2.10.2014

Review \\ I'm No Angel by Kylie Bisutti


In 2009 19-year-old Kylie Bisutti won the Victoria's Secret Model Search competition and walked the runway in the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. She had reached the height of her modeling career, and she was ecstatic. She had been modeling for years already, at first for a mall in Las Vegas as a 13-year-old and later in New York as a 16-year-old. She was a natural with a reportedly amazing runway walk. Bisutti's excitement over modeling turned sour fast when stylists and managers started using adjectives like "big" and "cow" to describe her. To anyone on the outside Bisutti appeared super-thin and gorgeous, but to the modeling industry her measurements were outside the optimal range. 

Bisutti dropped out of the modeling scene for a little while when she met her now husband at the age of 18 in 2008. They married the next year, and, according to Bisutti, modeling was the furthest thing from her mind as she settled into married life. It wasn't until her mother-in-law handed her a flyer for the Victoria's Secret Model Search that her old yearning revived. She loved walking the runway, exhibiting fashionable styles and "working" the crowd. She had watched the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show for as long as she could remember, practicing the famous Angels' walks and admiring their curvy figures. Since she had already been called too big for the usual modeling gigs, wouldn't she be the perfect type to model Victoria's Secret merchandise? A few short months later, Bisutti was voted winner, and all her modeling dreams had come true.

Obviously that isn't the end of the story, or there would be no book titled I'm No Angel: From Victoria's Secret Model to Role Model.** I had seen Bisutti on The Today Show, oh, probably in 2011 shortly after she tweeted, "I quit being a VS model to be a Proverbs 31 wife." I was intrigued. I had never heard of her before, as my relationship with Victoria's Secret is completely non-existent. When I'm at the mall I avoid the store like the Bubonic plague. I have zero desire to glance at large posters of underwear-clad women while shopping for unmentionables that will hopefully, if the company's done their marketing right, make me think I look like those women. Besides that, I'm not one of those women who desires to carry her pink-striped VS shopping bag around the mall like a badge of honor. I don't want people to know what brand or type of underwear I'm wearing. Soapbox aside, I gathered from Bisutti's story that she had modeled, won the VS competition, become a Christian, then quit modeling, in that order.

I was wrong. (Not the first time, shockingly.) According to Bisutti, she became a Christian around the age of 14 or 15, just before she set off for New York solo to really start her modeling career. At first I thought, Good, this is the right example of coming to Christ. God doesn't ask us to change ourselves and then come to Him, but come to Him and let Him change us. Bisutti didn't once think modeling and Christianity clashed. She did feel that becoming a Christian helped her see herself as beautiful regardless of what others said, but that feeling wavered considerably when she was called fat and found herself on a fruit cleanse one holiday in order to lose a considerable amount of weight for Fashion Week. 

Honestly, she was set up to fail. Her faith in Christ was so new that jetting off to New York at the age of 16 and immersing herself in the modeling industry did not provide the spiritually enriching environment she needed. Instead, she ignored countless red flags and continually gave in, starving herself, losing weight, and participating in photo shoots she once considered (and still considered, to a certain degree) inappropriate. She was fueled by a lustful desire to be the best and to make it to the top of the modeling ladder; she would do anything to get there. 

It started getting a little fuzzy for me after Bisutti married, and, according to her, really dug into God's Word and sought His will for her life. When the Victoria's Secret flyer landed in her hands, she thought this could be God's will for her. What?! I guess I have a hard time understanding Bisutti's naivete. Did she really think strutting down a runway in lingerie was God-honoring? I realize she hadn't been raised to consider modesty, but she presumably wasn't stupid. You might say she was "only" 19, but the girl writing this post is "only" 20 and can use the common sense God gave her. Bisutti mentions that she didn't realize how that type of clothing affected men. Seriously? Previous experiences she wrote about would suggest otherwise. She knew she was beautiful, and she knew she affected at least the men around her in an often negative way. She knew how to walk a runway and work a crowd, popping her hips and blowing kisses. She wanted to be sensuous and sexy. So how does that fit in with her proclaimed desire to live for God in every way? I just don't know. I can't explain it. Was she just that naive and clueless, or did she simply allow her over-powering desire to be the best cloud her judgment?

Bisutti also suggests, several times, that her husband didn't know anything about modeling, and that he didn't realize what entering the Victoria's Secret competition meant. Really? I feel like you would have to be living under a rock to not know about Victoria's Secret. Even if he didn't, did he not think it odd when his wife showed off the new bathing suit she would be wearing at the casting call? While reading the last half of this book, I repeatedly muttered to myself, People can't be this naive. I don't know, maybe they can. It is odd to me that Bisutti thought it okay to parade around in barely there lingerie but became physically ill in the presence of nude dancers. It is odd to me that Bisutti thought it okay to participate in photo shoots for magazines targeting men but became irate when some of her pictures turned up on inappropriate websites. It is odd to me that Bisutti didn't mind showing her "stuff" and working the crowd but would never accept alcohol offered to her because she was underage. There is a huge disconnect from reality somewhere in here.

Add to that the statement Victoria's Secret made after Bisuitti shared her story. They say she was never a Victoria's Secret "Angel" and that she never had a modeling contract with them. However, they do say she requested a contract from them multiple times. To them, it is incorrect for Bisutti to refer to herself as a former Victoria's Secret model, because they never gave her that title. True, this could amount to no more than a he said she said argument, but I thought it worth mentioning. Make of it what you will.

I truly hope that the change in Bisutti is a product of her growing relationship with God. I pray that she can influence young girls in a positive way. I'm No Angel was interesting to read, with (thankfully!) very good writing for a memoir type book. I didn't find any tiring sections or places where I wished the editor had given more than a once over. I'm No Angel gave me a lot to think about concerning modeling, beauty, and God's will for our lives. I learned more about the behind the scenes of modeling than I ever wanted to know. (I won't say I was surprised, though.) I am happy that Bisutti is using her past to tell others about Jesus. I pray that with the upcoming publication of her devotional book, many young girls will see themselves in a new Light. I also pray that God will bless Bisutti's future endeavors with a touch more common sense than her last ones.

** I decided not to link to anything but the book itself because most webpages referring to Mrs. Bisutti include her more revealing modeling images, and, as you'll read in one of the quotes below, Bisutti prefers those didn't exist.

Adults don't always realize the profound effect their words can have on young kids--girls in particular. These people mean well, of course. What harm could possibly come from telling a little girl she's pretty? Technically, none--unless that's the only affirmation she ever hears. Unless that's the only reason she gets attention.
Page 15

I'd been treating God like a genie in a lamp, making childish wishes and then waiting for Him to deliver. But God didn't send His Son to die on the cross so that one day I could become a famous fashion model.
Page 98

And thanks to the Internet, there will always be dozens of images of me out there I wish didn't exist. They stand as a sobering reminder of where I've been--but also as tangible proof of how far God has brought me since then. While those images may never go away, I can assure you the girl in them no longer exists.
Page 237
Author: Kylie Bisutti
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
Publication: 2013
Pages: 301
ISBN: 9781414383866

1.13.2014

10 Things Nursing School Taught Me

My second semester of nursing school begins in just a few days, and I'm thinking about all of the things I learned last semester. It's one thing to learn the skills, like tracheal suctioning and subQ injections, and an entirely different thing to learn the critical thinking, the how and why and what can I do. I felt pretty confident going in, but by the time I stepped out of the skills lab and onto the hospital floor I felt anything but. Though I never reached a point when I felt like I knew exactly what I was doing in every situation, I learned to recognize my strengths and ask for help with my weaknesses.

I'm not jumping up and down with joy at the thought of this coming semester, probably because I'm still pretty tired from the last one. But I do feel like I can go into this  one with a little more clarity and hopefully a lot more humility. This semester I'm enrolled in mental health, med surg, and research. I felt a little meh about mental health until I received the syllabus, and now I think it might be my favorite class. I hope! The following list contains a few things my first semester of nursing school taught me (humor included).

1.  There's no such thing as too many highlighters.

2.  Failing to read every chapter of that massive textbook is OK. Better to understand the big picture than to swamp your mind with too many details at first.

3.  NCLEX-style questions really are different! Learning how to answer them correctly equals answering test questions correctly.

4.  Clinical is about the patient, not you.

5.  You learn more about nursing from your patients than from your instructors.

6.  Respect the uniform. Patients and visitors think you know things, like how to get the IV pump to stop beeping (second semester skill) and where the cafeteria is located.

7.  Select all that apply questions are possibly weapons of mass nursing student destruction.

8.  You can have a life during nursing school as long as you make the time for one.

9.  What happens at clinical stays at clinical. Protect your patients' privacy. (Think HIPAA.)

10.  Nursing school is hard and sometimes frustrating, but the patients are wonderful and the ability to do even a little something to make them feel better makes up for it.

I'll end with this comic strip, because I'm positive this is how I am now around family and friends.

1.06.2014

Book Review \\ The Selection by Kiera Cass



When we got the letter in the post, my mother was ecstatic. She had already decided that all our problems were solved, gone forever. The big hitch in her brilliant plan was me. I didn't want to be royalty. And I didn't want to be a One. I didn't even want to try.

The Selection by Kiera Cass is another title to put on the dystopian fiction shelf. I have to say, though, that its dystopian qualities are unlike those of Divergent or The Hunger Games. This is a more laid back, romantic version. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but, coming from those series, my expectations were probably a little too high. The Selection does deliver as far as likable heroines go, but the story is a little slow at times, and the excitement of new dresses isn't exactly the excitement of battle scenes.

Still, it's nice to meet a heroine who isn't out killing people and then struggling with PTSD. America Singer is likable and brave in her own right as she leaves her beloved family to be part of the Selection, a group of young woman chosen to vie for Prince Maxon's attentions. Only one will end up with a ring on her hand and a crown on her head. It's sort of a game show meets speed dating. The prince does his best to "date" each women in order to narrow down his prospects, and the girls participate in near weekly televised interviews. I've read that some have compared it to Esther's story in the Bible, but I would say that is an extremely loose connection, one that I personally wouldn't suggest.

The first person, past tense writing style is enjoyable. America's descriptions of life around her is interesting, from her modest home to the impeccable palace. If I could actually go to that palace, I would. Her largest troubles revolve around her boyfriend from home, Aspen, who dumped her just before she was selected, and Prince Maxon, who is surprisingly different from the prince who appears on the television screen. And even if she doesn't want to be part of the Selection, she has her family to think about. The compensation they receive for her participation is not only appreciated but also needed. A love triangle follows, of course, which is perhaps the thing I dislike most. Overdone much?

My final thoughts? The Selection is enjoyable but not exciting. It's an interesting idea that's fairly executed. Fans of young adult fiction will probably enjoy it, but those who decide to pass on it shouldn't worry about missing out on a whole lot. I disliked the occasional expletive (d---, h---) because they added zero to the story; plus, they made me decrease my like of America. Neither did I like America's relationship with Aspen, because it seems to be based mostly on physical attraction and geographical proximity. Though not explicit, in a couple of places they, as another blogger so eloquently stated, and the best way I can explain it, "mess around," only harbored by laws that would imprison them if they went any further. I think that's a bit ridiculous, since they sneak around their parents and the city's curfew anyway. Prince Maxon's character, in my opinion, is much more likable. (Side note. I don't know if I missed a description of Maxon's accent. I feel like it has to be British, but of course there isn't such a thing in this futuristic world. His "my dears" and general dialogue make me think British.)

The second book in the series, The Elite, was published in 2013, and the third book, The One, will be published in May of this year. A couple of other reviews to read: Dreaming Under the Same Moon (where I got the idea to read The Selection and where I "borrowed" that eloquent phrasing) and Characterized.
Title: The Selection (The Selection #1)
Author: Kiera Cass
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication: 2012
Pages: 327
ISBN: 9780062059932
Many thanks to my local library!

7.17.2013

The Idol of Good Health

"Rise, O Lord, into Thy proper place of honor, above my ambitions, above my likes and dislikes, above my family, my health and even my life itself. Let me decrease that Thou mayest increase, let me sink that Thou mayest rise above."
~ A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God
I recently read The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer, and this quote in the eighth chapter knocked the wind out of me. For a little context, this particular chapter covers the importance of regarding God as above all else. Maintaining the Creator-created relationship is key to living a life wholly pursuing God. There can be no God and money or God and human love or God and success. There can and must be only, solely God. 

As I searched my heart for any area of deceit, as I have done so much more often since reading this book, I realized that my idol-worship no longer flitted between my old idols of perfection and success. I am still tempted to put those idols next to God, but I have made great strides in overcoming them as God has worked on my heart little by little. But as I examined myself this time, I realized a new idol has invaded my soul. In this quote, Tozer pleads with God to rise above all else, to rise above ambitions, likes and dislikes, family, life itself, and . . . health. Health? Really? Who thinks of health as an idol?

"Who may ascend the hill of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to an idol
or swear by what is false."

Psalm 24:3-4

Apparently I do. I hadn't realized it until now, but my search for a diagnosis and treatment along with my ever-increasing hope that one day I'll wake up and be miraculously better has become an idol. Instead of worshiping the God who comforts me in my weakest moments, I am worshiping this hope that someday I'll feel better and return to "normal." I've developed an obsession with getting well. I think about what I can do when I'm normal again, when my head isn't hurting and my back isn't burning and I wake up feeling rested. I yearn for good health, and I think that somehow, even without me realizing it, I've put the pursuit of good health above my pursuit of God.

You know, two years ago, when I first started making doctors' appointments, I thought, Someone will figure this out and within a month I'll be back to my usual self. As months went by I thought, Maybe this is something I'm just going to have to live with. I can get through this as long as I stay close to God. And as my symptoms worsened and I returned to doctors' offices, a desperate need grew inside of me. A need to be better. A need to feel whole again. If someone with a medical degree does not figure out what's wrong with me, I'll die. But I missed it, guys. I missed the message God was speaking to me all along.


I am already whole, because He has made me whole in Him. Physically I may be broken, but spiritually I am whole and new because God has cleansed my hands and purified my heart. That is all that matters. That is all that matters. That is all that matters, because when I am dead my soul will break free from this broken body. I will enter Heaven whole because one day not so long ago God took a broken, dirty soul in His hands and made it whole.

I can't set my sights on good health as if it is some kind of savior because only one Savior has earned His place in my life. I can't let myself think that ridiculously desperate If only... because I have what I have and there are no 30-day money back guarantees. I may be like Job sometimes, pestering God with questions and hopelessly scraping at my sores, but at the end of it all I must lift my soul up to God alone, above my abilities, above my desires, and especially above my health. 

"Rise, O Lord, into Thy proper place of honor."

5.28.2013

Book Review \\ The Bare Naked Truth by Bekah Hamrick Martin

Waiting seemed like a wussy thing to do. . . . But what if I was fooling myself? What if the truly risky thing was having the guts to believe that someone out there was the one for me physically—and emotionally?
It's hard to make decisions about dating and purity. At 13 the decision was pretty simple to me. I grew up in a Christ-following family with loving parents. I learned that God loves me more than any human ever could, and that being Jesus' girl was way more important than being some guy's girl. But, not every girl has parents like mine or a growing up like mine. And really, making the decisions might be the easy part. Living those decisions is much harder.

In The Bare Naked Truth, author Bekah Hamrick Martin speaks honestly about understanding God's design for sex, waiting for sex until marriage, and seeking forgiveness and healing from past mistakes. Bekah has a great sense of humor that makes the topic less awkward than it could be. She very successfully combines others' stories with her own to give a more well-rounded view and less one-sided perspective. This is a bit grittier than other "purity books" I've read because it speaks openly about lust, sexual abuse, and masturbation, topics that need to be talked about but are often glossed over or completely ignored.

I love that the book focuses on God filling the void that we often try to fill with relationships, and that, though we may have made mistakes in the past or experienced the harsh realities of a messed-up world, God can heal our broken hearts and bodies and make us new. I may be leaving my teenage years behind, but these are truths that I still need reminded of often.

The Bare Naked Truth fills a gap in Christian literature, encouraging purity but also talking truthfully about the struggles we face and the forgiveness we can find in Christ. There is no condemnation here, but love and hope, and that's something books on waiting could use a lot more of. I highly recommend this book to any girl struggling to make a decision about waiting and purity, or to any girl who has already made the decision but needs some encouragement.
When you give your heart, mind, body, and soul to Jesus, your attempts to run toward his best for you will succeed. His plans for you are for good and not for evil—to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). 
Connect With Bekah

The Bare Naked Truth: Dating, Waiting, and God's Purity Plan
Bekah Hamrick Martin
Zondervan
May 7, 2013
192 pages
0310734029
Many, many thanks to the author for sending me a copy of this book!