The One About Body Image

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I spent a lot of my engagement worrying, controlling, and trying to work my body into something different– something thinner, smaller, leaner. My worries would ebb and flow, typically depending on how I ate that week or how many times I was able to get to the gym.

During my first dress fitting, I remember feeling immediately discontent after looking into the mirror because my reality of how I looked didn’t meet my expectations. And then I felt angry and sad and ashamed because my thoughts clashed with what my mom and the alteration lady were proclaiming and what I knew Matt would think- that me in the dress was perfect and beautiful and stunning.  

I wish I could say that my worries about my body only started a year ago, but they didn’t. The earliest memory I have was in middle school. I was looking around at my peers in the hallway and I realized that my body wasn’t as lean or tiny as some of the other girls and I hated it. I didn’t understand why my body was betraying me– I had always been able to measure up to the skinniest girls before.

This struggle has lasted through high school dance dress shopping and band concerts with unflattering uniforms. It was present in every sport I played, where I was never the best or most fit, and in the locker room after my personal fitness class for two years. It carried me through prom and graduations and dorm life where comparison is hard to avoid. And it followed me to my wedding– the very place I didn’t want it to show it’s face and even though I hate to admit this, when I look back on my otherwise beautiful engagement and wedding, my struggle with my body was there, looming in the background of every fitting and party and picture.

A few years back, I ran my second half marathon. Finding time to run during the week and the stamina to complete long runs on the weekend was tough. Runs that used to be seemingly effortless in college were now difficult and this defeated me. After an intended 9 mile run turned into a 4 mile run, I plopped down in front of my mirror, fuming and angry at my body and myself for not being able to push through to complete the miles I needed in order to stay on track in my training schedule. At the time, I was on the launch team for Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan’s Wild and Free. I had been praying and thinking of aspects of my life where I needed the Lord’s freedom and I remember entertaining the idea of what it would be like to be wild and free from the strict expectations I put around my body and fitness and diet. What if how I looked and having the perfectly balanced diet all the time and logging in so many hours at the gym just didn’t matter as much as I perceived it did?

I hate admitting that this is really the first time I had considered this. This is the first time I really acknowledged my negative body image as a legitimate problem and pondered the reality that the Lord is strong enough to free me from the shackles of comparison and discontentedness and control– all I need to do is accept and receive Him, every minute of every day, again and again and again. And gosh this is hard, not impossible, but hard to believe and do in a society that pushes us to be perfectly fit and healthy and thin.

I want to say that I’m done struggling, but I’m not. I fought my body image battle through the past few summers and my engagement. While this summer was so, so good as Matt and I enjoyed our newlywed-ness and our trips to different places and feasting with family and friends, once all those things were over, I took stock of how the experiences took their toll on my body and started shaming myself over not being disciplined enough at the table or the gym and found myself in the depths of comparison and control once again.

We clearly live in a society that values physical health. The benefits are proclaimed over and over– we’ll have tons of energy and can mentally process better and have an all around better attitude in life if we’re eating well and exercising often. And I’m all for this- I love eating well and exercising and I think they can be done in a worshipful, God-honoring way because we are called to steward our bodies. But when I go into a Whole30 or the gym with the wrong motivation, it stops becoming healthy. When I’m trying to control my body into something smaller in order to feel better or happier or to prove that I’m good at life, I’m just feeding myself a lie that those things can satisfy something in me when really, only God can.

Writing these things down is hard- I’ve never done this before. But after another summer of attempting to shame and control my body into something better so that I can feel good about myself, I walked into work for another school year and I heard my coworkers and students and players echoing the same comments and aggravations I had all summer. And I thought that there has to be a better way– enough of us are struggling with this and there’s got to be something better.

And friends, there is. The answer isn’t seeking flattery and reminders of our beauty or enoughness. The answer and the way is Jesus- it’s always Jesus. This may be our weakness, but the Lord is sufficient and he’s really good at using our lack to prove that He is enough to a people who desperately need it– 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 promises us this. He came because of love and died because of love and now we get to play in his grace and enter into holy places all because of Him, but only when we admit our weakness and confess this hard, prideful, controlling sin. The way is learning to submit to the Lord’s purpose every single day, deeming it our own by walking in it, trusting that it’s better.

Our purpose is not our bodies. It’s not how we look or how we feel and while we should pursue health, we can’t forget to pursue Christ first. We can’t forget that our purpose is to love Jesus and to love the people around us well. I’m preaching all of this to myself first– stumbling into submitting to the Lord every day. My steps are shaky and I fail often, but repentance and grace are helping me move forward anyway. If you’re here too, walking this hard, broken path with me, please know that you’re not alone and that Jesus is always, always better.

 

So many of my ideas were derived from Jess Connolly’s new book Dance Stand Run. I’m on her launch team and this book is WRECKING ME. Such great stuff. Preorder it here

Also- from this sermon by Scott Sauls. He’s currently doing a series on Romans 8. AMAZING. Go listen now. You’ll find that here

Our Wedding Day [Photos]

Our wedding day was perfect. It was cool outside and it drizzled a little bit, but inside the red brick historic courthouse that I grew up down the street from I married my favorite person. We cried and we giggled and we vowed to be each others’ forever. We took communion and we prayed for the Lord to make us more like Him through this new thing. And then we kissed and we danced and we celebrated with our closest people and we soaked it all in. Our wedding day was my favorite day and today I’m so, so excited to share our pictures with you!

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Photographer: Christi Lee Photography
Venue: Historic Crown Point Courthouse
Catering: Noka’s Cafe and Catering 
Hair: Thomas William Salon/Amber Cooper
Makeup: Britt Wilt Emery
Bridal Gown: Something Blue Bridal
DJ: Reeb Entertainment
Flowers: Rosemary’s Heritage Florist
Ceremony Music/First Dance Song: Justin Duenne
Bridesmaids Dresses: Union Station

Engagement and Gratitude

Our engagement started in my apartment. I was wearing a Boston Red Sox t-shirt and Nike shorts when Matt walked in with the most beautiful bouquet of flowers. The bouquet contained peonies, my favorite, and all sorts of other pretty things. I noticed the twine holding them together, and I thought it looked ridiculous. But I ignored the twine for the moment, deciding I would take it off later, and found a vase.

It was a normal night where we hung out and made dinner together and ate at my secondhand round, oak table. And after dinner, as Matt started an incredibly intentional conversation about our relationship and our love for each other and what’s to come, he started to unwrap the twine that bothered me earlier, somehow extracted the ring that was hidden inside, and before I knew what was happening, he was on his knee with a ring in his hand and I was screaming yes before he could even get the words out.

We spent the next hour looking at each other in awe, then at the ring, then back at each other. We laughed and screamed and chattered in disbelief and excitement and gratitude. I was impressed that I had no idea what was happening until he was on his knee and he was impressed that he completely surprised his nosy, intuitive, and impatient now-fiance.

The past eight months have been beautiful and crazy. They’ve both gone too fast and not fast enough. We’ve made a million decisions on invitations and guest list and decor. We’ve called our parents a billion times to ask questions and get feedback and say thank you. I’ve run tons of ideas past my amazing bridesmaids as we enjoyed the opportunities to talk more often. And in the middle of all the decision making, Matt and I would remember that we are going be married at the end of all of this and we’d start smiling and laughing and dreaming all over again.

And now, as I sit in front of my computer waiting for the wedding programs to print out with a billion things on my mind and copious amounts of gratitude in my heart, I can’t help but reflect on and remember this season that will be over in just two days.

Matt is my favorite person– he is kind and loving and smart. He loves Jesus with everything he has and pursues Christ with a mature tenacity that pushes me to do the same. He’s good at grace, really good at it, and he has this witty humor that makes me laugh everytime. He is quiet and careful and slows me down, which if you know me, are all things I need often. He’s my balance and my person and the thought of getting to do everything together for the rest of our lives gets me all giddy excited all over again.

And after Matt, when I think through the different months and milestones of our engagement, I can’t help but think of our people, of our community. Matt and I learned that we’re not in this thing alone, that we have an incredible army of people rooting us on towards each other and towards Christ and these past several months I’ve been sitting in awe at all the love that has been poured out on us.

Our marriage is going to affect more than just us and I’m excited and hopeful to see how the Lord is going to use us to build people up in our community and how our people, whoever they may be in our different seasons together, are going to build us up and support us in the ways we need. And if our engagement is any indication of what’s to come, I know we’re going to be taken care of well because our people have taken care of us in more abundant ways than we could have asked for.

So to each of those people: thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. We couldn’t have done this season without you and we won’t be able to face the coming seasons without you. The Lord has created us for community, and through our engagement, we have experienced this truth in so many tangible ways through the showers you planned and surprised me with, all the pieces of advice, all the offers for help, and all the grace during the crazy weeks when we had a billion things on our minds. We hope to extend that same love, grace, and encouragement to you when you need it.

And so, as we finish up the last of the to-do lists and go through what might be the busiest, craziest, most exhilarating day of our lives thus far, here are a few last thoughts: engagement is so much more than the pictures and the dress and the ring and the reception looking perfect. It’s more than working out a ton and eating well to ensure the dress fits perfectly or pleasing every single person who will show up. And I’m writing this to you because this is what I need to remember the most right now. Engagement is this unique form of community and companionship, a beautiful in-between period of anticipation and preparation and excitement that the Lord knew we needed to prepare and to get ready for something that’s so much bigger than us– a reflection of His relationship with His people. It’s this season to remember and to learn more about the Lord’s heart for us and how that can transfer to our love for each other in the most intimate relationship we can have here.

I know these next few days are going to fly and so soon we will no longer be able to identify ourselves as engaged, but married. And as excited as we are for our life together, I needed to remember this time, these past eight months where the Lord has proved his faithfulness and provision through each other and those around us. Thank you for being our people, for reminding us of the goodness ahead and to focus on what matters, and for loving us so, so well.