A few weeks ago I was up late watching a whole lot of nothing on t.v. when an infomercial came on for Cindy Crawford’s skin care products called “Meaningful Beauty”. I got sucked into the stories, testimonies and the impressive before and after pictures of models and other beautiful women who have experienced the transformation provided by the skin care line. Before I could even give it another thought, I was ordering my Meaningful Beauty kit. I could hardly wait for it to arrive. In all of the photos and interviews marketing the products, the women’s faces were miraculously transformed from showing wrinkles, puffy eyes and imperfect skin to showing radiant, glowing and younger looking faces. Who wouldn’t want to buy those products? I was all in!
As the next few days went by I waited and waited and checked the doorstep every day to see if my box of lotions and potions had been delivered. I was anxious to get started and I think that somewhere in the silliness of my mind I believed that my skin really would end up looking like Cindy Crawford’s. I was filled with hope and anticipation. Finally the day came and my box arrived. I tore it open like a kid on Christmas day and admired all of the bottles of creams and gels that would instantly wipe the years from my face. I read through the instructions, and prepared to wash my face that evening with my brand new cleanser and to put the creams and gels on before falling asleep. A tube of specially formulated eye serum was included and I just knew that the next morning I would awaken revitalized and looking at least ten years younger.
When I applied the face creams, I felt a tiny burn on my face, but it didn’t sting enough for me to be concerned. It eventually went away. When I put the eye serum on, the burn was much worse. My eyes began to water, my skin turned a little red and there was definitely some irritation. But I was determined to stick it out and not let a little irritation get me down. Afterall, no pain no gain, right? If I was going to erase the years of sun, age and tears from my face, it was bound to cause a little pain. I was hardcore. This was serious and I was determined. I curled up to go to sleep and could hardly wait to see the new and improved “me” in the morning.
As the sun began to peek in my window and the first light of day shone in, I rolled over and anxiously approached the mirror to see the transformation that had unfolded during the night. With excitement I imagined a younger and fresher looking face that would be glowing with Cindy Crawford’s beauty and radiance. But suddenly, as my reflection came into view, I saw it. There was a glow alright, but it wasn’t radiant or youthful. It was a glow of redness and swelling around my eyes and everything stung with pain. The puffiness around my eyes was worse than it had been before I used the products and my eyes burned so badly I couldn’t get to the bathroom fast enough to flush them out with cold water. My meaningful beauty had taken on a whole new meaning and it wasn’t pretty!
Now please understand that I do not hold any of this against Cindy Crawford or her “Meaningful Beauty” products. I am known to have sensitive skin and this has happened to me with other popular skin care lines as well. This is in no way intended to tear down Cindy or her skin care line. I am sure they work well for most people but I had to stop using the products and I have gone back to using my regular lotions and creams. I also still have all of the wrinkles, sun spots and puffiness that I started with. What a disappointment. I was so looking forward to looking like Cindy Crawford or at least like a younger and more vibrant “me”!
Alas, this little adventure in my quest to look the way our culture and media tell us we should was a total bust, except that through my red and itchy eyes I was taught a very important lesson. A lesson that shouldn’t be limited to sharing with our teenage girls in youth group but that is important for us older girls as well. Girls, we need to talk about Meaningful Beauty! Now, I don’t mean Cindy Crawford’s “Meaningful Beauty” but our own meaningful beauty. I love the name of Cindy’s products. “Meaningful Beauty” is a great name! But real meaningful beauty goes much deeper than a cream or gel that soaks into our faces and erases dark spots and wrinkles. The meaningful beauty that Cindy’s products opened my eyes to in those few days is the beauty of our spirits, our hearts, our love for our children and families and the gifts that have been given to us by God. That is meaningful beauty!
As I began reflecting on my desire to erase the lines and age from my face, even to the point of ordering expensive beauty products from the television, I started thinking of the women who have impacted my life and who have played a large role in who I am today. The women who came immediately to mind are both of my grandmother’s, my beloved mom, my sister, my aunts, women in my church family, my cherished girl friends and prominent speakers and ministers who have touched my life through their teaching and example. As I pictured each of these beautiful women in my mind and thought about their lives, their faith, their families, the challenges they have faced, their hearts and the joy that each of them have brought to me, it occurred to me that none of them look like Cindy Crawford but all of them are beautiful, charismatic and radiant. More than anything they are strong, determined and they love Jesus. There is nothing more beautiful.
Each one of these gorgeous women has a story. My grandmother on my mother’s side of the family married a rancher. By the time she was in her seventies she had deep wrinkles on her face and her hands were knotted up with arthritis. She had beautiful white hair, a pure and loving heart and she had been a faithful wife, mother of five and a hard working ranch wife who could kill a snake with a shotgun, ride a horse with the best of them, cook the best darn meals you’ve ever tasted and still have time to help with church and community functions. She was worn. Her face and her hands were a bit leathery from being in the sun all those years and I would imagine that some of her wrinkles were caused by the stress of raising five children and going through years of financial stress when the drought came and the farmers and ranchers struggled to get by. Each one of her wrinkles had a story in it. A story of strength, faith, love and heartache. My grandmother was beautiful and her wrinkles revealed the depth of who she was and where she had been. In each line and freckle were etched memories both joyful and bittersweet, but they showed my grandmother’s meaningful beauty and beautiful she was!
My mother also began to get wrinkles and her eyes were surrounded by puffiness and redness. Despite the signs of aging, she was gorgeous but I don’t think she ever realized how beautiful she was. My mom was the most loving person I have ever known. Her gentleness and her ability to love everyone unconditionally made her a person that people truly enjoyed being around. People trusted her. Everyone loved my mom. She was a devoted wife and mother, a speech therapist, a good friend, an artist and a sailor. What everyone may not have known was that my mom suffered from intense and horrifying pain that was caused from an accident we were in when she was 30. We were all lucky to have survived but the accident left my mom with constant pain that was in many cases debilitating. Despite her struggles just to get out of bed each morning she always came out looking lovely and her sweet disposition and strength of character covered up the intense pain. She smiled no matter how badly she hurt and she lit up every room she entered.
While she was very aware of her wrinkles and age and she tried to cover them with beauty products the same way I have, it has become clear to me now that each tiny crevice on her face was a thing of beauty. Every minute sign of age was actually a beauty mark. Her wrinkles and her puffiness showed her strength, her character, her love for her children, the pain she suffered and her faith and determination to survive and make every day count. My mother was genuinely beautiful and her beauty was definitely meaningful.
Then there are my friends. The women I am blessed to call my friends vary in age from twenty to seventy and they are women who have touched my heart deeply. Every one of them has a story. They all have experienced the pain that is a part of this world. From raising special needs children to losing loved ones, dealing with difficult family circumstances, severely ill children, surviving divorce, abuse, loss of work, and more, each one is an inspiration and each one is beautiful in her own way. None of them look the same, they come from different generations and different backgrounds, they have different body shapes, different hair color and even varying shades of skin color. But the thing that all of these women have in common (in addition to a few wrinkles) is their deep faith and their incredible spirits. They have generous and loving hearts, they have overcome life’s greatest challenges, they have developed meaningful relationships with others and they have all put their trust in God. Every one of them has deeply meaningful beauty and I am blessed by their presence in my life.
Psalm 139 speaks clearly of God’s love for us and about His presence with us when we were created.
“For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:13-14
These verses are reminders of God’s unfailing love for us and they celebrate that we are created by God. Girls, if we are created by a holy and loving God who walks with us and carries us through life’s most challenging storms, even with wrinkles and age spots, we are daughters of the Most High God and we need to own our identity and our beauty in Him. We are princesses of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords! Walk boldly in who you are! Yes, exercise, eat well, wear sunscreen and take care of your bodies, but embrace the flaws and begin to look at them as signs of wisdom, strength, joy, laughter and memories that have shaped your journey here on earth.
In Galatians Paul teaches us that our world is full of negative things but in Christ we possess the “Fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faiithfulness, gentleness and self control”. Galatians 5:22-23 These are the qualities that we should be striving for and these are the characteristics of truly meaningful beauty.
In a world that teaches us that we have to look like we did when we were twenty, that we should be able to fit into our teenage daughter’s jeans, that we should not have a wrinkle or blemish on our faces, that our bodies should be thin and look like the air brushed models in television and magazine advertisements, I say “NO”! There is nothing wrong with wanting to look our best, and believe me, you won’t catch me often without make-up and my best friends will tell you that I require a hot shower and flushing toilets, but in truth, we need to embrace who we are on the inside, we need to let our lights shine for Christ through our actions, our words, our deeds and in the way we respond to difficult circumstances.
I am sure that I will be tempted to try another cream or line of skin care products that promise to erase the age on my face, but I pray that instead of looking at my wrinkles and sun spots as signs of weakness or ugliness that I can begin embracing them and think of them as reminders of who I am and who God created me to be. Each one of those lines and freckles is a mark of the incredible journey I have traveled. I have lines of laughter and joy, lines of intense sorrow and pain, sun spots that reflect the joys of sailing and days at the beach or on my grandparent’s ranch, scars from bike rides or mission trips and the list goes on. Each mark is not a sign to try to erase, but a sign that I should embrace. They are precious memories and reminders of all that I have been through and they are reminders of the ONE who has been there to get me through. Within each one of those lines and flaws is the real meaningful beauty.
Nuggets of Bold Faith:
What steps have you taken to try to look younger or more like a super model? Did you notice a difference?
Who are the women in your life who you admire and respect as friends and inspiration in your life?
What characteristics do you love the most about those women?
Paul shares with us the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. They are Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control. In thinking of those qualities as genuine signs of beauty where are your strengths? Where can you improve?
When you look at the lines or signs of age on your face or body, what parts of your life journey do they represent to you? Are you able to look at them as signs of meaningful beauty? Can you see them as marks of wisdom, strength and character? Can you embrace them instead of desiring to erase them?
God sees you as beautiful and so do I.
Blessings Sweet Sisters,