Airy, spring colors are in full bloom on clothing racks as heavier knits hang dully on clearance aisles. Mannequins with slender frames highlight A-line dresses of sunburst, peony, lilac and vintage blue. Lace overlays on silken skirts offer fitted bodices with satin buttons and bows.

An old photograph forms in my mind when I was asked to stand still for a brief moment while I hunted candy-filled Easter eggs in my Sunday best. My eyes were as bright as the sun … perhaps brighter. I sparkled with confidence. You can almost hear my giggle and feel my impatience as I look to my mama for permission to get back to the hunt. With one hand on my hip and the other swinging a partially filled basket, I gave little notice to the chocolate and grass stains upon my ivory scalloped ruffles. I was in search of color.

Today is no exception as my fingertips glide upon dresses as if they are dusted with childhood memories. My arms are weighted as full as an Easter basket as I find an open dressing room. Almost giddy, I rearrange the collection so the yellow dress is the final one for me to slip on. I want to end wearing sunshine.

Undressing, I begin to take notice of the girl in the mirror looking back at me. I stand amazed at how much life has been lived in this skin. My whole life. Memories encased in scars and stretch marks, laugh lines, and freckles. Wrinkles have become time’s road map - rivers and intersections of ages and stages.

The fluorescent lights are harsh, prickling my body like a voodoo doll in the hands of my inner critic. The sparkle from my eyes darkens with each shadowed highlight that reveals a figure which struggles with forgiveness of self. Whatever sassy confidence I once had as a child has been spirited away – gone without discerning the moment when it departed. Perhaps it left quietly in a million small moments. Each of which has led me here.

Fit legs, toned arms, a flat stomach – these no longer belong to this girl at this age on this day. And as much as I use clothing to accentuate my personality and cover my jiggles and lumps, seeing myself bare under the spotlights leaves me with little doubt of how much I have changed along time’s road.

Somewhere along the way, I stopped wearing shorts. A year or two later, I stopped wearing sleeveless tops. Bulky calves and ankles, flabby arms, extra weight and soft muscles became what I saw in the mirror. I became a “what” more than a “who.”

I told myself my body was unappealing. I left the little girl in the chocolate- and grass-stained dress holding an empty basket void of color. And there are days that girl stands still long enough to grab my attention, taking her hand from her hip and reaching out to take hold of her older self – pulling me into the sunshine.

I want to tell you I bought the dresses. I want to tell you that I remembered that these scars and stretch marks helped gift me my testimony, children, and days many never experience. I have not forgotten how to be thankful. I am truly thankful. What I misplace, now and then, is my acceptance of self.

I love the me that God gave me. I do. I love her. But that does not mean I do not struggle with what and who she is, at times. As I age, I am actively learning more and more to love the body I have today … not the body I had yesterday or the body I wish for tomorrow.

I am working on being mindful of how these bulky calves and ankles take me places – often into the company of those of whom I love. The scars are evidence that I am not a victim but an overcomer. My stretch marks are proof that part of my life beats in three hearts now grown. These flabby arms still give amazing hugs. And this extra weight was gained celebrating birthdays, weddings and toasting the simple beauty found within each day.

I can purchase the dress, but I need to give myself something first. Intentional effort, love, forgiveness and acceptance. I need to engage in the process of replacing unhealthy habits with wellness and balance. I need to gift myself the grace of a new view. With a new view, I will have a new reflection. I will reflect a girl who is patient and kind with herself and strengthens herself with loving thoughts and actions. I will bask in the gentle light which shines upon the road of time.

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’” (John 8:12).

I want to end wearing sunshine, so this age on this day seems like a fine moment to begin. It may take many small moments to see a change, and I may have many more rivers and intersections to cross ahead. But I am choosing to stay on the bright side of the road. After all, I am in search of color.

SGLY, dear reader.

(Smile, God Loves You.)

Tiffany Kaye Chartier is a Christian Author and opinion columnist. Submit feedback and connect for more soul lifts on Facebook: Tiffany Kaye Chartier; Instagram:@tiffanysgly; and Twitter: @tiffanychartier. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group.