“Your adornment must not be merely external, braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.” - I Peter 3:3 & 4
People magazine came out this week with their issue titled, “World’s Most Beautiful Women”. I will admit it ... I skimmed through the pages of said issue while waiting in the grocery store line. I was at once both amazed and sickened ... concerned and insecure ... incredulous and disappointed.
I stared at page after page after page of beauty as defined by the world and by the standards of our culture. Although I don’t know any of the women personally who were identified as “The World’s Most Beautiful” by People Magazine, I do know enough about them to know that their lives are not nearly as pretty as their sculpted faces and the inner workings of these very beautiful women break my heart.
Can I share with you who would be on my list of “The World’s Most Beautiful Women”?
Now ... I am sure that none of you have ever met the unknown beauties that I am choosing to honor ... but I can tell you this ... they exhibit a beauty and a radiance that Hollywood could only hope to emulate. Their ravishing beauty was not crafted by the hands of a world-renown plastic surgeon, by a famous personal trainer or with an airbrush. Their beauty has been honed by day after day of choosing to serve Jesus when their lives fell apart.
The women who are featured on my list of “Breathtakingly Beautiful Lives” are living well and strong for the Kingdom of God at this time in history. Although you might not know their names, you must come in contact with their hearts.
1 - “Natalie” is a young woman who was married shortly after graduating from Bible College. She and her pastor husband were unable to have children and for years prayed that God would enlarge their family. When 2 precious foster children arrived into their home and into their hearts, Natalie was overjoyed. Natalie and her husband were only days away from adopting this brother and sister dynamic preschool duo when Natalie’s husband decided he didn’t want to be a father. He left Natalie to adopt them as a single mom and to raise them alone. Natalie is filled with joy knowing that she is making a difference in the lives of these abandoned children. Natalie is my definition of beautiful.
2 - “Shannon” is my friend who was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 24. She had a double mastectomy followed by months of chemo and radiation which caused early menopause. It was worth it, though, because Shannon was declared cured of the horrific disease. Shannon married her college sweetheart and they adopted 2 beautiful children who filled their home with noise and joy. 3 years ago, at age 37, Shannon was diagnosed with stage 4 bone cancer. She continues to lead 2 Bible Studies a week, disciples middle school girls and exemplifies a heart attitude that is nothing short of miraculous. Shannon is one in a million ... truly breathtakingly beautiful!
3 - I went to high school with “Nancy”. We were cheerleaders together, studied Algebra together and had so many slumber parties that my parents wondered if they would ever reclaim their living room floor again. Although I didn’t know it at the time, Nancy was being raised in an abusive environment with an alcoholic father. Although the angry father never abused Nancy, he beat her brothers and mother and often mistreated them verbally. Nancy came to school every single day with a smile on her face and a song in her heart. She was so well-loved that she was voted “Best Personality” and “Underclassmen’s Favorite” in our senior class. Since graduation, Nancy has met Jesus as her Lord and Savior. She raised her 3 children in a loving and healthy environment and now serves as my traveling companion in ministry. Nancy is one of those rare individuals who sparkles from the inside out. She is living a beautiful life free from the wounds of her childhood.
4 - “Gretchen” is a gorgeous grandmother approaching 8 decades of living. She escaped from Poland after WWII with her sister, never to see their parents again. Gretchen and her sister walked almost 500 miles across the European continent and nearly starved to death on the journey. Their father had made arrangements with an American shipping boat to take his daughters to America. Gretchen married the son of an old country family friend. This horrible groom beat her on their wedding night and then came home drunk nearly every night for 4 decades. Gretchen lovingly raised her only child, a daughter, in freedom and cheered the day that she graduated from an American university. Gretchen now finds purpose and joy in loving her 2 grandsons and in serving at church as a greeter. The smile on her face is etched in true beauty and her heart reaches out in mercy in love to everyone she meets.
Sorry, People magazine. You didn’t get it right ... but then ... you rarely do. I hope that some day you will understand what true beauty actually is and then find women who live it out every day of their lives. If you need some suggestions, I would love to nominate Natalie, Shannon, Nancy and Gretchen. Trust me on this ... the world is more beautiful because they are in it.
What is your definition of the word “beauty”? Who is on your list of “Breathtakingly Beautiful Lives!”?
Carol McLeod of Just Joy! Ministries is a popular author and speaker at women's retreats and conferences across the globe. She currently hosts a radio program call "Defiant Joy! Radio" in several cities, has written three books, "Defiant Joy", "The Rooms of a Woman's Heart", and "Holy Estrogen!", and is the founder and CEO of Just Joy! Ministries.