They are long, delicate strokes of a paintbrush on my cheek, and they distract me from what I have to do when she’s done.
We chat about life and make-up and hair products and the fun parts, but eventually the truth spills out in a choked whisper.
“I hate this.” I say to her as the bulbs flash and the music plays a few minutes later. The photographer is a friend, and he knows I’ve dreaded this the same way I did the last one.
But the make-up artist doesn’t know me, and I think she’s surprised.
In most of the photos, I am serious-faced. In a few I’m pretending to laugh, and in others I’m staring off to the side, likely dreaming the studio will transform itself into a library. At one point he sets me up in front of a circle of bright lights, and I try to look straight ahead but I’m wincing inside. He takes a few and suggests something else, asking me if it felt too vulnerable.
I like him because he has that kind of intuition, but I shake my head no. No, it’s not too vulnerable, I say. But it is. All of it.
She watches me while the wind pushes hair off my face and even though we’re virtually strangers, I know she understands. Gentle hands on a brush, deep words on her tongue. I sense that she’s more interested in knowing people than she is in giving them the appearance of perfect cheekbones. I decide she’s a little bit of a refuge in the storm of insecurity for me, and I’m grateful.
It will wash off later tonight while warm, soapy water fills the sink again. And I will look into the face that my children know as mommy. I’ll breathe it all in and try to let it go. But the lens doesn’t ever go away completely, not for any of us.
Am I making something that matters?
So much of life is seen through the camera; it’s pigment and perfume and the fleeting sense that maybe none of it will amount to more than a shadow of who we really were.
The hours I’ve spent in books and studios, in hotels and interviews – all of it can feel more like a stage than a legacy. And it makes me question my time, my priorities, and what I’m leaving behind on the filmstrips.
When we finish, she starts to pack up her things and says sweetly, “I don’t really care about makeup.”
She smiles, and I understand the weight of her words.
She loves the people, the purpose, and the heart behind it. She’s gifted at the art, no question. But that’s not really the ultimate draw for her.
She doesn’t put stock in the bottles and pins, but she didn’t miss the opportunity to use them as a means to a beautiful end, and her ministry resides where her obedience settled.
I don’t want to waste my time, but even more importantly, I don’t want to call something a waste of time when it’s really an instrument entrusted to me. The temptation is ever-present, isn’t it? And the enemy thrives where that questioning begins, leading us down roads of insecurity and striving.
I hear the clicking of the camera, the typing of the keys, the sound of the dishwasher, the car doors opening and closing, and the way she breathes when she’s ready to sleep.
All of it will be swept away one day, distanced by years and memory, washed away like soapy water.
And it looks meaningless when you’re knee-deep in the search for meaning, which is exactly why we sometimes miss the forest for the trees. We’re so caught up in our own ideas of importance that we look past the brush He has lovingly placed in our hands.
Hours bleed one into another, tasks pile high while I wonder if I’ll ever be what I was meant to me. But there is a vulnerability that comes when we stare deep into the camera, stand still when we want to run, and trust that one day it will look the way it should.
I wonder if there’s an area in your life where you’re tempted to believe that your role is periphery to the important matters, or where you feel like you’re treading water. I believe that even in those tender places, He has equipped you to use the temporary to make a mark on eternity.
Ask for His wisdom and courage, and trust the tools He has given you. If you are willing, I would love to know what areas of your life you resisted or doubted, and what came of your obedience. Let’s encourage our sisters to look for His will instead of our agenda, and to walk in full confidence of what He will do with it in return.
Love and prayers to you today,