Monday, October 27, 2003

Inner Beauty

The natural world surely has lots of lessons for me right now. As I was driving yesterday, I just felt swept up in the beauty of the fall colors. It seems to be an unusually beautiful fall here in Indiana, but then I may say that every year. My breath is just taken away by the vibrant oranges, the gold and yellow, the shocking red, mixed in with the continual carpet of green, touched with brown. I don't have to push my imagination much to see God with a palette the size of Texas, lovingly painting fall colors from one end of the country to the other.

But yesterday I had a new thought. I let my mind play with cycles--cycles of newness, of growth, of maturity, of fading, of passing into something new. I thought of our lives, born as perfect infants, growing and gaining physical and emotional control, learning and changing and building, reaching a sense of mastery in our work/lives/selves/relationships, the eventual fading of our strength as we watch others begin to bloom around us, and finally a passing into a realm that is new to us, leaving this season for another to grow into.

I wondered about the colors and how they intersect with us in our lives. In the beginning of springtime, when leaves are born, they arrive as buds and spread into leaves. Some trees flower; some trees cover themselves in leaves--most are some shade of green at the beginning. There is diversity among the young leaves, but it's minimal compared to what happens late in the cycle. Then those young beautiful leaves and flowers do something miraculous by drawing on some inherent natural ability none of us knew about--they change before our eyes into red, orange, yellow, gold--who knew they had such beauty in them all along? And although a single bright fall tree can raise our eyebrows and lift our spirits, a whole forest of them--along a highway, across a hill, behind a school--tells us something of Divine mastery, the perfect sacredness of timing, and cycles, and hope. A whole generation of trees turns beautiful in its aging, showing inner gifts in unique and amazing ways. Don't we do the same thing? As we grow and mature, aren't we also more able to show our own innate, natural gifts in a way that is free of the social pressures to be just like everybody else? And doesn't it make us, as a generation, that much more beautiful when others still coming along see us growing into our own abilities and sharing naturally what we've been given?

What color are you today? I'm feeling a bit orange. And grateful, too. :) k

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Natural Growth

I don't think my next-door neighbor understands the way grasses grow. Along the edge of his house, he's got the most beautiful ornate grasses--long, lush, deep green, swaying in the breezes coming off the lake. But twice now, just as the the grasses display their graceful tasselled heads, tinged with a hint of purple, he hacks them off into a uniform, page-boy cut. Instead of standing long and achingly graceful in the breeze, they are blunt and linear, topped off to align with the handrail on his deck.

Yesterday I saw a few of these grass heads in my yard and I wanted to go pick them up and tape them, somehow, back onto the stalks from which they were severed. I know how silly that would be. But I wished for a way to be able to tell him how beautiful they were in their natural state--that yes, they are a bit messy and uncontrollable, and no, they don't perfectly match up with the height of the deck or the angle of the landscaping. But perhaps that's the point. Natural movement. Easy beauty. Simple grace.

I've very aware that the lesson for me here is to leave someone else's version of beauty and rightness alone. It's his yard; he can do what he wants with the plants in it. Surely we all have that right.

And yet something inside me aches for the plants that never get to show the world how brilliant and perfect and awesome they'd be if they were allowed to grow to their own wonderous potential without anyone else interrupting and controlling their growth. Maybe that touches me so much because I want it so badly for each of us, too.

May your day be filled with a loving acceptance and honoring of the beauty you bring to the world, your way.

Much love, Katherine

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Fully Rounded Moments

Today I've been working on a proposal for a book on scrapbooking. I've spent the whole day immersed in beautiful images, wonderful colors, textures, photos, buttons, letter blocks, ribbons. I ventured out to the scrapbooking store (we actually have a whole store full of scrapbooking supplies here in my midwestern town) and was shocked to see no less than 20 different people--mostly women--shopping in the late morning, buying scrapbooking supplies. The ladies behind the counter were wonderful and smiling. They know a secret to life I've only begun to discover. Time. Time to do things, just because. Time to save a ribbon from a package, pull it out of a drawer, straighten it, put on a bead, and hot glue it to a scrapbook page. Time to cut a hundred little shapes out of their favorite patterned paper. Time to plan a page, a fully rounded page, that captures a husband's return from the war, complete with scraps of his letters from overseas, the postage stamp from France, a sepia-toned photograph with those colorized cheeks, and much, much more. Time to think, to dream, to feel the emotion they felt when the moments first occurred. Time to relive the great gifts of love and challenge and joy those items mean to them.

It's something I want to learn to do--savor the moments, the fully rounded moments in which I'm aware that life is happening at its fullest, right now, in me and around me. The time we can take to fully experience the color, sound, taste, feel, and touch of this moment is up to us--in spite of what I say or think, nobody sets my priorities but me. No one else is keeping me from slowing down and letting time expand into a greater meaning. Maybe it's just a question of focus, of making more room. I'll give it a try and keep you posted. In the meantime, keep those scrapbooks handy. :)

Monday, October 20, 2003


Little shining silvery moments make everything sparkle for a moment. A laugh at the dinner table. A quick but fully-meant hug on the way out the door. A child who misses you. An unseen fall cyclone, lifting a dozen leaves and swirling them magically, happily through the air. A breaktaking curve down through a tree-lined valley--red, orange, gold, and brown. God is here, inside, and there, everywhere. Sometimes the beauty is just too much and I wish so much that I could take it all in, capture it, remember it, keep it. But I know it's not mine to have and hold; just to accept for now, to pile up, to jump into, to embrace, to love. When it goes, it goes. But there's more God where that came from. :)

Thursday, October 16, 2003


I am thinking this morning about the importance of knowing people for whom the promise is working--people who make daily choices to live by faith and see it working in their lives. People who face frightening times and tell stories about a God who took every step with them, never leaving their side. People who can nod and smile when we tell them our struggles, who can assure us they've been there, too, and that God was faithful.

Perhaps more than anything else, this witness is what we miss when we haven't yet found a community of faith where we feel welcome and at home. We need not only to hear the words of the sermon and accept the challenge of the readings; we need to see God's love working, uplifting, embracing, transforming the lives of those around us. It's God's witness, reaching out to us through one or maybe dozens of people who have gone before, that makes the difference for us now, today. And one day soon, we will be the storytellers pointing God out to the ones coming after us on this path.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003


Last night, after running errands all over town, a quick dinner, the carving of pumpkins, bathtime, and bed for the little one, I settled down in a quiet house and turned on the television. I had intended to finish a chapter I need to read for class--but instead I found myself watching Style Court. Style Court! I laughed at myself as I watched the "plaintiff" and "defendant" present their cases, I listened to the "judge" issue a verdict about the attire of the defendant, and saw him send her off for a complete makeover. I was aware that I was wasting my time in a big way, time that I should have been spending on homework. And I watched, and endured the second story in the show, I realized that what I was waiting on was transformation. I was eager to see how the defendant turned out, with her new corporate-casual clothes and more sophisticated haircut. I wanted to see her smile and know she was happy with the attention and the results. I wanted to see the "plaintiff" satisfied and smiling at the change. I waited, despite all my other obligations, to see what the result would be.

I think as people, we love transformation. We wait for it, we know it's coming, we know God's up to something--in us, in our lives, in those we love. We know we are in the midst of a great makeover, from likeness to likeness, from struggle to peace, from fear to love. Transformation is our hope and promise. A look in the mirror shows us how much we've changed--and not only in physical ways--as we grow and learn. A look up or within reminds us that we still have a way to go. But we can trust our Stylist, and we can know that the change will ultimately bring out our natural, sacred beauty.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

No-Stress Moments

Yesterday as I was on my way to Cameron's school to supervise the after-school activities of fifth and sixth graders, I was thinking about how much I love to be in certain places at certain times. I love being in schools, hospitals, churches--at least in part because the priorities are so much clearer there. Unlike in business, where the "bottom line" is always a ghostly shadow hovering around all goals and expectations, in helping professions, the focus is on the individual: slowing down and helping a child learn, becoming sensitive to and helping alleviate another's pain, taking tender care to be present with the spirit of another.

As I thought about this, a new thought occurred to me. I wanted to take that idea deeper. What was it about having those clear priorities that was so freeing to me? The answer--the struggle for right and wrong goes out the window. The illusory division between being "good" or "bad" disappears. The striving to achieve dissolves and acceptance floods in. There is only the person, the child, the spirit, God. There is joining and there is peace. And the empty categories we strive for in the dollar-driven world-- "smart", "strategic," "business-savvy," "successful" --fade as we learn to be tenderly present and available to another.

I realized then that as I was driving through the October-colored countryside, seeing the sunlight filtering through orange and red leaves, I was living a "no-stress moment." Right then. I just wasn't noticing it. What stands between us and the peace of God in this moment? Maybe only echoes of expectations that don't really matter when we choose to turn our minds and hearts to God.