Am I Pretty or Ugly? Little Girls, the Media and Self-Esteem…

The other night I spoke to a group of amazing young women at Fristers –a non-profit dedicated to equipping and empowering teen moms.

I talked on PURITY and that it’s never too late –which is clearly God’s sense of humor.  How I became the poster child for no sex before marriage is still a mystery to me?  I guess it’s one of those Saul/Paul miracles –you know the guy who used to persecute Christians and then became the champion of the Christian movement?  Jesus takes the most unlikely people, wrecks them with his love and grace, and then bamm…new outlook and spokesperson status.

Laughs aside, I love encouraging these gals.  I bought into the lie for way to many years that I was only as good as I looked and that my self-esteem was intertwined with my beauty.   As I looked out at the sea of young faces I knew these sweet girls had fallen for the same bucket of deception.

And it’s getting worse and worse.

I saw on the Today Show this morning that little girls are posting pictures and videos on Facebook  asking, “Am I pretty or ugly?” allowing strangers to rate their appearance and opening the door up for bullying and predators.

Why do our little girls and our teens and truthfully –most women believe we have so little to offer?

I think it’s because we are duped from the get-go (and cursed from a certain apple incident, but that’s a whole other can of worms).

One of the things I came across recently is that men control 95% of the media we consume. Only 5% of what women consume is actually directed by women. 

What?  That means I am letting men tell me how to be a woman?

And it’s not like these are Godly men who want the best for women.  These are corrupt men who are defining what you and I believe.  And it’s a 24/7 assault on our spirits. 

I am not a big feminist.  In fact I cringe at some of the rights women think they need to be equal with men.  I believe men and women are different –and that’s something to be celebrated (in the context of equality in God’s eyes). 

But let’s be honest here, it’s the media who is the biggest enemy of the female heart, not the politicians, or the religious right or the schmuck at the office who degrades you and tells you to cut up his steak. It’s the media who controls what is before our eyes and we keep watching and encouraging the exploitation.

Every time we turn into Jersey Shore, Sweet Home Alabama and Secret’s of an American Teenager we tell Hollywood to keep pumping out more BS.  I know, I know…it’s your secret little addiction and you are a grown up.  But what about the hordes of little girl’s out there who watch the same shows and believe they need to look like a Bachelor hottie to be loved and get a rose?

It’s the disturbing and relentless messages targeting our little girl’s hearts by defining their worth and value as objects and subsequently destroying the female spirit.

The media tells us women are only as good as we look, that it’s ok to  parade us around in bikini’s and sexualize us into a piece of meat.  They tell us the size of our boobs is more important than our intellect or our hearts.  They tell us it’s ok to give our bodies away over and over but then they come back and call us trash and whores after we do. 

The reality show craze has elevated toddlers dressed as pageant tarts into celebrities, its turned teen sex into an act as normal as brushing your teeth, they’ve twisted abortion into the smart girl’s ticket to success vs. a life wasted slaving over a child’s snotty nose, while ironically shaming the courageous girls who actually take responsibility for their actions and decide to have their babies.

In college they call it a walk of shame when a girl slinks back to her dorm in her heels and party dress the morning after a hook-up.  They call it a walk of fame for a guy.  They let us buy into a sick and twisted double standard regarding men and women and sex. 

Pornography is the new norm and men are being sucked in and women are left to compete with an airbrushed image that doesn’t speak but opens her mouth and takes it.

And that’s what women are supposed to compete with? 

I don’t think so.

And I confess I am one of the guilty parties who bought into this lie from the enemy of my soul – hook line and sinker.  Even worse I perpetuated it.  I allowed myself, for a long time, to become the it-girl of the media’s distorted lie. 

But not anymore…

The other night I was able to tell these girls the TRUTH about who God says they are.

children of God. made in HIS image.  worth dying for.  radically loved. cherished. treasured.  beautiful.

After I spoke, the founder of Frister’s –Ali Woodard went around the room and had each girl take the microphone and claim her beauty.  Ali made the girl’s say out loud “I am beautiful.”

One by one, with giggles and sighs, some bold and some whispered out tremulously, the girls took a stand against the lie.

But one girl couldn’t do it.  She downright refused to accept she was anything but ugly.

She cried out, “It’s not true.  I can’t say it.  It’s a lie.”

And I stood at a distance and wept. 

What are we telling our girls?  This young lady chose life instead of killing her baby.  She has chosen to seek support and graduate from high school and pursue her dreams and be a loving mother.  But despite all of these things –inside she sees only shame and loathing and condemnation.  She sees ugly, not pretty.

Ali returned to the girl and worked with her.  It took a long time.  Finally she choked out in a small voice, “I am Beautiful.”

And I wanted to scream for all of the little girls and the big girls and the older women who don’t claim the beauty we have been given by God. 

In his image he created them.  Male and FEMALE he created them.

beautiful

  

Take some time today to tell the women in your life, especially the little ones –they are beautiful. 

Related Articles:

Beauty and Body Image in the Media

Statistics on Women in Media

 

Blessed

I’m in a wistful mood. Nostalgic. Teary. Reflective.

I lost a loved one today. It makes me want to hold onto my babies a little tighter, linger over beauty a bit longer, and enjoy the blessings I have been entrusted with.

A lovely tableau

Like antiqueing with my husband in Carlsbad on a surprise getaway.

Or snapping this shot of my friend Keri in her Halloween costume. (Seriously, she got this at Target and I am in awe.  She looks like a regal princess)

Like finding just the right pumpkin.

Kyle's blowing out his birthday candles

And celebrating the best thirteen years of my life with my cherished boy.

Like stopping on the side of a busy road to smell the flowers and look at a bug.

Or watching a beautiful bride float down the aisle toward her beloved.

And then taking a picture with her so I can remember how much it moved me.

Like my first-baby girl turning into a young-woman, despite me wanting to keep her locked in a castle far away from all the ogres, and dragons and eager suitors.

And I’m not even ready to acknowledge how fast the baby is growing up. (Amazing block skills for a 1 yr old, right?)

And then there is romance. 

Like my husband who still courts me, despite the busyness of life.

And my Father in heaven who pursues me with His relentless love.

Today I am wistful. Nostalgic. Teary. Reflective.

And most of all Blessed.

Boots and Blog Sugar

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

So I went to a conference this last Sunday for mostly female bloggers with my writer friend/hero Dani called Blog Sugar. Strangely enough, one solo dude braved the dainty pink estrogen laden gala…not sure why???

But I had to erase my speculations because they weren’t uplifting or good and true and noble.  (They were snarky and bitchy and bad) and one of the things I learned was to be very careful what you put on the internet cloud.

(This is more difficult for some of us)

 Regardless, it was fun to network and scope out the ladies who were dressed to the nines and tens and maybe even elevens.  Seriously, I was in awe of their high fashion ensembles; the blown out hair, sparkly shoes and va va voom accessories. 

I had a small moment where I realized how little I think about fashion and maybe that’s bad and I should care more about my attire because I look rather dreadful a good fifty percent of the time. But caring requires effort, that maybe I’m not willing to give, except for an occasional party when I can pull my crap together.

 

Source: None via Samantha on Pinterest

 

I wore my new riding boots (not that I ride anything except for…right, hit delete now) which I was very excited about and a bright yellow necklace from Egypt my husband bought me on our honeymoon that can only be called a conversation piece.

So, I felt cute and confidant and for being a slightly socially awkward person, I fared as well as could be expected.  I learned some cool blogging tricks, made some new she-buddies, and ate way too many sweeties and got a tummy-ache.  It was awesome– in a girly, Princess of Genovia, Annie Banks sort of way. 

Source: None via Samantha on Pinterest

 

When I got home late in the evening, I spilled over with excitement to my husband and oldest son(who should have been in bed), about all the pretty women and the cotton candy and the decorations and how my new boots got many compliments.

My teenage son looked at me with a frown, “So let me get this straight, the conference was pretty and they liked your boots, but did they like your writing mom?”

 I glared back, steam rising from my nostrils. “Yes, no…it wasn’t like that.”

My husband and son fell over laughing.

 

And while I love my boys, they just don’t understand.  Blog Sugar was an experience different from the serious writing conferences I have attended in the past.  It was lovely and nurturing to the female soul and mostly, it just made me happy.

And someday, I aspire to have gazillions of readers and give motivating messages about just being yourself and using your blog for the greater good.  (Ok, what does that really mean people?  Not the good part, I grasped that despite my blonde hair, but all of the really successful writers say, “just be yourself” and the rest of us all scratch our heads dumbfounded because we are ourselves, it’s just they like you better)

Someday, when I am a famous novelist/blogger, I will give clarity to this statement. I’ll say, “Don’t suck, work hard, watch more Pink Panther, find your funny bone, take long walks and talk to Jesus…” Super clear, right? Actually what I think they mean when they say this is to find yourself, because many of us are still trying out and learning our voice and sometimes it takes us a while to figure it out.

In the mean-time, I think blogging rocks because it tells the unfolding story of people and we all need encouragement in our faith, an occasional slap in the face, and to our pee our pants laughing on a regular basis.

And that’s why I blog ♥

How to get old gracefully

 

“Did you see that woman over there?” my husband asked.

I turned my head and tried to subtly glance over to the woman he was referring to.  Her back was against me, but from behind she looked amazing.  Slim, toned and curvy in all the right places.  Then she turned her head and I gasped.

Her face looked like the crypt-keeper.  Pale and taught ghostly white skin was interrupted by strangely exaggerated eyes turned up at the corners.  Her lips were huge and plumped full and it was obvious she had undergone multiple cosmetic procedures to the point of resembling a freakish Michael Jackson wannabe.

I shuddered. Tim smiled at me, “I’m glad you aren’t’ afraid of aging and you would never do anything drastic like that.”

“Hey now,” I said.  “She looks pretty good for a hundred.”

Tim laughed and walked off to lift weights.  But the scary lady didn’t leave my mind.

I secretly stole a few more glances and then thought about my own insecurities regarding getting old. Certainly it’s inevitable and a natural part of life, so why the resistance, the flat-out denial by some folks to step up to the plate and surrender to gravity?

There are certain parts of getting older which I adore. My emotions no longer rule my heart, wisdom has snuck up on me after a multitude of hard knock lessons, and I have an appreciation for relationships and life, like never before.  I have more confidence in my identity, my voice and don’t really care if people like me or even agree with me anymore.

But the parts I don’t like are the parts which resonate with the plastic gym lady. I want to be pretty and in a world and culture that reveres youth, looking old and haggard is less desirable.  I don’t like the weird little age spots appearing on my body, the aches and pains that seem to appear out of the blue after thirty-five, and my metabolism, which is getting slower by the day. These things make me long for my eternal body.

One component of aging that sometimes makes it easier or harder depending on the season, is the personal expectations or goals I place on myself for age thresholds. 

 Twenty-five-married and college degree-√

 Thirty five-have kids-√

Forty-be a successful writer (working on that one)

Fifty-five-grandma-TBD

As I hit the birthdays with my goals checked off, I feel better about myself.  But the year I hit thirty-three and found myself a divorced, single mom, getting older didn’t feel so good.  In fact, the ache was deep and I felt somehow inadequate.  Happy Birthday didn’t feel so happy that year.

I hear the pain in my friends voices when another year passes by without a husband or a child. It’s the same hurt-another year slipping by and another reminder of unfulfilled dreams.

Isaiah once said, “The flowers fade and the grass withers, but the word of our God will stand forever.”

I know in life there will be good years and not so good years, but the years will come, no matter how I try to halt the ravages of too much sun and the gravitational pull on my behind.

But when I keep an eternal perspective and focus my eyes on the road before me, ageing isn’t such a scary place.  If anything, it’s just one step closer to Jesus.

Image: Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Vanity Fair

A woman models a corset in this 1898 photograph.

Image via Wikipedia

Why does irrationality seem to peak in the morning? Rarely do I bite off more than I can chew in the twilight hours. Somehow as the light grows dim, one generally recognizes inherent limitations and waning energy allotments.  But the morning on the other hand, oh the morning is a different animal.  It is new and fresh and all things are possible. 

All things- like running a few miles after a winter of relative lethargy, donning break-a leg high heels to compliment a gorgeous purple bridesmaid gown, and then subsequently roping in one’s waist with a stringent corset to epitomize a romantic heroine of days past. 

It seemed like a great idea at the time.  We gathered at the bride’s apartment, seven ladies in long flowing gowns that laced up the back.  We took turns pulling each other’s stays (corset lacing to those unfamiliar with historical lingo). 

The tightening was subtle.  “Is that snug enough?” lead to, “I think I can cinch it in a little more.”  And finally, “wow girl, look at your tiny waist.”

After a few rounds of pulling, there we stood,a bevy of lasses with reduced waists, exaggerated busts, hips, and of course, little room to breathe.  But vanity had stealthily crept in to our midst, and though I couldn’t bend over or even sit down for that matter, I felt like a beautiful damsel in distress. I’m pretty sure my voice took on a southern belle drawl.

I looked in the mirror and delighted in my pretty dress and va va voom curves.  I was Scarlett O’Hara, Marie Antoinette, and the infamous Gibson Girl of Bygone Days!

About an hour into the tight lacing, I tried to eat a snack, but my confining attire denied me any sustenance, not even a cracker.  Fortunately, I could drink and so a margarita on ice slid down nicely.

As the wedding hour approached, I noticed a stinging ache down my spine along with the growing compression of my now heaving bosom as the bottom of my lungs began to fill with fluid.  My legs throbbed from post-workout lactic acid pooling in my quads, and my hairpins felt like daggers stuck into my head.  My feet were so swollen I could barely walk.

As I lined up to walk down the aisle, I trembled at the length of what seemed like a never-ending runner.  My husband, the wedding pastor smiled at me like a warm beacon, and guided by his big goofy smile, I tottered towards him semi-delirious in pain but determined to appear graceful and elegant to the large crowd assembled.

After a lovely ceremony, more pictures, and millions of seconds of searing pain, I finally sat down at the dinner table in a heap.  But sitting proved even more restrictive.  An old song played in the background.  It was catchy dinner music tune and in my state of pain induced euphoria I swayed to the crooner’s voice.  Strangely enough, it sounded like the word salad was being repeated over and over. Then again, it could have been my starving belly crying out for food.

“I didn’t know they had such cute songs about salad,” I announced to the table.

My girlfriend Krista, also a corseted bridesmaid, but clearly retaining a few more brain cells than I, shouted, “Did you say salad?  It’s called Solid as a Rock.”

The table erupted in laughter; myself included at the erroneous error, but then along with my laughter came a blackish sort of envelopment.  The table, the guffaws…it all began to fade as I teetered on the edge of fainting.

Indeed, I was a damsel in distress. 

My friend Katherine recognizing my flushed face and dilated pupils quickly steered me towards the lady’s room where she tore at my laces and opened up my lungs for some much-needed air.

Returning to the table, I sheepishly sat down and inhaled my dinner.  Now moderately laced, I was able to eat, dance, laugh and enjoy a big piece of strawberry cream wedding cake without the restrictive garment of my own folly (It wasn’t too much later before Krista was begging me to let her loose too).

I learned an interesting lesson that day.  Vanity is subtly deceptive.  I believed the corset to be glamorous, romantic, and whimsical, but in truth, found it to be agonizing. 

I should know better by now than to be duped by another promise of pretty…but then again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man, and they are but pure vanity.(Psalm 94:11 WBT)

Jesus sure has got my number.

“Without vanity, without coquetry, without curiosity, in a word, without the fall, woman would not be woman.  Much of her grace is in her frailty.”-Victor Hugo.

Conversations with my Pastor (Husband)

Man and woman in swimsuits, ca. 1910; she is e...

Image via Wikipedia

My last post sparked some great conversations. One dialogue was with my pastor (husband). He made a few points I wanted to address:

  • As leaders we are held to a higher standard.  To whom much is given much is expected. And the same swimwear (a two-piece) I wore as a volunteer in highschool ministry may not be the appropriate attire in my new position. Clearly, I am slow to adjusting to my new paradigm as a pastor’s wife.  (But if you knew where I came from, you might already be scratching your head at the colossal shift in my behavior)
  • My idea of cute and my husband’s  idea of modest are not the same.  Here we go back to the middle ground again, but we have discussed spending some real money on a bathing suit that represents both our values.  Cha-Ching!
  • When expectations are assumed, but not discussed it can lead to disappointment on both sides.  And when your wife is a writer sometimes her thoughts leak out into the internet cloud, (subconsciously of course) but I see your point dear!
  • While my desire is to honor my husband and protect all men from lust, I still have the desire to be pretty.  And therein lies the catch-22.

Joshua Harris, in sex is not the problem (lust is), states, “The way you dress can either help or hinder the men around you who are trying to resist lust.” So, if my idea of pretty is a hindrance, then I may need to reevaluate what pretty means.  Maybe pretty can include modesty. But maybe it doesn’t have to include a t-shirt and board shorts either (so soggy and uncomfortable)!

Harris also suggests that men play a part in this responsibility to resist temptation.  Men are not exempt from the solution.  And I don’t want to ever take this too lightly.  I want to affirm and acknowledge just how difficult it is. 

Breasts and belly buttons are not evil.  Dressing to tempt and lure is.  There is no shame in being voluptuous and it doesn’t make a woman less spiritual or unclean. And if you see a sister who is in sin, have the conversation with her instead of snubbing her or talking behind her back.  I’m just saying…

The truth is I struggle with this.  It’s not a black or white issue and I don’t want to justify or fall within legalistic rule making.  Ultimately, modesty and lust are a matter of the heart. 

God knows we will get discouraged, on both sides of the matter.  He encourages us to not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not lose heart.(Gal 6:9)  So, I’ll just be over here sowing some seed and eating some humble pie.

Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini

My husband bought me a very special swimsuit for our honeymoon cruise in the Mediterranean-one very hot yellow polka dot bikini.  It has cute little strings that tie on my hips and I feel like a sassy and mischievous gal when I squeeze into it.  Now, I am not claiming to be a supermodel, but my husband clearly expressed his approval with a large goofy smile whenever I dug those polka-dots out of the drawer. 

That is, until we started a church and all of a sudden he became very concerned with covering up his wife’s bodacious bosom and abdominals.  Apparently pastor’s wives should wear modest and conservative (translation-old lady) tank suits.  But, what’s a girl to do when her mammary offering turns even the ugly tank into a sexy piece of spandex?

The truth is I don’t have a modest bod!  I am, shall we say…curvy.  Every summer we hit the bathing suit store and my husband hopes I will find an appropriate suit to hide my bosum and every year he leaves frustrated.  At this point, I am relegated to a t-shirt for all church events, because the ta ta’s have gone underground.  Apparently, I am somehow less spiritual in my wanton state of voluptuousness. (Heeee)

If I have painted a picture of immodesty, I have been misleading.  In general, my dress is very conservative and unassuming.  My daily wardrobe is professional and streamlined.  I don’t want my clothes to ever distract from the message, but I also conversely, don’t feel a need to hide my body as something to be ashamed of. 

Modesty is a confusing road to navigate to begin with.  I want to be fashionable and express myself with clothes.  But, I also understand the premise of not tempting men (deeply visual creatures), who apparently have a nerve that runs from their eyes to their loins.  But when the same men who tell me to cover up walk around with their shirts off at the pool it seems like a serious double standard.  At the very least, let me wear the tank suit without a burka.

Not so long ago, I remember a day when the folks in high school ministry used to call my husband a Ken-doll because his body looked like a sculpted piece of art.  And I don’t recall him hiding those luscious biceps to protect the eyes of women behind a t-shirt (Praise the Lord)).  To his benefit, he does wear one now at church baptisms and pool events, so I can’t argue that he asks me to do something he is not willing to do. 

As a pastor’s wife, I want to be above reproach, but as a woman I also want to have the freedom to wear a bikini when the congregant’s eyes aren’t boring a hole into my choice of swimwear.  So for now, I will compromise with tanks and a t-shirt for all church events near water, and I’ll let the bikini out of the drawer for vacations alone with my honey (hubba hubba).

This is where I think the church has ambiguity and difficulty encapsulating the problem of lust, modesty and male/female interaction.  Is the answer to pornography shrouding women?  Do our daughters need to be dressed like the Amish for our boys to not treat them like sexual objects?  Is there some sort of middle ground regarding modesty for women and personal responsibility for men? 

Maybe someday we can move beyond the superficial and allow a modest two piece bathing suit on a woman to not cause a stir.  Because isn’t it all just a fig leaf to God?

The real housewife vs the “Real Housewife”

Pink nail polish.

Image via Wikipedia

For the third time this year, I got a pedicure.  I divulge this not so you will think I have sad and neglected toes, but as a pastor’s wife, I always feel like I have to justify frivolous spending. So, there I am, sitting in my bucket seat with my feet soaking, reveling in the sheer sacredness of sitting still, when in struts a “glamazon” otherwise known as “A Real Housewife from Orange County,”  a reality show on Bravo that claims to follow real women in the OC.  Now there are many words I would use to describe this woman, but “real,” wasn’t one of them.

I tried not to stare, but I honestly couldn’t help myself.  The woman, quite simply, commanded the room.  She was striking, toned, tanned, enhanced (and I do mean enhanced), luxuriously clothed, styled, over made-up and had a slight air of arrogance. I imagine she is used to be ogled and gawked at, so it’s not surprising that she would be a tad defensive in her demeanor (and yes, that was me again trying to justify that I just called someone arrogant…bad pastor’s wife, bad!).

I confess, as I sat there in my sweaty workout clothes and ratty pony-tail with baby snot stains on my arm, I felt a tad underdressed for the occasion of nail grooming.  The “Real” beauty, on the other hand was camera ready, ensconced in a black silk jumpsuit, roped in at the waist with a big chunky belt, delicately flowing down to skim the top of her sky-high heels that she peeled off and placed in the soaking water.

Her earrings were the size of my fist and I was mesmerized, like a deer in the headlights at the surreal glamour of her very presence.  Her make-up alone, looked like it took hours to apply and it wasn’t even noon yet.  It was TV “reality” juxtaposed into my reality, strangely an oxymoron, because in all reality, people always act differently, good or bad, when the camera is rolling.

Strange emotions erupted in my belly as I sat in my chair feeling very small.  As a former model, my pride and competitive spirit kicked into high gear.  Apparently, the Holy Spirit was quenched for a few minutes as my devious sin nature took over.  The demon sitting on my shoulder whispered, “Now, if you only had those clothes, a makeup artist, a mystic tan and that purse, you could give that chick a run for her money.  You could make people stare.”

Surprise, surprise…vain people really do think like this, though I might testify on the stand that I was under the influence of nail polish remover.  But the truth is, that even after seventeen years of following Christ, with all the spiritual leaps and set-backs of a long and arduous journey, I still struggle with image management, even though I know the truth that sets me free. 

I know that what looks like success to the world-beauty, power, wealth, and status… is death to the soul.  Before I accepted Christ in my early twenties, it almost destroyed me, as I struggled with an eating disorder and a compulsive addiction to control my appearance.

Recently, I stole my husband’s copy of Why Guys Need God, by Mike Erre. And though I’ve always known that our society has done a disservice to our young women by portraying these images of perfection, I never really understood “the why”, beyond the inherent sinful nature of man. But Erre shed light on this perversion of beauty by tying our culture’s destructive behavior back to Genesis 1 and the curse on humanity.

 Erre describes this consumptive and objective mentality towards women as an assault on the very heart of femininity. As cursed men run from human weakness and overcompensate by trying to control things (women included), it has distorted the relationships between men and women.  If a woman is objectified, and her worth and honor stripped, then a man has control over her and subsequently, a world of detached men and women hungry for connection is born.  Generations of women, starved for attention by the distant men in their lives have created a culture of constant striving to somehow obtain the elusive power to heal the gap of loneliness, not recognizing that the striving only leads to an endless cycle of more detachment.

 Erre suggests that because “real” women can never measure up to images of the world, they either give up or continually compete for the illusive ideal,  starving and distorting their bodies (through surgery or other “treatments”) to create an image subject to the whims of  fashion and man’s desire.  

As a young woman, I fell into the striving category.  Now, I guess you could call me a recovering “striver.”

And so as I sat in the salon, and stewed in thoughts of negativity, the Spirit inside me burst forth, and I turned a proverbial spiritual corner.  Closing my eyes, I took a long breath and prayed for Jesus to comfort me.  I clung to His truth that illuminates the insidious evil of seduction and the temptation to compare and envy, forcing myself to remember that my appearance does not define my worth and that I am beautiful in the light of Christ’s sacrifice, never subject to the world’s obsession with youth and flawless perfection.   

I relaxed into my seat and smiled at the girl tending to my toes. Fortunately, she had no idea of the spiritual battle I had just waged in my head, and then I turned and smiled at the not so “real” woman next to me.  Empathy and understanding crashed over my heart like thundering waves as I realized that my battle was her battle, and that the great deceiver was whispering in her ear too.

The Unicorn

1107_unicorn_head_mask_inuse

I have a large mole on my head.  My son calls it the unicorn.  It’s not too obvious because my bangs cover it.  It sits dead center on my head at my hairline.  Like a hairy mole on a witch, individual follicles have actually begun to sprout through it.

At best, this puppy is ugly and at worst possibly cancerous.  I do my best to hide it and maintain a façade of attractiveness, but I know if the wind blows the wrong way or I am having a bad hair day, the repugnant sucker will make an appearance.  Generally, I am confident about the way I look, so I like to think of it as an anomaly.

This mole is the yin to my yang.  It’s like my dirty little secret. I have mixed feelings about it.  I hate it and yet I love it.

Today I have a momentous appointment at the dermatologist.  The unicorn is going to be biopsied and will be removed.  Now I will just have a large hole in my head and possibly less hair.  I am happy to not have an eraser sized object to catch my comb on.  I am sad that my outer ugly will be leaving me.  As a teen or even in my twenties, this mole would have derailed me.  I was so self-conscious and bent on image management.  It’s a good thing it appeared in my thirties.

Now approaching 40 (38 to be exact), it represents a massive paradigm shift.  It is the embracement of my entire self, the good, the bad and the hideous.  Alas, my vanity has begun to fade with the acceptance of age, gravity and the scars of a life well lived.

So goodbye Mr. Unicorn!  I will miss you.  But, I am confident that the large crater in my head will be a good replacement for you. Come to think of it, now I will have a secret place to store my loose change and skittles!

Note***  (Three years later)  It actually healed very well.  No crater, no gaping hole, and I like my being able to pull my hair back.  Why didn’t I do it earlier?

Thoughts on Beauty

images

The world defines beauty as a visually appealing attribute or quality that elicits a response such as a feeling of attraction, desire, or envy.  Men and women want to experience it, attain it, and hold onto it.

We capture its fleeting essence in pictures, art, and stories.  There is a yearning to slow down the moment or image, as if to milk every last drop out of it.  We glorify it, idolize it and elevate beauty beyond the ordinary.  This is beauty defined by societal norms.

Behind this yearning, there is I believe, a conviction that somehow in the attainment of this “beauty” one shall be set free from further pursuit of it and find fulfillment. But, as with other vain pursuits, this too, is a mere chasing after the wind.  The grass withers…and the flower falls, and we are no more exempt from the grass and the flower than from the inevitable withering of our physical bodies.

But because we perceive beauty as a thing to be captured, we try to hold onto it.  We Botox it, cut it up and distort the very process of ageing, that which is, in itself, a beautiful thing.

And yet even knowing the truth and acknowledging the lie, I still can not escape the deep desire in my heart to be beautiful.  Is that yearning bad?  Or is it the memory of paradise, deeply distorted by the world, manifesting in an ache to be accepted, loved and affirmed through an outward emphasis on appearance?

I think our definition of beauty is wrong.  We yearn for a perfect world and try to recreate it through distorted illusions.  Because of sin we have forgotten the source of all that is beautiful.

Psalm 90:17 Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us and establish the work of our hands.’

Beauty is therefore an attribute of God.  It glories not in itself but its profit to others.  Beauty is giving not taking.

Psalm 27:4 King David says, “…one thing I ask of the Lord, that I will seek after, to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.”

Beauty brings life, healing and wholeness.  It is justice, truth, righteousness, peace and strength.  It is the ultimate desire to see and experience.  It is tangible and eternal. It is that which touches the soul.  Beauty is an encounter with the Creator.

Therefore, beauty is not a perfect body, complexion or fleshy form.  Beauty is not a man or a woman, or a kitten or a sunset.  Beauty is found in the artist and designer of all things-Jesus Christ.  My desire to be beautiful, if seen from this perspective, is really a cry for relationship and connection to God, to be naked and not be ashamed, to walk hand in hand with him in the Garden, and ultimately to behold his beauty with my very own eyes.

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