Freedom to Claim Your Preciousness

Noelle Schwantes, LPC-MHSP, NCC

Today Joseph spilled hot oatmeal all over himself. (He’s OK, nothing a little Emprizone couldn’t fix.  Click Here if you’d like to order some!  It’s pretty miraculous.) He took to screaming randomly during breakfast…it may have had something to do with my focus on finding the perfect pumpkin muffins on my Food Gawker app.  And maybe it was the shock of the hot oatmeal given that he’s never experienced extreme heat before, but if you looked at him funny he started crying.

To shake it all off we went outside.  It is the perfect autumn day.  Crisp, sunny, gorgeous.  Joseph enjoyed running around the yard and my heart ached with his preciousness.  At some point I started chasing him and when I caught him I’d grab him in a big hug and kiss his neck.  We did this over and over.  My heart ached again with the cascade of his giggles.  After awhile he stopped running away from me and when I gave chase he’d run toward me and those ticklish kisses.

For some reason this incredibly beautiful ache I feel has made me think about all the friends and clients over the years who’s family didn’t see them as precious.  Who were ridiculed, shamed, hit, ignored.  The clients who have curled up in tears on the floor of my office when they were finally given permission to grieve.  When they were told they were precious.

And that’s what I want to say…you who are reading this…you are precious.  If the people around you didn’t see it, that’s on them.  That’s on the people who didn’t teach them they were precious.  It’s not about you.

What I hope for you is that you will throw off the messages that are lies.  The messages that came from people too wounded to see you clearly.  You are fearfully and wonderfully made.  Precious beyond measure.

Today, know that for whatever reason, the ache in my heart when I look at my precious little boy is there for you too.  IMG_0634

Freeedom To Be Dangerous

Shonna Ronnelle

Kayla and Dump Kids

The perfect life.  That’s what I wanted.  The husband, the home, the children, the white picket fence.  I spent over 20 years of my adult life trying to make that “good Christian girl, American dream” a reality.

I spent very little time thinking about those less fortunate than me.  After all, there was always a new goal on the horizon for something I thought I needed to make my dream complete.

I grew up in a middle class home and continued in that lifestyle as an adult.  In my world, trips to the doctor, medications, teeth cleaning every six months, new eye glasses every year, chiropractic care, technology and an insured vehicle were classified as rights or needs.  As I progressed up the ladder in my direct sales business, pedicures, expensive hair care, massages and assistants at home and in my work became rights and needs too.  When it comes to living the dream, where there’s a will there’s a way, right?  (Or there’s a credit card.)

It didn’t take too long for the memories of my college student missions year in the Marshall Islands to fade away.  Over there, anything besides a dirt floor and cooking over an open fire, defined wealth.

What about those less fortunate?  Social justice issues?  The bum on the street was just a lazy-good-for-nothing alcoholic or drug addict.  Why would I waste my hard-earned money on them when they refused to get-it-together and work like the rest of us?

In my thirties, I went to a conference at Willow Creek where I was first exposed to the sheer numbers in Africa impacted by the AIDS epidemic, and I felt the beginning of the push in the evangelical world to make a difference.  But instead of action and generosity, what I picked up was guilt and shame.  I should care more about the plight of people in third world countries, but “the poor will always be with us,” right? And after all, I really wasn’t “wealthy” at all… I lived paycheck to paycheck and all of my “needs” were not yet met.

Then, at forty-six, my life took a sharp and unexpected turn in which I ended up single, re-starting life across the country from where I was born and raised, among strangers instead of my family, church home and friends.   I had been a stay-at-home Mom for twenty years, sixteen of which I had spent working from home for a company that went bankrupt right after I moved.  I suddenly found myself with no income stream, no partner’s income, and very little work experience to put on a traditional resume. With that re-start came lessons in faith and provision along with painful lessons in what really constituted rights, needs and wants.  A dose of reality in the plight of the poor.

Maybe you grew up like I did hearing phrases like “the poor will always be with us” or “if you won’t work you won’t eat.”  These are thrown around as justification for our selfishness, materialism and personal kingdom building.

What if I told you that in reality, the Word has over three hundred verses where God shares His heart for the poor and for social justice causes?  What if I told you that the responsibility of stewarding wealth is literally to share generously with the widow, orphan and stranger?

The String of Pearls ministry team has decided to throw our hat in the ring on the global cause of childhood malnutrition.  We’ll be sharing more with you about our passion around the opportunity to make a difference in this social justice issue in the coming weeks.

Lynne Hybels in her book Nice Girls Don’t Change the World states:

“The opposite of a nice girl is not just a good woman, but a downright dangerous woman.  A woman who shows up with everything she is and joins the battle against whatever opposes the redeeming work of God in our lives and in our world.”  

We just happen to think that the preservation of God’s calling and kingdom assignments in the lives of the “least of these” is a good place to begin being dangerous women partnering with God’s redemptive work in this world.

This week consider the following: 

  1. What lessons about money and the poor were taught in your home, church, and community?
  2. What needs to shift in your heart around meeting the needs of the poor, the widow and the orphan?
  3. Ask the Holy Spirit to shift your heart to align with His on the issue of global childhood malnutrition.  

Freedom to Claim Beauty

By Shonna Ronelle

A few months ago, a friend of mine challenged me to make a list of things I love about me from head to toe.  I was supposed to stand and look at my naked body in the mirror, telling myself these positive things out loud.  Loving me.  I tried.  Really I did.  I sat down with a pen and paper and wrote body parts and then began to fill in bullet points.  I had every intention of following through on this task.  Having been married to someone who expressed constant disapproval of my body through word and facial expression, I knew that I desperately needed to give myself this gift.  I made it from the top of my head to my neck before I gave up and set the list aside without completing it.

This week I read Glennon Doyle Melton’s blog from December 31, 2013 titled “Don’t be Pretty – Be Beautiful in 2014.  And I chose to embrace my beauty.

I looked in the mirror and noticed things with new eyes because I thought about the value of my story.

I noticed my eyes.  The ones that shift from blue to green to purple to gray depending on the light, the color of my clothing, or what my heart is feeling.  I love that my eyes change color without artificial lenses.

I noticed my breasts.  The ones shaped similar to my daughter’s that she recently proclaimed to HATE because so many guys had told her they only liked her for her boobs and her booty.  And for the first time I realized I love my breasts, even with a slight sag in them, because they exist due to nursing my daughter in her first months of life.

Before I had my daughter my chest was so flat that I was teased for being on the “itty bitty titty committee” or for wearing “training bras.”  Now I see my breasts and they represent life and nurture, the joys and trials of motherhood.  So much story!

I noticed my stomach with a bit of pooch and some remaining dimples and stretch marks from bringing my daughter into this world.  As I looked at this part of my body I celebrated the miracle of life.  Hers.  I was told after miscarrying my second child that I should never have been able to become pregnant or carry a child to term.  But I did.  My daughter is my precious beautiful treasured miracle.  If I choose to see when I look in the mirror, my breasts and my stomach tell the story of my miracle.

I scan farther down and notice the scar on my right shin.  The one left after I was kicked by a horse.  This happened during the first summer I worked at camp.  The summer that I learned I have innate and valuable abilities with horses, people and leadership along with a wonderful sense of humor.  I’ve always loved the scar for the stories it represents.  Stories of practical jokes, laughter, and lessons learned.  Three treasured summers in my life are wrapped up in that one scar.

Just below that on the left side I notice my ankle.  The one that will always be shaped a bit different because of a slip and slide down some bus steps on a school field trip with my daughter.  A split second that changed the next 13 months of my life with a blood clot, hospitalization, bed rest and way too much physical therapy.

This is the unique piece of me that tells this part of my story:  the time where I first experienced sacrificial men who cared about my pain.  The season where I had no choice but to rest and allow others to serve.  Where God began to teach a do-er to be still.  The season of learning perseverance through pain.  And the joy of gaining back what was lost for far too many months:  full and complete range of motion and the ability to do things I took for granted before the fall like climbing stairs and hiking in Yosemite.

Last on this trip to the mirror I notice my right 4th toe.  The one that is crooked.  It reminds me of the year when I lived on Majuro and taught Kindergarten.  I broke the toe jumping off of a waterfall in Guam over Christmas break.  (Well, actually, and embarrassingly, I broke it on a coffee table BEFORE I jumped and finished the job WHEN I jumped.)

Just looking at that beautiful crooked toe reminds me of the part of my story where I got a trial run, as a college student, at living on my own for a year.  That was the year where I learned to love and embrace another culture.  It was also the season when I had the privilege of sitting on a beautiful tropical beach every morning while learning my first lessons about intimacy with God.

I cannot remember my father ever once telling me I was beautiful.  I’m not saying he never said it.  I’m saying I have no recollection of positive comments about my appearance.  However, I do remember the times he criticized my attire as not right for an event.  Or the times when he accused me of being something I wasn’t, like “whore” or “slut” because he was displeased with what I chose to wear.

Suddenly the words and expressions of my father and ex-husband don’t matter anymore.  I know that I know that I know that I am beautiful.  Inside and out.

From this day forward I choose to be kind to myself when I look in the mirror, because now I can see what my daughter sees when she tells me how beautiful I am.  I see the story.  The grace.  The lessons.  I’m in love with me.  And I’m grateful.  Truly grateful for who I see looking back at me.  A strong beloved woman who encourages freedom of the heart.

Freedom to Wait

Noelle Schwantes, LPC-MHSP, NCC

African American Model 2

I have always been a driven sort.  I spend a lot of time thinking about goals for the future, promises God has spoken over my life, and when they’ll happen.  Some of my earliest memories are of bossing my neighborhood friends around as a little girl.  I tended to have a list of things I wanted to accomplish and I went for it.  The drawback was that I always felt like I worked SO HARD.  Nothing came naturally and I remember feeling tired from a very early age.

Being that I was driven though texts like these really tended to irritate me.

Since before time began, no one has ever imagined, no ear heard, no eye seen, a God like you who works for those who WAIT for him.  Isaiah 64:4

God takes time to do everything right – everything.  Those who WAIT around for him are the lucky ones.  Isaiah 30:18

I didn’t wait well, so of course as a part of my refining, God has had us waiting lately.  Those of you who follow the blog know that it has been quite a year, almost 2 years now.  Marcel’s lay off while I was pregnant with Joseph, a futile job search, the bank accounts, savings, and 401k dwindling…

God told me several different ways that things would look bleak for awhile, but that I was to  “stand firm.” I have wrestled with that.  Part of the downtime on the blog has been not wanting to post when I was in a negative space.  I absolutely believe in being able to wrestle with God, but it had become so deeply painful I wasn’t able to bring myself to make it public.

So the other day when I was walking with Joseph and reading him scriptures, those two texts pop up and it hit me in a different way than it ever has before…

I am lucky to be waiting.

The way someone is lucky to be waiting knowing that their parent is buying them the gift of their dreams, the way someone is lucky knowing that they get a new car when they turn 16, the way someone is lucky to wait for an amazing person to come into their life; and that person wasn’t ready a few years before.  The way someone is lucky to be waiting for a trust fund.

The way I’m lucky because the wait qualifies me for something so good that no one has seen, heard, or imagined it.  God is taking the time to make His promises to me a reality in the very best way possible.

It puts a different spin on the wait doesn’t it?  The question is, do we believe Him?  Do we believe that His plans for us are so good that they are worth every moment of the wait?

I thought that I was being punished or that I hadn’t been doing things right.  That I had to figure it out before God would give us the next step.  But He tells me, “You are lucky to be waiting.  It’s going to be SO GOOD!  I am taking the time to do everything just right.”

And He caps it off with this, “The kingdom of God doesn’t come by counting the days on the calendar. Nor when someone says, ‘Look here!’ or ‘There it is!’ And why?  Because God’s kingdom is already among you.”

While I wait, I am living in the Father’s house with all the authority and access of a favored child.  So while I wait I’ll relax, enjoy my life, and maybe recline while someone feeds me grapes.  Does anyone have a fan?



Freedom to Love Well

Noelle Schwantes, LPC-MHSP, NCC

The other day Marcel, Joseph, and I took a trip to a new restaurant we wanted to try.  Our waiter was friendly, but something was off.  He made a pest of himself.  He hovered, bragged, invaded space, and generally missed the million social cues I was throwing at him.  It occurred to me that he was likely high. I recognized the signs of drugs and I got furious.  I hate being conned and I hate even worse when people think they’re getting away with it.  I felt he was feeding us a bunch of lies in order to try to increase his tip. (Which in my mind was dropping drastically by the minute.)

server at restaurantMy husband and I have been praying for awhile now that God will show us how to love like He does.  So even though we were both irritated, Marcel engaged John (name changed), our server.  My frustration continued to sky rocket because my nice family dinner was being interrupted by someone I didn’t believe would remember the conversation due to his “flight status.”

But, I was nice.

As John talked to my husband he shared that he was in an outpatient program for heroin addiction but planned to quit and get another doctor because he wasn’t ready to face the emotions it was bringing up.  I thought to myself, “bingo.”  My gut appeared to have been correct.

As we pulled out of the restaurant, something inside me was wrestling with the entire experience.  I began praying about my reaction.  I felt my old compulsion as a Christian girl to be “nice” and I followed through with that.  And it made me angry.  It didn’t feel loving.  The actual result was that he seemed to feel we bought everything he said.

God says that the truth will set us free, but I hid every honest emotion I had during that exchange.  I also recall that Jesus never let people’s masks stay in place.  With love, he would gently and without shame (and sometimes not so gently in the case of the Pharisees)  expose their hearts for what was truly inside.

I am quite certain I didn’t love John well.  Being “nice” covered the issue.  

After several days of processing this and praying about it I came up with an idea of what Jesus might have done.  The restaurant was small and he wouldn’t have shamed him in front of his co-workers.  Words may have also gotten lost in a drug fog.  So I believe he may have written the following:


I sense a deep pain in you that you try to cover.  I know you said you weren’t ready to deal with the emotions that were coming up, but I want you to know that God has the answers to your pain and when you’re ready to stop running you will find your freedom there.  When you take off your mask you will find that God is not like the ones who have hurt you and you are passionately loved just as you are.  Know that you are in our prayers and that if you ever want to talk more we’d love to get together.  You can reach us at

Noelle and Marcel

Peace came, I didn’t have to fake anything, but I realized this cut to the chase and didn’t buy a lie.  The only sadness came from realizing a missed opportunity.  So guess where I’m going for dinner tonight and guess who I’m requesting?

What I realize is that loving well is not what I thought it was.  It is confounding, confusing, and impossible without a source to draw from.  It’s also a little terrifying.  But as I look over my life, moments where I was loved well changed the course of my life and offered me healing and freedom.  I can’t live with myself if I don’t give it away.

What are the ways love has touched your life?

How do you practice loving well?



Freedom to Steward Wealth

Noelle Schwantes

Today is the day.  I’ve been spending a lot of time with God lately in preparation for this weekend.  On some level it feels like a turning point.  A start of something new and at the same time a continuation of things that have been growing since I was a child. This morning God woke me up earlier than I wanted but what He put on my heart was worth it.  There is a strong peace and a sense that this weekend will be powerful in ways we can’t foresee ahead of time.  I feel His gentle confirmation that He will show up in powerful ways.

I’m not writing this blog to urge everyone to come, but I am urging those of you who have felt a tug on your heart to come. If He’s asking you to come it is because He has something for you and this weekend is a part of His calling on your life.  We believe you will get amazing things from Him.  If you make sacrifices to come He will bless and make it worth it.  I’m not asking you to take my word for it, but to seek Him and feel the confirmation of this.  If He wants you there, we want you there.

I feel yielded to Him in ways I have not experienced before and I want you to be a part of it.  This issue has a history of causing agony in my life and I took it for granted that it was just how things were.  Most everyone struggled the ways I did. I believe with every fiber in me that our struggle is because we have not fully believed in the promises of God.  We are provided for elaborately when we believe.

If He’s tugging on your heart, please come.  We want you to experience what He has for you. He is so amazingly good.

Some final details.  Registration is from 4:00-4:30 today at Embassy Suites in the Hamilton Mall area. We felt impressed to prepare for more than are registered so there is plenty of space for you.  If you decide to come at the last minute you are welcome and there is a space for you.  Our preparation has been directed by God and has defied logic and any sort of marketing or business plan so we’re quite curious to see what He has in store!  You can click here to register online and get details of the weekend, or you can register onsite. We can’t wait to see you and we are waiting with breathless expectancy to hear and see what God does in your life. Until then…

Freedom to Steward Wealth

Financial FreedomNoelle Schwantes, LPC-MHSP, NCC

Something has shifted in me over the weekend.  God and I had a “come to Jesus” talk because there was something in my blind spot.  Well, God has cleared that up and now I’m supposed to get clear with you about it.  I’m nervous.

I’m nervous because I don’t want to be accused of preaching “prosperity gospel.”  I’m not and I think the whole concept of loving Jesus so we can be rich is ridiculous. When you really fall in love with Jesus and start having an amazing walk with him, the idea of something being better or more important is just silly.  If you think I’m wrong, you’re probably still a bit stuck in religion rather than a relationship.

So here’s the deal.  The Financial Freedom Workshop has a particular focus.  I’ve been unclear about it because what God has put on my heart is` a bit controversial.  See, I’m still tiptoeing around it!  OK, here it is, really.

The Financial Freedom Workshop is for people who are interested in hearing the voice of God as it relates to their finances.  Who are ready to be launched into stewarding wealth for Kingdom purposes. Who believe somewhere in their hearts that they aren’t meant to toil and be a slave to debt, bills, or the American dream.  For people who want freedom in this area regardless of the size of their bank accounts or debts. For people who are ready to see God move in powerful ways in this and other areas of their lives.

I don’t believe in Jesus as some magic genie who will shower riches if we rub the lamp the right amount of times.  But here’s the nuance: I do believe God is looking for people who are so faithful to Him, so sold out, that they’re safe to steward large resources to be used for His glory.  Think, Parable of the Talents and Joseph for example.  I don’t know that this workshop is for everyone.

But here is what I suggest; if you read this and it strikes a chord.  If something in you stands at attention or lights up for a minute, I hope you’ll make it a matter of prayer and remove whatever obstacles would hinder you from making it. I believe God has brought us to this workshop for such a time as this and there will be healing and miracles in the ways He sets us free this weekend.  I’ll share a little bit of those details at the beginning of the workshop.

If you’re in, here are the basic details.  It is held at The Embassy Suites on Friday April 11 from 4-8pm and Saturday April 12 from 9-6pm.  Registration will be open from 4:00-4:30pm on Friday but you can click here to register online. (Which is of course a big help to us.) :)

If you aren’t going to be at the workshop but you have been following this blog and involved in the other ministries of String of Pearls, we would covet your prayers.  Thank you for your support; for the emails, comments, and questions we receive.  We are building and growing as a result of your support and God is being glorified as He sets us free.

We hope to see you this weekend!


Freedom to Lose Myself

Emotional FreedomNoelle Schwantes, LPC-MHSP, NCC

I’ve just had an epiphany.  I’ve been reading this morning in Luke and as always happens I got stuck on Luke 9:23-24.

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.”

I spent all my young life losing myself.  I lost myself in serving others and working myself to the point of illness.  I lost myself in religion and would argue anyone into a theological lather if they disagreed with my perspective on scripture.  Later, I lost myself in other things equally painfully and harmful.  So believe me when I tell you that I KNEW that losing myself was not a good thing.  The fruit of it was bad.  So every time I read this scripture I got irritated, bumping up against a rock I couldn’t debate.

So here is my epiphany.  It is ALL about WHO you lose yourself to!  I spent a lifetime “losing” myself to people pleasing.  I thought I was serving but I was self-serving because the hole in my soul demanded to be filled and I went with the things that soothed it for a moment.  I lost myself to saying yes to yet another demand at church when my body screamed for rest, to doing anything that a “good Christian should do.” Later when that crashed around me I started losing myself to other things, the heat of passion, alcohol, television, spending (well that one was present all along.)  These were the things that seemed to fill me and were slowly killing me.  (And don’t kid yourself, the service at church that God didn’t direct me to do was EQUALLY as harmful as all the worldly things I got into later.)

Somewhere along the line, without me even understanding what was happening, I came to the end of myself and got tired of the effects of losing myself.  I began to tell God, “I can’t do this, help.” I began to lose myself to Him.  And here is what happened; everything that I’ve lost to God has come back to me as gold.  I’m frustrated with the inability of words  to express the difference this has made and continues to make in my life.  Let’s just say the tears are flowing.

Imagine the things in your life that are harming you.  The worries that keep you up at night.  The shame and fear that keeps you bound.  What are the specifics? Name them before you read further.

Now imagine having perfect peace about them.  Imagine the opposite of whatever is hurting you right now.

This is what has happened to me as I have lost myself to God.  And it keeps getting better.  Even a few months ago I was crying because I felt like God was asking me to give up yet another thing that I enjoy.  I told him through tears, “You’re taking everything away!” But I have learned that surrendering is in my best interest.  It’s not that I’m “holy,” it’s just that I like what He does in my life.  So I did, and He gave it back, except I’m not compulsive with that activity anymore.  I have freedom there.  The enjoyment has increased.

It’s funny, I want to scream this from the rooftops.  (So please feel free to share this on your timelines, etc!) When you lose yourself in Christ He will fill the dark places in ways you can’t fathom right now.  I want this for you and as I continue to lose myself to Him that urgency grows in me.  To share the gospel (which means in original language, “too good to be true.”) with the world so we can all have the freedom I’m finding.  He is SO GOOD girls.  He will guard your heart like the treasure it is.

What would losing yourself to God look like for you today?


Location for Workshop!!

Today we just wanted to update you about the upcoming workshop.  When we originally began posting and marketing this workshop we didn’t have a location yet!  We were so committed to making it happen though we went forward with faith and boldness. :)  We are happy to announce this week that the Financial Freedom Workshop will be held at  Embassy Suites in the Hamilton Mall area of Chattanooga.  This is a beautiful new hotel and those of you who attend the workshop will hear about the amazing way God brought this about.  So for this week, we simply ask you to click here for updated details about the workshop.  You can register online and reserve your seat now.  We look forward to seeing you there!

Freedom to Take Back the Mirror

Guest Post by Lindsay Martz Weaver

Lindsay is currently in a rural village in Tanzania working on a project with her husband Jeremy and World Vision.  She is a woman who has faced fear to follow the passion God has put in her heart and I don’t know that I’ve ever heard anyone talk about a mirror in such a profound way.  We are honored to share her musings today.  Check out more of her work on

girl-looking-in-mirrorLast week I looked in the mirror… It’s a small, red, hand-held mirror I had purchased in the market after realizing it had been well over a week since I had looked in one. What?! But what if my hair was a mess all day last Monday, or what if I had a giant zit on my chin last Wednesday? Lets not even talk about the possibility of my eyebrows falling out of place.

I held the mirror up closely and looked at my eyes. It had been 2 months since I had worn any make-up.

My hair was up in its usual braid and I was still continuing to sprout the occasional white hair here ‘n there. I looked at what I was wearing. I was wearing the same thing I had been wearing for the past three days. It was still good for another day at least. It was decently clean if you looked past the few smudges of peanut butter on it from yesterdays breakfast. I took off my mismatched socks, looked down at my toes, and wiggled them. My two big toes were the only ones left with a few splashes of polish on them.  I smiled at all of this because this is the most beautiful and content I’ve ever felt about myself.

This would not have been the case a few months ago.  I would wake up and head straight to the mirror to see what last night’s rest brought me. I’d probably tell myself something like “eh, same old same ole” or “Good heavens girl, get some sun on those cheeks”. I would then proceed to attack every white hair I saw with a pair of tweezers.  When picking out what I was going to wear for the day, it would need to be something I hadn’t worn for at least two weeks. To be honest my toes would probably look the same.

Taking a break to soak in all of the Serengeti

Taking a break to soak in all of the Serengeti

Why is it that I own my beauty here in bush Tanzania, but reject it when I’m back in the states? I’ve come to the conclusion that mirrors only reinforce what you think about yourself. You’re going to see what you CHOOSE to see. Women in general struggle with this. We are supposed to be perfectly coiffed, have the perfect hour glass figure, and stay up to date on current trends. If we don’t have all of the above then we buy it! Why? Who are we really trying to please?


You see the real mirrors we carry or look into are people. Maybe your mirror is your co-workers, maybe its your peers, maybe its your spouse or significant other.  Regardless of who it is, we all sub-consciously and sometimes willingly hand over our mirrors to someone else. We ask others what they see, and allow them to tell us who is the fairest of them all.

Since being here in Tanzania I’ve just stopped caring

I’ve stopped handing my mirror out every day. To some that would be considered “letting herself go.” On the contrary. I’ve taken my mirror back. My mirror has become so precious to me. I used to hate seeing pictures of me without make-up on. Now I’m blasting them on facebook! I’m also surrounded by a culture that is more concerned with whether you have shoes on your feet, are warm enough, and have the parts of your body covered that need to be. Matching is not an issue. Make up is not an issue. Hair fixed perfectly everyday is not an issue. As a result I can put so much more focus on things that actually are an issue.

Some of the sweetest moments I’ve allowed myself to take in are when Jeremy shows me his mirror and how he sees me. In his mirror I see him smiling so big as I braid my hair and put on my peanut butter stained shirt. I also see him hurt when I see a beautiful woman walk by and I compare myself to her. I see him taking mascara out of my hand, throwing the high heels in the trash, and asking me to slow dance.

Our back yard,  the Ngorogoro Crater

Our back yard, the Ngorogoro Crater

Almost 2 years ago I went through a life-changing workshop called True You ( Through that workshop I developed a contract for myself. I am a Virtuous woman.  I pulled it from Proverbs 31:10-31 and my desire was to be that woman. But I realized I have always been that woman and I have found such value and worth in claiming it. Until recently I only thought it applied to my inner beauty. Not until my mirror-less experience here did I realize the richness of claiming it for my outer beauty as well.

When I return to the states I know old habits will want to creep in. I’m sure I’ll begin to put on make-up again and pluck or possibly dye a few white hairs. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing bad about make-up, or wanting to look nice. Some of us have an artistic flare and we like to express it through the way we present ourselves. I encourage that. I also encourage everyone, male and female, to ask yourself who’s holding your mirror?

We were made in the image of God. Short, tall, frizzy hair, small chest, acne, big ears, knobby knees etc…. Whoever held your mirror and said, “change this about your body,” was only listening to whoever held THEIR mirror and told them to change. God designed us and we are B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L! Psalms 139:13,14  “You made all the delicate parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex. Your workmanship is marvelous. How well I know it!”

Comment below on one way you will take back your mirror today!