Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Beautiful Series: Recap

Incase you missed it, I recently did a 4-part series called "Beautiful". I thought it might be good to summarize and put the links to all 4 posts in one place for quick reference.

Part One: The introduction to the series! I talk about how God created us as beautiful and start to touch the surface on the struggles a lot of us have with accepting our beauty. Why can't we accept ourselves as beautiful the way God created us to be? Link to Part One is here.

Part Two: Several women responded to an open-ended survey regarding their beauty. This post summarizes their thoughts on their struggles with beauty and the inspirations in their lives that help them feel beautiful. Link to Part Two is here.

Part Three: I share with you my "Top 5" beauty power songs. These are a few of the songs that I can sing or hear (usually sing) and start to feel my beauty emanate from my inside out. Link to Part Three is here.

Part Four: Similar to Part One in that I reiterate how beautiful we are in God's eyes. I close out with a reminder that we are all drop-dead gorgeous. Link to Part Four is here.

I'm by no means an expert on beauty or feeling beautiful or on knowing the magic solution to make all of our self-esteem problems go away. What I do know is that we all have our areas of struggle, and God knows ways to get to our core and help us to realize that He views us as gorgeous and wonderful.

I leave you with this note that I found in my gas log while Steve was away. God has blessed me with a husband who tries to remember that he is called to love me as God loves me. God thinks I'm beautiful, and Steve does too. I thank God every day for a husband who thinks I'm gorgeous and wonderful in spite of all the flaws I see for myself. Because of that, I am able to get a glimpse of how beautiful God thinks I am and understand at least a little of how much He loves me.

“Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams." - Ashley Smith

Friday, September 24, 2010

Things I Love Right Now

When I was going through my Google Reader listing this morning, I came across this post by Jessica Turner at The Mom Creative and was inspired. She posted a list of things that she's loving right now, and I am feeling a bit inspired to do the same.

Things I Love Right Now

Our Church's Renovation: Talk about dreaming a God-sized dream and having it come to reality! A couple of years ago our church started to rethink the mill space that we rent. There were meetings to determine what the needs of the ministries were and then meetings with Plain Joe Studios to design a concept and then when it came time to see if it was indeed in God's will (donations were requested)... we found out the answer. Estimated budget is/was $186,000... and pledges came in WAY above expectations to the tune of almost $180,000! It's been exciting since the construction started to see the progress every week since the first wall came down - I'm pumped to see the finished product. (Progress can be found on the blog for the project: Renovation 2010.)

Friendships: There have been a few people that I've met over the last few years that I've had the chance to get closer to over the last year or so. It's been awesome to form these new friendships and get to know some really cool people in the process. These are people I get to see fairly regularly so we get to see each other in all different stages of life and have grown pretty comfortable around each other. At the same time, I've had opportunity to reflect on those friendships I've had for a lot longer and appreciate the ability in those friendships to pick up like we've never separated when we see each other.

Me & my friend Nina at the "Life is Good" Festival
My Mug Warmer: Man oh man. I do love my mug warmer. I'm one of those people who drinks coffee for the flavor and not for the caffeine necessity, so the mug warmer is my best cubicle friend. I actually wrote a blog post about it once, I love it that much. No, I'm not joking. It's a hot plate for a mug that keeps your beverage warm. It's the coolest thing ever.

Being Married: There's something amazing and wonderful about waking up in the morning and knowing that the person next to you is going to be your partner in crime for the rest of your life. There's also something amazing in knowing that person will roll over and even though you were having the worst "nitch" evening of your life the night before - he will have the grace to not care, take one look at you, and give you a big hug and a kiss anyways. I love that I get to learn and grow and spend the rest of my life with my best friend. Being married rocks.

Steve & I on our wedding day after our 1st Mr. & Mrs. dance. (June 9, 2007)

Youth Group: Two years ago God decide to throw a 90-degree turn in our path and we ended up taking over the reigns of the youth group at our church. Neither of us even went to youth group as kids and our experience extended to a couple of meetings and helping to chaperone a ski trip. After a lot of learning, a lot of freaking out, a lot of laughs, a lot of growing, and a lot of prayer/trusting God to use us... we finally feel as we've started year 3 like the group is taking off. We've got an amazing (full) team, a great system, and an awesome group of students. This whole experience has been a reminder of "God does not always call the equipped, but He DOES equip the called".

Anticipation: I have a LOT coming up in the next month or so. One of my high school best friends is getting married this weekend. The "Living Proof" conference with Beth Moore is next weekend and I'm going with a great group of women. I turn 30 in exactly 2 weeks and my mom is coming to spend the weekend with us. My cousin Jess is getting married in 2 weeks and 1 day (the other reason my mom is coming to visit). We have a beach vacation coming up 3 weeks from tomorrow. I love the anticipation of everything that's coming up.

The View From Our Porch: It occurred to me as the air started to get a chill that we can see a lot of trees from our porch. This means that in a matter of days that view is going to explode with color (I'm really hoping that most of those trees aren't pine-type trees). That is going to be an absolutely beautiful sight when it happens (again... if most of those trees aren't pines.)

View from our front porch - Summer 2010 (Thunderstorm!)

So what are you loving right now? Leave a note in the comments!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Beautiful (Part 4)

Ephesians 2:10, "We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

One week from today, I am tasked to teach that verse to a room full of 6-12th graders. A verse that is our constant reminder that we are a masterpiece. God’s beautiful, amazing masterpiece. We might get some dust on us sometimes, we might get a tear in our canvas - but we are still God’s masterpiece.

We are beautiful creatures. The word beautiful is self-defining: full of beauty. Just because we don’t feel beautiful sometimes doesn’t change the fact that we are. Our significant others, our parents, our grandparents, siblings, closest friends... they all see how beautiful we are. Why can’t we see this for ourselves? What is the block that stops us from seeing our own beauty?

How do we overcome that?

I think for all of us it’s different. First realizing that we are God’s beautiful masterpiece is a great start. In God’s eyes, we are the most beautiful thing in His creation. After God created man & woman He stepped back and said we were “very good”. Not “good” like everything else - but “very good”. 

There was a song that came out while I was in college that contained the lyrics “you’re an ocean”. I know how I feel while sitting at the seashore staring at the waves crashing along the coast line; in absolute awe of the beauty and majesty and strength that the ocean contains.

“You’re an ocean.”

Inside of me is a woman who can stand majestically tall (despite my 5’3” frame) and have abundant strength (despite my lack of effort in lifting weights) and unending beauty (despite the extra skin and facial hair). 

Let me repeat that a little differently.

Inside of me is a woman who can stand majestically tall and have abundant strength and unending beauty. 

Do you see the difference? We need to stop the self-deprecating talk and speak boldly about our beauty. When you say something enough, you begin to feel it as truth. That’s a place we can all start from. Once we put that foot forward, the rest is up to us. Is it a new outfit that flatters our figures? Is it exercising more often to feel our strength? Is it singing in the car to feel our voice and soul? Is it talking to ourselves in the mirror each morning to tell ourselves how incredibly gorgeous we are?

You are beautiful. Each one of us is drop-dead gorgeous, and we need to start embracing that. Start today; do one thing before you go to bed tonight to help make you feel beautiful. Find a friend who also struggles and strive together to reclaim your sense of beautiful. It’s yours.

Drop-dead gorgeous. 

Psalm 139:14, "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Top 5 - Beauty Power Songs (Beautiful: Part 3)

When I'm in the middle of one of those "down, ugly, and useless" funks, I find that sometimes belting out a few select songs can really help me to stand a little taller, feel a little stronger, and increase that beauty-meter to a more reasonable notch. It's those subliminal messages in the lyrics coming through my speakers that remind me to look in my soul and find my God-given beauty. So without further ado... here are my

Top 5 Beauty Power Songs 
(in no particular order...)

Natalie Merchant - "Wonder": This song was a huge lifter for me when I was a teenager, and after a trip to the library where I found the "Tigerlily" CD its power to remind me of my own "Wonder" returned. All it took was one iteration of the lyrics "They say I must be one of the wonders, God's own creation..." to escape my lips and I could already predict the auto-renew of this one. Or at least purchasing the song on iTunes.

Natalie singing "Wonder" on Letterman circa 1996

Christina Aguilera - "Beautiful": Sometimes I look in the mirror and hate what I see. I think that others hate what they see (how couldn't they). I start to ask Steve if he's SURE he thinks I'm beautiful (which...wives, if you ever want a sure-fire way to drive your husband bananas - ask him that about 10 times in the same evening). Then I remember that this is just self-talk, words, and I remember the lyrics from this song: "I am beautiful, no matter what they say. Word's can't keep me down...". Granted, I am the "they" in this instance... but I think we're own own worst "they" (if you know what I mean).

Truthfully, this song should be an anthem for women everywhere

Sammy Kershaw - "She Don't Know (She's Beautiful)": Early on in our relationship Steve was honest with me about the times I wear make-up: he hates it. Why? Because he feels like it covers up my true beauty and unless I'm "all dolled up" only detracts from whatever I'm wearing that day and my naturally pretty-self . Then one day we were driving in the car and this song came on the radio; he looked at me and said "This is what I think of you. You have NO idea how gorgeous you are." That has stuck with me, and ever since this has been a constant reminder of how my husband (at the time boyfriend) views me. Ladies - ask your significant others: I bet they think the same thing.

The song is set to flowers in this "video". Why did I pick this version? Flowers are also beautiful.

Rascal Flatts - "Bless the Broken Road": Nothing makes a woman feel more beautiful than putting on a wedding dress, getting all dolled up, and having a man stare at her all day long admiring her beauty and loving the fact that he gets to spend the rest of his life with that hot, gorgeous, soulfully beautiful woman. As such, this song makes me feel beautiful because every time I hear it I'm brought back to my wedding day. Sometimes when it plays at home, I'll even get to relive that moment where that same man stares at me with a big smile while dancing in the middle of whatever room we're in.

Sometime pull up YOUR wedding song and make your husband dance with you too. Relive it.

"Amazing Grace": This simple reminder that I am loved for who I am by God no matter who else does or doesn't love me here on earth is one of those songs that helps my "inside beauty" shine through. If you remember from my first "Beautiful" post, one of the applications to work on is to try and see myself as God sees me. The truth is that He loves all of us, no matter what and even in our "ugliest" moments. We are His beautiful, amazing children and He would do anything for us. I'm not God, but I'd have to guess that His heart breaks when we talk down to ourselves and don't see our true beauty. "Unending love... amazing grace..."

If you want to see the "real" Chris Tomlin video, go here.
Feeling beautiful is not something that comes to us easily by any means. There are things that we can do to help ourselves feel more beautiful both on the outside and on the inside - probably starting on the inside. My mom always told me that's where your beauty starts; when you're feeling amazingly beautiful on the inside, it will shine through your outside. 

So sing a song of beauty and start working on your soul. Feel that beauty emanate from your core and work its way to shine out from the tips of your fingers. 

What songs do you sing to help you out of a beauty funk?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Beautiful (Part 2)

Knowing that sometimes it is comforting to hear that you are not alone in how you feel, I asked some of the women in my life a few questions about beauty. I thought that if I was able to gather some thoughts from various women in all walks of life, it could serve as a bit of encouragement to each other. Below is a summary of the answers I received from friends and family; hopefully they will serve to help you feel that you're not alone in your beauty struggles and offer you some new inspiration to realize in your heart that you are indeed gorgeous.

Question One: What areas do you struggle with your beauty?

I got a few mixed answers on this one, but the most common response seemed to be a struggle with weight. It's amazing how big of a role our weight plays in how we feel about ourselves and a large part of that can be attributed to how weight management and what weights are "pretty" are portrayed in our culture. Images of what is or is not acceptable - no matter how healthy or unhealthy - are emblazoned in our psyche. This ends up tying in to another common theme which was that we compare ourselves to others and don't feel like we measure up. We don't feel as pretty as the person in the next cubicle or as smart as the talking heads on TV or as funny as the person telling jokes at the table at dinner. We compare ourselves to famous people and our neighbors and our friends and our other family members. There were a few statements people shared with me that encompassed this feeling of comparison:

""I'm having a tough time dealing with having a 'mom's' body. Especially when your own mother is tinier than you are."

"I usually struggle in seeing those around me, and coveting their own beauty."

"There are days when I feel like I look good until I get to the office and someone smaller, prettier, smarter comes along.  Then I end up feeling frumpy and old."

Beyond the bigger answers are the little things that we notice about ourselves. Our nails are worn down from the jobs we perform. Our skin shows signs of aging. Our arms look terrible in dresses. Our skin is too pale. Our faces break out. When we're down, these small things can often become amplified and make us feel even worse about ourselves. We put ourselves under a magnifying glass and become our own worst critics, pointing out every way possible we could improve.

The saddest answer I got on this survey was this: "The answer to that, is simply that I struggle... I've never really felt beautiful, never really had it in me to believe other people if they tell me that." There are a few reasons I almost cried with this particular answer, but when it comes down to it - this answer is the most raw, all-encompassing response I received. I can't tell you how many days I've had where it hasn't matter who told me I was gorgeous; I could not bring myself to believe them. If we're honest with ourselves, this is probably a more common problem than we realize.

Ladies, I don't know why we all struggle with our beauty the way we do. I will say this: every woman who responded to this is incredibly beautiful and it saddens me that there are times we don't see this about ourselves. 

Question Two: What are some things you do for yourself to help you to feel more beautiful?

Man, do we all do some different things to help ourselves feel beautiful. I LOVE that we all know exactly what helps us to feel good about ourselves; if nothing else, it's an encouragement that we know somewhere in our souls that we are beautiful. Here is a list of the different things I heard that we do to make ourselves feel "purty":
  • Sit in the sun
  • Do our hair or go out and get it done for us. 
  • Manicures/pedicures
  • Exercise 
  • Put on make-up
  • Get dressed in clothes that boost our confidence
  • Remind ourselves of our inner beauty
The most beautiful answer I received, however, is too good to not share with you. Please read this in its entirety; I hope that you are as inspired as I was when I read it the first time:

"If the first part of searching for beauty (both within and without) involves remembering that beauty is more than what sight has to offer, the second part involves using the sight of someone else.

My goddaughter is an amazing creature. Since the day she was born she's been filling me up with the best gifts life can offer, teaching me lessons that I've been unable to learn on my own. When she was born, I was underweight - and when I would hold her - I would have to put a pillow on my arm or she would cry, my bony arms much too uncomfortable for her. Instead of the context for my body being - "beauty is thin," it became "beauty is being able to hold this precious child."

My weight has gone all over the place in the five years she's been on this earth. Y'know what hasn't changed? The way this child looks at me - the way she lights up and wants to play. In her eyes, I am this amazing person - and that has so precious little to do with external beauty it is astounding. In her eyes, I am beautiful, because she sees through the eyes of Love. 

Having a bad day - feeling ugly and unsuccessful? Look at yourself through the eyes of a child who loves you. They should bottle it; it is that powerful."

Question 3: What quote/song lyric/Bible verse (etc.) do you feel you most relate to and fall back on in your life in regards to beauty? (If none, that's OK too.)
No answer repeated itself with this question, which was kind of fun because I was able to get a big variety of answers. Here are the answers I received to this question:
  • The Serenity Prayer (God, please grant me the strength to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.)
  • Christina Aguilera: "Beautiful"
  • Jon McLaughlin: "Beautiful Disaster"
  • Eric Hutchinson: "You Don't Have to Believe Me"
  • Alanis Morrisette: "That I Would Be Good" 
  • "Listen, O daughter, consider and give ear: Forget your people and your father's house. The king is enthralled with your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord." (Psalm 45:10-11, NIV)
  • "For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul know it very well." (Psalm 139: 13-14, NASB)
  • One I just remembered today - "But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?'"" (Romans 9:20, NIV)
  • Simply Red: "You're Beautiful"
  • Mason Williams: "Classical Gas"
  • Journey: "Girl can't help it"
  • "I like myself more now than I ever did. I don't know why some things have happened to me, but somehow it has all worked out for the best. They all helped me in my search to become whole."  Anonymous 
  • "Sometimes the heart sees what is invisible to the eye" 
And thus concludes this very long post about where we stand with our own beauty. I hope that you found it helpful; I know that reading the answers as I got them in certainly was an encouragement to me, and I've been excited to share these responses with you.

So now... what about you? Where do you struggle? What do you do to help yourself out of it? Any inspiration to share with us? 

**Note: I've decided this will be a four-part series. Parts 3 and 4 will be coming soon!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Beautiful (Part 1)

I don’t know any woman who hasn’t had one of those days. You know what I’m talking about. The fat days, ugly days, bad hair days, clothes aren’t working for me days. The days when you look in the mirror and feel worthless, awful, and disgusting - all because of how you look.

I know I struggle with this. I’m short. I spent the better part of my adult life and formative years overweight. Guys didn’t want to date me because I was “Yellie - the good friend” who liked football and was over-gregarious. I suffer from hirsutism. And now that I’ve lost weight, I have extra skin that flaps in places I would prefer it not flap. I have cellulite. Sometimes I get pimples. My eyebrows aren’t as neatly trimmed as everyone else’s.

Yeesh. I am so incredibly hard on myself. Does anyone else have this problem?

We are our own worst critics!

But I’m not ugly. I’m beautiful both inside and out. I have a husband who tells me this on a daily basis; he reminds me of how gorgeous I am several times a day. My family and closest friends have always reminded me of how beautiful I am and why and what makes me beautiful. But why is this never enough to make me think of myself as beautiful?

“There is certainly no absolute standard of beauty. That precisely is what makes its pursuit so interesting.” - John Kenneth Galbraith

Last year while sitting on a beach in Jamaica, I read a book called Captivating. The book is about how beautiful women are in the eyes of God, and how we are His precious creatures. Sitting in a place I feel most in touch with God (next to the ocean - how can you not feel God’s majesty near an ocean!) reading about how He thinks I’m beautiful really put things in perspective for me. When I got to the last page, I closed the book and looked around. There were other women around me that were just as beautiful as me in God’s eyes - and in His eyes we are all the most gorgeous woman in the world. I stood up from my chair and went looking for shells because I didn’t want people around me to see the tear in my eye that I had developed with that single, powerful realization.

It wasn’t like I hadn’t heard that beautiful reality before - it just came at one of those poignant moments that He tends to find and wriggle his way into our hearts. The moments when He knows it will impact us the most.

This same thing happened to me today.

I’ve been down this week. It started when I saw a picture of myself and realized that I need a haircut and that my wisdom teeth pushed my front teeth forward a bit. Then I wasn’t feeling confident in an outfit I was wearing this week. I didn’t exercise for three days purposefully and felt gross. Add to that some other outside frustrations I’ve been dealing with - and my inner workings were a recipe for disaster. It really could have gone either way.

This morning when I was packing my gym bag I pulled down an outfit I know I look good in. I call it one of my “confidence booster” outfits, one of those get-ups that makes you stand just a little bit taller. I got to work, opened my email, and looked at my Proverbs 31 Daily Devotional. Wouldn’t you know... it was about how beautiful we are in God’s eyes.

One of the application steps? When you find yourself in a funk, remember to define yourself through God's eyes.

He really does know our hearts, doesn’t He? I am more and more amazed at how He knows us, loves us, and hits home with the right impact at the right time.

I paused and thought about how God views me. I thought about the text from Steve that I got a while back telling me to go in the bathroom (at work), look in the mirror, and tell that person they’re the most beautiful woman in the world. I sat up a little straighter, I felt a LOT better, and thanked God for His love (and for my husband, who reminds me all the time of how beautiful I am).

"The king is enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord." Psalm 45:11 (NIV)

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Hunger

There it was. The hunger.

As I drove home from work I felt the knowing grumble in my tummy that signaled that I was indeed hungry. Certainly not starving, but hungry enough that my stomach had started to do flip flops and I'd started to get that "I'm interested in food" salivation taste in my mouth.

I flipped open my change container to the left of the steering wheel in my car and grabbed the change that sat in there. Fifty-eight cents. And it's Wednesday. The image of the McDonald's sign declaring $0.49 cheeseburgers on the way home from work immediately popped into my mind. Soon after that I had a bout of Homer Simpson disease as the next thing that went through my mind was "Mmmm... cheeseburger..."

I prepared for it. I would throw away the bag at the gym and no one would ever know about my $0.49 plain cheeseburger. Except me.

I thought ahead to after the gym when I would be at home with Steve for date night with the free food that the generous manager from India Palace had sent back with his co-workers would be laid out before me for dinner. I thought about the Sullivan Farms ice cream that sat in our freezer that we would partake in for dessert after our Indian buffet leftovers.

My stomach grumbled at me again. I had given it the tease of a cheeseburger, and now it wanted it.

I took a deep breath and pondered. Was it worth the lie of the cheeseburger for the instant gratification? Then God whispered in my ear... "Don't forget, Jesus was tempted with delicious food too."

Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. Jesus ate nothing all that time and became very hungry.  Then the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become a loaf of bread.” (Luke 4:1-3)

I remembered Jesus' temptation by Satan in the wilderness. I remembered his words to Satan as told by Matthew - "Get out of here, Satan!" (I think that's the NLT translation).

I looked ahead and saw the McDonald's coming up on the right. I thought about the $0.58 that sat in my little change drawer. That cheeseburger with the crinkly wrapping was calling my name. My stomach started yelling louder.

But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone.’” (Luke 4:4)

I gripped the steering wheel tightly and said a prayer thanking God for the reminder that I did not need to give in to the temptation of the terrible cheeseburger. I drove right by that yellow sign declaring the $0.49 cheeseburgers on Mondays and Wednesdays from 5-7. I took a left and saw the famous Golden Arches in my rear view mirror slowly fade from sight.  I could taste the cheeseburger that I didn't get in my mouth, a reminder of what I could have had. 

I thought about what would be waiting for me when I got home from the gym, and knew that I could have Indian buffet leftovers and ice cream with a clear conscience. I would enjoy our date night without the guilt that I had partaken in a dinner before dinner - and not even a very good one at that. I listened to my stomach protest for a few more minutes before drowning it out with NPR's latest story. I looked at the sun beating down on my car, and thanked God again for the reminder that even Jesus was tempted by the devil with food before it was time to eat. I thanked Jesus for His example, went to the gym for some exercise, and thanked God for the blessings in my life. 

I have no idea what that Indian food on my plate was called, but every bite tasted extra sweet.