Happy Friday, my loves!

  I'd planned to end the week of here at Sweetness Itself with a fun post - I was going to tell you about my new favorite nail polish, how I did a couple DIY projects this week, and maybe even demonstrate (per request from Mandy :) how to do "beachy waves" in your hair. Those things are sweet, fun and I love them - but, they've been pushed to the back burner tonight...because I want to share with you something more important I've been thinking about. Kinda like when you sit down for a long-awaited coffee date with your close friend, and instead of starting off with small talk about the weather, that gorgeous top she's wearing, or the amazing latte you've got in your hand - you dig right in to the deep stuff - the stuff you've been dying to tell her but just can't bear to over the phone or a text, the thoughts that have kept you awake at night as they mull over in your mind.

  So if this were our coffee date (and I wish it were!) I would take a sip from the big mug on the table as you ask me "So, how's life?"  and I'd jump right in. Because, you see - that's the kinda friends we are. Sadly, though, since we aren't at a little wooden table with steamy cups in our hands, go make some tea and come back. I've got stuff to spill, girl!

... I would tell you that I've been thinking about beauty lately.

  How I stumbled upon a news article earlier this week that featured before and after pictures of famous models and celebrities - the before shots: natural, the after shots: airbrushed. And how it got me thinking about the daily, hourly conditioning of our minds as to what "beauty" is.

   I would tell you that I realized something - I realized that if I were to take a 10 minute slice out of any given day in your week, there's a very high chance that you encountered the world's idea of "beauty" in those 10 minutes. A TV commercial, an advertisement, a billboard flashing past the car window, a sign up at school or work, a magazine cover you don't even intend to look at but are faced with as you stand in line at the grocery store, or an advertisement on the sidebar of your e-mail account. And I would tell you that I realized something else: that many of the images we see and unconsciously compare ourselves to - as women - are nothing more than painted-over pictures. Like this one, for example:

Kourtney Kardashian released this photo - 1 week after giving birth
to show how much OK Magazine photoshopped her cover photograph. 

  I've found much more graphic (and clothes-less) versions of before/after airbrushing pictures, and you've probably stumbled upon them before. But I just share the above photo to remind us of the truth - that many of the pictures we see depicting "beauty" are not even real. (By the way, does anyone else notice? They even made the baby look better and smaller - that's just wrong!)

  These images of beauty flash at you and me constantly - and without even knowing, we slowly but surely file them away in our hearts and minds... until they jump out to haunt us at unexpected times. They pop up in the form of little whispers in your mind and heart as you stand in front of the mirror each morning. Whispers of little lies that haunt you - "Your skin is not clear... You're fat. Your chest is the wrong size. Your eyes don't sparkle. Your nose is huge. Your hair is an awful color. Your eyes are too small. Your lips are too thin and your waist is too thick." You try your best to push the thoughts away, to erase them with a little concealer, to cover them with lipstick. But they linger there, over your head like a cloud, following you throughout your day.

  They whisper lies that trigger thoughts from the past. Thoughts you don't like to think about, reminding you of things you wish had never happened. The way they treated you. Those words she said that stung and haven't gone away with the passing of time. The way he dumped you, the words he spoke that cut you down, the way he treated you.
And the whispering lies just get worse.

Lies that say:

"You're ugly, worthless, and no one will ever love you."
"Your ideas are silly" 
"He left because you did something wrong"
"Nothing will ever change"
"Your dreams won't come true"

I know these kinds of lies. Their whispers in my heart haunt me sometimes. They tear me down. And I start to feel really bad. They make me feel like I just want to crawl under my down comforter in my bed and cry in the darkness. They make me feel worthless and like I will never belong.

  But, sisters - I am here to tell you something - something that nobody really wants to say. Something that seems like mere words on a page, but in reality - is as powerful as lightning.

God doesn't say those things about you.
Those whispers are not His.
Those whispers are LIES... lies, I tell you.

   And if we were sharing a coffee date, I would tell you that I want to remind you and me of truth. Of what is real. These reminders I am going to share are rather simple and not all that glamorous. But the Lord put them on my heart this week, in light of my thoughts on beauty and concerns about how the media and culture influences our way of thinking... and I want to remind you (and me) of simple truth. Truth that is beautiful.

God says inner beauty - our hearts - is what lasts, what matters.

 "Charm is deceptive and beauty does not last,
but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised."
- Proverbs 31:30

He says He loves us.

"I have loved you with an everlasting love...
I have drawn you with lovingkindness."
-Jeremiah 31:3

And He says....

You are beautiful.

You are not alone.

You are special.

You are forgiven.

You are loved by God.

You are a precious gem.

And you can fly.

    People can try to tear us down, the media can strive to make women feel worthless with airbrushing efforts to make models look a certain way. But they can never steal truth away from you or me. So hold onto that, girl. They cannot take away your confidence, your voice, or your true beauty. And no one can change what God says is true. And ya know what my favorite thing He says about us is? That we are princesses to Him. And that He is enthralled by us.

"The King is enthralled by your beauty,
honor Him for He is your Lord."

-Psalm 45:11

  If we were having a coffee date, I would probably be wiping away a few tears right now, as you took the last sip of your latte. We'd hug and exchange "Call me"s and "Have a good weekend"s.

 And with that, you'd get in your car and I'd get in mine.
 And as you drove away, I'd send you a little text that said,

"Girl remember... He's enthralled by our beauty. True beauty.
 Let's go honor Him for HE is our God. Love you!"

Don't forget it, k?

Hugs and Happy Weekend, you beautiful soul.