Finding the beauty

Sally - beauty in snowHave you ever noticed that encouraging others to find the good, the positive, and the lovely and focus on those things instead of the petty, the disturbing, and the tragic is often met with criticism? It is somehow lacking compassion and superficial. Somehow ugly is more real than beautiful. Not in my world! It isn’t always easy to find the beauty that surrounds us, yet it is critical for our wellbeing! As I think about the people that have profoundly influenced me for good, those I seek to emulate, I realize that they share this one thing in common: they live in world where beauty is real, a world where they rejoice each day with thankfulness to God!

Many times social networkers are criticized for sharing the positives more than the negatives. The masses cry out for the ‘real’ – the venting, grumbling and complaining – often in a need for validation of their own feelings. Those who don’t share the negatives are apparently misleading the public about their lives. Somehow, by avoiding grumbling, complaining and venting statuses – one is failing to let others see the grit and grime (literal or figurative) — thus guilty of misleading people about life. Life is perfect statuses are the topic of one diatribe after another. In this reality, pictures of homemade goodies, smiling children, loving couples and written tributes declaring good days, loving friends and happy moments are presented as a façade hiding a life of self-delusion, dark secrets, or (in the very least) superficial reality.

This is my reality. When I take selfies with my husband or children (is it even a selfie if there are others in it?), or post pictures of our baking or our home, or write a study or an article, I am not saying, “My life is perfect! Hear me roar!” I am sharing happiness and joy. I am writing from my heart. I write because I love to write. I write because I love to share.  Sometimes I may share struggles and grit and grime, but that is usually more often when the situation arises and I am speaking to someone about specific issues or dealing with a topic that is weighing on my heart. Venting in prose about petty daily struggles isn’t edifying, encouraging or therapeutic for me and actually has quite a negative effect – it only feeds the wolf within that I want to starve (see Cultivating a Joy-filled Heart). If I have a problem, I discuss it and fix it (with help, if needed) or, if there isn’t a solution, I suck it up and deal. Sometimes it is quite challenging to find the good in the midst of the irritating, frustrating and annoying. We may need help finding it! Find a fellow beauty-seeker! I’m so thankful that my husband is my best friend and helps me when I’m on a quest to find the good (or when I need to be directed to start one)!!

In an effort to ‘keep it real’ may I suggest that we all ought to already know that no one is perfect and no life is without struggles! You may not know me well, but you don’t need to know me well to know that my life isn’t perfect. What we need to understand, though, is that life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful. I don’t care how bad my day starts, how many things occur to make me stumble, or how many times I fall in a day. I will snuggle up in my bed that night under the amazing star-filled sky, say my prayers and thank God for his abounding mercy and blessings. That is keeping it real for me. My faith will simply not allow me to be unthankful, no matter what challenges might come my way. No matter what happens in this life, God’s children are surrounded by His steadfast love. When I am tempted to whine, grumble, complain, and vent, I immediately remember that un-thankfulness is often manifested in grumbling, complaining and venting. Think about the Israelites.

Here’s a practical illustration of this perspective. Our gospel meeting a few months ago began with my all-dressed-up-and-ready-to-go-self cleaning up several piles of sickness from a sick old dog. The dogs were in the compound in the garage because we had overnight company, so when I went to take them out before services, I was greeted with four dogs staring at me from across a vile mess. They all sat patiently and watched me clean it up. This episode made me (and those driving with me) late to the Bible class period, and caused me to be deeply concerned for a well-loved pet. Did I mention that we had a huge gathering in our home that day? That this followed a busy week (and was only a week after another meeting?) That a little friend of ours was quite sick in the hospital? That I was overwhelmed?? In the previous paragraphs, I am not talking about keeping all our cares inside and not sharing them with anyone! I’m not promoting stoicism or putting on a fake smile! I didn’t bottle this up inside, nor did I feel the need to complain about the entire comedy of errors to everyone in the interwebs! WHY? Surely I could have written a hilarious blog about it and I’m not saying that would be necessarily complaining or grumbling. Many things that happened simultaneously are actually funny in hindsight (did I mention that I got lost going to the hospital where we have gone a zillion times before and drove in a very bad part of town at night?). At the moment I was elbow deep in a vile mess in one of my favorite flouncy shirts, I wasn’t laughing. Even a few hours later writing about it wouldn’t have helped me it would’ve caused me to focus on it more. With all that was going on, I didn’t have time to write anyway. Frankly, I needed to let it go, breathe deeply and find the funny and beautiful as I continued doing what needed to be done.

Writing can be therapeutic and quite beneficial when it is done in the right spirit. Sharing burdens with our friends is most certainly acceptable and can be accomplished without whining. We simply must remember that grumbling and complaining are sinful and giving full vent to our spirits is unwise! (Proverbs 29:11 A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back; Philippians 2:14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing…). It is wise and healthy to focus on the pure, do our best to handle what comes our way, and to find the beautiful little things each day has to offer. Our little challenges are not the big picture and I need to remind myself that often!

Perhaps you think this only works for the optimists of the world, but it won’t work for you? Let me make this clear (and this might surprise you), I am absolutely not a natural optimist. I actually lean toward realism (which some might say is leaning toward pessimism). An old favorite song of mine has this line, “hoping for the best, but expecting the worst are you gonna drop the bomb or not?” I call this my zombie apocalypse practice. I am always hopeful for good things. I believe good things can and do happen. I think life is beautiful and people can be wonderful. I know God is always good. I am hoping for good things, but I will be ready for the bad ones, too, and I will not be surprised. They will come. I will be ready. May God help me always to find the beauty. There is always beauty. Even in the worst tragedies, there is beauty in memories, there is beauty in survival, and there is beauty in hope.

Look for the beauty amidst the struggles and think to yourself, what a wonderful world!

 

 

 

 

Category: Musings
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