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Friday, 30 September 2022 18:20

Living in the Tension

The daunting task of writing a timeline of the previous year lay before me. Turning to look back at the deep grief did not invite me to this assignment. I wasn’t sure I wanted to record and in turn relive all those negative moments.

Curling up on my couch, I wrapped my self in my fluffy blanket, relishing in the comfort of its weight. A rich cup of black coffee grew cold on the table next to me, I ignored the inviting aroma, determined to face this chore. My chest tightened with anxiety as I did not want to go back to the dark days.

In my timeline, I recorded the “bad” events in grey and the rest popped on the page in the bright happy colors I prefer. I noticed moments of joy sprinkled among the pain. There lies the tension, life is not good or bad it is a combination of both.

I discovered I want to run from the pain in my life. In the push and pull of life, I’d rather stay on the fun side. I want to ignore the ugly, respond with a quick quip of “it’s all good”, and move on and up.

BUT it is not all good. Recognizing this brings healing to our hurting souls. Life is a tapestry of blessings and difficulties, woven together to re-present our story. The combination of the “good” and the “bad” defines us.

King David captured this in Psalm 30:5b “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” (NLT) Reading this again today, I recognized the beauty of the cyclical nature of life this represents. Our life is a long series of days and nights, but also the reoccurring pattern of weeping and joy. As much as we are to live joyfully, we need time for lament as well.

Hidden within the definition of tension is the promise this joy and lament cycle brings to us. Tension, the state of being stretched tight by an outside force, such as mental and emotional strain, causes us to stretch. As we stretch, we expand our understanding of what it means to be human. Without struggle I lack empathy, without pain I lack growth, without lament I lack release, and without joy I lack gratitude.

During my darkest days, I witnessed my daughter’s joy as she found her wedding dress. Although, I purposed to be in the moment, I couldn’t fully feel the joy I hoped to share with her. As I reviewed my timeline, I returned to the memory of that moment with her. Envisioning her once again in her elegant gown, her face shining with joy as she realized she found the one she wanted. Reflecting on it again, tears of joy streamed down my face as I anticipated seeing her on her wedding day. This time I fully felt the beauty of this once in-a-lifetime moment, radiating out in the darkness that surrounded it.

I encourage you to take a moment today to honestly reflect on your feelings. Lament the bad and celebrate good, allowing the tension between them to strengthen you.

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Tuesday, 30 August 2022 18:40

Take One Brave Step

I like change but also, I like things to stay the same. I get bored in the monotony of the same activities, day in and day out, but there is also comfort in the familiar. Transitioning into new seasons can reveal an uneasiness as we approach the unknown.

Now it is your chance, what fears are you facing today? From the silly to the serious, write them down. We’re friends now, so I can trust you with a deep-down secret. Have I mentioned I loathe slugs? The only thing worse than the flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz would be flying slugs. I mean can you imagine? I shudder as I write these words, but really, I can spend my whole life ignoring this fear unless it keeps me from the activities I love. This fear does not keep me from gardening or hiking in the woods. Fears like that, although humorous, are not the ones we are addressing.

Checking items off our bucket list takes a little step of courage. Adventurous fun means taking a brave step that helps us feel alive. Recently, my husband and I took a trip to the Picture Rocks National Lakeshore along the lower coast of Lake Superior. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go.

Our reservations for a sea kayak tour of the coast were postponed twice due to high surf. This didn’t calm my apprehension. I wasn’t sure to pray for cancellation or calm waters.

After the guides gave a detailed safety lesson, in which they detailed EVERY POSSIBLE THING THAT COULD GO WRONG, we boarded the boat for our excursion. However, they did not mention flying slugs. Wide eyed, I donned my splash skirt and life vest waiting for our turn to board our tandem sea kayaks.

Once on the lake, it took me a bit to get used to the wobble when Dave adjusted his position. My trust grew with each paddle stroke as we found the rhythm of working together. The wonders of this uniquely beautiful rock formation loomed before us. Close enough to touch, we were awed by the colors rippling through the cliffs. The beauty and exhilaration of Lake Superior touched a deep part of my soul. A small brave step turned into a trip of a lifetime.

I didn’t have to face that fear but I’m glad I did. However, there are fears we each need to address. My ongoing struggle rests in the roots of people pleasing. Implanted in me as a child, I must keep a watchful eye out for it as I move in the direction Jesus sends me. If I am not on guard, one negative comment can send me reeling. Not the best attribute for someone who speaks publicly. Therefore, my step of bravery is saying “yes” to situations that bring others attention to me. My goal is to redirect that focus onto Jesus, disregarding irrelevant criticism.

What keeps you from conquering your fears? Do you possess the gifts and talents required for that adventure? Are you brave enough to invest in yourself to gain the knowledge you need to fulfill that desire? Now that is what I call fun!

Pretend we are sitting across a table from one another. It is a safe conversation, what would you share that you’ve never spoken before?

Our courage fortifies us to move forward into the full life Jesus promised. Fixing our eyes on Jesus, we remember to be strong IN the Lord, (Ephesians 6:10). Yes, that allusive abundant life belongs to each of us. We just need to know how to embrace it in every stage of life.

Father thank you that you impart courage to us when we need it. We lay our fears at your feet, declaring they will not hinder us anymore. We stand in the waiting for your instructions. Holy Spirit nudge us in the direction You want us to go. We trust you to guide us and to strengthen us as we move forward. In Jesus Name Amen

If you need to go deeper into this subject, I highly recommend Annie F. Downs books Let’s All Be Brave and 100 Days of Brave. They will change your life if you struggle with courage.

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Saturday, 30 July 2022 13:07

Flourish or Flounder?

As summer wains, transition looms on the horizon. Back to school season empties our nests once again, opening the gates to a surge of emotions we may be unprepared for.

Believe it or not, life does not end when our children reach adulthood.

Some days, it feels that way. Our feelings are a part of what makes us human; I am not a robot. Emotions define us as a species, and they are an amazing gift. When life is good, happiness fills every moment. But when it is not, it can be hard to overcome these unwanted feelings. Emotions reflect how we feel, but they aren’t always anchored in reality. They can conflict with one another, but that doesn't mean they can’t or shouldn’t both exist at the same time.

For example: I am happy that my children are succeeding, AND I am sad that they are far away. I’m thrilled they are happy, AND I still miss them.

But the real question is how do we deal with our reactions as we age and enter this new season?

Symptoms of empty nest syndrome include sadness, depression, loss of purpose, and loneliness. It's not a clinical diagnosis. But those are common traits among empty nesters in this transition. It gives us a reason—but not an excuse—to continue living this way. I felt it deeper than I thought I would. My heart goes out to you as you negotiate these feelings.

I’m so glad this is only a temporary time for each of us. Here is a strategy I am finding helpful as I move through this season myself.

Read the following Scripture, meditate on the gift given to us in the verse. It is powerful. Let it empower you to move one step closer toward the woman God sees in you.

Proverbs 31:21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. (NIV)

This verse depicts the emotional battle won by our Proverbs 31 friend. Fearless, she knows her loved ones are protected against the dangers of this world. The stark contrast between the white snow and the scarlet clothing reminds us to thrive not just survive. Certainly, we can see this for our physical needs, but I believe it also represents our emotional and spiritual needs as well.

Scarlet cloth represented luxury, abundantly providing for all in her family. Jesus also wore a scarlet robe on the way to the cross. He paid the full price for all our needs including our emotions. Our goal is to take all our emotions and place them at the feet of Jesus. He reminds us that His burden is light. He is calling us, the weary, to Him. He is always to help us into the abundant life in which we will flourish.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, that even in emotional transitional seasons, you can make us new. In Ephesians 4:23-24 it says, “Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.” Yes, let Your Holy Spirit reawaken us to our designated design. Invigorate us to a fresh new life. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN.

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Thursday, 30 June 2022 13:02

I Think I Can

I love the children’s book  The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper. Originally published in 1930, its message still speaks to us today. Small in stature, I identify with Little Blue Engine. Her determination moved her over the mountain. This age-old story, undergird our own journey by reminding us that our attitude matter. I keep a copy of this book on my desk to remind me of this important truth in furthering my own dreams.

Reflected in Biblical heroes like David, we see the greater advantage of God in our lives. We can because God is. David declared the enormity of God to a giant standing before him (David and Goliath 1 Samuel 17). David defeated Goliath through his trust in God.  Living our true selves, reliant on God, glorifies God to all who are in our lives.

I still believe I can do whatever I set my mind to do. I’m not going to go out and run a marathon. I could however, if I trained. Many women my age accomplish this goal, but I don’t want to do that. However, it is a great metaphor for life at this age. It may take longer to do some things but if we set our mind to it, we can. For most of us we may have less energy, but we’ve grown in knowledge, wisdom and understanding.

Now is the time to tap into that knowledge and wisdom Jesus provides for us. Look at the benefit of living a Christ filled life stated in 1 Corinthians 1:30 “God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin.” Jesus is the source of all wisdom; we need to listen to the part of our spirit aligned with the Holy Spirit.

Knowledge comes from learning God’s will for our lives. The abbreviated version of this is that He wants us to live as His child. That plays out differently for each of us but it is the cornerstone of the knowledge of understanding our identity. Where it becomes more difficult is discerning when to apply that knowledge in each situation with wisdom. 

Paul wrote this for us and it is my prayer for you:

So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light.” Colossians 1:9-12 (NLT)

How we apply this understanding takes time a practice. You can learn more by studying Paul's words in Colossians 1.  In our mid-month challenge video we will explore this further, sign up here so you don'e miss out

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Thursday, 07 April 2022 16:46

Let Spring Erupt!

Embrace_Spring.png

Each March the chorus frogs song usher in spring.  April arrived and we still haven’t heard our frogs. Spring continues to lay dormant. It is a bit irritating. I like snow in February but not April! So, we wait, because we know it will come. It always comes.

Spring reflects the promise we hold dear, new life. It symbolizes Jesus, our hope of life reborn, not just in heaven be on earth as well. (Matthew 6:10) As we wait, we know even when God appears quiet, He is working. After a dark season, it is important to remember that promise. New life is developing in our mind, soul, and body as we learn to love Him more.

The world has tarnished and dented our designed. The Holy Spirit however is at work resurrecting us back to the initial plan. 2 Corinthians 3:18 reminds us, “So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image” Transformation polishes our imperfections, removing sin's damage from both our soul and spirit. 

Transition is ongoing. Funny how we can see the need to change in others, but we miss our own need for growth. Improvement continues in the process of life, a slow development into Christlikeness. Embrace the process and yield to Him. Be transformed back to His image, our true self, as we were created.

We cry out, "refine us to reflect Jesus." We stretch to react the way He would in each and every situation with humility, love, and truth. 

We wait. We notice it when change is drastic but are frustrated when we don’t see progress. As time and change crawls forward, we need patience. If you are like me, that is hard. I’d rather not see the flaws that remind of the lack of progress. Then I need to go back to my earlier statement, life is a process. Recognize He is good, press into the Lord and let His refining work continue.

The Spirit lives right here, dwelling in us.

Speaking to us.

Molding us.

Changing us.

All while loving us.

We simply respond by listening, yielding to His crafting, embrace the change and love Him back.

Spring is coming. Soon we will see our backyards turn to green, the birds will sing, and the frogs will call. A new season buds, reminding us He makes all things new.  Let spring erupt inside of us, as we witness its return to the world around us. 

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Saturday, 05 March 2022 17:18

Stability

but the godly have deep roots Proverbs 123

As a young woman, I visited a California beach with my cousin, a Golden State native. His goal for the day included teaching me to body surf. He instructed me from the beach convincing me this sport was easy. I entered the churning water with trepidation. Although only in knee deep water, the waves crested over my head. We dove through the waves to get far enough out. In a lull of the crashing water, I turned to the beach to let it carry me in or crash over me.

The first time wasn’t bad; I made it to the beach. Determined to improve, I attempted another run. This time I didn’t quite time it right. The water rotated my body topsy turvy in a moment of panic it became clear I didn’t know the way to the surface. After a bump off the ocean floor, I found myself spit out onto the beach. A few bumps and bruises but no real damage done.

This is exactly what the last two years felt like to me. Some inconvenience but also great loss upon loss. I found myself in grief counseling feeling like my younger self unable to discern which way to the surface. Therefore, my word for the year is STABILITY, picked way back in November before much of the loss occurred.

Circumstance can overwhelm us. It can get to the point where you go through the motions just to survive the day. BUT and this is important, we cannot allow this to become our habit. This is an unacceptable normal. Survival seasons are just that, seasons. They come to an end. Our roots in Christ (Proverbs 12:3) stabilize us putting a halt to the tumbling in our mind and spirit. We need to fight back to enjoyment and a flourishing full life. We continue to say “we can do this. It is fine. It is better. God is with us” and we need to mean it.

I am determined that the difficult experiences of life will strengthen me through God’s grace. I am struck by Ezekiel 47:12 “Fruit trees of all kinds will grow along both sides of the river. The leaves of these trees will never turn brown and fall, and there will always be fruit on their branches. There will be a new crop every month, for they are watered by the river flowing from the Temple. The fruit will be for food and the leaves for healing.” Throughout Scripture trees represent people. I choose to hold onto this truth God is stabilizing me. He will use the fruit from my experiences as food for others and the leaves for healing.

 

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Tuesday, 01 February 2022 13:51

Reaching Up

Reaching

Reaching Up

Amusement parks are an important part of our family fun. Taking our kids on their first roller coaster ride became a rite of passage. Nervously our middle child waited in line with me. She tried to grasp what this ride entailed, keeping up an excited chatter as we moved slowly forward. As our turn approached, her little hand grasped mine. I promised she would love it.

During the ride, uncertainty dominated her countenance. Her grip on the shoulder harness matched the grimace on her face. Later, I learned her inability to predict the experience overshadowed the ride. Yet, afterwards, she shared her delight and wanted more.

This is how I feel about the last few years. Except, I’m not enjoying the ride. Twists and turns have not brought thrills but pain. With both community and personal tragedies, I’m holding on tight. My ongoing effort to find fun needs to be a healthy adventure. Not to avoid the pain but to invigorate my life again. 

Proverbs 14:13 reminds us “Laughter can conceal a heavy heart, but when the laughter ends, the grief remains.” I am not seeking fun to conceal my pain. If we do that the pain will fester like an untreated wound. I don’t want a puss filled heart. I know, gross, but we must face the sadness and dissatisfaction to live a life of freedom. When sad moments creep in remember that Jesus “heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3) Enhance your life by facing your grief and releasing it to the Lord.

The Psalmist understood grief. They wrote about it in repeatedly. I love that God allows these emotions to be expressed in His word. It encourages me to know that I am not the only one who felt this way. Psalm 42:5-6 “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and my God! Now I am deeply discouraged, but I will remember you—even from distant Mount Hermon, the source of the Jordan, from the land of Mount Mizar.” A key to the relief of our despair is worship. Praising God reminds us of who God is and He is in charge. It relieves our stress to know He is always there for us.

We need to ask ourselves the same questions posed by the Psalmist. What is the source of my downcast heart? Am I dealing with a real-life trauma or is this feeling wrapped in my self-worth? When we feel discarded, it can lead to depression. Like our Psalmist friend we need to turn to God in worship. He is not done with us! In trauma, God promises to be with us. Isaiah wrote “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand’” (Isaiah 41:10).

After turning to Jesus, turn to a friend. Confide your struggle to someone you trust. Don’t hesitate to seek counseling if you continue suffer. God provides wisdom and compassion through trained professionals. Healing will come, God desires to give it to you.  God is carrying us; we need to remember to each up and hold on.

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Wednesday, 03 November 2021 13:27

Linked to Last

Struggling to fit rest into my schedule, I turn to activities to distract me, but they don’t fill me. I didn’t recognize it right away, but I know I need a change. There is nothing wrong with distractions like TV, books, and social media but when I turn to them for true rest, they fail.
Sitting still remains hard for me. Friends of mine, sit in God’s presence for hours, soaking Him in. I can emulate this practice, but it takes discipline and that is not always restful. The beauty is we have freedom to seek the Father, through Jesus, in the way we are wired. I love that about God. Today, I started my morning with a hot bath, resting in its warmth and the love of the Father. Tomorrow it will look different, but the point is to seek the rest and just "BE".
The Sabbath was introduced to the Jews in the 4th Commandment, found in the book of Exodus. Scripture reminds us to keep it holy – set apart. We are instructed schedule sacred day of rest.
Over the years, many rules and regulations became associated with this term. That is not the Sabbath I am referencing. Sabbath is a time and place where we can "be" and no longer must go. The word Sabbatical reflects the modern way to Sabbath. According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, sabbatical means "of or suited to the Sabbath, bringing a period of rest that occurs in regular cycles." This is our time to be rejuvenated. We are refueled so that we can "go" and do.
During most of the year, my daily mini sabbatical is found in walking. I love this time; it invigorates my body and frees my mind and spirit to pray. The beauty of the nature around me invites me to worship my Creator. The peace in my neighborhood allows me to speak to my Heavenly Father and to hear Him speaking to me.
Rest looks different for different people. I love to walk to relax, my daughter loves to swim. She loves the sensation of the water surrounding her entire body. As the water envelopes her, it limits her senses. The stresses of her life are dampened as her brain no longer receives information from her eyes and ears. She simply feels the comfort of the water and her body relaxes. I love this picture of Sabbath, the water represents the Holy Spirit, who revitalizes and refocuses us. However, we choose to rest, environmental noise decreases as we invite the Spirit of God to surround us. In His presence, we relax, restore, and rejuvenate.
In Jesus’ gentle and humble presence, we are safe (Matthew 11:29). Yes, we receive direction but also, we receive acceptance. I love the idea of seeking this place of security. I am thankful no matter how long we have been away, we can run back to Jesus. Words escape me as I ponder this, oh God that all would know this wonder! Jesus ends this verse with this promise. In this manner, you will find rest. Take a sabbatical with Him. Let the Holy Spirit gently and humbly restore you and He will show you, His rest.

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Tuesday, 19 October 2021 15:01

Love Camp

Love camp

Love has a broad definition. I love my dog, a delightful book, a warm spring day, spaghetti, my husband, and Jesus. I'm pretty sure you can tell, each one of those things I "love" is cherished on different levels.

After thirty years of marriage, the shared love between my husband and I is comfortable. Anchored in security we easily take each other for granted. Tired from life’s stresses, unguarded comments slip out, especially after long days at work. What should we do? Simply put we remember to love and to reflect Jesus in our relationship. I Corinthians 13:13 reminds us “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”

A beautiful sentiment easily repeated but difficult to live out, especially in a tense and uncertain season.

Love is a double-edged sword. Untainted it provide the essence of life. Sadly, it also can bring forth the emotions of disappointment, rejection, and pain. Why is love so important to us? Why can't we just throw it aside and plunge into our career, school, or ministry? Simply put we NEED love. As Relational beings, God created us to thrive on unconditional love. Agape love, implanted in us by the Holy Spirit, grows when we nurture it. (Galatians 5:27)

Often isolating this chapter to marriage, we forget 1 Corinthians 13 applies to the church. However, it should be true for all our relationships. Friends, we need to own what is in the chapter of Scripture. To love unconditionally we need to recognize it and imitate it. In 1 Corinthians we find there are two camps. What love is and what love is not.

Camp #1 Love is

Camp #2 Love is not

Patient: implies process

Jealous

Kind

boastful

Loves truth

Proud

Perseveres

Rude

Faithful

Demanding

Hopeful

Irritable

Endures

Record of other wrong

= doing what is right

Rejoices of injustice

You see many of us don’t move into love as a permanent home. We move from one side to the other depending on our situation. We become offended by thoughtless actions or differing opinions. Driven by righting the wrong we move to the “love is not” camp. Acting out of an offense drives us to feel we need to defend God instead of being Christ-like, which requires us to love. 1 John 4:8 tells us "But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love." God does not need our defense; he requires our witness to love through difficult circumstances.

So how do we stay in the love camp? We actively and purposefully choose it. We choose to be there. When we find we have wandered or even bolted into the Love is not camp, we ask forgiveness pack up our gear and move back. Circumstances do not dictate our love location. Other’s actions do not dictate our love location. Jesus as our example, reminds us to choose the enduring love in patience, kindness, truth, perseverance, faithfulness, and hope.

I struggle to stay there but today I choose the love camp. Tomorrow I will ask myself where have you pitched your tent? When I recognize my location shifted, I will choose to move.Revive in us the deisre to love LORD! Are you with me?

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Saturday, 31 July 2021 14:38

Beauty Hunting

I learned a new phrase the other day: beauty hunting. It’s active pursuit of discovering beauty in the world around you. Isn’t that great?

Francis Bacon wrote “Beauty itself is but the sensible image of the Infinite”. Beauty, in all its forms, inhabits the world around us. Maybe you are stuck and don’t know how to move past the pain of the past year. It’s okay to grieve losses and celebrate beauty at the same time. God promised us beauty for ashes in Isaiah 61, it must be around to find. Looking for delightful moments allows us to peek at the limitless creation around us, and it redirects out minds to hope and restoration.

As a new empty nester, I need some hope and restoration. Actually, the first thing I’m doing is retiring the word empty from empty nest, because empty evokes hopeless emotions. But we are far from hopeless. We are ready to thrive! Transformative nest doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, but it’s a better description. There’s a fresh life full of adventure – and beauty – waiting for each of us. For many, life slows down, and you can finally take a deep breath, look around and take in all sorts of lovely things and moments. Beaty hunting!

In this new season of life, I’m looking for fun to rejuvenate my spirit. So, let’s make a game of this. When you are out and about, see if you can observe beauty with all five of your senses. For example:

  • I see an older couple holding hands.
  • I hear the giggle of a child. (Isn’t that the best?)
  • I smell freshly baked bread.
  • I feel the cool breeze after a thunderstorm.
  • I taste the wonder of a pour over coffee.

Beauty promotes joy and elicits wonder, reminding us our creator put good in the world for us to enjoy. Beauty permeates all of life, spilling out of the ordinary. Allow it to seep into your soul and redirect our sensory input from the negative to the positive. Don’t ignore difficulties, but let beauty keep them in balance.

Beauty hunting creates memorable moments in a normal day. Broaden the scope of its impact by describing why something is beautiful to you. What we see as beautiful often comes from experience.  That older couple mentioned above represents resiliency in marriage. They remind me of my parents who shared 57 years together before my dad passed away. Time tested they remain together with a bond that cannot be broken. Honestly, I don’t know if that’s true about that random couple I saw but to me, that’s what they represent. Continue with the list and ruminate on each beautiful observation. Linger over the details.  

Beauty hunting can look however you want. You can do it alone or with a group; it starts great conversations! It can be used when out to dinner and the conversation wanes or on a walk through a familiar neighborhood. Our souls yearn for the lovely in our lives to touch us deeply and produces joy and peace.

Try it and email me your observations! Everyone needs a little beauty.

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