Last week I gave a live talk on Facebook to the community group that has grown out of The Glorious Table. The topic was beauty–not the makeup and fashion kind, but the aesthetic kind–its importance, what true beauty looks like and why we crave it, and simple ways you can add beauty to your days. This post is a summary of that talk and includes all the resources I mentioned with links to each one. Ready? Let’s talk beauty.
Why is beauty important?
I think it’s pretty clear that our God loves beauty. After all, he created the world and everything in it, and if we can pause long enough to look around, we’ll see how he intentionally surrounded us with beauty. Oceans, mountains, flowers, birds, trees, rivers–beauty everywhere. As for us, we were created in God’s image (see Genesis 1:27), so naturally, it follows that we would love beauty and creating beauty just as God does. I think it’s inarguable that at the core, our very souls crave beauty.
What is real beauty?
Beauty is aesthetic, but it’s never fake. It’s soul-, mind-, and heart-pleasing. It’s accessible. Beauty doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive, or even time-consuming. Beauty is anything that reflects the Father–his creation, his character, his love.
Ways you can add beauty to your days:
- If you can, get outside daily for a walk. When weather doesn’t permit, plant yourself by a window for a little while each day. Soak in natural light.
- Grow something. A garden, a houseplant, a little pot of easy-care succulents. Watching something grow is an amazing way to see beauty unfold in a miraculous way.
- Hang a bird feeder outside your window. My girls and I have been captivated watching the interactions of the variety of birds who show up at the feeder outside our dining room window. It’s a constant reminder to marvel at God’s creation.
Read beautiful language.
- The Bible is filled with beautiful language, like Psalms and the Song of Songs.
- Poetry is wonderful. Don’t let it intimidate you. Read one poem every morning, slowly, and see what happens in your mind. Some great starter anthologies include Good Poems, edited by Garrison Keiller, and She Walks in Beauty, edited by Caroline Kennedy. If you have kids, include them by starting a weekly habit such as Poetry Teatime, and read from A Child’s Garden of Verses or A Family of Poems.
- Try the spiritual writings of authors like C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Henri Nouwen, and N.T. Wright.
- Children’s literature is always a good choice for adding a little beauty to your day. When I feel tired and let down, nothing perks me up like a visit to Narnia, Avonlea, or Misselthwaite.
- Read the classics. Again, don’t be intimidated. Choose something that sounds appealing and start slow. Take your time.
Make time for creativity.
You may not think you’re creative, but we’re not talking about painting a masterpiece here, we’re talking about self-care. Find something you enjoy and spend even a few minutes each day being creative. You might try nature journaling, writing (Not sure where to begin? Try The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron), knitting, sewing, a pottery class, scrapbooking, dance, learning to play an instrument, redesigning your flower beds, or even taking a cooking class. The possibilities are endless. If adding one more thing to your life seems impossible, pick up a copy of The Fringe Hours by Jessica Turner. You might be surprised at what you can fit into the chinks of your day.
Make mealtimes special.
Jesus set a great example for us of making mealtimes special. Sitting down at the table together with loved ones and breaking bread, talking, spending time together over a meal mattered to Jesus. Following his lead is a simple way to add beauty. The meal doesn’t have to be gourmet (even pizza will do–yum!) but get out the good dishes, or use real dishes instead of your usual paper or plastic. Use a tablecloth. Put a vase of flowers on the table. Light a candle and turn on some music. DO turn off the TV and all sit down at the table (for some of you, this is a giant leap, I know). For more ideas, see The Life Giving Home by Sally Clarkson and the upcoming The Life Giving Table. If you’re more adventuresome, try a picnic.
If you’re like me, you grew up without much exposure to art. I didn’t fall in love with art until I went backpacking across Europe, visiting endless museums, at twenty-five. But we can begin to appreciate art at any age. It’s never too late. Here are some ways to begin:
- Visit local museums. Almost every major metropolitan area in the country has at least one museum. You might be surprised what your local museum’s collection includes. I know I was!
- Visit your local library and look at art books. Find an artist or two whose works appeal to you, and check out a book or two of their works. If you find something you really love, order a print online and hang it up where you can see it every day.
- If you have kids, explore art together. The Children’s Book of Art and The Usborne Book of Famous Artists are great starting places for kids and grown-up alike.
Add classical music.
I’m a latecomer to classical music, but I began listening to it when I was working on a big writing project. Now I listen to it every day, and my girls do too. My five-year-old loves classical and will ask me to turn it on, specifically. If you’re not sure where to begin, both Pandora and Spotify have stations called Classical Music for Studying. Take note of songs that stir you and look for more by the same composer. This is how I fell in love with Ludovico Einaudi.
Make time for Sabbath.
Whether or not you’re of a Judeo-Christian inclination, making time for intentional rest is a way to add beauty to your days. Sabbath allows us to unwind, to slow down, to nurture ourselves, to be restored. Even short periods of intentional rest during the day, yoga-like, are beneficial to the health of both the mind and the body. Business gurus like Michael Hyatt advocate a midday rest. My five-year-old loves taking a “peace out” break with Jamie at Cosmic Yoga for Kids. Even better, carve out time for a weekly Sabbath, which can, in turn, help you make time for other things, like getting outside and practicing creativity.
How can you make time for beauty?
- Get up 15-30 minutes early to read beautiful languge while you sip your coffee.
- Take a 15-minute teatime break and look at an art book or read a poem.
- Listen to classical music while you work, do the dishes, or cook dinner.
- Set aside a weekly hour or two for creativity, or spend the last 30 minutes before bedtime working on a project.
They key about adding beauty is to do it with intention. If we institute any of these practices but don’t really see, hear, or experience them fully because we’re stressed or distracted, we miss out.
What ways are you adding beauty to your days? Leave a comment and tell me–I’d love to know!