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Some of my best friends are books and they live on a wall of bookshelves my husband built for me. There is one section on those shelves where my very best friends live, the ones with the dog-eared pages and every-other-word underlined – the books that I pull down off the shelf weekly or daily to be reminded of what I truly believe about life. A new friend has made her home there this month – a new friend reminding me of truths I had forgotten and calling my eyes to open to God’s beauty, goodness and love in a whole new way – Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs.

I have gone through several pregnancy losses, one was during birth on my son’s due date and I found that searching for beauty in my everyday was what kept me going, let me know God was real in the midst, and brought healing. I have lived through hard seasons when in order to just get through the day I desperately searched for one good, beautiful thing to hold onto, reminding me that God was still present and at work.

But as life normalizes and days are full of the usual disappointments and difficulties, it’s easy to lose sight of the beauty God gives – to think that clinging onto a whisp of wind or a flower petal is something only crazy, grief-stricken people do. And so I got busy, and so I got dry.

Until I was honored to receive an advance copy of Annie Down’s newest book Looking for Lovely. I had no idea what a powerful gift it would be, bringing me back to gratitude and hope in a whole new way.

In her book, Annie tells us of her experience with “broken crazy” and how God guided her into “looking for lovely.” Each chapter is a heartfelt story that leads you into seeking out and celebrating the simple, miraculous loveliness that God infuses our days with.

So I’m looking again now. The treasure hunt has begun, and I’m searching along with friends – with this book in hand, with Annie and with all the women who I know are seeking along with me. Knocking so He will answer. Seeking to find. We are looking for lovely, and once our eyes are opened the hunt is easy because loveliness is one wave after wave cascading over us. Sunrises and sunsets, spring flowers and dew on the grass, painted nails, pancake breakfasts, dinner with friends, a long walk, the comfort of a good book… endless blessings. His loveliness surrounds us, surrounds me, and I am so thankful for this kind friend’s call to seek it out, to open my eyes and my heart to beauty again and trust that in doing so my heart will be healed and awakened.

So wherever you’re at today… If you’re reeling in the wake of loss or you’re numbed by endless laundry and diaper duty… This book is your call to find the spectacular in your everyday, seek out stunning beauty and revel in the simple loveliness that God gives us with every breath. You can find it at your local bookstore, on Amazon or Barnes and Nobles.

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  • ~Karrilee~ - Just so much this: “We are looking for lovely, and once our eyes are opened the hunt is easy because loveliness is one wave after wave cascading over us.” Yes and Amen, my kindred-book-loving friend!ReplyCancel

    • sharon - Lots of love to you Karrilee – this book just opened my heart up, so thankful for it 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth - Hello, fellow launcher!

    Oh, my! I have the same feels for my favorite “book friends” too, just like you wrote about. I underline and draw stars and hearts and write notes inside the back cover. It’s like the Velveteen Rabbit: I love my books into raggedy “realness.” Yes!ReplyCancel

    • sharon - Hi there Elizabeth! Yesssss when I loan friends to books they get quite a shock when they open them up 😉 I love that – we ARE loving them into realness!ReplyCancel

  • Faith R - I LOVE your book shelf. So many treasures there!! A million little ways – yes! Blue Like Jazz – wrecked me for everything else, and Looking for Lovely – SO good and so needed.ReplyCancel

 

“The goofy thing about the Christian faith is that you believe it and don’t believe it at the same time. It isn’t unlike having an imaginary friend. I believe in Jesus; I believe He is the Son of God, but every time I sit down to explain this to somebody I feel like a palm reader, like somebody who works at a circus or a kid who is always making things up or somebody at a Star Trek convention who hasn’t figured out the show isn’t real.

Until.

When one of my friends becomes a Christian… the experience is euphoric. I see in their eyes the trueness of the story.”

– Donald Miller in Blue Like Jazz

This weekend I was with a group of women worshipping and learning and being silly together, and I saw it. And I see it in these people that sprung from my body and I have no idea how they are who they are, but they know Him. I see it in them and in the world our Father made. So we take long walks on the pier at sunset and he brings a saxophone along, because we want to catch a glimpse… We want to look deep at the trueness of the story.

For more images of time spent outdoors in this amazing world, head over to Childhood Unplugged

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  • Monica Calderin - Such truth to those words. The Christian walk is a funny one, but definitely worth it. These images are just lovely Sharon. xoReplyCancel

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I have been quiet lately.

I have still taught my children, talked to acquaintances, worked, laughed and argued with my husband… but inside I have been slipping down into stillness so that I can hear. I sit here tonight as the joyful din of Christmas subsides, the lights twinkle wordlessly and I wonder what is there to say.

I’m probing the depths by sinking quiet into them. I’m letting down line and lead and it’s falling farther than I could imagine. I wanted to chart a course and so I thought I would take soundings along the way, a rope let down and drawn back up to show how deep the sea is. But the spool spun heavy out of my hands, a continual letting down, a line just drifting out into forever. And I have gotten curious, gotten desperate. I have sent cries into the void, into the darkness. Suprisingly they do not go on forever, but they come back quick and sure, a whisper in my ear. Devoid of answers and full of love. I thought there could be a map, a course, a path through the waters, and I thought maybe there was no one left to speak. Maybe the God of my childhood couldn’t stand before what we grow into. Maybe death and heartache had shrunk Him down to a size less than immortal, less than personal, less than named. But I was wrong. There’s no perfectly charted course, if there was I would have found it by now; the waters wash away every trace of a trail and we distort the maps when we try to lay them flat, splitting apart continents to hang them on our walls.

But there is a voice.

I read some books, and stole minutes to lay on my yoga mat day after day. In the quiet I asked for a mantra, a meaning to breath in and out. Because I’m just here on the edge between life and death. It’s a waiting place. Each morning I wake up to cereal, toast, orange juice and bouncing little boys. Life life life. But I’ve held death over and over, my head on my Grandmother’s chest as she gasped ragged last breaths, my friend’s hand in mine as she slept while the tumor took her mind, three children passing through my body, the gateway into existence, life then death for them. We’re all in this waiting place, right on the edge, with simple joys and daily disappointments. And the edge looks so fearsome that I wanted my faith to be mystical and magic. I wanted a mantra to sink me right into the center of meaning, but more than that I wanted to be created, heard, held, wanted, protected. Known. More than anything I want a hand to hold, not a universe to sink into.

And then at Christmas this year the most unlikely of teachers shared with me how the baby that we place in our nativity scenes and celebrate with advent wreaths and carols is the same God that from ancient times has been called Yahweh. He told us how the ancient Jewish people pronounced this sacred name of the uncreated one in a way that sounded something like yod hey va hey, and they believed that each time we breath we are saying his name as uncontrollable and regularly as our hearts beat.

A mantra, a prayer. In, out, in, out, the name of God on our very breath.

His signature because our Father never stops speaking, and He can’t get close enough to His beloved. And with that knowledge my heart let out a sigh and I relaxed into this new mantra that I have been living from birth. Jesus in my very breath. A hand to hold because His is a story that walked where I do, through pain and death, small beginnings, and heartbreaking endings that were no endings at all, but redemption in disguise. I don’t need to understand where I am or control where I’m going when it is enough to just be, my very breath worship. The baby we sing of round our twinkling Christmas tree is the God that tells us I am that I am. I run down to the ocean the day after we rip through gifts and share meals on a bright red tablecloth. The water stretches out, governed by a moon and sun pulling its swaying waves, and this can’t be an accident – that moon and sun hurled into orbit and millions more beyond them while we snuggle close in our homes and feel a universe of love and bittersweet loss surge through this holiday. I want to walk into my Grandmothers’ houses one more time to see big colored bulb lights strung round the ceiling and a white Christmas tree with sparkling brass ornaments. I want to reach out and scoop my lost children into our fold, all gathered round stockings and cocoa. I want the ache for all that’s lost to stop, and I want its weight to be fully felt. But I can’t do any of this, just like I can’t set the boundaries of the sea or cause my heart to beat.

Because I am a child.

A child of God, and this is the greatest gift to rest as my son does and let my life be parented. To grow still on my Father’s lap, in my Father’s house and breathe communion. As quiet as an inhale, exhale and again. Every act worship when we breath Him in and out, my hands kneading bread, tying shoes and tucking children into bed.

This silent, holy night and all the rest to come.

  • Greggory Park - Beautiful writing Sharon. Thank you.ReplyCancel

  • Yvonne - Beautiful words. Wonderful, mighty God. May He bless you and keep you as you whisper in and out His mighty name.ReplyCancel

  • Kia (McKeeman) Albano - I can feel your words. God has truly blessed you with the gift of writing & photography. I’m so thankful that you share your gifts.ReplyCancel

    • Charlene Kerchevall - …..and Grant You Peace….ReplyCancel

 

My boys all dressed up, running around in the golden hour. You can head over to Childhood Unplugged for more imaginative moments this month…

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  • Childhood Unplugged – November 2015 | - […] Sharon McKeeman | Sharon McKeeman […]ReplyCancel

  • ashley - Gosh your boys are so adorable and handsome and I just love the natural way you capture them – always feels very true to who they are and what they enjoy, never forced or staged. You make me look forward to the very real possibility of having three boys. And I love it.ReplyCancel

    • sharon - Aw thanks so much Ashley! They are def unique kids and I love seeing their story unfold 🙂ReplyCancel

In September we spent a few weeks back in the midwest, and my heart came alive – home, trees, bluegrass, fresh grown food and long dinners. These photos are from a morning we spent with our youngest at the same farmer’s market I went to with my parents when I was little. You can also view more unplugged moments over at Childhood Unplugged this month.

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  • Childhood Unplugged – October 2015 | - […] Sharon McKeeman | Sharon McKeeman […]ReplyCancel

  • Ashley - Beautiful images! xoReplyCancel

  • Monica - I felt like I was there. The colors, the people, the way you captured the details. I just loved this. I was feeling quite nostalgic seeing the Amish, or were they Mennonite? For about five years of my life growing up, we lived in a rural township in Michigan that had a large Amish community. I was obsessed with them. Their way of life. To the point that to this day I still have lots of art that hangs in my home from a photographer by the name of Bill Coleman. He is famous for being one if not the only photographer that was allowed into their world in Lancaster Pennsylvania to photograph their way of life through generations. You should check him out. Beautiful work. The images of that yarn…drool. And, is that a portrait of your Mom? Such a great portrait. Glad you had a good time.ReplyCancel