Happy October 1st, Friends. I’m exited to introduce you to today’s guest blogger, Niki Hardy. Niki and I became acquainted through our writing coach, and I feel I’ve known her all my life. She has an incredible story, an endearing English accent, and a raw, warm likableness that can’t help but captivate you. When at the SheSpeaks Conference in North Carolina, I got to meet her in person, and gobbled up every second of the half hour we had to connect. It’s amazing how God intersects people’s paths, and I feel blessed to know her, learn from her, and see God reflected in her story.
He was my age. He had kids. Surely his wife had a stretch mark or two somewhere on her mid riff, even if she didn’t have a herd of silver zebra stripes that were perpetually grazing across the sagging plains of her belly, like mine. I had hoped he’d understand. All I was asking for was a small nip and tuck – a mere inch or three while he was down there chopping away the rest of me. But no – a tummy tuck was definitely not included.
By the time I landed this highly inappropriate question on my poor, unsuspecting surgeon, I’d known for a couple of weeks that I’d need major abdominal surgery. I’d had time to come to terms with the fact that, like my mum and my sister before me, I had cancer, and that mine was rectal cancer. I’d even stopped vomiting at the thought of having a cancerous tumor the size of a Rhode Island up my unmentionable orifice, and the prospect of two rounds of chemo, radiation, surgery, and six months of an ostomy bag that would allow me to walk, talk and poop all at the same time.
By the end of it all, I’d be left with a digestive system that would have a mind of its own, and the timing of a recalcitrant toddler.
The bottom had fallen out of my world and the world was about to fall out of my bottom.
Surely I had the right to a little upside? Just one teeny weenie tummy tuck …pretty please!
But no, I wasn’t allowed to put in an advance pre-order for any kind of cancer-upside. God was going to take care of that Himself, without consulting me first.
Since meeting Bekah, with her endless energy (that is only matched by the perpetual bounce of her golden curls and her infectious smile), I’ve thought a lot about the notion of upcycling.
She’s challenged me to see the dents, dings, scratches, rust, faded paint and scars of our lives, as beautiful. Viewed as part of the whole. Valued and cherished. Confidently celebrated – “the beauty in the every day”.
But would she include my scars in that? Could I include my scars?
My bikini days were irretrievably lost to the sands of time long before I had cancer, so apart from the odd moment when I’d try to squeeze into my “I’ll slim into them” jeans, and my scar tissue stubbornly made a bid for freedom out beyond my muffin top, nobody saw my scars. Nobody had an issue with them.
Nobody except me.
When I looked down at the lines of glued, sewn, and stapled flesh adorning my post-surgery belly, all I saw was sickness, weakness, ugliness and the harsh statistics of cancer recurrence, obstinately staring back at me. So I didn’t look. I kept my head up and the lights off.
What possible upside could there be to this ugliness?
The truth is, a tummy tuck would have just been a cosmetic band-aid for my low self-esteem and my spiraling self pity. And in my experience, God isn’t in the business of covering up our junk, or sweeping it under the carpet of fake perfection. He likes to look at us, just as we are (scars and all), and smile. He likes to transform us, heal us, mature us, and make us more like his Son.
I imagine that’s why He showed me His scars afresh.
He gave me fresh eyes to see the gruesome marks on His out stretched hands as the visual epitome of unconditional love, redemption and forgiveness, and through them, He’s whispered tenderly to me “I love you – I went through this for you.”
With those fresh eyes I started to catch a glimpse of God’s deep love for me and His healing and His presence throughout my treatment. And now, when I look down at my own scars, I no longer see sickness, weakness and ugliness. I see His love, His healing, His calling, and His faithfulness. I see my scars as a road map of my story in Him and with Him.
As God has begun the process of upcycling how I look at my scars, and who I am in Him, a wonderland of opportunities has opened up to me. Quite unexpectedly I’ve become a writer, a blogger, a speaker. An encourager to all of us who’ve had the bottom fall out of our world.
If I’d got my nip and tuck as I’d hoped, I’d have missed this spiritual upcycling; seeing Jesus’ scars afresh, being called beautiful, and being invited further on and further into my story with the world’s first and greatest upcycle artist.
Won’t you join me?
Do you have scars? Perhaps on your thighs, or buried in your fragile heart or deep in your delicate soul? Can I encourage you to allow God to see them and call them beautiful. He loves you just as you are and He wants to invite you further on and further into the upcycle journey He has for you.
Niki Hardy is a self confessed dog lover, fresh air junkie and tea drinker who grew up in London England. Having come to faith rather unexpectedly in the first year of marriage, Niki and her husband now pastor CityChurch Charlotte in North Carolina. Six years after her mum died of cancer, and just six weeks after her sister died of the same disease, Niki was diagnosed with rectal cancer. Through this difficult journey God has given Niki a passion for connecting with people in whatever struggles they face, encouraging them that God wants to meet them in the mess of life, and that He loves them no matter what. She is a say-it-as-it-is kind of girl that’s happy to talk poop, belly laugh, and give thanks in all things. Join her at: mystorymygod.com