At swim lessons, I saw her, and part of me wondered what styling team she employed.  Rubbing sunblock on her three children, she flicked her long, curled, highlighted hair.  Her nose was thin, and her jawline slender.  I could have measured her eyelashes with a yard stick.  She crossed her legs from under her size 2 (I’m sure!) shorts, and they showed no sign of the dimples of squashed cellulite.  I wanted to murder her, and be her, all at the same time.  Which, from documentaries I’ve watched, is the first sign of stalker-syndrome.  So, I tried a different tack.  I just plain-old went up to her.

“Excuse me,” I said, “But are these three all yours?”  I asked.

“Yes,” she said.

“Well, as a mom of three, you look amazing.” I replied, hoisting up the baby higher on my hip.  “This guy is nine months old, and sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever…” I paused, trying to find the words, realizing I didn’t plan on sharing my insecurities with a stranger, “…look like me again.” I finished sheepishly.

Her reply?

“Oh, thank you.  There are war wounds worth hanging onto though.”

Just like that.

She was just like me again.

And my focus shifted to the beauty of her words.  How gracious of a reply.  All at once she admitted to imperfections, and also stood by them.  Stood by her children who were the reason for these wounds.  Stood by herself in the decision to have and to hold her children.  She spoke worth over her body, herself, and her family.

It would be so easy for her to reply by pinching her thigh, and sighing, “Honey, it’s not as good as you think.”  Mom-body-hatred is knee-jerk easy.  I’ve been suffering from it lately.  But the hard work is the work of love: integrating the war wounds, hidden or exposed, into our idea of who we are.  It’s the work of self-love, of standing by our choices to have children.

It’s the best secret beauty treatment out there.

This work of integrating, of just being plain old OKAY with herself, and of saying it aloud to a weirdo stranger mom invading her space with a baby on her hip, made her even more beautiful.  When I saw her close up, I noticed a few more wrinkles, and a little thicker makeup.  She must be about my age, I thought to myself.  But her smile and her words were real, and fresh.

It comes back to something I try to remember these days.  When my husband and I inspect our hair and our faces in the mirror, we see age creeping in, as 11 years of marriage can attest.  I hear my girls shrieking and jumping around in the next room, their young legs strong and their faces ever bright and fresh.  I have given my beauty to them.  They are now the young spring flowers of life.  And I?  I am maturing.  I have had enough time on this earth to have made a lot of decisions.  The choices I have practiced the most are beginning to show in my body and my countenance.  My face is creasing in my most often-used expression.  My muscles are hardening or softening where I use them the most or least.  So what’s a mama to do to stay beautiful?

I pull back from the mirror, look over at my husband, and say, “Welp, the prettiest thing I can do for myself now is to smile.  There’s nothing that makes me look older and uglier than when I look miserable.  I want to be a happy old lady, so I’d better start practicing now.”

A happy heart is the best beauty treatment.

And the only thing I think that is strong enough to fight the gravity of worry and fear, the only force strong enough to combat the sag of depression and a cranky countenance, is Jesus.  No, he will not save me from aging.  But he will save me from condemnation.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus  For the law of the spirit of life, in Christ Jesus, has set you free from the law of sin and death.”  Romans 1:1-2

And a woman who is free from sin and death, has reason to smile her prettiest smile.

A lot.


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