Archive for the ‘beauty’ Category

It is a strange juxtaposition to stand in the whirling rush-hour metro station 10 extra minutes to finish a book I’m reading on my tiny smart phone, especially when the book is about gardens, outdoors, growth, beauty, sunshine… I am standing in an industrial tunnel, swarming with people and smells of burnt rubber and metro exhaust, yet a book can still take me to a different place.

I just finished reading The Secret Garden.  Though I’d seen the movie many times as a child and had even sung a song from the musical, I had never read this charming story.  It is a beautiful story of the redemption that comes from getting outside yourself, opening your eyes to the things around you, and leaving behind the self-pity and cynicism.  Colin and his father both suffer from despair, hopelessness, shame, and dark thoughts that are completely self-centered and poison to the bones.  When their eyes are turned outward and away from themselves, only then can they start to find joy.  The wallowing and navel-gazing just lead them into a deeper pit, but a good shake and turn of perspective are just the medicine to begin a beautiful story of healing. 

The characters and dialogues reminded me so much of my “pen-friend” Marnie, who could write paragraphs about the intrigue of watching a praying mantis mounted on her rose-bush, the bird family with tiny babies in her back yard, and the green sprouts poking up through the dirt at the first of springtime.  The book also made me think of a favorite blogger I follow, who encourages her kiddos to run and play and get dirty (one great idea is this mud run obstacle course!).  Growth and redemption are found in the Secret Garden, through the treatments of sunshine, play, hard work, the company of friends, and laughter.

Simple ideas, but so true.


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It’s amazing what perfect weather will do to our dispositions.  We linger.  We don’t rush to get inside and on to the next thing.  Time slows down.  Days are longer, and experiences are savored.

All of those things happened this past weekend during our glorious summer days – not the typically sticky and suffocating hot summer days, but days with a warm breeze and sunshine that feels good on your skin.

Friends and I lingered over a patio lunch.  We lingered at the pool and didn’t even sweat that much.  We actually had to bundle up at Wolftrap (outdoor theatre) for the first time ever because the evening was so cool.  [Aside: I finally got to experience “There’s Nothing Like a Dame”, which people have sung to me multiple times since my marriage to Mr. Dame, and I never really knew what they were talking about.  I sure didn’t realize the song was so explicit (if you know what I mean), but they did a fabulous job.  See it here!]

On Sunday, Jon and I crossed off one of my summer list items and went strawberry picking!  To be honest, I’m not sure the strawberries are as sweet as I expected, but the experience was delightful and totally worth it (and we will have a LOT of strawberry smoothies this summer).

(tired of squatting!)

This team brought the entire family…and maybe only had one meltdown…

Jon and I found a quiet spot in the orchard and had a picnic.  How often are we really this far from cars and man-made things?!

This wasn’t even all of our epic outdoor weekend, but more on that later.

The challenge for now is – how can I soak in this slower pace of life, the lingering over discussion and time spent with others, even in the midst of our chaotic schedules?  And must it be sunny to slow down and enjoy things without just plowing through?

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Best of

I’m taking it easy this Friday as I jump into the holiday weekend, so I thought for any new readers I would share the most popular posts from TheHomelyHouse.


Treasure Hunt

A Deeper Country

DC: Could It Be Love?

Meet My Pen-Friend

My Pen-Friend: On Men and Marriage

Learning how to rock climb and how to be married

Here I raise my Ebenezer

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Reality Check

I am a verbal processor.  I say things and then think about them (sometimes to my detriment).  One thing I repeatedly hear myself saying and am now intrigued by the meaning behind it is my tendency to compare real-life things to man-made things, instead of the other way around.

At the Baltimore Aquarium, I walked up to this beautiful fish tank and said “wow, it’s like a screen saver!”

My first extended visit to the beautiful countryside of Pennsylvania was my first real-life encounter with hilly farmland (I’m from the very flat mid-west), and I remember saying “It looks like a story book!”

I’ve been admiring the beautiful dogwoods and cherry blossoms this spring, but there’s one kind of tree I don’t know, and it is full of amazing pink puffballs of blooms (if you know the name, please tell me!).  The other night, I actually explained to Jon how they look like crepe paper flowers we made during craft time in pre-school (and now people even use them to decorate for weddings, though I’m sure theirs look better than mine did!).

I even remember my favorite Christmas book as a kid was The Sweet Smells of Christmas (scratch and sniff); sometimes I smell real pine needles and think of that book, rather than the other way around!

Is my frame of reference for senses really drawn from man-made things, rather than man-made things being nice reminders or imitations of what truly is Real?  I should actually stop and smell the roses more and take in the real thing!  All of these things are mere glimpses of God’s real creation.  That said, I guess illustrators, graphic designers, and other artists have done a decent job of capturing the beauty and intricacies of God’s creation, but the books and photos just don’t beat the real thing.  I have yet to see a dress or bedspread the true color of grass in the spring, when it’s a million shades of green, and the sunlight makes it brilliantly shine – some things just cannot be captured.

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Good Stuff

A few things worth your time:

1)  Great article on the value of reading slow books – real literature, with plots and characters and themes.  Blogs and news articles won’t do.  Real literature is good for our brains, emotions, memory, health, our society.  Good stuff.

By playing with language, plot structure, and images, literature challenges us cognitively even as it entertains. It invites us to see the world in a different way, demands that we interpret unusual descriptions, and pushes our memories to recall characters and plot details. In fact…neuroscientists have found plenty of proof that reading fiction stimulates all sorts of cognitive areas—not just language regions but also those responsible for coordinating movement and interpreting smells. Because literary books are so mentally invigorating, and require such engagement, they make us smarter than other kinds of reading material…Researchers found that subjects who read Kafka’s “The Country Doctor”—which includes feverish hallucinations from the narrator and surreal elements—performed better on a subsequent learning task than a control group that read a straightforward summary of the story. (They probably enjoyed themselves a lot more while reading, too.)

2)  Josh Garrels, a musical artist Jon and I love and cannot listen to enough, is working on a film documentary about the creation of his music from the ground up (literally – some of the recordings are captured with the musicians sitting on rocks by the waterfront).  Really creative instrumentation, his unique and  enchanting voice, beautiful lyrics full of truth. 

3)  Garage sales.  Weather is getting warmer, and garage sale season has begun.  Look at your local Craigslist postings for this weekend, and see what treasures you can find!  See some of our favorite finds here.

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The other night when going through our pantry, I found a chocolate bar I gave Jon a year (or two?) ago for Valentine’s Day.  It was added to our chocolate stash and never eaten, so I thought in honor of this Vday-eve I’d try it out.  Delicious.  One of the reasons I bought it was because of the cutesy packaging – it even has a love poem inside!  Probably cheesy, but it was worth a try.

Surprise!  Not cheesy at all.  When Tim Moley was starting his Chocolove business, did he intend that said love letter inside point to the Greatest Love of all?  Or did he think it was just a poem about romantic love?

LOVE bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack’d anything.
‘A guest,’ I answer’d, ‘worthy to be here:’
Love said, ‘You shall be he.’
‘I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on Thee.’
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
‘Who made the eyes but I?’
‘Truth, Lord; but I have marr’d them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.’
‘And know you not,’ says Love, ‘Who bore the blame?’
‘My dear, then I will serve.’
‘You must sit down,’ says Love, ‘and taste my meat.’
So I did sit and eat.

 – “Love” by George Herbert

In the candy wrapper, the word “sweet” was swapped in for “meat” – perhaps pointing more to chocolate than an allusion to the Lord’s supper – but the rest is the same.  Beautiful words of our unworthiness and Christ’s graceful love for us anyway.

My song is love unknown,
My Savior’s love to me;
Love to the loveless shown,
That they might lovely be.

– Sam­u­el Cross­man, The Young Man’s Med­i­ta­tion, 1664

It is so easy to get caught up in wordly affections, especially on Valentine’s Day.  I mean, we do experience many lovely blessings; I love my sweet husband and am so thankful for his love for me!  God shows me His love through Jon, and for that I am so thankful.

But even these sweet things fall short at times.  I definitely do not perfectly love Jon each and every day.  This Valentine’s Day, let’s remember the Greatest Love of all in Christ – perfect, undeserved, unconditional, deep.

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A Deeper Country

I spend so much of my time commuting on buses and metros, missing sunsets because I am underground in a tunnel, and driving around suburbia where cars and matching homes are everywhere.  One of the most restorative things for me to do these days is to get outside the bubble, away from traffic and construction and other ugly man-made things and enjoy quiet and beauty of God’s creation.

Mein Mann and I went to the Maryland side of Great Falls park today, and despite our freezing fingers and toes had a wonderful time taking photos and enjoying being outdoors and away from the chaos of the DC area.

We saw several deer families with little babies running around.

We reminisced about our 2nd date there (of course this didn’t happen that time, but we’ve had fun taking shadow pics lately).

I made a lot of “oohs” at the beautiful icicles all around.

What a beautiful afternoon!

I must remember that all of this beauty points to God, the Creator of the universe, in all His glory.  And if we think this is beautiful now, what will it be like when God makes all things new one day, and there is no brokenness or decay?

I love this picture from C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia: The Last Battle – 

Perhaps you will get some idea of it if you think like this. You may have been in a room in which there was a window that looked out on a lovely bay of the sea or a green valley that wound away among the mountains. And in the wall of that room opposite to the glass there may have been a looking glass. And the sea in the mirror, or the valley in the mirror, were in one sense just the same as the real ones: yet at the same time they were somehow different — deeper, more wonderful, more like places in a story: in a story you have never heard but very much want to know. The difference between the old Narnia and the new Narnia was like that. The new one was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked like it meant more. I can’t describe it any better than that: if you ever get there you will know what I mean.

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