I was just chatting with some dear friends about our body issues. One quipped, "Why can't chubby thighs be adorable on adults? I could just EAT my baby's thighs."
It's true. We're born covered with sweet little rolls. We delight in our children's double chins and dimpled elbows, and-- if I am completely candid-- laugh over their quad-ginas. (Don't know what that is? Use some imagination; chubby baby legs + little bitty girl parts all smooshed together. Awesome.)
And then somewhere around puberty, it starts all going downhill. We get boobs too early, and that's embarrassing. We get boobs too late, and that's even more embarrassing. All of a sudden, we deal with stinky armpits and periods and acne and frizzy hair-- and it's just all wrong. And unfortunately, for many women (most women?), we never really grow out of that awkward-comparing-ourselves-to-other-ladies-stage. We want to raise confident daughters who see their bodies as a beautiful gift from their Creator, but how? How can we tell them that God created them good, when all we see in our own bodies is cellulite, stretch marks, and crow's feet?
I am right there with these self-loathing women. Or, I should say, I was. But two formative things happened in the last couple of years that changed my perspective dramatically.
The first was Ruby's birth. Now, let me first say-- the births of all of my children were amazing experiences. There is nothing like it. But Ruby's was different. It was magical. For Evie and Cana, my births were in the hospital, flat on my back, while a team of nurses and an obstetrician screamed at me to "hold your breath and PUSH!!" I was hooked up to monitors that told me whether my contractions were "sufficient", and someone else told me when my body was ready to have my baby. Because of complications with my pregnancy, I had to have Ruby in a hospital, too. But it was a completely different experience for me. I had chosen a group of like-minded women to assist me, midwives who intrinsically believed in the power of my body, of the rightness of natural birth. No one told me when I was ready to have my baby, no one told me when to push. It was quiet and dark, and for the first time in my life, my body was right. Sure, it was chubby and distended with stretch marks, but it was right. It was strong and capable. A year and a half later, I still haven't lost the euphoria and empowerment of Ruby's birth.
The second thing that changed my perspective was this past November, when my awesome friend Stacey and I ran the Outer Banks Half Marathon. It wasn't what it could have been for me, as a previous injury had sidelined much of my training and preparation. But it was 13.1 sweaty, hard miles of heady "I am woman, hear me roar" power. We finished, sore and completely depleted-- but completely on top of the world. For a woman who, six years ago literally couldn't run A mile (much less many), I felt unstoppable.
Now, don't get me wrong. There are things about my body that I'd kill to change. I am in the process of losing the pounds that have been progressively packed on with each pregnancy. If someone offered me a boob job to shore up the shriveled little sand bags hanging from my chest, I would take it in a heart beat. Microdermabrasion to remove that chicken pock scar from when I was 5? Yes, please.
But the point is-- those things no longer define me. I can rejoice in my body, for while I don't love the extra pounds, I love the fact that my body was a safe haven for each of my babies; they were protected and tenderly grown inside my belly. I can't hate my stretch marks when they foretold the most precious of blessings. My boobs may hang precariously close to my navel, but they have nourished each of my girls; saggy-ness is a small price to pay for the immeasurable joy of being the sole-sustainer for my children's first year of life. My body is not perfect-- but it is the body God designed for me, to complete the tasks that He has given ME to complete. It is strong and it is capable. Next year, I plan to run the 1/2 marathon with a little less chub-rub in the thigh area... but if not, I will simply rejoice that my legs are able to run at all.
Friend-- you are wonderfully and fearfully made. God has plans for you, that only you can complete. He knit you together inside of your mother's womb (and I thought I was crafty!) and His works are wonderful.
When you are tempted to despair at your snug jeans, or at the gray hair that cropped up overnight-- remember that the Savior of the world rejoices over you with singing. He has called you by name, and you are His.
I'd call that beautiful.