Tag Archives: beauty

Remembering Who We Are

Leaving the house in search of some downtime, I take a chance on spending part of the late afternoon at a charitable thrift store.

Pulling into the parking lot of one of this area’s largest stores, I find only two spaces remaining. Balloons and special signs tell me today is a serious sale day. People are everywhere, arriving, leaving and milling about.

Over the years I have lived here, I have come to recognize a few of this community’s most serious secondhand shoppers-not by name but by appearance. And, when I begin to bump into any one of them frequently, it is a signal that I need a few months off from my own charitable-thrift-store “ministry.”


This afternoon’s trip is about getting out of the house to regroup, ground and center, rather than being about hunting for something in particular. Walking into the warehouse-sized store, oldies blare through the PA. My mood, which is upbeat, elevates even more. And, though the store is very busy, the racks are full enough for the methodical shifting of garments in front of my chasséing body. I will be able to regain center amid the chaos of people.

Moving through one section of the store, I notice a mother-daughter pair, whom I have not seen in a long while. The daughter is a mature woman, and her mother looks more frail than she did the last time I saw them bargain hunting. More frail or not, the mother maintains her general sparkle—a sparkliness of countenance which I love seeing.

Two sections later and with a one-half-hour between us, all three of us end up in the same area. To bypass the lines at the dressing rooms, I use a full-length mirror to try a dress on over my clothing.

Setting her frail body down on a steam trunk which is for sale, the mother glances my way. “It looks like a fit!” she announces. (Supportive, team shopping is not uncommon in this area.)

Struggling to release the hem of the garment from the grip of my blue jeans, I answer, “Well, almost. I need to drop the hem to make sure.”

We talk a little more—idle chit chat of the girl variety. I am reminded that this type of banter is a luxury, a gift representing a certain amount of leisure time. We are fortunate. Having finally dropped the hem, I zip the dress up. It fits in a lumpy manner over my clothing, but it is good enough to take home and retry. Unzipping the garment, I slip it over my head and fold it, placing it on the small stack of items I have.

Readying myself to leave, I stop briefly in front of the elderly mother, with whom I have been conversing.

“Where have you been?” I ask frankly. “I have not seen you or your daughter out for a long while.”

“Oh, I have had such adventures this year,” she replies. “First I had a mild heart attack, then, a mild stroke. After that, I was mending.”

Worn into her daughter’s face are the lines of an exceptional care-giver. Every new line has been translated.

“Oh, my. You have had quite a year,” I respond simply.

Then, reaching for my hand, she takes it into the smooth cradle of both of her soft-skinned arthritic hands, saying, “You look like a praying woman. Please pray for me. Pray for my health.”

She has granted me a blessing. The blessing of being seen.

As she releases my hand, I assure her that I will add her to my prayers.

Spiritual Vessel

Years ago, while driving across country, I stopped in a healthfood store in Amarillo, Texas to purchase some provisions.


Standing next to me, in the bulk-foods’ section of the store, I observe a tall, slender woman of extraordinary beauty–beauty-pageant beauty, helping herself to some of the items in bulk. Yet, something about her seems sad and less than strong or vibrant.

Just as I am about to turn away from her, to finish collecting my own purchases, she begins a conversation with me.

“I am dying,” she tells me. “My body has rejected the breast implants they gave me.  I thought I would be improving my appearance, and what I have done is ruin my health.  My body is completely toxic, and there is nothing they can do for me.  The negative cascade of effects to the implants is not stopping, eventhough I have had them removed. Do not ever do this to your body. Do not do to your body what I have done to mine.

“Love yourself as you are,” she concludes. “I am telling as many people as I can.  It is the least I can do.”

Nodding my head in acknowledment, I utter some insufficient words of compassion.

Later, back in my vehicle in the parking lot, I take a moment to digest what she has shared. While collecting myself and under my breath, I ask Holy Mother to tend to this woman’s kind and gentle Soul, concluding,  “Please grant her safe passage.”

Spiritual Invitation I


Coming to know ourselves as Spirit is a process.  Every one of us possesses a complete catalogue of impressions and stories about who we think we are.  This catalogue contains not only our own notes, entries and observations but also the notes, entries, marginal scribblings  and stories from family members, relatives, friends—close and distant, chance meetings and a great number of sometimes unsolicited comments from complete strangers.

With all of this input, it can be difficult to come to know the Light that resides in our individual hearts, and it may—at times—seem impossible to learn to listen for and abide by the gentle nudges and leadings from Spirit.

A few years ago, as a household, we came to a point where most of our personal belongings were necessity based.  We made the move toward physical simplicity in an effort to discover who we really were and to be better able to listen for guidance from the Light.  We wanted to know how we would spend our time, if we were free to follow our leadings, while not being overly involved in the care and upkeep of a great number of belongings.  The conscious reduction in belongings afforded us the time we needed for long, contemplative walks, prayer, meditation and devotional work.

On one long weekend, during this phase in our lives, I travelled to see a dear friend who was also in the process of simplifying her physical life.  While I was with my friend, we went through various collections she had amassed over the years.  One collection was particularly charming; it was a set of exquisitely patterned, English tea tins.

While assisting my friend with the sorting process, everything fell into two, dichotomous piles either “Donate” or “Keep”–until we came to the sorting of the tea tins.  Then, as we began to approach the tins, my friend turned to me to say, “Why don’t you take some of these tins home for yourself to enjoy?”

With her suggestion, what I perceived to be the warning bells of excess began sounding in my head.  Yet, beyond this commotion,  there was a quieter, deeper and larger sense, which when given voice, came through in this way, “Julian, you are hurting yourself by not allowing beauty back into your life.”

This internal response made some sense to me, as I had been trained academically as a visual artist.

Before answering my friend, I paused to consider the myriad of other recent nudges and leadings that had appeared during my quiet time.  One encouragement involved shifting from prepackaged teas to a selection of loose teas, which are available in bulk through a local health-food store.  From an environmental point of view, this change seemed completely appropriate for our household, as it would significantly reduce the amount of packaging waste we would be generating on a daily basis.

“Yes,” I answered tentatively.  “I would like that very much.”

Now, our sorting featured three piles:  “Donate,” “Keep” and “Julian.”  Selection and sorting went more quickly with this change in procedure and with my friend knowing that some of her beloved collection would  be going to a good home and a good cause.

When I returned to my own home days later, I carefully unpacked the English tins.  After everything was unwrapped and out on display, I was surprised by how much lighter and shinier I felt inside.  And, although we technically had acquired more “stuff,” this one change-of-living habit, would significantly aid our being able to live a more environmentally conscionable lifestyle.

When I meet with friends and acquaintances, desiring to live lives closer to their hearts, the most common concern I hear is that they will be “asked” or guided to do something that goes against “the who” they perceive themselves to be.  It is important, here, to remember that catalogue of notes, entries and stories.  This catalogue is open to revision—complete revision—if we desire it.  And, Grace will assist you, time and again, as you make life-affirming choices delivering you closer to the Light in your heart and “the who” of who  you are–pure Spirit.