For The Beauty Of The Earth

The Danube River sparkled and flowed beneath the bridge on which I stood in Budapest, Hungary. The view was stunning. It took my breath away to lay eyes on the inspiration for Johann Strauss’ “The Blue Danube” The pictures I snapped with my cell phone simply couldn’t do the scene justice. I marveled at the gorgeous creation with which God has gifted us.

My awe soon turned to conviction. Is Budapest, Hungary the only location where I can recognize and revel in the beauty of God’s earth? The entirety of our planet was created by God, so certainly there are glorious scenes everywhere. Except that I don’t always take the time to stop, look, and appreciate them.

The well-known Christian hymn “For The Beauty Of The Earth” sprung to mind. It was written by Englishman Folliott S. Pierpoint who was inspired by the beauty of the country around him to pen it. Pierpoint did not have to travel 5,000 miles away from his home like I did to get to Budapest to experience the beauty of God’s creation. No, all he had to do is look “over and around” him right where he was.

Apparently prepositions are the culprit for us ignoring God’s world which is right in our own backyard. Instead of looking “over and around” like Pierpoint did, we are too busy looking AT what we want, ON the goals we have set, and AHEAD to what we desire. Who has time to look OVER and AROUND us at what God has placed there? Raising my hand in shame.

I am blessed to live on Florida’s Emerald Coast–yes, the one just slammed by Hurricane Michael. The Emerald Coast is the Florida coastal area on the Gulf of Mexico stretching for about one hundred miles from Pensacola to Panama City. The name is taken from the colorful waters in the Gulf which are often a dazzling shade of my favorite color, green. Not only is the water color breathtaking, but the sand on the beaches is heavenly. The Emerald Coast has some of the purest white sand in the state. The crystals in this sand are almost pure quartz providing soft, fluffy sand. So white is this beach sand that a friend of mine’s two year old niece who had never seen sand before called it “hot snow.”

Tourists flock to the Emerald Coast. They travel from great distances at sometimes great expense to get a brief glimpse of what I have available to me on a daily basis. I live in the town of Valparaiso, whose name means “vale of paradise” in Spanish. So do I oooh and aaah like the tourists on a daily basis at the local beauty around me? Sadly, no.

Now that I have recognized my failure to observe and appreciate God’s handiwork around me, what am I going to do about it? Cue those prepositions. I will make a conscious effort to regularly look UP, DOWN, and all AROUND me to see His wondrous creation.

Singing the words to “For The Beauty Of The Earth” will provide a road map for me to achieve a better awareness of my surroundings. The first stanza of the hymn mentions the beauty of the earth. I can look DOWN to see flowers, sea oats, grass, etc. I can look OUT to see the local bodies of water which reflect clouds and light.

The beauty of the skies is also mentioned in the opening stanza of the hymn. I can look ABOVE to see puffy clouds (sometimes in cool shapes such as a bunny) and blue skies during the day. The second stanza of “For The Beauty Of The Earth” mentions the “sun and moon and stars of light.” I can look UP to view twinkling stars and a luminous moon at night.

Intentional looking is my game plan. But when will I do this? The hymn also provides a suggestion as to the regularity of my looking. The lyrics mention the beauty “of each hour.” OK, I am sleeping during a few hours of the day, so I am not taking the idea literally to see beauty each and every hour–although it is a beautiful thing to see the inside of my eyelids for several hours each night. The point is not that we have to look for something on an hourly basis. The idea is conveyed that we need to constantly be aware of our surroundings, recognize who made them, and be appreciative of that beautiful handiwork.

I may never stand on a bridge over the gorgeous Danube River again. But I can still experience breathtaking beauty provided courtesy of my Creator on a regular basis. The beauty of His creation is all around me; I just need to open my eyes and look around right where I am. Won’t you do the same?

Just WONDER-ing: Do you make a conscious effort to look for beauty in the setting where you are? Do you think you would see more beauty if you intentionally looked for it? What’s something beautiful in creation that you have noticed today?




Getting a HANDle On Beauty And NAILing It

Watching “Beauty And The Beast” may be enjoyable, but attaining beauty can be a real beast. Nevertheless, women strive for outer beauty because Prince Charming is apparently superficial and cares more about how our toenails look while trying a glass slipper than the personality of the foot owner. Forget inner beauty; it’s all in the packaging.

And nailing beauty often relates to a woman’s nails. The founder of essie Cosmetics believes that “If a woman’s nails aren’t done, she’s not totally dressed.”  Eek!  I’ve unknowingly gone to the market or out to run errands only partially clad. What a fashion faux pas!

Nailing your nails is a huge concern for the modern American woman. In 2017, approximately $8.53 billion (that’s BILLION with a “B” as in beauty) was spent on nail salon services in the United States. And these services were provided at one of the 56,300 nails salons in this country. At a average of  $21 for a basic manicure, women are willing to shell out good money to look good starting at the tips of their fingers.

In case you don’t know your beauty vocabulary, a manicure is the cosmetic beauty treatment for fingernails and hands. Manicures are a beauty treatment HANDed (pun intended) down over the centuries. They are believed to have first been done in India about 5,000 years ago when henna was used as polish. Apparently, an Indian woman was the first lady in red.

Manicures (or “manis” for short) involve filing and shaping nails, pushing cuticles, clipping hangnails, giving liquid treatments, providing a hand massage and applying  nail polish. Sounds pretty tame, right? Nope, your brain is taxed by all the decisions involved with achieving just the right look.

:If your nails are to be filed, a decision has to be made as to the shape into which they will be transformed. Ignorant me, I wasn’t aware that there were at least seven shapes to choose from. Square, oval and round are three options which are pretty basic. Almond shape? That name makes me want to chew on my nails for a nutty taste. Stiletto? Is that the shape you choose in order to channel Cruella Deville? And wouldn’t I run the risk of poking my eye out trying to get my contacts in with stilleto nails? Coffin? Is this the appropriate shape for a funeral or a Halloween party? Squoval? I have a hard time saying that shape much less visualizing it.

In some cases, the natural nails aren’t filed because artificial nails or fake nails are used. These are extensions placed over one’s fingernails as fashion accessories. At least these accessories are attached, so you don’t worry about misplacing them like you might your clutch.

Fake nails are not a modern innovation. Throughout history artificial nails have been common symbols of status across the world. In the Ming Dynasty, for example, noblewomen wore extremely long nails to indicate they were not commoners having to engage in manual labor. Yup! No dish washing or typing for them. Greek women in the upper class formerly wore pistachio shells over their nails to show their position in society. Well, at least those fake nails were natural.

Then there’s nail polish to be applied to either your fake or natural nails. Nail polish is also known as nail varnish. Eww! That’s sounds industrial. What color to use must be determined. I hate to break it to you, but there are more colors to choose from than those found in the rainbow. Why essie Cosmetics alone has produced around 1,000 colors. And that’s just ONE nail company.

A current trend is to have nail polish colors come in clever names. Thus, one has to pick not only a flattering color, but a name that is chic or appealing.  The Emperor’s New Clothes, for example, is a great name for a clear polish.

Doing my Internet research I found that one of the top colors for this summer is Jinsonn’s Sandbar. Yes, that’s a name that conjures up the beach and a tropical paradise. But wait! Even better, the polish is vegan-friendly. Say what? Are people eating their nail polish? I know folks bite their nails, but are they consuming them nail polish and all? Yuk!

Once the fingernails are painted, then there’s the question of whether the toe nail polish should match the fingernail polish. Is matchy-matchy too cutesy? Using the same color might be considered boring, but if the colors are different, then care must be taken to utilize colors and names which don’t clash. Wearing Republican Red on your fingernails and Democratic Denim on your toenails just isn’t PC, ladies.

Royals have strict rules when it comes to nail fashion. Fake nails are verboten to Kate and Meghan as is bright colored nail polish. Queen Elizabeth’s go to polish is essis’s Ballet Slippers, a pale and understated pink. Meghan got a jump on her duchess training by wearing this shade for her wedding to Prince Harry who I am certain was oblivious to what Meghan had painted on her nails for this big event.

Royal or commoner, having manicured nails is all fine and dandy, but polished nails are simply window dressing. I may be in the minority here, but beauty is not about the color nail polish gracing your real or fake nails. Real beauty comes from being perfectly polished. I’ll take a well-mannered, caring and kind lady over one sporting almond nails painted in Pretty In Pink with or without matching toenail polish any day.

Just WONDER-ing: How do you define beauty? If you are a man, how much attention do you pay to a woman’s nails? If you are a woman, what do you do to make yourself beautiful?