Stretching our definition of Beautiful

stretch-marks

With great nervousness and trepidation I shared this photo on social media the other day after a conversation I had with one of our girls.  It took all the courage I could muster to take it, to look at it and then to click “post”.

Here’s the story I wrote to go with it:

“Last week one of the girls walked into the bathroom while I was getting ready for the day.

As I stood there putting on my make up, in my underwear she was quiet. I could see her studying me in the mirror and her “wheels turning”.

After a few minutes had past she stood up and traced her fingers over my hips “Are those veins Mama? The ones that shine a little?”

“No lovie. Those are my grow marks from when I was younger. Some people call them stretch marks but they just tell the story that I once was small and then grew up” Taking a breath, I waited for the critique that can come from an outspoken, honest child.

She was quiet again for a moment and then said softly, “You know what Mama? I think they’re beautiful!”

Then she jumped up, kissed my arm and ran off to play while I just simply stood there – stunned

As I looked in the mirror at a part of my body I’ve hated for 20 years I realized something… She’s right. They are.

They are a beautiful, shiny reminder that I grew up. That I’m alive, that I work hard, that I exercise, that I once was unhealthy and now I am not.

This photo wasn’t easy to take and it certainly wasn’t easy to share but now that it’s out there it’s my accountability. My reminder for me and for you to look at our grow marks, through the eyes of a child & see them for what they are. A beautiful story of who we are, where we were and where we’re going.”

It’s a sweet story right?  Something endearing and encouraging from the heart of one of my little loves.  So why?  Why on earth was it so hard to share?

Because I had to be vulnerable.  Because I have spent the better part of 20 years trying to hide those stretch marks.  Because the world says that “beautiful” is perfection.  She’s got long lean legs, perky “pecs covers” (aka boobs), shiny hair and blemish free, smooth skin.  There are no stretch marks or bruises, you can’t see her veins and she doesn’t have freckles.  Then, when you meet that criteria and only then, the world looks you straight in the eye and says, “Hang on.  Let me grab my airbrush and I’ll fix you.  Just a little here, and some there.  Ahhhh yes, now.  Now you are beautiful…”

And my friends, I am none of those things.  While my legs are long, lean they are not (strong they are!), I’ve got some perky pecs but sadly they have no covers and my hair is only shiny when I forget to wash it for 4 days.  And even then, the shine kinda smells a little.

I’ve had acne since I was 11, stretch marks since I was 13 and the fact that ALL the furniture in the universe jumps out and smacks me, means that bruises are kind of like my “thing”.  Freckles litter my nose, arms and chest and I’m pretty sure if I had an airbrush I’d end up accidentally removing one of my limbs or something.

In the eyes of the world I lack beauty, which translates to unworthy and with that comes the belief that I shouldn’t share my story.  Posting that photo shows the world my “ugly” and that was scary.

Except – I’m not who the world keeps trying to tell my I am and I’m not who it keeps trying to tell me I should be.   Instead, I’m flawed, I’m faulted, at times I’m even broken and you know, I’m OK with that.

It’s taken me years to get to the place where I can say that but I am because I am exactly who God created me to be.  He placed the freckles on my nose, gave me life to grow & stretch marks to prove it and for whatever reason turned the furniture against me.  He also filled this body with a heart that loves people, that desires deeply to serve Him and that would sacrifice all that I have for the children who are mine.

In the eyes of those beautiful babes, I am beautiful – flaws and all.  And if that doesn’t make you feel worthy, I don’t know what will.

So, I took the photo.  I wrote the story and I clicked “post” because I need to do more than tell myself I am worthy – I need to tell you that YOU are worthy too.

Look at the thing you try hardest to hide and see what He sees, what my girl saw.  A beautiful woman, living inside a strong body – worth being thankful for, worth taking care of and worth being loved.