Culture Life

Why I am constantly drawn to lavender

I find that my most blissful moments remind me of the strong, calming scent of lavender. For one reason or another, I relate it to a lot of the more meaningful aspects of my life. To me, lavender is like a feeling; like the wind brushing up against your skin.

While I think that lavender is largely optimistic, I also find a certain sorrow that is comfortable, even humble, in its presence. I’ve come to appreciate it in every shape and form – the color, the flower, the scent. Its hard to place; not sweet or bitter, but rather musty. 

Lavender manages to incorporate itself into my life seemingly on a whim and in the most fleeting of moments. We have a peculiar relationship. I am stomach-knottingly anxious in the presence of many, especially when I first meet them. But, with some, I sense lavender, and I know that something great is about to happen. It is more of a feeling than anything else. Just talking to some people can be rejuvenating, and perhaps it is because our meeting reminds me of that warm, soft smell of a mid-spring day when the sun is bright and pure, and the entire day lies ahead.

Nowadays, when I am feeling an emotion that is simply beyond words, I say that I am overflowing with lavender. 

According to etymology, the English word “lavender” is derived from the Latin “lavare,” which translates to “to wash.” It is a necessary refinement – a cleanse. I am purified with every utterance of the word. 

Perhaps it’s not just me. In literature, lavender has been used significantly as a token of love. To me, it’s more like a notion of love at first sight. Shakespeare offers a bouquet of “hot lavender” in The Winter’s Tale. Cleopatra also roots lavender with love, as she is said to have used its sultry perfume to seduce both Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. Christians are also known to have used it as a repellent of evil. The plant is said to have been taken from the Garden of Eden and is sometimes found hanging in a cross shape above the doors of some Christian households as a means of protection. There are so many songs with the title lavender, my favorite being by The Beach Boys, and there have also been many poems written about it, too. Take, for example, this quote by an anonymous writer, “as rosemary is to the spirit, lavender is to the soul.” 

Lavender is swift, like a movement, carrying me in and out of perfectly imperfect moments. The vision of it is rather uplifting as well. It stands delicately tall among the rest, but it is not intimidating either. I adore its confrontation. In fact, I look forward to it. 

Beauty Lookbook

My community told me that my body would lead men to sin. I believed them.

It’s the summer of 2000, I’m ten years old, and it’s blazing hot outside.

Trudging to a hazy lake in the distance, my church camp friends and I kick up dirt from the parched grass. The Midwestern sun isn’t kind to us, and our one-piece bathing suits cling to our budding figures under knee-length shorts and oversized t-shirts. It has to be at least 100 degrees, and our best efforts to be “modest” further weigh us down.

A little lightheaded, I look around and see that I’m only surrounded by girls my age. I’m just a few yards away from the lake. No one would care if I pull off this men’s sized t-shirt and cool down just a little bit, right?

After all, I’m still more covered than I’ll be once I start swimming.

Just a few more steps, and I’ll be in the water…

Without considering it any further, I start to pull the heavy cotton off of my rib cage. I sigh with relief as the sweltering breeze hits my polyester-covered stomach. But before the fabric even leaves my shoulders, I hear my name through a horrified shriek.

[bctt tweet=”I stutter an apology, and she releases my arm.” username=”wearethetempest”]

I stop what I’m doing and whip around as a camp counselor stomps towards me and grabs my arm. “What do you think you’re doing?” she demands, inches from my face. Not even waiting for my answer, she stabs a finger toward a building a hundred yards away. “Don’t you know that’s the boys’ cabin?!”

Too ashamed to respond, my eyes squint in the direction of the cabin and then dart back over to the lake. But the water’s right there… What’s the big deal?

“One of the boys could have seen you,” the counselor spat – as if I should know exactly what that means. I stutter an apology, and she releases my arm.

[bctt tweet=”At 10 years old, I should know better than to tempt my male peers.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Unfortunately, I do know what she means. I’ve heard it for years. And at 10 years old, I should know better than to tempt my male peers with my barely covered shoulders and back.

1 Corinthians 6:19 says, “Don’t you realize your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself.”

My body is a temple. And that means it should remain holy.

I grew up in an evangelical megachurch of more than 7,000 people. As a young girl learning to accept her body, the earliest message that I embodied dictated that the female body is powerful – but not in a positive way.

It was a source of temptation, and in my mind, that equaled “bad.”

It wasn’t difficult to draw that conclusion. There were stories, both biblical and modern, about immoral women luring men into sin. Church leaders pulled aside girls of all ages for wearing “distracting” tank tops or dresses to Sunday school.

Tank tops and dresses that would have passed any school’s dress code.

[bctt tweet=”The church leaders said our female bodies would ‘lead men astray.'” username=”wearethetempest”]

I didn’t even own a bikini until college, terrified that my curves would turn my male friends – or complete strangers – to sin. The church leaders said our female bodies would “lead men astray” – as if they were sheep who weren’t responsible for their thoughts or actions.

Pastors applied the temple metaphor to everything – from why a girl should preserve her virginity to why we shouldn’t have tattoos or piercings.

And as I got older, as my body began to blossom, I heard it even more frequently.

My church spent so much time telling girls how to cover and hide their bodies, how to keep them spotless and sacred like a temple. But this temple wasn’t for me to worship. No, that would be celebrating “the flesh” and being “of the world.”

This temple was for my future husband – a man.

Thus, my focus surrounded ensuring that my body was “appropriate” and pure for God and my future husband – so much so that I never really learned to love it. After all, I didn’t “belong to myself.”

It wasn’t ever instilled in me to love my body, since it rightfully belonged to someone else.

[bctt tweet=”My body is a temple. And that means it should remain holy.” username=”wearethetempest”]

So when my body failed me in my early 20’s with cystic acne, painful endometriosis and fluctuating weight, I broke down. This temple of mine was crumbling before my eyes, and I didn’t know how to stop it. The things I had treasured – like my thinness that people told me was beautiful – threatened to disappear. The church had told me that I had worth, because I was a child of God.

But all that meant to me was that I was a good person who would go to heaven someday.

What it failed to do was teach me a positive self-image and my worth as a woman.

[bctt tweet=”When my body began to rebel, so did I.” username=”wearethetempest”]

I was dissuaded from loving myself, from celebrating the things “of the world” like fashion and feminism. The years I should have spent celebrating makeup and clothes were spent painstakingly measuring seams for my long legs and dabbing color off of my face.

I didn’t find joy in these things.

But when my body began to rebel, so did I.

I bought clothes because I liked them and how I felt in them, with no regard for if they were modest or not. I put on eyeliner, bought cute underwear and cut my hair short. I went to the gym to achieve a curvy, toned figure – for no reason other than it was exactly what I wanted.

I wanted to be beautiful and to truly believe it – for no one else but me.

I’ll be 26 years old soon, and body image will always be my struggle. But I can say with confidence something that I never could say in a church that taught me my body was shameful.

I’m beautiful and perfectly made.