"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.
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.
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