In my last blog post I gave you all a glimpse into what I look like means to me, how I believe beauty is shaped, and what it means to rediscover yourself.
It almost felt like a movement was beginning within me and I had to share it, bring it together with a mix of images, words, prose, ideas and enlightenment. And I couldn't believe the response.
Especially from one in particular:
"This is so beautiful it made me tear up. I can't wait to spend time with you beautiful human tomorrow and take pictures of our natural faces and be free!"
It was Lauralee.
A recent friend.
A pivotal friend.
A daring friend.
A friend I look at and can also see myself. What I believe. What I'm about.
But also someone that I have much to learn from. Someone that speaks to the development inside me that needs help, inspiration, examples, a picture of what it means to grow in faith and love and belief.
We had plans the next day.. It was all set up.
I brought my camera,
She had already begun to write...
We were ready.
Ready to continue the conversation,
Ready to continue capturing that which we are compelled to share.
I remember years back having a conversation with a woman I respect immensely in my life. We too were in a quandary about beauty, specifically how to engage young women and get to know the depths inside. She had been working diligently in this matter, as many were drawn to her wisdom and friendship. She learned that the questions that actually built relationship focused on what she couldn't see. Her favorite questions to ask in first meetings and impressions were along the lines of, "what books are you reading right now," "what interests are you currently exploring," "what should I know about who you are on the inside?"
I remember her telling me how perplexed these young women were. Instead of going straight to the surfaced compliments based on dress and features, she dug right into what seemed to make these girls have an almost uncomfortable response, but built more immediate trust than any appearance-based questions and compliments could ever cultivate.
So what am I trying to say? What does this story illustrate?
That being known is much more radical than skin deep.
Our choice to know someone HAS to break through that which we've always been told to focus on.
It depends on letting someone know that they are worth the several questions it may take to actually get an answer that illustrates what is really going on inside, usually because we have built up barriers that take time to climb up and over.
What I love about Lauralee is that she has so much going on that has to do with how she's being shaped:
She's creating music, she works in a library and reads books, she is going to be a teacher, she prays and listens, she actually does what she believes, she is a faithful friend, she also loves to laugh, she is hospitable and loves to feed her friends.
And all these areas in her life shape what I have learned about her.
And yet there's more that I'm still discovering, more that we're discovering as God gives us people like Lauralee who are meant to be discovered.
Like all of us.
What if being transparent and valued was always intended for me, for you.
What if transparency led to that value we are meant to recognize in each person?
This is what Lauralee has to say about the journey she has been on in discovering what beauty really means:
"Why am I so passionate about beauty?
It's because of the young women I get the honor of leading and the women from my hometown youth group. These women have encouraged me and challenged me. They notice things about me that I may not even see about myself.
Together we ask; am I beautiful? Am I good enough? And I have a feeling we are not alone in these questions.
Sometimes I feel like crying out,, "Stop trying! You are beautiful! Set aside the makeup! Put down the insecurity! Wear yourself proudly!"
But it's only because I ask myself the same question.
I have fought back tears to hide the sting of "not enough". I have tried to hide behind a fragile layer of purchased beauty to disguise my unique imperfections.
I have put hope in products that promised: "this will make you beautiful."
This world craves beauty. The people in it crave to hear of their beauty. But not in a runway sense, after they've spend hours perfecting their beauty in front of a mirror. There's doubt in that beauty. A compliment will surely follow with a twinge of unbelief, "it's only mascara".
We crave an honest beauty. One that affirms our dignity. A never fading beauty. One that comes naturally, that we wake up to and go to bed with.
If a man falls in love with me, I want him to love me, not the version of me that could take hours to prepare in the morning.
And I believe that people will love us for the honest us, if we give them the chance. We just have to give them the chance to see and love our honest selves. And we must also love our honest selves.
It's going to take guts though. It takes courage to be yourself. It's a good risk, and even though it's hard, I want to encourage you to try anyways. There are a thousand annoying things that we can find in ourselves for every one beautiful thing, but please choose to believe in that truly beautiful thing.
Make that choice, make it every day, every moment you feel yourself doubting again.
Wear yourself proudly, my friends. Wear your quirks, wear them boldly. All those things about you that you might find bothersome, wear them. They are the things that make you, you.
But it has to be all of you.
Not just what you choose to show to the world.
Becaus you, all of you, not just what you choose to show to the world, even the parts of you that you'd rather hide in the back of the closet, will have the extraordinary opportunity unity to be cherished for all that you are.
Because you, my dear, have been beautiful since the day you entered this world and nothing will ever change that.
We felt like we did it.
We set out in this vision, and our insights continue to grow from within.
These realizations and revelations that we just couldn't ignore, so we're sharing them with you...
The reality of what makes us, "us" that we didn't want to hide any longer.
And we feel like it came together, but yet it's still coming forth.
Because it's bigger than just Lauralee and me. We want to invite others in.
We believe there are more of us.
We believe there is more behind a moment, a face, a decision in dress, in appearance, in what we choose to highlight and what we choose to hide.
So this is an invitation to join in rediscovering the way you have always been, but have been tempted to forget.
What has always been beautiful, but now considered a blemish.
There is quite a difficulty in navigating our insecurities but we believe it's worth the waves, the turbulence, even the sudden storms. Because we believe they can be pushed back and conquered. We believe they don't have to own us.
We are committed to seeing what we were always meant to see in ourselves.