There are certain moments in my life where I get slapped upside the head. I feel the weight of being a mother, of having a daughter, of being the model of a woman to her. As we stand in the checkout lines in the grocery store, we see magazines covered with “beautiful” women; airbrushed women. Television ads, programs, even cartoons are focused on self-improvement of our hair, nails, skin and body. We aren’t important until we’re “beautiful.”
And then it hit me.
I can show her differently.
I was out with some lovely girlfriends one night and my daughter, Rilynn, had decided to come along. We asked her, my impressionable 6 year old, if she would take a picture of us older girls on our camera phone. She of course said yes. But as we stood there, I noticed we told her to “hold on” while we fixed our hair and our faces and got all ready for the photo. I thought nothing of it at the moment, the picture was taken and we went on our jolly way playing and having fun. Later that night, it nailed me in the face like a sock full of rocks. Do I live my life the way I want my daughter to when she is older? When she grows into the grace and beauty of a woman, do I long for her to contantly fix something about herself before she feels beautiful? Do I dream of her seeing a picture of herself and feeling disgusted with what she sees? Of course not. And being a photographer, this is a huge deal!!! What can I instill in her as a child to avoid the vanity of self-glorification as an adult? Is it avoidable? Can I even control or combat this huge issue? How can I photograph people to show their natural beauty without looking “perfect” or needing to be fixed before it can be shown?
My heart broke that night. I sat in the bath and cried to Jesus. I confessed my desire to control and protect her from the world, this precious, beautiful girl. I wanted to protect her from the need to fix herself before a photo, to “get pretty” before she revealed what she really looked like. My heart was so heavy. I sat in that muck for a good time.
I know what God says about beauty and where it comes from. And I also know it’s not about me controlling and protecting, but more about allowing Him to step in and be the Ultimate Protector and Teacher. However, I knew I needed to step it up in my own life. What could I do to help plant the tiny seed?
I saw something on Facebook the other day of things to do with your daughter. One of them had to do with finger nail painting (which we skipped for another day) and mud.
So, we filled the garden with the hose water and began to stomp around in the mud with our bare feet. We laughed a lot.
We yelled, “Ewwwwwwwwwwwwww!” as the mud squished in between our toes. We painted each other. She slopped some on me and I slopped some on her. At one point, some mud got in her hair and she got really sad.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Well, I look like a vampire with mud in my hair,” she replied gloomily.
“Oh hunnie, you are BEAUTIFUL,” I told her with a hug. “Now put some mud in MY hair!” She immediately lit up and laughed as she slung more mud in my hair. We stomped around for a little bit longer until we had our fill.
“I need the HOOOOOOSE!!!!!!!!” she yelled. It was interesting to witness the deep urgency and desire to be clean. That sparked an idea for another lesson… for another day perhaps.
We sat down on the grass. I asked her to look at my muddy face and to tell me what she saw. Was it beautiful? Or ugly? :) Now, she knows from prior coaching that “beauty comes from the kindness in our hearts, NOT from what we look like.” She told me I looked pretty. I smiled proudly. I looked at her and told her she had never been more beautiful! I told her I loved her heart and her smile and her laughter and joy. It made me so happy to see those things. Then I asked her what the world sees. Like if we went into a store, what would the people say? Would they think we were pretty? Would it even matter what they thought? She said they would think we were ugly and dirty. So I asked her what God sees. She knew. :) He sees the heart and His opinion is the only one that matters. I reminded her that her Mommy and Daddy would ALWAYS think she was beautiful, no matter what she wore on the outside. Keep in mind, we love to dress up and put on a little make up and paint our nails, mostly because we think it’s fun! But in the same breath, I want her to know all the “stuff” doesn’t cover what our heart can show on its own.
Enough chatting! We went and rinsed off in a bucket of warm water and began cleaning off the caked mud all over our bodies. I can only hope she remembers these moments, or that God will grow this minuscule little seed that I desperately want to pass on. But I hope even more, that God will remind me when I’m standing in front of the mirror a bit too long, or when I’m fixing my hair for the tenth time that day, that I have a little girl who is waiting for me to live out the confidence that Christ gives me. I want to show her that HE grows the seed of real beauty, really REAL beauty. The kind that comes from within, from being loved by the Father of the entire universe. Please Lord, I want nothing more.