Category Archives: Musings on Life and Beauty

Lessons from the Beach

No summer is complete for our family without a trip to Newport Beach, California.  I love it because it’s a calming week for me.  We slow down, I get to park my car for several days without touching it, and as we all relax into vacation life I learn lessons from the beach.

My favorite activity is my long early morning walks along the water’s edge.  I love waking up early to enjoy the low tide and this summer a few of my children requested that I wake them so they could join me.  We had some wonderful early mornings discovering sea life, exploring holes in the sand, and hunting for seashells.

During low tide we explore the landscape that remains when the water recedes.  We see how the beach has changed, hunt for sea life that is usually submerged in water, and best of all – we learn what gifts the sea has to offer that day.

Visiting the beach is “low tide” in my life, and these walks at literal low tide remind me how wonderful it is to have a small break and reflect on the changed landscape of my heart.  As my hungry eyes take in the tranquil setting, I begin to sift and learn from the pounding we take during everyday life in Utah.  This is where I learn lessons from the beach.

This summer I learned four lessons:

First:  The waves keep coming.  Sand shifts, dips appear in new places on the ground, shells are washed up and swept back away.  The beach is a new place every day, and by day’s end it is not as it began.  It’s always changing, renewing, and yet it stays the same.  Some waves are gentle, some powerful, and occasionally they’re overpowering.  Some days the water is like glass, other days it’s choppy.  But the waves keep coming.  This lesson reminds me that every day is a new adventure – I can expect to get slammed sometimes and to struggle to keep up with how swiftly things are changing.  Change keeps life fresh and new, yet the basic patterns of life are predictable and comforting – the sun will set and in the morning it will rise to bring a new day.  I get to keep trying!  We as people change so much and yet we also stay the same.  Life will keep happening and things will work out.

Second:  Notice and appreciate the gift.  We don’t get to choose what the ocean leaves for us to explore and discover each morning.  It changes.  I’ve been visiting this beach all my life and every year seems to have a different theme.  Sometimes it’s jellyfish, or stingrays, or dolphins everywhere.  This year we saw a beautiful white heron and watched it as it walked around near us.  What beauty!  For the first time, we also found living sand dollars, and more dead sand dollars than I’ve ever seen in Newport Beach.  But we had to go look for them, to get out of bed at 5:30 a.m. while on vacation, spend a couple of hours walking, and slow down enough to really look around us.  It was so worth it!  This experience makes me wonder what gifts await me at home in my everyday surroundings.  How can I really look around and notice them?

Third:  Once we have eyes to see, with patience we will find treasures.  Once we spotted these living sand dollars, we discovered they were everywhere!  I loved watching the excitement of my children as they spotted dozens of them, scattered across the beach waiting for a wave to sweep them away again.  We also discovered dozens of dead sand dollars on the beaches, sitting in plain view, but we didn’t recognize them until we knew what we were looking for.  One of my daughters developed a system for spotting them.  Her system kept her far behind the rest of the children, but her patience paid off and she joined us carrying treasures the rest of us had walked right by without seeing.

I want eyes to see, not just the physical beauties around me each day, but the spiritual gifts and lessons just waiting to be noticed.  Discoveries waiting to be made about ourselves, about those we love, about living life wholeheartedly.  We had to train our eyes to pick the sand dollars out amidst other shells.  In life we must train more than our eyes – our hearts, minds, and spirits can be trained to carefully choose the right treasures.  Treasures of knowledge and understanding, precious memories, eternal relationships, all of these can be ours if we have eyes to see and patience to work at it.

Fourth:  Make room in the day for beauty.  My grandpa never missed a sunset.  Every night he walked out to the beach to watch the sun set up the coast.  Sunsets at the beach are glorious, as they are in most places.  At the beach we made time to go out and watch the sun set every night, but so often at home I only notice it if I happen to be outside at just the right moment, or if it catches the attention of one of my kids and they come running in to get me.  Being at the beach reminds me to make room for everyday beauty in my life.  Yesterday’s solitary drive reminded me again, and I like the gratitude and inner wholeness that comes with it.

Because beach life is so different from daily life at home, it is a place of learning and pondering for me.  The trick, I suppose, is to be as happy a student of everyday life as I am when visiting the sea.  As I watch the season change from summer to fall, I find myself pausing for a backward look at summer, and motivated to move into a new season with an open heart.  I want to take my lessons from the beach and live better by applying them here where God has planted me.

Is there a season or a place that you learn from?  What lessons are you carrying forward as the season changes?  How do you remind yourself?

Have a lovely day,
Jennifer

 

How Many Loaves?

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” – Epictetus, Greek philosopher

Yesterday I left on a mini day trip to see my daughter at college and thus found myself alone in my car early in the morning.  The change of season has begun and a misty fog hung over the landscape, obscuring fields and pastures as I drove.  It was a beautiful sight.  I watched as the sun steadily rose over the mountains at my left to light the valley at my right and was amazed at the breathtaking beauty of this transition from night to day.

The feeling of gentle awe continued as Emmeline and I went to take care of our objective, discovered a problem with her car that I was able to help with, and a quick grocery shopping trip allowed us to visit longer than I planned.  I felt grateful that I’d made the drive, that Heavenly Father brought me there on the morning neither of us knew she would have car trouble, that we were able to get everything arranged or taken care of in the amount of time I had available.

The drive home was equally beautiful, the sky a deep cobalt blue against now white-capped mountains and puffy white clouds.  The road stretched out before me, punctuated by the occasional barn and birds soaring in the sky.  Three hours of driving alone provided ample time to reflect on my blessings and God’s goodness in my life.

I made it home with three minutes to spare before the next time-sensitive commitment of the day – more gratitude!  My top priority task of the day was completed – gratitude! I needed to find something for another teen-aged daughter which proved difficult to track down, but with prayer and persistence I located one, had time to run buy it and made it to the school in time to drive the carpool home.  Again, more gratitude!

There is never a day that goes according to plan, but I have learned that Heavenly Father is faithful in helping me with the day-to-day hiccups of family life.   Many of the things I take care of each day must be taken care of again tomorrow, or replaced with an entire new list of urgent needs.  My thoughts centered last night on the consistency of the Lord’s help in my life, the grace that is evident in the flow of the day and the gift of a new morning.

As a family last night we sat together and followed the counsel of Thomas S. Monson to “pause and contemplate our blessings.”  We sat quietly and each of us wrote in our journals the things we are grateful for, then shared some of them with one another.  We talked about the ten lepers whom Jesus healed (Luke 17), about how we can be like the one who returned to give thanks and was made whole.  We talked about the miracle of Jesus feeding 4,000 in the wilderness (Matthew 15).  When Jesus stated his intention to feed the multitude, his disciples asked “Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude?”  So often I am like them, seeing only what is lacking and being intimidated by it!  But the Savior, once again, set a perfect example and asked “How many loaves have ye?”  Seven.  That’s it.  Seven loaves and 4,000 people.  He was not overwhelmed by what lacked.  He took what was available, GAVE THANKS FOR IT, and the miracle began.  All the multitude ate and were filled, and seven baskets of food were left over.

How many loaves have ye?  That question is on repeat in my head.

Yesterday I was reminded that God’s economy is one of abundance, that he can and will provide in ways that have no logical explanation, but which are often unlocked by using what is available to us and giving thanks for it.  When I focus on what I lack, fear always follows.  When I focus on how much I already have, happiness rushes in.

This morning I feel determined to keep the happiness of gratitude alive in my heart, to use what I’ve been given and give thanks for it – creating a shield for myself against the things I fear.  I am watching for the ways my Heavenly Father will intervene and direct my life.  I am thrilled to be given another day of life.

How many loaves do you have?  How can you use them for good?  What are you grateful for today?

 

30 Days of Bible lettering: Days 1-7

I recently started a little creative project just for fun.  I came across a challenge on Instagram called 30 Days of Bible lettering and decided to try it out.

Each day there is a new verse to letter in some way.  I gave myself some rules because I knew I would quickly judge my efforts as not good enough and the perfectionist in me would ruin all the fun.  My rule is that I get just one try – no starting over, and I have just 5 minutes to do it.  My goal is for it to be a brief creative warm-up of sorts.

I have always enjoyed writing and as a girl spent many hours practicing my handwriting, so it’s no surprise that this exercise attracts me.  I hope, after 30 days, to be a little more confident, a little better at spacing and composition, a little less shaky, and a little better in general.

Of course, the best part is the time I spend pondering the verse as I write it.  I find myself thinking about its application in my life today, about my Savior Jesus Christ, and gratitude always follows.  After all, how can you read words like “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble,” or “thy comforts delight my soul” without feeling more confident in Him?

So many of these verses are also a call to action:  love in deed and in truth, pray without ceasing, let us not be weary in well doing!  With all that is going on in our world I find these messages particularly compelling.  Pray and serve and never quit – doesn’t that sound like a great way to live?

I broke my rule on the “pray without ceasing” one because I decided to learn to draw a wreath – something I’ve never tried before.  So of course I got out a scratch paper and fiddled with it and made mistakes and then got interrupted and all of a sudden I was 4 days behind!  I came back to the challenge, took a deep breath and just did my best.  So many mistakes, but I like it.

I mentioned life has been overly full lately.  I am grateful for all we have going on but I do sometimes wonder and fear when I look too far down the road – so much needs doing!  I loved being reminded that my part is to not be weary from all of it, but to joyfully do my best and trust that it will all work out.

Bible lettering has reminded me that much of the overload is a result of that more abundant life that Jesus promised.  I marvel at the blessings being poured out on us and while I sometimes shake at the responsibility they bring, my heart runs towards them, thrilled to be living a life with the meaning and direction Jesus Christ offers.

I am currently behind again on this project, but hope to catch up.  I’m posting them on my personal Instagram account, @jenniferSharrison, if you want to follow along.  Better yet, grab a pencil or pen and join in yourself!  I might do a second round of bible lettering, using my personal favorites.  This could become a really fun habit!

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