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You've Come a Long Way, Baby!

This Sunday is Super Bowl Sunday---a time for parties, good food, and lots of football. (Okay, honestly, the football interests me the least---although I do hope Tom Brady wins). As we're prepping for this year's event, I'm remembering an event that was WAY more exciting at my house--the year that Payton Manning and the Denver Broncos went to the Super Bowl. Since my brother is a mega-Broncos fan, this was a VERY BIG DEAL!!!

For a completely different reason, it was a big deal in my life, too.

It was about two weeks before the Super Bowl and the Denver Broncos had just won the AFC title clinching their place in the Big Game. As I said, at my house this was a VERY BIG DEAL because my brother has been a fan of the Broncos since he was in elementary school. As his phone rang off the hook with friends calling to congratulate him (as if he were actually part of the game LOL), I decided that I wanted to join in the fun, too. Knowing we'd be with friends (who were also Broncos fans) the week of the Super Bowl, I decided that I was going to get a football t-shirt and join in the celebration.

Knowing my brother had a coupon for a sports shop on his computer (cha-ching) I logged on to make my purchase.

I gotta tell you, I was really excited to see what it would look like when it came. When the package arrived, I went right to my room to try it on.

Only I was soon disappointed when I quickly realized that I was going to have to return my purchase back to the store it came from.

Why? Didn't it fit?

Actually, it fit perfectly. A little too P-E-R-F-E-C-T-L-Y. (if you know what I mean). Clinging to every curve and dipping a little too low in the front, I instantly knew that this was not the image of God's daughter that I wanted to present to the world.

So I put it back in the package to be returned and thought, "You've come a long way baby."

(Odd response? Well, let me explain.)

You see, years ago when I was in my late teens and early twenties, I have to admit that I wouldn't have returned the shirt. Instead, I would have worn it and flaunted the way it made me look. Even more, I would have enjoyed the way that guys looked at me while I was wearing the shirt. My fragile self-worth would have been temporarily boosted with every compliment, every stare, and every indication that I was attractive to the guys in the room. At the end of the night, I'd have walked away riding the high of the attention I received.

Of course, those types of highs fade quickly. Then it wears off and you are left feeling empty and alone. Before long, you need more attention to validate your self worth. Eventually, life becomes a constant chase---the shirts get tighter, the skirts get shorter, the outfits more eye-catching, because you need to be noticed so that you can feel good about yourself. You need someone to tell you that your pretty, skinny, sexy, to feel worthy.

I'm sorry to say that my much younger self struggled with this need for attention.

Then, my loving Heavenly Father intervened and did what He needed to do to show me where to find my true value and worth outside of my appearance.

How did He do it?

Well, He essentially starved my appetite for outside approval by putting me in a place in life where there was absolutely no need for fancy clothes that drew attention.....there was no one in my life to impress....AND because of some health issues I had to stick to a healthy eating schedule no matter size jeans that meant I had to wear.

Being completely vulnerable, I have to admit that this time in life was HARD. (Starving an appetite always is). There were days when I literally cried because I felt so ugly and worthless---completely unable to fill my insecurities and find my worth in my appearance.

Yet, out of this difficult time, God began to heal my heart.

He began showing me WHY I felt so empty inside and why looking a certain way and having the approval of men was so important to me.

Day by day as I spent time with Him, He began healing my heart and replacing the hurt and pain and insecurity with His love. He began setting me free from the generational pattern of all the women in my family who found their self-worth in their appearance. Most importantly, I learned that no matter how I looked or who was looking at me, I had value and worth because I was His daughter.

Rather than finding my significance in my appearance, I began to find my significance in the love of My Heavenly Father.

That's why I could pack up that tight fitting, eye-catching t-shirt and say, "I don't need this anymore. I know who I am and the woman God has called me to be. I don't want to be judged on my ability to fill out a t-shirt, rather I want to be known for my character, my passion for Jesus, my concern for others and my commitment to God's principles."

Today, I don't want men to look AT me, but I want to serve ALONGSIDE men and women as we build God's kingdom. That's why I can say "God's brought me a long way---I never want to go back."

Yet, even as I've writing this, I know that there are still many women who are still struggling with the same issue. We live in a world that tells us that appearance is everything. You're nothing if you're not attractive, sexy, desirable. Even Christian women believe that you have to look a certain way, dress a certain way to attract a man.

Even in this feminist era, too many woman still believe that their value and worth come from their appearance.

Having been there, lived though that, it breaks my heart.

Today, if you are reading this article and you know that you are still struggling to find your value and self-worth in how you look or how others look at you, I pray that my testimony will inspire you that you don't have to keep living in this bondage. Because dear sister, YOUR VALUE HAS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH YOUR APPEARANCE.

You are valuable and worthy because God loves you. He created you with unique abilities, a unique personality, and He has a unique plan and purpose for your life. He is where you need to find your significance.

It's in spending time alone with Him,

---Soaking yourself in His Word,

---and laying every piece of your heart open for Him to heal that you will find the peace and satisfaction that your heart is looking for.

I know, because it's what changed me.

The same God Who revolutionized my life can revolutionize your life, too.

You don't have to stay caught in the bondage of living for attention based on your appearance.

Today, Jesus can start the process of setting you free.

Where to you begin?

Start by asking.

Go to God in prayer and admit that you have a problem. Tell Him that you are tired of being caught in this web and you want to live as a free woman who finds her value and self-worth based on WHO SHE IS rather than HOW SHE LOOKS.

From there, you'll need to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.

For me, this leading meant going through some counseling to deal with some issues from my past. I also prayed a prayer of spiritual deliverance to be set free from tendency toward this bondage that was passed down from generation after generation of women in my family. (Trust me, how we looked was a BIG deal).

As I said before, my journey making a conscious choice to dress like a woman of God rather than a woman who needed attention. This meant I had to throw some clothes away and make more appropriate choices. Often I had to ask other's opinions about what I was wearing so that I could get an honest perspective. Part of my process also meant abandoning fashion magazines that constantly gave the message to dress sexy. I didn't need their advice anymore, I was on another path.

Like I said, initially the journey wasn't easy---but 20 years later I can tell you---IT WAS SO WORTH IT.

Finding my significance in Jesus and finding my identity in Him made ALL the difference in my life. The truth is that when that tight t-shirt arrived, I didn't even want to wear it.

Why? Because I wouldn't trade true self-worth or security for anything less again.

It's my prayer that you'll make the same choice and start your own journey today.

By the way, I did end up wearing a Broncos t-shirt that weekend---just one that was a little bigger that showed off my personality instead of my other attributes. It was a fun weekend---and the Broncos won the Super Bowl.

But what I learned is that when a woman finds her identity in Christ---she's the big winner. Security, value, purpose, and joy---what more could you want???

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