Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Land of the Beautiful People

We just returned from a refreshing 10-day vacation to our "former" home in Orange County.  My heart is full and I'm feeling thoroughly blessed by the generosity of friends.  They sacrificially gave their time, prayers, and invited us into their homes.

We chose to head to the OC, after only four months in our new Midwest location, mainly because our passes to Disneyland expire on the 15th of this month, although many think it was because we're already experiencing a freeze-out here.  Yes, we're freezing in this 30 degree weather, but we hear it's bound to get much colder!  I'm learning to love being inside the house.  Bread is baking in the oven as I type.  Cold weather makes for cozy, comfort food.

Although my heart is full from time with friends and blessed by the magic of Disney, one thing I was reminded of while we were in the OC is: IT IS THE LAND OF THE BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE.  You can't miss it!  They are EVERYWHERE!  A few steps off the plane, I looked around and knew, yes, I'm back in Orange County.  Fabulous Shoes, Coach bags, manicured eyebrows, the whitest most amazing teeth, and gorgeous hair.  Not many bushy brows or ponytails to be seen.

While waiting for the rental car, I glanced around and noted: Black Leggings and Riding Boots are IN!  My Keen clogs (perfect for REI country) and faded old boot cut Gap jeans, not so much.  Coach Handbags:  IN!  Computer bag posing as a purse, not so much.  Long necklaces dressing up a fabulous tunic style top: IN!  Rubberband around wrist awaiting ponytail for unruly hair and no jewelry dressing up a recent Goodwill sweater find, not so much.  White, glow-in-the-dark perfectly shaped teeth with porcelain veneers: IN!  Clenched, chipped teeth due to excessive middle-of-the night grinding with durable, yet flashy gold bling on the molars, not so much! Long, dark, perfectly shaped eyelashes: IN!  Wacky eyelashes going this way and that with gaps of lashes missing due to being plucked from stress and then caked with mascara, not so much.  Gorgeous flowing, thick straight hair touched with sun-kissed highlights: IN!  Ponytail, with all over frizz...not so much.

I could go on and on about how deficient and out of style I feel in Orange County, but that would just send me to the land of tears and I don't want to go there tonight...My kids are watching Christmas Vacation (FOR THE FIRST TIME BECAUSE I'VE NEVER ALLOWED IT) laughing and having a jolly old time. It would be awkward for me to sit here on the computer getting completely depressed while mentally comparing my outward appearance with those I see in the OC thus allowing the enemy to beat me up for no good reason while the family creates holiday memories. Yeah, not a good idea.

But I do this a lot.  I look at other people and then bring out the measuring stick and compare.  I was once told status (among women) is measured by shoes and handbags.  That's a sad statement of our society when we measure worth by what type of handbag we carry or what brand of shoes we wear.  I remember thinking years ago how cool I felt when I recognized one of the latest trendy bags from some designer.  It was apparently so important to me, I can no longer remember the name.  I've NEVER had a designer handbag!  I wouldn't know a designer handbag if I saw one, with exception to the Coach bags because they have COACH printed ALL OVER THEM so no one would miss the status symbol. I've never spent more than $50 for a bag.  The one time I did was for an REI purse made out of some sort of nylon canvas. ABSOLUTELY nothing fancy!  I've never spent more than that on a pair of shoes either, with the exception of running/athletic shoes and a pair of riding boots I bought 14 years ago that I still wear.

We've never had the disposable income to spend on such things, and it's never really been that big of a deal to me.  I'd rather spend money on healthy food, great books, medical/dental bills (no I don't really prefer medical/dental bills), car repairs, or sports/lessons for our kids.  Some of those things I'd prefer not to have on our expenditure list, but such is life.

The comparison game.  I've mentioned it before.  I read other gals' blogs and see how many "followers" they have and feel the inferiority set in.  I begin to compare layout, photos, sponsors, etc.  I admit its crazy-making, but I fall into the trap. I will do the same with ministry opportunities, success, home decor, accomplishments, etc.  As women I think we do this, we compare.  We measure. We evaluate.  Do we measure up?

I was recently alerted to a "GREAT" blog.  I immediately went to check it out.  I read.  I checked out the sidebar noting 50,000 followers!  Holy Smokes!  We're talking HUGE blog success!  I read on.  I wondered what made this such a note-worthy blog to attract such a following. What is the recipe to such success?  I wanted to know.  I "liked" the blog on Facebook so I could figure it all out.  Here I saw a beautiful, thin gal with GREAT hair married to a handsome-model-of-a-husband also with amazing hair! They had three gorgeous kids and perfect family photos.  The model family.  AND she has a successful blog with an apparent service mission.  How does she do it?

Then came the next day's post.  Complete Devastation!  Her husband left her.  The vision was shattered!  WHAT?  It was ALL so perfect the day before!  I was actually jealous of her.  I know jealousy is a sin. My envy meter spikes every so often and I feel convicted, but still fall into the same miserable pit time and time again.

I remember years ago walking with a friend.  She's a beauty.  Thin, long legs, beautiful eyes.  I come from a thick family and it takes a lot of effort and discipline for me not to be a plumpy.  Envy plagued me as I looked at outward appearance. How did she maintain such beauty?  One day when we were walking and getting to know each other better she shared she has Crohn's disease and has a hard time eating and digesting food.  My heart sank.  The illusion of perfection I had imagined was destroyed.  She struggled to keep weight on because of this terrible disease.  I learned a valuable lesson.  What we see may not be what we want.

Perception may not be reality.  One of my greatest loves is mascara.  There once was a time when people would comment on my lashes, but those days are gone. There are new and improved lashes blinking around the world.  I began noticing them when we moved to Orange County.  They were amazing!  Long, dark, lush, far-reaching lashes.  Really beautiful!  So I began asking about mascara.  "What type of mascara do you use?  Your lashes are GREAT!" The responses would be, Maybelline Great Lash, MAC, or just your average over-the-counter mascara.  WHAT?  I went out and tried them all!  I love lashes, and love mascara and my mission was to find the ONE that could create those far-reaching amazing lashes!  Well, despite my purchases and a great deal of money spent, none of the products gave me the winky blinks I desired.  What was I missing?  Did I curl them wrong?  Apply the mascara wrong?  Were they using a mascara primer I didn't know about?  Why didn't I have THOSE lashes?  I found out why...eventually.  The eyelashes I dreamed of were EXTENSIONS! They are like hair extensions for eyelashes.  You know the beautiful hair you dream of that's thick, LONG and gorgeous?  Yeah, probably extensions and so are the eyelashes.  Bummer.  There's no mascara to work miracles.  I'm stuck with the real deals.

While I was on vacation we dropped in at a Christmas party.  I was wearing jeans, tennis shoes, t-shirt, workout jacket, and (unwashed) ponytail.  Needless to say, I was feeling underdressed and frumpy.  As I looked around the room I saw beautiful people in dreamy, flashy, sparkling clothes. Of course, I brought out the measuring stick.  Dang!  Could I just quit that? I leaned over to a friend and almost apologetically said, "I'm not a very sparkly girl."  (Can I insert a saddie face here?) She immediately responded, "But you have a sparkly personality." We ALL need friends like this.  She instantly put my sense of inferiority at rest. I am what I am.

I fall into the envy of beauty/inferiority pit time and time again.  Perhaps it's our culture.  Perhaps it's my insecurity.  Perhaps it's the media or the desire to keep up with the Jones's.  Never being satisfied.  Never finding contentment. Never being happy about being a sparkly person without the sparkly clothes and accessories.

What does the Bible say about this?

Vicky Courtney (fabulous writer) had a short piece on the Focus on the Family website.  The excerpt was taken from her book 5 Conversations You Must Have With Your Daughter.  I would recommend reading the entire post, or better yet, the entire book, but here are a couple important points.

Psalm 139:14

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
What it means: You are created in the image of God, and God doesn't make junk! Like a snowflake, every person is unique. No two are the same. God sees you as a masterpiece; and when you look in the mirror, He wants you to "know that full well." Try this beauty tip: Every morning when you look in the mirror, say Psalm 139:14 and smile. You might even tape the verse on your mirror as a reminder!

1 Samuel 16:7

But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."
What it means: The world focuses on what people look like on the outside. God focuses on what people look like on the inside. Do you put more time and effort into being pretty on the outside or the inside? As you get older, you will meet Christian girls who spend more time trying to find the perfect outfit, get the perfect tan, find the perfect lip gloss, and have the perfect body. While there's nothing wrong with wanting to look pretty, we need to make sure it's in balance. God would rather see us work on becoming drop-dead gorgeous on the inside. You know, the kind of girl who talks to Him on a regular basis (prayer) and reads her Bible.

Proverbs 31:30

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
What it means: Beauty fades with age, so if you are more concerned with your outer appearance, you will be unhappy when the wrinkles come and the number on the scale goes up. In fact, did you know that your body may show the beginning signs of aging as early as age twenty? That is why God wants us to "fear" Him. That doesn't mean to be afraid of Him but rather to be in awe of Him and all that He has done. Let me put it to you this way. If you stand two girls next to each other and one is Miss Teen USA whose beauty is limited to physical beauty, and the other young lady is a more average-looking girl who loves the Lord more than anything, she is the more beautiful girl in the eyes of God.

Tonight I was looking at yet another blog tonight, trying to figure out how one gal could do so much and have a life that appears to be so perfect.  I stopped myself before the nagging envy tried to worm its way into my night.  Remembering "other" circumstances may be present and showing only a perfect representation of a life utterly beautiful may not be the complete truth of the situation.  We don't know.

Gals, if you've made it all the way to the end of this rambling post, I'm grateful!  I want to hug you and let you know you're the real deal!  Don't let the world try to define you by what you wear or what you look like.  I hope you don't listen to the lies of the enemy telling us our worth is based on the type of bag we own, our home decor, or the length of our lashes. If you're blessed to have the "stuff," I hope you don't let it consume your identity.  If you struggle in this area, know you're not alone.  We live in a land that focuses on the outside.  Take care of your heart. Cherish what you've been blessed with.  Intercede for others.  Know that when I begin to struggle with this matter, I will pray for you.  Don't buy into the lies.We are fearfully and wonderfully made.  Spend your time and energy drawing closer to your Creator.  He finds you amazingly beautiful!  Sparkle On!

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