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.

Anne Lamott calls her thighs her aunties. Perhaps we should find names—kind names—for our ski-slope nose, our pear-hips and wide feet.

With one hand we paint, we write, we strum guitar; with the other, we change diapers, spoon cereal, soothe foreheads and sweep up broken goldfish.

And sometimes, while our families sleep, we slip to the mirror and pull back our hair and study the face where crow’s feet crawl. We cut our nails and it feels like heaven. We shave our legs and pluck our eyebrows and sing to ourselves as we dare to moisturize.

And for a moment, we remember that we are more than mothers. More than wives. We are women. These simple actions remind us of the person who lies beneath piles of laundry and to-do lists and dirty dishes. The woman who dreams. The woman who laughs too loud and cries too quick and feels too fierce. The woman who believes in goodness and trusts too many. The woman who makes her man blush.

Time tick-tocks to the rhythm of a child’s heartbeat, and when we emerge from the bathroom, we are groomed, pressed and primed for another day of unravelling, wrinkling and pulling.

And we breathe in the prayer that is our life and remember the face of the woman in the mirror.

Because if we forget her, we lose ourselves.

(excerpt from Mom in the Mirror: Body Image, Beauty and Life After Pregnancy, releasing Mother’s Day 2013)

                                                                    (Pre-order it HERE.)
Welcome to the first post in the series, A Dare to Love Yourself, a dare to go against society’s stereotypes and re-discover our true identity as a beloved, redeemed creation. 

Every Monday we’ll be diving into our true identity and value, leading up to Mother’s Day and the release of my next book, Mom in the Mirror, written with Dr. Dena Cabrera.

With chapters that deal with bruises from the past, misconceptions about pregnancy, life before and after children, marriage and motherhood, spiritual and physical nourishment, relationships with friends and family and the changing role of a mother as her children age, Mom in the Mirror is a holistic approach to the age-old questions:  

Who am I, and why am I here? 

Over the next few Mondays we’ll hear from a variety of guest posters–a mom and her daughter, a man whom I greatly respect, and a number of other strong individuals who have learned to love themselves.
And we’ll hear from YOU.  
Below, link up your own posts on what you’re discovering about yourself. Whether you’re male or female, a parent, pastor, teacher, or stay-at-home mom, we want to hear from you! How are you learning to love yourself? 

(**and join us, as per usual, Wednesday at 5 pm MST for Imperfect Prose; the prompt this week is FOOD.)

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