by Emily Conrad
Snow diffuses the freshly risen sun, and just inside the window, a water droplet on the poinsettia leaf turns to liquid silver in the morning light.
The small plant sits on the corner of my writing desk, green and pink and ivory. The poinsettia that calls my desk home is large enough for just one showy collection of bracts.
It’s only been here a week or two, so I still notice it daily. I also noticed water dribbling around the plant when I tried to water it this morning.
I didn’t notice the mercury-like bead, however, until I looked around and wondered why writing a blog post today was a challenge.
At first, I blamed the novels I’ve been working on. Revisions haven’t left much time for anything else to inspire a blog post.
But I realized that wasn’t true.
In the last couple of weeks, we’ve set up a real Christmas tree. I spent four hours on Saturday with my dad, trying to fix strings of lights. We’ve had snow and ice. The dogs are still around, I went Black Friday shopping, and I’ve participated in game nights and completed puzzles.
If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you know activities like these can inspire all kinds of posts. They’re my bread and butter.
My willingness to slow down and notice surrendered to the pressure of bustling toward achievements.
To check items off my list, I stopped appreciating the view and wondering what God might use from my daily life to grant me new perspective and change me for the better.
Slowing down and noticing beauty are practiced skills that rust quickly when we focus too firmly on accomplishing the next item on our list.
I’m Facebook friends with a woman who takes photos on her walks. I’ve been amazed at the intricacy of the natural beauty she posts.
I’m inclined to protest that my usual path through my neighborhood doesn’t lead me past such beauty.
But, the truth is, the water droplets and frost patterns and fallen leaves this friend captures are common. The rarity is the patience to pause, notice, and capture.
Pause, notice, and capture. The same ingredients necessary in writing.
As the water on my poinsettia showed me this morning, beauty is often in arm’s reach, just waiting for an eye careful enough to notice.
I took all the pictures in this post without rising from my seat. I don’t know how artful they appear to you, but I’m thrilled by the specks of light that surround me, the details I rarely appreciate.
But the intricacy of the world doesn’t only impress me for its own sake; not everything I notice this morning can be captured by a camera lens.
I’m comforted to see in the details the hand of a personal, relational God who cares deeply about each aspect of my life.
When I stop noticing Him with me in the moments of my life, the fault is mine.
After all, all things hold together in Him. Everything is for Him and through Him. (See Colossians 1:16-17.) He has promised to be with me always. (Matthew 28:20, Joshua 1:9)
Yet, as I overlook the details of the world around me, I also have a tendency to stop seeking God. To let my prayer life falter and my mind wander as I read His word. I seek big, emotional experiences, and if I don’t get them, I let the multitude of sweet moments with my Savior slide by, unnoticed and uncelebrated.
I become spiritually dry.
As a result, blog posts become harder to write. For that, I’m grateful, because the struggle reminds me to renew my focus.
To pause and notice.
As winter and the holiday season surrounds us with physical beauty and lights, Christmastime also serves as a special reminder to slow down and celebrate the Light of the World.
Advent invites us to reflect on the wait for Jesus’s birth, to renew our longing for His return, to embrace the wonder of the relationship we can have right now with Immanuel, God with us.
Instead of hurrying through December, unseeing, let’s pause amidst the beauty.
Let’s notice the blessing of God with us.
Let’s capture all these things and store them up in our hearts like Mary did two thousand years ago.
And then, let’s also follow her lead in bursting into praise.
For from now on all generations will call me blessed,
because he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name;
from generation to generation he is merciful to those who fear him.
Luke 1:48b-50, NET
Let’s #notice the blessing of God with us.
#advent via @emilyrconrad
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I love the photos, Emily, they're beautiful! This month has been busy and full for me so far and I haven't done much noticing either. Haven't even been able to do much sitting down! But today I noticed my Christmas cactus has several buds on it and looks like it's going to actually bloom at Christmas like it's supposed to. It hasn't done this in several years, so I pointed it out to all my kids and we're all excited to watch it and see what happens. Something we couldn't do if we'd been too busy to notice the buds forming.
Makes me wonder, what would've happened if the wise men had been too busy to notice the new star in the sky? Or to listen to God tell them not to return to Herod.
Such a beautiful and necessary post, Emily! And you're right, you were surrounded by beauty where you were sitting! Thanks for taking those photos and writing this post to remind me to slow down and pay more attention to the beauty God has, in His amazing grace, surrounded me with.
Katie–How fun to notice the Christmas cactus! I love watching plants come into their own like that. What a good point about the wise men noticing the star and heeding God's directions. Thanks so much for joining the conversation!
Thanks so much for reading, Jerusha! I was surprised at how much I had been overlooking when I paused to pay closer attention. You're right that evidence of God's grace is everywhere. So glad the post resonated with you!
Beautiful sentiment as always. The perfect reminder for this season.
Thanks for this encouragement, Carol!