Category Archives: Personal

Investing in True Beauty

This is a post I wrote a couple years ago, shortly after I had the twins. I’m revisiting this because lately I’ve been struggling with my outer appearance (yes, I actually do sometimes) and it helped to reread something I wrote years ago. Hopefully you will find it encouraging too.

If your morning is anything like mine, you do the following: look into a mirror, evaluate the work that needs to be done and start pulling out the necessary equipment needed to transform the ugly duckling into a beautiful swan. And there’s nothing wrong with that (trust me, after being up all night with twins, I would scare people by the way I look in the morning). But a thought hit me the other day that I would like to share with you.

How many of us wish we could change one part of the way we look? Perhaps it’s your hair, your legs, your face, fill in the blank… Unless you’re really rich and can afford plastic surgery, the best makeup, and constant visits to the beauty salon, you’re stuck with what you were born with (and for those of us with short legs, science has yet to figure out how to make them longer).

But there is a part of you that you can change. It’s what’s inside of you. God calls it “unfading beauty”. Eventually your outer body is going to age. You can color your hair, but someday it will be white. You can wear color contacts to get the eye color you always wanted, but someday those eyes will be hidden behind a pair of glasses or whiten with cataracts. You use every cream that promises to forestall wrinkles, but eventually they catch up. And your weight will change, especially if you have children (trust me, I know; been there, done that). Our bodies are fading beauties. Like flowers, we bloom. But then the petals droop and eventually fall off.

So since we really can’t change what we look like on the outside, we should start investing in that which we can change: our inside. Anyone woman can do it. It doesn’t require a lot of money. Just time with God, time in the Bible, and a change in our perspective of what true beauty is.

So what is this true beauty that every woman can possess? God calls it a “gentle and quiet spirit” which is so precious to Him. That’s right, this kind of spirit is precious to God. And it’s available to every woman, whether she is freckly, has frizzy hair, or weighs more than she did in high school. And it will never fade. When your outer body starts to succumb to the ravages of time, you can control what your insides look like. In fact, you can posses it now.

Jesus is the prime example of this kind of beauty. The Bible says “there was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him.” (Isaiah 53:2b NLT). Yet as we read the gospels, Jesus is one of the most beautiful people who walked the earth. His “gentle and quiet” spirit shone through to the point that people ceased to see his physical appearance and saw his true beauty within. He served others selflessly, healed those no one else would come near, and loved the world to the point of dying for it.

I don’t know about you, but that’s the kind of beauty I want. I want a gentle spirit (this word can also be translated “meek” which means power under control and I don’t know anyone who has more power than Jesus, yet his was always under control). I want a quiet spirit (this does not mean never speak; rather it means in all situations, we are quiet before God and allow Him to direct the way we respond to the situation). I want to serve selflessly, love unconditionally, and let kindness seep out of my pores. This is the kind of beauty that will never fade. This is the kind of beauty you can possess now.

Now don’t start throwing out your curling iron or mascara. It’s okay to make yourself look nice (I love to look nice for my husband). But consider how much time you are investing in your outer appearance and your inner self. One is going to fade, nothing can really stop that. But the other will last to the day you die. Not everyone can be a super model, but every woman has the opportunity to be the most beautiful woman on the inside. It’s not hard to realize which one is worth investing in more, is it?

“You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” 1 Peter 3:4 (NLT)

God’s Forge

I was reading through Psalms this week and ran across this verse: “Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the Lord tested Joseph’s character.” Psalm 105:19. We all know how Joseph’s story ends (he becomes second in command and reunites with his family), but I had never thought about all those years of his life that pass within the thirty seconds it takes to read in Genesis.

Here is a quick synopsis: Joseph was betrayed by his family. He was sold into slavery. He served as a slave. He was tempted. He was lied about and unjustly imprisoned. He watched others released from prison while he languished in that dark place for years.

As I thought about Joseph more, I put myself in his place: the heartache brought on by the betrayal of his brothers. The fear he might have had as he was handed over to the merchants for gold. Perhaps discouragement, yet a choice to make the best of things as he took his place as a slave in Potipher’s home. The split second decision to run when Potipher’s wife tried to seduce him. The disbelief when Potipher believed his wife’s lies about him. Then the kicker: thrown into prison for doing nothing wrong.

Joseph sat in that prison for years. He was totally surrounded by darkness, both physically and emotionally (at least I would be). All he’s known in his life are lies, betrayal, and hardship. He sits there day in and day out, facing a bleak existence. Perhaps he tries to hold onto the promised visions he’d had that God was going to do something great with his life, but he can’t see how that’s going to happen now as he stares at the dark dungeon walls.

Even darker thoughts may have invaded Joseph’s mind. Should he have given in to Potipher’s wife? He wouldn’t be here now if he had. Or could God be trusted? Why hadn’t God kept his promise? Why had God allowed him to be imprisoned? Maybe jealousy tempted him as he watched Pharoh’s cup-bearer leave prison. The deep, painful depression as he waits for the cup-bearer to keep his word and get Joseph out of prison, only to have days turn into weeks turn into months.

Until the time came…. God tested Joseph’s character.

I feel like I’m in God’s forge right now. When I picture a forge, I see a dark room filled with heat, sweat and pain. I see a hammer slamming down on a heated piece of metal. It takes the heat, sweat, and pain to turn ordinary metal into something extraordinary and useful. But the process can feel dark and painful.

When I read the verse above this week, things clicked for me. I put my name in that verse: “Until the time came to fulfill her dreams, the Lord tested Morgan’s character.” Yikes!

Now unlike Joseph’s dreams (which were prophetic and a promise from God), my dreams are simply aspirations of mine. I am a writer. And like most writers, I would like to be published. But is that God’s plan for my life? Is my “writing in the dark” a time when God is testing my character?

I think so.

I do not know what kind of future God is preparing me for (he certainly has not promised me a book contract). But I do know that he considers my faith “more precious than gold” (1 Peter 1:7). So into the forge I go so God can shape me into the woman I need to be.

The Scariest Words

We just can’t afford to keep you on.

I don’t love you anymore.

It’s cancer.

We’re not prepared for this kind of emergency.

Mom, I’m pregnant.

Some of these words I have heard, some of them I have not. They are scary words, filling one with the wish that they could go back in time and prevent them from happening. But let me share with you what words for me would be the most frightening to hear.

These words came to me a couple weeks before I went to a conference. They were not real, not yet anyway. But they lingered there in the back of my mind. At this conference, I was having dinner with a couple people and someone brought up the question: What is your goal in life? Being creative people with a sense of humor, everyone around the table began to say things like “Become dictator of the world,” and “Go on every roller coaster there is.” I smiled and laughed with the rest until it was my turn. Then I felt God urging me to share those words.

I took a shaky sip from my water, then put down the cup. I looked around the table, took a deep breath and began.

I do not want to get to heaven and have God say, “Morgan, you led a pretty good middle class life. Not many bad things happened to you, you had a nice house, nice car, nice family. But let me show you what your life could have been… if you had let me have my way with it.”

The mood at the table suddenly dropped a couple degrees. People shuffled their silverware around. Someone cleared her throat. I wanted to apologize, but those words were the true goal of my life. I do not want to hear God say those words. Those words would leave me feeling I had done nothing with my life. I lived, I died, and nothing came of it. I want my life to count for more. I want it to mean something.

Now don’t get me wrong. A nice life is not a bad thing. But if in pursuit of that life we miss hearing God’s voice, then we miss out on our lives being something amazing. What good is it to have a nice house, a secure job, a published book if in the end, it was all for me? No, I want my life to count for more. I want it to have maximum impact. And the only way is to hear God’s quiet voice, directing me towards his plans for my life.

And then having the courage to do it.

In Darkness there is Light

This is not only a tagline for the kind of fiction I write; it is a tagline for my life. When my husband was laid off and went almost a year without work, there was light. When my son became so ill he stopped breathing and had to be lifeflighted to Portland, there was light. When a lump the size of a golf ball was found in my breast, there was light.

It wasn’t a blazing light; it wasn’t a burst of sunshine. The darkness that filled my life during those times felt so overbearing that I felt I would be crushed beneath it. Save for that light. A single, solitary light, like the flicker of a flame above a small candle.

That light in my life was Jesus.

Perhaps it took such dark circumstances for me to see him. It can be hard to see a candle in broad daylight. Perhaps it took turning everything dark around me for me to finally see him, much like a candle in a dark room has a way of grabbing our eye.

But I finally saw the one who in His word says I am the Light of the World. Jesus became more to me than just a quick five-minute devotion time or a prayer thrown up in haste before I went out the door. He became more than dressing up in my best for Sunday or begrudgingly giving time to watch kids in Sunday school.

He became real. And so did I.

Those first few nights after my husband was laid off, I finally told God how I felt. I was real with him. I told him I was scared, angry, alone. And when my son stopped breathing in my arms, I screamed to God I needed a miracle. And when faced with the possibility of cancer not once but twice in my life, I realized how limited life is and nothing but people can leave this world with me.

During the darkest times in my life, I finally saw Jesus as more than an icon for a religion or a distant Sunday school story. The knowledge of him I carried around in my head for years finally sunk down into my heart. Now I can say I finally know God, or at least on the path to knowing him more fully.

There is a lot of darkness out there. But in darkness there is light. And his name is Jesus Christ.