How can I be beautiful?299151_2631227900455_1240598665_n

Peering, squinting, staring, turning, looking and sucking it in all at once and holding up my head, and pushing out my chest and tightening up those abs and turning in my tailbone doesn’t help me, cannot make me see that beauty in my reflection or let me look at me with satisfaction and or gaze happily, with joy, at the amazing body God has given to do good works for Him when my ridiculous, sticky fingerprinted mirror cannot airbrush out my blemishes, or photoshop more thinness to my thighs? Why can’t it just adjust the the ruddy in my cheeks or smooth away the dimply skin that comprises my back side? How can I walk with head held high, and skipping steps, and lightness in my soul when I cannot come close to the beauty I think that I should be? How can I be beautiful at all?

When am I beautiful?

Can I truly leave the house and gain respect only if and when my face has been painted and colored and smoothed, with just the right amount of sparkle and shimmer in just the right places and all the right shades?  Am I only beautiful with highlighter dusted on the bones of my cheeks and bronzer squaring up the lines of my jaw? When I’ve waxed and washed away the things that don’t belong? Do I only look good when the clothes that I wear slim my shape, and boost my curves, and hide the hideousness of imperfections? When can I be beautiful at all?

I am tangled up and caught in a growing, looming battle for perfection in my looks, a vanity that runs too deep to quell with just a tube of lipstick or highlights in my hair. I am a body shamer.

I am conflicted in my inner me as I look at you and feel ashamed. I will never measure the size of your thighs, or the width of your calves or the span of your backside when you walk by and I cannot bear to calculate the angles on your face or imagine the number on the inside of your skinny jeans or crane my neck to look for muffin tops or dumpling rolls or little bits of fluff poking out from under your shirt.  I’ll never say that you’re too fat, that you’re too thin, or something’s just not right about how your glorious perfect body appears before me. And I won’t call out a Hollywood celeb if they’ve got a dimple of cellulite on their left butt cheek or an outfit that belonged to yesterday’s style or a top that isn’t cut low enough to show off all the goods.

But still, I am a body shamer.

Gratuitous workout selfie.
Gratuitous workout selfie.

I shame my veiny legs from a pregnancy that wasn’t long enough and I had to lie too still for too long and left me with scars I hide and streaks I loathe and weakened abs that could never be the same and a sweet perfect little boy who is nearly 9, and I shame my crooked hip that makes a funny lump of fat stick out on just one side, and I shame my uneven skin, and too-big ribs, and I shame my lack of a pretty waist and without wearing all the right clothes and all the right makeup and just the right hair all of the time to hide what I think is imperfect when you see me, I am ashamed.

But until I learn and live and know that I measure up just exactly how I am; until I learn that I am beautiful in the now and the then, and until I love myself for every part of me that is good, that works hard, that carries small children and cooks nutritious food, and that works  to mend breaking hearts and share Jesus and kiss booboos and feed chickens… until I love myself enough to stop hiding behind long pants and thick shirts and black eyeliner and cute shoes and trendy things, until I am happy with the me that makes up myself than I am a self-righteous contributor to all that is body shaming. If cannot let myself be less than perfect than I, yes I, am a contributor to all that demands perfection and thinness and thick hair and great skin and high heels and great gams and tight bottoms and anti-aging in glorious amazing women.

God doesn’t ask us to be perfect on the outsides, He rejoices over us because we are His; He loves us.

I am a body shamer. And the body shaming must stop.

 

 

532191_10202661568880888_954482986_nI have a confession to make. Puh-lease, please please pretty please with 
sugar and a giant tasty cherry on top don’t yell, criticize, make fun of me, or- worst of all- tell the healthy police. Because I am not proud of what I did.

Yesterday, I ate an Egg McMuffin.

Seriously, it was a weak moment. I was starved. So starved my ribs might have been sticking out a little (well, ok, maybe that’s just a tiny exaggeration, I haven’t seen my ribs for quite a few years and I really don’t plan on seeing them poke out again). And my kids were having those fluffy, carb-laden, chock-full-of-horrible–gluten, sugary, deliciously made with white flour McD’s pancakes. I couldn’t bear the temptation. I had to have it and I needed it right now. Can you feel my agony? Sympathize with my starvation? Well, at least I mustered the strength and courage to pass on those perfect pancakes and chose an Egg McMuffin instead, because, well, at least it had protein. Right? I mean, I gotta eat healthy, right?

1933933_10208684261484439_6768755050728593289_n
Gratuitous chick pic

[insert sigh of defeat here]

As soon as I bit into the hot, tasty goodness I knew 2 things: my stomach would suffer later (about 24 hours later) and I had totally derailed the day’s eating. But only 1 of those things turned out to be true. Here’s why.

I am normally an all-in, perfectionist, do it right and do it all the way kind of a person. If I’m going to do something, it’s going to be 110%. Full steam ahead. Jump right in feet first without checking how deep the water is kind of a person It’s sort of my MO to pick a project and give it everything I’ve got until I either fail or get bored and move on to something else. It’s not a very attractive character trait, I believe. It’s kind of how I ended up with 31 pet chickens (who I really do love and adore), a garden so big I couldn’t fill it (but I will this year), and more than a few stints as a direct sales agent (not so good at sales, here, people, I’m not gonna lie). And it’s happened with

Snapshot_20140215_1
100 percent FitBit

my health and fitness. I’m talking diet plans, exercise plans, gym equipment – been there, done that, and I don’t even have the  t-shirt to go with it. So what normally happens when I start off the day eating poorly, I give up and stuff my face with whatever crap is just laying around the kitchen, especially if it contains sugar, flour, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate. Please, tell me you can relate. At least humor me here, k?

This time, it’s different. Because I’m making a conscious effort not to be 100%. Is that crazy? Maybe. My goal is to eat paleo friendly fare 80% of the time. And you know what? It’s working.

I give myself permission to snag a goldfish or two from my kiddo’s snack bowl. I give myself permission to eat a half a donut for breakfast, along side some farm fresh eggs or a banana. I give myself permission to indulge in the church pancake fundraiser – once in a while or (ack) hit up fast food when I am exhausted after a long day of schlepping a plethora of kids around. I also give myself permission to mess up – to eat (gulp) pizza during a trip to Chuckee Cheese, or (gasp) indulge in an Egg McMuffin without beating myself up. But I have to stop at 20%. It’s a balancing act, for sure, but it allows me to fail but not derail, indulge but not bulge, treat myself a little and still get healthy, lose weight, and best of all – not feel tired, sick, and disgusted with myself. I’m only 80% in, but it works. I feel healthier, stronger, thinner, and happier than I have in a long time. I pulled a dress out of my closet with the tags still on, because a year ago it was too small. Now it fits like a dream. And even when I’m totally wiped, I can hoist that fully loaded infant carrier up over my head and into my giant passenger van. It’s working, so I’m going to keep going all in 80% in.

Recipe for the weekend: Paleo friendly coffee creamer

295325_4279208418938_1734972188_n
Gratuitous coffee and theology pic

Normally, I like my coffee black. Bitter is better and I love it dark, rich, and very very black. But I came across a coconut oil coffee recipe that I cannot wait to try in my no-longer-black coffee. Coconut oil is said to help you burn fat (apparently, this healthy fat has magical properties) as well as a host of other benefits such as being anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and potentially, anti-aging (we won’t discuss my need for anti-aging, it’s a sore sore subject). So eating 2 tablespoons daily will help the pounds fall off, if that’s your goal. Whether it works or not, I don’t know, but I love coconut oil for all kind of things and this recipe sounds delicious!  Check it out here and let me know if you like it!

Gratuitous workout selfie.
Gratuitous workout selfie.

Healthy Food House Coffee Creamer

And if you need to give your health and weight loss a little boost, try this

system from It Works (yes, I get paid if you buy it. but you know that sales is not my forte and I will never pressure you)

Have a fun, fit, food-filled Friday!


At the mention of a homestead, I always pictured Laura Ingalls Wilder running free through the idyllic fields in the tv show, Little House on the Prairie. Are you with me? That tiny cottage where the girls are snuggled together in one bed, the naughty cows that got loose through the fence, the frightening barn fire, the endearing Papa mending the fences and the occasional broken heart of a small child. I totally wanted to live there. Be her. Learn to write on a chalkboard slate. Have a pet chicken.

image

I don’t know if that beloved show was an accurate depiction of the time period or not, but it did point to the difficulties and struggles of homesteading. Having a homestead was risky business, for sure, overflowing with danger, hunger, and hard work. Modern homesteading is really nothing like that (well, it’s still hard work, I suppose). Oh sure, if you REALLY wanted, you could buy a plot of land and live off-the-grid in your vegetable oil powered camper. Oh, come on, why not? Well, maybe because I like health care, and hot showers, and, air conditioning, and gulp, the Internet. But that’s no reason not to have a modern homestead of your own. In fact, here are my Top 10 reasons that we want to turn our home into a little modern homestead.

10.Food. I like food. Ok, I really really really like food. I mean, I like a lot of food. And what I really like is good, healthy, really fresh food with no additives, no fillers, and no chemicals or pesticides. When you grow it, you get to know what you put on it, in it, and around it, and how long it’s been there. As a closet control freak, I resonate with that. And with food.

image

9. Homesteading tastes good. Really, it does (and we already established just how much I like food). There is nothing like the taste of a warm fresh tomato straight out of the garden (they’re so good, my favorite five year old eats them like apples). Or an egg you gathered from the coop that morning. And those strawberries that you’ve been watching ripen for days? Freaking amazing, especially when they are still warm from the summer sun. You will be amazed by how good homesteading tastes.

8. Chickens. Do you know how much I love chickens? Me, the worship leading, hair styling, preaching, seminary graduate, bookworm, coffee junkie who doesn’t leave the house without makeup totally loves chickens. If you have a ‘homestead’ you get to have chickens (well, OK, depending on the laws in your neighborhood, anyway).  Chickens rock, but that’s fodder for another post.

image

7. Fresher air. No matter where you live, plants clean up the air and give you nice fresh oxygen to breathe (You do remember science class, right?).  Urban homesteaders actually improve the air quality in the city. The more plants, the more oxygen. Grow them in your house. Grow them outside of your house. Grow them inside, outside, up sidedown… right side up, around and around and all year round. Your lungs will love you for it.

6. Grass is so yesterday. Vegetables are much trendier. They look nice, taste great, and you don’t even have to mow them (and if you use the right techniques, weeding is pretty minimal, too). (But I digress, because it’s all about the food).

image

5. You’ll save money on that really fancy gym membership. If you’re homesteading, you’ll get plenty of exercise from weeding, raking, carrying, building, stacking, plucking, harvesting, and whatever other kind of activity you employ to build and upkeep your homestead. Muscles are cool. But muscles you earned from physical labor? Much cooler (and cheaper) than the kind you get at the gym.

4. You can homestead right where you are. Homesteading doesn’t have to mean off the grid living… You can grow a small garden patch or an acre or twenty. Raise chickens and goats, or not. Whatever your space, whatever your situation, you can implement homesteading techniques that positively affect your food, your family, your finances, or even your fun. You can try canning and herb growing right in your apartment kitchen. Or turn  your yard into a gorgeous garden. Homesteading is about making the most of what you have.

image

3. It’s great for the kids. They’ll learn the value of hard work, and the reward! They’ll eat healthier food. They’ll learn how to care for animals. They’ll get fresh air. (And they’ll get tired, too!) They’ll learn science, biology, math, nutrition, exercise, and a gazillion other things like self-suffiency. They’ll have a blast checking on a ripening pumpkin or seeking out cucumbers hidden beneath their leafy vines. They’ll learn the joys of chasing chickens and playing in the mud…. Oh, the mud… I guess they’ll learn about taking baths, too.

2. Money. You can save money homesteading. You can even make money homesteading. Because homesteaders aren’t the only ones that love farm fresh food – you might make a few extra dollars selling off your extra eggs, earn a little dough by selling your goods at a farmer’s market as a part time job, or even homestead full time and make it your living. Or maybe, like most of us, you’ll just save a few bucks on your grocery bill and be happy with that.

5 tomato plants served my rather large family with more than enough tomatoes to make a summer’s worth of spaghetti, salsa, salads, and more. We figured out that the amount of money we saved by eating our own tomatoes, rather than store bought, more than covered the cost of the garden fence, tiller rental, and seeds and plants for the rest of the garden. Did I mention that I love to save money almost as much as I love food? (Yeah, I know, it’s still about the food, isn’t it?).

image

1. Homesteading brings joy.  There is something amazing about planting a seed, and with a little water, and some good dirt and sunshine, it grows, thrives, and provides food. Every little plant is a little miracle from God. Every egg a gift, every tomato, every zucchini, or squash, or onion, is a reflection of the nurture and care that God has for each one of us. Every connection to our food gives us a sense of well-being and well, gratitude. Each baby chick is a little  glimpse of God’s tender mercy. Every ray of sun, His warmth, His love. Growing, nurturing, tending, sharing – these things feel so good and are so fulfilling that you can’t help but let a little joy sneak in even on those hard and tired days. Perhaps it’s inexplicable, but somehow, someway, homesteading brings joy…

And…

Ok, food.

Homesteading brings food. I’m really about the food.

image

 

 

 

At 14 years of age, I mastered squats, wall sits, pull-ups, bear plank leg lifts, and dieting. Because I didn’t  like the way my body looked.

In high school, I biked, I lifted, I did calisthenics for 5 hours a day and I secretly followed my parent’s Weight Watcher’s plan. Because I still didn’t like the way my body looked.

Snapshot_20130902_4

I thought that once I achieved the right degree of thinness I would like myself more. By age 20, I was 20 pounds underweight. I was skinny! But I was tired, I was very weak, and I felt sick.  And I still didn’t like the way my body looked.

Loving your body has nothing to do with how skinny you are. No doctor
ever told me to lose weight. No doctor ever told me to change my diet and get skinnier. In my twenties, Weight Watchers turned me away because I didn’t weigh enough to participate in their program. My BMI was probably never too high. But still, I thought loving myself and having a positive body image would come when I was the right weight, the perfect degree of skinniness. But it never did.

It took something else entirely. It took learning to see myself as God sees me – as fearfully and wonderfully made – to start to get my body image under control. And I’m not there yet; I sometimes still have to remind myself to be healthy, not skinny. To be strong more than slim. To love the body I have and not compare it to someone else’s. For too many of us, we see ourselves as ‘fat’ no matter how thin we are, because we try to compare ourselves to models in fashion magazines, to our thinner friends, or to young teenagers who haven’t even hit puberty. But God doesn’t compare you and me to someone else. He designed us, He loves us just as we are.  I love – and I need-  that verse in Psalm 139 that shows us that God’s works are wonderful – and we, yes you, yes me – are one of those works:

Psalm 139:13-14

New International Version (NIV)

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.

I need to let those verses sink in to my head, my heart, my soul. I need to see myself with the awe and the wonder that God created in me and recognize all of the amazing things my body can do (birth a tiny human, for instance). I admit, I still want to shed a few pounds that somehow appeared as I worked my way through seminary to earn my MDIV. But I’m working on healthier, happier ways to go about it because I don’t want my daughters or my sons to equate thinness with self-love. I want them to learn to love their bodies and show love to their bodies by eating mostly healthy meals, by being strong and fit, by seeing themselves as I see them, and most importantly, as God sees them. I wouldn’t love my children any less if they were short or tall or obese or thin – so why would I put the same pressure on myself? God’s love means I can love myself no matter what my outsides look like.

I’ve done Weight Watchers, Pilates, the Daniel Plan, biking, low fat, low carb, It Works!, Zyng, I’ve juiced, given up sugar, flour, and attempted just about every other diet plan you can imagine. And none of them ever filled up my soul and made me happy because my soul simply doesn’t need to be skinny. My soul needs Jesus. My identity is in Him, not in the shape of my outsides.

I don’t have all the answers, and I’m not totally sure what the right fit and healthy me looks like yet, but that’s ok. I’m just taking a little step at a time, finding the right balance between Paleo and clean eating alongside an occasional donut, staying active every day and exercising sometimes, and trusting that God loves me enough to have made me wonderfully. And that feels better than skinny ever did.