Today we have my younger sister with us to discuss the major trial in her life. She doesn’t struggle with depression like Brenda does, but she struggles with something I think even more women struggle with, self image.
Amber is a 22 year old, wife, sister, daughter and permanent substitute teacher waiting for the next phase of her life to start. Amber and her husband Jay took the first year of their marriage “off” from any major careers or decisions. So that year is almost up and the next phase of her life is starting. We grew up crafty but Amber is just starting to embrace it again. She got her first sewing machine for Christmas and so far has totally kicked my butt on making things with it. So, here is her story.
My battle with self-image started when I was in elementary school, before I had the abundant life that only Jesus can bring. I was never the cute, athletic, skinny girl that everyone admired. I was the short chubby girl that often got overlooked. My self esteem was basically non-existent. When I got into middle school, I thought things would get better, but I was wrong. Things only got worse, with older students making belittling comments about me. Finally, I had had enough. I decided after my sixth grade year that I would get in shape over the summer and blow people away when I came back for seventh grade.
I started just working out more, but it slowly became an obsession. I felt like I had to work out after every time I ate anything. I remember very clearly that I ate a Jolly Rancher and felt like I had to go run a mile because I had just ate sixty calories. It got to the point that I began cutting things out of my diet all together. I started with soda, which seemed to be the healthy choice in the first place. Then there was cake, all desserts, bacon, any fried food, until eventually I was eating lettuce and carrots. I ate because I had to, because my parents made me.
My whole family was going through a really hard time that summer because a tornado had destroyed our house. So, we were all stressed and it was really easy to hide my secret obsession behind the stress of the summer and the inability to eat well when we were living in a hotel for a month. No one, not even myself, noticed how badly I was hurting myself until I had already taken it too far. I liked it when no one noticed, when I could do my own thing without drawing attention to myself. I liked being overlooked.
After our house was rebuilt and we moved back in, things started getting back to normal. Everyone at school noticed that I had lost a lot of weight, and I loved the attention. I thought I was so gorgeous simply because I was thin. I went from a size 14 at the beginning of the summer to a size 3 by the end. I was so excited. When the newness of my appearance wore off, I felt worthless. I felt like no one noticed me and I was just the overlooked girl again.
I met my first true friend when I was in seventh grade. She had such a hope in her life that I couldn’t explain. She was radiant, but I didn’t understand why. She just seemed so happy, and it angered me so much that I didn’t have that. When we were in eighth grade, she took me to church with her a few times, and I quickly saw where that hope and joy came from. Everyone at church had it. It seemed like this unattainable gift that I wasn’t good enough to receive. I was right; I was and never will be good enough to receive the gift that Jesus brings. Finally, I surrendered and accepted this free gift, and it changed my life.
I won’t say that my struggle ended with my salvation, but it definitely took a turn towards good. Slowly, God taught me to rely on Him. I had always heard that I was beautiful to God, but it took a really long time to sink in. God has to be really blunt and clear when he talks to me, and my stubbornness always seemed to mute His voice. Finally, when I was a sophomore in high school, it hit me like a brick wall. He used 1 Samuel 16:7 and 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 to really change the way I look at myself. God doesn’t look at what my peers look at. He doesn’t care if my face is deformed and I walk with a limp, He wants to see my heart. That was the most beautiful thought that I had heard. Then I read 1 Corinthians, and it got even better. God lives in me, and that makes me His dwelling place. He calls His dwelling place lovely and beautiful, and that is what He thinks about me. But, I was not treating that temple like He wanted me to. I was not taking care of my Savior’s home. At first, I was so convicted and really angry with myself for defacing God’s temple. But, then I realized that it was in my past and that Christ’s blood covered all my sins. That was such a freeing concept for me. When I finally realized this, it was like God’s holy fire was let loose in me. I felt so free to be who I was and not try to be someone else. I began to realize that God created me to be me, not Lacey or Sara or Amanda, just me.
Since that freeing year of my life, I have been soaring with God. Hebrews says that our God is a consuming fire, and He had definitely consumed me and set me on fire for Him. I pray that somehow that fire can be unleashed in this world. That the fire the God has blessed me with can go and help girls who struggle with the same things. That somehow I can be used by our amazing God to free other girls from the lies of Satan. You are beautiful, let God free you with that thought.