No one was more surprised than I when my good friend Angela Breidenbach and I chose to write a duo of stories set within a beauty pageant world. We signed the contract in August 2013, the book releases in September 2014, and I’m neck-deep in writing my novella, The Model Queen, the contemporary half of Snowflake Tiara.
Yes, my heroine is not only a pageant contestant but a (former) model.
They say to write what you know.
Clearly I am not following the advice of the sages.
Why? Why am I in this situation? I believe God put me here and, over the next year or so, I’ll blog monthly (ish) on what I’m learning and how God is using this process to change me. To beautify me.
Where did I come from?
I was born the youngest of five daughters in a Canadian Mennonite family. My parents were raised old-school Mennonite, the kind where women pinned black kerchiefs over their long, pinned-up hair, wore dresses that fell well below the knee, and were forbidden jewelry of any kind, even wedding rings.
Makeup? Forget it. Sassy haircuts? Forget it. Pierced ears? Now you were pretty much on the wide road to hell, no matter if you professed to love Jesus.
Mennonite women didn’t talk about beauty. 1 Peter 3:3-4, King James Version, says:
Whose (wives’) adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.
Whew, it’s been a long time since I read KJV, but it seemed important this time, because that’s the wording I remember. The literal translation was, “Don’t dress up fancy. Don’t put on airs and pretend you’re pretty. A beautiful spirit inside is what is valuable to God.”I wasn’t told I was cute. Or pretty. Or beautiful. I wasn’t told which colors looked good on me, which styles suited my body type. (Buttoned to the top? Landing below the knee? Not too tight? Perfect.)
Then I attended high school at a conservative Christian boarding school whose rules closely matched my upbringing. While other teens in other places were experimenting with makeup and fashion, I wasn’t. It just wasn’t important to me. It didn’t matter.
I totally don’t want you to think that my parents didn’t love me or value me. They did. This was their culture speaking. I also don’t want you to feel sorry for my boarding school days. I loved it there. Sure, there were rules, but everyone lived under the same ones. It wasn’t a hardship. Besides, I met my husband there and we’ve now been married over 30 years. I can’t regret that!
I’m telling you this history, not because I’m bashing anyone, but because I need you to understand the journey I’m on. The journey to be beautiful. The journey to femininity. The journey to elegance.
You may not have been raised Mennonite, but that’s not a prerequisite for the struggle to understand beauty from a biblical standpoint. I know some of you are on this journey, too. Will you walk with me? Will you tell me where you’re coming from, what your history includes?