Last night we attended Victoria’s winter concert. As usual, it was a wonderful mix of on-the-radio favorites and traditional choruses, the stage and aisles abuzz with color and movement. I’d share a picture but honestly found myself so enthralled watching the kids present all they’d worked on that I never even thought to pull my phone out to capture it!
Turning down one cold, busy street after another, my husband and I hunted down a parking spot in downtown Denver last weekend, hoping for one not too far from the old, worn theatre where a new musical from the book Little Women was playing. Two sweet little girls in pigtails and pinafores were chaperoned into the seats in front of us by their mama, while an elderly gentleman settled his slowly-moving wife into a seat across the aisle. Onstage, a small cast brought characters and a beautiful story to life.
In Sally Clarkson’s wonderful book, Own Your Life, she wrote this:
When we fill our hearts with excellence and virtue, we find ourselves with a wealth of God’s goodness to offer others from the treasures we have collected. Just as Joy carefully filled her box, so we must learn to intentionally pursue activities that will fill the treasure chest of our hearts with good things. We should look for ways to fill our hearts, minds, and spirits with goodness, truth, and beauty—the things that inspire us, cause us to worship God, and bring light to others.
(I highly recommend the whole article at Sally’s website, by the way!)
Inspired by the musical, I’ve brought out Little Women as the perfect addition to my Advent reading. Once again, as I dive into the stories of Marmee, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, I find my treasure chest added to, as the tales of their lives illumine truths in my own. This, I believe, is one of the greatest gifts any work of art might give us: illumination of our world; insight into what’s happening, why it’s happening, what might happen in the future if we continue on a certain path.
This busy world squeezes the spaces of our calendars dry, wringing every minute from every hour with things that *must* be done. But as Sally reminds us, our hearts are in desperate need of filling. If our calendars become full of activity and work, and we’ve neglected to engage with beauty, we’re likely to find our hearts shriveled and poor, empty of anything worth giving.
When was the last time you heard a clock tick? I haven’t worn a watch in years, since my phone is usually handy for time-telling. But I wonder what we’ve lost with the loss of the audible tick-tock of time passing. Perhaps the methodical sound was a better reminder of what’s slipping through our fingers–our most precious resource: time.
I sneak from my room most mornings while it’s still pitch black outside. The Christmas tree is lighting my morning reading during this season, and a hot cup of coffee and soft blanket accompany every day’s search for beauty early on. What will God say this morning? What truth is to be found in His word, in Morning Prayer, in the Advent books I’ve gathered? Taking this time makes such a difference in my day because once everyone awakens and joins me, my heart will become everyone else’s resource.
Will I put something there they can draw on? Something I can draw on?
I remember when I was younger and a certain television show became popular. It was controversial because the family was … well, perhaps it’s best to label them “ugly”. The parents were slovenly, the house a wreck, the kids rebellious and sassy. When I expressed dismay at the show, my mother said, “Well, at least they’re real! That’s how families are, not fake like some Donna Reed show!” Even then, I knew there was something wrong with that reasoning. Today, of course, Roseanne seems mild compared to the guide offerings.
In a time when ugliness and brokenness are rampant in our culture, embracing and entertaining ourselves with it because it’s “real” isn’t the answer. The answer is in surrounding ourselves with light. It’s in filling our hearts with beautiful things.
And that will take some work. There’s a veritable siren song of social media, television, movies, music, popular books–all willing and available and pressing and clamoring to fill in our “leisure” moments. Not all of them are ugly and vile, of course; many more are in the category of something akin to Lucky Charms, perhaps–there to fill you up, but basically empty of any nutritive value. If we fill ourselves with what’s not really filling, of what value is that? Perhaps our hunger is important and filling our hearts and minds with empty calories is just as detrimental as that sort of filling is to our bodies.
Alongside the sugar cereal offerings, though, there are plenty which are pure poison. Both leave souls empty of light.
I’m not embracing this darkness, and neither should you. I’m fighting back. With Bonhoeffer and Handel and Monet. With Christmas carols and sugar cookies and lights from one end of the house to the other.
We must keep something in mind: what fills our homes and calendars fills our minds and hearts. What fills the spaces NOT already written in, perhaps more so.
So what’s a person to do? Choose what fills your time well. Choose deliberately and thoughtfully and prayerfully and with an eye to becoming un-usual; a person full of light and beauty and truth in a world full of the ugly “real.”
It’s a battle, out there.
If you enjoyed this post, would you consider sharing it? Such a blessing! Thanks! ~ Misty