Utah

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We went to Park City, Utah at the end of July for a family reunion/birthday celebration on Erik’s side of the family. We stayed in a big fancy house at the base of the ski slopes. The only meal I made was my morning toast. The coffee was brewed by someone else each day, the dishes done by other hands. I took a steam shower. I slept till 8 one day. I sat on the back patio and breathed deep the familiar smell of aspen and pine, aching deeply for my mom. I planned nothing. Aside from keeping an eye on Sayla (along with everyone else), I barely lifted a finger.

Whenever we travel somewhere, we always end up discussing whether or not we could live in that area. We weigh the pro and cons—the weather, the culture, the cost of living—and we either cross it off the list of prospects, or tuck it away for future daydreaming. Some people know where they want to live, and others (like us) are overwhelmed by the options, keeping one eye on the horizon at all times.

I often wonder which is worse: knowing where you want to live yet not being there, or not knowing where you want to live and constantly searching for where you should call home. Perhaps they are equally unsettling. Some of us have the freedom to live wherever we please, others are tied to a location due to family, finances, jobs, or health reasons.

The area we live now predominantly consists of families that have lived here for generations: people my age who have never even left the county they were born in. At first this boggled (and bothered) me, but I’ve learned to appreciate the endearing side of it, the roots running deep in land and bloodlines. And I wonder, maybe if my mom hadn’t have died, if we still had family anchored in Colorado, we may have never moved to Texas.

When I was at church the other day, a sweet elderly lady introduced herself to me and then asked who I belonged to. Well, no one (around here at least). And I realized how strange I must have seemed to her; she’s not accustomed to meeting an outsider, someone with no family ties. Around here, everyone is related to someone.

Anyway, back to Utah…inevitably, being in the mountains also makes us discuss whether we are beach people or mountain people. According to my neighbor, this is one of the biggest problems with the American mindset: we are an either/or society, ruled by dichotomy. We are country or city people, paleo or vegan, introvert or extrovert, conservative or liberal. Coloring outside these lines, mixing the palette, makes us too uncomfortable.

I’m both, a beach person and a mountain person, probably 35% and 65% respectively if you want to get technical. I always enjoy a long walk on the beach, but I’m partial to hiking trails lined with aspens and evergreens, to cool mountain air and high elevations, because it’s my homeland, probably coded in my DNA. Really, category-wise, I’m a “walking outside person,” and though I’m tempted to tag “in nature” onto that label, I loved walking through the city those years I lived in Denver.

Utah made us revisit our ideas to move back to Colorado someday, awakened the slumbering giant that wants to hike and camp and live like hippies, reminded us of all we miss about life out West. But then we recall the cost of living, how outrageous the housing market is in Colorado now, that we’d be living paycheck to paycheck, and the giant gets drowsy again.

However, all of this daydreaming—for mountains, winter snow, and cool summer nights— convicted me of a peculiar covetousness: of grasping for something that isn’t meant to be had in a permanent sense, but simply experienced. I was challenged to enjoy our fancy accommodations in ritzy Park City for what is was: a perfect getaway in a beautiful place with wonderful people. To let it be amazing, and fleeting, and okay with its passing. It’s fun to play the could-we-live-here game, but sometimes it just feels like the place we really do live isn’t good enough, like there’s something better and we’re trying to find it—a bit gluttonous: we can’t just enjoy a few bites, we have to stuff our faces.

This is a word for all of us, not just the nomads and travelers. We all take pieces of our lives—say an afternoon off from work, a splendid meal with our favorite people, a perfectly productive and restful weekend—and instead of accepting those experiences as gifts to be enjoyed for what they are, in the moment, we devise plans to make all of our life look like those pieces, so much that we begin to lament, or even worse—despise—the reality of our everyday living.

So here’s to enjoying the part without trying to make it the whole. Here’s to grand homes and hobbit houses, aspens and oak trees, mountains and prairies. Here’s to being in the moment for however long or short it may be, wherever it may be, and with whomever. Instead of hoarding and molding all the best places and people and experiences into our very own golden calf, let us enjoy new manna each morning, hands and hearts open.

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This Time Around

This pregnancy has been nearly identical to my first: the first-trimester sickness; the various food cravings (nothing strange, really); the ailments (some heartburn, mediocre sleep); the perks (clear skin, thickening hair, yet leg hair that practically stops growing…strange, I know); and the way my body carries the weight of baby (like a basketball). It has only felt different these last couple weeks, as if he has snuggled lower into my pelvis. Perhaps this is what it means to have the baby drop? Or maybe this is just what it’s like now that my body’s already been around the baby block. With Sayla I don’t remember feeling as much pressure so low, like she would stay in me forever (41 weeks and 3 days). But now I’m thinking, “Dude, can you give a girl a break?” Oh, and the vericose veins streaking my thighs—these are a new thing with this pregnancy.

It was around 30 weeks that the reality of childbirth set in, when I felt the slight panic of what the coming months would entail, his grand exit from my body. I began to eat the words I told my husband at the beginning of pregnancy, how I wasn’t really all that concerned with labor and delivery, wasn’t worried about the pain of giving birth to a tiny human. Like it was just a side note (ha!).

At this point the panic has subsided, and I’m in the stage of acceptance. I’m more concerned with setting aside expectations of how this birth will play out. With Sayla I had no frame of reference to gauge or compare against, but now I do: I remember the intensity of contractions; the actual labor it requires to push a baby out; how exhausting, yet not unbearable, it was for me the first time around. I’m aware that this birth can be (and probably will be) completely different. I may not handle the contractions as well, I may not push for 3 hours (please no!). My water might break (it didn’t with Sayla). I might begin having contractions days leading up to the actual birth, or it may come really fast. There’s no way of knowing, but I’m certain I’ll be better off approaching this birth with an open mind like I had to with Sayla, that as much as I hope and wish it will turn out a certain way, I really have very little control over the process.

However, I do have plans for post birth, which is the primary reason I have chosen to use a birthing center over a hospital. With Sayla I gave birth on a Saturday morning and was not released to go home until Tuesday. I was at the hospital for over 3 whole days after having a natural birth, Sayla and I both completely healthy, other than her losing a little more weight at the onset than desired. I couldn’t sleep, we were constantly having our vitals checked every few hours, and my milk supply was being questioned within 48 hours after birth. For a first-time mom, the pressure was crushing, and thus my relationship with breastfeeding started out on the completely wrong foot and never really recovered.

So this time around, I want to be at home after my baby is born. I want to hold him and nurse him in the comfort of my own bed, without fluorescent lights and beeping monitors. I want to actually sleep within those first few days after birth, eat food that isn’t from a hospital cafeteria. I want zero questioning of my milk supply until it’s actually an acceptable time to be concerned. I want our life as a family of four to begin in a relatively calm, relaxed environment. And barring any emergency situations, Lord willing, this is a reasonable expectation.

If I’m honest, the excitement of a new baby—the tiny feet, soft skin, and peach-fuzzy head—is not what has my thoughts right now. Instead, the reality, the weight of it all, is consuming most of my head space. The how-will-I-manage-a-newborn-and-toddler?, the woes of breastfeeding, the healing of my body, the lack of sleep. With Sayla I had no idea what the postpartum stage would be like, and likewise, I really don’t know what’s coming with this one. But, I do know how it could be if history were to repeat itself, which is not something I want to experience again.

In spite of my pessimism, or realism (probably a combination thereof), there is some hope that this baby will bring healing, mend the small tears. Hope that this time around I will not be so overwhelmed by and scared of the 8 pound life in my arms. Hope that this newborn experience will be more sweet than bitter. Perhaps there are some moms that don’t have a rough start to motherhood, for whom newborn life runs pretty smoothly. But others know how hard it can be—whether because their baby is colicky/inconsolable, or has some health issue, or breastfeeding is not working out, or childbirth was traumatic, or postpartum depression—some moms know how these kinds of things can rob one of reveling in the newness of her sweet baby.

I know one thing for sure will make a difference, and that’s confidence. When before I had none, plagued by the question of am I doing this right?, I now have some grasp on motherhood, an understanding that it’s going to be okay, and I can, in fact, keep a baby alive. I finally have some footing, which took months, if not a year, to find with Sayla. I think all parents are inherently haunted by the am-I-doing-this-right, even when kids are grown and living independently, but not to the scorching degree it is the first time around.

I promise I do have a motherly heart and there are some things I’m looking forward to. Childbirth, the end part, when he finally comes out and is placed on my chest. This was the most divine, remarkable experience of my life (with Sayla), and I’m certain I will feel that same high again. And that first smell of his head, right from the womb. You’d think it would be a strange (bad) smell after nine months in bodily fluid, but the scent is wonderfully sweet and pure. And yes, tiny hands and feet, his fuzzy head and soft skin, to see how he’ll look; Of course, I am excited to see and feel and behold the beauty of our newborn son.

And lastly, I don’t want to be so crazy this time around when it comes to breastfeeding. They say hindsight is 20-20, but when I look back to Sayla’s infancy, I’m not sure that persisting with nursing was the right decision, mostly because it was so emotionally and physically taxing on me. I’m not going to lie, breastfeeding is the best way to feed your baby, but for some moms the cost (supply issues, health issues, stress, time spent pumping, etc.) can be too high. My earnest hope is that this baby nurses like a champ and I get through the initial discomfort relativiely quickly. Lord, help me.

Pregnancy and childbirth have a way of training you in one of the great paradoxes of life: to hope and hold on while surrendering and letting go. To have a will and plans and grit, but to also relinquish control. To cry out to God, laying petitions at His feet, yet finally yielding—nevertheless, not my will, O Lord, but Yours be done. I remember with Sayla wanting so badly to have a natural childbirth and no interventions, yet also knowing I had to accept that things may not go as planned: I might need an epidural or pitocin or c-section.

So again, this time around, as I enter these final weeks of pregnancy with heavy hopes and weighted mind, I must lay my expectations and concerns at His feet, trusting He will provide the perfect outcome. Trusting that He designed my body to bear children and nourish them, that He has formed the sweet life in my womb, that He is Lord over all—labor and delivery, breastfeeding, postpartum hormones, you name it—and I can rest in Him.

Buried Treasure

Buried Treasure

A couple months ago I felt a nudge. A nudge to put our TV away, out of sight, for an undetermined amount of time. I had been feeling a little frustrated by how many shows my daughter had started watching in a day—moving away from one in the morning and one in the evening—to double that if not more, which was entirely my doing. It’s not like she could start the programs herself. But I found myself caring less and less about the amount of time she was consuming Netflix, loosing the reigns because I just didn’t feel like saying no and fighting her persistence: “show! show! show!…”

Despite my own irritation with the direction we were going, I sensed something apart from that urging me to remove the TV from the living room. And so I sat with it, Googled it, texted a friend about it, emailed a blogger about it, and prayed about it. Google and looking to what others were doing didn’t help me much. Deep down, I knew that what other people were doing meant nothing if this was God nudging me. Other parents are not to be my guide, He is. And deep down, I knew it was the Lord nudging me because if it were just my own voice of reason I would not take such drastic measures. Instead, I would simply tighten the reigns—stop the shows but keep the TV as is, or go back to the two-a-day rule. But this wasn’t what God wanted. He wanted it gone, out of sight.

After about a week of sitting on it, I brought it up to my husband. Explained what I felt, my reasoning, why I sensed it was the Holy Spirit and not my own idea. I was worried about his reaction, that he might not be on board, mostly because I know Netflix is a big help to him on the nights I teach yoga. But he was actually in favor of the plan.

My biggest concern with ditching the TV was not how my daughter would handle it, but how I would. Netflix is the ideal babysitter—always there for just $10 a month. What would I do when it was time to cook dinner? Or when the weather was bad and she was bored? Or when I just wanted to sit there and do nothing? I knew this was more about me than her. It would require more effort and energy, getting down on the floor with her, reading more books, putting my own agenda aside when she needed my supervision or help. This action would require me to be more attentive and engaged.

In spite of my fears to banish the TV, His still small voice persisted: “There is buried treasure here.” And so I’ve been trusting these words, this promise—that in doing the extra work resulting from cutting back screen time, by digging deeper, getting dirtier, I will find buried treasure.

The morning after we put the TV up, my daughter asked “where show?” a few times throughout the day, but she didn’t whine or cry for it, and within a couple days she stopped asking altogether. Out of sight, out of mind. For me, however, it was not out of mind, and there were (and still are) times when I want it back in sight.

But perhaps what has surprised me most about taking Netflix away from our daily routine is that I don’t feel pressed for time like I thought I would. I am still able to get stuff done—make dinner, do dishes, get dressed, whatever—without her sitting in the recliner zoning out on Sarah & Duck. I realized that oftentimes when she was watching a show I was using that time to scroll through a social media feed, not always to do something productive. So in cutting back her screen time, I’ve unintentionally limited mine, which I’m certain is part of the buried treasure, and a conversation for another time.

And there has been a change in my daughter. When before she would head straight to the couch upon waking, asking for a show, she now plays with her toys. She is actually capable of entertaining herself without technology (gasp!). She is less whiney, more independent. It’s amazing.

Furthermore, I have come to seek the Lord more as a mom than I did before, simply because I must rely on Him for the strength and energy to keep up, to help me be engaged and savor these toddler days. Ordinarily I would depend on Netflix in my moments of tiredness or overwhelm, but now it is Him. Again, another part of that buried treasure.

I would like to interject here that my daughter still has some screen time. She has a Kindle she watches whenever we’re in the car, and I know my husband still turns on a show on the computer when I’m gone teaching yoga. I don’t know how long the no-TV season will last. Though I would like it to remain our new normal, I might just fall apart without Netflix once I have a newborn to manage and winter is here. We will see where He leads when the time comes.

I don’t know what else the buried treasure entails. Maybe it’s simply being present and enjoying these last few months with just my daughter before her brother arrives. Maybe it’s the little moments that would ordinarily be spent watching a show getting turned into teaching or bonding or playful moments. Maybe it’s my daughter becoming more imaginative and independent, less instantly gratified. Maybe taking the time to invest in her in these early days will reap benefits down the road. I can only imagine, only hope, only trust His word. I can only obey His voice calling out to me. But I do know this: He leads me beside still waters, to pastures green and full. He is my Shepherd, and His leading will always restore my soul.

Likewise, may you remember this the next time the Lord nudges you to do something you don’t really want to do. When He opens His hand and gives you bread to provide for your heart, though you’re certain He’s offering a stone. When you think He’s leading you to a dungeon for torture instead of peaceful pastures. Stop and remember who He is. That He is a good Father, a loving Shepherd, one that desires to satisfy you with His mercy and lovingkindess. To bring you into deeper intimacy with Him, dependency. He is aiming to restore your soul.

 

 

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.