Becoming a Hunter Again

WildflowersNow and then, when I reach into my purse, I pull out a rock.  Or a stick.  Or a wilted dandelion.  These are the “treasures” my son, Isaac, has collected for me, and they always make me smile (except when I am running late and in a hurry to find my car keys).  Isaac, like most small children, is constantly looking for the next treasure to be found.  He is a hunter.  His eyes are open and always seeking something beautiful or interesting or special.

I wonder why we lose that childlike constant state of wonder?  When do we stop actively looking for the beauty around us?

I have two or three empty vases that are stored away up in the cupboard above my microwave.  They stay there 90% of the time, until someone gives me flowers.  Then, I excitedly get a vase down and fill it with flowers and water.  For the next week or so, I feel a tiny bit giddy each time I walk by that vase full of flowers sitting there on my counter.  When the flowers inevitably die, I empty and wash the vase, and store it away again until the next time I have something to put in it.

I’m thinking this morning…what if I left those vases out and filled them myself?  What if, instead of waiting for someone to bring me flowers, I collected the wildflowers from my backyard, or the flowing grasses that fill the ditches in the late summer, or the milkweed pods my kids find when we hike in the winter? What if I kept a pretty bowl on the counter and let Isaac fill it with the rocks and sticks that are his treasures?  What if, at our house, we were a band of crazy beauty-hunters, who actively look for and gather treasures every day?

For those who are looking, the world’s beauty outweighs its burdens, it’s grace is greater than it’s grime.   Ann Voskamp

For two years now, I have, in a way, been doing this.  I have kept a “gratitude journal” (a concept I adopted from one of my favorite authors).  In that journal, I jot down small things for which I am grateful, in the moment.  Things like:

  1. Cardinals at the feeder
  2. Hot coffee
  3. Hilarious friends who make my belly hurt from laughing
  4. Homemade ice cream
  6. Hugs from my kids
  7. The ability to make music
  8. Wine!
  9. Cats playing
  10. Good conversation

The empty pages of that journal are kind of like that empty vase – vessels waiting to be filled with the color of God’s grace in my everyday life.  If our eyes are open, there is beauty and grace all around us.  When I sit down to fill those pages, I feel myself regaining some of that childlike wonder.  I notice the small signs all around me that God is good and life is truly beautiful.  I am, in effect, collecting treasures.  My gratitude journal has caused me to start looking and seeking and paying attention again.  And like those flowers in the vase, this is a gift I give myself.  Becoming a beauty-hunter has allowed me to fill some empty spaces in my life and in my heart with color and joy.  And that is one more thing to be grateful for!


Ten Little Things

My sister, Jen, and her family arrive today for a family reunion this weekend!  I am busy getting prepared for all the fun and activity, so I thought I would share something I wrote a few weeks ago when we were together in Colorado.  Enjoy!

Ten Little Things You Should Know About My Sister:

1. She ALWAYS talks to people on elevators.

2. She never walks through a door first – always holds it for others.

3. She tries to make me believe that I’M the strong one.

4. She always treats service personnel (waiters, store clerks, hotel staff, bus drivers, etc) like old friends – striking up conversations and asking questions.

5. She is totally unaware of how beautiful she is, despite the fact that I constantly notice people staring at her.

6. She believes that if you think something positive about someone, you should say it. So, she frequently offers compliments to random people she doesn’t know.

7. She is never too busy to talk to one of her children.

8. Her laugh rivals mine for loudness. When we get laughing together, no one within a 3-block radius misses it

9. She can sit next to someone for 90 minutes on an airplane flight and they will share the ups and downs of the last 20 years of their life with her – and she listens and cares and remembers.  And becomes their Facebook friend.

10. She is so used to having children surrounding her that even when it’s just the two of us talking in a hotel room at night with the lights out, she whispers, so as not to disturb anyone.

Guessing Games…

381261_10150386829258692_862694464_nWhen we were younger, and blissfully unattached, my sister, Jennifer, and I would rarely,  sometimes,  frequently visit establishments that served alcohol and had TV’s and pool tables.  This, we felt, would increase the possibility of meeting handsome young men, who might fall immediately and desperately in love with us.  [Insert letter to past self pointing out the painfully faulty logic of meeting the Man of My Dreams at a bar.]

While trying to meet men, we sometimes played a fun little “game” with potential suitors, asking them to guess which one of us was the “good sister” and which was the “bad sister”.  I enjoyed watching them study our faces, our clothes, our drinks…searching for signs of naughty versus nice.  I was skilled at playing the “good sister”. With no shortage of drama, I described the injuries my younger, but much tougher sister had inflicted on me over the years – broken bones, chipped teeth, bruises.  My sister vehemently defended herself, as quickly as I accused, volleying her own arguments for my “bad sister” status.   And back and forth we went.  Typically, our momentarily-captivated male friend(s) watched the exchange, as if watching a slow tennis match, enjoying the banter, interjecting a comment or question now and then, and periodically buying  us a drink.  The whole process must have been very entertaining to bystanders.  It was fun – but rather ineffective at finding our soulmates.

The truth about the good sister and the bad sister can obviously not be detected in a skirt that’s a little too short or a tattoo or the choice to drink soda instead of tequila.  It’s not as simple as a winning argument.  There honestly is no “good sister”, nor is there a “bad sister”.  In reality, my beautiful sister and I are a mixed up jumble of good sister, bad sister, strong sister, weak sister, grieving sister, joyful sister, totally-together sister and hanging-on-by-a-thread sister.  We are each at varying times hopeful and discouraged, fun and cranky, intelligent and ditzy, overwhelmed and on top of the world.

Jen and I have normal crazy lives.  Good stuff happens, and then really crappy stuff does.  We find ourselves in ridiculously silly situations and wonderfully perfect ones.  Sometimes life’s challenges feel like too much and we complain.  Usually though, we are able to find quite a bit of joy in our normal, crazy lives.  Above all, my sister and I recognize how blessed we are to love and be loved. This blog is an effort to share – with eachother and with you, the reader,  – our ups and downs, highs and lows, good moments and, sometimes, really bad moments.   Just like our lives, this blog is a work in progress.  If we waited until it looked perfect, we would never share it.  Instead, we will just let it take shape as we go.  In the meantime, we hope you will be patient with us and our progress, enjoy our stories and maybe even share some of your own.

Best Regards,   The Good Sister  Julie