I’ve said it. Friends of mine have said it. There’s something inspiring about seeing a woman who has walked the pregnancy road and come out looking great. Any mom of young kids knows that finding the time to exercise is a battle, and it’s easy to be awed by someone who finds that time and makes it happen.
But I think we need to pause here, and evaluate just what we are saying to ourselves. And also to our children (male or female, young or old).
Exercise is a good thing. It boosts us mentally, emotionally and even spiritually. The physical benefits are vast. I feel more positive about myself, I have more energy, I am stronger, I am more alert, I can keep up with three kids, the list goes on. It’s very very good for moms to exercise as long as it is not an act of punishment for overeating or an act of vanity. We must be so careful to walk the line between self-hate and self-love. Don’t complain about it. Don’t brag about it. Just do it. Out of thankfulness for a body that has journeyed through life with you – just do it.
All that being said, it is up to you (and your husband) to decide on an appropriate amount and time for your exercise plan. You are committing not just yourself, but your family too. Working out almost always means time away from your family – which can be good to an extent. But moderation is so important here. There is a fine line between kids who see their mommy taking good care of herself and kids who see a mommy that worships her own body. Choose the hours that work best for your whole family – not just what feels best for you. (Hint: this may mean getting up at 4:30 AM and going to bed at 8:30 PM.) Seek to glorify your Creator in your exercise.
Ladies, let’s be honest. No matter how much time I spend at the gym, I will not look like a super model. It’s just not in the cards. That is not how I was created. And I am totally okay with that. Finding inspiration is one thing. Idolizing someone is another. Take the time and self-examination to know and recognize the difference.
Lastly, can we just stop hating ourselves? Can we just stop complaining about this feature or that feature? Can we just not look in the mirror and imagine how we would look good…if only…? Can we just understand that on this side of eternity we will never look perfect. Honestly, if I lost those 10 stubborn pounds, I’d just find another thing of which to be critical. And I’m guessing almost no one even knows about 99% of the stuff we obsess about – meaning it’s not visible or noticeable or even problematic to anyone but ourselves. This is SIN clouding our vision.
Psalm 139 says: For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
I love that the NIV version says “knit”. Picture Him selecting the materials, beginning with a vision of you in His mind. One stitch at a time he tweaks the pattern in just a certain way. Every single stitch is made with intention; each one matters. Some stitches are used only once, some are complex, some are simple, all are vitally important to the masterpiece. No two knit pieces come out exactly the same. And when He is finished, you can just sense His delight.
I love to picture God forming each of us so uniquely. He cared enough to make us all look a little bit different. He loved us so deeply that he didn’t just use a cookie-cutter design. Most of the basics are the same, but each and every person who has ever existed has their own wonderful look. Do you see how He had to LOVE to be this meticulous? You don’t spend time on something so minute as hairs on a head, freckles on a face, tiny swirls of skin on fingertips unless you desperately love it and want it to be wonderful in its own way.
I’m trying, in the midst of all of society’s messages, to simply be thankful for the body that He took so much time to knit together. I am thankful for the body that was stretched beyond belief three times and then amazingly brought forth a new person. I am thankful that these stretch marks and c-section scars were “earned” (not necessarily deserved – but I put the time in and I “won” them fair and square). I am thankful for the three tiny people that I love so much who look at me and don’t see flaws but see love. I am thankful that I can exercise and feel good and have enough energy – and that even if I’m not quite “there” I can continue to exercise and work on getting healthier. I’m thankful for the God that spent his time to create me so carefully and precisely and completely.
Set healthy goals that are appropriate strictly for your situation – not based on someone else. Focus on health in every aspect – body, mind and soul. Be thankful for the amazing body you have been given – no matter how it looks. Treat yourself well inside and out and don’t say nasty things even in your head. And most importantly, don’t spit in the face of your Creator by calling His wonderful work “not good enough”.
Photo and knitting expertise courtesy my dear friend Stephanie Armstrong.