Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sunday Afternoon Tea - Choosing to see what is beautiful

Scenes I find beautiful...

I was walking down the gravel lane last week, on my way to the rural mailbox, when there was a sudden aroma of perfumed air... as if one were walking in the perfume aisle of a department store rather than on a gravel road.

I recognized that scent.  At least now I do. For a couple years when we first moved in, I didn't realize it was my neighbor's tree that sits next to his driveway near the gravel lane.  It doesn't have the beautiful, full flowers of the dogwood tree but what it lacks in floral beauty, it makes up for in fragrance.

What a wonderful surprise in the midst of a dreary, rainy day.  The kind of serendipity I think of as Echoes of Eden.  I have written about such ponderings before* so I won't at the moment but they happen often as the seasons change.

This past week has been spent in the garden and the backyard in my usual working, resting, working, resting pattern of getting things accomplished.  There is a short window of opportunity to accomplish Spring landscaping and garden chores between when the weather turns warm and the perennials, brush, saplings, etc. grow too full to provide necessary landscape maintenance.

I do everything I can and my husband takes over with all that requires more physical strength than gardening technique.  There have been a couple of years when circumstances combined to keeping this maintenance undone and instead of a nice looking fence line... it was a jungle.

However, there was good to come out of the jungle years.  I found I quite liked the look in some parts of my fence line.  It acted as natural privacy fence between our property and a few others.  So there are a few areas that are kept quite jungle like.  One, in a corner of our property, doesn't get anything done to it.  Another, which is in my line of sight as I wash dishes, does get some pruning and tweaking and pulling out of dead brush.  But not very much.  Not like the areas where the hostas and other perennials grow.

I am not a person who must be in control at all times.  Which is most likely how I've kept my sanity these past decades.  But there was a Eureka moment long ago when I realized I could filter out the ugly to see beauty, or at least put together some kind of mental privacy fence between myself and that which I choose not to spend time pondering... as my jungle privacy fence areas do for the yard.

And I find the older I get and the darker the world seems to be turning, the more I need that filter.  Not the ostrich kind of filter.  Never burying one's head in the ground and choosing to be unaware of what is going on in the world at all.  We need to be aware of events locally as well as internationally so if nothing else we know how to pray... and perhaps offer help if God leads in that direction.

But I'm talking about the everyday-ness of living.  What I think of when I get up in the morning, what I see as I walk out to the kitchen, what TV programs I choose to watch, or radio/podcasts I listen to that day.  I need to feed myself with good watching and listening as much as I need healthy food.  Some days I just need... silence.

My need for Beauty is evident in novels I choose to read and movies I choose to watch.  And the fact I choose to make reading a priority.  I cannot live in simpler times but I can read about them. I can make an effort to get ideas for beauty in books and magazines.  I can watch a favorite cooking show and learn something new and delicious.

Circumstances which can bring with them a lack of calm, also make it even more necessary to make areas of calm a priority.  There are days when I need a really good movie or TV show to give a mental vacation, or a wonderful well written novel that causes me to forget my own trials and tribulations.  These are like a little oasis of peace in the desert.

It does not take a lot of money to add beauty.  I much prefer the look of a home that has been slowly made beautiful through the years by going to garage sales, thrift stores, flea markets, etc. than one where all the furniture and artwork was delivered in a box truck from a store.  My dining table from a store is surrounded by inherited furniture and a garage sale bookshelf... and it looks quite lovely.

I love the way the Study looks and it is quite a hodgepodge of Goodwill finds, furniture leftover from Christopher's childhood, inherited furniture, and the rocking chair which was one of the first pieces of "nice" furniture purchased after we were married.  There is no where else on the planet filled with the stuff that makes me happy than that room.... people, yes... stuff, no.

Many years ago, while I was in the midst of corporate life, I read Florence Littauer's book, It Takes So Little to Be Above Average**.   Florence was one of my Influencers, one of the Christian women I will write about in a future post.  And that book changed the way I looked at life, the Truth she shared remains today even though this is a 1980s book. 

For the premise of the book (and her lectures on the subject) is that it only takes a little more time, or effort, or learning about, or anything to be above average in today's world.  I find that true each day in surrounding myself with beauty, in helping to filter out the darkness.

It doesn't take much to add beauty.  When I have a little extra in the budget that does not have to go to groceries or gas, I will often peruse Goodwill or the antique mall for inexpensive items of beauty, or a package of washi tape at Michaels.  Recently I found a two dollar plant at the grocery store and brought it home to sit on my desk as a beautiful and inexpensive still life.

Sometimes I will use those dollars on an extravagant food item usually  not in the budget such as lemon curd, or a good extra virgin olive oil, or champagne vinegar, or Meyer lemons instead of the regular fruit, or a pound of thick cut bacon that can be used in a variety of ways to add flavor to a recipe.

It is our choice.  Do we take that little extra time, or money, or effort, or learning curve to add beauty in our life?  Do we use the good dishes more often?  Do we decide to spend a little money on some nice smelling dish washing liquid or perhaps a pretty tea towel to drape on the stove?

Do we plant flowers or herbs?  Do we spend our extra limited funds on what will bring joy, whether a used book by a favorite author or a bouquet of flowers from the grocery store?  Do we take the time to make a nice meal once in awhile for our family or friends and spend time around the table just chatting?

How do we decide where we spend our time and what we look at and what we read and what we hear and what takes our attention every minute of every day... knowing it is those minutes that make up our life.  

Do we take time each day to read God's Word and chat with Him about the doings of our day, bringing before Him the people we love and the events of the world which we are concerned?  He is the Source of all Beauty after all.  And Peace.  And Joy.

Forever and ever, Amen.

*Echoes of Eden Post... here.
**Amazon Associate link to It Takes So Little to Be Above Average... here.
Image:  Former Header that I still love


Anonymous said...

Oh what a lovely post. I concur and say amen. 😉 Pam (SD)

Barbara said...

Such a beautiful post, Brenda... a lovely way of reminding us of our need for both boundaries and beauty.

You have mentioned before how we are to deal with our feelings about the ugly news that is all around us anymore.

I used to listen to the TV news in the mornings while getting bathed and dressed. Finally decided that was too much time spent with harsh realities (only a little was necessary, not as much as what I was subjecting myself to). Now instead I listen to Christian radio (a conservative music local station) and find that my state of mind is improved as a result.

Thanks so much for your lovely blog posts and the pictures.

Anonymous said...

"In my book" you are up there with Florence Littauer and Edith Schaffer (spelling ??) You have such a beautiful God-given gift for putting words on paper (or blog). Such a beauiful post today. And not only your words but your gift for creating a beautiful home and preparing lovely meals with what you have. Love, love, love your blog. Blessings to you and many thanks, Sharon D.

Vee said...

I still love that header, too! Well, read the post and took off to find out more about Florence Littauer winding up at You Tube watching a couple of videos. Needless to say, it has taken awhile to return. Now I'm not quite sure what you said so will reread. =D

Deanna Rabe - Creekside Cottage Blog said...

I agree Brenda. I choose to find beauty too, my soul needs it.

I remember Florence Littauer. I see Vee found some youtube videos. I may have to go check those out, too!

Thank you for your inspiration, always.


A Woman that Fears the Lord said...

Sweet, encouraging post. Thank you!

hopeinbrazil said...

Thank you, Brenda, for another thoughtfully written post that encourages me to pursue beauty. (I loved the Echoes of Eden post too!)

Annabel said...

I crave beauty too and need to limit what I see to what I need to know. The horrors now that our Christian brothers and sisters are enduring... we need to know and to pray. But I easily see too much and I cannot cope.
But scripture tells us to think on whatever is lovely whatever is pure... so God knows we need to be careful with what we see, listen to, think on and we need to be careful.
If we need to be careful I think of how important it is for children. Many people let their children see anything, watch horror movies... I dont know what they are thinking!
I need lovely things around me, birds and flowers

Mary said...

You and I are a lot alike, Brenda. Same Spirit :) Blessings~

The Journey said...

yes, even in dark days there can be a lot of beauty. God is the ultimate artist and he placed beauty all around us. Even the weeds, that are taking over the lawn, bloom beautifully this time of yr.
You know our favorite antique mall sold out and is now something else- still looks the same. said...

Oh yes, I love Florence Littauer's books also. I have one called "Silver Boxes" that deals with encouragement and edification...let your words be a present (silver box) to those you speak to.
Thank you for sharing.

Heather LeFebvre said...

This post is right up my alley. :) Thanks for your beautiful encouragement.

I think you will like "The Happy Christian". I read it alongside "Choosing Rest" and "Choosing Rest" ministered more to my soul but there were certain chapters in "The Happy Christian" that were very good for me. All of it is good but sometimes certain things stand out. I think it will be good to review in the depths of winter which seems to be a hard time for me. Also just finished "Touching the Hem: A Biblical Response to Suffering" -- wow, so good I had to buy it as a resource.

Carrie said...

I love everything about this post. Thank you for the reminders to look for beauty in small places and to add it whenever possible.