I Don't Buy Things At Victoria's Secret

I don't buy anything at Victoria's Secret. Not one little thing. Nothing. Never. I haven't for 12 years.

I'll tell you why and I'll tell you my story: I used to buy various things there. In high school and in college, I actually loved buying things there because I thought that somehow purchasing items from that particular store would make me more sexy, more beautiful, more of what a woman ought to be. I wouldn't have admitted to that, even to myself. But the belief was there in me, inside of me. 

My favorite perfume scent in the whole world is actually from Victoria's Secret: it's called Love Spell. I think it is one of the best smells in the whole world, and most other perfumes spell a little gross to me. But I haven't worn Love Spell in 12 years.

When I was in the final years of college, Jesus started talking to me about what it means to be a woman, and what it means to be beautiful. He even started talking to me about the word 'sexy.' I had thought for most of my life that in order to be beautiful, I had to be like a woman on TV or a woman on an advertisement. I had thought that sexy could only be the world's definition of sexy- inappropriately unveiled, fashionable, tons of makeup, really done-up hair...I never imagined that beautiful, and sexy, and what a woman ought to be was just the way I was, without trying to BE or BECOME anything else. 

As I said, Jesus started teaching His way, and He started changing my thoughts. Little by little, He introduced me to new ways of thinking, like, "I already AM beautiful. Just the way I am. The true equation is 'me plus NOTHING equals beautiful, even sexy (Can I say that publicly on my blog? Yikes!), and just the way a woman ought to me.' It's all because I've been created by Someone. It's not me who chooses about the way I am. I've just been made that way."

As I learned those things, I started realizing how honestly wrong stores and pictures and advertisements like Victoria's Secret are. There's lots of reasons why they're inappropriate and downright wrong, but let me just share a few. Let me start with the precious woman who is the model in the picture in the window. She is precious. She is made by God. She is valuable and worth so much. And yet, through her picture, through her inappropriate unveiling of herself and her beauty, she is treating herself, her body, and her beauty first of all like it needs all kinds of enhancements and that the equation is 'her plus a ridiculous this and this and this' to equal beauty. It's just wrong. And sad. For her as a person, as a human being, as a soul, it's so broken. Second of all, she is treating her beauty like it is cheap and worthless because it's available for the entire world to take and see and use. Her beauty is meant to be honored, to be cherished, and instead it's sold. By a company. For their benefit.

Another reason Victoria's Secret is so wrong in what they're doing and how they're doing it, is because not only is the woman believing a wrong equation about herself, but she is helping to blare that equation out to every woman and girl who passes the store, who sees an advertisement, who knows about that establishment. It's a place that is screaming at the world the lie that women are not beautiful or sexy or 'woman enough' as they are. They need to be this sexualized object simply to be beautiful or sexy. And worse than that, they're doing all of that for money. I am wishing to say that it's the height of exploitation of women, preying on their desire to be beautiful (and behind that desire, to be loved and wanted and chosen and powerful in their beauty), but there are even darker realms in the exploitation of women, so I can't really say it's the height. But it's UP THERE.

And maybe worst of all, Victoria's Secret, and places like Victoria's Secret are screaming messages, without words, to the next generation, to those whose minds and worldview and perceptions are still being established and formed: to our daughters, to our sons. Her image says to our daughters, "Use your sexuality like this to become beautiful...pay us to become what you long to be...you need to be more to be good enough..." Or to our sons, the image calls out, "Come to me, I will give you what you need...satisfy yourself in me, in images like me." It's heartbreaking. And we walk right past the store, not knowing what to say or how to say it, and all the while, her messages are screaming, screaming, screaming messages to our children walking next to us.

So that's why I don't purchase anything from Victoria's Secret. I've made a commitment to myself that I never will for the rest of my life. Sure, I still have the desire to, because I still, to this day, dearly miss the scent of Love Spell, and I've never found a perfume I like as much as that one. And I'm sure their things are pretty. But those 'sacrifices' are a small price for me to pay. It's not worth it, not WORTH IT ONE BIT, for me to use even a penny to endorse the way they've chosen to portray women, and the messages they send out to the world about the way a woman should be and has to be. I will never support that endeavor. 

#restGIRLhope

Meeting Miss Cookie in Dunkin' Donuts

I was having a date with my daughter Bethany in Dunkin' Donuts yesterday morning when these two elderly women approached us. We were minding our own business, but I could tell that they were drawn to Bethany's sweetness and youth. They looked to be having a date of their own: they were quite dressed up in the formal way that elderly women sometimes have. One woman was wearing high heels and pearls.They seemed lonely for family, yet happy for the togetherness of the date. I had overheard them earlier discussing belated phone calls from their children, asking them for updates about things that had happened months ago.

When they approached us, they asked us the normal questions: how old is Bethany, is she in school, what grade is she in, does she like school, what is her name? Once we started talking about names, one of the women told us that her name was Cookie, and she showed us how to sign her name in sign language. Then she disclosed something else about her name that I wasn't expecting: "My real name isn't actually Cookie, you know," she said. "I don't tell anyone my real name. It's ugly. It's an old fashioned name. It's ugly and nasty and I've always hated it since I was a little girl." 

At first I was taken aback. Then I thought..."Do I say something about what I really feel about what she just said??? Or do I just continue to speak to her on a surface level politely?" I decided to say what I felt, but kind of 'test the waters.' 

Here's what I said. I said: "You know, I think that that's what happens to all of us, in some area or another. A little lie sneaks in about the way we are when we're little girls, and it tries to tell us about the way we are. It could our name, or about the way our face looks, or about something about our body, or about our personality...that little lie sneaks in and tries to tell us that something about us is ugly, and not good. And then we think we should try to hide it away forever. But it's probably not that that part of us is so bad, or even ugly. We've just been so confused by the lie when we were little and the sad thing is, it affects us even until we're adults." 

She looked surprised by what I was saying, and this Miss Cookie said, "You know, you're probably right. One time, I saw this gorgeous woman." [I should give quick interjection to say that I don't subscribe to what Miss Cookie is saying by default- by saying that she saw a 'gorgeous woman' she's also by default saying that some women are 'gorgeous' are some are not. I do NOT agree. I think our culture has taught us a way of seeing and judging and analyzing beauty that is NOT the same way God assesses women and their beauty. I think that's another layer of how a lie creeps in when we're little and it dictates the way we think even as adults.] Anyway, she said, "I saw this gorgeous woman, and she had on this gorgeous black sweater, and it had my name written across the sweater boldly. She wasn't ashamed of my name at all. But I was." 

I told her, "Maybe it was a sign to you that your name- that part of who you are- isn't repulsive at all actually. It's actually beautiful. You just haven't had eyes to see it." She looked at me, with wishing, with eyes that were wanting to be hopeful eyes, but with eyes that had spent too many years of believing that lie, and said, "Maybe. But I'm 71 years old. I don't think I'm going to change now." As we parted ways, I said, "I hope this year is filled with more signs for you about your name." 



As you read that little interaction, you might feel, "Geez. Let the 71 year old lady use whatever name she wants to! You don't even know her!" And that is true. I went out on a ledge. I don't know her story. I don't know her. 

But I DO know ME. And I do know women and the pain we collectively carry as we have ALL believed parts of us (that are actually delightful and wonderful) are ugly, gross, shameful, and unfit for others to see or hear or know about. And I do know that we have an enemy that specializes in lies. He loves to steal and kill and destroy what is actually so valuable, precious, worthwhile, well-made, crafted and beautiful

So with all of that assurance and knowledge, I felt quite comfortable taking a risk with Miss Cookie to push her tiny bit as she shared a window into the pain she had carried for her whole life. She had believed that her name- a part of her that tells who she is, that distinguishes her uniqueness, that is a significant part of her identity- was ugly. And that is just so sad. Her name is a part of the glory of who she is...and for her whole life, it's been stolen. 

The other reason I felt quite comfortable pushing a tiny bit is because I have personally experience the liberation that comes when Jesus comes to a place that I've labeled as 'ugly' or 'shameful' or 'no one will love this about me,' and He calls me beautiful, wonderfully made, precious, crafted on purpose. There's nothing like that kind of love. 

May we all, including Miss Cookie, experience more of that kind of piercing love that results in liberating freedom.

#restGIRLhope

All Things Beauty? All In One Place?

I've walked past this store in the mall many times, and plenty of times I've felt that something not right is being 'shouted' from the advertisements in the windows. It makes me feel sad.

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I'll tell you why.

Over and over I've seen messages in the ads in the windows that say beauty is found outside of a woman. 

For example:

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It's like these ads are shouting to anyone who walks past that women need something outside of themselves to attain beauty. That bothers me. "All things beauty. All in one place." Beauty is found in a place. "21 days of beauty...it's our most loved semi-annual event!" Beauty is found through buying enough of the right things at an event. "Bring the beauty." "Makeup: Report for beauty!" Beauty is found in products.

I don't believe that beauty is found in a place, in an event, in a product. I don't believe that beauty is outside of a woman, and she needs to strive to make sure she has it. I don't believe beauty is outside of a woman.

I believe that beauty is found already inside of a woman. 

It's not her PLUS makeup, clothes, a perfect hairstyle, a skinnier body...any of that stuff our culture has shouted to us.

A woman already IS beautiful. 

She doesn't have to become beautiful.

A woman is beautiful because she has a Maker who, though it might sound a bit odd to our ears, is Himself the most beautiful One ever. And He wanted to give us a reflection of the way He is...so He made women to display His beauty.

She's not beautiful just because she herself is so amazing, but she's made to reflect back to the world a message about the One who made her. The way she is (but also women collectively) images God. 

Her beauty tells a story to the world about the way the Maker is.

So that's why I feel bothered by those ads in the windows. They're trying to sell me, and every woman walking by, the lie that we need something outside of ourselves to GET something we REALLY WANT: beauty. The heartbreaking lie is that beauty is found somewhere outside of a woman...that a woman can be beautiful if she does enough to become beautiful. But a woman already is beautiful, without doing anything, without adding anything, without needing anything. She isn't beautiful because the culture says she is, or because she measures up to some cultural standard of what we've defined beauty as, but because she has a Maker. Her Maker has decided that one thing all women would carry around in their physical body would be beauty. It's not a choice, it's not something they have to attain or earn or strive for. It's just a part of who each woman is. Yes, the beauty of her personality is part of it, but physical beauty, beauty you can see with your eyes, is just essential to what it is to be woman. 

And what makes it all even more sad for me is that those ads are pretty much shouting out that lie about it's me PLUS something else, but we don't even notice that they're shouting because we've all heard that lie, our whole lies, without questioning it. We've grown up on a diet of lies about what beauty even is, and who has it, and where it's found...so when there are images that say "Beauty is found in a product," we don't even think twice. Not many of us have had anyone in our lives to tell us the truth, or to point out the lies. 

So I guess I write this blog post, for myself, and for anyone who stumbles upon it out there in the huge world of the Internet. You can't find beauty inside of Ulta. It might feel like you can...that's because we've all grown up learning and believing that those are the places where beauty is found: a 'beauty parlor,' 'beauty salon,' 'Ulta Beauty.' But it's not found out there, in striving, in adding. It's already in who we are, in being crafted and formed by a God who wants to speak a message about Himself through seeing us. 

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#restGIRLhope

Running For More Than My Rear

I have two daughters. They’re both mine biologically. So that means I physically carried them both in my body...and my body carries the tell-tale signs of those two pregnancies. I don’t feel (or look) 16 anymore. 

After my second daughter was born, for a long time, I wasn’t happy with how much weight I had gained in the pregnancy and how much of it still remained on me after she was born...and crawling...and walking...and talking. And I’m going to confess something: I felt shame about that extra weight. 

I’ve been reading a couple of books recently by a woman named Brene Brown, who’s a researcher who became somewhat famous after doing a TED Talk  (a 20 minute talk on ‘Ideas Worth Spreading’) that went viral in 2010 about shame and vulnerability. She defines shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging.” Yep. That’s exactly what I felt about being a different size postpartum: unworthy of acceptance and belonging. I felt embarrassed in social situations, like everyone knew that I was failing at an ‘essential’ part of who I am. I felt not good enough.  

So guess what I did? I decided to do something about it. I jumped into an exercise routine. I started attempting to incorporate a lot more fruits and veggies into my diet. “Great!” you might say. In the past few months, though, I’ve realized that it’s not so great. 

I’m realizing something about the way I exercise that I want to share with you. I honestly don’t tend to exercise to be healthy and care for my body. I exercise to chisel myself into being good enough. I felt shame (remember? ‘not good enough for acceptance’) when I was at my ‘unacceptable’ limit of what I weighed. I thought my extra fat on my hips made me unworthy of love. So I started exercising as a means to prove my worth. As a way to save myself from the pain of not being accepted and loved. 

As a side note, do you know how I can tell what my motivations are about exercising? It’s how I feel, and what thoughts are going through my mind when I’m doing it, and how I view my body afterwards. When I’m running to mold my body back into shape so that I can prove my worth, I feel driven. I feel like I have to run harder, gofurther. Or I might feel prideful if I did a good run. I’ll think thoughts like, “This will really help how my body looks.” Or, as I’m running, “I’m literally running the fat on my rear end off right now.” I don’t feel gentle or kind or caring to myself. I feel more like, “Make it happen. Fix it. Prove it.” 

Wow. Talk about an internal striving for something much more than just taking care of my body. The exercise turns into a means of obtaining the ‘False Savior’ of being skinny and having a toned body. It promises me that I’ll have safety and status if I’m skinny. I won’t have to feel the pain of rejection or or the vulnerability of not belonging because it will save me. I’m using exercise to achieve something for me that it can’t. It can’t rescue me. 

Now that I’ve realized what’s been going on in my heart, I’ve been wondering what repentance would like. How would I practically turn away from ‘skinny’ being my hope for salvation?

My honest answer is that I’m not quite sure yet. I have some ideas. But I’ve grown up in this culture that’s told me my whole life these terrible lies that I have to be skinny to have worth, and that people who lose baby weight in the blink of an eye are better than those who don’t. I know the answer isn’t to eat whatever I want and to boycott lunges and squats for the rest of my life. It’s got to have something to do with my heart. Where deep inside, I reject our culture’s push and let God train me in a new way of thinking. And it’s got to have something to do with taking care of my body in a way that’s mentally and emotionally kind and gentle to myself. I focus on other benefits of exercise and eating right: the ‘therapy’ that running is for my thoughts and emotions, the enjoyment of moving my body and pushing it to work hard, the way my body feels better when I’ve eaten in a balanced way. 

I’ve heard people talk before about ‘eating for the glory of God,’ and I guess that would be the difference: to do even exercising and eating as an outflow of being already loved and accepted and belonging to God, instead of doing them as a means to secure my salvation among my peers. It’s like doing the exact same actions, but with a very different mentality. I definitely don’t have all the answers for what it can look like, but I’m hoping that God will continue to teach me...as I run. 

#restGIRLhope