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Mirror

We can all stop oppression

There was this little part of me that really, really wanted to be a part of this “Women’s movement.” I mean, I am a woman. I stand for women. I acknowledge that there are discrepancies in how women are generally treated that span across the globe.

I saw some of my friends storming D.C. in this historic event, and a sliver of my soul was right there with them. YES! Women are worthy. YES! Women should stand together. YES! Women are made to encourage one another. YES! Women united can accomplish incredible things.

Sadly, that was not what the media portrayed from this event, and while I recognize the media can be misleading, this event as it turned out was not about unifying women for a greater purpose. You can do your own homework — many groups were included and then intentionally and sometimes violently — uninvited. That doesn’t make this a “women’s march” then, does it? You can form your own opinions. There are many — some I agree with and others I don’t. But the beauty of being a woman is that we can have opinions as diverse and unique as our own fingerprints.

That’s what I thought the event was about — women united, despite our differences, our backgrounds, our political beliefs. I heard women saying they wanted to stand for women, to stand for what is “right” and “true.” And in so many regards, I think most of us actually do agree on fair, equal and “right” treatment of women — even if we are not in alignment with the programs, systems and laws that achieve that end. So often we forget that truth: We agree on more than we disagree.

It simply makes me sad that SOME women turned it into a divisive partisan event — a top-down maneuver from the organizers that permeated some rather disgusting choices and behavior. I was further grieved to see the response from women who then criticized the women at the event with a pretty holier-than-thou, let’s get a hashtag trend going to stand in opposition of “these women.” Not my march, they said. So glad I’m not there with “you women.” I don’t stand for “that” or “this.” Feeding into the partisan rhetoric of day from the comfort of their living rooms. Because that will also unify women, right?

Where are the men in all of this?

They are doing what men have done for decades…wondering what in the hell is wrong with women. This is just a classic example of why I recently told my daughter, in frustration once again, to find more boys to be friends with when a girl waged an all-out campaign to dismantle her circle of support by lying about her to her friends.

Sure, there are definitely men who have oppressed women. I won’t disagree with that.

But the truth is that in my lifetime, I have seen far more women oppressing women.

It happens in grade school on the playground. I’ve spent time sopping up the tears of middle school girls who have been subjected to some horrendous behavior, threats, manipulation and nastiness of…that’s right, other girls. And guess what? I’ve seen it unravel in the workplace among professional women.

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Women at a Mirror Image spa in Sierra Leone destroying the lies they’ve believed about themselves, often perpetuated by other women.

To me, this so-called movement was a grotesque display of what has always been the biggest hurdle for the advancement of women — our own oppression and divisiveness. What happened in those two days was just the beginning, as the war has continued only to escalate in the days since.

Ladies, is this what we really want? Can you honestly say this is the solution? Do you feel good about it?

I recently spent two weeks shoulder-to-shoulder serving alongside women in Sierra Leone. All you need to do is look at their faces to see the proof — scars from secret society rituals. The ones where they also endure female genital mutilation. Not at the hands of a man. No, it’s the women who perform these “procedures” and ceremonies.

Sure, the roots of this and other systemic discrimination and abuse of women WORLD-WIDE are rooted in beliefs of a male-dominated culture. But until we own our roles, our responsibilities and yes, our sins in the perpetuation of violence toward women from women, we won’t find peace. This much I’m sure of.

We also need to realize there is an ENORMOUS population of men who want nothing but freedom from oppression for women. But we often shove them to the side as we make it all about us.

I want to stand in unity for women’s rights and equality. I DO stand for women in every and all ways I know how to without compromising my own beliefs or belittling the beliefs of other women.

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My friend Paula speaking truth and life over women during a Mirror Image Spa in Sierra Leone.

Which is why I could not and did not participate in an event clouded in politics. And why I won’t be using any hashtag that pits one group of women against another.

I would be lying if I said women don’t piss me off and infuriate me sometimes. I think that much is obvious.This has nothing to do with your opinion and more to do with your behavior and how it impacts others. I can agree to disagree even as we work for the same kind of different. And I see your heart, and I empathize compassionately with your pain even if I take a different route to work for change.

And none of  it changes how I feel about you personally. 

You are worthy. You are intelligent. You are amazing. You are beautiful (the kind that starts on the inside and radiates through your face). You are one-of-a-kind. You are loved. You have a vital place in this world.

I will not stop helping girls and women understand these deep truths about their identity. No, I probably won’t march. I likely won’t join any hashtag movement that isolates another group.

I get it. We do these things because we feel. We hurt. And we want to belong. But this isn’t healing, is it?

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Women using mirrors to remind themselves “this is the face of someone Jesus loves.”

What I will do is use the MIRROR, as I have been taught to do, to check the reflection of my own heart. To remind myself of the value of me. To ask myself what more I can do to make the world a better place. To check in with truth that says bigger transformation doesn’t really happen with a loud, noisy, “eye-for-an-eye” display but when the life of one soul is forever transformed from glory to glory.

What if we all did this? Women, men, children…from corner-to-corner of our globe, from all socio-economic backgrounds, from all races and religions. What if next time we desire to march or rally or protest or criticize we pick up a mirror first.?We look deep, past our reflections, and ask ourselves: What part have I played that got us here? Who can I forgive? What can I do to make things better in this world?

Such action doesn’t just honor God, it dignifies the very uniqueness and beauty of our individuality. We CAN make a difference. It starts inside and it can have a very profound and huge ripple effect. Yet it’s counter-cultural. It won’t look like what everyone else is doing. You might feel alone and isolated. But I assure you, you do have sisters who can, will and do stand with you.

You don’t deserve to be cut. You don’t deserve to have part of your body taken away from you. You don’t deserve lower wages. You don’t deserve to have fewer rights than your husband. You don’t deserve to be passed up for a job because of your family. You don’t deserve shame for the decisions you’ve made when it comes to planning a family. You don’t deserve criticism and mocking because of your menstrual cycle. You don’t deserve to be ostracized or bullied for any reason whatsoever.

You know this. You believe this.

So why are you subjecting other women to these very things?

Look inside. Heal. Then go and be the very thing you are hoping for!

Faith, Mirror, Wellness

I hate to love my body

I used to love hating on my body. I think it’s a 97 percent of the female population thing.

Until I had a revelation in the midst of years of battling inflammation that was causing many, many health conditions and causing me to pack on a lot of pounds. The most, in fact. I was my heaviest, busting out of size 10 pants and heading into size 12.

I had a moment in the mirror in which God reminded me of His unconditional love for me, along with my husband’s. And in a heartbeat, I got a brand-new attitude about my body. Seriously. I suddenly loved it.

The neatest thing about that was that once I made the decision, I found a tool to address the inflammation. As the inflammation and symptoms I had began to fade, toxic fat melted off my body. I saw who I really was under the mess, and an even better sense of wholeness and confidence emerged.

In sum: I loved the outer me (finally), and God helped me take care of the inner me. Once the inner me was doing well, the outer me could really shine. Transformation had taken place.

But real life is hardly that simple. I had a super miraculous, super amazing unexpected pregnancy. And I struggled with the ups and downs of a postpartum, nursing body. Both how it looked and how it felt. Amen?!?

This is super hard for me to share, but I’ve felt for some time that I am supposed to be more vulnerable so I can help more women and girls. Still…..GULP.

Here I am a few days ago:

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It’s really easy for me to look at this and feel disappointed. After all, I worked hard for my transformation a couple years ago. This does not reflect that work. I am a health writer and coach, helping other people get their body in the best possible condition.

But here are some truths:

  1. I just had a baby and nursed her for 13 months. My body did some absolutely insanely miraculous things. At the age of 40+. Not every woman is this blessed. I am blessed. Beyond measure. I am so grateful for this body that God used for not one, but three of these miracles. And while they might have been hard on my body, who knows if they haven’t actually been the reason I stay focused on a healthy lifestyle. Nobody will ever know how I’d look or feel if I’d never had children. Babies — and ALL they encompass — are blessings. That means my body is a blessing. Even here. Even now. Always.
  2. I eat clean about 95 percent of my diet. I eat little sugar and mostly organic. None of that has changed.
  3. I need more help to deal with the toxicities in my body than simply diet. I happen to recommend a perfect tool to people daily in nutritional cleansing, which aids the body in detoxing through intermittent fasting. Now that I’m done nursing, I can use it again. It will help me once again with a transformation. That’s a total blessing!
  4. As long as I’m still breathing, I get another chance to transform my body — not because it’s hideous (though a tan on that tummy might be nice! My husband joked that it looks like I’m wearing panty hose….hahahaha!!!) but because it can be healthier from the inside out.
  5. Jesus is more gentle on me than I am on myself, even on the days when I don’t treat my body like the temple that it is and even when I don’t deserve His grace. His love is truly unconditional, and He doesn’t stand in judgement but is my biggest cheerleader when I take care of myself. Because me taking good care of me allows me to stand more securely in the truth of my identity as a mom and wife and missionary. My cup is full when I feel great, and it can overflow and spill into all areas and relationships in my life effortlessly!

So I find myself in an oddly familiar place. Standing in front of the mirror, reflecting on this full-body shot my husband just took for a 16-week health transformation challenge.

I get a choice.

Hate this body OR

totally embrace it with the same unconditional love my Father has for me.

I’m choosing the latter, because I know He cares less (or perhaps not at all) about the way my body looks and much more about how I use it physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually…to be free, to share His love.

Man looks at how someone appears on the outside. But I look at what is in the heart.
– 1 Samuel 16:7b

 

Faith, Mirror

#ownyourjoy

A few days ago, I issued a challenge for anyone who’d like to hone their self-motivation and self-discipline to do a simple exercise for 40 days to practice what it’s like to work on developing a new habit. It’s super easy.

Every day (preferably morning), write something you’re grateful for on Facebook. Or take a photo of it or do a live video explaining what you’re thankful for. Use the hashtag #ownyourjoy. Be part of this movement and community to encourage each other and to hold yourself accountable.

It should take no more than one minute. I wanted it to be easy. But I also wanted it to be impactful. Can starting each day reflecting on your gratitude change your outlook…for that day? For all 40 days? There’s a lot of evidence that suggests it does.

If you want to dig a little deeper, I highly recommend Tommy Newberry’s book “40 days to a Joy-filled Life.” It’s where the idea occurred to me.

And today, another idea came to mind. I was reading Day 9 about taking a “mental vacation” when it occurred to me that I desperately need to work on my tone of voice. It often does NOT reflect my heart and it can wound the people closest to me.

What is this “mental vacation?” It’s changing some patterns in your thought life, such as criticism, condemnation, worrisome thoughts and speech. And this doozy — “refuse to discuss your aches, pains and old wounds with friends and family.”

I feel deeply about that last one, and yet I often violate it. Why?!?! This is not good for me. Recently at the gym, I found myself struggling with a workout because of my lack of sleep. I complained incessantly during that hour about how tired I was. Did it make me less tired? Did it change my workout? I bet it did. I bet it made me LESS effective. I created the visual and space for my own failure.

Sometimes we have to DIG DEEP. It’s not in our nature because we’ve long since established a pattern of the negative. It won’t happen overnight. It will take diligent practice and intentionality.

“Refrain from exasperated mannerisms or facial expressions that divulge frustration or annoyance — even if they’re seemingly justified,” Tommy writes on Day 9 in his book.

Ugh. That’s me. And my tone. It’s annoyed and angry, most often with my kids and husband, even if my heart isn’t truly annoyed or angry. It’s destructive, and it’s got to go! I will spend the next week really focused on this one habit and resist the urge to use a negative tone at all.

What about you? Is there anything on this list you can work on for a “mental vacation?” Are you participating in the #ownyourjoy challenge? If not, why not get started today? _DSC0175

Mirror, Wellness

I pick myself first

A baby with night terrors, binge eating and returning health issues — these are a few issues I faced during my second IsaBody Challenge.

I knew I was a stress eater, but I’d never understood what binge eating was until I was three days deep in an eating disorder. As the founder of a non-profit to promote positive body image in preteen and teen girls, I was stunned by my behavior and shocked that I didn’t recognize the symptoms right away. My binge eating came as my husband and two older children were in a play and gone virtually every night for three weeks. I was alone with our 6-month-old baby every day and then every night, too. Overwhelmed with my daily responsibilities and stressed with the bouts of night terrors our baby was experiencing, I turned to food (albeit healthy) to placate my emotions. It happened so fast but grieved my soul for all the girls I’ve counseled in the same predicament. There was no doubt that my behavior was out of control and while my food was healthy, the serving sizes were grotesquely over-the-top. I quickly corrected using a Carol Elizabeth 10-day reset (great timing!), propelling myself back into the habits I had established back when I began Isagenix in July 2014.

Meanwhile, the chronic discomfort I was experiencing when I began nutritional cleansing had been slowly returning during this challenge. I am breastfeeding, so I can not do a cleanse, which I believe will “reset” a lot of the issues. The pain is uncomfortable, but I am often reminded of how far I’ve come. It’s not unbearable. And if I have to (in extreme situations only), I take one ibuprofen. One. I used to swallow four at a time, eight or more times a day just to get through my suffering.

I’m looking forward to my first cleanse, but I’m committed to prioritizing my baby’s needs and development in this short season. Yes, I do realize that to be a good mom I may have to make decisions like early weaning. I’ve also stumbled enough to know that I HAVE to put myself first, and I am certainly taking care of myself in the best ways I can body, mind and spirit. My entire family has recently joined a local gym. For the first time in my life, I’m lifting weights. My first goal was 10 standard pushups and a tight wall stand, which I accomplished. My next goal is 10 unassisted pull-ups by the end of the year. I set these goals not to be vain or because I’m a competitor. When I was in fourth grade, I could not do even one pull up on the Presidential Fitness test. My teacher wrote down one just so I didn’t feel like a loser. But I already did. I was picked last on teams at recess and P.E. I hated fitness because of how it made me feel about myself. I avoided exercise so I could escape those negative feelings. As a result, I did more harm than good, and it took me 30+ years to realize that.

handstand  lifting blisters

I want my children to know that it’s not about competing with others but about your own goals and growth, as well as strength and long-term health. I want them to learn to cheer on others, as they push themselves to new heights. As a 42-year-old with a new (unexpected) baby, I picture her face when I work out. Truth be told, all of my children motivate me. I MUST be around for them, and not just existing but thriving. I want them all to know that you don’t have to be limited by your past, by labels and assumptions but that you can reach any goal you set. I might have been picked last by my peers in an era gone by; however, today I can pick myself first.