Whatever is Lovely

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
– Philippians 4:8
.
I prefer to live my life in double-speed. My long legs are well-suited to covering twice as much ground in half as much time. My planner is generally full of meticulously-crafted schedules. I frequently book work back-to-back because the rush of being busy thrills me. Now, regular readers will recall that my need for speed (efficiency, rather, but that doesn’t rhyme) is problematic as a pianist: my propensity to rush often leads to decreased musicality. I do not tend to let myself linger in loveliness when demanding technical passages beckon me onwards. 
.
IMG_3060Suddenly, though, my schedule is wide open: my work is shut-down and my social calendar is much less eventful. I still run to stretch my legs, but they no longer have to carry me anywhere beyond my front door. I am not alone in feeling that I’ll surely descend into stir-crazy madness, however, I am beginning to wonder if the sudden decrease in busyness may be liberating rather than limiting. 
.
The other day while cleaning up, I discovered anew the wonder of blowing soap bubbles: such delicate, buoyant things! I spent a few minutes—which would previously have been wasted minutes—playing with them, marveling that such a simple thing has gone unnoticed in my life since childhood. Today, while stretching after a long run, I saw the world upside down. How much greener the trees suddenly looked! And how detailed the dust of the path which was at once beneath my feet and above my head.
.
I have the time to just be, something I pridefully disdained before in my desire to stay busy. Madeleine L’Engle beautifully expresses the value and delight of this quiet, still, wondering time in the following:
.
“When I am constantly running there is no time for being. When there is no time for being there is no time for listening. I will never understand the silent dying of the green pie-apple tree if I do not slow down and listen to what the Spirit is telling me, telling me of the death of trees, the death of planets, of people, and what all these deaths mean in the light of love of the Creator, who brought them all into being, who brought me into being, and you.”
– Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water
.
If we embrace this slower time as being time, we may notice once more the small, lovely things that give life its color and order even in the midst of pain and confusion. Maybe our afternoon coffees will seem more flavorful, running errands more interesting, speaking with friends more precious. Maybe we will learn to be comfortable in silence again, to enjoy our own solitary company, and to find fulfillment even in apparent inactivity.
.
I am reminded of Philippians 4:8, particularly the phrase “whatever is lovely.” Perhaps now we are given the gift of relative freedom from distractions and demands so that we can rediscover the lovely things we so easily overlook. More so, in noticing loveliness, perhaps we will rediscover how to love well.
.
IMG_2909We love our lives and surroundings best when we notice small things with joy. I used to keep a running list of ordinary, lovely things in my journal. Perhaps it is time to resurrect this habit. After all, if you read poetry and stories by writers who deeply love their homes, you will find that they love them particularly: in the broken stair-rail, the sound of a parent coming home, the smell of lemons from a neighbor’s tree. We love well when we notice well.
.
In the same way, we can use this time to notice each other, for the best lovers are the best noticers. I don’t mean lovers in a necessarily romantic sense; I simply refer to anyone and everyone who actively loves another person, be it friend, neighbor, family, or partner. The friend who is suddenly incredibly active on Facebook? Check on her, regardless of politics. The family member struggling in isolation? Do what you can, even if it means sitting six feet apart for a masked chat. The neighbor who sets out a “sharing table” and seems to have plenty? Add what you can and commend their kindness. 
.
As you learn to notice lovely things and to recognize opportunities for love, take the time to notice yourself as well. These last months have forced me to recognize the good things I’ve allowed to become idols as, suddenly, they have been removed. Noticing this is hard—painful even—but it is allowing me to genuinely check in with myself spiritually, emotionally, and even physically. Notice how you are doing and what it is you are desiring. I realize this is easier said than done, but I entreat you to join me in the effort. And remember that noticing ourselves goes beyond self-care; it involves confronting the reality of our lives and loves and seeking to reorient them toward what is truly lovely, that is, worth loving.
.
04276F07-9D93-4829-B0B5-429F78724B8CTo conclude, I leave you simply with the following words from my “About” Page: 
.
“It’s the little things, after all, that make life so lovely. And that’s really what this blog is all about: finding the small, lovely things which testify to the enduring delight of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful.”
.
May we use this time not to avoid the ugliness of reality, but to also rejoice in truer loveliness with gratitude and hope.

A Lesson from a Hat

I remember Meg Ryan’s character in one of my all time favorite movies, You’ve Got Mail, saying of a wayward butterfly, “I believe he was going to Bloomingdale’s to buy a hat, which will turn out to be a mistake, as nearly all hats are.”

giphy.gifI recently learned from a particularly unique hat that this is not necessarily true. On New Years Eve, as a joke, I dressed up as Janet Snakehole, a character within a character from Parks and Recreation. Described as a “wealthy widow with a nasty secret,” Janet wears a vintage black netted hat, which I was able to purchase for $5 on Amazon. I was dared to wear it all day, including to a pottery place, Starbucks, the Phoenix Symphony, and the grocery store.

“I am going to look ridiculous,” I said, grimacing into the mirror.

My mom, in response, simply said, “Own it.” (Imagine her snapping sassily if that helps the image.)

“Own it” turned out to be the lesson of the day and one of my resolutions for the new year.

53040709This hat was a joke and I felt like a major dork (“Major dork!” *salute*). But I stood up straight, added a fancy black dress and fake pearls to the ensemble, and faced the world. I tried to pretend I did not notice heads turn and people point it out. I felt my cheeks burning, feeling as ridiculous as I had expected to. Until….

An elderly woman and her friend stopped me. “You sweet young thing, wherever did you get that hat? You look right out of the 40s! I wish more young people dressed so elegantly.”

“Oh,” my eyes widened, surprised. “Thank you!”

Not two minutes later, a young couple stopped me and asked where they could purchase such a hat.

Then more women stopped me to ask about it.

Best yet, as I walked through the grocery store, a butcher came running out from behind the counter to shout at me, “You look like you’re from Paris!”

Um. Um. Um. What?!img_6017

I wore this hat as an inside joke! And yet, somehow, it seemed to have started a small fashion riot.

I figured, in accordance with the You’ve Got Mail philosophy on hats that this little number would be a mistake, but I had not factored in feigned confidence. Act like it is intentional and people cannot help but believe you! Standing up straight makes any outfit work and owning it turns into true confidence.

This philosophy, realized through a ridiculous hat, extends to so many other areas of life. All of them, really. For instance…

In high school, my friends and I were music nerds and I remember being pressured by a couple “cool” friends to ditch them because the “popular” girls would think I was weird. But you know what? I’d rather spend my lunch hours playing improv games and singing along to musicals than gossiping. To all you teenage music nerds, OWN IT.

In elementary school, I hated sleepovers and always left them early. I know the other little girls thought it was strange, but guess what? I got more sleep! To you introverted little girls, OWN IT.

In junior high, I spent more time practicing piano than hanging out at the mall. And when I was at the mall, spent most of my time in the bookstore. To you bookworms of all ages, OWN IT.

All through my life, my mom has emphasized the “Own it” mentality, saying things like, “You’re taller than most people. Who cares? Own it. Stand up straight and be the tall girl.”

However, in college, I lost a bit of the “Own it” philosophy during my first year. Bless this bizarre hat for helping restore it.

I mean, I play the pipe organ. That might be the nerdiest thing ever.

SO OWN IT and play Phantom of the Opera at midnight!

Rather discuss books than go out?

OWN IT and work that copy of Plato like it’s a Kate Spade purse!

Don’t like contemporary music?

OWN IT and blast that KJazz!

Want to wear a modest dress to prom?

OWN IT and work that dance floor! (Or, in my case, ditch the dance floor and go play boardgames.)

Quirks?  OWN THEM.

Fandoms? OWN THEM.

DISCLAIMER:

DO NOT own hindrances:

Don’t own your mistakes; own up to them and move on.

Don’t own your anxieties; face them and own your victory over them.

Don’t own your temptations; own your strengths.

But overall, learn from the hat and own what makes you you! My favorite things about the people I love are the things that are most unique and “weird” about them and, once they themselves own these things with confidence, everyone else comes to admire them too!