Chapter One - True Beauty 0 The Art of Noticing. “They are constantly in my thoughts. I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works.”Psalm 77:12 As I stood at the sink washing dishes, a few droplets of water landed on my left leg. It felt as if a bee was stinging me. Upon further examination, I realized there was no swelling or entry wound. What in the world was happening?
I would soon discover that this moment was the beginning of a condition known as RSD as well as a severe bout of depression. Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) is a pain syndrome and one I struggled with for many, many years. I suffered a debilitating injury from a car accident to my left leg which went for more than a year without answers. The doctors continually gave me the runaround. Finally, after meeting with a neurologist, I had some guidance. Because of the trauma to my leg and knee, my brain wouldn’t stop sending pain signals. It simply didn’t know how to turn it off. My personal relationship with Jesus was in its infancy, and I longed for understanding.
Through the heartache and pain, prayer was a constant need. Eventually, my heart began to crave anything of meaning. One afternoon, I remember purposefully taking our four-year-old daughter out in the backyard for a picnic, under the apple trees. As we lay there on the rose print blanket gazing at a sky full of cloud creatures, something inside of me awoke. Just a few days before, my burdened body and brain became overwhelmed with pain. If this was something I had to endure for the rest of my life, I didn’t know how to continue. There was no desire, no drive to keep going. Exhaustion and despair attempted to claim me emotionally, physically, and even spiritually. I was lost, or so I thought. As we giggled at the whale floating above our heads, thankfulness began to fill my heart with grace and small joy. It was in that moment of experiencing the beauty in the blossoms, the hummingbirds buzzing, and my daughter’s laughter... I noticed for the first time what I call, true beauty.
“For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19 True Beauty is more than just seen. It is felt as an experience that awakens us to the presence of God in our immediate moments. Noticing this majestic beauty is unique to each one of us. I believe this is no accident. God creates everything as an invitation. He is welcoming us to notice and love Him every second.
Experiencing a glimpse of His love through an incredible sunset, a gorgeous flower, a fantastic meal, or even a simple smile from a friend or stranger depends on our observation. Will we rush through and miss it or will we begin to notice grace in the details? What we find beautiful, we love. God is love; therefore He is in the beauty we seek to fill our souls. To live an authentically beautiful life is to awaken to the art of possibility. A glimpse of love, hope, tranquility, or joy does wonders for our fatigued lives. Is it possible that the Lord is sharing some of Himself with me, with each of us, in these moments of grace-filled beauty? I believe that He does. Awakening to authenticity is a choice we make each day, each moment. I believe in the Holy Spirit and the incredible power and love offered to us through this gift from God. Now, let’s remember God is the Creator of everything. Would you say He has an amazing creative spirit? I certainly would, and we’re created in His image. Guess what? Even if you think there isn’t an artistic bone in your body, you’re still creatively gifted in some way. Our creative spirit feeds our soul the beauty and the glimpses of grace we inherently and uniquely crave. Oh, how I wish never to miss these opportunities with my choices.
“On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.” Psalm 145:5 I’m going to ask you to stop reading for a moment and pray, asking God to reveal His presence and glory in your life. Next, surround yourself with beautiful things and images that inspire awe and majesty. Some of us may have a hard time knowing what that is. Accept the challenge not to be limited by the familiar and pursue what sparks your interests. Drive or walk a different route, just for the fun of it. Explore the possibilities. Commit this pursuit of moving past the mundane to prayer, asking the Lord for guidance. We are created to have companionship and fellowship with Him on every level. The Bible tells us to pray without ceasing which means to include God in every aspect of our daily lives. Realizing the beauty of God moment by moment transforms our days, faith, and lives for His Glory. “And he who sat upon the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." Also, he said, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true." And he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty, I will give from the fountain of the water of life without payment. He who conquers shall have this heritage, and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.” Revelations 21:5-7 Let us use our God-given senses to train our minds and observe the things that uplift the spirit. Mentally frame the snapshots captured by the camera of the mind, listen to the harmonious melodies, breathe in deep the magnificent aromas, tantalize the taste buds, touch the textures of life, and experience color everywhere. Nurture these small moments and allow them to stir your soul.
Because of God's love for us, beauty is tangible; it’s something we can see and experience. Noticing true beauty awakens something within that only God can harness. Experiencing this unique divinity in our midst is to love God in our everyday moments. When this occurs, our relationship with Jesus deepens and a beauty-filled life unfolds. None of this is by chance. Each of us is here for a purpose and at least one reason. I firmly believe God reveals some aspirations, one glimpse at a time. We are a work of art; our faith is a journey with Jesus and our life is His canvas. “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10
That afternoon at the kitchen sink was the result of the car accident months before. Little did I know that the pain would eventually lead to me noticing abundant Glory in my life! As I apply paint to this figurative canvas of my life, I’m sure there are some muddy mixtures from this time and many others. Envisioning this metaphorical painting makes me wonder if my splatters of mud could at times ruin the whole thing. Thankfully, Grace abounds with focus. Noticing and permitting Grace as it shines through even in the hardest and darkest moments will splash more beauty on that canvas than we could ever imagine.
“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.” John 15:6
--- Now, it's your turn. One of the biggest changes in my situation was to invite gratitude into my days. To make a conscious effort and document the big and little things that I was thankful for. At first, I started by writing down at least three items a day, and soon my daily count of thankfulness was between five and ten easily. Gratitude is like that. It fundamentally changes how our minds work and influences healing on many levels. If you would love to invite a little more beauty, peace, and thankfulness into your days, but you're not sure how to do that creatively, I have a very easy and doable solution for you. Print out a few beautiful images and add them to your gratitude journaling. I promise beauty and gratitude are two things we can always have more of in our lives. The following collection of four 3.5"x5" lavender images is available in my shop for your creative enjoyment. :)
--- Awakening to Beauty in Our Midst is a book I wrote and self-published in 2017. It is a mini-memoir from the previous ten years. I share how God took the hard and helped me see and live the beauty - no matter how hard the days became. Little did I know what was ahead of me in just one year. May it encourage and bless your journey to seek and embrace beauty in the midst of the hard. My hope is that you then allow those experiences to shape and inform your days into purpose and meaning beyond the hard. If you'd like to read the rest of Awakening to Beauty in Our Midst now, click on the button below.
Awakening to Beauty in Our Midst - Melanie Fagan (C) 2017 - 2023