to my daughter: how to fight the battle of self love

We got to the park right when slanted rays from the sun were bleeding gold onto the bare trees. The air felt sharp and clear, like cold water splashing on my arms. The grass, still dead in places from the venom of Winter, was patch-worked by fresh green like a mossy quilt. 

Your Daddy took his place behind the camera. He clicked the shutter, telling me to stand here and here (where the light was best) and one by one made these images of you and I. Looking at them later, I felt beautiful. I felt loved. 

The way I look in these photos isn't me everyday. In fact, right before we got in the car to leave I considered calling the whole shoot off because of how sick, bloated and gross I felt. As I was getting ready, I started giving your dad the tirade of self-resentment that I've been pouring out since the beginning of this pregnancy.

"I'm fat."

"I feel ugly."

"I'm not cute anymore."

His response was the same as it's always been: "You are beautiful."

Maybe it's time I started believing him. 

It's no secret to me that the pregnancy I discover that I'm carrying a girl is also the pregnancy that I struggled with body image the most. Though it's not exclusively a 'girl thing' I know that women struggle the most with accepting the bodies we've been given. Honestly, I'd never sincerely wrestled with this until you came to live in my womb.

When you were just around 10 weeks old inside me, I discovered a new striping of stretch marks on my upper right thigh. They'd emerged like purple river delta lines across my skin without my permission. I now have twin markings on the other thigh. I weigh as much now at 25 weeks pregnant as I did when I was 40 weeks pregnant with your brother. My body is tired. I wasn't in shape or healthy before you came, and now that you're growing and growing, I find myself feeling weak and sluggish. 

In short, I'm disappointed with myself. 

It seems these days that the proclaimed solution for this is a loud message of "love yourself!". And while I understand the heart behind those two words, I'd like to offer you a truth that's nearer to the mark of healing the issue.

Instead of telling you to love yourself (because honestly girl, one of the biggest fights of your life will be to not love yourself. We're all born with a deep affection for whatever makes ourselves feel good, important and comfortable. And when you don't like who you are, guess what? The root of the problem is that you're still focused solely on yourself. So, you see, loving yourself comes easy, realizing it's not about you is where the real battle lies. ). No, I won't tell you to love yourself but, I will whisper these words as you dance underneath my heart even now, "Let yourself be loved." 

This is where I need to tell you a story as nearly the earth itself. Once, there was a woman who stood unashamed in a garden and grabbed hold of The Lie as the serpent sputtered it out, "Did God actually say...?"

Yes, she took those words, swallowed them whole and we've all been choking on them ever since. 

Did God actually say that I belong to Him?

Did God actually say that being loved by Him makes me worthy?

Did God actually say that the bodies He crafted together in our mother's wombs are designed for His glory and thus, beautiful?

Are those truths really actually enough to hold and heal me? 

I'll say it again, let yourself be loved. 

It's may sound simple but, take it from your fumbling mama, your pride will scream (loudly) that you can do this alone; that you don't need the love of others or even God Himself. And when you're heart won't humble and believe that yes, despite your imperfections, you are loved. Well, then you'll find yourself always searching for wholeness.

Because the thing about this kind of love, it transforms. It tells the truth, even if it hurts at first, because this love's only purpose is to help and heal you.

So if it's a person who cares deeply for you telling you that you are loved, believe them. Because what your life will hinge (or unhinge on) is understanding that love--all true love--originates straight from the same God who's knitting you together inside me right this very minute. Yes, love was His idea. You can bet the universe on that. In fact, the stars and spinning planets were hung on it. His love. 

 Ann Voskamp once wrote, "Isn’t the fear that I am not enough really the lie that God isn’t enough? Sometimes I wonder if all the bad brokenness in the world begins with the act of forgetting—forgetting God is enough? If every belittling of self is a belittling of God, a kind of blaspheming of God’s sufficiency and enoughness, then maybe . . . maybe we don’t really have faith until we have faith that God loves us right now more than we could ever dream of loving ourselves."

So maybe instead of trying so hard to "love myself" I need to surrender to the love that's already been gifted to me through the holy working of Jesus Christ in my life. Instead of "loving myself" I need to rest in the fact that I'm already loved by the only Being capable of a love that I could never fathom. God the Father, Creator and Sustainer has bestowed His gracious affection on imperfect, stretched-marked, needy me.

How could that ever not be enough for us, my darling?

So I will walk in the light of that love and pray that I guide you to do the same. Oh, how loved you are already, Tiny One! Loved by your patient father, your tumbling brother and your tired mama. Before your form even took shape, you were wanted, prayed for and eagerly anticipated. 

But know this: that all of the love we have, it comes straight from Jesus. He who thought you into existence and is already seeking to capture your heart has poured His love into us so we can wrap you in it. It's all Him, baby girl.  

I guess what I'm trying to say is that there will come days where, for whatever reason, you don't like yourself. Whether it's the shape of your body or the state of your heart that you want to change, please start with the power, truth and freedom that can only come from God's love for you. Start there, and I promise you will always be held and healed. 

I could never want anything more for you, my girl. 

The beautiful, feminine (comfortable!), maternity dress in this post is from Pink Blush. When I was given the opportunity to review one of their products I was honestly unsure because I'd never did something like this before, but I'm so happy with this dress! It truly fits me in just the right ways and, bonus points, it's nursing friendly for when after Bunny gets here. I'm honored to have gotten to feature it in this photoshoot.