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Storyteller. Grace Dweller.

I’m Jennifer — wife of an Iowa farmer, mom to two girls, new book author. I believe in you, because I believe in Jesus. You matter to Him, and you matter to me. more »

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Wednesday 19th March 2014

#TellHisStory: A Dare to #LoveYourSelfie

On the night I went looking for photographs, I knew something had to change.

I needed a few photos of me with my two young daughters for a video I was creating. So I sat in the blue glow of the computer screen, scrolling through files and folders, looking down deeper and deeper to find photos I was certain were there.

Where had they all gone? I wondered. Where were all the photos of us together?

The sad truth dropped like a weight in my gut: The photos were never taken.

Among the thousands of photographs I had snapped over the years, I found only a handful of me with my daughters.

At first, I blamed the lack of mother-daughter footage on the fact that I’m usually the one behind the camera. But that’s only partially true. The bigger truth is this: I have not wanted to be photographed.

At the computer, I copied and pasted those precious few photographs into one file folder—like a little treasure box that held rare jewels. The lump in my throat tasted like regret. I would never be able to rewind those years and snap the photos I’d missed.

I grieved the Christmas mornings when I, with mussed hair, scooted out of the shot that my husband was framing up. I grieved the pictures-that-never-were from summer afternoons, when I believed I was too pasty-skinned and “too fat.”

Oh, I wouldn’t have dared utter those words out loud, because I have never wanted my girls to hear their mother complain about her looks or weight.

No, I hadn’t spoken my insecurities aloud. But what had they read between the lines of my not-so-subtle escapes from photo shoots? And someday, when they grew older and wanted to find photos with their mom, they’d wonder, “Where have all the photos gone?” 

Looking back, I have always hated the way I looked in pictures. I’m not even smiling in my senior pictures, because I had braces on.

As I grew older, I always figured the photos could wait until another day, after I lost 10 pounds, toned my upper arms, had a zit-free chin. But here’s the deal: even 41-year-old women get pimples. And while waiting for some elusive better-hair-day, I missed photo after photo.

Even in the best photos, I found flaws—for instance, the fact that one of my eyes is bigger than the other.

That night at the computer screen, I saw how scandalously critical I’d been about myself, and how I’d missed the opportunity to capture unrepeatable moments with my girls. 

I realized that I had often seen myself as a series of ugly pieces, rather than as a whole woman, beautifully fashioned by an inventive God.  

The truth rises up against those spurious self-accusations in places like Psalm 45:11. “The King is enthralled by your beauty.” Enthralled!

So I vowed a better way, to see myself whole. I said it like a pledge, and sometimes I have to repeat: I am lovely and brave and crooked and banged-up and beautiful, and, yes, rounder than I used to be.  I am wrinkly and stray-grayed and goofy-smiley and courageous and scarred and gutsy enough to make babies. I am a wonder and a miracle, and my scars are part of my story. I am not a series of bad parts; I am whole.

MOM IN THE MIRROR

So I first wrote this article for my dear friend Emily Wierenga, as part of a series she was hosting in conjunction with the release of her 2013 book, Mom in the Mirror: Body Image, Beauty, and Life after Pregnancy. At the time, she had asked me for an author photo to go with this post, I thought of sending the polished head-shot that the professional photographer took a while back. But then, I changed my mind. I gave her the collage, above, with some mussed-up, no-lipstick, too-early-for-the-camera shots. That’s the ME me.


Photos, clockwise: Deidra Riggs and me being classy at Women of Faith; early-morning snapshot before Lydia’s ear surgery; silly kissy face, mwah!; wake-up-sleepy-head shot; pre-mammogram shot, while wearing standard-issue pink hospital gown (All was good in the mammo-hood!); Me, before I put on my moisturizer. (Nah, I’m just messin’ with you. THIS is me before moisturizer.)

Mirror Free Lent

While we’re at it, I’ll share the latest adventure from my #mirrorfreeLent. I got a call last week for a very exciting project that I’ll tell you about soon. The project involved (get this) A PHOTO SHOOT. (Insert sound of panic attack here.)

But I said yes.

And no, I didn’t look in the mirror before I went to the photo shoot. I stood in front of my mirrors, boldly, with my Hello Kitty robe, and I read the words on those preapproved printables, about who I really am. And a couple hours later, I went in front of the camera, not certain what I looked like, but assured that I am #preapproved.

preapprovecollage

THE PRINTABLES

 

LoveIdolCutOuts

Click here to print the preapproved cutouts. Place these where ever your Love Idols have lurked! LoveIdolPrintable_pink

Preapproved printable: to frame, to put on your refrigerator, to give to a friend. Click here to print. My gift to you, brave soul!

 Join us on the Love Idol Movement Facebook Page, and share your preapproved stories. Or link below!


  • Wow! This is so true! How many times have we all missed out on those precious Kodak moments because we were so obsessed with what we looked like? Our babies don’t stay babies long, they grow up, and move on, and life is viewed through only memories if there are no photos to accompany them. Too late we realize the vanity of our own refusal to be a part of those recorded moments! Makes me want to get our little boy and the camera tomorrow and make up for lost time…and opportunities…while he is still little! Thanks for the wake-up reminder…while there is still time to make adjustments. 🙂

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  • Natalie

    No, we are not a series of bad parts, are we? And I very much want my daughters to be more satisfied with their whole than I feel. My choices influence not only their sense of satisfaction, but my own. Thanks for the reminder.

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  • Kelly Hausknecht Chripczuk

    Such a great distinction, Jennifer – not a series of parts, but a whole. There’s always something to pick apart, in everyone, and this is the source of such great fear. But we are loved, in essence, in total, the sum of all parts. It’s funny, my BEST pictures are with my kids – I’m always lopping someone out to get a new profile picture – what I lack are pictures of me by myself because it feels so awkward. Those pictures with my kids, though, remind me how they bring out the best in me, even on nights when my head it spinning and steam coming out of my ears (well, not exactly in THOSE moments, but on the whole!).

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  • Beth

    You are so speaking to my heart with your words, friend. They are helping me through this time of truly learning to believe I am preapproved and to stop believe the lies I’ve allowed myself to believe for so long. This eating disorder of mine that took form because I thought being skinnier is what would bring me happiness…I’m kicking it out the door. No more!! Enough with the not-enough’s. I am preapproved!! Love you.

  • I so appreciate this, Jennifer. I think I have long lived this way, seeing myself as pieces, pieces that I am unhappy with, rather than seeing myself as a whole–a pre-approved WHOLE. Love you, love your heart!!

  • I remember this post and remember relating. I’m learning to be in front of the camera a little bit more, but still. My scars are a part of my story. It’s surrendering my story to Him. Thanks for sharing your journey to wholeness with us.

  • When Craig and I went on the marriage retreat, he brought his (new to him) camera. He wanted pictures of me. Me! And I was so self-conscious. So not bold. So not able to revel in the fact that God made me. I was awkward, here at 36 years old. I don’t want to be that way anymore. I want to own my God-given beauty in a way that shows my girls they can have confidence just because they were made by Him.

  • Holly Solomon Barrett

    I too have hated being in pictures, picking apart every little perceived flaw. It wasn’t until one day when my grown daughter saw a picture of me from high school and she commented, “Mom, you are so pretty.” I remember feeling fat and unwanted, straight-haired when I wanted curly hair, too large chested, too many freckles and never tanned. I look back at the pictures now and I see an average size girl with lots of friends, shining blue eyes and a beautiful smile. I’m sad that I missed out on feeling pretty as a teenager, but grateful that I am now learning to live in the beautiful skin of a woman who is preapproved by our Father as well as birthed and raised children, survived domestic violence, been given ways to serve, and of course, has the most beautiful grandchildren on the planet!! Thankful too for my sweet girl who always thinks her mom is pretty!

  • Megan Willome

    Jennifer, the entire reason I never want to become rich&famous is that I know it would require … a photo shoot. You don’t know the fear you struck in my heart when you told me you’d need a photo for when I post. Aack!

    Can’t wait to hear more about your photo shoot.

  • Love the collage! Love your brave heart! Can’t wait to hear more about the new project.

  • Sheila Dailie

    Jennifer, I share your grief over photos lost. I was able to redeem that a bit with my last baby, but I still find it hard to ask my daughters to be in photos with me. But we are getting more comfortable with it.

    We all need this. ” I copied and pasted those precious few photographs into one file folder—like a little treasure box that held rare jewels.”

    And the good news is that grandbabies present another opportunity–and so far, they love pictures with their grandma! (The five year old sometimes makes funny face so we have to “re-do” the selfie SEVERAL times!)

  • Oh yes…I love pictures….1000’s of my family and a handful of me…so over the past years …I am purposeful …I am now in the pictures with my kids…my grand kids and with my hubby…no more hiding…but being a part of the celebration of life!!!

  • I too am guilty of moving out of pictures and refusing to get them made. I’d much rather be behind the camera. I’ve become WAY too critical of myself. You’ve got me thinking, though, I don’t want to look back one day and wonder why I’m not in any of the pics with my kids. How sad. Thank you for this!

  • I think you and I may be twins, because I do and say exactly the same things about myself. I want my girls to grow up knowing they are beautiful because of Him in them, and I have difficulty embracing that truth myself. Oh, and the pimples? Ugh. That’s all I can say about them! 😉

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  • Alyssa Santos

    We recede to the safer place – behind the camera. Somehow, this urge for security makes having one’s picture taken even seem risky. My niece, not some stranger, just took my photos for my blog redo. She called it a photo shoot and a I got all awkward and blushy.

  • soulstops

    Jennifer,
    You are beautiful and brave 🙂

  • I love you and your Hello Kitty Robe. 🙂

  • Truth, truth, truth! I spent last week with girlfriends and after we took any pictures, three of us would have to make sure we looked our best before we could keep the shot. There was maybe one picture that everyone approved. Sigh. One of the ladies though said that the camera captured her as she is, and so be it. I loved that attitude. And I love your attitude. I’ve often deleted pictures of me because I didn’t like it, but hey, it is what it is. Accept!

  • oh Jennifer, I love this so much. the first paragraphs of this post were laden with chilling guilt as I realized that there are indeed so few pictures of me and my baby together over the past 18mo of her life, due to hating my post-partum body and being so afraid of what “they might say.” when she wakes up from her nap, Marian and I are taking a selfie. because I want to treasure those memories and not let my own self-loathing ruin the memories we could have had.

    love you so much, dear friend. thank you for your honesty on something that is so raw and so tender. you are so brave.

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  • The picture thing? Not finding yourself in the bazillions of photos with your family — your story is mine. I dissect myself terribly. You are my hero. And you look radiant in the photo shoot, btw. Can’t wait to hear about the new project. My, you have lots going on.

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  • I can’t imagine you not wanting pictures…you are beautiful inside and out. This just makes me realize that too many of us do this to ourselves. Thank you for the wake-up call…I needed it!

  • Your story is so inspirational. I can relate to every part of this post. Thank you for paving the way for future moms. Thank you for encouraging all of us to dig deeper, yearn for more of him and freely share our own stories. I’m so glad I found you. May God continue to give you courage.to walk the destiny he has carved for you.

  • Great post…and so relatable. Pimples at 41…ugh, yes. First one didn’t hit until I got pregnant with my first child. So, I get the comments that I look too young to have a child who is 22, but sometimes I wonder if it’s because of the pimples! Anyway, I am glad to have found your site and to see your project and book coming to fruition. May it be blessed in so many more ways than even now, and may it be a blessing to many. I look forward to reading it myself.

  • Kathy Schwanke

    Oh myYoda!! 🙂
    That photo collage is the bestest!!! (I just impressed the college professor I never had!)

    I don’t have many photos of me for the reason of being behind the camera. But the ones I do have… oh my! Can we say 90’s hair? YIKES. God gave me the hair but I am responsible for that back-combing of the bangs!

    PS I am so thankful God has not asked me to go mirror free… I’d burn myself for sure! 🙂

  • Nancy Ruegg

    Oh, boy. You described many of us with pinpoint accuracy–so self-conscious, so self-critical. Never wanting to be in photos unless we look our best. Embarrassed to tears by pimples that still pop up, even into our forties and fifties (Aren’t the wrinkles and graying hair enough?) Oh, yes. You’ve uncovered our innermost thoughts, and exposed the ugly cause at the bottom: pride. YUK!

    Thank you for bringing those thoughts out into the open, and for composing that affirming pledge. It confirms the beautiful truth: “Our scars our part of our story.” Lord, help me to embrace that!!

Sometimes you have to say “no” to the good, in order to save room for the great.