Appreciating The Beautiful People

Across the sea behind the walls of a Serbian mental institution precious treasure is tucked away. This season I’m giving thanks for the people who bring beauty to my life. And I can’t pass by the beauty I found in Serbia. In a room the size of a small bedroom Chedo, Petra, Boris, and another little girl whose name I can’t remember, lie in metal cribs. Lubitsa, the nurse, sings to them. She kisses slobbery faces, strokes their heads, she feeds them, and washes them. She loves them. It is breathtaking.

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Boris looks like a toddler, he’s really 11. Lubitsa is the nurse at the front in the picture.

 

Two years ago (has it really been two years!?) I witnessed humanity in all of its raw and fragile beauty unfolding in that small room. I wasn’t prepared for the grace I saw being lived out there. I knew I would see sights that would make me cry, and I did. I knew to expect strong smells, harsh sounds, fearful emotions. Yes on all three accounts. But I did not expect to see beauty. Not like that.

In a world full of brokenness and pain, of injustice and lack – beauty is a treasure when we find it. Our souls shrivel without the nourishment beauty brings. Dom Veternik mental institution is never far from my mind. 600 souls shut away from the world. A staff without enough resources. A world that struggles to find beauty in bodies and minds measured as less than perfect. And yet I know the secret, Dom Veternik holds more beauty than the Lourve itself.

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Precious Nicola has developmental disabilities and a great big heart.

 

While we eat our Thanksgiving turkey they’ll be there. Chedo, with the bright blue eyes, Petra with the ready smile, Nicola with an enthusiastic hug. Most of them are not orphans. Their parents retain parental rights and yet without resources and support they cannot provide them a home.

But that’s not the end of the story. Lubitsa will still be singing her songs. And I’m praying that the young adults I met, Tea and Boris, who are studying to work with disabled people will make a difference in their generation. As long as we have eyes to see beauty there is hope.

Today I spent time with another group of beautiful people. My new church hosts a dinner every year for people with mental disabilities. The family life center was packed with adults with mental disabilities, their care givers, church volunteers, and teens serving the meal. What a blast! It was a party complete with music and laughter. I got to sing O Holy Night with a gentleman who has Down syndrome. It was a treat!

I’m praying that more and more people will realize that sometimes beauty is found in unexpected places and offered by unexpected people. If we keep our eyes open and our hearts expectant we will find it. Today I’m giving thanks for the beauty my life has soaked up in the presence of people living with unique challenges.

Where do you see beauty? Have you found beauty in surprising people and places?

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Appreciating the Beautiful People

This month I’m focusing my thanksgiving specifically on the people in my life that invoke beauty. Whether by their presence or their particular actions.

It would be impossible to talk about people who enrich my life without mentioning my mom and dad. Impossible I tell you!

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Their “Sparrows Nest” in North Carolina

Fall is their season. An October wedding. Her love for orange, changing leaves, cooler days. The back drop of their story, in my mind, will always be fall.

I could go all the way back to the beginning and arrive at this moment to speak of the ways they have enriched my life. I’m not talking about the basic ways they provided and taught. Parents do that, at least they’re supposed to, and mine did. I’m talking about true beauty, an enrichment.

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The beginning of the journey

Mom introduced me to a love of art, good books, poetry, classical music, nature, and design. Beauty is like life blood to her. Her surroundings have always been important, reflecting the soul. I’ve never known anyone else so capable of stretching a dime and turning ordinary items and spaces into things of beauty. She delights in the simple; stroking a cat, the ritual of tea, a night owl’s call. I’ve learned to savor from her.

My dad and I share very similar qualities. We’re dreamers. Is there a greater food for the human soul than the hopeful possibility of what might be? Dad taught me to see the world for its possibilities.

Now, in the autumn of their lives, their story is the richest. These last years have shown me that God can indeed take the ugliest of circumstances and weave them beautiful. If we let him. When cancer came knocking Mom and Dad got busy. They got on their knees, in holy surrender. They held hands, in fidelity and faith. They opened their arms and learned to savor each moment even more deeply. I don’t think I could ever say I’m glad for cancer. But I can say I’m thankful for what God has made of it in their lives.

My life is richer for having watched my parents faith journey. It has given perspective on the past and hope for the future. The curtain has been pulled back on the humble art of servanthood as I’ve watched my Dad care for Mom. And Mom, who has always shared the thrill of her discipleship journey with me, has drawn me to delve deeper into the heart of God.

I’ve learned my most important lesson about beauty from them. Beauty doesn’t happen on accident. It takes real work to see beauty and create it. Selfish eyes miss what’s valuable. Lazy hands don’t take the time to create. Unkind people never invest in what really matters – other people. I’m thankful that Mom and Dad have done the hard work of finding and cultivating beauty in their lives and mine. So many of us are better for it!

It would also be impossible to share my thankfulness for their story without mentioning my thanks for so many of you. Friends and family, you have been faithful to pray for Mom as she’s been sick. Truly, that is beautiful. Thank you!

Who has invested time and creativity in your life? Do you nurture beautiful things in those around you? 

Appreciating The Beautiful People

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Beautiful people in my life. It’s what I’m celebrating this November. Is there anything on earth to give greater thanks for than beautiful, wonderful, exquisite people? People who reflect the heartbeat of Creator God himself. I love people. And amazingly enough, so very many love me. Isn’t that a glorious thing to say? So many people love me!

This week  my heart was filled to overflowing by not just one beautiful person but a whole room full. I’m saying goodbye in a few weeks time to some very dear sisters in Christ. But before that happens they made sure I know I am loved. How did they do that? Very personally. With tea cups. And prayers, and dessert, and kind words, and hugs.

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We gathered at my friend Christy’s lovely home. Each of the women brought a tea cup for me. A taste of themselves. Some from their own set, some picked out with a friend. Those tea cups were searched for. I was thought of, and I could tell it. What amazed me is the variety and beauty of each one. The colors and patterns. It’s a patchwork of love.

I know when I drink from those cups, and I will drink from them, I’ll remember the love. Be bathed in it. More importantly I’ll share it. I can’t wait to have tea in my new home with newly made friends. The new friends might not know the story behind the tea cup they are using, but I will. I will remember that a group of women saw the best in me, forgave me, sought Jesus with me. I will remember the beauty they have brought to my life and in turn I’ll seek beauty in the lives of the new women I meet.

Life can be harsh. Many of us have experienced rejection. But there are moments when life comes into focus and we see the kaleidoscope of love God is weaving around us, using people. Not every relationship is easy. Sometimes we have to take risks. Often we have to forgive, embrace humility, bite our tongue, swallow our pride, try again. But when we press in and embrace the gift of relationship God wants to give us I think we’ll find that the community we’ve been placed in is for our good.

I’ve already used some of my new tea cups. Because love should be used, never stored up or hoarded, but shared. I let my daughter and son and their friend Raylee pick a tea cup to use for an impromptu tea party. It was lovely. Even the stuffed animals enjoyed it I believe.

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I’m amazed at the beautiful people all around me this month. Amazed at the fruit that has ripened in those relationships, fruit that is being harvested and enjoyed. Relationships aren’t easy. Not any easier than toiling in the dirt, enduring blistered hands and harsh elements. No easier than the back breaking work of hoeing and weeding. But it’s not until after that work is done that the fruit can be enjoyed.

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Press in and you’ll find in time that even the most challenging relationships can become beautiful. Relationships are worth the time and energy, as in any worthy endeavor. I hope you have a handful of women that make your life beautiful. If you don’t ask God to provide. He wants us to live in fellowship, taking risks for each other, weaving beauty into one another’s lives.

Do you have a special gift that reminds you of a person or people who have brought beauty to your life?

Appreciating The Beautiful People

We create beauty in many ways, and in huge variety. Beauty adds quality and value to life. It lifts us from the dirt. It’s a gift given by and reflective of God. Beauty is important. So often as women though, we struggle with embracing our own unique beauty. Sadly, we often overlook it in others.

Of course there are those who have been given a beautiful appearance. Think Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Carrie Underwood, etc. We should neither venerate nor shame beautiful people. But we shouldn’t limit the definition of beauty either.

Even though I wish my body looked more like Audrey Hepburn or Anne Hathaway’s I’m thankful for it. It’s beautiful to me because it’s born two children, loved a good man, hugged friends, served family, spoken truth, taken me to amazing places, and worked hard. It’s a good body. I judge it as a gift. It’s not beautiful in the same way a ballerina or models is. And that’s okay. My body is also not the only definition of beauty for my life.

We should be gentle with each other, honoring the beauty we each create with our bodies, our minds, our hearts. My life, and I’m sure yours, is better for knowing people who create beauty. Either by nurturing it in their very person or creating it in the world around them. Give thanks for the beautiful people God has blessed you with!

In November I like to write about things I’m thankful for. This season I’m appreciating the beautiful people in my life, so for the next few weeks I’m going to share some of their stories, starting with my friend Heather.

Recently we had lunch with Heather and her daughter Bella. Heather underwent chemotherapy for breast cancer all summer. It was, as you can imagine, grueling. It’s been a treat over the last few weeks to see her sparkle returning as her body heals.

At lunch Heather was telling me that her daughter Bella greets people with, “Hi my name is Isabella Jane. And this is my mom. She’s bald.” We had a chuckle over some of the crazy experiences she has as a bald woman. She rocks being bald! It’s stunning how beautiful she is physically, but her journey has also brought out a lovely inner beauty. Heather’s humor and grace under pressure has infused beauty in many people’s lives, certainly mine.

Seeing her humorous attitude and watching Bella figure out her mom’s illness inspired me to write a little story. Here it is, the story of Bella and Bald! Complete with pitiful illustrations. (Sorry Heather, proportion is not my thing, you really don’t have man arms! And as my kids informed me, my Bella doesn’t really look like Bella. Which is true.)

Bella and Bald

I have a small friend named Bella. She is smart and very funny. She twirls about when she is happy and stomps when she is mad. Her dimples make me smile. Bella is five and went to kindergarten this year.

 

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Bella has a mom and dad and a bunny named Honey Bunny. Bella’s mom is bald.

When she goes to the store she says to the lady at the check out “Hello, my name is Bella and my mom is Bald.” When she meets a new friend at school the first thing she says is, “My name is Isabella Jane and my mom is Bald.” Wherever they go she points to her mom and says, “my mom is Bald.”

Her mom wasn’t always bald. Bella remembers her mom’s long dark brown hair. She remembers the way it felt when she hugged her mom and it tickled her face. She remembers brushing her mom’s hair and putting bows and ribbons in it.

But one day last spring her mom got her hair cut really short. A few days later, when she started taking chemotherapy, she shaved it off. Bella cried.

Her mom didn’t look quite like her mom anymore. Her mom also felt sick and tired every day. It was hard for Bella to understand.

Sometimes Bella felt angry that her mom couldn’t play with her. Sometimes she felt scared or was sad. After a while Bella began to realize that her mom was still her mom. She could still hug her and love her. And now, instead of brushing her mom’s hair she put stickers on her bald head! She liked that.

When Bella meets new people she tells them her name is Bella and her mom is Bald. What she’s really saying is I’m me and my mom is just fine.

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Maybe you have a friend or family member who is bald, or who feels sick because they are taking medicine for cancer. Actually, my friend Bella and I are a lot alike. Bella’s mom and my mom both have cancer. Just like our moms your loved one is special. They are strong. And they need to know that you are you and they are just fine. So give them a hug, be brave, and love them with or without their hair.

 

This November let’s thank God for his expression of beauty in the hearts of others, beauty that brightens our lives. I’m thankful for Bella and Heather. God’s glory shines out of beautiful people. Who are you thankful for, who brightens your life?

Let’s Pray For Our Kids on this Thanksgiving Day!

Friends, I’m thankful for you!

Thankful for your reading and commenting, thankful that you join me to pray for our kids. Thankful that you let me share this journey that’s gone from accidental to purposeful. Thankful that you share your own beautiful journey with me! Truly you bless my heart.

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As we pause this Thanksgiving to savor the goodness of life, the kindness of God to us, let’s thank him for our children. As much as they may drive us crazy day to day and stretch us to our limits they are great treasures aren’t they! My children are the greatest blessings I never knew I wanted!

I hope this thanksgiving season, as we’ve practiced thankfulness as a family, my kids hearts have grown. I long for them to be blessed and be a blessing to others. I heard this gorgeous Psalm earlier in the week and I wanted to pray that it would be true in our kids lives as they grow. Feast your heart on it’s powerful words.

I give you thanks, O Lord, with all my heart;
I will sing your praises before the gods.
I bow before your holy Temple as I worship.
I praise your name for your unfailing love and faithfulness;
for your promises are backed
by all the honor of your name.
As soon as I pray, you answer me;
you encourage me by giving me strength.

Every king in all the earth will thank you, Lord,
for all of them will hear your words.
Yes, they will sing about the Lord’s ways,
for the glory of the Lord is very great.
Though the Lord is great, he cares for the humble,
but he keeps his distance from the proud.

Though I am surrounded by troubles,
you will protect me from the anger of my enemies.
You reach out your hand,
and the power of your right hand saves me.
The Lord will work out his plans for my life—
for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever.
Don’t abandon me, for you made me. Psalm 138

Father, we bow down and give you thanks for your unfailing love. We pray that your faithfulness will reach out to our children. Thank you for answering us as we pray for them, for your kindness, protection, guidance, and grace. Will you work out your plans for their lives, caring for their humble hearts, protecting and saving the little ones you have made. Thank you for blessing our lives with our children. Each one different and precious, with purpose and value. Thank you for the joy and challenge of parenting them. Thank you for walking with us on this parenting journey and strengthening our hand to the task. Amen.

I hope your day is filled with laughter, warm memories and new ones being made, and the sweet presence of Jesus. Bless you friends on this Thanksgiving day!

I want to hear about your kids! What are you thankful for in your children’s lives?