Many moons ago, before I worried about the lines on my forehead or the weird colored spots on my nose, I said I'd never wear shorts or a skirt without tanned legs. I would watch my pale skinned mother put on her shorts to work in the yard or her dress to go to church and just be appalled at the revealing of her white legs. Of course, for my mom, tanned legs were only a distant dream. She knew she didn't tan well and had given up on the idea of golden brown legs before I was even born. But I also would see women out and about at the grocery store or the mall bearing white legs without even a second thought and wonder to myself, "How could they do that?"
I now understand. The years of baking myself in the sun or the tanning bed have left their marks on my skin, and my need to be unnaturally bronzed in early Spring has long died and been replaced with the practicality and healthiness of white legs. And life goes on. And so yesterday, I did something I swore so long ago I'd never do... I put on a cute knee-length denim skirt and walked right on into church, white legs and all. No one died. The Earth's rotation did not pause for even half a second as I once believed it would. But the one thing that died just a little was a part of that youthful vanity I once prided myself in. And I will say that it was harder for me to bare those white legs than I'd like to admit, but I reminded myself on Sunday morning as I dressed that the Good Lord above could care less what shade my legs are.
I also had another flashback while sitting in church yesterday morning. I flashed back to a day when I saw a woman in a short dress with a body slimmer on underneath. She was sitting in this weird sort of position, and her body shaper was showing, and I remember looking at her and saying, "I'll never!" Oh, but now I have. I donned my body shaper yesterday morning to wear a skirt I've had in my closet for four years. The purchase was made ten pounds ago, and it does still fit (just a little more snugly now). So I decided to wear my slimming body shaper to cut down on any rolling over at the top that the snugness might induce. When I sat down in church and crossed my legs, I realized that if I moved a little to the left or right in my seat, the body shaper peaked its way out. I couldn't very well reveal pasty white legs and a body shaper in one day - especially on Easter Sunday. So I spent a very uncomfortable 45 minutes positioning myself in the perfect way so as not to expose my secret weapon. Needless to say, my vanity is not entirely dead.
Even though many of my thoughts about Easter, especially in the week leading up to actually sitting down in the sanctuary and listening to the music and words from the pastor, revolve around clothes and appearances, I did clear my mind and think about the true meaning of the day. I listened as our pastor talked about how this year's Easter felt much different than it did even a short two years ago. How times right now are so uncertain for so many. How our economic world has so rapidly declined and taken its toll on the people and marriages and businesses of our community. But one thing has remained the same through it all - the blessed story of Easter, the love of our Lord and Savior, and the fact the He is risen indeed.
One of my favorite scriptures in the Bible is Romans 8:11.
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in
you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who lives in you.
I will never forget the day I read it, though I can't give you a date and time. But I do know it was the first time I read the entire New Testament for myself all the way through in the Fall of 2001. I wanted to read it for myself, not with a devotional book or a high school Bible teacher's interpretation. I wanted to look at the words and read them and devise my own opinions about what it meant in my life. When I came across those words in Romans, it was the first moment in my life that I actually believed that the Spirit of God lived in me. And it also opened my heart to it's amazing power.
It's the same Spirit. The very same one who raised Jesus from the dead, who rolled the stone away, lives inside me. That Spirit is yet another gift of grace that God offers His children. I've done nothing to deserve it, yet He offers it freely anyway, despite any and all of my misgivings. And what an amazing thought that was - and still is - to me. Perhaps I haven't quite taken it all in and learned to use that power to its fullest, but that's where my spiritual growth comes into play. I am learning and growing in that Spirit every day, and where I mess up and fall, He's there to cover me with His wisdom and grace.
So I sat in church yesterday morning thinking about the woman I've become. The woman I'd like to be. My strong points. My weak points. And I was reminded of that scripture from Romans as I listened to the pastor and adjusted my skirt for the 39th time so that my body shaper didn't make its debut on Easter morning. And I came to a conclusion that I am pretty happy with who I am today. Am I perfect? Nope. I am indeed perfectly flawed... some days I think I am tragically flawed, but I have to remember that I have an amazing power alive and well in my soul. Sometimes I think that I can't make it through the next hour of the day much less the week ahead, but then I need to remind myself that the same power that can raise the dead is moving and pulsing through my heart. The very same power who formed the mountains and the seas, that brought a baby Jesus into the world through means that seemed impossible, that allowed Jesus to grow up and in His adulthood be killed in the most physically cruel way imaginable, and then rolled the stone away and revealed a living, breathing, walking once-dead man... well, that's the Spirit that lives within me. It's the same one. The same eternal, omnipotent force and gift to us all. And if that doesn't put a little hope in your heart, I don't know what will.
So, pasty white legs, body slimmer and all.... I am learning to be that woman. That woman God would have me to be. Trying to lose the vanity and pride in things that don't really matter. Trying to work on the issues in my life that might hinder the power that lives inside me. Trying to become the woman that doesn't care what the world says I need to do or be or look like, but rather care about the contents of my heart. Because, you know, it's a tough place to be right now in this crazy mixed up world - a woman of 33 years of age. It's even tougher when I realize that Jesus was probably around my age when He gave up His life for the souls of so many. Millions and millions of which would curse His name, would waste their years on this Earth worried about tanned legs and fat rolls, would spend their time honoring the desires of their heart instead of the desires of His heart. I've been guilty of all these things, but I am working fervently on living a life more pleasing to the man who gave it all up for me. To be the wife I need to be... the mom I'm called to be... to use the talents He so generously bestowed on me... to be that woman.