study || true beauty || chapter 2

2.5 months later and we hit chapter 2! Wow, a bit shameful how long this has taken me, but here we are so let's power on.

Chapter 2: True Beauty and Our God

"refuse to accept our society's definition of beauty, or even the definitions that we ourselves may have worked with previously and decide that that which is truly beautiful is the character of God himself."  -- Wayne Grudem

Like Wayne Grudem says, our definition of beauty, I think, is based much more often by how we see ourselves standing up next to that which is considered beautiful in our world. We define our beauty by our size, our skin, hair, wardrobe. Instead, our beauty must be defined by the very same thing that every other area of our lives must be defined, our God. "In order to know what true beauty is, we must see God." (pg. 27) Beauty is not an area of life that is completely separate from everything else. The character of God and the calling on our lives to imitate His character is to influence and direct every piece of our lives, including our view and our understanding of beauty.

"Frankly, though, we're not always that interested in God's beauty, are we? It's great quiet time contemplation, but it can feel remote and disconnected from our body issues and our wardrobe fails, our hair troubles and our complexion flaws, our acne and our aging......Once we see God's beauty, we will never see beauty the same way again." (pg. 28)

The wonderful thing that this chapter so consistently reminds us of is that our God loves beauty! He Himself is the ultimate definition of beauty and He created us with a desire for beauty. And through Him we can be free from the constraints of the definition of beauty our world gives and feel such a weight lifted off when we realize we don't have to conform to "our culture's ever-changing and ever-more-tyrannical definition of beauty." (pg.26). We are beautiful because we have been made in the image of the beautiful God. Our issues come in when we allow the sin of the world and the sin of ourselves to redefine our understanding of beauty. We have to fight against this! 

"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." Romans 12:2

We have to be transformed....."let's take deliberate steps to limit worldly influences on our taste for beauty." (pg. 35) Let's pursue the beauty of our God and in that learn to love and treasure beauty like His above all. "When we behold God's beauty, we become like him. The truly beautiful woman is the one who contemplates the beauty of God. As she worships him for his loveliness, power, holiness, and goodness, she is changed. By the power of the Holy Spirit, her life radiates the beauty of the gospel." (pg. 35) When we behold God's beauty, when we pursue God's beauty, our desire for beauty will began to be transformed and as we seek to care for our physical appearance the goal will be His glory in the end and not our own. "And the beautiful woman is deliberate to reflect the beauty of God in every aspect of her life, representing him in her appearance and her character. She consciously seeks to glorify God in her heart attitude, how she cares for her body, what she wears, and how she makes herself beautiful." (pg. 35)

I just treasured the beauty, forgive the pun, of this chapter. It is truly a beautiful chapter about beauty because it is about our God, our Savior, our definition of beauty! Because we have been made in His image we are beautiful and when we can say "I praise You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made!" then we will know freedom from the bondage of a self-focused mirror. 

"But a vision of God's beauty changes how we dress and exercise and eat. God's beauty reshapes our shopping and showering and showing off. It upends and undoes all our preferences about what is pretty and what is not. A glimpse of God's beauty makes all the difference in what we see when we look in the mirror. Once we see God's beauty, we will never see beauty the same way again..........

True beauty is to behold and reflect the beauty of God." (pg. 28)

I am loving this book, you guys. This chapter just hit my heart exactly as I needed it to. And I'm thankful for it.

What were your favorite portions of this chapter, lovelies? Oh, how I'm praying for each one of us that we will define our beauty through the lens of our Jesus and glorify His beauty just as it ought to be!

study || true beauty || chapter 1

Hi, darlings!

I am so excited to be starting this study with you all! I'm grateful for the accountability it gives, and most especially, for the encouragement that I know it will be. Thank you for joining me, lovelies; for being so eager to do this study with me and for your open and honest hearts. I'm so grateful!

Bear with me as I do this for the first time. It's a learning process and I'm thankful for ya'll's willingness to go along for the ride with me!

Chapter 1: True Beauty and Our Culture

I think I underlined/marked up over half of this first chapter! They just set such an excellent foundation for the book and for the whole picture of what, I think, is the basis for why we women struggle in this way; and the glorious thing is, we don't have to stay there!

I kind of broke up the chapter into 5 little "main points" (my OCD took over). 

The Struggle: " women our beauty struggles can range from subtle and nagging to life-dominating. But to one degree or another, the issue of beauty presses in on all of us." (pg.15)

There is no woman who does not/has not/will not face this struggle in life. We live in a fallen world and in a culture that is beauty obsessed! We are surrounded by it, we are constantly comparing ourselves, we fight this battle. There have been so many times since AK was born that I have wished so hard that I could protect her from ever facing this struggle and I hate that she sees me struggle with it. I have to realize though that this struggle with beauty is present and will continue to rear its ugly head, and rather than just be constantly wishing it would go away I have to "arm myself" to fight against it and seek to prepare my sweet Little to do the same. 

The (Unattainable) Worldly Standard: "...These images tell us what we are supposed to look like, and they present a standard of beauty so narrow in its ranger that most of us feel unattractive by comparison.......Not only do most of us lack the means to maintain our culture's ideal of beauty, in many cases the standard against which we are measuring ourselves isn't even real." (pgs. 15 & 16)

Yuck, yuck, yuckAnd our culture is feeding us this stuff constantly, even in commercials that are supposed to be "helpful" and offer "answers", the underlying theme is clear: "We must have a perfectly proportioned figure, exquisite facial features, flawless skin, and be free from defects or disabilities -- not to mention that we must be young, or at least retains a youthful, healthy appearance." (pgs. 15 & 16)

The Reality: "....women still chase this unattainable standard of beauty with fury.....Women believe that beauty is essential to a happy life." (pg. 17)

It's true. As disheartening and discouraging and hopeless as the struggle to attain the worldly standard is, we still fight to reach it! I find myself seeing pictures of women on instagram, for instance, and thinking, "see!? She reached it! I can't imagine that she would ever struggle with anything! She"S's perfect!" and that ignites in me the desire to plow towards that standard -- forgetting what I know is true and once again buying into the lie! I begin doing exactly what our society has done -- "taken physical beauty and made it a god." (pg. 18) I idolize it, I chase after it, firmly sure that I will fiiinnnaalllllyyyy have self-confidence and never, ever struggle again. 

The Enticement: "Physical beauty deceives us by appearing to keep some of its promises in the short term. It delivers just enough to keep us hooked, to lead us on in thinking that it is a worthwhile investment of all our hope, time, money, and energy." (pg. 20)

There will always be that enticement that we can gain that perfect image of physical beauty. By some cream, some diet, some lifestyle change, some wardrobe makeover, some....thing, we can hit that sweet spot. AND, the truth is, it may give us some temporary satisfaction or some extra boost of confidence, but it will not last......"it promises a lifetime of happiness that it cannot deliver." (pg. 20) That enticement always, always sounds so good, but is is fading. 

However, HOORAY, as good as that enticement sounds it doesn't hold a candle to the hope that we have in Jesus to be free from this struggle.

The Hope | The Confidence | The Example: "Scripture shows us what true beauty is and how to become truly beautiful. Above all, Scripture reveals our beautiful Savior, who had "no beauty that we should desire him" (Isa. 53:2) but who hung bloodied on a cross for the ugliest of our sins. The gospel of Jesus Christ really does redeem everything, including beauty. It really does reach into the heart of "if only I could get this taken care of" and takes care of it. Our beauty crisis is no match for the truth of God's Word." (pg. 23)  

I desire, so much, for my beauty crisis to be redeemed by the gospel. Up until this point I have band-aid-ed my struggle, not grasping or being honest with myself about the full reality of what I was struggling with, to what extent I was struggling with it, and what I was really believing in that struggle. And what a breath of fresh air the reminders of truth have been to my mind and heart as I've read this chapter! To be reminded that, "the Bible does not say physical beauty is bad or that it is sinful to make ourselves beautiful. Instead, it tells us how to make ourselves truly beautiful." (pg. 22). My beauty crisis has become an idol --- the thing that I want "fixed" has become what I am fixating on, and rather than combat that with truth I have given into the lies of the world I live in and begun believing that was truth. I just loved, in this chapter, that as I was so saddened at my own heart's tendency to echo the culture in this area, I was immediately encouraged and hopeful when I was reminded of what really is true! My Lord created me, He knows me, He knows my struggle, He loves me, and He desires to redeem this heart struggle and make me more like Himself. No better excitement than what comes on hearing that! 

What stood out to you in this chapter? Where have you bought into the lies of our culture? Do you feel like you've ever truly understood "true beauty"? What encouraged you the most? What challenged you the most? What are the quotes from this chapter that you want to write out and remember? Do you feel more hopeful after being reminded of the unfading truth of Scripture? And anything else you want to ask, share, or add! 

Let's start some conversation here, my friends! Share in the comments, read others comments, and we can chat back and forth! 

And, know, sweet friends, I will be praying for each one of you! It is a joy and a privilege to have you share with me and to walk alongside you. I truly count it a gift. 

"Only God's Word can promise a beauty as supernatural as it is satisfying, as attainable as it is lasting; a beauty that blesses and does not curse; a beauty that is precious, not worthless, that leads to happiness instead of heartache; a beauty that grows more becoming even as you become more beautiful."

"All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades.....but the word of our God will stand forever." Isaiah 40:6-8




review || women of the word

I was so eager to get into this book. I had several friends who had read/were reading it and I'd only heard good things. Plus, my sweet friend Julie, told me she used to be in a Bible Study lead by Jen Wilkin and loved her! Personal friend vouches always make me more excited. :)

I am so thankful for this book. Let me share an excerpt to show you why:

"When women grow increasingly lax in their pursuit of Bible literacy, everyone in their circle of influence is affected. Rather than acting as salt and light, we become bland contributions to the environments we inhabit and shape, indistinguishable from those who have never been changed by the gospel. Home, church, community, and country desperately need the influence of women who know why they believe what they believe, grounded in the Word of God. They desperately need the influence of women who love deeply and actively the God proclaimed in the Bible."

I read this and just felt my heart and mind explode with a resounding "yes!" Oh, I was just so thankful to be reading a book where the authors greatest desire is to spur women on in their study of God's Word, to challenge and encourage us in our hearts and minds, to spur us on as we are "salt and light" in our life, responsibilities, and relationships, and to remind all of us who read it that to know our God more we must know His Word better. 

I was also deeply challenged in my own study of the Word. To ask myself the questions she poses throughout the book. To be more thoughtful and purposeful in my study. And to come to the realization of the truth that the Bible is not a book about me. It is a book about God. Too often, I come to it searching to find more for me, rather than coming to it with a heart and mind ready to learn more about the God I serve. As Jen points out, "The Bible does tell us who we are and what we should do, but it does so through the lens of who God is. The knowledge of God and the knowledge of self always go hand in hand. In fact, there can be no true knowledge of self apart from the knowledge of God. He is the only reference point that is reliable." As I seek my Savior more fervently, I understand myself and the purpose of my life better. 

Jen also gives such practical help and advice for study, which I greatly appreciate. She offers tools to put feet on the heart she shares. She exudes such a passion and eagerness for women to be better equipped to study the Word and to push us out of laziness, wrong expectations, or feeling fearful, overwhelmed, or sadly unmotivated. I am so grateful for how the Lord uses women like this in our lives, even if we never know them personally. 

Let us grow in being faithful imitators of God, dear ones, and as Jen writes, "trade mere human glory for holiness."

In case you didn't guess, I'd definitely recommend this book.