This is my first blog for “A Pen and A Prayer” and it isn’t the one I originally thought I was meant to write. But something began to move on my heart and I’m going to run with it.
Last month I placed my Rawley Family Romances Collection into Netgalley, a portal for readers to request and review books. Now many people say authors shouldn’t read their reviews, especially bad ones. Still, I’ve often found that I can learn something from a meaningful review, even a negative one. At the end of my month-long run on Netgalley, I received a review from a reader who didn’t finish the book.
“I got through most of the first story. I liked the characters and the premise and got vested into the story. What set me off was actually the terms the author used to describe heavy people. I didn’t really care for it and when it occurred a second time, particularly to describe a character I was starting to like, I decided to not finish the book.”
I didn’t have to wonder what she meant. I knew immediately which character and verbatim which terms I’d used.
You see, the Rawley Family Romances Collection is a bundle of the first 3 books about the Rawley Family. I actually wrote the first book when I was in high school, then revised it and published it fifteen years later. My world was very different from when I first created that story to when I put it out into the world. And just as different today.
He took a step forward, and a short, pudgy woman came from behind him.
That line comes from All for Hope, the original, first Rawley Romance. The “short, pudgy” woman wasn’t the main character. She’s on the sidelines, key to the story but certainly not the star. And why would she be? She’s not slender with a nice bust and gorgeous hair. No, she’s just the “short and pudgy” one, right?
I can remember sitting in class in high school uncomfortable and nervous as all teenagers are when two guys, a few years older, start making conversation. They laughed and joked and seemed to want to include me in things. It took at least a few weeks for me to recognize the word they were hissing under their breaths when the spoke to me. That was when I discovered that “Fats” was the name they’d give me. And I will never, ever forget that moment.
So you see, when I referred to Meg Rawley as “short, pudgy” it wasn’t that I was making fun of persons with extra weight. It was a self-deprecating reference to me. That was how I saw myself.
But that’s not how God sees me. To Him, I am beautiful because He made me to be beautiful.
But it’s easy to forget that these days. We, especially women, are so obsessed with our appearance. We work and toil to look better, to stay young, to stay slim. And yet deep down inside I think so many of us are constantly hissing those ugly words to ourselves. It’s almost as if we are seeking to remind ourselves that we aren’t worthy on some level.
But God tells us that isn’t true. We can be made beautiful, not with makeup or diet fads or fine clothes and jewelry. It is only through Him that we can discover the inner radiance that creates true beauty. And that’s something that no one can sell us or give us or tell us. We have to learn that for ourselves through Him.
I’ve struggled with my weight since my teen years. And I eventually ballooned to nearly 250 pounds at one point early in my marriage. I remember my husband once telling me that I needed to learn to love myself.
What? Love myself? Pfft! I’m too busy loving him, my family, my friends. Who really loves themselves anyway?
Listen, learning to love yourself isn’t easy to do. Whether it’s your looks, your past, your vices, etc. we all have some reason to find ourselves unlovable. And it’s funny how it works, at least for me. When I see myself as “un-pretty,” I mentally feel unhappy, depressed, anxious. And when I’m worried and sad and emotionally wrought, I tend to feel unattractive. So clearly the physical and emotional aspects are very closely related.
Still, God’s love for us is perfect. He sees our weaknesses and our faults, but we are His children. His adoration for each precious one of us cannot be overstated.
I haven’t learned this lesson. The fear of being un-pretty, un-lovable, un-worthy seeps into my heart at some point each and every day. I am working on it and will probably do that for the rest of my life. And sometimes, when I look in the mirror I can be pleased with the person that my God in Heaven created me to be. And for that reason, I can also try to take better care of myself, not in the sense of losing weight to look better, but to live better.
As part of that growing process, I eventually wrote a story for Meg. And in it she still struggles with her body image and with loving herself. All for Family gives just a snippet of that journey and how she eventually learned to love herself as much as others loved her. Because just like that reviewer, I had come to truly like Meg in the first Rawley Romance. And don’t we all deserve love?
Don’t ask me, just ask God…
A few years ago I attended a talk by Liz Curtis Higgs and each attendee was given a “Ta da” Bookmark and Mirror decal. If you don’t know the story of “Ta da”, I’d encourage you to look her up because she can tell the story much better than I can. But gist of it is this… each morning before starting your day, look in the mirror, throw up your hands and say “Ta da”… because God made you in his image and made you beautiful! It truly does make for a wonderful start to your day. Do any of the things I’ve talked about here strike a chord with you? Leave a comment below and I’ll send a few of you a “Ta da” Bookmark.