Becoming Bethany

Observations on becoming and being

Category: beauty


I always want to capture this moment and hide it away somewhere to pull it out later.

The quiet of mid-November. It’s the season of contemplation, the greyness of slight regret but not despondency, an awareness of waiting and soon-to-come anticipation.

After the giddy joy of summer and before the busy gayness of the holiday season, the whole world seems contemplative.

Closing up, going in.

The trees are no longer showing off blossoms or pretty leaves. But they are also not decked with the finery of ice and snow or twinkle lights yet either.

I savor the taste of quiet nostalgia and pull my sweater up to my face as I walk briskly enjoying the bright burst of evening sunset.

Something is coming. It’s just over the horizon.

But for now, it’s the season of contemplation. And I am content.


Winter Greys

This feels like a very long winter.  I live in a Mediterranean climate so I know I shouldn’t complain but I’ve been wearing my grey wool coat everyday for 3 full months now.  I try to change it up a little with a different scarf.  My husband got me the sweetest red leather gloves for Christmas too!  And under my coat, I’m wearing sweet winter ensembles but every morning on my way out the door I put on the same grey coat.  It covers up my dark pink turtleneck sweater (with ruffles!) or my bright blue blouse that matches my wooly plaid pants (itchy and warm!) or my green sweater and brown African bead necklace (a gift from my sister!).  But it’s all underneath my grey wool coat and I’m getting quite bored of that coat.

Am I ready for spring? Oh yes, please!  But in the midst of the grey of the winter, I’m reminded of all the beautiful colors that are covered up in each one of us.  I don’t enjoy teaching but I do enjoy getting to know my students.  We start with, “Hello.  What’s your name?” and progress to “What do you do?” and many months later I may be able to ask, “What’s your favorite movie and why?”.  Though this process can seem a little tedious at times, it is never boring.  Each student, no matter how boring or grey he or she seems at the first lesson, eventually reveals a world of color.  Like the student whose career is mechanical designing (still don’t know what it is but she sure loves her job!) or the student who is 65 and his favorite hobby is gardening with his wife (meanwhile sharing reading glasses with his wife in class!) or the student who has worked very hard to become a doctor but whose real delight is discussing current events (well, and also the latest conspiracy theory!).  So many colors.  It’s really astonishing sometimes.

May we always look for spring.

Trivial Beauty

It’s been a while since I’ve had a completely self-indulgent post so I think I deserve one.  And also, people seem to respond more to my completely silly posts than my trying-to-be-all-philosophical-and-profound posts.  (Does that sound self-obsessed enough?)

Anyway, I wandered into a clothing store (not Anthropologie) the other day because I was bored and they had interesting window dressing.  I was not planning on buying anything and then I saw these headbands:

peacock headband

turquoise headband

I have always like peacock feathers.  I think it is because of the colors and the way that they seem to invoke bygone eras.  The current trend of headbands with decoration on the side comes off as very classy (as opposed to little girlish) and is more flattering to most women’s faces.

Alas, these headbands were $24 (and that’s before California’s ridiculously high sales tax) which just seemed a little excessive for a headband with a few feathers glued on so I backed away slowly and left the store.  I’m hoping to maybe find one in a knock-off fashion store.

Now, was that trivial enough?  Can little things like trendy headbands even deserve the word beauty attached to them?

Dreaming of a white Christmas

Writing again.  But looking at this instead and wishing I could be there tromping through the quiet trees.

snowy park

Hymns as poetry

I have recently been reminded of a form of poetry that we recite on a mostly weekly basis.  Hymns.  This is a hymn I have been thinking about a lot lately and trying to interpret in the same way that I read poetry.

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

Pretty things

I am writing a paper right now (literally.  My Word document is minimized on my screen as I type this).  I have this problem with writing papers.  I LOVE the research part of papers.  I like reading, and thinking, and reading some more, and collecting ideas from various sources, and deciding which viewpoints I agree with, and interupting my roommates with my latest epiphanies, and then reading some more.  Yes, I like research.  But after the research, I have to actually write the paper.  This is the part that I find boring.  I have already decided what I think about the topic and quite honestly, most of the time I don’t really care about persuading anyone else of my opinion.  But there is no way for professors to grade me on my thoughts unless I write them down.

So right now I am writing a paper.  I can only stare and the black and white screen for so long before I get bored of the sight of it.  So I have to take a break to look at something a little lovelier.  Usually this means I stand up and go outside to look at clouds or at least glance out my window at a tree or something.  However, sometimes an outside view is not easily accesible so I have to find some other pretty thing to look at.

Lately I have discovered that my favorite store has an online catalog.   I discovered this over the summer when the theme for their catalog was a Middle Eastern market.  I have an appreciation for pretty things and for the Middle East so when they stuck them both in the same place I was very appreciative.  What in the world does this have to do with writing papers?  Well, at the moment instead of writing my paper I am looking at this.  Trains AND pretty clothes!  I have this weird affinity for trains.  One of my dream trips is to take The Orient Express along its historic route.  And beautiful coats!  I really like a nice coat.


Okay,  that’s enough of a break and enough of sighing over pretty things.  Time to go back to the paper.

P.S. I apologize to those male readers who may have found this post a little boring.  I will not talk about clothes often.  Just pretty clothes, and mostly just because they’re pretty.

A Vision of the Beautiful

Dr. Dallas Willard, a philosophy professor from USC spoke at Biola University this week.  I like hearing philosophers speak because they seem to round up all of the little ideas, random thoughts, observations, and whatever else is lying around and stick it all together into a Big Idea.  I like Big Ideas.  They are easier to get my mind around than lots of little ideas all rolling around and bumping into each other.

He was speaking on Desire and the Will and a few other things.  I can’t remember everything he said and I wish I had been taking notes because the things that I do remember were very enlightening.  I will probably really butcher what he said but I wanted to write it down before I forget it.  The main point that I remember is what makes up an action.  He used the acronym VIM.  V = vision, I = intention, and M = means.  Without all of these three components you cannot act.  We need a vision in order to know what we want to do.  We need intention in order to follow through with the vision.  And we need means in order to bring the vision and intention to fruition.  Often we only have one of these three and then the action cannot be brought about.  For example, lots of people have exercise equipment sitting around in their garages or basements.  They have the means (exercise equipment) but not the vision or intention to actually work out and become healthy.

The main thing that struck me about what he said is how important it is to have a proper vision.  Without being able to see well, you may be misguided in your intention and use of the means.  I started thinking about a driver.  If his windsheild is dirty and he cannot see well, he has a poor vision of the road.  Even with proper intention (to drive well) and proper means (a car that works well), without a proper vision, it is very likely that he will crash.  He will probably end up hurting himself and maybe even those around him.  All for lack of a proper vision.

So many of the evil things that people get involved with are due to poor vision.  Our “windshields” get dirty and everything is distorted and messed up from there on out.  We stop being able to see clearly and even begin to assume that the “muddy windshield” is really the best way to see after all.

I think the saddest part of this whole scenario is when we allow our vision of the Beautiful to be muddied and distorted.  Imagine if we only looked at the Mona Lisa (or insert other favorite art piece here) through a piece of streaked glass.  She would not look the proper proportions.  The coloring would be off and the famous expression would not be quite so enigmatic.  But if everyone kept telling us that this is the most beautiful piece of artwork ever created, we would begin to change our perceptions of what is beautiful.  (More contemporary example: Sickly stick-thin models in high-fashion magazines.)

Maybe the truly Beautiful is more than we can handle.  Maybe we intentionally distort and muddy our vision of the Beautiful because we cannot understand it and we are too lazy to try.  How pitiful to live staring through a muddy window when we could look through streak-free glass at the incredible view.  And this is not just a dirty So Cal freeway that we are missing out on (like in the example of the driver) but something so much more.  Maybe even the image of God.