Friday, January 31, 2014

January Harvest

One picture on Monday, one on Tuesday, three on Wednesday, none on Thursday... this is the way it goes.  My original goal was to take a picture every day of something that I found beautiful, but life frequently gets in the way of goals and I have learned that it's just best to be flexible about those sorts of things.  The important thing is the direction I'm moving; and here at the end of the month I have 31 pictures of things that I found to be beautiful this January - one per day instead of one a day?  I hardly notice the difference in those phrases and therefore deem this a success!

 1 - "Sunrise Through a Life Preserver at Post Eleven"

2 - "Gray Curls and New Talents" - Sitting in Starbucks with my peppermint hot chocolate, a lady in red sat next to me and asked the couple seated on the couch if she could sketch them. Twenty minutes later she revealed her work, and neither subject could tell which one was which... an awkward moment that turned beautiful when the artist mentioned that she had only just begun learning how to sketch and was excited for her talent to grow.  I hope I keep learning all through my life, too.
3 - "Sunset Reflecting in Puddles After Rain"
4 - "Sunrise Stillness"
5 - "Dancing Grasses"
6 - "Clean Reflection" - one great thing about having white/grey swirling tile squares all throughout the house... it sure looks clean when it's clean!
7 - "To Beaches = To Home"
8 - "Lurking.  Lurking.  Lurking."
9 - "Truffula Trees, True and Real"
10 - "A Splash of January Color"

11 - "Reach"

12 - "Expensive Fountain in an Expensive Mall" - We felt slightly out of place.  But it was beautiful...
13 - "Nothing Says Love Like This" Lots of visitors combined with Timothy's less than stellar sleeping habits as of late has meant that we frequently have to keep him entertained in our bedroom during the quiet hours of the early morning.
14 - "Finding Dory"
15 - "Heart to Heart" - we absolutely love having all of these visitors.
16 - "Dew Drop Greets the Morning Sun"
17 - "Layers of Softness"
18 - "Old Knot"
19 - "Joy of New Shoes"
20 - "Parenting with Power and Purpose" - Been thinking a lot about this lately... this idea of really nailing down some things that we want our children to take with them when they leave our home and then parenting to those means.  Brian helping me brainstorm?  Beautiful.  (Even if his brainstorm had 7 ideas and mine had 70.)

21 - "Persistence"

22 - "The Beauty of Every Morning"
23 - "A Mothers Pride"  I watched this mother lovingly dress and carry this tiny baby (2 months?) into the pool where she pulled him around in the floaty and took pictures of him with her phone.  Her joy and pride in him was almost tangible, and it was beautiful to me.
24 - "All is Quiet" - after so many nights of restless sleeping, that quiet monitor is a beautiful sight, indeed.
25 - "Children watch the Sunset" - will these kids even remember how wonderful this year has been?
26 - "Different shades of green"
27 - "Midday Rainbow"
28 - "Natural Light"
29 - "Rainy Days"
30 - "Moon Reflection"

31 - "Sailing Under Tabletop Clouds"

I've found something interesting this month.  When I started this project, I simply assumed that I would be looking for beauty with my eyes... but the things that have had the most impact on me so far have been the things I have found beautiful in my heart.   Brian's participation in our parenting goals; the grey-haired lady in Starbucks; the visitors we've had; the mother in the pool; Brian sitting up with TK in the middle of the night.... maybe I'll try looking less with my eyes and more with my heart as time goes on...

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Connecting with a Child

You wake.  The rustling starts in your room - I feel it more than hear it.  And then the squeak of the hinges from your bedroom door fills the silence.  I hear your feet slapping against the tile floor before I see you.  And I don't know yet how our morning will go.  You come around the corner and stop to stare at me for a few seconds.  I drop whatever I'm doing and turn to you with a toothy smile and open arms and tell you how happy I am that you are awake.  Some mornings you climb into my lap.  Those are my favorite mornings because those mornings are easy.

Other mornings your eyebrows furrow in my direction.  Your shoulder turns as I reach for a hug and I see the anger in your eyes. On those mornings you make me work harder for that smile I love so much. But that smile comes, now.  If I work.  Always.
This is progress.

I've studied you.  For four years and seven months I've watched.
And succeeded.

There is one lesson, one most important lesson, that I have learned about you.

You feel love through service.

It took me four years to figure out this truth in you.  Four years is much too long to find a truth as important as this, and for that I am sad.  But I am happy that it did not take longer.  I am happy I took the minutes, the hours, the days, the months, and the years to ponder about you.
Because now
I know.

It is not really in my nature to serve.  And you are good for me in that way.  You are making me into a better person because I care enough about you to change myself.  The progress is slow.  But it is moving.

It is not really in my nature to serve, even though my days are filled with serving.  But I see now that folding your laundry means little to you today.  Much greater is the time I take away from the folding to help you reach that toy.
To fill your cup with fresh water.
To tie that string around your toy car.
To read that storybook.
To serve you in ways that you feel,
ways that you see,
ways that you understand.

So that is why, on the days when you awake with furrowed eyebrows and anger in your eyes, I dance in service circles around you.  That is why, when I see that my service has erased your furrowed eyebrows and replaced the anger in your eyes with joy and love, you see my fist pump the air.

Because I love you.
Because I want you to know that.
Because I want you to feel that.
And that moment when my heart connects with yours and I know you've felt my love?
That is a beautiful moment.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Walking in the Light

Down the sandy beach path.

Through the park.

Along the paved running trail parallel to the ocean.

This is the way to our gorgeous new (to us), coral rock church building. 

Two miles between us and the church that are full of beautiful, beautiful scenery and - on the way home - sunset lighting. I may melt from happiness.

Did I mention it overlooks the bay?

Our ward congregation split last week and formed a (smaller) ward and a brand new branch.  We, along with the other members who live up along the beach, have been put into the new branch and could not be more excited about it. I've never been part of a branch before (a congregation that is too small to qualify as a 'ward') and the quaint feelings of intimacy and the electrifying feelings of missionary work combine together in such a unique way that I am so glad my children (and Brian and I) get to be part of it for a little while.

Two miles is a bit long for little legs, but we've never been this close to a church building before (in the last decade or so) and so the pull of the Sunday walk-to-church was too strong to ignore.  McKenzie, Timothy, and I thoroughly enjoyed it and, well, we'll work on the rest of the family. 

The first Sunday of the year, our sacrament meeting held maybe 30 people in the pews.  I had 6 of them.  The other large family had 7.  And 4 of them were missionaries. 

Last Sunday the number had jumped to around 50. 

A lot of that jump had to do with people coming back into town after the holidays, but the gospel is spreading like wildfire down here, and the missionaries are working so hard (around 80 baptisms in our ward alone last year).  I've been asked to teach the adult Sunday school class and was moved close to tears last Sunday as I watched the hard faces of adults who had been through hell and back soften with the simple truth that we are children of God.  And that he loves us.  

I feel so indebted to the Lord for allowing me to grow up with these truths being whispered into my ear.  I've heard conversion story after conversion story after conversion story and they all have a ring of similarity to it: I am happier now because of this. I know who I am. I know why I'm here. And I feel so much love.

I'm not sure how I got so lucky to be able to learn and teach this beautiful gospel in such a beautiful building. 

But I'll be keeping this harvest close.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

New Year, New Direction

I always take a deep breath at the beginning of each year.  It's not really something I consciously do, and I admit that it's a little bit quirky, but it's something that has become so consistent in my life that I expect it, I wait for it, and when it comes I smile through it.  It's not so much a deep breath of preparation for coming months ahead, nor is it a deep breath for the completion of months behind...  It's mostly a deep breath that fills my lungs and my soul with insight about where I am in life right now, and with promise that the coming year will bring both happiness and growth (which sometimes are the same thing and other times are not).  The deep breath smells sweetly of fresh beginnings, of no mistakes, of potential, and it finally exhales into resolutions to be a little better, to try a little harder, to pray and smile and listen a little more, and to enjoy this journey of life that I am living.

This year my deep breath came on the second of January.  I closed my eyes when I felt it tickle in the back of my throat, I let it come deeply, and as it filled my lungs I thought about my life.  So many changes, I thought.  I've been through so many changes over the past year and I have so many changes coming up in the present one.  I felt a warm sense of accomplishment for the way I've handled the changes of the past year, and at the same time a sharp sting of resolve to handle the anticipation of the coming changes with more grace than I have been.  It's been ugly, folks... the anxiety of this upcoming move has kept me awake at nights and the sadness I feel at leaving this lush east-coast for the barren desert rolls around inside of me like barbed wire.  My mind has figuratively picked apart the desert countryside of my future and has been exploring the dark crevices of my fears.  But they remain dark.  I do wish the hot sun would shine on them and take the mystery away from their shadows, but that is not possible.  I don't like the ugliness I feel, so by the time my breath slowly exhaled I had made my new years resolution.  I will harvest beauty this year.

In order to help me with this goal, I've decided to give my blog over to the idea.  I've changed the title from Turning Tomorrow into Yesterday into Harvest Beauty, and I will try to write my posts accordingly.  I've found that, even through the darkest trials of my life, there is always beauty.  Always something to hold on to, always something that shows that God is mindful of us and of our lives.  This is my resolution this year.  To remember that in every life painting, there is a brush stroke of beauty.  Sometimes it's the entire painting itself, and other times it's hidden in the painting like a clever artists name.  Regardless of its size, my goal is to find it, recognize it, harvest it, and keep it in my heart.

I'm reminded of the story of Joseph of Egypt who harvested and stocked and saved for seven years while the crops were plentiful, and when the seven years of famine came he was ready and did not suffer. 

I will keep as much of the harvest here as I can so that it will be readily available to me (and to you if you want) when beauty is in short supply. 

Here's to a beautiful 2014.