This is the story of the be.you.ty project: how it came to be, and its hopeful mission.
About a year ago, it was really laid on my heart to try and use my photography to glorify God. I’ve been taking pictures of people for about 3 years now, and I’ve grown to really love it.
I spent a few months searching and praying, trying to figure out what that meant and how it would apply to my life and if it was my calling. Around this time, I really developed a liking and passion for doing fun little sessions where I worked one-on-one with a girl, allowing her the opportunity to play “super model” for a few hours.
I spent a few weeks pondering what I could do with that and debated going to beauty school to open a glamour session studio where I would do hair and make-up followed by a photo shoot. As I talked to a few people who had studied cosmetology, I decided that I just prayerfully couldn’t do it. Something about it wasn’t right- so I laid it before the Lord and let it go. I left school and eventually took a full-time ”9-5” job and just waited for God to move.
A few weeks ago, I was driving home when it hit me again that I wanted to find a way to do this…and then God flooded my heart with this passion and drive to pursue what He inspired me to name “the be.you.ty project.”
Most of my life I have struggled with insecurities that have told me over and over again that I’m somehow not enough; I’m not smart enough, mature enough, skinny enough, pretty enough, good enough, etc, etc.
It comes from every end but it starts, I think, with our society. This world does a lot to suppress women by making them feel they aren’t sufficient as they are so that they’ll buy more products to make themselves better. Because it affects adult women, it affects our daughters, and our daughter’s daughters, and so on (some companies even advertise things like this to young women-before you know it, it will be young girls). We pass down the things we don’t like about ourselves from one generation to the next. Those insecurities and fears that I’ve either inherited or have developed on my own – from reading magazine after magazine, seeing commercial after commercial – beckoning me to improve myself have fueled some of the worst decisions I’ve made in my life and laid the ground work for some truly terrible things to happen to me. The older I’ve gotten, the more women I find that face those same insecurities and wind up in many of the same experiences I have. But the more I come to know my Maker, the more I’ve realized: it’s a LIE.
This is why I believe women need Christ more than ever. He is the Truth. He is the Way to freedom from the chains that tell us we’re not lovely because we’re not what the world wants us to be. But we are not OF this world when we belong to Christ. We are only in it.
Advertisements just want us to buy their products to make them more money, but the devil is after our hearts and our senses of security, ladies. He’s after us. He wants to lure us out of the protection of our Lord by getting us to believe that we weren’t made perfectly to begin with.
Don’t get me wrong- I love make-up, dying my hair, and nail polish. I love girly things, my ears are pierced and I have tattoos. Some might joke that I’ve “decorated my temple.” However, I’ve come to a point in my life where I’m not using those things to attract attention or hide something else behind them. There was a time when I wore excessive make up and had funky hair styles or colors because I didn’t want to show off the condition of my heart and I was constantly seeking the attention of someone. Jesus is still walking me down a road to complete recovery, so I’m not going to say I have it all figured out for myself, but what I am going to say is that He has led me to some wonderful encouragement and truth in His word to get me there.
Finally, though, I believe He is calling me to share what I have learned thus far, and use my experiences and passions to share His view of us with women everywhere. He’s instilled in me a desire to tell every princess out there that she was created in the perfect image of God, that she is good and perfect because her Creator is in Heaven, and that there is nothing more precious and honored in His sight. God created us exactly how we are, He knows every hair on our heads and He knew us before He knit us in our mother’s wombs and still He said “it is good.” Every unique feature we have was intended for us by God and He plans to use it for His own good, as well as ours. One of my favorite sayings puts it so eloquently: “God don’t make no junk, honey!”
And that’s just on the surface… this goes beyond our physical appearance because, ladies, we are more than flesh and bone. We are living, breathing souls that can only survive on the nourishment and enrichment that only the Lord can provide. This body is just a vessel for this life and we will soon discard it.
My hope though, and I believe the Lord’s desire for us is to let go of the bondage and chains that hold us tied down to concern over our physical appearance. God doesn’t take our body home, but He gave it to us for this world, so we better get comfortable and be thankful and grateful for what we were given and spend more time focused on the beautification of our hearts, because someday that’s what He’s going to judge (we’re not getting into heaven for our looks, people! It’s all in the heart).
The be.you.ty project centers around all of these ideas; the goal for the project is to take one girl, let her spend time with a stylist who will apply minimal and natural make-up that doesn’t cover her up but only accents her God-given beauty, and styles her hair simply so as not to distract from God’s masterpiece. This will be followed up with a two-hour photography session intended to make her feel like a super model, which will produce 20 fully mastered photographs of her in all of her Maker’s glory to really show her just how beautiful she is. We (the participating stylists and I) want to bring out what we know and believe what God sees in us while being able to share His truth for our lives and His word that defines who we are and how we were created while we go out and have fun! We hope to boost self-confidence while introducing our ladies, or just reminding them, of the rock they should stand on to defy the obstacles and chains of this world. And all of this is COMPLETELY FREE to the model.
On July 26th, this officially becomes a reality. It will last all weekend, with 15 back-to-back sessions, followed a few weeks later by an unveiling party for the models who have all been chosen by nomination. No one nominated who is willing to participate will be turned away.
I’ve been blessed that others have offered to help – my stylists, and others just willing to donate products that will be used. No money is being collected.
This is my mission I believe God has called me to. I can’t say yet whether or not this will grow or expand- that’s all in God’s hands. I have a few ideas waiting for confirmation, so in the meantime, I’m just following what I am interpreting as His plan for my life.
So far, I’ve booked 7 nominees for models and am only receiving more and more nominations. I’m nervous but so excited! God has blessed me so much through His word and through the gift of photography that I am having a hard time fathoming the fact that He’s allowing me to use them together for the good of others and for His glorification.
I ask, please, for prayers that God would remain the focus of the event and that lives be changed, walls be torn down, fears be overcome, and lies be replaced with truth. Thank you for your prayers and support!
For more information on the be.you.ty project or to nominate women in the Greater Cleveland area, please feel free to visit http://www.facebook.com/samjphoto and click the link to the be.you.ty project event page.
Ideas presented are scripturally based:
– “Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you…” Isaiah 43:4
– “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…” James 1:17
– “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” Genesis 1:31
– “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14
– “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27
– “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” Ecclesiastes 3:11
– “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
– “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
– “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.” 1 John 2:15
– “They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.” John 17:16
– “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Luke 12:7
– “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139:13