beauty

Let’s Create a Flickering Fire

“Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve, and hope without an object cannot live.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge

The week between Christmas and New Year’s always finds me feeling a little deflated. Like the giant blow-up characters sagging in lawns, folks turn out the lights and lay face down on the grass. We’re a little tired and need another burst of air to fill up our fragile skins. We require breath in the hope of new, good, and better in the year ahead.

For me, 2018 was packed with new things as I pursued a list of 29 things to do before I turn 30. I made big resolutions and dipped my toes out of my comfort zone.

My resolution for 2019? Just eat breakfast.

Sure, I’ve got big dreams waiting in the wings, yet I bat my hands at the spidery myth that living in the space of ‘next’ will be better than whatever this season provides. I know I never arrive.

I believe beauty in the imperfect will serve our messy world right here, wherever you sit or scan and read. I also believe in the tiny, magical glow of hope. Like a little ember on the edge of the fire ring, small sparks can turn to a flickering fire. Without holding space for fresh air of peace, we ache and crave and miss out on magic.

Thank you to the following folks who’ve entered the Give Light Giveaway and answered the question, ‘What gives you hope?’

They’ve started with small sparks. Add your input by tomorrow evening.

Let’s create a flickering fire of hope for the year ahead.

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Photo by Hannah Troupe on Unsplash


Besides my faith in God, new life gives me hope: A precious baby, a wobbly-legged calf, or a tiny green shoot popping out of the brown dirt.  New life is such a miracle!

– Cathy P.


What gives me hope:

My children give me hope every day. And every child that walks into my life and shares their unfiltered joy with me. As long as new life keeps bringing new joy to the world I am hopeful.

– Christine C.


What gives me hope? Prayer gives me hope. When I pray for peace, faith, forgiveness or love; I’m given hope. When I pray for meekness, strength, comfort or mercy; I’m given hope. When I pray for courage, compassion, patience, and self-control; I’m given hope. When I pray for a sense of humor in a dark place, for listening ears when I want to scream, for self-love when I’ve made a mistake, for acceptance instead of judgment; I’m given hope.

For me, prayer is more than an expression of thanksgiving or a plea for help. Prayer is hope eternal.

– Suzanne M


There are two things that give me hope:

Seeing glimpses of how God has been preparing me and working behind the scenes for this season of my life.
Seeing the good that is still in the world.  I am reminded of friends giving gifts to their friends who are differently abled.  Giving baby dolls or stuffed animal dogs to those suffering from dementia to help make them feel purposeful and needed.  It helps remind them even subconsciously of previous times in their life when they were a caregiver for pets and / or children.
– Stephanie S.

Hi all,
I admit that it was hard for me to write a submission for this and I searched my brain and heart as to why. I realized that it’s because I don’t feel particularly hopeful this season. It’s definitely not like good things aren’t in my life right now, but it’s been a strange, quick, busy season where the gifts were unwrapped before I could say “it’s Christmas already?” My feelings seem to be echoed by everyone I talk to. I also feel like I’m in a strange limbo where I want to be working towards something but I haven’t figured out what.
However, there have been a few things that make me want to break down in tears just from the pure thoughtfulness of them, and they all have to do with children. I dropped by for a surprise visit to my friends’ house to visit with them and their kids on Christmas Eve. They were so welcoming and the kids were so excited that it immediately brightened my day. Not only that, but their daughter wrote me such a sweet note; I included pictures of it below. This is the same daughter that once picked the cheese out of the last cheddar biscuit for me just so I could have it (I’m lactose intolerant). Her kindness, uninhibited by motive or obligation, floors me every time.
              
The second thing that has brightened my days are the spontaneous hugs of my niece. My brother and his family are visiting from Mexico for the holidays and I don’t get to see her very often, but she seems to revere me like one would a big sister. Every time I’ve seen her over the last few days, she just randomly runs up to me and hugs me. It’s an expression of joy that I feel so grateful to be on the receiving end of.
The third thing is my tiny 1.5 yr old nephew diving in for a cracker crumb-filled kiss before he left my parents’ house last night. He has been so hesitant around me the past couple of months and I cherish those moments of closeness.
What do these all give me hope for?
The next moment.
– Katie M.

Submit your entry by Midnight on 12.31.2018

Details on how to enter here.

 

I’m Inviting You

I have the day off. For most folks in Colorado, sunny trails and crunching snow beckon on days gifted outside of the office. I see your pictures, your snow shoes, your athletic pants.

Here’s the thing. It’s cold out, there’s no snow in my neighborhood, and I don’t see myself leaving the house.

Instead, I’ve spent the morning reading Bob Goff’s book Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World

I kept my butt in the chair and my fingers clicked the pages – next, next, next. I devoured his stories and my heart beat quicker with the amazing possibilities he bravely steped into in his life.

If God makes ordinary people move, why can’t God move Bob? Bob kept saying yes.

Why can’t God move me too?

Or you?

I’ve been a little disheartened this season as only one person has told me what gives them hope in the Give Light Giveaway. I find myself asking, ‘Are we so battered and tired, sitting slumped against walls that nothing feels hopeful?’ I’ve been there.

Or are we so busy and bustling we don’t have a quick second to answer the question, ‘What keeps us going despite all this mess?’

Maybe you’re in a better headspace than me and living anxiety-free comes easier to you.  Maybe you live boldly with ease and march into new spaces and sit at all the tables with confidence.

I’m unlearning the practice of waiting to be invited to participate.

Bob’s book invited me to be brave.

I’m inviting you to be hopeful. 

The Give Light Giveaway runs through Monday night. I hope to hear what gives you hope, wherever you sit, with whatever reverberates in your heart this season.

Here’s a reminder on how to share your answer to the question, ‘ what gives you hope?’

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.

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.