Beauty. What is it?

I would like you to explore beauty with me. What really is beauty? Mankind spends millions, even billions of dollars each year in their quest for it- you know those age defying looks, flawless bodies, you name it. Does mankind look in vain? Do all those millions, yet billions of dollars find us the beauty that we search for? 

The definition of beauty has been a long debated subject. I can’t even remember why I decided to write about beauty but as I have been reflecting on the subject, it has seemed to me that as societies have changed and ideas have evolved, so has the standard and measure of what is beautiful and what is not. Just think of it!! Do you remember a time when for a woman to even deserve the title – beautiful, she had to be very slender? Do you think that this could be the reason why beauty pageants have typically attracted women who fit that description?

Let’s talk about social media. Have you noticed how some aspects of social media seem to be challenging some of the ideas that we’ve had of beauty and what it is? I think of social media pages where women showcase their natural hair. Remember a time when hair needed to be a certain way to be beautiful? What about pages where women share ideas about how they to go without makeup and where bigger sized women exchange ideas about what outfits to wear? You name it, it is there and from all corners of the world, silently challenging some of the ideas that we have grown up with, ideas mostly penned by media.

Did you notice how in 2019, all the major beauty pageants that took place in America were won by black women? Did black women suddenly become beautiful in 2019? Absolutely not!! However, I believe that the definition of what beauty is has evolved in the last little while because at some point, black women were not seen as representing beauty. So then again I ask the question. What is beauty? Does it have anything to do with one’s skin colour or the way clothes sit on one’s body? Just questions, no answers, challenging your understanding of beauty and what it is and isn’t and the very sources from which your ideas may have come from.

Another question. Is it possible to spend millions of dollars on physical enhancement surgeries in a quest for beauty and still feel miserable and lacking in beauty?

I believe that our societies shape the ideas that we have of beauty and what being beautiful looks like. Could it be that regardless of what society says, for every individual, real beauty begins with a sound mind? When I imagine a sound mind, I imagine a mind that is able to cope and maintain healthy relationships, one that is balanced and well-grounded in what is true, one that is secure and positive. The list can be longer.

One of my favourite quotations has been credited to Eleanor Roosevelt and it says, “No-one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” I not only like this quote, I believe it is true and also believe that one who has a sound and healthy mind is capable of practising this principle. With a sound mind I believe that if society were to label one as lacking in beauty, one would be strong enough to look themselves in the mirror and say “No!! I am beautiful.” Don’t get me wrong. Looking good is awesome but is there any value in focusing on how we look on the outside at the expense of the heart and mind? Inner beauty- that’s what they call it.

I believe in God. I believe that He created this world in all its splendour. The mountains, the seas, the waterfalls, the animals, the purple, yellow, orange flowers, the little shrubs and the big trees- everything. I believe in the creator God and often marvel at His great sense of beauty and organisation. I think of how the flowers for example come in different colours and varieties. Very beautiful and yet different. Pretty much like us humans isn’t it? Beautiful – yet different.

If you do not believe in God and the fact that He created you then I have a question for you. What if God really did? If He did (which I believe), that would mean that you are part of His wonderful and beautiful creation. He made all things beautiful – including you.

So back to the question- What is beauty? It’s now up to you to define it for yourself. I hope that whatever your definition, it may be grounded in the truth and not societal pressures. I hope that you do not always feel pressure to look a certain way and spend large amounts of money to be whom society has said you should be in the name of beauty. I hope that you remember that society’s measure of beauty is always changing but the creator God never changes. When He sees you He says, “I made you fearfully and wonderfully my child.”

Sofia

Meet Sofia

My workmate and friend gifted me an orchid when I moved into my office about 10 months ago and I named it Sofia. The orchid looked beautiful with two little purple flowers but because it was a plant, I knew I would have to take good care of it in order for it to survive.

I often get asked why I named it Sofia. Well, I hadn’t had much success growing anything in the past and I really wanted Sofia to survive. I heard that talking to plants helps them grow and it needed a name for me to converse with it – right? It so happens that Sofia is the first name that came to my mind!!

After she had been gifted to me, within a few weeks of watering and caring for Sofia, her flowers started to wane and over the few following months, there weren’t many that blossomed. I had read that most orchids like the cold and as we moved into the winter season, mine did not appear to be thriving as I had expected. I had grown too attached to Sofia to give up on her although I was disappointed that she had not produced any flowers.

About three months ago, I moved the plant to a little corner where I could see it better. In this corner, the rest of my colleagues could also see the plant effortlessly so one of them suggested that I trim the stems to allow for flowers to emerge. I mustered the courage to trim the stems and I must say it was quite a painful and unsettling experience. I felt like I was setting the plant back. Yes it hadn’t been flowering but it had grown bigger and now trimming the stems had left it looking much smaller. What had I done!!

Three weeks ago before I went on leave, I spotted a few signs of life as some flower buds had emerged from the spike. Just yesterday, I couldn’t help but marvel as I looked at the beautiful Sofia. She looks lovelier than I’ve ever seen her before with dozens of lovely purple flowers and more on their way.

I also couldn’t help but think of what an object lesson this presents. I might be speaking for myself only when I say sometimes it feels like I am being trimmed. I think of the times when I go through trials and setbacks which often seem to pull me back and hinder my progress. Could it be that those experiences could help me to develop into a better person? I think so. I mean look at Sofia.

Thanks to Sofia I have been thinking of the things that I might need to cut out from my life in order to become a better version of myself. What about you? What needs to be trimmed from your life in order to generate beauty? Is it your bad friends? Could it be a bad relationship? What about your unhealthy eating habits? Procrastination? I don’t know. What I do know is that I would give up anything to be the best version that I have been called to be and that is my prayer for you as well.

By the way- I’ve only ever talked to Sofia once!!!

Just Say YES

YES- Beach sand“Whenever God asks you to do something for Him, just say YES,” my mentor and bible teacher always used to say. “If you say no, God will find someone else!!” Would you want Him to find someone else?” she would ask. I remember I would just smile at her and I do not remember ever giving her a response but the truth is that I deeply desire to say yes to Him whenever He calls.

I visited a church recently and that morning it became apparent that the Pastor would not be able to make it for church due to an emergency and unfortunately that meant he would not be available to preach as had been planned. Later that morning,  a church member got up to share the message and mentioned how she was always ready to take a sermon in case anyone asked her to and so when she was asked to step in without prior notice, she just said YES.

As we made our way back home that day, I couldn’t help but wonder if I would have been able to share my faith so eloquently at such short notice had I been asked. Would you? 1 Peter 3:15 urges us to be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within us. I often say I cannot live without God. Surely I should be able to share why, should anyone ask!!

My sister and I contemplated on the message and what a blessing it had been. We imagined what could have happened if she hadn’t been willing to share God’s word. Some of the scenarios that we imagined were quite funny and I must admit  we laughed our lungs out as we deliberated some of them. We were grateful that God had sent a blessing through  this lady and that she had been willing to say YES.

Dear Heavenly Father, please help me to hear Your voice and give me the courage to JUST SAY YES to you, whenever You call. Amen.

Words from Dr.King

I found this speech by Dr Martin Luther King Jr. I know it is my desire to be the best version of myself that God created me to be and I hope that this speech somehow inspires you as much as it does me. It actually reminds me of a verse in the bible – Colossians 3:23 which reads, “So no matter what your task is, work hard. Always do your best as the Lord’s servant, not as man’s.”

Higher than the highest human thought can reach is God’s ideal for His children – Ellen G. White.

On October 26, 1967, six months before he was assassinated, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke to a group of students at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia and this is what he said;

I want to ask you a question, and that is: What is your life’s blueprint?
Whenever a building is constructed, you usually have an architect who draws a blueprint, and that blueprint serves as the pattern, as the guide, and a building is not well erected without a good, solid blueprint.

Now each of you is in the process of building the structure of your lives, and the question is whether you have a proper, a solid and a sound blueprint. I want to suggest some of the things that should begin your life’s blueprint.

Secondly, in your life’s blueprint you must have as the basic principle, the determination to achieve excellence in your various fields of endeavor. You’re going to be deciding as the days, as the years unfold what you will do in life — what your life’s work will be. Set out to do it well.

Number one in your life’s blueprint, should be a deep belief in your own dignity, your worth and your own somebodiness. Don’t allow anybody to make you feel that you’re nobody. Always feel that you count. Always feel that you have worth, and always feel that your life has ultimate significance.

And when you discover what you will be in your life, set out to do it as if God Almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it. Don’t just set out to do a good job. Set out to do such a good job that the living or the unborn couldn’t do it any better. If it falls on your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.

If you can’t be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. Be the best little shrub on the side of the hill. Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.

Of favourite things

library

I have been reading through some of my old journals. It’s been interesting because I remember exactly where I was when I made some of my entries even though some are at least five years old. It turns out that my favourite places to journal are the beach, the park and the library!!

I remember when I was about six to 10 years old, a mobile library would come to my school every Monday and Wednesday and I would get a new book to read at least every week. My favourite books were from the Junior African Writers’ Series (JAWS). Just thinking of those days makes me smile. We had another public library close to the school so I was spoilt for choice when it came to books.

Now in my “grown up” years I still visit the library. On occasion, I go there to search for a book or read one but most of the time it’s for some peace and quiet and for a chance to recharge. I know!! I totally understand how ridiculous this sounds to some people. All I can say to this is isn’t it amazing how we are all so different!!

We live in a fast paced world. Most things nowadays are quick and easy to get and do. We have instant pictures, instant messaging, we can binge watch a whole series of our favourite programs on TV in a few sittings rather than wait for the whole season to finish (which takes months sometimes). There is increasing pressure to do much more nowadays and frankly because of technology and other innovation we can. I believe the effect of this is that we tend to “empty our tanks” faster, a term that a friend of mine likes to use. Surely our bodies and minds can only handle so much pressure. It’s no wonder our societies nowadays suffer from a lot of burnout issues.

It is for this reason that I believe it’s important for one to take time to “fill up one’s tank.” Doing something that one enjoys could be a way of filling one’s tank. Some people enjoy travelling. I have a friend who enjoys baking so much that it cheers her up when she is sad and another who enjoys cleaning and will gladly do this for fun. I wish I had that gift!!

Going to the library is one of my favourite things to do and often gets me recharged. What about you? What do you normally do to recharge? Do you intentionally engage in activity that will help you avoid burnout? What do you enjoy doing? As my mum often says, “Be kind to yourself.” Take a break every now and then. 

Labels

I don’t know if you have ever noticed but there is something interesting that the angel Gabriel said to Mary (mother of Jesus) in his announcement that she would be Jesus’ mother. The statement was not actually about her but about one of her relatives.

In response  to Mary’s question about how it would be possible for her to bear a son seeing as she was still a virgin, in Luke 1:36-37, the angel responded, “Look, even in her old age, your relative Elizabeth has conceived a son. This woman labelled ‘unable to conceive’ is now six months pregnant. Nothing is impossible for God.” [CEB] (You can explore other versions and see how they articulate Luke 1:36-37).

What caught my attention in those verses was the word labelled. Elizabeth had been labelled barren. It was probably the word that most people used to describe her as it set her apart from many other women. She carried the identity ‘Elizabeth the barren one’ until God stepped in and gave her a new label.

God Himself did the impossible. In her old age, God made it possible for Elizabeth to conceive and give birth to John who would baptise Jesus Christ and be His forerunner. God changed her label from barren to mother of John the baptist. Later on in their lives, Jesus would say of John, “Among those born of women, none is greater than John.”

Most of us have lived with labels for a long time. Some labels we have acquired because of situations beyond our control (like Elizabeth) yet for some, we may have felt we deserved them because perhaps we made some bad choices and before we knew it we were being named after our mistakes. Some have been labelled a lot of things from dumb, to stupid, to lazy, fat, impotent, poor, disorganised and the list goes on and we have accepted those labels because in many cases, there has been a lot of truth in them.

One thing I was assured of after reading Luke 1:36-37 is that God is able to re-arrange and remove those nasty labels in our lives that have hung over us for so long. When we give ourselves to Him, He is able to transform our situations and give us new labels. He only is able to give us a new identity. From Barren to Mother of many children, Dumb to amazingly intelligent.

You know what nasty label you have carried. Perhaps you have even given yourself that label. Why don’t you take that label to God and give it up to Him so that He may give you a brand new name as He did for Elizabeth. Remember, with God nothing is impossible.

 

Hope

Recently my uncle sent me a video compilation of a number of quotations – about 12 altogether. I found all to be quite thought provoking but one really stood out for me and read, “Hope is the voice that says maybe when the whole world says no.” Since then I have been pondering upon this four letter word- HOPE.

We have just started a new year- Happy New Year to you!! It has been a while since I updated this blog and I am happy that today I finally get to do it. I know for some people, starting a new year can be quite daunting especially since an unknown future is right before us.

As I was recounting my 2017 experiences, most of which I believe were super challenging, I felt a bit of sadness as the realisation that I could go through similar experiences again in 2018 set in. Unfortunately because we do not live in a perfect world, it would not be wise to expect a life without trial, hurt or disappointment. But what if I focused on HOPE?

Yes, a few days into this year I thought about the challenges I had faced in 2017 and the thoughts intimidated me a little but thankfully I recounted the words in Isaiah 40:28-31 which reminded me that God would not only give me strength in my weary state but He would also renew my power. I also recounted the words in Hebrews 13:5 which reminded me that God would never leave me nor forsake me. Suddenly there it was, right before my eyes- HOPE.

There is something about HOPE that makes uncertain situations appear more manageable. HOPE opens up the eyes to new possibilities, it enables us to take the next steps with expectancy. HOPE is invigorating. HOPE is contagious.

It is possible to put our hope in people, accomplishment or possessions. It is possibly to find faithful and true companions to invest your hope in but the reality is people will come into our lives and leave for various reasons beyond our control. The HOPE that God provides is unchanging as He is alone is unchanging and it is upon Him alone that our HOPE should be built. 

So, going back to where I started, the new year is upon us. There are great expectations of what this year has to offer for some but for most, this is truly a scary time with an unknown future ahead. However, the beginning offers an opportunity to renew our commitments to God and start afresh with Him as our HOPE. We truly cannot do this year alone.

Psalm 146:5 – Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose HOPE is the Lord their God.

Happy New Year!! May your HOPE be in the Lord.