Life is Beautiful Beneath the Layers

life is beautiful jkmcguire

“The important thing (the sacred, empowering, natural thing) is to step deeply into it every single moment and be there as fully as you can, seeing as clearly as you can.” (Sue Monk Kidd)

I am not sure when it happened, but somewhere in the midst of birthing and raising five kids, loving this man, and coming into fullness as a woman (and all that becoming means) I found something deeply wild and beautiful and life-giving about my life. It wasn’t there before – or maybe I never noticed it. It is something I have discovered along the way. I found it on the path.

While I was cleaning the house last week – I felt it – the power of being settled and at home. This house will be the space our children know as home. I looked up and surveyed our abode and felt peace. This will be where they come to after they have grown and moved into their own adult lives. No matter where they wander or where we settle this not so little blue house in the city will be a sacred place they recall. Perhaps if we are fortunate they will remember our life here together with fondness and joy. This space will be what they remember as their own.

While I don’t want our home to be perfect. I am not looking for Pinterest worthy, Instagram raving, or even hyper organized and clean, what I am searching for is the beautiful beneath the layers.

Beneath the layers of our life… there is beauty. If we have the eyes to see clearly. If we have the patience to pause long enough for it to reveal itself to us.


Real life can be messy.

The kids have left their things piled up on the school credenza again. Opening a cabinet and bending over to set their things on the shelf inside is ALL THEY HAVE TO DO TO PUT THEIR WORK AWAY. The great room table is overflowing with their leftovers: leftover lunch, leftover school, and leftover play. The kids’ bathroom has toothpaste in the sink bowl and boy pee on the floor behind the toilet. The kitchen sink is in need of attention – someone forgot to do their chore and mom forgot to remind them. And I won’t mention the laundry/mud room. There isn’t enough storage space in this house.

My spirit needs LESS to store away… anyways.

There are finger prints on the glass and dirty hand prints on the wall in the foyer. There are patches of potential paint colors strewn on various walls to catch the light throughout the day. These are evidence of decisions in the making.


I am here in the midst of overgrown landscaping, a growing family, and a house coming together as our own trying to wrap my brain around my day and trying to wrap my heart around my life.


I can feel it – the wildness on the fringe.
It took me a long time to find gratitude in the mundane and ordinary.

I would run laps around the lack and wonder how to lose the weight, balance the budget, and keep the chaos of raising all these children from overflowing into my heart. How do you keep a house that doesn’t seem to fit you yet? HOW do you raise children well and not lose yourself in the process? Is being content within myself about a house or having kids… anyways?

The front porch swing has been hung. I sit out on the cushions and watch the sun rise orange and pink against the blue sky. It is going to be a beautifully glorious, ordinary day. Some of us women we can handle what ordinary, glorious means: more laundry piles, more pee behind the toilet, more dishes in the sink, more forgotten words on the screen, another diaper to change or mouth to feed.

We are OK in these spaces. We thrive in the mundane. We understand it will not always be this way. It is good to pause and slow. Raising children is a hurry up and get it over process. It is wise to take not hurry your way through.

“On every level of life, from housework to heights of prayer, in all judgment and effort to get things done, hurry and impatience are sure marks of the amateur.” (Ann Voskamp)

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When Being a Mom is NOT Enough

And then there are some of us who do need more. We have to get to a place inside ourselves where we are ABLE to admit it aloud. We require the wildness of more. Mothering, being a wife, and homemaking are NOT enough. That is a whole other front porch discussion.

Whatever way you choose is good and whole and OK.
Find what fits you best and live in the overflow of that best.

For some of us all life’s undones and forgotten and left aside for this season spaces are the things we have learned to be at peace about until the time is right again or we have the energy to pick them back up again. OR we fight like mad to keep creating and working any way we can anyways. Even if no one ever sees it or reads it or commends what we create.

We do the work of unfolding art for the shear pleasure of capturing our hearts on canvas or song or page. So we don’t do it for an audience. Instead we do it because the universe calls us to it.

In the end the only right way is the way you choose for you. Many people will have suggestions and ideas, but no other person has the right to tell a woman HOW it should go for her. You get to choose. When it feels desperate, and hopeless step into the wild river, feel the anthem of women who know and have gone before you and then step forward into what is best for your soul. The overflow has something passionate for you if you would but have the courage to grab it.

sue monk kidd quote jkmcguire design


There is a loneliness to motherhood (being a woman) which can set in when we are least likely to suspect it. The truth is we don’t recognize it for what it is – a need to refill the well.

So we run around like maniacs demanding of ourselves, and our children, and our spouses that they get all the things done the way we need them done. When really if we stop for a minute – and breath it all in deep, look at the now clearly – what our spirit really needs is to be still. What we really require is not the perfectly manufactured image of a life, but instead we need to find a way to be at rest with our life and within ourselves. Contentment. Peace. Joy.

Perhaps we desperately require opportunities to quietly fill up the well so we can do all the necessary things and creative things from a place of overflowing strength.

Instead we react to our internal, aching bareness by attempting to order and clean and perfect all the things and all the people around us.

Motherhood – womanhood is the aching space between intense joy and immense longing.

I can’t write or create or work from bareness. It simply doesn’t happen. I do not mother well when my spirit-well is empty and hung out to dry. So I have to sit out on the porch, or soak in the bathtub, or create images, or go for long walks to talk to my spirit and find in nature. I have to intentionally seek out all the things which make my heart leap and calms my soul. We all have our place or activity – that one thing which fills up our spirit wells so deeply and so full we can feel it to the edges and beyond. This is living in the overflow.

My mom used to listen to music as a way to “tame the wild beast.” I get it. She wasn’t crazy. She was filling the well.

life is beautiful beneath the layers jkmcguire

Life is Beautiful

Finding the beauty beneath the layers is an art form. It is an art form we can never master while living in the confines of perfectionism, comparison, or competition.
Perfection, comparison, and competition – these are the death of wild places and wild things.
I cannot go wild if I need to manhandle the details. You can’t manhandle the wilderness.
You cannot manhandle the wild in your spirit.
Control negates the wildness.
Comparison stifles the authenticity of your individual spirit.
Negative competition reeks of a lack of contentment in your own NOW.
My NOW – your NOW – these are vastly different and vastly significant. No comparison necessary or needed. But contentment in your own soul and in your spaces is an essential ingredient to stirring the wild and living from the overflow.

“Being fully in the now implies a certain acceptance of what is.” (Sue Monk Kidd)

How do you live from the overflow? Where do you find the wild?


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