Experiencing Beauty

I woke up to the close feeling of darkness. Not middle-of-the-night darkness, but something-is-going-to-happen darkness. As the morning progressed the sky has pressed closer and closer, until it finally pressed out the rain within it. The sky is trembling now as the rain sheets down, catches a breath, sheets down again.

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I’m stuck here in half wonder, wishing I could experience this sweet summer rain more fully without getting my clothes dirty. Wishing I could pull back the curtain and the window and the wall and allow the rich smell of earthy steam to penetrate my senses, without getting a ton of bugs and water on my wood floor.

You’d laugh, but you’re probably wishing right along with me. Some part of you would love to dance in the rain, even as another part recoils in horror at the clean-up you’d have to do. Some part of you wishes you could experience that beauty fully without all the mess that inevitably comes with it.

I think this happens in every area of our lives. You don’t want to deal with the crush of rejection, so you say no to that potential first date. You want to see the mountains of Switzerland, but that pile of bills seems too high to even consider it. You’d love to start a family, but you’re too scared from all the pregnancy horror stories you’ve heard.  You share in your husband’s dream of starting a farm, but you’re too skeptical to start making it become a reality.

But don’t you see? When you refuse these opportunities because you’re focused on the mess they’ll make, you miss seeing the beauty they create as well. You miss out on an opportunity to experience beauty – the rush of new love, the jaw-dropping glory of a far-off land, the closeness of a baby in your arms, the pride of living off your own land. Even just the warm summer rain splashing on your face.

I, for one, don’t want to miss any chance I have at experiencing beauty. Why? Because each glimpse of beauty is more than just a great experience or a wonderful feeling; it is a glimpse into the face of God. And that is worth all the stains and pains and tears that stand in the way of my pursuit.

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Spring

Spring always surprises me. Despite its slow advance, there’s always a point, a day, a moment, when I look around and think, “Where did this lushness come from?”

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Suddenly the world seems more full and thick and green with life. Bare patches break forth in blossoms, trees feel huge and hovering, the ground carpeted and inviting. That weedy dead vine sprouts beautiful leaves overnight, the bush I thought was just a nuisance turns out to be a lilac. What looked like little shoots of weeds actually becomes a garden, with hostas and ferns and daffodils and other flowers I haven’t even uncovered yet.

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None of this I expected. None of it I could have known, having moved here in the late fall last year when all this beauty was faded or dead. It’s like I’m experiencing spring with fresh eyes, a new expectation I never had.

Too long I had been used to seeing the lilies pop up here, vinca over there, hyacinths and tulips in that corner of my childhood home. Even then I loved the anticipation, but it was always set, always planned. My delight was in finding what I already knew to be there. And now my delight is in finding what I never could have expected or imagined.

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Isn’t God like that? There’s a subtleness about His presence that shows he’s always been there with us, even under the coldness of our winter. Every time we see Him show up, it’s really just the veil fluttering off our face for a moment. His presence is truly the most constant thing in our lives. Though sometimes we don’t feel his nearness, even with the evidence in our lives that he is there.

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As we grow older and see winter fade into glorious spring time and time again, our certainty of him grows stronger and stronger. ‘Til even when we don’t see Him and we feel stuck in an eternal winter, we can hold on to the promise that Aslan is on the move. And we can grasp the hope of spring firmly with both hands.

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Snow Dance

There’s a dance in their madness:
in their scattering I see
a scurrying of tiny paws
A scuffling to be free,

A rush to fall into place
Among their brethren far
To dance or dive or drift
To hurl madly downward.

And then hang, suspended
From an invisible parachute
Suddenly indecisive,
Their incessant whisperings mute.

Before the next caprice of wind
Bends them where it wills –
Their search is neverending
Like the heart is never still.

Thoughts like birds

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(Please also listen to the gorgeous music found at the end of this post as you read.)


The birds circle above her. Silent, except for the slight swish as they mass and melt overhead into jagged, flapping pieces. They swirl and sway, circling like the endless tide. Like her endless thoughts.

She looks out over the water, trying to ignore their mesmerizing movement. She came here to get away from her thoughts, not to have them visualized in front of her. Why can’t they just leave instead of repeating their endless what ifs? If these birds can mass up the courage to break pattern, perhaps her own thoughts will have space to escape. Perhaps they too can fly away and never torment her again.

The wind catches her hair and teases it into a curl in front of her face. Her breath stops. He used to do that. She can feel the slight edge of his fingernail catch on the wrinkles in her forehead as her eyes flutter closed. She tilts her face up subconsciously, waiting for him to draw his finger down her cheek. Even his tiniest touch sends a delicious shiver down her spine.

The wind slaps her hair across her face. A sting of salt in her mouth, sharp intake of breath, and he is gone. He never was hers in the first place.

From the depths of NaNo-land

Woohoo! Words are coming, word-count is progressing, and this novelist is getting very tired! My characters have been through a lot of heartache in the past three weeks, but I am quite proud of them and how they are developing. And a couple days ago they actually helped me figure out the specific details of how their story will end!  It will be hard to say goodbye to them once I finally finish their story.

I would like to share an excerpt with you, but first, here is my (very short) synopsis:

Like a medieval fairytale you’ve never heard, Alphyri is the story of two people who both want something they can never have. Alphonzo is a prince, and yet he is not free. Phyri is a peasant, who has a demanding promise keeping her from love – the one thing she longs for most. Strange traditions, hidden identities, and a manipulative King will entwine the course of their futures. 

Alright, so this section is written from Phyri’s perspective, where she receives some very startling news. She’s gone through a lot of other things too, as this is in the last third of the book, but I don’t want to give away too many spoilers!

Phyri was getting ready for bed when the knock came on her door. She assumed it was her maid coming to help her unbutton and unlace herself. “Come in,” she called, and continued fiddling with the buttons down her front. Her head felt fuzzy with a headache and she was getting impatient. Nothing had gone the way she wanted it to today.

“Phyri.” It was Alphonzo’s voice.

Phyri jumped and looked up quickly. She snatched up part of her bedspread to cover her half-open top. “What are you doing here?” she demanded.

Alphonzo looked just as startled as she felt. “I’m sorry to disturb you… I have urgent news to tell you that could not wait.” He motioned to her bedspread. “I will turn my back so you can finish.”

Phyri felt her head throb. She did not want to see Alphonzo again, not after the horrid argument she had had with him earlier. “I was getting ready for bed,” she said haughtily. “I am very tired and have a headache from our last conversation. I don’t want to talk to you any further, no matter what ‘urgent news’ you have for me.”

Alphonzo just stared at her, his forehead furrowed. He looked like he hadn’t even heard what she said.

“Well, don’t just stand there, leave!” Phyri ordered, extending one thin arm towards the door. Couldn’t the prince take a hint?

“Phyri, your grandmother… is dead.”

She stared at him, her eyes getting wider and wider. The room suddenly felt very cold. “What did you say?”

Alphonzo took a breath. “Your grandmother is dead, Phyri. I went to visit her today to see if she could clear up any of the confusion about your birth, but when I got there, she was on her deathbed.” He hesitated.

Phyri continued staring at him, though her eyes were lost and clouded. “My grandmother… has died?”  Even saying it felt unnatural, like she was making up a story that could not be true.

Alphonzo lowered his eyes to the carpet under his feet. “I am sorry to be the bearer of such bad news, but you had to know. She will be buried tomorrow outside the city.”

Phyri spoke as if in a daze. “The king promised he would have someone take care of her…” She shook her head. “It can’t be! She was getting better when I left her!”

“I’m sorry, but she was still in your hut. It looked like there hadn’t been anyone in there since you left – the fire was cold and the food over it was spoiled. I doubt my father had any intention of taking care of her, no matter what he told you.” Alphonzo said.

“No, no, no! It can’t be! You’re just making this up to put your father in a bad light. I just know it!” She felt hysterical with the hurt inside her. “I can’t believe it! I won’t believe it!” She buried her face in her bedspread, feeling her temples pounding. Her whole head ached from her outburst.

Alphonzo made no move. “Phyri,” he said in a half-pleading, half-correcting tone.

Phyri raised her head out of her bedspread barrier. “Leave me alone!” she spat at Alphonzo. “I don’t want to hear anything else you could possibly say!”

She watched him recoil unconsciously from her sharp words, and then stiffen. He set his jaw, gave her one last glance, then exited the room. He pulled the door firmly behind him, with a slam that set Phyri’s head pounding even harder.

Phyri exhaled forcefully into the bedspread, heartlessly happy at how her lungs burned. She wanted to scream or yell or do something to get this heaviness out of her heart. For deep down she knew Alphonzo had been telling the truth. He was too sincere for malice, unless he had learned something from his father in the last week since she had interacted with him. He had always seemed sincere, even if sincerely wrong.

Phyri pulled her wrap on over her half-finished garment, too distressed to finish unbuttoning or to call for a maid. Maybe if she had been in the hut with her grandmother, watching her last dying breath, the tears would have come. She would have felt the grief. But here, in this lush palace, all she felt was heavy remorse.

NaNoWriMo – Alphyri edition

The written word has been too rare in my life recently. Writing or reading – I’ve barely made time to do any of it. This little blog has suffered a severe shortage of words and pictures since I’ve begun my jobs of teaching and nannying for the school year.

So I decided, why not do NaNoWriMo? National Novel Writing Month, for those of you who haven’t heard, where you write a 50,000-word novel in the month of November. I did it way back in 2008 and 2009, and won both times, and I remember having a blast. I want to get back into writing, into being creative again, and sometimes you just need to give yourself that little extra shove.

I also have this novel called Alphyri that has languished on the back burner for so long it should be obsolete. But it still captures my imagination. It deserves to be finished. So I am going to try to finish it, and then use whatever words I have left to start something new and fresh. Here’s the summary, to capture your interest:

Like a medieval fairytale you’ve never heard, Alphyri is the story of two people who both want something they can never have. Alphonzo is a prince, and yet he is not free. Phyri is a peasant, who has a strange promise keeping her from love – the one thing she longs for most. Strange traditions, hidden identities, and a manipulative King will entwine the course of their futures.

So here’s to more words – lots of them – in November.

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