LeAnne Martin
Beauty and the Beholder

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


The memorial service for a friend of ours was this morning. I'm sad that she passed away but glad that because she believed in Jesus Christ as her Savior, she is with him in heaven right now.

As I think about how quickly life passes, I'm especially grateful this Thankgiving. Here are a few things I'm grateful for in no particular order:

* my husband and my daughter
* my family and friends
* a body that moves and breathes and performs countless tasks every day that I take for granted
* a mind that can think, learn and reason
* provision for basic needs and many, many extras besides
* holiday get-togethers with dear ones
* mashed potatoes and gravy, dressing, and our family's favorite baked beans
* creation (you knew that would be on this list, didn't you?)
* medicine for laryngitis and sinus infections
* laughter, and lots of it
* beauty, of course
* the arts, especially visual and theater
* tears of joy, tears of sorrow, tears of compassion
* language, words, and the Word
* grace
* grace
* grace

Thank you for reading. Enjoy your Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

This Week

I'm a little under the weather this week. I'll be back next week. As Thanksgiving approaches, let's be thinking about the beauty around us and what type of beauty we are thankful for and why (ex: music, dance, literature, creation, etc). If you have a minute, leave a comment about it.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

In the Mountains

I was in the midst of beauty last weekend. We stole away to the north Georgia mountains for a few days. Along the way up to the cabin, we drove across a small bridge over a stream that was rushing from recent rainfalls. We went through a narrow passageway with the leaves on both sides; the woods appeared to be on fire all around us. When we got up to our home for the weekend, we stood on the front porch and gazed at the mountains in the distance, with the trees below. It was gorgeous. We were grateful.

Inside the simple, comfortable, and newly-built cabin, the fragrance of wood paneling welcomed us at the door. Every window opened onto a different view of creation. Ahhhh...Whatever stress we felt before leaving home began to melt away until what was left was peace. Just what we needed.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Few Things I Love about Fall

"The day I see a leaf is a marvel of a day." ~Kenneth Patton (courtesy of my friend Bonnie Bruno)

A Few Things I Love About Fall:

leaves in full glory, giving glory to their Creator
pumpkins of every size as far as the eye can see
clear blue cloudless sky
little kids wearing orange
blue jeans and sweaters and rugged old shoes
apple cinnamon anything
fall festivals
the smell of a fire
chilly temperatures that turn noses pink
colorful scarves handmade by my nieces and my friend
flannel pajama pants on Sunday afternoons
cozy evenings at home
giving thanks

How about you? What do you love about the fall?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Painted Leaves

"October is the month for painted leaves. Their rich glow now flashes round the world. These little leaves are the stained windows in the cathedral of my world." Henry David Thoreau

Fall is just now beginning to make her appearance where I live. Lately, we've had unseasonably warm temperatures and sometimes devastating flooding. I've never seen as much rain as we have had this last month or so. People have lost their homes to creeks and the river rising. The severe drought that I've occasionally written about on this blog is officially over.

But I don't want to write about rain as I sit enjoying the sunlight streaming through my windows today. Sunlight, sunbeams, sun's rays: all beautiful sights to see-- and by which to see. It seems as though the season of fall and the way the sun falls on the earth makes all the colors brighter and more vivid. Maybe it's just the chilly temperatures invigorating me or the anticipation of the colors of the leaves--"painted leaves", as Thoreau says.

We've had some leaves changing here. Our dogwood leaves put on a rich dark red last week and now they're wearing brown. But one tree stands out to me right now. The tree at the entrance to our neighborhood is on fire. It's one of my favorites in the fall because its gorgeous, flaming orange welcomes me home and reminds me of coziness, warmth, and family.

What are your favorite "painted leaves"? Do you have a favorite tree or memory of a tree in the fall? Tell me about it. Leave a comment.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Retreating at Camp WinShape

Last weekend I attended my first CS Lewis Fellows Retreat at Camp WinShape Retreat Center. The retreat center was absolutely gorgeous. The buildings are done in a Normandy, France style with white-washed brick, dark brown wood, spires and arches. The indoor spaces were warm and welcoming, with exposed brick, high windows, and hardwoods. The view was gorgeous, with mountains in the distance and remnants of a dairy farm below. Aesthetically, I was in heaven.

And spiritually too! I spent most of my time thinking, talking and learning about the Creator. To be in that place with other people who are serious about pursuing God, about knowing Him better, made the surroundings and the weekend all the more beautiful.

Have you had a similar experience of finding a place even more beautiful because of the people you are sharing it with? Tell me about it.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

My Daughter's Art Piece

"What nature-lover's tongue can tell,
What golden pen portray,
The outpoured, flaming splendors
Of a bright September day?"
Charles G. Stater

Happy September! We've had so much rain this week we are feeling water-logged, but I am not complaining. We've been in severe drought these last two years, so I'm grateful to see, feel, and smell that wet stuff that falls from the sky. But right now, the sun is shining and for the moment at least, it is a bright September day. This is one of my favorite months because my daughter was born in September. It's also a nice transitional time between the heat of August and the coming fall.

Speaking of my daughter, right now I'm looking at one of her art projects that hangs in my office over my printer. A landscape done from pastels, this piece shows the sun setting over purple mountains with a green valley and blue lake below. The water reflects the fiery sun as tall water plants on the shore frame it. The blues, purples, and greens of this piece catch my eye and hold it. When I look at it, I think of her and of the Creator Who created the landscape and inspired the art (and the art teacher). And I give thanks for the beauty around me, both inside these four walls and out.

Have a bright September day.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Softer Shade of Beauty

School is back in session so we're getting up and out early. This morning, while I was loading the car, I could see pink through the garage windows. I ran to the ones that face the front of the house and saw some faint streaks of pink. That little bit of pink sifted through the trees onto the grass, the driveway, and the curled-up leaves on the driveway, and turned them all a softer shade of beauty. When I will realize that when morning breaks, I should be out on my porch drinking it in? I need to figure out how to carve out some morning minutes for that.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Summer Breeze

"Summer breeze...makes me feel fine..." Do you know that song? Recorded in the '70s by Seals and Crofts, it was one of the first songs I liked as a 'tween (now I'm dating myself). I've heard it a lot recently. Our favorite restaurant plays a cover of it by a different, probably younger, group on their music track. They do a good job with it, I think.

I've had occasion to sing it to myself lately because I've been outside a good bit. Three weeks ago today, a stray dog "found" us--or found our front porch, rather, which she was using as home base when I discovered her. She's reddish brown, 30 pounds, and has a face like a fox. We jumped through all the hoops to find her owner, starting with checking her microchip, which had outdated information on the owner. We researched on the internet, posted flyers, talked to vets, and emailed area rescues. In the meantime, "Lucy" has been charming us with her sweet and gentle ways, and our dog seems to like having a playmate. Yes, we're in trouble.

Yesterday, while I was letting both dogs outside, I stood on the shady part of the deck. The August heat can be oppressive here, especially with the almost ever-present humidity, but a few days this week, we've actually had a breeze. Ahhh. It's amazing what a difference it can make. One morning, the breeze went through and rustled the leaves on the trees that surround our deck. The birds were singing and occasionally a poplar leaf would fall. Butterflies were feeding on the butterfly bush below and the dogs chasing each other at full speed from the yard, along the lower level of the deck, and up the stairs to where I was.

I thought about how my daughter starts school tomorrow, which signals the end of summer. Soon all the leaves will fall and the breeze will turn chilly. But for now, for the next six weeks or so, whenever I can, I'm going to enjoy that "summer breeze...makes me feel fine."

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Heirloom Beauty

When I was growing up, summer for our family meant tomato sandwiches. My grandmother had a garden for most of my childhood and my mother and sister and uncle would help her tend it while I watched TV game shows inside with Papa. I wasn't old enough to help, and he wasn't in good health. They would work and work and work and come in hot and tired with their bounty of vegetables, including big, red, juicy tomatoes. We'd eat a tomato sandwich for lunch and take some home with us, along with green beans, corn, and other veggies. Those tomatoes live in my memory as one of the staples of my childhood.

A few weeks ago, my daughter and I went to a small, organic farmer's market held weekly in our town. There we saw tomatoes of every size and color and shade: red, pink, orange, yellow, green. Little "chocolate" cherry tomatoes along with yellow cherry tomatoes that were shaped like tiny squashes. Small green ones for frying. And big beautiful heirlooms the size of my palm. The farmer spent several minutes explaining to us the characteristics of each color and type of tomato. Honestly, I had no idea there was such variety! My daughter and I bought two of the heirlooms, one green, a container of the cherries, and, because a pretty bouquet of pink and purple flowers.

I gave one heirloom to my parents because I knew they would fully appreciate it. When I sliced into ours, the juice and earthy smell were released and I was taken back to those summers of my childhood. Ahh...That was the best tomato sandwich I've had in 25 years.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


On Saturday, we went to see A Midsummer Night's Dream with some friends. What a delight! It's been years since I studied Shakespeare, but it doesn't matter. The actors make the lines understandable by tone of voice and body language so even if you don't catch specifics, you understand the gist of what they're saying. The costumes and props at Georgia Shakespeare Company are always clever and the clown characters are hilarious. We laughed and laughed through the final scenes and have been repeating favorite lines to each other ever since.

At dinner afterward, my friend talked about the beauty of language, the gorgeous flow of Shakespeare's poetry over the audience. It made me think about what I've been reading in Luci Shaw's book about language and poetry and about the meditation on scripture that I've been doing. I want to fill the well, a term used by creativity book author Vinita Hampton Wright, with images from scripture so that when I write, the beauty of language, which God Himself created, flows over my audience as well.

Do you have favorite passages from a book, a poem, or scripture that flow over you? Please share it in a comment.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Beauty According to Luci Shaw

I've been reading a fabulous book by poet Luci Shaw called Breath for the Bones: Art, Imagination and Spirit: Reflections on Creativity and Faith. She speaks to all artists but particularly to writers and especially to me. I've underlined passages on almost every page. I have to share a few with you from her chapter on beauty.

"Beauty is integral, so deeply a part of who we are and what we enjoy that we may take it for granted. Even flawed or marred or distorted as a result of human depravity and failure, it is still visible in the fingerprints of the Creator on the natural world.

"Beauty is perhaps one of the few things that constantly calls us back to God, that reminds us of an ideal of goodness and vitality...Beauty is redemptive. It can motivate us to turn a corner, to pursue a new objective. It awakens us because it is often so surprising" (pp. 22-23).

"Yes, beauty matters. It is important to God. Why else would he shape and color fish, birds, insects, rocks, plants, and people with such rich diversity?" (p. 24).

Shaw also points out that while beauty is personal, it's also universal. All of us gasp at things like waterfalls, glaciers, the oceans, mountains, sunrises and sunsets. Last weekend, under bright sun and blue sky, my family and I drove on the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway, a highway that blends into the environment while providing access to five mountain ranges, six major rivers, two states, and four national forests. The Blue Ridge Parkway draws people from everywhere every year. On it, we can see "the fingerprints of the Creator", as Shaw says, whether we acknowledge Him or not. It is a road to--and through--beauty and, ultimately, if we follow where it leads, to God. I can't wait to go back.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Quotations to Share

"We must not allow the clock and the calendar to blind us to the fact that each moment of life is a miracle and mystery."- H. G. Wells

"That which is striking and beautiful is not always good, but that which is good is always beautiful." - Ninon de l'Eenclos, 1620 - 1705.

"Earth laughs in flower." Ralph Waldo Emerson

“People discuss my art and pretend to understand as if it were necessary to understand, when it's simply necessary to love.” -Claude Monet

"Our truest life
is when we are in our dreams

- Henry David Thoreau
(got this from Brenda Leyland's blog, It's a Beautiful Life)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Other Journal: Aesthetics Issue

I'm going to do something a little unusual for this blog and send you somewhere else. The Other Journal's current issue is devoted to aesthetics. I haven't finished exploring it yet but so far have found a lot of interesting essays. Take a look.

And many of you on are vacation and/or taking a break from your computers, but if you're around this week, please leave me a comment about one of your favorite beauty moments this summer.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Alaska Memories, Part 2

Alaska is so beautiful, it's almost other-worldly. I spent a wonderful week there with some writing friends and found much material for writing. I posted a lot of it last week but here are a few other things:

--“termination dust”: the first bit of snowfall on the mountains, marking the end of the summer (although it's too early for that right now)

--the long strips or ribbons of snow on the mountains that reach ground level, with trash in and around the piles at the bottom: former avalanche sites

--the native women’s tunic made of cheery fabrics with a hood, a drop waist, and a big muff-like pocket in the middle

--the booth at the market with extremely soft scarves made out of Qiviut (pronounced "kiv-ee-ute"), the downy-soft underwool from the Arctic musk ox. Rare and expensive. We touched but didn't buy.

--favorite things to do by Alaskans: fishing, fishing, fishing! Plus camping, hunting, cross-country skiing, ski skating and other sports, the Iditarod, and fishing, fishing, fishing!

--Hurricane Gorge, just inside Denali National Forest, with the river running through it. Our view was from above and what a view it was.

--Talkeetna Lodge, where the view from the deck is breathtaking. It was sunny and clear that afternoon, so we could see Mt. McKinley and other mountains in the distance.

--wildflowers I had never seen

--beauty everywhere

I want to go back, as soon as I can.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Alaska Moments

Here are a few of my favorite things about Alaska:

--Exit Glacier, which looked like a frozen waterfall
--the train ride with my friends through gorgeous scenery
--hanging out of said train with one of those friends
--the little shop in Talkeetna where I bought the pink hoodie that would keep me from freezing the rest of the trip
--the moose mother and her babies in the yard next door
--the never-ending light
--long car rides and long talks
--the husky in the house named Corduroy
--the mountains everywhere, with strips of snow adorning the sides and clouds veiling the peaks
--the mud flats where those two black bears caught their lunch
--the ocean so close by
--the quick trip "up the hill" and the view of Anchorage below
--the worship service with music provided by a native family
--exquisite native crafts in the gift shop
--the large fuchsia with its blooms spilling over the pot
--chocolate chocolate chocolate
--the lilacs and my friend's love for them
--my hostess' excitement at sharing her beautiful home and surroundings with us
--God's handiwork in creation and in my friends

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Monet's Water Lilies

You might have guessed by seeing the background of this blog and my website that Monet's Water Lilies series is important to me. In a week or two, my family and I are going to visit an exhibition of four of Monet's paintings from this series. All of the paintings are from the Museum of Modern Art in New York. My husband and I have already seen them at MoMA but we have to see them again and this time, our daughter will be with us. I'm very excited about this opportunity to stand in front of those paintings, which helped get me started on the path of pursuing art and beauty, with the two of them by my side. I will be sure to post about the experience.

In the meantime, I thought I'd share the link for the exhibition with you, which includes information from other sources about Monet, his paintings, and his gardens.

Which painting or artist is important to you? Has a painting or other work of art ever moved you? I'd love to hear about it. Leave a comment.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Few Quotations about Art

As you probably know, I love quotations, and I post them often on this blog and my Christians in the Arts blog. Today I'm thinking about beauty in art and wanted to share these thoughts with you:

Art is a collaboration between God and the artist, and the less the artist does the better.
--Andre Gide

We can't take any credit for our talents. It's how we use them that counts.
--Madeleine L'Engle

All writing is a form of prayer.
--John Keats

A poet is, before anything else, a person who is passionately in love with language.
--W.H. Auden

I write with intensity, discipline and constancy, because this is the work that calls me, the vocation of my heart.
--bell hooks

Personal essayists converse with the reader because they're already having dialogues and disputes with themselves.
--Phillip Lopate

Never lose a holy curiosity.
--Albert Einstein

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Strawberry Pickin'

I love strawberries, and so does my family. Last Friday, my parents, my daughter, and I went strawberry pickin' at a farm near my parents' house. My folks had gone with my sister and her girls the week before and she had brought home big bags of berries. I wanted to go too--not just for the spoils but for the experience. My daughter and I have never picked our own strawberries before, and I wanted the two of us to have that memory with her grandparents.

The rows of strawberry plants went on and on. We chose two rows at random and started. Those first few berries, hidden under the leaves of the plants, were small, red, and perfect. I was surprised somehow. They weren't the huge, mutant-looking things we usually find at the grocery store. We worked our way down rows next to each other and then spread out a bit when we realized the berries in that area had been picked over. After about 30 minutes, my daughter started asking how much longer it would be. She reminded me of myself at her age. Whenever we gardened--whether at my grandparents' house or at our friends' place--I couldn't wait to go inside or go home.

Fortunately, before long, we had two large bucketsful of ripe red berries. As we went inside the building to pay for them, we passed a long bench full of kids under seven stuffing berries into their mouths with sticky fingers and sporting red-stained smiles. On the way home, the sweet fragrance of the strawberries wafted through the car, reminding me of a day well spent with my parents and my daughter, doing a little bit of labor for a lot of goodness. Making me grateful, yet again, for the beauty and variety and provision of creation.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Favorite Pieces

To enjoy beauty, you have to be aware of it, and that's one of the purposes of this blog--to build awareness about beauty. We so often walk right by beauty without noticing it, especially if it's part of our everyday landscape. Today, to wake myself up, I thought I'd list just a few of my favorite items of beauty in my house:

* the "jar of clay" painting we bought on our first anniversary trip
* the multi-colored glass bowl he gave me for my birthday
* the "Narnia" painted door
* the purple frosted glass water bottle with the delicately-turned lip
* the tall vase with the Raku finish

Now, what about you? Leave a comment listing or describing some of your favorite items of beauty in your home. Look around before you do so and enjoy your things again.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Gold and Gems

Last week, I went on a field trip with my daughter's class to the largest hardrock gold mine east of the Mississippi River, the site of America's first gold rush. During the excavation period in the late 1800s, approximately 4,000 tons of dirt, debris and ore were removed from the tunnel system. During the tour, our guide talked about the geology of the gold belt, including quartz and pyrite formations, where early miners found gold.

Before we took the underground tour, though, we did some gold panning and gem grubbing. My favorite was the gem grubbing, which involves taking a wooden box with a mesh bottom, filling it with sand, and dunking it into a stream of running water. As the sand washes away, it leaves gems behind. Apparently it's possible to find emeralds, rubies, and sapphires but I didn't wash up any. I did walk away with a bag full of colorful gems, though, including quartz, adventurine, sodalite, carnelian, citrine, blue calcite, a desert rose, a chunk of fool’s gold, and more. When she panned for gold, my daughter found nine pieces, the most of anyone in her class but unfortunately not enough to make a dent in her college fund.

My gems now sit in a small mason jar on my desk to remind me of a fun day with my daughter and my early fascination with rocks and geology. We're planning to go back and take my husband with us. Maybe next time we'll strike it rich.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Why Beauty?

I try to seek out beauty wherever and whenever I can, and I want to help other people do that too. Click here to go to one of my first posts, which explains why. May your eyes be opened to the beauty around you. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

To Openness

So much escapes our notice. So much depends on our openness--openness to God and to the beauty He has created. I like this quote and thought you might too.

"There is ecstasy in paying attention. You can get into a kind of Wordsworthian openness to the world, where you see in everything the essence of holiness, a sign that God is implicit in all of creation." Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Hope of Beauty

“This world in which we live needs beauty in order not to sink into despair. Beauty, like truth, brings joy to the human heart.” Pope John Paul II, “Letter to Artists,” Easter Sunday, 1999.

We are living in challenging times. Bad news seems to be all we hear and many of us are experiencing financial troubles, job loss, major illnesses, and other crises. When bad things happen to us or our families, what do we do? We focus on our circumstances.

But the Bible tells us in Hebrews to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” and to “hold unswervingly to the hope we profess.” Hope is defined in the dictionary as “to look forward to with confidence or expectation. To expect and desire.” We have confidence in God, the Creator of the universe (Who is bigger than our circumstances) and we have confidence in our salvation through Christ’s death and resurrection.

Years ago, I went through a difficult time. But as God was comforting me and reminding me that He was my help, He also gradually opened my eyes to beauty. I began to see it everywhere: in my home, in my baby girl’s face, in art, creation, music, words. Beauty had been there all along while I was struggling but I didn’t see it, didn’t fully appreciate it. When my eyes were opened to it, beauty reminded me of God, reminded me that Jesus was my hope, and it made me worship Him--my Creator, my Savior--even more.

Beauty can pull you out of yourself and put your focus on the Creator, who can comfort and soothe your aching heart. It can remind you of the hope you have in Jesus if you have committed your life to Him. And in spite of what’s going on in the world around you, you can know that because you are His, you have hope not only for the future in heaven but for life right now.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Beauty Sleep

I wrote this last night and then forgot to post it. Proof of how tired I was...

It's late. It's been a long day. My dog is snoozing at my feet and she looks so comfortable. Tomorrow will be a busy day; I'm preparing to speak at a ladies' retreat on Saturday. The topic? The beauty around us.

As I sit here thinking through so many moments of beauty I've experienced and written about, I don't know if I've ever written about nighttime. Moonlight, yes, but darkness? No. The truth is, I don't often walk outside at night. We have coyotes in our neighborhood and, now that the weather is warming up, the snakes will be out as well. While it's true that coyotes and snakes have a certain beauty, I have no desire to meet either one in the dark (or even in the noonday sun).

But there are so many things I like about nighttime:
1. quiet
2. rest and rejuvenation
3. relief
4. reading (a ritual before "lights out")
5. pajamas
6. cool sheets in the summer, thick comforter in the winter
7. the gentle whirr of the ceiling fan
8. the end of the day
9. checking on my daughter while she's asleep
10. the art in our bedroom (the mixed media pieces over the dresser and the bed, the pencil drawing of my ballerina done by a friend, the metal cross sculpture)
11. the vintage furniture (Grandmother's chair and chiffarobe, a cedar chest, a lady's writing desk, an armchair I rescued and refurbished)
12. and last but not least by any means--my husband

But maybe the thing that's the most important is knowing that tomorrow is a new day. I'm not quoting Scarlett here but paraphrasing the Bible, Lamentations 3:23 to be exact: "God's compassions [mercies] are new every morning." Knowing that I can start over with Him every day--now that gives me sweet dreams, and, I guess you could say, true beauty sleep.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Two very special babies were born yesterday. This morning in my inbox I found photos of their little pink faces, their heads covered in blue and pink newborn caps. The mothers look exhausted but still radiant somehow, the fathers look proud, everyone is all smiles. Tiny hands that grasp Grandpa's finger, eyes that see (however dimly at first), ears that know their parents' voices, lungs that now capture and release air, hearts that pump lifeblood throughout the tiny bodies.

Babies are born every day, every minute even. Yet each one is precious--a miracle. Each one is wrought by the very hands of God.

"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" (Psalm 139:13-14).


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Beauty of the Cross

The azaleas, dogwoods, cherry trees, and more have been putting on a show the past couple of weeks. And then surprise! The last few days, we've had below freezing temps and even snow flurries yesterday. It's going to start warming up, but I don't see how the flowers can make it. It makes me sad.

But what's uppermost in my mind is Holy Week. Several years ago, Cindy Morgan, I think, recorded a song called "The Beauty of the Cross." What an oxymoron! I thought, when I first heard it. How could something so horrible, so devastating be beautiful? But then I thought about the sacrifice made for me there--Jesus' perfect life given over in death to cancel out the death in me and give me new life.

How could it be? How could it be that He would do that for me? Last year, I explored this issue in an article about the cross for The Lookout magazine. If you'd like, you can read it here.

May this Easter weekend be special and meaningful for you, and may the beauty of the cross fill you with gratitude and wonder.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Beauty and the Word

I came across something last week that I found beautiful. It combines the beauty of the Word with the art of calligraphy and painting. It takes the timely and timeless and adds a new dimension of beauty to it. It's called The Saint John's Bible. It's a hand-written Bible--the first one since the invention of the printing press. And it's gorgeous.

The website says this:

In the Middle Ages, monasteries helped preserve knowledge and culture for the sake of the greater community. By commissioning a handwritten Bible, Saint John's revives a tradition and affirms its commitment to the study of scripture, to the book arts and to educational, artistic and spiritual pursuits.

The website says this:
At the dawn of the 21st century, Saint John's Abbey and University seek to ignite the spiritual imagination of believers throughout the world by commissioning a work of art that illuminates the Word of God for a new millennium.

And this:

In the 8th Century, near what are now Scotland and England, Benedictine monastic scribes created a Bible that today is one of the longest surviving monumental manuscripts in the Western world.

Nearly 1,300 years later, renowned calligrapher Donald Jackson approached the Benedictine monks of Saint John’s University and Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota, with his life-long dream: to create the first handwritten, illuminated bible commissioned since the invention of the printing press. The Saint John’s Bible uses ancient materials and techniques to create a contemporary masterpiece that brings the Word of God to life for the contemporary world.

Go see it for yourself.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Becoming Part of 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

Have you ever wanted to be united with beauty? I have felt that way watching a sunset on a summer night, riding on a train through the Swiss Alps, wandering through gardens in full and fragrant bloom, feeling the cool mist from a waterfall on my face, gazing at a painting that beckoned me to step into the canvas. Many times, I have wanted to bathe in beauty and become part of it.

This quote is one of my absolute favorites of C.S. Lewis. In fact Lewis' writing about beauty, as well as my own experiences, led me to write about it myself. 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.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Beauty Quotes


"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 of whatever kind, in its supreme development, invariably excites the sensitive soul to tears." -- Edgar Allen Poe

"Creativity is not restricted to the arts. Creativity is an approach to living life." --Alyce Cornyn-Selby

"If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in." --Rachel Carson

"There are two ways of being creative. One can sing and dance. Or one can create an environment in which singers and dancers flourish." -- Warren G. Bennis

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

This New Path

Last week I wrote about the gorgeous snowfall we had. This week we've had three or four days of spring-like temperatures. The blossoms on the cherry and pear trees are coming out. The dogwoods in the back yard are budding. Daffodils are popping up everywhere. I have a confirmed case of spring fever.

I remember a few years ago another spring-like day. This one was long-awaited, not because of the weather but because of the occasion. I wore a gorgeous long dress covered with pearls and carried beautiful flowers in purples and blues. My daughter looked like a tiny fairy princess in pink georgette, her small white basket of matching flowers trailing white ribbons. On my father's arm, I floated down the steps to a favorite selection from Edward Elgar's "Enigma." After kissing my parents and my daughter, I went to meet my groom at the front--not of a church but of a theater we both loved. I could not believe that it was actually happening, that God had brought me and this man together. The scripture that was read, the songs sung, the readings shared, were all intended to celebrate and worship God and His love for us as well as our love for each other. It was a beautiful day.

I write about my wedding every year on this or my other blog, Christians in the Arts, because it was art-filled and beauty-filled. And because my husband and I still are amazed and so grateful that we are walking this new path together.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


On Sunday morning, we were sitting in our worship service listening to one of our elders systemically and sensitively build a case for faith. He was talking about intelligent design and laying out, one by one, pieces of evidence for intelligent design, for a Creator. I heard someone murmuring behind us but didn't hear what he said. The friend sitting next to me leaned over and said, "It's snowing!" I looked through the huge window that runs the length of our church and there they were: big fluffy flakes falling quickly through the trees on that side of the building. It was a stunning sight.

My daughter would be so excited. I was excited! We don't get much snow in our area so when it's a possibility, I always hold my breath like a little kid, especially now that I'm a parent.

Turning my attention back to the message, I smiled when I realized the elder was talking about the cells in our bodies with their intricate DNA, the length of which blew my mind. God created even the tiniest parts of our bodies, the stars in our vast universe, and snowflakes, too, each one of which is said to be different from all the others. It was a God moment for me.

Later, in our hats and gloves and layers, my daughter and I romped in our front yard while my husband snapped some photos. Our dog was confused and uncertain about the white stuff on the ground, but my daughter was having a blast. She and I stayed out in the cold for as long as we could, hurling snowballs, packing a small snow mountain (our version of a snowman), writing our initials in undisturbed snow. She made a snow angel, too, and my husband took a picture. The shot reminds me of one I took during the snowfall in 2004. The snow angel she made was much smaller, and our snowman was a snow dwarf so tiny it didn't show up in the photo. The hat, coat, and gloves she wore were different then, too, but her smile was the same as on Sunday: wide, dimply, and carefree. It was a God moment. A Designer moment.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Dance

On Sunday, our church launched a new arts series. The service had almost every type of fine art represented, including dance. Two wonderful dancers, who are also my friends, performed to a song called "Perfume." They use their bodies to praise and worship God, the Creator of the human body. Each of them have been dancing their whole lives. One of my favorite things about seeing them dance is they smile throughout the performance. The beauty of the dance given in worship, along with the beauty of their smiles, add a special and meaningful element to the service every time.

My daughter took dance when she was in preschool. She and her fellow ballerinas were so cute in their tutus, it was almost painful--I knew those precious moments would not last forever. And they didn't, of course. She quit dance at the end of pre-K.

At our house now, dance involves the two of us boogie-ing to her music in her room and an occasional freestyle shuffle/tango that ends with me dipping her in the finale. Which reminds me, we haven't done that in a while. I'm going to suggest it after school today. After all, moments like that will not last forever.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Marking Grief

Just a quick note to say thank you to Peg Phifer over at Writer to Reader for the special recognition award for Beauty and the Beholder. Here's what she says:

I try to find unique content that touches me, blesses me, or even challenges me. Yours was a warm and inviting place to spend a few minutes. Thank you for that.

You can read the feature here.

The other day, my friend, Nancy Ring, had an interesting post on her blog, Anchors, Signposts, and Wanderings, about creative ways to mark grief. She asked: "Is there a loss in your life that you would like to honor by creating something? What would you create?"

This is not something I created, but it's a created thing that I shared. At each house where I've lived, I've planted a tree in memory of my first baby and in honor of my second baby, who is now nine years old. It's a wonderful feeling to plant and nurture a beautiful thing for such a purpose--reminders of how precious life is and what a gift our loves ones are.

The first trees were pink cherries. The second pair at the second house were pink dogwoods. They were all beautiful and they bloomed early, reminding me that winter was over and spring was arriving. An ongoing metaphor for my life at the time.

I haven't planted trees at our current house yet, because we want to make a landscape plan first. We will do it, though. Maybe this year?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Beauty of the Moon

The last few weeks, the sun has been rising a little earlier, so when we leave the house for school, there's a bit of light to guide us. Yesterday, as we drove down our street, we saw the moon big and full just ahead. It had a haze around it, which reminded me of the fog a couple of weeks ago. It was so beautiful. I don't tend to think about the moon until I see it, but if it weren't there, I would miss it.

The beauty and mystery of the moon have inspired many people to write songs about it, or about love under the moon, or a longing for love under the moon, or even "I have nobody except the moon." Songs like "Blue Moon," "It's Only a Paper Moon," "Dancin' in the Moonlight," "Carolina Moon," "Moon River and Me", "Moonlight and Roses." These songs make me think of romance, and of Valentine's Day on Saturday.

Then there's "Fly Me to the Moon," which makes me think of The Flintstones, where I first heard Fred sing the song to Wilma. Now that was romantic.

For fun, I looked up some quotes about the moon and of course there are scores of them. Here are a few favorites:

“I like to think that the moon is there even if I am not looking at it.” Albert Einstein

“See how nature - trees, flowers, grass - grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence...we need silence to be able to touch souls.”  Mother Teresa of Calcutta

“Beauty is a form of genius - is higher, indeed, than genius, as it needs no explanation. It is of the great facts in the world like sunlight, or springtime, or the reflection in dark water of that silver shell we call the moon.”  Oscar Wilde

“When I admire the wonder of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in worship of the Creator.” Mahatma Gandhi
“The moon, like a flower
In heaven's high bower,
With silent delight
Sits and smiles on the night.”
William Blake
And finally, a blessing for you: “May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night and a smooth road all the way to your door.” Irish Blessing

Monday, February 2, 2009

25 Random Memories of Beauty

I'm posting a little early this week. I had lots of fun pulling this together. Hope you enjoy reading it.

Here's a list of 25 random memories of beauty that I love:

1. daily sunrise over the trees outside my bedroom window
2. that memorable sunset one summer night at my old house that had the best view in the neighborhood
3. my dog sailing through the air, her ball in her mouth
4. the view of the Alps from the first-class train in Switzerland
5. strolling the gardens at CS Lewis' home, The Kilns, in England with my husband, who loves Lewis as much as I do
6. my first deer sighting: the baby that stood silhouetted in front of my subdivision sign, surrounded by yummy pansies
7. the cheesecake last Friday night; the "braided" white and milk chocolate sauce was art on the plate (it tasted fabulous too)
8. the moments in front of Monet's Water Lilies that started my pursuit of art and beauty
9. the blue and purple hydrangea blossoms on the tables at my friend's July wedding; she was beautiful too
10. Handel's Messiah performances
11. the redwoods, tall and majestic
12. the wild sea at Carmel
13. the desolation and the promise of Mt. St. Helens
14. the surprise snowfall last January that actually stuck around for a few days
15. the orchid house at the botanical gardens
16. our wedding
17. butterflies as big as my hand landing on our butterfly bushes
18. the pink cherry and dogwood trees I planted for my babies
19. the large, vibrant Jar of Clay painting we bought for our 1st anniversary
20. the pears painting too
21. the Oxford Symphony Orchestra performing classical favorites
22. last year's performance of Cotton Patch Gospel at Theatrical Outfit
23. this line from Big River, the musical based on Huck Finn: "considerable joy, considerable sorrow"
24. the wild rose vine in the dogwood tree down the street from my parents' home
25. favorite books read and re-read like The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

What are some of your favorite memories of beauty? Please leave a comment and let me know.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Through sleep-filled eyes, I tuned in to the day's weather forecast. The forecaster said, "There's a lot of fog out there. Fog is basically a cloud on the ground." A cloud on the ground? There's a poem in there somewhere, I thought, yawning as the dog and I ambled to the kitchen, both of us hungry for breakfast.

When my daughter and I left the house, the air was heavy with the fog. Beautiful but dangerous, especially in the dark. The sun had not yet risen, so I drove slowly, acutely aware of the deer and other creatures in the area, not to mention children on their way to the bus stop. The beams from the headlights seemed solid enough to cut through the wet air while somehow bouncing back at us at the same time. As we rode through the neighborhoods on the way to school, street lights, stop lights, and house lights put off a hazy glow as though they were wrapped in spider webs, wet cocoons that softened and diffused the light.

While I was gone, a friend emailed me Carl Sandburg's poem, Fog. And by the time I read it, the fog had just about moved on. But not before I had thought, there really is a poem in there somewhere, and made a note to myself to push through the fog of everydayness until I find it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Premio Dardas Award

My blog has been awarded the "Premio-Dardas" Award today by Brenda Leyland of It's A Beautiful Life. I'm flattered! Here's what Brenda says about it:

"This award 'acknowledges the values that every Blogger displays in their effort to transmit cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values with each message they write.'

Awards like this have been created with the intention of promoting community among Bloggers. It's a way to show appreciation and gratitude for work that adds value to the Web.

I understand this award comes with a couple of rules, and they are:

1. Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who granted it to you, along with his/her blog link.

2. Pass the award to (15) other blogs that you feel are worthy of this recognition. Remember to contact each of them to let them know they have been chosen as recipients.

*Please note: when copying the award picture, please download it to your own computer first and upload from there to your own blog site. I understand you could unwittingly use up other people's band width. Anyone know for sure if that's the case?"

Like Brenda, I find my time limited today more than usual (I don't have my regular post up yet!) so I'm going to keep this list short. I'm passing the award along to these bloggers:

Crystal Miller of Chat n Chew Cafe

Nancy Ring of Anchors, Signposts & Wanderings

Terry Whalin of The Writing Life

Bonnie Bruno of Macro Moments

The marvelous team at Books & Such blog

and at Novel Matters

Thanks, Brenda, for passing the "Premio Dardas" to me.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Words to Read Aloud

For a while now, I've been reading scripture aloud to a sick friend. She's not always awake when I read, but I believe that the words comfort her anyway, that they soak into her heart and mind and soothe her. It's the Word of God. How could it not reach her in some way?

As I'm reading the passages, I'm thinking about her life, her journey thus far, and the lengthy path she has ahead of her to recovery. I'm thinking about dark times in my own life, about loss, about suffering. I'm thinking about the hope she and I have in Christ--hope for today and for always.

Sometimes I read Psalm 104 to her. It's one of my favorites because it reminds me that He is bigger than sickness and sadness and suffering. He is the Creator of the universe--and of us, too. He is the Author of beauty, and His work stuns us with His glory.

Here it is. Read it aloud, and see if your circumstances suddenly seem smaller.

Psalm 104

1 Praise the LORD, O my soul.
O LORD my God, you are very great;
you are clothed with splendor and majesty.

2 He wraps himself in light as with a garment;
he stretches out the heavens like a tent

3 and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.
He makes the clouds his chariot
and rides on the wings of the wind.

4 He makes winds his messengers, [a]
flames of fire his servants.

5 He set the earth on its foundations;
it can never be moved.

6 You covered it with the deep as with a garment;
the waters stood above the mountains.

7 But at your rebuke the waters fled,
at the sound of your thunder they took to flight;

8 they flowed over the mountains,
they went down into the valleys,
to the place you assigned for them.

9 You set a boundary they cannot cross;
never again will they cover the earth.

10 He makes springs pour water into the ravines;
it flows between the mountains.

11 They give water to all the beasts of the field;
the wild donkeys quench their thirst.

12 The birds of the air nest by the waters;
they sing among the branches.

13 He waters the mountains from his upper chambers;
the earth is satisfied by the fruit of his work.

14 He makes grass grow for the cattle,
and plants for man to cultivate—
bringing forth food from the earth:

15 wine that gladdens the heart of man,
oil to make his face shine,
and bread that sustains his heart.

16 The trees of the LORD are well watered,
the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.

17 There the birds make their nests;
the stork has its home in the pine trees.

18 The high mountains belong to the wild goats;
the crags are a refuge for the coneys. [b]

19 The moon marks off the seasons,
and the sun knows when to go down.

20 You bring darkness, it becomes night,
and all the beasts of the forest prowl.

21 The lions roar for their prey
and seek their food from God.

22 The sun rises, and they steal away;
they return and lie down in their dens.

23 Then man goes out to his work,
to his labor until evening.

24 How many are your works, O LORD!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.

25 There is the sea, vast and spacious,
teeming with creatures beyond number—
living things both large and small.

26 There the ships go to and fro,
and the leviathan, which you formed to frolic there.

27 These all look to you
to give them their food at the proper time.

28 When you give it to them,
they gather it up;
when you open your hand,
they are satisfied with good things.

29 When you hide your face,
they are terrified;
when you take away their breath,
they die and return to the dust.

30 When you send your Spirit,
they are created,
and you renew the face of the earth.

31 May the glory of the LORD endure forever;
may the LORD rejoice in his works-

32 he who looks at the earth, and it trembles,
who touches the mountains, and they smoke.

33 I will sing to the LORD all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.

34 May my meditation be pleasing to him,
as I rejoice in the LORD.

35 But may sinners vanish from the earth
and the wicked be no more.
Praise the LORD, O my soul.
Praise the LORD. [c]

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Beauty of Order

With the new year, I'm celebrating the beauty of order. I'm taking a clue from the order that appears in creation and trying to transfer that to my office. I'm well on my way but still have some things to deal with. In the meantime, I'm enjoying an empty floor, margin around my computer, and the now visible wood grain of two vintage tables that serve as my desk. You wouldn't know it to see my office on an average day but clutter drives me crazy. I'm good about "editing" clutter from other rooms but my office can get out of control at times. When it does, I put my blinders on and look only at my screen or out my office window to the view of the woods below. For the last several days, I've seen a male cardinal come and go to a certain spot in the brush, strikingly red against the browns and dull greys of the trees and shrubs. He reminds me that creation is filled with order. He, or rather His creator, inspires me to invite some of that order into my office and other areas of my life as well. And this new year is the perfect time to do that.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year's Eve

Happy New Year! And may 2009 be filled with moments of beauty and wonder for you.

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