I had so much fun this year helping Cam get dressed up (as Spooky Mickey....even though there was nothing spooky about him. What the heck is Spooky Mickey supposed to look like? Oh, to have a peek into the mind of a 3 year old sometimes....) and it was also a lot of fun taking him around to a few houses. This is totally off topic but Trick-or-Treating is completely confusing to small children who are being taught stranger danger and boundaries. Our challenge for the night was helping him understand, 'we're walking up to all these people houses but no, you can't actually go in. They don't want you to go in, they just want to give you candy and for you to leave. And by the way, on any other night, never walk up to someone's house and ask for anything because that's weird.' Back to the real subject though, candy. The experience was a lot of fun but I was pretty glad that for all my efforts, at the end of the night, I was also being rewarded with a big plastic pumpkin of my child's candy to pilfer through. Homeboy doesn't even know about the glory and goodness of Airheads because mama got to them first.
As I've been occasionally rummaging though Cam's candy, I've had a few memories of my own childhood Halloween experiences pop into my mind. They're mostly good memories, like the time it was snowing in Ohio and my brother Chris fell and spilled all his candy in the snow and then I had to share all of mine with him...which was NOT good for my selfish, 7 year old self. Or in 7th grade, I went with a group of my best girlfriends and I was Cruella, with all my dalmatians. I even baby-powdered one whole side of my head to rock the classic black&white Cru do! There was one thing that came up though that made me sad to think about but also reminded me of the beauty of age and maturity, growth and grace.
I think I was in 4th or 5th grade when this incident took place. I can't point to a specific moment that caused me to think this way, but at this young age I was already very aware that I was chubby and therefore, not pretty like the rest of my little elementary girl friends. Maybe it was because my dad was a youth pastor and I hung around the older girls a lot and took in all the things they probably said about themselves and each other. There's a part of me that thinks nothing would have ever be said to a female about her appearance or worth and yet she will innately feel and know (the lie) that she isn't enough.
And that was me. I wasn't even ten and already deeply trapped in the hole of image management. So, on this particular Halloween I remember telling myself that the reason I was so much chubbier, so much fatter than my friends was because I ate all my Halloween candy and I ate it too fast. I decided to hide away about ten pieces in a little treasure box I had. I stuck a note with it, mapping out how many pieces I should still have left by Christmas, then by New Years (cause they're so far apart, ya know...:)) and lastly by my birthday in March. I think in my mind, if I could have self-control in this, then maybe there was hope for me to one day be a skinny girl too.
But I failed. I would go and find my box, eat a few pieces and think, '...well just don't eat anymore till you're next deadline. It will be okay as long as you still have this many pieces left by your birthday. I mean, even if you just have one piece leftover by your birthday, it's still better than being the fat girl who ate it all at once. You had control, you saved one piece.'
I didn't make it. And I felt so ashamed. And no one else even knew! This was a standard I was setting, failing and then heaping shame onto my precious, normal and chubby pre-pubescent, 10-year old self. No one was doing this too me, no one was setting the bar to high for me. Me, myself and I set that bar too high and thus began a life-long struggle. I struggle to give others grace and before that, I struggle to give myself grace. As hard as I can be on others, I'm ten times harder on myself which is why I've always justified my standards for others. But, it's no way to live. It's exhausting to always be striving and always be let down and letting down.
I've been on an amazing journey in the past year and a half discovering and understanding grace, the beautiful gift of grace that God regularly gives me. I'm experiencing freedom I've never known as I learn to extend grace to myself and others. One of my biggest struggles in life has been chasing perfection in my appearance, basing my worth and beauty on the size of my jeans or my pimple-free face. It's a struggle that started when I was very young and one that I'm guessing will stick around through the rest of my life. And yet, grace is setting me free. Grace is telling me I'm enough, size 2 or 12. (And, for the record, I've never been a size two....it just looked looked better typed out with a repeating number. :)) Grace is releasing me from the burden of chasing after beauty defined by the world's standards, by Hollywood's standards, by my weird Halloween-candy-limit-standards and helping me to live and breathe easy, in the beautiful skin God gave me.
Like I said, I think this will be something I battle throughout my life, a journey I will always be on. One week I might feel guilty for not working out, but the next week I do what I can and let the guilt go...and that's progress. That's grace in me. Another month, I drink only water and feel great...and another month my beverages are less than clear and sugar-free and that's still great. One year, I hide my Halloween candy and binge in shame...then another year comes, and I eat that candy and enjoy Halloween with my son and know...either way, I'm enough.
P.S This passage was a huge encouragement to me that helped in transforming my view of myself; to see and understand that God made me unique and beautiful in His sight. Read Psalm 139 from The Message version here
LAST THING, I promise...I'm a singer. Songs speak to me in such a powerful way! I have been LOVING this new song by Colbie Caillat. This is the message I want to believe and live, what I want mothers, grandmothers, sisters, friends to know, how I want my daughter to see herself...beautiful, without even trying! Turn it up loud and remind yourself of this message!