Sunday, January 24, 2016


My mother, Melinda Lane Stranko Goodman, was a beautiful woman.
An overweight teenager who got pregnant with me at 19 and my sister at 24, she became heavier with both pregnancies, and disliked who stared back at her in the mirror every day for the first thirty-some years of her life. She longed for outward beauty. Then, her season came. Mom found a way to gain control of her life through a nearly 100 pound weight loss, make-up...and, really big hair!

Despite how she may have felt about herself on the outside, my mother was always beautiful on the inside. Her glass was perpetually half full, instead of half empty. The weather forecast was always partly sunny in her mind, versus partly cloudy. She never longed for many material items, for she appreciated the little things in life. And, I never knew her to truly sweat the small stuff. She had a positive perspective on most days, and embraced her situation, no matter how gloomy the outlook may have appeared. That large smile of hers lit up a room, and her laughter was utterly contagious.  She was the epitome of pretty.

For those who knew my mother in her thirties and forties, they recognized a tall, slender woman who seemed to be in good shape. She strived to be healthy and strong. And, most of all, she always looked pretty. She was not vain, but her outward appearance was very important to her. She exercised for at least an hour to two a day and utilized at least another nearly two hours on her hair and face. Deep down, even at her prettiest, I’m confident my mom didn’t think the woman who peered back at her was pretty.

I spent many years longing for her attention and priority, especially in those few years when she made herself the priority for the first time in her life…those few years before she left us. As a "tween," I witnessed my mother's transition into a stronger, more confidant woman, but the impact was not-so-positive on me as her young daughter.  She got up enough courage to say enough was enough. She wanted a new life, free from the chains of her past. My family was broken, and my heart ached with hurt and resentment over the mom I watched walk out the door with only the clothes on her back.

Hurt and resentment. That’s that kind of stuff that makes the soul ugly.  Resentment over her absence in my life manifested jealousy, greed, negativity and anger in my soul that festered for many years. And, I let it block us from the genuine love our hearts could have experienced as adult mother and daughter.

Although we had several years in my early adulthood to make up for some lost time, the pain from the past hung over our relationship like a sort-of-fog. The cloud didn’t completely overtake us, but it certainly prevented me from genuinely letting her back in to my heart. Sadly enough, my God took her home long before I had the chance to completely appreciate her inner and outer beauty all wrapped up into one fantastic person. For now as a wife and mother, I not only understand how important it is to prioritize the time to do things that make me look and feel pretty, but more importantly, I long to be pretty on the inside, just like she was.

During daily mass this past week, I sat in a center pew in plain view of Jesus hanging on the wooden cross of St. Bernadette Parish. And, it struck me how much more joy there is to be had, and that My God wants me to find it through his son, Jesus Chris. As I sat gazing up at His son’s body hanging on the cross above me, a deep longing to just be prettier over-took me…and not an external beauty.  I finally realized how badly my soul just longs to be joyfully-pretty.

My God always has a plan. And, I’ve never doubted that. But, his adversary, the ugliest of them all, can meet us in places we never knew he existed, and take us for a ride we don’t even know we are on, until we’re deep into his pit of darkness. And, although My God is always there right beside me, I have my own free will. And, that freewill chose to be ugly for quite some time, despite my faith and the love I am blessed to have all around me.

This journey called life can get messy. But, thank goodness we have a Savior to bring us out of those ugly places. I want to be pretty. I want my husband to feel love when I’m in his presence. I want my children to think of joy when they think of their mommy. I want my friends to know HIS peace when they know me. This seems so simple. And, it truly is. A content soul breeds peace, love and joy, and that’s what I long for these days, because that’s what makes a human being genuinely pretty.  And, that’s the kind of woman I long to be.

My God, make me prettier. For, as the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for you (Psalm 42).