Welcome to Part 19 of my “Living A Simple Life” series! To read previous “installments” of this series, click on the “Simple Living Series” tab at the top of the page.
Earlier this week, I was browsing through a book from the library, and noticed a photo of a young girl riding a bicycle, complete with streamers on the handlebars! I reminisced back to the time when I was about that age, wishing for beautiful streamers on my Pink Thunder bicycle, newly deprived of its training wheels.
Each day after kindergarten, I swiftly pedaled around the front walkways of our rented orchard farmhouse, in my favorite pale yellow sundress. I was thoroughly enamored by the beauty of the new basket on the front of my bicycle, but I just knew I needed the romance of streamers blowing in the wind. Not just any streamers- I wanted real ribbons; not those tinsel-y things, sold in Barbie-themed packages. I wanted the real thing, not the ostentatious fakes my friends appeared to enjoy.
I realized that my perception of beauty has ebbed and flowed over the years. As I entered the pre-teen years, I was easily convinced of the necessity of “fitting in” with the “popular” girls at school. My mom attempted home perms on my waist-length blonde hair (which resisted all attempts of curling, nonetheless), and even trudged through the mall with me, looking to find a white, frilly blouse just like all the other girls wore. (So that we could call each other up in the morning, and arrange to wear the same thing everyday!)
It wasn’t until my later high-school years, that I began pursuing a hint of individuality; clumsily piecing together creative outfits with a “hippie” flair from thrift store finds and my Teva sandals. My dearest friends fondly called me their “granola friend,” (hence the blog title) as I trekked across mountains in my tie-dyed shirts, and holey wool sweaters.
I appreciated the beauty of a “vintage” or handmade item, imagining the story each embroidered sweater and lace-trimmed dress contained. (So what if that old yellow dress looked like a curtain?) Also during that time, I began sewing some of my own clothes; mostly scrubs for work, and sundresses for summer parties with friends.
After I had been married for a few years, I was surrounded by friends who were having babies, and struggling to lose “baby weight.” They were walking around bemoaning their loss of style, as they wore baby spit-up, stretchy pants, and diaper bags. One friend decided to “make-over” her life. She zealously scoured her closet, and eliminated most of her old clothes. She purchased a subscription to Vogue magazine, and spent her weekends shopping at Nordstrom to complete her new look.
Then I became her next project. She dumped a stack of magazines in my car, and sorted through my closet. (In her defense, the closet de-cluttering task really did need to be completed!) However, she instilled that pre-teen “clothing guilt” in me once again. I suddenly had a list of “necessities” that she had written out for me (seasonal blouses, suit jackets, matching shoes, and colorful makeup).
I even convinced my husband that these changes were requisite for my job wardrobe and lifestyle. We trudged to the outlet malls, sorting through mass-produced items, guaranteed to help me “individualistically blend in with everyone else.”
The same attitude was also directed at my home. I collected paint samples and landscaping plans, always afraid that I wouldn’t make the “right choice.” Gradually, I realized the futility of this lifestyle.
Instead of buying “socially-appropriate” artwork, I painted a love letter to my husband on our dining room wall. I dug up the grass in our front lawn, and planted herbs. I no longer mulled over Pottery Barn catalogs; instead, I filled my kitchen with glass mason jars. The kitchen towels no longer need to be folded perfectly over the towel bar, pristinely absent of stains; they’re beautiful in their functionality. Eventually, I simplified my clothing, losing track of my detested jeans in favor of flowing thrift store dresses.
I suppose some would say I’ve become “frumpy.” But I prefer to think “feminine.” (My youngest sister has regularly told me that I “look like I’m from an old movie” when I wear my apron and dresses.)
Once again, I can finally identify with that little girl on the bicycle, in a sense. I still love adding a touch of beauty, but it is not dictated by those around me. I know that my worth is not hinged upon my possessions or glamour. Even so, I can cling to the desire for the real thing. I’m not talking about snubbing costume jewelry for accessories of fine diamonds.
In essence, I can appreciate the true beauty of the simple pleasures in God’s world; the incredible creation that surrounds me, the intricate, honest work of a local craftsman, a heartfelt tasteful meal with a friend, the pure giggle of a child holding a homemade toy.
Even more so, I can remember that in God’s eyes, I too am a real jewel. I don’t need to adorn myself with contrived forms of “beauty.” I am His creation; His daughter… simply His.
“The LORD your God is with you,
He is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with his love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.”
To be continued… Join me next week for Part 20!
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