Category Archives: beauty
Recently, I received an email from a photography client who loved the photos I took of her family, but…ummm…herself? Not so much. She went on to describe WHY she didn’t like herself in the photos and what specific action she needed to take to remediate that problem next time they take family photos. The funny thing is, I thought she looked STUNNING in REAL LIFE and STUNNING in the PHOTOS. I never thought once that something was off with her look, her style or anything about her. In fact, I thought she was beautiful, poised and TOTALLY put together from head to toe.
I sat and started at the email, wondering if there was something I could have done differently to make this mama feel more beautiful when we took the photos, something I could have done differently with posing to make her feel more at ease, something I could have done differently in editing to make her beautiful self pop from the picture even more.
As I sat staring at that email, I realized this wasn’t about me.
Memories came flooding back. This territory was all too familiar. You see, three years ago, I was the one emailing our photographer, saying I liked our family photos, but I didn’t really like any of the head shots we took of me during the photo shoot. I felt uncomfortable and awkward in front of the camera. I shopped for myself last and bought a shirt that worked with everyone else’s clothes, but I didn’t ever really love it. I felt fat in the jeans I was wearing. The bags under my eyes were too big. I didn’t look like myself. I don’t know. I just didn’t like myself in the photos.
We used the family photo for our Christmas card that year, we printed a family 5×7 for our living room, and I put one of the family photos up on my blog’s “Meet Amy” page. But I NEVER used ANY of the head shots of myself from that photo shoot. Never updated the photo on my blog. Never updated my social media photos. Never used them in blog posts. Never used them anywhere.
When I was going through family photos this fall, I ran across the CD from that photo shoot from three years ago. I took time to look through all the photos on that CD because I hadn’t looked at them in three years and I wanted to know if they were really that bad or if I’d simply fabricated a story in my mind.
Three years later, here’s what I saw…
While the photos of me weren’t awesome, they were also very pretty.
Yes, I said it.
They were also very pretty.
The truth is, there was something INSIDE of ME during and after that particular photo shoot that wasn’t well, something ugly that told me I wasn’t beautiful enough, thin enough, perfect enough in my face. (Okay, I know that sounds weird, but it’s kind of true. Right ladies?) Instead of seeing my beauty, I beat myself up, picking apart every flaw in the photos.
Bags under my eyes.
Ugly, not-quite-right shirt.
Don’t like the way I look.
Three years later and a fresh set of eyes, I could see that I looked pretty in the photos. Totally acceptable. Just right for where and who I was at that time. There was NOTHING wrong with those pictures. Maybe they weren’t perfect, but they were beautiful.
Ladies, for the sake of our own well being, we must figure out how to distinguish between PERFECT and PRETTY.
Okay, so maybe you’re not going for PRETTY. Maybe you prefer to look beautiful, stunning, ravishing, radical, rogue, hip, cool, casual, fun, friendly, feminine, astute or simply put together.
However you are, WHOEVER you are, here’s what I want you to know if you don’t feel pretty in your family pictures.
- First and foremost, the likelihood is that you DO look pretty, you DO look beautiful.
- Even if you don’t feel pretty in your family pictures, go ahead and use the photo for your family Christmas card anyway. Go ahead and print the photo and put it on your end table anyway. Go ahead and make the 8×10 canvas and put it up in your bedroom. Go ahead and make a few copies to give your children when they get bigger because YOU are important, YOU are beautiful and YOU are needed in your family and this world JUST AS YOU ARE.
- Save the CD. Save the flash drive. Save the proofs. Save the memory card. Just save the photos, wherever they are. Then take another look at them three years later, five years later, ten years later and beyond. You’ll realize you were so pretty, so beautiful, so lovely. And you’ll most definitely wonder WHY in the world you thought anything different.
- Give yourself a chance. Give yourself a little grace.
- Keep yourself in the picture and call yourself beautiful because you are.
I am woman.
Born from my mother’s womb. Bloody. Bruised. Breathing, bright and beautiful.
Still in pain, her belly barren, Mama bowed low and bestowed upon me all names I’d ever need.
Born to bring light and life, dignity and strength, elegance and grace.
I am woman.
I am woman.
Do it all. Have it all. BE. ALL. The world tells me how and who I should be.
Daughter. Granddaughter. Sister. Niece. Cousin. Wife. Mother. Stepmother. Godmother. Aunt. Grandmother. Great Grandmother. Friend. Friendly. Best Friend. Bestie. Mentee. Mentor. Single. Stay-at-Home Mom. Work-from-Home Mom. Working Mom. Part-Time Working Mom. PTA Mom. Volunteer. Cook. Chef. Chocolate-Chip Cookie Maker. Taxi-Cab Driver. Counselor. Psychologist. Fair. Balanced. Business Woman. Writer. Actor. Artist. Elegant. Engineer. Model. Sexy. Sexy Mama. One Hot Mama. Rocker. Beautiful. Beast. Built. Big Breasted. Athletic. Trim. Thin. Funny. Smart. Witty. Kind. Savvy. Independent. Submissive. Generous. Giving. Philanthropist. Missionary. Designer. Graphic Designer. Pinterest Pretty. Stylish. Sassy. Hip. Cool. Calm. Collected. Casual. Considerate. Revolutionary. Chic. Prim. Proper. Perfect. Primped to the Nines. Fashion Forward. Poised. Politically Informed. Politically Correct. Quiet. Polite. Thoughtful. Thorough. Thick-Skinned. Vulnerable. Flexible. Decisive. Fierce.
I do it all.
Or maybe not.
I try to DO, HAVE and BE.
I am woman.
My voice, it will not be silenced. My heart, it’s torn. My life, let it be.
Most days I’m filled with insecurity.
God formed me, fashioned me, made me and named me.
I’m here for a reason.
I’m not a possession or a productivity robot.
I long to be seen for who I am, for who I really am.
There is nobody, nobody like me.
I am claimed. Named.
Beautiful. Holy. Chosen. Precious one.
I am woman.
Three or four years ago, I started threatening my husband that I was going to cut my hair off super short and dye it blonde. I casually threatened and joked because I knew I wasn’t brave or bold enough to cut it all off. I casually threatened and joked because I knew my husband strongly prefers me and his girls to have long hair. That is, until one year ago when my husband shaved his head. He began to understand where I was coming from, and granted me complete freedom to go ahead and cut and color my hair however I wanted.
Okay. I know you’re going to roll your eyes, puke in your mouth a bit (if you’re my husband), or maybe even wonder “What in the WORLD is Amy thinking? Has she gone mad?” But think Miley Cyrus. Yes, this is the haircut I envisioned in my mind all those years. No need to go into details, but you know this cut has an even edgier styling option, right?
Why am I talking about haircuts and sharing photos of celebrities today, anyway? Because this seemingly random story about hair has a real-life application. There’s a bigger lesson to be learned here, and I didn’t realize it until I cut my hair.
So let’s go back in time a bit. I promise, this won’t take long.
I’m super low maintenance when it comes to my hair. When I say SUPER low maintenance, I mean it. I get my haircut twice a year AT MOST. I don’t make appointments ahead of time. I pretty much get to the point of emergency and take an appointment wherever I can get in. Hence, the longest amount of time I’ve stayed with one stylist in my adult life is maybe a year or two. I’ve only highlighted my hair a couple times, and have never had a full color job. Garnier Fructis is my shampoo of choice ($3 or less with coupon). Typically, I have ONE high-end smoothing product to help manage my frizzy hair, and that lasts me for several years because I use it so sparingly. Five minutes is the perfect amount of time for styling; anything beyond that is annoying and crosses into high maintenance. And anyone who knows me in real life knows that I love, love, LOVE ponytails. Ponytails are the best, especially when you’ve had the lovely experience of lice through your house twice in one year. Yeah, ever since that, I’ve worn the ponytail 5-6 days a week.
I’d last gotten a haircut in early September 2015. I wore my hair in a bun while I was in Kenya, and kept the spirit of Kenya alive by wearing my hair in a bun EVERY SINGLE DAY from November 26, 2015 through April 26, 2016 when I finally got my haircut. That’s five months, people! I thought the bun was totally working until my former neighbor’s mom saw me in the store and said she barely recognized me because my hair was “so slicked back.” (I wasn’t sure her words were meant as a compliment. I, for one, loved the bun, but knew it was another trap.)
Time to get that haircut.
I’d been thinking and talking about that short haircut for SO long, that I knew this haircut was going to be TOTALLY SHORT or SAFE AND BORING (think ponytail).
Research phase began.
Maybe I should get something dark and edgy, like rocker Demi Lovato?
Maybe I should get something chic and sophisticated, like my one and only television role model, Megyn Kelly?
Ultimately, I narrowed my selection to two realistic favorites which I shared on my Facebook page so people could give me their opinions on the cuts. Julianne Hough rocking the short, but not TOO short hair.
Or Emma Watson rocking the safe, but definitely short style.
The rubber hit the road. It was time to decide. Money was budgeted. The appointment was booked. My decision was SAFE or SHORT, and I was going SHORT. I wasn’t 100% sure about the decision, but I was hovering around 97%.
This is me the night before the haircut. No makeup. Hair just washed and air dried. No products. No styling. My thick, frizzy inherited hair is a challenge to manage. Can you imagine how long it takes to tame this into something presentable everyday (besides a ponytail)?
This is me the morning of the haircut. Slicked back into a bun. The same way I’d worn it every day for the past five months.
I went to a new salon and booked with a stylist I’d never met. Thank goodness I had a solid referral from a former patient’s mom I trust whole-heartedly when it comes to matters of the hair!
I showed the stylist all the short hair photos I’d pinned. She didn’t want to cut my hair quite that short since it was the first time she’d EVER cut my hair and didn’t know how it was going to respond. So we agreed on a slightly longer version, Carrie Underwood’s 2016 Grammy’s cut. I knew the cut was longer than anything I’d envisioned, but it was still MUCH shorter than any style I’d had since 5th grade, so I agreed.
“All this hair is weighing you down,” she said.
So off went the hair.
I didn’t bat an eye.
This haircut was long, long overdue.
It was freeing. A weight literally lifted off my shoulders.
I had a few errands to do, but knew my husband was eagerly awaiting the results of my big haircut. All the friends and family who’d weighed in on my haircut on Facebook would appreciate an “after” picture, right? So I tried a couple selfies in the car, but that didn’t work out very well. (Selfies are the worst thing ever. SO awkward!)
After the failed selfie attempt, I went into the mall to do my errands.
As I walked the aisles, I remembered that if there’s one vanity item I really do love and appreciate, it’s clothing. With the exception of a sports bra, I haven’t requested a clothing budget in forever and a day. I glanced at myself in mirrors, trying to determine if I liked this haircut or not, whether I looked good in it or not. Was I crazy for thinking this was a good idea? What’s more, I looked deep in my eyes and noticed they didn’t sparkle any more or less after the haircut.
That’s when I started noticing a difference. Right there in the mall. Right after my big haircut. That’s when I started feeling and SEEING a difference.
This wasn’t really about a short haircut. This was about proving to myself that it was okay to take a risk. This was about proving to myself that it would turn out okay even if it wasn’t perfect. This was aligning my outsides more closely to my transformed insides. This was about seeing myself differently. This was about seeing the world differently. This, in fact, had very little to do with my outward physical appearance and very much to do with my wellness, wholeness and perspective on life. This was about me learning to say no AND yes to what’s me AND what’s not me. This was about embracing my life and taking responsibility for how I choose to live it.
I needed to think, believe and behave differently than I had before.
I needed to see myself differently.
I needed to see differently.
And that’s exactly what began to happen when I got my haircut.
I tried some more selfies that afternoon and again the next morning, but I never did share an “after” picture on my Facebook page. Guess it’s all here today, right?
Here’s the truth. The haircut wasn’t about everyone else, anyway. I didn’t need anyone’s approval or disapproval. In the end, the haircut was about taking the RISK I knew I needed to take.
Maybe I’m taking this too far. Maybe I’m overanalyzing this haircut. But what if I’m not?
What’s on your heart? What small or big decision’s been weighing on your mind for days, weeks, months or years? What risk have you been longing to take, but fear has stopped you for some reason? What do you KNOW you need to do, but can’t bring yourself to do it for any reason at all?
Here’s the secret. Nobody knows but me, but I’ve been saying YES to a lot of little things since I got that haircut six weeks ago. Saying YES to the haircut helped me see myself and the world differently, which gave me confidence to say YES to a bunch of things I wanted and needed to say YES to.
So what’s your YES today? What risk do you need to take – small or big – to propel yourself forward in life? Perhaps you need a haircut, too? Or perhaps it’s something else, anything else. I’m believing somebody’s out there, somebody’s listening, somebody needs to hear this.
TAKE the RISK.
See your life differently.
See life differently.
You started middle school this week. 5th grade to be exact. I’m not sure where the years went, but here we are. You’re 10 1/2 and minutes away from completing your first week of 5th grade.
I have some things I’d like to discuss with you before you get any bigger, before you go any further in life. These things I want to talk about are important. Really important. They’ll impact your life potentially forever, so it’s best we address them now. (I know, I’m such a mom.)
First off, you started talking about being the “middle child” last spring. Enough of that. Okay? Can we be done with all that “middle child” talk before it goes any further? I want you to know with all of my heart, with every ounce of my being, that we were 1,000% aware of this so-called “middle child syndrome” before we decided to have a third child. We knew that having a third child would mean you’d be in the middle. But we reread the birth order book and asked the experts, and according to them, any gap between the second and third child that’s more than 5 years messes up the whole birth order business. Do you remember there’s almost 7 years between you and your baby sister? That means that we see YOU as our first baby girl. And while your sister is the third child (the baby of the family) she also acts as a functional only child because of the large gap between the two of you. We never, ever want you to feel like a slighted, less than, overlooked “middle child.” A parent never intends that for their child, and we certainly thought and overthought that a million ways before we had you. So please, before we go any deeper with these “middle child” references, can we just stop? If it’s our favorite “The Middle” TV show that’s influenced you wrongly, please don’t let them talk you into this “middle child” business. Your place in our family is unique. We thought of you most extensively before we brought your baby sister into the world. And we love you as our daughter. You are your own person with your own set of beautiful gifts and talents. So please rest assured in who you are, your unique place in our family, and your unique place in this world. There’s only one you.
On a similar note, I noticed that a deadly word started creeping into your vocabulary this summer. Perfect. Ugh. You know how much I hate that word. You must know now. There is no such thing as perfect. No human being, no circumstance, no place or thing is perfect. You’ve referenced the fact that you like your clothes to be perfect, that you want to make sure your hair is perfect. I just want you to know that seeking perfect, that striving for perfect will get you nowhere fast. Your longing for perfection will only be found in heaven. I’ve called you on your perfect references, and I’ve explained why it’s not a goal I want you striving for. Let me tell you something. I’ve been there done that. Perfect? It’s been my goal, the thing I’ve been striving for, the thing I’ve been longing to be, the thing I’ve been trying for so long, the thing I’m dying a slow death over. SO done with that. SO not attainable. I’m still working it out at 39+ years old. So sweetie, just let go of perfect now. Okay? Right now. Before its snares grab ahold of you tighter. Let it go. Let go of any and all notions of perfection.
I have some more things to say, if you don’t mind. This is sounding more like a preaching session, so before I go any further, please accept my apologies and acknowledgement that I am being sort of preachy. I want what’s best for you and I do believe these items are critical for a girl in middle school who will soon be a young lady.
Now let’s move on to some things that are amazing about you!
I love that you’re SO confident in your skin. Body image isn’t a concern of yours one bit. I’m so grateful. I’m so glad. I’m elated beyond words. Can we keep it that way? Because as far as I’m concerned, the more years we can squeak by with you feeling completely confident in your own skin, in your own body, the better! Odds are, there’ll come a time when you’ll wake up to the world of fashion models and movie stars and how you’re “supposed to look” and you’ll turn that ugly corner. But for now, I’m LOVING that you’re LOVING yourself and that body of yours. Don’t let your friends, boys, TV or YouTube videos sway your opinion about yourself. Be confident. Rest assured that you are awesome! You are cute! You are beautiful. You are sweet, smart, social and hard working.
Keep being yourself. You have a crazy-good, fierce blend of my sensitivity and your dad’s extroversion. That’s a powerful blend for you, girl. You’re going places. You love people. You love socializing. You love being in the center of the action. You love to know what’s happening and where it’s happening and how long before we can get there and go there. Am I right, or what?! You love fashion, and you love style. You love styling hair, and you love doing nails. (Where in the world did that come from? I hate painting my nails!) You’re sensitive. Empathetic. So much so that you cry when I cry. Maybe it’s a curse. Maybe it’s a blessing. It’s all good. You’re a sweet soul. Keep being who you are. I’m not here to stop you. Sure, I don’t like socializing or hair or nails nearly as much as you, but I’m in. I’m fully in to whoever you are, whoever you want to be, wherever you are. I’m in. All in. So go, girl. Be yourself. Do your thing.
Last, but most certainly, not least. Don’t stop asking questions. Like “Why do the clouds get dark when it’s going to rain?” “Why do I have everything I need and want, and they don’t have anything?” about children living in extreme poverty. And “Are God and Jesus the same?” It’s good to have questions. It’s good to ask questions. You will continue to have questions as you grow up. Keep asking. As human beings, we must keep asking the hard questions. We must keep allowing ourselves to wonder WHY. Don’t stop asking. Keep that curiosity. Keep that open mind. Keep questioning status quo. Keep wondering why and how and why not? Those questions will bring you far. Those questions will set you apart from those who choose to look away, from those who choose to stop asking, from those who just don’t care to ask anymore. Those questions will help you see things others don’t see. And eventually, those questions will make you wise beyond your years.
With those deep thoughts in mind, I guess that’s about all I have to say today.
I’m proud of you. You’re awesome. You’re a sweet surprise. And a beautiful delight.
Keep being you, just as you are.
We love you,
This letter to my 10-year-old daughter, Elsa, is second of a three-part letters series I’m writing to my children as we’re entering major transitions for each of them. I wanted to capture my thoughts and feelings before the moment passed. If you want to read my letter to my near 13-year old son, Cooper, click here. If you want to read my letter to my 3 1/2-year-old daughter, Maisie, click here.
I’ll never forget that car ride to Wisconsin Dells one year ago. The day the word beauty caused a quiet, but felt disagreement between me and my husband.
You see, I’d invited him into a conversation about the development of my new blog vision, mission and core values. I wanted to talk with someone about those core values, a set of 7-8 words that define my blog, the tone and qualities a reader can expect when they visit and read any given post on this blog of mine.
The exercise was important to me.
I’d surveyed readers, did my own brainstorm and thoughtful analysis, and had a list of words narrowed to 20-some final contenders. So that day, I guess I decided it was a good time to share those words with my husband who’s obviously close to me and familiar with my blog and writing.
I shared all the final contenders with him. My intention that first go-around was that I didn’t want to reveal my personal opinions and preferences about each word. But when we got to the word beauty, my husband wasn’t so sure it fit as a core value for my blog. He wasn’t sure it was the best word to describe my blog.
Perhaps he was thinking beauty as in hair, makeup, clothing, fitness – physical beauty? If so, he was totally right. My blog would not fit within that definition of beauty. I was thinking beauty as in recognizing beauty all around, finding beauty in the hard and crazy stuff of life, creating something beautiful every time I sit down to write in this space, discovering the beautiful divine in the daily.
Either way, that word beauty caused a bit of friction, a minor tiff between the two of us. I asked for his opinion on the words. He expressed his opinion about beauty. And I became defensive. (We are both first borns, mind you. We want our way and we both have the best ideas, you know.)
My husband and I needed to end that conversation promptly, so we did. It was getting us nowhere. And really, there was no point hashing and rehashing those core values. There was no point hashing and rehashing whether my husband thought beauty was a good word to describe my blog. I was seeking confirmation, for sure. In an ideal world, I wanted our perspectives and visions to be perfectly aligned. But perhaps I was picking a fight when I asked him to weigh in on beauty.
Beauty wasn’t up for grabs.
Beauty wasn’t in question.
Beauty was the one word I was 100% sure about.
I knew I was going to pick that word before we even began our conversation.
Discovering beauty in the horrible, crazy, sickly, unusual, everyday, ugly mundane? Finding beauty in the ashes? I can do that. Creating beauty where there is none? Totally my gig. Finding unseen people, places and things and calling them beautiful? Love that so much. Making beauty out of the teeniest, tiniest thing? Need to do that for my own good.
Beauty was a core value on this blog from day one, and always will be. So it wasn’t fair for me to ask my husband’s opinion. It was already decided.
(Sorry, babes, for putting you in that position.)
I’ve pursued beauty hard these past 12 months. Both good and bad, it’s been a heck of a year. Beauty has been easy. And beauty has been hard. Beauty’s been in unexpected places. And beauty’s been elusive. Beautiful projects have been birthed with detail only to stall suddenly. Beauty’s been imagined, but not yet fully realized. Beauty’s been in the future. And beauty’s been here and now. Beauty’s beaten down. But beauty’s getting back up again.
Beauty will be.
For “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11.
Beauty is a promise.
Beauty is the vision.
Beauty is non-negotiable.
We’re fallen, imperfect creatures. But we we’re also crafted and made to know, desire and experience all the beautiful things of this life, straight into eternity.
He has made everything beautiful in its time.
Easy and hard. Slow and fast. Smooth and bumpy. Failure and success. Finished and unfinished. Clear and unclear. Paved and unpaved. All beauty.
No more second guessing beautiful.
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