don’t forget what you love

Darling – will you hear me for a second? Don’t forget to love the things you love. I relearned this for my own self recently, and I think the story is important. Get cozy.

I used to take my phone with me everywhere not so much for phone things but for the camera. In fact if there was a pretty aesthetic somewhere, I’d go and get my phone so I could try to find a way to photograph it. Raining? Let me find the prettiest view of raindrops through the right window. Sunshine? Maybe I could blow some bubbles and catch rainbow reflections. A pile of pillows in a coffee shop window? Excuse me while I’m the weirdo trying to subtly get the lighting just right and keep that lady working on her computer out of the photo. 

Two summers ago we moved up to a summer camp for my husband’s job and there was no cell signal. We had wi-fi in a few select locations, but I began to use the lack of reception and internet as a good reason to disconnect from my phone on a regular basis. I don’t think that was a bad idea, but I began to lose my habit of cell phone photography. I wasn’t a professional by any means – I just loved trying to capture moments of beauty. But slowly that capturing slipped away. A whole year went by that way. I even started taking walks at home without my phone. I don’t think that was a bad practice either, but maybe I was too thorough. I went through our second summer at camp and have scarcely any photographs to show for it. 

But now I’ve realized that since I’m not looking for beautiful pictures, I’m not even looking as much. I don’t notice the beautiful things that would have captivated me a year or two ago. And I miss that. 

I set out to spend less time with my phone and I accomplished that goal, but I should maybe have been more specific with myself. I should maybe spend less time scrolling through social media from the comfort of my cozy corner chair, and more time out photographing the pretty things I love to share on Instagram. So darling, don’t forget to love what you love. You can find yourself missing pieces of you that you never intended to let go of, and that would be a real heart-break. The world needs all the beauty you have to offer. 

It’s true that sometimes you need to step back from the things that you love for a little while. I stepped back from writing for a while and came back refreshed and ready to do more. It was wholesome, if tumultuous. I understand that we need breaks, time to rest, moments or months of quiet. But I came back and I think the coming back is important. 

I’m just now coming back to taking pictures on my cell phone and it’s giving me life in ways I had forgotten about. What beautiful things have you forgotten to love? What favorite habits or life-giving places have you been setting aside for too long? Don’t forget that it’s ok to love the simple things – taking walks or going for a run, walking through a greenhouse or planting a garden, sitting at a coffee shop or practicing a pour over. These little habits of ours are restful and nurturing and odds are when you neglect them they’re taking more from you than you know. 

Set aside some time to be frivolous. Take your phone with you on a long walk. Stop to photograph anything that catches your eye, big as a house or small as a leaf. Lace up your running shoes and do the extra mile, even if you feel like you should be home doing the dishes. Bake something and if you’re worried about that baking habit sticking to your hips, look up a new recipe and discover ways to make your favorite foods love you back. Just don’t forget to love the things that you love, babe.

beauty will save the world

I have always loved this quote, even before I knew where it was from, but I have not always believed it. Even when I heard it perfectly illustrated at a conference about the arts – about the necessity of beauty – even then I didn’t believe it. There was a seed of Midwestern Baptist doubt that nothing, not even the beauty I crave like living water, could be so instrumental in saving the world. But yesterday I found a new layer of understanding.

I wish I could say it was a new understanding altogether but my spirit has rarely learned like that, in leaps and bounds. I grow slowly and deeply and my roots have to push deeper into a thing, a truth or a season or a reality, before I can see it slowly growing in my own life. The thing about beauty is it’s been growing on my heart for the past year and a half and only now can I shape into words how this belief is changing me.

But I don’t have to just believe that beauty will save the world anymore. I’ve heard stories so blatant they spell it out nice and slow for even those as stupid as me. The story I heard this spring was the story of a woman in a choral group that sang old latin hymns. She loved them for their beauty even though she didn’t believe the truth of them. And yet gradually, that beauty became so rooted in her heart that she began to wonder if these words about Christ and saving and hope could actually be true. There were other influences in the gradual renewal of her beliefs, but it began with the hymns of a dead language whose words were very much alive.

Yesterday it came home to me in my own way: I had tucked my toddler in for bed and stepped outside for a walk. We live in the woods, at camp, with other families: there were people who’d hear him if he cried, and I only wanted to walk the quarter-mile loop of the driveway a few times. There were birds singing. A sunset glow was gathering on the opposite hill. Wildflowers were blooming – some I know, like shooting stars and blue flags and golden smoke and alpine bluebells. Even more that I want to learn were pushing their blossoms up in places I didn’t expect, catching me off-guard with perfect tiny white blossoms and surprising fragrances. Last year’s rose hips marked the places where this year’s roses will bloom.

I walked in that wide loop for a long time, just savoring the freshness of the air and the presence of the flowers and the singing of the wind on the tops of the hills. It’s moments like that which give me the ability to go back to being a mama with more gentleness. Walking and solitude and beauty give me the chance to be restored. They save the way I talk to my toddler, or my husband or my friends. They change the way I write, process, imagine. They save the way I see the world, the way I understand beauty and its small saving graces. Yes, beauty will save the world, one wildflower, one tired mama at a time.

There’s hope in this knowledge; when I can’t find or get to beauty, I can know it still exists. It still changes things. It still saves in it’s own small God-made ways. And when I can, it saves me, sends me back to God again in ways that don’t quite happen in a church. Yes, beauty will save the world, sometimes whether we realize it or not.