Put your best foot forward. That’s what they say. Put your best foot forward. And I think they’re right but only partly.
They’re right that we should raise our own bar.
They’re right that we have a lot of best to give, and we’d do well to remember that’s true.
They’re right that there’s time after time after time when we need to put on our grown-up pants, set aside our whining, and give more than we think we’ve got. (Why, hello, parenting!)
Put your best foot forward, I hear.
But that’s a hard thing to do all the time. And especially when you wear your flaws out front. Or, in my case, on my face.
The whispering started when I was in the 3rd grade. Every recess. Every lunch. Constant – incessant – whispering. But it wasn’t behind my back, as you might expect.
Oh, no. It was to-my-face whispering.
Or, rather, it was to-my-nose whispering. In fact, kids lined up around the playground to tell secrets to my nose.
I know; it was weird. And it’s OK if you’re confused and thinking, “Whaaa…??” Because who’s ever heard of telling secrets to a nose? Isn’t that what ears are for?
Well, yes, dear friend. Yes! You’re right. And that is the joke, exactly.
You see, my nose is approximately 20% ear. My ear, in fact, which is what the surgeons harvested to reconstruct my nose after it was partially devoured by a dog who forgot his manners and tried to eat my face. The fact that I’m patched together at all is a tribute to modern medicine, years of reconstructive and plastic surgeries, and my parents’ determination to fund an insane amount of dental work. (Thank you, Parents!)
Although I’ve been told by many medical professionals that I “might want to have further work done,” I’ve elected not to do it, and so I have scars that run down the side of my nose and through my lips, and there’s a chunk missing from my ear.
I’m going to camp this week – middle school camp – to teach 150 young women a class on identity and image and beauty and God and somehow making our way toward our deepest, truest selves. I am ECSTATIC about this. It’s an incredible opportunity. And, I’ll be honest, it’s weird.
It’s weird, y’all.
It’s weird because the people who asked me to teach this class know me. They know flawed, crazy, beautiful, awful me, and they still asked.
It’s weird because my teenage daughter will be there, and she gave me permission to do this. I asked her months ahead of time, positive her “NO WAY, Mom!” would echo off of the mountain behind our house, but she was excited and encouraging and supportive and mature and eager to hear what her mommy has to say.
It’s weird because I’m several months into my own upheaval – my own discomfort and uneasy transformation – where I feel so very strongly and so very spiritually that living into my deepest, truest self means that I must, wherever possible, put both feet forward even though that means that the Messy Foot gets equal billing with the Best Foot… and the Doubt Foot stands next to the Faith Foot… and the Funny Foot balances me alongside the Serious Foot.
And it’s especially weird because I’m as scarred and broken and stupid as I am pretty and strong and brave, and I see each of those things every time I catch my reflection in the mirror or in writing or in friendship. I carry the complexity of being a woman – of being human – with me everywhere I go.
I’ve worked for weeks now to try to distill a message of hope and faith and real beauty into language that young women might understand. And along the journey, I’ve found that much of the message was also meant for me.
Along the way, I’ve been learning to listen to Love loving me.
That’s it. The core, really.
I’m learning to listen to Love loving me, and I hope to share Love’s voice this week.
Put your best foot forward. That’s what they say. Put your best foot forward. And I think they’re right. But only partly. Because sometimes we move through life with our flaws out front. And Love loves our scars, too.
While I’m at camp this week, I’m running a parallel blog series on Women and Beauty in Faith and Culture. I’ve asked three writers whose authenticity and faith I admire to share their personal stories with you. Look for their writing here Tuesday through Thursday.
I’ll be popping in and out of here as I’m able, and I’ll also be on Facebook periodically.
See you soon!
19 responses to “I’m learning to listen to Love loving me.”
[…] It’s just that this story was a gift to me. A gift of Magic and Mystery. A gift of Magnificence. A gift of reflection. And no matter what you think about church (why, hello, HUGE Mess and Profound Magic) or about Faith and Doubt or about Jesus, I think there’s something here for all of us. Something valuable. Something precious. Something familiar. Something deeply essential to the way we live life and See each other and learn to listen to Love. […]
[…] News: The human spirit is resilient and everyone bounced back. Again. Even this mommy who has her own teeny, tiny history with dog bites… and who, you know, has a nose made partially out of ear, some pretty darn good facial […]
[…] thinks it’s not fair that I have a big dog bite scar under my chin and thus get an entire extra chin to my credit, but I say play to your strengths, man. […]
[…] days before I turned 2, a dog used his teeth to rearrange my face. Two reconstructive surgeries, two plastic surgeries and one oral surgery later, my face is […]
I started reading your blog after a friend made me go to read your “In which I confess that my house is decorated with flatulence”. I loved it, I was hooked, and I started reading for the fun. And then you blow me away with this post. Thank you. I have 2 feet and although I do not like it, I have 2 sides. So I will work on embracing both my feet. Thanks.
Hey – thanks for this, Elizabeth. Really kind of you.
[…] came home from camp on Saturday, and the house was clean. The clutter was picked up. The dishes were […]
I hope you’re having a wonderful time at camp! I’ll pray that God will speak through you to the young ladies. Yours is such an important message, especially at that age!
[…] guest post on Women and Beauty in Faith and Culture comes from Fiona Merrick, writer of the delightful blog, Tea with a […]
[…] RSS ← I’m learning to listen to Love loving me. […]
I’m so excited that you are doing this and am praying for you, that God will speak through you to the heart of each of those girls. My pre-motherhood career was mental health, specializing in body image. Girls have a desperate need to know they are beautiful because God made them and made them to be beautiful, not because they are put together a certain way or masterful artists with physical decor. Thank you for sharing your story and letting the love the Lord has poured out on you overflow to those around you.
To quote AmberMcB, “You are BEAUTIFUL!! I’ve of course only seen the few pics you’ve posted here on your blog, but each time I’ve thought how pretty you are. ”
Even more so is the beauty of your heart Beth. You have such a zest for life and for sharing it so freely with others. I wish my daughter and I could be there to listen to you. What a blessing you are going to be to those girls! (Maybe you can video it and share it with us too! Because I’m sure so many of us could use your words as well.)
I hope you have a wonderful time!
Thank you, thank you, ladies, for the very kind encouragement!
You’re gorgeous, and I would never have guessed that your nose is part ear. Never. Have a fantastic time at camp – those girls are so blessed! So much looking forward to hearing all about it!
Love ‘n’ prayers xo
Oh – how you touch us all!!! I will be praying for you while you are away – have a wonderful time, speak from your heart and share His message with those who so need it!
My son Benjamin is at camp this week. (too bad he will not get to hear you!). On the way to camp, he told me how much he’d miss me. I was shocked, “Me, you’ll miss me.” I’m definitely not mother of the year material. I am transparently human. I said to him in the car, you’ll just have to find a lady at camp and ask her to yell at you for no apparent reason and then you’ll feel at home. When I saw your name on his schedule, I was ecstatic! Maybe if you find my son, you can yell at him for me for no apparent reason. Not that you are a yeller mother, but I know you are real and have an amazing sense of humor. I am joyful that these tween girls who are going through their unique phase of their life, will hear from you and see authentic beauty! May GOD speak through you and bless you and them!
Oh Beth. Have a great week. I am so excited and grateful that a bunch of our future women will have had the chance to rub elbows with you and sponge up some of your wonderfulness. Thanks for pulling up these two older posts. It was great to give them a second read and in a new context. You’ve made me realize that my most favorite people are of the Ask. Seek. Knock. Breathe variety.
You are BEAUTIFUL!! I’ve of course only seen the few pics you’ve posted here on your blog, but each time I’ve thought how pretty you are. Once the kids at church reach 5 years old I’m DONE. I volunteered one time for VBS with 2nd grade girls. *I* couldn’t handle the “popular girls” vs “other girls” dynamic in my group. It broke my heart to see it & all of those feelings rushing back from my own childhood. So, I stick with working week in & week out with the babies & preschoolers. Middle School girls would TERRIFY me! You will be in my thoughts & prayers. The girls will be too — that their hearts will be open to hear what you have to say.
Thanks for sharing with us!!
Beth, have a fantastic week with these girls! I wish I could be there to hear the stories and see the growth that begins as your message breaks through. I will be thinking about you and praying for you throughout the week. Can’t wait to hear how it goes!