Be Not Afraid

31 Days of Facing my Fears: Day 2 Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

On the second day of this 31 day challenge where I’m choosing to face my fears in an attempt to live out the message, “Be Not Afraid,” I’m diving right in.  Not only was I afraid to face this particular fear, I am also very afraid to make myself vulnerable and tell you about it.  But, I hope that the insight I discovered today might you if you are struggling with a similar fear:  seeing your body and appearance as it truly is, and not only accepting the way it is, but actually giving thanks for its wonder.

After suffering a miscarriage last July, I joyfully discovered that I was once again pregnant in August.  My husband and I were at a friend’s wedding, and wondering whether or not I could partake in certain festivities, I decided to take a pregnancy test in the bathroom of the reception hall.  When I discovered that I was once again pregnant I was shocked, but full of joy.  At the time, it never even crossed my mind to be anything but grateful for the way my body would inevitably change over the next nine months.

And yet, a little over a year later, I’ve been struggling with a lack of confidence and frustration in my appearance.  It’s hard for me to admit this.  After all, I’m alive!  After being diagnosed with cancer that should be enough, right?  And deep down, it is.  But even still, I am only human, and a broken one at that, and lately I’ve found myself fearing seeing photos of myself and even avoiding mirrors.  The funny thing is, while I was enduring months of chemotherapy, I was completely bald and even lost my eyebrows and eyelashes.  My skin was a pale shade of yellow and I had seemingly permanent dark circles under my eyes.  For many months, two purple wires protruded from my upper right arm where chemotherapy drugs were administered.  And every three weeks I had a purple bag full of chemotherapy drugs on my shoulder for ninety-six hours at a time.  But I was so sick and felt so awful that none of that mattered.  All that mattered was fighting the beast inside my body.

Now that I’ve been out of chemotherapy for two months, I’ve had time to grow stronger and create a seemingly “normal” life that doesn’t include frequent three-hour trips to my oncologist’s office or chemotherapy and all of its unfortunate side effects.  These past two months have been beautiful and full of blessings.  But as I re-enter “normal” life I find myself forgetting how wonderful it is to just be alive, and instead dwelling on how different my body and looks are from what they were a year ago.

Fortunately, amidst the surfacing of these insecurities, I remember that my body is not just a thing to be groomed and perfected in order to present an ideal package to others.  Rather, it is a wondrous and strange entity that has both the ability to attack itself to the point of death as well as the ability to work in such beautiful harmony that I am able to do unfathomable things, such as carry another human being in my womb as he develops and grows.  And this should be celebrated.

A few weeks ago, for the first time in a year, I rode my bike.  Pumping my legs and crouching forward to reach the handlebars, I felt strain in my legs as I used muscles I hadn’t used in months to propel myself forward.  I felt the familiar feeling of wind on my face and heard the familiar sound of wind rushing past my ears.  I rode so hard that I felt short of breath, not because of a softball sized tumor in my chest, but because of sheer exertion.  It was wonderful.

Then, just last week, I dove into a swimming pool, something I also hadn’t done for over a year.  Holding my breath and my muscles tight I glided underwater, offering a silent prayer of thanksgiving for the water, the sun, this life, everything, as I arched my back and turned my face upwards, resurfacing into the warm, blinding sun.  It was wonderful.

And then just this evening, I held my sweet son close as he slept on my chest after mass.  His chest rose and fell methodically as his mouth gaped open and his eyelids fluttered.  The closeness of our bodies created a comfortable warmth.  Needless to say, it too was wonderful.

So tonight, remembering all the incredible things my body can do and has done, I forced myself to do something I’ve feared for months.  I stood in front of the mirror unclothed and looked.  And as I did, I thanked God for each part of my body:  my short spiky hair, the bump on the back of my head from when I fell off the handlebars as a kid, the deep red scar on my chest from my biopsy, the deep scar under my right arm from when doctors used a breathing tube to help me breath as a baby in the NICU, my wider and thicker hips, and the pink, feathery stretch marks on my stomach.

It wasn’t easy to stand there, completely vulnerable, without picking apart my appearance.  But I forced myself to do it, and I found myself left with a grateful heart and these words echoing in my ears:

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139

My prayer for you today is that you realize that you, just as you are, physical and emotional scars and imperfections, are a wonderful being made with great care by a loving God.  Use your body to do something amazing and relish its incredible complexity.  Be kind to yourself, and view yourself with God’s eyes, as a wonderful, complex, unique work of art.

To hear a beautiful setting of Psalm 139 by Danielle Rose, click below.

Psalm 139 (Fearfully and Wonderfully Made)
Danielle Rose

Lord you search me and you know me,
When I sit and when I stand.
You understand my thoughts from afar.
Behind me and before me, Your hand is there to guide me
Too wonderful for me this knowledge is beyond my reach.
Before a word is on my tongue,
You know it all before it has begun.

I praise you God that I am fearfully and wonderfully made…

Where can I hide from your presence?
Where can I flee from your face?
If I fly to the heavens you are there,
If I lie in the grave you are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I settle on the far side of the sea,
Even there your hand will guide me
You right hand will hold me fast.
For you night is as the day.
For you light and darkness are the same.

I praise you God that I am fearfully and wonderfully made…

In secret, as in the depths of the earth,
You formed my inmost being.
My very self, my bones were not hidden from you
You knit me in my mother’s womb.

I praise you God that I am fearfully and wonderfully made…

To support an amazing artist and one of the kindest people I’ve ever met, buy Danielle Rose’s music here:  http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/danielle-rose/id74262745

Thank you for joining me on my 31 day challenge!

Previous days:

Day 1: Be Not Afraid

And click here to read all the other wonderful blogs joining in on this challenge!

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45 comments

  1. I’m following your 31 Days here and I’ve put your blog in the sidebar of my blog. This was beautiful. Thank you for sharing so specifically and personally. It opened my eyes to this day in a beautiful way.

    Dixie

  2. Julie

    Thank you for sharing such a personal issue. I know as women we tend to look at what we perceive to be short comings and forget to look at how God created us in His image. I know I do. I look at my tummy after having two babies and I see the stretch marks and loose skin. I see the cellulite on the back of my thighs and then notice my breasts aren’t exactly where they used to be. It is so easy to be critical instead of celebrating how wonderful our bodies are. I needed to hear what you had to say on this subject today- I have been struggling to rejoice in my body and be forgiving of the little imperfections. I am fearfully and wonderfully made! Again, thank you!
    Julie

    • Julie, thank you so much for your comment. And for making me laugh out loud at this: “my breasts aren’t exactly where they used to be.” I hear you!

      I am so grateful that my sharing touched you. And I am so proud of you for proclaiming that you are fearfully and wonderfully made!! Awesome!!

  3. Sherry Willems

    You are wonderfully made—–both inside and out!!!!! There isn’t a day that I don’t thank God for your life; He has been answering my prayers since you were two days old and not expected to live. You were a fighter then and you are now. Your wisdom in seeing what is important in life is a continuous inspiration to me. I love you. Mom

  4. You, proud-a-you! (Imagine this in Johnny voice.)

    It’s funny you should share this reflection now; I actually just submitted a post dealing with a similar memory of looking in the mirror (it will run on a site called Roots of She in November). I found it hard to accept my body, scars and ‘imperfections’ and all…and sometimes still do. Which is, as you say, a bit crazy in light that we are alive, and made by God. As you write, the only thing that helps when I get in that mindset is to receive grace…to look at myself and others with grace-filled eyes. That changes everything.

    You are beautiful, my friend, inside and out. &, though I won’t be able to join you on the 31-day challenge, I will be rooting for you every step of the way.
    Love,
    C

    • Oh how I adore the Johnny voice!!

      I can’t wait to read your piece! And how right you are-we are in such need of grace in so many ways and at so many times.

      Thank you so much for cheering me on. I hope you already know this, but your writing and sharing is an inspiration to me. Love you very much!

  5. Christina

    Ali, thank you for being so courageous and vulnerable – you continue to provide inspiration and a wonderful reminder to live in hope, faith, and acceptance. We ALL grapple with insecurities, yet we must be kind to ourselves and see the bigger picture of what we can do for others with our energy and our lives. Thank you for your prayers – my mom and I are so grateful. I love you!

    • Oh Christina, how wonderful it is to hear from you!! You and your mom have been on my mind so much and I continue to pray every day for both of you.

      You are so right that we need to see the bigger picture of things and remember what we can do for others-thank you for the reminder. I love you so very much!!

  6. Pingback: 31 Days of Facing my Fears: Day 3 Keeping a Faithful Heart in Light of Suffering | Be Not Afraid

  7. Allison~

    Can I just say, you have such a way with words.. I often read your posts and find myself in complete awe of you, your strength, wisdom , faith & beauty. This particular post was so touching and eye-opening. I have no doubt that it will do the same for others who read it. As a woman, I can relate to the fear and difficulty of seeing yourself in the way we should, as God’s beautiful creations.. flaws and all. Thank you for sharing! I wish you nothing but the best in your next days of Facing your Fears and look forward to reading about them!

    Stephanie

    • Stephanie,
      It’s so wonderful to hear from you, and thank you so very much for the kind words! It means so much to hear that you could relate to this post. And thank you for sharing and for your wishes! 🙂 I hope that you’re doing wonderfully!!

  8. Autumn

    Great post. I am a breast cancer survivor of 6 yrs. I too was diagnosed while I was pregnant. I still struggle with the “new” me. I wasn’t able to have reconstructive surgery due to heart damage from the chemotherapy I received. I still feel like half a woman… And struggle with the guilt that I should just be grateful to be alive!
    Oh- side note my chemotherapy baby is a healthy almost 6 yr old. She was my 4th baby and we did have a surprise #5! God loves surprises!

    • Autumn, thank you so very much for commenting. And thank you for sharing your story…it means so much to hear from others who have been through similar situations (although I would never ever imply that I can understand what you went through). Thank you for being so honest-I know exactly what you mean about struggling with guilt when being down on my appearance….I often have to remind myself of how lucky I am just to be alive as well. It’s funny how when I was going through treatment I never thought twice about my appearance…I was proud to go outside bald because I felt it reflected how hard my body was working to beat the cancer inside. I’m trying to remind myself to keep that confidence now as I heal. I’ll be praying that your image of your body heals as the cancer in your body has done. And congratulations on 6 years without cancer and your children-how wonderful! You give me hope for a future of more kids. Thank you!!

  9. Pingback: 31 Days of Facing my Fears: Day 4 Facing Fears with Laughter | Be Not Afraid

  10. Thank you so very much for your beautifully written blog. Although it is my loved one who is fighting cancer, your writings even help me, for although I know the Lord is my savior, I still fear. Thank you so much. Blessings to you. You will be in my prayers.

    • Marjorie, thank you so much for your kind words. I am so incredibly humbled and thankful that my words have helped you. I pray that you and your loved one know peace and experience healing in your lives. And thank you so much for your prayers….that means so much to me.

  11. Pingback: 31 Days of Facing my Fears: Day 5 Listening to Your Heart | Be Not Afraid

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  29. Pingback: 31 Days of Facing My Fears: Day 27 Doing what I Have to Do | Be Not Afraid

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  33. Pingback: 31 Days of Facing My Fears: Day 31 Keeping Faith and Hope Alive | Be Not Afraid

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