Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Lovely Heart, Lovely Woman

Women who are lovely in heart and lovely in person lift the spirits of others and are a delight to be around. Some keep this pleasant, encouraging quality well into old age.

When I think of this, I think of a 93 year old relative of my mother’s. This long-widowed woman has had some wonderful times in her life, but she’s also gone through some extremely hard events, as well. At the moment, she is living in an assisted living facility, which I suspect is not her first choice of living arrangements. And, she is rapidly losing her short term memory, causing her to repeat questions a number of times.

Even so, this woman is still the epitome of two qualities I’ve always admired in her: 1) She is spunky, cheerful, full of laughter, and uncomplaining. Her focus in a conversation is on the other person, and her desire is to put them at ease. I don’t mean that she’s never honest about how she feels or what she needs, only that her focus is outward and not inward. 2) Even now, this woman is always immaculately put together. How she manages this, I don’t know. As I said, her memory is failing, and her physical health has its ups and downs. Plus, she is on limited funds and has few clothes to choose from. But, her attention to her grooming is obvious. She is without a doubt, the prettiest 93 year old woman you could ever meet!

My mother told me once that when our relative was young, she moved from the country to the city. She had a friend with a great sense of style who taught her how to dress well. I imagine, though, that this relative had an innate sense of taste as well; she always kept a lovely home.

Since my relative’s memory is fading, it seems to me that what is shining through in her now is the character that she built over a lifetime. Perhaps, she isn’t consciously aware that she is so cheerful and encouraging or that she presents herself in such a pleasant way. But, the habits she cultivated as a younger woman are so ingrained in her that they can’t help but manifest themselves now.

Strokes and Alzheimer’s disease can change a person’s personality, so we can’t necessarily judge an elderly person’s past by the way they seem in the moment. And, we can sympathize with people who find it hard to adjust as their earthly bodies decline.

Under normal circumstances, however, we are in the process of becoming the woman we will be five, ten, or even forty years from now. Even if you are only twenty today, you are setting a course that will impact how you handle life at ages twenty-five, thirty, and beyond.

I once read a quote that went something like this: At twenty, you have the face God gave you. At forty, you have the face you are working on. At sixty, you have the face you deserve. The idea is that our habitual expressions etch themselves into our skin.

How can we plant seeds of loveliness now that will flower throughout our life? Here are some suggestions to think about:

A. Cultivate habits of loveliness to encourage others, rather than to seek glory for yourself. True beauty does not come by grasping for attention. It is a by-product of loving and trusting God and is manifested in such qualities as meekness, calmness, gentleness, purity, and reverence.

B. The lovely woman does not stagnate. She learns new things. She continually develops in character. She keeps her outlook fresh and interesting. She is a good listener, and she finds some way to relate to others in conversation. Her husband stays intrigued with her because he realizes that she can still surprise him now and again. As she grows older, younger people are drawn to her because she remains interested in their lives. This can be challenging to the woman who loves domestic comfort and is resistant to change. But, change is an inevitable part of life. You might as well change in positive ways, rather than negative ones.

C. If you are the busy mother of many young children, you may not have a lot of time to set aside for learning new skills. But, where there’s a will, there’s a way. You can learn a lot if you pay attention to the conversations of others; if someone mentions a subject you’d like to learn more about, ask questions. They will think you are a fabulous listener, and you will grow in the process. You can also listen to books on tape as you do routine housework or you drive in the car. You can even learn a new language this way! If you and your husband or you and your children can learn a new skill together, that will help your marriage and home life stay fresh.

D. Part of the fun of being a woman is taking an occasional afternoon or evening to try something new with our hair or to prepare ourselves for a special date with our husband. And, who doesn’t enjoy soaking in a bubble bath now and again? However, in the main, we do well to establish efficient routines for taking care of our personal appearance and health. With a little thought and organization, we can pull together a lovely appearance quickly and, then, move on to other things. It’s hard to imagine that the industrious woman in Proverbs 31 allowed herself to be sloppy or dowdy in appearance. In fact, verse 22 says that she is clothed in fine linen and purple. But, notice that this is the only allusion to her physical appearance out of 21 other verses about her character and her activities. We have to keep things in perspective.

E. Maintaining a lovely appearance does not mean that you need a lot of money or a lot of material things. If you should ever find yourself in the position where you have only one outfit in your closet, you can still keep it sweetly laundered and in good repair.

F. Good posture is important to health and to maintaining a lovely appearance. Girls in the first blush of youth often have excellent posture and grace without even realizing it. As we pass through our childbearing years and beyond, we have to work harder to maintain a healthy posture. But, doing so pays off. It keeps us looking younger. It conveys a positive, secure attitude about life. It keeps helps our internal organs, particularly our heart and lungs, function at their best. And, it is good for our bones and joints.




Julieann said...

What a wonderful post Elizabeth--Thank you:)


Elizabeth said...

Hi Julieann,

I'm glad you enjoyed the post. My relative is such an inspiration to me.

Sandra said...

I agree, a wonderful post, Elizabeth. I love the points you listed, they're very helpful. Thanks!

Elizabeth said...

Hi Sandra,

I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful sentiments. My Nan is always immaculately turned out and she is in her late eighties, she always has a smile and is very dignified but also has a great sense of humour. I love my Nan.