Been thinking about a book club with your girlfriends? If so, consider True Beauty. It is short and easy to read, but stuffed full of biblical insight and wise counsel that targets our beauty struggles. It also includes discussion questions for every chapter, so all you have to do is make yummy snacks (I have a few suggestions!) and invite some friends. The rest is done for you!
We want to make it easier (and cheaper!) for one special group. Get a group together in the next two weeks, send us their names, and we’ll choose one group to receive up to ten free, signed copies of True Beauty (and snack ideas from me if you like!). Winners announced on Friday, August 29 and books will ship right away.
Need any more incentive? Here are some great testimonies from True Beauty book clubs:
“I’m thankful to have the opportunity to lead the women at Immanuel through a study of the book “True Beauty.” Like most believing women, they long to escape the lure of the unachievable and unsustainable beauty our culture offers. They wonder what is appropriate for women of God in all areas of beauty. They also want to know how to protect their daughters from lies about beauty, and how to point them to what is truly beautiful. In our study we are finding that “True Beauty” addresses all of these concerns and more! The book exposes the lies of our culture and our own sinful tendency to be “glory thieves,” and calls us to gaze upon our truly beautiful God. We have found the study guide questions helpful in promoting good discussion about this issue and even repentance of sin. I am confident that the ladies participating in this study will come away with a transformed view of personal beauty and a renewed vision of our beautiful God!”
“I simply love this book! I highly recommend Carolyn’s book to women of all ages. This summer I took a group of young ladies through this book, (which was very easy to do with the discussion questions provided in the back which go chapter by chapter). It was perspective building for many, and a great reminder for me. As women we are constantly getting messages from our culture of all the many ways we fail the beauty test, and I know personally how discouraging this is for us. This book is just the opposite and is filled grace, NOT legalism as some might suppose. This book is freeing! I personally plan to re-read this one regularly.”
“True Beauty addresses the heart of the beauty “problem” or “obsession” women have with their weight, skin, hair, and style. We are “glory thieves,” and desire to place ourselves (our beauty) above God’s eternal, incomparable beauty. As this book uncovers the root sin of the idolization of beauty, I have been challenged to see that true beauty “beholds and reflects the beauty of God.” As a teen, this inspires me to look at others and see His image in them, not their weight, skin, stylish clothing, or anything that would make me covet their beauty. Rather, I see their worth through God’s eyes, and the work of grace He offers them through His son’s sacrifice on the cross. Praise the Lord for his grace to lost sinners!”
Thanks to so many of you who sent in entries for our True Beauty Mother’s Day Giveaway. We wish we could give a book to everyone who entered, but we are so blessed by the love each one of you expressed for a special mom, sister, or friend. The winners are…Cara, who entered on behalf of her daughter-in-law (who was born on Mother’s Day!) and Dan, who entered on behalf of his wife and his mom—both of whom have birthdays in May! We pray these special women are blessed by this Mother’s Day gift.
And there’s still time to order your copy of True Beauty in time for Mother’s Day. We hope every mother knows her true beauty and worth on this special day.
For a bunch of college girls, it was a shocking sight. Our friend, and the mother of twins, showed us her stretch marks and we, rather impolitely, stared back in dismay. Did pregnancy really carve such strange designs into a woman’s body?
“You will all look like this some day,” she warned, laughing at our expressions. “Of course, mine are worse, because I had twins, but if you get pregnant, you will get stretch marks.”
I’m glad I didn’t know then that in addition to stretch marks I would also have a c-section scar, plus two more long scars from emergency surgery following the delivery of my first child. My stomach now looks like a crudely drawn road map.
Pregnancy wreaks havoc on a woman’s body. Stretch marks and fat deposits, c-section scars and varicose veins…the list goes on. Then there is motherhood. Sleep deprivation digs dark pits underneath our eyes, bottle washing dries out our hands, our clothes don’t fit anymore and are dotted with spit-up. Our joints are stiff from hours of carpool and our muscles sore from carrying children and baby bags and pack and plays (and don’t forget the stroller!).
Whatever beauty we thought we had before we had children feels like a thing of the past. We worry about whether our husband will still find us attractive. We feel self-conscious and insecure about how we look to others.
But motherhood is not the end of beauty, it is an opportunity to become more beautiful. Moms may not get much time at the spa, but we have the chance to apply the godly woman’s beauty regimen every day, all day long.
What is this beauty regimen? Scripture says that the woman who applies trust in God (“a gentle and quiet spirit” 1 Pet. 3:3-5) with good works (1 Tim. 2:9-10) will not fail to become genuinely beautiful. And who, I ask you, has more opportunities to apply this beauty treatment, than a mother with young children?
Every day she must trust God with the physical safety, the emotional wellbeing, and the state of her children’s souls. Every day she must do endless, repetitive acts of service on behalf of her husband and for the sake of children. And every day, as moms, we have countless opportunities to take our eyes off of ourselves, to serve others, and to look to God for strength and help. This makes us truly beautiful.
So think of it this way: you can make yourself beautiful all day long! Not only when you shower and style your hair, but also when you clean up vomit and wipe dirty bottoms, when you encourage your husband and serve your family with gladness. You are trusting God and doing good works. This will make you beautiful in the eyes of your husband and your children, and precious in the sight of God.
Motherhood is not the end of beauty; instead it can be the beginning of a deeper, more profound beauty, that transforms us from the inside out. So instead of mourning the loss of a smooth, flat, stomach this Mother’s Day, let’s give thanks for the opportunity to pursue a beauty that will never fade (1 Pet. 3:3-5).
This Mother’s Day, tell your mom that she is beautiful. True Beauty is an ideal gift for Mom for Mother’s Day and we’re giving away two copies for moms who also have birthdays in the month of May. If that describes your mom or sister or friend, contact us and we’ll randomly pick two winners and send you the book in time for Mother’s Day. Deadline is midnight (EST) on Monday, May 5.
”[Motherhood] is difficult, obscure, and messy….You may not feel very beautiful as you change dirty diapers, wipe noses, and wash smelly laundry on three hours of sleep. But who is more beautiful to a child than the woman who cares for him or her? And bringing up children to serve the Lord is precious to our Savior, who said “Let the little children come to me.” ~True Beauty, p. 99
P.S. Congratulations to Emily from South Carolina who was the randomly picked winner of our 52home contest! Check your email to collect your prize.
“In today’s culture, youth equals beauty. This means that one day, we will all fall short of the standard. Sure, we can try to forestall the effects of aging and fake the appearance of youth with creams and tucks and lifts, but Paul’s description of aging is as blunt as it is inevitable: ‘Our outer self is wasting away’ (2 Cor. 4:16). Aging pries loose the fingers that have so tightly grasped onto the physical beauty of youth, one by one. The aging woman no longer relies on her looks for happiness or friendship. She can’t bank on her figure to get or keep a husband. She isn’t striving to gain beauty, and she has stopped worrying about keeping it. While she doesn’t look as outwardly attractive as she once did, it doesn’t matter like it once did.
God’s Word doesn’t deny or mask the effects of aging (as do so many of our beauty treatments). Instead, it declares that growing old in God is a gift, a blessing….
Scripture looks at aging from the perspective of the finish line and rejoices with each milestone of maturity: congratulations, you are getting closer! From this direction, even the outward, physical signs of aging are seen in a different light: ‘Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life’ (Prov. 16:31). God’s Word celebrates aging, an we should celebrate it too. For every day brings us closer to the day when Jesus Christ ‘will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body’ (Phil. 3:21). Even though our physical beauty will inevitably fade, we have the hope of the resurrection where he will change our lowly body to be like his glorious one. We will don a beauty beyond anything that we can imagine.
Though many women become hard and bitter as they grow old, a woman who trusts God, who pursues a gentle and quiet spirit through the many trials and temptations in her life, grows more radiant and lovely, even as she wastes away. Her beauty is an imperishable beauty, after all. This is the powerful, living paradox of true beauty.“
My daughter was hosting a baby shower for her sister-in-law, and I showed up at her house at 9 a.m. to help out. Thinking I would mainly be entertaining the grandchildren, I had already showered and was dressed for the event, although I planned on at least being able to freshen up before the guests started arriving around 2 p.m. Five hours later, sweat threatening to make its ugly appearance onto my clothes, I closed the storage room door behind the vacuum as the first guests arrived. Slipping into the bathroom, I ran my fingers through my hair and dealt with the sweat the best I could with some toilet paper! No time to run home for make up, perfume, or the curling iron. Years ago, this would have upset me. Now, in my sixties, I left the bathroom with an “oh,well” attitude, looking forward to connecting with people I hadn’t seen in years and to celebrating the upcoming birth of twins to a couple who had been praying for children for years.
Many of the women there were former neighbors whom I used to see when our children were all on the neighborhood swim/dive team. One particular woman arrived with her grown daughter, and my mind immediately traveled back in time, as this woman was always the most put-together, beautiful woman ever at any event, whether it was a 7 a.m. swim meet, when the rest of us all looked as though we had just crawled out of bed (which we had), or a neighborhood Christmas party. She was stunning no matter when or where I ever saw her. I had always imagined her as the woman who could vacuum in high heels without missing a beat and never sweating, of course. Now in her early fifties, she was still that put-together woman with perfectly applied make up and fashionable clothes. She was and still is easy to talk with and very kind, not intimidating at all, despite her appearance.
At the point we found ourselves in the same group of gabbing women, she began talking directly to me, asking those questions one asks to get caught up on another’s life happenings, as it had been ten or more years since I had seen her. As others in the group turned to direct their conversations elsewhere, I noticed her staring at me. Wondering if, perhaps, I had a poppy seed stuck in my tooth, I began to experience some embarrassment, even though I had no idea what she was staring at. Suddenly, she started questioning me as to how it was possible for me to look younger and more beautiful than the last time she had seen me! Knowing I had tried to give myself some semblance of eyebrows early that morning and had applied a bit of mascara as my only make up that day, and having a flashback of wiping the sweat from my brow and elsewhere just a short time before, I literally laughed out loud. Thinking she was simply being kind, I replied with some compliment to her looking beautiful as always, and I tried to change the subject. But she was not to be denied! She continued to ask me what it was I was doing to achieve my “youthful beauty,” as she called it.
I was dumbfounded. She was serious. She wanted to know my anti-aging regimen. Was there a certain product I was using? Was it a combination of things? She wanted an answer. She wanted to know the “secret.” Mind you, I had just completed two months of grueling 14-16 hour work days and was going to physical therapy twice a week as therapy for an autoimmune disease causing significant pain in my body. The doctors told me to stop my daily exercise program for the time being, so I had gained back the ten pounds it had taken me the last three years to lose. For someone to actually ask me about beauty secrets had to be a joke. But there she was in my face, actually staring at my face, demanding an answer. No joke here. She was obviously afraid of growing old and was looking for a clue to the fountain of youth. No clue here!
I have no anti-aging regimen or physical beauty secrets, I assured her. Gravity is affecting my aging body just like everyone else. Drooping eyelids testify to it. Wrinkles abound. Age spots are evident. The last time I really looked closely in the mirror, I made the decision not to do it again! Recently wanting to join in the fun of taking “selfies,” I immediately trashed the one I took as the woman in the picture was old and scary looking! No, there is no “youthful beauty” here. What in the world was that woman talking about?
It was actually that very night that I received and read your new book, True Beauty. I obviously could not and did not allay the fears my old friend was experiencing. But I do realize now that I do have a secret, shared by other Christian women, unknown to the aging women of the world who do not know the one most beautiful, our Lord Jesus Christ. The beauty she was seeing was Christ in me, the hope of glory. Yes, my life has been fraught with times of serious trials through which I have learned to trust my Lord and Savior, everything from a child with cancer, cancer myself, infertility, miscarriages, losing my husband to cancer, being a single mom of teenagers, financial struggles, to name a few. I have not felt beautiful through any of it, but I have felt and been loved by the one most beautiful. He has never left my side nor forsaken me. No, he carries me even now as I face losing my job. But in reading your book, I am excited about a new opportunity I will have to grow in godliness as my time opens up. I want to throw myself into those deliberate acts of kindness. I want to devote myself to good works and grow more beautiful doing so. As you wrote in your book, I want to do all the good I can, by all the means I can, in all the ways I can, in all the places I can, at all the times I can, to all the people I can, as long as I can…for the glory of God…and with all the wrinkles and age spots I acquire along the way!
Recently I was talking with a group of people about our book, True Beauty, when a husband and father of daughters asked me: “How can I convince my wife that she is beautiful?”
“She stands in front of the mirror and points out her flaws” he explained, “and no matter what I say she still doesn’t seem to believe that I think she is beautiful. And then she gets a haircut! Talk about a lose-lose for me! No matter what I say it is the wrong thing. You need to help husbands know what to say when their wives get haircuts,” he laughingly concluded.
I laughed too. Men probably do need a few pointers on what to say when their wives get haircuts. But as a loving husband, his concern ran deeper than that. He wanted his wife to live in the good of God’s truth about beauty and of his husbandly love and admiration, but he didn’t know how to help her believe she was truly beautiful.
As we were writing, Mom and I often said to each other: “If only men got it! If only men understood a woman’s struggles with beauty. If only men had biblical convictions about beauty.”
Of course we want women to read our book, but we almost want men to read it more. We bandied about ideas for a new cover with sports motif or neon “Men, Read This!” stickers. In the end we settled for this blog post.
What Men Need to Know About Beauty
For one, we wish men understood the pressure women face to conform to a cultural ideal of beauty. Our worldly culture is obsessed by an illicit and elusive ideal of beauty and daily bombards us with images and messages telling us what that beauty should look like—or else. It promises happiness to the few who attain this impossible standard and shame and rejection to those who fall short of its ideal. The pressure on women to attain and maintain an impossible standard of beauty is, as one author put it, “more tyrannical than ever before.”
We also wish men understood just how susceptible they are tothe lies about beauty. The world doesn’t just tell women what they ought to look like, it tells men what to look for. After speaking about beauty, my mom had a woman approach her: “God’s perspective on beauty is all fine and good,” she said, “and I believe it is true. But the reality is, that’s not the message my husband receives from our culture about beauty.”
She’s right. Every day, men are blasted with messages about what kind of beauty they should desire, and all too often Christian men are unaware of how much this shapes their opinions and desires about beauty. Can we appeal to you? Don’t look at, long for, or buy into those messages. And be quick to tell your wife and daughters why you don’t.
Finally, we wish men understood what God’s Word says about beauty. If you really want to help your wife or daughter or the women in your church to overcome their struggles with beauty, you will study God’s Word. So often Christians have accepted partial truths and platitudes in place of a robust biblical vision about beauty. But these “solutions” don’t satisfy, which is why your wife returns to the mirror and ask you the same questions again.
Gaining a biblically informed understanding of beauty will help you the next time your wife gets a haircut or asks if she looks fat—not because you have a carefully crafted comeback, but because you understand what she is going through and have truth that will help.
3 Practical Ways to Encourage Your Wife
So what can you do?
First, start by asking your wife or daughter about the beauty pressures they face. Granted, some women may be more affected than others, but beauty issues touch us all.
Second, study Scripture. Labor to read good resources on this topic so that you can encourage, cherish, and lead your wife and daughter.
Third, encourage true beauty. Lavish your wife with affection and adoration. Be your daughter’s biggest fan.
Men who take the time to understand—or at least try to understand—the pressures women face will be able to help them resist the lies from our culture and pursue a biblical vision of beauty. Even if you don’t feel like you get it, I guarantee the effort will be greatly appreciated.
We know you may not want to be caught dead reading a book with a girly cover called True Beauty, and we respect you for that, but learning about true beauty in order to serve your woman is one of the most masculine things you can do.
“All of us, men and women, are affected by a world that idealizes youth and physical beauty. In such a world, it can feel as if our looks dictate our destiny. But that is not true. It is God who sovereignly rules over all men and women. He has determined our looks and our marital status.
We must shift our focus by fixing our trust not on our appearance or men’s expectations of beauty, but on God who directs our lives. Physical beauty does not have the last word and neither does a man’s ideal of beauty. God’s will determines all.”
Having tried unsuccessfully to squash the excessive drinking of sweet sodas, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg launched a new campaign last fall before leaving office. His goal was to promote self-esteem in young girls through billboards, ads, and after-school programs. The message: “You are beautiful just the way you are.”
A few months ago, the Dove skincare company celebrated the tenth anniversary of their “Real Beauty” campaign with a short movie in which mothers and daughters take selfies for display at an art show in order to “change the way people think about beauty.”
As the self-esteem crisis among young women intensifies, so do the efforts to find a cure. And while there are good reasons for a healthy skepticism of advertising campaigns or legitimate questions about the merits of publicly funded programs, we all agree: there is problem.
I can trot out facts and figures, but I don’t need to, do I? We all know young girls who are struggling as they grow up in a world with an impossible standard of beauty. And what makes us even more desperate is that we still haven’t dealt with our own beauty struggles. As one mother wrote to us: “When I try to talk with [my daughter] about true beauty, I stumble over my words because I have a hard time with the subject myself.”
The Nature of the Crisis
At one level, Christians resonate with the messages of well meaning campaigns from Dove, Bloomberg, and others, for we believe in the dignity and the beauty of every human being as created in the image of God. We abhor the shame, discrimination, and poor self-image that are a consequence of our culture’s obsession with beauty.
But we have to ask, why do these campaigns fail to change the status quo? As Dove celebrates its tenth anniversary, is the situation for women really much better? Has the objectification of women been eradicated in NYC? More to the point: can a billboard or a commercial, however well intentioned, really solve our struggles with beauty?
More significantly, why aren’t Christians better off? Why are our struggles with beauty as deep and intractable as the next woman’s? Why doesn’t the church seem to have a clear and compelling answer for the world’s beauty crisis?
For far too long, the church has been content with partial truths and platitudes about beauty. We’ve tried to tack “Christ” on the end of worldly solutions and called them “Christian.” Or we think we have tried Scripture’s answers and found them wanting. As one woman wrote to us, “Please don’t base your book on 1 Peter 3:4” about a gentle and quiet spirit. “This verse, misapplied in my life, left me very confused, hurt, and hidden for almost fifteen years.”
The Only Solution
But Scripture has spoken the truth about beauty all along. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the only message that gets to the heart of our problems with beauty and addresses all our body image issues, big and small.
As we write in our book, True Beauty:
Only God’s Word can promise a beauty as supernatural as it is satisfying, as attainable as it is lasting; a beauty that blesses and does not curse; a beauty that is precious, not worthless, that leads to happiness instead of heartache; a beauty that grows more becoming even as you become more beautify. Scripture is true and tells the truth. It alone reveals true beauty.
Selfies and mayoral ad campaigns won’t be able to throw off a tyrannical standard of beauty, but God’s Word shows us the path to freedom and joy. The truth of the gospel is the only answer to our beauty crisis.