the standard of beauty

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Strength and dignity are her clothing, And she smiles at the future.

Proverbs 31:25

These boys of mine? They don’t know the words that I know. The ones that swarm around in my head. The ones I’ve battled since I was in the third grade and was first aware of body image.

Words like fat.

And ugly.

And flabby.

And frizzy.

Chubby and awkward and any other word that we’ve all told ourselves at some point in our lives.

And it’s likely that some guy said it to us along the way, too.

I am so lucky to be married to a man who praises me and calls me beautiful. He loves what’s on the outside, and he especially loves what’s on the inside. (Though there is plenty to not love on the inside.)

And while my darling husband has a responsibility to teach my boys how to talk to girls and how to talk about girls, I set the example.

By loving myself, and refraining from putting myself down in front of them, I am saving them from the idea that women are to be critiqued and judged and picked apart.

The truth is, I do pick myself apart. I do want to lose the last bit of baby weight and get back into my old clothes. I want to feel like the version of me that I can’t forget. The physical pre-baby version. And maybe I’ll work hard enough to do that for myself.

But that’s my issue. I never want to give my boys permission to do that. By loving myself right where I am, and allowing my husband to love me right where I am without making excuses about my post-baby body, or two-day hair, I am showing Hudson and Hayes to look deeper. To love people for more than what they see on the outside.

That just because their friends think it’s fun to compare and critique women, it’s okay if they don’t play along.

I want them to see a mom who works hard, who is comfortable with herself, and most importantly, let the smile on my face and the joy in my life define the way people see me on the outside. The presence of Jesus Christ in my heart and in my life and in my actions.

Moms, how are you talking to your boys and girls about beauty? What are you showing them?

*This post was originally published on CourtneyDefeo.com

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the nest

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When we left our house back in November, there was a piece of me that got left behind with it. I’m a nester. Making a home, feeling at home, is my thing.

I am passionate about home. Not a particular home, but having a home. The feeling of home.

We could dissect this all a little bit, and could probably take it all back to the fact that I moved around a fair amount as a kid, and now, as an adult I want stability and home. Roots.

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In November, we left the place that I’d  called home for more than five years. And the place where I first bathed my babies and swaddled them, and tucked them into their bed. It was the place where no matter how lightly you tip-toed in the middle of the night, the creaks in the old floor boards still told stories of the memories held in the house.

But someone else moved in, and we had the amazing gift of moving in with family. Believe me when I say that I do know how much of a gift that is.

And yet, for months, my heart wrestled with the lack of roots. And feeling like I’d fallen from my nest. And then we experienced a tragedy and, again, I wondered what was happening in this whole situation.

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Once we made up our minds about where we would settle down, things did start getting easier. We could see the light at the end of the tunnel. But some big things happened to me this summer.

We had a relatively low key summer. But that was the beauty in it. There were vacations, and VBS, and swimming lessons and all the fun things that a summer holds.

But I had this amazing gift of enjoying my family. I have two beautiful, funny, relatively self-sufficient children who are fun to be with. And we had a whole lot of fun.

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Everyone was old enough to participate in whatever we did. And I just enjoyed the fun. I napped with Hudson, and read just one more book to Hayes every night.

I was present. I took time away from social media. We visited my parents. We got down on the floor and played. We went swimming. We built forts with blankets, and I had the blessed experience of watching my boys become the best of friends.

There were no big life moments this summer. There won’t be anything that makes the summer of 2013 stand out in our memories. No anniversaries or birthdays to celebrate. But it was fun. And I pray that it was fun for these guys, too. Because it was about the four of us.

Hudson and Hayes will soon be old enough to complain every day about being ready for school, and I’ll be ready for that, too. And there were, of course, the moments this summer where the days got a little too long and we couldn’t wait for Todd to walk in the door at 6:30.

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And as we move into fall, and approach our move-in date, it is painfully obvious. That need to nest that I was missing is an earthly thing. Because I can, and I have been, pouring love into my boys every day through this whole experience. Sharing Jesus with them and showing them every single day how important it is to praise God in all circumstances.

I will nest again. But my home is where my family is. They are my nest. They’ve always been here. And my Father has never left me.

No paint swatch, bookshelf, piece of tile, or closet organization plan can separate me from His love. I am His, and He has been working on my heart for the past few months, and I’ve been more than willing to lean into Him.

*All photos taken by Sarah Lyn Photography

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an unexpected, beautiful tribe

Today’s post was written by my dear friend, Ellen. Ellen blogs at Sweetwater and her words and heart flow so beautifully and effortlessly together in her writing. When Ellen speaks (yes, she’s now a speaker, too!) and writes and prays with you, I see the Lord in her. I hear the Lord in her words. He has done a beautiful work in Ellen’s heart and she shares it. I had the incredible privilege of coming together every Tuesday night this summer with a group of women at Ellen’s house to study the Word. Ellen tells that story beautifully in today’s post.

(And if you were considering going to Influence, but you’re on the fence about it, please go. Ellen will be there as a community leader with many other fabulous community leaders who will be there to encourage you. And hug you!)

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On a Tuesday night in early June I welcomed twelve women into my home to read, study the Word and fellowship. It was a beautiful night. We laughed and cried and my heart felt like it might explode right there. It was a far cry from the defeat I’d been feeling just a few months earlier as I sat in the pew on a Sunday morning.

I’m the introverted type. My list of friends is short but deep and, even though I’m 30something now, I still struggle with insecurity about that. I have the most lovely and wonderful friends. Sometimes I forget to remember that. I have a little hamster wheel in my brain just for friendship insecurities: I don’t have enough; I’m not good at them; I try too hard; I don’t have a group.

Instead of having a group that I do absolutely everything with, I have friendships scattered throughout my little life. It’s a bit of story woven through, how I have remnants of college and being newly married and a new mama and a school mama and serving and writing all wrapped up in my friendships. And I forget to remember how great that is.

So. On a Sunday morning in a wooden pew with my eyes pinched tight so tears wouldn’t overflow, I decided to lean into how friendship looks for me right now. It wasn’t my idea. It was His.

I sent emails, facebook messages and texts. I wanted to know? Would all of these women like to meet for just two months at my house? We would study something together and we would get down to the rough and raw of real fellowship (at least, I hoped).

I was afraid. Afraid that everyone would say no. Afraid that I would pick a dumb book. Afraid that it would be too awkward.

And then that first night in June happened and I sat there in my den as fat tears of laughter and joy rolled down my cheeks. And then another night when I heard a “Me, too” from woman to woman. And then another night as I listened to how God was taking deep hurt and turning it into hope.

Over and over again, I’ve been so thankful for this group of women. If I have a tribe, surely they are it. They may be gathered from all different corners but they are God’s faithfulness to me.

I had been wading through discontent and insecurity. With a gentle nudge, God asked me to just do something about it. It hasn’t changed much about my life, this group. But it’s changed the way I see it. That’s what He’s in the business of doing: revealing beauty where we see none. I’m so thankful for it.

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the Him in her

Envy is a weird thing.

Somedays I find myself completely at peace with where I am. Content with my living situation. Content with my family life. Content with my job status and not feeling overwhelmed with a need for possessions. Content with the direction my blog has taken and how that affects my daily life.

And then other days, I find myself listening to the lies of the enemy.

I see other successful, beautiful daughters of the Lord with different talents than mine. They’re being asked to do bigger things than I am. Their opportunities are more important and get more recognition and so they must just be “better” than I am.

They could be asked to serve in a specific way at church or be honored with a prestigious award. Maybe they never falter or get nervous and are always asked to speak at events and minister to a crowd. Or they get picked to partner with an amazing brand or they get picked to go on TV because their blog post went viral.

And the enemy lies to me and tells me that her purpose is more important than my purpose.

(Yes, I’m still soaking up every life-giving word in A Beautiful Purpose by Susie Larson. And I’m loving it.)

So when I get fed those lies, I question myself. What could I be doing differently? What should I change about what I’m doing? And then the enemy occasionally sends me to an ugly place and jealousy takes over. I don’t just beat myself up, but I start to critique the person who has been blessed with these gifts that I wish were mine.

“What has she done that’s any different than what I’ve done?”

In A Beautiful Purpose, I came across this one little line that said that when Susie Larson started to feel that way, she heard God say to her, “Can you honor the Me in her?”

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(p. 43, A Beautiful Purpose)

And wow, y’all.

These women are my sisters in Christ. God loves them just like He loves me. And my talents and gifts may not be the same or as recognizable or as public as someone else’s, but they are important. They are there. I was blessed with talents and gifts and I just use them differently than the woman with all the recognition. And God is opening doors every single day for us to use the gifts He has given us.

It’s not her fault. She loves the Lord just like I do.

And when I can take a step back and remember that the things I do, the talents I use, and the gifts I share should be used for His glory, I can stop thinking about myself and start being happy for her.

I can use my talents to the best of my ability, glorify God through my talents, and stop wishing for her talents!

Then I can support her, and pray for her, and honor the Him in her.

(*If any of this is also on your heart, I strongly encourage you to read A Beautiful Purpose by Susie Larson.)

 

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