how we can know we are beautiful

Morgan and I planned a last minute date night on Monday. All day, while I painted my parents’ house, I dreamed of the short ribs at North. At 5pm, I asked if we could eat there, and he smiled because he had already made a reservation for 7:15. Sixteen years of marriage and twenty-three years of friendship have their perks. He knows me well.

So we sat on the lovely restaurant patio, eating creamy polenta and delicious roast as we replayed the highs and lows of our sons’ baseball seasons and the funny things that have happened to us lately. I twisted his arm into taking an online personality test so we could dissect our true selves. He is a determined thinker and achiever, I am wrought with complex emotional intuition and very little rational thought. Somehow we make it work.

We decided to wander through the shops around the restaurants. He tried on a jacket. I tried on some sunglasses. I saw a gorgeous dress hanging by the exit of the store, and couldn’t help but run my hands over the fabric.

“I can’t even remember the last time I got really dressed up and felt beautiful,” I said.

He looked at me funny, and pointed out that I looked beautiful right now. I nodded and we walked on, toward the cake ball place down on the end of the avenue.

The funny thing my daughter said to me the other day popped into my head:

“Mommy, you know how sometimes, when I tell you that I think someone is pretty, I always say that they’re not as pretty as you are?” she said.

“Yes,” I said.

“Well…um….I don’t always think you’re prettier than everyone else. I just say it to be nice. I’m sorry….”

I laughed at her confession that day. I told her that we should promise each other to never compare one another to any other girl or woman. Because this is how I want her to live: unscathed by comparison and unafraid to embrace everything God made her to be- even if someone out there in the world says it’s not quite enough.

It started raining a little bit when Morgan and I ducked inside the cake ball restaurant. We ordered coffee and dessert and watched a storm roll in. Sheets of water fell outside the windows, and we faced the awful truth that the long walk back to our car would be like plunging into a vertical bath. The only way home was through that reality.

Morgan ran barefoot through the flooded streets to get to our car. He pulled up as close as he could to the restaurant and I ran out to the car, shielding his nice shoes from the rain. Beside me, someone scurried along the sidewalk under a giant cardboard box.

It was all so ridiculous, this unexpected storm and all the unprepared people sprinting around or crouched under the shallow overhangs of shops. We held each other’s hands in the car, laughing and shivering all the way home.

I don’t know what tomorrow will be like. I don’t know if my children will make good choices or bad, if they will be kind to me or a little too honest. There is no way to really prepare for the storms that are rolling in this week and next year and then a decade from now. Some storms we will make ourselves with our limited human understanding, while others will be sifted out for us by hands beyond this world. They will test our faith, our trust, and our hope.

But I want it all. I want the plates of comfort food and the hard labor that has earned us the moment of enjoying them. I want the love that I don’t deserve from the people God has given me. I want rain and sun and every chance to love others well. I want to refuse to compare who we are to who we could be, and instead open my arms to each precious moment as it comes.

And when I walk through shops again in the years to come, admiring gorgeous dresses- when someone tells me I’m beautiful, despite the way my skin shows its true age and my bones ache with the stories I have been called to carry homeward- I want to already know it’s true.

The eternal truth is that our God only makes beautiful things. Even in the unexpected storms. Even when we have to run through them. And certainly, even while we hold one another’s hands and laugh.

Beautiful is our destiny. The only way home is through that reality.

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