Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Beauty of Broken Shells

I sat by the surf with my family, half covered by a beach-towel, secretly comparing myself to other women who walked by.
Whether tanned and shapely, or pale and curvy...they all seemed to carry with them the self-confidence I desperately wanted to have in myself.

My swimsuit fit a bit tighter this year, especially across the belly. Stretching out the fabric on a cotton T helped to conceal this area when away from the shore, but the elasticity of swimwear is not so accommodating. I had gained weight since last vacation - while part of it was a "middle aged spread,"
the *tumor growing in my mid-section did not help the situation.
Little cellulite ridges rippled down the back of both of my thighs, and my head was not shaped right for a beach hat. When I moved, my knees gave out a crack loud enough for my husband to look my way. Oh, how I longed to walk the 2 miles to the pier with my hubby as we did just last year, but this year I was feeling like a 70 year old woman crammed into a 43 year old body.
Did others see all this when they looked at me, too? My twisted mind said they did....

As the day wore on, bits of self-attacking personal digs continued to pick at my brain and my heart, and made me more anxious the longer I sat there.

The beach used to be my favorite place on earth, but the older I got, the less of it I liked.
While the beauty of the ocean was unchanging, the years on this body were taking its toll and in turn, my memory of happier carefree days begin to slip away.

No mater how hard I tried to change my train of thought, the self comparison was making me miserable. Why was I being so vane? As a child and teen I struggled with self-image, as a young adult I worked hard to love the body I was given and now, as a grown woman with grown children, I thought it was all behind me, but on this day all the negativity came rushing back like waves before a storm.
Fed up with my thoughts, I gathered up my beach things, shoving them in my tote ready to head back to the hotel room when my 4 year old niece, Kaity ran over to me with an outstretched hand.
"Come get shells with me!" she exclaimed, bouncing in the sand with a bucket in her other hand. "Let's find shells, Aunt Jenn!"
Putty when it comes to our family's little ones, I put my tote back down on the ground beside my chair, I took her little hand and we set out to find her undiscovered treasure.

We had only walked a few feet when Kaity reached down, grabbed a large broken shell, and held it up for me to see.
"Oh! How Pretty!" she shouted, quickly dropping the shell into her bucket.
Within seconds, the next shell a little smaller but just as broken was snapped up, held for me to see and dropped into her bucket.
Over and over again, her little hands grabbed at the shells.....some in perfect condition, but most broken and battered from the trials they suffered before being washed up to rest in the sand.
Her bucket filling fast, I was beginning to worry that when she really took the time to sit down and look over her treasures, she'd be disappointed to find that the large clunky broken shells far outnumbered the smaller colorful perfect looking ones.
"Kaity," I said, "let's slow down and look for a few nicer shells, ok? I bet if we looked really hard, we could find a few that are absolutely perfect without all of the edges broken off, ok?"

And that's when the Lord used a 4 year old to teach me.

"But Aunt Jenn, God made all these shells, right? So they are all beautiful, right? Even the broken ones." And she reached down to pluck up another shell from the sand without really looking at it and dropped it into her bucket.

I'd love to say that that moment changed the rest of the day, making it wonderful and happy and instantly erasing all my insecurities, but that would be a lie.
But what DID happen was a bigger than life God, used a tiny little girl to whisper a bit of love and hope into this not so perfect heart.

And this reminder was placed into my mind that day as well....Just as He made each and every shell, He has formed each man, woman, and child. And as we are created in His image, we are all perfect in His sight. Age, illness, body shape, abilities....nothing is a barrier to the way the Lord sees us. It is only a barrier to the way we see ourselves.
Broken shells...and broken people...have a story to tell.
For the shell, its story may end in the bottom of a little girl's bucket.
For a broken person (whether broken physically, emotionally, or spiritually), the story can find a new beginning in the gift of love, grace, and forgiveness found only at the foot of the cross and by the gift of Salvation, given to us by a Man broken for us. And it can end in a Paradise more beautiful than the most gorgeous earthly ocean, in a body that is perfect in every way.

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

* Recently it was discovered that I have a large tumor in my uterus.
I will be having surgery late this Fall/ early this Winter. I would be so honored if you would please join me in praying for guidance for the doctors and healing. Thank you so much.

may your day be JOYfilled! ♥~

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