10 Ways to Make Peace With Your Mirror

This week, I babysat a friend’s granddaughter and I overheard a conversation between her and my youngest which left me nearly bent over with laughter.

This red-headed cutie asked, “When’s your mom gonna get bigger?”

My daughter quickly responded, “She’s not. She’s as big as she can get. Now she’s just gonna get shorter, fatter, and uglier.” I don’t know where she got that notion, but I clearly have much to look forward to in her 9-year-old opinion :-).

I couldn’t help but consider though that, sadly, many of us see ourselves in just such a negative light, calling “ugly” what God called “very good”. As a result, we often pass this same skewed perspective to our children. Whether we find fault with our skin, hair, weight, or other feature, it seems we’re never truly happy with what we see in the mirror, so we work feverishly to color over, cut into, or cover-up every perceived flaw, never attaining the contentment we hope it will bring.ID-100254378

Believe it or not, it is possible to break free from a negative self-perception and make peace with your mirror image! It’s a process that doesn’t happen overnight–for me it was a long one but somewhere along the journey from age 15 to nearly 45, I became comfortable with my 5 foot stature, unruly hair (and matching eyebrows), freckled skin, and extra curves.

Mamas, you are beautiful because God didn’t carelessly or mistakenly create you. When you are tempted to believe otherwise, please choose instead to:

1- Stop seeking perfection, which doesn’t exist, and start seeking health which is vital. A healthy body, mind, and spirit converge to create genuine beauty that others are drawn to.

2- Eat well, exercise, rest, and play. A healthy routine means a healthy mindset which generates a more accurate perception of yourself.

3- Refuse to buy into media-defined ideals of beauty which are fluid and cultural. Instead, set a personal standard that is based on truth and reality rather than shifting public opinion.

4- Stop comparing—it either makes you feel inferior which is unattractive, or it makes you feel superior which is also unattractive.

5- Break the tie between beauty and self-worth. Internalize once and for all this statement, “I am not the sum total of my body parts.” Period.

6- Count blessings, not flaws. Keeping a grateful journal will truly transform your perspective and your life. Thankful people are happier people. (See Gratitude, Not “Attitude”– 7 Ways to Teach Thankfulness).

7- Get rid of everything anyone but God says about you. It doesn’t matter who said you were too fat or too skinny, too short or too tall. God, who never changes and is not fickle, says you are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).

8- Surround yourself with positive people. It’s contagious.

9- Recognize that your body is an instrument, not an ornament. It is meant to be used to bring hope, healing, and love to those around you, not to be draped and put on display.

10- Celebrate aging and the future rather than live in the past which you likely weren’t happy with anyway. I’m not a 20-year-old size 2, but I wasn’t happy with myself when I was. Nearly 25 years later and so not a size 2, I look back and wonder what my problem was. But then, in another 25 years, I’m likely to look back and wish for what I have today. So why not just enjoy where I am right now and look forward to where I’m going?

I’m grateful to have made peace with the mirror, although I occasionally have to remind myself that the lines around my eyes are evidence of years of laughter. My wrinkled brow is a reminder of unnecessary worry as God has brought me through every trial that caused those deep furrows. Each scar and bump on my body tells a story of hard work or hard play. My hair is graying quickly, but then, my eyesight is fading just as quickly which means I can’t tell what’s blond and what’s gray anyway, so I suppose it doesn’t matter :-).

How about you? Is the mirror still your enemy or have you called a truce? What do you do to remind yourself that you are a treasure no matter what your reflection says? 

 

*image courtesy of Aleksa D at freedigitalphotos.net

 

Swimsuit Season–Can We Be Hot and Holy?

This is simultaneously my best and worst season. The days are longer, the air is warmer, and the skies are bluer. There are beaches and pools, which I love, but there are also…yep!…swimsuits, which I hate.

ID-100162646Every spring, I put on last year’s swimsuit, determine to drop a few pounds before I go anywhere in public wearing it, then scold myself for caring. This year is no different and I intentionally check my heart. How much should a Jesus-loving wife and mother care about her swimsuit-clad body, and what do I want my daughters to learn as spring rolls into summer?

The reality is, we live in a hyper-sexualized culture that equates sexiness with value. It screams at us that a hot body will lead to a happily-ever-after life and that if only we can rock a bikini (at any age) and draw the eyes of men, then we will find all that our hearts long for and fill the vacuum in our souls. The fact is, all of that is a lie.

Living most of my teen years frequenting the beach, I learned that if “hot” is the goal, happiness is not the reward.

A lot has changed from my bikini-wearing-hungry-hearted-teen season of life to my tankini-wearing-over-forty-and-fulfilled season. I have long since discovered that the acceptance and affirmation I always longed for comes only from One source, and His name is Jesus. He never gets tired of telling me I’m beautiful and He reminds me that it has nothing to do with what I see in the mirror but what He sees in my heart.

Still, I live in this world while trying not to be “of” it. So, on (and off) the beach, here are the lines I draw in the sand, so to speak, and pray my daughters learn them early:

  1. I’m a woman, and it’s okay to look like one. God created me with curves and called it “very good” (Genesis 1:31). I don’t need to be ashamed of how I am made and hide His handiwork. However,…
  2. My curves were created for, and belong to, one man, and he alone gets to see all of them (1 Corinthians 7:2). I am not intended to dress as eye-candy and be ogled by every sex-saturated male passing by. But, I am free to be completely seen and enjoyed by my husband and, to him, I can be both hot and holy.
  3. My body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). I need to grow in knowledge in order to take care of the only body I’ll ever have, and grow in grace to accept that it is a temporary dwelling subject to gravity and decay.
  4. My body is God’s workmanship created for good works (Ephesians 2:10), not my tool to fill my quest for affirmation or acceptance. Only Jesus in heaven, no man on earth, can do that.

Moms, sisters, let’s set the example. It takes work to quiet the noise of the culture that yells at us to be thinner and prettier and then to put ourselves on display. Whether you’re stunning at twenty-something or fighting metabolism meltdown at forty-something, let’s neither hide our bodies nor display them. Let us seek always to have a joyful spirit that draws souls rather than a hot body that draws attention.

See you by the pool.

I know we’re all in different stages and learning different lessons, so please tell me what you think. Where are your “lines in the sand” regarding body image, dress, and the culture?

The Dangerous World of “If Only”

Rita Clucas smI remember the 6th grade like it was yesterday. After all, I walked its halls many years after I left its classrooms. It was the year that changed my life forever—the year that the boys noticed I didn’t look like the other girls who hadn’t developed quite as much over the summer. It was the year that I began to hate the fact that no matter how good my grades were or how soft my heart was, my body had become the focal point and subsequently the catalyst for years of harassment and self-loathing. My young heart questioned why God thought I was so wretched that He didn’t care about my getting groped at in the halls or descended upon in the bathrooms, and later my scarred, angry heart began visiting all the “If Only” scenarios it could conjure.

If only I’d been stronger. If only my body had kept the same pace as my friends’. If only I wasn’t too ashamed to tell. If only I knew how to not wear someone else’s sin as my own. If only…

Maybe you can relate, or maybe your “If Onlys” are:

If only I was prettier…

If only I was thinner…

If only I had finished college…

If only I’d married someone else…

If only I had more money, more confidence, more friends, more __________ (You fill in the blank)…

And those are some of the simpler ones. Maybe yours are more complicated:

If only my parents had wanted me…

If only I hadn’t gotten pregnant…

If only I hadn’t had that abortion…

If only my husband hadn’t cheated…

If only I hadn’t cheated…

If only my kids would listen…

The fact is, “If Only” is a dangerous place to visit too often or too long, whether it’s a past or present circumstance. On the surface, it’s just a temporary diversion from our here-and-now. But on a deeper level, it justifies why our lives are inadequate and keeps us chained to our mistakes or to what “might have been” or “should be” instead of released into “what may yet be”.

So, what do we do when we’re tempted to visit the world of “If Only”?

  • Decide not to camp there. A backward glance is one thing, but a rear-view lens is often blurry. It’s too easy to let our imagination either skew reality or re-create outcomes that would never have been.4664571024_ccff2e5ccc

As Elie Weisel, a survivor of three Nazi concentration camps once said, “Some stories are true that never happened.”

  • Let go of what you didn’t have, embrace what you do have, and dream for what you can have. Your past or present circumstances don’t have to dictate your future. I love how Paul says it in Philippians 3:13, “…but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead.”
  • Forgive. God. Others. Yourself. You can.
  • Find a way to be grateful. Being grateful for something is not the same as being grateful despite something. Gratitude doesn’t change your circumstance, but it does change your perspective of it and reaction to it.

So how does this look in real life? Well, back to the 6th grade…I’m by no means grateful for what happened to me, but I am absolutely grateful for what it produced in me. From it, I gained compassion for young, hurting women and even for the young, hurting men who violate them. I developed the instinct to protect my own daughters and the wisdom to instruct my son to honor every daughter. I was propelled down dark roads that eventually led to these invaluable truths:

I am “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14),

I am dearly loved by my Father in heaven,

I am not responsible for the sins of others but am fully forgiven for my own,

I have the strength to leave my land of “If Only” and stay connected to my reality and be the best wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend I can be .

Okay Mamas, your turn. What “If Only” are you going to stop visiting? I’d love to hear from you.

(photo credit: #ds198 – Not a Morning Person via photopin (license) )