A Beautiful Life: On Envy and the Search for Uncommon Beauty

“In what ways can you see that your unremarkable life is uncommonly beautiful?”

In the dark hours of early morning, I let this question roll around in my heart like marbles in a pocket. I sat with my devotional across my lap, overlooking the dim glow of my neighbor’s window, as I thought about my answer. While I often find my everyday life to be unremarkable, especially when I’m strapped in the driver’s seat of the family car or standing in the queue with a cart full of groceries, I also know it has been marked by uncommon experiences and exceptional beauty. I’d be a fool not to acknowledge it.

During our years living abroad in Europe, I spent weekends wandering the Louvre in Paris. I took afternoon tea at the local tea shop in my quaint London village. I ran miles and miles in the foothills of the Alps through deep conifer forests. Each long run culminated in the tiny village where Joanna Spyri wrote the book Heidi, where a view of white peaks scraped the sky from the cafe at Spyri Garten.

I stood in awe of my own life as my muscles twitched and my chest heaved. I breathed it in like a woman aching for air to inflate her lungs–lungs long deprived of oxygen.

I have lived uncommon beauty. I know the feel of it against my skin, the spark and stir of it in my soul. It was a remarkable life. Beauty-full. Filled with art and travel and history, and accompanying all of these treasures, the feeling that somehow I was living the life intended for me. It was unique. It was different than the unremarkable life I left behind.

I write this not to brag, not to say “look at me”, or to stir envy. I write this because the romance of beauty and the longing for a remarkable life is my great weakness. I often struggle to see the subtle beauty of the unremarkable life right in front of me because I know the difference between a weekend cleaning out my basement in suburban New Jersey and a weekend walking twisted cobblestone streets in England.

I am envious, and my envy is directed at a former version of me.

As I sat that morning with my thoughts drawn to uncommon beauty, I immediately returned to the times in my life when I have lived in places of the most tangible, physical beauty. But, of course, this was not the question. The question was where am I finding beauty in my unremarkable life, the life I’m living right now.

I scribbled down these words, “My unremarkable life is beautiful because it is a life marked by love.”

There is an ease, a peace, and a rightness that comes with knowing one is fully loved. I am loved, and this is the most beautiful thing about my life, regardless of whether my kitchen window frames a view of the Alps or the crushed brown grass of a winter-weary meadow.

Envy of my former self could blind me to the joy of today.

I’d like to ask this same question of you: “In what ways can you see that your unremarkable life is uncommonly beautiful?”

Sit with this for a while. Let it roll around, let the words clink and clatter against one another. Perhaps you will return to the time when your face held the fresh bloom of youth, or your physical strength was at its peak. Maybe your thoughts will wander to the time when you were still married, or you lived in the perfect home, or your job set you on fire with passion every week.

Feel gratitude for those days, the ones filled with such obvious beauty. But let the envy for your former life slip through the door and join those memories. What are the intangibles that make your life beautiful today? Right now, in the exact place where you sit and read these words. What are the tangibles, the things you can stroke with an eye or a finger?

Invite the questions, your curiosity, and your memories to join you. Beauty is sure to follow.


*Note: The devotional mentioned can be found here.



The evolution of a home

antiques via kimberlyanncoyle.com

For much of my adult life, I lived in other people’s houses. My husband and I moved into his grandmother’s home as newlyweds, after she herself moved into a nursing home. We eventually bought the house and inherited all of its furnishings, partially renovating it with limited funds, suspect DIY skills, and a design sense that could best be described as “granny-chic”. Only much more granny than chic.

Four years into our first home ownership adventure, we sold the house and moved to London, living in two different partially-furnished rental homes. We brought with us remnants of Grandma’s things, various family hand-me-downs, and, inexplicably…


Today, I’m contributing to a series on loving and sharing the home you have over at Jenn’s blog, A Simple Haven. Click here to read more and get a small peek at our current home and our former Swiss house. While you’re there, be sure to check out Jenn’s new (Free!!) e-book “The Homemaker’s Manifesto”. 


Within the husk: An autumn reflection


I find something to love in every season, but Autumn requires no searching on my part. It is a feast of color and crisp October air, turkey and steaming cups of hot tea. The occasional gray and rainy afternoons suit my melancholy ways, and I find Autumn and I make sympathetic friends. We understand each other.

I have three children and not one of them shares my love for this season. Perhaps it’s the return to school, the loss of summer freedom, or the cold, foot-stomping wait at the bus stop. They see Autumn as a kind of death, and the school bell as a death knell to all that is right and good in their world…

For the rest of this story, please join me at A Beautiful Mess, a safe space for honesty and inspiration. I’m honored to be writing there today on celebrating the seasons.


What’s your favorite season and why?

Drafting plans

On my way to the hair salon, I walk by a large bank with four artfully arranged display windows. While banking and art make rather strange companions, I always look forward to the seasonal change in the display. I never try to make the connection between the two, the banking and the art, instead I simply enjoy the aesthetics. They are a little bit of beautiful in an otherwise logical and mathematical environment.

I had a hair appointment today, so I hopped off the tram eager to see what the new display would be for spring. Each window was arranged with dressmaker’s forms clothed in perfectly tailored architectural drafts. One wore a sport coat, another a parka and honeycomb scarf, with the loveliest paper-like fringe. One was dressed in everyday wear, and the pièce de résistance, a feminine form in a wedding dress with a full bustle and cluster of gathered paper at the shoulder. They were amazing and creative and probably made from something other than paper, but I loved each one.

As I passed by, those images stayed with me. Lines and graphs and numbers laid out in such a way as to create a plan, something that needed to be followed exactly in order to produce the desired outcome. Then that plan was bent, pulled, bunched and cut into the shape of something recognizable but infinitely more interesting than, say, four walls and a roof. No doubt, it was the dress that got me.

I’m learning to live this way; to walk around with a blueprint, a rough draft, some numbers and figures and ideas on a page. But, to allow for them to be manipulated into something more than I think they can be. I can’t live by a two year or a five year plan. Oh, I mentally draft them, but they are flat and tidy pieces of paper with some funny looking lines scratched into them. They don’t have the sweep and drape of a wedding dress. Or a honeycomb scarf with delicate fringe. And that right there is where I find freedom. There is a blue-print, a first, second and maybe even third draft.  But, it’s up to me to take what exists and fashion it into a wearable work of art, complete with gathers, folds and a cluster of something lovely on my right shoulder.

Do you find yourself stuck in drafting mode? Get out there and fashion a dress made out of your best laid plans. Take it in, let it out, simplify, ornament, create something astonishing with your life.

While Waiting

“When summer gathers up her robes of glory,
And, like a dream, glides away.”~Sarah Helen Whitman
We’re in the middling, between the end of summer and the advent of autumn (the most delicious of seasons).  We are suspended between cool mornings and warm afternoons, so we layer sweaters and socks for the morning walk to the bus stop.  Along the way we stop to admire summer’s last blooms and keep close watch as she gathers herself up for a quiet exit.