A Dare to Love Yourself: An 11-year-old talks about being made in God’s image

It’s The Love Dare, people. Welcome! The moment I read Lydia Lee’s blog, Out of the Ordinary, I was reminded of Katie Davis from Uganda. Lydia’s heart bleeds for the people of Haiti. She is one of the most gifted young writers I have ever met. I’m so honored to welcome her here to my site today to talk about how she’s daring to love herself as an 11-year-old girl.

Weeks ago, I saw Rend Collective in concert. I was standing in the front row, listening as one of the musicians spoke about God having a “huge, cosmic sewing machine” in the heavens. Those words soaked straight into my heart, because it reminded me that we are all handmade by God, just the way He wanted us to be.

Rend Collective was one of the opening acts for Tenth Avenue North’s “Struggle Tour.”

And I have had my own “struggle tour,” even though I am only an 11-year-old girl.

For the rest of this post, join Emily at her personal blog, HERE.

**to pre-order Emily’s new book at 45% off, Mom in the Mirror: Body Image, Beauty and Life After Pregnancy, go HERE.

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A Dare to Love Yourself: In which I invite a man to share his story

 

 It’s A Love Dare, friends.A dare to love ourselves, and we’re meeting every Monday to discuss what this looks like.

Today I’ve invited my friend, Preston Yancey, to share his views on how we perceive our worth. In this post, Preston describes a relationship he had with an ex, and how they both struggled with image. (trigger warning: rape)

 

They sit on the bench outside of the brick building with the chipped cornerstone in the middle of May in the middle of the night in the middle of what would be one of their last lingering silences.

They feel a bit of the beat, even so far away, the baseline of an urban poet-prophet speaking of language and virginity as if the two were interchangeable.

She feels it against her skin like that time and the time after and that time her cries of No! were so loud she thought she could fracture heaven but they still weren’t enough. He feels it like aftershock, afterthought, the boy who never was quite enough, always a little bit too or a bit too little…

*for the rest of this post, follow me over to my personal blog HERE

**to pre-order my new book, Mom in the Mirror: Body Image, Beauty and Life After Pregnancy, go HERE

A Dare to Love Yourself: When you don’t want to be photographed

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It’s A Love Dare, friends, a dare to love yourselves in all of your rawness. We’ll be doing this link-up every Monday, until Mother’s Day (when I’ll be releasing my new book, Mom in the Mirror). Today I’m welcoming journalist, author and blogger Jennifer Dukes Lee, to tell us how she is learning to let herself be photographed… in a couple of weeks, we’ll also hear from her daughter, Lydia.

On the night I went looking for photographs, I knew something had to change.

I needed a few photos of me with my two young daughters for a video I was creating. So I sat in the blue glow of the computer screen, scrolling through files and folders, looking down deeper and deeper to find photos I was certain were there.
Where had they all gone? I wondered. Where were all the photos of us together?

The sad truth dropped like a weight in my gut: The photos were never taken.

Among the thousands of photographs I had snapped over the years, I found only a handful of me with my daughters.

At first, I blamed the lack of mother-daughter footage on the fact that I’m usually the one behind the camera. But that’s only partially true. The bigger truth is this: I have not wanted to be photographed….
(For the rest of this post, and a link-up, please join us over at my personal blog here.)

A Dare to Love Yourself

We sat across the table from each other, and there were thin girls walking in and out, and the smell of coffee and the young girl was twisting her hands.

She was telling me she enjoyed food. That she was looking forward to being released from the Eating Disorder Unit because she liked to cook food at home, and this isn’t uncommon for girls with eating disorders. When you have an eating disorder, food is all you think about. You write about it, dream about it, and prepare it for others. You just don’t let yourself eat it. Or, you do, but then you purge.

“So, I know you like food,” I said to her. “But what about your self? Do you like yourself?”

She stopped; sought the ceiling. Then looked back at me. “I’ve never really thought about it,” she said.

“Because until you like you, it doesn’t matter how much you like food,” I said. “Until you believe YOU are worth eating for, healing won’t be possible. It’s all about how you view yourself.”

Self-love is not a sin. Vanity is (excessive pride in one’s appearance or accomplishments), but self-love is not. Self-love is being willing to die to sin so that you might live. FULLY live. Self-love is being willing to die to society’s expectations and believe in who God says you are: Loved. Redeemed. Forgiven. Accepted. 

It doesn’t matter how well we take care of our kids, or our husband, or our dog. It doesn’t matter how nutritious the meals we cook, nor how much we exercise, nor the number of hours of sleep we get. One could say, “Without love of self, a healthy lifestyle is but a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”

Until you learn to like the way your left ear hangs lower than your right; the way you limp a little when you walk, or the way you snort out laughter; until you learn to say “Thank you” to your body for bearing your babies and for carrying you through life and for pumping oxygen through your veins, you’ll never be able to truly love another person.

“The art of gentleness toward ourselves leads to being gentle with others,” writes Brennan Manning in Abba’s Child…

(to continue this post, please follow me over to my personal blog, HERE. thank you friends.)

A promise to myself as a woman

As a woman living in the 21st century I will live as though I have a thousand daughters, even though I have none, because every girl is my daughter and when she sees me, or engages with me, she’s looking to me for how to live. So I will live, I will smile, I will laugh, I will speak, and I will pray as though their hearts and souls depend on it.

As a woman living in the 21st century I will not judge myself based on numbers. My worth will not be determined by my weight, by my height, by my social security number, by my Blogger followers or Google followers or by Facebook and Twitter. Only one number will ever matter to me, that is, the number One, who is God, who is my biggest fan, and all I will care about is whether or not I bring him glory.

As a woman living in the 21st century I will not depend on makeup or clothes to improve my self-esteem. If I am looking tired, I will take a nap, not put on foundation. If I am feeling sad, I won’t buy a new outfit, but I will bow down and pray and ask the Holy Spirit to mend these broken ways in me and comfort me and be my closest confident. I do not need to purchase or accessorize; I need to recognize my emotional and spiritual needs, and allow my creator to recreate me, daily.

(for the rest of this post, won’t you visit me HERE over at my personal blog today?)

real beauty: you are not fat (guest post by Rachel Haas)

i have a formspring. you know, one of those places where people you know and people you don’t can ask you any number of questions about any topic they wish.
and today there was a question sitting there in my inbox from that coward, anonymous. innocent words strung together to form something so much more painful.
so you’ve used pregnancy as an excuse to let yourself go, then?
 
and my blood ran cold. because in my mind’s eye, i saw fifteen-year-old me crying in the dressing room because i felt so fat every time i tried on anything. and my sister could fit into clothes that i never could, because i was curvy. 
 
and then i saw another little girl.
 
a little girl whose face i couldn’t see clearly, but that i knew better than my own all the same. and she sat there in the mall food court picking at the pile of lettuce with the dressing on the side that she called lunch and sipped at her water while she smelled the burgers and watched the other girls drinking their smoothies.
i saw my daughter’s face.
and the blood turned to ice in my veins, and some strange mother-bear anger stirred in my stomach right next to the little rolling flutters that mark my daughter’s current home.
this anger was not for me. i’m growing stronger now. words, yes, they still hurt. but this anger was not for me.
with hand on stomach and face curved toward the sky, my soul screamed
don’t you dare call my beautiful little girl fat. 
 
don’t teach my little one to count calories instead of the stars. because she has my genes, the curvy genes with rounder hips and fuller breasts. the ones that might not fit into the teenage carrot stick world into which she is being born.
{via pinterest}
and maybe there will come a day when you come to me with big eyes and slender limbs and say words like carbs and calories…too soon, too young, too early.
and i will pray for grace and i will pray to not break down until i am behind a closed door where i can weep for this world where little girls starve themselves and big girls stare in mirrors and whisper i hate you. 
and this is the letter i will read to her even before she understands the world, in which i have promised to not call myself fat anymore, and i pray that she will see her mama living in truth and not on the scale.
beauty is not size 2 defined.
beauty is health, not break-ability. beauty is dressing on your salad and chocolate for desert. beauty is forgiving eyes and kind smiles and a soft heart, and chins lifted with so much peace and warrioress pride.
because there is a Lion in Heaven that roars with rage when people talk bad about His daughters, and when people whisper lies into little girl ears that are too innocent to know better. there are millstones for people like that, and He has them in a line and waiting with rope for tying.
don’t you dare call My little girl fat.
(By Rachel Haas at Dramatic Elegance)

in which i implore women everywhere

we are the heartbeat of the home.

but more than that, sisters…

we are the heartbeat of the world.

i see a woman’s Facebook status rejoicing that she’s lost 45 pounds, and multitudes are clicking “like” and it’s triggering me to check what i’m eating, to hop back on that anorexic train to skinny-ville.

and i think we can be more. more than our weight, more than our looks, more than our jean size, because i have two chubby-faced boys staring up at me as i write and they see me as so much more.

they see me as Mama. as nurturer, as creator of love and life and they see me as HOME. they see me as soother of fears, as prayer warrior, as getter-of-, as lover-of, as hugs.

they call me always, they never stop calling me, and they smile every time i enter a room. cry, when i leave, and one day, i will stop being their world, but they will never stop being mine.

i have a 52-year-old friend who is single, and stunning, and she wants to get married but God hasn’t opened that door and so she waits. pure, and holy, she waits. and she is one of the most radiant women i know because she is more. MORE than what the world says she is. MORE than single, she is steadfast and faithful and prayerful and devoted. she reads the Bible more than anyone i know, and God is currently using her to mentor fathers of daughters. every week, her living room is full of married men, and she helps them get back on track with their families. this single lady is not letting a stereotype define her.

we aren’t just the reflection in the mirror, friends. we are the reflection in our family’s faces. we are the reflection in our friends, in the people we disciple or mentor, in the face of the fast-food server, because how we treat others and ourselves is what we look like.

so i implore you, as bearers of life, as vessels of God’s creative spirit, be careful what you say on Facebook, be careful what you write on your blogs, be careful how you talk to your neighbors and your husbands and your friends and your children.

because you are MORE.

you are the heartbeat of the world.