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Red Lipstick Season

Updated: Jul 1, 2021

In the spring of 2021, I was in San Antonio for our Freedom In Christ practicum. It was an amazing time getting to know people that had come for training, and getting to visit with old friends and coworkers in Freedom in Christ Ministries. Practicums are always such a special time for me. I get to sow into and encourage people who have felt called by God to serve their local church, in discipleship and reconciliation ministry.

One of the coolest parts, of this particular training, was I was able to spend time away with my mother, who is also partnered with FICM. We are both pretty fun ladies, and so as you can imagine, we had THE BEST TIME. It just so happened, in preparation for our week away together, my mother ordered new color pallets, eyeshadow and blush, for both of us from our Mary Kay lady.

There we were all week, loving on people and looking fierce while doing so. It was so much fun doing our makeup together every morning and ooh-ing and ahh-ing over each other as if we had been doing so all our lives, but actually, this was a first for us.

You see, when I was growing up, my family owned a nursery business where we spent most of our days in the heavy, wet, and choking heat of South Texas greenhouses. The very last thing we would spend our time on in the mornings was putting on makeup that would have melted off 20 minutes into the day. I do not have memories of my mom teaching me how to put makeup on. That job had definitely, and maybe detrimentally, been relegated to the fashion trends of the 80s and 90s.

On our drive back home, while further educating me on the finer points of womanhood, that I had been as of yet unaware, she began to explain to me that I would need to buy some more lipstick. As the owner of only one shade in Sienne Brulee, and 63 opened and partially used lip balms, I found the thought of needing six new lipsticks a little much. After I made all the requisite jokes and teased my mother about adding “no white after Labor Day” rules to my life, I settled in to learn all the girly things.

It was some time after this we made a pit stop for gas and snacks. Before getting out of the car, while checking our hair in the mirror and finding it in the tousled and road weary state we had expected, she reached into her purse and offered her lipsticks for me to choose from. I unzipped her very official and womanly lipstick pouch to find no less than four colors. Errrrrr…

While leaning towards the nude, she asked what I thought about the red. “I’m not really a red person,” I tell her and then follow up with, “I don’t think I’ve ever worn red before. I’m not sure I can pull it off.” Like a gauntlet being thrown down, she replied “You’re forty, and it’s a gas station. I’m pretty sure you can figure it out.”

With all the bravado that her challenge necessitated, I grabbed out the red and put it on. I owned my walk through that gas station. I even hid my surprise at the sight of myself in the bathroom mirror. Snacks in hand, I returned to the car in triumphal headiness. I, with my red lacquered lips, had conquered that gas station and sat glowing in the passenger seat as I waited for my mother. She came back to the car unfazed and seemingly unaware of the really important big-girl thing I just did.

Not wanting her to miss any milestone in my life, I explained to her what a big-girl, fancy-pants I was now. I felt like maybe she was right about me needing to add to my lipstick collection. Since she was driving, I was free to text my Mary Kay lady and tell her about my great victory and my need to schedule time to pick out new colors. She confirmed excitedly, and we settled on a playdate.

Snacks and drinks and singing at the top of our lungs freely followed as we made our way toward home. After some time, lost in the fun of road tripping, I looked down to notice what appeared to be red lipstick on my right thigh. “What?” “Where did that come from?!” I pulled down the mirror to investigate further and found, not only was it on my leg, but also on my cheek, my teeth, my chin, my hand, and somehow inexplicably, the back of my forearm.

“How does this even happen?! What kind of an ape-woman am I? Who even does this?”

As I set about cleaning up the crime scene of a situation, I had all over me, I was thinking this was proof that obviously red lipstick cannot be for girls like me. Fumbly, imperfect girls, who lack a certain attention to detail, should not be trusted with such a loud, upfront, and mistake exposing color. Mom and I had a great laugh about it as she reassured me that I would figure it all out.

With the memory fresh in mind, and the faint stain of the first fancy-pants decision of my forties still on my lips, I went back to work the next week. Each day that passed came complete with the opportunity to share the tale of my great and hilarious foray into a world of red hurt. By the end of the week, I was sitting at the kitchen table of my friend Therese, staring down the mountain of lipstick samples we intended to work through.

Much laughter and several cups of hot, black coffee ensued as we talked about all things work, mom-life, lipstick, and of course Jesus. Several colors came and went before she asked if I was ready for red. After the fiasco I had made of it the week before, I was hesitant to believe that I suddenly developed the competency required for such an endeavor. It is altogether possible that I was over-thinking the whole situation, but potentially just as likely it was every bit as important as I had made it out to be.

Red Stiletto, that was the name of the color she chose. I laughed that this would be the first stiletto I had ever worn. I put it on, and strode straight into my new season. The little hand mirror at the table was not going to cut it. We went to the bathroom to further inspect my face, and the color now on it. It was wonderful we decided, like really, really wonderful. Not only did it look good, but I felt good in it.

We went back to the table. I reflected on how much I loved it and how surprised I was by the difference it made. I was also more than a little surprised that it took me into my forties before I found out that indeed red is my color. I bought it immediately and was back home in no time showing off my new found swagger for my very patient husband.

I wore my new red lipstick all that day and the next. I bet I looked at myself a hundred times in the mirror, half the time checking that it wasn’t all over my face and the other half reminding myself that it did look as good as I remembered. The longer I wore it, and the more I saw myself in it, the more I wondered why it took me so long to even give it a try. “Why did I assume it was not for me when I had not even tried it?”

Do you know what I think it was? Fear. I think some part of me was afraid of how it would look to others. How I would look if it got all messed up and I did not notice but other people did. It was easier to decide that this wasn’t for me than sit in the discomfort of potentially making a big public mess of it.

It took a couple days of sitting in that revelation with the Lord before I was able to see this was not the only area of my life that I was playing it safe. Where I was hedging my bets or playing it small, out of fear of failure and fear of what others would think of me. This bothered me a lot.

I can remember thinking if I can’t own it at forty, how old will I have to be before I decide I am too old to live this way? While it is not appropriate to be led around by your fears at any age, turning forty this year has been especially poignant for me. Evidently, I am now a full-fledged adult, a grown woman, who can totally rock red lipstick and is brave enough to inhabit all the territory the Lord gives me.

I think this is profoundly important, this burning desire to fully step off into all the Lord has for me, and owning whatever comes in the process. You see, I realize that the fear and anxiety did not keep me from failing, it kept me from living in freedom. Now I am deciding to be done with that business.

I know that it is not really about red lipstick, I mean it is a pretty great color, but more than that it is a symbol for the kind of unapologetic boldness that I want to characterize my life going forward. I know it is not really about age, but rather maturity, and intimacy, in my relationship with the Lord, which brings effective change to how I think and walk. I know it is His Goodness that uses the everyday, seemingly unimportant, situations in my life to start deep and meaningful conversations with me.

So, red lipstick season it is and I could not be more excited to see all that He brings about in the midst of it. What do you say we go inhabit all of it?!

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Ashley Coburn
Ashley Coburn
03 ago 2021

Red Lipstick season it is indeed. And I, for one, am SUPER excited to see all the beauty God makes with it.

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