Living a Beautiful Life

Beautiful Life Desk

My mother gave me a book—perhaps shortly after I graduated from college—called Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman, written by Anne Ortlund in 1977. It has become one of those books that has shaped me markedly—at least my thoughts, if not always how I live. The book is significant, first of all, because my mother selected it for me. It thus bears her stamp of approval, plus shows how well she knows me—I need extra help being disciplined. It also carries the message of the importance of being/becoming a “beautiful woman,” again, even more significant because it is my mother who believes this is important for her daughter.

I received this book long before I moved to Pasadena from Washington state or visited Lake Avenue (Congregational) Church, where Anne’s husband, Ray Ortlund, had been the senior pastor for many years. When I first read Anne’s anecdote about visiting an office supply store in La Cañada after giving a seminar to a “luscious-looking crowd of 150 women” only to find that it was sold out of the notebook products she had recommended, I had no idea that one day I’d live just down the freeway from that exclusive Southern California enclave.

It was Anne’s description of her notebook (or planner as it might be called today) that intrigued me most. My annual attempts at organizing myself via any number of variations on a diary, calendar, notebook, planner or journal, were often modeled on Anne’s description of how she put together her planner—a calendar first, followed by sections for goals and various other lists—and her preferred dimensions of the planner (7” x 9”).

Related chapters discuss goals, daily scheduling, and a woman’s desk.

My image of Anne is from the small portrait on the back cover of her book, perhaps when she was in her early 60s? So, I was shocked to read she was 89 years old when she died on November 4.

Having been reminded of this role-model-via-book, I am encouraged to revisit the many areas of my life—both private and public—that could be more disciplined and, thus, become more beautiful.

What are your thoughts on the relationship between discipline and beauty?

Understanding Backwards; Living Forwards

Kierkegaard Quote

The problem with posting anything remotely religious is that one gives the impression of believing / embodying / BEING what it is that has been written – and that impression may not exactly be true.

Having said that, I am posting this as a record of what struck me on a Sunday in July as I was practicing getting the phrasing right in a hymn for a substitute organist “gig” at a local Presbyterian church:

Hast thou not seen How thy desires e’er have been Granted in what He ordaineth?

(By Joachim Neander, 17th century German Reformed Church)

Then, as part of the sermon from Acts 22 about the second recounting of Saul’s/Paul’s conversion experience, the pastor quoted from Søren Kierkegaard’s journals: “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

The full quote is:

It is really true what philosophy tells us, that life must be understood backwards. But with this, one forgets the second proposition, that it must be lived forwards. A proposition which, the more it is subjected to careful thought, the more it ends up concluding precisely that life at any given moment cannot really ever be fully understood; exactly because there is no single moment where time stops completely in order for me to take position [to do this]: going backwards.

(See documentation of source.)

Later, I was sent this article (written by a 21 year old woman):

Even if we exhausted our own abilities to serve the Lord in our lifetime, we could never do for the world and the kingdom what our families—what our children and their children and their children—will go on to do.

In Luke 13:19, Jesus says this about the kingdom of God: “It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.”

As we prepare our students for being agents of massive, earth-shattering revival around the world, let us also remember that Jesus says the kingdom will grow slowly, even subtly, from something seemingly insignificant, like a tree from a seed…and like families.

Finally, I read a post by my cousin’s wife about another Soren that made me want to cry—and which is a perfect REAL HARD LIFE illustration of what the 19th century Søren wrote about:  Although, just when the understanding might come is not clear.

To Do: List ways in which I have seen my desires granted “in what He ordaineth” so that life can be lived forwards NOW.

How about you?

Too Many Books


NOTE: The following reflections are not intended to criticize or question anyone else’s reading or book habits. They are based on my particular experience.

I have been going through the boxes of books that have been stored in the garage, trying to decide what to do with them—which would be the most useful ones to keep and which ones should I sell. Not knowing the best way to dispose of them (it is a buyer’s market right now), I have been entering the books on LibraryThing so that I have a more efficient way of organizing them even when they are packed away.

Even More Books

Flashbacks: the latest literary novels given as gifts by a former boss during my corporate-world days; novels from college literature classes; a book purchased from the college bookstore after scanning the books for literature courses not taken; Dorothy Sayers’ mysteries purchased from a used book store (just one example of so many random used bookstore book purchases); books familiar by their cover even if never read; books representing many different stages of life, journeys started but not finished (e.g., doctorate in Old Testament/Hebrew Bible).

So many books to be organized and dealt with. (The boxes are in addition to the books in the house.) They represent hours and days of time spent reading, thousands upon thousands of dollars spent buying, if added up over time. Most of the books have been read only once, quickly—no notes taken, no discussion with another; no written review, no serious critique.

Yet More Books

And what about all those books I have already gotten rid of or returned to the library? Are the number of books I’ve accumulated and the amount of reading I have done worth it? In many ways, for me, I think not.

Too often, books have been an escape, a method to numb mind and emotions, a vicarious way of experiencing life, a settling for reading/thinking about something rather than going through the halting, difficult steps of doing something—whether learning a new skill or language; taking time to be with or write/talk to friends; untangling the mysterious puzzle of being a human—a woman; thinking through and solving problems.

More Books

I have been very tempted by all the book blogs now online. There is something extremely alluring about lists and lists of books. Now, it is easier than ever just to read about reading and not even read the actual books. And, now you don’t have to go to actual bookstores or a library to spend hours lost in browsing titles—just click through the hundreds of books on Amazon’s recommendation list.

I worry about the ways reading can negatively shape character and personality, affect productivity, and inform life decisions—and how one can be oblivious of (or at least rationalize mightily about) the effects of reading, until confronted by an insightful other.

Knitting Books

Then, the work of “regaining our illiteracy” can begin. (From a chapter title in Knitting for Anarchists by Anna Zilboorg.)