Most Beautiful

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“The days when I have felt most fully, most gloriously, alive, those are the days when I have felt most beautiful.”

It wasn’t my high school graduation. I wore a blue-velvet dress with a see-through panel for my waist, trimmed with sequins. (These were the 90s, so be gentle.) My hair was curled, I posed for pictures.

It wasn’t one of my first dates with Brian. I was 19, bold in my push-up bra and red lipstick, in a carefully selected little black dress from Express and sky high heels, headed off to a spring banquet, drinking Diet Coke through a straw.

It wasn’t my wedding day. I wore a princess-style gown, surrounded by yards of tulle, my hair was perfectly demure beneath my veil, my lipstick understated, I had on fake-nails and my sun-kissed glow was even faker.

No, the days of my greatest beauty are the days that didn’t require a professional working my skin and hair or a certain size dress or a pair of industrial Spanx.

There was the day at a hot and scorched city park in Tulsa, when we were 19, and that tall boy from Nebraska, he brushed my red hair back from my face, and he used my full name, that was the first time he told me he loved me. Jeans, flip-flops, freckles, too hot in August and crazy in love. I saw myself reflected in the iris of his hazel eyes … I was beautiful.

There was the day next to a creek in Arizona, about five years into our marriage, when we were driving cross country. We’d left behind vocational ministry in Texas, and we were more than a little broken-hearted, but we were headed into the unknown.  We were driving home to Canada when we stopped by that creek in the middle of the red rocks, glowing in the southwest sunset, the only two people in the world for just a moment. The light was warm, we sat on river rocks and I soaked my hot feet. We felt hopeful. We were quiet in the fading of the day and somehow it felt like I was leaving something sorrowful that needed to be left behind, and I saw my reflection in the water and I was satisfied with her.

There was the day I gave birth to our third baby, our Evelynn, in our living room, a decade after that princess-wedding dress. After the midwives had tidied up and tucked us into our own bed, they slipped out, we opened all the windows. The April wind eased through the now-quiet house, it was mid-morning, we were lying in bed after the night’s labour and struggle, and she, perfect and sleepy and still smelling of heaven, between. I didn’t have a stitch of make-up on, my hair was damp from the shower, my third-time-is-the-charm nursing shirt was misshapen and loose. But we were in our bed, the one with the valley in the middle, we were looking at her down-covered, still tender-soft head, her tiny mouth, her Snuffleupagus eyelashes, her small ands, we were marvelling–that’s the only word for it–and my eyes felt full of her. My heartbeat was slowing, my blood thrumming the truth of rest after struggle, of the creative power of love, and the gift of fresh air, and quiet.

There was last Saturday, when I caught sight of my first finish line. You remember how I told you about the Run for Mercy, about how this year, I was running it? Well, I did it. And when I saw that finish line, when I was so hot, so sweaty, so exhausted, so done, my sister reached her hand back to me, we held on to each other, life-long kin and kindred, we ran over that line, and I burst into tears like I’d finished a marathon instead of a measly 5K. My muscles were hollering something about courage, about perseverance, about running the race with my sister, about all of the strong young women of Mercy, but I couldn’t hear too clearly–the pounding victory of actually finishing was louder. That night, I sat on my back patio, my feet throbbing, scrubbed clean so every freckle, every wrinkle, of my life was clear in the fading sunlight, and I felt beautiful.

I’ve felt the most beautiful in my most human and sacred moments.

The beauty I remember about myself is in the slow and holy moments, the creative and inspired moments, the wild and sexy moments, the moments of struggle and acceptance, the sleep-tossed and wind-thrown, the breath-catching and breath-slowing, when eyes are not satisfied with seeing nor the ear with hearing, and everything seems to slow down, even the earth on its axis, to make sure that I pay attention here and now.

They were the moments when I didn’t care what I looked like because my soul felt beautiful, my body felt alive, my heart was resting in the delight of my Father and this gorgeous, crazy, holy world He’s created and redeemed.

The days when I have felt most fully, most gloriously, alive, yes, those are the days when I have felt most beautiful.

No Spanx required.

_____________________

So my SheLoves friends … your turn. And I can’t wait to read your answers …

  • When have you felt the most beautiful in your life?
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