If you look closely at this photo, you'll notice a little blue blur on the left.
That's my Evie, in all her two-year-old splendor, not staying put.
Sometimes, when the weather is fine and the sun is just beginning to think about setting, we go to this nature preserve by our house for some quality family time. It's supposed to be fun and relaxing and unifying, but on this particular day, it was mostly none of those things.
I really, really wanted to take some nice photos. But for some reason, Evie was more interested in frolicking and picking up shells and messing with sand than standing in the same spot for longer than a few seconds. And for some reason, my husband was more interested in walking together and enjoying our surroundings.
But there I was, determined to have my beautiful pictures and basically dragging poor Evie off of the path and into the "pretty" part of the trail (I'm not even sure we were allowed to do that...), traipsing through grass and brush like a crazy person and trying to get her to stand on a tree stump. And she was whining and screaming Noooo!! and clearly less than delighted with the idea of utilizing her toddler coordination to balance on a tree stump and running away from me, and I'm jumping around desperately trying to find something that would keep her attention long enough so I could take SOME-BEAUTIFUL-DARN-PICTURES-FOR-PETE'S-SAKE!!!!
Mike was holding Nora at the edge of the path, and I probably don't need to explain why he was also more than a little frustrated with me.
I learned a good lesson that day. If I want to document a beautiful and meaningful moment with my lens, I probably need to just let go of trying to force everything. I learned that I need to let my family be and receive the beautiful moments as they come instead of grabbing moments and trying to squeeze the beauty out of them.
I think about this lesson because I think it is true for life, too.
I want life to be filled with my version of beautiful. In my mind this includes a lot more success and achievement. It sometimes includes being more and doing more. It includes recognition and validation and approval and people thinking I'm interesting.
This version of beauty isn't always my reality, so I grab at the little details and desires throughout my everyday and drag them off of the path and try to squeeze and force them into this beauty on my terms.
This usually looks like me putting too much hope in the work of my hands instead of in the One who created my hands. It looks like spending too much time on my phone, comparing myself to others, coveting blessings that aren't mine and buying things I don't need. It looks like taking what I think I deserve instead of being content with what I have.
But in the end I don't ever really make anything beautiful. I just end up with an exasperated and discouraged version of myself and my family.
"...A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven." -John 3:27
This verse has become my little breath of fresh air when I find myself desperately wanting to strain and strive and gain.
It might seem like this knowledge would be restricting and frustrating, but it's freeing to me.
It gives me the ability to rest from feeling like I have to whip up the beauty.
It gives me the freedom to work with what I have received instead of feeling like I need to take what I want.
At first glance, to receive and to take seem like similar actions. When I looked up the definition of take, it included words like to seize or to capture by force, power and control. But if you look up the definition of receive, it speaks of being filled up like a cistern is filled with water.
We can take all the beauty we think we can out of life, but we won't ever be filled.
The filling comes when we learn to receive well.
So much in this season of raising small children is filled with things that don't at first appear to be beautiful. A lot of the time it may not seem like we have been given much to work with at all.
But when we can let go of the need to take and learn to simply receive, I think we'll see beauty happening. It's happening naturally all through this simple life of doing these things, changing these diapers, loving this family and holding these hands.
What matters most is the receiving.
Accepting with arms wide open the gifts God gives and to allow Him to use these gifts to fill our lives with true, lasting beauty.