I’ve shared meals with Lisa-Jo everywhere she’s lived, in airports and hotel rooms and in between kids and chaos. Here is a woman who loves other women well. Here is a woman who helps us all to stop worrying about whether or not we have remembered to seize the day and reminds us instead to focus our eyes so that we can actually see the day. Lisa-Jo sees beauty in all the parts of ourselves we wish we could hide, change or disguise. She is the first to share her imperfections in order to point us always back to the amazing reflection of God in us. Her newest book is the best gift to give yourself to change the way you see yourself and your one so-called ordinary life. It’s a grace to welcome Lisa-Jo to the farm’s front porch today…
My dad was turning seventy, so our family was making the trek back to South Africa from Baltimore to Johannesburg via Detroit and Amsterdam.
To be back with my people. The people who were my first home.
We were ordering gifts and getting new suitcases and planning all the family we wanted to see.
But deep down I was wasting my anticipation because I was drowning in self-conscious worry.Worry I wished I could turn off like the dripping faucet it was.
Here’s the thing—just one summer earlier I was at the healthiest, fittest weight I’d been in years. Then I faced some crushing work deadlines and mainlined candy corn, cotton candy, carbs, and other assorted forms of sugar to push myself through.
There are things a forty-plus-year-old body does not recover from quickly. Or even slowly.
Heavy, sustained sugar and carb intake combined with zero exercise is one of them. No matter that I panic-joined a gym and actually went several times a week. No matter that I cut out the late-night binging on French bread and Brie cheese.
But, no matter that I was really, really trying—the scale was still depressingly stubborn every morning I stepped onto it.
And I felt my heart sink with every pound I hadn’t lost yet.
My days filled up with self-beratement about my lack of discipline and why couldn’t I survive on less calories and why do I love food so much?
You see, I’m a joy eater.
Combine my two favorite things—a dear friend and her kitchen—and I will bliss out entirely.
Serve me up heartfelt conversation alongside homemade biscuits and I could easily kill a decade of time like that.
My mother was a terrible cook but a gifted curator of conversations, people, and comfort food. These are my happy places.
So while the kitchen was my confidant, the scale became an angry voice in my head. A voice that despised my thighs and my belly and spoke ruthless criticism at both. And I listened. And tried really hard to obey.
And it sucked the life and marrow out of this long-anticipated trip home.
Then one Thursday I woke up and decided I was tired of it.
I got on the phone with my dad and fessed up. I told him just how tired I was of feeling tired of worrying about my weight. I said, “Well, Dad, we’re coming home chubbier than we would have liked, and we’re hoping you guys will just take us as we are.”
My dad. My dad who was turning seventy and is a fantastically health-conscious doctor and runs five miles a couple of times a week and is raising adopted kids the same age as mine while still consulting hundreds of patients a week and who probably never binge-ate anything in his life.
But the guilt and judgment never came.
Instead, I could feel the love unfurling across the miles of phone lines and into my ear as he said, “We’ll love you just the way you are. And we hope when you’re home you’ll let us add on a few more pounds for good measure, of all the foods here that we know you miss!”
I was so surprised, a belly laugh bubbled up out of me.
I was surprised by the joy that so easily eclipsed the worry and burst out into laughter. I cradled the phone against my ear and it was like being home already.
Listen, this isn’t about food or weight. Well, it is in the sense that healthy matters and great company is just as great with way less carbs. That’s all true.
And moving our bodies matters because they thrive with exercise and it gets every part of us firing on all cylinders. I get that.
I hear you preaching the importance of healthy food and consistent exercise—I really truly do—and I will keep at it.
But it’s also about much more than that. Really. It’s about that old love story.
It’s about believing that you are unconditionally loved. No, it’s more than that.
It’s about knowing that you are unconditionally loved no matter what you look like, weigh in at, sound like, talk like, think like.
Do you know what that means? Beyond the cliché that we are so good at brushing off? Let me spell it out for you the way I had to spell it out for myself:
Unconditional love = you are loved, no matter what.
No matter what the scale says or your performance review says or your passive-aggressive relationship says or your bathing suit says or the voice in your head says.
You are loved beyond pounds or fit or style or perfection.
You are loved because you are.
Period. End of story.
You are loved because you were created by a God who is love.
You are loved because love is the DNA of the stuff you were made from.
You are loved because love is the blood that runs in your veins and the sway of your hips and, yes, even the rub of your upper thighs against each other—love, love, love, left, right, left right, swish, swish, love, love, love. Even in the sticky sweat of summer in places you wish weren’t sweating.
You are loved because love is what pumps in your veins like a drumbeat reminder that this is your name and there is no other name than love, love, love.
Somehow between the scale and my favorite jeans that don’t fit this summer, I forgot that.
My daughter was stroking my belly this morning and whispered into its curves, “I love this belly.” And my dad said the same thing using different words on the phone this morning. And my husband said it when he called to say he missed me while he’s traveling this week.
This throbbing harmony of how loved we are. If only we would listen.
If only we would stop listening to our measuring sticks and scales and start listening to our promises. For God Himself has said, “I will never leave you or abandon you”(Hebrews 13:5, csb).
But there are some voices that we do need to quit.
Don’t get me wrong—I will continue on this journey to be healthy for my kids and for the calling God has entrusted to me. I will practice curbing my sugar cravings and leaning into better choices in my fridge and in my heart. I will keep moving my body and reminding my muscles that they are made for more than sitting behind a computer all day.
But at the same time, I will leave behind the voices that are robbing me of the joy of that journey.
Don’t ever let the scale tell you different.
And I will practice being loved, more than I practice being careful what I eat.
I will look into the eyes of my family and let them have the last word, because I already know what my Father has said: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3).
And before I step onto a scale, I will repeat those words out loud and let them, and only them, be the weight that defines me.
With her ability to laugh at herself and her mistakes, Lisa-Jo Baker continues to gather women around her into a community that is tired of hearing how things are supposed to be (perfect or easy) and passionate about hearing how things actually are (hard, scary, stretching, and wonderful). A former attorney and longtime community manager at (in)courage, Lisa-Jo is the best-selling author of Never Unfriended and Surprised by Motherhood.
Her newest book, The Middle Matters: Why That (Extra)Ordinary Life Looks Really Good on You invites us to get a good look at our middles and gives us permission to embrace them—because Lisa-Jo knows that the middle might be the best part of the love story of life, kids, faith, doubt, marriage, failure, wonder, and the muffin top—and that these are all good things.
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[ Our humble thanks to Waterbrook for their partnership in today’s devotion ]