“One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord, All the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.” Psalms 27:4

It’s full-blown spring in south central PA, no more hints or snippets. Cheerful daffodils are popping out of flower beds, while purple and pink hyacinths display their splendor. Cherry and dogwood trees are in full bloom, while other trees are starting to put out glimpses of spring green foliage. The birds’ morning conversations are loud and melodious, making it easier to crawl out of bed. Delighted, bouncy, and energetic seem the perfect adjectives to capture my mood and mobility.

In January, a lot of people claim a word as their motto for the year. This word, whether it be “intentional” or “cultivate” sets a tone for the upcoming year. It might appear on their refrigerator, mood boards, or social media posts. The purpose behind the word is to help set direction for the year, to keep this word at the forefront. Sometimes, I jump on the bandwagon and come up with a word. And some years it impacts my plans, but other years I can’t quite remember what the word was.

This year, my mind was blank, something that doesn’t happen often. I always seem to have ideas or thoughts swirling around in my head. I did set some goals for myself for the upcoming year but had no overarching theme and I felt a little directionless. I know my seasonal slump probably contributed to this, but it seemed to drag, making my vision for the future cloudy. My post about confetto was the beginning of coming out of the slump, but I still felt a little like a slug, having a hard time moving and making my way forward. I had no momentum or bounce. In the world of the Hundred Acre Wood, for the first time in my life I would describe myself as a little Eeyore-ish, less like my normal Pooh or Tigger demeanor.

My sister sent a post from a conference she attended; it was exactly what I needed to move forward. It said, “Stop thinking so much, you’re breaking your own heart.” I realize, although I have been doing hard work, I have been fixated on my trauma, and not fixated on the healer of my trauma. I had been spending time in my past, which is good, but not spending as much time in the present with God, where I can receive strength when things are hard. I had gotten things completely out of balance. And in looking so much inward, I forgot the beauty of looking up.

I recently heard about an amazing project called “The Growing Kindness Project”.  Deanna Kitchen started growing flowers and had an abundance of sweet peas in bloom. She cut her flowers, put them in vases, and along with her children, delivered them to a senior center. She knew that flowers brought beauty and joy to her life and wanted to spread the happiness. This simple act became a mission for her family, where now she gives away dahlia tubers, so that others can spread the kindness. The testimonies are beautiful of how the lives of both the givers and the receivers have been changed.

She could sell the flowers to raise money, a tangible way to help the community. One could argue that she could have grown vegetables and given away some of the produce. This would have been a tangible way to fight hunger in her community. But that is discounting the importance of beauty and why it is so valuable to our souls.

Studies have shown that when we gaze upon something beautiful, it lowers our anxiety and depression. It calms our busy brains and activates our creativity. Some studies indicate that when feasting on something beautiful, whether its art, music, or nature, it opens space for us to come up with solutions. Beauty changes the way we process information and is essential to our well-being. But often it is the one thing we forget.

The past few years have been hard for our nation: a global pandemic, political and social upheaval, threats of war, school shootings, and growing inflation. I have been transparent how my life has been in transition for the past few years as well, from an unexpected job loss, some physical challenges, empty nest, and a change in where we worship. Some of these changes have been good, but with all the changes, I have experienced some anxiety and stress. And I think it has reduced my capacity to bounce back from each change. Some days, I have found myself endlessly scrolling or listening to podcasts, sitting in a chair, without any movement forward, just kind of stuck.

I am currently reading a book “The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh.” Kathryn Aalto, the author, explores the forests in England where A.A. Milne and E. H. Shepherd were inspired to write and illustrate the characters of the Hundred Acre Wood. The book reminds me that getting unstuck requires intentionality. One of my favorite Pooh stories is how his love for honey gets him stuck in Rabbit’s hole. For a few weeks, Pooh stays stuck until his tummy thins out. He’s intentional about avoiding honey even when he just wants to taste it.

My answer lies in the word God gave me this week to get unstuck: beauty. Currently, my favorite verse in the Bible is Psalms 27:4, “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I see, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” I need to focus on the beauty that God has created for me to enjoy. And as I look for beauty, I find myself filled, inspired, and propelled.

This beauty can be found in the nature poems my husband and I read each night. It can be found in my yard, looking at my magnolia bush blooming out. It’s captured in a picture of Eva’s sweet smile sent to me by Rachel. It is heard when I listen to the violins in Vivaldi’s “Spring.” I taste beauty as I bite into fresh asparagus. And it is felt when I spend time with God, sharing with Him my gratitude for the beauty He has given me.

I should have seen this word coming already on January 2 when Terry and I were prompted to become members of Winterthur Gardens. Despite the rainy wintry day, we both felt peace and tranquility as we explored the gardens. We heard the tour guide describe how the garden would enfold in the upcoming seasons. We felt this anticipation of the beauty, and membership seemed the best way to explore the garden in the upcoming year. I have already planned an outing with a friend later this week, and Terry and I are planning to explore the gardens at the end of this month.

Spring is here, and along with it are opportunities for me to capture beauty. This means less time scrolling and more time looking up and around. And I believe that even though the word came late to me, I still have eight solid months to focus on the beauty of the Lord!

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