2016

His Wings are Big Enough

As I stood in line at the grocery story to check out this afternoon, I kept staring at the little girl in front of me. Probably two or three, wearing little pink leggings with a diaper sticking out at the top, this blond child was fascinated with the loose screw clinking on the sliding check stand.

You may not remember what a check stand even is (that’s certainly not the technical term), but – you know! – the little platform that slides in and out of the counter, making it easier for those in a wheel chair to write when completing their transactions.

Over and over again this girl’s tiny hands spun the loose screw on the edge of the platform that was just her height, as her exhausted and exasperated-looking mother tried to load this week’s load of sustenance into their cart. The little girl was determined to figure out what made the nuts on the screw work, moving her tiny features closer to the swinging table. Her mom kept pushing the table back into its proper place, only to seconds later have the young little gal pull the table and the fluid metal out again.

I smiled. The world can be a fascinating, perplexing, and enjoyable place if we stop and choose to fixate on things that draw in our interest.

I want to be more like the little girl, choosing to get my eyes closer, get my hands on the kinds of things that interest me, and let the rest of the chaos fade to the background.

How often do we give ourselves the time to really stop and examine anything so intriguing? For me, the answer is not often. There are so many circumstances that pull us out of that fixated state of interest towards a list of “something elses”.

I was reading a devotional this weekend as we stayed at a friend’s house. I picked up the pocket-size book Jesus Lives by Sarah Young and turned to this page.

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It can be eerie just how much God knows the words you need. I take comfort that He uses others to share thoughts of connection, of purpose, of divine inspiration.

And as I sat there, in the guest room bedroom, reading this page, I was reminded that I am still in restoration mode. And this position of healing takes focus, dedication, and REST. The kind of attention that blocks out the world and instead focuses on the delightful results of slowing the heck down. Much like the little girl at the store, I need to choose to devote my attention to the personally intriguing.

In other words, “Dear exhaustion, perseverance, pushing through. I can’t. I’m exhausted.”

I am choosing instead to rest in the shadows. To draw near to myself. To explore and delight in the simple things.

I think this week beauty lives in interactions at the grocery store, in this granola recipe, in a full fridge, in sleeping in, in celebrating family, in rest. In being taken care of, and in
conversations with wise women, in walking to get ice cream, in prepping for lunches for the week ahead.

His wings are large and encompass all the beautiful things as I allow my spirit to sit and rest. It takes practice and permission.

Restoration will come.

 

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The Chair in the Middle of The Room

When I was growing up I was an avid youth group kid. I eagerly anticipated Wednesday night church gatherings, and was proud to be an evangelical – inviting my friends to come with me to weekly gatherings in the hope that they too may find the joy of Jesus.

I remember, quite vividly, a sermon one of our leadership gave about being the light in the world. We walked into the Youth Room, walls painted red, fresh carpet in geometric patterns, foosball table tucked in the corner, and at the front one of our leaders was standing on a chair.

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He invited several kids to come and stand on the chair, one at a time. Then invited the one standing to try and lift others unto the chair with them. It was hard for the one standing to get his friends up with him, when little effort was exerted by the  youth being pulled from the arm socket, onto the wobbly, wooden seat.

The demonstration shifted and the leader then asked those standing underneath to try and pull the standing youth off of the chair. With enthusiasm, the teen from the carpet swiftly pulled the other youth down from his perch. The leader paused, waited for laughter to calm, and explained his unfolding metaphor.

It is much easier to be the one pulling down onto the lower levels. When standing in a higher space, it can be difficult to lift others into the light, into the space of grace, onto “spiritual solid ground.” So what can we do to bring others up onto the chair?

Here is where the lesson gets muddy, and my spiritual growth starts to fail me. I’m not sure how I feel about this implied moral superiority – that I was taught that I was the one standing on the chair, in the cleaner, brighter air because of my faith. Seems a little wrong to instill in teenagers that they are ‘better than’ because they have Jesus.

I still have many questions about faith, and Jesus, and truth. Yet, I know that this year I have returned to the Gospel in ways I previously resisted, and do find comfort here in the mist of confusion.

Here is what I do very much agree with – It is so much easier to be pulled down from the chair. 

As I write this there are nine hours left in 2016. This has been one of the most challenging years of my life, and I know there are lessons I’ve learned from this year that will carry me forward. Many events outside of my control seemingly knocked me swiftly off my seat.

I admit that it can be exhausting to be optimistic, to look for the beautiful, to be pulling one after another up into the light, to the seat on higher ground.

Many people are saying 2016 was horrible, and anticipating that 2017 may be worse. To this I cringe – I don’t want worse. I want healing. And I want people to keep helping lift me onto the seat. To pick up my chin, and say ‘Hey, I’m here with you. Let’s climb up these rickety chairs together, and stand with arms triumphant.’

There is beauty in the suffering, and also beauty in the refusal to be dragged down by the negativity of others. Beauty in continuing to choose to look for the good. Beauty in afternoon walks, and the smell of laundry detergent, and sleeping in, and frozen pizza, and dinners in front of the tv. Beauty in music played on guitars, and backyard fires, and laughter, and treats from Trader Joes. Beauty in books, and phone calls, and text messages, and the mountains. Beauty in lattes and rosemary plants that grow indoors. In puppies, in warm socks, in kleenex, in healing tears. Beauty in peanut butter cups, and glasses of red wine. In intelligent conversations and witty comments. Beauty in games, and sweet smelling shampoo. Beauty in holding hands, remaining soft, and open to the world. Beauty in weakness, in vulnerability, in shared experience.

So this I ask you – who will you be in 2017? The one helping individuals into the light, or the one pulling us down from our seats?

 

Take a Bite

Raise your hand if you’ve seen the latest meme with Helen Mirren. Maybe its not a meme.

It’s really just her face, with a quote. Ok that’s a meme. The Daily Beast pulled the image together.

She bravely tells the world that ‘2016 Has Been a Big Pile of Shit’.  You can watch her do so here.

For the most part, I agree with the sentiment. 2016 has been a challenging year for my family certainly, and for many humans.

We have faced loss and felt uncertain here in my house, just as thousands of individuals and families across the globe, as our new America frightens many.

But here’s what has been bothering me. When we focus on negativity, negativity wins.

When we feed into fear, we miss the good right in front of us.

Now I’m not saying we should ignore what’s happening in the world just to feel sparkly and bright. We shouldn’t push away our emotions, or fail to lean into the very real ‘ick’ that we experience when we address horrendous situations in our personal lives or on a global scale. This is not what I’m asking of you.

Rather, can we continue to take bites of the moon?

Bear with me – I will explain.

This week, our charming local movie theater was showing It’s a Wonderful Life. I bought tickets for my family because I thought it would be a  seasonal cheap thrill. I had never watched the movie all the way through before, and the messages portrayed resonate ever so much more in your late 20s than when you are nine.

When I was nine, all I cared about was how the gym floor would retract back to reveal a swimming pool. A SWIMMING POOL! How neat.

Now, significantly older than nine, the themes of sacrifice for family, and frustration that your plans aren’t unfolding as perfectly as you had thought they would just ring ever so true.

For those of you who’ve seen the film, you know the iconic scene where George offers Mary the moon. The women swoon, how delightful such an offer is.

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George: I’ll give you the moon, Mary.
Mary: I’ll take it. Then what?
George: Well, then you can swallow it, and it’ll all dissolve, see… and the moonbeams would shoot out of your fingers and your toes and the ends of your hair.

This is the kind of light and enthusiasm that we need. To embrace the good in this world, to take bites, to savor it, to let us radiate with moonbeams.

I love this metaphor. Maybe George Bailey wasn’t thinking so deeply, but his little interaction spoke to me. I want to be the type of person that keeps dreaming, and searching, and reaching for the moon.  I want to find the people who will help me lasso it, because I want this kind of light to beam within me.

It’s hard, my friends, when the world feels like shit. I get it. I really do. But if we focus on the shit, we miss out on the moon. And the very beams that we can choose to ingest.

Giving Light – Christine C.

And to round this fabulous contest out – I’ve got one more, very simple entry.
Thank you to all who participated. I am tickled that others have chosen to join me in the search for beauty.

Without further ado – 5 Beautiful Things from Christine.


1. Summer nights at Wilderness Ranch
2. Support of family and friends
3. Christmas Trees with white lights
4. A good glass of cabernet
5. A fireplace and a good book on a snowy day

I will be announcing the winner of the contest in the next few weeks. Christmas holidays are starting to get a little overwhelming.

Love to you all.

 

THE DEADLINE FOR ACCEPTING ENTRIES FOR THE GIVE LIGHT GIVEAWAY HAS PASSED. I AM FINISHING UP POSTING CONTRIBUTIONS. STAY TUNED FOR OTHER CONTESTS AND OPPORTUNITIES TO CONTRIBUTE TO 52 BEAUTIFUL THINGS IN 2017.

Giving Light – Vanessa A.

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Small Bio: Vanessa A.- a 30-something wife and mom of 2 wild and crazy boys. I consider myself an imperfectly kind and honest person in pursuit of health, happiness, simplicity and meaningful relationships. Feel free to reach out on Facebook or email.
I’m honored to take part in giving light and sharing beauty today. As I reflect on the five beautiful things listed below, I’m incredibly grateful 🙂
1. Growth and Self-Discovery
I learned a while ago that I cannot control people or change them or force them to do things, despite my desire to intervene and be “helpful”. Thankfully, I have had the pleasure of observing others grow and come to their own realizations about life and happiness. Lately, I see this growth in those who are closest to me:

– My husband Matt has finally found his groove with consistent exercise. Despite my own, very inspirational (😉😉) health and fitness pursuits over the years, Matt found his niche on his own and he is happier, healthier, and less stressed. It’s a beautiful thing.

– My oldest son Grady is discovering how to be driven and focused through a cool game/task app called Habitica. In fact, the whole family has enjoyed tackling tasks through this app by earning pets and armor and destroying “basi-lists” and other monsters.

– My youngest son Drew is growing his expressions of helpfulness, generosity and empathy. These things come naturally for him but as we have embarked on our annual kindness calendar, he has been able to let loose and really enjoy his giving spirit.

2. Christmas Decorations

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It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas…
Growing up, I really didn’t have Christmas traditions with my family. Now that I have a family of my own, we have developed our holiday rituals and routines, and one of my favorite things to do is enjoy Christmas decor all December long.
…But the prettiest sight to see is the holly that will be… on your own front door.

3. Meditating

I have intended to implement a meditation practice for years but have had a hard time remaining disciplined. Well, it turns out that finding a helpful app gave me the extra boost I needed. I tried out Headspace and landed on Stop, Breathe, Think . Since I began using Stop, Breathe, Think a couple months ago I have meditated for over 3 1/2 hours total (most of the time it’s around 5 minutes per day). There are a lot of great features including finding the right guided meditation for your current physical/mental state. I’m grateful to see my desire for a grounding meditation practice finally come to fruition!

4. Feeling Better

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My dietitian/nutritionist friend Esther invited me to participate in a 16 week program to replace sugar and fast carbs with more healthful foods. I have been struggling to tackle my chronic migraines since age 17 so I figured this program was worth a try. Right out of the gate I learned some key things that have helped me succeed in limiting added sugars, approaching food in a new way, and in turn reducing my headaches and migraines significantly. Not only do I have fewer headaches, I have more energy and feel a whole heck of a lot better overall. Feeling better for the win!!!

5. Life is imperfect, a sense of humor is required

I often try to catch the occasional beautiful moments that happen between my children so I can post them on Facebook for everyone to see my perfect life. Obviously, I don’t intend to display only the good side, but sometimes I don’t even realize I’m doing it, perhaps it’s easier than baring the raw, honest self. Rest assured, me nor my life are perfect.
In this short 20 second video, I attempted to capture what I saw as a beautifully perfect moment only to have an imperfect funny surprise.
(tip: turn up your volume to view)
Thank for coming along for the ride as I shared my small pieces of beauty for today.
THE DEADLINE FOR ACCEPTING ENTRIES FOR THE GIVE LIGHT GIVEAWAY HAS PASSED. I AM FINISHING UP POSTING CONTRIBUTIONS. STAY TUNED FOR OTHER CONTESTS AND OPPORTUNITIES TO CONTRIBUTE TO 52 BEAUTIFUL THINGS IN 2017.

Giving Light – Cathy H.

 

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My name is Cathy and I live in Lafayette, Colorado.  I work at an elementary school helping children with special needs.  I am happiest when I am spending time with my family, gardening, hiking or being creative.

Here are my 5 Beautiful Things

1.  Details

I find beauty in the details of things, like the intricacies of a flower.  When I slow down and take a closer look at things I am wowed by its beauty.  So often we only see the outline of things and miss the amazing details of God’s creations.

2.  Children’s Art

Working in an elementary school exposes me to a lot of children’s art.  I never get tired of looking at these masterpieces.  It always brings a smile to my face.

3.  Hiking

I love hiking and being outside breathing in fresh air and feeling the sun on my body.  Every season has its own amazing features.  Whether I’m walking in my own neighborhood or hiking in the mountains, I am content.

4.  The Sky

There is so much beauty in the sky – the clouds, sunrises, sunsets, all phases of the moon, the intense colors.  Amazing!!

5.  Laughing

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There is something so good about laughing until your stomach hurts.  We should all laugh more.

 

 

The deadline for accepting entries for the Give Light Giveaway has passed. I am finishing up posting contributions. Stay tuned for other contests and opportunities to contribute to 52 Beautiful Things in 2017.

Giving Light – Jenny S.

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Hiya, I’m Jenny! I love pancakes, photography, sarcasm, lists, and people. Usually I make my home in Colorado, but this past year went on a grand adventure in Scotland to study, eat shortbread, and chase down a bunch of sheep. If you need another blog to get hooked on feel free to check out mine, www.jennystoecker.com, and follow me on Instagram.

1. Travel

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The fact that I can get on an airplane and be in an entirely different country in the same day blows my mind. To me, travel is a reminder that there’s a great big world outside my little bubble and boy is it beautiful.

 2. Celebrating Failure 

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I don’t know a lot of people who enjoy failure. I for one would much rather succeed, but I’ve been learning that there is beauty in celebrating things that don’t go my way. I’ve been loving this lyric from The Oh Hellos “… and the sun, it does not cause us to grow, it is the rain that will strengthen your soul, and it will make you whole.” So, I’m figuring out how to celebrate seasons of rain because I know they will lead to growth in the long run. (Also yes, my celebrations often involve ice cream or and churros…)

3. Sunsets 

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I tried to go with something a little less cliché, but I just kept coming back to this. This past year I moved over four thousand miles from home and became a sunset junky. In the midst of unknowns, the consistency (and beauty) of the sunset made me feel comfortable. It reminds me that whatever happens today, the sun will set and rise afresh, bringing with it new opportunities.

4. Winter 

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I lived in Edinburgh, Scotland this past year. In the winter it gets light at 9am and dark at 3pm and in the summer it gets light at 4am and dark at 11pm. When I first moved there I, being a Colorado girl through and through, was worried about the lack of sunshine that comes with the winter. That is until one of my professors said something that changed my mindset. “These seasons are just like one big breath in and out. Summer is full of hustle and bustle, whereas winter is a time to recharge (and drink a lot of hot chocolate).” From then on, I have never appreciated winter more. Which conveniently plays into my final reflection of beauty…

 5. Time 

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I love schedules and to do lists and I don’t love excessive blank spaces in my planner. However, I’m learning that having the time to process, recharge, and dream big is a beautiful gift that in the past I’ve been too busy to experience.

 

If you are interested in giving your own light, click here to learn more about how you can enter the Give Light Giveaway.