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.

Facebook Makes Me Flawless

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“You’re life is so perfect.”

I met the comment with a curious half smile and confused twisted eyebrows. My life? Perfect?

“What in the world gave you that idea?”, I replied.

“I’m always looking at the pictures you post on Facebook and you’re always so happy. Your family and life is just…perfect.”

My heart sunk when I realized what had happened.

Facebook made me flawless.

At least appear to be.

I had unintentionally created an image of myself, my family and my life that does not exist. I didn’t mean to misrepresent myself, but I did. It’s so easy to display an edited, more viewer friendly version of yourself; skimming the top of your day without getting into the depths of the messy details.

So here’s the truth.

I only post pretty pictures of myself. If my muffin top is hanging over my pants in a photo, I either crop it or delete the photo altogether. If the angle or lighting is unflattering, not a problem…I’ll just use a filter. I’m even guilty of digitally correcting a blemish and lightening the bags under my eyes. Yup. I’ve done that.

I only post happy family photos. Facebook is a great way to stay connected to loved ones who live hundreds of miles away. But the pictures I share are usually the kinds you keep in your wallet. I’ve never posted one of my toddler peeing on the floor or having a mega meltdown because I won’t give her 7 cookies…or let her eat the dog’s food. I’ve never posted a picture of both my daughters scream crying for 10 long, looooong minutes while I also breakdown and cry like a baby thinking to myself, “How can I balance it all today?” Those are not happy wallet worthy photos, so they don’t make the cut.

I only post positive status updates. I’ll share a Bible verse that has encouraged me that week, but rarely will I mention that the reason the verse hit me so powerfully is because I’ve felt empty for weeks- emotionally depleted, physically worn. I question whether I’m qualified to make a difference. I battle self-doubt and insecurity in my appearance and in my journey as a mother, a wife, a woman. But none of that is consistently seen. You just get the pretty glimpse, not the ugly stare down.

Behind every pretty, happy photo that’s posted, there are a dozen other life-snapshots filled with toddler tantrums, tired makeup-less faces, arguments, self-doubt and muffin tops.

That is the real me. That is my real life. My messy, imperfect, love-filled life.

“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” — Steven Furtick

So let’s try to remember that the hearts on the other side of the computer screens have a lot going on. And heaven knows how many outtakes it took to get one good photo to share with the digital world. If we want to know the real person, let’s stop observing them through a glass screen and grab a cup of coffee with them instead. Face to face, heart to heart. Not to try to find their flaws, but to get involved in the realness. Because that’s what life is about, connecting and loving each other in our beautiful messes.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

John 13:34&35

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)

 

Your First Love

From a very young age, I have loved to draw & write.

When I was in kindergarten, our class was asked to draw something related to Christmas. One kid’s picture was going to be chosen to be in the newspaper. I decided to draw the silhouettes of an angel & wise men on their way to see baby Jesus. I remember thinking it was such a good idea. Brilliant even. And when I was finished with my creation, feelings of pride & joy burst from my heart as I gazed upon my final product. It was a masterpiece. Exactly as I had envisioned it. It was probably my best work so far. And to my thrill, but not total surprise, I won & it was printed in the newspaper. My pride was pure & innocent. And I just knew I would be chosen, because I loved to draw. That’s how it worked, right?

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Don’t you love how simple some things were when you were young?

All the way through high school I wrote poems, short stories & anything on my heart really. Writing was a part of my identity. Every spare moment I had (& sometimes during moments that I should have been focusing on something else) you could find me in a corner somewhere with my pens, notepad & art book. When I wrote or drew, something inside of me came alive. I knew it was my calling. I didn’t know how it was going to fit into a “job”. But I was sure that God placed those desires in my heart, so He was going to work it out.

Well, life started happening. And those corner art sessions became few & far between.

On the rare occasions that I did write or draw, that fiery passion burned again. I would always ask myself, “Why don’t I do this any more? I love it so much. I’m meant to do this.”

But I’ll tell you why I stopped.

The world told me that I had to grow up. It stole that childlike passion & confidence. My adult brain began to compare my abilities to others, which then stole all the joy & fun of doing what I loved.

The world told me that I wouldn’t be able to make money at it. If it didn’t fit into a rational, logical, productive, grown up category in life, I had to toss it out the window. I couldn’t get wrapped up in the whimsy of what I loved to do when there were more “productive” things that needed to get done.

Can I just say one thing?

It isn’t true!

The truth is, the Lord has put talents, passions, loves & abilities inside of each of us for a reason! We don’t have to work out the details or worry about if it’s productive enough or profitable enough or constructive enough.

Drawing is therapeutic to me. It calms me down & allows my mind to beautifully wander. Writing allows me to express my heart in a way that I wouldn’t otherwise know how to do. They are both precious to me & are therefore, valuable, productive & worthwhile.

So let me ask you…

What do YOU love to do? What is it that makes you happy & enjoy the moment for what it is? What have you let go of in your life that used to bring you passion & meaning? What have you set aside that used to make you come alive?

I encourage you to take some time this weekend & rediscover your love. Draw, paint, write. Go for a bike ride, play your guitar, go build something. Sign up for that class, get that certification, step out of your comfort zone. Dare to be silly. Have fun. Enjoy it. If it brings you joy or even makes you smile, bump it up on your to-do list. Give it higher priority.

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
Proverbs 17:22

After my sweet God, redirected me back to my love of writing & drawing, I feel more whole now. Let Him do the same for you.

Please leave a comment below & share what it is YOU love to do!

I declare my God as faithful!

Insecurity & True Identity

I remember one time during my sophomore year in college, I was required to give a 15-minute presentation in a women’s ministry course that would account for 33% of my grade. This class had become one of my favorite classes. Something inside of me was coming alive. There was a stirring in my heart that I had never known. It was changing my life.

As much as I loved this class, I had dreaded this presentation the entire semester. The morning arrived & it was my turn to give my presentation. And right before the class started…I left. I couldn’t do it. On top of being completely afraid of public speaking, I was so insecure about presenting to these other girls who looked & acted so put together & I realized anything I would say would be criticized, judged & picked a part. I would make a fool of myself.

Well, that’s what I had told myself anyways.

Because I let insecurity paralyze me to the point that I actually skipped class, I failed the entire course. And unfortunately, this is just one of the many scenarios I could share with you where my insecurity has crept in & destroyed something that could have been wonderful.

I think we all have experienced insecurity in some shape or form. Whether we are insecure about our jobs, our marriages, our friendships or simply ourselves. We know what it’s like to feel inadequate. We know how it has prevented us from doing certain things that we long to do. Or how it keeps us from building friendships with certain people because we feel like we won’t fit in or measure up to their expectations.

Insecurities hinder us & make us feel like we’re not equipped for the task at hand. It distracts us & steals our attention to focus on what we aren’t, instead of the fullness of who we are through Christ.

But oh, dear friend, your true identity is not the image you see in the mirror & it isn’t gaged by your ability & competence to do something on your own. Oh no. It is far greater & more powerful than any of those things.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-11

When we stop focusing on who we think we are & get a good look at Who we belong to, we begin to see our true selves very differently.

It is through our weakness & inability that God demonstrates His perfect strength! Our weaknesses & insecurities are exactly what the Lord is asking for us to hand over to Him & if we do that, He will use those very insecurities & weakness to exemplify His strength & perfection!

I am a mess & in no way, am I perfect. But I can point others to the One who is! May God’s strength be seen in me. Not because of anything I am on my own, but because of who I am only through Him!

And so it was with me, brothers & sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message & my preaching were not with wise & persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.
1 Corinthians 2:1-5

I declare my God as faithful!