Wednesday, October 16, 2013

beauty and lies.

Beauty.
It's misunderstood when we limit it to fancy clothes, passing trends, and perfect hair.

Beauty.
It's distorted when we see it through the lens of Hollywood's cameras.

Beauty.
It's cheapened when we cling to comforting catchphrases and clich├ęs.

Beauty.

What a topic.  The word alone stirs up a whirlwind of thoughts, emotions, images...
A question that heavily wraps itself around the heart of every woman.  every girl.

Am I beautiful?

What a question...
The pain.
The conflict.
The confusion.
The heartbreak.

The effort.
The desperation.
The longing.
The lies.

Beauty.

The enemy sees our weakness.
Our wanting.
That vulnerable place within that aches to hear it.
To know it.
Needing the answer.

Am I beautiful?

He hates us.  The enemy.
He despises us for that part of GOD that we received when HE formed us.
Our beauty.
He has been jealous from the beginning.  The enemy.
Jealous and eager to steal.  To take it.  To rob us.
If he can't have it, he doesn't want any of us to have it.
HIS beauty.
HIS image.
HIS reflection.

Beauty.

Oh the lies we've believed!
Oh the battle that rages!
Oh the pain that cuts as we wrestle our doubts and combat the lies and fall victim to the relentless onslaught of whispers and screams that bombard us with more questions and more sources for comparison and more opportunities to hide....

And in the tangled mess of coping and fighting and losing and trying.
We do hide.
We hide away our truest selves.

He did it.  The enemy.
He robbed us.
He couldn't take it.  Isn't capable.
So he scares us.  The enemy.
And we hide.
And the entire world around us is robbed of our beauty.

Devastated.
That's the condition our world is left in as we retreat into hiding.
He rips us apart.  The enemy.
And we believe him.
And the world is devoid of HIS beauty.
That specific reflection of HIM.
That HE put in us.

Beauty.

------------------------------------------------------------------

According to this article, 1 out of 3 women wear make-up "every time they go out-- even if they're only shopping for groceries."  6 out of 10 "wouldn't consider going to work without it."

This next part is heartbreaking to me: 1 out of 10 of the women polled "admitted that they would never let their partners see them without a full face on."  Their own husbands!  So heartbreaking.

It was that statistic-- seeing that the lies have gotten so out of control that women are fearful to let their own husbands see them without makeup-- that I couldn't shake last year when I considered participating in Rave Ministry's No Makeup November (NMN).

I'm just going to be honest: my initial response in hearing about NMN was not a positive one.  This is a flaw of mine: I can be initially very judgmental of something, especially related to girls ministry, that looks too stereotypically girly.  I believe in talking about things as they are with my girls-- not dressing them up with flowers and bubble letters just to make it look pretty and feel good.  And if a book or a song or a conference or a retreat looks flowery and pink, I push back from it.  I want depth.  I didn't see very much depth in many of the things presented me as a "youth group girl" growing up, and I want to provide more than that for my girls.  Good intentions, just sometimes too quick to judge.

I heard No Makeup November and all I saw was a bandwagon movement making a statement about something that had absolutely nothing to do with my spirituality.

I was wrong.  (And I'm sorry for that, by the way.)

The more I listened as I heard my girls talking about it...  The more I listened to the statistics that were being presented...  The more I listened to my very own heart as I considered it....

I knew I needed to be a part of this.

You see, I don't really wear a lot of makeup to begin with.  And last year, I justified my desire NOT to participate myself because I typically only wore powder and eye liner.  If I busted out mascara and eye shadow, then I was dressing up!  Come on, I wasn't depending on makeup for anything, was I?!

A funny thing happened though, when I seriously started feeling convicted to give it up-- you know, for the sake of the teen girls in my ministry-- the more anxious I felt.  The closer I came to committing, the more my hesitation increased.

And then I realized the truth.  I was scared to give up powder and eye liner.  What in the world!?!  I'm pretty sure the powder does nothing in the grand scheme of things!!  Yet the thought of going without it left me feeling so insecure.

I'd bought into the lie too.
Mine looked like a lesser lie, but it was just as gripping.
I seriously believed that my Cover Girl compact and a little lining around my eyes made a difference.  Like, a big difference.  As if those two little things were some magic wand that had the power to save me from.... well... to save me from... my lack of beauty?

WHAT?!?

Lies.
Do you see the lie?
And I had bought into it!!

That was October 30th.
I immediately went home and washed my face.
I was doing it.
I was committed.
I was angry.
I would NOT allow the enemy to enslave me to a lie as ridiculous as that!

So yes, I participated in No Makeup November last year.  I actually spent the first 10 days of November on a special vacation with two of my friends in Australia.  One of the biggest trips of my life-- it was a very significant trip-- and I didn't even pack eye liner.
I felt so FREE.
There were definitely insecure moments.
(Lies aren't overcome easily.)
But FREE.

I will participate in No Makeup November again this year.
Because I believe in beauty.
Real beauty.
HIS beauty.

Because I want my girls to believe in beauty.
Real beauty.
HIS beauty.

And I want to world to see beauty.
Real beauty.
HIS beauty.

And because I hate the enemy and his lies, and I feel like a community of women standing together in defiance against all the crap he throws at us is like punching him in the face.  And I want to punch the enemy in the face.

So let's stand strongly together with unveiled faces, allowing HIS Light and Beauty to radiate from us in a way that can shatter the strongholds and redeem and repair some of our heart's deepest broken places.

Beauty.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

be with ME.

{this post was written yesterday at about 1:00pm.  it was typed today.}

So it's been about a month since my last post.  Oops.

As I write this, I'm on a solo retreat.
That's right.
Solo.
By myself.

I'm at a retreat center that I've been to several times in Sewanee, Tennessee.
It's absolutely beautiful here.
When I've come in the past, I've been with a group of girls for a Silent Retreat.
I know: that sounds like an oxymoron.  Girls.  Silent.
Sounds crazy, but it's true!  I always love a good silent retreat.

Due to babies born, moves made, and other various circumstances, the Silent Retreat wasn't being planned for this fall.  Let me tell you, I was desperately needing one.  I considered organizing one myself, but the thought of taking on that responsibility was overwhelming.
Just thinking through the details left me exhausted.
I needed peace.
I needed to be alone.
I needed rest.

So I booked myself a little one room cottage, and made plans to go on my own!

(Sidenote: I worried that my decision might seem a little bit selfish, especially to those who would have wanted to be a part of a silent retreat.  But I decided that it wasn't selfish.  It was self-aware.  Sometimes we have to do what we need to do for ourselves, so that we are able to be filled to continue to do what we need to do for others.  This is a concept that may one day require its own blog post.)

I've been here for about 22 hours at this point.

I've caught up in Daily Bible.  I've spent some time reading in The Jesus Storybook Bible while swinging in a magical little "bird cage basket swing."  (HE said to become like children, right?!)  I've gone on a hike and did some exploring.  I've been enjoying my quaint little cottage (which turned out to be a creepy little cottage when you're in it alone at night).  It's been a very pleasant retreat so far!

But a few minutes ago, as I was trying to get situated in my hammock, I couldn't fight the anxious feeling of discontentment.

I thought maybe I just didn't like the spot I was in, so I gathered my things and positioned myself in a sunny spot by the bluff.  As I took in the view, my mind continued wandering...
I could not seem to shake that anxious feeling.

Then I heard it.
Faintly.
The words turned slowly in my mind...

If you came looking for clues and answers, you may leave disappointed.

I let the words sit there.
Almost like I didn't want to pick them up.
Scared to hold them.
Not quite willing to claim them.

But they didn't go away.
They just quietly looked back at me.
I knew HE was right.

I'd retreated away in hopes of progress.
And clues.
And answers.
(So much for being okay with the ugly parts, huh?)

HE didn't bring me here for that.

Jenna, I brought you here simply to be with ME.
To remind you of some things you had forgotten.
So you could rest.
So you could have refuge and a little adventure.
Stop constantly seeking answers and progress.
Just be.
And just be with ME.

Even now as I write, I'm trying to release the hopes and expectations I carried with me to this place.
Breathe them out.
Loosen their grip.
And I'm breathing in the freedom.
The joy.
The peace.
The rest.
The simplicity of being.
Just as I am.
With HIM.

My word for this retreat seems to be remember.

HE's reminding me of a lot.
Each remembrance, breaking loose a cord that the enemy has been using to catch me...

I opened up my journal from this summer and started reading through my notes from July 17th: the Wednesday night of MYM Church Camp.  The notes are from a lesson that Matt Moore shared.

Here's what my notes say:

I ate the sandwich.  And I was still hungry.
The god of our age is consumerism.
Nothing fills us up...
We're empty.
What's the next thing?

What am I searching for to fill the hunger of my soul?

John 6 - JESUS feeds over 5,000.
The currency of heaven is abundance.

When you're with ME, you don't have to worry.  
Why are you looking for ME?
Cause I fed you.
You just want to be fed...
but I AM the bread of life.

(If my notes confuse you, read John 6 to see the context from which they come.)

This is what I do.
I take my consumeristic tendencies and make them "holy."
I go to GOD, knowing HE's got the answers.
And I want them.
HE's got what I crave.
And I'm hungry.

And HE looks at me and says:

Jenna, why are you looking for me?  
Cause I fed you?  
You just want to be fed...

Have you forgotten I AM the bread of life?
I AM the answer.
I AM all you need.
I AM enough.

If you came looking for clues and answers...
If you came today for progress, you may leave disappointed...

But if you came to be with ME...