Category Archives: Musings on Life and Beauty

A beginning

Nothing feels more like a beginning than a clean stack of paper and a freshly sharpened pencil.

I love the fresh start afforded by the beginning of a new school year.  It brings a craziness (and needs a budget) all its own, makes everyone tired, and lengthens all the to-do lists considerably – but it’s so good to start again!  August felt like a big month for our family:  we sent our oldest daughter off to college, another daughter turned 13, we celebrated our wedding anniversary, our youngest turned 8, we got our first taste of watching our daughter play college soccer, our high school athletes survived tryouts and made their teams, school started, homework has begun, and sports schedules now reign.  Life is good.

My #1 focus right now is routines – creating systems that will support our family throughout the school year, and meet needs without thinking about it once they’re habits.  Every year this process is a little bit different as our children grow, change, and move from one school to another.  I am doing the same with my personal time – developing more efficient systems to assist me in reaching my goals and supporting my family.  It’s exciting and challenging, a time for questions and careful listening, and LOTS of revising.

Much as I love that clean stack of paper, a real beginning requires putting the pencil to work, knowing mistakes will come and bring true learning with them.  I’ve never had a good relationship with mistakes; I’ve used them to sling criticism at myself and let them drag me down.  I’m trying to change that, to quit fearing failure and welcome opportunity no matter the learning curve, and to make peace with the past.   I have a great deal to learn, and I’m excited to be working.

 

Learning from my flowers: Bent but Blooming

There is nothing quite like the beauty of a flower in bloom.  Every stage is a wonder to observe.

I watch the weight of the flower head and how the stem handles it.  Some, like my purple allium, stand straight and tall, the flower symmetrical, the long stalks so beautiful as they effortlessly hold the flower upright.

Peonies are different.  Their stalks are strong but the weight of the flower so great that slowly they bend beneath the strain until eventually the gorgeous blooms nearly touch the ground.  I find it touching that in their moment of greatest glory, they bow, unable to keep the enormous bloom upright.

I look around at my children and see so many good things happening in their hearts and in their lives.  The older they get the more amazed I am by them – not because they’re turning out just how I thought they would, but because they are becoming more and more THEM, the person they were meant to be.  I’m learning that person has very little to do with me.  They have attributes I didn’t teach them, talents I didn’t plant, struggles all their own, and potential far beyond any I have power to bestow.  They are sons and daughters of God, entrusted to me for a time, but very much who they were before I got them.

Lately I feel like a peony bush – growth and welcome blessings on stems that bow under the weight of it all.  I remember how I smiled with compassion at my lovely bushes, dangling their flowers in the lavender and at the edge of the lawn, grateful for that low-hanging beauty.  I think that perhaps my Heavenly Father smiles in compassion at me, too, struggling to hold everything upright in a new season of motherhood, blessings nearly brushing the ground.

I’m reminded of a favorite hymn:

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gain’d,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.

I’ve been thinking about the words, “to bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed.”  I am grateful to be in an intense learning phase of my life, to be both blessed and challenged by my responsibilities.  The bowing and bending encourage me in prayer and remind me to look to my Savior.  I suppose it’s the only way to truly “come ’round right.”

-Jennifer

 

 

To Make the World a Little Better

A little over two years ago my family and I faced a challenge that changed us.  We’re not unique; life is supposed to do that for all of us in some way.  It left me reeling emotionally for some time, and it’s still hard.  There was a sudden need for a Plan B that hadn’t been written, that I didn’t want to write, and a road ahead that looked bleak.  I remember thinking to myself that I didn’t know how I would get through it, or even if I wanted to.  It was tough.

As we’ve walked the road now for a couple of years, I’ve learned that you do get through it – even the things you would give anything to avoid – and that there is a gold mine of opportunity to learn, ask questions, grow and overcome.  The interesting thing about growth is that much of it is invisible on the outside.  From the outside, some might think our family has more holes than ever, and from their perspective they may be right.  But on the inside, where so much is happening that really matters, my heart sings gratitude.  When life requires you to live on a really deep level, it’s natural that things on the surface won’t always look perfect, and it’s also natural that you don’t worry so much about that surface that once seemed to tell the entire story.  It’s an inaccurate reading.

Even so, I have times when I worry and wonder and doubt.  A few months ago I was feeling vulnerable and concerned when the voice of the Spirit came into my mind.  This is what I heard:

“Never in the history of the world has there been a family exactly like yours.  Why are you worried that yours looks different from all the others you can see?  Quit looking around!  Spend more time asking Heavenly Father what he wants your family to look like, to be like.  Let Him teach you about your potential and what he wants you to do.”

This lesson hit me like a thunderbolt.  It was one of those things that I knew, but in being told it was like hearing it for the first time.  It’s true.  Like every other family out there, mine is unique.  We’re not supposed to look like every other family.

And so I’ve been asking more.  Asking Heavenly Father what he wants our family to be like, what things I need to start or stop doing, or do differently.  Interestingly, the conversation has been a lot less about the specifics I thought I’d learn, and a lot more about service.  So far my biggest lesson has simply been that God wants us to be serving.  He wants us lifting, blessing, and strengthening others.  He wants us working to make the world a little better.

I was asked last-minute to teach a class in Church today, and the topic is service.  The lesson is full of quotes from Gordon B. Hinckley, who is one of my heroes.  When I read this quote everything inside me went still.  He captured my heart:  “I wish to be up and doing.  I wish to face each day with resolution and purpose.  I wish to use every waking hour to give encouragement, to bless those whose burdens are heavy, to build faith and strength of testimony.”

I want so much to be this sort of person.  I didn’t want to teach the lesson and forget a few weeks later how much these words meant to me.  So I dusted off my pen and practiced some lettering.  This handout was the result.

If it resonates with you, too, feel free to download the PDF, which includes a full page and a half page format.  The world would be a pretty amazing place if we all lived each day with this desire in our hearts!

Download PDF HERE

 

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