But more than that, I wanted our children to see their beauty. Wanted them to understand that God had planned them for a purpose.
"Before I formed you in the womb I KNEW you, before you were born I set you apart..." Jeremiah 1:5
I've always wanted to sow into the children around me how precious and valuable they are. How beautiful they are inside and out. I wanted them to know that when God looks at them, He sees a part of His own reflection, sort of like you seeing how your daughter has your smile or how your son laughs just like you.
"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he create him; male and female he created them." Genesis 1:27
Some of my kids are starting behind the curve though. Self-worth is a constant human struggle. But to have never been held by your daddy and told you were his beautiful princess or to have mommy call you "her little man". To instead be treated as if you were in the way. To not be cared for, much less fed, leaves a vacuum. It sucks away all belief that you have enough value to be wanted and loved, much less that you are precious and beautiful.
So I wanted to hang pictures of these children that I KNOW are precious all over the place so that they will begin to see their beauty. Begin to see through my eyes.
But as the day of the pictures drew near, I began to feel unhappy, grouchy, and like the last thing I wanted to do was get pictures taken of my double chin, flabby arms, and big fanny. I totally lost the joy of the day in focusing on my own extra poundage!!
But that evening after I grouched through the chaos of corralling 6 wild kids and 1 reluctant teenager to pose for 45 minutes (thank heavens for a patient friend who loves kids!!) a friend posted this blog article on Facebook: myfriendteresablog.com. It really gave me a huge pause!! How could I sow into my children what I was not believing myself?! I see my flaws, my wrinkles and fat. I miss seeing how those wrinkles are from the joy of laughing when one of my children says something funny. I forget how those extra pounds are from eating good food around a table with friends or family. I just see the "imperfections".
What's funny is, that when I am getting ready in the morning, regardless if I am in jogging pants or the dressiest outfit I own, at least one child ALWAYS comes in and tells me I look pretty! Do you remember feeling that way as a child? So how can I begin to see myself that way so I can teach my children?
As I talked to my mom over Thanksgiving, she made an off-hand comment about not liking a picture of herself that was taken recently. I had seen that same picture and thought, "Look how joyful they are! Bet they had a great time on that trip!"
So we see the beauty in those we love but it's not there in the mirror when we look. Maybe we are looking in the wrong mirror though.
As I ruminated on this whole thing, I stumbled onto the blog of someone at my church who has been blessed with a beautiful new baby. This baby also happens to have a heart defect and Downs Syndrome (read: paperfences). As I read in comments she replied to someone that along this new journey she'd had doctors say horrible things to her.
I was dumbfounded. Doctors, who are gifted with so much knowledge, talent, and wisdom about the human body, often miss seeing the human being inside the body. How is this possible? Then my husband pointed out that our society's value on the person is based on their productivity.
Are you a multi-millionaire? Then we'll put you on the cover of SUCCESS Magazine.
Are you a perfect example of feminine beauty? You get to be on the cover of ELLE or Victoria's Secret.
Are you a chiseled, famous singer/actor? PEOPLE's 100 most beautiful people.
Do you have the most perfect house or garden? Southern Living.
And there's the rest of us watching these examples of human perfection on TV or a movie screen, imagining a romance or wishing we were more like this fictitious creation of a Hollywood director. We are missing the God given beauty that is sitting in our own seat. We are looking in the wrong mirror.
Where is the magazine that displays the list of the World's Most Beautiful, and shows the mom who is up late finishing a Science project with (for) her daughter? The dad who works diligently every weekend helping his son finish an Eagle Scout project. The grandma who comes over and helps an overwhelmed new mom do laundry. The friend who brings a meal when it's needed. The uncle who teaches how to fish. The man who always arrives early to make sure the coffee is ready before church. The young woman who sits by her sick parent's hospital bed. The teenager who rakes and mows for an elderly neighbor voluntarily.
Why do we only see beauty in what we perceive as physical or financial perfection in this broken, fallen world? Because in reality, there's always cellulite, there's always anorexia behind a too thin frame, sadness behind a fake smile, and the picture on the screen is an illusion.
The real beauty is in the flesh and blood of my husband who throws his head back when he laughs, really laughs! It's in the look on my daughter's face when she realizes one of her grandparents just pulled up in the driveway. It's in the way my son lights up when he talks about soccer. It's in the leaves in my messy yard that are way over due to be raked. It's in the tousled, just awakened hair of my youngest first thing after her nap.
And it's in the image of God in me. And in you.
If you're like me and you want some practical ways to work on self-image with yourself and your children, especially a traumatized child, I've listed some of the things we are doing. I have stolen all of these from many wiser than me, other moms, Karen Purvis DVDs and books, etc. Please comment with any things your family does that may be helpful to others!!
- Seek out Bible verses that express God's love for us or that describe our beauty in His eyes
- Take turns at dinner expressing what you each like or are thankful about a certain person. Our kids all look at the floor when it's their turn to be talked about as if it's really hard to hear the positive.
- Read the Jesus Storybook Bible
- Take candid pictures of your kids and display them where they can see their own smiling face. Comment on how you love their smile.
- Get cheek to cheek in front of a mirror and comment on how handsome/beautiful this precious child is.
- Read the Five Love Languages and the Five Love Languages for Children. Use this to see how to fill your family member's love tanks (and how yours gets filled up). This is one we JUST clued into with one of our kids despite having read that book years ago!
- Write a weekly or monthly note to each member of your family telling them what is special about them.
- Take your spouse and each child on a date. This doesn't have to be frequent to make them feel special, although if you have teens, I'd suggest weekly if you can!