Saturday, July 10, 2010

2010 Word of the Year

At the end of last year, I posted about having a word for the year, a "theme" to meditate on throughout the course of the new year instead of setting myself up for failure with a "New Year's Resolution" that I will jump into headfirst and then burn out and quit. I loved the idea of a theme, a simple word to think about and strive toward. I guess I could have cheated and chosen "thin" to be the word of the year, combining the new concept of a simple word with the old-school resolution. But I didn't. I chose "Beautiful" to be the word of the year.

Throughout this year I have often thought about what that word means, and as we are a little over half-way through 2010, I want to update on the concept. So ... what does "beautiful" really mean? defines beautiful as "having beauty", but really, what does that mean? Do I have beauty? Do you? Does an african hyena have beauty? Beautiful is also defined as "having qualities that give great satisfaction to see, hear, think about, etc." and "delighting the senses or mind."

It has been said that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder". This means that we each decide for ourselves what is means to be beautiful. We decide based on our own personal preferences what it means to "have beauty".

So this raises a new question. Not only do I need to know what it really means to be beautiful, but I need to know what it means TO ME to be beautiful. What do I find beautiful? What things or people are out there that have qualities that give {me} great satisfaction to see, hear, or think about?

Physically, my definition of beauty is versatile an has many conflicting ideas. On my own body, I find that "skinny" and "beautiful" coincide nicely. I like my legs better when they are slim and when they don't ache after going upstairs too many times. I like my arms better when I lift them to put deodorant on and there isn't a wiggle underneath. I like my stomach better when I stand up and notice that it is more flat than it is rounded. I like my butt better when it stops walking at the same time that I do. On other people, ""beauty" is a changing force, different each time I find it the same way the sunrise is never the same from day to day.

I love to look at Angeline Jolie because she is beautiful. She is thin and fit with long hair that shines and looks incredibly soft. Her eyes are exotic and her face is well-formed. To me, she is beautiful. But so is Kate Winslet. In "The Life of David Gale" she was thin and fit with straight hair and a down-home look that wasn't quite perfect but was still lovely to me. In "Titanic" she was more rounded physically but not over-large. She was chubby enough to make you believe the scene where she was being strangled into her corsets by her mother, soft enough to make Jack Dawson want to rescue her. Her hair was a vibrant red, shining and healthy with bouncing curls that were beautiful, to me. She is long-standing as my favorite actress. But I love Queen Latifah too. Her talents are widespread and her name has been known worldwide for years. She can sing, rap, and act, blending into each industry in a way that seems effortless. She has been a spokesperson for CoverGirl, Pizza Hut, and Jenny Craig, in addition to a line of clothing inspired by her called Curvation Apparel. She is a hero among women, lively and energetic, talented and wealthy. Her face shows off cheekbones that are somehow both well-defined and yet sweetly rounded. Beautiful brown eyes, and a smile that is sassy and classy and not silenced by tabloids and superficial people who would bring her down because she doesn't weigh a stylish 95 pounds. She is truly beautiful to me, and though she may not be my absolute favorite actress, she is at the top of my "wish I could meet 'em" list. I think I'd drop dead of a stroke should I ever come face-to-face with such an amazing example of how to be a successful woman in today's world while still living to your own standard.

But ... me? Simple me, the woman who is common in this world? I'm not wealthy. I'm not even rich. Hell, I'm not even "middle class". But really, money has nothing to do with being beautiful. Truly, it is the heart that must be beautiful, not the legs, or the hands or the face. But how am I beautiful? If forced to think of myself as  beautiful, as having qualities that give great satisfaction to see, hear, and think about ... Then what comes to my mind?

I think of friends who have had great impact in my life ... and remember how those people have told me that I have impacted them with the very same depth. That is beautiful ... knowing how to be a friend who listens and cares, who loves wholeheartedly and with real true honesty. I think of words that are synonymous with "beautiful", words that I have heard used to describe me, sometimes to my great surprise. Words like admirable, alluring, appealing, charming, cute, delightful, enticing, excellent, fair, gorgeous, lovely, pretty, and radiant. Some of these are physical traits and some are not. But they are all considered beautiful and at one time or another they have been considered as ways to describe me as a person.

But what about when beauty REALLY counts? What does God think of beautiful in a woman, and how does He describe beautiful as it truly and most definitely pertains to me? Proverbs 31:10-31 speaks in many ways about what a woman should be.
"A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls. She considers a field and buys it, out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple. Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes. She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her saying, 'Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.' Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate."

In many ways, I am beautiful. Physically, I carry my weight well because so much of it is muscle. My figure could be improved but is not so bad especially when dressed in a flattering manner. My hair is long and though it could use a professional cut, it is clean and healthy and generally well-maintained. My toenails are painted red and I have worked to soften and repair the damage left by spending all of my time either barefoot or in flip flops. My nose is strait and fits my face, my eyes are just slanted and lovely blue. My lips pout nicely and my teeth have never been corrected by a disapproving dentist. But the passage above? That passage makes me feel even more beautiful because it doesn't care about physical features, and it describes me the way God sees me. I still have a lot of work to do before I fit that description perfectly ... but I'm studying that passage and trying to fit myself into the life it describes.

Loosely translated, the passage describes a woman who is valued by those around her, she is trustworthy and treats those around her with love and respect. She is hardworking, frugal and domestically talented. This woman makes herself available to meet the needs of others, yet she takes the time and spends the effort to take care of her own needs as well. She, more than all the others, is beautiful to the One whose opinion matters most.