For me, it started several years ago when I read these words:
“Have vessel, must find beauty."
Life-changing words written by Ann Voskamp in her book, ‘One Thousand Gifts’ that a friend had given me. In her book, she writes that every time she picked a bouquet of flowers, she would have to hunt for a vase or vessel to put it in. One day she decided to leave the empty vase out on the table and go hunt for the flowers. It no longer was ‘have beauty, must find a vessel"; it had become 'have vessel, must find beauty." That small shift in perspective has had a huge impact on my life. So much so, that as a professed beauty-seeker, I am daily hunting to find beauty in the unexpected. Flowers are easy - daffodils, lilacs, roses, daisies - when they bloom, they demand attention, and I oblige. But now I have trained my eyes to seek beauty in a simple leaf with intricate veins, peeling bark on a tree, the smallest of insects gathering nectar. Even dead flowers have an essence of beauty.
It's paying attention to these small delights in a habitual way, that over time creates a life filled with beauty. Every day might not be beautiful, but it can have beauty in it. We must look for it! Each small delightful discovery in nature is a gift from the Creator himself - a reflection of His artistry, His love, and a reminder of His faithfulness. Season after season, He is constant. His grace is limitless and so are the gifts. No matter how small, I try to pay attention and look for them.
When my kids were growing up, I didn't take the time to practice the seeking and hunting beauty. Life was busy seeking lost shoes and hunting for misplaced homework assignments. I wish I had spent more time just being still long enough to pay attention to the beauty outdoors. I wish I had taught them to be beauty seekers. But perhaps my kids were the small delights that God had given me - beauty right under my nose. Perhaps they were the vessels that needed filling with my time, attention, love, and lessons of the Creator. Perhaps I was that vessel, and they filled me with love and beautiful moments that have woven a tapestry of a beauty-filled life. Hmmm, yes, and I am grateful for it.
Friend, may we never stop seeking beauty and filling our vessels, because seeking beauty will often lead to other things like gratitude, wonder, and joy.
Every spring, I know it will happen. I expect it to happen. And it DOES happen. A seed is planted, is watered, and nurtured. It swells and sends out roots, sprouts up shoots, and within a couple months, it blossoms and bears fruit. It’s this crazy miracle that fills me with wonder and amazement every time I witness it.
Cultivating a garden can be a lot of work, but for most of us, we do it because we enjoy it. Whether we garden for aesthetics or for pollinators or for nourishment, part of the satisfaction is the joy of watching things grow.
As we put time and effort into nurturing a garden, we are also nurturing ourselves. Personal growth, like this, happens in many ways. We grow when life gives us a bowl of lemons and we are forced to find a way to make lemonade - not exactly fun. But growth can be more intentional and enjoyable when we take an active role in it. There is no end to the possibilities of what we can learn and experience. Take a class, learn a new skill, do something creative, step out of our comfort zone and do that thing we've always wanted to do.
What if we cultivate growth in a different way? What if we become intentional in becoming more patient with others, show them kindness and grace? What if we cultivate gratitude and generosity? This kind of growth not only changes us, but it affects those around us in wondrous ways! But how do we encourage this kind of self-growth?
For me, the one thing that is at the core of this type of growth - true personal growth - is my faith. When I make the effort to spend time in God’s Word, I’m cultivating and nurturing my faith. The more I water it by learning about him and his love for me - for all of us, seeds of gratitude begin to swell and form roots. That gratitude then affects my whole life as it sprouts, grows, and blossoms into fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. And those fruits, dear friend, are worth cultivating. They begin to self-sow and spread - changing not only us, but others in ways we don’t always see.
How about you? This spring, as you think about what you will grow, I encourage you to also consider how you will grow or how you are growing. Spend some time being still so you can hear your thoughts. Take a walk and listen to what your heart is saying. Write in a journal to sort through your ideas. If you are a believer, pray to God who always listens and will guide you. Then begin. Begin to intentionally cultivate growth.