As I stood watching you, little one, tears rolled down my cheeks. You stood before my mirror all dolled up in your pink plastic dress-up shoes, hot pink, sparkly tutu, mismatched head bands, some bracelets, as many necklaces as you could gather, and your big sister’s glittery lip gloss. With your hip popped out just so, you twirled a pig tail and smiled at all the fanciness in your mirrored image. Without hesitation, you deemed yourself “boo-tee-ful”, and I did too. I noticed all the beauty on your precious little outside; your black shiny hair, almond eyes and pink cheeks. You are truly beautiful as the world sees beauty. But your loveliness goes far deeper than what most eyes can see. Your beauty has layer upon layer.
You bear many scars, my girl, both physical and emotional. Some your momma sees and can identify, and others she will never be able to. You are made up of broken pieces, some that have healed and some that need more time.
Your story has had harder edges from the moment the world first welcomed you. By your first birthday, you had scars from more than one surgery. Throughout your earliest years, you spent altogether too much time hooked up to an IV, when you should have been playing peek-a- boo. You were crying from discomfort from infection, instead of crying from a dropped pacifier. By age four, between China and home with mommy and daddy, you’ve endured ten surgeries, with all the scars, complications and infections that came along. You spent more time in hospital rooms than play rooms.
You have not been given the luxury of an easy entry into this world.
The luxury of spending time cradled in your birth mothers arms.
The luxury of not knowing what the inside of an operating room looks like.
The luxury of having your only milestones being eating your first table food and walking.
The luxury of your childhood spent surrounded by birth family and birth culture.
Both your body and your heart have been broken. As soon as I type that, I want to hit delete, because most of the world hears that word and cringes. So this momma bear wants to take it away, to pretend it’s not so. But that would be diminishing you and your story, my dear, because you are a warrior. A tiny yet mighty one, made more beautiful by the broken parts. You are not normal. No, you are far more. You are an original, and your scars tell a story of strength and miracles and survival.
The truth is, that evening watching you in the mirror, my tears were spilled both for you and for me. My world was spinning, and seeing you there proud in the mirror stopped me in my tracks. Just a few weeks earlier, a doctor had informed me that the lump I’d found was malignant. That afternoon I had visited a plastic surgeon to discuss reconstruction after breast cancer. As she whipped through photos of all my less than fun “options”, it wasn’t the surgery that scared me most. It was all the scars. I’m about to have scars, my dear, and you already have so many. What are we girls to make of it? We girls want to feel beautiful.
I am not one that is overly focused on appearance. I tend not to compare, and I don’t focus too much energy on extreme body sculpting exercise or on finding the perfect jewelry and shoes for each perfect outfit. But those images of potential scars rocked me, I must admit. Though my appearance has never been my obsession, at the end of the day, like you, I still want to stand in the mirror and feel pretty, and I wonder if I’ll be able to.
Just when my fear was starting to swell, the Lord placed you in my mirror with all of your sparkle. How could I keep blowing up pity party balloons with you standing before me? How can I not glean strength from all of yours?
You are young, little one. You just color your “artworks” and give your baby doll a bottle, blissfully unaware of your history, unburdened by your losses and the scars they left. You don’t carry the weight of it yet. I pray you never well, but I suspect it will be something you’ll have to pray your way through as age brings understanding and exposure to the world’s view of beauty. I worry that someday you’ll look in the mirror and those scars might be more noticeable. As your momma, I am going to say every affirming word I can to empower you to see yourself with loving eyes. Ultimately though, I know that only the Lord can heal hearts and bind up wounds, so I am going to be praying my guts out for Him to do so for you. I’ll pray for him to do so for me too.
Once a friend, aware that one of my concerns about your surgeries was the additional scarring, blessed me by sharing a graphic with an image of a gorgeous piece of Japanese pottery marked by streaks of shining gold. Beneath it was the caption:
Kintsukuroi: to repair with gold, the Japanese art of repairing cracked pottery with gold or silver lacquer, and understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken
You are my beautiful, brave warrior. The strength you’ve shown in enduring four years of loss, hospital stays, surgeries, and invasive tests make you even lovelier as you stand on the other side of each one. Lovely not in spite of it, but BECAUSE of it. The Lord is in the process of writing your redemption story, and it’s one of miracles. You are a piece of art He’s creating, ever so intentionally filling in broken pieces with gold.
Your journey is not over, and neither is mine. But let’s expect that gold filling. Let’s expect layers of beauty. And when we doubt, let’s remind ourselves to consider how our very artistic Creator sees us.
Someday maybe you’ll lift your shirt up, and I’ll lift up mine. Maybe we’ll notice that the scars are present, but fading, part of the story, but not all the story. Maybe we’ll fist pump, because we fought like girls.
Courage, dear heart.