The Perm

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I have been a student of beauty for as long as I can remember, from the time I was a tiny little girl I  recall having a deep appreciation for the majesty of beauty.  My very first memory, I can recall, finds me riding a shiny red bicycle with a silver bell, wearing a blue and white gingham jump suit, cotton of course.  Feeling a sense of freedom and smelling the warm California air.  My hair which normally looked brown and drab was ablaze with auburn colors painted by the suns rays. My senses were almost overloaded with what they were feasting on. Air, Light, Smell, Sight and four year old wonder of all that delights.

Out of all that God has created for me to appreciate with my sight like the sky, birds and nature.  Homes, churches and monuments, art, words and poetry,  I have found nothing as beautiful as a woman. The gentleness of a woman’s curves, the delicate bones of her face, the plumpness of her body and the tenderness of her touch all captivate my senses.  The way her voice sings instead of commands and the way her presence can calm you.  She has been divinely created to encourage to love and to help. She is the essence of beauty.  I am glad to be one.

My Grandma Ella was the picture of elegance and also my first teacher on the subject of beauty.  She stood tall and slender with a regal shape. A blond and silver “Bee Hive” hairdo topped her head, like a crown.  She said helpful things to my heart like ladies do this and ladies don’t do that, they sit up straight and never leave the house without there face on. My grandma made me feel as though it was a  privilege to be considered a lady and she drove a Cadillac!

My Aunt Cleo in her appearance was much different than my Grandma Ella, she was more round and full figured. When I met her she was a redhead. She had a sweet sideways grin and a wink that always accompanied it. I could here the Arkansas in her voice. Lordy, Lordy  what I would learn form my Aunt Cleo!  Words like a lady should know how to dance and always wear red lipstick.  Aunt Cleo taught me how to shave my legs when I was ten years old, even after my mom had said “no way.” She understood me, she listened to me, she loved me.  She was fearless, she was gritty and she was GORGEOUS!

My Mama Judy L. Walker was more beautiful than them both.  She was kind and funny and the tiniest thing you ever saw.  When she smiled her little cheekbones would turn into two perfect circles rising up to meet her eyes.  She had a sensitive spirit one that would not bid her well in her  future but when I was little she was the picture of everything lovely to me and I wanted to be just like her.  She was a lounge singer, she got dressed up every night, and every night I would take my perch on the closed toilet seat in the hall bathroom and watch her put on her makeup at the sink.  She smelled like Charlie Cologne and she always double did her eyelashes with Maybeline Mascara.  She never forgot to rouge her cheeks.
Everyone told me that I was the spitting image of my mother, this was a huge compliment to me and I was tickled to be it!  One night while watching her make up routine I asked her why she had curly hair and I had straight hair, I mean I was her spitting image you know.  She replied with a giggle, “honey this is a permanent in my hair.”  I was shocked and dismayed and decided that I must have one too!  I asked my mom if I could get a permanent also, she said that I had to ask CARLOS….

Entering the scene is Beauty’s arch enemy…..Shame Also known as Carlos.

I hated Carlos and in some strange way I loved him too and I wanted him to love me.  He was abused and he was abusive and he abused me.   He was my stepdad and I was terrified of him.  He was the ugliest person I have ever known he stole beauty right from your sight and replaced it with rotten, ruined  self loathing shame, but I had a goal named permanent and I wanted that beauty.  And as terrified as I was, I set out to plan how I would ask Carlos for one.

Mustering up courage is hard for a ten year old girl. The first day went by and I couldn’t ask, the second day went by and I still couldn’t ask.  All the time Carlos loving every minute of my torment.  He would look at me with his greasy grin and yellow eyes, and taunt me with his chuckling smirk.  The third day was my day, I couldn’t handle the not knowing anymore.  I remember walking straight up to him, he was sitting  in his recliner. Belting out my rehearsed lines ” its almost my birthday and instead of a present could I please get a perm?”  I waited…. .

“No!” Carlos laughed out loud in his wicked way,” a perm aint gonna help you.”

I felt as if he had been waiting  and waiting to land this beauty mocking punch to my soul.  If I had been a smarter child I would have said fine and walked away… but all in one blow I was crushed and defeated.  My desire for beauty and my ten year old courage had afforded me nothing but a disgusting, stomach sickened shame.

The Bible says in Ephesians 6:4  “Fathers do not make your children bitter about life, instead bring them up in Christian discipline and instruction.”  Another translation says “Fathers do not provoke your children to anger.”  As a child of Christ now for almost 30 years I can see the wisdom of this scripture.  Almost all my  life I carried around deep in my soul the scar of my rejected beauty at the hands of a rebellious step father.  You could say that I was embittered from that exchange.  Even more serious baggage came when I started trying to comprehend God as Father.  I couldn’t help but think, maybe God is sly and just waiting to pull the rug out from under me.  Maybe God thinks I am ugly maybe there is no beautiful mystery and maybe I will be found wanting.

We know we are deeply flawed and yet we long to be deeply loved. Our own hearts deceive us, the enemy of our soul deceives us and the world tells us we are not yet beautiful.  The memory of our scars tell us to see with our eyes what is inherently wrong with us how ugly we can be, how ugly we have been treated.

But the underlying current of our spirit tell us something else, it beckons us to search for beauty through eyes of faith and the words of God.  To trust what we know not what we see.  To trust the price paid for us. To trust the one who created us to behold beauty. The one who is beauty the one in whom we are image bearers of beauty.  The one who died that we might beautifully live.

I knew as a little girl standing before Carlos that I was beautiful, I knew I was loved by God, though I hadn’t yet met him.  I knew I had value I knew I had worth, I knew I was a woman created to encourage, what I didn’t know yet was how to take a punch without getting knocked out….

I know that now.  In my weakness Christ, the true beauty, is strong and in Him I have Victory!

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