It was the morning of my 34th birthday. I had only been living back in the USA for 3 months and was on the verge of a nervous breakdown (spoiler alert that nervous breakdown took place 3 months later).  My mom and I were in the car on the way to get Mani/Pedi- gotta have the cuticles in order for your day.  As we drove, my mom started talking about her favorite tree, the Crepe Myrtle.  She tells me about them often, partially because she doesn’t remember she has told me a dozen times before, but mostly because she really does love their beauty.  Yet this time as my mind contemplated which OPI nail color would best suit my birthday dress, my mom told me something about her beloved tree, something she had never said, or maybe had said a dozen times, but my mind had started to wander by the time she reached this tidbit.  Whether said before or not, I heard it that July 15th, the day of my birth, the day my heart needed hope.

She told me that when they first moved down to the Carolinas that it had been winter.  Mama loves how the Pansies are always in bloom in the winter.  She said she had noticed the Crepe Myrtle tree because it looked like a bunch of scrawny little legs.  She noticed that this ugly tree was everywhere.  But then came the spring and they started to blossom into these majestic trees.  Mama said, “I put up with their ugliness cause when they bloom they are stunning!”

I instantly thought of my ugliness, the depression that was surrounding me, choking me so that it hurt to breathe most days.  I saw my bitchiness, this nasty voice that kept snapping at everything.  Everyone around me heard the nasty voice, but what they couldn’t hear was the whispering that followed, “I don’t want to be this way. Make it stop!  It’s choking me.”  I was slugging through my days depressed and snapping at those I love most, which was of course hurt their feelings, making me feel guilty and ashamed, and in turn, the depression deepened to yet another level.  I was an ugly set of legs shooting out of the ground or so I thought.  I was sure that people were just putting up with me.  I was defined by the ugliness inside me that was leaping out all over the place.

Later that day my dad gave me my birthday card. He started by saying, “Sunshine, I have claimed Philippians 1:6 for you, “Being confident of this, that He who began a  good work within you, Sunshine, will carry it out unto completion until the day of Jesus Christ”.  He continued on by reminding me that God had started a great work in me.  I have a relationship with God.  He spoke of my intelligence, ability to grasp different cultures, physical beauty, and my exceptional personality.  But then he told me that he believed that God wanted to accomplish something great with my life.  He told me God was preparing me for that purpose.  “God takes time in building great people.  Greater the building, the great the time, cost, and effort.  I could not be prouder of you. I love you, dad.”

In this card my dad was not glazing over my struggles, he was validating them.  He spoke of my heartaches and depression.  He did not know why things were turning out the way that they were, yet he threw in a curveball, a reminder, a hope because he knows who I truly am at heart.  My dad was seeing past my ugly skinny legs, “putting up “ with all that was choking me because he was confident that when I bloomed again I would be stunning.  He knew that winter was upon me and I could not stop it, and like my mom, he knew that spring was coming.  He believed wholeheartedly in my Crepe Myrtle beauty that had yet to reveal itself. His belief awoke my heart to what was yet to unfold.

Ten years later, writing this blog, I am in awe of how God continually turns my ugliness into His beauty. The key to it all, the secret to unlocking the beauty, is to let God have your ugliness. God knows your heart better than you do. He sees past your ugly scrawny legs and knows that Spring is coming. When you let God have your ugliness, when you accept it and let it out, that’s when the beauty begins to grow. Accepting where you are in life and acknowledging that to God, that’s when you start to see your authentic self. Let God turn your scrawny legs into a blossoming stunning tree!