I enjoy stalking people on Throwback Thursdays. I think it’s because I have a love for pictures. While words will always be my choice of storytelling, sometimes looking into the lives of others through images is insightful.
But there are times in my life…in everyone’s lives…where a throwback isn’t an occasion to remember. And certainly not blasted across social media like so many other little trophies that pop up on that day.
The picture you see above was a time in my life that was much simpler. A proper throwback, if you will. I remember swinging from that ski rope on the dock over and over again until sheer exhaustion spread to every limb in my body. Including those skinny legs of mine. But don’t let the picture fool you. I was already working off some serious calorie intake. My diet of Mr. Pibb and Starcrunch was already at work on my young metabolism.
And as I throw it back to many years into the future from when this picture was taken, I think of a time when I didn’t capture so many moments on film. Long gone were the days of busying myself in the water and burning off those calories. Instead, I traded in that fun in the water for a job on the dock filling up boats.
I wasn’t the only girl there. There were lots of us. Running ourselves silly, trying to catch a boat before some
drunk idiot inebriated individual plowed it into the front of the well. I was badly bruised that summer and have a permanent patch of broken veins behind my left thigh to prove it.
But the real throwback of that season was my incessant need to look great in a swim suit. I wasn’t much on drinking (that often). I didn’t smoke. But my obsession for having a body like the “other girls” consumed me.
Yes, I can throw it back hard on this one. Back to the day I completely broke down in the dressing room of a swimsuit shop.
I cried a lot of angry tears, down on my knees, looking over those suits that hugged my body too tightly. The ones that weren’t made for a full figured girl and, when worn, caused all that extra skin to pop out in places that should’ve been well covered. I’d never been much for showing my midriff, but I felt the pressures of purchasing a bikini. Though I’d always marched to the beat of a different drummer throughout my early adolescent years, now…well, I just wanted so badly to fit in.
I wasn’t beautiful, but I sure wanted to be. That’s what I told myself.
I’d had one too many Mr. Pibbs and Starcrunch and it was time to do something about it.
31 days later I walked into a hospital on a Thursday morning. The sun hadn’t risen and my senses were still fast asleep. I vaguely remember going under anesthesia for the single worst decision I have ever made.
I was 22 years old. Crying on the inside for who I was and again on the outside for who I wasn’t. I wanted to become someone else.
I was so sure that liposuction was the answer.
If I were speaking these words right now this is the moment I’d demand the attention of every eye in the room. I’d cup your chin in my hand and speak to you with certainty. “You are beautiful,” I would say. “Just…beautiful.”
I know that most of you wouldn’t believe me. I certainly didn’t believe me. Yet there was a gentle voice that day that told the reflection in the mirror not to go through with it.
Perhaps it was the Holy Spirit. As a girl who accepted Christ as a teenager and then had no idea where to go from there, I didn’t so much recognize that voice for many years. But I’d be lying if I said the warning wasn’t real.
I ignored it. I walked into that hospital determined to fix, what I thought, was a problem.
I awoke in so much pain that it wouldn’t have surprised me to be lying there in a burning bed. I was struggling to come ’round and express to the nurses just how much it hurt. It was then that Jonathon’s face came into view.
It was the first time I’d ever seen him cry.
He wore his regret with shame and I immediately felt as sorry for him as I did myself. His remorse over bringing me there was far worse than my own yet I’m sure his body wasn’t screaming for morphine the way mine was at that present moment.
I’d lost a lot of blood and the bleeding wouldn’t cease. The nurses were panic stricken and quickly paged the doctor who’d left on vacation just moments after the surgery.
This was my second indication that I’d made a grave mistake. What doctor leaves a patient before they’ve even woken up?
And the recovery…
The recovery was worse than anything I’ve ever physically dealt with. I couldn’t walk and it hurt even more to sleep. I thought I was going to vomit pretty much all the time.
The bruising was so significant that it looked as though I’d been beaten repeatedly with a baseball bat. I cried every time I had to see it.
But the weeks progressed and the bruises diminished. I could wear my cute shorts that had been waiting for thinner thighs.
I was smug.
The gloating didn’t last long. The lack of feeling I’d been experiencing in the back of my calves proved to be nerve damage. My right leg…damaged permanently. You could burn me with a lit match and I’d never feel a thing.
It’s been 16 years now.
I still don’t feel a thing.
Yeah, the enemy was rejoicing that day as he knocked me down hard. I often wonder if he knew that my potential would surface one day. Did he sense God would use me?
I wonder if he knew that I’d learn what faith was?
I’m sure he didn’t know I’d tell this story. Sharing something so personal. So…shameful. But if it stops a dozen girls or four or…one, from going under the knife, it’s worth it.
I know how easy it is to roll our eyes and take it all for granted when someone tells you you’re beautiful. It’s so easy to dismiss it as rubbish. And we’ve all been in situations where we ignore the truth of God’s Word and cling to the enemy’s lies like they’re some sort of lifeline.
I know it is. Because I lived that way for so long.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in rediscovering faith, it’s this…
God can’t lie. It’s impossible for Him.
He says He loves us. He does.
He says He will give us peace. He will.
He says He will protect us from the storm. He shelters.
He says He perfects our faith. I’m living proof.
He says He will uphold and strengthen us. That right hand of His never gets tired.
And you don’t tuck away redemption and keep it from the world. You shout it from the rooftops. You tell everyone where you took that wrong turn and how those loving hands of His steered you right back beneath His wing.
So it’s in those moments of regret that I have to throw back to a day worth sharing. A day, over 2000 years ago, to a memory worth hanging onto. A memory of a man who gave His life to make sure that grace was given, sin was conquered and redemption was made real. A man who fulfilled every promise that God made to those he loved.
One Who let others drag Him off to die an excruciating death on a cross the very next day.
Today I’m remembering the real Throwback Thursday. A day without unflattering swimsuits and doctors who left me bleeding in the recovery room.
Because my blood isn’t even involved. It’s all His. And He washes me clean with it…
That’s the day I’m going to remember. The day that I was saved.
I don’t know where you are in your faith, but if you’re reading this now just know that I’m already praying for you. I’m already praying that God gets ahold of your heart and won’t let go. The temptations of this fallen world are sometimes so impossible to bear. We give in..not because we want to…but because we assume we have to. We feel defeated before we’re ever able to fight back. But there is a way out. My prayer for you today is that you will come to know what true redemption is. I may carry the scars of a surgery gone wrong, but I refuse to let one more day go by that I deny myself what God whispered to me so many years ago. “You are beautiful!”
Yes, I am beautiful.
And I don’t need a smaller pair of shorts or a bikini to reassure me of that!
“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7, NIV)
Jennifer Dukes Lee for #TellHisStory
Holley Gerth and Coffee For Your Heart
Kristin Hill Taylor for Three Word Wednesday
This is such a powerful testimony. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you for reading, Jenny. It was a difficult one to write.
Jennifer, I am speechless. I can only imagine how difficult this was to write but what a powerful and needed message. From one who has struggled with an eating disorder for most of her adult life, Thank You! The struggle is getting less as His truth of who I am penetrates deeper and deeper into my soul. It is stories like yours, which point us back to Him, which help me to keeping walking in truth. God bless you, beautiful friend. xoxo
Thank you so much, Beth. I am encouraged by you daily!
Wow – I can SO RELATE to this. Thank you for sharing your story! Hopping over from #RaRaLinkup!
Thank you so much for visiting and reading my story!
I recognized your beautiful face from scanning link ups previously, and looking at all the lovelies who share words and from your recent comment on FB to my sweet friend Beth,so I was excited to be next to you at Kristin’s this week and hop on over to read your words.
What a powerful story. What a testimony you are sharing. Thank you for writing the hard things, for being willing to shed the real moments. It was hard not having the ‘body’ I wanted and now that I am aging, it is still a thorn in my side, but I am so glad that He has been molding me to rest and embrace Him, to be healthy in my choices becasue of His love for me not my love for perfection. I hope that I can pass that on to my girls so that they can embrace the power of being known by God, becasue that is where the true beauty stems.
My heart hurts for your pain but rejoices that you have used the hard moments to glorify God and reach out to others. Your throwback moment is a powerful launch pad for many.
Thank you, Dawn, for your kind words and encouragement. It was a very difficult post to write and even harder to share. But I know God will use this for His glory. Blessings to you, as well!
I love this – you did a beautiful job in telling your story. You have quite a story to share that I’m sure, once heard, will help countless other beautiful young women and spare them the pain that you endured, both physically and emotionally. Thank you so much for being open, honest and real and letting us behind the scenes with a major God story in your life- it is a beautiful story of redemption.
Thank you so much for this encouragement, Beth. Missing our time during “Enjoy the Writing Life.” 🙂
What a great message Jennifer! I always love reading anything you write but this was awesome. Thanks for opening up and sharing…I’m sure it was difficult to write about. You are an amazing and beautiful person!
Thank you, Jill. I truly appreciate the encouragement. It was a hard one to write, but even harder to share.
Wow. Thank you for sharing your heart. I’m so thankful I get to call you friend!
Thank you, Amy. Love you!
I can so relate to this Jennifer. Thank you for sharing. I’m sharing it over on my blog FB page today!
Rachael from http://www.lifeoutsidetheshell.com
Thank you so much for the share, Rachael. It was a hard one to write, but even harder to share. Still…I am hoping it will find its way into the hearts of those women who are struggling with this very thing.
Wow Jennifer. I wish every single woman would read this. Absolutely powerful.
Thank you so much for reading and sharing, Kortney!
Oh how I love it when you put on your Brave, my friend! This is such a powerful and important testimony and I think it is so vital because we can be lulled into believing lies that feel like truth but that bring nothing but bondage and pain… but truth – well, I read somewhere that it will set you free! 😉 Love you so!
I love when I put on my Brave, too. I’m becoming so much more comfortable in this skin. ’bout time I surrendered that fear… 😉
Thank you for this open, Honest, transparent post…you help us all to walk in your shoes and Feel the loving arms of our Savior wrapped around us telling us we are beautiful…and believe Him ❤️
Thank you for visiting today, Beth. And for those kind words!
Jennifer, Thank for this. Your story is powerful. I’m at the age when I’m really struggling with gravity and aging skin. I’ve tossed around the idea of a facelift, but then I try to remember how much I loved my Gram and Mom not for perfect flawless faces but for who they were. Blessings to you!
Blessings to you, as well!
I remember you planning and doing this. I ached for you and wished I could have done something. I remember the pain–at least the amount you were willing to let others know about. And the regret. That, too. I’m glad you have finally forgiven yourself! I’ve been seeing in your posts all along that your faith has grown strong. Delighted that your relationship with God has grown strong enough for you to deal with this! Now you have another resurrection story of your own. May others be moved not to do what you did–and be moved to forgive themselves of something else that for them has been a weight . . . . Love you!
You were one of the only ones who tried to talk me out of it. I was pretty head strong in this decision…much to my family’s dismay. Thank you for being there for me during that time.
Well done, friend. You’re telling a hard story, but I know you’re not alone in what you’ve experienced and felt. xoxo
Thank you, Kristin!
Oh, Jennifer, I know I have heard your story before, but I still got all emotional reading it again. When I heard it the first time you could barely share it with two listeners. You’re doing it! God’s shining right through your beautiful words! Transparency is so raw to your heart, but look how many women can relate to you and your struggles. God redeems and restores!! Love you, friend!!
Love you, Lajoie! Thank you so much for this long distance friendship. I wish we saw each other more often. *hugs*
Oh, beautiful one – God wrote such an incredible story over your life and it is truly a written epistle that your pain and agony was not in vain. There is power in these words and in your willingness to lay yourself bare and share them. The girl who thought she couldn’t wear a bikini (me too!) just let us see her very soul – she poured her words out on the page and that is being vulnerable and transparent in a way that is spectacular and beautiful in ways that girl in the dressing room couldn’t have ever imagined. Thank you for shouting your redemption story from the rooftops – I don’t think God will allow you stop. There are girls who need to hear this message and you are precisely the person to deliver it! Bravo beautiful, bravo!!
Thank you for your constant encouragement, Tiffany. It’s such a blessing to me!
This packs a punch, my dear friend. A good punch. A needed punch.
The pressure put on women to look a certain way…the pressure we put on ourselves…it’s awful. I toyed with anorexia in high school and the misery is beyond description. We strive to be a size zero. I mean, think about that. We strive to literally become nothing.
Today I have an enormous scar across my abdomen thanks to a liver tumor and will never have a flat belly because of ongoing issues but I’d rather just embrace it than worry. There’s too much life to be lived. Thank you for sharing your story and for telling us that we’re beautiful. You, darling lady, are beautiful, too!
Thank you for visiting, Marie, and for such great encouragement. I can nod my head at your remark about the scar left behind from surgery. I also had the left lobe of my thyroid removed and have a scar across my throat. This happened long after the mistake I wrote about above. It never seemed to bother me as much as the elected surgery…but I halfway assume that it was because I knew what I was doing was wrong and did it anyway vs a surgery that was necessary. Regardless of the reason, I am grateful for God’s healing and strength in this area of my life. I look back in hindsight at those years lost and I just have to look away and be thankful that He is giving me those years back. Years to spend making sure my daughters know just how beautiful they are!
Um wow. Thank you for sharing this…I’m supposed to be watching Blue Bloods with my husband but instead I’m reading your story and crying. 🙂 I planned so many times to go under the knife. Once, I went in for an intro visit to a clinic, and that week my kids’ pediatrician confided in me that he’d just attended the funeral of one of the moms of his patients, who’d had liposuction. I don’t know if it was the voice of fear or of the Holy Spirit…but I knew it was a no, that I couldn’t actually go through with it. Anyway, I appreciate you sharing your story here…very brave and really made me think through some things I haven’t dealt with in a while. I also love that you pointed us to Jesus and His blood shed for us. So glad you stopped by #RaRaLinkup this week…blessings to you!
Thank you so much for this encouragement, Angela. I’ve been playing hit and miss on the blog lately so I’m sorry to have not responded sooner. 🙂
This are such powerful words; I’m so glad you shared them, even though it couldn’t have been easy. This is a message we all need to hear (repeatedly!).