It was all so perfect.
Everything. The farmhouse was almost finished. Our family was fitting into the community, and the kids were doing well in school. My husband’s new job as a full-time pharmacist was fulfilling and enriching and everything he’d hoped it would be. My blog, called Thistlewood Farms after our never-ending battle with thistles on our property, had evolved into a full-time business. I’d started it to document the house renovations and my DIY projects. My readership started with my mother, my brother, and my cousin’s cousin twice removed. But over time the blog grew, and against all odds, I somehow managed to develop a following of people I wasn’t related to.
My new job as a blogger also opened opportunities to partner with some incredible companies. I had a husband I loved, a home I wanted to marry, happy and healthy children, and acres of bluegrass in the country. From the outside looking in, my life looked like a storybook.
If my life were the script of a Hallmark movie, I couldn’t have written it any better.
But if you looked closer, if you peeled back the pages of the script and dug a little deeper into my heart, you’d know. You’d see that I was battling a demon with a grip so tight on me it left me weary and broken.
That demon? It was my struggle with my weight.
Over the course of giving birth to four children, moving from state to state, making career changes, getting a master’s degree, and facing the everyday challenges of life, food was my companion. It became my friend, my confidant, and my protector. It was there for me on days when I was flying high and needed to celebrate, and it was there to make me feel better when I was feeling frustrated and hurt.
Food was constant. It was faithful. It showed up and healed my wounds and dusted me off and gave me the confidence to face another day.
Over time, the pounds continued to pack on. I wore that weight like a shield of armor to protect my heart from getting bruised. I hid in the background whenever anyone took pictures. I embraced leggings as a fashion choice because they made me feel skinnier. I worried about fitting into movie seats. I was scared the bar wouldn’t close when I went on rides at the amusement park.
I coped by making jokes about my weight. I wanted everyone to think I was okay with it. That it was a little thing. That it meant nothing to me.
But it meant everything.
When we moved to Kentucky, I was at my heaviest. The stress of the move and the new environment and all the life changes made me cling to my old friend, food, even more tightly. I tried to lose the weight. Truly. I’d eat broccoli and spinach for a couple of days and exercise like I was a contestant on a reality show. But at the first sign of trouble or distress, I’d dive headfirst into a brownie sundae.
I decided I needed a purpose, a new focus, a distraction from all those carbohydrates. Starting the blog turned out to be a lifesaver. I found an online community where I belonged, where I fit in. I shared about our home and detailed the renovations. I told stories and created projects and painted rooms and added molding and made treasures out of trash. I created pumpkins out of twigs and tassels out of faucet heads and transoms out of windows, and along the way, I discovered something amazing.
Online everyone is skinny.
On the blog, my hair always had the best day ever. At Thistlewood, my husband was always clever and funny, the children were always well-behaved and said the cutest things, the house was always clean, and I always walked around in three-inch heels and size eight velvet pants. Online, I wore the cutest outfits, my earrings always dazzled, and my red lipstick was perfectly applied.
Until one day when real life and the blog intersected.
I was asked to attend a real-life event that would include hundreds of people from my online niche. I’d meet other bloggers and greet people and interact with an audience and a stage and a microphone. There would be photographers and cameras, and the event would be recorded for posterity, along with me and all those extra pounds.
I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t go. If I showed up, everyone would know. Everyone would see the person behind the blog and realize no one was wearing size eight velvet anything. So I took the coward’s way out. I made up an elaborate excuse, explained that I was honored and flattered but that I had something else going on and I’d have to miss it.
And then I hid.
I went all ostrich and ducked my head in the sand. I’m not proud of it. Not even a little. The rubber met the road, and I took a detour. At that moment, I came face-to-face with the reality of how much my weight controlled my life. I felt helpless and unworthy and ugly and fluffy to the tenth power.
Then the most amazing thing happened.
On the afternoon of the event that went on without me, when I was sobbing and lying on my bed, God used all that ugliness and self- doubt for his glory. In the midnight of that moment, he whispered the words I had been longing to hear, straight to my heart.
You are loved.
I can’t accept it, I thought. I don’t deserve it.
You are worthy.
Why, Lord? Who am I?
You are a daughter of the King.
As those words of healing and acceptance washed over me, I felt the burden I was carrying melt away. I felt the guilt and the pain and the hurt lift from me. I glimpsed the joy beyond the curtain that was mine for the taking, and in that glorious, amazing moment, something in my heart shifted.
In the pain of that moment, God reminded me, ever so gently, that I wasn’t defined by a number on a scale or a pixelated image on the screen or the size on the tag of my fashion leggings. I was valuable. I had worth. I was precious and adored and loved because I was created in his image.
Simply because I was his.
I didn’t have to lose weight to gain his favor. The power that food had over me? It wasn’t of him. Food could never fill the deep need for comfort and acceptance and approval inside me. Only God could.
Truthfully, my new weight-loss journey hasn’t always been easy. I wish I could put on an astronaut suit and run around my house a couple of times and the pounds would disappear like magic. But those days of wishing for quick fixes are gone. I’ve left behind the fads and started eating healthy and making better choices and exercising more. I’m halfway to my goal weight now, but even with all the progress, the journey ahead seems overwhelming at times. Sometimes the weight we carry in our minds is so much harder to shed than the pounds on the scale. There are days when I feel like I’m carrying the heaviness of the world on my shoulders.
But I’m learning. I’m learning that exercise brings you sunshine and that water tastes better than a Diet Coke ever could. I’m learning that you don’t always have to add sugar to the guest list. I’m learning that the me of today is so much better than the me of tomorrow. Every day I’m loving this self I’ve been given a little more, and I’m fearing the weight a little less.
I’m still challenged. I still have miles to go. There are still days when the clouds roll in and the storms gather on the horizon and the pitfalls stretch out before me, but now it’s different. Instead of reaching into the pantry, instead of filling my emptiness with food, instead of rolling back into the darkness, I remember that still, small voice, put down the burden I’ve been carrying, and adjust my crown.
DIY Project: The “I Am Amazing Mirror”
Hang this mirror to remind yourself of the incredible, amazing, accepted, unique person that you are. Click the image below or CLICK HERE to download instructions.
(Top photo via Naser Chawroka)
From So Close to Amazing by KariAnne Wood
This is a book celebrating the incredible, awesome, special individual within each of us. It’s also a book for anyone who has ever mismatched her shoes or trimmed her own bangs when a professional might have been a better choice or added too much soap to the washer and watched it overflow.
(Not that KariAnne Wood has ever done any of these things.)
Fans of The Magnolia Story and The Pioneer Woman will love this debut memoir from the beloved Thistlewood Farms blogger. So Close to Amazing is a collection of hilarious and heartfelt reflections on getting it almost right―and how, instead of giving up, we can choose to simply embrace our real selves right where we are. It’s a story of transparency and honesty and recognizing that perfection is completely overemphasized and overrated. It’s about grace and learning from mistakes and rejoicing in every victory, no matter how small. Because when you find joy in the “you” God created you to be, you’ll discover the amazing that was there all along.
Contains beautiful DIY project ideas anyone can do, whether you’re Pinterest perfect or craft challenged—homemade signs, centerpieces, recipe walls, and more!