This is part 3 of a 4 part series on Creating An Environment of Learning. The start of the series, along with links to parts 1 and 2 can be found here. It may surprise you that I have included ‘beauty’ as a cornerstone for learning. I hope you will soon agree that it is essential to awaking the soul to curiosity. We will explore beauty in nature, in the home, and in you.
The quality that gives pleasure to the mind or senses and is associated with such properties as harmony of form or color, excellence of artistry, truthfulness, and originality.
Beauty in Nature
It would only take a brief look out your window to realize that God is the essence of beauty. His creation tells us something about His heart. It is magnificent, powerful, and beautiful. He has, with reckless abandon, lavished His beauty on the world. We stand in awe of the landscapes of nature; the clear, crystal force of a moving river, the delicate colorful petals of a flower, the gentle sway of a tree moving in the breeze. God is the penultimate artist. The Creator of all things has not made a world merely of function—He has chosen the wonder and beauty of the world as a means to draw us back to Himself. Beauty is transcendant. It reaches to the soul—it inspires us, and invites us—to know and to love.
And God has ‘spared no expense’ at providing us with a world filled with delightful sights. At every turn, we see His handiwork. And we must teach the little ones to notice. We can do that in countless ways but one way is to expose them to the great artists of the past who have seen and captured the details of life in startling ways. Charlotte Mason in her book A Philosophy of Education, says that in order to prepare children to live aesthetically,
“….their education should furnish them with whole galleries of mental pictures, pictures by great artists, old and new; with these pictures by great masters hanging permanently in the halls of their imagination, which has the property of magical expansion.”
Photography has a similiar power, to capture the smallest details of birds, flowers, and landscapes, that children can learn to look for and appreciate. We must teach them to appreciate the beauty around them. That usually requires a slower pace of life, that seems hard to attain these days. Stevie has taught the kids so much about watching birds and identifying trees and plants. We keep a field guide for birds handy so that we can look up the details of what we’ve seen. They seem to learn so much more when they learn ‘in context’ versus when they learn in a forced setting of ‘now we’re gonna study birds’. They don’t ask, “Is this gonna be on the test?” They are genuinely eager for knowledge unless we snuff it out of them by teaching them to only desire the rewards of knowledge (grades, money, ice cream). Knowledge is its own reward. And so is beauty. And this God given appetite for beauty must be nourished. The body needs food , the mind needs knowledge, and the soul needs beauty. Ultimately beauty comes from God and calls us to eternity.
Beauty in the Home
Creating an aesthetically pleasing atmosphere in your home is important and it doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate. Everyone benefits when time and care is taken to make your surroundings beautiful. Beauty invites us to ‘stay a while’, to relax, to enjoy ourselves. This can be achieved in a myriad of ways from playing classical music in your home, to bringing in fresh flowers, to lighting candles, to hanging artwork. Your children will be nourished by the very surroundings in which they live.
I would go a step farther and say that creating beautiful, nutritious meals is an important way to literally ‘nourish’ our families. This is the perfect time of year, with summer’s bountiful harvest, to practice making meals that are both healthy and appealing. Take the time to use a tablecloth, set the table, use cloth napkins, and make a simple centerpiece of flowers or clippings from your yard. We all have to eat several times a day, so attack meal planning as if it were a job. There is comfort and tremendous ‘soul’ nourishment to children when they come in from playing to the smell of fresh bread or homeade cookies. And just as our Father has lavished on us beauty and nourishment in abundance, we can share the same gift with our families.
Beauty in You
This category is, to me, the most important. The point was driven home a few years ago when I read the book Captivating
by John and Stasi Eldredge. They devote a whole chapter to the power of a woman truly ‘unveiling her beauty’ to the world. I’ve given this book to my daughter to read because it changed the way I viewed my own physical and spiritual life. They describe the essence of a woman as beauty; that ‘Eve’ (woman) is the very incarnation in human form of the beauty of God. And they go on to describe that beauty is not some ‘conjured up’ set of external qualities, but is instead the essence of what God has already put inside of us. We don’t strive to ‘gin up’ beauty, we simply let down the veil—to our hearts—to the part of us that inspires, comforts, speaks, invites, and nourishes
. We let down our guard to the beauty God has placed there, making ourselves available
. And we do that by being ‘at rest’, ‘at peace’ with who God has made us to be.
“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters……Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.” Isa. 55:1,2
“A woman of true beauty is a woman who in the depths of her soul is at rest…..she exudes a sense of calm, and invites those around her to rest as well……she speaks comfort….she offers others the grace to be and the room to become….in her presence, we can release the tension and pressure that so often grip our hearts…..Her spacious beautiful soul invites other to come, to be, to taste see that the Lord is good…A woman who makes herself vulnerable and available for intimacy invites others to do the same….in her presence, you can breathe again, you are free to be you….she unveils her beauty and invites you to life.
Oh, how I long to be a woman like that. So often our hurts and insecurities keep us from unveiling the beauty in our hearts. We fail. We protect ourselves. We draw the curtain tight so that noone will have the chance to hurt us. But God invites us to His table, where we once again obtain forgiveness and find the strength to make our hearts available. If there is one thing our family and our world needs, it’s to see us without the veil, offering our hearts and our presence ‘full of tender mercy and gentle vulnerability’.
It will invite them to true life.
It will captivate them.
It will awaken their very souls to the beauty and paradox of God’s redemption.