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My daughter does not love reading. And that's putting it mildly. Getting Brady to read has been a delicate balance of encouragement and enforcement since the first grade. We believe part of that might have to do with a developmental or neurological issue, and we are working with her teachers to learn more. But we also know that it does not help for Brady to be the sister between two brothers who happen to be voracious readers. I can see any self-confidence fade away whenever she hears her older brother going on about the latest novel he devoured, or when she watches her younger brother flip pages faster than a speeding bullet. Scott and I have tried all sorts of things to encourage her to read. Brady and I have had "snuggle up and read" sessions (which her younger brother always crashes!), and we've tried reading charts and rewards. I've even tried reminding her that if she doesn't work on her reading, she'll never be able to read the love notes that her future boyfriends send her. (or are they text messages these days? Goodness, I am not ready for that)
We know that reading will be crucial to Brady's success in life- to all three of our kids' success- but it is a constant battle with Brady, not just to get her to read, but to build up her confidence when it comes to reading. She's kind of a math wiz, but when it comes to reading, she's so insecure. And it's important to me that she never feel insecure about her bright and amazing self.
And so it seems a given that when a movie about a beautiful girl WHO LOVES TO READ comes out on the big screen, I'll be the first in line with my own Beauty. For those of you who don't know who this amazing little lady is, it's Belle, from Beauty and The Beast, which is coming out on Friday, March 17. Now this is no ordinary movie, and this is no ordinary Disney princess. First of all, this is the real deal. Literally. No animation. Real actors, including Emma Watson as Belle (whom Brady girl has loved since her Hermione days in the Harry Potter films). How exciting to see a movie about a Disney princess that is not a cartoon. Sign me up!
But even more so, Belle is the Disney princess that I want Brady to see. Belle always has her head in a book! Always! The entire town knows her as that girl "with her nose stuck in a book"! She's beautiful AND smart! A reader! And even better, she's smart enough to know the difference between the handsome jerk who wants to marry her (because she's pretty- despite her reading) and the ugly monster who has a kind heart (and offers her a LIBRARY of her very own- ummm, yes please!). She's her own heroine, saving her father and eventually the Beast too. She's kind to everyone, even the jerky Gastone, and is the perfect balance between beauty, brains, and brawn. Not to mention that she's a brunette!
This is the perfect movie for my girl.
This seems a no brainer.
But I've been reading that others have a different take on this. Because while the movie portrays Belle as the beautiful brainiac that she is, it also includes the first ever openly gay character in a Disney movie. And so there are many out there who are pushing to boycott this movie. Many out there who speak out in the same faith that I live.
Now before I go any further, it's important for me to be clear here and say that I know some of you may disagree with me, and choose to boycott the movie, where I choose to celebrate it. And that's ok.
But that's the point. My opinion is different than yours. And that's ok. I may choose to see it. You may choose not to. That's your choice and that's mine.
The struggle that I have here is with those pushing the boycott. Those saying that if you stand in a certain faith, if you call yourself a Christian, than you cannot, in good faith, promote this movie, or Disney for that matter. That Disney is trying to push a gay agenda by having an openly gay character in their movie.
And I ask, what agenda is that?
I've done a little research on this character, Le Fou, and as far as I can tell, he's still the silly little side kick for the jerky Gaston. As far as I've read or seen, Le Fou does not make anyone else in the movie gay. He does not wreak havoc, nor does he come off as the hero. He's just there. And gay. Kind of like life. Like our world, like our city, and our town, and our neighborhood. Like some of our dearest friends. Like some of my greatest mentors and coaches. Like some of my kids' buddies.
As far as I can tell, this agenda that Disney is pushing is this: there are gay people in the world.
As I think through this, I picture two scenarios I could have with my daughter.
The first would go something like this:
Brady asks me to take her to the movie. I explain to her that no, I believe we should not see this movie because there is an openly gay person in the movie, and as Christians we are taught to believe homosexuality is wrong (regardless of the fact that Jesus NEVER spoke out on homosexuality- ever. He spoke out on adultery, hatred, lust, false teachers of religion and the likes, but never homosexuality, but that's another story, Brady). Brady misses out on a movie that is sure to be perfect for her.
Brady asks me to take her to a movie. I say "Absolutely! Let's go!". We see an amazing movie about a girl who is strong, beautiful, and smart. At one or two points in the movie a gay guy shows up. She doesn't notice. Or she does. Whatever. That's just like everyday. And she sees him no differently than she sees every other character in the movie.
I'm going with the second scenario.
And I want to be clear why. It's not just because this is a great movie about a wonderful young lady, and we'll go despite there being a gay character. Deep down, I believe I'm going as a Christian mom to this movie partly to celebrate that there is a gay character. I am a Christian. I am a Christ follower. And the Christ I know and love, well He loved people. He especially loved people who were oppressed and marginalized. His problem was with those who told Him, and everyone else that loving those people, accepting those people, was a sin.
So I'm going to teach my children to love everyone they know. Black, white, gay, straight, Muslim, Jew, Christian. I'm going to teach my children that there are so so so many different kinds of people in this world. Our job is NEVER to judge them. Ever ever ever. Our job is simply to love. I could not think of a better lesson for my Beauty to get from this movie.
That... and that's it's super awesome to love to read!
As I began planning to write this blog post, the question occurred to me, “How in the world is this blog post going to help anyone?” A blog post about powerful beauty traits that we all possess? Really? Who needs this?
But see? That’s my doubt, creeping in already, telling me that the things I have to share will make no difference to anyone. And you know, maybe that’s true. Maybe this is not the blog post to shatter all others, to revolutionize the minds of women everywhere. Maybe it will just help one person to read through these simple ideas of mine and feel less alone, maybe a bit more comforted, empowered, beautiful. Maybe that person is just me. Maybe it’s you. Either way, that makes the writing worth it.
So back to the point. How many of us have moments where we look in the mirror and cannot, for the life of us, find one thing that we think is beautiful. I have those days. Ugh, what was I thinking with this haircut? And when was the last time I got any sleep? What’s up with those dark circles? Good grief. Some days, we are just not very nice to that poor girl in the mirror.
Maybe today is that day for you. Maybe you have that day more often than not. Or maybe you do see the amazing and beautiful qualities that you possess (and oh, there are so many!), but someone you love has trouble seeing theirs, or someone they know has trouble. Or maybe there may come a day in the future when the girl in the mirror is not looking her best to you. Whatever the case, there will come a time to be reminded of these traits that ALL of us possess on any given day, and to harness the power to pour these beautiful traits over all who cross our paths.
Wait, did I just start a list of powerful beauty traits with IMPERFECTIONS? Absolutely. Everyone has imperfections, and they are what make us uniquely beautiful. What we see as imperfections we should recognize as the things that make us special.
Let’s take one of my own personal favorite “imperfections”. I have the most random hair. It’s very thick, and there’s a ton of it, but it’s neither straight nor wavy. I’ve got this sort of half wave, half frizz, with a little bit of curl wrapped up in there for good measure. It causes me hours of blow drying and straightening, only to end up with it in a ponytail by lunchtime. But this is what I feel forced to do, because I refuse to let my hair dry on its own. I refuse to embrace the natural beauty of my hair, seeing it instead as an imperfection.
Here’s the thing though. There are inevitably days when the mornings get chaotic, or something comes up, and I’m forced to skip the blow dryer, and let my hair dry naturally. And it is ALWAYS on those days that my husband will at some point say to me, “Wow. Your hair looks really pretty today.” I usually roll my eyes at him, and dismiss his complement. But why? My hair is unique to me, and my husband is wonderful enough to recognize that and point it out to me. I need to see myself more like he sees me. I need to see my imperfections as special features that make me “me”. You should do the same.
None of us lives in a vacuum. We all know at least one other person. Dare I say we all love someone. I would like to pose that it is often these other people in our lives who make us beautiful. That’s not to say that we need to rely on others for our worth, or for our value or beauty. Rather, let’s consider the possibility that a portion of our beauty comes from the way we relate to those around us, from the connections we form with other people. The way we love others is what makes us lovable, precious, and beautiful in return.
Take a moment now to close your eyes and think about someone special in your life. WAIT! Forget that. Don’t close your eyes or you won’t be able to keep reading. Just stop and think of someone special. Your favorite person. Your baby boy. Your best friend. Your sister. Whoever it is, think about that person, maybe about the last time you were with her, the last time you saw her face, a special moment you had with her. How beautiful is that connection you have with her? How thankful are you for her? Does your face automatically break into a smile at the thought of her? Does your heart fill up? Shoulders relax a bit? That connection is beautiful. And it makes the two of you beautiful too. I love that about the people I love.
I thought this should be the last trait of the blog post because I want it to be the one you really take away with you today. Kindness. The ability to be kind. It may not be something that comes easy to us. It may not be something we can offer to everyone we meet, or even to many, but might I be so bold as to say that we all have one person who receives our kindness. We all have someone for whom it comes naturally to show kindness. That kindness might be the most beautiful thing about us.
Can you think of that person now? How does it feel to pour kindness over him? Are you aware of how beautiful you are when your kindness overflows onto others? Do you feel it? Are you willing to let it flow more regularly?
I would love for this to be the “take away” for this blog post. We are so beautiful when we are showing kindness, whether people deserve it or not, whether they receive it or not. Women like Mother Teresa, perhaps not seen as beautiful in a worldly sense, but who could be deemed one of the most beautiful women ever known. Women like Princess Diana. Sure she was stunning on the outside, but her inner beauty was unmatched. Kindness poured from women like this. Beauty flowed from their hearts.
This is the beauty we all possess. This is powerful beauty. Contagious beauty. Let’s spread an epidemic of this kind of beauty today and everyday.
The last month has been quite exciting for Avery and me, as we've partnered up to create Valley Girls Photography, and to bring you the first of what we hope are many workshops geared towards empowering girls of all ages through photography.
Have no idea what I'm talking about? Catch up on the blog posts HERE, HERE, and HERE.
We are MOST excited about today, the launch of our VERY FIRST WORKSHOP!
The Portrait Power Workshop is for girls, ages 10-13, and their moms, and we are preparing a jam-packed and powerful afternoon for all. With an emphasis on photography, we hope to educate, encourage, and empower mothers and daughters to celebrate their authentic beauty.
We're talking dynamic group activities, outdoor portrait lessons and application, even take home swag bags to continue the conversations afterwards.
The cost is ONLY $50 for each daughter. Mothers attend free as the guest of their girls.
This morning I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and I saw a portrait ad from a photographer that I follow. The ad was inviting teens to be a part of her high school senior modeling program, and it featured five teenage girls, all dressed in PJs (nothing slinky, but definitely sleepwear), all on a big, fluffy, white bed, all leaning seductively on each other, with serious expressions, not a smile among them.
Another sexy portrait of girls who haven't even graduated from high school.
This seems to be the "it" thing these days, the sexy and sultry portraits of high school seniors, that are infiltrating our social media newsfeeds. These images are everywhere from Pinterest to Facebook, although I highly doubt they are adorning the walls of their parents' homes. These photos are ones that younger girls everywhere are seeing, and trying to imitate, which is why we are now seeing tweens and girls even younger skipping the smiles for the duck mouth (what is that???) or the "this is way too old for a little girl" pose.
This is why I don't shoot the sexy stuff.
Now I don't want to come off preachy here. I know there's a time and a place for such expressions and such poses. But I don't believe the time is high school, and I don't believe the place is social media. I believe that the more our daughters (young and old) see these types of poses and expressions, the more they internalize that this "sex appeal" is something that they must have, that it is their bodies and their appearance that makes them beautiful, that makes them valuable. Their bodies become their identity over their heart, their spirit, their brain, their soul.
This has been happening for decades, and has been passed down for generations, but with social media and the explosion of photos everywhere, the danger has become exponentially greater.
And so I've chosen to skip these kinds of images. That's not to say I only photograph smiles. No way. There's a place for thoughtful expressions, for more serious images. But I'm one photographer who won't be photographing the sultry look. That's just my choice and it might cost me some clients, but I've decided to use my photography to make girls feel excited about who they are, rather than try to be someone (or some age) they are not.
And I know I'm not the only one.
This past year, I've connected with another amazing photographer. After months of sharing our thoughts and concerns on where our industry is headed, and the dangers that such photography poses for girls and women everywhere, we have decided to take a giant leap of faith together. I'm excited to share our story with you... in the next couple of posts.
Stay tuned. Our hope is to encourage and empower women everywhere.
Who is the most beautiful woman you know? My guess is that you can answer that quickly, but perhaps not with just one face, not just one woman. We are all blessed to know some BEAUTIFUL women in our lives. But do they know they are beautiful? Do they know that you see them that way? Have you ever told these women what you see in them?
As this question has been playing around in my own mind, I have considered that it might be important for me to tell the beautiful women in my life how beautiful they are in my eyes. The beautiful women in my life are not supermodels in the worldy sense, but they are super to me, and they are models to me. I think it might be important for me to let them know the beauty I see in them. I think it might be even more powerful for me to tell them in "public".
And I think it might be a good idea for you to do the same with the beautiful women in your life.
So it's time for a beauty challenge! But a different kind of beauty challenge!
I'm proposing that we begin a beauty challenge on social media. I'm guessing FB will work best for me as that's where I spend most of my social media time. But any social media site can work. I'm proposing that we share beauty and love, rather than the hate and gossip that is too easily spread on these sites.
I challenge you to:
* Get on your favorite social media site.
* Write a post calling out a handful of the most beautiful women in your life.
* TAG THEM IN THE POST!
* Write a quick note as to what you see as beautiful in them.
* If possible attach a pic of them (that could mean a handful of different pics, which is fine).
* Here's the kicker: CHALLENGE THEM TO THEN TAG A HANDFUL OF BEAUTIFUL WOMEN IN THEIR LIVES TO CONTINUE THE BEAUTY CHALLENGE
If you feel inspired, please tag the post #JLPBeautyChallenge I would be so encouraged and inspired to see this challenge spread love and joy to all the beautiful women out there. If we can encourage just one woman in our lives, pour love into one heart, remind one precious lady of her beauty, then what a wonderful success this would be.
Please be encouraged to share this blog post to challenge women AND men in your life. Let's get men calling out beautiful women, too.
I'll be posting my challenge on FB for sure, but I'll gladly call out the beautiful women in my life right here.
1. My Daughter, Brady
She's not on social media (yet), but her beauty goes beyond her pretty face. Her beauty shines from her heart. She loves big.
2. My Mother, Mary Jane
She's always been my ideal beauty- blue eyes and blonde hair. But what I find most beautiful about her is how much joy she gets from caring for others. She has a giving heart.
3. My Mother-In-Law, Carol
I don't think I've ever known someone who finds the good in everyone the way Carol does. What makes her most beautiful is that she sees beauty in everyone and everything. It's inspiring.
4. My Sister-In-Law, Tara
Tara has been my sister forever. To me, her beauty lies in how happy it makes me to just be with her. She makes everyone feel better for having spent time with her. She's like fresh air.
5. My Sister-In-Law, Dani
Dani is most beautiful when she's mothering. Watching her with her own kids- or with mine- her beauty pours over the little people she loves. She's an amazing nurturer.
6. My Niece, Hannah
This one is tough, because I honestly see so much beauty in Hannah. She's young, but she's wise. She knows what real beauty means. She's so much more than her gorgeous looks. Her beauty goes deep.
OK, now it's your turn! Who are the beautiful women in your life? Do they know? Why not tell them today?