Friday, December 30, 2011

Beautiful Top 10

  We've come to the end of a beautiful year, so let's take a look back at our top 10 beautiful girl posts of the year!  Compiled by view number.  

#10  Our girls got to spend a day at our favorite local salon, Sage Tryall Salon.  Suzy Tryall and her team are fabulous!  And by the way, the salon itself is getting a major makeover, so go check out the new improved Sage Tryall Salon in the new year!  You'll be happy you did!  

Read the original post here:  Beauty Shop 

#9 One of Aubrianah's favorite shoots was with one our absolute favorite groups of sisters.  These beautiful girls are all fabulous, gorgeous, funny, and kind...and they got it all from their beautiful mom.  I wrote this post a while ago, and I STILL want to be an honorary Roselle sister!  

Read the post here:  Beautiful Sisters 

#8 One of the most beautiful women I have ever had the pleasure of meeting, Cindi's grandmother, Mildred.  Take a minute to read, or read again, her beautiful testimony.

Original post here:  Beautiful Testimony

#7 This shoot is special to me and Aubrianah, because it connected us, I believe by the work of the Spirit, to a woman who continues to inspire us with the beauty she continues to cultivate as she learns to live her life and raise her boys after the sudden death of her husband.

Original Post:  Sharing Beauty

#6  My favorite whimsical woman, my friend Janine.  What we didn't tell you in the original post is that Janine was suffering from Bell's Palsey at the time of her shoot.  Just goes to show you that Real Beauty shines right through any 'flaw' we might see in the mirror!

Original post:  Whimsical Beauty

#5 This post was a two-for-one!  TWO courageous beauties fight through the daughter's illness while her mother keeps them both grounded, hopeful, peaceful, and brave.  

Original Post:  Courageous Beauty

#4 What kind of legacy are you leaving?  After reading this post about Faith's grandmother, Caroline, I made a commitment to think more about my actions and what my own children and grandchildren will remember about me.  Caroline was a beautiful woman whose legacy lives in her daughters and grand-daughters.

Original Post:  The Legacy of a Beautiful Girl

#3 Not technically a post at all, but a page on the blog gets the #3 spot.  It's the page that is all about our beautiful photographers, Faith and Aubrianah.  

Original Post:  About the Beautiful Photographers

#2 The post that made me feel like we really had something here...the goal was to inspire women to see that beauty is not about arched eyebrows and perfect hair, it's about strength and courage and what we do with the trials life throws at us.  The beautiful woman in this post has all that and more, PLUS she is a physically stunning beauty.  As far as the posts go on the main blog, this is the most-read entry...our beautiful friend, Becky, and the story of the freedom she found.

Original Post:  Beautiful Freedom

#1 Drum roll, please!  Our #1 post is also not technically a post, but a page.  It sums up our original goal for Just the Girls: Real Beauty as a summer project in 2011.  However, the movement has grown, women have been inspired to share their beautiful qualities, and our girls (and Cindi and me) have been blessed to be in the company of the women we've spent time with.  We hope to do more with Real Beauty in the future, and we want to interview YOU, Beautiful Girl!  You ARE beautiful, tell us what is most beautiful about you!  

Original Post:  About the Beautiful Project 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Beautiful Christmas 2011

  To Beautiful Girls everywhere, we wish you a Merry, Beautiful Christmas!  

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Join the Fan Club, Beautiful Girl!

    I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed the other day, and I came across the following post, from one friend to another friend: 

 "Every mother likes to hear positive, encouraging things about their kids.  Thank you for taking the time to notice the good things my kids do and for sharing them with me."  

  That post was to my friend Laura, pictured above.  Can you spot her?  She doesn't like to have her picture taken, but she had taken a chunk of time out of her day to run around Campbell County with my daughter in order to help her with a photography project she was working on for the library.  

  Did you notice that the last two paragraphs I wrote about Laura were that she was supportive and encouraging to other people's children?  It struck me as I read that comment to Laura in my newsfeed that this was not the first time I'd read something like that, written to her.  Another friend of mine often thanks Laura for noticing the good things her kids do and sharing them with her, too. 

  For Laura, this is a trend.  I wrote yesterday about how I am a fan of my own children.  But they do have other fans.  Laura is one of them. 

 Mothers, especially mothers of  children who have a 'bad kid' reputation, only hear bad things about our kids.  We hear it when they disobey their Sunday School teachers.  We get called in for a conference when they don't do their classwork at school.  We hear about it if they hit or bite or don't share in the nursery or day care.  We are inundated with negativity.  

  I've gotten my share of negativity when it comes to my children.  So has Laura. Sometimes I get bitter about it.  Maybe, sometimes, she does, too.

 See, we both have these boys.  I have one and she has two, and they are boys who have been raised to be themselves and not worry too much about what others think of them.  All three of these boys think for themselves and do what they think is best.  I don't know if you have a boy like that, but Laura and I know that the kind of boys we have are the kind that make a mom earn her parenting badge.  They aren't followers, they aren't fakers, and they don't blindly obey their parents or authority figures.  They question, they argue, they make people mad, they decide for themselves.  A lot of prayer and faith foundation goes into raising a boy like that, but when it's done they are the best boys to have.  

  Laura is almost finished raising her boys, they are both grown, technically adults and almost men.  (They'll love me for that 'almost' haha!)  They are both great.  They are smart, resourceful,  and helpful.  She and her husband have done a great job.  But I know she faced a lot of negativity from other people during the raising.  She has decided not to do that to the children and mothers she comes into contact with.  

  Laura is a teacher, she teaches in regular school all week and Sunday school on the weekends.  Laura is with children a lot!  She sees their potential, she encourages them, she pushes them to do their best, and she sees the good in them.  Even the 'disrespectful' ones, even the 'disobedient' ones, even the (dare I say it?) 'BAD' ones !  Because Laura knows that children are NOT YET WHO THEY ARE GOING TO BE!  Everything that happens to them, everyone who comes into contact with them, every experience and circumstance and interaction is molding them, shaping them, helping them along the path of this hard life.  

  Oh, beautiful moms, I hope you have a Laura in your life...if you don't have THE Laura herself.  Because we need another person to see the good in our children, to join us in our children's fan club.  It is such an encouragement to any mom to have someone else join that club.  

  If you don't have a Laura, don't fret.  I don't know that Laura ever had a 'Laura' herself.  I don't know that she had anyone come alongside her and tell her how fabulous her boys were while she was raising them.  She still raised them, and they are still fabulous.  If you don't have a Laura, BE a Laura.  

Our Laura is an encouragement to us, she loves our children, and she is beautiful.  

Monday, December 12, 2011

My Beautiful, GOOD, Kids!

  I am my kids' biggest fan.  I think they are awesome, smart, funny, and practically perfect.  If I even perceive a slight against either of them, even if it is deserved, I will defend them.  I don't kid myself that they will always do the right thing, they haven't deceived or brainwashed me, but they know that anything they do wrong will be discussed, worked out, and forgiven. 

  Things haven't always been this way for us.  I've had some learning to do about parenting. I have NOT always done everything perfectly, and I'm under no assumption that the way I parent my teens now is perfect, either!  It's just the way I do it.  I've learned that the world is tough enough, home should be easy. 

  I used to parent differently.  My son, when he was younger, was what you might call a bad kid.  I would apologize for him constantly.  I wanted to make sure people knew that I knew he was acting up, 'being bad', and that I was dealing with it because I wanted them to think I was a good parent.  My son grew quite a reputation for being a bad kid, and I was the poor, pitiful mom who had to deal with him.

   I remember the day I made a conscious decision NOT to berate my son to other people and not to punish him in public.  I stopped wondering why he was so BAD, and decided that he was actually a GOOD kid.  And then I decided to stop caring about what others thought of me as a parent.  Those two decisions made all the difference.  Was he actually such a terror as I remember?  I don't know, because when I decided he was good, the bad faded considerably. 

 Ask me about my son now, and I'll tell you how funny, smart, and fabulous he is.  And then I'll tell you how talented, clever, and compassionate my daughter is.  And then I'll make you really sick by telling you how practically perfect they BOTH are.  

 Do some other moms think it's annoying that I think my kids are wonderful and can do no wrong?  Yep, they do.  Do I think it's annoying that they DON'T think the same about their own kids?  Yep, I do.

  The world will try to bring your kids down.  Magazines might tell your daughters they aren't beautiful.  Teachers might tell your sons they aren't smart.  Television will almost always tell your children they are dorks.  'Friends' sometimes tell them they are losers or spread gossip about them.  Even churches sometimes tell our kids that they aren't good enough.  

  It's hard being a kid, a kid of any age.  And it's hard being that kid's mom when life is beating the kid down.  I want to be sanctuary for my kids, a safe haven.  I don't always measure up, but I try, because they are #1 to me, and they are beautiful.  

Photo credits:  Faith Perry 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Beautiful Joy has a Beautiful Advocate

  Yesterday, I wrote about my cousin April.  I hope you got to read it.  If you didn't, just go back one post until you see her joyful face!  

  Today, I want to write about a different kind of beauty.  This beauty is cultivated in the hearts of mothers of children who need long-term support.  Like April's mother, Julie.  Julie is one of the most beautiful women I have ever known.  Not just because she is my aunt, but because she is compassionate, fun, loyal to her family, and creative.  She's also a life-long advocate for her daughter, April.

  When women become mothers, advocating for our children becomes one of the most important aspects of our mothering. For some of our children, like April, that job is not only what we should do, it is a job that will not end.

  Mothers need to intercede for their children all through the growing-up process.  We need to make sure they are in the right classes at school.  We help them figure out what to do if they are being bullied, and we need to step in when they can't handle it themselves.  We get them up to meet the bus in the morning, we make sure they get their meals, get their sleep, and get the knowledge they need to make it in the grown-up world.  

  For Julie, and for other mothers I know, though, that basic need to actively seek the best for their children does not end when the child becomes an adult.  April will always need her parents to advocate for her, almost as much as she needed them to do it when she was little.  That job, for Julie, will not end.  But that's ok, because Julie does not want to be in a world without April's joyful face.  The love Julie has for April keeps her from being bitter about her own sacrifice, and she doesn't see it as sacrifice in the first place!  She'll keep on advocating for her daughter, and she'll keep on becoming more and more beautiful because of it.  

  I know other mothers like Julie.  Mothers who have children with autism, cancer, severe food allergies, ADHD, the list goes on.  These 'mama bears' look after their 'cubs' with ferocity!  Don't mess with them!

  Really, though, isn't that what being a Beautiful Mother is all about?  

  My son is grown, technically.  He's 18.  He's in college.  I don't need to make sure he gets his meals or make sure a teacher is treating him right.  He's old enough to take care of himself, mostly.  I've raised him, I'm done.  He's smart, he's resourceful, he's able.  In fact, he gets mad at me if I do try to help him.  But I still try.  

  I think that our children are part of us, and when we advocate for them, we're advocating for ourselves, too.  Is that selfishness?  I don't think so.  I think it's love.  

  Even though I still choose to help my son, as unwilling to accept the help as he is, it's still a choice.  I can stop whenever I want.  I can decide, (maybe when he's 40 and my daughter is 37!) that I've done enough and they'll have to do without me, that they don't need me any more.  And they'll be fine.  

  Moms like Julie will never decide that, because their children will never stop needing them.  

  Women who advocate for their children, special needs children or not, are beautiful.  Women who commit to advocating for their children even though there is no end in that is a special kind of Beautiful Girl.  

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Beautiful Joy

This post is a two-day, two-fold post because I want to talk about two kinds of beauty.  I've been having a bit of writer's block lately, so I put out some feelers today to get a little inspiration.  I got it, and it came in the face of my beautiful, fun-loving cousin, April.  

Look at that smile!  It's there all the time.  April loves to joke and she really loves to laugh.  She finds joy everywhere, can you see the joy in her eyes? Her mom says, "Our girl is not the typical beauty, and her mind is lacking some of what society deems important.  But she is a joy to so many and her sense of delight is so wonderful.  She loves people so much, and that is beautiful!"
  Beautiful girls like April are often overlooked.  We are sometimes uncomfortable around them, we don't know how to act.  We ignore them, either because we don't know what else to do or we just don't consider the value in every person.  But ignoring isn't even the worst thing we do.

  We hurt them, and we think they don't get hurt.  They do.  We use words like 'retarded' to our friends to be funny and think they won't hear, won't care, won't get the joke.  They do.  

  Ugh, I don't even like what I just wrote....the 'We'?  The 'They'?  We're not on two different sides.  'They' are not a subset of 'We', 'They' are not a different team, a different group, a different species.  

'They'  ARE  'We'.  

WE are Beautiful Girls.  WE are made more beautiful when we support one another, bond with one another, have fun with one another, and bring JOY to one April does.  She's doing her Beautiful Girl part...are you?  

  Here's where Santa stops first to get his Christmas Cheer!  He gets that magical joy from April before he sets out.  

  Tomorrow I'm going to write about the person April gets the most love and support from, her mom, Julie.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Beautiful Companionship

  Something sad happened in our neighborhood recently.  An elderly woman died.  That's not the saddest part, though.  The woman, Charlotte, died alone.  

  I didn't know Charlotte well, she lived a street down from me.  I knew she didn't drive herself, she didn't have children and wasn't married, and I also knew a family member came to take her shopping once a week.  But that's all I'd ever bothered to know.  After her death I found out that the weekly shopping trip was just about all the contact she had with anyone, besides the interaction from her neighbors as they stopped to chat a moment while out walking their dogs.

  I admit that Charlotte crosses my mind much more now than she did when she lived in my neighborhood.  And I am ashamed.   

  Charlotte's death affected me, and I think it should affect us all.  No beautiful girl should have to spend so much time on her own, whether she chose to have ten children or none, whether she was married, widowed, divorced, or had never found the right guy to grow old with.  Was Charlotte often lonely?  I don't know, I never asked her.  Did she hope someone would drop by to listen to her life's stories?  Probably.  Did she ever hear a funny joke and wish there was someone there she could share it with?  Surely.  

  Now, here's a very different story.  Mary is about the same age as Charlotte was.  But Mary lives with her grown son and his wife, Sally.  Sally is blessed to be able to work from home, and she spends most of her day with Mary.  This summer, Aubrianah and I got to spend an afternoon with them both.  

  Sally wrote 'Growing things' on her beauty board, and let me tell you she is good at it!  She has a beautiful garden, and Mary loves to sit on the porch and look out at Sally's garden.  But I have to say that the thing that I think makes Sally most beautiful is the companionship she offers.  

  Aubrianah and I sat and listened to Mary's stories, she's led an interesting life and we had fun looking at her scrapbook.  But what struck me is that even though I am absolutely sure Sally has heard those stories a hundred times, she did not seem bored.  She listened intently, she asked questions, she loved Mary by listening to her.

  Mary calls Sally 'Angel'...because to her, Sally is one.  Mary will not be alone at the end of her life, Sally will make sure of it.  Mary is leading a blessed life, and Sally is one of those blessings.    But Sally isn't doing it to get some reward, she knows that the companionship she gets from Mary is a blessing for HER, too!  

  Stop your busy life for a moment and look around you.  Do you see a beautiful girl who is lonely?  Do you see a beautiful girl with no children, or children who are gone, or who just don't show up?  How about that elderly neighbor who sits on her porch, hoping someone will come by and ask her how she is?  How about that senior saint at your church?  Does she look forward to getting a ride to church on Sunday morning because that's the only outing she has all week?  

  Mary has great stories of a blessed life.  Charlotte probably had great stories, too.  I wish I had taken the time to listen to them.  


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Beautiful Hedges

  Cindi and I have been waiting a little bit on this post, because this beautiful girl is close to our hearts.  We wanted to make sure we did it right, we wanted to make sure we conveyed the strength, the peacefulness, the joy that makes Christy beautiful. We finally realized, though, that there's just not enough words.  So here's our post about Christy, just take what we say and add more strength, more peace, more joy, and more beauty.

  Many months ago, Christy heard her doctor say the words all women dread...breast cancer.  She was about to embark on that difficult journey so many women have to take.  Through treatments, sickness, waiting, hair loss, more sickness, and surgeries.  Unless you've been through it, you don't understand the difficulty.  You don't fully understand the loneliness, fear, the utter frustration of having to rely on others when your own body is too weak.  You, and I, don't understand how hard it is to 'fight' something that is attacking you from the inside.  

  Christy knows the fight.  But she also had something that many women don't have.  She had hedges.  

  Job 1:10- Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side?

  The Lord has been building up hedges around Christy most of her life, and she's worked on cultivating those hedges.  He gave her a strong, faithful husband...she cultivated her marriage.  He gave her three beautiful children...she cultivated their values, their faith foundation and their education. He put her in circumstances where she met new people...she cultivated strong friendships. 

   He gave her Himself...she cultivated her relationship with him through prayer and meditation of His Word.  

  So when the cancer struck, Christy's hedges were high and deep.  Her children saw her come through it, and they commented on her strength.  Her friends saw her come through it, and they commented on her peacefulness.  

  But her husband, the one on this earth who knows Christy best,  wasn't surprised, because he's worked on those hedges around his beautiful wife, too. 

  Work on your own hedges, Beautiful Girls!  Cultivate them now and you'll have protection in the battles of life!



Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Look a Beauty in the Eye

Let me start by saying that I am not thinking of anyone in particular's just something I've been thinking about.  My husband hasn't been looking past me in restaurants to ogle scantily-clad women (or if he has I haven't noticed it, and I think I would notice), I don't think my son has been chasing short skirted co-eds across campus, and my dad, brothers, uncles,  and friends' husbands have all kept their eyes nicely set in their sockets as far as I know.  So if you read on and think that I have some certain misbehaving male in mind as I write this, you're wrong.  However, if you are some misbehaving male who is about to feel really guilty or really outraged, well, so be it.  Stop misbehaving.

  There is a phenomenon going on lately, a blame shift.  It's the idea that women are to blame for men's behavior.  Particularly, the way women dress.  Apparently, a man cannot control himself if he sees too far up a woman's leg, or if her shoulders are bare, or her top is low-cut.  Apparently, if a man sees these things, he will abandon all of his will and should not be held responsible for his actions.  HE is not to blame, because HE is just a poor ol' guy and that's just HOW HE WAS MADE.  I even read an article recently, written by a man, that explains how the way women dress has contributed to his 'lifestyle of sin'.  In the comments to that article, a reader agrees, and goes on to say that 'evil' women who 'dress that way',  'deserve what they get'.  Wow.  

  Come on, men, is that really what you want to put out there?  That you are all a bunch of infantile, animalistic idiots who lose all function at the sight of a woman's flesh?  That you are able to have self-control over everything except the wiles of a woman, even if those wiles are accidental?  

  I prefer to have higher expectations for the men in my life.  I will not allow them to blame the women they happen to see for bad choices they might make...and I don't expect them to make the bad choices in the first place.  I expect them to be gentlemen, no matter who is around them in whatever state of dress (or undress) those people are in.  I expect them to look women in the eye, not lower.  I expect them to control themselves, be polite, and most importantly, to see each person as another human being...not an object to be sized up.  And I don't expect them to make comments about it later to their friends.  

  How about Matthew 5:27-29:  'You have heard that it was said, you shall not commit adultery, but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  If your right eye makes you stumble, TEAR IT OUT and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.'  Whoa!  Sounds like men shouldn't be looking at women lustfully.  Sounds like, if he does, he should deal with HIMSELF, harshly even.

  Women are PEOPLE, not objects.  Women make choices, same as men.  We do dumb things, same as men.  But the way we dress does not mean men are then free from responsibility and human decency.

  Now, here's the part where I write a bunch of different things about how I'm not letting the women who dress inappropriately off the hook, then I delete it all and try to write something new, then I delete all that.  Because I don't want to do a 'BUT'.  You know what I mean...BUT women really shouldn't dress that way and BUT some women do dress like that to get men to notice them and BUT and BUT and BUT....Yes, all that is true, and modesty should be her goal.  But that's not my point here. 

 My point here is just this:  Men, control yourselves.  You can.  You only have YOURSELF to answer for in the end.  

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Beautiful Halloween

    I walked into the Halloween store the other day.  Bad idea.  I actually went in for some white hair color spray for a Christmastime photo shoot, but I looked around a bit first.  It wasn't the headless bodies and body-less heads and zombie babies that bothered me, though.  It was the costumes for girls that made me shake my head in amazement.  

  Oh, some of the costumes for guys were cringe-worthy, too.  I saw a 'Boob Inspector' costume and a genie costume with the lamp to be rubbed strategically placed for optimum inappropriateness.  But, at the very least, these were in the adult section of the store and the costumes only came in adult sizes.  

  Scattered throughout the rest of the store were the costumes for children, and the costumes for girls of all ages.  This is where I found the playboy bunny costume, the barely-dressed nurse costume, the barely-dressed policewoman costume, and the Dorothy's dress patterned underwear (yes, just the underwear) from Wizard of Oz.  There were also costumes for barely-dressed firefighters, barely-dressed librarians, barely-dressed cheerleaders, and...well, you get the picture.  

  I know, I know, this is an old rant.  But I think it's worth a re-rant!  Because it's not only the store that is to blame, it's us.  Women.  We're buying this junk, we're freezing our barely-covered bottoms off on Halloween night.  And apparently we're buying it for our daughters, too, because very many of these costumes came in junior sizes.  Why?  Because on a night when women and girls can be anything, we want to be pole-dancers having a career day?  

  Ok, I'll climb down now, and just show you a few pictures of our little Halloween beauties.  Ava (at the top of the post) as Wonder Woman. Now the original WW herself wasn't a big fan of covering up, (and have you seen the new WW?  Sheesh!) but Ava's mom (and the photographer) made sure Ava displayed the power and fun that is Wonder Woman with age-appropriateness!  

And here's our little Grace as Peter Pan, worrying about that crocodile!  Super-cute!

And Abigail as Hello, Kitty!  

  Anyway, ranting aside, tell us, what were you for Halloween?  And if you don't agree with me about the barely-there career outfits, tell me why.  I'm open to hearing the other side! 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Beauty Stealing the Show

I just had to share this picture of our beautiful little girlfriend, Abby.  Her little brother was the focus of this photo shoot, but Abby is a confident and fun kid, and she wanted some of that camera action!  Aubrianah was happy to oblige.  

  As I looked through the pictures after the shoot and noticed how much Abby-cuteness was represented in her brother's shoot, I wondered when exactly it is in our lives when our confidence wanes.  Is it our age?  Is it events?  Is it words from others?  When did we go from wanting to be seen to wanting to fade into the background?  

  I think it happened to me pretty early.  I actually don't remember a time when I was comfortable having people pay attention to me, much less take my picture.  I'm actually way more comfortable in my own skin now, at 39 years old, than I was when I was little. 

  As a kid, I was always trying to just blend in, fly under the radar.  Can you blame me?  My stepmother made my clothes...polyester bell-bottoms with matching tops.  I wore corrective shoes.  My dad kept my hair cut crazy short, highlighting my already prominent cow-licks.  I was allergic to mosquitoes, so my face was always swelling up and my eyes swelling shut. I had an unfortunate last name.  All these factors made me prone to being made fun of, so I did what I could to stay invisible.  Invisible until I hit high school, when I suddenly became very visible, along with uncontrollable and rebellious.  But I digress...

  My point is, I love these little camera-hams like Abby.  She's confident, she's silly, she's beautiful, and  I hope she never thinks anything different. I hope she sticks her little face into any photo shoot she happens to notice.  

  By the way...when did you lose your confidence?  Or did you lose it?  What was it that made you realize that you weren't the focus?  

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

How Mark Zuckerberg Ruined my Beautiful Day....almost

  I had a great time today, until the pictures came out.  I told you in a recent post that I am going to embrace autumn.  So my son, my daughter, and I met a group of friends at the corn maze.  Nothing says autumn like getting lost in a corn maze, and no one is as great at getting lost in a corn maze as Cindi and me.  There's also a hay ride, a corn crib, a cow train (which my eighteen-year-old son STILL folds his tall self into), and a huge bounce pillow.  We love it there!  

  So we trekked around the maze, did all the autumn stuff, even bought a jar of apple butter.  We laughed, we got lost and then got found by a corn angel, and we laughed some more.  I was embracing autumn all over the place.  

  A few hours later, the pictures started appearing on Facebook.  The fat talk started.  A fabulous day ruined by Mark Zuckerberg.  I blame Mark, because 5 years ago I would've had at least a week before I saw any pictures.  A week before the fat-talking would begin.  These days it starts instantly.  

  "I think I've gained back all the weight I lost," I say to my family.  Silence. Crickets.  "I said, I think I've gained back all the weight I lost.  Look at this picture!  I'm huge!"  Nothing.  "WHY AREN'T Y'ALL SAYING ANYTHING??"  I yell.  

  "Because you know it's not true, Mom, you just want us to say it's not true," my son says.

  "You tell me not to do that, and you're doing it," my daughter says.

  "You're not fat, you never were, and you're beautiful," my husband says.  

  Apparently my family is not interested in encouraging my fat-talk, and they've decided not to engage in it with me.  How annoying! ;)  

  The thing is, I have been actively trying NOT to talk like this.  If I'm feeling fat or particularly ugly, I've been trying to keep it to myself.  There's no point in talking about it, what are people supposed to say?  I whine, "I am SO ugly, my hair is limp, my butt is huge, and my hands are way too small."  Are they supposed to say, "Yeah, you should really stay at home.  You might scare small children.  Maybe you can come out on Halloween with the rest of the freaks....if you wear a mask, and don't tell anyone you're with me." 

  So what in the world made me fat-talk today?  The pictures are actually not bad, I've posted one here for you.  I'm sure there are more to come, I'm trying not to dread it.  

  I know what it is, I've been feeling guilty. I've eaten a half a bag of 'perky popcorn' over the past two days even though I'm pre-diabetic and am supposed to be cutting sugar.  I'm sitting on the sofa right now watching The View, in view of my exercise bike as it collects dust.  I'm a wanna-be vegetarian who ate a hot dog for dinner.  And I really have gained some weight in the past month.  I'm a little bit of a mess.  

  A beautiful mess, my family might say, if they said stuff like that.  

  I got my bearings, though, and I'm back to feeling beautiful, even though I'm eyeing that popcorn bag again.  Because it really doesn't matter if I FEEL fat, or even if I do gain some weight.  My beauty is so much more than that.  So bring it on, Mark Zuckerberg, make your Facebook picture-viewer even bigger and make it easier for friends to tag me, because I'm beautiful!  And I love autumn!  Sort of.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Beauty being Broken

  I hesitated with this title...we like to hear stories like this when the beautiful girl finds more beauty at the end of the trial, when there's a happy ending.  Or if not a happy ending then at least an ending that leaves us with a sense of everything turning out ok...a blessing, a strengthening.  We don't want to hear sad stories while they are still in the middle.

  We don't want to hear the breaking....we want to see the mended.  

  But that's not the way this post is going to go.  See, Lisa is having one of those months where sad things are happening...a whole slew of 'em at once.  And she's in the middle of breaking.  

  I'm not talking about little things here, either...Lisa and her husband have lost two close family members within a week of one another.  Just a bit before that, their beloved family dog also passed away. If you've had a pet die, you know it's heartbreaking.  You need a bit of time to get yourself together. The death of an animal doesn't compare with the death of a family member, but it left them reeling and unprepared for the family losses that came so quickly after.  Then there was family separation as Lisa's husband had to travel, the plans to make, the people to deal with, the school and work of regular life amid the pain. The breaking.  You can read more of Lisa's story here.  Then pray for her and her family!

  Thankfully, I know this won't be the end of the story.  It's just the middle.    Lisa's beauty board phrase is 'Inner Beauty', and she's got it in spades.  Lisa is breaking, she's broken.  But she is strong and beautiful and she will mend.  If you know Lisa well, help her bear the burden, encourage her along, help her transform the middle of this story into a beautiful ending where Lisa finds herself stronger, more faithful, more compassionate, and more BEAUTIFUL than she already is. We at Real Beauty 'Headquarters' love you, Lisa!  Tell us what we can do for you! 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Family Beauty

  I’ve been blessed with an awesome mother-in-law.  You don’t hear that very often, do you?  She is a prayer warrior, praying continually.  I cherish this when our family is traveling….since Steve has problems going the speed limit.  I know she has prayed with me through many of the valleys I have experienced - miscarriages, my mom’s death, hard decisions. To know beyond a shadow of a doubt that someone is praying with you….fervently lifting you up in prayer when you feel so unable to pray for yourself is an enormous blessing that I can’t even put into words.  She’s also on her knees when our lives are going well; she is giving thanks and praise.

Her sister, Evelyn is equally amazing.  After a few minutes of being around her, she is sure to tell you her opinions about how you should be living your life.   She devotes herself to the study of God’s Word and is an avid reader of many Christian books.  She has given Steve many wonderful books that he treasures.  When she found out about Faith’s “real beauty” project, she was more than happy to be a part of it.  She wrote Faith a letter:

Dear Faith,
The qualities that make a woman beautiful are:
1.  Possession of a joyous servant’s heart.
2. Plays to an audience of one (the triune God).
3. Wisely industrious.
4. Lives by the Bible, prayer, and faith (devout).
5. Virtuous.
6. Generous to all, especially the poor.
7. An avid learner
8. Has a healthy sense of humor with grace

I guess I could sum it up by saying she has a Christlike character.  If number 4 is true, all the other qualities would be included.

Needless to say, I am eternally thankful for the wonderful women who have been placed in my life and in my children’s lives!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Beauty Moves

I moved to Lynchburg about eleven years ago, and it wasn't because of Liberty University.  In fact, I'd never even heard of Jerry Falwell or Liberty Mountain.  My family moved here for other reasons.

  We made friends pretty quickly, and that's when the devastation started. See, Lynchburg is a college town, and people who live in college towns are notorious for not staying put.  Lynchburg is just a resting point, a leg up to the next place people are going.  I make a new girlfriend, a year later she's moved on to the next phase of her life.  And it's usually far, far away, too, as in I will probably never see these women again!  Even when it's closer by, though, a long-distance relationship is just never the same.  It breaks my heart.  Remember that old Paul Young song "Every time you go away, you take a piece of me with you"?  My friend Renee carried off a piece, my friend Danielle carried one off, Maribeth, Jessica, Courtney, and a bunch more.  Their time in Lynchburg was finished, so they moved their beautiful selves off to somewhere else, and I have stayed here.  Some I was very close to and some I just liked hanging out with, but they all added beauty to my life!  

  One of my earliest Lynchburg friends is Kristina.  Kristina befriended me at church early on, and I've loved her ever since.  I remember going to visit her in the hospital when her first baby Sammy was born.  He was a preemie, so tiny, and she was such a beautiful first time mom.  Now Sammy is a big, beautiful kid with two little brothers!  I've watched all three grow and been blessed to watch Kristina be their beautiful mom!  

  I went by Kristina's house the other day, and tried to pull up the 'For Sale' sign in her yard.  Someone had pushed that sucker in deep, though, because it wouldn't come up.  Yeah, she's told me she's going, but I've turned a deaf ear to it.  The sign made it real.  Kristina is moving.  She's going to be taking a big piece of me with her!  

  I could cry and whine about losing all my beautiful girlfriends to the reality of life, but I can't.  Well, I can, but it wouldn't be right.  I've been too blessed to have them in my life to ever regret losing them!  Kristina will be moving on.  She's moving north, and I never travel north, so I may never see her again.  But she's been such a beautiful blessing in my life that I can't hold a grudge.  And I always have Facebook so I can still see her three beautiful boys grow!  

Monday, October 10, 2011

Encouraging Girls to be Beautiful Girls

  I'm a big fan of encouragement.  I want to be an encouragement to others, and I love when others are encouraging to me.  There is a passage in the Bible about women encouraging other women, and it goes like this: "Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to too much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may ENCOURAGE the young women..." Titus 2:3-4

When we studied this passage in our women's study group, our first question was an obvious one.  Who is an 'older', and who is a 'younger'?  Am I the encourager, or the encouragee?  Well, since most of us are not the oldest woman in the group or the youngest woman in the group, we fall in the middle.  So, we're both.  

  Our Beautiful Photographers, Faith and Aubrianah, are young women.  They have been blessed by the encouragement of older women.  Twenty-year-old women and sixty-year-old women, and women younger than twenty and older than sixty have taken Titus 2 to heart and been an encouragement to our girls.  But does that make Faith and Aubrianah 'youngers'?  Not always!

  Natalie here is a Beautiful Girl.  She is compassionate, she is sensitive, she's fun to be around, and she's thoughtful.  And she needs encouragement, just like the rest of us.  To her, Faith and Aubrianah are 'olders'!  Oh what an opportunity they have to be a blessing to Natalie and the other girls who are Natalie's age, and they have taken that opportunity when they have seen it.  

  How about you?  Are you a woman who has been frustrated by the lack of encouragement you've received? Are you laying all the responsibility onto the older women's shoulders?  Oh, how I hope not...but if you have, I challenge you to look at the other side.  Is there a younger woman YOU can be a blessing to by encouraging her?  Blessings tend to multiply, so give it a try!  

Friday, October 7, 2011

Beautiful Girls at a Festival

We don't have any pictures of Beautiful Girls today, but we do have some pictures that a Beautiful Photographer will have for sale at the Appomattox Railroad Festival tomorrow!!  Come see us!  Aubrianah is joining forces with two other Beautiful Girls, Janine from The Whimsical Peanut and Danielle from The Things I am Made of!  Look for their booth, The 'Whimsical Peanuts Aubrianah Shannen Photography is Made Of'!

Besides these fabulous prints from Aubrianah Shannen Photography, The Whimsical Peanut will offer beautiful patchwork skirts and aprons and The Things I am Made of offers super-cute hair tutus for little girls!  Aubrianah will also have a FREE photo booth for kids.

JOIN US tomorrow or Sunday in downtown Appomattox!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Back to School Beauty

Now that I've let the summer go, it's time to get down to the nitty-gritty back to school.  We're a few weeks in, so that new, fresh feeling is fading fast!  Our new notebooks are written in and our meet-every-deadline resolve is waning.  Time for a dose of beautiful.

  Whether we home school our children or send them off on the bus each morning, whether we have a kid just starting college or we've gone back to college ourselves, whether it's the first day of kindergarten or the beginning of the last year of medical school....many of us are dealing with the schedule and structure of school.

If you are dealing with school in some way and you are losing resolve, or if you don't feel beautiful because you've had to do way too much math, take a few minutes to remind yourself of that new, fresh, beautiful feeling you had just a few weeks ago!  Go out and get yourself (or your child) another new notebook or fresh box of crayons, all the back-to-school stuff is on clearance!  And take a moment to think about why school exists.  School exists to enable you to gain knowledge, and knowledge just makes you more beautiful!