Love Spoke So Much Louder

She shimmied her jeans up twisting and turning to get them over hips expanded by two babies born, two babies in heaven and years of yo-yo dieting. Her sides streaked by cream colored marks against her tan skin. I sat on the bed knees pulled to my chest and I thought her beautiful. It never crossed my mind that my mom might not think the same thing about herself.

She died when I was twelve and the memories I have of her are faded and worn around the edges. I’m a mama myself now and I look at my own wider-than-they-once-were hips and I sigh deep about what once was. I know that she must have done the same as she wrestled those jeans up over her backside.

I remember the day she had lost enough weight to shop at the non-plus-size stores. We went to the mall for a mini-shopping spree. It was the mid-nineties and the Gap was everything. She bought a jean jumper and a sleeveless turtleneck sweater and it was as if she could have been Friends with Rachel and Monica. I had never seen her look like such a cool mom.

But there again I never heard my mom’s struggle with her outer appearance. She never said, “Oh, I’m so fat!” or “I wish I was as pretty as {insert whoever}” or “I hate this about me.” Her struggle was silent though I realize now there must have been an internal battle raging.

We all knew that girl in high school (or confession time…maybe we were that girl?) who always said things like, “Ugh, I am just.so.fat.” when she couldn’t have weighed more than a buck ten. My mom struggled with her weight her whole life and I am reasonably certain she would have wanted to slap that girl silly, but I digress.

Our words matter. How we speak about the way we see ourselves reflects our understanding of how God sees us. Some of us have deep scars that have to do with our physical bodies. Some of our wounds have been inflicted by other people. Some of our deepest cuts have been made by words spoken to our reflection in the mirror. Some of us are still fighting a battle with beauty that rages in our everyday.

I’ve told my eyebrows that I hate them a thousand times. I’ve tucked jeans deep into drawers hoping that they’ll fit again some day. I’ve bought makeup and hair dye, candy bars and vitamins all at the same time with hopes of balancing the scale and the clock. I have a husband that loves me the way I am and better yet likes to tell me I am smokin’ hot.

Sometimes we have trouble believing the truth, don’t we?

It seems we are more prone to believe lies and see the worst.

When God said we are fearfully and wonderfully made he wasn’t pointing to a select few that meet Glamour magazine’s idealized standards. He said that over you my sister. YOU. Even if your dress size is above average. He says that beauty fades and charm can be downright deceitful but your heart? The one that longs to follow him and serve him to the ends of the earth? That’s a mighty beautiful thing more than worthy of a magazine cover.

My mama poured her heart into loving others. Maybe the reason I don’t remember her saying negative things about herself is her actions and love spoke so much louder. Her beauty shone through all the cracks in her facade making them fade far into the background of my mind.

Not long ago I was sipping coffee with some girlfriends and we were talking about all the ways our bodies have been stretched and sagged by age and motherhood. The other ladies lamented their stretch marks and I blurted out that I thought my mama’s were beautiful when I was young. They looked a bit shocked and told me that they didn’t really see the aesthetic.  I shrugged it off but I also felt a prick of sadness for all of us.

We’ve been so deeply lied to friends. We’ve been told that there is one way to be beautiful. We’ve had beauty products and fancy photo-shopping shoved down our throats until we have no idea who we’re supposed to be. If our noses are too big we can fix that. If our cellulite is too offensive we can fix that. But there is no fake fix for a soul that is hungry for more than skin-deep beauty. 

Sister, you don’t need to color the gray as much as you need to see in technicolor you are called beautiful by the one who formed your very being from dust and calls you his own. There is no reason to hide. He sees you with every physical flaw and still says that you are his.

I think the reason my mama didn’t have to say the lies out loud is because she knew the truth. She was loved and accepted so she could love and accept every imperfection. I’m learning to follow her lead straight to my Father’s heart.

How do you struggle to believe the truth about what makes you beautiful?  

Photo Credit: davedehetre via Compfight cc

10 Comments

  1. Kay Bruner October 21, 2014

    This is one my favorite things from one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott:  “I like how I’m aging, except that my back hurts more often, my knees crack like twigs when I squat, and my memory fails more frequently, in more public and therefore humiliating ways. But I think I complain less. As my best friend said when she was dying, and I was obsessing about my butt, ‘You just don’t have that kind of time.'”  And as I’m getting ready to turn 49 this year, I have to say, there’s a great relief to me in getting older, being more comfortable in my body, and just not worrying about it so much any more.  Because without serious reconstructive surgery, I look better today than I’m ever going to look again in my life.  I might as well enjoy it.

    1. Grace L October 22, 2014

      Yes, Kay, there is something wonderful about turning older. I am approaching 70 and the people around me here in Asia all tell me that I am cute. I have learned to smile more and it is easier to be more loving. When I was 50, I had a dear sister who was 10 years my elder. She was pretty chunky but she had a beautiful smile and such a warm loving heart. She became my model for who I wanted to grow into. You know, ladies, if you wear a warm smile, people are not going to spend much time focusing on the neck down. God gives us that ability to love and a smile is universal. Every culture responds to that, and especially more so when you do not have a language in common. Oh, but true confessions – when I am getting my picture taken, even as I am putting on my best smile, I do also try to remember to tuck the tummy a bit. Okay, so I am still a bit vain…

  2. Jaime October 21, 2014

    I used to struggle with beauty so much, and I still do every time I visit the US (my home country).  But here where I live in Asia, I cannot compare myself with other people because they are so different.  I will never be as petite and tine and delicate as them.  He has taught me to see the beauty in myself because now there are no distractions of others.  I love the color of my eyes and the shape of my nose, and my housemate tells me I look really pretty when I cry (she was trying to cheer me up, but it was heartfelt nonetheless).  The girls I work with always tell me I am pretty and they want to look like me (how could they!? I would have given anything to have their tiny structure), and it always distresses me that they are not content with themselves (How can I get a big nose like you?).  But, I pray that one day He would teach them as He taught me:  I am beautiful because I am His.

  3. Elizabeth October 21, 2014

    This is one of my favorite quotes: “If you feel your value lies in being merely decorative, I fear that someday you might find yourself believing that’s all that you really are. Time erodes all such beauty, but what it cannot diminish is the wonderful workings of your mind: Your humor, your kindness, and your moral courage. These are the things I cherish so in you.” — Marmee, Little Women

    These are the things I want to be defined by — not how beautiful I was or how obsessed I was with external beauty. And I want my 2 daughters to care more about these things too. And as I have pressed on in my relationship with God, these things HAVE mattered more to me than my outer beauty, and I feel so much better about life.

    I love how you thought your mom’s stretch marks were beautiful as a child! And they ARE — they bore you into the world! Perhaps it is easier to see how beautiful they are, as the daughter whose body was formed inside your mother’s. As a side note did you see Jennifer Garner’s quote on her baby bump? I loved it: “So I asked around and apparently I have a baby bump, and I’m here to tell you that I do! From now on, ladies, I will have a bump, and it will be my baby bump. It’s not going anywhere. Its name is Violet, Sam and Sera.”

    1. T October 23, 2014

      Ha!  I love that.  My baby bump is named SammyLeilaHannah!  And I loved reading, Jessica, that you ponder stuff that your mom would have thought about and all…my mom died just 16 months ago, but just in that short time, I have thought lots about things and come to understand myself and her more…And thanks, more chronologically mature ladies for chiming in; I always love hearing from you!

  4. Laura October 22, 2014

    “He says that beauty fades and charm can be downright deceitful but your heart? The one that longs to follow him and serve him to the ends of the earth? That’s a mighty beautiful thing more than worthy of a magazine cover.” Thank you, Jessica, for these words today, for an encouraging reminder for my heart and my mind.

  5. Susan Gaines October 22, 2014

    This was truth and beauty all in one. Well expressed; thank you!

  6. ~Karrilee~ October 22, 2014

    I love this… and you, sweet friend! This is so powerful!  One of the things that stood out most was that I went on a shopping spree (or two) like that with my girlie when I could finally shop in ‘regular’ departments, too. Part of why I took her was in hopes of showing her that no matter what size is on the label, we are beautiful because of whose we are and because we are made in His image! I was just sure I hadn’t conveyed that well when I was limited to ‘other’ stores… it took some shedding of weight to shed some light but now I see!

  7. Ashley Felder October 24, 2014

    Beautiful. It struck a chord as I’ve been staring at my FB feed lately, full of friends who have recently started selling new beauty products. I rarely fall for such things, but it never stops me from thinking I wish I looked more like “her.”

  8. Love Spoke So Much Louder November 21, 2014

    […] sharing the rest of this story over at Velvet Ashes today and I’m offering this up as part of my 31 Days of Chasing Light series. God created us unique […]

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