By the third grade, I didn’t feel pretty anymore.
The perfectly-lined baby teeth had begun to fall out, replaced by crooked, oversized outcroppings that I hid behind clenched lips. I so envied the girls’ long locks that lay thick and blonde on their shoulders. I saw her olive skin, or her blue eyes, or her long legs — and then my ugliness.
I refused to trade my school pictures that year. I looked at the face of the girl I was becoming and saw only the unlovely.
I grew into a woman, and dared to step into an acceptance of who I was and who I wasn’t. I heard the words of the man who took my hand and pledged forever.
If he found me beautiful, then maybe I could, too?
And then I became a mama who worked hard to shield two little girls from the pain of insecurity and the emptiness of vanity.
You’re beautiful, I’d tell them every day, but the most beautiful part about you will always be your heart.
You are simply radiant with God’s beauty! I’d whisper as I combed her hair.
God made you just the way you are, I’d remind her as I pulled the covers to her chin and kissed her forehead.
But sometimes a girl has to hear it from her own mouth to believe the truth of her own beauty.
She came to me that day with sadness threatening to spill over the rims of her eyes. She curled up on my lap, and her voice cracked with the I’m-uglies.
Hadn’t she heard what I’d told her a million times? Hadn’t she heard the Words and believed them in her heart — that yes, oh, yes, He really is spellbound by her radiance? Hadn’t I worked so hard to shield her from this?
My heart cracked open wide with hers, and I stroked her hair and wondered how this beautiful girl of mine could ever, ever, ever find herself as anything but?
So we did that thing we do when our hearts break. We prayed to the Creator of All Things Beautiful, the Artist of this God-Gallery.
Heavenly Father, Your Word says that You are enthralled by our beauty, and that You are spellbound by the contents of these hearts You created, I prayed.
And right there in the middle of that prayer, when I was reciting the words of the Psalm to the child on my lap, I paused and turned the mirror to the child living in me — the one who still saw the unlovely.
Had I ever really believed it? Had I ever been truly convinced that He found me — even me — to be beautiful?
In that moment, I knew this truth: A mama’s words ring hollow if they aren’t believed in her own heart, too. How could I parent a girl toward security in who she is, when I so often whispered the “I’m-uglies” to myself?
“Father,” I prayed. “Remind me that you find me beautiful, too. Even me…”
This morning — two years later — I combed her hair and smoothed the static, and cupped pure beauty in my hands.
“Child,” I whispered in words that were really meant for both of us, “You. Are. Beautiful.”
And she smiled, and cupped this mama’s face in her own hands. This face that is growing older with the wrinkles and the crow’s feet. And she spoke the words of truth back to the mama: “I know I am, Mommy. And you are, too.”
And this morning, we both believed it.
The king is enthralled by your beauty. — Psalm 45:11
This is submitted as a part of the High Calling Blogs network writing project leading up to Mother’s Day. In my own journey of motherhood, I’m finding that as I teach, I’m also ever-learning.
If I want to teach my girls about God’s love for them,
I must believe it’s meant for even me.
If I want them to know He finds them beautiful,
I must be convinced of it even in my own reflection.
And if I want them to believe these words I say,
they must see it also in these things I do.
Photo: Angels in the mirror.