The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.
– Annie Dillard
I live in community with my parents, a cocker spaniel, my four children, and my even-keeled husband. My brother, sister-in-law and their four kids live just on the other side of our subdivision. Family surrounds me every day, all the time, and I have learned, and am continuing to learn, a lot about the patience and joy derived from continuous connection.
On Wednesday mornings, my two-year-old nephew comes over to visit. He is high on life, that kid. All brand new and amazed. Our short walks to the playground take 45 minutes because he pauses to look at, smell, touch, and study, EVERYTHING.
Last week a man was riding his motorcycle around and around the perimeter of our park. Each time he zoomed by we’d have to stop and wave to him. My nephew, not realizing it was the same man, and same motorcycle, driving past again and again, kept saying, “So many motorcycles! Soooo many motorcycles!“
He makes me laugh and slow waaay down when he’s here. Today, for instance, he showed me ants that were very busy, acorns wearing hats, butterflies too fast to catch, leaves that crunched when you stepped on them, and striking white, winding airplane tracks against a bright blue sky. Truly, these miracles delighted me, as they haven’t before in years.
I am a huge proponent of tuning out worldly chaos and tuning in to the still, small marvels and revelations unfolding ceaselessly right in front of me. When information overload threatens to ravage my mind and spirit, I withdraw into simplicity, silence, creativity and gratitude.
I don’t ask for the sights in front of me to change, only the depth of my seeing.
– Mary Oliver
Anchored by prayer in the mornings and evenings, finding comfort in the ancient ritual of lighting candles and burning incense, I lay aside my earthly reasoning and recommit myself to the practice of waiting. Out go my thoughts and assumptions to make room for the presence of Christ. His name on my lips, I throw myself into the present moment, extracting peace from chores performed diligently, interruptions accepted with reverence, thanksgiving for quiet blessings (a good novel, my daily walk, strong coffee…), and opinions suppressed, empty words unspoken.
Glory to Thee for calling me into being
Glory to Thee, showing me the beauty of the universe
Glory to Thee, spreading out before me heaven and earth
Like the pages in a book of eternal wisdom
Glory to Thee for Thine eternity in this fleeting world
Glory to Thee for Thy mercies, seen and unseen
Glory to Thee through every sigh of my sorrow
Glory to Thee for every step of my life’s journey
For every moment of glory
Glory to Thee, O God, from age to age.
-Akathist of Thanksgiving
I am figuring out all over again from my nephew how to greet each day with awe, and disentangle myself from stress and angst that only binds and paralyzes. I’m being reborn into hope via innocence and wonder.
Happiness is found within ourselves, and blessed is the man who has understood this. Happiness is a pure heart, for such a heart becomes the throne of God. Thus says Christ of those who have pure hearts: “I will visit them, and will walk in them, and I will be a God to them, and they will be my people.” (II Cor. 6:16) What can be lacking to them? Nothing, nothing at all! For they have the greatest good in their hearts: God Himself!
(St. Nektarios of Aegina, Path to Happiness, 1)
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, stay near me, please purify my mind and heart. Please make me useful today. Thank you for the abundant, light-bearing beauty that still very much exists– please keep my eyes and soul locked in on it!