Disclaimer: It is scary for me to put myself out there and share the following and admit some things below. However, I feel like I owe it to others to be honest, because if I don't break my life open for others and share my struggles, I may never know who else is struggling, too. I hope that this story is a gift to just one other person!
You know how you carefully curate your facebook photos? C'mon, you know you do it, too. ;)
Back in August, I was putting together my little facebook album for Daniel's 5th Birthday. I caught a picture of myself and as I quickly cringed and tried to pass by it. . . I stopped.
All of the sudden, I realized what I was doing. I mean, I like to be honest. Honesty is one of my husband's greatest traits, and something I respect and admire in him and others. I believe what John Wooden said- character is who you are when no one is watching- so I always make sure that what I represent in my facebook statuses is the real me- not just the happy and loving me, but also the me that is totally working on things in my heart, has a messy house, a dirty bathroom and four goofy kids that eat a lot of fish sticks and breakfast cereal.
HOWEVER, that keeping it real thing was totally not applying to my pictures. Believe me, maybe only one or two photos of me from the waist down had appeared on Instagram or facebook post-baby, and that was intentional. . . I realized that I would rather post a picture of myself with my cowlick sticking up, food between my teeth and a huge booger coming out of my nose than a picture of my mid-section post-baby #4! I was not going to be posting this in Daniel's birthday album!
In fact, here is the VERY first picture of our entire family together. Easter Sunday, Noah was 6 days old. This should be a JOY!!! But I was too embarrassed to post it. It still makes me sad to think of that!
The real low point came when I was at church, all dressed up with high heels and a dress and, of course, Spanx and control top pantyhose. On this day, I was feeling like I was looking pretty good (my husband told me I was beautiful so that counts, right?) but as I went up to Communion the Eucharistic Minister placed her hand on my belly and gave the blessing of God to my empty uterus. AAAHHHHHHH!!!! Considering I have seen the same people at church every week for 20+ years, and Paul was holding a 5 month old Noah right in the back of the sanctuary, this was my wake-up call.
"WAKE UP, JEN!!!"
It had been easy to put off because I love myself and on the inside, I was happier than I had ever been in my entire life. The boys are so funny and such a blessing. But I felt like I didn't have the energy to keep up with them, or, you know, any pants to wear in order to leave the house with them. And you know what, kids deserve to leave the house, even if mommy's only pair of high-waisted leggings is in the wash. And even if mommy has been up late working and up all night with a baby. . .these four boys deserve to have my full love, patience and attention.
Also, some of my friends were going through really huge struggles. Struggles that made me just want to wrap them up in my arms and lift all of their burdens, and also made me realize that you don't know what is going to happen tomorrow. As scary as it is to admit, thirty four may very well be it. The very best time in my life. I have all four of my living and breathing children right here with me who want nothing more than to sit in my lap and cuddle, a husband of ten years who adores me unconditionally, and we have wonderful siblings and all four of our parents right here close to us.
THESE are the good old days, I am living them today.
The days that are crazy right now but I will look back on them and think, "Damn, we were so blessed." Even though we may never feel like we have enough time, or enough money. . . we have all of the people we love, loving us, right here. What more do you need, Jen? Seriously? And what other body am I going to get other than this one to enjoy said life with? Even though I can only show the physical parts of myself that I like on social media, I still have to take my actual, real body outside of my house every single day. No amount of Spanx could hide the 30 extra pounds I was carrying around my waist, and quite frankly I was tired of trying to hide it. The 30 pounds were keeping me from serving my family and friends the way I needed to. It was weighing me down, both literally and figuratively.
It was time. If you are at this point that I was, I hope you are blessed enough to have someone find you like my friend Stephanie found me. Just take baby steps, take control, know you can do it. You don't have to do it all at once, and you don't have to do it alone. Stephanie had introduced me to AdvoCare, and after being a huge skeptic for an entire year, I told her I was FINALLY ready to do it. I jumped on a 24 day challenge. It worked for me because I had amazing energy I didn't have to count calories, and someone who has to count pennies and count whether they have their four kids with them all the time doesn't need to be counting calories! To be fair, there are lots of ways to lose weight or to change your health and energy. The biggest factor is not a product, but having someone that cares who will be right there to help you reach your goals and loves you just the way you are as you do it. I hope that I can be that caring friend for someone else. I know I am forever grateful to Stephanie for being that friend to me.
Fast forward a few months- I was loving my newfound energy and my new wardrobe (of my old pants), but I hadn't realized how much my outsides had changed until I was going through pictures of Noah's first birthday to post on facebook and saw this one. It was a candid. I wasn't wearing Spanx, and I was SITTING DOWN. Six months ago, I would have cringed. Or maybe cried to myself at night. But when I saw it, I couldn't believe my eyes.
I looked the way I felt on the inside.
And I am so grateful.
This Easter Sunday, we took a family picture. I will treasure it always, but I will treasure the one from last year, too. All five of my guys, right there with me. The good old days, I am living them right now.