Jul 30 2011

Creating Space for Beauty

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I’ve found that experiencing beauty as a regular part of my day requires cultivating a welcoming space: physical space, such as having a special area to display something I find beautiful or art supplies at the ready for creating; space in my schedule to intentionally notice beauty, such as walking to a look-out, taking my camera on an urban hike, hand writing a letter, or sharing a meal and seeing the beauty of a friend; and mental space, where I release behaviors and thoughts which clutter my head and blind my eyes to joy, and instead look at life with a gaze of gratitude.

When I invest energy in looking with a grateful eye on all that is beautiful, small things and experiences especially, it balances me and helps me see life as a whole, not just what is painful or difficult in the moment.

When I intentionally cultivate space for daily beauty, I find that any energy invested multiplies exponentially. Beauty is nourished by beauty.

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Awhile ago, I wrote about seeing a lovely cottage and garden near my apartment, and how sad I was, knowing that owning such a place is many years down the road. After pouring out my desire to God, it became clear that I had a choice: live in sadness and scarcity, looking longingly toward a future dream, or make space to be inspired by the real beauty of that garden and to cultivate a similar beauty in my own life.

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Making space for beauty, or really anything, is difficult if we keep a death grip on one vision or image of what must fill the space.

Instead, if we clear the space and then let beauty breathe into it (in-spire it), what fits our particular life and situation can grow organically.

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We make space for the possibility of beauty. Rather than making demands, we invite, welcome, practice hospitality.

For me, after seeing the cottage garden, inviting beauty meant taking time to clean up my balcony and simply sit, allowing a vision of beauty for that space to superimpose itself on reality.

Clearing mental space helped me feel: my hands were itching to get into dirt and to nurture growing life. I realized I didn’t want a ready-made garden, but to start from scratch.

Then, after planting the seeds, patience was necessary to nurture the space, as I waited weeks for any sign of life and then more weeks until flowers bloomed.

Now, when I look out on my balcony, I see the beauty of that cottage garden, but in a form perfect for my situation. The bees buzz, butterflies flutter, and hummingbirds greet me in the morning. A bit of Eden, four storeys up.

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Gardens are all through scripture, places of growth and healing.  A garden at the beginning when all things were new, the garden of Gethesmane when tears flowed and angels soothed, a garden for the tomb when the world held its breath. Even for the resurrection, in the garden, Jesus greeted is beloved friend, and what could happen but, “She thought he was the gardener.”  So true.

And finally, finally, the end and a new beginning: a Garden around a Tree in center of the Beautiful City.

That final glorious Day will come, but the greening, growing beauty of that Day can in-spire our days now.

Clear some space, welcome Beauty, wait and see.

What is a beauty that captures your heart?

This week, clear some space, in your physical surroundings, in your schedule, and in your thoughts for this beauty to find a home.

No need to fill the space, just let it breathe.

What vision reveals itself?

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Sep 27 2010

Feathered Gratitude

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268. Grateful for the little hummers visiting me today.

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269. For the little feet.

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270. For the amazing wings.

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271. For glints of iridescent red.

272. For the Creator God who designed these little hovercraft and that they always show up when I need to remember Love.  They are God’s laughing “Yes!” to me.

(for more hummingbird delight, go to my photostream here)

And….

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273. Now back from an emergency trip to be with my parents in Texas, I am so grateful that my dad is doing better after being in the hospital!

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Aug 2 2010

Thank-Full

Mondays are for gratitude…counting to 1000 and beyond…

Ben and family

221. The twinfants were born to my dear friends Kimberlee and Doug: Ben and Luke.  After a scary week, my godson Ben is doing much better, breathing on his own now. So thankful! Photos coming soon.

222. For the team of dedicated people at Group Health and Childrens’ Hospital.

223. For the prayers of the church community for these little ones.

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224. A wonderful ordination service and send-off for my friends John and Tara.

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225. Continued gratitude for help getting settled: Cindy’s generous roadside find and her taking me on a trip to Fred Meyer to create a balcony haven.

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226. A little beauty to inspire restful sleep…

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227. My serene little guardian, Theophilus.

228.  Vivaldi

229.  Foggy mornings, sunny afternoons.

230. Good conversations with my parents.

231.  Red and yellow finches, hummingbirds, and woodpeckers feasting at the feeder.

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232. Redemption of the past and prayer’s wonderful retroactive aspect.

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Jul 19 2010

Three Weeks of Thanks

Mondays are for gratitude…counting to 1000 and beyond…

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“We never know where God hides His pools.  We see a rock, and we cannot guess it is the home of the spring.  We see a flinty place, and we cannot tell it is the hiding place of a fountain.  God leads me into the hard places, and then I find I have gone into the dwelling place of eternal springs.”  Streams in the Desert, July 5th

The past three weeks have been full of wonders and many things to be thankful for as I moved into my new apartment (aka The Contemplative Cottage) and spent time with friends.  Looking back on my worries about leaving Boston and then the fears about choosing this apartment, I can’t believe I doubted! The above quote from one of my favorite devotionals captures my feeling now as I sit at my desk.  God knew exactly what place I needed to embark on the next and final stage of my PhD.

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206. Wonderful furniture from friends, rides for moving stuff, and shelves for my books.

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207. Fourth of July beauty shared with friends.

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208. Little Sarah.

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209. An afternoon on a mountain river without a clock or email or cell phone (not having reception was a great Sabbath stop!).   Forever inspired by nature artist Andy Goldsworthy (a lovely excerpt from Rivers and Tides here), I tried my hand at building a cairn…

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…and discovered water bugs that look deceptively like little twigs–until they start walking around.  Yes, what you think are pieces of bark are really three life forms!

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210. Camping fun with friends.

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211. Exploring mossy woods with my young adventuring friend.

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212. A sunlit glen hidden off the trail.

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213. After giving myself a break the past few months, I finally had the feeling on Saturday, “It’s time to begin again,” so I stacked the main books for a dissertation chapter on my desk.  I had worried that the academic push of the last 5 years had permanently ended my love of reading and writing and even theological study, but each day I’ve been finding evidence that there are still embers of this vocation glowing, which God is gently fanning back into flame.

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214. A lovely afternoon at Kimberlee’s twinfant shower.

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215. Black-capped chickadee enjoying a feast.

216. Bible study books are not usually satisfying for me, but Cynthia Heald’s Becoming a Woman of Excellence has really opened my eyes to some life-giving insights. I’d love to go through it with a small group.

217. It seems that the twinfants have decided to stay put until they are full term.

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218. For the Word’s challenge and the Holy Spirit’s conviction this week,  and the hope that God provides the heart’s treasure.

220. Matt Maher’s song “Hold Us Together.”  On July 4th, Pastor Dan told the congregation that he was leaving Bethany in November and taking a position in California.  He has been our senior pastor for 11 years.  It was the last thing I expected, but I’m trusting that we can walk this path because Bethany is a community of people who love Jesus and love each other.  God has a plan, hope, and future for Dan and Anne, he also has one for the Bethany community.

You can listen to the full song one time here: http://bit.ly/ck52Tc

Hold Us Together

It don’t have a job,
It don’t pay your bills,
Won’t buy you a home
In Beverly Hills

Won’t fix your life
In five easy steps
Ain’t the law of the land
Or the government
But it’s all you need..

Love will hold us together
Make us a shelter
to weather the storm
And I’ll be my brothers keeper
So the whole world will know
That we’re not alone

It’s waiting for you
Knockin’ at your door!
Every moment of truth
When your heart hits the floor
When you’re on your knees then…

Love will hold us together
Make us a shelter
to weather the storm
And I’ll be my brothers keeper
So the whole world will know
That we’re not alone

This is the first, day of the rest of your life
This is the first, day of the rest of your life
‘Cause even in the dark you can still see the light
It’s gonna be alright, gonna be alright


Peace and Joy to you this week!

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Jun 28 2010

Gratitude

Mondays are for gratitude…counting to 1000 and beyond…

193. The birth of Sarah Kathleen on Friday morning to dear friends Cathee and Brian. Yay!

DSC_0371194. A still-empty apartment feeling more like home every time I return.

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IMG00056195. Hours of looking at scrumptious wall colors. So thankful to the Creator Artist God for the complex physics that makes colors possible and the eyes to see them with.

DSC_0417196.  Walking Magnolia and finding lovely views so close to my apartment.

197. Friends helping me move (thank you, Doug!); quoting lines from Star Wars as we carried boxes and boxes of my books up the stairs (“Almost there!”).

198. The smell of freshly cut pine wood shelving.

DSC_0448199. New apartment sounds: Seagulls, bird song, the deep rumbling horn blast of leaving cruise ships, seaplanes, and the low buzz of the distant city.

200. A wonderful evening of laughter and reconnecting with Kim, Ryan, and Sara at Angela’s birthday party.

201. Being asked to be a godparent for a soon-to-be born little boy.  It may be the closest I get to motherhood. So honored and excited!

202. That God answers my questions when I take the time to listen.

DSC_0347203. A surprising and immediate answer to prayer at church yesterday.

204. Generous offers of furniture.

205. Countless meals, and tea with biscuits at Kimberlee and Doug’s. Learning how to make a BLT with avocado, sautéed portabella, arugula, and homemade mayo.  Yummy!!

206. Little Jack taking my hand as we walked down the sidewalk, and the bouncy exuberance of Little Jane.

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Dec 25 2009

Welcome Little Child

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From a Christmas sermon by St John Chrysostom (349-407 AD):

“What shall I say! And how shall I describe this Birth to you? For this wonder fills me with astonishment. The Ancient of days has become an infant. God Who sits upon the sublime and heavenly Throne, now lies in a manger…

For this God assumed my body, that I may become capable of God’s Word; taking my flesh, God gives me his spirit; and so God bestowing and I receiving, God prepares for me the treasure of Life…I take my part, not plucking the harp nor with the music of the pipes nor holding a torch, but holding in my arms the cradle of Christ!

For this is all my hope! This is my life! This is my salvation! This is my pipe, my harp! And bearing it I come, and having from its power received the gift of speech, I too, with the angels and shepherds, sing:

Glory to God in the Highest! and on earth peace to all of good will!”

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