Article Written by Holly D. Russel
The sidewalk that led from my twin daughters’ pre-K class to the parking lot was lined with Bradford Pear trees. I was walking my daughters out one spring day; the pear trees were just a bit past full-bloom. They were just at the point where the branches were still covered in the clusters of white blossoms, the petals only strong enough to hold on until a gust of wind would come. Petal would be freed from stem and travel on the current of air far enough to add itself nicely to the soft bed of silken fluff that lay below. It was during this stage of bloom that my daughters, with their feminine romantic notions, loved to stand under the trees and allow the petals to swirl and flutter around them, as if by doing so it would create a portal of magical enchantment.
From school to car, my dark-headed daughters would race ahead to one tree, waiting for me to catch up so I could shake the branches and cause a shower of petals to fall that would grace their hair. We did this from tree to tree–my daughters racing ahead, me catching up, shaking the tree and causing the petals to fall. As the petals would fall my daughters would twirl around until they fell on the ground with dizzying laughter.
When we reached the last tree, Katherine asked me to pick a cluster of blooms for her to keep. I plucked one from one of the lower branches and handed it to her. She clutched it in her small hand, studying it. Momentary beauty, I thought. I knew that a four year old would soon lose interest, and it would soon be tossed aside. At the car, I began to secure her seat-belt around her, she pointed out the things she had noticed. “Mom, look. This petal isn’t shaped like the others. This one’s edges are tattered and this one is starting to look wilty.”
She said these things non-subjectively. They were neither positive nor negative remarks. The comments simply were.
I stopped and looked at the flowers with her. Yes, I saw the imperfections she was speaking of. I also saw the grouping of flowers as a whole. I leaned closer to her, pointed, and said, “These little areas where it’s not perfect, does that make the flower as a whole any less beautiful?”
“No, it is still very pretty.”
Her eyes met with mine and I felt that something much deeper than chatting about a flower had just transpired between us. I say us, because I knew that as I said those words, I was teaching myself as much as I was teaching her. In fact, it may have been more important for me to understand the concept than her.
I have not lived a blemish-proof life. In fact, there is much I am ashamed about. I have been prodigal, camping out in a distant land, relying on alcohol and prescription drugs to sooth my emotional pain during certain periods of my life. Now I was at a place of wanting to serve others, but who was I to think I was worthy of such an honor? What would the church think if I was on the praise team and they found out about my past? Would they even want me to teach their children in Sunday school? I was really struggling with the issue of shame that my behavior had brought upon me when my daughter spoke to me about the flowers.
I had always believed that my imperfections and blemishes had left me so scarred, so tainted, that it was all that anyone could see of me. I believed my faults so overpowered everything else about me; that one could not get past the initial scarring to see any beauty that I may possess. After all, who was I, to believe I was good enough to be in the Lord’s service? I believed that one’s eyes stopped at the scars, and they were so distracting that one could not see past them to see the beauty. I believed that the scarring was my primary characteristic, and it is what I was defined by.
The truth is, that from a distance, my faults may be seen but they are hardly noteworthy. I believed that my faults were my primary characteristic, and I was embarrassed and shamed by who I was and the past I had lived. So there I was, learning from a four year old that what I had been believing in regard to myself may not be the truth at all. God was speaking to me through the mouth of a babe and a cluster of imperfect flowers. And I was ready to listen.
That day I began to question my self-worth. Not for the worse, but for the better. Yes, I have my faults and imperfections. Yes, they roughen my edges. However, the overall core for what I am, and for what I believe, is that what is seen? I began to wonder, “Is it even possible that God himself does not stop at my faults, but rather seeks the inner core that is to be most treasured? Can it be that the scarring and beauty together is actually a testimony to the one who created me?”
I went back and meditated on the Psalm that says, “He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what He has done and be astounded.” (Psalm 40: 2,3 NLT, emphasis mine).
I was just beginning to believe that I could trade in my ashes in for Beauty. May many see what God has done in me and be astounded!
About the Author: Holly Russell is a stay at home mother of four daughters. She is a blogger and speaker on the topic of finding your beauty through God. She is currently also working on a non-fiction book titled: Reaching for Tassels: A Woman’s Quest to Reflect God’s Beauty. You can find more information about Holly at her blog: http://hollydroo.wordpress.com.
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