La La Lovely

Excerpt from La La Lovely: The Art of Finding Beauty in the Everyday by Trina McNeilly

Distractions and discouragement are everywhere. What if god is trying to show us his love and goodness through each and every experience and interaction? Take the time to slow down. Appreciate the ways god that has orchestrated the minutiae. Embrace the beauty that god has created during seasons of brokenness and monotony.

Good morning,

This is Beauty. I want you to notice me, to not look past me, to not feel shame for indulging in me, to not strive for me, to not dull me down, to not agree with the lie that I am unnecessary or frivolous, to not believe me to be a thing only of your past or far off in your future. I am present in all days.

I am mountains. I am sea. I am flowers. I am trees. I am a child’s laugh, a grandmother’s hug and a sandwich shared with a friend. I am ears that listen, a kind word spoken, a cup of cold water given. I am a song to comfort and a song to dance to. I am bright colors and calming white. I am savory, and I am sweet. I’m a walk outside when your life feels suffocating. I’m a crackling fire on a bitter winter’s day. I am the plump rolls on a baby’s legs and the grooves of life etched like artwork on a 92-year-old’s face. I am nature. I am art. I am a grand gesture and a quiet acknowledgment, all the same. I am inside. I am outside. I’m a hushed whisper and a shout through a megaphone seeking your attention. On Tuesday, I’m a sunset, and on Thursday, I’m the pattern made in the leaves scattered on the street. I am a first kiss, a last kiss and all the kisses in between. I am tears that fall like rain, in grief, collected and counted (Psalm 56:8 MSG). I am all shapes, sizes, colors, sounds and sights. I’ll pursue like a groom, and I wait like a sage. I am an offering of heaven come down.

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

I wonder, What do you see?

Are you beholding?

Blinded by beauty?

Or blinded to beauty?

Not so long ago, a significant voice in my life told me to stop living in La La Land. Humorous and hurtful all at once, I’m certain the person who said it meant all the pun that puddled out of their mouth when they spoke those words. I laughed at the childlike dig until I realized a day later that the words had dug right down into the soil of my heart. They were seeds that took root in my brokenness. And I knew they were seeds I did not want to sprout.

Were my blog, projects and online life simply distractions? A diversion from my pain? An escape from my reality? A place to get lost when I needed to be found? The truth is that I took to my computer many nights like some throw back the extra glass of wine. My eyes bloodshot, glazed over, after pinning and posting until 2 a.m. My life felt so completely out of control, but online I could create order. In real life, I felt confined in my home and imprisoned in my pain, but on my blog I could make space. I made money, but not quite enough to call it a career. I had no endgame or business plan. I didn’t believe I could call myself an entrepreneur or even a girl with a goal. I had a few accomplishments I was really proud of: mentioned in the New York Times; published in The Land of Nod catalog for styling my home and my friend’s New York City apartment; featured in Design Mom, a New York Times best-selling book.

Maybe I do live in La La Land? My very own unreality. My very own online Eden that transported me far from the reality of my broken, no longer idyllic home. I swam in the puddle of that person’s words for a while.

I unabashedly confess that, many times, it was my digital distraction. However, as time went on, it also became a place where I shared heartache, processed pain, and offered hope as I began to feel it in my flesh again.

Now, “La La Land” is both endearing and partly true. It was (and is) a place for me. A place for me to show up and write, even if some days it was only about couches and color and cast-iron cookie recipes; I was still writing. I practiced within the parameters of my purpose and my gifting. I found and used my voice. It was also a place in which I found community among fellow seekers, who, like me, were looking for something. Perhaps they, too, were searching for beauty in the midst of their brokenness, much like the Israelites who looked for a place to rest in the desert and were met with God’s grace (Jer. 31:2 MSG).

I’m not saying that the Internet or blogging are places of rest. I found both tiring and taxing over time. They were the avenues, however, to my awakening to beauty, expanding my views and teaching me to behold beauty and to be held by Beauty.

Beauty is not an escape. It is an answer.

Beauty is not a distraction. It is our focal point. To turn our eyes from our problems, what plagues us, and our broken world and to focus in on beauty—the small gifts and unnoticed grand gestures—is the answer. To behold something is to see it and hold it in your attention. Behold derives from the old English word behealden, meaning “to hold, have, preserve, belong, gaze upon, consider, keep.” In fact, keep is the consistent etymology in many languages.

In German, it is “to keep and remember.” To find beauty within the broken is to behold, “to keep and remember,” the goodness of God.

Beauty is our answer because God is our answer. And God, in His great goodness, offered beauty to us at the beginning when he offered us Himself.

We have to accept beauty for beauty. It neither needs to be useful nor a means to an end. God created this world for us. Beauty is God’s ultimate form of hospitality toward us: just to behold. Because that is a value of His: to behold beautiful things.

Beauty is God’s holy offering to us: an offering of heaven come down to earth. The grandeur of this earth is but a glimpse of God Himself and our heavenly home. Surely, then, beauty is not an indulgence but a necessity. To not accept this offering and to live a life with eyes, hands and hearts shut tight is to live an empty, impoverished life.

Beauty is God’s artwork, His creation, whose purpose is to echo and reflect the very color and light of His kingdom on this earth—no more superfluous than you or I. We are the beauty of God in a broken world.

open your eyes

This is the beginning of beholding. Don’t look past the nature outside your front door. Find a handsome object in a room. Mountains of majesty surrounding war-torn towns. A half-moon smile worn by a sick child, exposing a well of joy. Food bubbling on the stove, infusing the air with a comfort that masks your messy, out-of-order house. A kind word that quenches like a cup of cold water on a hot day. The bright color of her coat. The warm touch of his hand. The poems you picked back up and the new ones that began to pour out of your soul. I wonder what form of beauty you, at one time, noticed, dabbled in or enjoyed. Why did you stop? Perhaps someone called it a waste of time. Maybe it was a direct word from a weighty one in your life. Maybe it was a sarcastic look from a stranger. Maybe it was your own voice that shut you up or shut you down. Whichever it was, you put down the pen, you let the paintbrushes dry out, you closed your eyes and your life.

open your heart

This is where Beauty lives, where He makes His home. Consider this: Perhaps, like me, the beauty you are to behold (to consider) is within the parameters of your purpose, your gifting that was embroidered into the very fibers of your being (Psalm 139:15 AMP). Beholding could very well be the beginning of your practice, leading to purpose and eventually to the place that you’ll find you fit like a puzzle. It is time to start practicing again.

open your hands

This is how beauty is transferred from one to another. This is the offering from Him to you and from you to others. And so the offering never ends.

1. What did beauty look like to you before you were blinded by brokenness? Before life clouded your view and sucked out the color?

2. Go outside. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath, in and out, and then open your eyes. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you feel? Write down what beauty you behold.

3. Pray this prayer: “Father, open my heart to You, to the beauty You’ve created for me to behold as well as the beauty You wove within me. I receive this offering from heaven. Beauty is not beyond brokenness or the ordinary everyday but right within it. I pray that You would guide me in the offering that I’m to give and that ultimately I’d be a conduit and reflection of Your radiant beauty to this earth.”

Blogger-turned-author Trina McNeilly documents an unearthing of God's goodness and glory during a trying time and shares her inspiration and encouragement with readers who need a dose of beauty in their daily lives. 

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