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Ink Slingers

Welcome Back One-piece

(Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

This summer I am welcoming back the one-piece bathing suit. And you can too! It’s not about hiding stretch marks or feeling more confident than in a two-piece (because I do!). It’s about reclaiming modesty.

I think most of us women can reflect on our coming of age years and realize that we hit a certain point––we didn’t want to be “girls” anymore; we wanted to be “women.” We wanted to grow up already. We wanted to wear makeup, shave our legs, and wear two-piece bathing suits (which are essentially a bra and underwear, right?!). We didn’t want to be “cute” anymore. Without knowing it at the time, we were also rushing to give up our modesty and innocence.

I don’t know about you, but that rush into womanhood (as defined by culture) led me down a path away from God and from who I really wanted to be. The culture taught me that my identity as a woman and my beauty was on the outside. I lost respect for myself and for others and that was revealed in my dress–too tight, too revealing, too short. Turns out, this way of living was not fulfilling, nor life-giving.

I suppose this is a prodigal-daughter-like story because God sent a beautiful holy woman into my life to show me what is was like to be a real woman. You might have heard of her, Mother Mary? I came back from a pilgrimage to one of her shrines and my life was forever changed. I first and foremost learned the truth––my identity and beauty came from being a daughter of God and Christ living in me. This changed everything. I gained respect for myself and for others and within six months, I had a new wardrobe.

Mother Mary taught me that her beauty comes from the fact that she loves God with her whole heart. The more I strive to do the same, the more I recognize things in my life that obstruct my love for Him. She has taught me that we must be pure to enter the Kingdom of God. Modesty guards our purity. Our childlike innocence is what lets us see the angels who gaze on God. Mother Mary is the true and best example of womanhood. From her, we can learn everything God desires of us as women.

So back to the one-piece bathing suit. Having learned what I have in my journey and now as a mother of two girls, I feel the importance of this responsibility to show my daughters what true womanhood is. Yes, the culture is still going to tempt them with the rush into womanhood, with manicures at four years old and two-piece bathing suits at five years old, but we cannot underestimate that they still look up to their mothers!

I’m wearing a one-piece bathing suit for my almost three year old daughter. You might be thinking, “She’s three! She doesn’t notice!” but when we went to the beach this past weekend, do you know the first thing she said when she saw me? “Mommy, we match!” as she pointed to her one-piece suit. I smiled and thought to myself, that’s exactly why I’m wearing it. I never would have thought that wearing a one-piece could ever feel so good!

As my daughters get older and we live strive to live the faith, which is often counter-cultural, I hope they always know that I’m on their side fighting with them. That I’m always striving to be a woman like Mother Mary. That they can look up to me. That we match, even if the rest of the world doesn’t.

Mother most pure, pray for us.

Categories
A Beautiful Woman Ink Slingers Misty Proverbs 31 Catholic Woman Series Spiritual Growth

Ode to Feminine Genius: Discovering Her Feminine Beauty

10628607_10152640958795540_2185798387826798527_nThis is the ninth installment in the series of Ode to Feminine Genius: Proverbs 31 Catholic Woman. Today’s topic will cover A Beautiful Woman.

A few months ago, my oldest daughter turned thirteen. Having my firstborn become our first teenager seemed almost anticlimactic; an especially precocious child, Honor has always seemed far older than she is. On paper, she’s in the 7th grade, but most of her homeschooling is from high school and college textbooks. Her height (5’5″), poise, and ability to hold conversations on complex social and political subjects tend to lead most who meet her to assume she’s in her late teens. They’re usually stunned to find out that she’s just starting that journey.

Eyebrow threading sounds less painful than waxing...but isn't.
Eyebrow threading sounds less painful than waxing…but isn’t.

But being so emotionally mature can have its drawbacks. Last year, our youth group leader was so impressed by Honor’s emotional maturity that she skipped her into the high school group. And while Honor could handle the discussions on gay marriage and contraception (we’d had them years ago, when she’d asked about them), she wasn’t as prepared for the social dynamics of being among teenage girls. She stopped being excited about youth group, and began finding reasons to avoid it. When I pressed her, she would complain vaguely about how she “didn’t like” a lot of the kids in the group.

Show of hands--how many of us wish we'd had someone teach us how to put on makeup?
Show of hands–how many of us wish we’d had someone teach us how to put on makeup??

I talked privately to the youth group leader, who immediately knew what the problem was. “This is an age when girls are starting to discover their own feminine beauty,” she said. “They’re going from jeans and T-shirts and ponytails to caring more about their appearance. They’re starting to use makeup, fix their hair, and wearing trendier clothes.” The leader said that when our daughter would walk into the youth group meetings, she’d watched her visibly shrink into herself; she clearly felt dowdy and downright provincial compared to her female peers.

Then she said something profound.  “Your daughter is smart and everyone knows that about her. But she needs to feel beautiful, too. Every pretty girl wants to be told she’s smart and every smart girl wants to be told she’s beautiful.” She advised me to take my daughter out and actively guide her into discovering her own feminine beauty. “Don’t let the culture teach her what’s beautiful; YOU show her how to feel confident and beautiful as a young lady.”

So that’s what I did.

About two months later, my daughter and I drove six hours to the “big city” of Anchorage. While there, we spent three hectic days transforming her from an athletic tomboy to a young lady. We had her eyebrows shaped. I hired a professional makeup artist to teach her how to apply cosmetics–complete with a lesson in the difference between classy and trashy makeup. We had her hair styled at a salon. We also updated her wardrobe at the mall with a few modest yet fashionable outfits. Our last stop was Nordstrom, where she picked out a lovely formal dress to wear to a Right to Life banquet with Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar as keynote speakers.

The hairdresser made her promise never to change her auburn hair color.
The hairdresser made her promise never to change her auburn hair color.

The effect on my daughter was incredible. She kept staring at herself in the mirror after we had her eyebrows shaped. “Mom, it’s like my eyes have frames now!” She smiled continuously and kept telling me how happy she was that I had planned the trip for her. We had a great time at all her “treatments,” not to mention the banquet, where both of us were giddy about seeing the Duggars in person.

There were big changes at home, too. In the two weeks since the trip, she’s requested to go back to youth group again. She put on a new outfit and a little makeup and confidently walked into the group. When I picked her up, she’d had a great time talking about her love for Jesus and was looking forward to next time. She’s joined SeaScouts, too, a marine-based scouting group for teenagers. And it doesn’t bother her that she’s the only female among six teenage boys.

She’s smiling and laughing and holding her head up again when she’s around her peers. She’s always known she’s smart, but now she’s found her inner beauty, too. And that’s given her the ability to go into social situations with confidence. She confessed to an ironic outcome: now, she can better concentrate on the relationships and the discussions, because she’s NOT focusing on her anxiety about her appearance. She said: “Now, I don’t think about how I look at all, Mom.”

That trip was worth every penny.

En route to see the Duggars!
En route to see the Duggars!

My daughter knows that her physical beauty is meaningless if it’s not reflective of the goodness in her soul. She’s still mostly a sweats-and-T-shirt girl at home. But now she understands that God gave her more than just a vivacious mind; He gave her a genuine feminine loveliness that she can righteously adorn for righteous purposes. We would never fault a bride for wanting to feel beautiful on her wedding day–and aren’t we all the Bride of Christ every day of our lives?

The reality is that if we don’t guide our daughters through discovering and adorning their feminine beauty, the culture will teach them to profane it. What are YOUR ideas, dear sisters in Christ, for helping our precious daughters to recognize and foster their feminine beauty?

Categories
Adrienne Domestic Church Ink Slingers

Thankful for Pink, Glitter, Princesses and Ballerinas

A Halloween costume, not either of my girls.
A Halloween costume advertisement that depicts well what I’m talking about.

 

My husband and I have been blessed with a boy and two girls, and today I would like to talk about girls.  Our girls enjoy the girly things in life, and our lives are blessed for it.

Pink, glitter, princesses and ballerinas hold little value in our American society at large.  I’m looked down upon by some for allowing my girls to enjoy being girly.  Perhaps some judge me to be forcing gender stereotypes upon my girls because they enjoy typically “girly” things, and not only do I let them, but I encourage them in enjoying the pretty things they enjoy.  Enjoyment of the pretty, frilly and feminine is viewed as weak and limiting.   I feel alone in the crowd asking, “Why is enjoying pretty and feminine things inherently weak and limiting?”

At some point in elementary school I heard the world tell me femininity was weak and limiting, and I accepted that message and rejected my femininity.  Dresses didn’t have a place in my wardrobe except maybe to be worn to Mass on Sundays.  When I chose to join the school band for intermediate school I chose to play the trumpet because it was more masculine than the other instruments I was considering.  When I needed to choose a major, I chose Computer Science, and I felt strong when people commented how surprised they were that I would have chosen such a male dominated field.  I mention these two things because they greatly shaped my social interactions for a bulk of my life as I played the trumpet for 11 years and studied and was employed in the profession of software engineering for about 15 years.  I regret neither decision because I truly enjoyed both of them, and as it turns out, these choices led me to meeting my husband in college.

The only thing I regret is falling for the message that femininity is weak.  I am not weak because I am female.  I am not weak if I like feminine things.  I am not limited by appreciating the gender with which I was created.  My gender is not weak.

I’m told that as a woman, I need to suppress my fertility in order to not be oppressed.  This need of mine is so strong, I am told, that I need the government’s help in rendering myself infertile.  Furthermore, I’m told, infertility is my basic human right and my way to find equality in America.  I am told that I am being held back if the government doesn’t help me render myself as barren as a man.

Is it any wonder I learned to reject my femininity?

There is indeed a war on women.  America has no appreciation for things that are feminine.  America will eventually tell my daughters that their delight in pretty dresses and glittery nail polish is weak.  When my daughters are in middle school, America well tell them my husband and I, as their parents, don’t know how to make decisions in their best interest and that instead the school can make better parental decisions.   The school nurse will offer them a prescription for birth control pills and offer them help to obtain an abortion when the birth control fails, all without our,  their real parents,  interference.  Before they are even in high school, my girls will have heard America’s message loud and clear – they are automatically lesser because of their femininity – and that femininity needs to be stripped away in order for them to be equal to their male counterparts.

I want my girls to know they can enjoy their pink and tutus if that’s what they like.  I want my girls to grow up knowing they are equal to men even with their ability to conceive and carry babies in their wombs.  They need to hear that their fertility isn’t a handicap, and that they should demand to be supported as fertile females instead of accepting the “remedy” of infertility America wishes to give them.

I am thankful I learned that the Catholic Church is adamant that I am perfect just the way I am.  The Church is adamant that my fertility isn’t a handicap, but insists that my fertility and any children I may have are all  blessings.  The Church is so adamant about this that it insists I can learn about my fertility (NFP – Natural Family Planning) and work with the way God designed me instead of using hormones or surgery to render myself barren.  The Church is there to provide all women support when they are expecting a baby, reminding them their children are indeed wanted instead of agreeing with America that a woman’s baby isn’t wanted then offering an abortion.  I am also thankful that God provided me a husband who respects me just the way God made me instead of expecting me to take hormones or have surgery.

And I am thankful for pink, glitter, princesses and ballerinas.  I am thankful that every day our home is filled with little people who enjoy these things that would otherwise go unappreciated.  It is a joy and privilege to see my older daughter in a flattering feminine dress and kitten heels with glittery lip gloss.  It is a joy and privilege to see my younger daughter in ballet slippers and a tutu or her favorite Sleeping Beauty gown with matching crown.  Our lives are enriched because of their appreciation for the dainty and feminine.  Sure, it would be a joy and privilege to have them in our lives if they didn’t enjoy these things – I’m not at all saying girls must love “girly” things otherwise  it means that they are rejecting their femininity because that is of course untrue.  I only wish to challenge the notion that being female and even enjoying feminine things is neither weak nor limiting.  I hope all girls enjoy being female, but as an example to my point, behold a girl enjoying her femininity in a princess dress or tutu and you can’t help but smile just as much as if she were playing with cars in the dirt.  She is a gift us all, and so is her enjoyment of things we would otherwise overlook.  Please, please, don’t tell her she is weak for enjoying feminine things – let her relish in being a girly girl, and you too, let yourself relish in the privilege of being in the presence of a girly girl.