Before the pageant, I felt beautiful....as beautiful as a 9 year old girl can feel in an shiny blue itchy dress from the one and only Pistols and Petticoats.
I was a shy girl. Never really liked to call attention to myself, but my friend and I had decided to enter the pageant. We anxiously waited in line as the names of the finalists....the prettiest girls.....were called for one last look.
My name wasn't called. I had decided that maybe I wasn't pretty after all.
A year or so passed and once again, my friend talked me into entering the pageant. This time, I wore a dark blue flowery dress (large flower prints were all the rage). I was a sixth grader I think. Again, names were called. Mine wasn't one of them.
I remember thinking....I am prettier than she is. I felt guilty for having that thought toward another friend of mine, but I thought it anyway! I couldn't understand why her name was called and mine wasn't.
Fast forward to middle and high school.....
I wanted those Guess jeans.
I wanted to wear the same clothes as the popular girls.
I wanted my hair that color, that wavy, that straight.
I wanted those Eastlands and Doc Martens.
For a teenage girl, looks are pretty important. We want to be just as pretty as the next girl, if not prettier. My magazines were filled with beauty tips and pretty girls that were my age.
During my freshman year of high school, there was one particular girl that I compared myself to. I found myself wanting to dress like her, wear my hair like her. In a way, I wanted to be her. I became obsessed and it took a toll on me and on my body.
I quit eating so much and began to lose weight. Within months, I had lost 30something pounds. My grandpa told me I was skin and bones and begged me to eat, chunk up a bit, because I worried him. For me, the skinnier the better because that one girl was bigger than me and this was something I had on her, you know, because all girls want to be skinny.
That spring, I got sick, really sick and had a difficult time getting well. My doctor basically threatened to put me in the hospital if things didn't change.
Slowly, I began to gain a little weight. Not much, but a little. I remember my grandpa telling me he was glad I was putting a little meat on my bones.
Still throughout my teenage years, I struggled with how I wanted to look. Was a I pretty enough? Was my hair just right? Were my clothes stylish enough?
Then when I was 16 years old, tragedy struck my family. My aunt was in a freak accident and her hair was ripped from her scalp. She was lucky the machine that her ponytail was caught in didn't break her neck and kill her. She would, however, have to live the rest of her life with no hair. For a 16 year old girl, there was a lesson to be learned here.
Looks mean nothing.
My aunt was (and still is) beautiful. She always had her makeup and hair just right. I thought she was perfect in every way. Now, she would never have hair again. I didn't care though. My aunt was alive and that's what mattered. I reflected on the time I had spent with her throughout the years. She taught me how to make grilled cheese sandwiches. She hand made Barbie doll clothes for me (and even treated me to a few store bought Barbie outfits). She played with me, took me to the park, and took me swimming at the public pool. She invested her time in me. That meant more than what appeared in the mirror.
For a 16 year old girl, I learned a valuable lesson: A beautiful heart is worth more than a beautiful face.
That's a valuable lesson, but for a woman, I think it is one that is easily forgotten.
There's always another comparison to be made.
Maybe not so much as what we look like, although I'll admit that I worried a bit about having to wear a swim suit to Jeff's Army unit's family day event at the water park. Knowing I'd have to keep up with three kids in a water park for the first time took precedence over what I felt about wearing my tankini in public.
But we compare ourselves to these moms who seem like they have it all together. You know the ones: they walk into church on Sunday morning smiling, well dressed and their kids are well behaved, while we glue that fake smile on our faces after pulling into the parking lot 10 minutes late because we've had to threaten the lives of our children for fighting and not getting ready. Don't forget the ones that walk through the store with hair in tact (and no gray strands), clothing not stained, and fruits and veggies piled nicely in their shopping cart. Meanwhile, our shopping cart is filled with junk and processed food because our screaming kids who are running around like caged animals that have been set free refuse to eat anything else.
Maybe we aren't comparing ourselves by looks so much anymore, but we are comparing our children, our homes, our cars, our jobs (or envying those stay at home moms who post on Facebook about their morning workouts after the kids are dropped off at school and then they can sit and drink coffee and read on the patio). They seem to have something we don't, and we want it.
But here's the truth.....
I'm not you or her and y'all aren't me and that is perfectly fine because that's the way it's supposed to be.
It took me a long to time realize that God's Word is true. I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
We've heard the old saying, "God broke the mold when He made you." It's true for each of us. None of us are the same, and we weren't created to be. The only thing we should strive for in being alike is that we each have a relationship with Christ and bring Him honor and glory in all we do.
I will continue to struggle with weight and eating. I've dealt with it for years. I am an emotional eater. I like food. A lot. I'm overweight and I really don't do much about it. It's my own fault and sin and I have to have God's help in conquering this.
I've got stretch marks from puberty topped with stretched marks from three baby boys. Those aren't going anywhere. I carry a muffin top and cellulite with them.
I have bags under my eyes from lack of sleep. My eyelashes have thinned over the years and in Mrs. Trudy's words, time marches across my face.
The strands of gray hair increase each day regardless of what color of hair dye I put on them. Proverbs 16:31 encourages me: Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained by living a godly life.
I can't get jealous of my musically talented friends. God didn't bless me with that gift. I do know that when I do sing off key songs of praise, He is still pleased. And one day....oh what a glorious day that will be, my voice will be beautiful as I sing to Him in heaven.
My kids aren't perfect. Your's aren't perfect. They are all human. Just like adults....kids do stupid stuff. I have to deal with it. I have to remember that I was once that age once (which every aged child I'm dealing with at the moment). My children are going to mess up. They will make me want to scream and hide and sneak off with a chocolate bar. They are kids, that's what they do. I made my mom feel that way, and she made her mom feel that way. Oh and the best....My grandkids will make my children feel that way (insert laughter here).
In this season of life, I have a career. The career I've worked hard for, earned two degrees for. A career that hopefully has changed lives. I can't be jealous of the career of others (or lack of). For this season of my life, this is what I'm supposed to be doing. If God wants me to do something else, I have to trust that He will lead me there. Patience, Darling. Patience.
What are you struggling with? Do you want to look like someone else? Do you want that house in that neighborhood? Do you want that car? Do you want the life that is continuously posted on social media?
Your life is your life. My life is my life.
Life is hard enough as it is, and we MUST STOP COMPARING ourselves to others.
You are beautiful. Inside and out. Gray hair, stretch marks, muffin top. All of it. You are your own worst critic. I care more about how I look in the swim suit than I care about how you look in your swim suit. And as far as I look.....if my husband likes me in my swim suit and thinks I'm still sexy after 24 years and three kids, that's what matters to me.
Sweet friend, you are beautiful and you are NOT perfect. You aren't supposed to be. We become perfect in Christ in His time. Not ours.
No dress size.
No high heel shoe.
No exercise program.
No college degree.
No rich neighborhood.
No amount of money.
None of those things will make you perfect. Only Christ can do that.
There's a young mother who feels guilty for needing a break from her little ones.
There's a working woman who feels guilty for not being the stay at home mom her heart desires.
There's a girl who feels ugly and unpopular and is on the border of a harmful lifestyle.
There's a girl.....me or you...who needs to hear that we are not alone. We don't need perfect examples. We need examples of those who have been there, done that, fallen, gotten up, and found strength to accept life and move on.
My friend, you are beautiful.
You are not perfect.
And that's OK.
You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
God broke the mold when He made you.