Beauty and The Beast

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“Let’s just go.”

She said it with a voice of defeat, tears on the verge of breaking free. We had been in the same store for almost an hour trying on outfit after outfit. On the hanger they looked cute, anything hangs beautifully on air and wire, but on a real body fabric pulls, and hugs, and stretches making the wearer feel as if there is something wrong with her and not the size 2 fashion.

We left the store in silence. She walking two steps ahead head down, unwelcoming. I walked a protective two steps behind cursing super models and anorexic-sized media stars that made my daughter feel somehow less than. On the verge of tears myself, I started the car while she sobbed quietly beside me.

Lost. Helpless.

Those are the two words that annihilated my heart.

Fat. Ugly.

Those were the words echoing in hers.

“Why do I have to be so fat?”

And, what do I say? From the time she was born she was solid. The doctors would be surprised when they weighed her, people would be caught off guard when they tried to pick her up, by the time she was 8, I could barely lift her. But she wasn’t obese, not to the naked eye, but according to the charts and standards not based on anything I can see that is healthy she’s classified as “overweight.”

I knew the second part to that question, “…when you’re so small?”

To make matters worse, I’m small without trying. I always have been. In the way that she feels unattractive because of her weight, growing up, I felt unattractive because of my lack of shape. Strange. Mother and daughter, battling how we were created on two different sides of the scales.

I did what all good mothers do. I addressed her beauty. Her flawless complexion, her smooth skin, her sparkling eyes, and her hands that could easily be used for modeling expensive lotions, but no matter what I point outed, she reminded me, “But, it’s just not fair.”

And it’s not. Body shape isn’t fair, but more than that, it’s a beastly battle that every woman faces at least in some season of life, if not everyday. Whether it’s an addiction to food or an obsession with body image, we find ourselves on the verge of self-destruction more often than satisfaction.

“My friends laugh at me because I eat all my food at lunch.”

I almost spit out, “Then, they aren’t real friends!” But that wouldn’t help matters, she already feels like she is friendless. So I find myself holding onto the only two words I can safely say, “I’m sorry.”

And I am. I’m so sorry that she has to grow up in a world where size 0 and size 2 classify as beauty and health and girls who wear a size 9 or size 13 are judged as slobs and lazy. I’m sorry that her friends feel the need to judge her for her appetite when they skip meals and gorge on snacks. I’m sorry that they make clothes that hang beautifully on wires but aren’t made to fit a frame with curves. I’m sorry that she can’t see her beauty because it doesn’t look like every one else’s. I’m sorry that as a mother I can’t do anything to help her but to do my best to point out her positive attributes and pray that someday soon it sinks in. I’m sorry that all too often numbers on a scale or the digits on a tag have the power to destroy a girl’s confidence. And most of all, I’m sorry that I can’t relate because maybe if I could, she might see that I don’t just say these things because I’m her mom but because beauty is deeper than fashion and her soul is more attractive for its perceived flaws than her desired perfections.

“It’s okay, mom.”

And it will be. The storm has passed and miles away from dressing rooms, I begin to see her perk up a bit. And, for the moment, life seems fair again.

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A crown of beauty

“Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” 1 Peter 3:3-4

My daughters and I were watching television the other day and stumbled onto “Toddlers in Tiaras.” We were riveted – much like being forced to watch a train crash – you know what is going to happen but you just.cant.turn.away. It was frightening! I’m not casting judgment on these people or their children, but I can’t imagine doing that with my girls! Piling fake hair on their heads, gluing on false eyelashes, applying more makeup than I would ever wear, and inserting a mouth piece to hide their gap toothed smile. (There is just something wrong about a toddler with dentures, do you agree?)

In direct contrast, this reminded me of a dear sister of mine that was getting her three year old daughter ready for a dance recital and had to put makeup on her for the first time. After it was applied, Abbi held the mirror up and said, “Look at you!” To which her daughter replied, “That’s not me. I’m prettier.” Good girl!

Our quest for perfect beauty is so misguided. Peter understood, beauty is from within, a gentle and quiet spirit that fears the Lord and leads others to Him. This is what God finds precious, and this is the kind of beauty that I am investing my time and energy in with my own daughters. I want them to be women of grace and integrity. Soft women that are compassionate and real. They are naturally beautiful – it’s the soul stuff, the heart beauty, that takes the most work. I know. I’m still working on it. I’m praying for me and my girls to be awarded a crown of beauty to lay at His feet…so much better than a tiara with rhinestones. 🙂