Where is the best place to begin a story? Usually the beginning, but for worry of turning you off from reading it at all, I’ll hit on the high points up to the climax. You know I can be rather lengthy and from what I understand, the shorter a blog post, the more of a following a blogger will keep.
Oh well. I’ve blown that a bunch of times and yet, here you are. (Smiling.)
I had a wonderful upbringing. My parents were and are exactly the ones God needed to use to create me. They nurtured and loved and taught me right from wrong, good from bad, polite from not so, and they took me to church. They did a lot more that was good and wonderful, but for the sake of the story, I’ll cut that short.
Somewhere along the way, I missed understanding and embracing a very foundational concept in my Christian walk. I wouldn’t realize this until just a few years ago. Here it is.
God loves me.
There is more to this concept. He loves me because that’s what He does and not because of what I do that’s “good” or “bad”.
I am His child; that I have not doubted since I received salvation while on a youth retreat to Fernandina Beach, Florida when I was 13 years old (I think that’s how old I was…gasp, that I don’t remember my re-birth date specifically).
You can probably guess, especially since I have confessed it here on this very blog, that I like to do things right, well, good, methodically, perfectly.
The area of beauty has invaded my mind in an unhealthy way since I was a young married woman and began to put on a few pounds. That would be normal considering my rather sedentary lifestyle. So, to go from a college coed who walked everywhere to being a teacher standing or sitting during the majority of the day messed with my head.
I naively thought that I was unworthy of God’s love throughout the years due to my gaining weight. I also associated beauty with being skinny. I made a vow as a young teen that I would never weigh so much that I had to constantly be on a diet. I didn’t have this standard for anyone but me. I didn’t adhere to my standard. I just gave up on enjoying my life.
So, in that entire paragraph prior to this one is a mouthful and the heart of the whole issue for me. Through a major crisis of understanding God’s love for me NOT being based on my beauty standards I had set for myself and “failed” to keep for so long, I finally began to realize that He does indeed love me. HE loves me. He LOVES me. He loves ME. Period. Whether I “measure up” to my standards, or the world’s and church’s standards that I adopt for measuring up today and tomorrow, doesn’t matter to Him. He’s looking at my heart, not my exterior. I still can have trouble receiving that and believing it. Don’t think I’m over all this yet. I’m better, though. Hallelujah!
Anyway (I’ve already blown the short blog post thing…so what!), here’s another thing that may surprise you.
I’m a picture cutter-outer or throw-away-er depending on if I like the picture of me. I can totally bypass the sweet expression of my family surrounding me in a hug because I will look at me and gasp with agony over the way I look! Ugh! Anybody else do that? Oh, I bet I’m so not alone. This is not a prompt for comments regarding my beauty in today’s picture. So, don’t feel the need to compliment. I love you for wanting to do that. You’re sweet.
I’ve gotten way better. I haven’t tossed an “unacceptable picture” for a couple of years and my audible negative response percentage has decreased tremendously.
Now, the rest of the story. Sigh.
As the spring came into bloom in 2009, I was asked by a local group of women to be their retreat speaker for the fall. At the same time, I was pondering what kind of anniversary present to get for my husband. I kept thinking that when we celebrated 25 years, I would finally be a size “skinny” and have my picture made for him. That would not be until next summer, 2011. I thought two years would be plenty of time to get myself picture-worthy ready for a professional photo of myself.
Somehow, though, that crisis of believing God’s love for me was not related to my outer essence would be put to the test.
The ladies’ group asked me for a picture of myself, a real picture that they could put on their fliers advertising their event. And, I knew then as if I could have heard it loud and clear that the Spirit within was saying that there was no time like that Spring to take the big step of faith and make a call to a photographer for a photo shoot for the ladies and for my man. I could sense the urgency to have a picture made then and not to wait. It was as if He was saying there was no better time than “now” to have my picture made.
So that’s what I did. I phoned a sweet friend who had been in Bible studies with me and who had begun her professional career as a photographer recently. I knew she would understand if I burst into tears or self-combusted while she took prayerful pictures of me in a local garden. I knew she would pray for me before I got there and while there, too. She did. I did.
And so, when I went for the shoot on a really hot day in May, I prayed that God would take pictures of me that day so that when I looked at the proofs I would see me as He does: His daughter, fearfully and wonderfully made. I prayed that I would radiate His love for me in my expressions, stances, poses, and posture. I prayed that I would portray a God-confidence that I couldn’t possibly muster in and of myself.
Was that a tall order? For me, yes.
Did the pictures turn out like I had prayed? For the most part, yes. There were still some I didn’t care for, but there were still plenty left that showed me what I needed to see…God loves me and I JoY in that.
And so, when I gave my husband the opportunity to pick and choose the photos HE wanted of me, I said not a word of negativity about myself. I just watched as he had tears of JoY knowing what I had finally done, willingly. He knew what a big step it all was.
So, that is the very abbreviated “Reader’s Digest” version of this story that could fill a book with chapters. Hmmmm.
My prayer is that it blesses someone out there who needed to read this today because you have been beating yourself up far too long based on your outer appearance and you have not been able to live a life of abundance and freedom because of this standard you have set and not measured up to for this summer or your life! Let’s move on.
GOD loves you. God LOVES you. God loves YOU.
I didn’t know then what was coming my way, and I am so glad I heard clearly from the ladies and the Spirit that they all needed a picture of me. (Smile.)
If you do struggle with this issue of measuring up whether it’s related to your appearance or something else, I must recommend Debbie Alsdorf’s book, Deeper: Living in the Reality of God’s Love.