The smell of hot cement and a 12 year old's thoughts

The smell of steaming concrete heated by the summer sun and splashed by chlorined water hits my nose as I swim over to the edge of the pool to rest...and all of a sudden I am not a 41 year old mom with her teens at the pool, I am my 12 year old self, body concious in a swimsuit that shows all too clearly my flat chest and stick straight figure, shorter than all of the other girls, nothing to command the attentions that every young female around the pool is dying to catch.

It was a "Christian" event, a pool party of hundreds with a Bible study slapped in and picnic lunches on the grounds where youth groups checked each other out, boys throwing footballs and loud and physical, and girls arranging their brown limbs in attractive poses nonchalantly, and lots of giggling and big hair. There is an art to casually cutting your eyes in a flirty way during prayer time, finding the one who paid you some attention to stand beside as the group hold hands in "spiritual unity."

I was pale. Small. Childish in a sea of the effects of puberty hormones that didn't hit me like the ones around me. And all that insecurity, the disappointment in my myself over what I could do nothing about, the sadness in not feeling chosen or noticed, it hits me with unexpected force these almost 30 years later.

I want to go back to that girl, so fragile, so dependent on what people thought... I want to tell her the truth about herself, and how this is not her permanent reality, this sense of standing on the outside looking in. The truth is, what I can see not looking back through the eyes of wisdom that only the tunnel of time can give you, every young person around that Olympic sized pool, swimming and splashing in it, jumping from the impossibly high diving platform, perched on loungers with bright colored beach towels, congregating around tables with snack bar drinks, spraying hair spray in the moldy bathrooms- they all felt the same way, in some form or another. I was not alone in my fears, worries, insecurities, and now, I know this. I wish she had.

I wish she had known she could hold her head up and trust that Jesus had a plan for her future that didn't depend on if her bathing suit was filled out in the way she wanted. I wish I could tell her that all the dreams and joy inside her did not depend on if she fit in with the crowd around the snack bar, that her longing to be one of the girls with inside jokes and flirty glances would never fill her heart, but Jesus knew that one day He would give her a man who would love her enough to sacrifice for her, and whose affections would not be based on beauty, that this is what would make her feel cherished and give her confidence enough to stand up straight.

I would say to her that even though I now wear a bathing suit that covers flaws her smooth, flat young body could not even imagine, I have peace from the power of knowing what this body can do and from watching it accomplish what it was designed for: growing 5 children, nourishing them, holding them close, surviving days of no sleep, loving a man through 20 years. She could not understand it, if I could explain it all; youth is free from the burdens of the future while closed to all the lessons it hasn't learned from experiencing it yet.

I feel all of the fears and hurt of that girl in a rush in a moment, and at the same time, distance from all these emotions that I have gained from listening to the voice of God for the years from age 12 to 41. I say to her, inside my mind, we have come a long way.

And I push off to swim again, through the cool water, to move on, to be grateful the years, and grace, have brought me from then to this.