Unfading beauty

Your adornment must not be merely external--braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.  For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves... (I Peter 3:3-5a)

It's been months now since the rock garden was resplendent with the cobalt blue of the hyancinth standing tall in the back corner.  I took these photos in the early days of summer, in Amelia's worst month of seizures, as I tried to keep house maintained and children safe and my own brain sane.  Every day Rosy brought me a nosegay of wildflowers: daisies and butter-and-eggs, bachelor's buttons, asters, thistles, clover, cinquefoil, columbine, devil's paintbrush, wild roses and spiderwort.  Wildflowers, picked from stems dripping with milky sap, don't last long in the vase.  My countertop was littered with these visible reminders that beauty - and life - is fleeting. The grass withers, the flower fades: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.  (Isaiah 40:8) As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. (Psalm 103:13-16)

Little white hairs poke like wire up from the dark brown waves, more of them every time I brush.  Not enough for others to notice, but visible harbingers of how I will change with age.  I am soft instead of firm and muscular.  I had to permanently retire from softball this summer because of a pacemaker that was so necessary.  Cancer lurks in the background.  My children are growing up.  I look at the generation ahead of me, learning from them as they walk into grandparenthood and take in their parents and tend their adult children.  I wonder how things have changed since the social revolution of the 1960's and '70's.  How has a culture that worships youth, uses air-brushed Photoshopped images as propaganda, and idolizes virility, vigor, and physical beauty changed our idea of what "aging gracefully" means?  My grandparents generation went to work at 16 or 18, didn't dye their gray hairs or have plastic surgery or work out.  My parents generation is a shade different...there are less people who consider gray hair a badge of honor, they keep fit, many went to college and didn't begin their careers until sometime in their 20s.  My own generation has taken it a step further: I would hazard a wager that most of us know at least one friend who has had plastic surgery; many don't begin careers until their late 20s or even 30s, and often change college majors or even career paths even once they hit their mid-30's; many of my friends have been dying their hair, wearing make-up and working out to alter their body shape since their early teens.

As I read Dobson's Bringing Up Girls (well worth the read although perhaps a bit stressful as a reality check for parents of young children?) all this is rattling around in my head.  Culture, beauty, aging, keeping my kids safe on a spiritual, emotional, psychological level as well as on a physical level.  The petals fall, and my white hairs spring up, and my girls grow up.  I stand confused in the whirlwind of culture, clutching my Bible in one hand and desperately believing that the answers there will sweep away the confusion in the end.