Tonight I ate hot fudge by the spoonful. I am not kidding.
The other day I bought Smuckers Hot Fudge while shopping because I had a recipe I wanted to make. I made the dessert, ate the dessert, and enjoyed the dessert. I even ate the last half piece of dessert for breakfast one morning — really. Just a half piece of dessert: no protein, no fruit, no cereal, no oatmeal. Just dessert! And I enjoyed every second of breakfast that day! (Dear Mom — it is not true that sugar for breakfast spoils my day. Maybe if this is the habitual norm. But my dessert for breakfast the other day did not harm me in any way. In fact, it gave me a sense of joy!) But then my dessert was gone. The half botttle of hot fudge still waited patiently in the fridge.
So I ate a spoonful one night when there was no other chocolate in the house. Just 1 spoonful. Then I placed the jar back in the fridge.
The next night I had another spoonful. Just 1. Back in the fridge.
But the next night, I ate 4 spoonfuls. And I never opened the jar! You see, I had read a recipe for hot fudge that talked about being so good you’d never want to buy another jar again. I have nothing against my jar of Smuckers. Obviously I like it. But just for fun, I thought I’d do a side by side taste test. I think the homemade won. I mean –4 spoonfuls!
By the way, this was after my evening workout! I’ve been so proud of myself. I’ve actually been working out lately. I used to work out, and enjoyed it. But then life hit. I stopped working out and for about 10 years, working out has been hit and miss. The last 7 years it’s been mostly non-existant. But for the last 15 weeks, I’ve done something most weekdays!
And I’ve continued to eat just how I normally do. But while eating my delicious spoonful, the nagging thought came: You can’t lose weight eating hot fudge all night, even if you work out!
I paused after spoonful 3. True. Likely very true. But, what if I was loosing weight in another way?
What if the baggage of “you shouldn’t do that” or “eating this won’t help” or “control control control” needs to be lost. I’m not advocating for no self discipline. I’m also not advocating for living only for the pleasure of the flesh. Of course not. That is a whole different issue. But the lies of Satan about pleasure, beauty, weight, what you should eat or not eat, and comparison of what others eat and don’t eat run rampant in our culture.
But I’ve been thinking on this: “…In His right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
The hot fugde was a pleasure. So was eating dessert for breakfast one morning. And both did me no harm. Sure, eating only sugar all the time does harm your body. We know that. But when is the last time I ate dessert for breakfast? And when is the last time I shoveled in the hot fudge by the spoonful with no ice cream? Can’t remember doing either in a long long time. And probably won’t do them again for another long long time!
I’m learning some things about life. We pile on so much pressure. We let “you shouldn’t do that” consume us. We compare. We criticize. We try to perform. We have weight on us that is not on the body — but on the heart.
And eating hot fudge (by the spoonful) is not healthy. Agreed. But neither is the pressure to be that we heap on ourselves day after day. We just are not aware of it.
So dear ladies — I hope you enjoy a simple pleasure today. And moms out there … a memory of mine is the rare occasion my mom let us have “backwards day” and eat dessert before the main dish and veggie — how fun! Press on dear ladies! The gift of pleasure is a gift! Isn’t God good to us!
I recently watched a favorite movie of mine from my younger years, Ever After. The last lines of this Cinderella like movie made me smile. Danielle, the now princess, says to her new husband, “You, Sir, are supposed to be charming.” He replies, “And we are supposed to live happily ever after.” “Says who,” Danielle queries back. The Prince pauses and says, “I don’t know.” They smile at each other, and the movie fades away and on the screen we read, “and they lived happily ever after.”
Ahh. Remember watching the Disney channel? It used to be on Sunday nights, and I liked when our family occasionally watched together in the living room, gathered around our small television. Mom would sometimes make us a decidedly unhealthy dinner of pizza burgers and chocolate milkshakes. (This was a vast change from our normal meals!) Afterwards, The Lawrence Welk Show would continue the evening television lineup. My brother always left at that point! But I liked to watch some of it. The ladies were dressed up pretty, the music was jazzy and fun, and even though it could be a bit more boring than the previous Disney selection, it was fun in it’s own rights, especially since we didn’t watch a lot of tv in our family. Some of the sets were enchanting, the dancing was graceful or fun, and they always ended with a waltz. Ahh.
Happily ever after. The end. Princesses. Charming knights. It is the stuff of fairy tales.
Another favorite movie of mine from my childhood is Rigoletto. Do you know this one? It was produced by Feature Films for Families. The young heroine, Bonnie, is daughter of a widow. The town is poor, many people have great needs. A wealthy man buys and fixes up an old mansion. Bonnie ends up going to work for him, but is instructed to never go into his study, ever. One day she hears beautiful singing and can’t help but go in. Ribaldi, “the Master,” gets angry. Ribaldi’s face is scarred and he limps. Gabriella, “a princess” with an angelic voice, soothes Bonnie and after that an unlikely friendship strikes up as Bonnie asks Ribaldi to teach her to sing too, as he taught Gabriella. Ribaldi loves the town, especially the children. The townsfolk are given large amounts of money anonymously by Ribaldi, but they don’t know it is from him. The banker is selling their property, but they think Ribaldi is buying them out. The movie ends with the townsfolk hurting and killing Ribaldi in anger, thinking he is taking their homes, all while Bonnie is singing beautifully at a national contest that she was able to go to because of Ribaldi. She wins, and returns home only to find Ribaldi is gone. Yet, inside his home, she finds a man. He looks like Ribaldi, but he is not scarred and doesn’t limp. He says he is from a far away land, and is just passing through. He says to Bonnie, “But you don’t believe that do you?”
The move is a mix of reality and fantasy, and at one point Bonnie sings these words (Let Me In by Kurt Bestor and Sam Cardon):
I love the part in fairy tales That’s very near the end When all the kingdom cheers for this new queen; And all is well and all is good And everyone belongs, And happily they’re ever-aftering.
Ahh. Doesn’t it sound magical? Doesn’t it make you really want that? But look around us. Life is not happily ever after right now. Hatred, racism, extremists, terrorism, a pandemic, child abuse, sex trafficking, domestic violence, cancer, suffering, pain. I don’t need continue, though many more could be noted. Why does happily ever after call to us? Especially, when our reality seems that happily ever after is not possible.
Our hearts long for this elusive ending, I believe, because that is what we were created for and it is what is to come! Why do I think this? Because I just read Daniel. Because I’m studying my way through the Old Testament. The Old Testament tells a beautiful story of God and His plan and mankind’s fall into sin and their struggle to find that perfect unity that was lost when sin entered. The story begins in an utopia — a garden of delight and perfectness, and where Adam and Eve walked with God in the cool of the evening. Ahh, lovely– right! But sin and Satan entered and drew people away from God. Adam and Eve sinned and perfect union with God was marred; pain, suffering, and all sorts of evil now engrain human kind. (Genesis 2-3) Sin entered all aspects of humanity and all creation even groans under the weight of it. By the time you get to Daniel in the Old Testament, the Bible has already shown sin and the depraved mind of man. God grieved over the evil of mankind, so much that he had the intent to wipe out humanity. (Genesis 6:5-7). However, God saw something different in Noah. He sent a flood, but in kindness He spared Noah, and therefore, man. From that man, all people of the earth came to be. One group of people showcased in the Old Testament are the Jews, those of Israeli heritage. In continuing through the Old Testament the reader learns how God sustained them, blessed them, how they followed after other gods, how God rescued them, how He led them. It is seen over an over how they continually sought after something other than God alone. God, in justice, had to punish their sins. Yet again and again, in love, God rescued them, brought them back to Himself, and retaught them His ways. Now, Israel is “God’s chosen people” and they represent God’s plan and walk with all people. Praise God in the New Testament when Jesus comes, He dies for all people, even if not a Jew by blood! (This is hinted at all through the Old Testament too! Praise God!)
So in studying Daniel, I was supposed to come up with a theme for the book. I sometimes think this is a hard task to condense a book of the Bible into a main sentence. Daniel is full of prophecy. Many people would say that is the theme. But as I thought, this is what I wrote: God is the Most High God, the Ruler of Heaven and all of the earth. His Kingdom will endure forever!
Ahh! I went back and looked at who God is as noted in the book of Daniel. God is the Most High God, the Living God, the Ancient of Days, the Highest One, the Lord, the Great and Awesome God. He is righteous, compassionate, just. Ahh! Oh don’t you love it! God rules over all of heaven and all of earth. Sin is present right now in astonishing ways, but only for a time! In Daniel we see prophecy, yes, and in the middle of the predetermined time the Messiah comes! (Messiah, Savior, Jesus! Jesus died on the cross to remove our sin and restore right relationship with God!) And then, after that at the end of the predetermined time the Ancient of Days, God Himself, reigns and His kindgom will never end! Ahh!! Do you see? The fairy tale is in us. We long for happily ever after, because God has set eternity in our hearts! Oh precious sisters in God — press on to know this God of Heaven who rules supreme! His love for you is unfathomable! Sin’s effects of suffering and pain are great, and our world is in a topsy turvy because of this sin. But, we know the end! Praise God, happily ever after is coming!
Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, for wisdom and power belong to Him. It is He who changes the times and epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding. It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness and the light dwells in Him. The Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind. … I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever; For His dominion is an everlasting dominion. For He is the living God and enduring forever. O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, the Lord our God is righteous with respect to all His deeds which He has done. (Daniel 2:20-22, 4:25 & 34, 6:26, 9:4 &14 )
*This is the song Ancient of Days that I grew up listening to (if you want another version of song that puts praise into words!)
I am on my 10th week of furlough. Summer is here. And I’m taking some time to be thankful for lots of little things! While I find myself not always with enough to do (productively at least), I’m finding myself enjoying the slow pace of living and the ability to rest. Today I’m listening to birds sing outside. I’m mowing the yard. And I’m watering flowers. Ahh — summer! I love it! (Although I admit I like the look of a freshly mowed yard — the actual work of mowing is hard! My husband normally does this task, and I’m grateful he does!)
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! (Ps. 34:8) Yesterday my mom and I shared flower pictures. It’s fun to watch our plantings fill in and grow. It’s fun to see perennials come up year after year, just because that is how God made them! We mentioned that they make our yards look pretty, and bring joy! Oh, see that the Lord is good! Look around at the beauty of creation! My husband and I have taken several walks along a lake in the last couple of weeks. We sometimes just stop and sit and watch out the on water for awhile. It’s refreshing! Look at the gift of colors and variety as seen in flowers!
Oh taste that the Lord is good! As a kid we had several rhubarb plants. As a kid I didn’t appreciate rhubarb to the full extent! Now, I miss rhubarb! I have been craving it this season, as it seems to be a seasonal treat for the most part. The other week my husband and I were going to make a run to Bakers Square, just to satisfy my craving of rhubarb — a piece of their pie should do! However, due to the riots in our city they were closing extra early, and when I called to ask about picking up some pie they let me know their modified hours for the day, and we couldn’t make it there in time. Oh well! I did not want to buy rhubarb (why is it so expensive for something most growers give away with abandon!), and mom is too far away (I think she still has a plant!). But then later when I was at my sister-in-law’s she had some to share! I came home and the following day went to pick up some juicy strawberries, and the next day –pie! Isn’t God gracious and good to give taste-buds and flavors in so many varieties! Since my husband is not a fan of rhubarb, and since I do not want to tempt my lack of self control with a whole pie, I cut the recipe and used these cute little pie plates we got for our wedding! (Please don’t feel bad my husband won’t get any! I already am planning another dessert that he does like! Plus, I’m the one who craves baked goods. He doesn’t tend to!) I heard a lady say the other day, “I don’t know why but it gives me great joy that it is cute!” I agree! For some reason I really like these cute pie plates! It is just another gift from a good God — little cute things that bring enjoyment!
Oh ladies, God is so good to us! Little blessings abound! Color, taste, pleasures, and so many more! May you take some time to delight in little gifts — in the normal mundane of each day where we take so much for granted. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord! (Ps. 150:6) (And if you want this classic summer pie recipe – here it is from one of my favorite cooking blogs!)
I have a confession. My mom tried to teach me to sew when I was young. I did not like it one bit! I truly dislike hemming. Learning to sew buttons on felt tedious. My sister stuck a sewing machine needle through her finger once — when making a gift for me. Sewing just seemed like a hassle, and in my mind it was not necessary. Thus, imagine my mother’s likely surprise that this daughter of hers is now excited over making dresses. That is right. I completed one last year with a ton of help from my friend and from my mom. Then I braved the world of maxi dresses and made an “easy” project. It turned out great (with many flaws)! And I was proud of my accomplishment. But it also spurned a desire for more dresses to be made!
Therefore, I have been searching the internet for tutorials on how to make maxi dresses and skirts. There are many out there, but mostly variations of the same thing. But during this searching process I came across another trend in the you-tube world — blogging about clothes. Not tutorials of how to make clothes — rather, clothing blogs. These blogs discuss a persons’ outfit, how they wear that outfit, favorite outfits and favorite stores. The fashion world is being brought into our bedrooms as we watch how another finds to match the numerous tops and bottoms in her closet.
I immediately started to compare myself. My clothes. My lack of style. My desire to get it right. I felt unstylish. That led me to feel un-pretty. That led me to let the “U” word into my head (ugly). Ahh — the lies of Satan that march into my mind through the venue of comparison – through the medium of blogs on fashion, clothing, and style — that started with an innocent desire to find out how to make a dress.
Then I found other videos on body image. Girls discussing their honest thoughts on their weight, or on beauty. Again, I’m a victim of this mindset. I’ve had discussions on the same. And thus, I compared myself again.
I remember walking into a computer lab one day, and a male acquaintance was loafing through pictures of previous students — the female pictures. I stood beside him and listened as he analyzed each girl. Then all of a sudden he said, “Bingo!” I observed the picture he was looking at. The girl was pretty. What made me stand there and listen, and what made him allow me to do so? I still don’t know! Anyway, she was a pretty girl. I commented that he must like brunettes, as all the pictures he liked were of girls with brown hair. He shrugged. Then he stated, “She’s pretty… great teeth, pretty nose, nice smile.” It’s then that I walked away. I remember comparing myself as I meandered down the hall. His words rang in my head, “Great teeth, pretty nose, nice smile.” The words wouldn’t go away. I don’t have perfect teeth, and due to a cleft palate, my nose and smile are slightly crooked. They normally don’t bother me … but sometimes, like that day, they do. My brain immediately registered that perfect equals pretty, and therefore I must not be.
Why do I tell you this? What does it matter? It matters because beauty is marred, and we women are struggling with the labels we give ourselves and which society gives us. We mentally label ourselves as pretty or ugly. The terms are subjective, and fickle, yet we use them as if they are the holy grail of truth. The TRUTH is this: beauty in this world is marred. We don’t understand it clearly, because Satan has perverted that which is good — beauty. Beauty is God. Beauty is found in Him.
Outward appearance is a gift… and we are stewards. But I think also of the young lady I work with — a strikingly beautiful girl. She has dark brown hair, and warm chocolate eyes. She has a radiant smile. But her body is crooked and her legs don’t work. She sits in a wheelchair. She sometimes drools. She can’t comb her hair or put on makeup. She relies on others for all personal cares. In contrast are the following headlines from a simple internet search: “Top Ten Most Beautiful Women” and “100 Most Beautiful Women in the World.” I guarantee that the women noted in these articles are pretty. But in my quest for truth I wonder: How many of them have dermatologists teaching them skin care and assisting in nips, tucks, and popular exfoliation methods? How many of them have tan skin that is sprayed on or applied in a computer program designed to enhance? How many of them have breasts enhanced, contoured, or reduced? How many of them are slaves to exercise, diet, or a fear of not measuring up? How many of them are actually the girl next door to us? How many of them do you regularly see posing in sweat pants, t-shirts, and no make-up? I don’t know those women, and yet they seem to be what beauty is supposed to be. Yet, I wonder … I think of the girl I work with. She is a pretty girl. And sometimes I look in the mirror and see myself as either a beautiful girl, a normal girl, or an unkempt girl… all depending on the time of day and my attitude.
Beauty is marred. I confess that I’ve bought into this lie. I’ve conformed to the world in a way that I don’t want to. Now making pretty dresses is not bad. Neither is proper grooming and self-care or makeup. I actually think we do need to put some effort into our appearance – in a balanced way. But, beauty is marred, and I need to recognize this fact. I need to understand this fact. And I need to immerse myself afresh in God’s Word so that I recognize true beauty — not false beauty.
Oh ladies! We are living in an era of impossible beauty standards which require money most of us don’t have. My beauty is not based on my clothing or on my ability to buy accessories. My beauty is not based on my hair style or makeup expertise. No, neither is yours. Our beauty lies in the fact that we were created by God and that the Bible tells us that everything in creation is for God’s glory. (Isaiah 43:6-8) Our beauty is marred only when we look to the impossible and deceptive standards of physical beauty in a physical realm. May God remind you of your value and beauty today — you are a daughter of the King! Meditate on Psalm 139 … you are a work of God, and you are fully wonderful! I need this reminder today. And I apparently need to confess the sins of envy and comparison that creep into my inner being as I innocently searched the web for dress patterns! Oh press on ladies! One day the King will return — are his daughters going to radiate His beauty? I hope so! Let us redefine beauty as we look to Christ!
I’m sick of watching something that portrays men and women poorly. Let me explain. I turn on the tv, flip to the latest sitcoms or popular shows, and watch for a while. Within a sitcom I might find the men to be lazy, mediocre, having poor work ethics, disinterested in anything other than sports or sex, and they are often crude. However, the women are likely beautiful, capable, strong, carrying the workload, and extremely controlling. But maybe the portrayal that bothers me the most is the very attractive woman who carries a gun, is strong and tough, or punches and kicks down a villain as well as (or better than) the male co-actors.
Further, the other month I happened to catch a showing of a popular television show geared towards teenage girls. I mentally made a list of the traits these teenage girls portrayed: lying, aggressive, angry, bitter, jealous, deceptive, seductive, secretive, manipulative, flirtatious, impeccably (although immodestly) dressed, popular, catty, and did I mention gorgeous? Is that the profile you’d like? How about for your future daughter or daughter in law? Because that’s what’s being sold through media today. And I’m sick of it.
I wasn’t one of those girls. Compared to the 14-year-old girls in this popular show I was boring, poorly dressed, uninteresting, naive, and supremely not cool. Sigh. Of course there were really pretty girls in high school, and I’m sure there were groups of girls who acted in the ways described above. But looking back, I think I was much better off. God calls us to put off the ways of the world. God wants a woman’s inner beauty to radiate from within … it’s only then that an attractive outfit or face are truly complete! And don’t get me wrong, I love to dress up and put on makeup!
Oh, and by the way, I’m not all against women heroines. I do enjoy an occasional episode of Wonder Woman. She is the main star of the show, and she is the one who most often catches the bad guy. She does kick, fight, and throw a pretty good lasso. I admit. She also is a fictional, immortal super- heroine. Yes, she does have powers. I agree. She does wear a little bathing suit type outfit. All true. The show, therefore, does include some feminist aspects. I will agree. However, the show as a whole, has not robbed her of femininity, grace, or womanliness.
I recently read The Feminist Mystique Mistake by Mary Kassian. It is an excellent, although a little heavy, read. She discusses the waves of feminism that have rolled into our society since the early 1960’s. She quoted an interviewer who interviewed young women; women who did not grow up in the 60’s and 70’s, but rather in the following generations. “The women had neither adopted nor rejected feminism. Rather, it had seeped into their minds like intravenous saline into the arm of an unconscious patient. They were feminists without knowing it.” (p. 279, The Feminist Mistake).
Perhaps this generation of women, portrayed by popular shows, are so seeped into the concept of feminism that we have forgotten what femininity really is. However, I’m glad to say that God is working to conform me to His image that I might properly represent femininity. I rarely to never watch tv. Magazines are another thing I try to stay away from. I’m afraid my self image can’t handle the rejection! Just kidding — actually, when I look to the Bible and find that charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting (Prov. 31:30), or that inner beauty is of great worth to God (1 Peter 3:4), I know that media and the world’s representation of girls and women sadden the heart of God. It especially grieves His heart because some ladies believe that these women are what they want to be. Oh, let us not conform to the world, but may we be gracious, loving, Spirit-filled woman who radiate a beauty that the watching world can not help but notice! Press on, dear sisters, to be the women God has made you to be!
A roommate of mine once had a t-shirt with the words “100% Organic” written boldly across the chest. She was a healthy person who bought a lot of organic food, and I thought nothing of the t-shirt. However, one day she asked my other roommate and myself, “Does this message across the chest imply that my boobs are 100% real, not implants?” My other roommate thought about it and honestly said, “Maybe.” I didn’t know. I certainly hadn’t thought of that.
Today I painted my toenails — red, bright and fun. I tried on a dress and slipped a pair of Spanx under the dress to keep the curves in the right places. At the beauty salon the other day I flipped through the pages of the portraits captured when a girl came in for a fancy up-do. I ran across the pages where “Cinderella Extensions” transformed short styles into cascading waves, or elegant lengths. I was briefly curious, so I asked my stylists about them. (I have shorter hair that doesn’t hold curl, and refuses to grow two inches past my shoulders. The idea was intriguing if I’m honest!)
I once thought about all the ways that a woman can transform her looks. Literally head to toe there are “things” that can be done. The list is long. Are you ready? Hair cut, color, style, extensions. Permanent makeup, false eyelashes, makeup expertly done (or even done at all), lip implants, nose jobs, face lifts. Breast implants, padded bras. Girdles and Spanx. Padded underwear to add definition. Liposuction. Pedicures. Manicures. Fake nails. I’m sure the list could continue, but there from head to toe the ordinary becomes extraordinary.
Now, I’m a girly girl. I’ve said that before. I like to dye my hair, put on makeup, and paint my toenails. I’ll even admit, I’ve tried on fake eyelashes (and despite the trials of getting them on, I actually had fun and liked the look of glamor.) I just said above that I own a Spanx shape-wear. Yes. I admit these things openly. The question my former roommate asked about being real, could easily apply to all aspects of beauty.
I’ve enjoyed looking at magazines where stars are free of makeup, Photoshop, and beautiful dresses concealing the shape-wear underneath. I’ve read articles about the extreme measures taken before the Grammy awards air. I copied an article once about an actress describing the 14 hours it took to make herself look “perfect” for a photo shoot. These articles help ground me. They remind me that all the glamor of Hollywood is literally an evening of glamor. It is not the reality of most of these women each moment of every day.
Why do we do what we do? This is a good question to ask ourselves in a world where fake beauty abounds; where concealing and hiding have become a religion. What motives do I have when I paint my toenails, when I put on Spanx, or when I dye my hair. I believe that none of these things are wrong in and of themselves. Hardly. A poorly done manicure or hair color demonstrates that these things are not a cure all. And really, some of the prettiest women according to the world’s standards, feel insecure.
But I wonder. Why is it that we think we have to hide? My niece is two years old. There is absolutely no hiding with her. She runs naked through the house giggling at the top of her lungs. She examines the birthday suites of purney older ladies coming out of the showers at the pool with unabashed curiosity. She touches my moles and asks what they are. She then looks for moles on her own flawless skin. Surprise of all surprises, she found one tiny mole on her foot. It became her delight.
Whatever you do, regardless of if it physically transforms you in some way, is your motive to hide? There are other ways of hiding, by the way. A woman can hide behind being good, or by saying all the right words, or acting in a certain way. A person can hide in church by praying prayers that sound good. Or a woman can hide behind children who are polite, well-behaved kids. It’s easy to hide. We’ve mastered it.
We hide a lot, if we are honest. Now remember, I’m not saying beauty is wrong. I’m not saying it is bad to enjoy a manicure or new hair color. Just as these are not wrong in and of themselves, neither does the use of them always mean one is hiding. I’m just saying that often we do use these means as easily as a child slips beneath a costume and pretends to be someone whom they’re not.
Who are you? Before God? Before your family? Before your friends? Are you real? If you enjoy fake nails or eyelashes or beautiful hair extensions, I wonder if you’ve considered your motives and your value before God. Honestly, sometimes I dress up and feel the lies rising that I’m better off dressed up, that my value has somehow magically increased. It’s a lie. Often times on a Sunday morning I’ll peer into the mirror. I look at the woman reflected back, and I often like the dressier image that reflects verses the woman I see on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. But sometimes, when I look in the mirror, I gaze deeper. I look past the surface. I ask God what He sees. Am I hiding? Am I trying to please someone (again, not a wrong thing in and of itself, it’s the motive that’s in question!) I tell God I want to be myself, to be real. I want others to know who I am, even if they see dyed hair. I want God to dress up my inside — that kindness and love would bubble out of me. Mostly, regardless of my image, I want to be 100% real. 100%. Do you want this too? To achieve this, constant time spent with Jesus is a must. I’m getting there slowly. Real. 100%. Let’s not hide.
Today I went shopping, and I really like to shop. I shopped at a thrift store, which is my number one favorite place to shop! I like the prices, I like the “hunt,” and I like being able to rotate my clothes faster! However, I readily admit that sometimes when shopping (especially in the mall), I become obsessed with worldly beauty, and I feel the “materialistic” side of me rising. Literally, I have identified the feeling and shopping brings out the worst in me! I see styles that I have interpreted in my mind as pretty, successful, or attention getting. I think sometimes (secretly of course) that if I could only buy this, that, or the latest other thing, that I’d get the job, the promotion, the man, the deal, the happiness (I’m sure you can relate). I have learned to identify this lie, yet dealing with it and destroying the lie is a whole ‘nother story!
I love girly things. I like clothing and style and high heels and makeup. I just do. Thus, shopping poses a problem at times. I see cute styles. I want to wear the styles I see. Yet often, they are not modest. I believe that modesty is a heart issue, first and foremost. And there are the super-conservative opinions of clothing mixed with the liberal views of modestly, to the simply outlandish styles which no one in my groups of friends would ever wear. And all these represent views of people who think they’ve got modestly down to a science! I’ve started trying to ask God His opinion. He has the best eye anyway, and again, He doesn’t say I have to look out of style or even unattractive, just modest. I’m learning to let Him identify modesty for me, to let Him identify appropriate style, and allow Him to challenge me so that I might be pure in body and soul. (Who was it who said that a woman’s clothes should be tight enough to let men know she’s a woman, but loose enough to let them know she’s a lady? I like that!)
But I struggle sometimes. I don’t want to look too old, nor too young. I don’t want to say I love God with my mouth, but cause stumbling of eyes or thoughts due to my dress. (I had a crush on a guy in high school. He once voiced an opinion on the lack of modesty at the high school to another guy, and I happened to be within earshot. That really got me thinking!) Thus, I don’t want to let my appearance suggest that my body is not a temple of the living God. How do I reconcile this desire for modesty, style, and attractive dressing with the words of the Bible? I decided to tape the following verses to my clothing bin where I hold my rotation of seasonal clothes:
Do not conform any longer to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2)
Your beauty should not come from outward appearance, but rather the inner beauty that is of great worth in God’s sight. (1 Peter 3:3-4)
Put to death therefore whatever belongs to your earthly nature… and greed, which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5)
Along with my desire for cute clothing, I also struggle with greed in clothing. While I have little comparatively, I likely have more than I need. I like beauty, but want my heart to be far more beautiful than my body. I don’t want to follow the habits of this world, especially the western world with selfish mindsets and the insatiable need for more. Yet I find myself drifting in this direction from my desire to fit in. It is a constant struggle, one that God is working in me to overcome and counteract.
One thing I know for sure is that God knows where I live: the economic structure around me, the era I live in that is vastly sexual and immodest, the challenge of Christian women shopping for attractive attire while maintaining discretion and modesty, and the need I have for clothing! He is truly a gracious God and the more I meditate upon the verses above, stop reading fashion magazines or go shopping just to seek the latest and cutest, and pursue a heart of purity and modestly, the more He helps me stop caring about the fashion around me. I’ve still got a long way to go, but isn’t that what the pursuit of God is — a constant refinement of every fiber of our being, until we no longer care about this world and fix our eyes only on Jesus?
How I pray that my eyes are fixed firmly on Jesus, that as a woman I declare God’s glory and life within me with how I dress as well as with my words, and that I learn to pray that this world have no hold on me! Let’s continue to be different from the world in every arena of our lives!
(p.s. I’m not trying to condemn anyone. All of us are at different places in our journey with God. I am trying to challenge you to seek God’s opinion in your motives, dressing habits, and spending habits. This is a lesson that I have been in the process of learning, and which I’m still learning!)
I was recently skimming through Beth Moore’s book, So Long Insecurities. Have you read it? I read it through once, and then as I often do with books I like, I re-skim them. Usually I’m looking for a part that struck me with the first reading. I know it’s in there, but I typically just can’t find it. So I end up flipping through the pages, going back to what I highlighted, reading more than I was thinking I’d read again, and enjoying the second read as much as the first. I highly recommend this book! Anyway, it brought me back to a few conversations regarding beauty that I’ve had with some of the people I love the best — a good friend and a couple family members.
For starters, my friend once confided in me that she didn’t feel pretty, even though her husband told her she was pretty to him. Then a family member commented that her husband had exclaimed, “you’re so beautiful!” She hadn’t responded at all, because she thought it untrue. And finally, myself. Someone once asked me, “do you know how pretty you are when you smile?” He must have asked at least three times, as each time I also didn’t respond.
We all see the pictures in the magazines. We see ourselves in the mirrors, which in our opinions, don’t lie. We see the beauty of another woman (who has carefully concealed her flaws), and we might secretly label ourselves as ugly or not good enough. Of course with flattering outfits, makeup expertly done, hair perfected, and sometimes even a final airbrushing software (which removes all red spots, veins, any unwanted stubble of shaved armpits, fading roots of hair, and any visible unwanted mark), anyone can look stunning!
What do you think of when you think of beauty? Women were created beautiful. I was reminded of this when I worked at a hospital. I got to go into patient rooms and visit with the patients. I never knew what I’d see. But I can promise you none of the woman I saw were “put together” by any means. I typically saw hair molded to the shape of pillows, faces bearing no makeup, the unflattering potato-sack of washed out blue hospital gowns, and bodies weak with sickness.
One day though, I found a truly beautiful woman. Radiant beauty actually. I walked into a room that was packed with more flowers than a floral shop and smelled like I’d stepped into a garden, not a hospital room. The room itself was warm and welcoming. As I visited with the lady on the bed I was confronted with a wide smile and sparkling blue eyes. Where hair should have been falling across her forehead or shoulders, there was nothing. She was completely bald. A distinctive aspect of her womanhood was long gone due to the ravaging effects of cancer. Yet she was beautiful. I told her so too. What made her a woman hadn’t left with the loss of her hair.
I found myself thinking of her throughout the rest of my day. Beauty. Womanhood. They sort of go together. I know, I know. I don’t always feel pretty either when I compare myself to another, or when I look at a conceived personal flaw. But I want to learn to be more gracious with myself, and to say “so long” to my insecurities. I might look at an unkempt woman and think just that … she looks unkempt. However, I can’t think of the last time I looked at another woman, even without makeup or in an unflattering outfit, and didn’t see some beauty. We tend to be very generous in our compliments of another, even if we don’t perceive ourselves in that manner. Why is that? I certainly like to feel pretty, and often take great care to groom myself. But the fact of the matter is, beauty is really in the eyes of the beholder. And guess what — your Maker thinks you are stunning — as long as you’re striving towards Christ-likeness! Only sin damages the beauty that Christ sees in His daughters.
I may not always be able to accept a man’s compliment, but I shouldn’t ignore my Maker. He can not lie! Oh to live a holy life, pleasing to God, and not consumed with the world’s definition of beauty! I’m right there too, this is hard to learn and it seems I’m constantly needing to remind myself that beauty is not just what a man may tell me (though that is nice), but it is given to me by my Designer, and it is deepened when my heart is pure before God
“Let the king be enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord”. (Ps. 45:11 — This is a “wedding song” which God chose to include in His Word! It is helpful to remember we are the bride of Christ (as members of His church) and we can therefore determine that we can apply this verse to ourselves!)
The other day I read a book on toning my arms. Yes, you read that correctly… toning, as in weight training. I learned to really enjoy aerobics and weight training in high school when I took my first class that I got to choose (not phy ed. I hated phy ed!). I actually like to work out and reminisce the days of college where if I didn’t fit a work out in before the day, I could easily find a space of time in the middle of the day! Then life happened and graduate school and full time jobs came, and my time for working out decreased. I still do it though, as I like being healthy and fit.
However, I started thinking about beauty and femininity. The world tells women that to be beautiful you have to have curves in the right places with no flabby flesh on your arms, thighs, belly, or legs. I’ve researched this issue a bit as I wrote a paper on eating disorders in college. And, as I enjoy weight lifting and working out, I’ve had to come to my own conclusions about beauty and if it has become an idol to me. The world’s definition of beauty, and the celebrity trainers, workouts, and media’s words do subtly influence me. What was I believing?
Thus, I went back to the Bible. It really is our rulebook for how to live life! No wonder it tells us that only in Christ is everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). Do you realize the Bible addresses the issue of the body and beauty? Seek what the Bible says, it is liberating to have my thoughts renewed by the Word and not the world! Turns out the world’s view of beauty and femininity is a lie.
To start off, I read that I should be able to control my body (living in self control, Titus 2:12). Then I read that physical training has some value. OK, it appears that self control (or discipline) over my body can honor God. And physical training is declared valuable! Maybe I should reread that book on toning my arms and pull you all into the program with me!
Wait a minute though. Let’s read the rest of this verse that talks about physical training. It comes from 1 Timothy 4:8 which states, “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” I guess my toned arms will look rather ridiculous if I haven’t learned that true femininity is not about being physically fit, or attaining the look of a (computer-generated) “perfect model” I see in a magazine. Instead, it is about living a godly life in the design of a woman. Go back — did you catch that? Physical training is somewhat valuablefor this life only! But look at the far reaching benefits of learning and disciplining oneself in godliness — even beneficial to our lives eternally with Christ! Wow! If you are like me and enjoy working out, let’s commit to train ourselves to be godly (before we learn how to tone our bodies!) We can live without toned arms, but we cannot truly live without godliness!
And just a side note, we are told in the Bible that all things are permissible but not all are beneficial. While working out helps keep the body functioning and does improve circulation, energy, and other “healthy” aspects that allow us to be stewards over our bodies, it also is expected by the world in order to look “sexy.” A healthy body is beneficial for health and quality of life, but a good question to ask yourself is who is benefiting? Is God? Is the time spent working out honoring to Him and to your family? What are your motives? What results do you desire and why? Do you spend more time with God or with a treadmill?
Just some thoughts to help keep you and me balanced in this superficial, fixated with youth and beauty culture that we live in!
I have to admit that I really do not follow celebrities. I am beyond unaware of pop culture, and actresses and their lives do not capture my attention – for the most part. However, like most of you I do catch the occasional gossip through tabloids, bulletin boards, friends conversations, and the like. Normally I tune these things out and get on with my life.
However, a couple years ago, while working at the hospital, I picked up a tabloid magazine, and read the cover story inside. It was titled: Heidi Montag Obsessed with Being Perfect. “We all want to feel attractive, so who is anyone to judge me?” Heidi was quoted as saying. Interesting article. For those of you like me, who don’t follow these magazines, don’t watch gossip television, or who just are not aware, let me fill you in on this young woman’s story.
Heidi Montag is a 20-something celebrity. When she was 23 she had plastic surgery from head to toe with at least ten things being done to her. This was her second bout with cosmetic surgery, as she’d already had breast implants and a nose job in earlier surgeries.
I know, I know. A lot of celebrities have cosmetic surgery or procedures. Why is this one unique? Well, it happens to be one story I actually read, but I’m sure she is not alone among celebrities. For starters, I’m saddened as she is a 23 year old. Have you looked around? Those in their teens and twenties are typically in the prime of life physically. She stated she wanted to feel perfect and confident. Her insecurities run deep. She stated in the article interview, “I’m competing against the Britney Spears of this world…it was her sex appeal that sold. Obviously, looks matter; its’ a superficial industry.” Later she noted, “Sex appeal is really important and it’s not saying that you’re only sexy if you have big boobs. That’s not true at all, and honestly [when I got my husband,] I’d had no surgery. It was my inner beauty that he loved.”
But what got me the most, and caused the idea for this posting, came from her response to the interviewer asking, “Your faith is very important to you. Did you struggle at all with changing what God gave you?” To which she replied, “I prayed about it for a long time and said, ‘God if it’s wrong, then I won’t do it.’ But I never got that feeling. My body is just a shell; God doesn’t care. It’s what’s inside that God cares about.”
Twisted theology mixed with Satan’s lies. Let me explore this with you a little bit. This shows perfectly how the whole counsel of the Bible must be taken together, and that verses can’t be taken out of context. You see, Heidi is right to an extent. Yet the subtlety of the lies she’s believing are also just as dangerous to you and I.
God does indeed say that man looks at outward appearance and He looks inward, that the heart matters more to Him than physical appearance (1 Samuel 16:7). But in context, this is saying that those we think should be chosen of God due to looks are not necessarily who God chooses to do His work. God also does say that inner beauty is pleasing to Him (1 Peter 3:4). Thus, it seems Heidi Montag might be correct on first glance. However, in context again, this verse demonstrates that purely physical beauty is not what God is after. Beautiful women abound, but those who are just physically stunning are lacking a component of true beauty. Remember the verse, “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion” (Proverbs 11:22)? Again, go back to the Bible yourself and check what I’m saying against it. Do you think my opinion lines up with God’s truth? If not, it is only my opinion. Beauty is a gift from the Creator of Beauty. Women are beautiful to men. Those are facts. However, I think the subtle lie that is coming through is that it is ok to act like the world in regard to beauty and sexuality.
Like gold in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion. According to the dictionary this word discretion means, “The quality of behaving or speaking in such a way as to avoid causing offense or revealing private information.” Do the quotes I’ve mentioned suggest discretion? The image of gold in a pig’s nose in my mind is a ridiculous image. Who would do such a thing? However, it seems that our society abounds in a lack of discretion. The lies I see in this article are that we can have it all, that beauty we buy at a price (her surgeries could have cost upward of $30,000) is not wrong, that flaunting our sexuality (lack of modesty in both speech and dress) is acceptable behavior for Christians, and that God doesn’t care what we do with our bodies. These all reflect a religious mindset rather than a relationship with Christ.
Read the whole Bible, and you’ll see that God cares about the heart immensely. Yet Luke 6:45 suggests that what comes out of our mouths (and I would include how we live our lives) stems from what is in the heart. Let me suggest, dear sisters, that if our hearts are focused on loving God with everything within us, obeying His commands, desiring purity and modestly, and surrendering everything including finances and selfishness, then our bodies will display God’s glory in both beauty and discretion!
I’m not saying spending any money on beauty is wrong. I like to dye my hair, and buy a flattering shirt, or a fun accessory. Also, I too am working through my own insecurities related to physical beauty. However, Satan is the master of disguise and lies. In him is no truth, because he is a liar (John 8:44). I happen to think that Heidi Montag may not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ; a relationship that puts everything into perspective, not just the idea that God doesn’t care what we do to our bodies. Because if a child of God surrenders their very life to God, then God does actually care what we do to our bodies, as we are told to offer ourselves as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). A final question which helps me to identify idols that are subtle (beauty for instance) comes from Leslie Ludy. She asks about whatever something is, can you imagine giving it up or living without? If not, you might have an idol in your life.
Heidi Montag stated, “I’m already planning my next surgery. […] As you get older, there are so many different treatments…Let’s just say there’s a lot of maintenance. Nobody ages perfectly, so I plan to keep using surgery to make me as perfect as I can be.” Idol? Maybe?
Hmm. Oh subtle deceiving lies of Satan! If we want to live as daughters of the King in this world, we must saturate ourselves with God’s truths, so that we can discern the lies around us! (The article I’m quoting from is found in People Magazine, January 25, 2010. Vol. 73 No. 3)