Today you begin the final year of your twenties.
You are learning, slowly, what it is to love others. My hope now is that you would continue to the "as yourself" part, loving what our Creator God knit together in your mother's womb.
You haven't always been kind to your body. Once upon a time you tried to starve it away, blind to who you were and who you would one day be. You despised your body and you despised your own powerlessness, your lack of a voice, and it was a terrible combination.
But you've found your voice these past few years, haven't you?
You've found your voice but you've lost your early-twenties body. You're starting to notice that loss more - an unexpected glimpse of dimpled thighs, a grimace when you glance at the red rivers running over your growing belly, a wave of embarrassment when you see yourself captured in a photo.
As you finish off this decade of your life, I encourage you to learn to love what is, not what was. Let me help you.
Your hands are beautiful. Today your hands are swollen; your wedding ring is stuck and you joke to your husband that there's no escape for you now, the ring won't come off. But those same swollen hands pulled a sliver out of your boy's foot, rubbed your toddler's back as he cried, and stroked your husband's hair. They daily prepare food; they scrub dishes with cloths they themselves have knit. They turn the pages of books and tap out your stories on the computer. They nurture yourself and your family and your home. Your hands are beautiful.
Your arms are beautiful. They lack the definition they once had, but not the strength. They are strong enough to lift growing boys, comforting enough to rock them to sleep, and long enough to embrace them both at once. They pull your husband close as you greet him. They lift and carry and hold and serve. Your arms are beautiful.
Your stomach is beautiful. The skin is stretched around your third child and will stretch even more over the next few weeks. The rivers run red and silver over it, memories of the months they held your other two babies. Your belly button is stretched beyond recognition; you once dreamed a teenager's dream of showing it off with a cute navel ring, but now you wish it would just stop showing through every shirt you wear. And you know what's coming next, the saggy belly, the pouch that jiggles with each heartbeat, the same one that made you cry out of sheer shock as you showered after the birth of your oldest. You'd known all about cracked breastfeeding nipples and sleepless nights and how to relieve the tenderness down there, but no one had prepared you for the sight of your post-birth belly.
But oh, that stomach. It has safely cradled your babies for twenty-six months so far, wrapping them in a blanket of security and warmth. It was once home to your lanky growing boy and your silly wide-eyed toddler. It now serves as their comforting pillow. Your husband admires its various curves. It holds you steady as you hold steady to your boys. It is your core - weak, stretched, scarred, and saggy, but beautiful most of all.
Your feet are beautiful. A long scar lines each of them from a childhood surgery. Like your hands, they are swollen; like the rest of your body, they are tired. But these are the feet that lead the way as your ducklings follow. They walk to the park, the forest, the library. They pace the room as you murmur comforting words to an upset child. They chase (slowly these days) boys with more energy than you can recall ever having. They follow paths both familiar and new. Your feet are beautiful.
Your legs are beautiful. You don't think so; you recently caught an unexpected glimpse of your thighs and stopped, shocked, wondering where those dimples had come from. You used to run and dance, years of cross-country and ballet and track & field and acrobatics. You danced right up until you became pregnant with your first child. You still dance, but now it's the slow circles of a tired mother rocking an even more tired baby, or the silly waltzing of mother and son dancing around the kitchen as they listen to their favourite music. You still run, but it's to scoop up your child and cover his giggling self in kisses. Your legs become seats when you sit down, a lap in constant use by little boys who just like to be close to you, Mommy. Your legs are beautiful.
Your nose is beautiful. You had never even questioned such until the day a boy told you that you were beautiful even though your nose was so big. It was the first time you'd been told that you had a big nose. You ignored the beautiful part but never forgot the part about your nose; you simply accepted the news as fact and incorporated it into your identity. But now that nose buries itself deep in your children's hair and inhales their sweet scent. It breathes in the comforting smell of your husband's Irish Spring soap. It brings the smell of clean rain, salty ocean, hot pavement, sweaty children, and scented flowers. It tickles your babies' necks and they reward you with gales of laughter. Your nose is beautiful.
Your brain is beautiful. Sometimes you feel inferior; you don't know much about this topic, you don't write often about that topic. You forget things too easily. Your mind is not filled with the endless trivia of your encyclopedic husband. You wonder what good your perspective is in this world. But that brain of yours? You use it. You refuse to be told what to think, valuing instead the ability to think. You question and search and dig deeper because you thirst always for authentic understanding. You form your own opinions, holding tightly enough to not be swayed by every challenge that comes your way but not so tightly as to stubbornly ignore new knowledge. You follow your passions. As for days passed, you may not remember everything, but you've got the important things covered; those memories are treasures indeed. Your brain is beautiful.
Your voice is beautiful. Like so many others, you cringe when you hear your recorded voice. Surely you don't sound like that, you think. But it is that same voice that calmly soothes your children as they sob into your shoulder. It is that same voice that they request over and over - sing another one, Mommy! It is that same voice, steady and familiar, that reads them book after endless book. It is that same voice that brings them back to center when they need it. And it is that same voice that makes your husband smile when he hears it, that binds the two of you even closer as you talk into the darkness of the late night. Your voice is beautiful.
You are fearfully and wonderfully made. There is nothing to gain from self-loathing, from desiring an artificial air-brushed body over the scarred and weathered one you have earned over the years. Embrace what is, each moment, because you will only continue to gather the badges of life with each passing decade. This is good.
Linking up with SheLoves...