beauty

In Two Places at Once

I live about an hour and a half from the state border. If I wanted to, I could get in my car and drive north up to the big state sign and pull over to park. After zipping up my jacket and protecting my ears, I could exit the car and stand right next to the highway marker where miles are named zero.  I could turn to the west and widen my stance and strategically place one foot proudly in Colorado while the other foot could stamp down and stake claim territory in Wyoming.

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One could be in two places at once.

This is holiday season number three without Dad and I’m finding myself in there – in two places all at the same time.

I’m living with more joy. I eagerly completed my Christmas card and mailed them this week (I’ve got ten left if you want one). I bought spontaneous tickets to White Christmas at the Performing Arts Center. We made penguin cookies with frosted snow and sparkle dust.  I’m going to The Nutcracker, making lists for gifts, and decorating the house cheerfully.

In each of these traditions and activities, though, exists the sting of grief, the remnants of loss, and the gluing back together of the places that broke when he died.

For Christmas cards, how do you address an envelope? With peoples names who live in that household, leaving one very important one out because he doesn’t live there anymore? It’s safer to lump and title the envelope ‘the xxx family’.

In a dark performance hall you notice the stranger sitting next to you and as his arm brushes your shoulder you think, ‘huh that fabric is scratchier than dad’s coat.’ If you lean your head on this man’s shoulder, you’re gonna get an uncomfortable look and a talking to.

Dylan stands on the ladder helping wrap the garlands at Mom’s house rather than Dad. Pecan crescents are missing from the fridge because really those are gross and no one would eat them but Dad.

I’m present and happy and festive. I’m also sad and aching and have room for the light that Christ promises he brings during this advent season.

I’m in two places at once and that’s a beautiful thing.

 

PS – don’t forget to enter the Give Light Giveaway. This year, it’s super easy to enter.

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The Reset Podcast

Sometimes, when you put what you want into the universe your wish is returned to you effortlessly.

Other times, you write down an intention, email fifty people about the possibility of being on their podcast, and hear back from no one.

And other times, you attend a class where the instructor graciously invites all attendees to sign up for a slot to be interviewed on his podcast.

Effortless? Not exactly. But the universe did send me Franklin’s way.

And I’m pleased to share this episode of “The Reset Podcast” hosted by Franklin Taggart. Thank you for lovely conversation about resilience, faith, and the pursuit of beautiful things.

Click to watch the interview here.

 

And if you know of anyone else looking for podcast guests, I’m interested in sharing my story and my belief that hope can be found in the pursuit of beautiful things.

2018 Give Light Giveaway

It’s Back!

The 2018 Give Light Giveaway starts today and runs through December 31st.

“Give Light and People Will Find the Way” – Ella Baker

As you know, I believe hope floats on whispers and healing can be found in the pursuit of beautiful things. Join me this season to share hope, love, and light. This year’s theme is a bit different, so read the submission guidelines on how to play. 

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Give Light Giveaway Submission Guidelines

  1. Answer the question – What gives you hope? 
    I love creative answers and want to make this as easy to enter as possible. You can write one or two sentences, make a list, or snap a photo. Sing a song, send a video, draw a picture.
    We live in challenging times and I simply want to know What gives you hope in this messy, beautiful world?
  2. Let me know how you’d like to be recognized. Please tell me your name and how I can best contact you. Optional – include a photo of you, your website, and/or social media handles.
  3. Ways to enter:
    – Send me your entry via email at 52beautifulthings at gmail dot com
    Send a tweet to @52beautiful with your answer and the hashtag #givelightgiveaway
    Send me a story with your answer on Instagram (@52beautifulthings) with the hashtag #givelightgiveaway
  4. I’ll share your responses periodically over the next few weeks. Email me if you have any questions.

This year, I’m really excited because two artists, Lynne Schwebach and Laura Romberger have joined me and will be donating their artwork as part of the prize pack for the winning ‘giver of light’.

On December 31st, I will put all the names in a hat, and draw one winner who will later be contacted. You need not live in Colorado to win. Winners must respond to notification within two days or I will draw another name.

**Please keep content appropriate – I reserve the right to refuse to post if I feel content is offensive or could cause harm to others. By submitting your materials, you give me permission to share your responses on this blog and on social media. I appreciate when you share your contributions with your networks, but this is not required.

 

52 Thankfuls – 2018

52 Things to be thankful for this year. In a sorta particular order….

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  1. Family
  2. Fireplaces
  3. Big coffee cups
  4. Paris
  5. Carousels
  6. Honest Friends
  7. Olive-pants
  8. My house
  9. Books
  10. Bosses who care
  11. Chasing dreams
  12. Mountains
  13. Yoga pants
  14. White dishes stacked
  15. Wool sweaters
  16. Twinkle lights
  17. Keyboards to type on
  18. Pasta makers
  19. Learning to sew
  20. Art supplies
  21. Walking paths
  22. The gym
  23. Ham, bread and cheese
  24. Phone booths
  25. Ukulele
  26. Clean water
  27. Flannels sheets
  28. Popsicles
  29. Champagne bubbles
  30. Hiking boots
  31. The Dinner Party
  32. Blog readers
  33. Magazine editors
  34. Roasting pans
  35. Our piano
  36. When my husband plays the guitar
  37. Text messages
  38. Bitmojis
  39. New friends
  40. Old friends
  41. Mussels
  42. Eiffel Tower
  43. Sunsets
  44. Hands to hold
  45. Cozy socks
  46. Handy men
  47. This is Us
  48. Traditions
  49. Learning new things
  50. Monet’s water lilies
  51. Gelato roses
  52. Magic

 

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. What’s on your gratitude list this year?

What’s Next?

The remnants of my French manicure I paid for before we left for our trip is still on two of my fingernails. The pinky and ring finger of my left hand have off-white reminders of my time abroad.

I refuse to pick off the polish because when all the gel is gone, so means our trip is also finished. Never mind we’ve been back in the States for a full three weeks.

Like the stubborn remnants of faded glamour on my fingertips, I’ve been resistant to let go and settle back in to our routine. Much of this year was focused on dreaming, planning and executing our trip.

Coming home, returning to work, accepting the quiet reminders of things now behind us have been a bit disappointing.  What will be next? – is the question nagging at me now.

Next?

Next can look like elections, applications, piles of dead things turning to detritus.

Next could look like holiday planning and juggling schedules and muddled opinions and the huge ache of missing people no longer at the table.

Next might look like playing family diplomat (h/t Anne Lamott for that phrase) and navigating intense emotion and breezes of grief.

Next feels unsure, uncharted, unmarked.

I just finished reading Anne Lamott’s newest book, Almost Everything: Notes on Hope

Her short essays on the important things in life feel like someone rubbing my back when I’m sad. A mix of there-there with a “I see you … these things you think and feel are not, in fact, crazy.” I love her writing and outlook on life.

Lamott doesn’t put her head in the sand and pretend it isn’t bad out there. Nor does she refuse to participate in the mysterious wonder this world offers. Beauty, majesty, and magic are always available when we slow down to look.

Her next? She’s getting married. And encouraging all of us, to lift up our chin as we swim in the churning uncertainty of national dread.  It’s so easy to tip into dread.

When we boarded the plane at Heathrow, settling in for the nine hour flight home, Dylan turned to me and said, “I don’t want to go home because we don’t know what’s next.”

I responded, “but what if what’s next is better than what is. We never know what’s coming round the corner.”

I’m choosing to believe what’s coming round the corner might just be beautiful too. This act of believing is much harder than anticipating disaster and doom.

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Photo by Karol Smoczynski on Unsplash

It’s risky to dream and hope – we could have our hearts broken yet again.

My friend from high school is often repeating to me, “Our biggest problem when we envision the future is we never view God in it.”  Easier to believe we are all alone in the unknown future – surely God stays behind in our past, forcing us to doggy-paddle ahead with our heads just-above water.

Hearts break. In big, shocking, crackling ways.

Lightning strikes, politicians hate, cars crash, organs fail, people hurt.

People hurt so stinkin’ much.

And yet, the bravest thing we can do, is believe something beautiful is coming next. God is here, now, with us. And God will be with us down the road too. This truth gives me hope.

While I’ve been wallowing about Europe and upcoming elections and political ads, creamy soup bubbled on the stove, water splashed in the lap pool, and my brother sat next to me at breakfast. Sheets were washed with clean water and soap. Marigolds welcomed back spirits on the Day of the Dead. Dogs gave me kisses and people did too. Folks filled out their ballots and made plans to get to the polls.

On Halloween, I answered the door at 8:45 pm. A small Batman stood at the stoop quietly saying, ‘trick or treat.’ When I offered him all of the candy left in our bowl, he politely declined.

HE DECLINED.

He turned down a bowl full of treats and kept on walking down the street.

Perhaps, he was waiting instead, to see what beautiful treats waited at the house next door.

 

 

Just a little more sparkly …

Earlier this summer, I wrote a post about my experience with my mountain top metaphor. I’m a Colorado girl so the physical overcoming of rocks and stones makes a lot of sense when we connect the image to our challenges in life.

For snobby, Colorado me, the metaphor feels a bit, well, overdone. I get it. The smell of the pines, the crunching stones on a dirt trail – idyllic – but I’ve lived the mountain ups and downs for a long time. I haven’t lived the ‘shouting from rooftops’ metaphor or the ‘view from the top of church staircases’ or ‘tripping on cobblestone’ or ‘lessons found when getting lost in London’s alleys’ metaphors.

I’m not a very big risk taker and the hills and valleys in my backyard were spiritually working for a long time. Until they weren’t.

Deep breath – here it is – I’m tired of mountains. I needed a change of scenery.

This year, the bravest thing I’ve done was plan a two week vacation to places I’ve wanted to go since I was a teenager. I knew I needed respite and took baby steps to see if maybe, magically, we could make a dream come true. I made lists and price comparisons, read blogs about places to see and interviewed seasoned traveler friends for their advice.

I asked my boss for two weeks out of the office. He agreed.

Then, I bought plane tickets.

Then, I waited for weeks.

Dare I take another courageous step? Did I believe I could invest in me and the universe wouldn’t retaliate?

With each planning step my palms would sweat. Every time I clicked purchase on a hotel reservation, or a show I wanted to attend, my heart beat loudly in my nervous chest. I wrote about my fears and my doubts and all the reasons why chasing this dream could be halted. I was sure, if I left, someone else would die or need me back at home. An unhealthy pattern, yes. A pattern that my friends in grief group nod along to when I voice – ‘I’m just scared of who is going to go next.’

Time passed. I prayed. I planned. I clicked purchase. I made an itinerary on Google and copies of our passports. We bought luggage, we packed, and eventually we boarded a plane.

Nine hours later, a conversation with a nice lady at Passport control, and we walked out the airport doors and into the English air.

A dream came true and we made it happen. A beautiful thing.

I have lots of stories about our trip and much like Dylan is editing the 700 photos he took on his DSLR, I’m still processing the lessons I learned over there. I’ve waited to share here because one little post seemed inadequate to capture the joy found in exploring museums, churches, magical places with cones of rose-shaped gelato in our hands.

So here goes.

There are a lot of stairs in Paris. Stairs in the subway stations, in the art galleries, in the lines of the tourist destinations. They seemed to be everywhere. Just like the stairs of life. Sometimes, we fall down them. Then we get back up and keep asking, ‘what can I see at the top?’

On a Thursday night, Dylan and I climbed stairs to the 6th floor of a big building hoping to see some modern art. We went to late night hours and found ourselves gazing out at this view instead. A little different the tops of mountains I’m used to.

The things we’ve overcome to stand on this rooftop! I was moved to tears.

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Beautiful tears for the past, for the new memories made we won’t share with my dad as we debrief at home, for the pure joy that comes from believing my own dreams are worth pursuing. Beauty found in the power of listening to the little voice inside my heart that said, ‘you are worth it, go explore. These people you love will be ok.’

The people I love, they were ok. We were too. More than ok.

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

– 1 Peter 5:10

From under the lights of the Paris skyline, to the sides of the Thames river my heart soared in places unfamiliar. I kept saying to Dylan, “I feel so ALIVE here.”

Every time we walked in a plaza, sat in a beautiful garden, slurped onion soup at a sidewalk cafe, I would whisper thanks. In Europe, 7,000 miles from home, I couldn’t believe how far we had come in our restoration journey. God brought us there, at the steps of these famous, picturesque places. With my ability to trust and release my paranoid control of the lives of my loved ones, I stood at the foot of Notre Dame, saw the London Eye, visited Queen Elizabeth’s home, and watched the Eiffel Tower sparkle up from the top of a building, dazzling in glow of Parisian light.

Travel was balm to big wounds, the scabby heart ones still grazing my grasping fingers each day. I’ve been home two weeks and continue to integrate these new experiences. I’m realizing all over again I can heal and hurt and delight all at once.

Perspective from any kind of higher ground is a beautiful thing. The metaphor is just a little more sparkly in Paris.

Last Call

I received one more submission this morning – better late than never I always say – that brings this little adventure to a total count of 475 Beautiful Things. Things good, and right, and holy, and ordinary that are happening right now, in this mess of a world. While a bit far off from my lofty goal, this list is nothing to sneeze at. Thank you, thank you to all that contributed. Here’s a few more batches.

#456 Weekends “off” from school that give space & time to read a book
#457 My cat, Pippa, – she reminds me to never stop being curious
#458 A quiet snowfall while sitting in a warm cabin by the fire
#459 Wine and dance parties to old music
#450 warm sheets fresh from the dryer

#456 – #460 Contributed by Madeline Huey

#461 A cool, calm, fall morning on the golf course
#462 changing into sweatpants and a hoodie after a long day
#463 Lord of the Rings marathon while snow is falling
#464 hot tea on the porch
#465 When your pup is little spoon & falls asleep

#461 – #465 Contributed by Rachel McClintock

#466 drinking a 15 year Tullamore Dew with your dog Tulla
#467 playing footy on freshly cut pitch
#468 hot Chinese food on a cold winter’s night
#469 watching any movie from the ’80s
#470 celebrating a goal at White Hart Lane

#465 – #470 Contributed by Travis McClintock

# 471 I was given enough time to rest and refresh myself 🙂
#472 I started my own blog
#473 got nice books to read
#474 I got a new job
#475 I have great people surrounding me

#471 – #475 Contributed by Naz Garcia

#476 Being able to go to the university of my choice
#477 The warm sun
#478 My Spotify Premium
#479 My amazing family
#480 The dutch education system
#481 Fall fashion
#476 – #481 Contributed by Amber Cornelissen

So, when you’re feeling down, return to this list, or make your own. There is magic to be found.