It’s hard to describe the elation I feel. Almost eleven years from the point of conception, I’ve had the joy of seeing my memoir, “Skinny Girl: a journey through anorexia”, enter the world like a newborn babe. After a whirlwind few weeks sharing it with eager readers in two states, I’m still coming down to earth.
Some of you have shared in my writing journey via the stories I’ve shared on this blog and will understand my relief and satisfaction in reaching this point. Despite the many setbacks, God has been faithful to lead me all the way through the process and I’m delighted with the outcome. I’m trusting Him now to use the book to bring hope and healing to many.
I would love to share “Skinny Girl” with you, dear readers. Please take a minute to jump over to my “Book” page and find out how to get your copy. Thanks so much.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
I can still see it so clearly in my mind—the first time my teenager zoned out on me. I was speaking words—important words—and, while my son seemed to be looking at me, it was as though shutters had come down over his mind and heart. In his eyes I saw that glazed, faraway look that told me he may have been physically present, but his thoughts were miles and miles away.
I finished the conversation and left the room, firing a prayer heavenward. God, help! What do I do now? Within a few days, He provided an answer, bringing instant perspective and direction. Over the many years since, I’ve experienced the same dynamic over and over: I hit a difficult patch in my parenting, I turn to God and, graciously, He shows me the way forward. He really is my number one counsellor.
There are countless things I could tell you of all God has shown me through the years. Today, I’ll focus on four principles that have proven crucial with all our children. Before I share them with you, I need to clarify one detail:
God is perfect, I am not.
Mulling over these concepts has confronted me once again with how much I need to grow. My children—mostly adults now—are constantly changing. I need to adapt with them. So, as I write, I’m praying you find encouragement for your situation and we each allow God to keep moulding us into the parents He wants us to be—for every stage and season.
BE SLOW TO SPEAK
“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry . . .” James 1:19
In response to the scenario I described above, God gave me this advice:
Be slow to speak and quick to listen to Me. I know what your son needs and when he needs to hear it. As you wait on Me, I’ll open up opportunities and give you the words and the ways to encourage and challenge him. Wait, watch and you will see.
As parents, we sometimes notice areas in our teenager’s life or character that concern us. It’s natural to want to address them right away, just as we did when they were young. If we sense resistance, we might even be tempted to talk longer to make sure they understand our point.
The difficulty comes because our teens are moving on from childhood. They’re starting to look more to their peers and less to us for advice—which is why it’s so important for us to wait for God’s timing. When He gives us a clear opening, we can speak the words He’s put in our mouths with confidence. Once those thoughts have been shared, we need to stop speaking and walk away, trusting the Holy Spirit to apply the truth to the listener’s heart.
“(There is) a time to be silent and a time to speak . . .” Ecclesiastes 3: 7b
2. WALK HUMBLY
“He has shown you . . . what is good. And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8
God wants us to trust in His authority to work on our behalf, rather than trying to assert our own. Instead of coming on strong, attempting to dominate and control our teens, we are to walk humbly with them, showing understanding, compassion and love—even while we set firm boundaries. Likewise, when we fail we need to quickly ask their forgiveness, acknowledging our weaknesses, even if it makes us feel uncomfortable.
When we seek to honour God in the way we lead our children, He will affirm us before them and bring down barriers between us. I’ve seen this happen in surprising ways in my own family.
“Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up.” James 4:10
3. BE PATIENT
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
We need to keep a long-term view. This can be difficult when we’re immersed in a seemingly endless struggle with our teenager. It’s important to remember—despite how intense and impossible it feels, this season will pass. What kind of relationship do we want with our young adult at the end of it? Pausing to think about this can renew our sense of purpose.
It’s also enlightening to reflect on how long we take to learn important life lessons—even as adults. Seeing clearly our own frailty can inspire us afresh to provide encouragement and support for our adolescent through their ups and downs. God is so patient and gracious with us; He wants us to show the same kindness and generosity to our children. When they fall, we need to offer forgiveness and lift them up, just as God does with us.
“Bear with each other and forgive one another . . . as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13
4. KNOW WHERE YOUR HELP COMES FROM
“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1-2
This principle is the foundation of all the others. Parenting, especially parenting teens, confronts us daily with how much we need God. It brings us right back to the basics, reminding us He is the Creator, we the created. He sees and knows all. We don’t.
God made our teenagers. He knows them—intimately. He sees right through the image they project and their emotional fluctuations to their unique and tender hearts. And He has a clear understanding of His plans for their future.
If we lift these ones before God and choose to rely on Him, He’ll provide all the wisdom, love and courage we need to help them weather their storms and move beyond to His sunshine. At the same time, His Spirit will reach the places in them we can’t, bringing healing and comfort and giving them the strength they need to move forward.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5
I hope you found these principles as helpful as I have. When God gives us directions like this, He doesn’t expect us to fulfil them through our own scheming and striving. Instead, He calls us to trust Him and rely on His strength and guidance. He knows the best way forward for each of us, in our unique family situations.
Will you join me in this prayer?
“God, thank you that you see me and you know my family.
You understand all that’s going on in each of our hearts and our circumstances.
Please teach me how to be a loving parent to my children, at every age.
Guide my thoughts and let the words I speak come from your heart—in your timing.
When I feel like rising up in anger or forcefully taking control, help me to stop, humble myself and put my trust in you to make things right.
Give me the courage to ask forgiveness when I fail.
In those times I feel too hurt or too weary to go on, remind me of your kindness, help me to forgive and fill me with the patience I need to keep loving, keep giving.
Thank you, God, for your Holy Spirit, who walks with me every moment, guiding my steps and working in my children’s hearts for their good.
I’m so grateful for your love and constant presence.
Body hate. It’s such a sad pairing of words. I remember from my anorexic days that dark sensation of so despising myself, I was willing (even eager) to make the ‘skin’ I was in disappear.
Maybe this feeling is familiar to you. Or maybe ‘hate’ seems too strong a word. How about ‘body dissatisfaction’? In our world, with its endless opportunities to compare, very few people are satisfied with their appearance—always wishing some feature looked, well, like someone else’s.
This kind of thinking steals from us in so many ways. It robs our joy. It lowers our sense of worth. And it keeps us from growing into who we were made to be.
In my last post, I asked you to join me in breaking free from pressure to fit the world’s ‘perfect’ mould. How’s that going for you? It can be hard to swim upstream alone. Here are some strategies I’ve found helpful.
Shift your Gaze
The house we’re renting is full of mirrors. Almost everywhere I turn, I’m faced with my reflection—not ideal for someone who wants to set her sights higher. While we can’t remove the mirrors, I’ve found a way to adjust my focus.
Attached to our large bathroom mirror are several slips of paper, each bearing a short quote. Every morning when I’m dressing, I shift my gaze to those words and remind myself what matters most.
People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7)
You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honour God with your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
Set your mind on things above (Colossians 3:20).
These words remind me my appearance isn’t my primary feature—even though it’s the one people see first. It’s my heart that sets the course for my life. That’s what I need to check as I head into each day. Am I at peace? Am I ready to love the people around me? What needs to change?
Train Your Mind
Every day we’re bombarded with lies. Every day we need to replace them with truth. Romans 12:2 says we’re transformed by the renewing of our minds. This renewal doesn’t happen by chance. It comes when we stop, recognize the destructive thoughts taking root in our mind, rip them out and replace them with truth.
Reading words on the mirror helps. Speaking the words aloud—whether to ourselves, in prayer or in conversation with others—is even more powerful. Many times, my spirit has lifted as I’ve chosen to voice God’s words of promise over a difficult situation. The more we feed on His truth, the brighter our perspective grows.
How about our technology use? What are we looking at, reading, listening to? All of these are seeds we’re sowing into the soil of our minds. Recent studies have shown a clear connection between online media use and body dissatisfaction—even in young children! Maybe it’s time we think about cutting back.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2
Feed Your Body
That’s right. Feed it, don’t starve it. Your body is an amazing creation and needs nourishment, rest and sensible exercise to function well. Eating a well-rounded diet brings stability to our emotions, helping us have a more positive outlook. And choosing to nurture, rather than deprive, our bodies brings a heart change, sending the pendulum swinging away from body hate closer to love.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14
Find Your Purpose
We were made to be so much more than a good-looking ornament. Life is a gift to be embraced with all we have. In each of us God has put a deposit of His nature—a handpicked mix of personality, passions and gifts. Even before we were conceived, He had a specific path in mind for our lives. As we grow in knowing Him, He reveals more of His purpose for us and our sense of value grows.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10
The closer we draw to God’s heart, the more His love for others seeps into our veins. We realize life is not all about us—how we look or the image we project. It’s about people–living with them, loving them, seeing their needs, letting them see ours and each playing our part to boost each other on the journey. When we live this way—pursuing God and loving others—we find fulfilment that goes far deeper than any superficial happiness.
It shouldn’t be surprising, really. After all, it’s what we were made for.
Jesus (said), ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and all your mind . . . (and) Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:37
Have you ever felt it—that rush of excitement when you receive an invitation? Whether it’s for a wedding, a ball or a lavish birthday celebration, your mind swirls with images of beauty and music and celebration, then leaps to the vital question—“What will I wear?”
Last time I went through this routine, something about it bothered me. I felt honoured to be included in the guest list for a family wedding and I wanted to look my best. But my dreams of how I might dress were marred by sharp prods of anxiety. Will everyone approve of my outfit? More importantly, Will everyone approve of the way I look in that outfit?
My body is changing. Skin doesn’t spring back the way it used to. Weight is shifting to new locations and clothes don’t sit like they did before. After years of having little concern about my fitness, I need to work harder for the same results. And I am. But there’s a new body-consciousness simmering under the surface, a fear of judgement by others—and I’m annoyed. I’ve been in that place before and I know it does me no good.
Many years ago, I learned the compulsion we feel to fit a certain mould is based on this lie—our worth is measured by the size and shape of our body. Every day, through all sorts of means, we’re bombarded with perfectly crafted images telling us how to look, what to wear and how much we should weigh if we want to measure up—and they suck us ever-downward into a spiral of comparison, discouragement and striving. Even when we know the truth, those messages can still creep in and warp our thinking. If we let those lies take root in our souls we sell ourselves short—way short.
We are more than a body. Much, much more. And, deep down, I think we know it.
God gave us our bodies as a powerful instrument to help us express who we really are. The way we treat people, the things we throw our energy into, what makes us happy or angry or sad all reveal to others what’s in our heart. And it’s our heart that truly defines who we are—not our appearance.
The world’s standard of beauty changes all the time and from culture to culture. To spend our days running after an ever-shifting ideal is like a dog chasing its tail—lots of energy expended but very little reward. Real beauty, God says, comes from a heart at peace with Him and with others—and it doesn’t fade with the passing of years or the trials of life. How much better would we be to focus on that kind of pursuit?
So how about we shake off the lies? How about we lift our sights higher than the mirror, to the One Who looks straight to the core of our being and says we’re worth dying for? That kind of love sets us free to flourish. And it gives us the desire to appreciate the beauty in the women around us.
Instead of comparing and competing, let’s cheer each other on as we learn to be the best versions of our unique selves. And let’s get busy pouring all God has put inside us into lives well-lived.
When we focus on what really matters, there’s a joy that goes far beyond skin deep.
“Your beauty should . . . be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” 1 Peter 3:3-4
“Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16