A little piece of beauty

Have you ever stumbled upon beauty in an unexpected place? Or had it bump into you at a time when you needed to see something of hope? I was reminded of a moment when this happened to me this year.

Beauty inspires me. It allows me to see something & create, fill in the unknowns of the depth below the surface. But sometimes beauty needs to be taken just at face value & heard in the quiet places. This summer, at the end of a mission trip, my friends & I took a week to explore beauty in Europe. The mission trip had been hard, challenging & beautiful in itself, but…I think we all needed a little breathing room to process all we had experienced. On the last evening, the three of us got all dressed up, did our makeup, hair & headed out for a free jazz concert in the heart of Budapest.

The concert was in an upper room of a classic WWII era building, of marble & stone. It was standing room only, and even THAT was crowded. So one of the girls & I decided to grab a glass-bottle coca-cola, and go back downstairs to a little lounge room with two sets of french doors, an over-sized fireplace and a black grand piano. The room was completely empty except for a round fellow, balding & aging quickly with round, inch-thick spectacles & a bow tie. He sat at the grand piano, alone, playing classic jazz melodies.

I looked at him & thought up this life….he was an old man, that lived a normal life. A life that had no adventure and no big casualties. One that was never written about in a book, or would never be mentioned in the papers. He probably had never been married, but had been in love once & had never forgotten her. He lived at home and took care of his even older mother who called him by his full name. Music was the one thing he did exceptionally well, and that was where his adventure was made. It was through his music that he could write songs about the extraordinary things that he never experienced but always dreamed about. Every Saturday evening he would sing softly to an empty room, hoping that his normal life would do something, for someone, someday, somewhere. And that was his life.

Of course none of this was credible in any way, because the only thing we heard from him was in Hungarian…so it was all the beautiful imagination that I’ve been gifted with, taking hold of the could-be’s of his life.

But it struck me then & again today, just how beautiful that moment was. Sitting there with a friend, listening to a contented musician play out his soul through the notes of a piano, in an empty room that was filled with beauty. Such peace surrounded us, such comfort & stillness. What beauty met us there. We didn’t think of it then, but I see it now, that God’s beauty is like that night. It’s simple. It’s beautiful & comforting. It draws you in. It is riveting & calm. Hm. To stop & notice those beautiful moments…to stop & notice how God can bring us beauty & peace…to stop & notice that He notices you, and wants to bring us beauty. It’s beautiful.

Some of the Greatest People

These past few weeks, various conversations have been brought up in different circles, just about people of real substance, people who really stand up for conviction & have charisma like not so many in this world. It make me think about all the people I’ve known who’ve been like that. I don’t think everyone knows people who are outstanding characters like this, but I’ve known quite a few!

Here are a few of the people I’ve been blessed to have in my life: My Grandpa & Grandma…both of them were so stinking cool. My grandpa had unwavering faith, and a quiet wisdom that came out when you needed it, and was witty at just the right times. My grandma was a bit more feisty, but when times were tough she always told me how we just need to trust in God. My great Aunt Helen, though her memory is now failing, is someone who for the most part I’d like to be like. When I was little, I’d stand in awe at her china cabinet full of trinkets from her travels all over the world. She was a photographer, a traveler, an adventurer & was stubborn. Ha. She never had children of her own, but always made us feel special whenever we’d visit.

Some of my friends have shown me how to stand up against discrimination, for doctrine, with dignity, and through death. These are the people you want to speak into your life, the ones who apologetically live out a real faith, fully relying on God & open enough to share when they haven’t. Strong enough to admit defeat & humble enough to recognize others’ victories. If I could make one thing certain for you, it would be salvation, if I could ask for another, it’d be that you have someone to admire as a real life liver of the gospel & faith.

I hope that one day I can be that to someone. And may you too one day be in someone’s “greatest people” list!

Just a few thoughts…

This morning, I woke up to a partly sunny day, still waking up itself. The birds were quiet, but making preparations for the days business. My neighborhood was rather quiet also, a peaceful air was all about. It was a good morning. Not to mention, it’s my birthday, so when I stepped downstairs, I was greeted with the smells of Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake (Thanks again Renee), and a BEAUTIFUL painted card (Thanks Lisa). It made me smile.
Now I’m 25. Does that make me grown? Probably…..probably more in 5 years, but for now 25 is enough. My parents harmonized the birthday song on the phone this morning, and I was impressed…they responded “yeah, it’s just one thing you learn to do over 25 years.” Which made me think about what are some of the things I’ve learned in these 25 years? So here are a few thoughts….
You really shouldn’t chase a foal from behind….especially when your mouth is within kicking distance.
Ice Cream tastes really good when it’s stirred.
The best way to warm up your feet after playing in the snow, is to hop on the couch, cover up with two blankets & stick your feet under five pillows…..while drinking hot chocolate.
A person should always bring an extra shirt along when wearing a white shirt…you just never know what could happen.
You can never leave the air conditioning on too high when you have a pet nute…and then when he’s frozen, you should never use a desk lamp to “reheat” him…it ends in death.
Carnations will eventually remind you of gas stations.
Black socks make small feet look retarded…..and that is why I despise them.
There are just some things that you want to do by yourself…and no matter how awkward it is to tell people you don’t want them around, it’s worth it.
Walking around a lake at 2am on a clear starry night is the best way to enjoy it!
You might not want to dress up your little brothers in dresses & makeup….they may live to resent you.
Blogging is a really fun & easy way to process & get thoughts out of your mind.
Being surprised by perennial lilies in your garden is a great thing.
Doing a random act of kindness is arguably more beneficial to you than for the person receiving.
Using a Kleenex while crying really does make you look old….however, it’s much more effective than your hand.
Movies should be enjoyed outdoors.
EVERYTING should be enjoyed outdoors.
Parents are brilliant…..but can’t be told that too quickly or they’ll get the big head.
Always listen before you speak, and remember you don’t always have to speak.
You have to be a friend to make a friend.
Try really really hard for things, and if you give up, remember why….and learn from it.
If you feel a strong pull on your insides to say something to someone and it seems absurd, it might be the Holy Spirit……say a 5 second prayer, say something, and see what happens.
If you have a tendency of rocking out in your car, pay attention to the people watching you…..it might be embarrassing.
When you try to jump off of a boat, make sure you don’t land on the edge…or worse.
Notice the people in your neighborhood, and appreciate the varied cultures, languages & styles.
Learning a little bit of a language can take you a long way.
Be nice to everyone.
Angels are real.
There is not many things better than laying out on a blanket, with a good book (or not) and just enjoying the sun, lake, trees, sky, clouds, people, grass, butterflies, birds, waves, boats, ducks….
Life is better when enjoyed & not critiqued constantly.
You should always keep an open mind when traveling abroad, and don’t be afraid to climb a fence.
It’s always more fun to get lost than stick solidly to a map. (If you have the time.)
….and finally, one thing I’ve learned over the last 25 years, is to really appreciate the friends & family that are so dear to me. You are all so wonderful, and I hope to learn more things from you in all of my days/months/years to come. And I know this list was a bunch of “crap” but hopefully someday you might be able to learn something from me in return! Happy Birthday to me, and thank you to all of you who helped make it a special day!

a story of hers

I had a brief thought today, a sweet one, of my grandma & I talking. She was talking, and suddenly stood up & rushed into her room. She returned promptly with a pile of loose papers. Some notebook sheets & some plain white. On it were scribbles, paragraphs, crossed out sections, arrows & lots of exclamation points and parenthesis. My grandma held it out to me, and sat down. She said “I’ve started my story for you….” She always knew just what I would love. So many days, we would sit together at her table, drinking Russian tea & buttering rhubarb bread, or eating chocolate chip zuchini cake, and talking…..talking about everything that would pass through our minds. (And being Dutch women, it could get pretty random.) She would tell me stories about when she was young, and growing up. Stories about the farm, and the men who would milk the cows. I’d ask her about cooking, or how to fix something. When I would get stuck with a recipe, I’d call my grandma first. I guess I figured I knew my mom would know the answer, but why not go straight to HER source?

Anyway, one day I remember talking with my grandma & asking her if she would write some of her stories down. She modestly told me that she didn’t have anything interesting to say. I just laughed. Of course she had interesting things to say…she was my grandma! Needless to say, when she brought out that stack of papers of her stories & memories, I was touched…more than touched. I felt love. She was so wonderful. Always thinking of other people…and I was her favorite, so of course she’s do that for me. (That’s a joke in my family,….i’m not just conceited.) Those pages, her history & thoughts, the way she would explain what things were….gentle yet so matter of fact.

I’m reading a book now, called “For one more day” by Mitch Albom, and for a second, I thought….if I could have one more day with someone, it’d definitely be my grandma. I miss her incredibly. I wouldn’t want to do anything extreme, just take off my shoes & sit indian style on her blue kitchen chairs. Pull up a cup of tea & listen. I could listen to her tell me stories for days. Her facial expressions were one in a million. Oh for one more day. Just one.

A Ray of Hope

This morning, I was on my way to work & the sky looked dreary, almost angry…the clouds were shrouding the sky. The colors were various shades of gray & ….gray. But then as I drove, I noticed a spot, small at first and then I noticed it more and more…this opening amidst the clouds. Clear blue sky shone through. In the middle of this expansive gray mess, was this beautiful section of crystal sky! How gorgeous I thought. Right here is hope that today might actually turn out okay.

I had woken up feeling a little off, as I had a dream that brought up memories I wasn’t prepared to think about. It made me think about the hope that we have in the Lord…that someday, things will be better. I can tell you that recently I’ve felt “good” about where I’m at spiritually, which made me a little cautious because that’s not always a good sign… it was clear to me then, that I had been slipping into a state of “okay-ness,” not really pushing the envelope with my faith or hope. Then I read Psalm 131:3, which says “O Israel, put your hope in the LORD both now & forevermore.” It was like….hello….your faith & hope can’t just be one day & not the next. It needs to be always, even when it’s rough outside, or even when you’re facing your past. I was also encouraged by the passage “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.” (Psalm 31:24) I was encouraged to just keep on.

But where do I look? Apparently the same question was in David’s mind too when he wrote “But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.” (Psalm 39:7) I thought about the clouds, and how it looked so dead….except for that one spot. I needed to look for that spot, and when I found it, it was bright, clear & promising. I knew there was hope. It wasn’t contingent on me finding it, but was there anyway. It was there waiting. Steady & secure…above all the troubles the clouds were mimicking. On my drive, I prayed something similar to Romans 15:13 where it says “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

So as “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.” (Psalm 130:5)