Friday, August 22, 2008

My "other" self-

First of all I think I should write another book titled, "It Takes a Village to Name a Baby". =) Thanks for so many kind, thoughtful opinions and even several emails that many of you have sent to Chip and me as we make the big name decision soon. I truly enjoy the process and want to assure you that we will choose the name we feel suits our family/baby best. Thanks for all the dialogue though, and for some creative options too. Who knows, by the time the baby gets here we may have Archibald or Percival at the top of our list! =)
I have had so much encouragement from some of my online friends and 'real life' friends the past couple of weeks as to how I look at this point into my pregnancy. I am 35 weeks today and feeling really good...probably the best I've felt out of all my pregnancies. I have to admit that even I am surprised at how much I actually have 'enjoyed' this journey- minus the stress and long wait when there was that risk of positive HIV infection. Beyond that though, I expected to be more moody, more overwhelmed and certainly more "round" than I am.
The photos in this post are of me when I was pregnant with Teagan {the first 2} and then when I was pregnant with Ava. I hardly recognize myself and hope that some of you have a hard time recognizing me too. =) I know that sometimes I put too much of myself and my thoughts and life out here online, and this is likely another one of those times. But I just want some of you to know that the happiness and Joy and really the changes you see in me and my family- physical, mental and spiritual- have been part of a long process. It's why I often talk of my life as a journey and I feel so grateful and humble when I do see so much goodness in our lives beyond our tragedy.
I truly believe that God has given Chip and me a second chance in life- He not only spared our lives at the time of our tragedy, but He has given us so many blessings besides. I never want to take them for granted and that is a big reason I share so openly- so publicly, the way I do.
I personally have had ongoing issues in my life with my weight/self-image from about the age of 10. I could dig out photos from my childhood through adulthood that captured this part of me as I grew up. It was probably my biggest challenge as a pre-teen, teen and college student. My grades came fairly easily. My sense of humor was something I relied heavily upon and it seemed to make up for the hurt/hate I felt for myself for a long time.
I guess I write all this because I know that there are people who struggle with personal issues- whether it is body image, self-love, eating disorders that stem from any number of things, or even just comparing themselves and feeling they never measure up. It makes me sad to think back to all the years I cried as I fell asleep and how much I really disliked me- for no real reason other than my weight/shape. I had parents and friends and family who never made me feel unloved because of my looks and yet it somehow was my deepest issue and really shaped a lot of the choices I made along the way.
I am no expert in diets and can't give anybody a magic formula as to what has worked for me to get to where I love and accept me the way I am... it's really a long list of things, and as I said, a process or journey that has evolved over a long time. I just want to give someone hope out there who might feel all hope is gone. If even to inspire one of you to find the Joy I have found and to be changed as I have been changed, well to me it is worth those years of struggle and I am more than happy to be able to say "You can do it". I want even that one person reading this to know that you are worth the pain and challenges and sacrifices you may have to make in your life to get to a place of contentment and acceptence. I'm no stranger to the battles that come at you- the ones that you hear in your mind telling you that you are worthless. Or those lies that you believe by watching 'perfect people' on tv and magazine covers and who start making you believe that you are less than who you are simply because of the way God designed your body.
So, as I've added on pounds with this pregnancy for the past 35 weeks, I knew I was in for some 'mental struggles', besides the obvious looking in the mirror and seeing my body grow and change. I knew it was going to be difficult and so I did a few things that I think have made all the difference this time around. One of the first things I did was thank God for the gift of life that He sent to me by way of a baby. I wanted to be grateful for something so amazing, so undeserved- something that others cry out for and long to have happen in their life. I wanted to look at this pregnancy not as something to dread...but truly as a unexpected blessing. I also have prayed many times that I would love and accept ALL the changes this has brought and will continue to bring into my life- weight gain, concerns, and even the sleepless nights. I have been so surprised, although I shouldn't be, that God has heard and answered those prayers. I have said it before, but sometimes find that we don't really ask God for the things we need- the really simple things, because maybe we think He is 'too big or too busy' to care. Instead, we move along in life carrying worries or burdens that He would love to lift off of us, but we are not willing to turn them over to Him. I think that is one of the biggest lessons I have learned in my life the past several years...God WANTS us to know love and Joy and contentment, but we have to be willing to give Him all our concerns- no matter how big or small they may be.
When I think of all the hurt I carried because I let myself believe I wasn't 'good enough or thin enough' for so long, I still ache inside because I now know that God loves me with an everlasting love and when I couldn't love myself, I was in effect saying, "God I don't like the way you made me- I don't love what You created me to be". I realized at one point that since God designed me, I COULD love me just the way I was. It was in accepting me and all my imperfections that I began to be able to change and become even more of who God created me to be.
I now choose to do things for my body and for myself because I know that God wants the best for me, and when my thinking lines up with that reality, it is so much easier to actually follow through. I'm talking about eating healthier, and not watching tv or reading fashion magazines or actually going for walks or doing things for other people that make their lives better. I believe that the less I focused on me, the more I was able to change. It seems so backwards- so opposite what you think you need to do, but really, that is when I have seen change happen in me.
When I started telling myself I didn't need a boyfriend to affirm my love and worth back in college, well, that is when I started to get asked out and months later met Chip and fell in love. When I began to just focus on loving life and others around me, that is when others started to love me back in bigger ways.
I was depressed through my whole pregnancy with Teagan, but can honestly say that the moment she was placed in my arms after her birth, my heart literally cared a fraction about me and was totally overwhelmed and consumed with her. Nothing mattered to me at that point, about my weight or looks or even how much sleep I would or wouldn't get...I olnly wanted to be my best and give her the world. I thank God that He allowed me to struggle through 9 months of pregnanacy with her- even as I questioned Him and was angry and depressed. Because in the end He gave me the greatest gift of being able to love more and give more of me than I ever had in my life.
I had no idea I would write this long chapter in my life here today. I actually meant to just post a few photos to 'prove' to a few of my friends that when they tell me I look so good this pregnancy, that it most definitely hasn't been true in any of my previous five. But instead, I have spilled some of the deep parts of my heart and soul. In so doing, I truly hope that someone else will be challenged to want to be more than they are at this moment.
Maybe it's the hormones and the squirming going on in my belly even as I type this that made me want to get this all out right now. Maybe it is the humble disbelief that God really does love us and wants us to bring all our concerns to Him. Maybe it's the reality that there is a life inside me, being entrusted to Chip and me to love and encourage all the potential this baby has to give the world in just a matter of days. Maybe it is any number of things, but in my heart I just want to share the good, the bad, and the reality that we all can choose Joy and seek God and He will help us become exactly who He wants us to be. That is a truth that I never want to forget.


M & J said...

DeLurking here... Wow, thanks so much for sharing... I needed that!

Karin said...

Thank you so much for that Jody.

Anonymous said...

Dearest Jody,

What a wonderful post, I really got a lot out of it, and it gives me some peace about my struggle with my weight. Thank you, dear friend, and wishing you a wonderful rest of pregnancy!

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a post.
Just wanted to let you know I read your blog frequently and that I really REALLY admire you. For who you are, for how you stand in life, for you being you.
Hopefully the last weeks of your pregnancy will be good, enjoy this short time and before you know, your little baby will be here.
Thanks for sharing your stories.

Sara said...

Great post, Jody. I was nodding in agreement the whole way through. :)


angela said...

once again, i find myself completely wrapped up in and so grateful for your blog. thanks for your wonderful insights, openness, honesty, and love for God. i really appreciate you via your blog.

can't wait to see that new baby face!!

Jess said...

WOW...I loved that and NEEDED THAT so much! Thank you for speaking so openly and honestly, you have no idea how much that spoke to me.
I am on a quest to become the "best me" possible. I hope you don't mind if I link to your post on my post today on my blog...I don't know that I have that many readers, but I mainly want to have it to refer back to as I'm on this remember and think on.
Thanks so much again...
Have a wonderful weekend...

Holly said...

Hey Jody,
First off you really do look amazing this pregnacy but when I lived in Gaylord you were pregnant that entire three years and I always thought you were beautiful. I was always amazed that someone with two, then three, and then four little ones at home could always look that cute and put together (at that time I only had dogs and still couldn't pull that off). When I first started to read your blog you had just gone to some kind off fancy benefit dinner and had posted a picture with you all dolled up and wearing a dress that was red carpet worthy. I actually called out to Phil to come check you out because you were so hot (sorry if that's weird, totally meant as a compliment). Well anyways just wanted to let you know you have always looked beautiful weather you were very pregnant for three years in a row or dressed to the nines. And you should have modeled this pregnancy!
Take care,

Susan said...

Jody....I'm giggling. Please forgive me for the little joke.
When you say "I'm 35 weeks today", it makes me wonder, did you conceive on a Friday 35 weeks ago??? LOL. I knew to a tee when I conceived both my kids. No offense intended. Love ya.

Shannon Crane said...

Loved the post. My heart aches at your loss with Teagan... rejoices at the gift of new life within. You are a blessed woman.

LaVon Baker said...

Jody, just today I was struggling with my self-image, giving the enemy a foothold when God sent two Christian girlfriends to me to encourage me and pray with me. I haven't been lurking here in several weeks and tonight God brought me to this post of yours. Wow! Thank you for your story and know how much you have encouraged me, a woman just shy of 60 years old. You would think that I would have learned these truths long before now, wouldn't you. Praise God, I'm learning them now. I love what you said about focusing on others. I'm convinced that's satan's key tool of destruction, self-focus. Say a prayer for me and I'm praying for a wonderful, glorious, healthy birth for you.

Anonymous said...

All women, I think, struggle at one time or another with their self-image (self-worth) etc. I think it takes a relationship with Jesus to finally realize just how special we ALL are. I had to have Psalm 139 almost engraved in my mind to know this 'Truth'!!! God knew us and planned for us in Eternity Past---regardless of the background we have come from! He knit us in our mother's womb! It just makes me want to weep whenever I begin to ponder these words!
Also...God has a plan for ALL of us! If that plan gets way-laid by another (ie. a crazy accident that takes a child) God can use that to make for something beautiful. In your case have a way of relating to people who suffer and grieve---offering them a Hope and a Future! (smile)
Sigh!! You new baby is such a blessing to you and your family. PLUS I also agree with one of the postes here that you're adorable! I have never met you but you look like you are so "put together" in your clothing and (from the brief peeks through pictures) in your decorating as well!!

scrapnic72 said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Jody, as you have many wise and inspiring things to share. But at some level, to be honest, this post made me sad. God has been teaching me a lot about brokeness lately and to delve deeper into what it means to be created in His image and redeemed by his blood. I urge you not to think of your past pregnancies/physical appearance as "my other self" but to see it as part of this amazing holistic journey that God has called you to...a journey that is complex with many different seasons, some of which are prettier than others, but all of which add up to an amazing story of redemption and reconciliation. Without that part of your life, you wouldn't have the same wisdom and insights you are able to share today. It's amazing to me that sometimes, when we look back at ourselves at a certain point in life and think "what a mess" or "was that really me?"'s in those times of brokeness and often downright despair that God is really working the most. God uses cracked pots, you know (thank goodness!)! I do think that especially for women, we sometimes have a hard time embracing all aspects of our development and growth. We don't have to "have it all together" to be in His will or to be reaching others, and it's often when we are the most disheveled and beat up by life that God is most clearly seen IN SPITE OF US! I think you are gorgeous now, Jody, truly gorgeous.....but I also think that you were gorgeous in those other photos....maybe not in the way that this world defines beauty or "cute"....but in what God was doing in and through you, body and soul. From how I read your thoughts today, I felt some hints of that same "myth of beauty" that you, I and so many of us women and girls battle with at various points in our lives. I hope this isn't interpreted as disrespectful or controversial because I count you as a friend and fellow woman of God, but I just wanted to share some honest and open dialogue about an issue that is so vitally critical to women truly grasping what it is to be broken and free and transformed in Jesus. Thanks, Jody, for always being willing to use your experiences to show Christ to others.


The Mattfield family said...

Thanks a lot, have me in tears right now! You are speaking my launguage, honey -- I'm sure you know that from going to high school together. It took me YEARS to admit that I had an eating disorder and I struggled for SO many years. It's only been in the last 2 years that I can honestly say I'm in recovery. And, oddly enough, I'm at my highest weight right now. But my weight is never going to bring me happiness, contentment, peace, love....only God can do that. It's a message I want to shout from the rooftops.


Shawn said...

Sweet Jody,
Girlfriend, I can so relate!!!!! Thank you for your bravery, honesty and profound post. I, too, have struggled with weight my entire life. For the past ten years, the Lord has done a very thorough work in my life in this area. But it is still something I struggle with daily. I have put some weight on this summer and have felt actual terror because of all those sickeningly familiar feelings of inferiority that come with the added weight. I have found one verse in Scripture to help me like nothing else in this area:

"The King is enthralled with your beauty; honor Him for He is your Lord." Psalm 45:11

Again today and as many days as I need to I will speak the omnipotent Word of God to my easily discouraged heart and mind. The scale is not my lord, the mirror is not my lord, my clothing size is not my lord. The King of heaven is my Lord and He is taken with all of us, no matter what those other "lords" say about us. Blessings on you and this sweet baby.
Love, shawn

Anonymous said...

I am blown away with todays post Jody. Thank you. You get it, you so get it. I am at that place where I am so unhappy with my weight and like you, even though I am surrounded by a great family and fantastic friends-- I still always feel "less" -- because of my appearance. I'm tired of it. I printed out your post and will refer to it for encouragement. Thank you again, and I wish you all the best with the upcoming big event. Can't wait to hear what name you & Chip choose!

buhtafly said...

Delurking...What a beautiful post. thank you for sharing!

N, K, D, E and Zoe said...

Jody -

Thank you for sharing a part of your heart. As I was reading this post, it was like the words were being taken out of my mouth. I find comfort in knowing I'm not the only one who struggles with self-image, but still seeks God's joy and His view of me.

May God continue to richly bless you. Can't wait to see pictures of the newest Ferlaak!

In His Love,

Jane-Jane said...

Jody, thank you for sharing this part of your life. I found your blog about a year ago, and would have never dreamed you to ever be like me...struggling daily with weight issues.
I have fallen for the lies that "if only....", or "when....", I will be happy, healthy and thin.
There have been many times that I have just given up and gave into my emotional eating, instead of relying on my Heavenly Father for ALL my fulfillments in life.
You have given me hope. Hope that I too will rely on God for ALL things. He is my only provider. That one day soon, I too will love who God made me to be.

MandieGirl said...

I've been meaning to comment on this for the last week now, but I just wanted you to know that I needed this RIGHT when you wrote it (and still do). Thanks for being obedient and writing when you feel "nudged" to do so. It means a lot to me. :)