Friday, January 16, 2015

thoughts on skinny and beauty and good and bad... and pregnant. #bodyimage

Lately I have been thinking a lot about body image. Probably because I am watching my own body change and grow and I’m having to believe it is good while living in a culture that celebrates skinny. Pregnant ladies aren’t skinny. Pregnant ladies are pregnant. I think pregnant is beautiful but the trouble is this stage in between being my pre-pregnant self and my fully pregnant self, where I look more like I’ve been eating an extra helping of carbs at every meal instead of growing a full on human. Each morning I look in the mirror and the questions start brewing, “Is this normal?... Does this look pretty?... Do I look fat?... Is my weight gain healthy?... Will I look like a whale in a few months and wish I would have done things differently earlier in my pregnancy?... and....and...and...?” It’s no secret that trusting God with my body has been a struggle. I try to be open about that because as I’m learning how to love my own shape I hope I can somehow help others to love theirs as well. I feel like I’ve made a lot of progress over the last 5 years, embracing the way I look and accepting it as good, even if it looks different from what I see in magazines and media. But this whole pregnancy thing has brought me back to a type of insecurity that I haven’t felt since high school. It’s not fun. It’s not easy to talk about. And as much as I’d like to ignore it I am choosing instead to feel it with everything in me, because unlike the high school version of me, this Jessica knows God now, and I know He wouldn’t allow me to experience these feelings if He didn’t plan to use them for my good and for the good of those around me. 

I find that much of my struggle is centered around deciding whether or not what I see in the mirror is “good” or “bad”. That’s the part that reminds me of high school. When we are children we are unaware that our body could be good or bad. To us, a body is just a body, and if anything, all bodies are good bodies because they are what we use to hug and play and run. As we get older we become aware of the possibility that a body can be “bad” based on its appearance and the opinions of others. So we quietly start to wonder where our own body falls. We look around to friends at school and girls on TV to see what is “good”. We learn things like... skinny is good.... tall is good... pimples are bad... boobs are good... and then based on what we find around us we start to compare our bodies to this template of “good” that has been created in our minds. As if this process isn’t painful enough, our bodies are actually still developing so we don’t even know what the grown up versions of ourselves will look like. One day we are shapeless toothpicks of girls and the next we wake up having hips and boobs and a complex about how we got so “big”. It’s hard to know whether the body we are wearing is good or bad when we aren’t even familiar with its curves and we are still learning how to dress in a way that is most flattering to our figure. I remember a time when I was going through this process, not that I realized it was happening, and how even meaningless comments from friends began to dictate how I viewed my body. One friend said in dance class, “I hate it when girls try to hide that their thighs touch.” I never knew girls hid the fact that their thighs touched. I never knew that thighs touching was a thing. But in that moment I learned that thighs touching was a problem, something that people want to hide and that’s when I realized how my own thighs touched, and that’s when I learned it was a problem.  “Thighs that touch is bad.” 
The same process is happening with me right now. I look in the mirror and I wonder if I am wearing my pregnancy in a good way or a bad way. I wonder if I’m gaining weight in a good way or a bad way. I wonder if I’m beautiful or if I’m just a vessel growing a child, which somehow makes me exempt from the whole needing to be beautiful thing. 

But this week I had a thought. What if I got to decide what was good? What if I stopped waking up hoping that beauty would somehow happen to me, and I decided to define good before looking in the mirror. Because it seems like good and bad in beauty is mostly based on magazines and media, at least that’s how it is in my world, but I happen to be personal friends with a handful of girls who I am certain everyone one else in my life would call “good” for being absolutely perfect physically, and even those girls confess to me how inadequate and unattractive they feel. We all feel “bad”. We all feel like we have missed it and that beauty is a thing only attained by some other girl with some other body. 

What if I stopped basing my definition of “good” or “bad” on what the world says about beauty and what if I chose to let God define it for me? What if I believed that I was “fearfully and wonderfully made” the way the Bible says I am? What if I chose to agree with the reality that the beautiful God who made me, the same beautiful God who made oceans and sunsets and twinkly stars, actually made me to resemble Him, which means that I am beautiful simply because He was beautiful first? What if I decided that my pregnancy was good, that my pregnant body looked good, because it was performing a miracle that it has never ever done before? What if we decided that all bodies were good? Perhaps if we stopped chasing skinny and stopped chasing beauty then we could start celebrating our bodies and rewarding them for all of the good they do. Even if we are overweight. Even if we are out of shape. Those don’t need to be reasons to punish our bodies. If we began to view our bodies as good, right now, exactly as they are, then we could start to treat them tenderly and nourish them accordingly. Good bodies deserve health. Bad bodies deserve to be strained, starved, and neglected. Bad bodies aren’t worth our best. Good bodies deserve to be loved. 

Whether we are a 16 year old in a high school hallway, or a 26 year old in her first pair of maternity shorts, the desire to be beautiful is real and the way we think about our bodies is a choice. The more we develop patterns in our hearts of thanking God for forming us and pursuing health in these figures He has given us, the easier it will become to love the way we look. That process looks differently for each of us but for me it means guarding my heart from spending too much time online or in magazines, it means not weighing myself unless I’m at the doctor’s office, and it means not being critical of myself in my thoughts or in my speech. This body I am in is a gift. Your body is a gift. Good gifts from a good God. Let’s learn to trust His goodness and embrace the beauty that is already ours. 

You have a good body. A really good one. I pray you see it. 

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Some Christmas time photos from Michigan. Just because I love them. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

good, bad & learning to filter

This post was written sometime in September of last year and I just stumbled upon it tonight. 
It encouraged me and I thought it might encourage you too.  

This week was a good one. Most of my mornings were spent teaching a flock of skateboarders in their 20-somethings on the topic of Identity. On Monday night I had a potluck dinner with some wonderful friends who all work in Fashion & Entertainment. We ate yummy food, caught up on life's latest and prayed together for people working in their industries to experience the life they were created for - full of hope, anchored in peace, and free from the things that destroy them. One night Shaun and I hung out with our new favorite blogger friend until almost midnight. We watched youtube videos, learned about Twitter, and talked about how to be "good" at social media. We also talked about how she is not "all about that bass". She gave me some cute new clothes and some argan oil for my face which was extra delightful, and Shaun talked her into giving him some perfume that he could give me later as a gift. He gave it to me and I love it. I'm wearing it now. On Tuesday I finished writing a story that will be published in a devotional book for what might be the most amazing college ministry that I know of, maybe there are cooler ones, but this one is definitely the one I would want to join. I mean their website is gorgeous. Wednesday night Shaun and I had dinner with friends who started a non-profit and want to partner with Shaun in his work here in LA. The latter part of the week included a Bible study in north Hollywood, some one-on-one dates with girls I get the privilege of loving and encouraging, and the opportunity to hear a successful missionary/university leader/Bible translator guy tell stories about times when God used little ordinary people to do big extraordinary things. And my favorite day is writing day, which is today, right now even. See. Its been a good week. That's my instagram week. The one I would take cute photos of and filter perfectly and write adorable little captions about how #grateful I am for everything I get to do.

And then there's the other details of the week. Like how everyday after I would teach I would feel really insecure and kind of lonely and I'd start questioning the stuff I said. I also felt really unsure of my appearance this week, in the way that when you look yourself in the mirror it feels a little like the crazy mirror at the carnival because your eyes are all confused and you can't tell if you look great and fashionable or if you look old and fluffy. Poor Shaun had to endure multiple interrogations, "Do you think I look beautiful?.... but what about my clothes?... but what about my skin?... but do I look silly?... but what about my hair?" Yep friends. That's right. The girl teaching on Identity, preaching about value, praying for those who are paid to be beautiful... is still pondering in her heart whether she looks plain and old or something better that she... I...  just can't see right. Shaun and I also had a rough night Wednesday. He was exhausted and overwhelmed, I was selfish and annoyed, and he left the key in the ignition while he was at work so the car battery died and he was on the phone with Verizon for about a million hours while we were trying to jump the car which made the night even more irritating. By Thursday I was exhausted and my mind was tumbling around like a dryer with thoughts of all the stuff I should be doing better and all of the opportunities I am missing and all of the things I thought would be different about my life right now. (Which is actually what made Bible study refreshing because it was so important to remember that God desires for me to feel alive, not dead under the weight of "should"s.) And now it's today and now I'm here writing, but before I could get words onto the screen I spent several hours getting words onto journal pages, scribbling and doodling and praying and longing for God to make some sense of my wandering heart. I didn't exercise much this week. I didn't eat great this week. And Shaun and I weren't extra adoring of each other this week either. So those are the parts of my week that didn't make it to instagram and they wouldn't make it to my blog either if I didn't think there was purpose in it.

I'm not crazy in saying that the week was good, because it really was. I'm also not crazy for revealing the lows of my week, because I really did feel them, and as yucky as they felt, they really didn't replace the goodness in my week. It's just that life is sometimes like that, a complicated blend of really good and really bad, and the choice presents itself: will we set our eyes on the good or allow our unfortunate tendency to focus only on the bad reign in our hearts?

I like instagram. I like how close it makes me feel to friends far away. I like feeling like I have met Lucy Harper or like I was there when @bethaknee went to Japan. I love seeing #annaheavenly make her cute Swiss-Asian faces, and I love seeing her beautiful mama be a beautiful mama. But I don't like it when people feel discouraged when they look at my instafeed because comparison has convinced them that they are somehow "missing it"and I am somehow not. I only know the feeling because I have felt it too, looking at your photos, and I have had to remind myself that I am just fine over here. I'm doing my very best to love well and lead faithfully and serve wholeheartedly, and that is enough.

I'm thankful for instagram filters and how they can take great moments and make them worthy of picture frames. They're the coolest. But perhaps what I need is a filter in my heart that can take the normal, mundane, less than photogenic moments, and make them significant, because the more I know of God, the more I realize that they are significant. The struggles, the questions, the doubts, the selfish nights, the grumpy husbands, the dead car batteries, they are all important. They are opportunities for growth. Opportunities for faith. Moments when I don't feel God make it more meaningful when I still choose to trust Him. Those are the glory moments.

It's the times when I don't feel beautiful but I choose confidence and security anyway because I choose to believe that being made in the image of a beautiful God makes "not beautiful" not an option. It's the times when I choose to wake up an hour early to make breakfast for my husband who was being difficult the night before because I meant it when I promised to love him for better or for worse. It's the times when I teach, and preach, and pray according to what is true, and when I rest and trust and love according to truth too. As I choose to filter my experiences with the truth of God's Word my feelings will come into alignment.

"Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect." Romans 12:2 (NLT)
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Friday, January 9, 2015

I found out I was pregnant in Panera Bread.

photo by @sarahgrunderphotography

     I found out I was pregnant in a Panera Bread bathroom stall. We were in Huntington Beach staying with our family there and Shaun was out skating with some friends. I had felt a whirlwind of emotions in the week prior to that point, which led me to believe that one of two things was definitely true, either I needed to make an urgent appointment to see a counselor... or I was pregnant. I hadn’t intended to take a pregnancy test that evening but as I approached the Albertson’s and Panera shopping center the opportunity presented itself all too readily. I knew this Panera was classy and clean, like most other places in Orange County, so peeing on a stick in their bathroom seemed perfectly normal. I casually popped into Albertson’s to buy the test, trying my best not to look like I was anxious about whether or not my life was about to be changed forever. My strategy was to grab the test and then stroll through some other aisles of the store nonchalantly to convince any on-lookers that this test was for some time in the distant far-away future, and not to be taken in the next 5 minutes at the restaurant next door.  Once I made it through the self check-out I b-lined it to Panera and straight for their restroom. 
  I was the only one in the bathroom when it happened, which ended up being a really good thing because the moment that little plus sign appeared I burst out laughing and genuinely couldn’t stop. I remember laughing like that when Shaun first said “I love you” to me on a swing-set in Barcelona almost 7 years ago. I also laughed like crazy on Splash Mountain at Disneyland. I don’t know what all of those things say about me other than maybe with exactly the right combination of shock, joy and adrenaline, I can’t help but laugh like mad woman. Anyway after I pulled myself together and managed to leave the bathroom I was at a loss for what to do next. What do people do after they find out they are pregnant? I sat in a chair and tried to read the Bible, because that seemed like a pretty solid thing to do, but it didn’t work, all I could do was think about my new secret. So after a few minutes of pretending to read the Bible I left Panera and started to walk home. 
I had high hopes of finding some adorable Pinteresty way of telling Shaun he was going to be a Dad. Like one of my best friends who wrote it in on the bottom of a Starbucks cup, or two of my other friends who bought their men “world’s best dad” coffee mugs, ( it becoming obvious that my people are coffee people?...) but plans didn’t quite go as I’d hoped. As I walked home the sun was setting and the beach sky was turning gloriously pink, I decided it was a good time to call Shaun and find out when he would be home, so that I could tell him the good news in person and in my oh-so-delightfully-extra-special way. As soon as I heard his voice, however, I blew it, which really shouldn’t be a surprise for the girl who took her test in a Panera bathroom. I think cute Pinterest girls always take their tests in the comfort of their own homes. Not me. So he answers the phone and I immediately squeal, “Baby! The craziest thing just happened! ... I just took a pregnancy test! ... And it was positive!” There it was. The big secret spilled. Shaun was of course thrilled about it and came home right away so we could celebrate. He has been ready to be a dad since the day we got married. He has never put pressure on me to have kids, but has always made it very clear that whenever I felt ready, he was ready too. At the end of August I nervously told him that I thought.... maybe.... I felt ready, and on November 1st we found out our babe was on the way. My husband makes quick work.
I haven’t dreamed of being a mom. I didn’t long for it as a young girl and I’ve never really been all that into children. I know kids are incredibly special and I love when people love them, but I personally have never felt particularly comfortable being around little ones. In fact people closest to me know that I’ve prayed a lot about this over the last few years because I have had some serious fears about becoming a mother. I can tell you more about that in a different post, but basically what I am getting at is that this whole thing feels new, and scary, and yet somehow exactly right. I know that life is a gift and that the Giver of life is the One I have placed my trust in. I trust Him to care for me and now I trust Him to care for my growing little one. 
I’m almost 15 weeks along (3 and a half months) and I haven’t known what I’m doing pretty much this entire time. I think that’s okay. Because I’m not the one in charge of forming this little treasure in my womb. My God is doing just fine with that. So I just sit here and continue to do what I always do when I don’t know what to do... I pray. I pray when I’m excited. I pray when I’m scared. I pray when I’m anxious and can’t tell if I’m overeating and it’s a bad thing, or just pregnant-lady eating, which doesn’t seem to be a problem. I pray when my eating leads to nausea and I pray again when my nausea leads to bathrooms. I pray when I don’t know if we’ll be delivering the babe in Barcelona or LA and I pray to say thanks again for my awesome new set of pregnant boobs. When I don’t know what to do, I just pray. Because I'm convinced that the One who hears my prayers is faithful to meet my needs, just like He did before I was pregnant, and just like He will again after. 

Special thanks to Panera Bread for providing a clean stall to change my world in. You’ll forever hold a special place in our hearts. Also, I’m sorry I didn’t buy anything that day. I promise I have made up for it since then. 

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

"Always be joyful. Never stop praying, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus." 
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NLT)

"Children are a gift from the Lord, they are a reward from Him, children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior's hands. How joyful is the man who's quiver is full of them!" 
Psalm 127:3-4, 5a

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PS. Let's celebrate my baby's Daddy becoming pro 
for Untitled Skateboards! Woohoo! 
Watch his "Welcome to pro" video below & visit to order his first ever official pro model board! 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

We have good news!

(video by @sarahgrunderphotography)

Most of you have probably seen this little video already on Facebook and Instagram but I thought it would be great to share it on here too! Our little treasure is due to arrive on the 4th of July and we are thrilled about it - a new baby and a sky full of fireworks! How fun! 

Thank you, thank you, thank you to all of you loved ones for being so wonderfully encouraging to us! We love you and are excited to do this next season of life with you! 

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