Beautiful…

What defines beauty?

What qualities deem one beautiful?

Recently on FB, there is a game (for lack of a better term) going around.  If you are tagged, you are asked to post five photo’s of yourself in which you feel beautiful.  I have only seen a few people take on the challenge.  Is that because it is new and not challenged many women yet?  Or is it because women don’t feel deserving of posting photo’s in which they feel beautiful?

What makes a person beautiful?  Money?  Status?  Fame?  Hair color?  Character?  Size?

I posed a question to my FB friends recently. What do you think of when you hear the word beautiful in regards to a person? What is your definition of beautiful? Be honest! Go!

I received many replies, and for that I am grateful.  I wish I could post them all.  Here are a few of what people shared…

Fruits of the Spirit, love, joy , peace, patience, gentleness, self-control, all wrapped in a package of thankfulness. A beautiful person is born from times of trial that forge and season their hearts.

It radiates from the inside out. Someone who is beautiful, smiles and makes you smile, just because you are inspired through them. You can feel their beauty, not just see it.

I believe a beautiful person has all these qualities, but doesn’t “know” it; humble and selfless, gives to others even when they don’t have anything to give but a smile and their love.

Balanced in care for others and self. Gentle in spirit.

Someone, who even in the midst of ugliness and pain, manages to shine!

Someone who has joy in their life. It shows from the inside out!

I noticed as I read each person’s reply, that no one really made it about physical appearance.  It was about character and heart and attitude.  Yet, our society has made it all about appearance.

Our poor teens don’t stand a chance.  I have two stunningly beautiful step daughters… absolutely gorgeous.  Both of them struggle with being pretty enough.  They embody physical beauty associated with appearance.  Our world has made it very difficult. Beauty is about size, shape, hair color, skin tone, clothing, money/status… must I go on?  This breaks my heart.  We have a generation growing up that has missed the part about  “beauty forged from times of trial.”  Or “balanced in care for others and self.”  This generation does not think of others.  They’ve been trained to look out for number one!  And being beautiful is on the top of the list.

I know in my head that beauty is not about physical appearance.  Yes, there are people out there that are truly “beautiful” in a physical sense.  Our eyes are drawn to them.  We often compare ourselves to them, whether we know it or not.

While I KNOW that beauty goes beyond physical, I don’t always believe it for myself.  For others, absolutely!  I can see beauty in each one of you!  I can convince you that you are THE MOST beautiful person out there!  But when I turn the tables and see myself in that mirror, all that I know about what truly makes one beautiful goes out the window!

Am I going to be chosen for a cover spot on a magazine?  NO!  Do I turn heads as I walk down the street!  Oh gracious no!  Will I make the list for the most beautiful people?  Mum, NO!  Thank goodness!

I KNOW that my beauty comes from deep within and it was given to me and is nurtured by my heavenly Father.  I am infinitely precious to Him.  How very much He loves me.  He is with me.  He has cried tears and rejoiced with me.  I am worth it to Him.  I am beautiful.

Now to get my head and my heart to agree on this issue!  I am going to find five photo’s that I feel beautiful in.  I don’t plan on sharing them, but it is a challenge I want to take on.  I’ve got layer upon layer of issues in my life that coupled with the word beautiful, cause great agony and heartache.  I’ve got a long way to go.

My beloved spoke and said to me, arise, my darling, my beautiful one, come with me.        (Song of Solomon 2:10)

The Mix of Life’s Emotions…

Social media is changing the way we live. The way we view life. The way we view people around us. We all want to present well. We generally don’t tweet or post the ugly stuff in our lives. We post the good stuff. The happy times. That one photograph that can make everyone think we’ve got it all together. I don’t think most of us do this intentionally. It comes naturally. We want people to see the good in our lives, not the struggles.

Everyone has a story. We all carry joys and burdens around with us each day. Some with greater joy and less heartache. Others with more heartache than joy. Some of us have the ability to keep that heartache tucked away neatly so others may not see it. Some buried so deeply they themselves don’t even see it. Others wear their hearts on their shirtsleeves, walking around transparent to those around them.

Life is hard. Life is amazing. Life is scary. Life is exciting. Life is full of hurt. Life is full of love. Life is difficult relationships. Life is incredible relationships.

It’s nearly impossible to always live as if life if great, grand and glorious! To wear that smile and attitude as if we’ve got everything in control is a burden in itself.

The flip side of that is that it’s exhausting to live with the hurts and trials of life dominating our world. Walking around with the glass half empty.

Our lives are a mix of struggles and joy. We’ve got to embrace them as they come and not try to hide or bury them. Exposing our heart a little more can allow not only ourselves to embrace the journey, but let others join us, so together WE can walk the path.

Life is full of emotions that collide in the moment. This can be a beautiful thing if we let them.

Sadness and gratitude.
Grief and grace.
Pain and beauty.

One without the other can be overwhelming. Finding gratitude amidst sadness brings hope. Receiving and extending grace as we grieve is healing. Finding beauty in our pain strengthens our endurance.

We must live an authentic life. People want to see our true hearts and struggles, not just our best FB world! We are called to reach out to others in our time of need and in theirs. Isolation is lonely. Fellowship is glorious and healing. Finding a community of people to come alongside and share this journey we are on. This journey that is full sadness and gratitude… grief and grace… pain and beauty.

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Believe… Even When It’s Difficult

What do you do when life does not go the way you expect it to?  When it throws you a curve ball so curvy that you can’t even begin to catch it?  When it was thrown so hard it knocks you off balance?

You spin, you whirl, you wobble, you fall.  You fall down hard.  So hard that for a time you can’t even think straight.  Blindsided?  Or were you?  Did you see it coming and just put your head in the sand day after day?

Now what?  Where do you go from here?

Jesus… sweet Jesus.  Hang on tight.  Hold his hand.  Press in and be thankful even when you don’t think you can.

“He does not give you more than you can handle.”  Really?  That overused line does not bring comfort.  Oh, how it’s spoken recklessly to people in crisis.

Stop!  Breathe.  Draw close to him and settle in.  Pray… hope… trust… pray… believe.

Believe that broken things can be restored.
Believe that disappointment is not forever.
Believe that after every storm dissipates
there is clarity and light.
Believe that even if love and kindness
doesn’t change them,
it will change you.

                                                                                                                           (The Backroads Girl)


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Our Father Who Are in Heaven…

Early this morning I sat on my patio amidst a spring/summer rain storm taking in the sights and sounds… wrapped in a blanket with a hot cup of coffee.  Our birdhouse hung quiet and seemingly empty.  After a time, Dad swooped in and landed on the birdhouse perch.  For the past two weeks that would have brought hungry and noisy babies to the hole searching for food.  This morning the hole was quiet.  Dad sat there very still, then looked in the house and all around.  No babies.  After 16 days of life, they have flown the coop.  He seemed a bit distraught and worried, yet I sensed calm satisfaction.

Ironically, today is Father’s Day.  I guess he can feel good about raising up his babies and helping them become independent and able to be on their own.

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Today is a day for Father’s to be honored and remembered and celebrated.  For some, today is a happy, joyous day.  Strong relationships with their father/children allow this day to be a day of celebration with or without.  Memories old and new surface and happiness fills the air.

For others, today brings great sadness and heartache.  Father’s lost…relationships tarnished or lost.  Hurt and regret and sadness cloud the day.  I can think of three friends that are grieving the loss of their fathers in the past year and for one, the past two weeks.  While good memories are there, they are buried deep underneath the sorrow and grief that hang low in the air right now.  For some, there are no good memories… only hurt and pain.

I think about the fathers that are suffering today.  Lost relationships with children.  Current relationships that are difficult and challenging… all the while testing that deep unconditional love of a father.  My heart is heavy for them today.

As I’m watching people around me rejoice and struggle, I’m brought to my knees with my own grief and sorrow and joy.  I am clinging to the hope for all of us… the hope of our heavenly father.  Our unconditionally loving father.  Our eternal father.

Much like the father bird this morning, He perches up in heaven watching out for us.  Coming back to see if we are there.  If we are okay.  He coaxes us out of the birdhouse when we need it.   He protects us when we are out and on our own.  He brings us food when we are hungry and can’t find it ourselves.  He is constant…

Earthly fathers can only give what they have been given.  For some that is greater than others.  The roll of a father is precious and difficult and bittersweet.  Today my heart is yearning for every father to feel loved and valued and honored and cherished… not only by earthly beings but also our father who art in heaven.

Spring Rains…

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We are teased with the spring sunshine and warmth.  Then the rains come. Spring rains… it’s necessary for the earth to open up and grow and flourish. Without it life would not bloom and blossom.  Life would wither and die.

I longed for the sunshine this morning as I awoke after a restless night.  Those first morning rays glimmering through the newly budding maple trees are stunning and life-giving.  They bring a feeling of hope to the day.  I can see God’s handiwork and loving touch as I look out into my yard.  Not today… it was raining.

At times, the spring rains can close in on us and feel like a dark shroud… if we let it.  I determined myself this morning to see the rain as a gift.  A gift to our earth.  A gift to my soul.

Rains wash away the dirt and grime, providing a fresh sheen on everything. They clear out the sky so when the sun does shine, it’s extra blue an clear!  It’s worth the wait.  The same way it refreshes our earth, it also refreshes my soul.  It’s a pause in my heart to let Jesus clear out the dirt and grime that have built up.  I’m a bit more hopeful as I await the blue sky that will peak through eventually.

In the meantime, I’ll hunker down and take this pause to rest and refresh as I listen to the drops hit the metal patio cover.  Hopeful for what is to come…

“God’s thunder sets the oak trees dancing a wild dance, whirling; the pelting rain strips their branches.  We fall to our knees – we call out, “Glory!”  (Psalm 29:9)

Surprise!

Have you ever been heading down the road in one direction feeling fairly confident that you are on the right track, when suddenly your direction changes? Questions arise in your mind…

Why?

What now?

Really?

Life is funny that way. When I think I’ve got it all figured out and feel confident that I’m tuned in to God’s plan for me…that’s when the direction changes. I’ve seen it happen over and over in my life. Why does it surprise me every time?

Sometimes the road changes to a smoother road; easier to travel on.  Surprise!  Other times the road seems worn down and more difficult to travel.  The ruts seem deeper and I have to slow down. The operative word is ‘seem.’ My perception is that it’s more difficult and I will struggle more now than before.  Surprise!

After hitting a huge pot hole and being jarred a bit, the next stretch is smoother.  And the view… oh, how the view on this short stretch is breath taking.  Well, there’s a surprise!

The road is full of hills – some steep and scary while others are gentle and easy to climb. They make the journey difficult and exciting at the same time.  Then there are the straight stretches that seem to go on and on forever with nothing new or different.  It’s on those that I tend to fall asleep and lose sight of the journey I am on.

Then I round that corner and the road opens up to magnificent scenery all around me.  Eyes open wide, my senses are now more alive than ever.  I’m seeing life from a totally new vantage point.  Surprise!

Everyone is on a road leading to somewhere.  That somewhere we don’t really know.  I’d like to think my trip tic is all planned and I’m ready for whatever turn in the road God brings.  Nope. Not so much. Two weeks ago I wrote about all the amazing things that I felt God was opening up for me in the months to come.  Excited for the challenges He was putting in my path.  As I wrote, I had an idea of a few, but felt that stirring in my soul that there was more.  The road I was on was smooth (at that moment!) and the scenery was grand!

Hopeful!  I was feeling so hopeful! Almost giddy!  An emotion I had not felt in some time.  Little did I know that just around the bend was a road I’ve never traveled before.  A road full of ruts and hills and challenges.  A road with amazingly beautiful scenery and then stretches that are long and mundane.  A road that is forcing me to keep my eyes forward and not stray.

That giddy, hopeful road I was traveling was changed overnight. I thought I had the trip all planned out… excited for the adventures ahead. Now I’m on a different road… a potentially long road, that at times, feels like that long one with no scenery. The past two weeks have been full of hills and ruts, with some beautiful surprises along the way!

I can’t look back… for we all know that get’s us nowhere.  I can’t strain to look too far ahead, for this road does not allow for that!  For now, I’m staying in the moment.  Keeping my eye on the path in front of me. No matter the road that God has me on, He is traveling it with me. He encourages me along the way – slowing me down… speeding me up…gently steering me around dangerous potholes… surprising me along the way!

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Everyday Miracles…

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” …

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). (John 20:1-16 NIV)

Miracle of all miracles.  Mary’s son beat death.  No one would have imagined it as they watched him die an agonizing death on the cross two days earlier.  The tomb was empty.  Lives forever changed.  He conquered death for us.

Many people believe that miracles only happened in the bible.  You only read about that stuff. Not today. Not now.

What miracles are happening around us each day that we don’t recognize because they are not grand and glorious like raising someone from the dead?  Are we blind to them?  Our minds and eyes perceive them as small, yet they are not.  No miracle is small.  When God does the miraculous, it’s huge.

Springtime blooming after a long, cold winter.  New life budding on the tree limbs more and more each day.  Opening up and ready to grow and flourish. A little girl coming home to her daddy. Turning from struggles and asking for help.  Wanting to change, grow and flourish… much like that spring bloom.

Miracles. I can see God’s handprint and I’m in awe. Overwhelmed. Waiting in great anticipation for what is next.

On this Resurrection Sunday my hands are open wide and my heart is yearning for more of God’s miracles.  Miracles in the ordinary things of our lives.  Turning the secular into the sacred.  Opening my heart and mind to see more of what is going on around me.  Searching for miracles. Expecting miracles.

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