Ode to Tradition

traditionThese days we are full-flung into the season of family and celebration. It’s all making me feel a little bit like Tevye from the famous musical, Fiddler on the Roof, stomping around the house crying, “Tradition!” I’m just missing the big bushy beard and belly to jiggle…OK a few other things too. But you know what I mean.

So here’s my nod to tradition:

At my house, we’ve already hosted Thanksgiving, gone to the tree farm, and trimmed our tree. We’re edging into December and we’re living in Thanksmas at the moment—halfway between pumpkins and snowflakes…Tradition!

We’ve made gingerbread houses and peppermint bark, we’re prepping for Christmas cookies and eating leftover pecan pie. My waistline might be expanding if I didn’t hit the treadmill at 5 am…Tradition!

My kids try to sneak peaks at the packages I’ve hidden on the top shelf of the closet. I’ve been bit by the same generous bug as St. Nicholas and there are presents for nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles, grandmas and grandpas, including a new game for us to all play together…Tradition!

Somewhere under a pile of school papers is the advent calendar. Every night, we clear space enough space on the table to avoid a fire hazard, when we light the Advent candles, and read a special Christmas book…Tradition!

We’ve smiled for pictures that are perfect. Stuffed messes away. We clean up real nice, but we’re starting to fray.

So purpose and meaning we seek, packing shoeboxes full of toys for kids who’ve nothing, put together scarves for the homeless, given presents to the local foster group home. And, while good and necessary and right, it still lacks a bit of something.

Perhaps it’s a leftover melancholy from my childhood, where traditions were few and far between. But as I sit here in the quiet, with my coffee, I wonder if meaning comes less from tradition, and more from the consistent presence of a loving friend or parent.

So yes, tradition has purpose and contributes to meaning. But it’s my presence inside those traditions that make the difference. And somehow that’s a little freeing.

Wishing you a blessed week…and one full of meaning with a side of holiday tradition.Tweet This

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Beautiful Thanksgiving

beautiful-thanksgiving

A few years back, on a whim, I read One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. While it might sound drastic, the book changed my life, and set me on a path that led to me starting this blog—finding beauty even when it isn’t pretty.

I’ve spent the last year studying beauty, looking for it in the most unlikely places—a friend’s horrific divorce, a sink full of dirty dishes, the death of a friend’s dad, arguments with my daughter—and mostly finding it hiding underneath life’s debris.

I found that our differences (political, ethnic, religious, etc.) are critical to creating a beautiful tapestry.

I found beauty in nature, in my own failings, when I wallow, and even in coffee.

Fact is, I find beauty nearly everywhere I look, and I am thankful.Tweet This

And that thankfulness truly has led to a better life, even science confirms it.

In the last year, I’ve watched the world shake under the strain of terror attacks, political disagreements, and war. I’ve seen people polarized against each other, and watched as darkness seemed to win. In those times and places, I’ve become more desperate for thankfulness.

And as I’ve searched and poured out thanksgiving, I’ve found it easier to see beauty, and easier to be thankful…and it’s a beautiful cycle.

So this Thanksgiving season, I’m hoping you’ll join me in searching out beauty. It may not be easy—my sink is currently overflowing with dishes, I have to run to the grocery store (again), and my friend’s cancer is still there—but perhaps together we can add just a touch of beautiful Thanksgiving to the world.

Did you like this blogpost? I’d love to have you and your friends come along with me. Please click one of the links below to share with others. Or click the follow tab in the bottom right corner and subscribe to Beautiful. Ugly. Me. I’d love to have you with me. Have a Blessed Week!

Emerging Butterfly—Beauty of Struggle

butterflyWe live near one of the most beautiful places I know, Frederick Meijer Garden. It’s a world-renown sculpture park and botanical garden.

Every March and April this organization bring in hundreds of butterfly chrysalis and moth cocoons and allow them to hatch within the confines of the tropical garden. The visitors walk inside a dreamland of fluttering color.

Awhile back, I took my daughter early specifically to watch a different display than the flying butterflies. We came to watch the butterflies emerge from their chrysalis.

It’d been a rough not the night before. Emotion overflowed my senses and my girl and I needed the retreat. Continue reading “Emerging Butterfly—Beauty of Struggle”

Oh the Humanity—Importance of Beauty

importance-of-beautyAs I sit here writing, a fall wind is rippling through the trees, late afternoon sun is dripping horizontal gold through my curtains. The riot of color outside my window makes me smile. It is, undoubtedly and, for us non-philosophy students, unarguably beautiful.

This golden snippet of time is something I look forward to all year round. The memory of days like this is what gets me through the bleak winter months. Well, that and my down parka.

See, there’s something about beauty—especially in it’s classical, fall afternoon sense.

Part of being human is the ability to recognize, look forward to, and remember beauty. Tweet This

I’m fairly certain that my dog, Odie, as smart and crazy as he is, fails to really recognize the breeze, the trees, or even a perfectly cooked steak as beautiful.

He may lift his nose in appreciation, but he fails to be profoundly thankful or reflective about a gorgeous day. Continue reading “Oh the Humanity—Importance of Beauty”

Beauty Defined

beauty-definedI suppose if we’re going to discuss beauty, it’d be important to be sure we’re all talking about the same thing. Definitions are slippery things…especially when you’re arguing that the thing you’re defining is of life and death importance, which we’ll get to next week.

Let’s start easy. I think most of us can agree on the first aspect. Continue reading “Beauty Defined”

The Irony of Beauty

beauty“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” ~ Confucius  Tweet This

A few weeks ago, my girl and I were laying side-by-side, resting from an intense game. The sun was shining on our faces, but the air was cool. A perfect late summer day, until…

Until the moment my 11-year-old rolled over squinted her eyes at me and said, “Mom, you have a lot of grey hair.” And then as her youthful eyes slid to my face, “And you look old.”

I forced out a laugh because I know she’s seeing things that have been there for a long, long, long time. But it still made me cringe.

Then my girl smiled a genuine grin, “You’re so pretty.” Wait, what?! Old is pretty?

How is old and grey beautiful?

Continue reading “The Irony of Beauty”

Worth a Thousand Words

thousand-wordsFrom the moment my daughter was born, she was most content when not inside. As a baby, the best way to calm her colicky crying was to snuggle her in a bouncy seat under the maple tree or, when it got cold, take her for a ride in a sled.

During her early years, I spent hours in the woods trailing a toddler looking for critters under overturned logs, disguised behind leaves, and lurking in the water. We amazed at how they were created to adapt to their environment and needs.

I started photographing the animals we found and put them into a book for my girl…and those little books became board books published a few years back. (Check out the All About God’s Animal series over here.)

My girl is a tween now and doesn’t need me by her side as she builds tree forts and digs for fishing worms. And so it’s been a long, long time since I hunted the woods, beaches, and waterways for critters and nature to capture on film.

my-girlUntil now. A few days ago, my girl asked me to go take pictures with her. The little dude was at soccer practice and the field is hemmed in with fields and trees—full of natural beauty, decay, and life all mixed together for us to explore. Continue reading “Worth a Thousand Words”

Success: What Is It Made Of?

successAlmost exactly a year ago, I attended a writer’s conference that was the catalyst for starting this blog and opening a Twitter account. I had already started writing my novel, tentatively titled The Way of the Sharaw. But I had no idea where to go or what to do to market the thing.

The other writers in attendance, encouraged to just start somewhere. So I did. I started last year with no social media presence. Now I have over 900 Twitter followers, and all of you supporting me (Thank you, by the way!).

It’s more, but is it enough?

Continue reading “Success: What Is It Made Of?”

When You’re Standing at a Crossroad

crossroadI’m standing at a crossroad. A place where I’m trying to make choices. Responsible choices. I’ve too much going on and I want to simplify. But then I’m confronted with brokenness, and I ache to help—to do something tangible. Sound familiar?

I suspect some of you are with me in the struggle. Often I find that I only see one step ahead, but strangely others can see more clearly than I. Perhaps, just maybe, together we can work out the next step.

As I struggle through decisions—what’s best as a mom, a writer, a wife. I’m called to be purposeful; to demand a higher level for myself; to be a clarion call of beauty, goodness, and truth—I started processing through the written word. I am, after all, a writer! What came out was the poem below.

Do I Dare Disturb the Universe*

Continue reading “When You’re Standing at a Crossroad”

Creek Water and Redemption

creek-water-redemptionThere’s just something about a creek…or, if you’re from the South or small town Indiana like my Gramma, a crick.

We had one of these magical places behind my house growing up. It was home to a huge rock, a towering sand cliff, and more horsetail reeds than a kid could possibly make into pretend salads. We hunted frogs, fish, and imaginative respite.

It was my home outside my home. So when, as an adult, I saw a creek meandering behind a beautiful house, my heart fell in love…despite the fact my husband and I were planning to move elsewhere at the time.

Weed clogged and dirty, this creek was basically run-off from all the neighbors’ yards complete with resident frogs and occasional fish. The fact that I was enormously pregnant didn’t stop me from weed-whacking the entire backyard and meticulously laying out newspaper to stop the weeds from coming back up. I still don’t know how I did it. I could barely touch my toes.

In the 8 years since we moved, our creek has filled in a bit and the frogs have moved out. My kids don’t seem quite as interested and I don’t know which came first—the disinterest or my neglect of it.

However I’m beginning to suspect that my decision to not attack the weeds and debris in our creek had a lot to do with the disinterest.

There’s reasons. Good ones. But not good enough ones.

Continue reading “Creek Water and Redemption”