It's hard to believe that it's been a week already since I returned from the "She Speaks" conference sponsored by Proverbs 31 Ministries in Charlotte, NC. It was truly a "mountaintop experience" and now I'm back, trying to live out what I learned in the valley.
I HIGHLY recommend this conference to anyone who loves to journal, write, speak, or has a book rumbling around in their cranium that wants to get out. I have been blogging/writing for five years and I wish I had attended this conference years ago!
There was so much to enjoy...the keynote speakers (who doesn't love Liz Curtis Higgs) were wonderful and the breakout sessions were so on target for the challenges and obstacles writers and speakers face. There was also so much inspiration (breakout session by Jennifer Dukes Lee) on hope for the small time blogger in getting a book published...truly inspiring.
My favorite time of all had to be the Spirit moving as 800 women, who loved the Lord, and were sold out on spreading the Good News, joined their voices together in praise and worship. I imagined that this was how heaven will sound with all the angels singing in harmony.
I do have to share one funny story....I apologize if this is too much information for some of you:
For this 56 year old gal, it's been two, almost three, years since I have had a period. I have officially declared myself through menopause (can I get an Amen?). I've weathered the hot flashes, the mood swings, the going six months without a period and being on the verge of celebrating only for "my friend" to return :(.
Even my doctor confirmed that after 2-3 years it was safe to say I'd crossed the finish line. That was until I went to She Speaks. I don't know if it was the keynote sessions where all 800 women were joined together in one estrogen-infused room? Or maybe it was the two pregnant women I sat between in a writers' break out session?
No matter which way you slice it, the Monday morning after the conference "my friend" was back for what I hope will be one last hurrah! You've got to be kidding I told myself. I am guessing my body absorbed all those hormones through osmosis and had to say one last time, "I am woman, hear me roar!"
I think it's just a fluke and my body will get back in sync with the gray hairs, bat wings, chin hairs, and multiple wrinkles that tell my age.
But you know what amazed me at the conference was just how beautiful all the women were! And, it wasn't because they were young, slender, toned, and had flawless skin and uncolored hair.
No, it was because they glowed with a beauty that could ONLY come from loving the Lord and being loved by Him.
There were women there of all ages, shapes, colors, and sizes and they were ALL beautiful!! I mean it...these women glowed!!
I admit I used to be all hung up on outer beauty. I even battled bulimia for awhile in my teens in order to be the mirror image of the models I saw in magazines. As I've aged, however, I have come to a place of peace with my aging body and I am convinced that a woman who embraces 1 Peter 3: 3-4 is truly a woman of beauty in God's eyes....and after all, whose eyes are we after?
3 Your beauty should not consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold ornaments[a] or fine clothes.4 Instead, it should consist of what is inside[b] the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable in God’s eyes. (1 Peter 3: 3-4)
I have been having to make peace with each new addition to my "maturing" body...thigh dimples, gray hair, bat wings, chin hairs, varicose veins, jowl formation, turkey neck, and my own personal "inner tube" around my abdomen....have I covered it all?
Each new addition reminds me that I am not the pretty young thing I used to be when I was twenty, but I firmly believe we develop an inner beauty as we age (if we allow God to work on our heart as much as we work on our abs).
It's a beauty that replaces pride with humility, hurriedness with patience, brashness with gentleness and kindness - it's a beauty that can only be born out of care, compassion, and love for others over love of self.
My identity has shifted from what the world thinks of me to what God thinks. I am better able and suited to live my life for an audience of One and how relieving that is. Do I still get caught up in the world's idea of beauty - you bet, but God has been continually renewing my mind.
"Search my heart, Lord", is a dangerous prayer to pray, but God is so gracious that in addition to showing me what needs changing on the inside, He encourages me about what is good in me - the good that has come from praying , "Make me more like Jesus, God."
So, as I pluck my chin hairs and see new gray hairs popping up daily, I try to look at them as badges of living. My eye wrinkles tell tales of much laughter and many tears. They show that I have lived. If this is how I look having been loved well by the Lord, then so be it.
So instead of singing my ode to bat wings, chin hairs, and wrinkles, let my song be one of praise for the inner beauty God brings out as I continue to grow in likeness to His Son.
This beauty never fades....in fact it becomes more radiant the more we give our heart over to Jesus.
What about you? Would you say you are aglow with the inner beauty of knowing the love of the Lord for you? What keeps you hung up on outward appearances? Whose approval are you seeking? The world's? God's? How might God be calling you to let go of old ways of thinking?
Dear Heavenly Father, I praise you and thank you that, unlike the world that looks upon outward appearances, You look at the heart. Thank you for loving me with a love that surpasses all understanding. Enable me to be brave enough to pray, "Search my heart Oh Lord", and if there is anything that is not of you, remove it and give me a heart of flesh like Jesus. Let my beauty be defined by how I love you and how I love and care for others. Less of me, more of You....let that be my beauty secret. In the precious name of Jesus I pray, Amen.
ps. This post also inspired by a recent post by Sarah Mae at (in)courage.me.