What is Beauty? IV

hands-717506_1280This 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 about 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 otherwise-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.

(This article was first printed by Daughters of Promise magazine in the Sept.-Oct. 2015 issue.)


What is Beauty? III


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 looked so pretty. Youth in a package. Beauty in a bottle. It fits in your hand, smooth and shiny and promising.

What is Beauty? II


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 7 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 un-fashionable clothes and white veil, but what I really wish is that they’d think my eyes or smile is gorgeous enough to catch their eye.

Or am I the only woman who wants a stranger to admire her face?

What is Beauty?


(The next few posts are installments of an article that was first printed in the lovely Daughters of Promise Sept.-Oct. 2015 issue. You might mosey over to their site to subscribe for yourself or a friend?

“Beauty” is a theme saturated with strong emotions, our own stories, and our dreams.The words I offer here are like anything else that appears here: ruminations and ideas to take or leave as you wish.)

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 crèmes, 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 fusion. Shimmering. Instantly luminous and youthful.

Beauty is something you can hold in your hand, exchange for some money, and keep within arm’s reach every day. Or on your dresser, catch-all basket, or bag. (Beauty is also the style and color of one’s shoes. Or scarf. Or belt.)

A Gift To Receive

birthday-cake-380178_1280I’ve been thinking about seasons and moments, and how life is directional like a timeline, and I hear ladies not saying how old they are, and others feel melancholy about some percentage of their life being over.

Maybe I’m naive but I’ve never understood women’s reticence about saying their age. I get the idea of life having seasons. That seems obvious.

Maybe I’m missing something but what I don’t get is reflecting on life’s passing and being sad about it. When someone moans,”Now my life is 30% over,” I want to say “How do you know? The young can die as soon as the old. You only have this moment. Please don’t sigh about whatever fraction of your life is behind and ahead of you.”

One way this plays out is in celebrating small and big moments. The brilliant leaf on the sidewalk. The sky’s reflection in a water puddle. Someone’s choice of words. An anniversary of a significant event should be acknowledged, pondered, reflected on. Every birthday deserves cheers and salutations and blessings given, but I think especially decade birthdays should have extra blessings pronounced, bigger candles and cake. Or stashes of chocolate, as the case may be.

It’s not something to moan about, being over the hill or so much nearer to the end of life. It should be something to make much of, that we’ve been given THIS HUGE GIFT of life, crammed full of 10,000 moments every day, filled with color and music and fresh air and wispy hair. What’s to be melancholy about that?

Oh yes, the greying hair. I know. I see them every morning. It’s a sign.

It’s a sign that you have seen diamonds on trees and touched baby’s skin and tasted tears.

And you’re bigger and broader and wiser than a year ago. And a day ago. And a moment ago.

What’s to be sad about that? You could be jaded. You could be comatose. Those would be something to be sad about.

But you’re ALIVE!

This is a gift not everyone has. Take it with both hands open, revel in it, breathe it in deep.

If life is a timeline, it follows that we are at a point because of other points that precede this. Maybe those who treasure life most are those who have walked through places where they learn how fragile the line is, how easily it breaks.

Maybe we can’t know what we have until it’s been threatened or removed. I have been shattered emotionally and physically and maybe that’s why moments are so important to me. After my traumatic surgery, the anesthesiologist shone her flashlight in my eye to check my brain activity because my body was convulsing. I stopped breathing twice, and I resented the nurse shaking my shoulder, telling me to breathe, because I was finally resting and it was dark and calm there.

Life is beautiful, but it’s also terrible and frightening and there are moments that want to crush you. But life is living and growing and changing and not staying the same and I’m not enough of a poet to put it into words, but I want to say it’s a gift. You don’t earn gifts or refuse them. Life wants to be taken and made much of.

So celebrate!


Tasty Words


We were a group of friends around a campfire with a silver moon and glorious crisp air around us. It was “literary night” and some of us read wild and wonderful bits and pieces–excerpts and short stories–to the others. I cheered and laughed and ate up all the deliciousness. Among others, there was Dickens and A. A. Milne and then O. Henry.

“Goody, goody, I love O. Henry,” I said under my breath.

“How do you know all those books?” my friend next to me asked.

I shrugged and said I grew up with them. But now that I think about it, except for Milne, that’s not really true. I always read voraciously, but in very protected parameters, without access to a public library. Sometimes I feel like a hoax when I talk about my favorite writers and books because somehow people think I read a lot, but in comparison to other friends, I don’t. I think I give the impression of being well-read because I’m vocal about whatever book and author I’m enthused about, while my friends read much more high-brow content much more quietly and know far more than I.

But I follow some writers I like, here and there on their blogs or talks on YouTube, and then I recognize their names when their books get on best-seller lists.  And I watch some literary reviews in some papers, which alerts me to the up-and-coming new books, and then years later I unearth them in a 2nd-hand shop. Or a friend loans me one like this recently: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I can’t repeat that title very fast, but it was absolutely delightful, and I was none the worse for having waited for it several years after all the book clubs in Ireland were reading it.

And now I’m in an academic setting where most of my assignments center around reading, reading, reading, and for the first time in my life, it’s something I MUST do many hours a day, and while I love it, it’s not easy. I thought it would be like eating chocolate cake. But the Chesterton book right now is such that I can. not. understand any two consecutive sentences. And it’s the book that has a section in which I’ll be responsible to guide a discussion, so I HAVE to get it. The experience is sort of like chewing steak. Tasty, but tough. Nourishing, but work.

This is not going to put me off books. It will probably make me more excited and vocal about words and ideas. And definitely more enthused than ever about wrapping up the day with Milne or O. Henry.


Yesterday we were sitting at beautiful wedding reception, eating hors’doeuvres.

My friend asked me a simple question: So do you miss Europe?

My eyes filled suddenly: Yes. Terribly.

“What do you miss about it?”

It’s odd, because I like how relaxed and friendly Americans are and I love how easy it is to talk with them, but I miss the elegance and dignity of Europeans. I miss dropped voices in public. I miss the refined manners and propriety and sense of fashion, all of which used to frustrate me to no end.

And it doesn’t make sense, because what I like is what I don’t like.