Feeling Beautiful – WHM continued (again)

Krista asked me to write about a time where I felt “most beautiful.”  Ughhh.  Give me “social injustices” or “balancing Mommyhood with my passions!”  Those are things I could easily write about!  But feeling beautiful?

Sure everyone remembers their princessy dress moments!  Prom dresses, “little black dresses”, THE dress!  But I can’t specifically remember a time I felt beautiful.

Motherhood is way to feel beautiful—except the photographic evidence shows my tired, bloated face and cankles… that’s not really my idea of being beautiful either!

photo 4 (2)Aside from making sure that I look professional in a given setting, I don’t spend much time trying to be beautiful.  In fact, my friends in small groups at church would testify that I’m not afraid to show up in “running gear” (you know, the kind that may or may not have served as PJ’s for the night prior!  NO ONE WILL EVER KNOW!!! Insert evil laugh!), without make up and possibly- probably- without a shower!

Especially as of late, I’ve really had to not care about skin-deep beauty.  Since November I’ve been battling a type of psoriasis that is the result of having Strep every 4 weeks!  I have red, flaky splotches all over my body, currently very noticeable on the sides of my neck and face, my feet when I wear dress shoes for professional occasions, and even on my hands.  It’s also been bad on my scalp which makes me look like I have crazy dandruff!  AWESOME!!!!  Make-up helps a little, but I’ve decided to walk through life choosing to not care TOO much about it… in the big picture, I am blessed and while this is sucky, I find my rest in feeling overwhelmingly thankful for the amazing life I have!

I think God has possibly laid a NEW kind of beautiful on my heart.  One that has nothing to do with me… or so I thought!

God opened my eyes to a new world last summer.  A world that has more people enslaved than ever before, yet not many people are aware of.  In fact, it’s this same world where victims of human trafficking are often labeled as prostitutes, criminals, and even felons in 7 States.

I’ve befriended survivors and read their memoirs.  I understand now how damaging the overall cultural perception and language is to those who are caught up in ‘the life.’  It’s difficult for people to perceive victims of human trafficking as such when the news reports are about “Prostitution rings” getting “busted”- they might as well be saying, “the bad guys got caught.”  This is not ok.  So how does this tie in?

Victims caught up in this life are well aware of the fact that society has long forgotten them and any acknowledgement of their existence at all often comes via criminalization.

One survivor-led restoration program for boys said, “If you’re waiting for the grown ups to build you a safe home, you’re kidding yourself.”  They know.  They know society thinks they are the lowest on the totem pole and that they are on NO one’s radar; They know that if they go missing, no one is looking for them.  This makes them particularly vulnerable targets for the most violent of crimes.

The unfortunate thing is that the ‘self-perceptions’ that are created, often come straight from the mouths of authority figures, many times to include the victim’s own parents, and in turn, victims begin to believe these things about themselves and to identify with the labels they’ve been given.  A local survivor of sexual assault that made national headlines right here in Missouri, backed this up on 20/20 last fall: “When people are calling you the B-word and the C-word, you start to believe them.”

 

They know they are invisible to main stream culture.a ship in port is safe

Their records prove that they are often considered criminals.

They are labeled.

They are joked about.

There are songs glorifying their entrapment by pimps.

And they are well aware of all these things.

 

Self-perceptions are so fragile, yet can be a powerful entrapment on their own– a fact well understood by traffickers (aka Pimps), and reinforced by authority figures, media, and the public’s oversight of their victimization.

One of my survivor friends gave me some powerful advice, “Tell them they are beautiful, point out their strengths and help them build those into life skills, because you can bet that their pimp never did.”  So that’s what I’m going to do.  I want to walk alongside survivors, be a positive, encouraging voice, and help them recognize their own beauty and worth; That they are valuable members of society, with gifts & talents to offer the world!

I’m at a place in life where my own perception of beauty has more to do with seeing that very thing in others …which ironically gives me a sense of beauty when I think about the compassion and unconditional love that it takes to be a willing participant in advocacy—intentionally being present in the heart of people’s hardest times– and what beautiful abilities and qualities those are to possess.  I’ve always seen the beauty in my friends who are doing these things, so I suppose it’s time that I own some of that beauty too!  It really IS a beautiful thing to be able to see the beauty in others, beyond labels, beyond perceptions, beyond differences.

So if there was a time when I felt most beautiful, I guess it would be in the present… more than ever!  When I announced my opportunity to work in advocacy, it coincided with my 31st birthday.  I thought to myself how often people want to go back in time, and instead, here I am thinking my 30’s could possibly be the best – most beautiful- years yet, as I walk alongside caterpillars who will eventually turn into butterflies because of love, encouragement, and support.

{Through writing this, I’ve wrestled with how to verbalize my thoughts about my own beauty, as I am quite insecure of others’ perceptions at times!  But BECAUSE of this writing, I’ve really had to acknowledge how important it is that we ARE able to see our own beauty, because there always will be opposing voices and discouragement in life.  It’s imperative that we see in ourselves what beauty we DO possess so we can stand firmly above those who say “we can’t” and “we never will” achieve our dreams, no matter what our walk is in life.}

 

Emily Speaking

 

Emily Russell is a wife, mother, Christian singer/songwriter and advocate for victims of crime.  Read more about her journey of following God’s call towards ministry and human trafficking awareness atwww.emilyrussellmusician.com.  You can purchase Emily’s music on iTunes for just $2.99 to support her anti-trafficking efforts in Missouri!  To learn more about the realities of life on the streets, please read Cry Purple by survivor Christine McDonald (available on Amazon.com)!

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