It's a big word today, larger than ever I think.
Advertisements which feature flawless air-brushed faces; every perceived imperfection removed and only a smooth palette left behind; artfully painted in the new colours of the season and teeth so white they defy explanation. Yes, that's what the media and cosmetic companies tell us makes beauty.
Then there are the 'body beautiful' plastic surgeons with their billboards staring down at you as your wait in your car at a red light, praying it turns green quickly so you can escape the insecurities and propaganda their words are trying to type upon your subconscious.
One plastic surgeon in our city really makes me sad with his billboard tag line of "keeping our city beautiful". So is he saying that if I age gracefully, naturally, as God made me, that I am not beautiful, that I'm doing a disservice to our city by declining plastic surgery? Oh dear man, you are so very wrong.
BEAUTY - real beauty - is a grace which transforms any woman without a single stroke of lipstick, well cut dress or carefully coiffed hair. It appears from the inside out, beginning in the heart, and when the mind catches on and the two work together, beauty naturally blooms.
Darling girl, I think you will will find yourself to be far more beautiful than you ever imagined already - especially if you regularly cleanse your heart with forgiveness and honesty; tone your character with respect and kindness; moisturise your attitude with compassion and care; and style your actions in love.
Lately I have pondered beauty more than usual, deeply considering many aspects of feminine beauty - spiritual, character, physical and emotional. These thoughts, and subsequently this post, were in fact triggered by a desire to take better care of myself.
When my husband and I sit outside watching the birds, sipping our morning coffee before he leaves for work, I always ask him "Is there anything I can do for you today?" and his reply never changes.
"Look after yourself."
This has been a routine for many years, but it was only since my birthday in February that I took his request more seriously, as indeed this is what he wanted. With his very long working hours this year I'm home alone more and he knows his wife well, acknowledging that because I love cleaning, gardening, cooking and organising, my days are now more physically active than they used to be.
But what he did not grasp, was that I had more time to think, to consider my life and pray about it; prayers of wisdom and understanding and guidance for the weeks, months or years still ahead of me. Prayers to more fully grasp the hidden beauty in the heart of every woman and how I could encourage myself and her in pursuing and tending those seeds which do really bloom when we tend them.
So working on the inward self (spiritual and character) has been rather important of late, but I did find it spilling over into the physical and emotional as well - and surprising things came to light.
You may or may not know this, but I surround myself with colour. For as long as I can remember having colour around the house, in the decor, in my clothing, and eventually in my designs - it was deeply needful. Though I have this soft shabby chic side, the colourful side tends to always come out on top no matter how much I try to subdue it. And I have found this push and pull between the two a challenge and even confusing, especially this year. So for the first time I laid all this before God. "Help" I said, more than a few times, and over more than a hundred different things, usually at night when I was going to sleep, or in the mid-morning as I poured over His Word with a hot cup of tea.