Friends

She Gets That.

People have been sending me quotes from Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are for awhile now. An excerpt in an email here, a meme or two tagged on Instagram there. I received the book for Christmas and I wasn’t brave enough to open the spine. Until the book, sitting on my coffee table for weeks, began to whisper at me. I started reading slowly, in January, feeling the weight of such honest words in the pages.

Ann calls us to share in her practice of giving thanks. Much like what I do here, she was desperate to see the good in an aching world. Her list of 1000 things carried me through big questions and the small details in routines, laundry and mess. I’d digest a chapter each morning, while sipping my coffee and watching the sun rise.

Her beautiful prose made me stop, think, ache, and praise. Praise God for all of the good that is granted to us when we just lift our chins to the sun. Or the rain. Or the trauma lingering in our hearts. What happens when we say thank you to God for the experiences we have been given – no matter how painful.

Nothing new here. Not a new concept. Just a radical practice we must do every single day.

The weekend of my birthday I was so caught up in the message of chapter two that I brought the ingredients of communion to my birthday dinner.

On a snowy Sunday I wept into these pages, Ann’s words – Eucharisto – causing me to remember my dad delivering the communion message in front of congregations. Me sitting in the front pew as a five year old, legs dangling from the church bench scratching on old upholstery. The same girl turned teenager, new church, now cold metal chairs, same bread and grape juice. Same version of the last supper. Gospel of Luke. Same truth.

How long had it been since we broke bread and drank from the cup in remembrance of him? In remembrance of the promises that Jesus brings to our lives? Too long. I’m still wrestling with a Jesus who would choose to take good and holy things away from us. Away from me. Ann gets that.

Now grown woman, near thirty, sitting at the kitchen table dotted with turquoise plates. Same bread. Now wine. No father. He’s gone, but the memories remain, my voice picking up where he left off, taking over the verses with less command and familiarity than he. Practice, it will require. Still Luke.

I finished the book this week. And so, inspired again, I have been giving thanks.

Thanks for another birthday. For my health and my dreams of what I want to accomplish this year. For a list of 29 things to do before I turn 30. Gulp. What a privilege.

Whispered thanks in the grocery store that we have an amazing bounty of food to choose from. Thanks for the resources in my bank account to fill a cart without concern.

Thanks for Cara Cara oranges and for lunch with my husband at an overflowing Whole Foods. For the holes made in Ciabatta bread. For thick slices of cheese.

Thanks for friends who come to watch a Super Bowl. For my mom who opened up her house to us. For buffalo chicken dip and celery crunches and puppies staring curiously at the t.v.

Thanks for the woman who wanted to get rid of her piano and the man who daringly saved the beautiful instrument in a warehouse for twenty years.  For the dusty tarp protecting the instrument. For the father-in-law and friends who take time out of their day to move the music into my home.

Thankful for boxed cake mix turning to batter, swirling red, mixing chocolate, cold golden egg yolks pooling in a bowl.

Thanks for white cream cheese frosting on knives licked clean.

Thanks for the brilliant creators of This is Us and the reminder that we, my family, that me, that I, have come so far in this process of grief. Thankful for healing and hope and tears.

New music. Old memories. Thanks to raw writers who inspire and breath life into the aching areas of my bones. For the chin tilt that prompts a smile. Thanks for the reminder and choice to delight in the magic of suds in my sink.

The keys, just waiting to be played.

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Thanks that we get to play on.  How beautiful.

 

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Mine.

Unofficial titles I’ve had at work over the years. Levity Lady, Head of the Fun Committee, Social Activity Coordinator.

I like spending some of my work hours planning social outings, celebrations, and bringing humor to the office.

Some other words to describe my impulse to want to make people feel happier – encourager, coach, mentor, supervisor, friend, writer.

Whisperer of beautiful things.

As I work and I process and I heal my childhood wounds of the confusion of complex emotions, I realize just how many of my coping mechanisms involve trying to fix other’s happiness levels.  It comes out at work and it comes out in my family and I am wondering if it’s coming out here too.

I wrote this post at the end of 2016 about how hard it can be to encourage others. How challenging it is to look for the light. How lots of people prefer to yank us out of our seats and into the stinky mud on the ground. There is always more mud on the ground.

Because I feel for people, deeply, and I have trouble not dragging my empathetic toes into the circles of others. Because I care. And I want you to see the light. All of the glorious light that exists when we lift our chins.

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A beautiful friend boldly told me to start saying, firmly in my brain, “that is NOT mine.”

That grief, that conflict with your co-worker, that gut wrenching diagnosis. The government shut down, the fight with your mother, that unemployment and dashed dreams. All NOT mine.

It’s a new tool for survival. A safety shield for the ever-feeling heart.

Anne Lamott wisely says,

” there is almost nothing outside of you that will help in any kind of lasting way, unless you’re waiting for an organ. You can’t buy, achieve or date serenity and peace of mind. This is the most horrible truth, and I so resent it. But it’s an inside job, and we can’t arrange peace or lasting improvement for the people we love most in the world. They have to find their own ways, their own answers. You can’t run alongside your grown children with sunscreen and ChapStick on their hero’s journey. You have to release them. It’s disrespectful not to. And if it’s someone else’s problem, you probably don’t have the answer, anyway. Our help is usually not very helpful. Our help is often toxic. And help is the sunny side of control. Stop helping so much. Don’t get your help and goodness all over everybody.”

This quote got me thinking. Is that what I’m trying to do here? Acting out my need to save others by sharing what’s good. Sure, I hope my words cause epiphanies in your lives and spark you to think about small, simple blessings that dance through your days.

But I’m not sure it works, and that shouldn’t be the point.

The beautiful, beautiful point, is I do this work for me. I look for the beautiful to make me feel sane. And if it works for you too, my gosh, let’s cheers with some bubbles. I don’t want to be toxic, I want to be balm. I don’t want to be controlling, I want to be free.

And looking for the beautiful helps me, me, me, my, MINE to do that. That process of healing, of unhooking from other’s drama, of allowing me to stand on my chair, chin up, arms open and up, tears streaming down my cheeks.

I also read this funny article about writing on Medium today. Poet James Avramenko writes about what he’s learned from writing a poem every day for the last six years. I love this nugget of truth that he shares,

  • The ones you like often get no play, the ones you think suck often explode

My most visited post on this blog is about the tv show Friends. I’ve poured out my heart and talked about grief, and shared bravely about MY own stuff. And the light hearted post about my obsession with Friends is most frequently read. The deep stuff gets glossed over and often ignored. I thought last week’s post was awesome. No comments. Crickets. Doubts. Temptations to press delete.

As an artist, that’s frustrating. But James is right. We don’t get it, we just write. We don’t know what’s going to stick and we can’t anticipate the impact. Maybe there is none.

So for this year, I’m changing my intention for the blog. I don’t want to get my help all over you. I want to help myself. Help myself heal, love this magnificent, magical world, build gratitude, dream bigger, and experience new things. I’m going to write about it.

If you feel it’s beautiful, consider sharing. As James also says, “Once it’s in the world, it’s out of your hands.”

Thanks for joining me.

 

 

Beam of Light – Katie M.

My sweet, sweet friend submitted this year’s first entry to the Give Light Giveaway.  Boom.

Katie M. 

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Hi again friends! If you don’t know me, I’m Katie. I’m a late twenty-something trying to take daily steps towards something beautiful, both in myself and in life. I’ll never say no to sushi, chocolate, hugs, or a trip to a coffee shop. Make me laugh or laugh at my jokes, and we’ll be fast friends.

I am very excited to participate again in this life-giving idea of giving light. I decided to take a different approach from my last submission and draw out a few of the things that have given me light recently. You may need to zoom in 🙂

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You can follow Katie on her blog Live Step By Step. She’s also previously contributed to 52 Beautiful Things here  & here.

 

If you are interested in giving your own light, click here to learn more about how you can enter the Give Light Giveaway. I’m accepting submissions until December 31st. 

That’s Going to Be Fun for You?

I read fast. My eyes scan pages and absorb words quickly, inviting me into worlds not my own. Don’t ask me for details about story or memoir, though, because once I’ve finished a title I seem to forget. My reading comprehension sucks. The pleasure is in the journey, not the destination.

On our most recent road trip I read four books. Four. Last week I spent 38 hours in the backseat of a Subaru and there is not much to see from Wyoming to East Oregon. Enter books. Thank goodness I don’t get car sick.

Before the trip I sat down at our kitchen table and opened up a new browser to search for books to download to my Kindle. Picking out books to read is what I live for! I selected five titles and tucked my little e-reader in my travel bag.

Our trip was an amazing break from the day to day grind. When I told some of my friends that I was driving 38 hours across the country, they looked at me like I was crazy. When I told them we were driving with my in-laws, their mouths dropped a little more, and eyes got bigger seeming to ask, ‘That’s going to be fun for you?’

Yes! Fun for me. I am incredibly lucky in that I like my in-laws! My father-in-law drove the whole time. My mother-in-law packed delicious snacks and navigated our route, picking our hotels, restaurants and day trip itineraries. While Dylan and I are both grown people, these two parents continue to extend their love for us as we dozed in the backseat. After a hard year of taking care of hurting, searching people –  ie. myself, my husband, my mom – riding along in the backseat where all my needs were met was just the heart medicine I needed. It is nice to be cared for and out of your routine.

A list of beautiful things from our time in Oregon:

  • New breweries: these people like to drink beer as much as we do in Northern Colorado. I now know how tourists must feel when they come to our town. Another brewery on that corner! No time to fit in all those delicious pints of craft beer.
  • Kite Surfing on the River: no, no, I didn’t try, but we did watch hundreds of colorful kites kiss the sky as surfers handled the wind on the Columbia River. We stuck our toes in the water and laughed as the ripples lapped at our legs.
  • Salt and Straw & good friends: One of my oldest friends Jenny now lives in Portland. She took us to her neighborhood food trucks (THAT’S A THING PEOPLE!) and out to the trendiest ice cream store I’ve ever been to. Apparently Oprah endorses their Arbequina Olive Oil flavor. I couldn’t mentally stomach spooning olive oil into my mouth over and over, but the creamy concoction was delicious on a small metal tea spoon. Instead I turned to the beautiful combination of Carrot Cake Batter with Hazelnut Praline. For those easily overwhelmed types like my husband, they also have vanilla.
  • Canon Beach: We went to the ocean. Nothing like having your feet in the sand with cold water running over your toes. Wind in the hair, sand pushing back against the arches of your feet, reminding you that you wear shoes all too often. Cloud cover and waves crashed together in a soothing blanket of gray. The ocean is big. It makes me feel connected to the edge of something. I loved walking on the sand and exploring that quaint little town.
  • A family wedding: Dylan’s cousin got married and I was honored to be a part of the celebration. As we walked up to the rehearsal dinner which was held in a neighborhood park, huge trees sheltered us from intense sun. Who knew it could be 105 degrees in the Northwest. Rays of sunshine trickled through the leaves. We approached from about fifty yards away watching the bride practice going down the aisle with her dad. I stopped and stood still, catching my breath at the beautiful scene unfolding in front of me. Other members of the family kept walking ahead. One breath. Two. I swatted at a tear starting to trickle down my cheek, escaping my from my sunglasses of protection. I missed my dad as a flood of memories from my own experience down the aisle came back. More though, I was overwhelmed with the truth that I am living in the light again. Grief still exists, yes, but that’s not all. I sent up a silent whisper of thanks in realizing I am returning to living in joy. The choices to be taken care of, to explore, to love and feel loved, those are all beautiful, beautiful things.

 

Here is a list of books I read on the trip:

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America

Vinegar Girl: A Novel

Someday, Someday, Maybe: A Novel

The Here and Now

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 – Alice M.

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Hi!  My name is Alice. When we were a family of 2, 5 years ago, we moved to Colorado so my husband could attend school at CSU. And I was lucky enough to meet Katie!  While in Colorado we grew to a family of 3, and have since moved to Rhode Island and become a family of 4!

Here are 5 things that bring light to my life…

1. My Family!

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My family is my heart and my soul; my guts my breath, my everything. There really are just no words…

2. The Time We Spent in Colorado 

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I had previously only lived in Virginia and living in Fort Collins opened my life up to how wonderful it can be to explore and live in a new place. Our time there was beautiful and forever changed me.

3. Down time!  Who knew!? 

Few things rejuvenate me more than just having down time…either sitting on my couch in my cozy clothes watching something or relaxing with a book in a coffee shop.  It doesn’t happen much, but when it does, it’s a beautiful thing!

4. Making new friends, and my beautiful friends I have known forever and met along the way. 

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I’ve been very lucky to have great friends;  I am beyond fortunate for the friends we have made as the result of our moves who I know are now life long friends.  Also for the wonderful people who love my children.

5. Christmas Lights!

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Okay, maybe I’m being influenced by the time of year, but nonetheless, Christmas lights make me silly happy!  And so far no where we have lived does Christmas lights like Richmond VA!

 

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

Giving Light – Kelsey H.

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Follow Kelsey’s Blog Here.

Hi! I’m Kelsey. I’m a dietitian by day and baker by night. I love to create and photograph food, read books I can’t put down, sing whenever I can and do pretty much anything outside. I’m currently living in Okinawa, Japan with my husband and fun-loving dog.
Here are the five things I find beautiful right now and always. Enjoy!
1. Okinawa, Japan
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The beauty of this island that I live on never ceases to amaze me. For those of you who need to brush up on your geography, Okinawa sits about 1,000 miles south of mainland Japan and is, therefore, very tropical. On the outside, Okinawa is beautiful because of the numerous white sand beaches overlooking turquoise waters, surrounded by colorful coral reefs with all kinds of tropical fish. The sunsets are phenomenal (as are the sunrises, when I’m awake to see them) and we frequently see rainbows arching across the sky. On the inside, Okinawa is beautiful because of the culture. Okinawa has a rich history with many traditions and holidays, the locals are always so helpful, accommodating and polite and the food is absolutely phenomenal too. We have enjoyed learning and experiencing this beautiful island and will truly miss it when we can no longer call it home.
2. Food
Food is beautiful to me. As a dietitian, it is beautiful because it provides vital nutrients to our bodies. As a chef and baker, it is beautiful because of all the dishes I can create with it. As a food blogger, it is beautiful because of all of the ways it can be described. As a food photographer, it is beautiful because of the many colors, focal points and textures it provides. As a lover of food, it is beautiful because it is exciting, comforting, memorable and, most of all, delicious!
3. Friendships
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I’ve been friends for over 10 years with all of these beautiful ladies!

 

Out of everything on this list, I think friendships are the most beautiful thing. They fill my life with laughter, adventure and love. Even though location, age or just life in general can change, friendships always remain constant. I love that I can pick right back up with my high school and college friends, even though we only see each other one or two times a year. I cherish the friends that I have here in Okinawa because they have become my family, when all of our families are just so far away. Most importantly, I know that any one of my friends, both old and new, would run to my side if I ever needed them, and that, to me, is the most beautiful part of it all.

4. Music
I was listening to Christmas music the other night and I found myself not cooking, like I should have been doing, but standing still and listening to the music. I realized that music is beautiful to me because of the way the harmonies blend and fit together so perfectly. It took me back to all of the music performances I had ever been a part of and the beauty I heard and felt whenever we finally accomplished those harmonized moments. It also made me realize how beautifully music fills in the quiet parts of my day. Whether it’s listening to an upbeat song during a workout or Christmas songs to put me in the holiday spirit, the words, songs and harmonies always lighten my mood. Without music, my life would be a quiet, and less happy, place!
5. Running
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My forever running partner.

I have to admit, I don’t always love running. Sometimes it’s boring, a lot of times something in my body hurts and, almost always, my crazy dog is trying to pull me forward or slow me down. So why do I think it’s beautiful? Running is beautiful because it gives me a chance to be outside, which means, while we are living here at least, I get to look at and listen to the ocean. It clears my mind. It makes me realize how powerful my body is and how hard I can push myself. It’s my dog’s favorite thing to do (if only I could snap a picture of his face as we start running) and wears him out, if only just for a little while. Plus, going for a run means I can eat more Christmas cookies!

 

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