Cosmetic Consumerism

Play on nostalgia to gain purchase

The cosmetic industry has taken a step toward indulging our senses. Scientists are now actually creating cosmetics to tailor to your sight, touch, smell, taste and hearing. This may seem like it’s always been the case, but in recent years, the industry has taken things a little further.

This is actually very delightful. As you put on your makeup, your senses are going to gauge more going on than just getting ready in the morning. Your foundation may spike a certain feeling of luxury. Your body wash may remind you of a particular spring moment that you never want to forget. The color of your lipstick might remind you of something in your grandmother’s house.

pexels-photo-354962 copyNostalgia and sensual connections are good and can provide a great opportunity to remember the beauty of the world in a way that is unique to you.  However, it can also provide an opportunity to empty your pocketbook if you aren’t careful. The cosmetic industry is hopeful of the later. They want to play on your nostalgia and your personal interpretation of the world to entice you to purchase more. Certainly, if a product does make you feel good, why not buy it?  That’s what society is convincing you, and well, we do that as well to a certain degree.

But, buyer beware. Take a moment to check in and ask yourself if the product is necessary, if it’s really worth it and if it really does what you think it does. Remind yourself of all the products you already have that are similar, or perform a similar function. Consider how the money you would spend on this one item could be used differently. You could set it aside for an item you’ve been saving for, you could spend it on someone you love or someone in need, or possibly spend the money on something more helpful to you. Perhaps it’s best to walk away from a purchase for a few moments or days and return only if your heart is really set on it.  That is a helpful habit that should be practiced anyway.

Try to recall what it is that is causing the nostalgia and create a new way to make that connection. If it’s a smell that reminds you of your Aunt, perhaps give her a call and ask if you can come over. If it’s a certain color that sparks a memory, wear a shirt you already have in that same color. If it’s the way the product feels on your skin, then allow yourself a little extra pampering this month.

When it comes to beauty, know that God created you unique and gorgeous. No one else sees the world the way you do and no one else has the same beautiful eyes, face, body, legs, torso, arms, nose, hair, etc. You are uniquely beautiful because you are uniquely loved. So, if you are going to partake in this new beauty trend, consider finding an item that reminds you of your own personal beauty as well as your creator. Find an eyeshadow that resembles the color of the ocean and reminds you of how mighty our Lord is. Look for a lotion that smells like the sweet flowers that God grows every Spring just to delight your senses. Discover a lip-gloss that reminds you of your favorite worship song because the name of the gloss speaks of heaven.

Your beauty is your own. How you enhance it is up to you. Chose to honor the Lord by not buying into your senses, but let your senses reveal your love for the Lord.

Organization Central

pexels-photo-670723 copyIt’s the New Year and I am feeling bombarded with the need to get my life organized. It’s time to declutter my house, set a schedule and tackle my “to do” list. Every store, magazine, blog and product seems to create a solution for how I can accomplish organization and balance in my life.

When you start digging into the barrage of information thrown at you, it’s easy to see that everything is telling you the same thing. niNe. magazine is guilty of this too: Keep what you like, Throw Away what can no longer be used, Donate or Recycle what you know longer want. The same goes with your schedule and “To Do” list: Keep what you like and wat to do, stop or don’t do what doesn’t benefit you and hand off tasks to other people that you don’t want anymore. This is a good approach, obviously, otherwise the ideas would have changed by now. That’s the problem though, we haven’t come up with anything new and every year, we all dig into the same routine: keep, throw out, pass along to someone else.

We always need to organize our lives after the holidays when we’ve received a ton of gifts and we’ve stuffed our schedules silly. But, what can we do to avoid this disheartening cycle? Perhaps, we need to consume less.

Now, it would be disrespectful and ridiculous to take all our presents back, but we can certainly change our mindset throughout the year. Rather than gather items all year long, perhaps we need to be more discerning about what we purchase and why. Instead of spending our money on things that just create more clutter, we need to spend our money on things that bring us joy or better yet, bring us the joy of the Lord. The Lord calls us to live a simple life.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:12, “For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.” Living a simple life means not filling our space with unnecessary stuff. It means being at peace with our talents and what we’re able to do. To live simply means not to rush from one event to the next, but rather trust in the Lord and let Him guide you. Living simple means being responsible for what the Lord has called you to do and following through with your responsibility. It means relying on Him and making time with Him a priority. This means living life for Him and doing everything to honor Him. Yes, even doing your homework or washing the dishes can bring you and the Lord joy if you are doing your best and doing it unto Him.

To live simply means we aren’t trying to “keep up with the Joneses.” It means we aren’t seeking worldly possessions. We aren’t filling our time with unnecessary things just to feel busy. It means we aren’t finding or defining our worth through our possessions, our activities or our accomplishments. But, it also means that we aren’t supposed to live without. We are supposed to have a house, fashionable clothes, money, activities, talents, friends, food, etc. God has blessed us with all of this and He wants us to enjoy His blessings. We just don’t need to overindulge.

If we commit to living a simple life, then neither our closet nor our calendar will need to be decluttered. We won’t need to throw anything away because we will be utilizing everything we have for God’s glory. We won’t need to give used things to charity because we’ll be donating our unspent money and time to actually make a difference in someone’s life. It’s nice to donate our used stuff to those who are less fortunate, but there are other resources for them that could actually be more beneficial. If we spend time at the beginning of the year seeking God’s vision for our year, rather than sorting through the past, then we will be able to make incredible plans which will thrust us into a great year.

This is our organization challenge this year. Take every new moment, purchase, item and opportunity and give it to the Lord. What does He want you to do with it? Will it bless Him and you? If we can bring this process to our attention just once a day, overtime our intention will increase and we will have a very satisfying life. Soon, people will take note of how calm, balanced and organized your life is without having to go through the yearly “sort out” tradition.

Since we are following up the Christmas season when we do receive massive amounts of gifts, create a Christmas list. Then you will create a way to inform loved ones of your desires and you will receive things that you really want or need, therefore they will be used. Maintain your focus on what God wants you to have. You may be surprised by how much more He blesses you when your focus and intention is on Him rather than on stuff.

Take on this challenge and let the Lord delight you throughout the year, not just leading up to Christmas forcing you to decompress right after. This is another way to let His birth impact your life all the time, not just when we celebrate His coming.

Praiseworthy Pageantry

As is typical for this year, I was attending a flurry of holiday parties, pageants, performances and festivities. One particular event stood out to me this year. Three young men sang a popular Christian song at a Christmas pageant. As I joined the majority of the audience for a standing ovation after the performance, I realized that I wasn’t just standing to applaud the young gentlemen who did an outstanding job. I was also standing to applaud the Lord for giving these individuals such incredible talent that they could use to glorify God.

pexels-photo-756241 copyAs I stood there clapping, I thought to myself, “How many times in my life have I missed an opportunity to applaud the Lord?” I always focus on the performance, not the performer.  My attention zeros in on who’s in front of me and what they’re doing, not who gave them the talent and who they’re honoring. That’s why any of us have talent – to honor and glorify our maker. Our talents are not meant to bring us glory. Yes, we will get recognized for using our talents, but we should pass on that recognition to the One who created us with the distinct and beautiful talent.

My challenge and hope for the rest of this Christmas season is that I can see how God uses people in their everyday tasks to bring Him glory. How does just being who we are give Him honor? Because of this challenge, I pray that I’m in a position where I can applaud the Lord numerous times each day for His power and majesty.

Young Christmas Characters

Generational Shift in Movie Genre

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATis the season for sappy Christmas movies! I am a sucker for heartwarming Christmas tales. I even enjoy the incredibly lame ones. There’s something redeeming about the main character discovering that the season of Christmas, and life in general, is about more than self-indulgence and personal-gratification.

As I watched these movies while I was growing up, I noticed that the main character was commonly a rich, self-reliant, arrogant adult who “had it all.” As the movie progressed, that character usually found love and realized how much they’ve actually been missing in their self-centered world.

Now that I’m an adult, the story hasn’t changed, but the age of the character has. At first, I thought it was just because I was older, but in reality, the characters are actually younger. They are no longer 40 or 50-year-old people going through a mid-life crisis, they’re individuals in their 20s or 30s who live a self-focused life.

What does this tell us about our culture? These stories used to be about the liberation of a lost soul who needed to discover the “true meaning of Christmas.” Now, it’s about a naïve young person who thinks they know it all, but realizes they have a lot to learn.

Christmas movies tend to be fun, heartwarming films. Now, are they a more accurate reflection of the nature of our society? Most statistics that report Millennials as being the most entitled and selfish generation would say that these movies are a true representation of our young society. Many young people are self-oriented and egocentric. Many young people think they know it all and won’t admit that they have no clue. Many young people believe their way of life and their view of the world is best. Current Christmas movie trends seem to respond to this reality.

It may seem harsh, but perhaps this should be a wake-up call to our younger generations. We do have a lot to learn and there are plenty of people in this world who are willing to teach us. The majority of people in this world are satisfied living a life that is very different than ours so perhaps our way of life isn’t the only way to live, nor is it the best. There are numerous people who know, through experience, what it means to truly give. Not to donate money to a good cause, but to give of your heart and mind. These same people know what sacrifice is all about. Sacrifice isn’t giving up Facebook for a month or Starbucks for a week, but to truly live without. In some situations, this includes the basic necessities of life. There are people in our communities who also know what it is to truly love. To serve others and always put others before yourself. There is a lot of wisdom that comes from learning from others, and embracing the life and experience of another person.

I challenge the young this season to seek the thoughts, ideas and heart of someone older. Learn from them. Reflect on their life. See the world through their eyes. If we spend more time learning from people with history, experience and knowledge, then maybe we won’t have to walk the path of the majority of these Christmas characters who think they have life figured out only to learn that someone older than them understands the true beauty and nature of a life lived outside one’s self.

As a young generation, if this isn’t really how you act, then it’s important that you realize the people who make these films see you that way… so, what are you doing that gives that impression? Perhaps this Christmas season is the time to analyze whether or not your actions reflect the character of your true heart. If so, then your challenge is to influence more people with your beautiful heart. If not, then your challenge is to make change in your life so your actions do reflect your heart.

Struggles

By Alicia Hayes, Speaker for niNe. magazine

StrugglesFor many of you, the “new year” may not begin on January 1st but on the first day of school. New classes, schedules, activities and possibly new struggles are starting in the fall. Some of these struggles may have to do with romantic relationships, new or old friendships, academic struggles or problems at home. Dealing with these things can make a new time in life, which is already stressful, incredibly difficult.

Understand that your struggles are unique, but there are always people who have gone through similar struggles who can help you. For instance, I had a Spanish teacher who thought that her students were arguing with her or disagreeing with her, but really, we were just confused and needed a little more clarity and explanation. Rather than helping her students, she would raise her voice in frustration because she felt as if her students were butting heads with her. This was a unique academic struggle, but I could always seek help from other people who had struggled with difficult, confusing teachers as well. Your struggles are important and unique but you’re not alone. Seek help from youth leaders, activity leaders, family members and guidance counselors to help you best resolve these struggles… no matter how big or small.

Seeking help not only resolves issues for the future, it can be incredibly affirming and comforting to find people who understand your problems. God says again and again that He’ll never leave us alone. One way that He prevents us from feeling isolated is by bringing people into our lives to ensure companionship and help. Do not isolate yourself in times like these. You’re not alone.

Though it’s important to find help and support, it’s also important to take time for yourself. It’s easy to avoid your struggles with busyness or noise. Hiding from your problems will not make them go away, and in fact it may make them worse. Taking time for yourself may force you to face your struggles head on. While in the comfort of your own, personal space, you can spend time talking to God about your issues, journaling about what’s bothering you or expressing your frustration in other healthy ways. God will use this time to reveal a lot of awesome solutions, or maybe even just remind you that He’s there, holding you up and protecting you from harm.

Now that the “newness” of the school year is wearing off, those struggles are still present. So, it’s time to face them head-on. Connect with people who understand, love and cherish you and spend time with God.

Broken Body

nmi_2010_fashionyear_00138aOne day in gym class, we were learning gymnastics. I was doing some stuff on the balance beam and my teacher was giving me a new challenging move that involved slowly rolling off the beam with control. My teacher knew I could do this move because I was a very active dancer. In fact, I danced nearly 30 to 40 hours a week – on top of my routine school requirements. I was really excited about this fun and challenging move, but as I slowly rolled off the beam, I lost the necessary control near the end of the dismount and whack – I hit my foot hard on the corner of the mat. This moment will forever be ingrained in my mind. I felt a sharp pain blaze up my leg, but I didn’t think anything of it. I’m tough; I can handle it. But, as the day went on, I could tell that my foot didn’t feel right.

After I told my mom about my hurt foot, she made an appointment with my doctor. The doctor examined my foot and said I had a bone that didn’t look right, but x-rays didn’t show any damage. He sent me to have special ultrasound of my foot taken to determine if there was a fracture in one of my foot bones. Sure enough, there was a tiny hairline fracture in my middle metatarsal. This bone is so small that the original x-ray couldn’t detect the break.

A cast wouldn’t heal such a tiny fracture because of its location, so I had to do a series of other things to heal from this little injury. I had to wear supportive tennis shoes every day, sometimes I would have to tape my toes together and I was required to drink what seemed like a gallon of milk every day to increase my intake of calcium.

The awesome part was that I could still dance, because it was just my foot that was injured. But, the foot is an essential part of dance. So, I had to dance with my tennis shoes on, I had to do everything flatfooted, meaning I couldn’t point my toes, rise up onto my toes or wear my pointe shoes. I had to do special floor activities to keep the rest of my body strengthened when I couldn’t do the full dance routine. The most frustrating part about all this was that I was preparing for a big performance and I needed to learn a dozen different dances without actually doing them full out.

Even though I didn’t have to wear a cast, my daily life and the rest of my body was greatly impacted by this teeny tiny fracture. This experience reminds me of how important every part of our body is, and how when one small part is broken or not fully functioning, the rest of the body is affected.

Such is the case of the body of Christ. All believers are members of “The Church Body” – the unit of people who work together to impact the world for God’s goodness and glory because they believe in Him, trust Him with their life and want to follow His calling. If one of us is broken, bruised or not functioning correctly, then the whole entire unit can’t fully function. It’s so important for each of us then to realize our role and the part we have to play. God has called every single Christian to something unique, something in which no other person can do. So, we can’t wait around for someone else to pick up where we slack off. No, we need to stand firm in our purpose and fulfill it fully so the Lord is glorified.

Plus, we need to support one another and encourage one another to pursue what God has called others to do as well. If we see someone who’s been a little discouraged or damaged, maybe they’re simply tired or confused, we need to provide the support, compassion and love they need to find proper healing so they can step in again and take care of their duty.

Inspiration for the End

Contributed by Alicia Hayes, Speaker for niNe. magazine

pexels-photoYou’re almost done with school! At this point, your problem with studying and completing assignments isn’t about lack of focus; it’s a lack of inspiration. Some people have a hard time “getting in the zone” without motivation to do so. I am one of those people. Here are some ways that I have found inspiration to “get going” again:

Music

Music is one of the most accessible, inspiring resources I have when I don’t know how to start a project. There are many ways that music can serve as a motivator. Instrumental music in particular is great because there are no lyrics to distract you. It’s easy to categorize Classical music as the only type of Instrumental music, but Jazz, Techno, Electronica, Dance, etc. are all effective motivational music genres.

Find an album that is related to your project so that if you start to daydream, the music will point you back to your work. The excitement and energy that comes from listening to your favorite artist can be channeled back into your assignment. If your new music is piling up, pick something at random to play in the background.

Exercise

Often when I’m struggling with articulating my words or figuring out where to start on a project, I’ll go for a walk. Or, I’ll take five minutes and go through a yoga flow. Whatever physical activity I choose, it’s short, invigorating and gives me a push in the right direction.

Beverage

Believe it or not, a simple beverage will make me in the zone. After I set up my workstation, a cup of coffee, made exactly to my liking, is the boost I need to start moving. Of course, it doesn’t have to be coffee. There are plenty of other non-caffeinated drinks that can still invigorate you and be the finishing touch on a study session. Try fruit-infused water, juice or decaf tea.

Conversations

You’re not alone! The people around you have thoughts and experiences connected to your school subject. Take some time to talk to siblings, parents, friends or youth group leaders about your study methods and assignments. When I have turned to other people, they have often either given me study tips or a casual discussion about my subject (which then made the wheels in my head turn).

For example, my last semester in college when I was writing for niNe. magazine, I had an article to write that I was struggling to finish. I went to do some homework with a friend and we wound up talking about the article. She thought the concept was really fun and interesting and our conversation led to me completing the article easily.

 

Remember, not everyone has the same learning styles and work methods. Don’t feel bad if you can’t just sit down and knock out some assignments. It’ll be better for you in the long run to figure out how to approach projects in a time-efficient and self-sufficient manner. If you want some encouragement, direction, motivatio, or inspiration, tweet to us @niNeMag or email at editor@ninemagazine.org. Also, let me know what strategies work for you! I’d love to give them a try before my next deadline. You can do it!

Church Clothes

Growing up, my mom would make me a special Easter Sundress and a beautiful Christmas dress to wear to church. Every week, I’d dress in my “Sunday Best.” It was what I expected and I learned to love it. Still to this day, I wear a nice dress or skirt and top – a step up from the clothes that I wear on a day-to-day basis. Lately, it seems like the attire at church is becoming a lot more casual. Now, I’m not old fashioned, but I see and observe fashion trends and the trend of dressing comfortably at church has caught my attention.

nmi_2010_fashionyear_00041aSince when has it become important for us to be comfortable worshiping the Lord? We are meeting with the Lord Almighty. We wouldn’t want to meet Kate Middleton or our favorite celebrity in jeans and flip-flops. We would be embarrassed. And, we should be embarrassed if we’re not putting any effort into our church apparel. When we’re going to church, were going to honor and worship the Lord. We’re not going to socialize and be comfortable. We’re not hanging out with Jesus, making little Snap Chat messages and taking Selfies of the two of us to post on Instagram. No. When you’re honoring and glorifying anyone, you must look the part.

Fashion is an incredible way of expressing the heart. If you’re comfortable then you’re saying:

1.) Lord, my comfort is more important then your honor.

2.) I’m lazy and you’re not worth the extra time, money or effort.
Because we have an intimate relationship with the Lord, we don’t have to dress in elaborate prom dresses. That’s just silly. But, that intimacy exists throughout the week, so the time to be comfortable and casual with the Lord is not when we are entering His house, it’s when He’s walking along side us on our daily journey.

Our attendance at church has a greater purpose than just hanging out with the Lord and expressing to Him what we think or need. We go to church to be in fellowship with other people who believe in Him, to hear from the Lord, to learn and be challenged by Him directly (through scripture, the sermon, the overall worship experience, etc.) and most importantly, we go to church to praise and worship HIM. Certainly, we can praise and worship the Lord in multiple settings or various situations without going to church. But, going to church is intentional (even if we’re dragged there by our parents – they’re being intentional and they’re responsible for you). Therefore, we should be intentional about what we wear.

Whether we realize it or not, our clothes say a lot about us. God created clothes to cover Adam’s nakedness and shame. What are you hiding that you cover with comfort? If you’re just comfortable, then are you missing an opportunity for God to speak to you? Are you holding yourself back from truly hearing from the Lord because you’re leisurely sitting in a pew or chair? Are your clothes acting as a shield, preventing the Lord from challenging you? That’s placing a lot of significance on what you wear, but your fashion is a true expression of your heart. If you’re concerned about being comfortable, then are you unwilling to hear because you don’t want your comfort to be shaken?

Certainly, if you’re new to church in general, then you’re comfort is incredibly important. Wear what does make you comfortable. The Lord is thrilled that you’re coming to His house and will welcome you and speak to you in your comfort. Same if you’re going through a hard time. The Lord wants to present you with His love regardless of the effort you put in. Your effort shouldn’t be laborious, it should be in perspective of what you wear regularly as well as within reach of what you can afford. But, the Lord deserves your best. Give Him your best. The Lord created your beauty – put your beauty on display for all to see. Don’t hide behind comfort. Express your love to the Lord by wearing something you love to wear – not because its comfortable, but because it’s special.

He Runs

he-runsLuke 15: 11-32 is the narrative of the Prodigal Son, a story in which most of us are rather familiar. Many of us have our favorite part of the story, many can relate to a particular character, all of us are blessed by what the account says about Gods character. My favorite part of this scripture lies in Luke 15:20 where scripture says the father ran to meet his son. I love this because it reminds me that God runs to me when I return to Him. He doesn’t sit there waiting for me to journey back to Him. He doesn’t slowly meander my way. He runs swiftly and embraces me as I return.

As a fallible human, I wonder away from God more than I’d like to admit, but every time I come back to Him, He runs to greet me with open arms. Even if I’ve only been gone for a moment, especially when I’ve trailed far from Him, He darts toward me.

Our returning to Him isn’t the only time He welcomes us with open arms. He runs to us when we look away, even for just a second, but choose to stay by His side. It’s when we choose dignity and peace over the ways of the world when He embraces us. When we choose to follow what He sees as best for our lives rather than pursuing our own understanding or desires.

  • God runs to you when you choose to walk away from the party.
  • God runs to you when you choose not to fall into the trap of lust.
  • God runs to you when you honor your parents.
  • God runs to you when you strive to know Him more.
  • God runs to you when you make your family and friends more important than success or your reputation.
  • God runs to you when you don’t post that potentially hurtful comment on social media.
  • God runs to you when you walk away from materialism and give away some of your belonging.
  • God runs to you when you defeat negative talk and speak the truth about your identity.
  • God runs to you when you realize your true beauty.
  • God runs to you when you find healing in Him after a broken relationship.
  • God runs to you when you defeat self-doubt.
  • God runs to you when you set aside drugs or alcohol.
  • God runs to you when you decide to consume a meal rather than throw it up.
  • God runs to you when you love a stranger.
  • God runs to you when you reach out to someone who isn’t very popular.
  • God runs to you when you try to forgive.
  • God runs to you when you go to church rather than sleep in.
  • God runs to you any time you choose Him, His ways or His glory.

It’s in these moments that the echo of feet rhythmically hitting the ground can be heard as God runs to embrace His beloved daughter.

Friend in Jesus

nmi_2011_fashionyear_00829a-1 I was really looking forward to connecting with one of my dearest friends over coffee. It had been months since we both had the time to connect. A lot had happened in my life and tons had occurred in her life and neither of us could wait to share. So, we met for coffee and rather than jumping into conversation, we just sat there in silence. Seriously, neither one of us said a thing for a long time.

At first, this really bugged me because I don’t have the opportunity to spend a lot of time with this particular friend, so I want to fully invest in the time we did have together. It’s not like we didn’t have anything to talk about. I just didn’t know what to say. At the time, nothing seemed as important as just spending time with one another.

As friends, we both want to invest in each other no matter what we’re doing or where we are. This helped me realize – silence is okay. It was nice to just hang out. It’s nice to simply be near her, in her presence. We don’t need to be talking all the time; we can just be present with one another.

As Christians we can be like that with Jesus. He’s always present, always around. But, we’re not always talking to Him, nor is He always talking to us. His presence is nice, and we need to realize His presence so we can rest in it and enjoy it. We can recognize His presence and find peace and comfort with just being near Him. We don’t always need to be engaging with one another, but we can live in enjoyment with the presence of one another.

nmi_2011_fashionyear_00832a-1Now, my friendship would never continue with this friend if we only sat together in the same room, always in silence. The same goes with Jesus. We can’t always be silent with Him and we can’t expect Him to always be silent with us. We have to engage in conversation and we have to listen to Him speak to our heart. However, we never need to force conversation with Him. Plus, we don’t need to force ourselves to hear Him. He will make Himself known – He always does. So instead of worrying about what you’ll hear or what you need to say, just be still in God’s presence and be grateful that you have Him as a friend you can confide in.