviours; when life got hard, I’d stop eating. When I felt fat, I’d stop eating. And when I felt guilt or shame, I’d self-harm; attempting to numb the internal pain by creating an external one.

This process went on for a couple of years; and then something happened: another heartbreak.

This is when Bulimia walked through my door, or maybe I walked through its door – I’m still not sure.

Bulimia became a lifestyle for me, a priority – I was in my second year of University and yet all I could think of was: binge, purge, repeat.

I was out of control.

The fear of purging led me to fear food; I couldn’t look at it, I couldn’t smell it, and I most certainly couldn’t eat it. I went three days without putting a single thing in my mouth. Not even juice. I asked my professor how long I could live like this. “Without food, a human has about thirty days.”

Thirty days? Thirty days was sooner than exams, thirty days was sooner than summer, thirty days was simply too soon.

I didn’t want to die!

It’s important to realize that with eating disorders, like with any form of self-harm, the goal of the individual is [typically] not to end one’s life; instead it is a way of coping with negative feelings and/or punishing one’s self due to low self-concept.

That’s what I learnt when I entered recovery; I learnt that my eating disorder behaviours were not the problem, they were the symptom.

And in order to stop the behaviours, I needed to address the source: I would need to learn to love myself.

As St. Augustine says, loving yourself isn’t just about loving your body, it’s also about loving your soul. It’s about loving who you are – inside and out – and so I began the journey to acquire self-love.

It wasn’t easy; a lot of emotions unravel when separating yourself from your eating disorder: guilt, shame, regret, anger… Everyone kept telling me I had to forgive myself. They kept telling me I had to love myself. I kept asking them why.

“Because Jesus forgave you, because Jesus loves You.”

It’s not that I didn’t know this – I’d heard the song, I even knew the actions to it – but my question remained: “Why?” Not why should I love myself, but why did Jesus love me?

“As the father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” (John 15:9)
“Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” (Genesis 2:7)
“He has made everything beautiful in its time.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

So there’s the answer; that’s why Jesus loves me. And that’s why I needed to love myself. He created me, ME, an individual, beautiful in my uniqueness. Beautiful in His eyes. And that’s the only beauty that matters.

I had been praying for the wrong thing seven years ago; rather than pray that I’d wake up and find myself skinnier, I should have been praying that in the morning I’d wake up and see myself the way Jesus saw me.

Recovery was a process, and it took a lot of physical, psychological, and spiritual healing. But I can now sit here today and say that it was worth it. It was so worth it. I can also say that, though I believe that self-love is an ongoing process, I do love myself – inside and out.

I want you to know that if you are going through an eating disorder, or disordered eating, or troubles with accepting your body the way it is, you can overcome this! And you can learn to love yourself. Recovery isn’t just for the ‘chosen few’; it’s for anyone who wants it, just like God’s grace. And recovery is possible: it has been 1.5 years since I last purged – and that is nothing less than a miracle. And every time I sit down to eat a meal, I am a witness of God’s grace and the freedom that comes with it. And that freedom, it’s a gift – for me, for you, for all of us.

I will leave you with this quote:

“It is finally so wonderful to have learned to eat, to taste and love what slips down my throat, padding me, filling me up, that I’m not uncomfortable calling it a small miracle. A friend who does not believe in God says, “Maybe not a miracle, but a little improvement,” but to that I say, Listen! You must not have heard me right: I couldn’t feed myself! So thanks for your input, but I know where I was, and I know where I am now, and you just can’t get here from there….So it was either a miracle…or maybe it was more of a gift….But whatever it was, learning to eat was about learning to live – and deciding to live; and it is one of the most radical things I’ve ever done.” –Anne Lamott


My First Love Letter

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Editor’s Note: When Emilie sent this in, she mentioned that she was so affected by the love letter I had written, she wrote one for herself. I’d seen several of them circulating on the Internet for months, and honestly? I thought it was silly. Someone challenged me to write one, and I thought it would be a waste of my time. But it changed my life. And again, Emilie’s letter has changed me. I cannot recommend enough that you write one to yourself. Emilie Loehr blogs here and tweets at @emilieloehr. – Lauren

Photo by Elizabeth Ewing / / Design by Lauren Dubinsky

My dear, dear friend,

…oh, I’m so glad to be able to call you that tonight…

I love you! I think you should know that I want to jump up and down and cry and hug you. And oh, how fitting, since you have been spending your life longing for that love but so scared of it! I’m so glad you get to love now.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Maybe I should explain why I’m writing to you. You and I have been through some ridiculous things together. I know; I can’t believe we made it here, either. Especially not with the way I’ve treated you.

I’ve worn you out, and I know you flinch when you hear me open my mouth. This is different. I want to tell you what I should have told you long ago. I’ve been so dishonest with you. I’ve lied to you so many times. And I’ve punished you for my lies — viciously, sadistically, for years and years. Not only that, but the same lies I told to you about yourself, I told to others about you. I let them treat you the way I chose to see you — worthless, disposable, wasted, a less-than-optimal means to an unattainable end, simply unlovely.

I let people call you terrible names to my face, and I echoed those names to you in our bed at night. I let them tell me what you needed to change, and then I wrote you lists of the ways you failed me and taped them to the insides of your schoolchild binders:
too slow
too ugly
too tall
too fat
too stupid
too emotional
too much.

But I yelled over your words when you tried to tell me what you meant to do for me and how much you loved me.

I went into the bathroom while you showered and wrote ‘worthless’ in the steam on your mirror with my fingers.

I left you notes under your plate at the breakfast table, notes that said, ‘nothing tastes as good as thin feels.’

I told you I loved you, then, that this was for your good. Because you were good-for-nothing.

I didn’t love you. When you were sick, I berated you for your pathetic stamina and refused you medical treatment. When you were tired, I made you run for miles and kept you up all night. When you were emotional, I beat you up. When you were hungry, I starved you. When you were thirsty, I hid your glass of ice water. When you were hot, I made you wear long, thick sleeves, and when you froze, I took your coat and laughed at you as you sat, shivering. When you were uncomfortable, I deserted you in dangerous places. When you were attacked, I lied about your whereabouts and defended your attackers. And when you were in pain? When you were in pain I took a blade and cut your skin to quiet you.

I hated you, my dear.

You were so patient. Your heart didn’t fail. Your legs kept moving. Your hands kept reaching out, no matter how many times I slapped them. You still tried to wear dresses in the summer. Your hair still grew back in thick curls. You still recovered from illnesses and came back, your skin still grew back over the cuts, your eyes still searched the page earnestly for answers. You still kept me warm in the winter and cool in the summer. You still let me go running with you and feel the wind in my hair. You still let me hold your children and sing your songs. You still begged me to love, even though all I’d shown you was hate.

So now I’m telling the truth. Because I can’t ignore how good you’ve been to me.

Each joint in your perfect fingers, your strong hands, uncoiling and recoiling, is like a piece of music.

When you wake up with messy hair on top of your head, it makes me laugh.

Your scars are breathtaking. I watch people fall in love with your story and the One who made you, all the time, because of them.

Nothing puts a smile on my face like watching you hold your arms open wide to your siblings.

Nothing makes me grin like your stretch marks. Who knew that someone could change so much?

Your eyes are radiant, like the ocean, changing colors.

Your ears are perfect, sticking out just enough to hear so many words of life and love and wisdom and stories.

I love your legs, strong and ready to climb in the sunshine. I love them even when they’re tired and weak.

I love the faces you make. Only He could make someone who can twist their face and make my sides split like you do.

All the other little pieces of you, the big pieces, the pieces in between, they work so well together. It makes me so happy.

You are resilient. You have been there for me for every single piece of my life. And you will be here til I die. You are a masterpiece. You’ve walked with me through recovery days. You remember every protein shake, every terrible lunch, every run we didn’t take. You remember everything. And yet you graciously forget when we lie together in the sunshine.

I haven’t loved you well. But I’m ready to learn. I’ve been so terrified to commit to you. But I want to spend the rest of our life together. I’m done pretending that I can desert you and still be a whole person. I will take care of you, in sickness and in health. I will listen to you. I will be honest with you and learn to hear you when you are honest with me. I will still fail. But I will love you.

It’s okay if you’re wary of this, if it takes you time to heal and trust me. We’ve gone to counselors and doctors and friends, and we’ll keep on going as long as we need to. I did a lot of damage, and I accept that it may take a lot to prove that I am not lying this time. Be skeptical. I’ll welcome the challenge.

I do. I love you.

Thank you for staying with me. Here’s to so much more for us.

Love always,
Me

P.S. I guess as far as love letters go, this one probably sucks since I don’t have much experience. I plan on getting much more practice writing you love letters for the rest of our life.


A Story On Confidence, Compliments, And Street Harassment

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Editor’s Note: Street harassment and compliments from strangers can bring up a messy contradiction of emotions in our hearts. Over the last few months, we’ve been exploring how we as women receive approval from men on the street. I recently wrote, Understanding Why Street Harassment and Cat-calls Scrape At Our Hearts, and Grace wrote a beautiful piece last year about Anger, Cat-calls and Forgiveness. Today, our amazing intern Megan Acheampong shares a story and some pieces of her heart that were revealed this summer. – Lauren

I used to internally bask in a fleeting yet overpowering glory when someone told me I was beautiful. Logically, of course, I realize that being compassionate, smart, and funny (insert other non aesthetic traits here) are the most salient characteristics of what God has instilled in me. As fiercely as one may deny it though, most women take distinct pleasure in this veneered form of flattery as long as it’s done in a respectful way. Living in Europe for 5 months warped my perception of the compliment I used to yearn for. Particularly what stands out in my mind is a time when someone told me I was beautiful, with what I believe were the most genuine intentions, and my usual elation became a shriveled up, futile form of it.

I’d never been, to my extreme luck, victim of a hate crime. I acknowledge that I was a rare sight in the city I was living. I am an African American woman with big, unstraightened hair and I had become so used to being gawked at that it became routine. One uneventful day, instead of the usual stares, two men spouted noises of a monkey in my direction and spit on me. One of the aggressors then came towards me with what looked like a punch. As others watched in awe, a man rushed to my defense, and the two scampered off.

Photo by Branden Harvey / / Design by Lauren Dubinsky

I was livid. I was distraught but mostly I was exhausted. I collapsed on the ground of one of the most grand and historic plazas in Europe and broke into tears. I won’t lie to you, reader.

I felt entirely small and dispensable.

I wallowed and asked Jesus to take care of me. I searched for His embrace and for once I was completely unaware of my surroundings. The man who had defended me rushed to my side with a group of his friends and said, “Please, don’t cry, you are beautiful.”

Although I thanked him for his active kindness, I thought to myself, “what does beauty have to do with it?!” And just like that, the girl who soaked up aesthetic compliments like it was the sun on a wintry day, now found it entirely irrelevant. An insult to injury – that beauty was all I should be concerned about.

The small glory I felt prior to this experience had rushed away and it shattered my world. My beauty in regard to others’ perception suddenly didn’t mean nearly as much to me anymore and the source of my confidence simultaneously vanished.

That night was heartbreaking but it was also pivotal; afterwards, I began rebuilding my heart.

It finally had sunk in that the perception of Christ was supreme.

I now have a constant reminder that I am stunning, and that unwavering strength and encouragement comes from Christ.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s something that I have to work on; it’s an ongoing struggle. I struggle through my insecurity and through my confidence in the light of the perception of man. What’s different now is that when I sense myself placing too many pieces of my value in my attractiveness to other people, I remember that God’s love triumphs over any form of flattery and I am thereby no longer basking in my own fleeting glory but God’s permanent glory.

This is not to say that one can’t enjoy a compliment, it’s just to remind women that the source of those honeyed words is embedded in you. It does not rely upon another’s opinion. You are absolutely stunning. So I ask you, reader, just like I was forced to ask myself, where does your well of confidence spring from?


Body Image + Beauty: When It Isn’t A Skinny Day.

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Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Laura Colle. She blogs at laurajeancolle.blogspot.com, and you can follow her at @ljcolle. Also, you know how I know God is who he says he is? When I’ve heard word for word from him, enveloped in the same feelings, what someone else has – and I’ve never spoken to her a day in my life.Lauren

My eyes open and I am greeted with the feeling that I know will help my day start off on a good foot:

I feel skinny.

Granted I am lying down and that is when gravity becomes your friend, but still, I feel skinny. As my feet hit the floor my mood is already on the upswing as I look forward to wearing those skinny jeans and maybe, just maybe a non “I want to hide my tummy” shirt. I make my way to the full length mirror and am tempted to not take a look, afraid my early morning high will be deflated. I take a deep breath, lift my over sized sleep shirt just so, and yes! I cant believe it - my tummy actually looks flatter! There is a God!

I had to stop myself from actually jumping up and down and letting out a “yipee!” I have been going to the gym, pushing myself a little bit and actually been eating pretty good. Ok, so when I get a bit overwhelmed I give in to that tempting bag of skittles and Diet Coke. But other then that, I have been on track and doing it right.

My eye catches the devil in the room. It has been neglected and collecting dust for months in fear of the truth it may behold. I dread the digital red numbers as they just keep going up and up and up and up. I have avoided this horrid invention as of late, but today, I feel as though I can face my dreaded total. I get rid of all what could be excess numbers and take a step on. The math begins and just so I don’t give into the cowardliness of what it could be, I close my eyes. Silently I weight for the “beep beep”. It’s finished. It has the results of what could be the end of my “skinny”. I open my eyes and my reality is faced.

Photo by Jessica Clouse Photography

WHAT?!

It’s broken. It HAS to be broken. After all, I haven’t used it in months so that means the possibility of a malfunction is high on the list. This cannot be right.

My skinny is gone. Done. Depleted.

Okay. So I gave in a few times to the skittles. Maybe even to the mexican food. And the gym had been a little more scarce lately. But this? No. I am not suppose to see that number. I used to be this crazy health nut and had the will power of Jesus to say no to all things sweet and salty. Past few months? Not so much.

My skinny high is gone and I head to my closet, once again longing for winter so I can hide behind hoodies and scarves. I go for my default and grab the leggings that hold in my tummy and a blouse top so I don’t have to suck in.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t care so much and I could be one of those people who just lets it all hang out anyway. But I care, way too much.

As I continue to get ready for the day I head to the shower to take care of my crazy curly mane and try and wash the feelings away. With the towel loosely around my body and my hair wrapped up I hear something that nearly knocks me to my knees. It felt so real. So alive.

God – you want me to do what? No. I can’t. I refuse. It’s ugly. It’s imperfect and I cant look at…me.

The full length mirror of terror, truth and all that is visibly wrong with me meets me as I walk into my room. I stand there as the tears start to well and let the towel hit the floor when I hear my Creator.

How dare you call what I created not good enough.

His arms capture my emotions, my mind and myself as I realize the pride that as been overtaking me for years. When all else seemed to be falling apart, I had this to control. I had this to see as something I could fix. But even then, standing in the rawness that was my imperfection, I could hear Him whisper the truth. I’m not broken.

God, thank You are fighting for me. Thank You for meeting me right where I need you – naked, dripping in humility. You created all things in Your image and in Your sight including me. Forgive me for taking over and allowing my pride to think that I can “correct” what You have already deemed perfect.

Help me in my unbelief and to stand strong in the WOMAN You have made.

For You are Creator. And I am created.

More on the topic: We love “Healthy vs. Skinny” by Darling Magazine.


A Letter To My Younger Self On Valentine’s Day

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Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Stephanie, over at For Such A Time As This. I adore it. You would do well to print it out and hang it next to your bed. – Lauren

Hey. Stop what you’re doing for a minute and listen. You aren’t going to believe everything I’m about to say, but I know you will understand it. I know you, and I know what you’re thinking. Maybe you will recognize me. Maybe you won’t.

First things first, you’re gorgeous. I know you don’t think that, and I know right now you’re smiling and inwardly negating my words; you do that a lot. Stop it. God made you. You don’t know Him that well yet, so you don’t understand this, but He formed every part of you. He molded your face, gave you that hair you try to cover up. He made you with hips (not the bad thing you think it is). And all those curves that make you feel disproportionate? He made those too. He made your nose and your eyes and he made you a little shy.

You feel cheated right now, wondering why the God of the universe didn’t make you alluring or talkative or anything like the girls you wish you were, but you’re wrong. You’re so wrong. Because, when God made you, he didn’t step back and look at the finished product and say, “good enough”. He didn’t grimace when he realized he made a few mistakes, but ushered you out into the world anyway. He didn’t even nod and think he had done pretty well. No. He saw you and he was enthralled. Girl, the king is enthralled with your beauty. Why? Because you – because the woman he made – was absolutely gorgeous.

I know you don’t feel that way, when the boys in the hallway try to rate your beauty on a scale of ten, when they make you feel unseen, unwanted. Don’t listen to them. Ignore them. For they are just boys and you are a woman – not one of their playthings. You surpass their scale; no one can assign your beauty a number, a rating, a degree. Those who try and do such things are mere fools, not worth being heard. Yeah, their opinion seems like the world to you now, and the things they say cut deep, but you’ll get through it and soon they will be as laughable to you as they are to me now.

You think your brain is your only redeeming quality; you feel threatened when people try to challenge that. You tell yourself that if you can’t be pretty, at least you can be smart, but that’s not true either. God made you beautiful and He made you smart, so stop putting yourself down, stop believing lies (you made most of them up anyway; in a few years, you will realize that). You feel like no one will ever understand you, and they probably won’t, but that’s part of what makes you beautiful. God made you mysterious.  You wouldn’t be you if people entirely understood you.

You don’t believe me. I know that. You won’t understand for another few years. You’re asking yourself how anything I say can be true, when deep down you feel so small and unseen. You don’t feel beautiful or powerful or anything like a woman when you sit in the back of the class room silent, avoiding eye contact with the “pretty girls” and the teacher who knows that, though you won’t speak, you have so much to say. That’s right; you don’t fool me. I know how your mind is racing, how badly you yearn to be heard despite your fear of speaking. Your stutter really isn’t that bad.

Girl, things aren’t going to be easy, getting here. Sometimes it’s going to hurt – a lot. But some day you’ll understand what I’m saying. Some day you will come to terms with the truth that God made you beautiful, and the lies you once believed will enrage you. Some day you will be angry at the world that pressed those unhealthy expectations and feelings of failure onto your heart, and you’re going to fight. You’re going to make war on those lies – in your life and in the lives of others. That’s right. Some day there are going to be women who look up to you, and you’re going to understand the struggle in their eyes. You’re going to see in them the girl to whom I am writing this letter. It’s still going to be a struggle for you; it isn’t always going to be easy, but God is on your side.

And you will grow, step by step, day by day, as I am growing now, as you learn what it means to be a woman deeply loved by the Lord.

Listen to me. Please. You are beautiful, just how God made you. If nothing else, please understand that. Cling to it. Cling to the truth that God made you well.

And keep fighting. I’ll see you on the other side.


You Are OK, But It Is Not OK: Two Things Every Woman Must Know

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Editor’s Note: This incredible, incredible post was written by Billye Wynn. She is one-half of Wyatt & Wynn, the authors of the upcoming book, The Last Beholder. You can follow them at wyattandwynn.com or on Twitter at @wyattandwynn. And PS, you MUST follow them. They are full of surprises. – Lauren

When I was a little girl, there were two things a person could say about a female: you were either pretty or charming. Now that I’m grown, and now that I have grandchildren, I am made aware by the spectrum of beauty, intelligence, wit, and inner being that is constantly hovering over the heads of every waking woman at all times during the day.

We mentally assign numbers to creatures of hidden holiness as we interact with them. I do it every day. My daughter comes in and her hair is atrocious. I slide her “beauty” marker over to “needs improvement”. She says something complimentary about my wit and her “intelligence” marker moves to the “in perfect order” area.

This practice was, as most practices are, most likely taught to us by people in our lives that didn’t have the emotional capacity to properly see us. Someone we desperately loved couldn’t love us back the perfect way we held up in our hearts, and the measurement system popped up over our heads.

If you had any sort of decent parenting at all, you certainly heard the words: “you are fine, just the way you are” at some point during your childhood. This came from a person who wanted to shield you from the measuring system, who wanted to implant goodness and truth and beauty in your brain before the Kardashians could worm their way in there.

Unfortunately, the Kardashians are very wormy.

Because, truth be told, even if someone has managed to set you straight, the world is constantly yelling at you that you’re wonderful, and what a great personality you have, but it’s whispering lies to you. And although lies about beauty and physical appearance are the foremost criminals, there are more subtle lies: lies about your heart, lies about your mind, and lies about your soul, which if not stopped, will create cracks in you that can only be absolved by death, cracks that you will carry with you and use to form a half-life for yourself, until you die, and Jesus holds your face in his hands and tells you the Truth.

And a beautiful thing about the Gospel of our Lord is that we are okay. Scripture upon scripture of being formed by his hands, of being known before birth, of being made in His image, of wearing the mark of the Holy Spirit upon us. And we, as believers, know that Jesus is perfecting us, daily, hourly, by the minute, but the hard part is stepping out of our homes and into the world, and steeling yourself against the agents of death that seem to skip ahead of us everywhere we go.

You are okay, but it’s not okay.

It doesn’t take a Tesla or a Twain or a Tennyson to tell us that the world is in pieces, shattered and shredded beyond man’s repair. There is poverty (which, in most cases, is not the noble of cinema or our minds, but soul-crushing and unbearable, causing mothers to make decisions that you or I could never dwell upon), there is jealousy, there is greed, there is resentment, there is a void of forgiveness, of courage to stand against these things. And it seems that even the people who do try and help are but drops of water in the ocean, and no one can ever seem to find the answer to the all the pain. Even the religious, who claim that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life can’t seem to offer more than platitudes and a feeble (yet hopeful) promise that all shall be well, one day, probably too far off to even see right now.

And that’s just the sickness inside the nations and civilizations, to speak nothing of our own hearts. Even the best of us harbor black thoughts that fester inside of us, hemming and hawing at our attempts of goodness. The world, and souls who have been tainted by the world, come at our inner selves with scrapers and chippers, ready to bruise, ready to steal, and hoping to devour so that they will not feel so bone-shatteringly alone.

This world and its inhabitants are not okay. You are okay, but it’s not okay.

These two truths vibrate in the universe as opposite magnetized forces. How can we be okay, and everything in the world, and in our own hearts, be so powerfully and painfully wrong? The answer is not easy. It comes in the form of one of those platitudes I spoke of earlier, which is in fact not a heavenly brush off, but the key to why we feel so tired, so sick, and so broken.

“I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:10-11)

Our hearts were not made for this realm. Our souls are constantly pressing against the constraints set upon it the moment Adam and Eve took the first bites and our feelings of malaise and malcontent haunt us, because we’re butterflies flopping about in a mason jar, when the true world is behind unbreakable glass and warped in our vision.

It’s possible (probable, really) that God is set above time, outside of it, so that He isn’t bothered with it. Which means that while we’re here on earth, we feel the tug of our true selves, set outside of time, already in communion with the Lord, the time when we are truly and finally okay. But since we live within time and the various spaces it occupies, we continue to fruitlessly throw our bodies against the glass, knowing that something else is there, but unable to truly see it, unable to take part.

So you are okay. You are okay because God has chosen you. Because Jesus Christ was so desperately in love with you, and eager to have you as a co-heir in the Kingdom of Heaven, and because the grace and glory of God is too much for anyone to bear, that he died for you, because while you’re okay, you’re not okay. But that’s okay. Because you’ve been redeemed, you’re a precious lamb that is worth more than angels, you have value, you have worth.

But the world is broken beyond repair other than by way of a miracle. And praise God, that miracle is coming. It will be here one day, and we will see His face, and His hands will wipe tears away, and the Truth will hold us tightly.

Reject the measurement system. It has no place hanging over any woman’s head who calls upon the name of the Lord. Know that you’re okay. But it’s not okay. But soon, it will be.


What I Learned About Gaining 15lbs In 2011

Editor’s Note: Today’s post was written by Jessica Eschezabal. She tweets at @jessieeche. One of our topics this year was beauty & body image, and we had so many incredible submissions. Our body weight and what we see in the mirror is a daily fight for most of us – but not one we are meant to be fighting. If you’d like to read more stories on this, check them out here. – Lauren

If I had to describe a large portion of 2011 in one word it would be obsession.

I was obsessed with my body. Always trying to make it more beautiful. And the worst part was that it was a secret struggle.

I gained about 15 pounds during the summer of 2010. Once I got back home, the number on the scale scared me to death. All of a sudden, I looked in the mirror and saw a different person. I saw someone I didn’t want to look like.

I’m still not completely sure what caused such an intense insecurity. Why I desperately needed to lose the weight. But that didn’t seem to matter at the time. All I wanted to do was get back to normal. And while I was at it, I decided I wanted to pursue the best body I could get.

I wasted countless hours online looking through exercises, magazines, and at models. I have always liked and appreciated fashion, but this time I got sucked into the fashion industry and all of its pressures.

Everything was about me, me, me.

During this time God was knocking at my door but I was too busy on the computer to get up and open it. One of my best friends approached me several times asking me if I was okay because I looked thinner. I would assure her I was fine, but inside I had a terrible knot in my stomach knowing what I was doing was so wrong.

But I couldn’t stop.

I tried several times to stop looking at models on Tumblr. I was successful for several days, and even felt a hint of freedom. But I would soon find myself scrolling through the pages again. I was chained.

I couldn’t eat food without mentally calculating calories or thinking about what the ingredients might be. I went to bed thinking about it, and woke up thinking about it. I never thought I had a problem, but today I will completely acknowledge the fact that I was developing a psychological disorder: anorexia nervosa.

But then God saved me.

One morning I woke up and I’d had enough. I couldn’t live like this anymore. It was eating me alive. God was pounding at my door. He couldn’t stand seeing His beautiful daughter destroying herself. He couldn’t stand seeing His precious creation being consumed by His enemy’s lies. He wanted me back.

And I finally opened the door.

I went to my university that morning and confessed everything to my best friend and asked for accountability. I decided I would not exercise any longer until I felt I could do it without the wrong motives. I deactivated all my email subscriptions to the latest exercise routine and diet tips. I deleted all the fashion Tumblrs I followed and all the models I followed on Twitter. I cleaned my room of garbage. I was done.

What gave me the power to all of a sudden drop everything I held onto so tightly? God. I did not do it on my own. It would have been impossible. God filled my broken body with strength and I was able to stand up again. You will not find that strength elsewhere.

This is what I learned about body image: if your eyes are on yourself, you will never be satisfied. This world offers counterfeit beauty. You have it for several years and then it’s gone. Fashion models are an illusion. They are not real. (Don’t believe me? Go watch the Dove Evolution video.)

God said, “Fix your eyes on me.” And so I did. And everything changed.

I saw myself as God’s creation. Beautifully and wonderfully made.

I never had to live chained to the lies of this world. God sent His son to die for me so that sin no longer had a hold on me. I didn’t have to be “beautiful enough” for Him. So why was I living as if I were still chained to that?

In 2011 I learned how to live a life of victory. Learning from my past mistakes and applying the lessons to my future.

The thoughts still come back to haunt me. But I don’t need to submit to them any longer. When I am completely consumed by Christ, I lose sight of myself. I don’t matter anymore. It’s not about me, but Him.

I want my security to come from a different source. Not the world, but Christ.

One of my favorite authors, Leslie Ludy, describes a girl consumed by Jesus perfectly, “Her value comes from knowing she has been redeemed and loved by the King of all kings. Her focus is on His desires, not on her selfish wants.”

That is what I am striving for. I am definitely not all there, but I am getting one step closer each day. This is my goal for 2012.

“They care not at all what the world thinks of them, because they are entirely taken up with the tremendous realities of their King.” —Bishop Bardsley


Sex: A Story About Being Chosen.

Editor’s Note: Sometimes stories need to be told. And sometimes they’re a little long. This is a story worth sharing, worth reading, worth hearing. This is Rachel’s story. And at least a little part of it is your own. Rachel blogs Learning To Whistle and tweets at @r_moneyduh. – Lauren

I don’t remember the exact moment when I decided to “save myself for marriage,” but I do remember it being a constant theme in my upbringing. Though my parents failed to ever sit me down and give me the scoop on the birds and the bees, I was surrounded by people in my high school youth group who helped me establish this idea in my mind. “Save myself” was my mantra. And I stuck to it. Because losing myself? That would be the worst.

I became an abstinence advocate within my friend group, and largely underestimated how hard it is for some girls not to have sex. My naivety made me arrogant, with tendencies toward invincible.

I got a great boyfriend who picked me flowers, told me he loved me and held my hand as we skipped off into the Hills of Innocence Lost. He was admirable, honest, strong, kind. Years later, he broke my heart, with special attention to Infidelity and A Web of Lies. I could spend an entire post on the hardships of being betrayed, but frankly, no good comes from re-living the past over and over. I’m practicing that whole “write injuries in the dust” thing.

But, you need to know that I trusted him when he told me he loved me. I believed him when he said I was beautiful, perfect, and going to be his wife eventually. And I gave him the deepest level of intimacy possible. The aforementioned “myself” that I was supposedly “saving.”

And every time I felt him pulling away emotionally, I gave more physically.

And each time, that kept him around a little bit longer.

I became a trained expert on the art of seduction. Every time I convinced him, I felt like I had won. I felt victorious.

I felt like I was in control.

Perhaps now you see the problem with this particular phrasing. All of “myself” had been poured into this one act, this one thing. Imagine my dismay when I gave that up. “Myself” was gone, in a moment. And the point isn’t really that in that moment, I felt empty and different. The point is that after that first time, I stopped letting myself feel empty and different; I convinced myself that those emotions were not happening. 

After that first boy, I stopped feeling really anything during sex. It was most definitely fun, and gave me a rush of adrenaline and excitement, pleasure and empowerment. But after the Boy Who Loved Me became the Boy Who Betrayed Me, I stopped understanding sex in the way it was created to be understood.

The biggest lie I took away from the entire thing was that I would not be chosen. Sure, I was funny enough and charming enough and sometimes even pretty enough. I said enough, did enough, laughed enough, and eventually even gave enough. But once compared to Someone Better, I would not be chosen.

I wandered off into the arms – and beds – of more boys, none of whom loved me. None even professed to love me; that was no longer required by my standards. All I needed was to be chosen, even in this small act. Because even though there was the First Boy who didn’t choose me, I was able to find a few who would.

While I think what happened over the course of that next year is technically referred to as “sexual addiction”, I can honestly say that it’s not the sex I was addicted to. It was the before, and the after.

The moment before, when there is hesitation mixed with urgency, splashed with fear and unknown. I was addicted to being in control of my body and another’s. I knew what to do to cause him to lose control, which made me feel successful.

And then there’s the moment after. When the sheets settle and the breathing slows and the eyes slowly open and man plus woman lay in their perfect nakedness, feeling all the safety in the world. Before anyone speaks, or nervously shuffles back to their clothing, the serenity of that moment is deafening. And as soon as someone spoke, as soon as I was ushered to leave, I felt even dirtier, even emptier than before. And it caused me to want sex all over again.

Truth be told, I can’t quite recall a time when I actually enjoyed sex. It has never been tender, it has never been sweet, it has never been pleasurable. I have never made love to anyone. Every time I have ever had sex, I have eagerly anticipated the end, so that I could stop. I think I actually hated it.

I knew I was creating a huge hole in my being. I knew it deep inside of myself, but I refused to acknowledge that. Instead I pushed that voice down to a place where I could not hear it, and I would be back in the arms of another lover soon enough. I’d be back at my place of control.

“While we’re young and beautiful” became my new mantra, and I felt entitled to the lifestyle I led. I felt like I needed it. Like I had been missing out during all those years of “saving.” I placed my identity in the attention I could get and I felt sexy for the first time in my life. I knew that every boy I was with was simply attracted to my appearance, and I ignored the ache that it left within my heart. I had spent my time with a boy who loved my soul, and he screwed everything up. So I might as well get my kicks. Doesn’t matter if their heart is in it, it just matters I have fun before it all goes up in flames.

Nothing noteworthy triggered my turnaround point, but my world finally came crashing down. I am equally ashamed and grateful for the moment I woke up, and realized that I could not, should not, be living this way.

My healing has come from several different sources, but one in particular was in the moment when I confessed my past lifestyle to my current boyfriend. He knew pieces, but not the whole thing; we were waiting for an appropriate time to talk about it. Talk about “fears: realized.”

We sat on the ground next to lake and I guided him through those few years of my life. I realized something vital as I spoke that day; I had felt guilty for my mistakes. I had repented. I had felt forgiveness. But I don’t think I had ever felt sorry before. And while I told my boyfriend everything, I felt sorry, truly remorseful for the first time in my life. Because I painfully realized that my previous lifestyle did not only affect me, it affected him.

The look on his face is hard to forget – pain and surprise and anger and hurt, all in one pair of bright blue eyes. As I wept uncontrollably, I felt sorry in every nerve on my body. My hair felt sorry, my arms felt sorry, my body was heavy with sorry. It made me understand sin in a deeper way: what I did was selfish in more ways than I knew. I was repeatedly hurting someone who, though I didn’t know him then, I now love very deeply. And then he held me and rocked me as I sobbed away my fear and sorrow.

And as my breathing slowed, and my eyes opened, I felt the safest I have ever felt. No amount of safety I ever felt in the after-moments of sex before could ever compare to the heights and depths of safety I felt in those arms by the lake that day. And that’s when I understood forgiveness on a deeper level. I know that I am forgiven. But this is one of the consequences of not guarding my heart. My sweet, tender, strong boyfriend has to suffer my consequences. He chooses to.

I didn’t give “myself” away. My identity was not lost in the arms of a boy, it was not given up in the heat of a moment. Something sacred was given up, absolutely. But “myself” is still intact. I am chosen by the King of Kings, just as I am.  My identity is partially found in the crevices of my story, but it is fundamentally founded on who I am in Christ. My beauty enthralls Him; He has crafted me together from day one. He is nowhere near through with me, and rejoices over me with or without my mistakes.

I did not lose myself by giving up sex. But I am finding myself every single day in the arms of safety, forgiveness, and love. My whole life, my every day is better than any “after-moment” I could ever experience, because I get to dance around in the freedom of grace – getting that which I do not deserve. Thank God.


Bodies & Beauty: Never Beautiful Enough.


Editor’s Note: We live in a culture that has idolized beauty. A culture that has promised us we will find joy in beauty and youth and perfection, and nowhere else. Hannah Brencher shares a story about the little orphan girls in Haiti, their all-consuming joy, and what she sees in the mirror. Hannah is the Communications Associate for Save the Children & Researcher for  She’s the First. She blogs at HannahKaty.com & tweets at @hannahkatybLauren

I ask him to tell me the story nearly every time his voice picks up on the other line.

I am like a breathy child in need of his bedtime tale; for the way he unravels the deeper story, like a chocolate wrapped tight in tinfoil, is just too good, far too sweet, to hear only once. Or Twice.

He tells me of the orphanage in the Honduras where he spent a summer. Building and expanding the grounds. The Little Girls scampered and played, the crowns of their heads kissed endlessly by the Sun, as he and the other workers toiled in the distance, mixing concrete and sweat with buckets of compassion to give these girls more room to play.

As the fireflies came out to light up the dusk, he and working men would wipe their brows and walk back closer to the school to be fed by the laughter and joy of the Little Girls. Little Girls with no arms. No Legs. Limbless. Untouchable in their own society. Girls who would be categorized as “incomplete” in our very own society.

“But they were the happiest children I have ever seen, ”he told me.“

It’s as if you can hear the tune of “Jesus loves the little children,” rising up, stomping its feet, to tell the world of nonbelievers it is a song coming to life as he tells me about those Beautiful Little Ones. Over & Over Again.

Missing arms & legs, and yet missing nothing at all.

The story always leaves me sitting before a full length mirror wondering what happened. What happened in my own life to leave me believing that even with arms that swing and feet that dance, I am missing something? That I am not good enough?

While those little girls scrounge the dirt for insects and flowers, I scour the shopping malls and my own body for perfection, something I know will never exist. For if it were not my hips then it would be my thighs. And after my freckles, then my stomach.

Perhaps its never that we grow to be perfect but we grow to learn the loveliness behind what’s there in the mirror. What God chose to put there all along. I cannot be certain, I haven’t learned this lesson myself yet. In fact, I’m shooting through the dark, afraid this is the lesson I was meant to learn all along.

I gave up beauty magazines for a year just two months ago. It has been sixty days since my hands slid across a glossy cover and unearthed the secrets to slimmer thighs and better biceps. And yet I am still standing at the fore font of the mud I know I need to sink my feet within; the reason I gave up my own 120-pages of Heaven to begin with. God and I. We still need to converse about my interior and the ways He desires to mold me to be more like His Son.

Like a little child desperate to ignore the request of her parent, I will throw just about any kind of tantrum to keep me fixated on the outside, on the unimportant exterior details that will surely keep me far too busy to ever do any real kind of Soul Fixing.

Just let me fix my split ends, God, and then we can get to my jealousy. Oh please, oh please, let me focus on smooth skin and then in no time we will be chatting about last summer and why I still cannot let you take it from my shoulders.

I know if I plucked away from my day the hour or two spent checking my teeth or scrutinizing the size of my thighs  I would probably have a good chunk of time on my hands. Time to start fixing other things. Relationships. Sins.

I’d rather stick to the mirror.

There I’ll stay. Wrapped up good. Wrapped up tight. Spending tiny eternities fixated on my own body image before I step any closer towards morphing myself into His own image. Until I admit it to myself: I wont be an ounce holier, a bit happier, with more toned shoulders.

“I don’t want to change,” I say under my breath.

“But I cannot leave you this way,” God says back. “You and I both know I  could never leave you this way.

It hurts. It crushes. To clutch the hand of my God as he leads me to the car crashes that line up in my soul. I want to grab the tweezers instead. I want to dart over to Sephora and submerge myself in shelves of glittery eyeshadow before I ever have to deal with what brews inside my own heart, what God could absolutely stand to see changed. The Ugliness that keeps me standing still and far off from the Bigger Plans he has for me.

Because it would be so scary, oh so scary, to see for the first time that I don’t need thirty day plans or diet secrets. That I don’t need more makeup and tinier jeans. That He spun me and made me for greater works that we both will never see to pass until I give up my  body image ammunition and surrender at His Feet.

Because only when I dare to get ugly with my God will He make me more beautiful.

Only when I stop praying for outer beauty will He put me to work with the insides of others.

Only when I turn away from the mirror will I see the beauty there is to be stitched within the world and the real part I was made to play in all of it.


Bodies & Beauty: Made With Purpose.

Editor’s Note: Today’s intro is short & sweet. “Made With Purpose” was written by Victoriah Lienemann, and I need to read this every single day. – Lauren

Recently, I spent a blistering hot day at the pool with some of my best girlfriends. Most of the students who stay in the city for the summer spend their lazy days here, lounging by the water. I often find myself frustrated though, attempting to relax while my head is spinning with negative thoughts being shot out from all around me.

“She has such a flat stomach, I can’t believe I am even wearing a bathing suit right now.”

“Look at her long, blonde hair…she is so pretty. Guys love girls like her.”

“I wish I looked like her.” (more…)


Bodies & Beauty: Invisible, Painful, & Perfect.

Editor’s Note: After an entire month of reading submissions like this, I have come to determine that we truly forget that “beauty is fleeting.” True beauty, beauty that gives life and is to be treasured, lasts forever. It continues to give, to inspire, & to do what beauty is intended to do in the beginning: Bring glory to it’s Creator. This beautiful story was written by Laura. She blogs at Daily Dose of Sugar Mama & you can read a little more about her here. – Lauren

Her disfigured and swollen hand reached over to rest on my leg as we sat side by side on the front porch swing. We both watched as the traffic slowly drove by her small white house with its flower-filled window boxes and large oak tree. She couldn’t see the detail of the cars like I could. She could only vaguely see the color of the flowers, no longer knowing their type.  The swing creaked with each gradual swing, and we sat without saying a word.

But her hands spoke to me.

They are gnarled and ugly to most that see them. Their arthritic deformities keep her from doing the things she had done for years before: no more late nights knitting in her overstuffed chair, no more canning beets from her garden, and no more writing in the cursive that become so familiar to me. (more…)


Bodies & Beauty: The Ugly Child.

Editor’s Note: This beautiful post was written by Nneka Obidike. She also wrote Profile Of A Good Woman for us earlier. I read this submission before ever seeing a photo of her, and surprise – she is stunning and radiant. Made beautiful both inside and out. It never fails to encourage me how God must take us on journeys of our own before we find that we are truly beautiful. Nneka was just married a few weeks ago, resides in Los Angeles, and blogs over at Faces of Industry. – Lauren

I was about 7 or 8 years old when I first realized that I was ugly.

The revelation came to me after years of wondering why the praise and accolades that were freely showered on my striking siblings were never thrown my way. The manicurist at a nail spa my mother frequented commented that I must look like my father since my mother was so pretty. (PS: Said manicurist had never met my father, who was a very handsome figure). But suddenly, everything made sense. Her comment explained the odd glances I received from visitors. It explained my grandmother’s hushed concerned whispers whilst pointing in my direction. It explained… so much.

In addition, it appeared as if that careless comment served as an opening for the floodgates of emotional abuse. Or perhaps now that I understood what was going on, I had become more sensitive to it, and life following was brutal. (more…)


Bodies & Beauty: My Body After Childbirth

Editor’s Note: This was the most difficult story I’ve read for Good Women Project. Megan takes us through the heart wrenching, painful honesty of a woman’s view of herself, before and after a pregnancy. I will never forget the lesson learned here. That our bodies are temporary, and the result of giving life? Permanent. Permanent, costly, and utterly worth it. – Lauren

Four years ago I gave birth to a baby….a big baby. Weighing in at over nine pounds, he was beautiful and perfect.

However, the body that had nourished him and kept him safe for nine months was not.

I have always had a tall, thin ballerina body- great for wearing swimsuits and skinny jeans, not great for childbirth. I just didn’t have a lot of room to carry such a big baby. My hips had to expand, my abs separated and my skin tore with stretch marks. (more…)


Bodies & Beauty: The What, Not The Why.

Editor’s Note: This is an anonymous submission, and absolutely beautiful. Read and take to heart. – Lauren

I used to get flushed with embarrassment over how ugly I was. More than once, I looked in the mirror as I was getting ready to go somewhere and dissolved into tears of embarrassment that I was too ugly and misshapen to be in public. In my stomach I would have this curl of dread and shame.

And then God moved.

It has been a process, but He has lifted me out of the muck and mire, rinsed me off, and showed me the beauty within, the beauty that’s in all of us. Each one of us in a reflection of our Maker, and He is infinitely beautiful. I used to labor under the lie that I was an ugly, unlovable troll who only deserved to be kicked. But God gave me a vision of a person beaten, left for dead on the side of the street.

“No one deserves that,” I thought.

“And neither do you,” God replied.

(more…)


Bodies & Beauty: My Eating Disorder, Part Two

Editor’s Note: This is Part Two to Addi Black’s story. Part One aligns her life events with the slow internal process of slipping into an eating disorder & ends with her breaking point. Read it first, or skip along and read her process here of overcoming & the truth she’s found along the way. You can read her blog at La Belle Vie and follow her on Twitter at @addi2987.  - Lauren

I was incredibly hurt. But, I was deeply convicted.

I called her back telling her I had heard everything. She apologized that I had to hear it that way but then started to explain how concerned she was about me. She broke down and told me she was scared about me and that I needed help. I broke down and promised her I would get help but that I was afraid to.

I credit that conversation for saving me.

There was no going back after that point. My parents’ fears and suspicions were confirmed and I promised to see a counselor. It took about a year after admitting I was sick to actually work on healing. I saw a counselor, but was too afraid to take her advice.  (more…)


Bodies & Beauty: My Eating Disorder, Part One

Editor’s Note: This is Part One to Addi Black’s story. It aligns her life events with the slow internal process of slipping into an eating disorder & ends with her breaking point. Come back tomorrow to read her process of recovering & the grace-filled truth she’s found along the way. You can read her blog at La Belle Vie and follow her on Twitter at @addi2987.  - Lauren


Ever since I was a young girl, I spent hours dressing up in ball gowns and dancing to the soundtracks of my favorite Disney movies, imagining I was the most beautiful belle at the ball. I picked flowers from our yard and created beautiful arrangements that I would display throughout the house. I discovered my artistic skills at an early age and drew pictures of what I found most beautiful; usually women out of bridal magazines or medieval princesses. I was fascinated with the beauty of women and dreamed that one day I would grow up to look like one of the beautiful princesses I drew on pages.

What I didn’t know then was that down the road my fascination with beauty would get me into trouble.

Puberty was when everything changed. Suddenly my body and skin were rapidly changing and not in the way I wanted. My skin started breaking out, and my thighs and hips started growing so fast that I grew out of my new favorite pants in a matter of months. My body became a focus and a problem. I didn’t know how to handle the sudden weight I developed after years of eating whatever I wanted, never having to care before.  (more…)


Bodies & Beauty: The Food Gospel

Editor’s Note: Food, diet, sex, exercise, body, beauty, fat and weight. I dare you to make it 24 hours without coming into the direct line of fire of at least 3 of these words. We live wholly submersed in a culture that throws around these words daily; words that hit close to home for all of us, yet rarely does anyone make it to our heart of hearts to see what is really going on.  Lore Ferguson takes several thousand steps back and forces us to escape  from the superficial body image buzzwords just long enough to look at what really happened, and find why all of this matters so much to us.  And what was originally intended. In doing so, she reveals so much about who God is, and how we trust and do not trust Him. I love this, and it challenged me. Lore blogs at sayable.net and tweets at @loreferguson. – Lauren


I am learning that to know where we’re headed, we have to know where we came from. This means, too, that we find out where we went wrong in the first place. No one has to be convinced that something went wrong somewhere in the bodies and beauty department. Stand in a grocery aisle and figure out how to beat those pesky inches, woo your disinterested man, and find more perfect clothes than you already have.

Something has gone wrong. So where?

Since last summer I’ve been going back to the beginning of things. Something had gone horribly wrong in my heart and soul, and I was the quintessential evangelical who hadn’t lost my salvation, but just hadn’t ever really understood it. It was in the beginning of beginnings that I began to see where I’d lost my place. (more…)


Bodies & Beauty: The Journey of Sixty Pounds

Editor’s Note: Today’s post was written by Tricia Marchand. She originally approached me wanting to share her story of gaining and losing baby weight. She has a 14 month old daughter, and is learning that her beautiful baby, her husband, and her God are re-defining what beauty truly is. I love that she shares the whole story. And the truth that she is finding. She blogs at www.mamamarchand.com and tweets at @mamamarchand. – Lauren


Sixty pounds.

That’s how much weight I’ve gained on my petite frame since my wedding seven and a half years ago. My life has dramatically changed, along with my clothing size. I’ve been on and off the diet bandwagon, declaring it loudly that I want to lose weight and then whispering quietly that I’m not sure I can do it. I have felt fat, ugly, and weak despite my husband’s best efforts at boosting my self-esteem with kind words, encouragement, and affection. I have dealt with crazy hormones and insatiable hunger after the birth of my daughter. I have felt out of control more times than I care to admit.

Let me back up. Let me back WAY up. (more…)


Bodies & Beauty: My Almost-Eating Disorder

Editor’s Note: This month we are sharing stories about beauty, body image, and all things related. Today’s submission was written by Sarah Heinss. So often we try to write off those self-destructive thoughts and “little” problems we have, just because we don’t have a full-blown eating disorder. Sarah does an amazing job of leveling the playing field and challenging us to get at the heart of our physical insecurities. She blogs her way through wedding videography at clockhousefilms.com. – Lauren


Every woman has a story to tell. Some women could tell their story with the theme of tragedy, heartbreak, and loss. Others would slap “romantic-comedy” or “drama” as their genre, playing scenes from The Notebook in their heads. For the women who feel wild at heart, they might even brave a genre like “action” or “thriller.” But at the end of all of it, there are only two genres to every woman’s story: the edited or the unedited one.

The edited one often involves scenes from the best of rom-coms like You’ve Got Mail, when Tom and Meg meet in the park at the end. Or The Notebook where Noah hangs from a ferris wheel begging Ally to go out with him as she ever-so-reluctantly complies. Or Serendipity, where fate steps in, and on a very poetic evening in Manhattan, John and Sara find each other on the ice-skating rink. These beautifully edited stories of ours, where we wake up looking flawless and eat whatever we want, but still fit into our skinny jeans, are exactly that: Edited. (more…)