Friday, May 31, 2019

What Is Beauty? {A guest post}

Have you ever read/ listened to someone else's words and felt like you were hearing your own heart - only strung together in a much more beautiful way than the jumbled mess in your mind? I felt exactly that way when I read a post on the blog by Daughters Of Promise

The subject of beauty, and all that goes with it, is one that gets a lot of attention at my house these days. I'm raising three daughters, you see. I long for them to grasp the meaning of true beauty and struggle with the best ways to guide them.  

I've never used make-up or nail polish or any of a host of other things most normal girls at least experiment with. Honestly?Most of the reason is that I am a very practical person; I hate anything extra that takes up large portions of time and money. Beautifying routines are just a pain in the neck for me, certainly waaay more trouble than they're worth, in my mind. 

I realize I'm strange. I realize that for me to squash all my daughter's girlish desires for beauty on the basis of my own is not quite fair of me. I want to be careful to not teach something as sin, that is actually a God given desire. But there's more to it than that. 

I long for my daughters to realize the truth: that God made them beautiful exactly the way they are. That accepting and embracing the masterpiece He created is more beautiful than any painting or tinting or manicuring they can ever do themselves. 

And that is the message so beautifully given in this post that Anita Yoder is kindly allowing me to share here with you. 


Where’s that eye cream my friend gave?

This was my thought the minute I saw my eyes have crow’s feet when I smile.

When I noticed wisps of silver at my ears and temples: I’m too young for grey hair. Where can I buy some brown tinted shampoo?

I didn’t think I had a complex about my age. I don’t notice wrinkles and grey hair on other women. But on my face? Suddenly I was aware of a complex I couldn’t even name.

It had something to do with my idea of my face, and wrinkles and grey hair didn’t fit into that. Or then it was connected to my self-image, and my body’s new developments messed with who I thought I was: not beautiful, but not aging.

What is beauty, anyhow? I started mulling.

The miles of aisles selling cremes, toners, colors, and oils seem to imply beauty is in a bottle or package. Particularly one with shiny wrapping and curlicue graphics. The bottle’s contents will surely imbed the same attractiveness on your face or hair or legs.
Age-defying. Blemish-perfecting. Clearer skin after 7 days. Glossy hair – in the color of your choice. Break-through ingredient. Regenerating technology. Nature’s micro-oil infusion. Shimmering. Instantly luminous.
Beauty is something you can hold in your hand, exchange for some money, and keep within arm’s reach every day. Or on your vanity, catch-all basket, or bag. (Beauty is also the style and color of your shoes. Or scarf. Or belt design.)

Several years ago when a friend was approaching 40, I noticed the wrinkly skin at her wrists and thought I’m glad my hands don’t look like that. But now I’m 40 and her skin has become mine. When I spot the odd discolorings that used to be clear, and sagging skin that used to be firm and smooth, I feel compelled to run out to find the bottle with the graphics that promise me the fluid that will instantly restore the effects of sun, wind, caffeine, and hormone changes. If not instantly, then at least in seven days.

In my town, I watch a woman with a lithe figure join another fitness group. I observe a young girl with professionally-manicured nails buy a new color of nail polish. Women cluster around moisturizers on sale because today beauty is finally more affordable. Tomorrow it’ll be too late and beauty’s promise will evade them.

I cannot scorn these women because when I give myself permission to be honest, I feel the same desperation and compulsions. I walk down the sidewalk, past hundreds of drop-dead gorgeous women and sophisticated men, and I feel their eyes stop on me, sometimes curious, sometimes disdainful. (In Eastern Europe, status quo and fashion are uber-important, and staring seemingly isn’t considered offensive.) When their eyes catch mine, I know their attention was arrested by my unfashionable clothes and white veil, but what I really wish is that they’d think my eyes or smile or hair are gorgeous enough to catch their eye.

Or am I the only woman who wants to look amazing enough for a stranger to admire her face?

Part of being a whole woman means recognizing the pull – the groaning, longing, powerful tug – inside our hearts toward beauty. To be acknowledged as beautiful. To respond to beauty. To connect with its power.

Because beauty is powerful. It shouts and sings and cajoles. It can be heard above the noise and distractions of the dusty daily. It soothes and comforts and refreshes.

It is so compelling and powerful that woman’s first fall from grace involved noticing beauty, responding to it, and demanding it. Eve did what every alive woman does when beauty, not God, calls the shots. She responded to what pleased her eyes and took it into her hand for herself. Who said you can’t hold beauty in your hand?

Sometimes when I stand in a store, the shiny packages and sleek ads remind me of that fruit that looks so pretty. Youth in a package. Beauty in a bottle. It fits in your hand, smooth and shining and promising.
This is not a call to dump all our creams and never again patronize a pharmacy. This is a call to mindfully engage the messages we’re absorbing. We may be believing some lies about beauty or ourselves. We may be scared of beauty’s power. We may be demanding it, plucking it off in handy sizes to enhance, defy, and manipulate.

Striving and grasping defeats beauty. So keep it simple, sweetie! Eliminate the body odor. Trim the chin hair. Clean and smooth your nails and heels. Part of beauty is being at rest, not obsessing, insisting, grabbing.

Being at rest and being beautiful requires knowing our Creator and His heart. His hands would never shape something untrue to His character. We, His pieces of art, are beautiful as soon as we use the smile He gives. Have you noticed this? It is an endless joy to me, how an other-wise plain girl’s face is transformed when she smiles.

Beauty isn’t in a bottle. It’s in an identity that is more true and deep and changeless than the loveliest skin you ever saw.

Anita Yoder hales from Guys Mills, Pennsylvania, with pieces of her heart scattered from Virginia to Ireland to Poland. If you liked her words here, you might enjoy checking out Tis A Gift To Receive, where she blogs about the exciting adventures and ordinary days of her life.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

A Child Shall Lead Them

Ever notice how large children's ideas are? How they believe anything is possible? How bright and exciting everything looks through their young eyes? Those of us who are old and wise - we grown-up people who have been around the block a few times - we often tend to squelch that enthusiasm, don't we?

Several months ago, my third born came home with shiny eyes and a big idea. I listened to it silently, with all my grown-up wisdom, and subtly tried to reduce the 11 year old brainstorm down to a reasonable size. Yes, the idea sounded lovely. Yes, she was excited. But......

That's what moms are for, right? To shield their children from disappointment and disaster and help them think rationally and reasonably? Older siblings now, they aren't as kind. They roll their eyes and make snide remarks and squash big ideas; moms just nicely try to provide direction.

So, like I said, my daughter came home with this big idea...

"Me and my friend, we thought we should write a weekly newsletter for the rest of the school year and get people to subscribe for a certain amount a week to raise money for <a ministry we had recently heard about at church>! Don't you think that would be neat??" And she bubbled on and on with complicated plans for how to pull this all off while the rest of us did pretty much what I described above and her enthusiasm slowly leaked away with all our wise, older-than-you-are years of experience.

But, thankfully for my daughter, there is this man at our house who's years of wisdom have not tainted his view of the possible quite as much as the rest of us. Or maybe it's just that he's not as afraid of what people might think or how it might look, I'm not sure. In any case, he took my daughter's idea and tweaked it and added to it and helped her run with it. He silenced all the eye rolling siblings and the well meaning mom and he put himself out there and stood up on Sunday morning when they asked for announcements and told the whole church about his daughter and her friend's big idea.

 After church that day, my two youngest daughters and their friend busily went around signing people up for their newsletter. For the next 10 weeks, The Antrim Herald landed in anyone's hands who had shown interest, and the donations began trickling in for a missionary family from our church.

This was a handwritten affair that required organization and a stick-to-it-ness not many 11 year olds possess. Every week new content had to be thought of and willing writers had to be found. It didn't take long to discover that the willing writers were the hardest part. Turns out those eye rolling older siblings and the well meaning mom were the most willing contributors to be found. The whole newsletter kind of turned into a family affair, with the man of the house providing the printing abilities by taking the handwritten notepaper along to work and printing off 32 copies every week.

The Antrim Herald was a creative piece of work with anything from current school events and riddles...

To teacher interviews and original poetry...

And the ever present jokes...

The most fun was watching the girl's shining eyes as people willingly and generously donated. The idea that these girls originally thought might possibly bring in $50 - $100 turned into a growing stash that in the end came to over $300!!

I'm quite proud of my daughter and her big ideas and her perseverance. Some weeks it would have been so much easier to just skip the whole thing but she never let her readership down. I'm also quite proud of the man I married who stepped in and gave a childish idea life. He's the best.

So. Have any big ideas? Have anybody rolling their eyes at you and giving you kind, enthusiasm squelching advice? Maybe you shouldn't listen. Maybe you can do much bigger things than you ever thought possible!

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Class Of 2019

Oh hi. You mean people still stop by this place?

Believe it or not, I haven't fallen off the face of the earth nor gotten hit with the bubonic plague nor has the cat actually quite gotten my tongue. I'm still here in Ohio, living my life, doing my thing; I just don't happen to be talking about it very often.

"If my heart had a physical gauge to show the feelings of the past week, the needle would be stuck somewhere over by 'all the feelings'."

I started a post several days ago with that emotional beginning. But rather like the weather around here -- one day feeling like summer and the next you're shivering -- that beginning isn't really striking me anymore.

Last week was a busy one. I spent Monday, which was the fifth anniversary of my mom's death, going along on the school's field trip to the zoo. No, it would not have been my activity of choice. Me going along meant my kindergartener could go too, so there I was. It was a long day. A georgous, sunny one I might add, so there was that.

Personally, I think these
two were cuter
than any animals we saw...

I'm not sure why the rest of the week felt so harried. Wait, maybe that was a lie. Isaac's graduation Friday night was the main focus and there were several trips to town and lots of praying over layer cakes in association with that event. I'm not sure why the whole process brought out every single insecurity in me (and there are a lot) but the whole week was just rough. I decided later that grief probably had more to do with it than I realized... sneaky old thing that runs along under the surface, waiting to sabotage your life when you least expect it!

Gathering pictures
sorta started all the tears...

I was worried about making the cakes, 
then it dawned on me that I somehow
have to get the things to the
 church in one piece!

They don't call me creative for nothing. 
They still needed some help
upon arrival but
they were in one piece. 

We would never miss
The opportunity to play a game...

These two are a pair. 
I'm glad they got to graduate together. 
They both finished twelve grades
in eleven years...

Charles could hardly contain himself watching Isaac open the gift from him!

When I finally fell into bed at 12:30 a.m. after the event was over and the remains cleaned up and toted home, I kept seeing my son standing up there in front of the crowd delivering his speech.

(The speech that he finally 
sat down and wrote a few meager
notes for about 15 minutes
before graduation...)

(The speech that his little brother 
obliviously slept through...)

I was so proud of him, so proud. At the same time? At the same time I was so humbled, so very very humbled. Maybe no one else listening that night knows it, but this mother is keenly aware that any good thing in that young man standing there Friday night comes straight from the grace of God. Only the grace of God could cover my faults and failures and shortcomings as a parent; only God could woo and call and shape in spite of, and I cry tears of thankfulness again every time I think of it.

For some mothers, their child's first day of school is the hardest thing they can imagine putting their mother heart through. For me, my oldest graduating has to be the most emotional, heart wringing event I've experienced as a mom... so far. I didn't really expect it to be that way, so who knows what will hit me next?

All these years of school have felt somewhat safe; predictable; routine. Suddenly the future is wide open and that's my child, a piece of my heart, going out there to face the world and all it's harsh, uncertain, uncharted realities. Becoming a parent and taking on the weight of responsibility for another human is a scary and sobering thing. Watching your child on the cusp of the real world and trusting them to handle the responsibility themself? That's a whole different kind of weight, in my opinion.

But, the future comes by days and hours, not years. I have no doubt the God of grace, who was able to cover so much in the past 17 years, is fully capable of handling the next ones as well.

So here's to the future and a new stage of life. Here's to my oldest who has grown into a kind, dependable, level-headed young man of integrity and character .... with a side of wit, and a dash of teasing and an insatiable love for magic and games. Here's to us moms who's hearts melt into a tangled mess of pride and humility and tears. May the Amazing Grace of our Father cover us all. Amen.

PS. This is how we all
felt over the weekend...

PPS. And this is how I feel
about this chilly morning
and my last days of peace and
quiet before summer vacation. 

Happy Tuesday!