LeAnne Martin
Beauty and the Beholder

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Beauty of Christmas

A few months ago in early fall I wrote an article about Christmas. My assignment was to explore what the birth of Christ might have meant to God the Father. I approached it at first with trepidation. How could I begin to fathom what giving His only Son to us cost Him? The scripture "His thoughts are higher than our thoughts" kept coming to mind. Humbling though it was, I enjoyed the experience very much. I used Handel's Messiah and the prophecies referenced in that wonderful work as my framework. If you'd like to read the article, click here.

Thank you for reading this blog. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Beauty in Architecture

This week on my arts blog I'm featuring Dr. Jane Paradise Wolford, who seeks to "enlighten the public about the transformational potential of architecture." She has a Doctorate in Architecture (in History, Theory, and Criticism) from the Georgia Institute of Technology in addition to her Masters degree in Architectural History from Georgia Tech. She has some interesting things to say about beauty and design. I had to share them with you.

Jane says, "I think architecture reveals a lot about God’s role as Architect and Builder (Hebrews 11:10). In the Old Testament he gave very specific instructions to Moses (Exodus 26), David (1 Chron. 28:11-19), and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 40) about the construction of his places of worship --- from the choice of the builder down to the smallest details ---- design mattered to Him.

"God is also concerned with beautiful design in his creation of nature everywhere. Oceans, mountains, trees, plants, flowers, etc. point to God’s wondrous sense of design – and we haven’t even touched upon his marvelous creation of the human body. All his creations (disclaimer --- as he created them) are not only magnificently beautiful, but are awe-inspiring. The colors of vegetation and natural landscape features such as mountains or oceans both complement and contrast each other in color, texture, structure, and a multitude of other qualities. But dissonance and ugliness are not qualities of God’s creations in their pristine state. Only man’s fallen nature interjected these ugly realities into his earthly paradise. Peace, Joy, Harmony, Beauty, and Order were subservient to the promptings of man’s will after the fall. In our imperfect nature beauty can be stumbled upon every now and again --- but it is not the norm. This is what the study of architecture can teach us about ourselves – we crave balance, stability, order and beauty. Good architecture can speak to these needs."

What are some of your favorite buildings or styles of architecture? I'd love to know.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Happy Tree

Our region has been in a drought for quite some time. Today beautiful, life-giving, thirst-drenching rain is falling steadily. I love the sound of the rain falling through the trees onto the curled-up leaves on the ground.

Inside, the Christmas tree is brightly lit and adorned from top to bottom with ornaments. My favorites include anything my daughter made, formal glass and crystal shapes, and funky folk art dogs and reindeer. I also like the purple and royal blue plastic balls that hang everywhere. Tiny white lights provide background blink. Ours is a happy tree--something I really seem to need this year.

Today I'm grateful for so much beauty in my life--the rain, the woods outside, the happy tree inside, the crazy canine at my feet, my beloved husband and daughter, family and friends, and above all the Christ whose birth we celebrate. What are you grateful for?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Wonderfully Made

For my friend Eileen, who is very sick, and for you and for me, too. The beauty of a personal God.

"O Lord, you have searched me and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord.

"You have hemmed me in--behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

"Where can I go from your Spirit?
where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make me bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

"For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

"How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand.
When I awake, I am still with you.

"Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting."

Psalm 139:1-10, 13-18, 23-24

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

In Sickness

My friend Eileen is lying in the hospital this morning, very very sick. Two years ago, another friend named Julie--a regular reader of this blog-- was also very sick and spent part of the holidays in the hospital, too. Today I'm filled with thanks that Eileen is still with us, at least for now, and that Julie has recovered fully and is now the mother of a beautiful little boy.

Julie sent me an email several months ago about the beauty she found even in her hospital room. I'm going to share it below. Hug your family and friends close this Thanksgiving, and let the beauty around you remind you of all there is to thank God for.

"The first time I had an extended stay in a hospital bed was at the end
of October 2006. The hospital was brand new and I had a large private
room with a large window. The view inside was clean and nice. The
hospital sits in the middle of a business and shopping district but from
my 4th story window the only thing I could see was a patch of trees
wearing the most vibrant Autumn colors. I remember staring out the
window for hours taking in the extraordinary colors of God's creation.
I don't think a trip to the Mountains would have given me a more
beautiful display of the season.

"A few weeks later I again was in the
hospital this time for a much longer stay, in a more serious condition,
and in the middle of the Christmas Holiday. This time my room was small
and the view was that of a parking lot and a highway. The weather
seemed to be overcast and dark everyday. I missed the view of the
beautiful trees but I found plenty of beauty inside those 4 walls. The
love of God expressed in the form of family and friends who brought such
comfort and joy both in the hospital and during my long recovery at
home. I found beauty in the medical staff who so carefully cleaned and wrapped
wounds that were so ugly I was unable to look upon them myself. I found
beauty in the feel of the breeze on my face after being inside in a bed
for more than 2 weeks. I now try to remember how many things there are
in everyday life that are beautiful and I try to stop and appreciate
them, and thank God for them."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Four-Legged Beauty

One type of beauty in my life has four legs and fur. My dog is a black Lab/shepherd mix, which means her ears stand at attention and her gorgeous face is a Lab's. Dark brown eyes, a little patch of white on her chest, and a heart that desperately wants to please. When she's running, she's a streak of black grace. She jumps the five deck stairs with ease and can pull to a stop in front of the door in two seconds flat. She bounces from side to side in the air when she's playing or contemplating a treat. She makes us laugh.

Dogs have been on my mind the last few weeks for a number of reasons: I'm working on an article about them; we lost our oldest Lab a year ago this month; we're thinking of getting a new buddy for our current one. We've been working with a local and very good Lab rescue to find the perfect new addition to our home. Each dog they're adopting has his or her picture on the website. Talk about beauty--face after gorgeous face in assorted colors. They look similar, of course, at first glance, but they are all different. One little guy has the head of a Lab on the body of a basset hound. Another one has a blue eye and a brown eye. A third has two pale blue eyes set in almost white fur. Arresting.

I'm a Lab lover from way back. I love their big hearts, outgoing personalities, and friendly faces. When I look at my dog, I think, Wow, God, look at her! Look at what you made. It's very good. Thank you.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

And Now A Word from You...

My daughter is home sick from school today and I don't feel that good myself so I'd like to hear from you. Please leave me a comment or email me about any of these topics:

--a special experience you had with beauty
--your favorite type of beauty (visual arts, music, literature, creation, etc.) and why
--a quotation about beauty

I would love to hear from you.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Sculpture in Motion at the Atlanta Botanical Garden

Last week on a crisp, sunny day, I went to see a unique art exhibition at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. The gardens are always a delight and the visiting exhibition added an extra level of form and beauty. I wrote about it on my arts blog if you'd like to know more.

Wherever you are today, look for and enjoy the beauty around you.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Dallas Kinney: A Closer Look

You may have wondered why I never include photographs on this blog. After all, wouldn't a blog about beauty be better served by photos than words? I don't think so. First, I write about types of beauty that are not visual so a photo wouldn't help. And when I do write about visual beauty, I want to create images with my words. I want readers to use their imagination to do a bit of work for that bit of beauty.

All that said, today I'm going to make an exception and share a link to some exquisite photographs of creation taken by Pulitzer-Prize winning photographer, Dallas Kinney. Dallas' work always slows me down for a closer look. Check it out. I believe you'll enjoy it as much as I do.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Picking Flowers in the Fall

Yesterday I was out of town with my daughter (which is why I'm just posting today). When we came home, we took our dog for a walk. It was another warm, beautiful fall day--I know I'm going to miss these days when the weather turns cold. As we neared the house, I told my daughter I wanted to show her something. After putting our dog in the house and grabbing some old kitchen shears, we trudged through crunchy leaves in the front yard. Extremely wide, our front yard curves out toward the street so that when you're in the driveway you can't see where the lawn ends. But you can see what's growing there.

Looking at the scissors in my hand, she asked, "Are we going to pick flowers?" I nodded as we walked toward the large camellia tree that we tend to forget about until it blooms in the fall and late winter. And boy is it putting on a show right now! It's absolutely covered with blooms and with buds that will soon be ready. Dark, waxy leaves highlight the delicate white flowers with tinges of pink on the petals. 

When the camellia blooms again in the winter, I will ask the same rhetorical question I always ask: how can a flower so fragile survive such cold weather? It looks like it belongs to April or May, yet I'm glad it doesn't wait until then. Seeing its beauty in the dead of winter heartens me. It reminds me that spring is coming--not right away but soon enough.

My daughter and I chose a few flowers and snipped them off. She was surprised to see the petals of the mature ones falling even as we gathered them, so we picked buds that look like they open in a day or two. I hope they do. With pumpkins, mums, and fall leaves ruling outdoors this time of year, it's nice to have fragile-looking, spring-like beauty inside.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Quotes about Creation

I'm running late this morning so I thought I'd share with you some quotes about beauty in creation that I found the other day. 

"All seasons are beautiful for the person who carries happiness within." Horace Friess
"Flowers are words which even a baby can understand." Quentin Crisp
"Where flowers bloom so does hope." Lady Bird Johnson
"What the caterpillar calls the end of the world the master calls a butterfly." Richard Bach
"A butterfly lands where it pleases and pleases where it lands." Anonymous
"A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song." Chinese proverb
"What is one to say about June, the time of perfect young summer." Gertrude Jekyll
"Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole." Roger Caras
"How kind you were to open the gates of heaven and give me that little glimpse of Paradise." From an 18th-Century letter

What are some of your favorite quotes about beauty? I'd love to know. Please leave me a comment.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Fragrance of Fall

Today as we were walking the dog, a light breeze blew across my face, bringing with it the scent of fall. It's a crisp but smoky smell, even when there's no fire. It's so different from the scent of the other seasons. It says, "Change is coming!" 

The sense of smell is not one we typically think of as a conduit for beauty. But certain fragrances call to my mind memories of beauty from the past. 

For instance, a few years ago, I visited a centuries-old church while on vacation. The smell of the burning candles followed me to every corner of that building. As I looked at the historic frescoes and the architecture, the fragrance of the candles deepened the experience for me. I can smell them now.

Another fragrance that calls to mind an experience of beauty was the flowers in my wedding bouquet. Stargazer lilies, purple stock, delphiniums, blue iris, and seafoam statice with a purple ribbon made a breathtaking arrangement. As I held the gorgeous bouquet in my hand, the fragrance accompanied me throughout the most beautiful day of my life. Whenever I'm near a stargazer now, the scent takes me back to that day.   

Now, as fall continues to unfold and the leaves curl and come down, my daughter will soon remind me about one of her favorite things to do. Last year, on a warm fall afternoon, we raked a huge pile of leaves in the front yard and jumped in them. We hopped in and kicked, and threw leaves at each other. I took several photos of her but of course the camera couldn't capture the fragrance in the air. But some aspects of beauty simply can't be captured. Beauty has to be enjoyed in the moment, treasured and remembered for years to come.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Beauty of Theater

On Sunday afternoon I saw a show filled with moments of beauty, and I've been thinking about the story and singing the music ever since. Here's more.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Messages of Love

My husband has a knack for picking out the best cards, whether for my birthday, Mother's Day, Christmas, whatever. Usually the card has a visual element that makes it special--a die cut heart or a small handmade collage or my favorite colors. What I like best are the handwritten notes that he adds at the bottom. My first Mother's Day card from him remains a favorite because he wrote a sentence or two about why he thinks I'm a good mother. I really needed to hear that from him then as we were learning how to be newlyweds with a five-year-old in the house.

Through the years, my daughter has given me many notes to treasure as well. One that she made in art camp as a kindergartner rests in the stand-up file tray on my desk. It's a pastel picture of a sunset across the sea, complete with a desert isle and a palm tree. In the colorful sky, she wrote: "Mama, you take good care of me!"

When I get a note that's meaningful, I keep it out or keep it accessible so I can pull it out whenever I want to see it. Re-reading those messages of love or encouragement lifts my spirits again. It's just for a moment, but a life of beauty is made up of little moments of beauty. And I want as many of those moments as possible.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Word

The beauty of the written Word. Familiar, well-loved scripture filled with metaphors that become richer every year. Here are two of my favorite poetry passages:

"You turned my wailing into dancing; 
you removed my sackcloth and 
clothed me with joy, 
that my heart may sing to you and 
not be silent. 
O Lord my God, I will give you 
thanks forever" (Psalm 30:11-12).

"He tends his flock like a shepherd;
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young" (Isaiah 40:11).

This week, reread your favorite passage--for the beauty of it.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Music That Inspires

I'm listening to Handel's Messiah. I don't usually listen to music when I'm writing because I'm easily distracted. I like to sing, hum, and even dance sometimes, and I don't get much work done. I've been singing along to Messiah, though, and boy, are those soprano notes high! I can still hit them but occasionally it sounds like...well, it sounds like shrieking. When my dog's ears start twitching, I stop.

I can hardly keep from singing, though. The music is gorgeous and so familiar--my concert choir sang the Christmas portion of Messiah every year in high school. To me, that was the highlight of the season.

So why am I listening to Christmas music when it's only September? I'm writing an article and Handel's genius is inspiring me. I should be working on that article right now but I wanted to take a minute to ask you this: What music inspires you? Do you have a favorite piece from your past that you haven't listened to lately? Pull it out and turn it up. See where it takes you. And leave a comment later.

Oh, "For Unto Us a Child is Born" just came on! I've got to go. Enjoy the beauty of music today.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Looking for Beauty

I love this quote:

"Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing." Camille Pissaro

This week, look for beauty in humble places and then please leave a comment about what you find. I would love to know about it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Our area has struggled from the lack of rain these past few years. The drought has been severe. This year, however, we've had just enough rainfall to allow us to water our flowers every other day (and it could be much worse.) One day last week, I forgot about watering, and the petunias looked as thought they would never make it back to their former glory.

This week, Tropical Storm Fay has sent us quite a bit of rain. It has fallen steadily for two days. On Monday, my daughter and I made a quick trip to the grocery store. As we pulled into the parking lot, the clouds opened up. We dug around inside the car for umbrellas. So armed, we stepped out of the car and sloshed into the biggest puddle I've ever seen. The water washed over my flip flops, soaking my feet and making it difficult to walk without slipping. I was grateful for the rain but grumpy to be paddling in it.

Earlier in the summer, my softball team stepped onto the field with heavy gray clouds overhead. Soon, a few spatters became a steady fall. Three outs later, we huddled in the dugout and surprisingly, I felt cold. A hot summer evening mixed with enough rain for a good soaking and a gentle breeze on top of that made for one chilly third baseman. I was grateful for the rain but glad when the game finally ended.

Although rain can be dangerous and costly--as our neighbors to the south are experiencing with Fay--still I love the sound of it, whether a gentle shower or rushing downpour. And the smell, too--fresh and clean. But what I love most of all is what it leaves behind: grass greener than before, lush plants and colorful flowers. And water to sustain our lives too. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Oranges are Orange

I dislike going to the grocery store. I do. I either put it off until we're out of everything but pickles and a three-year-old can of cream of chicken soup, or I zip in for 15 minutes, filling my cart with whatever I can grab in that amount of time. Sometimes I wait until after school so my daughter has to go with me. Having her company makes it more enjoyable (although she doesn't like it much either).

All that said, my favorite area at the grocery store is the produce department. All those fruits and vegetables--all those possibilities. But even more so, all those colors! Wow. It's a feast for the eyes when I allow myself to step back and take it all in--before rushing away to the breakfast or coffee aisle.

What if we lived in a world with no color? What if oranges were, well, not orange? What if lemons were gray, apples were white, green peppers were black? Yuck. Surely they would taste as bland as they looked.

I'm grateful that creation is filled with color. I'm grateful that my family loves color, too, and our home is filled with it. And I'm grateful that oranges are orange, after all.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Beauty of the Cross

On a grassy hill approaching a nearby mountain town is a message of faith to all who pass by. Since springtime, the owner of the land has consistently cut the grass in the shape of a cross. Every time I visit this town, the grass inside the cross has grown taller and therefore more visible. It's a huge cross, but if you're in a hurry or not paying attention, you could still miss it.

When I drove by last week, I glanced up to look at it and almost drove off the road. Not only was the grassy cross there but it was filled with dwarf sunflowers--hundreds of them. The cheery yellow flowers and the deep green grass made the cross a stunning roadside show. It made me think of creativity (this time, with a lawn mower and some seeds), summer beauty, new life, resurrection, and a dear friend who loves sunflowers best of all.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Pocketful of Petals

Though we don't have any, cherry trees are popular in our area. Several of them grace the grounds at my daughter's school. One breezy spring day, while I was walking down the sidewalk next to her building, I noticed piles of pink cherry blossom petals against the curb. The wind had collected and deposited them at my feet. They still looked fresh--pink and delicate and perfect. I had the urge to lean down, gather them up and stuff them in my pockets for later--maybe for some cold day in January when the winter landscape stretches as far as the eye can see. Or for some afternoon in late summer when it's so hot we can't stay outside for long and the days are racing toward the start of the school year. If only those petals could bring spring, my favorite season, back again with its abundant beauty.

But then I'd miss fall--the spectacular leaves, the blessedly cooler temperatures, the crisp fragrance of change. And winter, with its strange and spare beauty, cold air making freckled noses pink and your breath turn to steam. I'd miss winter's promise of spring, of new life inside the cold earth. The anticipation of renewal, resurrection.

As beautiful as those petals were, I couldn't hold onto them any more than I can hold onto time itself. And despite the imminent end of summer, I'm looking forward to seeing the leaves put on their show before floating to the earth and becoming part of what's to come.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Enjoy the Day

I'm taking today off. Summer is slipping by fast and will soon be over. Today I want to capture some summer beauty before it's gone. 

Enjoy the day and look for the beauty around you. And thanks for reading.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Beauty of Words

Words are powerful. They can carry beauty or ugliness, joy or sorrow. They can build up or tear down.

Some of my favorite words come from fiction, nonfiction, essays, poetry, the Bible. I'll share those passages here in future posts. But sometimes my favorite words come in the form of an email or a card from a family member. Sometimes they are spoken over the phone or face to face by a friend. 

The right word at the right time can bring a smile, brighten a mood, touch a heart. Maybe it's because I'm a writer and speaker, maybe it's because I'm a sensitive soul, but I try to be a person who has the right word at the right time. I try to handle words with care. I want to be known as a person who uses words to help, not hurt. I don't always succeed, of course. Sometimes I wish I'd swallowed some words instead of letting them go. But when I do say or write something that lifts someone up, I am lifted up too. And that to me is just one facet of the beauty of words.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Island Memories

Last week we spent a few days at Jekyll Island. The Jekyll Island Club was established in the late 1800s as a club for millionaires. Fortunately, you don't have to be a millionaire to stay there now. 

The island is state-owned, with only a small portion of it settled. Without new construction, the gorgeous old live oaks (Georgia's state tree) are protected. In fact, the oldest live oak on the island is just a quarter-mile's walk from the Club hotel. The more I write about beauty, the more I realize I am drawn to trees. I made certain that we visited that old live oak. We spent a lot of time under its huge canopy, looking at how the light streamed through its massive branches, touching the Spanish moss hanging down, and taking pictures by one of several limbs now resting on the ground.

Throughout our stay, we walked and pedaled through the 240-acre historic district. It was quiet and peaceful--not crowded at all. We toured two of the restored cottages and ate dinner in a third. We stayed in the newly-renovated Club hotel annex. We visited the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, where we learned about the dangers these turtles face and the necessity for their nests and hatchlings to be protected. We lingered in the hospital where we saw injured turtle patients being rehabilitated for return to the wild. My daughter fell in love with a terrapin hatchling there. It was hard to pull her away from its tank.

Between the historic buildings, the walking trails, the beach, the turtles, the quiet, the unhurried pace, and the live oaks with their Spanish moss, our vacation was full of memories of beauty. We're already planning to go back.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Chapel Jewels

I've got chapels on my mind today. Last week, I toured a stunning chapel on the campus of Agnes Scott College. Named for Julia Thompson Smith, this gem was designed by Maurice Jennings Architects, a firm that upholds the principles of Organic Architecture as espoused by Frank Lloyd Wright and by Fay Jones. (Take a look at Fay Jones' famous Thorncrown Chapel). What I loved about this chapel was the soaring ceilings, the arches that appear everywhere, the abundance of natural light, the cypress wood found in Georgia, the reverent hush. I loved that the windows seemed to coax the gardens just outside into the building. And I loved that it has been set down on campus in such a way as to look like it has been there for decades, when in fact it was just dedicated a few months ago.

Later today, I'm touring Faith Chapel on Jekyll Island. Build for the Jekyll Island Club in 1904, this chapel's design is "early meetinghouse" with Gothic elements. At the west end is a signed example of the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany. My daughter has never seen a Tiffany window. I'm glad that we'll get to see her first one together.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Sun

Getting up with the sun is not something I especially like to do. I've noticed lately, though, that the sun is making its presence known through the bedroom window at 6 a.m. And I'll admit that there's something about letting the sun wake you up. It's like a silent continual snooze button--gradually getting brighter until you need a pillow to cover your face if you want to keep sleeping.

Lately I have also taken to walking the dog in the mornings when it's cool outside. The sun is up by then but it's still soft. Drowsy and not quite bright. Sunlight falls on the tops of trees and shrubs but doesn't yet dispel the shadows underneath. We can see and even smell the freshness of the new day. The potential.

A couple of hours later, the sunlight shines in full force, making a walk anywhere impossibly hot. But that's what summer is about--at least where I live. If you're brave enough, you cover yourself with sunblock, grab your sunglasses, drink plenty of water. And look for shady spots along the way.

In addition to light and heat, the sun also gives us beauty. Sunrises and sunsets are among my favorite moments of the day. I also love to see its rays filtered through the clouds or the trees.

The sun provides beauty in another way. Because of its light, we are able to see the rest of creation: the blue sky, the flowing river, the pretty flowers in the garden, our loved one's faces. We also need it to lift our moods and keep us healthy.

Now that summer is in full swing, it's easy to take sunlight for granted. But without it, where would we be? Where would beauty be?

Time to go for a walk.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Girl in the Blue Hat with a Tiny Smile

On the wall across from my desk hangs a painting of a young woman with long auburn hair. She's wearing a blue hat with yellow flowers lining the band. Her heart-shaped face has rosy cheeks and dark red lips wearing a tiny smile. Her eyes are closed. Where is she? What is she doing? She looks like she's daydreaming of something pleasant, or smelling a sweet fragrance, or picturing a loved one's face. She might be reliving a favorite memory, or praying, or getting ready to accept a surprise from a friend. Whatever she is doing, she has an air of grace and beauty about her.

I bought this painting last summer at an arts festival. My husband and I had a lengthy conversation with the artist, Elaine Rose Lanoue. Elaine is a Christian who, alongside her husband, lives our her faith on the arts festival circuit. She wants people to see the love of Christ in her life and to offer hope to those around her, whether they are customers or fellow artists.

When I saw this painting, I thought of wishes and whimsy, joy and delight, my daughter and my girlfriends, weather that turns cheeks pink, and my love of hats in my 20s. Now when I see it, I sometimes think of Elaine Lanoue, of how she captured in that young woman's face an expression that stirs my imagination every time I look at it.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Lord, make me see thy glory in every place. Michelangelo

Were there no God, we would be in this glorious world with grateful hearts, and no one to thank. Christina Rossetti

Where are some of your favorite places to see God's glory? Here's a short list for me:

* the symphony
* my back yard
* my daughter's face
* the Swiss Alps
* the Blue Ridge mountains in the fall
* the coast of Oregon
* the redwoods
* cherry trees in spring
* the river near our house
* art museums

What about you? 

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Sound of Music

If you're like me, when certain pieces of music touch your ears, your soul takes flight. For me, that music includes several selections from Handel's Messiah; anything from the classical collection of old favorites I listened to during my pregnancy and after my daughter was born; Mahler's Enigma, the gorgeous piece my husband and I chose for our wedding processional; and more. When I was young, the harmonies in "O Sacred Head, Now Wounded" and "The Doxology" drew me long before I understood the meaning of the words. Recently, during Theatrical Outfit's production of Godspell, singer/actor Eric Moore's stirring performance of "All Good Gifts" made me wish I could carry it home with me. Sometimes bluegrass, gospel, folk and worship music move me the same way.

What type or pieces of music are filled with beauty for you? I'd love to know.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Words to Inspire

Every so often, I like to share some favorite quotations about beauty. Today’s group includes a poet, the father of the Protestant Reformation, and a child who responded with fresh and honest enthusiasm to the beauty he saw.

“Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.” Martin Luther

"Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries . . ." Elizabeth Barrett Browning

“I didn’t think orange went with purple until I saw the sunset you made on [Tuesday]. That was cool.” From Children’s Letters to God

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Early one morning last week, my mom and I were walking in her neighborhood. The air was fresh and cool and full of the fragrance of honeysuckle and privet. The day had not fully awakened, especially in the shady parts.

Below her and Dad’s house, a neighbor has six dogwoods that line the street on one side. Underneath the dogwoods lies on old wooden plow--for display, not for use. Over the years, as I’ve driven that stretch of road to their house, the plow has become less visible because of fading and rotting from the weather as well as the growth of the trees above. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I noticed it. I didn’t know that it has been providing a stand for a climbing rose for years.

I didn’t know, that is, until Mom said she had something to show me. We had seen it from the car the night before but this morning we would have a better view from the road. As we came close to the dogwoods, she said, grinning, “When we walk past the plow, turn around and look up into the tree.”

My eyes went from the bleached, unrecognizable plow to the top of the dogwood tree. “Wow!” I said, grinning at her. “What a show!”

The white dogwood blooms have already come and gone this spring. Now deep red flowers crown the green leafy branches. It’s a surprising contrast, since the dogwood tree already produced its white blooms in early April. Steadily over time, the climbing rose has rambled from the plow below up into the top of the tree. And the dogwood gets the honor of blooming twice.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Decorative Only

I’m sort of an accidental collector. Sometimes I find myself drawn to certain things and before I know it, I have a little stack, pile, or cache of them. Recently I realized that I have been collecting small blue handmade pots or bowls. The arts center a few miles from our house holds a pottery sale every spring and fall when they sell bowls of every shape. The small ones are just $8. I now have three on my desk and one on my bookshelf.

The bowls I especially like have a Raku finish. My knowledge of Raku is limited but it has something to do with a quick firing and finishing technique that produces a metallic glaze. That’s what I like about it: the metallic part. My bowls have blues, purples, and reds in them that are muted by a bronze/copper glaze.

Because Raku is porous, these bowls can’t hold food or water. Their function is decorative only. And that’s all right with me.

Beauty often doesn’t have a tangible, practical purpose—at least nothing that can be quantified and measured. But we live in a world that values hurry up, move along, get it done, and check it off. We need beauty to bring color, grace, warmth, and balance to our lives. We need beauty to help us slow down. My little collection of $8 bowls helps do that for me.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Peonies

When we moved in to this house and flowers started blooming that first spring, I discovered the small plant with shiny green leaves. It produced large white flowers with a touch of fuchsia inside. I thought I knew what the plant was but wasn’t sure. Peonies? I had read about them before but never seen a real one. They aren’t a usual part of the landscape where I live. I hastily gathered and brought the large intricate blooms inside where the sweet fragrance filled the kitchen.

But the plant is in a part of the yard that I don’t see regularly and frankly, I forgot to check on them the next year. Last year, I remembered it but we had such a drought that the bush withered before it could bloom.

A few weeks ago, we went to a dinner party at a friend’s house. In the front yard stood two bushes loaded with the biggest white flowers (with fuschia in the center) I had ever seen. One of them could fill both my hands together. Our friend confirmed what I already knew: peonies. Inside her house they graced the tables, countertops, the bathroom vanity. I was happy to see them and to know that, unless the drought struck again, we should soon have similar blooms on our plant and in our house.

But I forgot to check again! That is, until Monday. Monday was very stressful, so that afternoon my dog and I stepped out on the back deck for some fresh air. I walked to the railing and looked at the yard below. I suddenly remembered the peony. Leaning over the railing and turning my head far to the left, I saw them: four large peonies, slumped over because they were too heavy for the stems. Yes! I thought. I’ll cut them after dinner. I’ve got to get back to work. But then I felt this urging: Don’t wait. Go get them now.

And a few minutes later, they stood in a vase on our kitchen counter that a few weeks ago held flowers from a friend’s garden. Their faces and their fragrance have cheered me in the middle of a hard week. They do look a little timeworn—they must have bloomed at the end of last week. And to think, I almost missed it! It would have been my loss.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Blessed Art Thou Among Women

Last Saturday, we went to an exhibition at the art museum that highlighted the paintings and photographs of several American women modernists. One of the most famous photographers of her day, Gertrude Kasebier (1852-1934), became known for her motif of mothers in her photos. A mother of three herself, she said, “"My children and their children have been my closest thought, but from the first days of dawning individuality, I have longed unceasingly to make pictures of people...to make likenesses that are biographies, to bring out in each photograph the essential personality."

One of my favorite paintings of hers does bring out the essential personality in her subject matter. It is called Blessed Art Thou Among Women, which alludes to the biblical passage surrounding Mary and the Annunciation. The woman—the mother—in the photograph stands in the doorway with a girl of maybe 10 years old in a dark dress, tights, and shoes. The mother wears a long, flowing white gown with ruffles on the top that remind me of angel’s wings. She’s looking away from the lens and seems to be leaning over to give the girl a kiss on the head. The visual contrast between the mother’s white gown and the girl’s dark dress grabs my attention and pulls me in.

The theme of a mother getting her child ready for the world makes this photograph particularly striking. As I looked at it, I thought about the mystique surrounding motherhood. I thought about my daughter: does she know how much I love and adore her? And how grateful I am that she is mine and what a gift she has been to me?

I thought about my mother: does she know how much I love and adore her? And how grateful I am for all she has done for me and what a gift she has been to me?

As we celebrate Mother’s Day this weekend, I’ll make sure to tell them these things again. And I’ll think about how motherhood has stretched and grown me more than I ever dreamed it would, how I love being a mother even on challenging days, how I can’t imagine my life any other way.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Beauty Points

Years ago, when I came out of a time of grieving, I felt as though I had finally awakened from a long slumber. Gradually, my eyes were opened to beauty and I saw it everywhere: in my home, in my baby girl’s face, in art, creation, music, words. It had been there all along but I didn’t see it, didn’t fully appreciate it. And it was my loss.

Beauty doesn’t create itself. What I saw and experienced moved me to praise and thank the Creator. I worship the Creator of beauty, not beauty itself. I worship God, not the sunrise or mountains or flowers He made. Not the painting or the painter, the music or musician, but the One who made them possible. As CS Lewis noted, beauty is not the absolute. It points beyond itself. When I point at something, you don’t look at my finger for very long; you look to see where I am pointing. Beauty points us to God.

To me, that God would give us beauty is amazing and humbling. Why would He do that? I believe God loves us. I believe He loves beauty. I believe He is beauty, and He has lavished it upon us with joy and abandon. Do you see it?


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Just Another Day at the Farm

It’s fall. A beautiful, warm day at the pumpkin farm. The brilliant blue sky fills in the background behind a row of pines, green as ever. A red-roofed pavilion houses displays of Indian corn, boxes of grotesque gourds, and parents with little ones. A maple tree, tall and bent a little, shows off orange leaves, not to be outdone by the profusion below. The orange of the pumpkins explodes against brown dirt and yellow hay.

It’s our second annual visit with her grandparents. She’s two this time and can walk and even run among the misshapen, mutant-looking pumpkins. She’s looking at the camera with eyes squinting in the late morning sunlight. Light bounces off long blond hair as she stands next to a group of the largest pumpkins, their shadows taller than she is. Her hands are clasped together uneasily, plump little fingers gripping themselves. The blue of her shirt, her plaid overalls, even her eyes, reflects the blue above her. Her toddler tennis shoes are too white but won’t be for long. She’s half-smiling, unsure and even a little confused. “What are these things, Mama? Will they get me?”

The photo hangs on my inspiration board—a memory of a day filled with many types of beauty.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Through the Mist

In the spring a few years ago, while at a corporate event at a local resort, my husband rose before sunrise one morning and went for a walk. He’s an early riser by nature--he enjoys the quiet before the rest of the world wakes up. In the early-morning hush, he strolled through the manicured grounds of the golf course. As he topped a small knoll, his eyes caught a sight that amazed and stilled him: through the light mist ahead of him, a dozen deer stood motionless on the green. He stared at them for a few moments until one of them caught his scent and they all bounded away. Watching them, he felt both sorry to see them go and elated that he had seen them at all.

The next spring, my husband’s company had another event that brought them to the same resort. Up early the first morning, he set out for the golf course. Would the deer be there? He walked slowly, careful this time to be as quiet and alert as possible. He watched for them. And a little while later, he again saw a group of deer, a beautiful sight through the mist. On that spring morning, he went looking—hoping—for beauty and he found it.

Do you look for beauty? Where? I’d love to hear about it.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Beauty Before the Blue

“The sky is the daily bread of the eyes.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

On our daily drive to school, my daughter and I take a long, winding back road lined with older houses and mature flowering trees and hardwoods. Spring and fall are my favorite seasons, and during those months, the scenery on the side of the road is a show-stopper.

But one chilly morning, as we started our drive, it was the scene above that grabbed our attention. The sunrise stunned us. While we wound our way on that curvy road in the early morning light, we caught glimpses of brilliant colors through the branches overhead. We talked about each color as it intensified and then faded a few minutes later.

“I see pink!” she’d cry.

“I see orange!” I’d say.

As we watched, I thanked God out loud for the beauty in the sky. A few minutes later, my daughter said, “I think God did that just for us. He knew we’d be on the road right now.”

“Yes,” I said, smiling to myself. “He knew how much we’d love it.” And He knew I’d talk to her about the One who created it. The beauty of that sunrise and of that moment with my daughter filled my heart with praise. Awe and gratitude stayed with me long after the colors disappeared into the blue.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Jar of Clay

It was our first anniversary. One year of marriage. One wonderful and, at times, stressful year of becoming a couple and a family all at once. Our paths to each other had taken many twists and turns but God brought us together, surprising and delighting and thrilling us both.

So, to celebrate, he and I stole away to a lovely little mountain town that becomes a large mountain town when it’s swollen with tourists during the peak season. But that weekend, it was just the locals and us. We felt spoiled because we had the restaurants, shops, and streets to ourselves.

One day, after a very nice, almost gourmet lunch in a small hotel restaurant, we drove down the street to the art gallery. We had spied it the day before and were looking forward to seeing whatever treasures it held. We hoped to find something to commemorate the occasion. When we walked inside, the grayness outside faded with bright lights and colorful canvases. Wow. Surely there would be something special here.

My husband stopped to look at the paintings close to the front. I moved on ahead. When I turned a corner, I saw it, hanging up on the left. It stopped me in my tracks. The painting was large, first of all, and the blend of colors jumped off the canvas: greens, purples, blues, pinks, a band of coral at the top, a light green background. It was striking. I called my husband over and he had a similar reaction. Wow!

A few moments later, he said, “It’s a jar of clay.”

“Yes,” I said. “Like we are.”

The rest of the day, we couldn't stop thinking and talking about that painting so we brought it home with us. It now hangs in our living room. Its beauty reminds us of our faith, our love for each other, and a trip that celebrated both.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Ancient Ones

Ancient redwood trees, stately, majestic. So tall you can’t see the top, only branches and leaves against the sky. So large that if you try to wrap your arms around it, you feel like a toddler hugging a football player. Reddish brown bark sometimes twisted with age and weather. Hollowed-out bases big enough to stand up in, wide enough to camp in. Many redwoods have humps that look like swollen, knobby joints. Surrounded by their children and grandchildren at their feet. Some of these massive trunks have rings that trace back to the time of Christ. The time of Christ!

Their Creator and ours.

We visited the Redwood Grove at Henry Cowell State Park in Santa Cruz, California. We plan to return.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Irresistible Beauty

It’s Holy Week, and my thoughts are turned toward Christ. John Piper, pastor and author, recently wrote an article on the irresistible beauty of Christ. I thought you might enjoy reading “The Unbelieving Poet Catches a Glimpse of Truth."

This week, as we remember the crucifixion and celebrate the resurrection, look for glimpses of the beauty of Christ and then let me know what you find. I'd love to hear about it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Beautiful Day

Today is my anniversary. Our wedding was the most beautiful day of my life, filled with beauty and the arts. For example, all of the printed pieces—the Save the Date, the invitation, the program, even the thank you note--were commissions from some of our favorite artists. The location was a theater that’s very special to us: the Balzer Theater at Herren’s in downtown Atlanta. The set for the show that was running at the time, Tennessee Williams’ Summer and Smoke, included a courtyard with a fountain and an angel statue that had “Eternity” etched into its base. Perfect for a wedding. We used some of our favorite classical music, with Edward Elgar’s Enigma as the processional. Actor friends, including Nigel Goodwin and Tom Key, both of whom have been featured on my arts blog, read selections from C. S. Lewis, 1 Corinthians 13 from The Message, and a long list of our favorite scriptures. Other friends performed hymns and songs of worship especially meaningful to us.

My groom and I did special readings that we'd written to each other, which we glued inside a handmade book by a paper artist. After our vows and a special prayer of dedication, the pastor presented us to our family and friends. They began clapping and, when the beginning strains of the “Hallelujah Chorus” could be heard over the noise, they rose to their feet and applauded wildly as we, laughing, left the theater.

The most beautiful thing about our wedding was the gratitude and joy we felt that, after a long, difficult road for each of us, God had brought us together. Like we did then, this week we celebrate Him and each other. We look forward to many more years together as we live lives filled with love for the Lord, each other, and our daughter. And beauty and the arts.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Beauty Balm

“Pain passes but beauty remains.” Renoir

Years ago, during a time of grief and loss, I found beauty to be like a balm for me. It helped soothe the pain I felt. I looked for beauty wherever I could—and found it. One thing stands out in my mind, though.

It was springtime, my first in my new place. When signs of life began appearing in my yard, I noticed my neighbor’s crabapple tree next to the fence. I hadn’t really seen it before but now it grabbed my attention, so beautiful with the full pink blossoms that covered it. I could see the tree from my kitchen window and from the front and back of the house. I could even see it when I pulled into the driveway. From all of these vantage points, I spent a lot of time gazing at it, drinking in its beauty and thinking about what I had been through. I felt as if God, through the beauty of that crabapple tree, reminded me of the hope I had in Him. He seemed to whisper, “Your long winter is over. Spring is here at last.”

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Words to Inspire

Those of you who read my other blog, Christians in the Arts, know how much I love quotations. I collect them on the computer and in a Moleskine journal with a purple silk cover. I pull them out when I want to be inspired. I like to share them with others too. Here are a few quotations on beauty that I hope will inspire you today:

"A thing of beauty is a joy forever: Its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness; but still will keep a bower quiet for us, and a sleepfull of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing." -- John Keats

"Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful, for beauty is God's handwriting--a wayside sacrament. Welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky, in every flower, and thank God for it as a cup of blessing." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Beauty is the only thing that time cannot harm. Philosophies fall away like sand, and creeds follow one another like the withered leaves of Autumn; but what is beautiful is a joy for all seasons and a possession for all eternity." -- Oscar Wilde

"Youth is happy because it has the ability to see beauty. Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old." -- Franz Kafka

May we always keep the ability to appreciate beauty.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

What Wondrous Love is This?

On my wedding day, two dear friends, Genny and Jason, sang the old hymn, What Wondrous Love is This? My groom and I used many types of music in our wedding but we chose this song because we wanted to proclaim the love that brought us together. “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

An American folk hymn from the mid-1800s, What Wondrous Love is This?, with its beautiful, haunting melody, proclaims a profound and timeless truth. As my friends’ voices mingled and rose, my heart did too.

Old songs, dearly loved, like old friends, bring beauty to our lives.

What Wondrous Love is This?

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul.

To God and to the Lamb, I will sing, I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb, I will sing.
To God and to the Lamb Who is the great “I Am”;
While millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing;
While millions join the theme, I will sing.

And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing and joyful be;
And through eternity, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And through eternity, I’ll sing on.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Beauty Appreciation, Part 2

Last week I wrote about taking beauty breaks—giving yourself time to notice and enjoy the beauty around you. Have you been thinking about the types of beauty that move you most? Here are a few:

• Visual: creation, art, design
• Auditory: music, birdsong, laughter
• Written: poetry, literature, essays, scripture

How can you remind yourself to notice and look for the beauty around you? Think through your day. Where will you be? What will you be doing? Where and when might you see beauty? Be intentional. Consider keeping a beauty journal so you can record, remember, and continue to appreciate your experiences.

How can you bring more beauty into your life? Here are some ideas to get you started:

• Get up early enough to watch the sunrise. If you’re in the car when the show starts, turn off the radio and spend a few minutes watching and savoring.

• Take a walk and enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of creation.

• Buy an inexpensive, fragrant bouquet of flowers for your desk or kitchen.

• Put special art books, postcards, calendars, or even works of art on your desk, your kitchen table, or your walls. They just might inspire you.

• Visit an art museum or gallery. Spend some time examining the works that draw you. What do you like about them? If you want to, jot down the titles of the works and the names of the artists so you can research them later.

• Listen to music. Treat yourself to something new—maybe a classical CD—and see how it changes your day.

• Read from a book of poetry, a classic novel, or scripture passages on your lunch break or whenever you find yourself waiting.

• If you’re a parent, teach your kids to look for beauty. Make a game of it, watch what happens, and share the joy of beauty with them.

What are your ideas? I’d love to hear them.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Beauty Appreciation

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“This world in which we live needs beauty in order not to sink into despair. Beauty, like truth, brings joy to the human heart and is that precious fruit which resists the erosion of time, which unites generations and enables them to be one in admiration!” Pope John Paul II, “Letter to Artists,” Easter Sunday, 1999.

I’m a beauty advocate. A beauty appreciator. Beauty brings joy to my heart and I know I’m not alone. The sad thing is, even though we are surrounded by beauty, we’re so busy talking on our cell phones or hurrying to the next appointment that we rush right by it. Beauty requires us to stop and look—or listen. When we do, we are refreshed, energized, maybe even encouraged to talk a little less and slow down a little more.

Where is the beauty in your life? Look around you—at home, at work, on your commute—and take note of beauty in your environment.

What type of beauty moves you the most? Here are a few:
• Visual: creation, art, design
• Auditory: music, birdsong, laughter
• Written: poetry, literature, essays, scripture

What are some ways you can remind yourself to take note of the beauty around you?

How can you bring more of this type of beauty into your life?

This week, give yourself beauty breaks, even if only for a few minutes. Think through these questions. I know you’ll come up with some ideas. Leave a comment and let me know. Next week, I’ll give you a few more ways to appreciate the beauty in your life.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Bathed in Beauty

“We do not merely want to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words—to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.” C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

For me, like many people, the beauty of creation opens my eyes to the Creator. While working late one August night, I glanced out my office window and caught a glimpse of the most beautiful sunset I'd seen all summer. Slipping on my sandals, I ran outside and stood in my front yard, staring up in wonder. My house sat at the top of a steep hill so my view was unobstructed. No neighbors walked down the street; no cars passed by. It was just me with this spectacular sight. My heart soared. Lavish streaks of pink and orange filled the darkening sky. Glancing down at my arms, I saw that same pinkish glow on my skin, as though I was being bathed in color and beauty from the heavens. The symphony of colors slowly rose to crescendo, then softened and faded away. For a brief moment—a moment that can hardly be put into words—I felt as though I was part of the beauty above me. I did not want it to end.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Mary Cassatt and Lullabies

Years ago, when my friend found out I was going to have a baby, she gave me a copy of A Child’s Book of Lullabies, with paintings by Mary Cassatt. A tall, thin, pale yellow hardback, the book is filled with some of the artist’s most beloved oils and pastels. In college, I liked Cassatt’s paintings for their subject matter as well as their beauty. Through her work, she brought validity and importance to the role of women in the home by depicting them reading, working, and caring for children.

Long after my college days, as a mother-to-be, I looked at Cassatt’s paintings with new eyes, especially noting the intimacy and tenderness between the mothers and children. Anticipating the joy of holding and feeding my own baby, I could almost see us in those paintings.

The book, an early favorite of my daughter’s, brought about one of her first experiences with art and music. As a toddler, she would pull the book off her shelf, bring it over, and snuggle up with me, either on the floor or in the rocking chair. We would go slowly through the book, page by page. She looked at it carefully and pointed to the music. I sang the songs and talked about what we saw in the paintings.

Now six years later, my daughter still takes the book off her shelf and looks at periodically. She also uses it as a lap desk when she’s drawing pictures of her own, writing stories, or both. I wonder if when she looks at those paintings, she remembers the times in her little yellow room when we gazed and sang and snuggled. Maybe, maybe not. But I won’t forget them.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Seeking Beauty

Years ago, as I struggled through an extremely painful time of my life, I began to seek out beauty whenever I could. I couldn’t articulate it then, but on some level I realized that beauty brought me comfort and drew me closer to God. So, sometimes alone, sometimes with friends, I went to the museum, the theater, and the symphony. I browsed antique stores, gift shops, and arts’ festival booths. I listened to music that touched my soul and made my spirit dance. I reveled in the arrival of spring after a long, dark winter. And, as I watched my energetic toddler grow into a preschooler full of exuberance and dimply smiles, I marveled at the beauty of the creation of man.

I also discovered anew that the written word can carry inestimable beauty, particularly when it is scripture. Words I had read much of my life now became a precious treasure I held close to my heart: promises from the Lord, the lover of my soul. A phrase like “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God” (Psalm 42:1) paints a beautiful word picture of my dependence on God—a truth I began to understand more fully during that time in my life.

The classic works of great writers spoke to my heart as well. In the title sermon from The Weight of Glory, C. S. Lewis wrote, “We do not merely want to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words—to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.” His words helped me to understand my own desire for beauty as well as to articulate my experience.

This blog is one avenue I’m using to articulate what I believe is everyone’s desire for beauty. If you have an experience with beauty that you’d like to share, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment or email me at contact@leannebenfieldmartin.com.

An excerpt from my article that appeared in Indeed magazine, September/October 2006.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Welcome to Beauty and the Beholder

One morning after breakfast last week, I stood in my kitchen in my thickest, furriest robe and slippers and still felt a chill. At 20 degrees, it was unseasonably cold for our area (that is to say, it actually felt like winter). Knowing I had a full day ahead at my computer, I stopped first to look at the view from the picture window. Several small birds, a flaming red cardinal, and a squatty squirrel gathered food from under the trees and shrubs. They didn’t seem cold at all—just perky. And pecky.

The grass in our front yard, lush and green a few months ago, now looks tan, sometimes even gray. Dull. A light overnight frost had turned it prickly, and something glinted in the sun. What was that? I pressed my nose to the glass like a little kid and squinted like a 40-something: there were several small and shiny blue things lying in the grass. The frost crystals were capturing the early morning sun like prisms, and the result was tiny circles of blue light, probably 15 or 20 of them. They looked like diamonds shining on that blanket of dormant grass. Gorgeous. With the sun’s movement and climbing temperatures, surely this scene wouldn’t be there long. And if I hadn’t stopped to look out the window, I would have missed it.

I think God gives us diamonds all the time but we miss them. We’re distracted by our own busyness. We don’t expect to see (and therefore don't look for) diamonds in the mundane. But they are there; beauty is there. We just have to open our eyes, our ears and our minds to receive and enjoy it.

That’s what this blog is about: the beauty around us. My posts--on Wednesdays and occasionally Fridays--will be about beauty in creation, in the arts, wherever we find it, including those moments in our lives that make us stop and gasp, that make us feel more alive and grateful for the experience.

Like I did last week.

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