Dare to Be Beautiful

Dare to Be Beautiful

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“You look beautiful! I love your hair! And your earrings are so pretty.”

Any time I was given a compliment, I instinctively pointed out something flawed about myself.

“Oh…well…thanks. I have such bags under my eyes today and my hair is a total mess. And these earrings? Ugh, I’ve had them forever.”

WHY!?

Why did I always feel the need drag myself down when someone was lifting me up? Why did I need to partner every kind compliment with a negative comment?

You are beautiful. You look lovely.

I felt like the person would eventually discover one of my many imperfections so I might as well point them out first.

“Why do you do that?” I was once asked. “What?” I replied, unaware of what I had done. “You never accept a compliment. You always say something negative about yourself.”

It was true.

I never simply accepted a compliment. I felt so flawed that compliments actually made me feel…uncomfortable. And I realized it was because I didn’t feel worthy of such statements.

Beauty=perfection. And since I was far from perfect, I must be as equally distant from any kind of beauty. Right?

Do you find yourself doing that same thing? When someone says something kind to you, do you feel the need to say something unkind about yourself? When a piece of your beauty is complimented, appearance or character, do you instinctively counteract it?

If we’re honest, it’s really really easy to feel inadequate in our culture. It’s easy to feel we aren’t beautiful enough. Or talented enough. Or smart enough. It’s easy to feel like we just aren’t enough in general! We criticize ourselves. We complain about our flaws. We become discontent. We grumble about our chunky thighs, our fluffy tummies and our lack of defined calf muscles.

I get it. I so get it.

My definition of beauty was based on something that doesn’t exist. The standard to which I was holding myself was a mirage. Worse than a mirage…a complete lie.

It can be a long and difficult journey learning what beauty really is—and believing that we really are beautiful.

But dear friend, please hear this…

You are beautiful. And you are enough.

And it’s not because of the image you’ve created, but because of Whose image you were created in.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. Psalm 139:13

From the moment He began knitting you together in your mother’s womb, He has been telling you…YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL.

Every day, every night, He is singing over you…YOU ARE LOVELY.

And in the quietness of your heart, He is whispering this truth…YOU ARE WORTH IT.

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. Zephaniah 3:17

Oh, precious friend. You are beautiful.

Learning To Be Beautiful

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So I’ve reached that time after having a baby where I’m really noticing that extra “fluff” that baby-growing has left on my body. It’s always an interesting time for me. I want to get on a consistent exercise routine again, but I’m still so tired from being up at night with baby. Extra energy is rare. I want to make sure I’m eating healthy, but I also love Oreos. So yes, it’s interesting.

Before I was a momma, before I was married, I had a very unhealthy self-image. To be honest, I think I treaded on the obsessive side of worrying about what my body looked like. Being beautiful meant being sexy. It meant highlighted hair, manicured nails, a sculpted body, tanned skin and a perfectly painted face. None of those things are wrong, but they were my highest priorities in life…and that is wrong. Confidence meant knowing how to flirt. It meant knowing how to make guys desire you. It meant getting what you want. Authenticity didn’t matter. At least not to the degree it should have. Kindness and courage also didn’t hold places of honor like they deserve. If I felt like I had gained an ounce of weight, I would simply skip a few meals until I felt like I was where I should be. Even if I hadn’t gained weight and just wanted to feel more desirable, I would stop eating. I’m sad that’s they way I thought, but it’s the truth.

After I had my first daughter over 2 years ago, everything changed. I didn’t want her to grow up feeling insecure or obsessing over what her body looked like. I didn’t want her to absorb the lies that society told her about being “perfect”. I didn’t want her to overhear me talking about how I hate loving carbs so much because they make me fat. But when my baby weight started to be burdensome, my first reaction was so restrict how much I was eating. I remember looking down at her sweet, innocent face while she was nursing and I thought, “I don’t want her to see that growing up. I will not take away her nutrients. I’ll eat healthy foods. She matters more than my weight. She is more important.” That realization was a game changer for me. That seed of truth took root and it’s been growing ever since. I stopped using the words “fat” and “ugly”. Even when I’ve felt like those things, I will not say it. My daughter will not hear them from her momma.

As I was looking in the mirror the other day, 4 months after having my youngest daughter, I saw a very different body than what I used to have. I had to do a double take because I didn’t recognize a few body parts. But I realized something. I can look at my little kangaroo pouch and a little more truthfully say, “That’s ok. I grew a human in there for almost 10 months. And that’s pretty amazing.” I can look at my thighs and my hips and acknowledge that the extra weight they carry was important baby-nourishing weight.

Do not let your beauty come from the outside. It should not be the way you comb your hair or the wearing of gold or the wearing of fine clothes. Your beauty should come from the inside. It should come from the heart. This is the kind that lasts. Your beauty should be a gentle and quiet spirit. In God’s sight this is of great worth and no amount of money can buy it.      1 Peter 3:3-4 (NLV)

Now I’ll be the first to admit that some days it is hard. It’s very hard. Motherhood changes everything, including our bodies. I get that. I really do. The extra rolls and fluff that won’t fit into all my pre-pregnancy clothes can feel more like burdens than badges of honor. I get it. Those days are numerous, believe me. But my desire is shifting to be healthy, not hot; to be strong, not sexy. Don’t get me wrong, I want to look physically beautiful and I love when my husband gives me a little smack on the toosh and a “mmmm” as he walks by. Being beautiful doesn’t mean neglecting outward appearance, but it doesn’t mean obsessing over it either. I’m slowly learning to stop equivocating beauty to a number on a scale. Confidence doesn’t mean calorie cutting, it means grabbing hold of what makes you you and boldly living it out. Now that is beautiful.

Since I’ve had my daughters, I feel more beautiful. And I feel stronger. They’ve allowed me to be who I am. They’ve helped me value what matters. They’ve helped me reconnect with the beauty I felt as a young girl. Real beauty. I value strength. I cherish confidence. I esteem courage, kindness and authenticity. Because it is those things that make a woman truly beautiful.

Her clothes are strength and honor. She is full of joy about the future. Proverbs 31:25 (NLV)

 

Beauty for Ashes

Sweet, sweet friend. My heart is so heavy as I write this to you. I feel like it has been forever since we’ve spoken. I’ve missed you & have thought about you often.The first part of my absence was morning sickness. A few months ago my husband & I found out that we were pregnant with our first sweet baby. I can’t express to you the excitement & joy that was in our hearts every moment of the day. Just as I was exiting my first trimester, I began to miscarry on Oct 1st. By the end of the night, everything was done & over. The ER doctors repeatedly told me how well my body was doing. Sometimes the ugly process can take days. I can’t imagine that. As blessed as I feel to not have needed any surgical or major medical intervention, the toil it has taken on my body & my heart has left me hurting badly for the last few weeks. So along with this note, I ask for you to agree with me in prayer– I’m asking Jesus to restore my body 100%. I’m doing much better this week physically. Thank you, Lord. My heart will ache forever. I know that. But I’m so glad that when this heartbreaking moment came, I felt Jesus stronger than I ever have. He didn’t leave. He was overwhelming there in the midst of the doctors, nurses & ultrasound technicians. To me, His presence was stronger than theirs. There’s so much more I want to share with you, but as of this moment, this is all my heart can handle. I love you dear friend.

I would like to share a note with you that I wrote to our close friends & family the day after I lost my baby. I share this with you because I hope to express how much comfort & love the Lord has shown us. Some of you have already read this. Maybe a couple of you haven’t. So I’m including this for you. I want the glory of my Savior to shine, even when the storm clouds are painfully thick. Here it is:

The JOY of the Lord is my STRENGTH. I know this more now than ever before. It’s now become tangible to me. Last night, Jarred & I lost our sweet baby. In the midst of all the physical & emotional pain, the tears & all the uncertainty, we felt the presence of God in the ER room. We are still feeling His presence in our quiet home today. My precious husband was right at my side speaking nothing but LIFE, AFFIRMATION & ENCOURAGEMENT over me the entire time; even though I know he was scared & grieving himself. THANK YOU JESUS, for my godly, sweet, supportive husband. I love him so much. As he was supporting me, my aunt & uncle patiently waited & supported us both for hours & hours in the waiting room; what a net of support & love Jarred & I felt just knowing they were there. They are the definition of what FAMILY should be.


Even as we felt violently tossed through wave after wave of heartache & pain, The PEACE of God that SURPASSES ALL UNDERSTANDING was heavily present in us. Having Christ as our Savior; knowing that His heart was aching with us & for us; changed this night from a tragedy to a CELEBRATION. A celebration because our baby is with our Heavenly Father & our Heavenly Father is with us. And as sad as we are & as the tears & heartache haven’t ceased, we know…our God gives BEAUTY FOR ASHES.

Your love & support is so appreciated. I DECLARE MY GOD AS FAITHFUL!

Beauty Restored

YOU. ARE. BEAUTIFUL.
 
When you hear that statement, does it resonate truth in your soul?
Or do you shrug it off because that’s just a “nice comment” that you feel isn’t really true?
Do you make comments to counter act that statement? “Well that’s nice of you to say, but you should see my sister…SHE’S beautiful.” “Thanks, but I really hate the way my hair looks.” “Oh, not really. I need to lose some weight.”
I have to wonder what it does to God’s heart when His intricately woven masterpiece says that about herself. I’m sure it doesn’t make His heart happy when His beloved creations are criticized & devalued. For me, it has been a long & difficult process in understanding that I am beautiful. And it’s not because of the image I’ve created, but because of Whose image I’m created in. I was never “too much” for Him to handle. I was never “lacking”. From the day He created me in my mother’s womb, He’s been telling me how beautiful I am. But only recently was I willing to listen & believe Him.
What if we started viewing our “imperfections” & “quirks” the way that Jesus does? What if we started to appreciate His handiwork instead of critique it? One of us might not like the color of our eyes. But have you ever stopped to think about the design of those eyes?Look closely at your pupils, iris, & all the little patterns, speckles & shades of colors that compose the outside of those eyeballs. They are beautiful, aren’t they? I think they’re spectacular. They aren’t just lovely on the outside, they are ingeniously designed on the inside. 
Isn’t that incredible? How can we be so critical of the colors or shapes of our eyes when we know just a fraction about the intricacy of how your Creator made them?
 
Unfortunately though, it’s quite easy to feel inadequate or lacking. And we criticize. We complain. We grumble about our chunky thighs, our fluffy tummies & our lack of defined calf muscles. Even in the “best” shape of my life, I wasn’t content or happy with what I saw. My definition of beauty was based on something that doesn’t exist. The standard to which I was holding myself was a lie. And thanks to the media & Hollywood, we are constantly bombarded by images of “perfect” women. But those women don’t even look like that! Thanks to photo editing & airbrushing, our culture’s standards of beauty can be digitally, but falsely reached. Again, it’s all a lie. Our emotions are being manipulated & used so that we will buy something. Mascara, lipstick, body lotion, hair color. Our sense of self-worth is put into question, so we will sign up for the product that will fix & perfect our “flaws”. Our sexuality is demoralized & perverted because we’re supposed to be promiscuous if we want to be sexy. And for those of us who are married…we DO want to be sexy for our husbands! We want to be beautiful to the world & valued by our friends & family. So what’s a girl to do? Buy that mascara? Sign up for that diet program that will fix us? Or read those magazine so we can learn about all the things that are wrong with us? NO! NO! NO! Don’t let the world dictate what you will do with your body or how you should feel about it.
Romans 12:1-2 says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
I used to measure my value & beauty by how much food I could withhold from myself. Of course I couldn’t rationalize it then, but now I see it for the addiction, ugliness & bondage it was. My life felt out of control & I wanted to feel like I controlled something! Anything! If I could stay “disciplined” & eat very little, I was proving that I was beautiful & that I was worthy of love. I associated a completely empty, hurting stomach with skinniness…and skinniness with beauty. And if I could exercise every day for a couple hours, that was even better. I would have no energy & would start to black out during those workouts, but that was just part of the deal. “Beauty is pain”, right? Looking back now, I just want to run up to my younger-self, give her a huge hug & tell her how beautiful she was! She didn’t need to prove anything. She was enough. She was perfect just the was she was.
Even as a young child, I remember hearing hurtful comments from people & completely internalizing them. Those comments were said out of ignorance by people who had been hurt themselves, but my heart was injured nonetheless. On top of already feeling sub-par going into college, my obsession was almost encouraged by unhealthy relationships I had in my life. I was completely shattered one day when my friend & I were at the gym working out. She had recently discovered my obsession with food. I was working out with a large group of my guy friends, when she felt the need to walk over to me, lift her shirt to expose her defined, toned abs & say, “I’m getting so fat, Heather. Maybe I should just stop eating like you.” I felt embarrassed, angry & betrayed. It literally broke my heart. Looking back now, I have abundant compassion for her. I can see how she was just a hurt, insecure girl too. Her mom told her on a daily basis that she never did anything right, her hair wasn’t fixed nice enough, she didn’t accessorize her outfit correctly, her tan was fading so she needed to start tanning longer. The only thing she thought she could use in life, was her body too. Now, I see it. But I didn’t then. She & I weren’t that different after all. 
Thinking back, I don’t even know who I was. But Jesus did. I don’t bring up my past so that you feel sorry for me, or to blame others, or to even acknowledge the negative things. I bring it up as a testimony of where I came from & how I’ve been freed & restored. Those people aren’t my enemy. Satan is. Although the emotional bondage began at a young age & I’m still breaking free of some things, I thank Jesus with all my heart that I was only in physical bondage for a few years. I know some women stay imprisoned their entire lives. And although there are some things I always have to keep in check emotionally, I truly have been set free!
 
I Corinthians 6:19-20, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.Let Him change how you view yourself, your body, & your beauty. One of the biggest factors in my healing, was through support & godly counsel from women in my church. Please find someone that will keep you accountable & give you godly wisdom & advice. Local churches usually offer this service for free. If they don’t, they can point you in the right direction.
Take every unholy thought captive, dear friend. Once we do that, there will be less room for the enemy’s lies & more room for holy affirmations, compliments & refreshment in our hearts & minds. Let Him show you that you are the CROWN OF HIS CREATION.
 
This is one of my favorites. Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
I’ve walked through my desert of questioning my worth & beauty. But Jesus has made me into a beautiful, new creation. And I declare my God as faithful!

Do You See Me

I’m so excited to share this with you. My heart is experiencing something very intimate this week. 

I’ve been having a very special conversation with Jesus. It’s lasted a few days so far. I have a feeling it will last a while longer. I have needed it so badly. All I had to do was talk and start the conversation, then listen; and share truthfully what’s on my heart, but I haven’t. I don’t think I’ve been a very good listener lately. I’ve been talking way too much. Anyways, it’s been one of those conversations that a little girl has with her daddy. “Do you like my dress? Do I look beautiful? Am I important?” So let me tell you how this conversation started.

Last Sunday at church, while singing some worship songs with my beautiful church family, I also began to pray. “With so many wonderful people in this world who truly love You, do I stand out? Are the things I’m doing really making a difference to You? Do you see me?”

I knew what the answer was. I know that I’m so precious to Jesus that He died for me. There’s no doubt in my mind about that. But I guess I wasn’t really asking those questions. I think my heart just needed some affirmation from its Creator. But this is what my Savior does; He doesn’t just pour His comfort and love into me which would have been more than enough. Oh, no. He did something incredible.

As I opened my eyes from praying, I realized the light coming in from a nearby window was casting a shadow on the row in front of me. My shadow. It seemed strange because I had my husband to my close left & a friend to my right. But it was only casting my shadow. I could so clearly hear in my heart, “I see you.” I couldn’t help but to cry. I knew God was showing me this. He didn’t just tell me, He showed me. A minute or so went by and the light began pouring through all the colors of the stained glass window & a rainbow began to frame my shadow. He whispered to by heart, “And I delight in you.” My heart was overwhelmed. My Lord cares so much that I know how unique & beautiful I am to Him, that He specifically showed me.

I wrote out some things I was feeling because I wanted to hear God’s voice in them. That’s the great thing about being in a relationship with God. When I talk, He answers. When I listen, He’s talking to me as well. Here are some of the things I’ve been crying out to my God, and also the things He’s sharing with me. I pray you are encouraged and find hope & excitement in it. This is a conversation He’s having with you too.

“Do you see me in this crowd, Lord? Am I beautiful to You? Does my heart please You? The darkness sometimes feels so heavy. I want to see Your light pierce through this prison. The enemy is persistent. My strength is feeling depleted.”

And here is His reply:

“My daughter whom I died for,

Oh yes, I see you. I saw you before any other eyes were captured by your beauty. I created your inmost being; I knit you together in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). And even before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations (Jeremiah 1:5).

There is not a part of you that I don’t understand. There is not a piece of you that I do not love. There is not a hurt you have that I will not heal. I think about you; I’m with you every moment of every day. You are my masterpiece. I created you anew in Christ Jesus, so you can do the good things I planned for you long ago (Ephesians 2:10). I take delight in you with gladness. With my love, I will calm all your fears. I rejoice over you with joyful songs (Zephaniah 3:17).

I am so pleased with you when you do what you know is right (1 Peter 2:19). I don’t ask for perfection, I ask for willingness and obedience. Our relationship is an ongoing, always deepening one. It’s a journey. And I’m so pleased that you’re chasing Me.

When you laugh, My heart leaps. And when you cry, I want only to comfort you. I know there are times when your heart aches. I give you My true joy and peace. I am ever so close to you when you are brokenhearted and I will save you when you feel your spirit is crushed (Psalm 34:18). There is not a hole deep enough, or a darkness strong enough to keep Me from you. You are always in the palm of My hand. Nothing can change that. No one can take you from Me.

My light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome Me (John 1:5). You, dear daughter, are from Me and have overcome them, because I am in you and I am greater than the one who is in the world (1 John 4:4).

Don’t rely on your own limited strength. You are not meant to. It is I who arm you with strength and keep your way secure (2 Samuel 22:33). Look to Me for My strength; seek My face always (1 Chronicles 16:11). I have already overcome the enemy. The victory is already yours.”

Talk to your Savior about everything that’s going on in your heart. The pretty stuff, the ugly stuff, & everything in between. He’s listening & does not judge you when you’re having a bad day. He has incredible things He wants to tell you & show you! You never have to wonder if He’s listening. He is. I declare Him faithful.