Everything I know about loving myself I learned at a gas station

Ok, not really (but kinda). Eh, read on.

God has been working overtime on me lately it seems. As an intro I want to share something I posted in my personal blog a few weeks ago:

I got the most amazing compliment of my life a couple of days ago.

After a very busy weekend and getting to bed later than I anticipated on Sunday night, working all day Monday, going straight from work to a meeting then running to the store for a few groceries, very tired, I stopped for gas on my way home. When I was at Trader Joe’s I bought myself some pretty white and purple (daisies?) because, well, I’m a girl and I need flowers sometimes.

The flowers were sticking out of the grocery bag on the back seat and when I rolled down the window to speak with the gas station attendant, I smiled and made a comment about the weather. He smiled back, responded to my comment, then nodded toward the flowers and said with a wink, “are those flowers for me?” Without missing a beat I nodded in the affirmative and said, “Absolutely – if they’d make you happy…” and I reached around to the back seat, grabbed them, and held them out the window to him.

You could’ve knocked him over with a feather. I sincerely tried to get him to take them, and though he grinned and thanked me, he declined. When I had put them back he held out his hand and introduced himself (Cedric? Fredrick? Drat this memory of mine!). He expressed incredulity that I would do something like that for a perfect stranger and told me he can tell a truly beautiful person when he sees one. He said that most people aren’t like that and told me several times that I was “a beautiful girl” then (and here’s the amazing part) he said I “exemplify humanity – or what humanity should be.” Maybe it’s because I’ve been so tired for the last few days, but that a stranger would say something like that to me…it just touched me very deeply. I still get teary-eyed thinking about it. When he finished pumping the gas and I was pulling the cash out of my wallet he said, “you tell your boyfriend I said he is a very lucky man to have such a treasure and he should hold you tight.” I chuckled and said, “if I ever get one, I’ll be sure to let him know.” He looked surprised and said, “what? No boyfriend?! What is wrong with them?!” (Preaching to the choir, buddy…) Shaking his head and “tsk, tsk-ing” he said, “you’re looking in the wrong places, girl…the wrong places.”

At this point I was all set and ready to go so he smiled, waved, and wished me a good night.

It was one of those extra-special encounters with a stranger that puts me in mind of that bible verse about “entertaining angels unaware.” I’ll never forget it or how special he made me feel in those few moments.

Thank you, Father.

This was a life changing experience, but the reason for that didn’t really hit me fully until a couple of days later.

Just over nine years ago I weighed 325 lbs. And let me tell you – I truly hated being so heavy. But even more than I hated the weight and the limitations it placed on my physical abilities, I hated myself. More than one person told me I was pretty (or more accurately, that I had “a pretty face”) but I couldn’t see it. Finally though, one day in May 2008, after more than 20 years of being morbidly obese, it was like a switch was flipped and I was just “ready” to lose weight. I joined Weight Watchers and my weight started to come down. It wasn’t easy and it took a long time (too long in my estimation – especially since my ex-husband lost over 100 lbs in the time it took me to lose 50) but I was doing it. And when my ex and I first split up in 2011, miracle of all miracles, I didn’t regain the 75-ish lbs I’d lost – I maintained. Eventually I lost an additional 39 lbs bringing my total weight loss to 114 lbs. That was in the spring of 2015 and I was 36 lbs away from my goal weight. (36 pounds!!!) But here we are on the cusp of summer 2017 and I’ve gained back some of the weight I lost, so I find myself faced with the daunting task of needing to work to lose it again.

Such a thing should have me feeling pretty horrible, shouldn’t it? I mean – I failed, right?

I’ll be honest. I did feel really bad about myself for a long time. Horrible even. I berated myself (even as I slowly kept gaining weight over the past year and a half), felt like utter crap, and cried whenever I looked in the mirror and tried on clothes that were practically falling off me two years ago but are now too small. I’ve celebrated, rewarded, comforted, and punished myself with food for years – convinced that no guy worth having will ever see past my weight to the woman inside, so what difference did it make? (As if finding Mr. Right is the only reason to lose weight.) <insert sigh & eyeroll here>

“You can’t give away what you don’t have – if you want to love others you need to be filled with love. Period.” — Valorie Burton

But you know what God used that encounter with the kind fella at the gas station to teach me? That I am beautiful. Yep. You heard me. I am beautiful just as I am. You know why?

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” (1 Peter 3: 3-4)

According to the Word of God, I’m beautiful inside (even if my overweight body, with stretch marks everywhere, isn’t). I am not, nor may ever be, a size 10, but if I had to make a choice I would rather have a beautiful heart being made more and more like Christ’s every day than a beautiful body (as defined by Hollywood/society).

You know what’s funny though? The weight is coming off again. Not anywhere near as quickly as I would like, but it is definitely coming off. Truthfully I haven’t stepped on a scale for a while, but a pair of pants I couldn’t even pull on a few weeks ago went on easily and fit comfortably two days ago. God has done some major healing on the inside so food just isn’t as important to me as it used to be.

I guess the bottom line is that, for many reasons I won’t get into here, I never felt like I was enough and couldn’t see any beauty in me at all, so I didn’t think I was worth very much. From the time I was in my early teens until somewhat recently I actually felt as though I had to practically apologize for my existence. I felt like I was intruding on people’s lives just by breathing (no exaggeration).

But I don’t believe that anymore. God has changed me.

I am enough.

I am beautiful.

I am valuable.

And I most certainly have nothing to apologize for – I add to, not detract from, the world.

It’s important to note here that I’m not saying any of this in a conceited “I’m all that and a bag of chips” kind of way. With some help from a terrific therapist, some healing love from some truly wonderful people in my life, but mostly from God (reading His Word and reminding myself frequently who I am in Him), I can honestly say, for the first time E-V-E-R, that I love myself. Again, not in a vain, arrogant way – I just recognize my value as a human being and beloved daughter of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (which, incidentally, makes me a princess), believing I am worth the time, effort, and resources to take care of myself physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Thanks to my Heavenly Father, I can, at long last, hold my head high and look the world in the eye. And not because of me – but because of who my Creator made me. I am His.

So while I am definitely going to continue working to lose this excess weight I’m finally, at long last, doing it just for me – not in the hopes of snagging some great guy (because let’s face it – if he’s really all that great he’ll recognize the treasure inherent in winning my heart no matter how much I weigh). I want to move more easily. I want to be able to walk long distances without losing sleep because I’m so much pain I simply can’t get comfortable. I want to be able to be on my feet for long periods of time without needing to ice my knees for hours afterward. But more than anything I want to be able to dance at powwows.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-39)

I’m not stressing about it anymore though because I know I’ll finish it and get down to my goal weight this time. I’ll get there because of my ‘why.’

I’m doing it for me.

And that is enough.