Beautiful Like Jesus

Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to be beautiful. With all my heart, I wished and prayed for beauty. I liked to imagine that I was a beautiful princess who would someday be the Queen. And when that day came, dozens of young men would want to marry me because I was the beautiful queen. I still remember how, when I was about six-years-old, a boy shyly told his friend that he wanted to marry me because I was “kind of pretty.” I recall blushing, smiling, and cherishing his compliment. It was a gift to be beautiful.

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As I grew up, this desire did not leave me. In fact, it only followed me with more fervour. I grew to understand the concept of ugliness and knew that I would never want to be that. And so as zits appeared I covered them with make-up. I put pretty dresses on and flowers in my hair. I adorned myself on the outside, all in the name of beauty.

It wasn’t until early this year that I realized how shallow and small this “beauty” was. Outward beauty is a gift from God, yes. And every girl should feel beautiful because every girl was created attractively by God. But there is something more. It’s like the cake behind the frosting which gives the sugar substance. It’s what makes each of us girls more than just pretty or even more than beautiful. It is the beauty of the Saviour.

 A wife (or woman) of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.

Proverbs 31:10

I was at a church dinner. This woman and I were sitting at the same table and after the regular small talk introductions, we’d ventured into deeper conversations. I’d shared my insecurities, worries, and struggles from every detail of my life. It was a deep discussion, to say the least.

“You need to be beautiful at heart,” she suddenly told me. I actually don’t remember what brought these words on except that they came. “You’re already beautiful on the outside, but you need to be more than that.”

“You mean inward beauty?” I asked, fully familiar with the term.

“Yes,” she replied. “You need to be beautiful like Jesus. Do you know what I mean?”

I nodded though the concept that she spoke of — beautiful like Jesus – was slightly new. I knew what she meant yet I didn’t. Inward qualities such as love, patience, kindness, and self-control had always been on my radar. They rarely came easily to me, but I still strove for ‘inward beauty.’ Yet until that moment I hadn’t really considered Jesus’ qualities as beautifying to me as pretty clothing or a good complexion.

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the infading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

1 Peter 3:3-4

This concept of “Jesus Beauty” is still new to me. I have to admit that I’ve failed at it time and time again. I’m so ugly at heart sometimes that I am not even qualified to be writing this post. But I’m working on it because my fear of ugliness is even greater now. I want to be beautiful more than ever before — beautiful, like Jesus, that is.

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

Proverbs 31:30

The Make-Up Trap

It was amazing in totally the wrong way. It was exhaustive and saddening to the core of my heart. With one look at that little glass bottle full of gooey “pretty”stuff, the insecurities came back. My beauty and confidence melted and the overpowering addiction for make-up returned.

It was a youth event two weeks ago. The boys were doing “boy stuff” and us girls were doing, well, “girl stuff.” We were supposed to have makeovers. Every one was happy about it and no one could really understand why I wasn’t. After all, make up can get rid of things like zits and pimples, bring out eyes, give a pale face colour, and make a girl beautiful.

As I sat there, watching each girl get her make over done by a professional, I wondered what I should do. At first, my resolution was a firm “No.” I’d made a promise not to wear make up for a year and I wanted to stick to it. But as I watched each girl go up and saw the fun of picking colours out and how they glowed when the artist was finished, I started to succumb. With a little make up, we could all look beautiful.

Suddenly, I became aware of every imperfection on my face. I thought of the skin I wished were clearer. I remembered the red spots and the zits I just couldn’t get rid of. I felt my chapped lips and recalled how my cheekbones could be more defined. Thinking of this, I felt ugly.

I knew that the foundation would wash away my zits. I remembered how a little blush could make my cheekbones look perfect. Make-up, I realized, could make me beautiful.

I didn’t want to believe it, but I did. I’d come to refute the lie many times, but now I gave in. I had been called beautiful and accepted myself and every girl as such, with or without make-up several times in the ten months. Still, I couldn’t help but think that all of the guys would notice me as the odd one out with all the other girls in make-up. No one would think I was beautiful today. Now, with the bottles of foundation and eye liner brushes staring me in the face, I let go of all the beauty, confidence, and joy I had every known. The make-up made me feel uglier than I had ever felt before.

I was trapped that night in the church room with girls getting their make-up done. I was trapped by the lies and misconceptions about beauty. The force of a world without true beauty imprisoned me. I gave in to Satan’s lies that He tries to get me and every woman to believe. I fell into the make-up trap and my beauty disappeared.

But then it hit me, that I was believing a bunch of lies. As quickly as the temptation had come, God’s truth brought me back. I talked to my youth pastor. I looked at myself in the mirror and remembered that God had made me beautiful just the way I was. I realized that if just looking at make-up made me feel ugly, how much uglier would I feel when it was on my face?

There is nothing inherently wrong with make-up, in my opinion. I think that it can be fun to experiment with from time to time and that it is OK to use on a regular basis. I still wear it when I am in a play and will probably use a bit for special occasions like Grad or my wedding day. However, when it consumes you the way it consumed me a year ago it is not healthy. If you can’t live without it and feel ugly when it isn’t on your face then make-up is an addiction, a trap, and something that needs to be cut from your life.

That night, when we all came downstairs, I was happy with my choice. No one noticed that I wasn’t wearing make-up. My youth pastor and a leader even commended my choice. And throughout the night, I felt free like I had the first time I swam again, because make-up did not ensnare me. I didn’t have to worry about it melting off of my face or smudging. Instead of worrying about how ugly I would look without make-up, I smiled in the fact that God had made me beautiful.

What is trapping you today? Is it make-up? Or is it something else? What is holding you from freedom in Christ? I encourage you to take it to God today and fight against any insecurity that is holding you down. With His love, you can conquer your greatest fears.

The Dreams That You Used To Dream

I have a dream. Well, don’t we all? Actually, I have many dreams. Some of them from childhood, others from yesterday or today, and still there are more that I’m sure will come tomorrow. I want so much out of life. So much.

There is this one dream, in particular, that I have always, always wanted. A lot of my dreams come and go, but this one has always remained. Except one day, I decided that I couldn’t have it. My dream died. I stashed it away in a corner somewhere and decided not to think about it because dreams don’t always come true so there is no use getting your hopes up.

What was this dream? To get married. Yes, get  married. I’ve always, always wanted that. A home, a husband, a family. I’ve wanted many other things and I still do want them, but not as much as this. Except, somewhere along the lines I decided that I wasn’t good enough…or rather, God wasn’t good enough.

When I was eleven, I told myself that I shouldn’t expect too much out of life. That way, when things didn’t work out, I wouldn’t be too disappointed. And when they did, I would be even happier. Years later, I realized how wrong this mindset was and I changed it. Well, I changed it in every area except for this dream. Because it felt like the day I hoped, my heart was crushed. Something happened that made me think I couldn’t really marry that man after all. It was silly perhaps, but it was crushing all the same.

Hurt hurts. It really does. And the situation that turned me against my dream hurt me a lot. Looking back, it wasn’t so much that I thought that no one would want to marry me. It was more that I didn’t know if I wanted to risk getting hurt again. Because that gnawing feeling I felt on the night I knew was something that I never, ever wanted to feel again. So the dream stopped. Or, I tried to stop it. My heart kept a little secret spot for it though.

A few weekends ago, I went to this amazing Relationships conference. As I listened to their stories, advice, and encouragement, I realized that I didn’t think I’d ever actually use it. Why is that? I wondered.

I went to talk to my youth pastor after. When he told me that I was a wonderful person and that I wouldn’t have any trouble getting married if I wanted to, I could have jumped. It was weird. I knew that I was valued as my own person already. I had no major insecurities left. Except for the insecurity of that dream. His words were like a new idea to me even though I’d wanted them for so long.

You see, when “The Incident” happened, something inside of me died. The hurt killed my dream. My passion left. Hope shriveled up. Because it’s easier to live life without losing even if it means you don’t love, right?

No, I was wrong actually. Loving is always better. Dreaming is still good. And God can fully heal our wounds and make us new again. He also has the power to do whatever is in His will. He isn’t as weak as hurt or my unfaithful dreams.

So I’ve decided to dream the dream that I used to dream again. I’m not saying that it will come true or that it will happen in the exact way that I want. But I’m also not saying that it won’t. I’m not going to sell myself short anymore. My God is greater than that and He has made me for better thoughts than disbelief. He wants me to dream the dreams that I used to dream as He fulfills the best dreams that He has for me.

Likewise, I encourage you to dream those dreams that you used to dream. Come on, we all have some! It doesn’t matter what they are! I doubt they are the same as mine. Maybe your buried dream is to travel, learn a second language, become a Doctor, or go to university. It could be anything. Whatever it is, I encourage you to trust God with your dream. There is nothing wrong with it or hoping for what you want. He may give you it, or He many not. Rest assured that you will get the dreams that He has dreamed for you and that they are best.

A Place Called Home

When I was little, I used to dream about and play it. I’d bring out my dollies and tea cups and play food, and pretend that I was a mommy and wife. I had to make dinner and rock the baby to sleep. And I loved it. I couldn’t wait for the day when it would be real.

At thirteen, the dollies and pretend food were quite gone but the desire remained. No, it came back even stronger. I remember holding my then one-year-old cousin and thinking of the day that I would have my own baby. I dreamed of and planned my wedding. And I thought of my husband often. In fact, I used to spend nights and days and any quiet times talking to him. Yes, talking to him. Did I know him? Not that I knew of. But in my dreams he and home were ever-present.

One day though, this castle of dreams crumbled. It wasn’t just one thing that made it happen but quite a few scattered events and realizations. It was the “friends” who crushed my view on femininity and a future home. It was the boy I wanted but could not have and the fear that no one would ever want to marry me. And most of all, it was the deep desire burning in my soul that could not be filled no matter how hard I dreamed or tried to imagine. Suddenly, this place called home became a miserable place for my mind.

Recently though, my thoughts have returned to that once-happy place where my mind liked to be. I’ve gone through a lot since then: grief and suffering, hurt, revisions, and new-found joy. Somehow, all of these things have patched the wounds of the lonely heart longing for home. Now, I can finally feel a longing for this place again.

And I find my thoughts wandering to it often. When I lie in bed, while I’m answering Biology questions, in the sad scene of my play, home is with me. Once again, this desire is strong. In fact, I think it’s even stronger than before. Perhaps it’s because I know what it is to not want it or think that I didn’t want it, and to come back restored. Sometimes its worse though, knowing that I am close to home but so far from it.

But then, I don’t really know what God has planned. Perhaps this place called home is coming soon or maybe it isn’t at all. While that last thought is hard to grasp, I have learned to be content. I know that as much as I would love this place called home, that I don’t need a husband and family to make me happy. Because I have God and He loves me. He contents me and fills the space in my heart, now and forever. Yet He gives me this dream, this longing, this desire for home. And I believe that in His good timing and with His best desire, He shall fill it when the time is right.

Note: I often write posts and leave them in the draft section for a while. This post is one of them. I wrote it back in November, but never published it. Due to a bit of “blogger’s block” this week and the fact that these feelings have been even more on my mind than ever (as I consider my life and what to do with it), I decided to publish it today.

My Love-Hate Relationship With Modesty

Image showing b/w polka dot skirt

Image via Wikipedia

Modesty. It’s a subject that I’ve been aware of ever since I can remember.

When I was just eight years old, I knew exactly why I wore a one piece to the beach while most girls dressed in bikinis. At ten, my friends and I decided that mini-skirts were grossly innappropriate and looked down on those who wore them. And by the time I turned twelve, I was fretting over the fact that my tank tops were now too revealing. I knew that being modest was important.

I’ll never forget the feeling, oh, that feeling, of realizing that I was immodestly dressed. I walked into the room where some of my friends were gathered. I remember exactly what I was wearing that day for I had taken pains to make myself look nice and decent–I wore a dark blue sweater and light blue flare jeans. It wasn’t anything fancy but I had thought it looked presentable–that is, until I saw them all, dressed in their long, draping skirts. They stared at my form-fitting jeans and I felt certain that they judged me. I felt uncomfortable, ugly, and immodest. And thus began my love-hate relationship with modesty.

Its really been an uphill battle ever since then. “Is this appropriate?” “Does that show too much skin?” “How will they view me in this?” “Does it really matter anyway?” Even to this day, I continue to ask myself these questions, loving and hating every moment of it.

I’ve gone through so many phases with it all. There have been times of rebellion in which I totally dissed modesty and wore what I wanted. On the other hand, I’ve had many of my own periods of self-righteousness in which I check my clothing choices carefully and judge those who “apparently don’t.” There have been the few, very few times in which I have actually just minded my own business, clothed myself in what I felt comfortable and right in, and gone on with my life. But generally, it’s just a mess of loving and hating this thing called modesty.

Some people–maybe you’re one of them–can button their shirts to their collor bones and wear skirts well past their knees and proclaim modesty without a second thought. It doesn’t effect them and they wonder how it could ever be painful to anyone else. But there are others, who have been affected, deeply wounded in fact, by the careless self-righteousness of others. We have been hurt so badly that it can be hard for us to dress modestly and enjoy doing so, and much harder to proclaim modesty. Because sometimes, modesty just hurts.

Today, I mostly live the “love” part of my relationship towards modesty–or at least I try to. I’ve grown to have standards and even enjoy obeying them. Thankfully, God has cleared much of my pain associated with being the immodest outcast and I can wear things that I never thought I could wear. Unfortunately, I can’t say that the temptation to judge others is always far from my mind. It’s still a mess of love and hate, but I’m picking up the pieces.

So if I say something about modesty that sounds a little weird, this is where I’m coming from. I have a love-hate relationship with dressing modestly and I’m working through it, step by step. I’m not trying to judge, condemn, or rebel–just lay down my burdens, provoke some thought, and uncover the truth.

The Good Christian Girl

She goes to church every Sunday, dress on, and bible in hand. Her lips know the words to the songs. She takes notes and listens to the pastor, unless she follows the children down the hall and teaches the sunday school lesson. Throughout the week, she can be seen setting an example at youth group, babysitting at the mom’s bible study, and teaching the group for younger girls. She is the good Christian girl.

Her appearance is always appropriate and never lacking. She wears shirts to her collar-bone and skirts to her knee and a one piece bathing suit to the beach. Her make-up is kept at a minimum because true beauty is found within. She is the good Christian girl.

The girl does well in school and has plans for university. But of course, she is also learning how to keep a good house–she can cook, bake, and clean. One day, they all say, she’ll have a good career and make an even better wife. After all, she is the good Christian girl.

She has never had a boyfriend because she’s waiting for “the one.” She doesn’t flirt or chase after boys or talk about crushes. The boys just pass her by — they open doors sometimes and say hello but never give her much attention. And she is content with that because she is the good Christian girl.

She walks with a smile and says hello and makes small talk. She knows names of the young and the old. The younger girls look up to her, the seniors smile down, and the boys just move on to the next girl. She never talks too much or too loudly; in fact, she rarely talks at all. Her knees are bound together and her hands clasped in one, sitting like a lady. Wherever she goes, she is liked and likes back. She is the good Christian girl.

But no one sees her tears in the morning or the way she collapses into bed after a long day. They don’t know the hurt behind that smiling face. But even though she goes to church like a perfect model, she doesn’t always listen. Although her clothes are modest, she sometimes aches to wear that dress just an inch higher. Her make-up may be at a minimum but that doesn’t mean she likes how she looks. She makes good grades and bakes sweet cakes but not without effort. Her heart has never been broken by a boy, but the longings in her mind are just as keen. Her smile is often a cover for tears but she is the good Christian girl.

But one day, that girl just breaks. Snaps like a twig blowing in the wind.

She misses church not once but twice. She can’t take care of everybody’s child and bake cookies and teach girls’ club. She wears a shirt that dips down low, and shorts that are a bit short. Her homework lags and she fails a test, dinner isn’t made and her room is a mess. She flirts with that boy who flirts with her and tells him how she feels when he asks. She forgets their names and frowns at the world. They said she was the good Christian girl…

That’s because that good Christian girl is a myth. Sure, you can be like her and do all the things that she does but not without hurting. You see, I’ve been there and I know what it’s like — constant perfectionism, worry, and hurt. Because the good in your name is an antonym for bad.

So if you’ve been that girl, it’s time to stop! God doesn’t ask you to never fail–He only requests that you put your trust in Him who never fails and He will set you free.

Because He Made Us Beautiful

I think it’s safe to say that every female has sat down in front of the mirror and said, “I don’t like this! I hate that! I’m ugly.”  We complain to the other people in our life that we’re “too fat, plain, acne ridden and…ugly.” We sit down to pray, and ask God to “change this”, “get rid of that,” and “make me beautiful.” And usually we do and say these things without a second thought, as if there were nothing wrong with putting ourselves down…but there is something wrong with it, something very wrong. It is wrong because when we diss our bodies, we are not treating the God who made us with respect, and we are lying to ourselves…because He made us beautiful.

Have you ever asked God what He thinks of you? Have you ever listened to Him? Because the things that He says as He looks at us are quite different from what we say to Him…

God loves us just the way we are. After all, He made us that way and He thinks it is good, perfect, and beautiful. When we diss ourselves in front of the mirror, or to others it makes Him sad. It is offensive to His creation. We are leaving truth and integrity behind and filling our mind with lies. Instead of bettering ourselves we are worsening our minds. When we pray those prayers asking for beauty, He tells us, though we may not listen, “You are already beautiful.”

The other night, I happened to hear His voice for once. It was so special, magical, and beautiful.

“But how can I believe it?” I asked.

“Instead of listing all of the things you hate, think of all of the things you like. Forget that you’re hair gets frizzy, that your skin isn’t perfect, and that you aren’t very tall…think of all the good things that you love.”

And so I thanked Him for…

My thick brown hair with its faint red and blonde highlights that glow in the summer summer sun.

My hazel eyes that are so unique and go with every colour, especially my favourite colour, purple.

My smile.

My small height and hour-glass like figure that allows me to wear belts and full skirts. 

My little hands.

It was such a refreshing prayer that afterwards I didn’t even feel like asking God to clear my skin. I forgot my wish to be taller, and that my hair gets kind of wild sometimes. Instead of the sadness, and dismay I’d experienced before, I felt secure, happy, and beautiful.

So now it’s your turn! List your favourite things about yourself (more than one!) that you consider beautiful. Ask God for His guidance, block out your insecurities, and think only positive thoughts. Please post what you are thankful for (if you want) in the comments, or on your own blog (and please leave the link so I can post it here (if you wish.)

Note: This post is not meant to show off or brag about ourselves but rather to appreciate, and value our outward beauty as human beings. While I understand, and regard inner beauty as the most important thing about a person, I also believe that feeling outward beauty is vital to our security, happiness, and self-esteem as girls, people, and Christians.

Who Am I?

Sometimes I wonder who I am…

Yes, I know that I’m Elizabeth. But who am I, really? What am I meant for? What am I valued for? What am I supposed to do with my life? How am I to act? Who am I?

Because this world is a muddle of ideas, rules, laws, and visions for what I should be and do and who I am. Day after day, I lie awake at night, wondering and praying about who I am and who I need to become. It’s confusing. I hear a voice, I hear an answer but I’m still unsure. I still have questions, the biggest of which is who am I?

This world is full of different people with different ideas…

You’re a girl so you need to wear this shirt, that skirt, and put on make-up to look good.

Dress modestly for goodness sakes! Cover this, and cover that and don’t paint yourself! You’re a girl!

Go out in the world, be this and be that, make money, be accomplished, and famous.

Your proper duty is at home, and you are best employed in cooking, and cleaning the house.

Do this, do that because you’re not a proper woman if you don’t.

Be this, be that because you’re not a good Christian if you aren’t.

But there is a voice stronger than all of those muddled voices in the background. He calls me by name with love, and adoration. He knows me better than anyone else because He created me and all mankind. He knows what I am supposed to do, and who I should be. He has a purpose and a plan for my life, and it is good.

And I just have to trust in Him, and let Him fill me through and through. I need to be like him, like a ‘little christ.’ I need to put Him in me, and build my identity on Him and His love. Yes, that is who I am.