Saturday, December 31, 2016


I can still remember writing my end of the year reflection this time last year. Simply put, it had been a GOOD year for us- a year of adventures and new life and fun times and business endeavors and growth. And I wrote a brief recap of all these things, thanking God, and expressing excitement over the year to follow. Now, I've been thanked and recognized for being an honest writer. So allow me to be honest.

I was not fully honest when I wrote that post.

I was thankful for how GOOD that year was.
I was excited about what was to come.
But mostly, I was terrified.

You see, I hold the title of "World's Worst Person at Dealing with Change." To me, change robs me of everything comfortable and controlled and consistent in my life. And 2016 had a big change in store for us. I felt our little family of three had just learned how to function as a unit; and here I was, uprooting all that was known and throwing us into the unknown.

A baby.

How were we going to function now? How many things in our daily lives would have to shift, or even be sacrificed? It wasn't just the newborn stage I was terrified of (though that's a huge part of it- add "World's Worst At Parenting a Newborn" to my list of titles), it was the idea of the unknown that had me worried.

But regardless of my worry, 2016 came. While the first few months felt much like my "normal," May hit. And it hit with everything I feared. I will forever remember the summer of 2016 as a very hard season. With every night spent up with a screaming baby, with every glimpse at friends off having summer adventures, with every struggle with a suddenly rebellious three year old, with every day that passed with seemingly nothing accomplished, I felt a pull towards 2015, when things were GOOD. I often wanted a time machine to either take me back to that time, or even to propel me past where I was.

Do you see the flaw here in my logic? The inevitable lesson I had to learn? Because I didn't. And it wasn't until my four year old showed me this flaw that I realized it.

In the summer, I managed to get out of the house and leave my baby boy to take my daughter to two shows, one in Dallas for Beauty and the Beast, and the second at the MISD Performing Arts Center to see The Little Mermaid. While past summers were dedicated to doing many fun things with just the two of us, those two moments were the only opportunities I had to get out and have some mommy/Emma time. I felt a ton of guilt spending so little time with her and worried those two outings would hardly suffice. I would often battle anxiety that she would feel less loved and secure. But I was thankful for those two shows, and it was obvious she had a blast.

Every day, we pass the MISD Performing Arts Center on our way to her school. Each time, without fail, Emma points to it and exclaims, "That's where Ariel lives, Mommy!" Then the visual reminder typically launches us into a conversation about seeing Belle and Ariel, and how much fun we had. A couple of weeks ago, I realized that our trips to see those two shows are the only things she ever mentions about the summer. She never mentions a screaming baby or a mommy breaking down randomly into tears or all the times she had to entertain herself because her mom was too overwhelmed and busy handling her baby bother. When I realized this, I asked her, "Emma, did you enjoy the summer?" Surprisingly, she emphatically nodded her head and said "Yes, it was GOOD!"

It then dawned on me. My daughter had a hard summer. She had to learn how to no longer be the only child in the house. She watched many things around her shift quickly, and none of it was in control. She rebelled against it, threw tantrums, and her normally even, sweet disposition grew angry and upset often. Yet, she never remembers that about the summer. She only remembers the GOOD.

In order to produce GOOD olive oil, the olive tree needs to endure harsh winds, and the fruit must be pressed.
In order to produce GOOD wine, the grapes must struggle in the heat, and the fruit must be crushed.
In order to produce GOOD pottery, the clay must be molded, shaped, and then set into fire.

All of these processes are hard.
All of these processes are GOOD.

2016 has taught me that the two are not mutually exclusive. It was a hard year AND it was a GOOD year. For every long night spent with a screaming baby, there was a morning of cuddles, smiles, and coos. For every house chore that was unfinished, there was a family member or friend to step in and provide relief. For every dinner I simply could not cook, there was a meal provided. For every "missed" vacation or fun "Facebook-worthy" outing, there were milestones, new adventures, and sweet moments. For every time I wanted to go back to 2015, there was a reminder that I didn't get to hold and kiss and cuddle my baby boy until this year. Blessing upon blessings, treasures and love and grace and joy all wrapped up into only 366 days- that was our 2016.

Simply put, it has been a GOOD year for us.

Do you know what else olive oil, wine, and pottery share in common? There is a Designer behind each of those processes. With experienced, tender, nail-marked hands, He crafts with intentionality and purpose. He knows what His work will accomplish. And His work always accomplishes GOOD.

2016 was good, because He is GOOD. Every single blessing, treasure, love, grace, and joy comes from Him, and I am thankful.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

Friday, April 1, 2016

The Girl in the Looking Glass

Pregnancy is an odd thing. Wonderful, but odd. And it brings out the oddities in others, not in the least the fact that everyone feels suddenly inclined to talk about a woman's body. 

Try something for me. Walk up to any woman who isn't pregnant and tell her she is "all belly," and see the results you get. 

Yeah, I wouldn't dare do that either. 

Think about it- we know that it's inappropriate, even taboo, to comment to a woman about her body. We know that anything beyond a "you look great!" will likely not go over very well. But if a woman is expecting, her growing and changing physique is an acceptable topic of conversation. It's considered normal to tell a pregnant woman just how big she is, or how small she is, or how unproportionate/proportionate the rest of her body is to that growing belly. 

Don't get me wrong, I love the encouraging comments and know they are well intentioned. It is because I enjoy others sharing this journey with me, not to mention that this is my second pregnancy, that I didn't expect to be caught off guard by this once-again changing body of mine. 

I still have much to learn. 

A couple of weeks ago, I needed a dark, suitable dress. My grandfather had just passed away, and I wanted to be sure I was comfortable yet presentable at his services. So my little family of three went to the mall. I walked into a maternity clothing store, picked up several dresses I felt would look presentable, and headed towards the dressing room. My plan was to leave my three year old daughter sitting with her daddy outside the dressing room while I tried on those dresses, but she’s my little shadow. So, into the dressing room went a little girl and a momma in her third trimester.

She mostly sat there in the dressing room at first, playing with anything within her reach. Honestly, I didn’t pay much attention to her. I was primarily focused on the task at hand. I put on the first dress, did all zipping, tying, and buttoning needed (because maternity clothes have all possible garment pieces incorporated). 

And then I stood there. In front of the mirror. Looking at my profile. And sighed. And smoothed out the material closer to my body in an effort to look less like a tent. Yep, I felt large. And I let my husband know it when I came out to model it. Never fear, however. I had several other dresses. 

So the process happened all over again: dress, zip, tie, button. Once again: sigh and smooth. This happened for five different dresses. 

Do you know what I forgot during that time? My daughter, watching everything momma was doing. I didn't remember that I had an audience, until she did something that shocked me. She stood up, stood in front of the mirror, looked at her little body from side-to-side, sighed, and smoothed her outfit against her. 

Failure- I felt like a complete, utter failure of a mom and female role model for my daughter in that moment. Here was my intelligent, kind, empathetic, funny, fun, and certainly beautiful daughter learning already to criticize her body at the age of three. 

That moment was a wake up call, a reminder that I have so much work to do as a parent. Parenthood really is the most difficult, impossible job in the world. Most days feel like one step forward and several steps back. I am so far from a perfect parent. My progress towards raising strong, Christ-following, confident, giving, loving people is slow most days and wrapped in MUCH grace. I am thankful I know and serve the only One who can provide that grace, and who is perfect. But man, I have much to learn.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

My (Temporary) Facebook Breakup

I've recently done something I haven't done in about nine years. It was a decision I made in a moment, but I've come to realize that moment has been about a year and a half in the making. This moment happened on a Wednesday morning following a sleepless night that lead me to one conclusion: something(s) needed to change. I wasnt sure where this was coming from, I really didnt know what it all meant, but I knew I needed to make a change that started with that phone sitting innocently on that counter. So I picked it up, pressed on the app icon, went to my settings, and selected “deactivate.”

You see, if my phone were a bookshelf and the apps on it books, each of those “books” would show different variations of wear and tear. Some are untouched, nearly pristine with little usage. Others are so worn out from handling that duct tape would be in order. I wish I could tell you that my Facebook app fit into the former category. I wish I could say that my Bible app, on the other hand, is in need of much taping, stapling, and rebinding. I wish I were a person whose priorities were in the right order. 

I am not that person.

About twenty months ago, my life was forever altered. It was shifted in the form of a perfect little 7lbs 3oz baby girl. 

Photo by Keri Duckett

People try to tell you how much parenthood changes things. Nearly two years later, I’m still learning just what people meant when they told me that. But I am a person slow to change. And I was not really aware on that Wednesday morning that by deactivating my Facebook account, God was about to reveal a whole lot to me in that suddenly available, quiet time.

The very same morning I took that plunge, I came across this artwork:

This caused me to stop in the middle of eating my cereal. I mean literally. I'm pretty sure the spoon was nearly to my mouth when I paused, mouth wide opened gaping in surprise. Do you know what gets me about that image? THE DARN DOOR IS OPENED. He’s not trapped in a cell, unable to escape. He can step outside and see the landscape with his own eyes. Yet he makes the choice to look through the limitations of that Facebook periscope. Can I say I haven’t ever been the person in that photo? Can I say that I've never allowed social media to obscure, inform, mold, and/or alter my view? I sure wish I could. So I continued my day, thinking, “Ok God, I’m dropping that periscope and adopting yours. What do you want to show me?” 

I’d like to say in advance if you ever ask this question, be prepared. God does tell us in Hebrews that He will discipline us for our betterment. But that discipline is uncomfortable before it leads to peace.

Now, the first day sans-Facebook was the most comical. I would find myself unlocking my phone for any purpose-work or personal- and find my thumb automatically hovering over that blue icon. I’d chuckle, and redirect. But man, it sure showed me where my brain is most the time. It’s like a phantom limb; I kept expecting it to be there. I even once went so far as to select it. I immediately freaked out, fearful that it would re-activate my account, and made my poor husband look at his page to make sure I was still inactive. (God bless that man for loving me.)

Thursday was easier. It was actually quiet on my phone. There were no notifications demanding my attention, and I LOVED that. I began to realize that little number badge on that blue icon had nearly the same impact on me as a screaming baby. Upon seeing it, I’ve felt that I needed to shift my attention to it as soon as possible. (I wish that were hyperbole, but alas, it really isn’t.)

Friday evening, I went to a fellowship called Humble Beginnings with a group of gals to hear about how God has impacted their lives. I brought up to several ladies that I was taking a Facebook break. Rather than look at me strangely or question it, they immediately responded with understanding. “Yes, that is SO good for the soul!” was the response I heard most often. Many told their own story about how it has distracted them from their own lives. One told me the story about how she laid down to take a nap while the kids were sleeping, and next thing she knew, she'd spent thirty minutes on Facebook instead of napping. And of course, the kids woke up before she could sleep. (Yep, I can relate to that one!) And allow me to insert here that, in my opinion, NOTHING ought to get in a momma’s way of some much needed sleep!

Our speaker at Humble Beginnings, in telling about her story, mentioned one thing that has been bouncing around in my head ever since. She mentioned a relationship she once had, and how she, wrongly, found her identity through that relationship. Yikes. Ok, that hit home

And then, to top off all the other moments God used this week to hit me upside the head, I read this verse on Sunday.

I’ve read that verse a thousand times. And I’ve always focused on the analogy of the race. Do you know what He showed me this time? “fixing our eyes on Jesus.” 

One definition of “priorities” is “the right to precede others in order, rank, privilege, etc.; precedence." I am so very glad no one has been there the past few years to keep track of my list of priorities. I am so glad I serve a forgiving God. Because y’all, I have been finding my identity in the wrong places for too long. I have spent too much time fretting over things that do not help me serve Him, and I have not been prioritizing the right things in my life.

Do not get me wrong, I don’t think Facebook is a terrible thing. I have every intention to reactivate my account. I plan on keeping up with the many social groups I’m a part of, and I look forward to seeing all the cute family posts and occasional rants that amuse me on my Newsfeed. There are people who regularly post things, like funny kid stories or random thoughts for the day. My husband and I will stop what we are doing to read those and laugh together. We are created to live in community, and social media allows us the chance to do this in ways otherwise impossible. And if I choose to actually publish this blog entry, I will probably post it on my page, well aware of the irony but also aware that accountability is a valuable thing. 

But y’all, it’s a problem when I post something about my life and I’m more interested in how many “likes" and comments I get on that post than I am about continuing that life. It’s a problem when I see another's post and I allow it to hurt me, thinking, selfishly, that post is in some way about me. It's a problem when I open that app with the intention to receive instead of give. And guys, I’ll be honest, it’s taking all I have to type this out and not delete it all. But I don’t want to be that person. I don’t want my priorities to be so very, terribly, screwed up. I am very ready for people to look at what I do and say and see God’s fingerprints all over it. Sure, I’ve done that on occasion. But the fact of the matter is in order for people to see Him through me, that means I have to put Him first. 

And that little bundle I welcomed into this world nearly two years ago, she’s watching me. She sees mommy holding her phone and scrolling rather than interacting with her. As she gets older, she will not only see what I do, but she will begin to discern why I do them. And if I do not exemplify His love, grace, and guidance in my life as she is watching me oh-so-closely, I have failed perhaps the biggest task for which I’ve been placed on this earth. 

So here’s to a time of re-prioritizing. Here’s to a time in my life when I do not fear taking a good look at what I am doing and make sure that it gets the proper amount of my time. Here’s to a time when I am fixing my eyes ahead of me, knowing there is no other place my eyes should be.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Deco Mesh Garland How To

I was not planning on writing this tutorial, until I got such a great response when I posted a sneak peak on my Facebook. So please forgive the lack of pictures for each step and the quality of each picture. :)

I will cover how to create a very simple, easy deco mesh garland. You can make yours as intricate and large as you want. My mantle is fairly narrow, so I kept it simple.

Supplies (All bought at Hobby Lobby):
1 tinsel work garland, 9ft
1 roll 21" wide deco mesh, 10 yards
1 roll deco mesh ribbon, 60 ft
Assorted ornaments (16 total for mine)

Start by stretching out your work garland as much as you can on the floor. You can even tie each end to two chairs to keep it stretched out. Then go through the work garland and make sure each tinsel wire tie is stretched out and opened.

You then need to take your wide deco mesh roll. This is base of your garland and will be the primary color. Choose an end to your work garland to start on. Unravel some of the mesh and, leaving some to overlap at the end of the tinsel tie, tie it securely to the form. I typically twist the ties together twice. Be sure to twist tightly. The tighter your twists, the more your ties will ultimately be hidden. (I'll insert here that you want to be sure to match the color of your work garland to the main deco mesh color. Obvious I'm sure, but just wanted to make sure that was clear!)

Now that you have the mesh tied securely, gather it in your hand and start securing it along the garland. To make nice equal puffs along the garland, watch the technique used in this video. Basically, they measure the mesh out two tinsel ties out from where the mesh was last secured to the garland, and then bring it back to tie it to the next. So if the first tinsel tie was labeled "A", the second "B", and the third "C", you'd measure the mesh out from A (where it's already secured) to C, then push that amount back to B to tie it, creating a puff. (Yep, that sounds a little confusing when I try to explain it in writing. Just watch the video.) :) Your garland will look something like this as you work:

Notice the puffs are just about the same size. Like my with wreaths (burlap tutorial here; mesh tutorial here), I like symmetry in my garland.

Once you finish securing the mesh to the garland, it's time to add the ribbon. Like the video I linked above, you can add more mesh or fabric should you wish before adding ribbon. But I found the wide mesh and ribbon created a garland just large enough for my mantle.

I adapted the technique from the video for securing the ribbon. Basically I took the ribbon in my hand, made two loops to create a bow, and then secured the bow with the tinsel wire. Then I let it overlap the puff to get to the next tie, where I created another bow in my hand and repeated the process. As you tie the ribbon to garland, it will look something like this:

After you've finished adding any mesh and ribbon you desire, you can then add accents. I chose two different ornaments. Since they all had a topper that I could pull the tinsel wire through, I spared my hands the hot glue marks and secured them to each tinsel tie set. For this step, I actually placed the garland on my mantle first, along with any other objects I planned to have in front of the garland. This way, I could add the ornaments in places they would be seen and not get in the way of the other decor on the mantle.

And there you have it! Have fun and Merry Christmas!!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Christmas Wreath How To

In my last blog about my chevron burlap wreath, I promised I would blog about all my creative endeavors explaining how I did them. Then the school year started. Like all teachers, my schedule got more than a little chaotic. Oh well, I'm getting the opportunity now!

This blog entry will cover how to create a mesh and burlap wreath. I saw this wreath on Pinterest and thought, "Hmmm, I could do that!":

It's a mesh and burlap wreath with accents. For my door color, I wanted to add some more browns and golds. Here's the final product:

Beautiful, huh?! And I promise, SO easy. Really, if I can do it, anyone can! For the supplies, be sure to ALWAYS shop at Hobby Lobby during their 50% off time in the floral department. Seriously, it will make you one happy shopper! Below are my supplies and where I bought them. Really, you can use any assortment of mesh, burlap, ribbon, and embellishments.

1 16" gold tinsel work wreath form
1 roll 21" wide deco mesh, 10 yards (Hobby Lobby)
1 roll lace and burlap ribbon, 15 feet (Hobby Lobby)
1 roll 4" wide polka dot burlap ribbon, 5 yards (Hobby Lobby)
1 roll lace ribbon (Hobby Lobby)
1 "Joy to the World" ornament (Hobby Lobby)
4 Floral berry picks (Hobby Lobby)
Small gold star ornaments (Target)

To create the base, you start with the mesh. Mesh is SUPER easy to work with and forgiving. If you are intimated, I recommend watching a video or two to get an idea. Sometimes seeing it done is all it takes. Here's one good one.

(Forgive the quality of some of these early pictures. I tend to work later in the evening when my daughter is asleep, hence the darker lighting.) :)

I started on the outside circle first. You simply gather your mesh into your hand, take one existing piece of tinsel on the work wreath, and twist it around the mesh. Then create a puff, gather, take the next tinsel, and twist it around to finish the puff. Then continue around the wreath. When you get to the last tinsel tie, cut your mesh with a little left, and tuck it back behind the wreath. The biggest tip I can give here is to make sure your puffs are similar in shape and size. If not, you'll end up with a wreath that isn't symmetrical. Symmetry is something I'm BIG on when it comes to wreaths.

After completing the outside of the wreath, I then moved to the inside. I'm not sure if it made a huge difference, but I went in the opposite direction from the outer circle of the wreath form. Puff your mesh as you go to, again, make sure things are symmetrical. You can here start to work on using the inner puffs to help cover the tinsel. If it doesn't cover it all, don't worry. Your other ribbons and embellishments will help with that. (Be sure when picking out a work wreath or creating your own that you use tinsel that matches the overall color of your wreath.) Complete the same way you completed the outside: twist the last puff into place, cut your mesh with a little left on the end, and tuck into the back of the wreath.

Now that you have your base, you can add ribbon as you want. I started with my widest ribbon- the lace and burlap one. Basically, I started with a piece of tinsel on the outside of the wreath, tied the ribbon to it, and then wove the ribbon around the wreath as I wanted, tying it into tinsel throughout to secure it. There's really no scientific way to do this- just weave it as much or little as you want. Here's how it looked with just the mesh and the lace ribbon:

I then moved on to the other two ribbons, starting with the polka dot. That one I looped through the wreath from the bottom. I basically looked for any holes or gaps in the wreath and brought it through the wreath to fill in that hole. For the lace ribbon, I simply wound it around the wreath. To secure all embellishment ribbons, I tied them to the bottom of the wreath with the tinsel or added twist ties to secure it in place periodically. As you work, make sure to secure everything as much as possible, keeping in mind that gravity will eventually be working against your wreath as it hangs.

Here it is with all the ribbons added. See how the middle wasn't totally symmetrical? I went back and tucked things as needed to make everything more even. After this, it was a matter of adding the berry picks and ornaments. The berry picks are a tad heavy, so I used twist ties to secure them to the wreath form under the mesh and then hot glued them to any ribbon under it hold them in place. The gold stars and "Joy to the World" ornament are all lightweight. I simply hot glued those.

One trick I have learned when adding embellishments on top of a wreath, be it a mesh or burlap wreath, is to glue barely higher than you want. Since everything shifts just slightly after you hang it, it's a good idea to compensate for that.

And there you have it! A beautiful, fluffy, statement wreath! This ultimately took about two hours of my time at most, and around $50. (Most wreaths similar will cost you in the realm of $80, and you can use mesh and only one ribbon type to reduce cost further).

That's it! Have fun and get creative!

Should you decide you don't have the time to create one yourself, hop on over to With Joy Creations. Very cute stuff made by a great lady!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

My First Creative Endeavor

I am not lying when I say I am not an arts and crafts person whatsoever. Seriously, I do not have the patience. Then I became a homemaker and a mother. Now, I am convinced Pinterest has done just as much harm to us as good. Think about the bar it has set for our homes, kids' birthday parties, and daily attire. I applaud the woman who can keep up. I'm simply not one of those. And I have no desire to play keeping-up-with-the-Pinterest Joneses. 

However, after a recent evening of reviewing how much money Etsy shop owners have manged to swindle rob me of charge me on past transactions, I thought to myself, "Now surely I can do some of that?!?" So, I started with a wreath, something my mom has always told me is actually very easy. I used my little girl's upcoming birthday party as an excuse, and got to working. Since I was pretty proud of the result, I posted it to Facebook. Holy "like"/comments/PMs/texts/shared posts Batman! I was very flattered so many liked my first attempt at anything craftsy, and surprised at how many wanted to know how I made it.

So here's my thought, since I plan to continue trying my hand at more of this stuff- I'll post about it. Now, as a professional thief teacher, I am not against using others' ideas and incorporating them into my own creations. As an English teacher, though, I am adamant that if you use ideas that are not yours, you credit that source. So I intend to do just that with these posts. Any video/blog/shop that I get ideas from, I'll be posting their info as well. :)

So without any further adieu, here's what I did to create my wreath.

-3 rolls of chevron burlap ribbon, 15ft each (Hobby Lobby)
-1 roll pink burlap ribbon (Hobby Lobby)
-Wire wreath frame
-Burlap flower, Hobby Lobby
-Metal letter (Hobby Lobby)
-Burlap string (for hanging letter)
-Krylon Indoor/Outdoor Gloss in Pewter Gray (for painting letter)
-Small owl (vendor at local Gracie Lane)
-Hot glue gun

The base of the wreath and one embellishment came from this blog post. She details how she puts the burlap onto the wreath. I recommend reading it and/or checking out this video. I used both to help me create mine. I didn't stick to a strict pattern when manipulating and looping the burlap. Just decide what's best as you go.

Here's what mine looked like before all the embellishments:

From there it was just a matter of placing the embellishments on the wreath in a way I thought looked best. My sweet and willing husband spray painted the "E," and I attached it from the wire frame using a string. (Side note- I'll be changing this one element, the string is not fixated enough to keep the letter from spinning. I'll be going with a wider, flatter ribbon before the party. That probably seems obvious to crafting pros. I'm a novice.) The owl and flower are hot glued onto the wreath. I created the bow as a last minute add-on simply by tying the bow and gluing it on. Easy peasy!

Trust me, if I can do it, ANYONE can! Go head to your local Hobby Lobby, and have fun with it! (Oh, and watch the sales, that ribbon is 50% off often!)

Up next, I have a plan for another wreath to hang from my classroom door. I'll be creating it with my department ladies at a wreath-making party! Stay tuned!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Body Image

Let me start with this- I don't often write blog posts. I'm not the greatest blog writer. For really great blog reading, see Julie Turner's The Potluck Diaries. Greatness, really! But that being said, here's something that's been on my heart ever since reading one little book:

There are two words that strike dread and anxiety in the world of women, just two little words. Swimsuit season. And it's those two little words that inspire change in women all over, typically starting sometime in the spring. As a woman looks ahead to summer and realizes she'll either have to squeeze herself into her suit from last year or, worst still, go swimsuit shopping, she'll start packing salads for lunch, look into protein shake diets, and vow to make it to her gym/studio/box more than ever before. As this summer approached, my post-baby body brought with it new body image insecurities. Regardless, I've always felt I was pretty good about body image. Sure, I have my "things" or "issues", but doesn't everyone? Besides, I know many other women who are way worse than me. So I'm fine, right?

Then something happened. Something small, something probably no one even cared about or noticed. But it set me down a path.

I had the opportunity to "model" for a local boutique. It was fun, I loved the boutique owner, and was glad to do it. Later that day, she posted the pictures of me in the dresses I modeled. In the caption, she gave information about me, including my dress size. Yes, the actual number of size I typically buy. Right there on public social media for everyone to see. She also put this same info on her website. Now, I completely and totally understand why she did. She has to advertise her clothing so that those shopping online can decide what size to order. I was not at all upset at her. But the fact that I cared that everyone can now see my size caught me off guard. I mean, don't I have a healthy body image? Why would I care if others know what size I wear?

So, what did I turn to for answers? I wish I could say I immediately opened my Bible. Nope. I went to Pinterest. Yes, I'll admit it. I typed "body image" into Pinterest. Fortunately, my God is omniscient. He can even speak through social networking sites. As I scanned through everything it brought up, I saw the image of a book cover. I clicked on it and found it. A book that seemed to address what I felt needed addressing in my life. Wanting to Be Her by Christian writer Michelle Graham. The tagline: "Body image secrets Victoria won't tell you." Brilliant. I opened up my Amazon app and immediately ordered a copy.

I finished the book in about two weeks. It's a short read; normally I would have finished it quicker. But aside from having little time to read while chasing a very active baby girl around the house, I needed time to digest much of what I read. Ultimately, I HIGHLY recommend this book to all women. It's wonderful. I'll list the things that struck me the most while reading it, but understand those are the things that spoke to me. The following list is only a fraction of what the book teaches.

1) Women believe that their value is tied to their size.
It's sad, but let's face it gals, it's true.  We believe that the number on that tag is directly proportionate to who we are. If we do not match a certain ideal, then there is something wrong about us. Something lesser than. Something (dare I say it?) ugly. Undesirable. Unworthy. We should match the role-models (emphasis on the word model) we see in the media. Anything less (I should say anything larger really) is unacceptable. This is a product of The Fall. Remember what Adam and Eve did when they realized they were naked? They became embarrassed and covered themselves. Embarrassment over one's body didn't occur until Eve ate that stupid apple. That shame now permeates our society. We ladies feel that if we don't fit that idealized Barbie/Victoria's Secret shape, we will be rejected.

2) We crave praise. We hunger for it.
We were built to love and be loved. We were built to find contentment and satisfaction. So where do we search for love, contentment, and satisfaction? Unfortunately, not in the Builder. Because of this, we look at ourselves in the mirror and see ourselves as a checklist of imperfections. Here's a dare: spend one day, just one day where any time you look in that mirror you never, ever see anything about yourself you dislike, not even in the back of your mind. Try it. See how difficult that is. Here's the crux of the problem- let's say your checklist was perfected. Let's say everything you dislike about yourself was gone tomorrow. Would you then feel the love, contentment, and satisfaction you've been craving? No. The world is fickle. The love we need cannot be earned. Remember the story in Luke 15 about the prodigal son? Had that son earned his father's love? Nope. Did he deserve it? Heck no. Such is how grace works. Our Heavenly Father is the only one capable of giving us what we crave.

3) Our bodies are not meant for worldly validation.
God teaches us that we are created in His image. Our bodies are temples. It is a tool for His kingdom. It is a vessel that houses something so precious, our souls, that we are to appreciate them. We are his greatest artwork. I mean, he knit us together. Contemplate that verb. It's active. Knit. He formed us. He fashioned us. All those seeming "imperfections" we see in that mirror, are His intentional creations. We are meant to be different, not fit into one single mold. To quote Graham, "Adhering to one physical standard of beauty is like throwing a bucket of bleach onto a Michelangelo masterpiece." If you've never heard it, listen to the song "Art in Me" by Jars of Clay. If you have, listen to the lyrics with new ears. We are not a mistake. That nose you hate- God's design. That hair that doesn't lay quite right- His creation. The shape of your eyes- His artwork. Your too full/too flat/ too curvy/ too [insert whatever you say when you look at yourself in that mirror]- yep, His. Intentional. God-given. Masterpiece.  God does not make mistakes.

4) Such body obsession is a sin.
When I started the chapter "Beauty and Sin," I was certain I wouldn't read anything that would strongly convict me. After all, I've never gone through any extremes to live up to an ideal of beauty. Heck, I don't even color my hair. I'm good in this area. Then God hit me with something on the second page of the chapter. The author speaks about how she and her friends would openly compare themselves to others, over and over, and dismiss this tendency as just an "issue". How many times have we, have I, used that phrase? I've complained about something on my body and then backtracked and said, "But that's just one of my insecurities, one of my issues." Here I am, looking at something God has created in His likeness, and I am calling it flawed. I point my finger at the creator of all, and I, the created, say it isn't enough. And then I turn around and try and minimize this as a mere "issue." Truth is, using a body that is God-given to fit a societal ideal purely for the sake of approval is (and this hurts) a sin. Graham likens it to prostitution. (Ouch) She writes, "A prostitute uses her body to gain a profit. How often have I attempted to use my appreance to gain approval from others? I have taken the body God created out of treasure and used it as currency in exchange for love, power, esteem and a long list of desired commodities." Yikes. That wasn't easy to read.

5) Find a balance.
I love how after she points out the sin in body obsessing, she follows up with the chapter, "Can I Still Keep My Favorite Lipstick." We should always bare in mind our bodies are God's temple. This means using it for its purpose, but also maintaining it. One way to find that balance: asking myself why I am doing something. Am I choosing to not eat dessert because I must ultimately fit in a size 0/1 because that's what will gain acceptance, or am I skipping dessert because I've had sweets earlier in the day and I need to focus on feeding my body nutrients of substance? Who am I trying to please when I make decisions about what to put in or on my body? As a Christ follower, all my actions should point back to Him.

6) Become others-centered.
This part had me nodding my head constantly. I've written one other blog post before about us gals encouraging one another. We so seldom do it in the grand scheme of things. Focusing on each other rather than self is the key to true health. Not the health all the fitness programs and our self-centered culture promotes. True emotional, mental, and spiritual health. All too often, because of our own insecurities, we hold back encouraging others. Or we simply are so focused on self we don't think to notice others. There is so much freedom in focusing on others rather than self.

The last verse Graham uses is Romans 12:1-2, "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." So much easier said than done. Let this be my goal. Let this be what I seek. Let this be what I teach my daughter to seek. Let me become others-centered and seek to encourage others. Let me use what I have been given for its intended purpose: to be God's ambassador.