Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Longing for beauty...



"The desire to be beautiful is an ageless longing." 
(quote from the book Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge)

I can remember exactly when I stopped thinking I was beautiful.
At the end of third grade I was diagnosed with rheumatic fever and ended up on bed rest throughout the late spring and summer.
In the morning, Daddy would carry me from my upstairs bedroom down to the living room sofa where I would spend the day until I was carried back up to my bed at night.
Lying there on the sofa one day, I over heard Mama telling someone that I was getting chubby from my inactivity.
That word chubby became the way I defined myself for the next few decades.

The medicine I took for the rheumatic fever discolored the enamel on my teeth.
This discoloration could be removed by a good teeth cleaning, 
but dental work is a risk for further complications of rheumatic fever 
so it couldn't be done until any chance of risk was over.
I was able to return to fourth grade with some limitations on my activity level.
I went back to school with my teeth all brown and my Mama away in the mental hospital for severe depression.
Here the timeline becomes blurry to me.
I had to get glasses, my first pair were the white "cat-eyed" shaped ones.
Then, sometime that year Mama, took me to a barber, (not a beauty shop), and had my long blonde hair all cut off into a very short pixie cut.
Daddy must have still been living with us then, because he got both angry and teary-eyed when he saw what she had done to my hair.
Sometime that year, Daddy left Mama and us.
Like I said, the timeline is blurry now.

Thus began my awkward stage, a stage many pre-teen girls go through.
But, my awkward stage lasted until my mid-thirties.
Seriously.

I found comfort in the fact that I had found a new definition for myself, "smart".
I got good grades, became yearbook editor at my high school, and graduated third in my class.
When I had my senior pictures taken and the photographer wanted to display my photo in his studio window, I credited it all to his good photography skills.
When a friend invited me on a blind date and then told me afterwards that my date had said, 
"she doesn't look like her picture",  that just confirmed my assumptions.

We married young and had three daughters and I found another new definition for myself,
"wife and mama".
I delved into this role with all that was in me, desperately not wanting to fail.
A decade and a half passed and along with it some ups and downs on the scale as I tried this fad diet or that, and some drastic, and horrifying hairstyle changes, as I tried the trends of the day.
I had the big bangs and shoulder pads and fuchsia lipstick and I tried it all.
Through it all, my husband always told me I was beautiful.
I guess it wasn't him I was trying to convince,
it was myself.

It was in my mid-thirties that I faced my own battle with depression.
For two years I woke up surrounded a gray cloud.
In desperation I clung to God's Word and to worship like a lifeline,
and began to walk a loop around our small town while listening to worship on cds via my "Walkman" and praying and talking and venting to God about what I was feeling and struggling with as I walked.
Eventually, I was walking four to five miles four to five days a week.
Somewhere, in that whole long struggle, 
God began a work of deep healing in my whole body, soul and spirit.
As He was doing an inner transformation, an outer transformation was happening as well.

Through my own experience, I've come to believe that a woman's true beauty isn't really seen in her teens and twenties, but in the more mature seasons of her life, when she becomes more sure of who she is in Christ, when she becomes less concerned about molding herself into what the world thinks is beautiful and more concerned about letting the beauty of Jesus be seen in her.
At least, that is what happened to me.
At 56 I still try to take care of myself.
However, the reality is that when I look at myself in the mirror in the morning, 
more and more I see my Mama looking back at me.
I'm getting older.
I've got wrinkles under my eyes,
upper arms that are way more saggy than I wish they were,
and that infamous post menopausal muffin top.
And so, I smear on the face creams and potions,
put on some lipstick,
don my walking clothes and shoes,
and hit the road.

But first, I take a glimpse in another mirror,
the mirror of God's Word.
And there I see someone so beautiful that the King Himself desires me.
In seeing myself through His eyes, I was pulled out of the pit all those years ago.
Now I can face the future, the gray hair, the wrinkles, 
with the knowledge that if others see the beauty of Jesus in me,
that's what really matters.

still following,

     


44 comments:

  1. Yes, Elizabeth. I am resonating with your heart and pen right now. Beautiful is the word I chose for this year. For lots of reasons, some of which you have written about so well.

    For we so often see ourselves as we were back when we were 7 ... or 13.

    I love that He loves us ... and calls us beautiful.

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    1. I'm so excited about your word for 2014 and all that God is going to how you about His beauty and yours.

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  2. Wow - a message we all need to hear. I struggle with feeling beautiful most days, even though I know beauty is more than skin deep.

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    1. Oh, Jill, you are so lovely! I pray you can see yourself like that.

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  3. I loved this so. very. much. Thank you for sharing your story, beautiful:)
    Looking forward to reading more!

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    1. Thank you for stopping here and leaving your kind comment.

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  4. You are so beautiful, my dear friend! Your inner and outer beauty is such a reflection of who Jesus is in your life. The photo of you and your hubby and girls (with your glasses) is the way you looked when we first met. The beauty of Jesus shines through you and your words. I agree we come into our beauty as we gain maturity and wisdom (hopefully). Thank you for sharing your beauty with us again.
    ~Adrienne~

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  5. Beautifully written and a beautiful realisation. You had a real struggle in those preteen years, must have been so hard. Seeing things through God's eyes, is so important.

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    1. Thank God that He has healed those old wounds and that now I feel confident about who I am and what I look like, in spite of the effects of aging!

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  6. Elizabeth,
    You truly are beautiful inside and out; you have blessed me with the sharing of your journey ...Thank you :)

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    1. Thank you, too, Dolly. You are a blessing.

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  7. My first thought was, you're kidding because I noticed your new picture yesterday and thought how pretty you are! I've seen two things today that I want to share with you:

    You have to watch this! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Lz6tYh4esY

    “Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.”
    Mark Twain (1835-1910)

    It seems like your story could be a book. So many things that could happen in life to make you feel bad about yourself happened to you. But look at how gorgeous you are inside and out!

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    1. Stacey, thank you for your kind compliments. I think that my confidence in who I am in Jesus now shows in my appearance. The more I believe I'm lovely, the more lovely I become...right?

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  8. I loved seeing these older pictures of you, Elizabeth, and I agree that even though we haven't met face to face, I can clearly see your inner beauty and your outer beauty. This was a beautiful post. God bless you, my online/Instagram friend. xoxo

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    1. Julie, I'm sure we all have an awkward stage, mine just went on for a long, long time! LOL! Thank you for your kindness.

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  9. I thought it was interesting that we have so much in common. I got scarlet fever in third grade. My mom always believed the high fever is what caused my vision to go down hill in third grade. I had troubles at school before they finally figured out it was because I couldn't see. I remember hearing "she is slow" and it was like a dart that stuck. And, yes, I so believe that true beauty comes when we stop trying to be the world's definition of it (or crippled by that impossibility) and come into the knowing of how much we're loved by God and considered beautiful. It really does change confidence, beauty, demeanor, everything. I only want to walk in His truth's more! Thanks for this post.

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    1. Aren't scarlet fever and rheumatic fever different names for the same thing...at least I think so. Can't believe we both went through the same thing!!! Wow! Oh, my heart broke that you were labeled as slow. I pray that God's love has healed those old wounds as He has mine. Much love to you.

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  10. I love your story! By the way, as my first "big sister" I have always thought you were beautiful! Love you!

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  11. Oh my, this post touched the very inner part of my heart. I, like you my friend felt the same way all of these years. Thank you for sharing. I was never "chubby", but rather a string bean. I always heard ~ you have no shape. You have piano legs, etc. etc., We are all beautiful on the inside, that's what people tell us. But, that does not cut it sometimes. I have had to look deeper into the eyes of the Lord to see the beauty in me. My husband, like yours, has always and still does tell me that I am beautiful. I, like you look in the mirror and see my mother staring back at me. I always thought my mother was beautiful ~ so when I see her staring back at me ~ I smile in my heart. I know the Lord has opened my eyes (and I pray that he gives me the insight to see from his perspective and not my own). Now at 56, I see that I am a beautiful woman. Bring on the wrinkles ;-)

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    1. We are both 56! I do feel some anxiety when I think of the nearness of 60! Life continues to zoom by at super sonic speed! God bless you, friend!

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  12. This is so beautiful.
    We hear so much when we are little which is why I purpose in my heart to be quiet with words. Kids interpret way before they fully understand.
    Your story is wonderful... similar to mine in some ways. Thank you for sharing from your heart.

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    1. Thank you for being an encouragement to me, Sharon.

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  13. There are times when I have trouble finding the words to respond to something. This is most definitely one of those times. You have struck a chord. (Not sure if that's the exact expression I want, but what I'm trying to say is that we are standing there, singing this song together. From the looks of things, we have been singing it together all along, from the pixie cut years forward.

    Mine was a body image more than anything. He's still working on me.

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    1. Oh, Debbie, I'm pretty sure we are kindred spirits. :)

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  14. Thank you so much, Elizabeth. This is a powerful post. I have never pleased myself with the way I look, but God sees my worth and to Him I am beautiful. This is more than I can understand, but have learned to accept it.I thank Him daily that He thinks I am worth His sacrifice. It brings me comfort to know we are walking this together.

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    1. Regina, I'm so glad my post reminded you of how lovely you are, of how much God loves you and delights in you. God bless you and wrap His great arms of love around you is my prayer.

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  15. Holy cow, Elizabeth. You can write. This is exquisite. You wrote real and honest. I love how you said we don't sense our beauty in our teens and twenties. And I also had a horrific bout with depression in my thirties. I was 34 to be exact.

    This is beautiful. Thank you, thank you. I identify big time.

    XOXOXO

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    1. The fact that you of all people say, "You can write.", means the world to me. I'm going to a Faith and Culture Writers conference in March and I think to myself, "what in the world are you doing???" Yet, I'm going for it.

      I think we were walking through that dark, gray tunnel of depression at the exact same age as one another. So glad God set my feet on the solid rock!

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  16. Elizabeth, You have come a long way, haven't you? This post was beautiful and honest. You come across as being so confident but I know you have had to work hard at getting to this place.

    I appreciate your insights in how to grow old gracefully, I am going to be 65 in a couple of weeks. I don't know whether to laugh or cry about that one. But I do know one thing....I am a work in progress. He's not finished with me yet. :-)

    Debbi

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    1. I'm on your tail, getting older by the day like you! I've found such a freedom to be me in my later years. "So Long Insecurity!", as Beth Moore says.

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  17. This is so honest and so beautiful! The world needs much more of what you're offering here, Elizabeth! Heart Hugs, Shelly <3

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    1. Thank you so much, Shelly! 😊❤️

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  18. Elizabeth, your story resonated with me. I cried over my pixie cut (which my mom still wears), and depression is part of our family history. I am thankful that God lead my parents to enroll me in a Christian school when I was 12. I sat in Bible classes every day, and it helped ground me in the midst of the chaos. I do agree with you that somehow as we grow older, we get more beautiful. I think it's because we come to terms with our weakness and realize that God's beauty shines through the cracks.

    So glad you linked up today with Thought-Provoking Thursday! :)

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    1. Lyli, I bet all too many of us have suffered similar things. I'm so glad for the healing Jesus gives!

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  19. I just learned more about myself by reading your story. Thank you. While reading I was thinking how hard it is for me to consider writing my own real experiences. God willing one day I'll be mature enough and ready to share so that my Jesus may be glorified through my weaknesses. God bless~

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    1. Oh friend, that God used what I wrote to show you something about yourself amazes me! Thank you for sharing with me. I hope you'll share your story some day. Your story matters.

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  20. Thank you for sharing! Very moving!

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    1. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

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  21. Elizabeth...what a beautiful story...one of pain and sorrow...but one where redeeming love comes and heals...yes...yes...may we look in the mirror that matters...one where Love defines who we are.

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to read this and thank you so much for your encouragement, Ro!

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  22. That dark cloud is hanging over me today. I came across this as I am in search for motivation. I used to run and it did help clear my head. I just haven't taken the time to get back into it. Thank you for your inspiration not just with this message but for your daily inspiration. Thank you

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  23. WOW! This was beautiful to my soul! Thank you once again for your transparency in your writing!

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  24. WOW! This was beautiful to my soul! Thank you once again for your transparency in your writing!

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