Today I have the privilege of introducing you to Martha. I ‘met’ Martha through Instagram when I instantly fell in love with her pictures/words that she shares in her feed. I then discovered her blog, Everything He Gives, and have enjoyed reading Martha’s writing over the past few months. A little bit about Martha:
Martha’s heart is split between the wild mountains of Colorado and the gentle hills of NC, but she makes her home for now in Asheville. She’s been married to Brandon for almost 10 years, and she’s a momma to three little ones ages 4 and under who keep her busy full time. She loves words, the wild, and coffee, but Jesus best of all.
Thank you, Martha, for sharing your story today.
“You see, every little girl–and every little boy–is asking one fundamental question. But they are different questions, depending on whether you are a little boy or a little girl…Little girls want to know, Am I lovely? The twirling skirts, the dress up, the longing to be pretty and to be seen–that is what that’s all about. We are seeking an answer to our Question.”
(Stasi Eldredge, Captivating)
You are beautiful, my girl. Beautiful. You take my breath away.
I watch you dance in the sun, twirling in the twirliest dress you can find, usually with a few tutus layered underneath to make it more poofy. I delight in you, my girl. I delight in the fact that right now, you are unashamed in your asking of the question: am I beautiful? Do you delight in me?
And, oh, yes I do. You are stunningly beautiful in my eyes, but you are a world of other things too. You are the kindest and most sweet-hearted girl I have ever met. You literally bubble over with love, always so happy to see others, taking time to talk with each person you see. You love people, love to play with others, love to make others feel welcome. You can’t stand to see someone cry without running to hug and comfort them. You are incredibly creative and imaginative. You are so strong physically, especially for being so much smaller than other girls your age. You love to read more than any other person I know, and I treasure each time you ask me to sit and read with you. (I hope this never changes!) You forgive easily. You tell the truth. You love to help.
All these things are surely part of the reason I look at you and see such beauty, because we are not just our physical bodies, and we are not just our souls. For some reason, in His wisdom God saw fit to enclose our beautiful souls in a physical form. We don’t get to choose so many things about ourselves, physically, spiritually, emotionally. We only get to choose whether we will accept who God has made us to be, or deny it and suppress it and fight it.
My dear sweet girl, today I wanted to tell you a little story. A story from my growing up years, the painful, hard and awkward years transitioning from being a little girl to a woman. I think I was in middle school at the time, 8th or 9th grade. My older sister was everything to me. Four years older than me, she was so cool, beautiful, creative, everything I wanted to be. I always compared myself to her. What was more difficult was when others compared me to her. She was more outgoing, funny, likeable. I was quieter, shy, never knew what to say when put on the spot. I hated the spotlight (still do). Often I craved the attention she recieved, or the love really, because that’s how I translated it. She was so beautiful and I felt so plain. Ordinary.
I was in 8th or 9th grade. My older sister had heard some big modeling agency was holding a model search in our town, and she wanted to go try out. I don’t remember all the details, but I remember that my mom was going to take her, and I went to tag along. I don’t remember if I wanted to go or if mom just suggested I come along. I wasn’t planning on trying out, of course. You see, I already believed deep down that I was plain. In my eyes, my sister was beautiful, but next to her I was just plain, ordinary, common. There wasn’t even a thought in my heart to ever try out for a modeling career. But then we were there, and my mom was like, “why don’t you go, too?” Who knows what her reasoning was, but I know she was only doing what she could to be the best mom she knew to be. Hope dies slowly in the human heart, and for some reason, even after we’ve convinced ourselves we don’t care about that thing anymore, something comes along that wakes our desire up again.
So I lined up along with the hundreds of other young, fresh-faced, hopeful girls. The open call was held in a large conference room of a big hotel in the middle of our town. The place was packed, a line winding out of the door into the chilly fall evening. Part of me felt that this was so insanely superficial and that I was above this. The other part of me wanted to see if I could possibly be model material. I mean, what teenage girl (or grown girl?) doesn’t deep-down dream of being “discovered” as the next fresh face?
I can’t remember if my sister was ahead of me in line or not, but I do remember the girl right in front of me was a woman probably in her twenties who looked like she was living on the streets. She had long blonde dreads, a white tank top and baggy ripped jeans that looked borrowed from a boyfriend. As the line drew closer into the room, I saw that the line ended in front of a blonde woman, and I began to overhear her saying “yes” or “no” to each model-hopeful as their turn came to stand in front of her. The “yeses” were directed to stay in the room and sit on the side until the line of hopefuls had ended. The “no’s” were told to kindly exit. Suddenly I felt sick to my stomach. What was I doing here? Yet a part of me wanted to know what the “world” would say of me. Even more reprehensible, a part of me wanted to know how I stacked up against my sister.
It happened so quickly. The girl with the blonde dreads ahead of me was now standing in front of the verdict-giver, and she quickly and tersely said, “Yes.” I was next, standing in front of this woman, as she quickly and expertly scanned my face and within maybe two seconds said, “No.”
I felt a huge punch of humiliation. I quickly exited the room to the hallway where my mom was waiting outside of the conference room. My sister stayed in with the other “chosen ones,” the ones who received the world’s “Yes.” All I wanted to do was get out of there as fast as possible and forget this whole experience, but we had to wait for my sister to be done. The humiliation on top of humiliation was that it was obvious I had not been one of those chosen to all who passed by. Even further humiliation was that I cared at all. I sat on the floor by large windows doing all I could to blend in with the green hotel carpet and become invisible, to keep the tears in, swallowing them down and shutting my heart off until I could get home. I’m pretty sure I cried a river of tears that night alone in the dark of my room. I know my mom felt badly, but what could she do? The damage had been done, and I’m sure she never anticipated this outcome.
I had gone before the beauty experts of the world and had held out my little vulnerable heart’s deepest question: “Am I beautiful?” And the world said, “No.”
How do you recover from that one?
It would take a lot of years and a lot more asking of the question to the wrong person, but I finally found the only safe place to go with that haunting, aching question: You go to God with it. Oh my girl, go to God with it. Any other source will leave you with a world of emptiness and pain. When you first read this, I know you won’t believe me. You won’t think His verdict could ever be enough. If you’re anything like your mother, you will still need to know if your parents think you’re beautiful. You’ll still crave to know if your peers think you’re something-special-beautiful. You’ll still want to know if you can turn a few heads. Eventually, you’ll still need to know if that boy thinks you’re beautiful.
But I’m farther down the road than you. And I promise you, even when you experience the satisfaction of turning a few heads, and the exhileration of winning the heart of that one boy who decides he wants to spend the rest of his life with one-and-only-you, you’ll still have that quiet little question. Am I still beautiful? If God grants it, you will have children, your body will stretch and bend and open to bring new life to the world, and things never go quite back to where they were before. And you will ask the question: Am I still beautiful? You will age and find wrinkles + gray hairs, age spots and saggy skin, and you will ask the question: Am I still beautiful?
You see, we can try to bury it. We can tell ourselves our daughters don’t need to hear anything about their physical appearance, while we get angry at our husbands for not telling us we are beautiful in the dress we hoped to wow him with. Even today, we were checking out at a consignment store and you told the elderly woman behind the counter that she was beautiful, and she beamed with joy and disbelief, telling you you had just made her day. Why is this? The reality is, whether by design or as a result of the fall, this is a question we as women will wrestle with. And the reality is, your God has answered it in many tender ways in the Scriptures.
You are not beautiful because you meet the world’s standards of beauty, ie: tall, thin yet fit, large-busted, “thigh gap,” long hair, straight teeth, luminous eyes, flawless skin. (Or whatever they may be by the time you are reading this, fickle as they are.) You are beautiful because you were hand made. You were formed and fashioned by His hands. You are beautiful because He made you, and He does’t make junk. He made you in His image (Gen. 1:27) and he made you to reflect His beauty.
Even more wonderful than this, His eyes saw your unformed substance. Before you had even been formed, before His hands had begun pulling atoms and genes together, before His fingers intricately spiraled together strands of DNA, winding up threads containing all of your biological information so long they would reach from the earth to the sun and back four times and bottling up one of those strands in each and every cell in your body… BEFORE all of this, His eyes saw you (Psalm 139:16). He dreamed you up. That your eyes would be blue, but not just any blue.. that particular shade of blue. That you would love to dance. That you would be a girl. That your right eye would do that funny thing it does when you suck on something. That you would have Celiacs disease. That you would be the firstborn. That you would love to dance.
He didn’t just dream up your physical body, He didn’t just dream up your personality and talents and bents, He dreamed up all of your days, yes, before even one of them had come to pass. The Scriptures say He wrote each of your days out in His book “when as yet there were none of them” (Pslam 139:16).
When the world tells you you don’t make the cut, when in fact your physical beauty fails you, remember this:
“The king is enthralled with your beauty.” (Psalm 45:11)
Offer it to Him and go in the confidence of one beautifully created, imaging her beautiful Creator in her own unique way, deeply + perfectly loved.
This is Day 21 of a series “Lessons for my Daughters”. Click here for a complete list of posts.