Beauty in the Mundane

Beauty in the Mundane, Books + Stories, Faith + Vulnerability
We are scared to be human. It’s time to stop.
March 17, 2016 at 6:00 am 2
I live in a world of shiny surfaces -- where the quickest way to get attention is to shout the loudest and work the hardest. I used to climb ladders of success and figured I'd get a terminal degree (a PhD in literature) because surely then, I figured, I'd finally be seen. I'd finally be somebody. I'd be recognized, and published and loved by students. I'd make a name for myself. We're walking in a world of invisible men and women. Women who work harder, try to balance careers and children, and find time to get their abs ready for spring break. Men decompress with video games and sports because relationships are hard and work is harder. We're stuck on a treadmill of busy and it's slowly killing us. It doesn't have to be that way. We think the only way to chase meaning is to work hard, be successful and spend our time however we choose. We think that ease will save us. We think that work will save us. We think that if we could make it to the next rung of the ladder, then the blessings would flow down like flower petals in a silly rom-com. That is not the answer. You know what is? It's something we lost a long time ago and a few wise poets and prophets still chase. It's beauty. beauty is only complete when it is shared It's not the rom-com beauty. It's a beauty born of pain and dirt. It's finding the beauty in the pain, in the shattered or slowly dying dreams. It's finding beauty in being vulnerable, even when you gently open your heart up for hurt. Because, friends, I believe that there is a beauty that is always deeper still. I belive in the power of story. I believe in the power of beauty to warm hard hearts and draw us into life. It creeps up on you, this beauty. It moves slowly and warms your heart. It's in the smile and shaking arms of my daughter as she flings her body down the grassy hill. It's in the hilarity of "potty humor" that cracks up my older boys. It's in the glory of a fine sentence that breaks my heart right open. It's in the shared bottle of wine. And it's in the nodding around the table -- it's someone that really sees you. And we'll miss it if we're always ready to move on to the next thing. This is the beauty I crave. It's hard-won, like a long, hard work out, where the endorphins fly and you're just so glad you made it through. This is the beauty I chase as I type out sentences. This is beauty as I write my own story, again and again. It's not that my story is unique at all, but that in sharing stories, we know more of each other, we know more of ourselves. Self-knowledge, of course, can paralyze. We can get stuck looking inward so that we sit dumb-struck, awe-struck or full of shame (depending on our temperament). But beauty always moves us towards. Beauty does not leave us in a navel-gazing, selfish state, like Narcissus at the edge of the lake. No, beauty is only complete when it is shared. That's why I'm here. To seek out beauty-- ruthlessly even amidst the busyness of raising little children, of writing and church-planting. Ultimately, the source of beauty (I'm convinced) is in the eyes of Jesus. The God-Man who does not shame or condemn us, but the savior who heals, who touches lepers and bleeding women. He sits among the unholy. He sits among those too proud to bow their head, the ones that think they've got it all figured out. And he mercifully meets them, right in our poverty of ladder-climbing, right in our thinking that if we could just do x, y, z, that then we'd have arrived. He smiles at us. Instead of sitting alongside this man of beauty, we scream out our importance or we stay silent. We back ourselves into corners or work out until we're exhausted. We indulge our bodies with wine and sugar and caffeine, or we starve them, because we are desperate for our flesh to say either that we exist or that we do not. We want to use our flesh to say boldly that "We take up space!" or we hide away in too-big sweatshirts and leggings. We are so scared to be simply human. Our bodies betray our souls. Because they are not separate entities. But our bodies (and our whole selves) are more than efficient machines, they are more than ways to get out the underlying soul. They are beautiful sacraments of being. Our limbs proclaim a glory that we cannot know. Our sinews, muscles and minds make us move not only through space, but allow us to connect with others. Our bodies, our words, usher in empathy. They offer us connection. There is more than success. There is more than comfort. Security will not save you. Your 401(k) will not help you sleep at night if your soul is tied up in knots and you are making your body into a product of invisibility. It's time to break free. It's time to reclaim beauty. Right here, right now. It's time to slow down, take a breath, and treat our minds, hearts, and souls with the respect they deserve. It's time to be gloriously human. It's time to sit in the uncertainty, to gather your safe people around you, and chase beauty together. Let's chase beauty together, even though it feels a bit like a fool's errand. It feels like childhood all over again and so we label beauty-chasing with words like childish, juvenile, naive. But it is right where we belong. We never grow old of "fairy stories" to bring us back to beauty and there -- there, we will find evangelium, the "good news,"* that there is redemption. That out of my own sorry, sad, story of twists and turns and the very death of dreams -- out of struggle -- that there is always, forever the hope of redemption. May we hope to spend our whole lives chasing a beauty that we only see fully on the other side.   // *Tolkein, "On Fairy Stories" Do you want to chase beauty and story too? Do you want some practical ways to do it? Then sign up for my secret monthly newsletter, where we get to chat together about what this looks like. I'm giving you a free ebook too -- with tons of tips to help you own your own story. Don't miss out. Life is too short to forget beauty.
Beauty in the Mundane, Celebrate, Faith + Vulnerability
When all is said and done
November 27, 2015 at 9:58 am 4
Happy Thanksgiving week . I hope you have (and had) a table to gather around where people are real and true and good. Or, at least you have Adele to unite us all. I think Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because it is just people coming together around a table. We missed out on two family members joining us -- one because she had caught a bug and her immune system is weakened from preventative chemo and the other because her brain is going, she's old and dying. I so wanted them there, even in all the chaos from little children running around. So today, when all the shoppers are out early, I'm cuddled in a special hand-knit blanket of my grandma's by a fire. I want to restore order to my house so it will reflect her and be a gift to others. Small acts of kindness multiply like loaves and fishes and feed multitudes. But most of the time I'm consumed with the here-and-now, bickering about who spilled what, overwhelmed by the mundane. Can the mundane really be about worship? Like Kathleen Norris writes, can the quotidian be part of showing radical hospitality? (Sarah Bessey has a lovely post on that exact thing.) What can you give away instead of hoarding this week? Your words? Your time? Food for the hungry?   Give your words away. They are a gift   I'm thinking a bit about what Thanksgiving will look like in years and years, when my own littles have their own littles, the holidays where I need to be indulged. What will they remember? Surely not their Christmas lists that they're fashioning so carefully. They'll remember all the things we did as part of the season -- the thankfulness jar, the Minivan Express to look at Christmas lights, how church was the warp and woof of their little lives (happens when you're church planting, of course). But when I'm the elderly woman who can't make it to the holiday gathering, what will they remember of me? I hope they remember that I grew into generosity. I hope they remember me growing into grace. I hope they always remember the smile of their mother. I hope they see a generosity of soul, that I gave myself and my words away, for them -- always for them.   //     Don't forget to sign up for my newsletter! I'm going to send along some great gift ideas there. 

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Keep pouring the coffee! Keeping it real and chasing beauty (a #wholemama post)
August 18, 2015 at 12:38 pm 12
Sometimes life doesn't look like beauty at all. And I'm not talking about the big stuff even -- racism, economic inequality, shame, fear-based leadership, bullying -- nope. Just the every day BLAH. Where do you go then? How can we reclaim beauty even in the mundane? Take today. My kids woke up too early and went to bed too late. I kept having dreams about children drowning. (Freak out!) I'm tired and I'm both can't-wait-till-my-kids-start-school dancing and sad about all our adventures ending. (None of which was Pinterest-worthy and that is so A-OK in my book). So today, I grabbed my coffee and my cute ripped jeans and wore lipstick and sandals I like. I made sure I ate well and drank water. I need even minuscule drops of beauty (lipstick, good food, new nail polish) that remind me I'm a human being and I deserve to be taken care of. Beauty doesn't need to come in full sweeping moments that take you away to inspire-me-forever-Neverland. Nope. Beauty can be just getting yourself ready for the day. Beauty can be the sentence that you have taped on your mirror from a good book. Beauty can be you hiding for a few moments from your kids. Because friends, this is what makes us creative and better mamas. Lisha Epperson was talking on Twitter last night in our #wholemama chat, how she lets her kids see her chasing beauty. You guys, this got me all excited! I want to have my kids dancing with me for family dance parties; I want them to see the flowers unfurling with a bit of shy trepidation, like I do. I want them to notice.  coffee + mamahood But how do you chase beauty on an everyday Tuesday? How do you chase beauty when you're just plain tired, or grouchy (and ahem, so are your kids)? You give yourself a pass. You wrap yourself in a grace that can withstand the BLAHs. You realize you don't have to do this mama thing perfectly. You breathe. You pull back the schedule so you can play and invite them into your play. (I usually turn into crazy woman who has a need to control everything -- especially cleaning my external environment, because I can't control my inner self. Don't do that. Don't turn into crazy cleaning woman). So this afternoon, we'll probably go to the pool or for a walk so, even if they're bickering, I can catch the wind in my hair and see the trees dancing. And I'll maybe drink too much coffee but we'll call it a day. Then we'll pray for sleep and rest and grace for another day. Maybe tomorrow will be a day to get caught up in a river of beauty that flows into all the cracks and crevices. Or maybe not. But there will be grace again and beauty then too. *** Be sure to check out what #wholemama is all about over on Esther's blog and do yourself a favor and read Lisha's gorgeous post on beauty and motherhood.    
Beauty in the Mundane
You are a Person, not a Product
April 23, 2015 at 1:15 pm 0
I've been sick with a stomach bug the last several days; shirking my responsibilities, walking around in a daze and I can't tell if I'm nauseous or hungry. I start to get a bit angsty about all the work that lies undone, all the words that need to be written, all the social networking and planning that needs to happen for our upcoming move. But then I stare out at the spring green tree branches dancing outside my window and it makes me smile. How I wish I could just be so very easily and effortlessly. So here's a reminder for your Thursday: You are a person. Your personhood is so much more than a product. We buy and sell products, we promote products. We use products. You are not a product. You are not something that can be bought, sold or promoted. You cannot be used up and thrown away; your value has nothing at all to do with your performance or how many people "like" your status on Facebook. You get to be a dancing green leaf, attached to so many other leaves, all doing the same thing: just responding to the wind that blows them. You're rooted. You're surrounded by others. And you are beautiful just the way you are.
Beauty in the Mundane
Sinking into Your Soles
March 16, 2015 at 12:28 pm 2
Last night was momentous. I didn't get up once in the night with my daughter, my husband did. It's been 439 nights of interrupted sleep (I won't dare to count up my three previous children's nights of non-sleep). I slept. I ate a breakfast with eggs, kale and avocado. I put the kids in the buggy and we did the 1.5 mile loop around the park by our house. The sun was coming out and I wiggled my feet in my shoes as I walked home. All seemed right with the world. But it's not. It was just my daily circumstances had combined to make me a kinder, gentler person than who my heart really shows me to be. Because most days, before the coffee hits and before my eyes are open, I can take out all my resentment and lack of sleep on those around me. Do you, like me, use your circumstances to dictate your actions? To use them as fire for why you were short with your kids or why you need the latte or chocolate? I sure do. So I'm thinking through the idea of "sinking into my soles" a bit. Letting my feet wiggle around and take up space and just be me. To feel what it's like to be me in tactile ways. When I'm short on sleep, or stressed, or haven't eaten well, my anger creeps up and I suddenly want to be everyone else. That woman who goes to work every day. That woman with the book deal. That woman who is childless. My husband who gets to leave the kids each day and return to running hugs. My thin and beautiful friends. My wise and kind friends. My rich and fun friends. I have a hard time living in my skin, owning up to my own body and sinking my feet happily into my very own soles in a daily, I'm-fully-present-here sort of way. Maybe you do, too. // I've been reading some great stories over at The Mudroom for Women's History Month. Each writer is telling the story of a woman -- some mundane, some famous -- who lived extraordinarily and courageously. Sometimes the courage was in loving her family well, sometimes it was in loving a whole nation, or even validating that girls had a right to the same activities as boys. To love others well, to love courageously and bravely no matter the size of the arena, each woman had to be able to sink into her own soles. To be herself. To not pine for a series of "anothers" (that word that we turn to in our own discontent). To be happy to just be her so she could then focus on others. I hope you'll join me in wiggling your feet a bit and finding out who you are, who you're supposed to be, and who you are right now in this very second as you read this. Leave behind the grass-is-greener and anothers, Take a deep breath. We get to be people who love other people. That is so simple and yet extraordinary. For me, right this second I'm in gym clothes and going to hop up and get to the dishes, not out of resentment or duty or fear, but simply because they need doing and I'm the one to do it. Right here, right now, that's what I'm supposed to be doing. I'll use the suds and the quiet and turn them to prayer, a petition to be fully here, right now. I'll wiggle my feet in my gym shoes and not pine for my corporate heels or my sandals or ski boots, but realize that this -- the now -- is blessing too. Wiggle your toes and press them into the soles. Let your feet relax and sink into them. You're alive. You're here, now. And that is extraordinary.     Tweetables: [tweetthis]I have a hard time living in my skin, owning up to my own body and sinking my feet happily into my very own soles[/tweetthis] [tweetthis]How can we love others well, to love courageously and bravely no matter the size of the arena?[/tweetthis] [tweetthis]I'll use the suds and the quiet and turn them to prayer, a petition to be fully here, right now.[/tweetthis]