It’s not a complicated story.

I gave up makeup for Lent.

And it’s terrible.

It’s about control. I knew it as soon as the idea was dropped into my heart the week leading up to Ash Wednesday, the start of the season. It’s about how I try to control everything, including what you think of me. And what you think of my face.

(You may have noticed it’s a bit of a theme me and God are working with right now – control – as explained in my SheReadsTruth piece for this Lent reading plan.)

And it’s terrible. This no makeup thing? It’s a daily struggle. It’s not like every person I see I get to explain, “by the way, I know what you’ve seen in pictures but I’m not wearing makeup right now but it’s really me hi will you still be my friend?”

Sigh.

It hurts. It’s bringing up all sorts of muck from the bottom of my emotional ocean that I never intended to be stirred up. Old insecurities. Fears. Worries. And it’s constant. That’s the thing that sucks the most. I never escape it. It never leaves my mind. In every place I go, in every face I make eye contact with, including my own in the mirror.

But it matters. The pain matters. I sat with a friend the other day as we discussed some things that we want God to do in our lives. She said, “the good stuff is never cheap.”

It isn’t. I’ve never found the best things in life to be free or easy or without struggle.

And that has been this. I know it in my guts, even if I don’t even know the good that will come of this yet. But good will come. That’s how this all works. That’s how it always works.

Today though? I’m mainly just ready for it to be over, if I’m being honest.

But I’m not quitting. I will finish this.

Last week, I saw that my friend Jeremy Cowart was offering portrait sessions here in town. I thought about it long and hard and decided that I wanted this experience documented. I want to remember the wrestling. I want to remember the things God has whispered to me in the secret place over these last few weeks and the layers that are slowly peeling away. I want to remember the Lent that I otherwise would work hard to forget.

So I did it. I went and had a portrait session with not one stitch of makeup on my face. Woof.

After Jeremy took my picture for about 15 minutes, he invited me around to the monitor side to see some of the shots. I hated most of them. If you’ve ever done a photoshoot (professional hair and makeup or none of the above), you know that’s pretty true no matter what. But I winced a few more times than usual as Jeremy slid through the images he had captured. As only a big brother can do, Jeremy kept reassuring me that he was on my team and loved me and the pictures were beautiful.

Then we hit this one- this one picture of me looking away and trying to speak truth to my mind and taking a deep breath. And I kind of love it. I guess I had never noticed my freckles before. Or the three bright grey strands of hair that stand out because being Annie means life is causing some greys. Or the fake dimples that age has gifted to the corners of my mouth. Or the creases and the spots and the bump on my nose and all the things that are me, right there.

So I thought I would share it.

Because maybe sometimes we think Lent is easy for everyone else but us. Or we think that insecurities are only for the weak. Or we think that we are bad people for struggling.

But you’re not. I’m not. We’re not.

I could have never dreamed how hard this would be before Lent began. And I don’t know the new that is coming on Easter. But I can feel the buds pushing their way to the surface, through all the dirt. And I’m believing that something beautiful will bloom from these painfully sown seeds.

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(Small Lent caveat: I am wearing makeup when I teach at events. So if you’ve seen me on the road the last few weeks and I’ve been on a stage, yes. I’ve had on makeup.)

(Also. You can still book a portrait with Jeremy as well. So easy and so worth it.)

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Want to hear more about Lent? Subscribe to my podcast and check out the Lent episode with the girls from SheReadsTruth!

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