On Nature and Beauty {with printable nature journaling prompts}

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“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.”

“The glory of God is man (child, woman, mother) fully alive.”

God designed each one of us uniquely with our own personalities, gifts, and preferences. But one thing that God gave as a great treasure and gift for us all to enjoy is nature. I don’t know about you but when I think of the quote above and picture a life fully alive it is one that includes time outside exploring and taking in God’s creation. It is a life with room for leisure, time to notice, to ponder, to slow down and savor beauty. There is something about being surrounded by beauty that truly does minister, heal and bring peace to the soul. Perhaps it is that beauty is God’s grace made visible and tangible. When I am in nature the swaying leaves whisper of His presence all around me. The vibrant, colorful flowers sing of His goodness… true beauty shifts our gaze off of ourselves and onto Him—it is a powerful force.

Yet it takes great intentionality in our fast-paced and self-advancement focused culture to value and prioritize things like beauty and nature. Who has time to get out in nature and just linger there? With so many “good” opportunities competing for our—and our children’s time, any space for such leisurely pursuits is quickly crowded out. And our cultural views of beauty are very twisted— shallow and self-focused, immature. In his book Falling Upward, Richard Rohr talks about how it is mature cultures— ones that view life with a sense of “deep time” (thinking not just about the self and here and now, but of time more fully including past, present, and future) who have had the wisdom to value and invest in beauty throughout history. Such cultures or people are concerned with the well being of future generations and have the insight and understanding of what is needed to shape and nurture great souls.

As I gear up for a new school year I want to leave lots of room not to simply inform my kids with facts they need to know, but to cultivate practices that will form their souls. I want to create space that speaks to their spiritual and emotional aspects as well as their intellectual beings. Have you ever noticed it takes TIME to think? To meditate on truth about God and spiritual things we need time and space. It doesn’t happen in a life packed to the brim rushing from one thing to the next. And growth and fruit is not immediate but comes in season after seeds have been given that time and space to grow.

This coming school year, it is my hope and plan to get out in nature and to leave lots of space to let beauty soak into our beings and to ponder the many truths we will learn about. One simple way I will encourage this is through nature journaling. I will not require specific journaling assignments but am giving my kids a list of prompts to inspire them in their reflection and journaling. These prompt cards can be printed, cut out and glued to the inside of a journal. For any of you interested, I’m sharing them below. Click on the images to get the PDFs. The only difference in the two is the design— I thought the boys out there might prefer a geometric design over flowers. :-)

 

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For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. ~Romans 1:20

 

A Book That Brings Beauty- Beatrix Potter and Her Animal Friends

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What book do you think of when you desire to look at something beautiful? What stories come to mind when you want to read something wholesome and satisfying to your children? We’ve all heard of them, and a lot of us have read most if not all of them, but Beatrix Potter’s animal stories are some of the most treasured and classic of tales, beloved by children near and far.

Not only are these stories a delight to children, but they have been and still are a delight to adults as well. It has been said that even C.S. Lewis himself was captivated by the likes of Squirrel Nutkin. So why is this? What causes these stories to stand the test of time?

Maybe it is because what is conveyed through these stories is not bound by years or decades. What is gleaned in Potter’s pages is timeless because stories of value and substance, that lend direction and offer a moral compass, are as much needed today as they were in the early nineteen hundreds. From The Tale of Peter Rabbit to The Roly-Poly Pudding, children are reminded of the importance of obedience and honesty, and that there are very real consequences for the decisions one makes.

So many other great things can be awakened in a child as a result of delving into these classic tales: A love for animals, a desire to experiment with watercolor paints, sketching the natural world, or writing creative narratives about the creatures one comes across on a nature walk.

To help aid you in your rediscovery of Potter’s Complete Tales, I want to introduce you to a quaint and beautifully illustrated picture book biography of Beatrix Potter, written by Alexandra Wallner, simply titled Beatrix Potter.

 

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Her childhood becomes very real and relatable as this book portrays her time spent drawing, painting flowers, and secretly keeping pet rabbits, frogs, lizards, salamanders, and snakes.

 

Beatrix kept a diary written in her own code. The sights and sounds of the woods were like magic to her.”

Children are invited into the pages of this little gem to discover that things were not always easy for Beatrix. She often battled loneliness and was plagued with bronchitis and rheumatic fever which left her with a heart condition. These things, however, did not keep her from finding comfort in the natural world around her and recreating God’s creatures on paper with pencil and paint.

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If I have done anything – even a little to help small children on the road to enjoy and appreciate honest, simple pleasures, I have done a bit of good.

If you would like to delve even deeper after reading this charming picture book biography, , I recommend picking up Beatrix Potter: A Journal,published by Penguin Books. It is made to look like Beatrix’s own scrapbook with black and white photos of her and her family, journal cards, and original sketches and paintings.

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Delve into these wonderful books with your children and let the love of nature take root and blossom in a bounty of creativity and wonder. And go out and enjoy God’s creation with your children!

When What You’ve Got Doesn’t Seem Like Enough

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hey kneel in dirt, their heads near touching, and their laughter, it’s the song of the seraphim.

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The dog’s running in the wheat behind the plot for the garden, gold breaking through green.

I sort seed packets, all rattling promise.

And every single one of the kids, they’re startling grimy, dirt ringing eyes like raccoons, what picking stones across bean fields all day can do to the face, the hands, the bent back.

Now in the evening, to the bare garden, us weary and hopeful.

Only one of us has shoes on. It’s all a bit laughable.

Bohemian.

But the holy ground, isn’t it always where we least expect it?

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I know, it’s just this….

Tomatoes at twilight.

Spinach seeds.

All these dirty bare feet, all their voices and ribbing and laughter.

But I can feel it too, a tattered reverence….

“Just gentle.” Hope shows Shalom how to cradle the root ball of tomatoes. Do I tell the girls their rows aren’t farmer straight?

“Don’t drop any of the seeds.” Levi leans over Caleb’s shoulder.

There is light edging Caleb’s knees, all his work, his gritty pants, the very bottom of his heel.

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It’s everywhere too, the refrain of the ragamuffins: “Holy, Holy, Holy, the whole earth is full of His glory.”

This is what reverberates and moves me deep, the song of the wounded and washed: Holy, Holy, Holy.

“Joshua, can you bring another spade?” I call to him across the lane, him coming out of the barn, coming out from feeding all the nursing sows. We’re breaking the earth open and it’s making something in me heal.

And I tear open up the seed packets of zucchini and is it this too, witnessing again this Genesis giving?

That again He gives the first gift He ever gave to humanity? That again He gives the impossible gift and asks for wild faith?

“Behold

I give you every seed-yielding plant which is upon the face of the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit;

you shall have them for food.”

(Genesis 1: 28-29)

The seeds, they fall into my hand small, jewels. I am holding seeds, first gift He ever bestowed upon His people. Maybe this is why the barefeet?

But to look at seeds and believe He will feed us?

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When what He gives doesn’t look like near enough.

When it looks like less than a handful instead of a plateful, a year full, a life full.

When it looks inedible.

These seeds, they are food? It looks like a bit of a joke.

To hand a man seeds for his swelling, panging starvation, and ask him to believe in a feast — is this what everyday faith is?

Behold! For those who have learned to seeHe gives, He gifts.

He gifts with seeds as small as moments, grace upon grace, and the unlikely here and now, it shall sustain you, feed you.

Do not disdain the small. The promise of feast is within the moments.

Our enough is always in the now, because He never leaves us.

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Joshua, he brings me a spade.

He begins on one long row of lettuce. I plant gladioli bulbs.

Levi scratches out his lines of sweet corn.

Shalom pours her watering can careful over tomatoes that Hope’s tucking into earth. Caleb hills up for pumpkins.

We’re all just ragamuffins out here hunched over our wild song of faith: Holy, Holy, Holy, the whole earth is full of His Glory.

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We pray bent in soil, not only in sanctuary, and we bow over rows, not only in pews.

And if prayers are what we seed and and Cross-love is what we knead, what we reap and what we eat is the harvest of God.

He is enough.

Ragamuffins plant and believe in seeds of grace, and together, we’re learning to behold and really see, and Shalom, she pours the water.

The trickle making song, making clean.

This trickle making feast.

 

Discover The Beauty of Margin

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It made me feel rich. I was so pleased and thankful I could be a blessing….and all it took was a bowl of chicken tortilla soup.

My sweet friend Patricia is a teacher, and a wonderful one at that. She also has three lovely daughters and a husband who is a principal and a doctoral student. Her life is busy, so when she texted that she was at school and feeling sick, I knew I wanted to help.

It was a simple thing, really.  I had some chicken tortilla soup cooking and I told her to come pick it up on her way home so that she didn’t have to worry about dinner for her family. She could just go home and rest and enjoy some nice hot soup.

After school, she did stop by and pick up the dinner. Later, she said it made her feel so cared for.

You might say, “It was just a meal.” But I think it was more than that. The food was a blessing but the real gift was the margin.

I’d made meals for friends many times before, but I’d never been prepared to give even before the need arose. It was without any hesitation that I offered. I didn’t need to go to the store or come up with a plan. I was just able to give.

My word for 2014 is Margin. I want to be available. Available for God, my family and my friends.

More specifically, I wanted to create more margin in my afternoons with the children. Since cooking took up much of my after school time, I decided to cook most of our meals on the weekend. That way, I’d be more available to help with my children’s homework after school and have more time and energy to listen and play.

So when  Patricia texted, I realized that a lovely by-product of creating margin for my children was that I could also make an ill friend’s day a little brighter too.

I had done the hard work ahead of time so that when the need arose, not only could I meet that need, but I was able to do so without stress or taking away from my family time. And the margin I’d created in my own life flowed over into Patricia’s because she had one less thing on her to do list that night.

Margin isn’t normally one of my strengths. I lean more towards overcommitment than I do towards margin.

But I think that one of the most beautiful gifts we can give to our friends and family is that of margin. To be women who do the hard work ahead of time, so that when others carry a heavy burden, we have strength to spare. It requires hard decisions. It requires saying no even when it doesn’t seem to make sense. It requires self discipline.

But the rewards are rich. We can offer rest and peace and comfort. We can offer a listening ear to our husbands, we can offer patient words to our children or a helping hand to our friends.

There is no glory or wealth in margin, but when we choose to treat it like something real and valuable, treasures begin to pour into it’s walls.

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Need more convincing of the power of margin? Here are 50 more reasons to invest in it. When you have margin you can…

1. Relax
2. Cook healthier meals
3. Find time to exercise
4. Help others
5. Make better decisions
6. Be calm when things don’t go as planned
7. Have a tidier home
8. Be more patient with your husband
9. Be more patient with yourself
10. Be more patient with your children
11. Be more patient with your loved ones
12. Have time to pray
13. Have time to read the bible
14. Have time to read.
15. Get more rest
16. Get more sleep
17. Eat slower
18. Eat better
19. Play
20. Discover new passions
21. Have the grace to fail
22. Give grace to others when they fail
23. Be present
24. Listen to God
25. Listen to others
26. Notice the details
27. Be thankful for the details
28. Develop a habit of gratitude
29. Try new things
30. Finish old things
31. Stop worrying because you now have time to act
32. Stop worrying because the things that worried you… you eliminated when you created that margin
33. Breathe deeply
34. Live fully
35. Live life instead of just responding to it
36. Be available to help others who haven’t discovered the power of margin
37. Read books to learn how to maximize the time you do have
38. Read books to learn how to be a better wife, mom, friend, believer
39. Read biographies to learn what made great people great
40. Reflect
41. Dream
42. Hope
43. Belive
44. Create
45. Accomplish
46. Plan
47. Nurture life – gardening, animals, nature
48. Invest in relationships
49. Be excellent
50. Thrive instead of survive

Action Step – So what can you say no to today? what can you take off your plate? What responsibility or activity can you trade in for margin?

Sweet Surrender

Surrender

post by Katie Sadler

There is freedom in surrender. Give me faith give me strength enough to wait,
to stand in faith and listen for your melody…your songs have never stopped. Kari Jobe

Today I sit as the beauty, majesty, grace and Love of Jesus overwhelms my soul.

As I lay all I am at His feet, He restores me. He renews my spirit, He breathes life into my very being… and I surrender.

I am overwhelmed as His goodness and mercy floods over me. I am overwhelmed at His great, unchanging, undying love for me…for you.

Jesus loves me, and you, so deeply that He left his rightful throne to live as a man, though without sin as to be the example set before us and to pay the steep price for my sin…for your sin. He gave himself for me…for you. His cross was marked with the all the transgressions of humanity and He choose to endure its shame in order to give me freedom and life. He paid my debt…willingly. He loved me so much that he stretched out his arms and with His last breath spoke of forgiveness. He gave His LIFE that I may have Life. He took the keys of death and Hell so that we may live victoriously here and in eternity. Praise the Lord! Alive and seated in the Heavens above at the right hand of the Father, He sings over me.

His love song flows like warm oil over my soul, and I allow it to reach into the deep crevices I keep concealed. His song is beauty for ashes, strength for fear, gladness for morning, and peace for despair. His song brings joy and healing!

His songs of redemption, love, healing, and grace fill my heart. I hear the ballots in the breeze. I see the music in the flurry of snow and the drops of rain that quench a dry summer day. His song quenches my dry soul.

Be quiet my soul. Be still my restless mind. For it is in those quiet moments that I hear His song the loudest. It’s in those moments that I am filled to overflowing. It’s there, in the quiet, I drink deep of His mercies and love.

We have a Loving Father that is waiting, with arms open wide to heal us, love us and renew us. He longs to hear our triumphs, to wipe the tears and to carry us when we can no longer walk.  His light illuminates the darkness, and with His tender hand he wipes away the stains. He polishes away the tarnish to reveal the shimmer beneath. Gentle are His hands.

No matter where you are…He sees you. No matter what you’ve done or how you live, He longs to save you, to show you His love, to rescue and restore you to the Life He has planned for you to live. For His love is deeper and truer than any man’s love. It is eternal, unmerited, forgiving and unconditional.

He loves you.

Today…this moment…won’t you be still and allow Him to write upon your heart His love for you. Be still and let Him speak to you what beauty he beholds in you. Let the bridegroom whisper His unending love for you, His beautiful bride.

Surrender is beautiful. There is true freedom in surrender.

“Here before your alter I am letting go of all I’ve built. Of every motive, every burden everything that’s in myself. In your presence I am not afraid of Brokenness. To wash your feet with humble tears, oh I would be poured out till nothings left. I just want to wait on you my God I just want to dwell on who you are.

Beautiful, Beautiful, Oh I am lost for more to say. Beautiful, Beautiful, Oh Lord, your beautiful to me.”

-Kari Jobe

Lord, in this moment show us the reality of who you are. Let us see your love for us, your majesty, your tender mercies. Help us to know your gentle and loving touch. May we be renewed in you this very moment and overwhelmed with your presence. May we share your mercies with others. May the hope and freedom we experience be a catalyst to share with others you put in our path. May your love spread like wildfire from the moments we spend in the quiet as you sing over us.

Sweetly Broken, Wholly Surrendered

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