smile lines

It’s always worst on Sunday mornings.  I wait until the last minute to get dressed, letting the little man who still shares our bedroom get as long of a nap as possible before we go to church (where naps are now impossible for him, unlike some of the other people who go there).

I pull the outfit from the closet that I’d been thinking of wearing.  It would match the dresses I had picked out for the girls.  I slip it on, as the little guy in the playpen wakes up.

I tug, I pull, I turn around.  But nothing makes it connect where I want it to.  Everything sticks out where it’s not supposed to.

I yank it off.  I pull open my drawer, digging around to find option number two.

Rinse.  Repeat.

By the time my husband comes in to investigate crying baby and quiet wife, he finds the still unmade bed littered with discarded outfits, the closet open, the bottom dresser drawer overflowing with the shirts bearing evidence of an extensive rifling.

He knows better than to say anything.  He holds the baby while I race to the bathroom to put on my makeup, impatiently brushing past the little girls who want me to admire their pretty dresses.

It’s not that I am satisfied with the way I look in the outfit I have on—it’s just that we’re already late.

I try to keep the tears from coming and ruining my makeup, as I have the familiar conversation with myself on the way to church.

You should choose your outfits the night before. But I never know what the weather will be like—or what I’ll feel like wearing! You’ve got to remember you’re a nursing mother of a young baby.  But I want to be pretty for my husband!  Then you’ve got to stop eating so many cookies.  But my husband likes to have goodies around to eat.  Then you need to start exercising.  When?

I heave a big sigh.  About that time, his hand slips off the steering wheel and reaches over to grab mine.

“I love you,” he whispers, squeezing my hand.

I try to smile back.

I know he loves me no matter how I look.  But I want to look nice for him.  He might prefer you looking happy to looking skinny.  Thanks, conscience.

IMG_5036And we get to church and I paste on a smile and it becomes a real one as I walk into the love and warmth of our church family.

A church family filled with wrinkled, stretched-out, post-menopausal,  graying, old ladies.  Some of the most beautiful ladies I’ve ever known.

Husbands’ arms around them (those whose husbands aren’t already in Heaven), laugh lines around their eyes, contentment shaping their faces.  Their children are getting cancer, their friends are going home to Heaven at an increasing rate.  But they are the light of the nursing home, the ones with the most praises to share on Sunday mornings.

I look around and realize that even though my daughters will probably fit that shirt I wore the day we started courting before I will again, it’s not really size that matters.

IMG_5045He always said he loved my smile, so maybe I should work more at putting it on instead of those jeans.

Maybe beauty has a lot less to do with size than with attitude.

I look over at him holding the crayons for those children who helped make my body look like this.  And I forget my clothes and my shape as I smile at the love in his eyes.

The weight will come off in its own sweet time.  Meanwhile, there are three little people learning their definition of beauty from me.

I’m working on those smile lines already.


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  1. I often wonder what kind of old lady I will end up being. One of the ones that radiants the inner beauty and peace that you describe here, I hope! Lovely post about what beauty really is.

  2. It’s as if you took the words I would have spoken, because they are words I am always thinking about, “I know he loves me no matter how I look. But I want to look nice for him.”

    Since my husband and I got married, over 29 1/2-years ago now, I have gained 107 pounds (he’s gained 100). But I carry the weight so much differently than he does. He is just over 6 feet, and I am just shy of 5 feet 4 inches. So I am short, stout and plump. LOL! But he does loves me, and says he likes me, no matter what I think of me.

    Thank you for this blog. It has encouraged me. I, too, will now work on that smile!

  3. Great post, Gretchen! Would you mind if I did this as a link on my facebook? I don’t know you, but I htink my mommy friends would be blessed by this. Thanks for writing. You are such an encouragement!

  4. So beautiful that I started crying… it’s so easy to become focused on our outward appearances and how nice and beautiful we want to look and then forget what is truly important in life.

    Keep smiling!

  5. This was a wonderful post! My mother in law just told me something that she’s learned about being a wife/helpmeet. It’s challenged me in my attitude – she said that we need to remember that as a wife, God created us to be enjoyed! It seems so simple, but as I run around after my two small kids it helps to remember it’s not about what I get accomplished that day, is about how I go about accomplishing those (few) things. And that a smile for my husband is more important than clean floors. And stopping to listen to him for 5 minutes, or just to sit silently beside him, is more important than the dishes in the sink. It’s a constant battle to get it all done and be there for everyone that counts on me, but remembering that making myself a joy to be around is more important than all that helps me keep things in perspective.

    I love reading you blog!

  6. As the Mother of a 3 month old (5th baby in 8 1/2 years) I could have written this myself. This is my Sunday Struggle. It’s the only day of the week I have any reason to get dressed up, do my hair, wear makeup, and I want to look good. I want to look pretty for my husband, be a classy woman for my children to look up to…*sigh*
    But, this was such a gentle reminder of what is important. Thank you so very much.

  7. Wow, I think this post ranks right up under “His Beauty” (which happens to be my all time favorite ylcf post). I will definitely read this one again over the years, often. And I’ll try not to fret as much about the jeans, and rather make sure the smile he fell in love with is on. A very timely reminder. Thank you!

  8. I think this post ranks right up under “His Beauty” that you wrote for (which is my all time favorite ylcf post). I will definitely go back to this one. And remember to put on the smile he fell in love with rather than the right jeans…

  9. Beautiful, Gretchen. I will try to remember these words on Sunday when I will also, inevitably, have a meltdown. You continue to bless me, cousin-in-law 🙂 .