All the Pretty Girls

The first time I ever remember having a distinct feeling that I wasn’t a pretty girl happened on my very first day of kindergarten.

A faded photo taken that morning shows me standing at the end of our driveway, waiting on the school bus. Dressed in denim vest, red shirt and bell-bottom jeans with embroidered pockets, I am clutching a school box filled with crayons and pencils as I smile a confident, snaggletoothed grin at my mother. A sweet Dorothy Hamill haircut framed my chubby face.

Just a couple of hours later, after learning how to recite the pledge to the American flag,  there was a knock on the door of the Kindergarten classroom. The teacher answered, and in walked the principal with another student, a little girl named Charlotte.

Not only was Charlotte fashionably late, but she was also wearing the fanciest red dress I had ever seen. Adorned with yards and yards of ruffles, her skirt flounced airily as she walked past my desk; her black patent shoes made a soft clicking sound on the hardwood floors.

The following day Charlotte wore another dress, just as fluffy and frilly, but in a different color. In fact, during that first week of school, Charlotte showed up at school each morning wearing a more beautiful dress than the one she had worn the day before.

It didn’t take long before I became enchanted with Charlotte, who looked just like a living doll. I had never seen anyone so pretty. I loved the way her black curls formed perfect ringlets. My thin, straight hair never held a curl, no matter how many hours it was left in those hated pink, foam rollers.

One afternoon, I confided to my mother how I thought Charlotte must be a real princess. My mother laughed as she patted my head and stated emphatically that there definitely were not any princesses attending my school. But, in my mind’s eye, all Charlotte needed was a tiny tiara on her head and the vision would be complete.

However,  I didn’t tell my mother everything I was thinking or feeling in regards to Charlotte … like how ugly I felt in my new cotton shirts and stiff blue jeans, or that my deepest wish was to be pretty and dainty, the way Charlotte looked in her lavish dresses.

I might have been only five years old, but already I felt like…

I wasn’t a very pretty little girl.

Confession time.

I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve felt pretty.

During fifth grade I won a small beauty contest, the sort that is more fundraiser than pageant. The winners didn’t receive crowns or trophies, just ribbons. Even as I stood on the stage holding the 1st place ribbon in my hand, I felt like the results were somehow a fluke, fearful the judge might raise her hand and point out the real winner.

The following week, my dance teacher asked if anyone wanted to share happy news with the class. I raised my hand and when it was my turn told how I won a beauty pageant. All I really wanted to hear was that she agreed with the judges, for her to confirm that I was indeed a pretty young lady.

Instead, my dance teacher smiled and suggested I might like to ride on the “Beauty Queens’ Float” in the upcoming Christmas parade. “Of course, you wouldn’t be able to ride on the dance school float … but if you have a crown and a sash, I believe a spot could be found for you to ride with our other local pageant winners.”

Don’t ask me how, but I managed to borrow a crown and get a sash … and as I rode through the streets, smiling and waving, I felt something I couldn’t remember feeling before.

I felt pretty.

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Society tells us that gorgeous women are thin with a headful of thick, flowing hair, and flawless, sleek skin.

Women with PCOS often struggle with weight issues, male-pattern baldness, extra facial and body hair, severe acne, skin tags and psoriasis. This genetic, hormonal disorder strips away all the physical feminine qualities, and sadly there is no cure or quick fix or answer to unraveling this medical mystery.

The women who live with PCOS often struggle with anxiety or depression or low self-esteem. Perhaps a lot of that is driven by a bad body image because a woman with PCOS is rarely going to match society’s standard of beauty.

And yet, how can we possibly feel pretty when PCOS steals away the very things we are told makes a woman pleasing to look at?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I am wonderfully made. ~Psalm 139:14

Confession time … again.

I don’t think — no, the truth is I don’t believe — I am wonderfully made.

I look at my reflection in the mirror, and all I see is me. My physical flaws. My less-than-perfect features. The bald patches in my hair. The flaky skin on my face. A woman who is far from thin and hasn’t worn a swimsuit in more than a decade.

Oh, how I long to see myself as pretty … yet most of the time I feel so much less than that.

And this presents a problem because the Bible tells me that I am wonderfully made by my Creator.

As a Christian, I must ask myself this question:

If God says I am wonderfully made, and I have judged my body to not be a worthy creation, then which of us is wrong? 

Either God is a liar (and how can I be a Christ-follower if I think such a thing), or I must be using the wrong standard for beauty.

One thing is certain.

Both God and I are not correct on this issue.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.                 ~1 Samuel 16:7

It’s true. Humans tend to focus on outward appearance.

We like to believe we aren’t biased, that we don’t use physical features as a way of judging others. But the evidence says otherwise.

Not long ago, a friend (whom I really love) made a comment about one of my teen girls. “She’s become so pretty, now that she is wearing make-up and fixing her hair and losing a little weight … not that you have to do those things to be beautiful …  but you know what I mean.

Yes. Yes, I do. I’m human too, and somehow (as much as I hate to admit it) the way someone looks matters.

But not to God.

He looks at our hearts and knows our minds … and loves in spite of all the negative, mean-spirited, ugly feelings and ideas we have. His measure for beauty is far above our own earthly ideas.

So what does God have to say about being beautiful?

Here are a few of God’s truths:

  • We are created in His image. (Genesis 1:27)
  • We are worth far more than rubies. (Proverbs 31:10)
  • He makes all things beautiful. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
  • He brings beauty from ashes. (Isaiah 61:3)
  • He is enthralled with our beauty. (Psalm 45:11)
  • All who look to Him are radiant. (Psalm 34:5)
  • We are a crown of beauty in His hand. (Isaiah 62:3)

The Bible has much more about God’s standards for beauty, but that’s for another post. Today, let’s simply focus on this truth:

Beauty is far more than outward appearances. 

Neither PCOS, nor the opinions of humans, can take away our beauty.

This blog is part of my PCOS series. Check back every Friday for a new post on PCOS and God..

Meet Theophilus Daniel

 Allow me to introduce you to Theophilus Daniel, my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather.

Theophilus Daniel (1786-1865)

Theophilus was born around 1786 in North Carolina to William and Elizabeth Daniel. During his life, Theo moved, first to Georgia and later to Alabama. He married Penelope Goodson, and is known to have supported his family by farming. Records seem to indicate that he had a small flock of sheep, as well as owned a spinning wheel and a loom. He also was reported to have made furniture. We also now that Theophilus Daniel was not a slave owner even though he lived in the south during the years when slavery was legal.

           

Church records indicate that in 1817 Theophilus was kicked out of church for “not filling his seat.” It is unclear why he skipped church services, but one must wonder if it might have been due to having moved away from the area. Later, in 1827, he was instrumental in the formation of Sweet Water Primitive Baptist church.

At the time of his death on October 2, 1865, Theo was living in Butler, Alabama. His life spanned 79 years, with his birth prior to the ratification of the United States Constitution and his death coming just at the end of the Civil War.

One of the first things I remember my mother having among her genealogical possessions was a very old piece of woven brown cloth.

This material, handed down now for six generations, was actually homespun by Theophilus himself. He made it for his granddaughter, Matilda Caroline Daniel, perhaps as a wedding gift for her marriage in 1851 (although the exact date the cloth was made is unknown). I wonder if the material was woven from thread spun from the wool sheared from Theophilus’ sheep.

Facts about Theophilus Daniel and his life are fairly sparse. His exact date of birth is unknown, and the truth is I have a lot more questions about him than answers:

  • Why was he skipping church in 1817? Was it due to a move or did he find himself feeling disconnected from the Lord?
  • What prompted him to form a church ten years later?
  • And what is that large growth on the side of his face?!

Yet, touching the cloth that he spun for his granddaughter suddenly makes this man leap off the old census records. A piece of cloth doesn’t get saved for 170+ years for no reason. It meant enough to his granddaughter that she passed it down to her children and grandchildren. It meant something to her because she loved her grandfather … probably, I’m imagining, because he loved her too.

Whatever the reason, Theophilus more than lived. He loved. And 155 years after his death, he is still remembered for it.

The memories of the righteous is a blessing … ~Proverbs 10:7