Dwelling Places

Hello Lovely is inspiration for interiors, and sometimes the interiors extend to those beautiful spaces within the soul. Dwelling Places shares personal reflections of divine consolation, healing, and cosmic glory breaking through an ordinary day. Accompanied by recent photos of the Arizona landscape and desert, I share this heartful story with: a very humble heart, reverence, and wonder. I’m just muddling through and doing my best to see with pure eyes. I honor the journey which is yours – no matter your belief system, faith, lack of faith, or spiritual milieu.

Tucson, Arizona landscape and cactus - Hello Lovely Studio.
Photo: Hello Lovely Studio

About a week ago, on the most ordinary morning, an extraordinary uplifting communion occurred, turning the skies of my soul a most tranquil blue. Since it’s so fresh, I don’t even know what to call it. It feels like consolation.

In case you were wondering, consolation, supernatural goodness and light beaming from divine realms into earthly ones is not the norm over here.

Magnificent palm in Arizona - Hello Lovely Studio.
Photo: Hello Lovely Studio. Dwelling Places: soulful personal reflections about divine consolation, healing, and heaven’s glory breaking through an ordinary day. My photos of the Arizona landscape and desert also aim to capture a beautiful contemplative tranquility.

It was a morning like all others. Sort of. I’m disciplined about starting my day in solitude and silence. I open two daily meditations in my inbox from spiritual writers I respect who share wisdom, scripture, and sweetness. Then I sit for centering prayer, which is mostly pleasant but can also be super boring and challenging when there’s a long list of chores ahead. Anyway, on this day before the meditations, I read a blog post about flying the nest. It was lovely and poignant.

Arizona landscape and stormy skis - Hello Lovely Studio.
Photo: Hello Lovely Studio

Then I turned to the first meditation, and its theme centered on how we are God’s dwelling place. My heart quickly softened as I considered how the spaciousness within me is a shelter, a home. You already know my passion for home. Henri Nouwen’s thoughtfulness stirred me:

“You are the place where God chose to dwell…and the spiritual life is nothing more or less than to allow that space to exist where God can dwell, to create the space where his glory can manifest itself.”

Arizona landscape - Hello Lovely Studio.
Photo: Hello Lovely Studio

As I contemplated the beauty of this dwelling place, I closed my eyes, crossed my hands over my heart and sort of disappeared into a blissful silent atmosphere. Before long, a song about dwellings bubbled up into consciousness. It was the first classical song I had performed in high school for a solo contest called “How Lovely Are Thy Dwellings” by Samuel Liddle. Maybe you know it. The lyrics are from Psalm 84.

Arizona sunset - Hello Lovely Studio.
Photo: Hello Lovely Studio. Dwelling Places: soulful personal reflections about divine consolation, healing, and heaven’s glory breaking through an ordinary day. My photos of the Arizona landscape and desert also aim to capture a beautiful contemplative tranquility.

While I had not thought of the song or psalm in many years, those notes and lyrics were anchored securely, and I began to sing it soulfully with my eyes closed.

Pond in the Arizona desert - Hello Lovely Studio.
Photo: Hello Lovely Studio

“How lovely are thy dwellings, oh Lord of hosts. My soul longeth, yea fainteth for the courts of the Lord…Yea, the sparrow hath found her a house and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young.”

Arizona landscape with creek - Hello Lovely Studio.
Photo: Hello Lovely Studio

A few phrases into the song, I heard a thumping. Since I assumed I was alone in the house. I wondered whether my husband or son had returned. I paused, briefly embarrassed but heard nothing further and resumed the song.

Periwinkle blue sky and yellow leaves in Arizona - Hello Lovely Studio.
Photo: Hello Lovely Studio

More thumping came.

Flowering trees and fruit in Arizona - Hello Lovely Studio.
Photo: Hello Lovely Studio

Bear in mind, your friend was in a very relaxed, contemplative state while sitting in bed in pajamas with closed eyes. My thoughts turned to the wildlife in our yard as I wondered ‘maybe my chubby squirrel is busy on the roof again.’ It wasn’t until the third thump that I turned my eyes toward our bedroom window and saw her.

Door to a primitive structure at Boyce Thompson Arboretum in Arizona - Hello Lovely Studio.
Photo: Hello Lovely Studio

A robin on the sill was tapping the pane. I met her gaze and resumed the song, never imagining she would stay. But stay she did.

Celestial sky in Arizona by Hello Lovely Studio.
Photo: Hello Lovely Studio

Oh my lord, my heart soared. Naturally, I kept singing! After about a minute, she flew just a few feet north to a roof overhang very near the window. She lingered as the breeze ruffled her feathers, the loveliness of Psalm 84 reached her, and sanctifying tears slipped down my cheeks.

Arizona sky - Hello Lovely Studio
Photo: Hello Lovely Studio

For two minutes, we were united…with only a windowpane and a few feet between our beating hearts. Nothing like this has happened before, but then again, I don’t ever sing in bed because for starters, it isn’t easy to sing well in that position! She was as captive and reverent an audience as I have encountered. She didn’t fly away in spite of my own movement. Caught up in wonder and awe, I couldn’t resist capturing a minute of the communion with my iPhone.

Arizona sunset - Hello Lovely studio.
Photo: Hello Lovely Studio. Dwelling Places: soulful personal reflections about divine consolation, healing, and heaven’s glory breaking through an ordinary day. My photos of the Arizona landscape and desert also aim to capture a beautiful contemplative tranquility.

My heart overflowing, I retreated to the kitchen to eat breakfast, but eating while crying has never really worked for me. So I opened up the next meditation in my email, and the first sentence began with a quote from Julian of Norwich:

Orange trees at Arizona Biltmore Hotel - Hello Lovely Studio.
Photo: Hello Lovely Studio. Dwelling Places: soulful personal reflections about divine consolation, healing, and heaven’s glory breaking through an ordinary day. My photos of the Arizona landscape and desert also aim to capture a beautiful contemplative tranquility.

“Greatly ought we to rejoice that God dwells in our soul; and more greatly ought we to rejoice that our soul dwells in God. Our soul is created to be God’s dwelling place, and the dwelling of our soul is God.” (Showings)

Midway sprite in garden at Arizona Biltmore - Hello Lovely Studio.
Photo: Hello Lovely Studio.

A late 14th century spiritual writer, Julian’s words further reinforced the idea that our souls are sacred dwelling places. The messages in my world and the universe seemed to be pointing me to the notion that this dwelling place with its glory is a sacred treasure which can never be harmed and can be implicitly trusted.

Arizona cactus - Hello Lovely Studio
Photo: Hello Lovely Studio. Dwelling Places: soulful personal reflections about divine consolation, healing, and heaven’s glory breaking through an ordinary day. My photos of the Arizona landscape and desert also aim to capture a beautiful contemplative tranquility.

The robin’s flight to me, right where I am, feels more healing and replenishing than I can say. There’s a dramatic bridge in the song where verse 10 of the psalm says ‘For a day in Thy courts is better than a thousand.’

Flowering cactus in Tuscon, Arizona - Hello Lovely Studio.
Photo: Hello Lovely Studio

A day in Thy courts. Yes. Such a day is drenched in beauty. A day when a long buried song can rise back to life and echo through a forest! A day when a stone can somehow be rolled away and the veil becomes very thin. A day when heaven and nature harmonize so devastatingly well, the sound reverberates as one.

Cactus flowers in bloom in sherbet tones in Tuscon, Arizona - Hello Lovely Studio.
Photo: Hello Lovely Studio

A day in Thy courts. Two minutes in the Presence where Perfect Peace and Perfect Love are invited to dwell. Where relationship blooms. Where holy consolation and sacred notes arrive like manna.

Cactus flowers in bloom with juicy sherbet color in Tuscon, Arizona - Hello Lovely Studio.
Photo: Hello Lovely Studio

I finished reading the second meditation which ended with these words from Father Richard Rohr:

“The inner radiance of God started radiating at least 13.8 billion years ago. We must realize that we are the continuation of that radiance in our small segment of time on Earth…Use whatever words you want, but with this vision you will live in a fully alive and congenial universe where you can never be lonely again.

I added the bold to the last sentence because it’s how I experienced the words on my screen. YOU CAN NEVER BE LONELY AGAIN leaped from the email, wrapping my soul in the the warmest embrace.

Arizona sunset - Hello Lovely Studio.
Photo: Hello Lovely Studio. Dwelling Places: soulful personal reflections about divine consolation, healing, and heaven’s glory breaking through an ordinary day. My photos of the Arizona landscape and desert also aim to capture a beautiful contemplative tranquility.

Oh, friends. I’m still undone with sweetness. Because for me…well, for me these reassuring words seal what feels like consolation with an everlasting promise.

Tuscon, Arizona landscape - Hello Lovely Studio.
Photo: Hello Lovely Studio

Desolation always comes. I still have all these wounds I mostly keep in the darkness. Shadowy places in my soul which have the potential to take root and cause harm when they aren’t absorbed into the light of Pure Love.

Grey Arizona skies - Hello Lovely Studio.
Photo: Hello Lovely Studio

But what an earthquake when Grace meets you unexpectedly right where you are. To be found by it is to discover there is nothing to fear.

Michele of Hello Lovely Studio. Photo: Melissa James Studio.
Photo: Melissa James Studio.

To be caught up in its flow is to see the miracle of the ordinary, of flight, of dwelling places, of the loveliness of a small bird lifting a singing soul to heaven.

Arizona sunset and Annie Dillard quote - by Hello Lovely Studio.
Photo: Hello Lovely Studio.

How Lovely Are Thy Dwellings

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Contemplative Daily Meditations That Enrich My Journey

Henri Nouwen

Father Richard Rohr

Inspiring Books by Contemplatives

Showings

Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening

The Return of the Prodigal Son

The Universal Christ

Falling Upward

Psalm 84: 1-12

1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
    Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
    for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
    for the living God.
Even the sparrow has found a home,
    and the swallow a nest for herself,
    where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
    Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
    they are ever praising you.[c]

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
    whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
    they make it a place of springs;
    the autumn rains also cover it with pools.[d]
They go from strength to strength,
    till each appears before God in Zion.

Hear my prayer, Lord God Almighty;
    listen to me, God of Jacob.
Look on our shield,[e] O God;
    look with favor on your anointed one.

10 Better is one day in your courts
    than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
    than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
    the Lord bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
    from those whose walk is blameless.

12 Lord Almighty,
    blessed is the one who trusts in you.

One More Thing

It was really hard to push ‘publish’ on this one because it’s so intimate, and I don’t know the rules about sharing such beauty. Sometimes after I share spiritual reflections, I’ll hear from folks who are longing to ‘be in the flow’ or feel they are somehow missing out on a layer of aliveness that I seem to be tapping into. I just want to reiterate that I don’t know anything at all. I am not special or accustomed to the clouds parting and angels singing and such drama or consolation. But I do know the difference between being IN the flow and outside of it. And I am almost always outside. So if you are at all thinking ‘dude, I need some consolation here,’ I hear you, but I don’t meditate and go deeper into contemplative Christianity seeking consolation. I don’t see any relationship between discipline of a spiritual practice and feeling the Presence. If I’m honest, I am not even sure why I keep studying! It’s deeply humiliating territory at times and mostly a lonely road. Am I pursuing something or is something pursuing me? I don’t know anything except that my desire is to see as Love sees and to get out of the way as much as possible. Thanks for reading me with such tenderness.

To read more personal reflections, click here.

Peace to you right where you are.

-michele

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16 Comments

  1. patricia
    May 23, 2019 / 6:22 am

    thank you for sharing this, my dear sister in spirit.

    • Michele
      Author
      May 23, 2019 / 9:42 am

      I’m so grateful to have you here reading with such tenderness, sister. 🙂

  2. May 23, 2019 / 8:06 am

    Oh Michele how the words that God gave you this morning have touched my soul. When you write what a God has given you to share it is lyrical. The beauty and the pictures you paint with words are full of love and promise. We are never alone, what a beautiful promise to hold onto and to reach out for. He’s always there we just have to keep focused. The time you spent on that special morning gave you the insight to the beauty of his gift of pure live and peace. A place so sacred that we can’t seem to remain there in our earthly conditions but oh the glory we will one day be when we meet him face to face.
    Love thru Christ our beautiful redeemer,
    Kathysue

    • Michele
      Author
      May 23, 2019 / 9:40 am

      I’m so grateful to be journeying with you and always hoping that by allowing some of the joy from my experiences to overflow, thirsty hearts will be quenched in mysterious ways and souls may find a little rest. Thinking of you and where your heart’s treasure lies – thinking of him, still so connected to you yet free of everything finite and temporal. Tasting eternity is a blessing I’ll never take lightly, and it’s lovely to have friends longing to taste it too. xox

  3. Jean
    May 23, 2019 / 8:51 am

    Michelle,
    I’m so glad you did publish this AND it’s still up. Timely in so many ways for me as we deal with a fresh medical diagnosis and turn to our source of strength, God. In His mercy and strength we are resting. Timely in that I have desired to start my day in such a contemplative place for a while. I’ll probably move from my bed to a comfy chair but I know have some daily inspiration Is coming my way. And also timely in that I have had a robin come knocking at my window pane. Inspiring perspective and from now on I’ll hold the dog back from trying to chase her away,😇

    Thanks for being a blessing this morning.

    • Michele
      Author
      May 23, 2019 / 9:34 am

      Your words are so beautiful and have refreshed me. Turning to God – what better movement and response is there whether we’re hurting or rejoicing? Robins at the window knocking – I didn’t even know it was a thing! 🙂 Thank you for reading.

  4. Amy
    May 23, 2019 / 8:54 am

    Thanks for sharing such beautiful words of truth & for sharing some of your favorite daily devotionals/books. My all-time favorite devotional is entitled…Streams in the Desert. I never tire of it as it brings continual conviction and encouragement every time I read it. What I love most about your blog is that you so beautifully intertwine the connection between lovely interiors in our homes and our souls.

    • Michele
      Author
      May 23, 2019 / 9:31 am

      That devotional sounds wonderful, and I’m going to look for it. Thanks so much for offering a safe landing here – I so appreciate the support.

  5. Teresa C
    May 23, 2019 / 9:38 am

    Outstanding young Lady! My heart soars and I am ready to meet Today.
    Thank you.
    T

    • Michele
      Author
      May 23, 2019 / 9:46 am

      I am soaking up your energy to meet Today too as you say! Thank you.

  6. May 23, 2019 / 10:58 am

    Not sure how to explain how powerful it was reading this. Thank you…

    Cindy

    • Michele
      Author
      May 23, 2019 / 4:37 pm

      I’m so glad to have you here, Cindy! Thank you, friend.

  7. Kathy Walsh
    May 23, 2019 / 5:57 pm

    Beautiful, Michele! I had a similar experience with a hummingbird about a year ago. I was going through a difficult time with some frightening physical symptoms. I was sitting on our front porch one early morning, deep in thought. I became aware of a hummingbird hovering in the air about 3 feet from my face. It was just hovering there staring right at me. I offered a gentle hello to the delightful creature who just continued to hover and look at me for at least a half a minute, maybe a bit longer! I asked it if it had a message for me and it continued to stare for a bit longer and then gently flew away. I sat in stunned silence with chills on my arms for a few minutes. I grabbed my phone and googled the meaning of a hummingbird. I found that the hummingbird symbolizes the enjoyment of life and lightness of being. In Native American culture the hummingbird is seen as a healer and bringer of love, good luck and joy! Just what I needed at a very difficult time!!
    BTW, “The Return of the Prodigal Son” is my favorite Henri Nouwen book!!

    • Michele
      Author
      May 23, 2019 / 7:36 pm

      That is beautiful! I do love those hummingbirds – just magical. Oh, that book is such an incredible one – one of my all time favorite books! 🙂

  8. Kara
    June 9, 2019 / 9:25 am

    Oh. Blessings on you. My spiritual home: AZ, where the most beautiful time of my life has been lived; I miss long walks in the high desert, watching morning come in the astonishing fragrance of desert blooms. Then glorying in the abundance of the “second spring,” when the rains come in July and August and wildflowers cover the dry hills and waterfalls appear in the most surprising places and that dry place is reborn as a garden..

    Thank you!

    • Michele
      Author
      June 9, 2019 / 10:39 am

      Lovely words of blessing to begin my day as you reflect on desert beauty and replenishment in arid places. Thanks so much for bringing your sense of gratitude and appreciation for nature into this place.

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