If you know my daughter, or if you follow our #vessiedressesherself hashtag on Instagram, you know that the child has an affinity for dresses and skirts. The bigger, the more sparkly, the better. I let her dress herself with just a few rules:
1. Must be weather appropriate
2. No jammies
3. No costumes outside the house
The particular dress in question- the cause of much weeping and gnashing of teeth- broke all three of these rules, and I wasn't going to budge. Another tidbit of info you may know regarding my daughter is that she has a flair for the dramatic. But here's what I want her to know about being pretty:
You were in tears on the stairs and I was in no mood to play hostess to your dramatics. We were in a rush. We're not usually in a rush, to be honest. I avoid rushing at all costs and I can mostly get us out the door in a timely manner, but today... we were in a rush. And now this display. And all over a princess dress.
The waterworks on you will surely someday earn you critical acclaim. But this time, real tears welled up in your eyes and rolled down your red cheeks. This time, your tiny four year-old self was truly in the midst of a tragedy. But I said the same thing I usually find myself saying to you in instances such as these,
"You're being ridiculous..."
You quieted. Then sniffled.
"But Mom," you whispered, "if I don't wear a dress, I won't be pretty! I'll be so ugly!"
And you meant it. In your world, your lack of a princess dress was honestly the gauge against which you judged your prettiness. And I was crushed. Who told you that? I mean it. I want names. Who told my barely-been-on-earth-long-enough-to-know-what-pretty-means-daughter that what it meant was a glittery dress and sparkly make up? But more than that, who told you that without those things you would be ugly?
Listen to me, child... pretty is not a physical trait. It's a heart trait. It's a soul trait. Pretty is what happens when your heart is open and loving and kind. Pretty is the sparkle in your eyes that happens from recognizing the pretty hearts in other people, and from building them up over and over when they don't feel so pretty. Pretty is when we see people the way Jesus sees them, and love them the way He would love them... And you have it, baby. The prettiness. That heart is pure, sparkly gold and I've seen it make other people's hearts feel pretty too. Including my own. But pretty didn't come from a box at the store. It came from within.
It's an understanding that you and I and all other women have that regardless of what we're wearing on the outside, our hearts are all the same, and we have to care for each other's hearts in order to keep them that way. Pretty, I mean. And your heart is my responsibility. It's my job to remind you what pretty really is. So let me be clear:
You might not always be fancy, but you will always be pretty.
Your clothes won't always sparkle, but your heart always will.
You can put on make up, but you can't cover up a hateful heart.
The world will sell you glitter in excess, but no amount of flash and shine can ever make you love yourself... that has to come from within... from that pretty heart.
Don't sell yourself short, baby. That that cheap, flimsy dress couldn't possibly hold the entirety of your worth. It doesn't even hold a candle to your beauty. You are made in the image of a God who loves you. You are lovely because he loves you. Inside and out.
A baby. Someone's baby. Face down on the shore. Washed up from the vastness they had hoped would bring them new life- water that held their fate. Desperation can be the only explanation for putting one's trust in something so volatile.
So we see the picture in the news and our hearts lurch and our stomachs turn, and so does the channel. We can't even watch as the world burns around us... And I have to wonder, are we doing enough? I don't mean our government. I mean us. I mean me. And where do we start? When our news feeds flip from one tragedy to the next, and our hands fall paper white from fear and our eyes burn and our minds race, where do we even start? And will our children see and learn from our mistakes? Will they still claim our Jesus if we sit back and wait on the bodies to wash up on our door step?
We can't say we didn't know- not just about the one dead baby in a sea of others, but about all of it. Here and abroad. In our streets and theirs. In our homes and hearts.
We can't say we didn't see the quiet racism and the systematic injustices that now spills over into outrage and boils in the streets. We can't say we didn't know of the murder of thousands in their mother's wombs before their lungs had even a chance to take in a breath. We can't claim ignorance to the disintegration of the foundations of families, hidden in the shadows of the internet where promises of instant gratification and self glorification live.
We can't say we didn't see. And if we see, we can't stand stock still while there is work to be done.
So what do we do? Where does that leave us? Shouldn't we feel the same desperation in our hearts to help a broken and dying world that those migrants felt before putting their hope in the water and cramming their courage into a boat?
Go. Move. Help. Be the Church.
I'm not talking about earning your way into heaven. I'm talking about embracing your humanity and conceding that we're all in this boat together, and our only hope is in the water.
There is hope in Christ.
There is truth.
The only water that holds the promise of life...
My name is Chelsea. Redeemed. Wife. Mommy. Photographer. Light Chaser. I hope you find light here too.