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I think she is testing me.

It happened first in Braum’s ice cream store. I was standing with Abby, waiting on Tim to finish cleaning up the boys in the bathroom. Abby, standing eye-level with my waist, lifted up the corner of my shirt and touched that roll. All women know the roll I mean–the dreaded muffin top that plagues most of us–the section right around our middle that tends to expand when our weight creeps up.

“What’s this?” she asked, rather slyly. Notice I say “slyly” not “shyly.”  I do think she was testing me, and as I have mentioned many times, we don’t get a script or a schedule as to when these parenting moments are coming.

But what I said next shocked both of us.

“That… Is my beautiful body.”

I’m not sure what shocked me more, that those words came out of my mouth, or to discover that I actually meant them.  My roll happened to be comprised of an extra 10 pounds, although it could easily have been 20 or 30+, but it’s relative to each woman because let me be clear: I am not happy about those 10 pounds.  And yes, chocolate chip cookies have something to do with it.

But in that (unscripted) moment, with my almost seven-year old bearing witness, I verbally affirmed the beauty of my own body, even with the extra weight still to lose.

I know Abby was shocked, too, because she said, “But isn’t it fat?  Don’t you want to lose it?”  (Did I mention Abby is a champion listener/eavesdropper?)

“Well, yes. But that doesn’t mean my body isn’t beautiful until I do lose it. It’s beautiful now. I do want to lose some weight, and I do need to do some exercise, but I still love my body right now, too. It’s amazing. It allows me to nurse Susanna and take care of you guys and do all the things I want to do.”

She nodded and dropped the subject, but I could tell she took note of my answer.  And I suspect she is testing me for weaknesses (like the velociraptors in Jurassic Park) because she brought it up again a few weeks later.

This time it was in front of Tim, and she targeted that spare tire area again.

“What’s that?” she asked. Again, I gave the same answer only with slightly more sass, “That’s my beautiful body!”

“Whoa, you’re kind of fat!” She watched my face carefully.

“No, baby, I am not fat.  I do want to lose some weight, and do some more exercise to get stronger, but I am not fat.”

She’s putting me to the test to see if that day at Braum’s was a fluke, if I really meant what I said. But while I take the test, she gets the grade. Because whatever I say about me is a direct correlation to what she thinks about herself. We can teach our daughters good body image, the wonders of how God made us and the miracles of what our bodies can do, but like so much else, they catch more than they learn; they imbibe our confidence or insecurity.

They hear you, Mama, if you talk badly about your body.

They hear you call yourself fat.

They hear you call yourself ugly.

They hear you lament the weight, the aging, the stretch marks.

This sounds like a guilt trip. It’s not.

I can easily imagine your response, Oh ten pounds! That’s nothing. Try saying it’s a beautiful body when you have 40, 50, 60+ pounds to lose.

But it is a beautiful body.  God fashioned woman, like an artist, a sculptor, a master designer. The sheer combination of functionality and beauty of a woman’s body is beyond compare.  Yes, there is sin, disease, infertility, brokenness, cancer.  But we’ve got what we’ve got, ladies. And we might as well start loving it sooner rather than later, so our precious daughters can learn how to do that, too.

Abby will be tall; she loves to eat; she has a birthmark on her cheek, straight hair like me, and beautiful eyes. She didn’t choose any of that; it’s just what she’s got, and I don’t want her to ever be ashamed of who she is, how God made her.

How do I accomplish that?  It starts with me not being ashamed of who I am.

The Bible says that kindness of the Lord leads us to repentance (Rom. 2:4).  And maybe some kindness towards our bodies would be the first step to the positive changes we want to make.  One thing is for sure: shame and guilt aren’t getting us anywhere fast.  Grace says, I love you as you are, and when we get that on a deep level, we are more empowered to grow.

Let’s pursue health and confidence and strong bodies, but in the meantime, let’s give our daughters and our bodies some grace and call them what they are: beautiful.