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I have been "fat" my entire adult life.

It's ok. Really. Please don't say, "You're not fat." I don't say it to slam myself or fish for compliments. I say "fat" because it's an adjective. I also appreciate the ability to "take it back" so to speak. I'm not sure when it became a hurtful word. I'd like to just own it.

I say it in the same way I use other phrases to describe myself.

I am funny. I am vibrant. I am also, like the word or not, fat.

I was a chubby child, a curvy but thin-for-me teenager (thanks to extreme calorie restriction and exercise addiction) and have been in double-digit jeans for as long as I can remember.

I had my first baby when I was 20 and it wasn't until then that I realized by body was capable of beauty. It was also the heaviest I had been up to that point. I look at pictures of that new mom and wonder if I will ever get down to her size again. I have my doubts.

At the tender age of 20, I had already spent years of my young life torturing myself over food and exercise and my body image was positively horrendous. Looking back it seems so silly because I see a girl with a beautiful figure but in my mind I was a monster.

When I had Gavin, I had a revelation. My body, (as disgusting as I thought it was), was capable of something so intensely beautiful. It was the beginning of an incredibly long journey to self acceptance, one I am still walking.

I couldn't have ever anticipated that the journey to healing and self-love would include a 35 foot fifth wheel.

When people ask us, "Why an RV?", the answer will likely be something vague, but true.

"We needed to simplify."

"We wanted to live more intentionally."

"We wanted the ability to live somewhere beautiful (and un-affordable)."

"Our kids are growing up fast and we wanted to make as many memories as possible before they leave the nest."

All of these answers are true. They are also glossing over what the actual reasons seem to be for me in particular, personally. The deeper answers to that question seem to vary depending on what God is teaching me that particular day. Every day I feel like something new is being uncovered, stripped down and restored. Here lately, it's a whole lotta stuff I didn't realize was (or still was) an issue. I plan to go into many of the complicated reasons it seems we are *really* living in an RV for (none of which we knew when we bought it), but I felt led to start here. With the hardest one so far. I am hoping it is also the most encouraging and relate-able.

Nearly every home we have lived in since we got married in 1998 has been in the same county. Despite the first 3 years of our marriage (when we lived the the very county we are in now), we have resided somewhere within in Fresno County, California. We have never been especially happy in Fresno. We tried, really hard, but it just wasn't for us. Mind you, we spent the last 16 years there, but it was mostly just existing.

Moving out into a tiny space in a town we absolutely love has brought two things to light.

1.) We must get outside the rig to save our personal relationships with one another, which is great when you live somewhere so beautiful and full of life.

2.) We spent an abnormal amount of time in the house before we started this adventure just passing time and that horrifies me.

Those two things brought a few more things to light.

1.) I am not used to be out in public this much.

2.) People here are really, really pretty.

3.) Those two realizations are harsh together when you don't feel like you measure up.

4.) I can't let that stop me because I refuse to go back to existing after losing so much time.

Living in Fresno, I could blend in pretty easily. Living here, I cannot. It is not uncommon for me to walk into a crowded restaurant, event or even church (as I learned last week) and be the only plus-sized woman in the room. I honestly don't think I remember experiencing this anywhere else before. The simple fact that I noticed it told me something I hadn't realized.

I'm not healed.

I thought I had embraced myself...my body...my size...

I was wrong.

Being surrounded by that certain brand of California beauty all the time can really take a toll on a girl who isn't as comfortable with herself as she thought she was.

That girl can't hide in her house like she used to. She can't run from her own body by keeping it behind a locked door. She can't just *exist* anymore, because she has tasted vibrant *living*.

Most importantly, she has daughters watching her.

Let me give you a rundown of my thought process when I walk into my favorite coffee shop here:

"How much space are you taking up in this area?"

"Are there any other plus-sized women here?" (please note my complete lack of concern for big & tall men...It's the women I'm worried about.)

"How much space do I need to keep around me so that I'm not in the way?"

"Where is the safest place for me to sit to avoid drawing attention to myself?"

"Am I an inconvenience where I am standing/sitting/walking?"

"What will people think if they hear me order a bagel?"

"Should I just leave?"

This type of self talk is a daily battle for me, no matter where I am. It was easier for me, and less intense "back home" but still present. I have taught myself how to press on, but I am recognizing that it is requiring more and more strength to do so lately.

It hit its peak today.

I went into the coffee shop around 2pm. I hadn't eaten anything all day and ordered a coffee with a toasted bagel. I was informed that the kitchen was closed but he "should be able to do that" for me. I immediately went into an ashamed, embarrassed, apologetic state.

"You really don't have to", I told him. "It's ok. Don't worry about it, really!"

My response (verbal and emotional) really, really surprised even me. I was completely humiliated to have ordered something (and a carb at that) at the wrong time. "A fat girl mistake", I thought, whatever the heck that means. Even in my triggered and intense emotional state, I knew my head was focusing on all the wrong things.

I sat down with my coffee, bagel & cream cheese and started to write. I forced myself to write down answers to all of the negative statements I had said to myself walking in the door. I made myself recognize how horrifically I was treating myself.

I owed myself an apology.

"The space you consume is full of The Spirit."

"You have no need to justify your existence because God created you for this time."

"Everyone in this room has their own issues."

"You belong anywhere God assigns to you."

"God loves you. God Loves You. GOD LOVES YOU."

"No, of course you shouldn't leave."

I could feel myself being strengthened. I could feel God pulling away the layers of guilt, shame, embarrassment and the bondage of distorted body image. I felt so foolish for thinking I was ok all this time. I really thought I had embraced myself.

Then, God laid something on my heart.

"You are walking in healing. Walking in healing does not mean you won't struggle, it just means that when you face the pain, you keeping going. You march through the fear. You acknowledge that I am bigger than your wound."

I wrote in my book, "I think God put us here to help me work through this." An oversimplification and perhaps a tad obvious but it still felt poignant. I am amazed every time He reveals a new purpose for this journey. We really thought it was to adventure and make memories, and it has been. But it turns out He's making me whole in the process too. I'm just as amazed to see how much healing needs to happen.

I marvel at His method. "A little drastic", I think to myself.

Simultaneously, I'm in awe that HE took the time to think of ME.

I like to think we are in a season of preparation. I feel like I am in a spiritual boot camp, which I will share with you more in this series. There are a million and one obvious reasons for us to be on this path, but anyone watching our lives unfold on Instagram can see those. Here I want to tell you the deepest, most spiritually important ones. I want to share with you the healing, restoration and sheer power of a loving God and the drastic measures He will take to heal His child. I hope that in doing so, some of you may find a sense of healing too. I know I'm not alone in the issues being tackled.

My value, worth and divine purpose are so, so much bigger than the number on my jeans. Those are the things *really* taking up space in the room.

Tomorrow, I'm going back to the coffee shop.

I'm going to sit where I want.

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