Tuesday, May 11, 2010

On being honest

It's that time of year again. Time to put away all the winter clothing and pull out the shorts, sundresses, and swimsuits.

And the self-consciousness.

I do pretty well in the wintertime. When I'm wearing long pants or jeans, I feel pretty good about myself. But as soon as I start wearing summer clothes, I start focusing on all that's wrong with me.

I've worn a pretty dress to church a couple of times lately, like this one on Mother's Day. My husband snapped some photos of me after church.

Cute, huh? I fixed my hair a little more glam than usual for Mother's Day:

I've received lots of compliments on my dresses. Several people have commented on how bright and springy I've looked. But you know what's been on my mind? My legs. Summer clothes always make me think about my legs. Or, specifically, about my birthmark.

And, sure enough, a new friend who'd never really seen my legs approached and laughingly said, "Have you been playing in the poison ivy?"

That was a completely innocent question. It was a light-hearted but concerned remark. No insult was intended, and I know it. So I gave my standard answer in an equally light-hearted voice, "No, it's just a birthmark."

Later that same day, though, another person asked about my birthmark. Although she's known me for awhile, she had never before noticed my birthmark. After remarking on it, she said, "It doesn't bother you, does it?" She was sincere. She's a good person, and she's my friend, but I didn't know how to answer her.

The honest answer is that my birthmark does bother me. It always has. That's the truth, and it's taken an awful lot of soul-searching for me to be able to admit it. But I've developed another problem.

You see, I don't want to be bothered by it. I want to be able to view it through God's eyes. I want to rest assured that God looks on the heart and isn't a bit troubled by my birthmark. I know this is the truth. I know it in my head, that is. I want to know it in my heart. I feel like I should know it in my heart. I feel ashamed that I don't already have complete confidence in this.

Lately, though, a funny thing has happened to me. I've started admitting to God when I have feelings that I'm ashamed of. I told Him that I feel like I'm lagging behind in being well-adjusted regarding this birthmark thing. I apologized to Him. I told Him that I knew that I shouldn't feel bad about my birthmark.

And when I did that, God spoke to me.

Does that sound crazy to you? I don't mean that God spoke out loud to me, although He could certainly do that if He so chose. I believe that He usually speaks to us through His written word. But this time God spoke directly to me. When I told Him that I knew that I shouldn't feel bad about my birthmark, guess what He said?

He said, "You didn't hear that from Me."

What? At first I didn't understand. But as I've puzzled and studied and meditated about it, I think I've finally realized what He meant.

It IS true that the Lord looks on the heart. It IS true that God loves me just as I am, that He's not at all bothered by the fact that my body is so imperfect. But I was thinking that God was disappointed in me because I still struggle with what I know to be a superficial issue. I was ashamed of myself because this issue is difficult for me.

I've finally realized that my feelings about it aren't at all offensive to God. I've been ashamed because I'm not spiritually mature enough that my birthmark doesn't bother me. I've wanted to be able to say, "My birthmark used to bother me, but I've learned that it really doesn't matter." God is teaching me that He would far rather that I just be honest with Him.

I love to read the sixth chapter of Matthew's gospel, where Jesus teaches that we shouldn't worry about things. And I love to read the eleventh chapter of the same book, where Jesus invites us to lay down our burdens and partake of His rest. As I've read these lately, I've realized something I never realized before:

Jesus is very sympathetic.

He doesn't demand that I have a handle on my feelings. He doesn't require that I already be more spiritually mature than I am. He knows that something as superficial as a birthmark has been a really hard thing to deal with. He doesn't chastise me by saying that it shouldn't bother me. He doesn't say, "No one ever notices it; it's no big deal." He knows all about my pain, and He doesn't pressure me to get over it. He just invites me to give it to Him, to let Him carry it.

And now I'm wondering: is there anyone else who struggles like this? Do you? Is there anything that bothers you, but at the same time makes you think that you shouldn't be bothered by it? Is there anything that you've felt like you couldn't really be honest with God about? I'd sure like to hear about it.


The Lettered Cottage


42 comments:

Carrie said...

Wow, what a timely post. I updated my header today and my "before picture" (before baby) on the left (tanned and together) was so different than my "after picture" (pasty white and frazzled in my mother's borrowed top). I was ashamed to post it, but you know? That after photo is the result of God's greatest gift: my child. Thanks for giving me a reminder that I've got to stop concentrating on the outward and instead focusing on the inward, a much more important part of me to work so hard to perfect. Thank you!

Always Nesting said...

Richella, first, you are stunningly beautiful. Birthmark or not you are a gorgeous woman.

I, too, have daily struggles that can overwhelm me at times. Growing up in a terrible living environment makes me constantly second guess my parenting. I constantly work to make my girls' lives (and my marriage) and our relationships healthy and loving. If I accomplish nothing else, it is to give my girls the security of a loving home.

Lauren said...

I have a round, dark brown birthmark right below my bottom on my left thigh. I've had it forever, obviously, and I've always had problems with it. My male cousins used to call it a bug when we were little, and just noticing that other girls don't have brown marks where I do just bothers me. I even think about how if I were an actress they would probably want to get a stunt double if they did any back shots and I was wearing shorts because they wouldn't want my birth mark to ruin the shot. I know, that sounds very awful and highly self-absorbed. I've gotten a lot better about my self-consciousness of it, though, and I'm hoping soon I can come to terms with it. The mark doesn't bother me nearly as much as it used to.

Nancy said...

If anyone says they aren't hung up about something superficial, I think they wouldn't be truthful. We all are and it's ok cuz it makes us human.

When I was younger, I didn't like how naturally pale I was. I would bake in the sun from spring to early fall to get that golden brown color. Now that I'm older and choose to take better care of myself, I don't care one bit that I'm pale. I could use self tanners to be darker, but I generally don't bother with them much. I'm fine with my pale complexion. Age has a lot to do with it. The older ya get, the more mellow you are. And you learn to accept all those imperfections as part of your uniqueness. And I know God doesn't love me because of what I look like, or else he would have made me Elle's twin sister! ;-)

Nancy

Love the Decor! said...

You my dear are a beautiful woman! I think everyone of us struggles with something about our bodies that we wish was different. I love that you know that it is what's on the inside that counts but somedays it is hard to remember!! You look stunning in your mother's day outfit!!

Melanie said...

What a wonderful post! Beautiful. We all struggle with something and we get overwhelmed by our feelings sometimes.

I get upset over 2 pounds, dry skin on my face, wrinkles around my eyes.....silly stuff. I have to be reminded that we are beautiful in God's eyes.

melody-mae said...

Oh sweetie, you are not alone in this one! I think if you were to take a poll it would be unanimous, that we all have something we struggle with about ourselves. If we were looking with God's eyes...we wouldn't see anything but what is on the inside... but we look at ourselves with human eyes...this is the problem! May you be uplifted by the comments here on your blog and cling to the fact that you are most assuredly loved...by God, your family and friends.

Dawn said...

you, my friend, are beautiful. and the birthmark doesn't make you less so... it doesn't make you less at all. but i get it. i get that you'd rather it not be there. but i love your honesty... with us, with yourself... and with God. my struggles are all out in the face of God... i just need to let Him do the work in me.

Kenzie said...

You are not alone my friend! I constantly find myself struggling with the same issues. Just remember that you are an amazing and beautiful woman! Since I have had my girls I am constantly sucking in my stomach because it's not as flat as it used to be. I know it shouldn't bother me because I was blessed with my girls but it still does. Aren't we so lucky that we have such an amazing God who still loves us in spite of our insecurities and worries! One of my favorite sayings is Let go and Let God! So I pray that you can Let go and Let God! Have a great night!

Meg said...

Thank you so much for posting this reminder that we are ALL precious in the Lord's sight. Thank you for your honesty, it's refreshing and encouraging!

Debbie said...

Richella, you are a beautiful woman both inside and out. However, I do understand what you're saying here.

I used to be able to afford all the luxuries such as facials and expensive skincare products. Over the last few years our financial situation has turned upside down. Now I wash with whatever is available at Walgreens and on sale. It does make a difference too. There are so many more lines in my face. I know that sounds so superficial as I'm 57 years old. But I haven't changed my profile picture because I don't like any that have been taken lately. That's my confession.

So there you have it ...I guess I'm vain. And yet I don't want to be as I don't judge others that way at all.

Amanda @ Serenity Now said...

You are SO not alone! Can I just say that I was totally embarrassed to have my picture taken next to you at the Cafe? You are so pretty and thin and I look like I ate the 1998 version of myself. Bleh. I was totally jealous of how cute and thin you are. I think most women struggle with some form of insecurity! I know I do...on many levels!

Mari said...

Growing old with all the wrinkles, skin spots, loss of hearing, bad eyes, gray hairs, aches and pains...the list goes on and on. I have to give it up to God daily and feel confident in these issues that I'm still alive and usable for Him. We all struggle with insecurities girlfriend...and if you say you don't..I think you(all of us) are fooling yourself.

God is so good to speak to you and share His love with you so sweetly.

Great post....thanks for sharing.

Seriously Though said...

I'm a new follower. You write beautifully. This was precious. Jesus is the sweetest, sweetest presence I know.

Anonymous said...

Hi Richella, I agree with all the comments on how you are beautiful inside and out. I am glad I found your site through Melissa's Heart and Home. Your posts are inspirational and so thoughtful. I am enjoying your family and home blog!~Emelia~

Amber said...

Awesome post. And, yes, I know exactly what you mean when you say that God spoke to you. And, yes, there are things that I struggle with, think I shouldn't, and then feel guilty about the fact that I'm struggling with it. God's still teaching me about these things too.

Southern Lady said...

I think you hit a nerve with a lot of people. If we are truly honest, I'm sure all of us can say that we have struggled with things like that. I am currently struggling with a health issue that is not life threatening, but chronic and painful and life interrupting. I truly believe that God will heal me, but after eight months, I wonder when. I have been totally honest with God about my lack of understanding... but I will always keep my faith...even if he doesn't heal me. Carla

Terri said...

Bless you, my sweet, beautiful friend!!!

Right now. I'm facing a move I don't want to make, that may or might not happen... in a month, or two, or three, or four, or more. I don't want my kids uprooted {again}, especially with 2 in middle school next year. I am weary of packing and unpacking... I trust the Lord and His perfect plans. I AM ok with wherever he places us... but I am still stressed and feel like I should be acting more full of faith and trust. I am glad He isn't telling me to get over it, just give it to Him. I know He knows my need for security and stability... even though it seems that He has called me to be a nomad!

Thanks for a good cry this morning!!!
blessings!!

Melissa Miller said...

Oh Richella this post is amazing ans so well written! You should write a book. I'm serious. I think we all feel this way about so many things about our physical appearances. Mine now is my weight. I have recently lost 47 pounds but I'm still not "quite" to my old weight yet. Then I feel guilty for being so picky and hard on myself. Who cares right? God loves me as is just as we all know. I have really been struggling with this for a few months. I NEED to take new photos, keep buying new clothes and move on with it.

I think you are gorgeous! Is it wrong that I feel anger that people ask you about your legs? I just want to defend you and give you a hug. I know they don't mean to hurt your feelings but still. Sigh.

Great post. I'll be doing some soul searching today. ~Melissa :)

Julia @ Hooked on Houses said...

I found this really moving, Richella! I think we all have something in our lives like this, even if it shows up in different forms. I've got a birthmark on my arm that I was always teased about, and for years I always covered it with sleeves. It was only a few years ago when I decided to heck with it--I was going to wear a pretty sleeveless shirt or dress if I wanted to! It was very freeing to stop hiding it. Almost like I was finally accepting myself, imperfections and all. :-)

j... said...

First of all, your hair is beautiful :)

Secondly, i think we ALL feel this way at one time or another (or, for some of us, all the time). I recently read an article (http://stuffchristianslike.net/2010/04/2691/) and fell in love with the saying: WHO TOLD YOU THAT!? for me, so often i forget to clothe myself with Jesus every morning that Satan's voice becomes one of the masses...unrecognizable from the compliments & confidence from the Holy Spirit. But now, after reading that article, WHO TOLD ME THAT? has become a sort of mantra for me. And when i answer, God answers too: "NOT ME", He says everytime. :)

Kristi said...

Yes - I struggle with this too. But the 'thing' that comes to the forefront of my mind is a relationship 'thing/response' that I shouldn't have but drives me crazy when it really shouldn't. I'm sure glad the Lord loves me in spite of myself...since that is all I can offer Him. Thank you, Richella, for calling us to honesty and devotion - again! Blessings ~

Erin said...

What a moving commentary, Richella. You are so wonderful. I have known you for years and never noticed any imperfection in your beautiful appearance and spirit. I struggle daily with feelings of inadequacy and imperfection about various aspects of my appearance or personality, most especially my weight. But every now and then, when I am in the throws of self-pity and self-hatred, I recall that there is only one perfect being, and I am certainly not He. Somehow what I perceive as inadequacies and imperfections have been given to me by God for a reason, for He does not make mistakes. My goal, then, is not to understand but to accept myself as I am. I can still try to improve myself, but I need to love myself first and remember that God always loves me.

"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest." May we all find comfort, rest and peace in God's loving arms.

New Every Morning said...

Thank you for your honesty and transparency. I appreciate what you said about Jesus being our sympathizer. He knows. He cares, deeply.

Yes, I agree that we all have areas that we struggle with, especially our bodies.
I also think that we often are our own worst enemy. Something that I am self-conscious of, lament over, and scrunch my nose in the mirror at is often unnoticed by others. I am my worst critic and I have to remind myself of that. Daily.

Cyndi said...

Oh Richella why do we do this to ourselves?? You're beautiful!! and believe me we all have flaws. I loved your dress and your hair....gorgeous!!
Thanks for all your encouraging words...I woke up this morning thinking why did I agree to speak to these young Moms?? You're post was such an encouragement!
Blessings to you my sweet friend,
Cyndi

Kathy said...

what a beautiful post... I know just how you feel - thank you for sharing!
Kathy k.

Teena said...

you are a beautiful person! <3

D'Net said...

Thank you. What a well-timed insight I really needed to hear. Thank you for sharing this with us.

Centsational Girl said...

Amen ! Love this post.

xoxo
Kate

maggiegracecreates said...

Beautiful post. The honesty of it is wonderful. I struggle with my weight, I struggle with scars, I struggle with bad decisions made in the past.

I teach a little boy in Sunday school who has cerebral palsy. He wears leg braces and uses crutches, but often leaves the crutches and simply scoots around, like a frog. His precious parents are doing a great job with this little boy. He is well adjusted and handles his disability with grace. His latest braces actually have this statement on the back of them "it's okay to ask".

I am trying to get there about things -- It's okay to ask me, I'm okay discussing it. God is helping me and your honesty has helped me even more today.

You are beautiful.

Kelleyand said...

Oh wow. I was reading older posts on your blog and came across this post. Thank you so much for sharing this. I got an entire new picture of things to talk to God about. And you know what, you're right. God doesn't want us to appear perfect, just be trusting. I just don't even know what to say except thank you and know that even though you wrote this post a while back, it had a great impact on my life today.

Danielle @ "We Don't Have It All Together" said...

Hello, I have been doing some blog hopping today & found your blog. I love it & I can't wait to read more!

I really love this post... it is all so true, thanks for posting!

MizLoo said...

I loved the comment about the boy whose braces say "it's ok to ask." Personally, I have a big nose, but my partner (who did not know my opinion) one day said it was a cute little nose. At 60+, I'd never heard that one before! I have a scar on my leg and a sunken in spot on one cheek, gray hair and I guess one of the good things about aging is that you have so many flaws in your appearance that enumerating them gets to be a bore. Who has time?
But thanks for a thoughtful post that made me grateful that my appearance (beyond being clean and neat) is much less important than it used to be.

Crystal @ Ordinary Days said...

Oh wow. Something I never talk about. When I was a teenager I had acne and now I have been left with some scarring. No one says anything but I know it's there. Always. I feel like it sticks out like a sore thumb. You can't hide your face. You just can't. Sometimes I want to shout, "I know it's there" yet I never talk about it. I have always felt it was one of my crosses to bear. Weird, I know. I feel guilty and superficial about it. I do know it could be so much worse. It feels kind of strange to talk about it to another person. I think you are absolutely movie star beautiful. Really, I do. :)

Becky@OrganizingMadeFun said...

What an amazing post you have here. I am just stopping by from The Lettered Cottage. I am encouraged by your words. It is wonderful to read how you are relying on the Lord and are growing in your love for Him. I will now be a new follower of yours and look forward to reading more about you!

Becky B.

Heather said...

Thank you for sharing your raw honesty. Several years ago, I met a young couple. The husband was very, very attractive and out-going, the type of guy who probably had girls falling all over him all his life. His bride was more soft-spoken. And she had a dark port wine birthmark covering over 40% of her face. Meeting them made me think that God had to created this man just for her. Strength, compassion and love will always trump appearances in my book.

Holly @ Roller Coaster Life said...

Wow I know exactly how you feel. Sometimes those comments that aren't meant to hurt, hurt the worst! I have severe rheumatoid arthritis and although I am dealing with it every day and it hurts a lot physically, it hurts more the LOOK it has given me. Like my hands are what people comment on the most saying "Wow are you double jointed" or "Your hands look funny" It breaks my heart. I look forward to winter just so I can wear gloves ALL THE TIME! I know exactly how you feel... I went to a hand surgeon a few months back and he asked why I wanted to have the surgery was it because of the pain? I said no I can deal with the pain I want to change the way my hands look!

I have a really hard time with it being only 25!

Big hugs to you its not easy looking different! Even though its not a huge thing and I know some people have bigger deformities and bigger problems it is still very hard!

Katherine @ Grass Stains said...

I love your honesty and openness! What a beautiful, open heart you have. Although I've only read two posts, I am drawn to you because I have three boys ages 8, 6 and 2, so I feel like you are my future! (Although you look so young, we're probably about the same age ... we got started later!)

No worries ... you seem to be beautiful inside and out, and I'm looking forward to reading more posts tonight. Happy new year!

Christine said...

From my view, I don't see a problem, I just see that you are so pretty! I always have a problem with my weight. I am a size 14, in the large scheme of things, this isn't bad but I eat a super healthy diet and the weight doesn't budge. I just have to remember that my family tree has some serious obesity issues and that I am actually one of the "skinny" ones :-)

Beverlydru said...

Your post is so achingly real and for sure touches a battle I struggle with...like so many women do. Sometimes I think that age and perspective have given me some wisdom and then some days, the old insecurities roar to life. Love your blog.

Anonymous said...

Great post. We, as women, continually beat ourselves up over different things we "think" we should have a handle on. We are not perfect only Jesus is. And that is a mighty relief!

NightmaresIntoDreams said...

Hey, I stumbled upon this while looking at pictures of birthmarks on leg. Your's was the only one I found that I could relate to. I think I can relate to how you felt and the picture because I have birthmarks like yours in the same exact place that I am very self conscious about. I'm a teenager so it kind of hard for me to wear shorts or a swimsuit around my friends. I thought I was ugly because of my birth mark but this post got me thinking that such a thing shouldn't make me feel less attractive or like a freak. I'm African-American so my birthmark is a black color. I think you're really pretty :)

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