Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The sweetest gift

Last week I participated in a linky party and posted pictures of my master bedroom. Joining parties is lots of fun, and I enjoyed participating.

Then one of my readers asked about this photo:


"Is that you?" she asked. Yes, it's me. That portrait has hung in my house for 10 years now. It's just part of the scenery. I tend to take it for granted. But I shouldn't. That portrait tells a love story.


You see, I've always struggled with self-esteem, particularly regarding my appearance. When I was a child, I lived in a family of beautiful ducks, and I was an ugly duckling. But my self-esteem issues went much deeper than you'd expect for a girl who was an awkward adolescent. I've had some help figuring out the root of my struggles, and I've learned that they're mostly rooted in the fact that I have a birthmark that covers most of the right side of my body. It's a multi-faceted issue, and in the past few years I've made a lot of progress in dealing with it.

But 10 years ago I was right in the thick of it. Although my husband didn't understand all the issues involved in my struggle, he knew I was struggling. And he wanted to help.

"I just wish you could see yourself the way I see you," he would say. He thought I was pretty, but I couldn't see myself that way. I could only see myself as the girl with the birthmark.

Finally he came up with a plan. For our 15th wedding anniversary, he bought me a lovely gift. But more importantly, he asked me to give him a gift. "I want a portrait of you," he said. "I want you to find a real photographer and have a portrait made of yourself. Not of you and the boys, not of our house, not of anything but you. I want a full-length portrait of you."

Is that the sweetest thing you've ever heard? And he was serious.

I resisted for awhile, but he persisted. He pushed. He prodded. He helped. He enlisted the help of a friend. And in the end, I got to be Queen for a Day--a day of having my hair styled, putting on an evening gown, going to the photographer's studio and out on location, and having my portrait made. I learned that a good photographer takes lots of photos and that some of those end up being good--good enough that even I had to admit that they were pretty. Even though the woman in the portrait has a birthmark, that's not what shows. In all those photos, there's not one glimpse of my birthmark. And that's the way my husband sees me.

I always see my birthmark, and I assume that's what other people see, too. I assume the worst. In his loving way, my husband wanted me to know that my vision was skewed.

Did it work? Did I learn to look at myself the way my husband sees me? Well, not completely. I've continued to struggle with this issue, and I'm still wrestling with it. But it helped. And that gesture was one of the kindest things anyone has ever done for me.

What a treat for me to be reminded--a gift gratefully unwrapped this Tuesday with Emily.

41 comments:

Dawn said...

oh my dear friend... why oh why can we not see our own beauty when it is so apparent to others? my heart melts at the love your husband showed you in this gift... even if you accepted begrudgingly! you are beautiful. you are worth it! and... i'm so glad you are growing towards it. love you!

duchess said...

That is a sweet story - I'm glad you're getting to the point that you can see what we all see. You're a beautiful person inside & out.
I do have one question that you may have already answered & I just can't find it - what's the paint color in your bedroom?
Thanks & have a great Tuesday.

Modern Country Style said...

That's just so lovely.

The problem is we all compare ourselves to air-brushed digitally-enhanced photos in magazines. We don't see each other's carefully disguised bad bits. We compare our 'worst' to other people's 'best'.

That makes what is 'best' very skewed to often mean 'characterless'. If we all had birthmarks, I bet you wouldn't care. It's because it's different.
But that's okay. We're all different!!...Thank God!

You sound as though you are managing AMAZINGLY. *big squeeze*

I'd love to know the paint colour too! Please tell!!

Melissa said...

What a sweet, thoughtful gift! I'm glad you've been working on some of those self-esteem issues; they can wreak havoc on a life, can't they?

Love Being a Nonny said...

What a PRECIOUS post! You are so very blessed to have your husband in your life! Show us the close-up of the pic!!!!!

Lynne in NC said...

Oh Richella, my heart aches for you. It is challenging to see ourselves as others see us, especially our husbands. {{{Richella}}} What a lovely portrait of you. You did give your husband a gift when you agreed to the portrait. :)
Thank you for sharing this story. I am so encouraged by your transparency and your love for us to know the One who truly loves us "warts and all".
Peace.

emily freeman said...

Richella - thank you for the reminder to open my eyes and see the things I pass everyday in a new way. That portrait is beautiful, and if my husband asked for something like that, I think I'd fall over. Reading that paragraph about his telling you to get a real photographer because he wanted a portrait of just you, not the kids or the house or the family...but just you - wow. There is something so moving about that, to know that you are wanted, noticed, and longed for. You are pure beauty, my friend.

denice said...

Richella, AMAZING. How precious a husband you have. You ARE a blessed woman, to be loved by such a loving man. Love your blog (found from Tuesday's unwrapped.) And by the way, as I was poking around your blog I just wanted to say it does impart grace.
Blessings!

Southern Lady said...

That is the sweetest story. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could only see ourselves through our husband's eyes. Mine is constantly telling me how beautiful I am...I just don't see it the way he does. Your husband gave you a special gift that year. By the way...I think you are beautiful also! Carla

Marla @ Always Nesting said...

I love this post and all that it says to all of us. When you speak from your heart, you pass along so much.

Every time I see your photos on your blog the first thing I think about is how beautiful you are and that I wish I had your hair. Girlfriend, you are gorgeous.

What a wonderful husband to really "get" what you needed!

Autumn Mist said...

I spent some time recently reading back through some of your much older posts. You only need to do that to discover that, birthmark or no birthmark, you are an incredible woman, and an inspiration to us all. We love you Richella, just as you are! (The portrait is stunning, by the way).

Denise said...

I thought I might be able to click on the picture to enlarge but it won't work.
I know you've posted about this before, it's so sweet and yet heartbreaking too. Dawn is right, it is sad that many of us don't see the beauty even within us that others see. I think you are totally gorgeous inside and out:)
Love ya
hugs
Denise

Mrs. Sojourner said...

What a thoughtful gift. Thanks for sharing the beautiful picture of you, and the story behind it. :)

Nadir@StitchSense said...

What a sweet story! And such a beautiful reminder of how the Lord sees his children. He sees his beautiful child & nothing but that. :-)

Richella said...

The color on my bedroom walls is Sherwin Williams "Mystery Green." I just love it!

Holly said...

Gorgeous portrait, beautiful post, awesome husband, touching story; but you, Richella, are all of those things! Thanks for posting this. xoxo

Kathy@ Gone North said...

Beautiful picture! And more..
Beautiful story of Love.

Karen said...

thanks for sharing a precious chapter of your "book".... I could just read between the lines, that you truly shared your heart. I could'nt help but imagine when and how you decided to share this; I want to believe it was a God thing, after someone asked you about the photo last week. Isn't it amazing how God gives words and reveals Himself to us. Thanks Richella, for sharing your deepest heart pains and showing us that God is the author of our story and HE sees us as beautiful.
Karen

Patti said...

delightful story...wonderful husband...beautiful lady!!

Kim @ Savvy Southern Style said...

Richella, I can't believe this struggle you have. You are such a beautiful woman and I certainly didn't know you had a birthmark and I bet anyone who sees you in person does not see the birthmark first, but your overall beauty.

Rachelle said...

Loved this post! I have the same self esteem issue with my weight and my husband hates when I mention it. I mean, I'm glad he doesn't care but I don't love the fact that I weigh what I did when I was 9 months pregnant with my first.

Ah.

I think you're gorgeous! And, I think you have one GREAT husband.
xo

melody-mae said...

Oh dear one. Not only is this a beautiful gift from your husband...'the sweetest gift' but yes, you my dear a beautiful. We all in some way or another have something we think makes us unworthy. I have have a double masectomy and no reconstruction ( I don't do anestetic well) so when I meet someone new I think, do they know I am wearing a padded bra? Can they tell I am flat? My husband makes me feel beautiful each and every day just like I KNOW your husband does...and our God blessed us beyond measure!!
You are beautiful, remember this always.
love you,
melody-mae.blogspot.com

Kathy@ Gone North said...

Back with another comment... :)
In my morning reading, this verse spoke to me, from Isaiah
"because I, The Lord your God, the Holy one of Israel, have made you Glorious"

Love the Decor! said...

Oh Hun you are beautiful!! what a wonderful gift your hubby gave you! Keep believing that and know that everyone struggles with a "birthmark" of sorts, but there is true beauty under all of the "baggage we carry' and we are a perfect creation made by a loving GOD
Enjoy your day!!

Patti said...

This post is beautiful in so many ways! You have a sweet husband! Sounds like something my sweet hubby would say and do. You are beautiful!

Susan, Patrick, and Ren said...

That made me teary--a beautiful tribute to a strong marriage. I have to tell you that I have never noticed your birthmark and always thought you were beautiful, even before I knew you were beautiful on the inside, too.

FrouFrouBritches said...

Love this post Richella! It's such a beautiful picture. What a sweet husband you have. I happen to think you are STUNNING! I know it's hard to think of yourself that way and we all have our issues. Glad your sweet Hubby helped to make you see yourself the way others see you.

Southern Gal said...

That is such a sweet, sweet story and memory for you to share. To ourselves from another point of view instead of our skewed vision - what a blessing!

Elise @A Path Made Straight said...

And that's the way God sees us- past the sin, for Jesus stands between.

And I can't help but think that he looks lovingly on the birthmark He gave you, marked forever as who you are. His.

Thank you for tenderly unwrapping this moment for us...

togetherforgood said...

That is just so sweet. :)

Debbie said...

Emily that story is truly one of the most touching I have heard in a long time. Your Man loves and adores your girl!!~ My son has a large birth mark on his shoulder. I took him to a dermatolgist and she said he should not have it removed until he is an adult if he so wishes...as he is growing, it is growing. I noticed this summer was the first summer has swam without a swim shirt. I have always told him since he was little he was kissed by an angel and that is the mark she left. I do believe my son will opt not to have it removed, it is part of him, part of his life, birth, etc. I do hope one day you just do not even think about it anymore...you truly are a beautiful woman...I have seen ugly ducklings sad to say...you do not fit the bill:)

Debbie said...

Sorry I called your EMILY...grrrr....I just left a message to Emily on my last post...so sorry:)

Sharon said...

You have such a wonderful loving husband. This is such a sweet post full of a husband's care for his bride, not just meeting her material needs but the emotional and mental as well. What a beautiful gift to unwrap today.

Traci@ Beneath My Heart said...

Oh Richella, you are so beautiful!!! I love that picture. I know that your struggle with your self-esteem is real and genuine, but you need to know that you are one of the most beautiful people I have ever met in my life!!! Inside and out! You have touched my heart in so many ways this past year. Only true beauty can do that!
That birthmark has helped to shape you into the beautiful person you are today!
Bless you and your sweet hubby!
Traci

Rhoda @ Southern Hospitality said...

Richella, that is a beautiful story & YOU, my dear, are beautiful too. What a gorgeous photo. I hope that you are much better about all of this now. You're so pretty inside & out!

Terri at Finder's Keeper's said...

I don't know anyone that doesn't feel just like you including me....either it is our weight, our hair, our complexion, our thighs, our behind and on and on the list goes and it is to the list we go when we are in moments of self loathing. We need to replace that list with the True LIST that is who we are underneath all the skin! Here's to inner beauty that shines all the way through to the outer!

Erin @ In Between Laundry said...

Your husband must be a true gift from God!

Kristi said...

Thank you soooo much for sharing this precious story! I knew that was a picture of you and was curious to know the story behind it. As usual, the story adds to the beauty of the picture. Thank you for sharing your heart - as always. Blessings to you, my friend ~

Ann said...

That's such a sweet story to read... If it's any help, you look so glamorous and yes...beautiful in that photo and pretty sure inside and out.

southerninspiration said...

I don't know how I missed this post.....but I did notice that picture the other day and started to ask you about it...now I am glad to know about it. What a love story, and I am so touched by your husband's love for you....what a special thing!
Thanks for sharing, my friend.

Suzanne

southerninspiration said...

and I agree with Traci, that even though I have not met you in person, to me, you are one of the most beautiful people I've ever known!

Suzanne

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