When You’re Critical of Your Reflection

When I stand in front of the mirror with my daughter, I wonder what she sees. Does she recognize her reflection or see a playmate as she lunges toward the glass?

I hold her snug in my arms and we twirl around the room.

I tell her she’s beautiful. I tell her she’s loved. She smiles and waves her hands without a worry in the world. She doesn’t care what she’s wearing or how many ruffles are in her hair. As long as she has someone to coo at and a finger to grasp, she’s happy.

In my core I hope if I tell her the truth about herself enough times, she’ll grow up believing it. I know one day she’ll hear other voices besides mine.

Voices telling her she needs to be thinner or dress a certain way. Voices telling her she needs to accentuate this feature or that one.

I can’t say exactly when she’ll hear those other voices, but I know they’ll come. Perhaps you’ve heard them too?

Sometimes the voice we hear in our own heads is the one we need to silence the most.

On a weekday not too long ago, I heard it. I was standing in front of the mirror, and this time my daughter was taking a nap. It was just me and my reflection.

I saw the extra pounds I hadn’t lost yet since giving birth in November. I saw the thin scar stretching across my abdomen, where the surgeon brought my baby girl into the world. I saw dark circles under my eyes from lack of sleep and years chasing little ones.

I saw all these things, and I was critical of my postpartum body.

Later that evening, I was cleaning up dishes and my firstborn gave me an unexpected hug. He’ll be nine in a few months, and his hugs are getting fewer and farther between.

But this week, he’s stopped me mid-sentence to give them out. It’s like he senses my need for it. My little thinker who’s so compassionate and intuitive knows his mama better than he realizes.

As I squeezed his frame, I saw the life God gave me. The life he allowed me to bring into the world. I saw the way my sons interact with their baby sister, running to her side when she cries.

I saw the goofy antics my middle child uses to get baby girl to laugh, always the comedian.

After putting the kids to bed, I sat on the couch watching T.V. and my eyes drifted to my belly. My husband saw me and could read my mind.

“When I look there I see the beautiful family you’ve given me,” he said with all the pride of a husband who is also a father.

I knew he meant it.

And in that moment, I stopped being critical of myself and was grateful. I was grateful God gave me a body that can bring forth life and memories and hands to hold them.

I was grateful he gave me a husband to remind me that postpartum bodies are just as beautiful as those who have never carried tiny frames.

When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

Do you see work to be done, or memories to be made? Do you see wrinkles, or a life well-lived?

I pray you see the reflection of a woman who is enough. Whether you’re middle-aged, enjoying senior benefits, or still in your twenties, I pray see God’s work.

 

One Truth to Hold Onto When You Crave Recognition

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Can I make a little confession? I’m a gold star craver. I love affirmation for a job well done, and when I became a parent this need multiplied. I constantly worry that I’m messing up my kids or they’re going to need therapy when they grow up.

You can relate, right?

So this week we celebrated Valentine’s Day and after an incident at home I had no time to do anything. I’ll admit, most years we don’t do much for Valentine’s anyway. To me it serves as just another reason to give the kids sugar.

Trust me, my kids don’t need more sugar.

But it had been a rough week and I was feeling a little guilty about not getting the kids anything.

Enter…my husband. He comes home from work with two little heart shaped boxes of chocolate and puts them on my dresser. Each one has a cute, fun message on the front. Each one perfect for our boys’ unique personalities.

“You’ll always be their first Valentine,” he said.

I could have cried. He saw my need even though I didn’t express it.

The next morning when I came to kitchen table and gave each son his gift, my oldest jumped up and gave me a hug. And hugs from this eight-year-old are getting fewer and farther between.

“I love you,” he said.

I looked at my hubs, knowing this moment was because of him. But he didn’t need credit or recognition from the boys. Seeing their reaction was enough.

That’s what Christ’s love is like, isn’t it? We’re his ambassadors here on earth, but often we’re so worried about getting the pat on the back or gold star that we forget who deserves the glory.

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I’m not saying we should stop encouraging each other. Scripture says to build each other up in Christ Jesus.

But let’s not forget our gifts come from him. And at the end of the day if his love shines through us and points others to their Creator, we’ve done well.

He sees the heart we pour into our families. He sees each tear we cry for their sake.

He’s been where we are, completely human in every way.

And you know what? People didn’t recognize him either.

He wasn’t here to bring himself glory, but to do the will of the One who sent him. To give us glimpses of the Father here on earth.

Come to him today. Tell him your need. I can promise he already knows, but when we are honest we just might get that gold star we crave.

He can fill us up with the love he feels for us each day, whispering, “I know you, my child. And I am pleased with my creation.”

 

Linking up here: #ChasingCommunity

He Doesn’t Have Second Thoughts About You

second-thoughts

I swear whoever coined the term “buyer’s remorse” was thinking of me.

I spend the next day second-guessing major purchases. I’m quite sure if you looked up the term on Wikipedia you would see a picture of me pacing over a recent appliance purchase.

Even an expensive pair of boots can leave me wondering, “but what if I find another pair I like better?”

It makes my husband a little batty sometimes.

“Do you think I should send them back, hon?”

His answer is always the same.

“Do whatever makes you happy, Sweetheart.”

This response makes me even crazier because I want someone to tell me what to do. To make the decision for me. But no, he forces me to make the choice myself, and although I hate to admit it, I know he’s right for doing it.

The real problem comes when I project my indecisive nature onto our ever-constant, unchanging God. I mess up, drop the ball or miss an opportunity and think, “Surely, God must be done with me.”

I wonder if the eternal relationship comes with a free return policy. I disappoint the buyer and he sends me back to my sad life, no strings attached.

Perhaps you’ve been there?

We can’t seem to get over this one hurdle in life and we think God’s looking down at us with all his perfect holiness, utter disdain on his face. Maybe he second-guesses his decision to adopt us into his family.

It is eternal, right?

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And thinking this way doesn’t just affect our relationship with him. It affects every aspect of our lives. Our friends, family and colleagues feel the insecurity of our souls. We may convince ourselves ourselves the effects are isolated to the spiritual realm. But our souls are an outflow of our relationship with the One who created them.

When I thought about my word for 2017, my mind was all over the place. My sleep-deprived, newborn baby brain almost decided to forego the exercise this year. After all, my word last year was “awake” and we can see how that went.

I’ve never wanted sleep so badly in my life. Yes, thank you God.

But in all seriousness, that word was a blessing. I realized in many ways, my spiritual life was asleep and God awakened me to new ways to grow in my relationship with him.

For 2017, I thought God was going to challenge me with a word like “bold” or “fearless” because both are characteristics that need growth in my life. I know the only way I will be either of these things is because of his Spirit working in me.

But then I asked myself what the root of my fear was. What keeps me from being bold and fearless?

I realized I will never be either of those things until I fully embrace who I am in Christ: loved. Daughter. Secure. Safe.

Christ doesn’t have a return policy on his relationship with me. The security of my soul is written with his eternal blood.

When he looks at me, he doesn’t second-guess his choice and think, “Wow, I really screwed up when I sent my son for her.” He sees his beloved child, and he delights in his creation.

Perhaps you’re like me. Perhaps the gospel message seems a little too good to be true sometimes and you find yourself feeling insecure.

This year, may the words of John 3:16 not fall on deaf ears. May they sink deep into your soul.

For God so loved….

Say it. Believe it. And let it transform your life.

This is my word and my goal for 2017: living loved.

When I Look in the Mirror and Hate Myself {Anchored Souls Series}

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To continue our Anchored Souls series, I am honored to welcome my friend Kristi Woods back to the blog. I felt an immediate connection to Kristi’s writing when I discovered we shared the same struggles with the gypsy life. What I love about Kristi’s writing voice is how she isn’t afraid to approach topics that are raw and real. She opens herself up for the sake of others, and it is a true blessing. Please welcome her today as she shares about a vulnerable experience about self-hate and a Spirit-moved transition in her point of view.

When I Look in the Mirror and Hate Myself

I look in the mirror.

The eyes ~ they’re too big at times, too squinty at others.

The mouth? The pencil-thin lines cause a cringe.

Oh, and those thighs? Girl, I was ready to get a new pair, like yesterday. What was God thinking?

I hate the refection in the mirror. I hate me.

And so I stamp myself “not good enough”.

Thighs ~ NOT GOOD ENOUGH

Smile ~ NOT GOOD ENOUGH

Eyes ~ NOT GOOD ENOUGH

And the list goes on.

Life plods along, a daily battle of me vs. me.

And mothering? A whole heap of “I’m not good enough!” jumps on the pile. Crumbs, spilt milk, kids’ decisions, and my own indecision fly the banner high.

NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

Meanwhile perfection sits by and cracks a smile.

But one day Prince Charming swoops in, and in the blink of an eye, He whispers words that resonate. I hear their trumpet sounding deep within, although nary a sound hits the airwaves.

Love Yourself.

(Gasp!)

What? Is that You, God? Are you telling me to love myself?

The words sink in, but my lips remain in gasp formation. How could I walk this soil for 40+ years, never truly loving myself?

A verse in Matthew dances to life.

And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:39 NIV

A revelation hits.

God, if I don’t love myself, how can I truly love others?!

I gasp again, nervous at the thought.

Truth reveals a battleground. Not Good Enough is its name. Perfection is its game. And deception rides with a vengence.

What simply seems to be a battle with thighs is truly a war against evil.

Muster your gear, girl!

The view clears. The Holy Spirit offers eyes that see.

Works, not God, birthed the awful reflection. There was no grace, no mercy, no love of Jesus, just me bashing the magnificient creation of God – me.

I became my own worst enemy. Perfection and deception waged their war. But this was a new battle. After all, Jesus is Lord.

I stand at the mirror. The same eyes, mouth, and thighs await. I touch my face. This time I choose not to see what’s wrong, hateful, and simply not good enough. This time I do indeed see perfection – my Father’s perfection. It has nothing to do with me or my works. It’s all about my Creator.

That’s what a douse of Truth will do.

I see His magnificient handiwork all over me. And it’s good.

Psalm 139:14 forms on my lips, its words thread with my own in a triumpant overtone. I look at those eyes and the cadence of words begins to bring me into step with truth.

“I praise you, Lord, because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Oh God, Your works in me are wonderful. This I know full well.”

I repeat it again – each time I study the girl in the mirror. I bring truth with me and speak to the reflection, whether I feel perfect or not.

Deception, meanwhile, sits alone.

I no longer see me and my work. I see Jesus, all He has given, and love’s overflow pouring over me. My Creator’s work dances to life. And it is good.
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I share this today, knowing there are others in the heat of this same battle. I get you, my friend.

You’re not happy with the reflection in the mirror.

You feel like a failure as a woman or mother, hating the works, accomplishments, and view you see.

But consider the reflection a deflection of truth. Call it what it is: a lie.

Uncover the truth and you’ll see a wonderfully made woman: you.

Behold the magnificient work of our Creator: you.

It is good.

Grab Psalm 139:14. Use it as your sword, cutting through the nonsense darkness offers. Shed a little “Light” on the subject. I’ll be speaking truth into my mirror as well.

And feel free to grab this prayer:

Father, Your love is enough. Thank You for pouring Your love over me. Forgive me for believing lies, not You. Open my eyes to truth. Your work in me is wonderful. Help me know this full well. I believe You, Lord. Thank You. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Kristi Woods is a writer and speaker passionate about seeing women walk deeper with God. She clicks words of encouragement at http://www.KristiWoods.net regularly and is published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Dreams and Premonitions as well as on Proverbs 31 Encouragement for Today and on various blogs. Kristi, her retired-from-the-military husband, and their three children survived a nomadic, military lifestyle and have now set roots in Oklahoma. Connect with Kristi here: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

An Open Letter to the Mom Who Feels Invisible

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When I was growing up, I wanted to be one of two things- a writer or an interior designer. I love to string words together and tell stories, but I also love creating a warm, welcoming environment. I get a vision for how everything will look when a room is put together and hunt for just the right piece to complete a look.

Right now I’m in full fledged nesting mode and the interior designer in me is making herself known. I feel my internal clock counting down the days until baby Elise’s arrival, and scour countless websites looking at wall decals, valances and quilts.

My emotions soar back and forth between being stressed and elated.

I know she won’t spend her first days noticing the decor. But I also know at this stage of her life, I am expressing my love for her in one of the few ways I know how. Each stroke of the paintbrush on the wall is me saying, “We’ll be ready for you, girl. This place will be your home.”

The other day as I was surveying her room, I felt a little nudge in my spirit. I almost ignored it, but it was persistent.

You know I’m preparing a place for you too, right?

I answered without giving the question much thought. Of course I knew that. It says it in right in scripture. But I knew God wasn’t asking me to recite verses. He was getting to a deeper issue. A heart issue.

I was falling into the old, familiar habit of striving again. But I wasn’t striving toward the goal of Christ Jesus. I was striving to earn something, like I wasn’t enough. The weight of hundreds of responsibilities was crushing me, and I didn’t feel like I measured up.

Words never intended to hurt made me feel defensive and emotional. Sure, my hormones were raging but something else was raging inside too. A deep need to be seen and heard, to be acknowledged and not forgotten.

At times I wanted to scream, “Don’t you see me here? Don’t you see how hard I’m trying to be a friend, a sister, a wife and a mom?”

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And as I stood there in the room we will bring our daughter home to in a few weeks, I knew what God was saying.

I see you, child. You are not invisible to me. I hear you. You don’t have to earn my love. Just rest in it.

Perhaps you’ve felt the weight of striving lately. Like there’s some invisible measuring stick between you and eternity, and you are constantly trying to reach one step higher. And higher and higher.

Perhaps you think there’s no way you’ll ever be the person God wants you to be, or the person you hope to become.

Can I tell you something? God already sees you. You don’t have to make him notice you or wave your hands in wild abandon to make him notice the heart you pour into your home, your community, your life.

He loves you so much he’s preparing a one-of-a-kind place for you. Just you. And it will be better than any nursery or family room designed by a top-notch HGTV star.

It will be perfect.

Think about the love you feel when you hold your child in your arms today. Then multiply that love by eternity. You won’t even come close to the way he feels about you.

 

Linking up with these communities: #ThoughtProvokingThursday

Why I Never Want to Let the Title of “Mom” Define Me

being a mom doesn't define me

I remember the first time our eight-year-old realized I had a name other than “Mama.” And his dad had a name other than “Dadda.” We were sitting at the dinner table and my parents were visiting. Of course, they do not call us “Mama” and “Dadda.”

It was as though a light bulb went off in his growing brain. The fact that we were people before we became parents was new territory to be explored. Questions came pouring faster than he could formulate words.

I smiled, but made sure he knew that to him, my name would always be “Mama.” Or “Mom.” Or some variation of it. But never “Abby.”

I wear the title proudly like a badge because motherhood changes us, doesn’t it? And yet at the same time, I don’t ever want to let it define me.

There are times when I have to remind myself that my identity exists outside of the roles of wife, mother and friend. These different roles shape me and mold me, but they don’t determine who I am.

Some of you reading this might be puzzled so let me explain. My search to discover who I was at a core level began after I became a mom. I remember those first days when I couldn’t get my newborn to stop crying, and I would cry right along with him.

Everything about my supposed birth plan had failed. Instead of forgoing the epidural, excruciating back labor made me decide to take one in the early stages. Instead of delivering naturally, I had an emergency c-section.

I clung to breastfeeding like a lifeline, but when the nurse thought I had a pulmonary embolism a few days after leaving the hospital, I almost had to give it up too.

In the days after family left and my new baby and I were alone, I tried to cling to something stable. I had always clung to labels, but they were eluding me.

Student, worker, daughter, wife, and now mom.

being a mom

I felt like I was failing miserably at the last two, which were both new to me. And because I felt unsuccessful in my roles, I didn’t think my life was worth anything.

To be quite honest, there were times when I thought my new child and husband would be better off without me.

Somewhere in my darkness I sent up a simple prayer: “Help.” And because God doesn’t care about the eloquence of our words but the heart behind them, I got my answer. Not in one lightning bolt of truth but in a slow, constant rhythm.

Although I couldn’t see them at the time, his answers were like fingerprints on the story of my life.

Over time, He showed me I would never know who I was until I learned who He was. And the more I learned about Him, his love and unchanging character, the more I discovered my own unique identity.

I learned these different hats I wore- mom, wife, friend, employee- were meant to enhance the person I already was, but never define me.

Because if you hang your identity on a finite role, you will never discover who you are as an eternal being.

He created each one of us to leave an eternal mark. And while our families are a huge part of that, they are only one part. It is up to us to discover the distinct gifts he gave each of us, every one given to reflect his glory.

Do I love being a mom? Yes. Over time, I’ve grown to love it more and more.

But when my children are grown and it’s just me and my hubby, I will still be me. And if it takes me a lifetime to discover who that person is, it will be worth it.

 

Linking up with these communities: #ThoughtProvokingThursday

An Open Letter to My Daughter (In Utero)

an open letter to my daugher

Sweet baby Elise,

I had your name picked when I was pregnant with your brother, Gabriel. And although I wouldn’t trade him and his silly antics, endless energy and confidence for the world, my heart leapt when I heard God was giving us a girl. You were a hope deferred and nearly lost for a time, but the Lord turned that hope into a tree of life, growing and becoming stronger with each day that passes.

Since the day I heard you were here I’ve sent up countless prayers to your heavenly Father. I pray for your health, your development and delivery, but I also send up pleas which go beyond those first few days into your future.

Here are a few of the things I desire for you, my girl. When I feel anxious about your future or overwhelmed with the weight of responsibility, I come before Jesus and ask these in his name.

I pray you will be a woman who knows who you are. That you will see how your Creator formed you and planned you before you were ever a plus sign on piece of plastic, and he has a unique purpose only you can fulfill.

I pray you see at a young age that it’s okay to be different. God does not create clones. He creates unique masterpieces. Each one made to reflect his glory in a special way that can’t be imitated or bought or sold. If he wanted you to be someone else, he would have created someone else. Embrace your one-of-a-kind identity. And if you’re not sure what your niches or gifts are, ask Him to show you. He will answer you with grace and patience.

a letter to elise

I pray you know He sees you. Even when no one else does. Even when it feels like you’re invisible and no one appreciates what you have to offer, your Father sees you and loves you with an everlasting love. He cares about each aspect of your life and knows when you rise and lie down. When you feel unseen, remember there is only one person who fully sees us and can fill the deepest desires of our hearts. His name is Jesus. Call on his name.

I pray you love selflessly and fearlessly. I know there will be times when you will be heartbroken, and I will always be here to offer a hug, and shoulder to cry on, and a listening ear. But I pray you keep reaching out and being vulnerable. I hope you look to our Savior, who risked it all and was promised nothing, and follow Him as the ultimate example of fearless love.

Elise Skylar, I can’t wait to meet you. I imagine what you will look like, what unique personality God will give you and can nearly hear your first cries within me. As you grow and change, I’ll keep praying. I’ll never stop. Because your Daddy and I believe prayer changes things. It makes a difference.

And you, my child, were made to make a difference in this world. Never stop dreaming or reaching for the stars your Creator put into place.

We love you to the moon and back,

Mom