Friday, July 22, 2016

Fearfully and Wonderfully

Lately I've been thinking a lot about our bodies. It could be because its summer and we all find ourselves baring about 43% more skin. Or it could because I'm experiencing a spike in my general dissatisfaction with mine.

I catch myself gazing at my girls, adorned in their swimsuits, running, leaping, completely fearless and unashamed. They are oblivious to this societal notion that our bodies should be viewed as anything other than strong and capable and amazing and beautiful. They stand tall and confident, donning their swimsuits without giving them a second thought. I can't help but grin with pride. I'm so grateful for their self-assurance but at the same time, I'm already stinging for the day when it begins to wane.

Oh how I fear this day when it all changes. When my kids notice me eyeing my own form in the mirror with disgust. When they can't help but witness the teenage girls sunbathing on the dock, obsessing over their appearance. When they overhear the conversations of adults self-loathing their bodies, absorbed in discussions over calories and grams of fat.

Oh Lord, please spare my kids from this mess we've made.

Psalm 139:14 reads "I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know this full well."

Yet as much as my kids believe this truth now, I know one day the world will weasel it's way in and puncture them. The messages of the millions will grow in volume and eventually drown out the mantras that have been preached at home. Someone will say something that will devastate them, words that they will carry with them into their adulthood. 

To be honest, I'm jealous of them. Hidden beneath my shirt is a mid-section that has had havoc wreaked upon it, three times and then some. Stretched and pulled and then shrunk (read: more like shriveled) back down. Some might be surprised to learn body image is an issue for me. But allow me to enlighten you: body image is an issue for ALL of us. I'm as guilty as the rest of them. Even in my profession. It pains me when I find myself critiquing another, thinking thoughts of if only - if only they tightened up a couple muscles here or lost a few pounds there. I too am a part of the problem.

I remember the day well. I was in my early teen years, I think maybe around 7th or 8th grade. I had been homeschooled for the entirety of my education, though I would soon launch into the eye-opening world of public high school. Honestly, my opinion of my body had been spared, being that I was taught at home. I didn't think much about style (trust me, I have pictures of tightly curled short bands and black high top shoes to show for it!!) I didn't know my body was "supposed" to be any different than the way it was. I didn't know about love handles (though admittedly I'm pretty sure I had some). I purchased clothing that fit my body and the number inside the tag meant nothing to me. My peers were beginning to care about the way they looked but, as is still true today, I always jumped aboard the style ship about 6 years after it sailed. I was oblivious but I didn't care (the beauty of oblivion!) 

I was sitting with a friend at church. She said the words in passing, I'm sure she meant them as a compliment. I'm sure her mother intended them as such as well:

"My mom says if you lost 5 or 10 pounds, you would have the body of a model." 

As if they were tattooed across my forehead, I've never been able to forget these words. I had never considered modeling and I didn't care to be one, but that piece didn't matter. Someone had laid the groundwork, they had set the bar. Suddenly I wasn't good enough as is. The line had been drawn and I had been judged. It was one of my earliest, shaping memories that told me I wasn't.
We are fed subliminal and blatant messages from a very young age about how are bodies are to look. We are taught to obsess over our calorie intakes, that exercise is a terrible chore and something to dread. In this day and age, kids see their parents typing away on their phones, entering meals consumed into their calorie-tracking apps. We have totally lost contact with the original purpose of food - to be used to energize and to enjoy. In so many cases, what we eat has shifted into something we fear and feel shame over. And it saddens me greatly. Like so many things in this broken world, my heart scream out that this isn't what God intended.      

I am participating in a summer Bible study and we're starting at a very fitting place - at the beginning in the book of Genesis. Adam and Eve, God's newly-created, were in the Garden of Eden and everything was perfect. They had everything they needed - beauty, companionship, food and communion with God. Genesis 2:25 reads that "The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame." 

And then in one swift moment, everything changes. The serpent is cunning and seductive, the teller of lies. He convinces Eve that the forbidden fruit will make her wise and so she eats it and then shares it with Adam. Immediately they were ashamed and they hid.

In chapter 3, God approaches and calls out to them with a simple "Where are you?"

I kind of love this part. The meaning behind God's question runs so much deeper than a simple wondering over their physical location. He knew where they were but I believe what he was really asking was "What happened? I created you perfectly, innocent and unashamed. Where did the YOU I created go?" As a parent, I can imagine the heartbreak he experienced as he witnessed his children, his beautiful creation punctured by sin. By the messiness of this world. 

Like I said, I know the day will come when my kids don't run freely and proudly in their own skin anymore, when the voices of those around them will dampen their spirits and weigh them down. My prayer I guess then is not that they would be entirely spared of this pain I know to be inevitable. But rather that they would experience an extra dose of resilience. That the truths that we are raising them on would eventually prevail - that they are fearfully and wonderfully made. I pray that they would be blessed with more confidence than I and that this confidence would spread like wildfire to everyone they encounter.

Friends, we need to do everything in our power to fight this culture that we live in. Our kids are watching and they are absorbing more than we realize. We need to watch the way we talk about our bodies and what we put into them. If you haven't already done so, I challenge you to reframe your conversations about food and your body. If you are talking about calories, talk about them as energy to fuel our bodies to do incredible things. If you are talking about your legs, talk about how far they can carry you. If you are talking about the fat around your middle, talk about how it insulates and provides protection. If you begin a sentence about any part of your body, finish it with "and isn't it amazing what it can do?" Let's face it. We're going to screw up. But our kids need to literally hear us say the words that they are fearfully and wonderfully made. We need to tell them that God designed their bodies for work and for play and for rest and for pleasure. We are a crushed and hurt and dissatisfied people. Let's do our part to lend a hand to the generations that follow and get the message out there:


Period. No ands, ifs or buts about it.


  1. Such a good message always! You have a true gift, Kelsie!

  2. I LOVE this Kelsie! Such a great message! I always tell my girls that I workout because I want to be strong so I can go hike mountains, or ride bikes for a long time without getting winded, or do ANYTHING I set my mind to. I tell them that our bodies can take us on some great adventures if we take care of it. I sometimes wonder if I'm actually portraying that the right way though. Do they see it how I'm saying it? Am I missing anything? Hailey stuck out her belly one day as she was getting out of the bath, then giggled and said, "look mom, I'm FAT." She was being playful and she thought she was funny. I about had a panic attack. I mean, we don't talk like that - she had to have picked that up at school or something, right?? Now I'm just hoping I handled my response well. I told her we don't talk that way about ourselves, that we have amazing bodies, and that we also shouldn't use those words about someone else. Ugh. I don't bring this stuff up, because I hope to keep my girls innocent a while longer, but sometimes I just wish I had her daily interactions at school logged so I could fix what she may have heard from friends... And now I'm wondering if having her take my 'before' photos (when I start a new program) is actually feeding her bad. I always tell her I workout to be stronger, and I tell her I use pictures to see the changes in my muscles and to help inspire others to get strong so they can do cool stuff too. Wow, I'm rambling here... you've made me really think about my daily actions as a coach with littles who are watching me!


posted by kelsie