Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Relax your Abs Mother!

It’s the 1990s and it is time to take a picture. My process? I hold my breath, I smile and I put one arm around the person next to me. I have always loved taking pictures and this was my way of doing it for many, many years. No matter what my weight was, I used the same technique: hold my breath, smile, pray that the photographer will hurry up and presses the button.

Somewhere in the 2000s people stopped including their whole bodies in pictures. Real people don’t photoshop themselves but we’re really good at taking our bodies out of pictures. What we do is we change the angle of the camera to focus on a certain angle that will show our faces, as thin as the lense will register. When we take photos of our whole body we are telling a complete story.

The day I turned 34 years old, I noticed that my old way of taking pictures changed without my knowing. My kind husband had taken multiple photos of me so he gave me the camera for my review. That’s when I noticed that I wasn’t holding my breath: there was a 34-year-old mother of three kids, 4 and under, staring at me with her abs completely relaxed. My first thought was, ‘what’s wrong with me?’

We proceeded to go to my birthday lunch. I like to take photos with my whole family as much as I can so we took a picture on our way out of the restaurant. When the friendly stranger handed me the camera so I could review the pictures, that new phenomenon happened again. There I was, holding one of my kids, smiling from ear to ear with my abs totally relaxed. My thought this time was, ‘I wonder if people will think that I am pregnant.’

I’m not proud of that thought and I am being honest with you because I want you to know that something great came out of these ordinary, photo ops: a mother who looks comfortable in the picture.

Many years before I had kids I was picked on and reminded of the size of my stomach. The habit of contracting my abs was built in for years but to be honest with you, working to diminish the size of my abs is my least favorite to do in life. Whether this dislike was imposed or not, I owned it.

When I was blessed with motherhood, my stomach acceptance changed. Oh, how I loved expecting my kids! My stomach grew more and more with each pregnancy, literally. I had extra fluid the last time around which made it for a great swimming pool for my youngest daughter. I often complained about my stomach but my incredible husband always reminded me that I was a mother, and there was no comparable beauty to that.

As a woman of faith, I have been constantly challenged to be transformed by the renewing of my mind. I never thought this transformation would cause me to look comfortable in pictures. The truth is that God has not changed the way He sees me. He loves me with an everlasting love for who I am. I am more than a super stretched stomach. I am more than an uncomfortable woman trying to make happy memories while feeling unhappy about my image. I don’t know when I finally got this life changing message. Maybe it came when I was out there, running the pavement and earning my way to 26.2 miles. Maybe it came when my kids kept complimenting me, never caring about my size or weight. The result of a changed mind was a peace that reached to my very soul and caused me to relax and smile. There is nothing tense about me in my current pictures friends.

I have learned that it is good that we stay in our family pictures. I believe it is better to look comfortable in these pictures because from the depths of our soul we are telling our future selves: "I truly enjoy this moment. I am present and I am okay with who I am, just the way I am."

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