Category Archives: Beauty

31 Days of Simple Truths: Choosing (Day 1)

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Image: James Barker/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’ve gone round and round in my brain about participating in Write 31 Days this year. I really want to, but we’ve just moved, life is crazy, I need to go easy on myself…

I wanted to be deep and profound and figure out how to make a cool little graphic for my series like all the other lovely ones I’ve seen. I even purchased an app to do it, and it straight up will not open. I have no idea why. I don’t understand. I spent an hour trying to figure it out before throwing in the towel.

I figured it was a sign that it was all too much, and I was out of my mind for even considering it.

Then I felt the familiar whisper of the Holy Spirit: Keep it simple.

Ugh. I am not good at simple. I never have been. Even when I resolve I’m going to, somehow, I have a knack for complicating it.

But I need simple right now. Desperately.

So, these will not be long posts. I am in a new season, and I am looking to lay the foundation for what’s ahead of us, to drive down the stakes that will hold us steady. I am looking for simple truths in every day—things that will anchor my soul.

And today this is my truth: One of the most beautiful things about a new season is the power to choose what can come with me from the old season. If I don’t want it anymore, I don’t have to bring it with me. I get to let go.

So here’s to releasing burdens, fears and old patterns. Here’s to scattering the unhealthy things to be carried off with the leaves on the wind. Here’s to loosening my grip on all the dead things and embracing the beauty of bare branches, ready  for deep rest in preparation to receive new life.

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What I Never Noticed About Seasons

New life is emerging, even in unexpected or hardened places.

New life is emerging, even in unexpected or hardened places.

On Monday morning of this week, I could not drag myself out of bed.

As if a weighted blanket was holding me down, I could not even will myself to move. I finally managed to open one eye long enough to catch a blurry glimpse of the clock, then squeezed them shut again at the realization of how much I’d overslept.

Eyes still closed, body still unwilling to budge, I laid there and began to mentally rant at myself. Great job, Adela. You’ve thrown off your entire day . . . again. You were a mess last week after Daylight Savings. You can’t do this again this week. You’ll never get anything done. How do you think you’ll make a dent in your never-ending to do list if you can’t even wake up early . . .

(Seriously. Who needs the rest of the world to make us feel not good enough? I can manage just fine on my own.)

So before I’d ever made it out of bed, I had thoroughly belittled and berated myself, as if somehow that would provide the necessary motivation to war against my obstinate body. I dragged myself to the bathroom to begin getting ready, and because no one makes smart choices under the influence of dense brain-fog, I also stood on the scale during this process. Commence mental beat-down #2.

By some miracle, I managed to get the kids up and dressed and fed everyone breakfast without any total disasters ensuing. And I knew in my bones I’d best make time for my morning pages and sipping coffee slowly if I wanted to rescue my day from the oh so precarious position it was dangling from.

Pencil in hand, moving across the pages, thoughts finding their way through the clouds and into the light—and suddenly this sentence appeared on the page: I wonder if part of my struggle has been the result of warring against the season.

This thought stopped me in my tracks for a moment. I’m all about seasons. I welcome each one with its own special little ritual. I savor their unique nuances and invitations. What had I missed that was causing me to be at war?

Even considering the previous week, when Daylight Savings robbed an hour of my life and messed up all my rhythms by letting darkness extend into the morning, I kept fighting—trying to keep the same schedule, the same pace, the same routines—and I miserably lost the fight. Why had I not given myself grace and space to adjust?

As I fleshed all this out in my journal, another question for myself emerged: What would it take for me to look ahead—to see what season is coming and to make the necessary preparations and adjustments? What would it take for me to remember and show myself  grace in the nuances of each season?

I glanced at the calendar and was struck by the realization that the first day of spring was coming. These last few days were the final days of winter. I felt myself resolve to breathe in the final moments of rest before turning my attention to the bustle of spring.

And then there it was. A revelation that literally left me with my mouth hanging open as I stared down at my journal. Maybe you have seen this before, but I certainly have not. We often talk about the pattern God established in creation by resting on the seventh day. For the last year of my life, I have deliberately worked to weave rest into my schedule—at least 30 minutes to 1 hour in every day, and at least 1 day in every week. But I have never seen the much bigger picture.

God perfectly and strategically wove rest into creation through the cycle of the seasons. Spring and Autumn are the working seasons; Summer and Winter are the resting seasons.

Think about it a moment. Spring is for planting and birthing; it is for clearing away excess and remnants of dead things. If there is any hope of sustaining life for the rest of the year, there is a lot of work to be done in this season. Autumn is the harvest season. We reap the fruits of our labor, but it takes additional labor to gather those fruits. It is time to prepare and store, so there is no lack in the winter. If there is any hope of surviving the long dark and cold, there is a lot of work to be done in this season.

But tucked in between these busy seasons are the resting seasons. True—Summer is a more active rest. Things that were planted in spring need to be tended; things that were birthed need to be nurtured. But there is a lot of waiting now—waiting to see what will emerge, what will grow. The heat demands that we take it easy, that we drink deep and restore our souls. And then there is Winter, the deep rest. Winter invites us to see beauty even in death. It invites us to slow down and simply be. It demands that some things be let go in order that other things may live again when it is time.

Even physically, our bodies are not going to respond the same way to our efforts at exercise during the cold months. They are conserving energy and insulating us against the chill. Granted, some of us might have a little more insulation than we feel is necessary, but still, our bodies slow down. Think of it as a kind of hibernation for non-bears!

I believe our bodies respond to these seasons even when our minds don’t make the connection, and that is when we find ourselves at war. We are trying to override our hardwiring, and the results will not be productive. We feel guilty because we are failing to maintain our usual levels of accomplishment, and that guilt sets us up for further failure and frustration because who ever made wise choices out of guilt?

So here we are at today—the spring equinox. And I am ready. Because over the last few days, I allowed myself to linger in the final moments of winter’s rest. And while I still struggled a bit to get out of bed most mornings, each day the fog around my brain has been slightly less thick. It is lifting. My mind is turning to plans for cleaning and organizing, for planting seeds—both literal (mmmm, tomatoes!) and figurative (new ideas, projects and disciplines).

I feel like a clarity has emerged for how I need to live, and I am brimming over with excitement and hope. God outlined the perfect patterns, and I want to embrace them. I am even making notes on my calendar to look ahead, so I will remember to be gracious with myself when the transitions between the seasons come.

Here’s to less warring and more resting in the flawless design of each season!

(P.S.: A little bonus thought – what if the reason so many people fail at New Year’s resolutions is because they are trying to plant new things in the thick of the deep rest that is Winter? What if the first few months of the new year should actually be for further contemplating and thinking and planning, with new efforts not actually fully implemented until spring? Maybe we could actually see the changes we long for! I wonder . . .)

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The Tension of Advent

Image Source: CreationSwap

Image Source: CreationSwap

There is a soft, steady rain falling. It announced its arrival this afternoon with one dramatic rumble of thunder, I think just making sure it had my attention. And then it proceeded to carry on its melancholy serenade.

I look through the rivulets running down the window, the blurred sparkle of our Christmas lights giving the raindrops their own moment of brilliance up against the ever darkening shadows as daylight slowly takes its leave.

This is Advent for me. The gloom side by side with the glow. The heaviness mingled with the stillness. The momentary tension between breathing in and breathing out, letting go. The waiting and listening.

Sometimes the melancholy is stronger. The world breaks at the seams. Hateful words and hateful acts and how can we as humanity be so wretched to each other sometimes?

And sometimes hope is stronger. The world surprises with its wonders. Encouraging words and selfless acts and how can this wretched humanity be so beautiful sometimes?

I used to feel that I had to give in to one or the other, to choose. If I chose hope, was I ignoring the broken hearts? If I chose melancholy, was I discounting the power of redemption?

But I know better now. This is the tension we live with, so often experiencing beauty and pain in the same moments. This is the tension of waiting–the beautiful hope of a promise to be fulfilled and the despair of waiting for a promise that seems it will never be fulfilled.

I think this is why creation groans, bowing under the weight of all the glory and all the misery and all the unknown, waiting for light to dispel the darkness once and for all.

Meanwhile, I choose to see. I see the dreariness, but I also see the wonder. They sit together in the window. They sit together in me. So I light the candles and remind myself of His promise to come and make things right–in the world and in me.

The rain falls. The light dances. And I wait.

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Filed under Beauty, Hope

On Being and Breathing

Image Source: CreationSwap.com

Image Source: CreationSwap.com

Another Monday morning has arrived.

I sit with my coffee, savoring the last remaining moments of silence, mindful of the distant sounds of little ones stirring.

I have filled my morning pages–dumped all the thoughts spinning through my head onto paper. I have updated my planner, reviewed my to do list for the day.

And I become aware of the beast lurking in the shadows, the Anxiety that wants to sink his claws into my day before it really begins. This week is too full already, an abnormally demanding and irregular schedule, thrown off course by the unwanted presence of medical tests and doctor appointments that I wish I could forget or erase from the calendar. But they are there, and they need to be if we are to find answers as to what has been troubling my little girl’s health this summer.

I breathe.

There is a deliberate choice in this moment–to become overwhelmed or to simply be. This choice will face me many more times today, many more times this week. I hope I choose well.

To simply be: to acknowledge what is beyond my control and then release it, to be as faithful as I know how with what I can control, to set my gaze on the Beauty and not on the Anxiety, to remember to breathe and pause for moments of silence in order to discern the voice of Hope from among all the others.

This quote was shared with me by someone, somewhere, many months ago, and it has become a constant reminder to still my heart and refocus my gaze:

The whole world roars with subtle whispers of [you could be great if you would just hustle a little more.] And God simply breathes: [Let Me be great. You just go and be.]  -Lori Harris

This is my choice today, to pull back from the hustle and lean into the Being–His Being where in turn I find my own.

I do not know what your Monday holds, if you are refreshed or if you are weary, if you are hopeful or if you are heavy. But may I offer this suggestion? Pause and breathe. Not merely the mindless breaths you will take as you do every day to ensure your survival. A deliberate moment of silencing all the other voices. A choice to breathe in grace and exhale the burdens. Do it as many times throughout your day as it takes. The nagging voices telling you that you are not enough unless you strive and do better and perform? Those are not the voices of One who loves you. When He calls you higher, He does it with an affirmation of your worth and a reminder of His greatness.

Breathe. Be. And may your week be filled with the beauty of grace.

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Filed under Beauty, Hope, Presence

My Wild Soul

Image Source: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image Source: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My wild soul.

The night sky beckons – vast, dark, sprinkled with diamonds. She cannot resist its seductive song. In the car, windows down, driving a touch too fast, she relishes the whipping wind, craves oneness with this unseen force. You cannot cage wind, cannot tame it if it does not wish to be tamed. She does not wish to be tamed.

 

*Writing on the theme “The Wild Ones” on the Story Sessions blog today. Join us?

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Embracing Now

Desert Rose (FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Desert Rose (FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

For the next 12 weeks, I am participating in Story 201, one of the many amazing course offerings of Story Sessions. As part of the course, we are working our way through a book, The Artist’s Rule, that is already profoundly speaking to my heart.

Reading through the Introduction this weekend, a particular block of sentences leapt off the page to me:

Bringing the mind and heart of a beginner to our lives helps us to discover the wisdom offered in each moment. When we let go of our desire to be clever or successful or to create beautiful things, we may begin to be open to the sacred truth of our experience as it is, not how we want it to be.

We all at some point or another wish that our present circumstances or experiences were something different. We struggle with the tension of things being not quite how we want them to be. And it is easy to fall into the deceptive web of thinking if this thing or that thing would change, then our hearts would actually be able to hold more truth or more wisdom or more creativity. It becomes the trap of always looking to another day and meanwhile losing the beauty of this day.

There is sacred truth in our everyday experiences right now. Exactly as they are. In the midst of the discomfort and the less-than-perfect. We don’t have to wait for things to be what we want them to be or as we think they should be. The next season – whenever it comes – might not even hold the same richness or depth if we have not learned to see the beauty and truth of now.

I realize this is easier said than done. Believe me – I do. Life is hard right now, and I spend most of my days waiting for something to change, anything to change for good. But it is a worthy discipline to embrace, to examine where we are each day and ask, “What is true, even in this moment? What wisdom is offered by these circumstances?” And perhaps the hardest question, but also the most powerful, especially in the hard seasons, would be to lean in close and ask, “Where is the beauty in this moment?”

This is a perspective I am embracing and one I hold out to you – what is the sacred truth of your experience as it is right now?

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The Discomfort of Blooming (Five Minute Friday)

Image Source: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image Source: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This spring, my children asked for their own plants to take care of and watch grow. We bought several, potted them, watered them and found good spots for them on the patio.

The next day, both children were looking for flowers and tomatoes. The idea that this would take time had not fully absorbed in their little minds. So impatiently, day after day, they would inspect their plants, then walk away with sad little faces when there was nothing new to report. At one point, my son quit checking on his plant altogether.

And so it happened that I was the one to discover the first buds and the first tiny tomatoes. Their excitement bubbled over . . . until the buds did not open overnight and the tomatoes did not ripen right away.

Through this experience I have been reminded of the process, the patience involved in blooming and in bearing fruit. And I have been reminded that while blooms are beautiful, it first requires a breaking open, a pushing against barriers. It takes time and strength and will. It takes not giving up when it seems nothing is happening.

So we water our plants every day, pull away the dead leaves, look closely for growth. But mostly we wait. And we don’t give up. And I let truth whisper its reminders to my weary heart.

Linking up with Five Minute Friday. Come take a look.

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In Celebration

Image Source: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image Source: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

July is my birthday month. At one point in my life, I had actually managed to train everyone around me to spread the celebrations out for an entire month. It hasn’t worked so well in the last few years, but hey, I keep trying anyway.

When I got married, my husband was really indifferent about his own birthday. I thought something was horribly wrong with him. I made a big deal about it anyway. And again the next year. And the next year. We’ll celebrate seven years of marriage in November, and I have finally gotten the man to be excited about his birthday. As for my kids, they pretty much ask year round when their next birthday is.

With every fiber of my being, I believe everyone is worthy of being celebrated. The world would be incomplete without you. Really. You were born because God looked at the universe and said, “Hmmm. Not quite right yet. Needs a little more spark.” And bam – there was you. Fabulous and deserving of celebration.

But here’s the thing: while I am outstanding at celebrating other people, I’m not always good at celebrating myself. It’s easy to see your wonder; it’s a lot harder to see my own. I also get that sometimes we just wish other people would notice and celebrate us; trust me – I really get it.

Still I decided to not wait for anyone else to celebrate me this year. I decided to take time every day for one thing – even just one small thing – that I really love or enjoy or means something to me. It’s probably driving Facebook land completely bats as I document my daily birthday party, but that’s ok. And some days (most days) it’s really uncomfortable to stop and ask myself, “How am I going to celebrate me today?” But that’s ok too.

Because 32 years into my life, I am finally beginning to wrap my mind around my own worth. To accept that I can embrace my value without it being prideful or cocky. And maybe the lesson has been slow in coming, but as the roots of the truth push deeper, so does freedom.

I almost wish this would be a movement. I wish we would all celebrate our birthdays for a whole month. I hope you are surrounded by people who will see you and celebrate you, but even more, I hope you can embrace your own unique wonder enough to be able to celebrate yourself.

Don’t even wait for your birthday month. What is one thing you can do today to embrace and enjoy your magnificent self?

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Beauty Restores

It is a wearying day.

The struggle to find a rhythm in the new season.

Sick daughter.

Rambunctious determined son.

The relentless laundry pile & meals to be made & dishes to be cleaned & dogs to be let out & work needing to be done so bills can be paid.

***

I can feel it – the cloud of Overwhelming coming to cast his shadow.  The webs of Anxiety and Stress ready to spin their traps.  I step outside to water the tomato plants – one more “to do” – and the Beauty of the day calls to me like a long-lost friend.  I know in a moment how to reclaim this day from Heaviness.

Image Source; FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image Source; FreeDigitalPhotos.net

***

The sick one moves slower than usual, sits for a rest more often.  But she inhales the breeze and soaks in the sun, and her smile comes.  She is healing as I watch.

The rambunctious one runs, wild and free.  The wind carries him – he is faster, stronger.  He chases stray dogs & searches for treasure rocks & sifts dirt through his hands.  He is coming alive as I watch.

And I – the weary one – I sit with words under the soothing cloudless sky.  I drink them in, I pour them out.  I rest for a moment from the doing and focus on just being.  I am refreshed as I pause, see, savor.

Today these are our green pastures and still waters.  Under the pure, undefiled blue, gently whispered to by Nature’s breath, basking in golden light – He restores our souls.

 

 

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Filed under Beauty, Healing, Parenting, Rest

Restless Shifting

Photo by Jennifer Upton

Photo by Jennifer Upton

There is change coming.  So close I can almost taste it, not close enough to touch it.  Bumps of uncertainty lie in the path – possibilities of the change being delayed or perhaps not as smooth as we’d hoped.  But it is coming.  And I am restless.

Strange how a seemingly insignificant act can seem to trigger a chain reaction.  Last Wednesday, I went to get my haircut.  This alone was monumental because I haven’t been taking good care of myself.  Well, I’ve been trying, but mostly unsuccessfully.  Discouragement is a beast, and he was keeping me paralyzed.

Somehow I mustered up the will and made the appointment and set aside the money.  And on the way there, I resolved one more thing – when she asked how I was, I was going to tell her the truth.  Now, before you feel sorry for the unsuspecting hairdresser I might have bombarded, let me just say, this one is my friend.  I’ve known her for a lot of years; she was a bridesmaid in my wedding.  We don’t live close to her anymore, so I don’t see her often.  But I knew the truth would be safe with her if I could lay down my pride long enough to speak it.

Call me crazy if you like, but something powerful happened in the process of voicing my truth, allowing my own beauty to be poured into and most of all, receiving my friend’s words when she said, “Things are going to change. Soon.”  They were not the trite words of someone who didn’t know what else to say; they were spoken with the weight of knowing.  And within the next three days the wheels of change were set in motion.

And now we wait.  Some more.  But this time with a very bright light on the horizon.

The restlessness broods.  New questions come to replace the tired ones.  I discover (again) I am not my best self in these in-between seasons.  But I want to go into the new season healthy, with momentum, so I am making deliberate choices to pursue discipline with new fervor and to take hold of Rest even when she tries to be elusive.  Because afternoon tea and messy art projects and snuggles with my kids and lingering in my husband’s arms – these are the constants I can carry into the new season, however we get there, whenever we get there.

Can I offer you this encouragement?  Whatever approaching transition or change you face (because, remember – life is constantly cycling through seasons), find your anchor.  It may not be obvious.  It may not be easy.  But there is something in you that you carry in your heart from season to season.  Even if it is as simple as the daily ritual of slowing down to sip Earl Grey.  Find it.  Savor it.  There are things ingrained in your heart because it is a gift of God to you – the constants in the middle of life’s endless changing.

The restlessness may not leave all together, but it does not have to own us.

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Filed under Beauty, Hope, Waiting