When I Was Beautiful

Grandmama,” she says,

Unearthing a photo of me when I was sixteen,

Her blue eyes sparkling,

Blonde hair floating about her shoulders,

Sunkist cheeks flushing pink,

“You used to be beautiful then!” “Then?” I think. “Then?”

But say instead, “you think so?”

“I know so!” she says in that definitive little way of hers

As if she has the world figured out–Daring it to deviate from her determined point of view. “Then?” I think, but do not say. “Then I was beautiful?”

“What do you know of beauty?”

Me at sixteen,

An unlined, unblemished face In an artificially arranged

Studio with soft lighting? I tell you, my girl,

I am more beautiful now than I ever was,

With my soul worn down, smooth and resilient,

Like the soft blue jeans you always wear,

Like supple leather pounded with rubber mallets

From worries I could not stop

And storms I couldn’t control

Soothed only with the peace

Of God’s presence

And friendship

And empathy. I am more beautiful now than I ever was.

If I were a rose I would be a Queen Elizabeth

Full of scent and elegance.

If I were a tree I would be a towering redwood

With roots that go deep.

If I were a voice,

I would be a whispered caress.

If I were a stone, I’d be the solid foundation of a home.

I am more beautiful now than I ever was.

I am enduring, I am weathered,

Rounded as river stones from a swift current,

Hammered, hammered flat as silver

By my mistakes and

Erroneous judgments,

Tempered by tragedy,

Softened by storm,

Kneaded by need

To the Potter’s pliable clay. If I thought you’d listen,

I’d tell you the way to become beautiful

Would be to let the storms rage,

To fix your hope on the lighthouse,

Shining in the worst of weather,

And to let life’s arrows pass through Your quivering body

Knowing He will heal you,

Even when you think it is impossible.

Though you would hear

You would not listen,

For these are the lessons

You must teach yourself. Have you ever smelled a scarlet rose the very day

Before the petals fall?

Eaten a peach at its ripest,

Juice dripping down your chin?

Tasted a wine

Mellowed to perfection?

This is the fullness of time, my dear.

I am there

And I am beautiful.

*For deeper reflection, listen to Psalm 92:15.