To my beloved daughters, aged 4 and 2,
I remember when I was quite young and my Mama would tell me what made a girl pretty…
her smile. She said a happy smile was the prettiest thing in the world.
And she always told me that it was what was on the inside that counted.
I tried to take it in.
But I didn’t really believe her.
Because I had seen what beautiful was…
She-Ra. She had long, blonde, flowing hair and a white mini dress. (and a unicorn with rainbow wings).
Miss America. The ballgowns, the swimsuits, the sparkly crowns, the perfect smiles.
Barbie. Big boobies. Big, big boobies.
Paula Abdul. I don’t know. I just loved her. Did you know she used to be a Laker Girl? I did, because I read her biography. In the 3rd grade.
As a little girl, I looked, wide-eyed, upon the outward features that made something beautiful to me – a certain type of hair, a beguiling turn of the eye, a fancy schmancy body – and I dreamed of attaining that level of pretty.
And the more I admired what was beautiful to me, the more my mom’s definition of “pretty” seem kind of hokey and like something people said to make sure that every girl at least felt pretty, whether she was or not; inner beauty was a good thing, and I wanted it, but it seemed to have little bearing on whether I was perceived as a beautiful person or not. And I wanted to be jaw-droppingly beautiful.
I spent years, even my outwardly-prettiest years, shrugging off her compliments. “You’re my Mom,” I would say, “of course you think my hair looks good like this.”
“You’re my Mom,” I’d laugh, “only you would think this dress looked nice on me.”
“You’re my Mom. You have to say that.”
But, little girl, then I had you.
They placed you on my chest, squalling and crying and covered in birthing stuff, and everything she ever taught me about beauty made perfect sense.
You were alive and breathing and it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
And every morning when you walk down the stairs and I see that you are still alive and still breathing…beautiful.
I finally get it now: the prettiest thing about a girl, any girl, is that she is fearfully and wonderfully made by God. She is alive. She is a person. She has a soul.
Do you understand how fantastic that is? God made you! I know He did, because you weren’t there, and then you were there.
I didn’t make you (minus that one night with your Papa, wink wink, nudge nudge).
A coincidental twist in an evolutionary cycle didn’t.
I like to think about Him crafting you, weaving all of your different features together into a unique and breath-taking work of art.
Your hair? It’s so amazing. It was made by God.
For you, Rebekah, He chose golden hair, with a natural side part that suits your face just right. It is straight and silky, with a slight bend at the end; sunlight runs to dance among your strands, crowning you like a glowing halo. God gave you a gift when He crafted your locks.
And Betsie Fair, yours is light brown and wild, a perfect match to your carefree and joyful childhood. When you wake up in the morning, your mane is as big as your eyes, ready to take on the world, ready to catch syrup and dirt, ready to make a most fitting frame to your precious, ornery little face.
Your hair is beautiful.
Your bodies? They were made by God, so different, but equally lovely.
Rebekah, my love, your body is like your spirit: strong, sturdy, and precious to behold. When I hold you in my arms, my heart is full and soothed.
And Betsie, your slinky, skinny body is so fun to watch. You run and hop and leap and dance uninhibited, and I marvel at the way you move, like an instrument that proclaims with every step that God is singing over us.
Your bodies are beautiful.
Your eyes? God made them, giving me windows into your sweet, sweet souls.
Your cornflower blue eyes burn holes into my heart, Rebekah Sunday…
and Betsie, your naïve glances cause me to melt.
Your eyes are beautiful.
Your hands? God made them. They’re beautiful.
Your feet? Your toes?
Made by God.
Your nose? Your mouth? Your lips? Your teeth?
God, God, God, God.
And oh, those smiles.
Your Grandmother was right. When you smile and your eyes perk up with twinkles of happiness, you are the essence of beauty. And when you throw back your head and laugh, the trees tip their hats and the mountains bow in reverence to this pinnacle of God’s creation.
Yes. Your smiles are beautiful.
So, please, my darling daughters…
Don’t spend a day feeling miserable and fat.
Don’t look with covetous eyes at the hair that was given to another girl.
Don’t wish for blue eyes when yours are green.
This world is not your mirror, a reflection of what you are lacking or what you should look like.
It is your playground.
Live here, freely, happily, and unhindered by the chains and lies of a worldview that says some people have beauty and some don’t, that some have perfect bodies and some don’t, that some are made for magazines and the big-screen and some are not…
because that’s about the stupidest and most shallow thing a girl can believe.
You were created for richer feasts.
When you gaze at your reflection, do your Mama a favor and admire the handiwork of God. And then…
Run and play.
Tell your friends how beautiful they are.
And, through the grace of the God who made you, work every day to purify your soul and mortify your sin, leaving a beauty inside of you that will dazzle this sad and captive world with the light of Jesus Christ.
They will never know what hit them.