Copyright 2015 Heidi Bratton. All rights reserved. Copyright 2015 Heidi Bratton. All rights reserved.

It’s beach season once again, which brings both its blessings and its curses. After a frightfully cold winter where I live in the upper Midwest, I have a ridiculous amount of joy at being able to simply toss on a pair of flip-flops and head outside, instead of having to carefully wrap every inch of my body in a hat, scarf, mittens, coat, snow pants, socks and boots before even opening the front door. What a blessing that while my ankle-length down parka is long forgotten in the back of my closet, my swimsuit hangs on a hook right outside the closet door.

Of course the “curse” is that wearing a swimsuit on a daily basis requires a bit more positive self-talk than does wearing a parka.

You see, I didn’t lose the ten pounds I meant to lose since last Christmas’ baking season. I also didn’t get around to all the exercise and muscle toning I resolved to do on New Year’s Eve. And all those spider veins that emerged during my pregnancies, well, those also make me a bit self-conscious; even wishing to dig my parka out of the back of the closet in spite of the hot weather.

Now wait a second; there’s an idea…

Oh, but no. No, no, that wouldn’t actually help. Wearing an ankle-length parka while floating on my inflatable raft at the lake would likely have more rather than fewer people looking at me, just to see if I weren’t perhaps a walrus floating on an iceberg!

Fortunately for me, right about the time my swimsuit and my parka were swapping places in my closet, wedding photographs of Bethany Hamilton were being featured on several of my social media newsfeeds. Bethany is the beautiful young woman who survived a shark attack at age thirteen, but in the process lost her left arm. Her story was dramatized in the 2011 movie, Soul Surfer. My newsfeeds were highlighting photographs from Bethany’s 2013 wedding due to the recent birth of the couple’s first child, Tobias.

Analyzing the photographs as a professional photographer, I couldn’t help but wonder why every photograph of Bethany positions her so as to highlight the fact that she does not have a left arm. It wouldn’t be difficult at all, and in fact it would probably more natural in appearance, to take a photograph of her from her right side or with her left side tucked under her husband’s embrace.

Of course, the reason is that Bethany’s not having a left arm is not something for her to hide. It is something which proclaims the incredible miracle that despite being attacked by a shark, Bethany is ALIVE!

As I thought about this a bit longer, I wondered, “Well if that is true, and it is true, then why can’t I look at my body – especially the pudgy, unshapely and varicose veins parts - and think, ‘Hey, having these parts mean that I am ALIVE! Okay, and better still? Having these (and the stretch marks on my tummy which I truly never feel the need to show in public, even if it is swimsuit season), mean not only that I am ALIVE, but that this body has miraculously survived carrying and giving birth to six precious babies! In other words these changes to my physical appearance mean that I am a MOM! And that is nothing to hide.’ ”

God saw fit to give us bodies as well as souls. And although it can be a real challenge in a culture which glorifies certain body types over others and exhaults youthful bodies above all others, acceptance and care of the shape and size of the beautiful earthen vessel God saw fit to give each of us should be our goal. Because our bodies are temples for the Holy Spirit we are called to accept, care for and love them just as they are (1 Corinthians 6:12-20).

And when it comes to changes in the appearance of our bodies, whether it is due to something as dramatic as Bethany’s loss of her arm to a shark attack or as natural as the loss of our natural hair color to growing older, having any body at all means we are ALIVE, and that alone is reason enough to throw on a swimsuit and head to the water every day that we can!

Well, that is, unless you live in the upper Midwest, where all bodies of water will be freezing over again any day now. So, I guess all this means the game is on, Mom-friend; race your beautiful earthen vessel to the lake!


Copyright 2015 Heidi Bratton
Photo copyright 2015 Heidi Bratton. All rights reserved.