Tag Archives: beauty

Unconditional

steamboatThe semi-circle of peaks wraps around me, too distant to hug, too soft to stand sentinel. But they do both stand guard and comfort. It is November. Their sides are dry and brittle, beige and grey. The slopes are dotted with rust–almost a pop of color in this season. And dark brown. Even brown is color now. An evergreen rises past this bank of third story windows, reaching past the fourth floor above, a deep green reminding me that the ever-living part of us takes time to reach to the sky. Here and there the miracle of modern sprinkler systems create little circles and squares of green grass, but even that color is November-muted.

All of this has nothing to do with what is on my mind.

Or does it?

I’m thinking of love.

Our youngest son and his girlfriend spent the weekend here with us. We took them to a glorious hot springs nestled among the rocks and slopes, hiding at the end of a long, bumpy road. The natural pools form little ponds of steaming water. At one side the scalding waters flows over tiny falls into the pools. On the other flows the river. Cold, cold river. In the middle we play. Float. Rest. Choose our temperature.

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Jerry and I watch and smile as they dance the dance of young love. He splashes in the cool, river-fed pool, colder because it is November. Freezing because our bodies have been in the hot springs. He splashes and dives. Brings her rocks. They toss them. Skip the flat stones. He begs her come over the wall. Leave the perfect temperature and adventure in the river side. She resists. His eyes soften. Call. Emboldened, she stands first on the dividing rock wall. He counts to ten while she gathers courage, then with a shriek and a splash they are no longer separated.

Young love. Push. Pull. Can’t-bear-to-be-separated love.

They tease. Comfortable enough to be goofy. In love enough to be sappy.

“Momma, isn’t she beautiful?” he often asks.

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Of course she is.

I am fifty-one. Jerry older. These nights we can’t bear to be separated, even by pajamas or space in the bed. We wrap warm bodies around each other as we sleep. Wrinkles are forgotten. Bulges in wrong places of no consequence. We are flawed inside and out, but it doesn’t matter.

Love is unconditional.

We’ve weathered years. Hardships. Joys.

Forgiven each other our weaknesses. Our faults. Our bad choices.

They asked us about marriage, these young ones. About what parts are hard and what parts are not, and now, two days later I panic at all the life they must someday navigate, at all the experiences they’ve not yet had, at the cost they do not yet understand.

And I pray.

And Jesus reminds me I too was once young.

And that He was there. Is there still. And will be for them.

That His unconditional love will teach them how to love, how to weather the hardships and the pain and the unexpected difficulties. That He does this for all who ask. And that we learn, over time, the cost and joy of love.

How to let it be unconditional.

Jerry and I came here to heal. I feel soul weary, the last book demanding more of me than I ever dreamed. I left it in the hands of the editors and formatters and proof-readers and came to this place seeking.

Refreshment. Companionship. Mountain views. Hot springs. Time alone with Jerry and Jesus, surrounded by those two from whom I receive unconditional love.

They take me.

Always.

Flawed. Healing. Joyful and sad. Strong and weak. Tired and energized. They choose me. Accept me like this. Without mask. Without decoration. When my colors are bland.

The pale blue sky, not yet winter, but no longer the bright cobalt of autumn, dims outside the window. A pale line of color clings to the mountain peaks, not orange. Not bright enough to be peach even. Just a dusting of color over the grey peaks which have yet to be decorated with snow.

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All is muted.

At peace.

Accepted in this state of quiet.

Nothing expected.

But beautiful.

Unconditionally.

I sip my Merlot and watch as dusk becomes night and lights come out to twinkle against the mountainside.

(Thoughts from November in Steamboat Springs . . .)

Until next time,

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Tromping on All or Nothing (Again)

Peace in the midst of chaos. Balance. You’d think I’d be better at it. I’ve had ample opportunity to learn.

I think (hope) I’ve made progress in cultivating joy in times of emotional struggle and sorrow. But old habits creep up in new places.

During early marriage there were a few phrases I heard often from my husband. One was, “it’s not all or nothing, honey.”

Here on A Benew Journey we’ve talked often about taking back our lives. I shared my story of how being benched help me learn to care about my own needs and find a healthier lifestyle, prioritizing my emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being.

Enter the new test of balance: Overwhelming Good!

When my husband and I returned  from helping go through my mother-in-law‘s home we were emotionally and physically fatigued. God and loved ones met us with a wonderful surprise. A friend told me she’d prayed for years for an opportunity to bless our family. This came when she was able to gift us not only materials for a face-lift to parts of our home, but also her expertise. Having just remodeled her own house, she knew how to do things we didn’t.

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While we were gone she and our children dug in, pulling down old, out-dated wallpaper, emptying shelf after shelf of books, and reshaping the walls so they would look beautiful when painted.

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Notice the gratitude wall in the hallway . . .

Then my friend ordered the materials to rebuild our ancient privacy fence. These answers to years of prayer overwhelmed me with gratitude. After taking a day to unpack and assimilate, I dug in thinking I’d have a brand-new family room in a week, and that if the boys helped on a week-end we’d have the post holes dug. My friend and I could leisurely add the other boards while my husband was at work.

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It’s not quite what happened. We are on day 19 or 20 of the family room project, and only about half the holes are dug and filled with cement and a new pole. (And that much only happened with several friends pitching in.)

This morning I felt the call to be still. To talk these wonderful (though somewhat challenging) situations over with the Lord. I have other work to do, commitments to keep. I’ve been skipping my walks (isn’t painting enough exercise?) and giving into less healthy food choices out of exhaustion. I want to bury myself in this project. To GET IT DONE.

This morning I realized it isn’t just the bad that gets me out of balance. It’s the good. The exciting projects. The work I love. I felt His whisper, His reminder to be on guard against all or nothing living. (I guess He and Jerry are on the same page.) That what is accomplished in this day is sufficient. That healthy choices are important and pushing too long and hard, even in the good things, is a step backward not only in my physical health journey, but my joy. In my life.

There will always be overwhelming tasks. It is my goal to be a wildly productive woman. But if I forget the moments–If I don’t embrace life on the overwhelmingly busy days, then I’m back to square one, rushing, but not living. Meeting goals without enjoying the beauty of moments well lived.

I painted over my gratitude wall, my 1000 little breathless moments recorded in multi-colored magic marker. (We won’t talk about how many coats of paint it took to cover the marks of the orange sharpies!) As we painted I felt those thanksgivings were the foundations of the new, beautiful space. The color I chose is called “refreshed.” And that’s what noticing life’s good moments did for me, it refreshed my heart, helped it live more fully alive.

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Beneath these beautiful, refreshed walls is a foundation of 1,000 moments of beauty, things noticed by choice, by slowing down and savoring. Gifts from the hand of Creator God who gives all good things.

My BeNew journey continues. When the good (or difficult) things in life bring unexpected responsibilities, when something wonderful happens that requires more hours than I dreamed, I can’t live all or nothing, throwing myself into conquering the project. I’m learning to prioritize life. The moments. The beauty. The healthy choices that keep me strong for the next project.

Two days ago I completed bookshelf #1. Non-fiction neatly alphabetized and housed in cases of misty surf and calming celadon. (blue-gray and green)

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Do not be deceived. This bookcase is now full!

Tomorrow I’ll paint and hang a homemade bookcase for my fiction collection. Or maybe that will wait until next week. But it will get done. And I will chose to sleep. To be responsible with other commitments and not just bury in this project. I will take time to make Sam homemade biscuits. I will pray. Enjoy the outdoors. Breath the fragrance of fall and actually notice it.

How about you, my friend? Are you resisting tunnel vision? Are you living life, breathing in the breathless moments, or just conquering time?

As you work, embrace joy. See the faces of those you love. Hear their words. Taste your food. Have a little fun . . .

IMAG0586Until Next Time,

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Summer Joys

 

Sometimes a picture says it all. No words needed. Grateful for the gifts of summer.

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June flowers

 

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Enjoy the season!

Until Next Time,

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Grateful

After the intensity of yesterday’s post I long for the simple again.

Just the everyday thoughts and remembering the everyday stuff that makes life beautiful.20140605_224323

Like the grown kids popping into visit and my refrigerator being full enough to feed them all, no problem.

Full. Abundant. Lots of left-overs. Fresh stuff, too.

Like the cool air on my bare arms last night as hubby agreed to walk at a nearby park. The clouds were cotton on blue and by the time we left the pink tinged them with glory. We bumped into some longtime friends who were at the lake fishing. Our youngest son rode his long board, weaving in and out of the those who, like us, strolled the sidewalk.

Just beautiful, simple living.

Hubby and I went grocery shopping.

We found a great sale and bought meat. Chicken breasts. roasts. steak.

And we COULD. We could pay for it.

How many times have I taken such simple graces for granted?

Today blueberries arrived on my doorstep. I’m dreaming of blueberry pancakes. There’s already real whipped cream waiting in the fridge to top them.

The roses are beginning to bloom, and I planted bright fuchsia and dark purple petunias. Would you believe a few pansies lived all winter long in my flowerbed, right through the snow, and have raised their pretty faces to greet me?

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I put a bright pink Gerber daisy next to them, a feast for my eyes each time I travel my own sidewalk.

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I’m walking again, and those few pounds that tried to steal my weight loss are beginning to recede. I am empowered. Stronger when I walk.

My new-to-me $25 dishwasher is amazing. After the week and a half of hand washing I’m especially grateful. And it holds more dishes and gets them cleaner than the old one did. And after a week and a half of the chaos of repairing the damaged floor and having clutter everywhere, my living room and kitchen feel huge. Clutter makes me claustrophobic, but oh the joy of putting everything in its place again! It makes an ordinary, familiar room seem new.

20140605_224433-1Fresh mint and lavender now grace my glass water pitchers, picked from plants next to the driveway. Sometimes I add lemon slices.

This isn’t a fancy post. No careful wording, no effort to ease into a poetic feel, no going deep.

Just real.

Just me.

Just thankful.

Just hoping you and I can grab a little joy and rest in a little beauty.

Noticing the little things.

 

 

 

 

Photo Phobia

Is it a girl thing or a darkness thing?

Or both?

Before I opened my eyes this morning the heaviness attacked. The insecurities. The “less-thans.”

Why?

Because I had an appointment for a professional head shot.

All this angst over a picture?!?!

I don’t even mind being in front of a camera. Flashing my smile comes naturally.

But I almost cancelled.

Tears threatened. Voices assaulted from inside myself.

Look at those bags beneath your eyes. Make-up is not going to cover them.

You don’t have the right clothes. In fact, you never do. Even if you had lots of money to spend on them you wouldn’t know good taste.

And then I did something really smart.

I got on the scale. To torture myself, I guess. I knew I’d put on a little weight with all the hospital stays, grief, and inactivity of the last couple of months. I knew this and have been combating it. Walking again. Backing off the high calorie food (well, except for at the graduation party this weekend). So why, this particular morning, did I find it important to ascertain the exact number on the scale?

You’ve gained a few pounds. It’s going to show.

Wasn’t this picture supposed to be about the new, slimmer you?

How are you going to smile when you feel this way? It is a wasted effort.

I  would have chickened out except for one thing.

The photo session was a gift. A friend of mine encouraged the studio where she works to offer a free professional head shot in recognition of my weight loss so I could update my website.

How could I run from such generosity?

“Honey,” I told my husband. “I’m in one of those moods. If I talk to you about it you’re going to be frustrated, and it won’t be helpful, so this is me NOT talking about it. But would you please pray for me?”

“Is this about clothes for the picture?” His words trailed away as I stomped off, leaving him to take up my ridiculous attitude with God.

(My dear hubby likes to solve problems, and frankly when a girl feels fat and ugly and like she has no classy clothes a man can’t fix that.)

I cried to God above for mercy from my girl self. Emailed my closest praying friends and admitted my nasty girl moment. Asked them to pray that God’s joy would shine from me in those pictures even though I wanted to stay home, curl up, and cry.

I felt bloated and ugly and insecure and teary. I’d blame it on the monthly only I *think* I’m past all that at the ripe age of 48.

I grabbed my Body Balance and then my metabolism booster. Had some protein and a cup of coffee. Climbed into a hot shower.

The prayer and the water washed over me, and the darkness began to lift.

I put on eye shadow thinking I should have someone teach me how to properly apply it. Thinking I should have done this picture thing when my talented daughter with the cosmetology license was off work to make sure I looked right. Temptation to return to my inadequacy diatribe beckoned.

But I’d determined not to flake out, so instead I pulled out the mascara, dried my hair, and picked out my jewelry.

As I kissed my hubby good-bye he grabbed my hands and slowed my exit. “You. Are. Absolutely Stunning.”

Maybe husbands can help fix this dark girl stuff. Not forever silence it, but help.

I climbed into the car wondering where all the angst came from. Was it as simple as being a woman? Did it go back to the years of obesity? The lean years when I couldn’t buy new clothes?

Or was it deeper and more insidious?

Flipping radio stations between Christian music and the country stations, I sought positive input. It was  a love song from a country band that further shook me from my insecurities. Like God was asking me to receive those words from Him–romantic, loving words that said I was beautiful, important, and worth His notice.

I breathed deep of that idea.

Remembered HE made me. And I’d been dissing His handiwork.

“I am fearfully and wonderfully made. That’s what you said, God. Thank you for making me. That You think I’m beautiful.”

When I finally pulled into the parking lot of the studio 45 minutes later I felt almost myself. No more lurking tears and only a touch of all that insecurity.

The session was actually fun. The photographers didn’t turn a critical eye to my clothing choices, just sweetly helped me make the best decisions. They pulled out that huge camera with the long lens and said things like:

Beautiful!

You’re a natural!

You’ve got that joy thing going.

Love that smile.

You look great!

I told the ladies it would be cool if they’d just follow me around every day saying those things to me.

They laughed. I did, too.

But what if?

What if every time the darkness said I was ugly, fat, inadequate and without taste I’d said back, “I’m beautiful! I look great. Love my smile! I’m a natural!”

Why?

Why do we women find it so easy to be critical and so hard to be good to ourselves?

Why can’t we just embrace the beauty within?

Why can’t we simply believe in it? In ourselves?

Until Next Time,

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PS I started writing this yesterday but didn’t get it posted. Today I wonder what was so hard. The happy ending is that the pictures turned out great. I’ll post the two shots I chose when the final photos come in a few weeks. All that angst . . . for what?

Beauty in the Ordinary

20140505_144349-1-1My youngest son has a new girlfriend. She’s super cool and has a real heart for people. She’s traveled multiple times to third world countries, helped develop a video to promote a ministry to the poor in another country, serves little kids every week at church, and is constantly looking for ways to help women and girls who suffer.

All this and she’s only sixteen.

Last week she invited me to her house. She and her mom threw a jewelry party, only they weren’t raising money for themselves or working to get free product or even helping out a friend who had a small business. 100% of the profits of their party went to help women who need a safe place to live.

My girl and I went to the party, and my hubby joyfully encouraged me to spend money. I bought a gorgeous German silver piece and a less expensive, more whimsical set.

As much as I love the classy look of my more expensive necklace, I think my favorite is the other. It was made by a woman to dared leave a bad situation and believe she could have a new life. I’m not only impressed by her courage, I’m impressed by her ability to find beauty in places others wouldn’t.

See, the beads on my necklace are made from pinto beans.

Poor man’s food.

Polished and paired with silver.

This  woman saw beauty in the ordinary and dared to believe it could become something extraordinary. She took the raw materials available to her and created a fashion statement.

I wept when I showed the necklace and earrings to my husband. I want to be a woman who takes the mundane and makes it shine. Who sees art when others see dinner. Who takes whatever is at hand and reshapes it into beauty.

Who has eyes to see beyond.

Until next time,

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PS Been thinking about the possibilities of the Ditch the Can movement. Of how social network marketing could use this vehicle to raise funds for women like the one who made my necklace or to help orphans in Africa or buy school supplies. Dreaming about what it would look like to set up a chain of non-profits who helped support each other’s causes by building on each other. Anyone want to dream with me???

Spirit Seeker Sunday ~ The Desire Beneath

treatLife’s deepest lessons are learned and relearned at ever-increasing levels.

Years ago I read The Sacred Romance and Journey of Desire by John Eldredge. These books helped me process the idea that behind every desire was a deeper, more potent desire for God.

It was a time of deep financial struggle for our family, and I remember processing my lack through a spiritual lens. For example, I’ve always loved layering scented body wash and lotion, and for many years my favorite store was Bath and Body works. But during this season buying fragrant body lotion was simply out-of-reach.

As I prayed about this disappointment I remember thinking, “underneath the desire to smell beautiful is the deeper desire to live beautiful. I want to live in a way that leaves the fragrance of Jesus trailing after me.”* The thought brings a lump to my throat even today.

The struggles of that time pushed me deeper into Christ’s arms. I took my craving for good gifts and looked beneath them for a craving of of Jesus, of heaven. I never became so spiritual that I stopped wanting stuff, but it did help me focus on my longing to experience God over the longings I had as many of life’s pleasures were denied me.

As I write today, I wonder that this concept didn’t help me more with my physical body, but I never remember applying it to what I ate, other than to help me overcome disappointment when I couldn’t afford to buy certain foods. But this looking beneath the desire to the deeper desire applies to weight loss, too.

We’ve talked a lot on this blog about turning our cravings for food into a reminder of our craving for Jesus. Filling emotional needs with food will never satisfy. Even real hunger is a metaphor pointing to a deeper need, our need for God to satisfy our innermost soul.

During our financial lack I grieved not being able to purchase some special chocolates I loved that were only available around the holidays. I told myself I could look beneath that desire for chocolate to a deeper desire, to taste the wonders of God. There was even a Scripture I applied, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”

Funny how back then the concept didn’t connect with the fact I was putting on pounds. But today the application seems natural. When I crave that treat, what if I looked to Jesus as the ultimate treat? What if I stopped my thoughts and looked beneath them, then spent the time meditating on the wonders of Christ’s love instead of munching?

“After all, the ultimate goal of this journey isn’t about making me a smaller-sized person but rather making me crave Jesus and His truths as the ultimate filler of my heart.” ~ Lysa TerKeurst

Share this devotion:

Is there a deeper desire than that treat you crave?

*You can read 5 short devotionals that I wrote about this concept on my other website.