Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Truth Behind The Trim

In the last week, I’ve done some pretty normal things.

I took my kids to school.
We had neighbors over.
I got a haircut.
I went to church.
We got our family pictures taken.  

But for me – for me, these things were monumental. Because for me, it was the first time in 5 years I was going to let people really see me.

Some of you may know that a few months into my marriage I learned I was pregnant with Adelaide. The part of the story that you don’t know is that this change in my body caused a massive shift– it meant I lost all my hair.

My whole life I’ve struggled with a disease called alopecia. It is an auto-immune disease that is mostly charged by hormones and a confused immune system. Severeties of alopecia range from very minimal to complete and total hair loss throughout the whole body.

So, when I say “I lost my hair” I mean…it was all gone. Two months into my pregnancy -- it was unavoidable.  I was losing hair by the fistful and nothing was helping. 

After we joyfully announced our pregnancy to friends and family, I came home and cried the most tears I've ever cried while I sat in our kitchen and my husband shaved my head.  The hair loss was so severe I had no other options but to brave my weird hair patches in public, or wear a wig. 
{Sidenote: This makes my husband the most awesome man ever. He has played an incredible role in how I feel about all this; more on that later. But for now, all I need to say is if there was a husband lottery to win -- I won it, no contest}

Because what you see above was my reality...I chose a wig. 
And, for the last five years – that has been my story. I’ve worn wigs to the beach & to the playground. I’ve worn a wig while doing yardwork and while in labor and delivery. I’ve smiled nicely as people tell me they “hate me” because my body is “so unaffected” by pregnancy and I just “look so perfect” all the time.

This period of my life has taught me a lot – the hard way, of course!

I’ve learned that as a universal truth, people go through more than what you see. Sometimes they share their journey because they need encouragement; sometimes they hide it because they know there is nothing anyone can do.

Because of my hair loss I've learned understanding. I may not have the classic signs of pregnancy like weight gain or stretch marks... but I can understand how pregnancy changes a body and makes us feel self-conscious.

I've learned to be encouraging. I never felt like the prettiest girl, but I always felt pretty enough. When I started wearing a wig and feeling ashamed of how I looked, I learned to notice people who felt ashamed, too. I learned that I could hang back and encourage them with their struggle. 

I've learned to thank God that this disease, while untreatable, is not life threatening. It doesn't effect my ability to play with my kids. I don't question if this disease will prevent me from being with my children as they grow up. It has given me some pretty amazing perspective on "what is important".

I've learned about the importance of teaching TRUE beauty to the children in my life. It isn't how we look or what we wear. It's how we feel and how we treat others. 

I’ve learned to make genuine friends who care more about character than style. Perhaps that is age, perhaps it is because of my struggle, but I’ve learned how to easily spot the shallow women and separate them from women who are rich in love and encouraging characteristics.

I've learned to cry, and be sad. And I've learned that is OK. Not everything God allows in our life is good. It is for good, but it doesn't always feel that way. On that same page, I've learned that it is OK to be angry with God. Having requested -- and been denied -- his healing hasn't been easy. It would be so easy for God to take this burden from me, but he has yet to do so. 

As I raise a little girl and show three little boys what a woman really is…I’ve questioned how “a real woman” is defined.  By me, by society and by God. I’ve explored what I’m told I am…and I’ve dreamed on what I wish I was.

At the end of the day, we are left with reality. And my reality…my truth…is that I live with a disease that has no cure. So do I hide that; or do I share it in humility and faith that people with character and integrity will still be my friend anyway?   

Do I thank everyone for their compliments on my new hair, or do I shout from the rooftops how incredibly free and wonderful and scared and different I feel?

God planned this for me. He wrote it out. I truly believe I am HIS child and he LOVES ME -- and I believe in His promise that he will not cause PAIN without creating something new. So yes, I believe it IS important to embrace yourself AS YOU ARE, even when you don't see how it fits.

I don't know His plan. But I know he placed this in my life to make me a better person. He will use my struggle to advance his kingdom. I don't know HOW and I don't know why he couldn't have picked me to do something else -- like, um… ANYTHING else. But He didn't. 

And that's ME.

 So I have to embrace it. God knew I wouldn't go quietly, so he had to give me something I couldn't overlook. I struggle with that, as I still so badly just want to be a beautiful wife and mother with gorgeous hair. 

But what I WANT and what God can use are obviously different. I haven't embraced it perfectly. I've kept silent about my disease while leaning in to God for WHY he has given this to me.

Today…for the first time in 5 years… people told me I was beautiful, and I don’t take one single comment for granted. I appreciate each one more than you could know, because for the first time it is authentically me that they are complimenting instead of a wig.

My hair is finally coming back, but this is an unpredictable disease. It can grow beautifully for the rest of my life, or all fall out tomorrow.

There are many aspects of this that I’d love to expand on {and will at some point} but today I’m sharing simply to encourage. 

I’m here to tell you that YOU are beautiful. Not your outfit, your shoes…your makeup or YOUR HAIR. Just YOU.

Your heart. Your talents.

You are strong. You are lovely. You are important. You are valued. You are needed. You. Are. Beautiful.