Tag Archives: beauty

Seeking True Beauty as a Spokesmodel

Every Square Inch Cropped

Editors’ note: The weekly TGCvocations column asks practitioners about their jobs and how they integrate their faith and work. Interviews are conducted and condensed by Bethany L. Jenkins, director of TGC’s Every Square Inch.

Trinity Laurel is a fashion model in Los Angeles. She has worked for Ralph Lauren, Koral Los Angeles, Kimberly Ovitz, and appeared in Beachbody Exercise DVDs and on QVC with supermodel personal trainer Leandro Carvalho. She also has represented brands like Bentley Motors, Nike, Bloomberg, Herbal Essences, AirBerlin, Google, and Time Warner Cable in North America and has traveled to England, Jamaica, Italy, and the Middle East for work and humanitarian projects.

Trinity TOP photoHow do you describe your work?

I describe myself as self-employed because, even though I have modeling agencies, I am responsible to manage my own career. If I don’t hustle and network, I don’t eat! My work, though, is modeling. I do commercial print, fitness and fashion, but mostly I do two types of modeling—fit modeling and spokesmodeling. With fit modeling, the work isn’t glamorous. I try on samples and help designers make improvements and corrections needed to get the best fit for the consumer. Spokesmodeling, on the other hand, gives me a lot of interaction with consumers, because I get to represent brands and travel with them to promote their products to potential clients.

When you come to New York City next week, what will your spokesmodeling job look like?

I work as a spokesmodel for a high-end automobile manufacturer. They train models and actresses just as much—if not more—as their regular dealers on their products. We travel to all of the North American shows and serve as the first faces of the brand that the customers see. Since it’s a luxury brand, we have a small clientele. But we get to meet with potential customers, bring in leads, and connect people with the dealership. I like this role because there’s more to the position than external beauty. Our clients expect us to know about the product, too.

Is thatexpecting more than external beautyrare in the industry?

Unfortunately, it can be. My biggest challenge is making sure that I don’t connect my physical appearance and financial reward with my personal worth. It’s easy to think that my value is tied directly to my look because—quite literally—I am paid to look and act a certain way, while maintaining very specific measurements. Thankfully, I’ve never struggled with my body image or an eating disorder, but I have wrestled with rejection and shame when my paycheck has fluctuated based on my physical appearance or when I’ve lost a client because my size or measurements have changed. It can be crippling and, at times, depressing.

Trinity BOTTOM photoHow do you deal with such profound struggles of identity and value?

Going through these issues alone is a breeding ground for despair. So I look to community, where lies can be exposed and compassion can flourish. Thankfully, I have a strong community of like-minded believers in Models for Christ (MFC). It meets a unique struggle that those in the fashion industry face—isolation. We travel so much and often to far-off places. So MFC tries to connect people all over the world with local churches wherever they happen to be and put them in small groups for encouragement and exhortation in the Lord.

How has your idea of beauty changed over the years?

The fashion industry is fickle, and focusing solely on the worship of outward beauty can kill the heart and take away the wonder that beauty was meant to create. There have been times when the brokenness of the industry has left me disillusioned, and I’ve struggled with hating beauty itself. But God continues to show me that there is a purity to the creative process that can point to him. C. S. Lewis says, “We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words—to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.” So I fight to find beauty in the unchanging qualities in which God delights—humility, truth, kindness, self-giving, joy.

I Owe My Home to Edith Schaeffer

I heard about Edith Schaeffer’s death as I was cleaning my house in preparation for an Easter brunch for 50 the next day. The irony made me smile—if it weren’t for Edith Schaeffer, I wondered if I would be hosting such an event. Her ideas about hospitality being more than setting a pretty table and serving delicious food have deeply encouraged me as a wife, mother, and church planter’s wife. Among other teachings, she encouraged Christians to remember that meals should always be more than serving or consuming food but provide the “feeling of painting a picture of writing a symphony.”

Edith Schaeffer died March 30 at the age of 98, leaving behind a Christian community that will continue to enjoy the effects her life and writings for generations to come. She loved family, artists, and Christian community and put hands and feet to these ideas. With her husband, Francis Schaeffer, she help found L’Abri Fellowship, a community that welcomed those seeking answers about God and Christianity. She also wrote numerous books and articles about Christian life and faith.

I first read her book The Hidden Art of Homemaking when I was a newlywed and my husband was in seminary. In this book she describes ways to make your surroundings more meaningful and beautiful, but it’s not just about keeping house. It’s about remembering that we are created in the image of an artistic, beautiful Creator. When we provide a Christ-centered atmosphere, we reflect the artistry, beauty, and order of God. The concepts she presents in that book literally changed my life as I made a home for my husband. At the time, we were living in a tiny, cement-block-walled campus apartment. It was tempting to wait to put her ideas into practice until I had a house of my own. But she wisely pointed out that it’s wrong for people to long for a daydream future while ignoring the importance of what they can do in the present.

Her encouragement to live artistically, aesthetically, and creatively aided my transition from the working world to being a stay-at-home mother. I left a rewarding career to be at home with an infant, and I probably would’ve ended up frustrated without Edith Schaeffer’s wise words. She showed me how to redirect my creativity and passions toward reflecting Christ. Simple ideas like plating food to look like a still-life painting, reading aloud to my family, and putting a few flowers in the center of the table have enriched my life and helped my children grow up in an atmosphere where they feel treasured and see that beauty is an important part of daily life. The Hidden Art became my textbook, and I have reread it yearly by myself and with other women since.

Through her writings, she reminded me to recognize my creative abilities and fulfill my talents in day-to-day activities. She pointed out that even if I didn’t ever become a famous author, I could still write letters to my grandmother or stories for my children. Her book encouraged me to continue to play the piano—I will never be a maestro but I can play at a level that entertains my family and friends. She reminded me that I can glorify God through expressing and developing the gifts he has given me.

Then, years later, her words encouraged me as my husband and I again transitioned and started a church in our home. The truths about hospitality and loving through serving again aided me as a church planter’s wife. She wrote that “the kitchen should be an interesting room in which communication takes place between child and mother and also among adults.” I’ve had more conversations than I can count in our kitchen and thank God that she pointed out the benefits of baking bread while having deep discussions and making this room a cozy place conducive for communication. Relationships, she often taught, cannot develop without good conversation.

Whether in Switzerland, the United States, or China—any place where Edith Schaeffer spent time—many were changed and enriched because of her faithful life. The words of the apostle Paul are a fitting tribute: “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:14-15).

Evangelical Wonder

In a recent article entitled “Fundamentalism Vs. Wonder,” The American Conservative writer Rod Dreher suggests that evangelicals tend to be hostile to spontaneous expressions of awe and wonder at the grace and power of God. Such expressions are often mystical in nature, because we find ourselves dumbstruck at the mysteries of God. Dreher argues that while this kind of Christian mysticism is “an ordinary part of Catholic and Orthodox theology and spirituality,” evangelicals unfairly pounce upon it with unfounded accusations of New Age heresy.

It’s not a new accusation; G. K. Chesterton wrote that where Christ turned water into wine, Calvin turned wine into vinegar. And there is a kernel of truth behind some of Dreher’s observations. On the whole, however, I think his criticism is unfair.

Tension Between Devotional and Doctrinal

Dreher explains at some length that he doesn’t mean to attack evangelicals, and I believe him. The content of this article, Dreher’s consistent track record, and my limited personal interactions with him all lead me to believe that he is speaking sincerely in love. And Dreher is careful to note that the traditions of his own experience (he has converted from Roman Catholic to Eastern Orthodox) have their dysfunctions as well.

Moreover, it is true that an unpleasant level of tension often persists between authors with a devotional/pastoral focus and those with a more theological/doctrinal focus. And it’s also probably true that these tensions are more serious in evangelical quarters than elsewhere. That would only make sense; our simultaneous commitments to biblical authority and also to authentic personal belief and Spirit-driven renewal would naturally increase pressures between the two imperatives. That’s the kernel of truth I find in Dreher’s article.

Tim Keller has written very wise advice on this tension in a paper that I would urge all ministry leaders to read. Those who prioritize doctrine and those who prioritize devotion tend to think, speak, and act in different ways. Keller points out some specific instances of related suspicion, alienation, and unnecessary division in the church. We have to learn to speak one another’s languages and cultivate a spirit of brotherhood and gentleness, especially when correcting each other.

Grim and Gradgrinding God

But Dreher goes far beyond this acknowledged problem. He argues that the devotional side isn’t welcomed and cultivated among evangelicals. That notion wouldn’t survive even the quickest glance at the bestseller lists, or the agendas of the big conferences, or the teaching curricula in the influential megachurches. Almost all of this features the kind of devotional awe-and-wonder stuff Dreher seeks.

If evangelical authors who focus on doctrine are anxious about the urgency of correcting theological errors in devotional writers, it’s mostly because they speak from a position of weakness, whereas the devotional writers are in a position of strength. If the doctrinal writers were strong, they would probably feel more comfortable making allowances for legitimate Christian mysticism and the like. Meanwhile, if devotional writers were weak, I expect they would become much more harsh and unforgiving of what they see as cold intellectualism and hubristic rationality in the theologians.

Worse, Dreher paints with a very broad brush, yet points to no specific examples. The subject of his article is a recent experience of seeing “many articulate, educated Protestant pastors and writers” harshly denounce an evangelical author whose reflections on the mystery of God he found beautiful:

It was very, very harsh stuff. Of course one doesn’t expect fundamentalists and other very conservative Protestants to agree with traditional sacramental theology, and I certainly see grounds for criticism of this writer’s book, at least from a conservative Protestant perspective. What shook me up was the vehemence of the theological attacks on this writer, and the absolute— absolute!—insistence that the kinds of things she identifies smack of “mysticism,” and are the first step to becoming a New Ager. . . .

I thought: if the God of these stern and severe men were the only God I was ever shown, I doubt I would ever have become a Christian, because God would have seemed to me to be grim and gradgrinding.

However, Dreher declines to specify either the author allegedly being vilified or her vilifiers. I wish he showed some sensitivity to the position in which his reticence places those of us on the evangelical side who wish to engage in this conversation. If some people on our team are misbehaving, I for one would like to join Dreher in lamenting it. So would many other evangelicals I know. And we would be much better placed than Dreher to make our objections heard among those who need to hear them.

However, without the names, we have no way to evaluate Dreher’s accusations. What if the author in question really was teaching heresy? Dreher himself admits that her writings come into some kind of conflict or tension with Protestant theology. How can we know whether it might not have been worth reproving?

More important, Dreher says he found these evangelical voices to which he’s responding by googling the name of the author they were criticizing. And he’s surprised he could find harsh criticism on the internet?

Up to Our Necks in Mystical Awe and Wonder

Are these voices really representative of evangelicalism? Are they influential? Are they prominent? Or are they web kooks no one else listens to? Dreher describes them only as “articulate” and “educated.” That doesn’t cut it. For my sins, I have spent considerable time in some quarters of the internet where articulate and educated evangelicals met to exchange views that I can only describe as bonkers.

Is this the yardstick by which Dreher would evaluate our faith tradition? Does he think that I cannot appeal to my father Google, and he will at once send me more than 12 legions of links to websites where “articulate and educated” people in his tradition also say crazy things?

But let me rise to higher ground. If I’m right in my contention that evangelicals are actually up to their necks in mystical awe and wonder before the glory of God, what would explain that? If Dreher will forgive me, my answer is: Protestant theology.

The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions interpose the church between the believer and God, reducing the miracle of salvation until it is small enough to work through visible and manipulable human operations. Protestant theology places the believer’s soul directly in God’s hands. God did not create an ecclesiological salvation system and then sit back and hope you got plugged into that system one way or another. He saves you, personally, immediately, by smashing through the orderly system of nature and human institutions to work unfathomable miracles right inside your heart. Protestant theology gives us a salvation that is more mysterious, more awesome and wonderful, and even more “sacramental” in the broadest sense of that term.

The Beauty of Faithful Suffering

I knock on the door expectantly. My friend Debbie greets me in sweatpants that hang loosely on her diminishing frame. Her face is slightly paler than the last time I saw her, and soft peach fuzz graces the top of her head.

She is the most beautiful woman I know.

I hug her tightly, not wanting to let go, wanting somehow to freeze this moment in time. The cancer that began in her breast continues to spread throughout the rest of her body. She has more tumors than the doctors can count, rapidly overtaking her brain. Daily she faces agonizing stomach pains and discomfort. In the midst of the physical pain is the emotional heartache of saying goodbye to her husband and two young children.

Deep waves of suffering have come to my sweet friend, whose faith is still so fresh and new. Her journey with cancer four years ago was the beginning of her journey to faith. Debbie describes God’s work in her life:

I was struggling with my faith in Christ for several years before my diagnosis. I prayed to have the faith of a little child again, I read, I researched, and I tried to make myself believe. The problem is that you cannot make yourself believe in Christ. It is purely a gift, and God gave me that gift with my first cancer diagnosis in December 2008, and the following chemotherapy treatments and radiation through 2009.

Then, in July 2010, during my battle with my first brain tumor and first set of partial brain radiation treatments, he spoke to me, told me that I was his, and filled me with the Holy Spirit. I learned more about finding true joy and contentment in all circumstances, and I gained new spiritual gifts as he continued to work to transform me.

In November 2011, with the diagnosis of a second brain tumor, followed by two brain surgeries and a second round of partial brain radiation treatments, along with surgery to remove a tumor in my lung, he taught me yet more dependence on him. But still this wouldn’t be enough to bring me to where my soul needed to be.

This past April, I got the diagnosis of four more brain tumors, now on the left side of my brain, followed by 12 whole-brain radiation treatments. It took this last battle to completely humble me, to make me understand my complete dependence on God. I finally feel like I’m on the road to the daily conversational relationship with my heavenly Father that I’ve always strongly desired and envied in the few people I’ve seen who truly have it. It’s been worth every day I have suffered. God has been weaving a story in my life. When I thought he was refusing to answer my prayers and refusing to show himself to me, he was just standing on the edges, but never gone. He knew the full picture. He cares about my soul.

Debbie was a seeker when she came to our outreach Bible study four years ago. Now, through her example, she is teaching all of us the beauty of faithful suffering. In the midst of losing hair, eyelashes, and eyebrows, she glows with indescribable radiance. The dark depths of her affliction make her faith shine all the more clearly. She believes her suffering has value because she treasures the growth it brings to her spiritual life. She knows her soul will live, even if her body fails.

Her four-year-old faith puts my 25-year-old faith to shame.

Her example reminds me that I am called to suffer well while walking in the brokenness this world presents. I am not to succumb to the despair I often feel. I am to faithfully accept the difficult circumstances the Lord weaves into my story. I am to value my soul’s health more than earthly comforts. My greatest hope should be for God’s glory, not my ease.

No Denying Reality

In this struggle Debbie has fought cancer with every ounce of her being. She wants to live and see her children grow up. She wants to be able to tell others about Jesus. She has honestly shared her struggles and the pain she experiences. On this road, there have been dark days of affliction when God seems distant and the fear of greater suffering is paralyzing. Together we have prayed, wept, grieved, and asked hard questions. For Debbie, suffering well has not been a denial of reality. It has been an embracing of a deeper reality. She knows that all things must be working for her good. Embracing God’s Word has been a healing balm for her soul; an active experience of the truth found in Psalm 119:50: “My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.”

Just before his death, Jesus told his disciples, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). We are promised trouble in this life. Why, then, are we so often surprised by it? Why do we seek our peace in circumstances rather than in Christ? Even if physical healing comes tomorrow for Debbie, death will eventually come. It comes to each of us. All that matters is knowing Jesus. Some lives are dead long before they die. In facing death, Debbie gives life to others by witnessing to the hope found in Christ alone.

Does it matter how we walk in the face of suffering? The Bible makes unapologetic claims about how we should face suffering: “But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (1 Pet. 4:13). Allowing us to experience the brokenness of this world keeps us thirsty for the next. The reality of death forces us to consider carefully how we live. Only by believing that a better home awaits can we experience any sort of light in this land of shadows.

Debbie would not choose her situation. She has, however, chosen how to live in it. She lives as a servant of God.

Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love;  in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left;  through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors;  known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed;  sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. (2 Cor. 6:4-10)

There is no more beautiful way to live.

Editors’ Note: You can follow Debbie’s developments at her CaringBridge page.