Monday, November 4, 2013

thunder thighs

Thunder thighs. Cankles. Sausage arms. Muffin top.

These are the kinds of terms that echo in your daughter’s mind, often bringing her to tears, paranoia, or a vague sense that somehow she’s not all that she needs to be. They haunt her when she’s trying on jeans, while she’s out on the lake, when she’s editing her pictures for Instagram, when she wonders why that guy doesn’t like her. She thinks, “I’m not good enough. I’m not pretty enough. I’m not thin enough.”

Where did she hear it?

“I am fearfully and wonderfully made”—God’s message to her that she never received. I try to tell her, but she doesn’t believe it. She’s already let another message permeate.

Where did she hear it?

“My mom says I need to go to the gym more if I want my homecoming dress to fit,” says one of the most beautiful girls I’ve ever laid eyes on.

“My mom says I should stop eating baked potatoes because my legs are getting big,” says another. She’s stunning. If I woke up looking like her, I wouldn’t mind a bit.

One mathematical truth I heard from Christian author Jon Acuff: 

One Insult + 1, 000 Compliments = One Insult

Perhaps it can be taken a step further: 

One Insult From Your Mother + 1,000 Compliments From Everyone Else = One Insult From Your Mother

Sometimes the biggest blow a daughter receives is given from the one who loves her the most.

My mom is a knock-out—bright blue eyes, a former Miss University at Ole Miss (she hates it when we mention that, but whatever), a strong tennis player, and in general just a total babe. I think she’s the most beautiful person I know. I used to look at pictures of her in her prom dresses and think, “WOW. I’m going to be like her.”

In college I gained the Freshman 15 without realizing it. (I’m slow. And also I really like cheeseburgers.) What did my mother say? The same things she always said—comments that affirmed my beauty and value. I remember shopping for a formal dress one day. There were a million times that day when my mom could have subtly told me that I’d gained weight, but she didn’t once take the opportunity. Then we happened upon the greatest dress ever. Cobalt blue, fit like a glove. My mother loved it too, and her shared delight made me feel like a million bucks. Now, years later, when I look at that dress, I feel like a million bucks all over again. Like I said, it’s the best dress ever, even with 15 extra pounds of Caroline inside of it. My mother could have ruined it with one well-intentioned comment, but she didn’t. I need to thank her for that.

When I finally realized I gained the Freshman 15 (again, I’m slow), what did my mother say? “Okay. Well I think you’re beautiful, but I’ll help you lose it if you want.”

The result was that I had an awesome college experience and loved my life despite the fact that I was carrying around an extra 15. And then I got really skinny, had my blue dress taken in, and still had a blast. And why not? My worth does not depend on my thinness. My beauty does not depend on my thinness. I can be happy and content and beautiful and confident without it. That’s what my mother taught me, and I don’t even know if she meant to.

But now I’m realizing that my mother is rare. And most of the young girls I know carry around the comments of a well-intending mother who wants her daughter to look her best. But you already know that your daughter’s best doesn’t come from the size of her prom dress or washboard abs or perfect skin. It comes from somewhere else all together.

1 Peter 3:3-4 says, “Your beauty should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” 

This verse used to stress me out because I’ve never been called gentle, and I’ve certainly never been called quiet. I’m usually described as “excitable” and “loud beyond all reason.” But Peter isn’t speaking about personality (thank goodness)—he’s talking about our spirit. We should reflect from the inside an attitude that is gentle {tender, mild, soft} and quiet {calm, unmoving, free of turmoil}. We should be at rest, content with ourselves as we are. We know women like this—we recognize their beauty and enjoy it. We leave their presence soothed, encouraged, calm. We know women who are the opposite—we recognize their beauty and resent it. We leave their presence tense, insecure, overwhelmed by all that we are not.

Mothers, be the former beauty. Encourage your daughters to rest. Let them be content with themselves. 

Mothers, rest. Rest in the fact that God loves you as are now—not as you are when you’ve spent an hour on the elliptical or when you’ve avoided carbs all day or when you’ve had your hair done. He loves you now. You are beautiful now. You are treasured NOW. You don’t have to keep striving. Rest. You are enough.

We found out a few weeks ago that we’re having a little girl. And even though I’ve never seen her face, I already know she’s beautiful. There’s something precious and profound and marvelous about her already. When she gets here, I’m want to make sure she knows how amazed we are by her—not just because of her bright eyes, sweet smile, or whatever beautiful features she has—but because she was carefully crafted with the hands of a loving God, a God who doesn’t create junk. 

God, make me beautiful in your way—give me a gentle and quiet spirit that encourages my daughter to rest in who she is: fearfully and wonderfully made.

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