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Taking Femininity Out of Feminism

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By JSB Morse | Guest Blogger

I used to love awards shows like the VMAs or the Emmys. Then I turned 12.

Today, I was reminded why I don’t watch anymore—why awards shows are probably the worst form of reality television: they are a microcosm of everything that’s wrong with society.

Take the idea of feminism, for which the mega-international-superstar Beyoncé was the curious spokesperson on Sunday evening’s showcase of slop. She stood before the world with “Feminist” shining behind her, implying that she was the epitome of the word.

The root of feminism, naturally, is feminine and when you ask someone what feminine means, you might get an answer like effeminate, nurturing, beautiful, or dainty. Some may answer like dictionary.com: “sensitivity or gentleness.”

But Sunday, Beyoncé didn’t display those qualities. She sang about performing oral sex in the back of a limo and having a guy “tear that cherry out.” She had a song that tells women who don’t respect her sufficiently to “Bow Down Bitches.” And of course, how could a self-professed feminist perform in front of a national audience of tweens without gratuitous dry-humping and S&M themes?

It was almost as if her idea of feminism was strictly sexual in nature and an adolescent mysogynistic version of sexuality at that. To most keen observers, there was a distinct lack of femininity in Beyoncés feminism. As one blogger wrote, it was utterly hilarious that Beyoncé claimed feminism between the strip club vignette and the ‘Bow Down’ song.

But that’s the point, isn’t it? She wants to separate the idea of feminism with femininity. She wants to act like a barbaric male and pretend that since she has breasts that it is somehow feminism. She and her handlers want to change what it means to be feminine.

Of course, you can’t do that. Femininity isn’t a cultural construct. Yes, fashions change; trends come and go; but the core nature of woman is written in a woman’s genes and no amount of testosterone supplements or MTV can change that.

So what happens when you try to take the feminine out of feminism?

You end up getting this:

feminism

Now, for those of you who still have your lunch…

I’m not the most observant person in the world, but I don’t know who would call Hulk Hogan on crack feminine. It’s what happens when you try to take femininity out of feminism.

This article was originally published on JSB Morse’s site: JSB MORSE.

So what does it really mean to be feminine? 

By Maura Byrne | Founder of Made in His Image

Our culture is plagued with false truths about beauty and self-image because often times women don’t know what their true and lasting identity lies in. Confused, women turn to the media for reassurance and guidance. And what does the media tell them? It tells them that in order to be considered “beautiful” they need to look like the latest ninety-five pound manufactured celebrity on the cover of People Magazine. So, because of society, countless women strive after false beauty, perishable fame and attempt to quench their thirst for happiness with fleeting pleasures. But Truth tells women that lasting beauty stems from virtue and character, which is found within. 

In fact, woman has a genius all her own, which is vitally essential to both society and the Church. It is certainly not a question of comparing woman to man, since it is obvious that they have fundamental dimensions and values in common. However, in man and in woman these acquire different strengths, interests and emphases and it is this very diversity which becomes a source of enrichment. – Blessed John Paul II

What are these “different strengths and interests” that John Paul II talks about?

One of the greatest treasures Blessed John Paul II left to the world is his book -Theology of the Body. In it, he talks about the human person and explains how God is made manifested through humanity. Theology of the Body delves into what it truly means to be a man and woman, and how we should live out our masculinity and femininity in accords with how God created us. If we yearn to be the best version of ourselves, then we must embrace the unique qualities of our gender. To do this we must go back to the very beginning when God created us. Genesis 1:27 tells us, God created man in His image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 

God created us out of love, for us to love and be loved. The way in which this love is expressed and revealed is different for men and women, which is how God in His infinite wisdom designed it to be. And it is the unique characteristics of men and women that enable this love to come to fruition. We exist to complement one another. In Theology of the Body, John Paul II tells us that we are called to exist as a gift for one another. He describes this gift as a sincere gift of self, and it is only when we lay down our life for another in this way that we will experience genuine fulfillment.

In order to understand God’s plan for humanity in our fallen world we must go back to the beginning and see what God intended for us. It is only when we do this that we will be filled with hope and peace. In the beginning of time after God created the world he saw that it wasn’t good for man to be alone, thus He created woman. Eve was created as a sincere gift for Adam, and Adam as a gift for her. They were created to complement one another in their union, each to offer themselves to the other as a gift.

Our society today has lost sight of this quintessential ideal due to selfishness. Our culture is plagued with violation and unrest due to a “hook up” mentality, lack of chastity and self-control, pornography and a genuine lack of respect for the human person.

How can we bring our culture back to God’s original design? Women, in order to do this you must embrace your femininity in a unique way. You were created with a unique purpose and plan and your dignity flows from the Father’s love for you.

Some qualities that are unique to women are receptivity, sensitivity, generosity, and maternity. Please keep in mind that men can most certainly be receptive, sensitive and generous, a woman simply embodies these characteristics in a different way. The way in which a woman expresses these values is not better than the way in which a man does and most certainly not in a lesser capacity either. Simply put they are just different, and different never means greater or lesser. Picture for a moment Leonardo da Vinci’s painting – the Mona Lisa, now picture the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo. While both works of art are masterpieces, one is not better than the other, they are simply different.

God designed a woman to be of great charm and mystery. And when a woman exhibits feminine traits she reflects this beauty and appeal in a unique way. Why? Because she knows her worth. 

Take for example the way some music performers dress. Their actions scream, “look at me.” They are yearning for attention. 

Femininity asks the questions, Who am I? Why am I here? What is my purpose in life? And femininity cherishes the sacredness of the human body in our overly sexualized world.

 P.S. You are enough

My story: What an eating disorder and recovery is really like

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By Maura Byrne | Founder of Made in His Image

Two months before graduating from eighth grade, while warming up before field hockey practice, I overheard two high school girls gossiping about a girl in my class who had a heavier build than I. Why are they speaking about her like that? That’s so cruel! My mind raced, I wonder if they talk about me like that? What if they laugh about me and think I’m fat too? I glanced down at my scuffed up Oxford shoes and noticed my skirt, which was supposedly two inches too short for the school. Every morning one of the teachers reminded me, Maura, your skirt is too short. Please tell your mom to hem it or you will need to get a new one. 

Then I panicked. Great, now people are going to talk about me because I’m fat and my skirt is too short. I was an exceedingly anxious child and when corrected or talked to harshly, I shattered. Upon arriving home from school later that day, I told my mother that I wasn’t going to be eating desserts again. My mother, an exceptional chef, looked perplexed. After all, what normal child says such things?Well I’m going to show them that I’m not kidding. I’m going to start running and swimming more and eating less. I’ll prove it. 

I was one of the thinnest girls in my class and have been a runner since I was five years old, so naturally, my weight was never something I needed to even remotely worry about. But that night I stared intently in the mirror and decided that if I was going to be considered beautiful I needed to lose weight. All I could hear was the mirror shouting at me, Beautiful girls are thin and you’re ugly. 

My mom insisted I eat breakfast before school, so I started purposely getting up later so I wouldn’t have time. I promised her I would eat my waffles as I walked to the bus stop. But I lied.  Every morning I tossed the waffles down the sewer as I approached the bus stop. I have to do this because no one believes that I need to lose weight. What are they thinking? Why don’t they see how fat I am? 

As the weeks passed, the lies started darting out of my mouth daily and the person I was becoming frightened me. Oh, I already ate breakfast mom. Yes, lunch was delicious, thanks mom. 

I had a snack on the bus. I’m not hungry. I only ran five miles (when I had actually run 8). I’m babysitting tonight, so I’ll eat there. And once I got to babysitting, I was really hungry so I ate early at home. See mom I ate lunch and there’s my dish in the sink to prove it. When I had really just taken a clean dish from the cabinet and placed it in the sink.

I weighed myself 20 times daily. I allowed myself one hundred to two hundred calories a day. If I survived the day on one hundred calories I considered it to be a good day. If I had overeatenwhich meant three hundred calories, I made sure to punish myself the next day by running more miles and eating more meager portions. I went to bed starving and most nights I couldn’t sleep because my hunger pains kept me awake. My body ached.

I shunned every reflection of myself, whether that be through a mirror, window, pane of glass, the pool or ocean. When I saw myself I shuttered. Ah, I’m so ugly. I can’t even stand the sight of myself. How do people even look at me?

I had a pair of khaki J.crew pants that I would try on multiple times throughout the day. Those pants defined me. They were literally my life. If I felt like I had eaten too much or gained weight, I would immediately try those pants on. Ah, they are too tight!! Okay, I need to lose weight and run more. Or,Phew, they are sill loose. Okay, I can relax for an hour or two. I was a slave to those pants for years.

When the doctor told me that I would still be considered thin if I gained thirty pounds I nearly passed out. Thirty pounds?? Are you crazy?? I would explode if I gained ten pounds! I wouldn’t be able to fit through the door or sit in a normal seat on an airplane, let alone look at myself if I gained thirty. Gross, I’m already ugly enough. Why does she want me to be a whale? Maybe because she is overweight herself? Yes, that’s got to be it, she doesn’t want anyone to be thin because she’s fat. This doctor is crazy! 

Past trauma and abuse in my life plagued me and my eating disorder was all I could control. I  yearned for love. Craved physical touch so deeply at times I thought I’d faint. Ached for it, yet feared it with every fiber of my being. I was abused so much I didn’t even know what good physical touch should feel like. I didn’t think I was worth three meals a day. And I was terrified that if I started eating again I wouldn’t have the self-control to stop. I convinced myself that it was better not to eat breakfast because, what if I couldn’t stop and just kept eating and blew up to three hundred pounds overnight? I was afraid that if I stopped running 50 plus miles a week I would let myself go.

Several weeks later as I was lying in bed I could literally hear my heart struggling to beat. I was petrified. I took my pulse and it was in the high twenties. I fought back the tears because I was afraid my heart wouldn’t be capable of handling the energy my tears would produce. My bones were protruding, I was freezing, my hair was falling out in clumps, my finger nails were purple and I had fine hair growing all over my body. I knew that it was either make a change or I could die. I promised myself that if I was alive the next morning I would get better and one day be an advocate for women in their recovery.

After that night I realized that I was missing out on life. I wasn’t allowed to go to dance class anymore, compete on the swim team, run or go to summer camp. Yes, I was breathing, but I wasn’t living. I was simply surviving, hoping that tomorrow I would still fit into my J.crew pants.

I wanted to be healthy. I yearned to enjoy my life minus counting calories. I day dreamed about what it would feel like to eat a bowl of ice cream without worrying about the caloric intake. I wanted to put half and half in my coffee like a normal human being. I wanted to lick the bowl after making brownies and not obsess over the fat content in the chocolate and butter. I wanted to drink orange juice again.

I wanted to live.

As I recovered I removed the towels I had put over my bathroom mirror. I splashed water on my face while washing it, combed my hair and gradually was able to glance in the mirror without cringing. For the first time in years, I didn’t see an ugly human being anymore. I learned that seeing my ideal number on a scale would never fulfill me. It’s exceedingly empty and tiring. And trust me, I tried everything. At my lowest weight, I was thirty-five pounds lighter than I am today and it’s a miracle I’m alive.

Instead of dwelling on what I disliked about my body, I tried to focus on what I liked. I wrote a list in my therapy journal and here is what it said.

I love my hair. I love my big blue eyes. I love that I have long legs. I love my cheekbones. 

I love that I’m athletic and like to run. I love that I can create things with my hands. I love that I can swim in the ocean and know how to ride the waves. 

It’s interesting, I have one dimple on the right side of my face. I wonder why I don’t have them on both sides? Anyway, I use to hate that dimple, but then a boy told me it was cute. It’s growing on me. I don’t love it yet, but I’m getting there. 

I love my resilient attitude. 

I contemplated how much physical exertion it took to exercise without any fuel in my body. Or how many hours I spent planning my meals, which were more like small snacks. Along with the days I wasted obsessing over counting calories, keeping my eating disorder a secret and the relationships my eating disorder strained.

I use to think, What would happen if I put all of the energy that I use to keep my eating disorder alive towards recovery? Actually, scratch that, what would happen if I just used a fraction of that energy towards my healing? I would be a changed person, I’m sure of it. I know it would hurt. But on the flip side, I can’t live like this forever. Let’s be real, I’m miserable. I’m destroying relationships and slowly killing myself. Alright, let’s do the darn thing. Let’s recover! I want to live again!

I tried to remember that just because I had a moment of struggle, defeat or a bad day in my journey of recovery it didn’t mean that I hadn’t made progress towards freedom. I actively worked on being patient with myself and taking it one step at a time. I sought to embrace the change and when I fell, which I did, I didn’t stay down. Instead, I dusted off the dirt and tried to embrace each opportunity in my life to seek beauty. And I started anew the next day and no matter how many times I messed up I never gave up.

I learned that recovering from my eating disorder isn’t about being perfect. But it was about making smart daily choices, even if I didn’t feel like it. Those daily choices eventually helped me to form new habits, which cultivated a lifestyle change.

It was an intense challenge for me to put a spoon or fork in my mouth. I felt like I was shoving food down my throat. So in the beginning, I would put a serving of whole grain cheerios on a plate, along with some sliced strawberries. No matter how agonizing it proved to be, I didn’t get up out of that seat until I had finished. I did the same thing with pasta. I would heat up tomato sauce and dip my bow-tie pasta in the sauce, while using my fingers. I had to eat with my fingers in the beginning and eventually I started using utensils again.

I saw just how much progress I had made over the years, when I worked as a baker. The fact that I was able to work as a baker and be around food all day still mesmerizes me. It’s such a beautiful grace. Today I can eat a bowl of ice cream at one o’clock in the morning and not give it a second thought. I drink orange juice now, just like I desperately yearned to be able to do. I can go out to dinner at a restaurant and not wonder how many calories are in the meal. And when I get full I take the rest home with me, without worrying what people will think. I work out in moderation four to six days a week. I never run over five miles and don’t think I ever will again. I can go to my favorite coffee shops and get a mocha or cappuccino and not obsess over the caloric content. Even though it’s been years, I do get full very easily, so I have learned that it’s best to eat small meals more frequently.

Our society defines beauty as a number on a scale, a dress size, inappropriately clad swimsuit models, pornography, the number of calories you eat in a day and the fact that you don’t eat hamburgers or ice cream. And each day, millions of girls and women from every country, get on a scale and hope to quench their yearning for happiness and success through the number that flashes back at them. I speak from experience when I say, that is fleeting beauty. I used to be 35 pounds lighter than I am today and could have easily died. My life, your life, is a miracle: cherish it.

It took me a while to comprehend that seeing my ideal number on the scale would never fulfill me. It’s so empty and tiring. The scale can’t measure your strength, beauty, courage, determination, perseverance, joy, love, gentleness, compassion, athletic ability and purpose. So you see, your validation of beauty and sense of acceptance, is not the width of your waist or the number you see on the scale. You aren’t your hair and skin color. You aren’t your shoe size or lipstick shade. You are not the number of miles you can run or sit-ups you can do. You aren’t the number you see in your jeans or the number of calories you consume at lunch.

What you are radiates from the beauty of your soul. You are beautiful because you are compassionate and sensitive. You are beautiful because you love passionately, have a gentle spirit and giving heart. You are beautiful because you find your worth in God the Father. You are beautiful because you are His daughter. You are beautiful because you embrace the challenge to be an authentic woman. Authentic beauty flows from the heart onto the face. Authentic beauty is compassion, forgiveness, gentleness, modesty, courage and strength. Authentic beauty is the Blessed Mother.

It’s been over ten years since eighth grade and reflecting on my journey I have learned that my validation of beauty and sense of acceptance isn’t the width of my waist or my BMI. I can never quench my yearning to be loved through the number that flashes back at me on the scale. My worth comes from my intrinsic dignity as a human being. Today I can look in the mirror and say, I am beautiful. I am valuable. I am enough.

P.S. You are enough.

“You’ll never amount to anything,” he said.

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The author wished to remain anonymous. 

One of the harshest, yet in a twisted way, greatest things someone ever said to me was something that should never be said and yet surprisingly it’s something most of us tell ourselves frequently.

I remember that day. With time, its cruelty has faded, like the sun disappearing over the ocean at sunset. I was twelve, with short brown hair. I even remember the floral shirt I was wearing, its brightly colored flowers were just about the happiest thing I would gaze at. We were on a winding staircase, the walls were lightly coated in a dusty sand color. The ceiling was high and I could see the cobwebs above. But things like spiders didn’t scare me. I thought it silly to jump at the sight of a bug the way other girls my age did.

I was different from other girls my age. Life aged me quickly and I couldn’t relate to most of the things the girls talked about at school. While they were worried about their hair, clothes and boys, I was just trying to survive another day.

The staircase had many steps. His face was so close to mine I could taste his spit. At that moment I wished for just ten seconds of his temper to freeze so I could smack him as hard as my young hand could. But since I knew that would never happen I held my rage inside. You’ve touched me for the last time, I thought. Every time was the last time in my mind, but in reality it wasn’t.

He was fuming. You’ll never amount to anything, he screamed. It would have been better off if you had never been born. 

My heart froze.

Even if for a second I craved his affection. Why did he hate me so?

You see that man is my father. And his words sliced my heart deeper than the pain I felt when he threw me through a door so hard it broke and my body clashed into a cement block.

Time passed and I went to college. On the last day of the semester I handed in my final project to my professor, he wished me a Merry Christmas and asked if I had a moment. Of course, I nodded, secretly fearing the worst. You’re one of the hardest working students I’ve ever taught, with your attitude, discipline and work ethic you will go far in life. Keep up the good work. It was a pleasure to teach a student like you. 

Not being accustomed to praise, I was shocked. Instantly, my father’s words from long ago came to mind. You’ll never amount to anything. It would have been better off if you had never been born. 

I could go far in life, this was new to me. My father was wrong. At first it was as if his cruel words fueled me to prove him wrong. And in a way my professors words just had. But it was my hard work that cultivated those words. And I don’t say that in a prideful way. On the contrary, I was taken back that my professor thought that of me, but proud that I hadn’t listened to my father. One time my father told me I should just become an alcoholic. While I had never contemplated the idea, I didn’t think I would succeed in college the way I did.

I carried my father’s words with me for a daunting number of years. At times I thought I would drown in the pain his words and actions caused. You are wrong, was the chorus that rung in my head.

It took years, but I forgive my father. In fact, I’m grateful. Please don’t misinterpret, I would never wish any sort of abuse on anyone. But the only way to navigate through the sufferings of life is to focus on the positive, to be grateful for what you do have, instead of dwelling on what you don’t.

Throughout my journey I learned that the trauma, illnesses, suffering and difficulty people experience often leads to incredible joy and success when those who have suffered greatly decide to turn their sufferings into seeking beauty. Instead of dwelling on their misfortune or feeling trapped by their past, they try their best to mimic and cooperate with God, who will, with our cooperation of faith and hope, do His best to turn everything into good.

However, He needs our participation, determination and perseverance. We are only human and will fall, move backward, succumb to discouragement, which is the first fruit of self-love. We have been instructed by His Son to get back up. Rekindle your effort to see the good in others who have hurt you and to see the things that you have and will continue to be inspired to do as a result of what they did or did not do that disappointed and hurt you.

This it the calling for each and every one of us. To get out of ourselves, see the good in others and to keep doing it over and over until we catch our stride with God who is always with us and waiting for us, like a child learning to ride on a two-wheel bicycle without training wheels, having been pushed forward by Our Father who stays with us, encourages us, comforts us when we fall, and prods us on to get back up and try again. Finally, when we do it, catch our balance and ride forward in glee, we are free and able to see that all that happened was for our good. Then it is our turn to inspire others to find the good in their lives and rise from the ashes.

And the truth is I didn’t amount to something because I was successful in school or that I’m successful at my job. I amounted to something before I was even born. Why? Because I’m a daughter of God. Created in the image and likeness of Love Itself. Created with a purpose, out of love and for love. I’m enough simply because I’m His daughter. It took me years to learn this and I’m still learning this. And that’s why I spend time with God every day because I truly am nothing without Him and His grace aids me in seeing beauty in my suffering and in constantly being reminded of all that He has and continues to do for me. Often I think about what it will be like to see our Heavenly Father face to face. I get goosebumps contemplating it, as my heart yearns for that day.

With all candidness, I have nothing but genuine love in my heart for my earthly father. I desire his good and pray daily that he will spend eternity in Heaven with God. I pity him because he was never fathered by his father. He is a very wounded man, like us all. I pray he finds peace before he dies, the peace our hearts were created for and the peace our Father desires to give us through His grace.

Sure, I wish I had a dad I could call and talk to and ask advice from. Before I went to therapy practically every time I saw a little girl and her father I would tear up or hysterically cry. And it was there that I grieved his loss. I miss a dad the most when I’m dating and wish I could just pick up the phone and talk to him about it. I miss that. But we are forged in our suffering and I will make the daily choice until the day I die to choose to see beauty in all losses, pain, rejection, betrayal, and suffering and cling to Hope Itself.

P.S. You are enough.

Photo Credit: Donna Irene Photography

#hope

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The women [who go to the tomb of Jesus with spices to anoint Jesus' body] continued to feel love, the love for Jesus which now led them to his tomb. But at this point, something completely new and unexpected happens, something which upsets their hearts and their plans, something which will upset their whole life…Doesn’t the same thing also happen to us when something completely new occurs in our everyday life? We stop short, we don’t understand, we don’t know what to do. Newness often makes us fearful, including the newness which God brings us, the newness which God asks of us.

We are like the Apostles in the Gospel; often we would prefer to hold on to our own security, to stand in front of a tomb, to think about someone who has died, someone who ultimately lives on only as a memory, like the great historical figures from the past. We are afraid of God’s surprises…He always surprises us.

Let us not be closed to the newness that God wants to bring into our lives! Are we often weary, disheartened and sad? Do we feel weighed down by our sins? Do we think that we won’t be able to cope? Let us not close our hearts, let us not lose confidence, let us never give up: there are no situations which God cannot change, there is no sin which he cannot forgive if only we open ourselves to him.

How often does Love have to tell us: Why do you look for the living among the dead? Our daily problems and worries can wrap us up in ourselves, in sadness and bitterness…and that is where death is. That is not the place to look for the One who is alive! Let the risen Jesus enter your life, welcome him as a friend, with trust: he is life! If up till now you have kept him at a distance, step forward. He will receive you with open arms. If you have been indifferent, take a risk: you won’t be disappointed. If following him seems difficult, don’t be afraid, trust him, be confident that he is close to you, he is with you and he will give you the peace you are looking for and the strength to live as he would have you do.

To remember what God has done and continues to do for me, for us, to remember the road we have traveled; this is what opens our hearts to hope for the future. May we learn to remember everything that God has done in our lives.

- Pope Francis, taken from the Magnificat for Easter Sunday morning Mass

P.S. You are enough.

I Choose to Believe My Story Has Power

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By Kat Harris | Founder of The Refined Woman

Everyone has one, and it shapes who we are, what we think, and the way we interact with ourselves and the world around us.

Story has the opportunity to tear down or create. Story has the power to change my life, your life, the world, and the generations after us.

I choose to believe that my journey has power.

I choose to believe that one person indeed has the power to impact generations. What if we all got to the place where we believed our unique individual stories mattered so deeply that we collectively changed the world together? Hand in hand united for the greater good. A story is a spark, a small flame with the power to blaze an entire forrest…if we choose it to.

Freedom begets freedom. Creativity begets creativity, and it all begins with a story.

Here is a bit of mine.

From the outside it looks like I grew up in upper middle class in Dallas Texas, one of six kids, made good grades, was captain of the Varsity tennis team, went to state, and later played on a full ride college scholarship, was involved in church, and had a ton of friends. You could say that my life was pretty suburbia. Sure my parents split when I was 10, and both remarried but that is seemingly pretty normal these days…right?

Yet, in between the lines of a storybook childhood there were moments, days, and years, riddled with fear, heartache, and brokenness in my heart and in and throughout my entire family.

What really was going on for the majority of my high school and college life was a life where my father abused alcohol and drugs. My holidays were filled with broken promises, dad simply not showing up, or showing up under the influence. Intervention after intervention and nothing would stick longer than a few months.  Memories upon memories of living with my dad in the summer and him disappearing for days at a time only to return home shirtless, shoeless, without a car or dime to his name.

Over and over again my heart was broken; it got to a point where it felt like such a bloody mess that I decided no one could come near. I decided that my heart was not worth fighting for because if it was then my daddy would stop using. If I was worth it, he would do whatever it took because he loved me, because he loved my sisters and brother. But nothing I ever did was ever enough.

I tried finding my worth in grades, in sports, in boys, and later on men, and nothing quite answered my question: am I worth it? Am I beautiful? Am I lovable? Am I enough?

Near the end of my college career I mourned the death of my father. Even though he was still alive he was light years away from living. I watched him go from being a successful business man to a homeless man on the streets of Dallas who lost everything and everyone that was precious to him. I lost all hope that he would ever be sober on this side of life.

Then something miraculous happened.

Over my senior year of college my Dad got sober.I could hardly believe the transformation that was taking place before my eyes. He started calling me everyday to let me know he was sober, in a program, and that he loved me. This went on for months. I begged him to stop calling, told him I did not want him in my life and that my heart could not handle another heart break.

But my father persisted nonetheless, and looking back I needed him to pursue me during that time. My wounded heart needed to know my father loved me, and would do whatever it takes to restore a relationship with me and my brother and sisters.

And he did just that.

What seemed like an irreparable situation was repaired.
What seemed impossible was more than possible.
What was broken is now fixed.
What was death is now abundant life.

My dad is almost 8 years sober now, and has a redeemed and beautiful relationship with each of his children.  He is one of the greatest heroes of my life.

Through this immense pain in my family I have learned about hope, identity, value, redemption, forgiveness, and the reality that love is messy!

So much has transpired in my heart, in my family and throughout our lives over the last 8 years. I have come to believe the message in my soul that I am to share with the world is that there is HOPE!  My question of worth has been answered:  I am enough, I am beautiful, I am worth the fight…and guess what: so are YOU!

My message is for young women to know their value, and their unimaginable beauty and worth. That I, we, as women are beautiful and of infinite value because of WHO we are not WHAT we are.

My vehicle for this message is photography and my lifestyle blog. I am a voice to my family, to my community, to the world that love actually does win. That beauty is more than skin deep. I want to change the way we as a culture view beauty. I want to see diverse women on the covers of magazines, I want to see young ladies chasing their dreams with reckless abandon. I want my story to ignite fire inside the hearts of young people that your story, who you are, where you have been, where you are going matters!

We live in a world full of damage and heartache, but I believe that truth sets people free and story changes lives. Take heart, and have hope for I believe nothing in this universe is so dark, so lost, so broken that it cannot be repaired.

We are a resilient creation, teaming with hope. So go ahead…share your voice. The world needs you.

P.S. You are enough.

This blog post was originally published HERE and reprinted with the authors permission.

Photo credit: Bess Friday Photography. 

I know because I had an abortion.

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By Star Tucker | Guest Blogger

Every morning, the faithfulness of the sun touches our eyelids. Unfortunately, the faithfulness of the alarm clock also reaches our ears. We slowly rise from the pillow, sneak out from under the sheets, and begin the tasks for that day. For most people, there is a passion that gives us the encouragement to live each day. It might be a job, a child, a spouse, a religion. 

My passion is being pro-life. It drives and it motivates me. I find joy in being the voice for the unborn every day, even if it’s just in the smallest ways. There was a time in my life when you couldn’t have paid me a million dollars to truthfully and passionately say the statement above. I used to be pro-choice. Pro-choice to my very core and then everything changed…

I had an abortion.

From that moment, my life has never been the same. I instantly realized that I lost something very special to me, my child. I instantly knew that I never wished this pain upon anyone.

I’ll never forget the moment that I realized I was pregnant. I had morning sickness and deep down I knew it wasn’t just a hangover. The positive pregnancy test was just confirmation of my terrifying reality. My college applications were submitted, and I was anxiously awaiting acceptance letters. I worked incredibly hard in community college to get into my dream school, and a positive pregnancy test seemed to rob me of my efforts. The youth director at my church recently gave birth to her first child. When she found out that she was pregnant, she said, “Being a mother is a dream come true. It was everything that I wanted in life, but when I found out that I was pregnant, I’ve never been more scared in my life.” I felt that same fear when I discovered that I was pregnant, but being a single mother wasn’t anything close to my dreams. My fear blinded me from considering other options, but I never knew that this option of getting an abortion would bring so much pain. 

The abortion procedure was mildly painful, but emotionally mortal. The voice of the abortionist telling me to relax, the touch of the assistant holding my hand, and the abortion counselor “guiding” me through the process. After the procedure, I went to lunch with the friend that accompanied me then, she took me home. I was lifeless. I remained in the comfort of my bed for the remainder of the day. In that moment, there was no reason to get out of bed. No desire. No motivation. Nothing. I used to get angry when thinking about that day, but, now it’s just a reminder as to why I’m pro-life. If the choice of abortion was truly the best choice for me, then why did everything feel so wrong?

My abortion became my deep dark secret. Carrying the burden certainly wasn’t easy. I felt as though I had a sickness and if I were to say, “I’m sick and I need to be healed,” then I’d quickly be reinforced that I made the right choice. My moral intuition and the emptiness in my heart told me that my decision was wrong.

I continued to suppress the hurt. Rather than seeking a “doctor,” I used vices of this world to sooth the great pain. At that time, I couldn’t label myself as pro-life even though I wanted to. Wouldn’t that just make me a hypocrite? After all, the difference between pro-life and prochoice was like butter and margarine. Was there really that big of a difference? The label didn’t necessarily matter to me, but I knew that I would never support a friend in getting an abortion. I can recall times when friends would joke about abortion. Saying if they ever found themselves pregnant they would have an abortion, and inside I’d say, “I’d never let you do that!” It wasn’t a joking matter for me. How could it be? It was the biggest mistake I have ever made. 

I struggled to make the connection from my head to my heart as to why my abortion was wrong. The turning point for me was seeing an ultrasound of my niece. The image was projected on the wall, and I watched her dance in the womb as soft music played. As the ultrasound focused on her heart, the music was replaced with the sound of her healthy heartbeat. My world stopped. The sound of her heartbeat was the loudest thing I’ve ever heard. I cried in sorrow and regret. It was at that moment that I understood that life in the womb is, in fact, life!

I eventually met “a doctor” to heal my pain. I had no desire to meet him. It happened more by accident. I casually heard his name a few times, and quite frankly, I didn’t like him. He seemed bossy, but he does have great birthday celebrations! His name, Jesus Christ. I unexpectedly fell in love with Him at the altar. My abortion made me pro-life, and the love of Christ has healed me. 

For so many years, I shamed myself for the mistakes. I viewed myself as unworthy and undeserving, and everything in my life showed that I was constantly settling for less. Although my sin was large, Jesus was still longing for me. He desired me and patiently waited for me so that He could comfort me. He has poured tremendous amounts of grace and mercy into my life. Although the journey has been difficult, I have opened myself up to Him and allowed Him to work within my life, and make me the woman that He has created me to be. A woman made in His image and likeness. 

God has been so faithful in this healing process. An underserved gift is the community of women I have met that are also healing from their abortions. I often reflect on the fact that I’ve never heard a mother say, “I wish I had an abortion.” Nut I know countless women that have said, “I regret my abortion.” Unfortunately, I’m not the only woman that has been hurt by abortion. 

Throughout this journey, I have heard every justification for my abortion and it’s insulting. “It’s your body, your choice.” No, it was the body of my child. “I would’ve done the same thing if I were in your shoes.” Thanks, you just took the knife and twisted it. “You weren’t ready to be a mother.” Who are you to determine if I’m capable of handling motherhood? “You have reproductive rights.” So did my child. “It’s not a life.” Yes, it is. What I’m getting at is that there is not a justification for abortion. Tim Scheidler, a great friend said, “It’s not the little babies that we need to worry about. They are happy in heaven. It’s the mommas’ that we need to worry about.” When you meet a woman who is hurting from her abortion, do not feed her an ignorant justification. Comfort her, and love her. She is mourning the loss of her child. 

Abby Johnson, pro-life advocate and former Planned Parenthood director, said, “Telling a woman that abortion is the “empowering” response to a crisis pregnancy is really telling her that she is not strong enough to handle motherhood. What a terrible and unrealistic way to view women.” I might have been strong enough to handle motherhood. I certainly wasn’t strong enough to handle the abortion. 

In January, I attended March for Life in Washington, D.C. It was a blessing to take part of this courageous, chilling, and powerful event. Considering my past, I never imagined that I’d be in a crowd of 10,000 people praying for an end to abortion. March for Life is more than an annual event in Washington, D.C. It is my life. It’s the reason why I wake up every morning. All for God’s glory, I will continue to march every day of my life to bring truth to the harms of abortion and prevent women from repeating my biggest mistake. I want to be the voice that I didn’t hear, the voice that says, “I know that you’re scared, and I promise that there is a better option.” I will continue to share the truth of life in the womb. By God’s grace, I will be an example to all women and men (yes, men too) who are suffering an abortion that healing is part of God’s plan. 

Photo: The woman in the picture is my best friend, my little sister. She found herself in an unplanned pregnancy while completing her junior year of college. Although the timing was not ideal for her, she carried out her pregnancy while earning a 4.0 GPA. She gave birth two weeks ago to a beautiful and healthy baby girl.  

P.S. You are enough.

Missing him, but trusting Him

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By Erin McNew | Guest Blogger

The degree to which someone has the potential to capture your heart is both incredible and terrifying. Just recently I watched a movie with a quote in it that said something along the lines of, love is the most acceptable form of insanity, and at this point in my life I really feel as if that is true at times.

I just recently got out of about a year long relationship of sorts. Oddly enough, there are so many times when quotes got me through it. Everything worthwhile starts off a little scary. The best things in life are worth fighting for. Quotes can help you to justify anything. Because, just for a moment, you realize that someone at some point had the exact words to describe how you’re feeling right now. But recently, I discovered a new quote. Examples of emotional abuse… lying… withholding important information… telling the individual that they are too much trouble… Ignoring or excessively criticizing… treating an individual like a child.

I’ve been a little more hesitant to admit the fact that I can relate to that one.

1 Timothy 6:12 says, Fight the good fight of faith. Most people that know me could tell you I’ve never been much of a relationship kind of girl. I’ve always been someone who prides myself on independence and believes that nourishing my love for Christ will be enough to one day lead me to the right man. And it did. Just not in the way that I expected. It led me to a man who needed someone to believe in them. It led to a man who needed a glimpse into the heart of God. But it led me to a man who didn’t have these same desires for me. I’m a strong woman. But sometimes the fight of faith is enough to bring me to my knees. Sometimes the fight of faith is enough to isolate me from my own self-assurance. And sometimes it brings me to people who tell me words that conflict with the words God has whispered to my heart. You’re beautiful. You’re enough. You’re never a burden. There’s always time for you.

Over the span of close to twelve months, those words became foreign to me. When someone you love fails to nourish your belief in those things or simply believes the opposite, it becomes wearing to your soul. You start to forget who you are because the only opinion that matters to you is that other person’s. You take less delight in the love of God and the love of yourself because they seem less real. You feel as if those loves can’t hold you. But in reality they’re the only loves that are keeping you hanging on.

I fought the good fight. And I let my heart get captured by someone who didn’t deserve it. So I got lost along the way. Allegations of abuse and neglect seemed hefty. So I told myself those words only applied to extreme situations and let myself endure the everyday effects of a love that lacks commitment and roots in Christ. When I sought Christ’s help, his words seemed foreign to me. As much as I wanted to be held and protected, I took refuge in the wrong arms. I forgot the powers of His hands, and laid my faith in the potential of another’s.

I still find myself missing the man who mistreated my heart some days. And on those days I pray to the God that never quit pursuing mine. I’ve been reacquainted with a heart that never quits telling me those things that we as women so long to hear. It’s a heart that knows just how special and deserving of proper treatment we are. And it’s a heart that leads you into the arms of a man that knows likewise if you remain faithful to it.

P.S. You are enough.

An inside look at my journal from trauma therapy…

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By Maura Byrne | Founder of Made in His Image

Recently Made in His Image has received a tremendous amount of emails in regards to therapy. Since I’m only one person, it’s impossible for me to answer them all. It’s my hope that God will use my vulnerability from this post to offer you hope. Please know that I’m praying daily for you.

Each week when I was in therapy, my doctor had me write a list of positive things from the week, as part of my homework. And I thought it would be a really great exercise for you too. Instead of focusing on the negative, how much it hurts, or how far you need to go: focus on the positive, what you are grateful for and write down your progress along your journey of healing.

The positive points below are taken from my journey of years ago and I invite  you to read them and then come up with your own positive points each week and keep them in a journal. YOU CAN DO IT! Cling to His Hope. The Father loves you so. He takes delight in you, yes YOU! Let yourself be loved by Him.

1. I looked at myself in the mirror and said aloud, I’m a daughter of God, created in His image and likeness. I am beautiful because my dignity flows from Him. He doesn’t create ugly.

2. A guy at work put his hand on my shoulder and asked me on a date. It made me feel really uncomfortable, but I tried not to overreact and just to relax. I mean seriously, why couldn’t he have just asked me out without touching me?

3. I’ve been on several dates with John. Last time he asked to hold my hand. He promised he would never physically hurt me, so I let him. It actually wasn’t scary. (I can see you smiling right now Dr. Bellet).

4. I tried to be more assertive at work. I did this by not asking what people thought, but instead was confident in my ability as a baker. And I was so proud of myself when I did because the head chef said my biscotti were the best he had ever eaten.

5. I didn’t lock my bedroom door this week.

6. I went running during the day light and tried not to let people staring at me bother me, or the guys that whistled at me. Man, I hate when they do that, it’s so annoying.

7. I went swimming and wore a bathing suit.

8. I wore a sleeveless shirt without feeling self-conscious.

9. I saw my reflection in a window and saw God’s beauty, instead of the ugliness I have usually seen.

10. I decided after three years of being a slave to the effects of Charlie’s addiction to pornography that I wasn’t going to let it have a hold on me anymore. His addiction wasn’t my fault and I am beautiful. I am worth being pursued.

11. I thought about how far I’ve come from college and thanked God for my progress.

12. I remember in college it was hard for me to wear shorts or short sleeves because I was so self-conscious after Charlie’s addiction. And I never wore my hair down because I knew some people would find it attractive, and I didn’t want anyone looking at me. But I did all of those things this week and it felt so good.

13. One night during the week I woke up from a bad nightmare and thought I heard somebody in my room. I got up and looked around my room and told myself that it was just a dream. And I didn’t even lock my door; I was so proud of myself.

14. I tried really hard to look directly into someone’s eyes when I shook their hand. I also gave them a firm handshake.

15. One of the guys at work saw me lifting a 50 pound bag of flour and he offered to help me. My naturally inclination was to say, I got it, because let’s be real, I did. But, I thought about what you said Dr. Bellet about letting people me, especially men, so I said, thank you that would be great.

16. I’m getting more use to physical touch, one of the girls at work gave me a really tight hug and it actually felt good.

17. I let my roommate braid my hair because I had accidentally sliced my finger at work and couldn’t braid my hair. It didn’t hurt to let her touch my hair, it actually felt good to let someone help me.

18. I chose to continue to choose forgiveness.

If you settle for anything less than the greatness that has been made possible for you, you are ignoring the twitch of the Divine weaver on the thread of your life. Let His grace lift you to where in your heart of hearts you want to be. – George Weigel

P.S. You are enough.

Sweet Surrender

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By Kathryn Gibbs | Guest Blogger

Dear Father,

Please be with me in my brokenness and in my fears. Today I surrender to You all of my hurts and anxieties. I invite You into my past and present wounds and memories, please heal them from me and create in me a pure heart. Shine Your holy light and healing love around me, that I may have the courage and wisdom to know and accept Your will. Give me the grace to become the woman You are calling me to be, that I may fulfill the plans You have for my life. Be with me in my struggles today, that I may feel whole and loved in Your presence. 

Amen. 

Behold I make all things new. - Rev 21:5

P.S. You are enough.

Struggling?

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The everlasting God has in His wisdom foreseen from eternity the cross that He now presents to you as a gift from His inmost heart. This cross He now sends you He has considered with His all-knowing eyes, understood with His divine mind, tested with His wise justice, warmed with loving arms and weighed with His own hands to see that it be not one inch too large and not one ounce too heavy for you. He has blessed it with His holy Name, anointed it with His consolation, taken one last glance at you and your courage, and then sent it to you from heaven, a special greeting from God to you, an alms of the all-merciful love of God.

-Saint Francis de Sales

P.S. You are enough.