{Celebrating Beautiful} Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, by John Hambrick

In blogging for the last 5 years, I’ve written about many different topics, but one theme that has remained constant has been my focus of sharing about how our family is discovering the beauty in difference and choosing to celebrate the incredible beauty all around us, and how we want to encourage others to do the same. After connecting with and reading about so many amazing people and families doing so many amazing things, I started a guest blog series called Celebrating Beautiful, as it relates to beauty however it can be interpreted: motherhood, faith, your kids, an experience, home, and so much more.
 
I got to connect with John Hambrick when I reviewed his book, Move Toward the Mess, and really enjoyed it. He has a wisdom that comes with experience, both in living out Jesus’ calling for his life and within parenting, and his words today offer such encouragement, especially for those of us with younger kids who are looking toward the teen and young adult years ahead.
Here is John Hambrick on Celebrating Beautiful…

It’s a pleasant memory.

My wife, Patty, and I are in our Jeep Cherokee, driving down the road. It’s a gentle sunny morning. We’re on vacation. Our two kids, JD (age 6) and Carrell (age 3), are in their car seats. Sandi Patty’s music fills the car. At the end of one song, she recites the following:

For Thou didst form my inward parts
Thou didst knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise Thee for Tou art fearful and wonderful
Wonderful are Thy works!
Thou knows me right well.    -Psalm 139:13-14

JD and Carrell are smiling; in that moment, they get it. They know that they are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Fast-forward 10 years. Carrell and JD are now in middle school and high school. It’s harder now for them to be confident that they are the wonderful creations of a loving God. I remember Carrell’s tears over a verbal slight, suffered at the hands of her peers. I remember JD coming home one afternoon saying he felt invisible. What happened?

I worked with church youth groups and Young Life for 18 years. Sadly, JD and Carrell’s experiences are too common. The sense of being fearfully and wonderfully made takes a beating when you’re an adolescent. Granted, some days adolescents feel great about themselves. But lots of days they worry that they are not smart enough, not pretty enough, not cool enough, not coordinated enough. A lot of days they feel like their hair, their face, their clothes and their personality are all wrong. How did our kids morph from the smiling little urchins in the back seat into angst-ridden adolescents?

Fast-forward another 10 years. Today, JD and Carrell are well-adjusted adults. They are college grads, gainfully employed and leading full lives. They emerged from that adolescent angst in tact. As I reflect on their teenage years, I am tempted to say, “Well, that’s just what happens during that phase of life. Most kids go through it. That’s just the way it is.”

Well, maybe that’s often the way it is. But Psalm 139 suggests that’s not the way it should be.I’m not in the “every kid should get a trophy regardless of how they played” camp, but there are some things we can do to reduce the number of days that our kids feel like they aren’t good enough…

First of all, be vigilant. This is not a new idea. We are vigilant about movies and friends, about music and the Internet. But we need to be vigilant about something else: what happens at faith-based groups and events. If you’re like me, you tend to relax your vigilance in this area. It’s church after all – that’s supposed to be the one safe place we can count on. And it often is. But not always. I’m not talking about anything spectacularly horrible here; it’s more subtle than that.

The concern can be summed up with a simple question: how does the church youth group make your kids feel about themselves? Do they come home lit up or put down? Granted, every kid has bad days, and youth ministers aren’t perfect. But if your kids consistently come home from the youth group feeling badly about themselves, then it’s time to dig around a little bit. Don’t go overboard – you don’t want to humiliate your kids. But a few gentle questions are entirely appropriate, and any youth minister worth his or her salt will want to help.

The second thing we can do to help our kids feel good about who they are is to challenge Madison Avenue. The meta-narrative that undergirds almost all advertising is this: “There’s something wrong with you. Our product will fix it.” It’s a very successful approach. But the sad thing is that once the doubt has been planted, we discover that the product doesn’t really help. An occasional session where you sit down with your kids and point out how silly this approach is will go along way towards helping them see through this clever ploy. I mean really . . . can shampoo change your life? Is toothpaste the key to happiness and success? Sheesh.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, take care of yourself. Kids’ self-image is profoundly impacted by their parents’ self-image. So, how are you feeling about yourself these days? Seeing and celebrating the way God made you makes it easier to see and celebrate the way God made your kids.

So, keep up the good work. Your ability to see that your children are fearfully and wonderfully made, especially when they are in their teens, can be just the positive influence they need to hang in there when the world is telling them they aren’t good enough.

Someday, when your kids become adults like my son and daughter, they’ll thank you for all the love you’ve sent their way. And those words will be some of the sweetest sounds you’ll ever hear.

John Hambrick is part of the leadership team at Buckhead Church, the urban campus of North Point Ministries. His book, Move Toward the Mess, is available on Amazon and in bookstores everywhere.

{Celebrating Beautiful} Knowing We Are Beautiful Because He Does, by Michele Cushatt

In blogging for the last 5 years, I’ve written about many different topics, but one theme that has remained constant has been my focus of sharing about how our family is discovering the beauty in difference and choosing to celebrate the incredible beauty all around us, and how we want to encourage others to do the same. After connecting with and reading about so many amazing people and families doing so many amazing things, I started a guest blog series called Celebrating Beautiful, as it relates to beauty however it can be interpreted: motherhood, faith, your kids, an experience, home, and so much more.
 
I was so blessed to get to meet Michele Cushatt, whom I had followed online for a while, when I attended the SheSpeaks conference in 2014. Since then, we’ve kept in touch and gotten to know each other better, and I was able to meet up with her again for dinner when she was nearby speaking last year. Between her own critical health issues and Brenna’s severe condition, we’ve simply felt such a bond. Michele’s new book, I Am, came out in last month, and she’s giving away a copy here! (Just leave a comment to be entered to win!) I’m so thrilled to have Michele sharing today.
Here is Michele Cushatt on Celebrating Beautiful…

CelebratingBeautifulHis name was, let’s say, Mark.

We were both sophomores at a Christian college in the Midwest. I didn’t know him well, although on a small campus such as ours, everyone knew everyone.

Mark wasn’t notable. Mildly attractive and well liked, connected to all the other attractive and well-liked people. Even in college, the high school hierarchy continued.

I’d planned to go to medical school. But a come-to-Jesus altar call at a high school youth conference changed my trajectory. I wanted to go overseas, help the needy, tell people about Jesus. So I abandoned medicine and enrolled at a Christian college, dreaming of Africa or Russia or some other place where I would change the world.

Instead, my world changed.

It happened a few weeks before Christmas break. Although I’d been in college for three semesters, I still struggled to find my place. I had great grades, plenty of friends. But the “freshman fifteen” turned out to be no joke, and I’d gained my full share of allotted pounds. If my self- perception hadn’t already been skewed, I might’ve been able to accept my new physique, maybe take the necessary steps to change it. But for as long as I could remember, I’d never liked my appearance. Adding fifteen pounds to it only deepened my self-disgust.

This was the status of my self-esteem on the afternoon I overheard a male voice coming around a hallway corner: “Take Michele, for example.”

At the sound of my name, I stopped. Held my breath.
 The voice—which I recognized as Mark’s—continued.
“She’s one of those who’d be beautiful if she wasn’t so fat. Know

what I mean?”

I couldn’t move.

I don’t know what he said next, didn’t stick around long enough to find out. Humiliated, I found my legs, ran to my dorm room, and wept.

Several days later, I confronted Mark, let him know I’d overheard his comments outside the cafeteria. His face reddened—as it should have—but he fell short of apologizing. His only offering: “I meant it as a compliment!”

Weeks later, the semester finished, I packed my college dorm room, loaded up my car, and moved back home.

I never returned. My broken and humiliated heart couldn’t risk another beating.

A part of me still wants to blame Mark, maybe even hate him. I can still feel the sting, can well remember the lingering shame. A compliment? Really? With a few careless words, he caused damage that took years to heal.

But I don’t hate him. Or blame him. Mark was a nineteen-year-old kid. He probably still took his laundry home to his mama on the week- ends. And although his words hurt, they simply confirmed what I’d long believed: beautiful was out of reach for me.

I’m now forty-four years old. I have six children and a husband and wear a size eight(ish). But in the past two decades, I’ve been everything from a size two to an eighteen. At each size, regardless of how big or small, I didn’t see myself as beautiful. Whether I passed a bathroom mirror or caught a glimpse of myself in a store window’s glass, I still heard the same words: “You’d be beautiful if . . .”

You see, beautiful isn’t about size. Nor is it about Mark. It’s about how I see me. And what I choose to believe as a result.Recieve-an-Identity

We all want to feel beautiful, attractive, or desirable in some small way. It’s human. But somewhere along the way, we bought into a voice that puts beautiful out of reach. Doesn’t matter if it was a boyfriend, a teacher, a neighbor, or yourself. Then and now, the voice is loud. As a result, when we see a reflection or a photo, we don’t see beautiful. We cringe and believe a lie: “I’d be beautiful if . . .”

What if there’s a better definition of beauty?

In the Old Testament, a prophet named Samuel reminds us of God’s standard: “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).

Ouch.

God isn’t the one who puts a premium on appearance. We are. Height. Weight. Hair color. Clothing style. We’re addicted to beauty, drawn to beautiful things like moths to a light. Our mistake isn’t in the appreciation of beauty; it’s in the assumption that beauty equals worth. And that beauty equals love.

God says we couldn’t be more wrong. Consider Isaiah’s description of Jesus, the Messiah: “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected” (Isa. 53:2–3).

Jesus. God’s one and only. Anything but beautiful. A man people would defame and whisper about in hallways and around corners. Ultimately, a man persecuted and destroyed.

And yet a man who couldn’t have been more precious to the Father.

It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But too often, we choose the wrong beholder—ourselves and others, flawed beings who can’t see clearly. Only God has perfect vision, seeing beyond the false exterior to the authentic heart. And when He looks at you, He sees an unmatched creation, someone He loves enough to die for.
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So what does God see as beautiful?


Beautiful is giving your life for another.

Beautiful is comforting those who hurt.

Beautiful is finding joy in the ordinary of each day.

Beautiful is believing God is with us, even when we feel alone.

Beautiful is cheering for those who struggle, and helping them finish their race.

Beautiful is seeing the best in others.

Beautiful is humility.

Beautiful is perseverance.

Beautiful is generosity.

Beautiful is knowing you’re beautiful, believing you’re beautiful, because the One who sees the real you better than anyone else says so.
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Pulling from her experiences of raising children from trauma, a personal life-threatening illness, and the devastating identity crises that came to her family as a result, Michele Cushatt creates safe spaces for honest conversations around the tensions between real faith and real life. The words of Michele’s most recent book—I Am: A 60-day Journey to Knowing Who You Are Because of Who He Is—were penned during her long and grueling recovery from a third diagnosis of cancer during which she was permanently altered physically, emotionally and spiritually. Michele and the love of her life, Troy, live in the mountains of Colorado with their six children, ages 9 to 24. She enjoys a good novel, a long run, and a kitchen table filled with people. Learn more about Michele at michelecushatt.com.

Want to win a copy of I Am? Just leave a comment, and I’ll be selecting a winner on Sunday, February 26!