Monday, January 9, 2017

Flaws and Beauty

Over Thanksgiving we met two of our children (and their families) who live in the southern part of the US and spent the holiday with them on the Gulf Coast, in a town called Navarre. The beach was beautiful--white sand as far as we could see. And, because it was "winter," the beach was pretty much our own. Our condos looked out on the ocean, which was sparkling and clear. From the pier, we could see all the way to the sandy bottom of the water, so we could observe small sharks, stingrays, and the large turtles that flocked the area (probably because of the turtle rescue facility there).

I read a little about the area. It seems that the town was the site for the filming of the second Jaws film. Eerie to think about when we were in the water! But the town--and the beach--had been partially destroyed several times since then by hurricanes. When the hurricanes come, the beach is often erased by the wind and waves. Afterward, new sand is dredged up from under the water and blown onto the beach again. That can explain why it is so white and clean, I suppose. And filled with shells.

In my office, I have a bowl of shells I have collected from beaches I have visited around the world. I can't remember which shell is from which beach anymore, but I put them in a clear bowl to remind me of the beaches I have visited. Favorite memories. On this trip, my grandchildren had collected grocery bags full of shells and laid them out to examine on the deck of the condo. As I looked at them, admiring their beauty, I realized that none of the shells was perfect. Each had a flaw of some sort. I imagined the flaws were the result of some ocean hazard--waves beating them against the sand, currents carrying them against rocks, even sea creatures using and then discarding them. Each mark that made the shell imperfect was the result of a struggle, but each mark, now, on the shore, drying in the sun, made the shells beautiful. Unique. Strong. They had survived intact. As I studied them, I realized that in each case, the beauty of each shell existed in the aspects that might be considered flaws. Just like us: it isn't perfection that makes us special. It is the way we carry our struggles and move on. Smoothing over the broken edges and becoming something else. Something better.

Thursday, October 20, 2016


The word "serendipity," I learned, was coined in 1754 in a letter from one author to another, explaining the happy chance of learning something he had wondered about in a book he was reading. When I look up the word online, I find lots of boundaries for it--it can't be looked for, as it is partly related to chance; it isn't planned, but it can occur in the process of a planned event; it is always happy (there is another word for unhappy things that happen randomly; and it isn't just a synonym for chance as there's the happy element to it, too. I guess I would say that being in the right place at the right time to experience something that might not have occurred at another time or place--and that the experience is happy--is a good way to summarize what I read.

This morning I was walking from my car to my office and just happened to spy a hot air balloon flying low over the south end of campus, just above the trees. It had the morning sun shining on it, making it almost sparkle. I grabbed my phone to snap a photo before it was gone.
It looked like it was just sitting there, balancing on the trees. I just had to smile. Big.  

A few weeks ago, my husband and I were running an errand as the sun was setting. I commented on the beauty of the reflected rays of the snow on the mountain tops. I said, "Pull over. Let me take a picture!" He did and I did. I took three, trying to get some trees in the shot to frame the mountain better than in this first shot. But even in the moments spread from the first photo to the third, the sun had changed; the colors were not as spectacular. The moment was gone, almost as fast as I could say how beautiful it was. 

These are truly serendipitous moments, captured because I was in a time and place at just the right moment to see the beauty. I think of all the moments like this in my life--fleeting, happy, beautiful. Sometimes I try to take a mental picture, but they fade. These moments add something to the beauty of my life. In my church, we have a phrase, "tender mercies," to describe the little ways God blesses us that we might not notice if we aren't paying attention. I think these serendipitous moments are tender mercies. Like a genuine smile or a hug from a friend when you're feeling down, they are small in the big picture but oh so meaningful in terms of our spirit. I need to pay attention. I know there are more of them in my life than I remember. And how rich would my life be if I could record and remember them all! 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Fences and Sky

Fences and sky
Boundaries and freedom
Fences stretching to horizon,
Boundaries on what I can do,
Where I can go.

Built tough.
By hands meant to tame
Meant to separate
Yours and mine.
Meant to show
What is. 

Beyond the fence is sky.
Open, free, ever-changing.
God’s gift of potentials. 

Fences against sky.
Both frame and free.
Fences leading to sky.
Together: beauty. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

balloons and beauty

We spent Labor Day weekend with our kids and grand-kids in Boise. They have a tradition of going to the balloon festival on Saturday morning. We have tried to go with them before, but the weather didn't cooperate, so the balloons couldn't go up. We wondered about their insistence that we go: we had to get up really early (on a Saturday morning!) to leave the house by 6AM. We stopped and got donuts and milk along the way, but we were at the park just as the sun was coming up. Clouds came and went, but the day was pretty nice (even if a little cool). I have to say, now that I've seen it, I can see why they make the effort. It was amazing. The announcer gives the clearance to inflate, and, suddenly all around us these giant balloons start filling and then rising. We were up close to see them go. And they flew right over our heads, many of them waving, some of them tossing candy from just above us.

Last week I wrote about the glow worm caves. They were something to see! And when I was at the balloon festival, I found myself thinking how beautiful it was--all those varied colors and shapes floating by against the clouds and sky. This time, though, the beauty was man-made, not nature-made. Still, it was breath-taking, and I was reminded that beauty comes in many forms. Now that the leaves are turning, maybe it's time for a trip to the mountains and try nature-made beauty again?

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

beautiful world

Last week I was in New Zealand. I loved the tour of the Hobbit village--all those colorful round doors! But I can't stop thinking about a tour of Waitomo Caves.

For one thing, they are beautiful caverns. Pink stalactites and stalagmites in graceful swirls in every glance. I kept thinking that it was real. Real. It took millions of years to form. But we could see something like this that Disney had made. It could look exactly the same. But this was real. This was created by the beautiful processes at work in nature, not fabricated by man.

The breathtaking aspect of these caves, though, were the glow worms. Glow worms--yes, like the nursery song--are real! They don't exist in very many places. Lots of caves in New Zealand and Australia, a few in the British Isles, one place each in the US (Alabama), India, Pakistan, and Morocco. Rare!

All glow worms are insects, but they are not all the same. The reason for the glow and the part of the body that makes the glow differs among the different kinds of worms. The ones we saw use the lights to attract bugs to eat. It seems kind of gross, in some ways. And when they showed us the webs that string among the worms, that seemed a little creepy. But when the guide took us in a boat, in a slow river, in the dark, without lights, the view was amazing. Magical. Like something I have never seen before. A night sky filled with millions of stars, so close they feel like they hang in your hair. Something beautiful and odd and wonderful and secret. Lovely.

Image result for photo of waitomo caves

Tuesday, February 2, 2016


I caught my grand-daughter with watching a movie on her mom's phone:

I don't know why she decided to watch her movie in such a position, draped up the stairs. It must not have been too uncomfortable, though, because I think she watched two episodes of Bubble Guppies.

I am amazed at little children's attachment to, interest in, and facility with technology. This grand-daughter is 2 years old. But she can use the correct remote to turn on the TV and switch viewing to Netflix or Amazon, depending on what she wants to watch. If she plays with my phone, I have no idea what the settings will be the next time I use it. She found the remote to the digital frame we have; the next thing I knew my son in Boise was calling asking me why I was sending two pictures a minute to his email account. I wasn't doing it. Somehow Tatum had figured out that she could email the photos from the digital frame. Since she doesn't read in the traditional sense, I know she didn't know the email recipient, but still. . . she was doing it.

So, when I think how attached I am to my phone and all it does, and when I think of how fast technology changes, and when I think of all these 2-4 year-olds who use any kind of technology like they were born to do it, I do wonder about the future. If I, who came late to technology, still find it difficult to live without it, what will they do? At least I have meals where I leave the phone somewhere else and look at/talk to the person I am eating with. I see couples at restaurants who never talk because they are both on their phones. I see my own grandchildren texting each other when they are in the same room. Is this our path? Technology has so many benefits. I love it. But I can also see its challenges. I hope little people like Tatum are up to it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016


We drove to Idaho this past weekend to visit with one of our sons and his family. The road was fine, but we went through several patches of thick fog. For long stretches of time, it was hard to tell the sky from the ground.

Even when the fog lifted at brief moments, the world beyond the fog was all white and gray. In the fog, my eyes strained to see very far ahead of me, but I had to wear sunglasses because the glare was so intense. It was bleak and it was beautiful.

I am reminded that the way we look at things can often make them become what we want to see or expect to see. The angle I look from, the lens I use. . . all of these make a difference in my seeing. I try to keep positive, to look from a position of goodness, but sometimes life events make that difficult. I hope the hours of driving, of striving to see well, will be a good reminder to look well, to see good no matter what.