But, for me, I had a battle in my head, I couldn't quite work out what God said I should wear. There was a part of me that said, 'If you keep up with the fashions, if you wear what everyone else wears, if you go out and purposefully try to look pretty then you are committing sin and God won't like it.' I don't know where I got this from, I don't know what I based it on, but it is a lie.
I don't like talking about my image, what I look like, and what I wear with anyone. I find it embarrassing and awkward, and, to be honest, I think I am a bit insecure about it all.
I remember walking along and hearing these people saying, 'wow, look at what she's wearing' and then falling about laughing. That hurt, that got me right at my core, for some reason that hurt so much more than anything else.
I think I had become so paranoid or worried or scared about how I should be dressing, I had brought it to the focus of everything.
It was a focus I tried to hide, I knew I didn't want it to be my focus, but really and truthfully it had become the centre of everything, and I really didn't know what to do about it.
My confidence was knocked to nothing, I didn't really know what to wear, and I think I just hid from it all, pretended not to care and distracted my mind from even thinking about it.
And in all this rubbish, where did God fit in?
I think the problem was that I had been taught that God says to not worry about what you wear. I was trying to convince myself that it didn't matter what I looked like, so why bother trying to look like what everyone else said looked 'good' or 'cool'?
But actually, no matter how much I tried to convince myself to not care, I did care. I did want to look good, and I was jealous of those who I thought did look good.
I stumbled through this journey of not really knowing what to do, I blindly tripped up as I stretched harder and harder to be what I thought God wanted me to be, but one day I woke up, one day God turned on the light, one day God told me, He said, 'Grace, you are beautiful. Grace, I made you in my image, and I love you. Grace, you are beautiful.'
I don't think I believed it, in fact it has taken me a long, long time to begin to believe it. This lie I had been told that I wasn't good enough, that the way I looked was bad, and even that I should actively not bother to look good, was finally being torn apart.
I was being set free from something that had kept me in chains for too long.
I had been turned towards a new direction, turned so that I was heading to the light, to hope. Things didn't dramatically change all of a sudden, but deep inside something had been shifted.
My values had been changed and I was heading towards a better future, I can't quite explain what started to be different, but I know that I started to value what I looked like. I began. To be able to look in the mirror and whisper, 'you are beautiful'.
It wasn't all the time, and I can see that it was two steps forward and one step backwards, but I did begin to like choosing what to wear, seeing something I liked.
But what was most incredible of all was that even though I did start to spend a bit more time deciding what to wear and buying clothes, I actually started to take it away from my focus. I started to not worry about it all as much, in doing the very thing I thought I shouldn't, I began to change how I thought. I had thoughts that were filled with integrity, based on truth, and showed me that I was valued and loved for who I was, rather than devaluing, degrading, and harmful ideas, that were based on lies.
I don't go out each day trying to look incredible, but I always go out wearing what I want to wear. I am not trying to impress people, I wear clothes that when I look in the mirror make me see me as I am.
A beautiful, beautiful, very loved, daughter of God.
That doesn't mean that by the worlds standards I've suddenly became a whole lot prettier, or that what I wear suddenly 'fits in', but what it means is that I value myself.
I look in the mirror, and yes sometimes I do think, 'Crumbs! Your hair looks like you walked through a hedge backwards today, and you really need to do something about that jolly spot!' But I also look in the mirror and think, 'Wow, you are so, so beautiful.'
And its releasing, and its freeing, and its life-giving, and hope-bringing.
These are the things that God wants to give.
God isn't about confining us, He isn't about making us feel trapped, He isn't about putting us into gloomy, stumbling darkness.
He gives gifts of freedom, and hope, and light and love. Oh so, so much love.
You are beautiful. That is how God made you.
Let the beauty of the outside be what it is, and spend your time bringing out the beauty of your inside.
"You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I'm putting you on a light stand. Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand-shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives." (Matthew 5:14-16)
Bring out the beauty, the 'God-colours' from yourself, and in doing that you will notice the 'God-colours' around you. For they are everywhere, in people, in laughter, in beauty, in creation, in buildings, in the Church, in children, in the clouds, in the stars, in the ordinary, in every moment.
Truly, truly stop worrying and concerning yourself so much, learn to live with integrity, and dignity. Learn to shine like a light. Learn to be you. Beautiful, beautiful you. Look in the mirror, own who you are, and let others love you for being you. They will, for you are beautiful.