Florida Family Vacation

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My dream vacation looks something like this: an all inclusive yoga retreat on a tropical beach. That is, a couple yoga classes a day; fresh, organic vegetarian cuisine that I don’t have to plan, prep, or clean up; a juice and coffee/tea bar for all of my liquid cravings; daily walks on the beach; ample time for reading, writing, meditation, and slow conversation. And no small children.

This kind of trip is not on the horizon right now. Maybe five or ten years from now. Instead, I settle for a version of this, or at least that’s my hope. I hope that I can get some reading done while away, practice yoga, spend time outdoors on a walk, maybe not cook as much. But honestly, not even the watered down version is very accessible right now. Because I have a small child, almost two of them. This is a sobering realization for a wanderluster like me. I’m one of those people who was (and is) determined to continue traveling after having kids.

It’s not that vacationing with a small child is too stressful or too tiring to even bother with, because I know some people feel that way. Rather, it’s just not what it used to be—more laid back, more down time—and it’s taken me a few years to acclimate to this truth. However, instead of stopping the vacation train altogether, it’s my expectations that need altering. No, I’m not going to have extra time to read or go for walks or sleep in when we go on vacation right now, but I still get to experience a change of pace and scenery; I get to spend time with my family; I get to explore a new or familiar place with a little hand holding mine.

We’ve vacationed to Florida many times and have had different experiences with each visit: sometimes good, sometimes not, and that’s with and without Sayla. The truth is, we’re all subject to be let down by a vacation because of expectations, regardless of whether or not children are present. It once rained every day, all day, the whole time we were there, another time I got sick.

So here were the unexpected things:

The car ride. I thought 13 hours in the car with a toddler would be rough, but it wasn’t. Sayla did great, and it was actually one of the sweeter parts of our trip; the simplicity of being in the car, talking, dreaming, enjoying each other’s presence. Breaking the drive up into two days helped, I’m sure.

The beach. I thought Sayla would love playing in the sand with buckets and shovels, but she was primarily interested in getting out in the water. “Go to the beach!” she would say.

Fireworks. I thought Sayla would love them, but they scared her.

Plumbing problems. Erik ended up having to install a dishwasher and re-do the plumbing under the kitchen sink at the place we were staying, which took about 2 days total. We live in a fixer-upper, so certainly the last thing we wanted to do on vacation.

Ants. I peered my eyes open one morning to see Erik standing in the kitchen with the vacuum: “I need you as a witness. Come see this.” There were about 100 carpenter (big!) ants crawling on the floor, counter tops, and ceiling. And they kept invading. Thankfully this happened on the tail end of our trip.

Mashes sands. This is a small beach a few miles from where we stay. The water is coffee colored because the fresh water from the river meets the gulf. A bit of a lowly beach. But this year we went nearly every day because it was so great for Sayla.

Jelly fish. I got my first stings—on my pregnant belly, mind you.

And the things we learned from this trip:

As previously mentioned, we need to adjust our expectations for vacationing as a family. It’s not about kicking up our feet anymore, but all of us being together and creating memories.

Staying at a house/hotel on the beach is ideal, because packing the car and kids to go to and from the beach is a heck of a lot of work, especially cleaning off their salty, sandy, sticky bodies. I timed it—one day it took us 25 minutes. The principle behind this: have some fun/activities at your doorstep.

We must be getting older because both of us were jealous of Sayla’s long sleeve swim shirt. Yeah, a little tan is nice, but spending hours in the sun is too much, and instead of going inside, a long sleeve shirt and wide brim hat are an easy fix. We will be those people covered up at the beach.

We have visited the coast house with family and friends, and as just us, and we decided this last time that it’s better when there are others there to enjoy it with us.

And lastly, something that’s been lingering in my mind for a while now—even before this trip—is rest. Where do we find it and how do we get it as mothers/parents? I’m learning that rest sits in pockets at this stage in life, not stretched over long periods of time. Like when we sat on the screened-in porch with iced drinks and watched the boats coast by while Sayla ate ice for about 15 minutes, a pocket of rest. Or when we gathered on the picnic blanket on the beach for lunch and listened to the waves roll in, another pocket. I may not have a whole morning to myself, but these little moments can be found throughout the day if we slow down enough to notice them.

I hope this doesn’t sound like a bunch of complaining; we are thankful for the opportunity to get away, to afford a trip to the coast, to have a family vacation home to stay at. Really, we’re just rookie parents learning how to enjoy traveling with kids, and this is an honest look at how that process is unfolding. Ultimately, like most things in life, it’s not about the circumstances needing to change, but one’s outlook and attitude. So we will press on to new adventures both near and far, little hands and feet in tow, with a new perspective and realistic expectations.

Just Yesterday

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Every May and June the orange lilies bloom around here, a sweet reminder of my wedding day, ten years ago now. I remember standing at the counter of the florist with my mom, 21-years-old, with no idea what I wanted and taken off guard by how much flowers cost. I told the lady my colors and she suggested lilies. I was easily swayed.

On June 9th we married, on a muggy Saturday afternoon beneath the oak trees. It rained while I was getting ready, but half an hour before the ceremony the skies parted and sun shone. He was wearing a suit too hot for a Texas summer wedding, but that’s about the only thing I would change.

I had very little idea what I was doing when I planned our wedding. Being out of state didn’t help. And we had a small budget. There was no Pinterest at the time, no flood of wedding blogs to peruse, and none of my friends were married yet. I was on the frontier.

We had a free location, but a tent and chairs were still needed. The other big ticket items were food and cake, a photographer, and my dress. The lady who made my cake baked out of her home. It was more of her hobby, not her job. I remember sitting in her living room drinking a glass of iced tea while looking through a scrapbook of cakes she had baked. In the fireplace across from me were some cardboard items they were planning to burn with their next fire.

And the caterer—I went with a hole in the wall BBQ restaurant, and by hole in the wall I mean their seating consisted of standard folding tables covered with plastic, red-checkered cloths resting on a dirt floor. I remember calling them the week before my wedding in a panic because I hadn’t heard from them since booking: “Are you going to be there?! I haven’t heard from you!” My bridezilla moment.

I wanted a simple dress, something that wouldn’t drag on the ground, but even that was daunting. I wasn’t the girl who always dreamed of herself wearing a certain kind of gown. I didn’t have my colors picked out at fifteen. Instead, I chose burnt orange and red because I thought they would provide a nice contrast to all the green. That was a good call.

My favorite parts were walking down the aisle to the score from Meet Joe Black. Partaking in communion. Seeing our friends and family. The BBQ and cake both turned out pretty good despite their humble origins. And then the bubbles that showered us as we walked to the limo, the ride to our hotel over an hour away, giving us the much needed time to soak it all up.

A lot of people might say “it seems like just yesterday we said ‘I do’,” but I don’t feel that way. Partly because I hate that saying—like you’ve missed out on something, ten years in this instance. Like you’ve been sleep walking and life has danced around you without you knowing.

These are the chunks that form our life together: the tree house apartment with the real fireplace and christmas and camping gear stored in our car trunks because storage was so tight. My senior year of college and our jobs at Starbucks. The condo—way too much storage; evenings spent at that huge 24 hour fitness, and trips to Sunflower Market for groceries. My first non-coffee job. His PTA schooling. The apartment in Capitol Hill—walks to Whole Foods for a snack and then a lap around Cheesman park, riding our scooter and playing frisbee. The death of my mom. Faraway travels to Maui, Mexico, Tahiti, Turkey, Greece, and Ukraine, and many places stateside. Hiking, camping, bike riding. Calvary Chapel Aurora, Westminster Presbyterian, and now Cooper First Baptist. A cat named Jilly, and now a dog named Rocky. A move from Colorado to Texas. The Hobbit House. The start of a family we were so unsure of: a daughter and soon to be a son.

And these are just the physical chunks, the roadside markers of our lives. Like an iceberg, the real girth lies beneath the surface—the people we’ve become, the lessons we’ve learned, the way the Lord has shaped and molded us.

There’s a lot of talk of mindfulness, which usually refers to the present, being in the moment and being aware. But what about mindful remembrance? identifying the parts that comprise the whole and reflecting on them, not lumping them together as if they’ve disentegrated to nothing, to “just yesterday.” I want to remember my life well, the ups and downs, the happy and sad, and that most certainly starts with mindfulness in the moment, but then translating that to recollection.

I will probably give in someday. Perhaps when my own daughter is walking down the aisle: my heart will ache at how fast the time has passed, that just yesterday she was a bleach blonde toddler running around barefoot outside. And I will have to remind myself to slow down and remember all of the pieces—the long, hard seasons, the places we lived and traveled, the heartfelt conversations, the everyday living, that the woman she’s become didn’t happen over night.

The truth is, our marriage contains 3,650 “just yesterdays” and counting. Three thousand six hundred fifty new mercies every morning, abundant opportunties to give thanks, noteworthy moments filling up each of those days. This is fullness I cannot contain, a cup that runneth over. May the Lord help me to be mindful of all His gifts—from the ordinary to the extravagant, noticing them as they happen, and then remembering all that He has done, both tomorrow and the next ten years from now.

 

The No-Makeup Series: Reflections

Relections

I hope you all have enjoyed this series as much as I have, and thanks again to Emma and Mistie for not only inspring me to wear a bare face, but for sharing their stories here. Below are some final reflections to wrap up this series.

For further investigation:

One of my long-time friends who has never really worn makeup commented on how she thought this series was interesting as an outsider. I asked her why she never joined the makeup club in high school like the rest of us: “Well, my dad wouldn’t let me wear it until I turned 18, and by then I had just gotten used to the way I looked without it, and I didn’t like the way it felt on my face, so I never started wearing it.” This fascinates me—the stories behind those that never wore makeup in the first place.

Another friend commented that this no-makeup thing was fine for us youngins’, but for those twenty or thirty years ahead it’s a necessity. Aging and self image is a whole other discussion I am not qualified to speak to, but it’s made me curious to engage older women who do not wear makeup and hear their stories. However, I have the notion that no matter how old we are—pimply-faced or wrinkly-eyed—that we look in the mirror and think, “I would feel better about myself/look prettier/be more confident if…”, whether that’s a made-up face, tan skin, smaller waist, bigger boobs, better hair, or cooler clothes. There’s always something in need of improvement, but it turns out applying a few cosmetics to our faces can give us at least a piece of that idealistic self.

Lastly, I’m intrigued by the women who can sport a beautifully made-up face one day and go all natural the next, paying no mind to the stark contrast in their appearance. I know a couple of people that do this, and it takes some guts in my opinion.

Personal thoughts:

As much as I dislike the way makeup influences our perception of beauty and perpetuates unrealisitc standards for women, there is something nostalgic and even unifying about it. I remember watching my mom put on her eyeshadow and mascara and admiring how pretty she looked, or seeing my Grannie apply lipstick in the car and telling me how lips lose color when you get older. I was mesmerized by the half-moon shape of her lipstick, and I daydreamed of when I would be old enough to have a tube of my own. And then there are proms and weddings and sleepovers when we’ve all gathered around the same vanity, taking turns at the mirror, penciling each other’s eyeliner, and learning the art of covering a blemish. I will probably always love the chemical, talc smell of makeup, because it makes me think of these women and memories. For so long cosmetics have comprised my definition of what’s feminine, and though I am trying to reconstruct that definition, it will always be there. And that’s okay. Like I said, I don’t believe makeup is evil, it’s just not as innocent as we think.

Secondly, though I understand the perspectives of Mistie and Emma, and even agree with nearly everything they said, my own “relationship” with makeup has not been like theirs: I did/do not feel pressured to wear makeup to please or impress others, as Emma stated, and I’ve never had to have makeup on for guests or being out in public like Mistie did, nor did I feel the Lord leading me to abandon it. Makeup has always just been something I put on to look prettier and more put together, and I never thought too much about it. But thanks to Mistie and Emma, this makeup hiatus I’ve been on has caused me to think more critically and consciously about cosmetics and how they influence my self-image and confidence. I am grateful for the change it’s brought about thus far.

Conclusion:

A couple months back I was checking out at Walmart, and right at the end of the transaction, as if she almost didn’t feel comfortable saying it, the young lady helping me said, “you know, you’re really pretty.” I was flattered and surprised, because after all, I wasn’t wearing makeup. But also because that’s not something we hear enough as women, especially from a stranger.

I’m good at complimenting a friend’s outfit or hair or shoes, but when it comes to the more physical, corporeal aspects of her appearance, the words get stuck and I feel awkward saying them. I love your skin tone. You have beautiful, twinkly, almond-shaped eyes. That grey streak framing your face is so cool. I love the sharp angles of your jaw. You have great posture. These are all things I have thought about some of the women in my life, but I have yet to tell them. Why not? If the sweet checker at Walmart can make me feel more confident with a simple compliment, can I not influence the women around me just the same?

So if you come across a woman today and see something you admire (whether she’s wearing makeup or not, and whether it’s something physical or a character trait), see if you can tell her. I guarantee you it will make her day. Because with or without makeup, the most important thing is that we feel confident and empowered as women apart from having to change or manipulate our appearance.

The No-Makeup Series: Mistie

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This is Mistie. She has a gentle and quiet spirit about her, a set-apartness. I remember when she stopped wearing makeup, and it was months before I was able to get the scoop on that choice. Today she is sharing her story with all of us!

How old were you when you started wearing makeup?

I took dance class at a young age, therefore, the first time I wore makeup was when I was 6-years-old and I really felt “grown-up” (ha!). I officially began wearing makeup while in the 8th grade. I was only allowed to wear clear mascara and a light pink eye shadow.

Funny story, one time I snuck into my mom’s makeup bag and applied blush on my ENTIRE face. I remember feeling confident and beautiful with that blush plastered on my face. Then the moment came when my mom me—while volunteering in the nursery at church. Public. She asked me why my face was so red, and I told her I was embarrassed. Indeed I was, and when I looked in the mirror, I couldn’t tell if it was the blush or embarrassment making my face red. I learned very young a quick lesson on the difference between blush and powder, and I wasn’t aided by YouTube!

How would you describe your old makeup routine? 

My old makeup routine took about 15 minutes or so. I went through phases of wearing foundation and powder but could never master the art (remember the story from above? Yes, I still had difficulties even in my adult years). I wore mostly eye makeup, which consisted of black mascara, black pencil eyeliner, and the smoky eye palate from Maybelline (4 colors that were specific to each area of the eye). I very rarely changed the color. I do remember seeing all the non-basic colors and one day hoping to be adventurous enough to test them out. That adventure never panned out because of my phobia that came from the blush incident.

How often did you go without makeup before you stopped wearing it?

This question is laughable because I literally would sleep in my makeup at times. In fact, before going to the hospital to have my children, I insisted that I had to wear makeup for the pictures! I was having contractions while putting my makeup on but I was not about to go to the hospital until my makeup was on. The only time I did not wear makeup was when I took it off, most nights, before going to sleep. I would not walk out of the house or let guests in until I had makeup applied.

What made you stop wearing makeup? When? Did you do it cold turkey or gradually?

My husband and I had a conversation a few years back about why women wear makeup, and he was the one that actually brought the topic up for discussion. We were hashing out whether or not it was biblical to wear makeup. I remember being very angry and feeling justified to wear it. I think the anger was really that I was challenged. It took me some time to come to the realization of why I even wore makeup—I had never really questioned that. My mom, her mom, my friends, and every other woman older and younger than me wore/wears makeup. Why would I question something that is so ingrained in our American culture? After some time though, I realized I wore makeup because of my own insecurities/vanity, and in some ways, I was masking the pain of my past. I also wanted to be just like every other woman and feel beautiful.

May of 2016 is when I really felt the Lord challenging me to not wear makeup. It was a year of abandoning the things that came between me and the Lord. First it was coffee and then makeup. The timing was crazy in my mind. My husband is a youth pastor and we were at summer camp. I was serving as a high school girls leader. All week I had been fighting walking into the evening service without any makeup. Just a little side note: this is not a small camp. There are literally thousands of students every week during the summer, and thousands of students with their sponsors, plus nighttime service, already equates to a lot of insecurities. Needless to say, this was not something that I would have just mustered up on my own. But it was the Lord, and I knew if I didn’t do it, I would be disobedient and it would continue to nag me until I actually did something. I kind of also mentioned it to the girls that I was counseling during the week (ok, they asked me what was going on in my mind one particular day, and I couldn’t hold it in any longer and it came out an emotional wreck. We all have these, right?)  At one point during the week I thought, “what kind of example am I showing these girls? If I don’t do this, I am being disobedient, yes, but the girls…though they don’t know it, they are holding me accountable.”

Thursday night, the night everyone gets all gussied, I stood before the mirror contemplating on what I should do. Standing there with no makeup, it seemed that every flaw was spotlighted more than ever. I looked at the mirror, at the writing just above it. The day before camp, I had journeyed to the cabin to fill gift bags and write encouraging messages on the mirrors for the girls. I wrote, “You are beautiful,” praying it would encourage the girls, but it was screaming at me at that given moment. I really honestly believe that God had that message for me. That night, I walked into the evening tabernacle with no makeup and every insecurity that goes along with it.

Why did you throw all of your makeup out? 

I dumped out every piece I owned the day we got back from camp. I knew if I held onto it, I would go back. And, as mentioned, the Lord was specifically telling me to abandon wearing makeup. I didn’t know it then but I do now, almost a year later, that I placed my identity in my image and not in the Lord. And if He has called me to living a life following Him, that meant I needed to get rid of any evidence that might even tempt me in the remotest way.

What do you like most about not wearing it?

FREEDOM! Looking over this past year, I can also see that it was such a co-dependent relationship. You see, makeup and I had this love/hate relationship, and makeup usually ended up being the controlling one in the relationship. It’s a process that may have its ups and downs, but the freedom that I am no longer controlled by makeup is something I would not trade for the world.

Cultural norms have always been entertaining to me for some reason. I really have made it a game of going against them, with purpose and not for the sake of being difficult or stubborn (although stubbornness is a rather strong personality trait in me).  I like being me and not like everyone else; God didn’t use a cookie cutter on me and I love embracing that! Being a face streaker, as Holly alluded to, has in some ways taken away pressures; I don’t shop in the makeup area any longer, therefore I don’t have to feel the insecurity of “getting the look” that the model is wearing. For some reason, I thought makeup made me feel confident and secure, but I didn’t know until the other side of not wearing makeup how insecure I was in the way that I wore my makeup.  And this may be silly, but no more running mascara or raccoon eyes is bliss.

What’s the hardest part about not wearing it?

There are so many areas where I have learned not wearing makeup is awkward. For example, my sister got married 3 months after I began this challenge and I remember feeling so “ugly” as l posed for the pictures. The bridal party had their hair, makeup, and nails picture-perfect and I sported the 10-year-old look. By not wearing makeup, I felt as though I stood out and looked younger than my sister that was getting married (she is younger than me!). The places where it is culturally accepted to wear makeup and even pressured to do so (i.e., weddings, graduations, conferences, etc.) are hardest.

Thoughts like, “this is acceptable at 8-years-old but you are in your 30s. It’s a rite of passage when you hit 30, every grown woman I know wears makeup.”  Also, when I wore makeup I looked as though I were in my 20’s. Without wearing makeup, I look as though I just got my driver’s license (ok, maybe that’s a stretch). I feel as though I have earned my 32 years of life, and think I could get more respect from students if I looked my age.

And lastly, I mentioned that I volunteer in the student ministry. Image is everything to students, especially girls. I feel the pressure to cave while serving in the ministry. Whether it’s a Wednesday night trying to encourage teenage girls or a Sunday morning when everyone, not just the teen girls, is dressed to the nines with all their accessories and hair “all did up,” the feelings of inadequacy have overwhelmed me at times.

Was is hard for you to stop? If so, do you find it’s gotten easier with time? Or do you still have days when you want to wear it?

Was it hard to stop wearing makeup??? I remember being in tears some days and feeling so exposed, raw, and vulnerable. The first 3 months seemed it was the death of me. I had to go through the initial shock stage and then a grief stage (it’s awful to say that I grieved not wearing makeup, but it was an addiction and a co-dependent relationship). Then I had to accept it, which was the hardest stage. It was hard because I had to accept what God had given to me and that beauty. Being challenged not to alter it in any way and redefine beauty in His way was difficult. It has gotten easier with time, but I do still have difficult days, although they are few and far between now.

What does your husband think about you not wearing makeup?

My husband loves it on many different levels. He has been so encouraging in the whole process—he has listened on my difficult days and always had a hug. Actually, he tells me I am beautiful more often now than when we were dating.

Has not wearing makeup produced any unexpected affects/feelings in your life? 

Yes. As mentioned before, I really had no idea it would be so difficult. I thought, “this should be easy” as I struggled to take the first step. Oh the irony! I think that I was really in more denial than anything else and was not realistic about the deeper issues at hand.

Any words of advice or encouragement to those thinking about not wearing makeup?

DO IT!!! I am 100% for you! Don’t give up. It’s hard at first and uncomfortable, but once you can get past the sticker shock (the price that you feel you have to pay not to wear it), it gets easier. And most people won’t even address it with you. They may notice and even have their judgements, but it’s your life and you have every right and freedom to not wear it.

There are a few encouraging things that the Lord has helped me see. On the days that I really feel less than beautiful, He always reminds me that I am adorned in His grace.  And when I rest in that truth, as well as that I am His child and how much He really loves me, those thoughts usually go away almost instantly.

Verses like,

“Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting but a woman that fears the Lord is to be greatly praised.” Proverbs 31:30

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves.” 1 Peter 3:3-5 ( I want to be like those holy women!!! Worth in God’s sight is far greater than placing my worth in makeup.)

Anything else you’d like to add?

I don’t want to take away from the glory of God. When I focus on myself, I steal His glory and His beauty. I want to be the kind of woman that is so secure with the Lord that He radiates out of me. There is no makeup that can compare to that kind of beauty.

As I reflect on what I say to my precious, nearly 5-year-old daughter—that she is beautiful without fancy dresses or headbands—I have this uncanny feeling that I am a hypocrite when I focus on my appearance and lack of beauty without makeup. As she grows, I don’t want my daughter finding her definition of beauty from the world but from her/our Maker. He is the Master of beauty, why should I teach her otherwise?

I don’t know where to add this, but I know this has been an advantage: I do not have any social media accounts, magazine subscriptions, or a television program that “I have to watch.” Without these streaming into my life, comparison may still be a struggle, but it does not dictate to me that I should be wearing makeup.

Thank you, Mistie, for sharing your story and such lovely, encouraging words to meditate on. You are beautiful. 

The No-Makeup Series: Emma

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This is Emma. I met her a couple years back when she and her boyfriend Nick starting attending my yoga classes. She is my vegan-minimalist-artsy-yogi friend (a rare find in these parts!). Emma stopped wearing makeup not too long after we met, and today she is sharing the story behind that choice.

How old were you when you started wearing makeup?

Oh gosh, I was at least in early middle school. I would say around seventh grade was when I felt like I had to wear it everyday to school. Though, I remember first trying nail polish and mascara much younger, about in second grade.

How would you describe your old makeup routine?

I would wash my face with some walmart-horrible-for-your-skin cleanser and apply moisturizer. Then I would conceal my under eye area, because I had been told that women show age there first, and as a middle schooler, I felt that covering this area would just hold onto my youth, I guess. I also concealed all my acne areas and dark spots, which were plenty considering I bombarded my face with powder or liquid foundation and brushed on this Maybelline blush stuff I used that lasted, I kid you not, from the time I started wearing blush to the time I threw it away in college. That stuff lasted forrrreeever. I also always wore a winged black eyeliner no matter what. Not too thick, not too thin, but with a slight winged tip at the end to really echo past Egyptian culture, which, of course, is not what I was going for at the time. For a period I also dabbled in highlighting and bronzing to get a “sunkissed” glow. It took me about an hour to get ready.

Were/are you the kind of person who loves different beauty products and application techniques? Almost like makeup as a hobby? Or were you just interested in the basics?

It was something I thought, and was told, was necessary in order to go to school. Sure, if I saw a new product in the makeup aisle at CVS, I would probably stop to consider buying it if I thought it would make me prettier, but it was never a hardcore hobby. I do remember watching YouTube tutorials, but this was more to see what other people were using on their skin as I had plenty of problems with mine and saw all of these flawless skin women who put on makeup and I felt that if I had their same products, maybe my skin would also be like theirs. I never got into types of brushes or even cleaned mine regularly.

How often did you go without makeup before you stopped wearing it?

I would always wear makeup if I left the house. So before I stopped completely, I only allowed my skin to be bare on the weekends or any day I stayed home.

What made you stop wearing makeup? Did you do it cold turkey or gradually?

I think it was really all up to the social context of it all. In high school I was told by my crushes throughout the years that I looked pale, or my skin wasn’t clear, or that I just wasn’t as pretty as so and so, and of course when you’re trying to impress your crush you do what you can to “better” your appearance. So makeup was reinforced to me by what these people were saying. Looking back, there was definitely a culture of the boys seeing us girls as objects and opportunities rather than as equal individuals, even at this young age. When I was younger and living with my guardian, she had mountains of makeup and had a whole set of drawers just for the stuff—it was intense. I remember her telling me that it’s just what a woman does and that I was a “fine canvas, but a canvas in need of paint.” In other words, I wasn’t naturally pretty and so, again, this reinforced makeup further.

I moved to college and met Nick, my current boyfriend of almost four years now, and when we first started dating and I would get ready for a date by applying foundation and mascara, he would always, always say to me, “You know, you don’t really need that. You’re so beautiful on your own.” Now, I had never been told these words before, and it was quite flattering and very sweet. And he never tried to stop me from putting on makeup, but slowly over that semester I found that I really didn’t need makeup, and I never really liked it, either. I wore it to appease and hopefully seem more appealing to my crushes growing up—which weren’t worth it, but, you know—and to gather respect from an adult woman who only saw her worth in huge vanity mirrors and Bobby Brown cosmetics. I had accepted it as a normal part of life that every girl did, and I never got the chance to question that “normality” until I was out of that environment. Once I met a great guy who actually respected women, it was easy to see that I went through so much hassle for nothing. I know that there are women out there who say they don’t wear makeup to impress or look better to anyone, that they do it for themselves because it makes them feel good. But, see, that really has me wonder because I wore it just to impress, and if I impressed someone or looked good to someone else then I felt better. To those women, I must ask, is there anything else you could do for your own self-esteem other than manipulate and change how your face looks? It just seems counterintuitive. Sure, I thought I looked better with the same shade of warm ivory from forehead to neck, but when I wiped it all off at night I didn’t like what was in the mirror because it wasn’t clear anymore, it wasn’t flawless. It was smudged and spotted and flaky and porous. So, if you put makeup on because the act of it or the sight of it on you has you feel good, then do you really, honestly still love how your skin actually looks? Can you?

Why did you throw all of it out?

I was covering up and preferring this face that was not really mine. Since middle school I have gained this inner code that I try to live by now, and in this code is one simple idea: Be honest with yourself. This means, entirely and brutally honest. If I feel a certain way about something, I follow that intuition. I try to listen as honestly as I can, without making up excuses or hearing what I want to hear, and likewise, I try to speak to myself as honestly as I can about what is happening or what I feel. I gathered this mindset about near the end of high school and around the same time as meeting Nick and starting college. And when it came down to it, wearing makeup wasn’t really being honest with myself. I simply didn’t like the idea of preferring a face that wasn’t really my face. I need to see what I look like and enjoy it for what it is, appreciate it for what it is, and deal with my skin’s problems from the roots rather than just covering up and dealing with the symptoms. I guess I would think of myself as a thoughtful person; I like my thoughts and I enjoy thinking into things and myself. I saw this dealing with my face by covering it up as a metaphor for how I dealt with most things in me. I ignored the actual problems and tried to put on a pretty smile in the meantime. I had some pretty heavy things to deal with in middle school and high school and putting on makeup seemed an easy way to appear to myself that I had it all under control, that I was fine and my situation was fine because I had my eyeliner. The solution is to clear your skin and have a healthier diet and drink more water. The solution is to realize you’re not anyone’s plaything that should feel the need to get dressed up to feel like you’re worth something. I wore makeup for others and I threw it all out for me.

What do you like most about not wearing it?

I enjoy looking in the mirror and not seeing that cakey effect a lot of people who wear foundation get. I really did not like that growing up and considered it gross to see the pores clogged with makeup, and I still cringe inside if I see that effect on someone’s face. I just enjoy waking up, and it’s a new normal to splash warm water, spritz my fave facial mist, and walk out the door. I enjoy that it’s normal for me now to have bare skin and that I never think about it as my face is without makeup, it’s just my face. I forget sometimes that makeup is still a thing because I just never see it and don’t walk down those aisles anymore. It’s nice to have come this far and to have changed what was so normal to me.

What’s the hardest part about not wearing it?

It’s all about being honest. Now if I break out, I can’t cover it up, can’t lie to the world that I have perfect skin yet again. I have to look at my activity, what not so healthy food I’ve been eating, and I have to treat the source of what’s causing my skin to freak out. At first I would get worried to leave the house if I had a pimple or two with bare skin, but looking back, even with makeup it was still obvious if you had a pimple so I guess I thought that if I applied makeup maybe it would suggest to the world that I at least tried to hide a natural and normal process of skin, as if one needs to, but now I live life a little bit more carelessly.

Was it hard for you to stop? If so, do you find it’s gotten easier with time? Or do you still have days when you want to wear it?

Not really, but there was a month that I continued to wear blush and bronzer so as to give the illusion of a slimmer face, but I really didn’t care to keep that up once I researched into the chemicals within them. Once I cared more about what I put on my skin and how it affected my skin, it really wasn’t hard to let go of the harmful stuff. Again, actually wanting to take care of my body and love who I was made it easier to let go of the things that actually were self harming, to the mind and body, as makeup can easily affect someone self esteem wise and also with the rise in cancer risk some products give. I considered more natural makeup, but I had gotten so used to bare skin that it seemed a pain to try to do anything else. I just like my face now so why cover it up? I do still curl my lashes some days, which Nick still says I don’t need, and maybe one day I’ll stop this as well, but after cutting out everything else, it’s the one thing I just like to do.

Has not wearing makeup produced any unexpected affects/feelings in your life?

It has helped me to stand apart from the ideals of those I used to adhere to. Once I saw self worth in my own skin, I stopped trying to justify my guardian’s hurtful words and those from influences I had growing up, such as the crush I mentioned earlier, who was a close friend of mine till I understood that he also was essentially just a bully. It has helped me to think more on my own as I don’t follow a societal standard of what it is to be a perfect woman, and I am allowing myself to be comfortable as an outsider apart from this norm. It’s good to be comfortable outside of the norm, and I didn’t know that’s what I was getting into when I stopped. It’s like how Alicia Keys started this controversy when she stopped wearing makeup while being a judge on The Voice. A young girl may not think of makeup as an expected societal standard of her to look “pretty” and “together” all of the time—as if appearing without makeup means she’s not pretty or does not have her life all together—but just by seeing how angry people got with Alicia just because she didn’t conceal under her eyes…man…it’s just so hard to not see that women are expected to be this ideal version of what others want all the time. I didn’t expect this discarding of makeup would turn into a feminist expression for me, but I guess it has.

Any words of advice or encouragement to those thinking about not wearing makeup?

Women have been societally and culturally taught from a young age to not love ourselves, and I really don’t know the origin behind all of this and why it’s such a big deal for women to have empowerment or to love who we are, but it is. So make a big deal out of it—take all the love you put on yourself for others, and give it back to your heart and soul. Learn to appreciate who you are and what you have that no one else does in the entire world and in all of history of mankind because once you realize you’re worth everything, no one is going to be able to tell you that you’re not good enough. From what I’ve experienced in this life so far, there are so many people who would love the opportunity to take everything from you, including your self worth, so don’t even give them the chance. If you adorn your worth in your mind and thoughts, it can’t be as easily wiped away as adorning something so temporary and fleeting as how you look right now. Love yourself so much that you could be without your favorite t-shirt, favorite perfume, favorite jewelry, favorite anything that has you feel better about yourself and still be a-ok, and by slowly dwindling the amount of products we use to cover our already beautiful faces is a start.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Time and time again through my younger adult life I was told I wasn’t good enough. That I wasn’t good enough to get a date for Homecoming, that I wasn’t good enough to go far in life, and that I wasn’t good enough to ever be loved. So I wore makeup because I thought being prettier would make me good enough. As if having a smokey eye is any true indication of beauty. As if manipulating any part of me at all could be any more beautiful than the way Emma sees things through her glasses or enjoys the smell of rain, or how Emma sits and reads a good book, or just in the way Emma just wakes up every morning. What’s beautiful is that you’re here now, just like I am. What’s beautiful is getting this chance to walk this Earth and be of the same dust as space and stars around us. You are the Milky Way and the grass beneath your feet. Expand your narrative to see a bigger reality and you’ll see that trying to be anything else than you, or act as if you could improve how you look, is a shame to all the beauty you’ve come from. So I ask you, if you do wear makeup, why do you really wear it? Once you can be honest with yourself here, you’ve only got the rest of the world to be honest to.

Thank you, Emma, for your candor and vulnerability. You are beautiful. 

The No-Makeup Series

no makeup

I flip through a new catalog sent to me in the mail. I like the clothes immediately. They’re simple and functional, casual yet classy. But as I thumb through the pages, I realize I’m paying more attention to the model than the clothes. I notice her eyes and clear complexion, and my first thought is, I would look prettier if I put some makeup on. Maybe I should start wearing more. And then I notice her hair. It’s a short bob, loose and wavy, and I think, maybe I should cut my hair. But my hair’s not wavy and probably wouldn’t look like that.

Before I know it, I’ve spent five minutes of my evening examining the appearance of a model and evaluating my own in comparison. And I don’t add up to her polished yet carefree aesthetic. I close the magazine feeling a little less confident, preoccupied with how I can improve my look.

I realize that I do this with every magazine mailer I get. I observe the women and think less about buying the items and more about making myself look like the models. What exactly is being sold here? Surely I’m not the only woman/person doing this.

My neighbor and friend is the kind of person who doesn’t realize how beautiful she is—at least that’s my perception. Her eyes are a piercing blend of sea green and blue, and rarely do I notice a blemish on her skin. A few years back I remember saying to her, “you look good without makeup.” She replied, “thanks, well, I think that you’re just used to seeing me without it.” These words have stuck with me ever since.

I started wearing makeup around my sophomore year of high school. Mostly eye makeup, with all the cool colors of eye liner like lime green, blue, purple, and glittery silver. One of my friends had colored mascara—blue and purple—which I wanted so badly. By my senior year I was wearing more “grown-up” colors. I remember putting on blush for the first time and thinking wow, what a difference.

Sometimes I like to imagine what life would be like if no one wore makeup, if every woman owned her God-created face in all of its plain, imperfect, and unique glory. Maybe we would no longer look at the women in magazines or on TV or at the office and compare our own beauty to theirs. Maybe we would be less concerned about our appearance meeting unrealistic standards and more interested in cultivating inner beauty. And maybe what makes us feminine wouldn’t be something sold in a bottle at Sephora or the corner drugstore. Yeah, yeah…this all sounds like some hippie, feminist utopia, but just allow yourself to imagine that kind of freedom.

Over the past year two of my friends decided to stop wearing makeup entirely, and for somewhat different reasons. And when I say stop, I mean they threw away all of their makeup. At first I was intrigued, then inspired, and then challenged: could I do that? Not wear makeup? Yeah, it’s one thing not to wear it hanging out at home one day, or on a grocery run, but what about to church or social functions? Could my face go stark naked?

I consulted Google: why do some women choose not to wear makeup? The main ones seemed to be a matter of saving time—there are other things they’d rather be doing than applying mascara or taking it off at night. Or because it is expensive and messy. For some it is keeping an all-natural beauty regimen or their skin fares better without it. And others want to be confident in their bare face. In fact, many seemed to find more confidence apart from makeup, which astounded me. How was that possible?

So I stopped wearing makeup sometime in December. I’ve never worn a lot of makeup or spent much time on it (usually about a three-minute routine), but enough to even out my complexion and brighten my eyes—a little powder, blush/bronzer, and always mascara. I had stopped wearing eye makeup almost a year ago (most of the time), for practical reasons, so it was really just the powder and blush I cut out in December.

So how’s it been? Well, in no particular order, (1) I love the simplicity, that I no longer have to take time applying or removing makeup. (2) I’ve battled breakouts ever since high school, and for the first time my skin has been consistently clear. (3) I spend less time thinking about the way I look or zoning in on blemishes, less preoccupied with my physical appearance, which is quite liberating. (4) Spashing cool water on my face midday is so refreshing—something I could never do if I had makeup on.

Am I more confident? Yes and no. Seeing my reflection under fluorescent lights is killer, but I guess that goes with anything. I sometimes feel very plain or washed out; I wish my eyebrows and eyelashes were naturally darker to provide some contrast. And sometimes I wonder if people look at me and think, she should wear some makeup! Or if my husband wishes I would get a little dolled up.

But I have reached a point where most days I feel comfortable without makeup. And like my friend says, it’s simply because I’ve grown accustomed to seeing myself without it. Also, I love that I now compare myself less to other women—the ones in magazines and in real life. It’s produced an unexpected form of humility and modesty.

As a side note, I think living in the South makes no makeup more challenging than it would be back in Colorado, or out West, where you see a lot more women going without it. But like they say, everything in Texas is bigger—the hair and the makeup for sure. A bare face is counter cultural in general, but even more so here.

Overall, I’m glad I’m doing this, trying to find beauty and confidence apart from mascara and blush, to look at myself in the mirror and think, you look good without makeup. Unlike my friends, I have not tossed out my beauty supplies, and I haven’t committed to a life without makeup. I’m not really sure how long this wil last.

And one more side note: sometimes, when I see a woman not wearing makeup, I want to run up to her and say, “Hey girl, I love that you’re not wearing makeup, you look great.” Solidarity!

The next two posts on La Delta will feature interviews with my two friends that no longer wear makeup, exploring their reasons, what’s been hard, how it’s affected them. The point of this series is not to convince you that makeup is evil and you need to stop wearing it right now, but simply to explore the topic, to see another’s perspective on beauty and self-image. Maybe it will cause you to think about makeup in a different way, to reflect on your own reasons for wearing it/not wearing it, to take an honest and critical look at how makeup affects your perception of your own beauty and self-image. And maybe…just maybe you will jump on board the hippie, feminist utopia train and go face-streaking around town…and I will join you in solidarity!

It is Necessary

Is it Necessary

I wanted to write this post two months ago, at the one year anniversary of La Delta, but it turns out I was napping the month of February and then some. Actually, these words have been floating around in my mind for over a year. Parts of this essay have weighed heavy on me for a decade even. And though I’m ready to write these thoughts, I’ve struggled to actually sit down and curate the processing. Any creative person will attest that inspiration is elusive, and always strikes at the most inopportune times. And further, that what you create doesn’t always turn out like you think it will, such as what I’m about to share, but you trust the outcome anyway, that it’s exactly what it needs to be.

There was a time in my marriage when my husband would ask me a question or desire my input on something, and before I’d have the chance to respond, he would naggingly imitate me saying “is that necessary?” That’s because I often responded with that answer—is that really a priority, practical? Do we really need that? However, I can’t remember the last time he mockingly impersonated me, probably because I’ve stopped saying it out loud. I still think it though.

My husband is good at seeing all the parts. I am good at seeing the big picture, and so we compliment and clash, we work hard to understand each other and remember that we approach things from opposite ends. There are strengths and weaknesses in both perspectives, but when it comes to me and my creative side, my “is this necessary?” attitude really gets in the way.

As I hinted at already, I wanted to blog/write publicly almost ten years ago. I even have old essays saved that I wrote for the blog I never started. So why didn’t I just do it? The big picture answer was—what’s the point? The parts were—because everyone else was already doing it, so why add to the noise? I didn’t have a niche, a certain type of blog, a way to market myself. There were/are thousands of other much more talented and trained writers out there, what makes me think I have anything special or different to offer? Or why should I share my work publicly when I can do it just the same within the privacy of my own pen and paper? For years people have crafted words without sharing them on websites and social media, so why did I need to? What was the root of my motivation, for show? Was it really necessary? No.

When you have the strong desire to do something—one that requires putting yourself out there—you have two options: to ignore/supress the desire, or act on it/move forward. I chose the former with writing (and other things), but I disguised my supression with rationale, convinced myself through various arguments that I didn’t need to do something publicly for it to matter, to have value—that it didn’t have to be a show saying “look what I can do!” Of course this is a valid statement, and therefore I held to it for years. But in spite of all my rationalizing, the desire kept resurfacing. And I’d stuff it back down to its rightful place, keep my motives in check, only to resurface, and so the cycle continued.

Until last year, after my thirtieth birthday, I decided I wanted to change my is-it-necessary ways (and other ways), throw practicality out the window, and I started a blog. (And secondly, because a dear friend of mine started her own blog and gave me some courage to do the same.) But honestly, it wasn’t a matter of practicality or necessity that kept me from writing publicly, it was fear. Fear of what people would think, fear that what I had to offer wouldn’t be worth reading, fear of rejection—the failure of something held dearly. My words were safe tucked in the pages of notebooks, but not out on the open internet.

Despite my fears, I created a WordPress account and picked a template. And without thinking too much about it, analyzing every aspect of my motives and the grand purpose of my blog, I wrote about what was on my mind, pressed publish, and held my breath (heart pounding) as I shared my very first post on Instagram and Facebook. I think I was so tired of wrestling with my desire to write that I finally gave in. Really, so tired of being ruled by the fear of failure.

Can I tell you, I have found so much joy and freedom in writing La Delta? That crafting my thoughts and struggles into stories, and capturing photos to go with them, has made me feel alive? That this little space is just the creative outlet I needed? This is no coincidence, this is divine. God placed such a desire in me—to write and share what I write—and in doing what He created me to do, I naturally thrive. By stepping out into the fear of “what if”—what if it’s not good enough? what if no one reads it? what are my motives for sharing?—I’ve realized that none of those things really matter. The big picture is this: I’m living out the desire God’s placed in my heart, and not only does it bring me profound joy, but it pleases and glorifies Him!

And so I would like to take a moment to thank you, sweet friend or family member, for reading the words I write. There is so much noise—so many links and videos and podcasts and blogs vying for your attention—and the fact that you take time out of your day to read a post on La Delta is truly humbling. I don’t have a niche audience, marketing plan, or publishing schedule for my blog, but I do have a vision: that La Delta offer something real, honest, and refreshing, and that I write when I have something to say, and not just add to the noise.

And if you’re like me, maybe a creative type, and you think that what you have to offer won’t be enough, won’t make much of a difference, will only add to the noise, let me give a bit of advice: perhaps what you have to offer is not much in the grand scheme of life, of the millions of people trodding the earth, the endless faces and infinite words that surround us each day; perhaps we are insignificant in light of the universe, but a vapor. However, in spite of our smallness, what may be more significant than impacting the world around you in measurable, tangible ways, is to instead heed to your Maker, to surrender to the work He’s called you to and designed you for, whether that appeals to the masses, or more simply, satisfies your soul while glorifying Him. While the former will tug and tangle you, convince you it’s the essence, the latter is the Truth. It is necessary.