Monday, August 17, 2015

Where Can I Find True Beauty?

This week's linkup for #wholemama is all about the word beauty.

What is beauty?

I used to think it meant having a slim figure with nice facial features, makeup just so, polish on nails, both fingers and toes. As far as I was concerned I didn't measure up. I always thought my stomach stuck out a little too far, because it wasn't completely flat like some of the girls I knew. I often felt inferior. I know now that it was my own imagination feeding me lies. Real beauty is not measured in how nice a person looks.

Real beauty comes from within.

I was always looking for ways to improve myself. I wanted to look good and feel good, but I still struggled with comparing myself to others. That comparison bug tries hard to defeat us, doesn't it? I would spend time reading aloud and recording my voice in order to improve it. I was particular about my clothes, and they had to look a certain way or I felt like they either made me look fat or unattractive.

Then I got pregnant.

I was dealing with nausea and could hardly eat anything. Peanut butter, crackers and cokes are what I had most the first few months. I know that was a pretty poor diet, but I just couldn't stomach anything else. I lost seven pounds during the first three months, and managed to keep my weight gain to a minimum by the end of the pregnancy. 

During my pregnancy I was excited about the fact that a new life was growing within me, and I guess there is a certain beauty about a pregnant woman. The older ladies in my church would always compliment me. They would tell me I had that pregnancy glow. I'm sure their comments helped me feel better about myself.

(At a shower before my first was born)

I was not at all prepared for the fact that none of my pre-pregnancy clothes fit after my first child, a daughter, was born. In fact, I was horrified that I had nothing to wear. My mom happened to have pants that were elastic in the waist and were loose fitting, so I wore her clothes for a couple of weeks. Then we went out shopping for me to find things I liked that would also fit. No one had prepared me for the fact that it would take a few months to get back down to my regular size.

If only I had realized back then that beauty doesn't depend on size.

That first year of being a mother was quite a learning experience. There were times when I wondered what I had gotten myself into. Gone was all my free time, and when my daughter was a year old I took care of one year old twins two days a week. It was like having triplets. I didn't have time to think about beauty.

( Sara and the twins)

We never had a lot of money so I had to learn to be creative.

I've always been drawn to artistic pursuits so it was fun to draw and decorate a calendar to cross off the days during the last month of my first pregnancy. I made my own invitations for children's birthday parties, decorated their cakes in a special way, and found creative things to do for the children to have fun. At the time I never thought about any of that having to do with beauty.

Beauty is so much more than looking good or having things arranged certain ways.

  • Beauty is sometimes seen in our actions, in how we treat ourselves and others.
  • Beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, and forms.
  • Beauty can be found in unexpected places.
  • Beauty comes in speaking words of kindness or sharing a smile.

  • To see people helping people is a beautiful thing.
  • Spending time doing things together with our families is a beautiful thing.
  • Watching an older child be gentle and helpful to a younger sibling is a beautiful thing.
  • Nature is full of beautiful things like sunsets, rainbows, all manner of flowers and creatures.
  • Sunshine brings a smile to my face as it highlights nature's beauty.
  • Rain can be beautiful as it falls down in sheets drenching the ground.

Beauty is all around us.

Even when I fall short of my expectations or feel unloving and unlovely, beauty can still be found. I might be so absorbed in my own troubles that I forget to look around and be thankful. I forget to ask for help. I forget that another kind of beauty can be found when I allow others to help rather than trying to be strong and self sufficient. I forget that God meets us right where we are and gives us hope. That is also beauty.

I'm asking God to open my eyes to the beauty that is right here in the midst of my mess.

I want to realize anew that beauty starts with an attitude of the heart, to know that I don't have to have my act together to embody real beauty. I want the light of Christ to shine through me illuminating all those who cross my path, encouraging them to realize their own true beauty.

Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

(I Samuel 16:7b)

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Barefoot in the Grass

I walked barefoot in the grass today
Wet and cool
A balm to my feet

I walked barefoot in the grass today
Freshly cut
A welcome respite

I walked barefoot in the grass today
Soft and coarse
Short blades, green and brown

I walked barefoot in the grass today
At sunset
Peaceful and serene

I walked barefoot in the grass today
All alone
With only hens and dogs

I walked barefoot in the grass today
Pure, simple and sweet

**I tried something new today and made a recording of the poem.*

(It takes a few seconds to get started once you hit the play button.)

As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame, he remembers that we are dust.
As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field,
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,and its place knows it no more.
But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children's children,
to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.

(Psalm 103:15-19)

I'm linking up with Lisha Epperson and #GiveMeGrace.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Celebrate and Be Grateful

The word for the #wholemama linkup this week is celebrate. For some reason I'm having trouble feeling like celebrating. There have been so many ups and downs in my life this summer. It's easy to focus on the downs, especially when there are things that seem to have no resolution. As my friend, Abby, says, that's scarcity talking, telling me the solutions are too hard to find.

The truth is there ARE ways around or through the obstacles. I just need wisdom and in some cases discipline to wait rather than expecting quick fixes. When I'm feeling down one way to turn around is to start expressing gratitude for all the blessings that come each day. Even the little things are worth celebrating.

Following Esther's lead I decided to look back over the summer and make a list of things worth celebrating and give thanks for each one.
  • Corn, tomatoes, lettuce, a few beets and turnips from the garden. Not a bumper crop by any means, but it was nice while it lasted. Along with that we had a good blueberry harvest – Our bushes continue to produce more each year. I was able to freeze some to enjoy at a later time.
  • Revived kombucha, started milk kefir, made pickles and sauerkraut

  • Renewed a friendship from years ago.
  • Finally had lunch with friends for the first time after one of our group unexpectedly died earlier this year. It was a beautiful time together. Rather than a restaurant this time one of the ladies hosted us in her home. She even had a place set for our departed friend. She wanted us to remember her, to celebrate her life and let her be an inspiration to us.
  • Met Esther Emery IN MY HOME - That was a real treat after getting to know her a little online. I have Abby Norman to thank for making it possible. It was great to spend time with her, too.

  • Participated in#wholemama this summer and made some new friends
  • Made progress in karate instead of giving up
  • Laughed with my sister-in-law after making silly faces.

  • Son went to Japan and back, learned a lot and was kept safe
  • Good health for the most part
  • Started compiling some of my poems into categories to eventually become a book
  • Enjoyed the beauty of creation every day

As you can see I found a lot, and the list is nowhere near complete. My life is worth celebrating. God has given me much. It's good to reflect on His gifts every day and share with others.  

I hope you'll hop on over to Esther's place for the #wholemama linkup and find out what others are celebrating!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

To Be or Not to Be...Silly

The #wholemama word prompt for the linkup this week is the word silly. Being silly is something easily forgotten as we get caught up in the world of adulthood. There are so many responsibilities real or perceived, but children have a way of pulling us into their play. Once in awhile we find ourselves letting go of our self-consciousness to join in their merriment, while making silly faces and having fun.

At one birthday party the kids were all trying on a cap that belonged to the father of one of their friends. They decided I should wear it, too. I protested at first, but gave in. You can tell by the extra large glasses that it's pretty dated.


Not too long ago I remember my granddaughter trying to get me to do some kind of dance video she had, but I wasn't sure I wanted to. Finally, I thought, What have I got to lose? So I joined her for awhile. We laughed, got out of breath and had a lot of fun.

My husband did a lot with the girls when they were young, but I often made excuses like there was too much to do, or I was tired or the baby needed attention. On their own my girls would think up plays, make costumes, practice and then perform for us. Here's a picture taken after one such play which also includes one of their brothers.

They also put on a puppet show one Mother's Day. They made up a song talking about the life of a mother as they perceived it. I loved it!

Somewhere along the way I let my self-consciousness get in the way of having fun. When the grandkids come my husband often puts on music and starts dancing with them. They all want me to join, but I usually hold back because I'm afraid I'll look stupid. This #wholemama prompt has got me thinking that I should forget those kinds of thoughts and jump right in and have fun with them.

One thing that brings out the silliness, whether you are young or old is an unexpected snowfall!

Recently we got together with friends we haven't seen in many years. We knew each other before we were married. In fact, our husbands were roommates. We even talked about having a double wedding but decided we'd rather have our own. They married first and we married a month later.

When we met them at the restaurant it was as if no time had passed since we were together. Our bond was strong those years ago, and it still holds. After we ate we went to their house to spend some time waiting before we picked our son up at the airport.

It was great to catch up again and to renew our friendship. We enjoyed pictures of our kids from a visit years ago. They had fun dressing up and wearing a curly wig.

My friend has a very infectious laugh so you can't help but find yourself laughing, too. I think we must have been talking about some of the differences between men and women, and she showed me a photo of a very thick book, probably about 3' tall, opened on a table with a guy standing there holding part of the book in his hands pretending to read it.

It was titled 'Understanding Women.' Her comment was something like, “This is what I told my husband he has to read if he wants to understand me.” Then we both roared with laughter. You can take a look at it Here, and you'll see what I mean.

We were so busy catching up, laughing and having such a good time that we forgot to take pictures. I didn't think about it until the next day after we were home.

My spirit was lifted so much after our visit. I had forgotten how much fun we used to have together. I didn't realize how much we needed their friendship until we spent that afternoon and evening together. We really loosened up instead of being so serious about everything.

We resolved to get together again soon, maybe an overnight trip to the mountains, or a day trip for hiking or some other activity. Whatever we do I'm sure we'll share a lot of fun and laughter with a little silliness along the way. 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Grace for the Dark Days of Overwhelm

What do you do when the road ahead seems dark, blurry, unclear? You are traveling along nicely when suddenly unexpected twists and turns appear. The road becomes unfamiliar. 

I wish I could say that my first reaction is always to go straight to God in prayer asking for wisdom, direction and peace. I eventually end up there, but often the first thing I do is react either in anger or frustration.

I have been feeling especially tired and overwhelmed the past few weeks as we have been very busy with traveling, visiting, health concerns, late nights, hard conversations, lack of wisdom, not enough sleep, family issues, an appliance breakdown, and internet problems. Also, my youngest child has recently returned from a month long trip to Japan and is ready to step out and make his way in the world.

I've watched my other children do this. I know it is a necessary part of life, and they need to have their own experiences. I know this, but my mama heart wishes I could shield them from mistakes, hurts and harms. I have to remind myself that God loves them more than I do and is quite capable of caring for them no matter where their road leads.

When I woke up this morning my body still felt tired and tight, like a rubber band almost stretched to its limit. I decided to take a shower before going downstairs for breakfast. That helped some, but my mind still dwelt on all the emotions and feelings of being overwhelmed with circumstances, people, clutter, an overgrown garden and property, my weight, relationships that could be better...

I thought I might want to go outside and scream. But that wouldn't really help, would it?

Instead, I stayed home from church, went upstairs to my rocking chair and poured out my heart to God as I wrote in my prayer journal, a portion of which I'll post here.

(before prayer, questioning
and contemplative )
(after prayer, content and

do need to release tension. I hold so much. I often realize that my teeth are clenched, my jaw is tight, and the rest of my body seems tense. I have to consciously relax. Please help me to give my burdens to You – to roll them off my shoulders and drop them at Your feet; to rest in Your loving embrace by reading Your word and praying. Give me the kind of peace and joy that only comes from You. There is a nice breeze blowing outside. I hear the chimes. It reminds me that Your love is all around. I hear 
the Whisper of your Love as I look to You. Thank you for blessing me. 

After praying, my troubles didn't magically disappear, but I felt better knowing that God heard my prayers and would answer in the way that is best for all. Before he left for church, my youngest son encouraged me to go take a walk, knowing that it would help me feel better. I love to take walks outdoors and this morning was no exception. I took some pictures that inspired me. I hope they inspire you, too!

Every day I am showered by God's grace. 

I may not realize it when I am focusing on all the problems, but when I take time to pause and pray, to give thanks, my perspective changes. The way ahead will not always be clear, and I will feel overwhelmed at times, but I know I have a God who can be trusted. Wherever I go He will always be with me, guiding me through the darkness into the light all the way to my final destination.