Why I Quit Wearing Make-Up (and you can too)

Selfie with my youngest at Dollywood. What's the point of make-up at Dollywood??

Selfie with my youngest at Dollywood. What’s the point of make-up at Dollywood??

Today I’m posting at Knoxville Moms Blog about why quitting my daily make-up routine was part of my journey to self-love. Click the link below to read the full post!

Okay, before anyone who actually knows me calls me a liar, let me confess that I do, in fact, wear make-up sometimes. I get gussied up to go out with my husband; I try to look nicer-than-usual for church on Sundays; I prepare myself for picture-taking events like birthday parties and holidays. However, most days my face is free and clear of cosmetic enhancement, and while you might think I look tired if you run into me at Walmart, the truth is I probably am tired, and I honestly don’t care. It’s Walmart, after all. If I wanted to impress you I would go to Target. Just kidding. Kinda.

Now, you should know that I am a stay-at-home mom and do not need to look put together or professional or even showered most days, so rocking my “I woke up like this face” all day every day is no biggie for me. I also do not generally enjoy make-up like the creative-type enthusiasts do, so if personal cosmetology is your artistic self-expression, more power to you!

I’m here to share with you 4 reasons why I gave up regularly wearing make-up, and if you’re ready to ditch the habit, you can do it too…

Check out the rest of the post at Knoxville Moms Blog! (It gets good, I promise. :D)

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To the Wannabe Mom on the Elevator…

Wannabe Mom

Last week I went to my obstetrician for a routine pre-natal visit. (Summary of findings: baby is healthy, mommy is gaining entirely too much weight. You’re welcome for the update.) As usual, I was running late and did not have time for insignificant, time-sapping trivialities like “make-up” and “non-yoga pants.” As I rushed my already-waddling self through the late-Spring Tennessee heat and into the building, I had already begun to sweat. Thankfully a kind soul held the elevator for me even as the doors were closing, because I was already late and definitely was not feeling a 5-flight hike up the stairs.

As I caught my panting breath on the elevator, I couldn’t help noticing the woman standing next to me. She was tall, thin, and very attractive. I looked down at my swollen belly and suddenly could feel the extra padding on my hips and thighs. Her hair was about the same length as mine, but hers was perfectly styled in those loose curls I can never seem to master. I thought about my barely-brushed ponytail that I pretend is there because of my hurry, but really I wear it like that every day. Her polished, professional attire suggested she would be heading back to an office after this, and, based on her shoes, I imagine it is a pretty well-paying office. I tugged at my yoga pants that will never fit quite right while I’m pregnant and pulled my husband’s t-shirt down over my stomach. My feet were already swelling in my now-tight sandals. I wonder when I’ll be able to wear real clothes again? I thought. I started mentally counting the weeks until delivery, plus 6 weeks post-surgery until I’m cleared for physical activity, plus however long I will be nursing before I can start cutting calories, plus… how long did it take me to lose those first 20 lbs? Plus 40 more lbs… It was starting to feel like forever before I would be myself again…

My pity-party-train-of-thought was abruptly interrupted as the third passenger exited the elevator. Now it was just me and Beauty Queen for one more floor, and this enviously beautiful woman turned to me and smiled. “You look gorgeous,” she said sweetly.

I couldn’t help but chuckle. “Thanks,” I replied, “I was just thinking how I feel like a whale.”

She smiled again. “No, you look beautiful. I’m not just saying that. Really, you just have that glow.”

I thanked her again as the doors opened to the 5th floor. Quietly we both walked down the hallway and, sure enough, through the same door to the OB-GYN. I took a seat by my husband, who, of course, was on time, while she went to the corner alone. She could have been there for routine care or any kind of visit, but after our conversation in the elevator and the heartfelt way she looked into my eyes when she spoke, suddenly I recognized her. Eleven months ago, that was me.

Last May I learned I was pregnant again, just 6 weeks after miscarrying my 4th child. A few days later I learned that my bloodwork indicated another miscarriage was impending, so I went to the doctor every other day for blood and urine samples until the loss was confirmed.

Every other day, I walked into that office and took my seat in a waiting room full of pregnant women. Every other day, I overheard whispered conversations with husbands about where they should put the crib and what color to paint the nursery. Every other day, I watched women drink that awful orange juice for the glucose tolerance test and complain about how long this would take. Every other day, I observed exasperated moms wrestle with bored toddlers while simultaneously soothing their fussy newborns. Every other day, I sat with expectant teen girls as they flipped through parenting magazines, not really reading the words, anxiety written across their young faces.

Every other day, I sat surrounded by babies while I waited for my own child to die.

There’s really not a way to explain the pain of that juxtaposition, feeling the weight of my broken womb sitting among the healthy ones. After a while the phlebotomist who drew my blood every other day stopped trying to make lighthearted conversation and would simply insert the needle into my familiar left vein while I looked the other way, eyes filled with tears. When she was done, we nodded to each other, and I walked wordlessly from the office to my car, where I could let out my emotions.

Being around pregnant women remained difficult for months following my 2nd miscarriage, which finally happened naturally at not-quite-9 weeks gestation. Like this mom said, “A single miscarriage felt like a fluke; a second consecutive miscarriage felt like the deepest blow and left me weary and wounded, both physically and emotionally.” When I did see expectant mothers, it was all I could do not to approach them with love and encouragement and just a tinge of jealousy, reassuring them that they are beautiful and so, so very blessed with that little life inside. (My husband informed me this was weird, so I held my tongue… usually.)

So to the beautiful woman on the elevator, I see you. You may be here at the doctor for another fertility consultation, because after months or years of trying, you just aren’t getting pregnant. You could be here for bloodwork – again – unsure if this time will be good news or bad. You could be consulting the doctor about whether a DNC is necessary. You might be here for that dreaded follow-up appointment – the one where you have to sit in the same place where your dreams were just crushed and see the words “non-maternity” on your chart, knowing hope is officially lost.

My friend, I have been there. I see you, and I feel your pain. My wounds are yet fresh, and your kind remarks and longing glances are not lost on this still-grieving mother’s heart.

Friend, I promise to joy in this pregnancy as much as possible. I promise to delight in each kick and surprise trip to the bathroom, knowing my active baby is a healthy one. I promise to breathe deeply and allow my body to do its thing (with a little help from the anti-clotting medications I take every day), accepting my current status as life-giving vessel, whatever toll that takes on the bathroom scale. I promise to remember that the gift in my womb is greater than the price my body will pay for it. And I will remember that this precious child has 3 others at home, anxious to hold him in their arms as well as mine, and that’s 4 times the heartburn, aching joints, sleepless nights, and endless love you may have experienced.

I will do this for you, because I have been there. I will not take this pregnancy for granted, because I know firsthand it is not. I will not compare myself to others any more than you wish to compare your toned, flat abdomen to my swollen and flabby and full one. Because I know you would give anything to trade places. My friend, I am sorry. I’m sorry for my pity-party in the elevator, and I am sorry for your wounded spirit. I won’t offer you blithe condolences that don’t really help, but I will assure you that you’re not alone.

You are not alone.

Wilderness, Depression, & Stars in the Night*

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The purpose exceeds the pain.”

Beth Moore

We are a culture that abhors pain. We are always looking for a quick and easy way out, whether it’s avoiding the gym or popping pills or distracting ourselves with who-knows-what to escape that gnawing feeling of something being wrong.

Even church people are guilty. Christians often get blindsided by difficulties we face in life, and rather than seeking the purpose of our trials, we pray and petition God for a way out. Pain is uncomfortable, and that just doesn’t fit with our Americanized vision for serving the Creator of the Universe.

In fact, our aversion to pain has often caused American church culture to glorify certain workings of the Lord over others, or – worse – superficially write off painful circumstances without searching for the beauty of God’s plan in that moment. It’s great for when you’re on the mountain top, but it will leave you empty when you’re walking through the valley of the shadow of death.

The truth is, God is there in that terrible doctor’s report, that tragedy, that lonely road. He’s there, and he is moving and working and doing his miracle-thang that he does… He’s just not standing front and center like in those great moments of healing and deliverance.

Think of it this way: if miracles are stars, healing might be the sun. It’s like HERE I AM! LOOK AT ME!!! and you have to put on your sunglasses because woah, that feels bright! Maybe, just maybe, the pain and hurt we experience is still a star, but it’s more distant. You might not even notice it unless you’re really looking for it. Heck, you might just need a telescope to know it exists, but there it is, 30 million miles away, and what’s it doing out there? Shining brighter than the sun.

The thing about those distant stars is that even when you’re looking for them, you can only see them under certain conditions. If you’re sitting at a park on a warm spring day, watching everyone around you run and play and bask in the sunlight, you might feel alone and isolated, wondering why everyone else can enjoy the day while you are still drowning in your circumstances, your depression, your pain. That doesn’t diminish the others’ joy on this beautiful afternoon, but it can make you feel pretty crummy. I have heard depression described as drowning, only everyone around you is breathing. You don’t want anyone else to drown either; you just want to come up for air.

Believe me, I’ve been there. (I am there?) We have to remember, though, that our painful miracles can’t be seen in the daylight. It doesn’t mean they’re not present, they’re just not visible because of our perspective. To see, recognize, and appreciate the beauty of a distant star, you have to get into the darkness. There, in the cold, lonely night, you can look up and see not only your star, but billions of others that you never would have noticed without that bitter dark.

Here’s to all of us who are sitting outside at night, telescopes in hand, waiting for the clouds to part…

*Thanks, Jefferson Bethke, for this incredible video that my husband showed me yesterday while we talked about this. Thanks for saying this so much better than I can. And sorry I used your title. I hope it’s not copyrighted…

I’m Sorry for Judging You

Confession time:  I did something I regret yesterday.

I walked into Chick-fil-A with my two preschool-aged boys, as we often do when we need to get out of the house but I can’t really think of anything to do. This day, in particular, we had actually made it to the gym for my yoga class (20 minutes late, but hey, we made it!). I’m 5 1/2 months pregnant, but I look 8 months, and of course not even spandex will fit, so I was wearing my husband’s gym shorts and one of his t-shirts. My swollen calves were on brilliant display between the oversized shorts and my bright purple tennis shoes, which are the only shoes I can stand to wear for more than 30 minutes at a time these days. My hair was frizzy from being curly the day before and not having time to wash it that morning, so I threw it up in a bun atop my make-up-less face. Simply stated, I was straight up People of Walmart* material.

*It should be noted that I shop at Walmart all the time, and I love it because no one freaking cares. That’s actually quite a beautiful thing. I’ll write more about that one day…

But I didn’t go to Walmart; I went to the fancy gym among all the fit people with their spandex and weight racks, then to Chick-fil-A – the classiest of all fast-food establishments – where the folks asking “would you like waffle fries with that?” look more put together than I do, and they politely smile and tell me it’s their pleasure to serve my sloppy self and kids who obviously dressed themselves.

My boys immediately ran to the play area, as is their custom, while I got our food. Luckily I scored the perfect seat, the booth right next to the play area window, so I can eat my food – still hot! – while the kids play. I sat down and watched through the window, content to go ahead eating my chicken strips (and side salad… hey, I tried) without letting the kids know their meal was also available.

That’s when I saw her: a mom sitting in the play area watching her child – another woman who, like myself, didn’t seem much concerned with impressing anyone. She was wearing cotton shorts and a t-shirt with flip flops, but what I really noticed was her hair. It was dyed different shades of purple and blue, but by now it was badly faded. Usually when I see someone with wild colored hair I get excited and compliment them, a simple courtesy that meant a lot to me when I was sporting pink locks a couple of years ago. For some reason, this day, I didn’t. Instead, my only thought was, Sheesh, that color looks awful when it’s faded like that. You can’t wear that color if you’re not going to keep it up.

Then I noticed her daughter, just a toddler. I started to jump up and remind my rambunctious boys to be careful around the baby, like I usually do when there are itty bitties in the play area with them. But I stopped and watched this little girl for the worst possible reason: she looked different. She had a large bump on her forehead, unlike anything I had ever seen. I glanced at her often, trying to hide my curiosity, wondering if it was a pump knot like my kids have gotten or… gasp! What if this child is abused? Now, truthfully, this bump was unusual, but why did I jump to that conclusion?

I finally got up from my seat and went to tell my boys to be careful. When I got in, I walked right past the other woman without even looking at her. My 4-year-old was standing next to the little girl, and he reached out to touch the bump on her head. He giggled, “Look, Mommy! She has a BIIIGGG bump, and it’s squishy!”

I was mortified that he said this right in front of her mother, and I got nervous about how to respond. I quietly replied, “Yes, she does, but it’s not nice to touch people’s faces. You need to leave her alone and watch out because she’s small.”

“But look how big…” he interrupted, “and it’s squishy! That feels weird!” He and my other son snickered.

My back was to the mother, so I couldn’t gauge if I needed to reprimand him or calmly say something about how our differences make us special, but it didn’t matter. No words would come out of my mouth. I just stared at him until finally the mother sweetly chimed in, “Yeah, it does feel funny! It’s actually a birthmark, and it should go away by the time she’s your age.”

Now I knew I had failed Sensitive Mothering 101. Not only did I not help the situation of my own children teasing someone else for being different, but I had actually assumed the mark was a sign of abuse, and honestly, it was because of the mother’s appearance.

This mother and her daughter eventually moved to the booth behind mine when they got their food. As I overheard snippets of their mealtime conversation, I determined that this woman is a loving, attentive, good parent. Maybe she was overly sweet because she sensed my judgment and wanted me to hear, but really, does that matter? She had every right to make me feel like the slug I was.

Please know, this scenario is not normal for me. I am generally very friendly and will make conversation with anyone nearby, especially someone who looks like she did. I am often intimidated by moms who are wearing clothes and makeup and have their hair fixed when they run errands with the kids, so I reach out to the care-free moms that do what they gotta do to get out the door. Solidarity, girl.

Honestly, I don’t know why this day was different from others. Probably it’s because I have been depressed lately, feeling frustrated that my constant fatigue keeps me from being productive, and annoyed that none of my clothes – even maternity clothes – fit. I don’t feel like myself, which is pretty much a defining characteristic of pregnancy in general, but for some reason it has gotten me particularly down as of late. I could write a book on that, but the point is that I was thinking selfishly.

Now, I’m not saying depression is inherently selfish – I have walked that road and fought that battle, and if you are there, know that you are not a bad person and you certainly are not alone. But being depressed makes us feel not ourselves, and that can lead to thinking selfishly when generally you wouldn’t. Selfish thinking is giving so much attention to yourself and your own issues that you don’t value or respect other people. Yes, judging others is really about being selfish – putting someone else down to somehow lift ourselves up. The depression I have been walking through caused me to look at another mom who is probably a lot like me and we should totally be friends and thinking she doesn’t care about her own appearance, so she must not care about her child.

Geez, I hope no one around me thinks that way, because I am a hot mess.

In Romans, the Apostle Paul reminds us how selfish thinking leads us to devalue those around us:

“Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.”

Romans 12:3

He goes on to talk about how the body has many parts, and as followers of Jesus, we are the Body of Christ. Each part serves its own purpose, and to value one over the other because of the way it looks or the dignity of its job is missing the point of the organic function. When we look at those around us and put them down, we are missing the point. We can’t evaluate the fulfillment of our purpose based on the way we look or dress or what color our hair is. What matters is if I am using the gifts God has given me and living according to the faith he has given me. If I am doing those things, the only thing I will feel for those around me is love and compassion. Rather than judging that mom or hurrying out of the room after my 4-year-old acted like a 4-year-old, I should have sat down on the bench next to her and asked about her daughter, her family, and even tell her about the time I had pink hair.

After all, I’m used to eating my food cold.