Tune My Heart to Sing Thy Grace

Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;

streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.

Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.

Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
mount of thy redeeming love.

O to grace how great a debtor

daily I’m constrained to be!

Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;

here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.

The wind rustles golden grain, swaying so it sounds like tinkling bells.  Tiny cymbals.  I roll down the window as I drive up the lane just to stop for a spell and listen in on nature’s symphony. The air laden with the smell of dust and a dry grassy scent. The clouds are piled high and fluffy.  Beauty surrounds every angle from which I gaze.

My heart is part wonder, part sorrow.  There is always beauty in sorrow.  And it takes every effort to tune into the grace we have been afforded when our minds so easily slip,  so quickly bend toward the stress.  Our hearts must be trained to see more than meets the eye.  We must look with discernment for what lies beyond.  What we see is not all there truly is.

There is so very much more.

I walk into the barn and take in the musty smell of manure and hay and dust and years worth of sweat and hard labour.  I follow him as he paces the length of the barn and back again.  We lean into one another.  I wrap my arms around his chest and feel his beating heart.  What is our life work worth at the end of the day?  What legacy do we leave to those following in our footsteps?

How will we be remembered?

I step back, standing just upon the threshold of this doorway leading to another life and take in one last view before I turn away toward the sunlight and warmth of the day.

How is it that we are able to tune our hearts to sing grace even when the cords of those same hearts wring with pain?  Daily, we must train our minds to think on these eternal graces: love, joy peace.

Grace sustains in the midst of trouble.  Holding us, enabling us, propelling us forward.

There are streams of mercy, never ceasing at every vantage point. Our lives a song- only we can decide how that tune will be sung.

May our songs of praise be ever heard, our lives a melodious hymn of gratitude. For our blessings outnumber even our wildest dreams, our greatest aspirations.

Advertisements

On Beauty in Sadness

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We spend much of our time pursuing happiness, joy, contentment. Peaceful bliss. But what of the experience that sadness brings? When grief descends upon us, enveloping with a haze of memories and emotions, do we try to escape its embrace? Do we turn our hearts from pain? Shelter our feelings from any knowledge of the unpleasant?

The sun blazes down. It is a scorcher of a day- 30 degrees in the city, where we find ourselves looking for one particular church. We are headed for a celebration of fifty years of married life, an occasion designed to praise the commitment two people made to forge a  jointly-lived life complete with its joys and sorrows. Complete with its highs and lows. But for today, of course, perspective is largely focused on the bliss. Attention is given to the delight found in exquisite beauty cultivated from meshing two lives into one.

These are for them the golden years. Just like the song says.

But there is something about the lyrics so sweetly sung by a daughter and her father that make me turn my eyes away. I find tears would come quickly- too easily, but for my attempt to re-focus my attention on the people around me. I scan the room while the duo at the front bring their song to a close. This music- it ignites within memories and feelings that are particularly tender and vulnerable today, a day marking another kind of anniversary. An anniversary within an anniversary.

Two months. Fifty-two years.

It suffices to say: it has been a beautiful day; but it has also been a difficult day.

I hear myself offering a word and the possibility for quenching the dark cloud: “I don’t want you to feel sad” I say to the one I love. But I wonder within the moment if this is truly wise. We must feel the melancholy that searing sadness and pain can bring. For grief is what helps us heal; it is what enables us to feel better. It is what enables us to find joy again. Rejecting those early feelings of seeming despondency so as to only accept the forced happiness we crave is to reject the necessary emotion that enables us to mend our broken hearts. Sadness serves a purpose that joy cannot: it is there to bridge the gap from one joyful moment to the next. Without the sadness, we are often stuck in stagnation. We are immobilized and halted.

We need to let ourselves feel.

Jonathan Safran Foer contends that “You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.” If we are to experience a life rich with emotion, we must allow our hearts to burst with joy when the moment decrees, and then break with sadness when we experience loss and pain. This is all part of being and becoming human. Allowing ourselves to be in the moment who we must be and yet enabling ourselves to become who we are meant to authentically be in response to what is happening in our lives.

This poetic Biblical passage says with eloquence what I am feeling tonight:

A Time for Everything

3 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
9 What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. (Ecclesiastes Chapter 3: 1-9, NIV)

Everything is beautiful…in its time. Beauty in sorrow. Beauty in delight.

He has made both joy and sadness beautiful in their time.

On Father’s Day: For Those With Hearts Breaking

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We pound pavement in the fading light of day. I struggle to keep step with his manly gait, his earnest stride. This is the time of evening when my fatigue catches up with me. Softly, the wind blows unruly tendrils of hair across my cheeks, and I stop to wrap my jacket around my waist- I over dressed this evening in case a chill came without warning. But instead of shivers, balmy summer sun penetrates through to my skin, warming me. I watch the road intently for cars that might not be watching as carefully as I.
While we walk, I wrack my brain to come up with something of import to say.
“What will we do for Father’s Day this year?” I ask rather suddenly.
It is valid question for those finding themselves within the week of this significant holiday. A question that begs to be asked. But when your heart is still tender from breaking, and there have merely been two weeks passed since you said last goodbyes to your own Dad, this question can leave one feeling startled by fresh tears.
There will never be a Father’s Day the same again for us. Not ever. Quite honestly, the world is now forever changed. How do you do things when the one you formerly did them for/with/to is forever gone? Can a holiday still be commemorated even when the one for whom it was meant is no longer present?
We walk and talk. Shed some tears.
And I wonder and imagine while he walks quietly.
All the while, I still hold out hope. There is always hope.
Hope for another day. Another moment. Another slice of life.
And there is still room to celebrate even in the midst of sorrow. Still room for joy expressed over a life lived with grace and love and courage and faithfulness and tenderness and loyalty and gentleness, even when the remembering brings tears. There is still room to honour a father’s influence even in his physical absence. There is still room in which to cry and laugh.
There is still room in our hearts and there always will be.
There is not a day goes by that our hearts are not moved by his memory.
We sit down by the river for a spell. We are motionless, save for the occasional slapping of a mosquito here and there. Below my feet, there are schools of tiny fish curiously weaving their way around a wooded slat. They know naught of what the worlds above them experience with loss and pain and sorrow. Farther down the river, two ducks paddle off while a heron takes flight. The natural world around us has a rhythm all its own. Everywhere is peace and quiet.
I am reminded to be still. And so I am.
Later, as we make our ascent back to the road, I am further reminded that life too must resume. But our memories of what really matters are never far from our hearts. We return to these places and spaces often so as to remember. To recall and evoke the images in our minds of those we love.
We never forget.
This Sunday is Father’s Day. And while it will be different this year, there will still be a celebration- a commemoration of all that we have been given by way of legacy, heritage, history and connection. A calling to remembrance of and for our fathers. Our cherished memories are ours to keep and treasure for a lifetime.
Our loved ones might be physically gone: but they will never be forgotten.
May all those whose hearts are breaking this Father’s Day find comfort in the knowledge that their Dad is always present in their memory.

Our fathers will forever live on- in and through- our remembrances of them.

What Christmas was meant to be

image retrieved from http://www.themotherhuddle.com

Christmas time. A wondrous time of year. We wait for it, long for it- anticipating the smells and sounds, sights and feelings of another festive holiday season.

Christmas. That time of year we associate with peace and goodwill and joy. That time of year for baking and presents, music and laughter. That time of year for believing there is a silver lining to the dark clouds of life. That time of year we hold out a reason for hope. A reason for a miracle.

That special time of year.

It’s Christmas time. A time we have relegated to the magical at one end of the spectrum, the miraculous at the other. So expectant are we, so desiring of wonder. So eager for a sign. We want so much, and yet we settle for so little.

I talk to her on the phone and she recounts the fact that there is water damage in the thousands. That, added to the already overwhelming circumstances in her life, those intervening variables that have shifted the course and re-routed the journey of a life to a new path not easily traveled. And she says to me, “I can’t believe this is Christmas.”

Can’t believe that real life is happening in spite of the fact that Christmas is here upon us, waiting in the wings ready to make its grand entrance. Can’t believe that Christmas can happen within the mess of everyday living- the jumble of disaster and heartache and sorrow and pain- as a steady as a summer rain. The one thing we can count on for sure in this life is we will have trouble. It’s a promise.

Yes. It’s Christmas time. And life goes on. Life continues to travel forward, following the worn, rugged path etched out in time. Continues to make a passageway through hills and valleys, crossing roads that climb the steep incline. We walk, stumble forward- as weary travelers bent on reaching our destination, come what may. And all along the way, we face our trouble. Square on at times, in fits and starts at others.

Come what may.

And what may will come- we can be sure of that. Sickness and sorrow, death and devastation. Nothing stops for Christmas. Nothing is placed on hold as a promise for a single day. Trouble is here, even at this special time of year. This we know for sure.

For life is hard, even at Christmas time. Perhaps especially at Christmas time. Life is hard. And living is never really easy. Getting up and facing another day, another challenge is a tremendous struggle. Placing one foot in front of the other enough of an obstacle.

Life is brutally hard.
Ask the woman with cancer.
Ask the man with Parkinson’s.
Ask the child without hot water.
Ask the boy who wears the thin smile to hide the pain. The girl whose Daddy isn’t coming home. The person you see standing there in the doctor’s office looking death in the face.
Ask anyone with any trouble of any varying degree if the burden is easy to carry.

Or save yourself the trouble- don’t bother asking. Just look at your own life and you will say with certainty: life is hard.

I am making the bed in the far bedroom when she tells me over the phone wires, that this year she feels the gentle pull of the heart to make this Christmas simpler. To eliminate everything that hinders, consumes, overwhelms and occupies her time, reverting her focus. Because time is precious. And Christmas is fleeting. This year, she’s keeping it simple.

She says her plan this year is to remember what’s important. To remember that Christmas is not about how much stuff we accumulate, but about the people we’ve been given to bless our lives- for however short or lengthy a given time. Her plan is to keep it simple. To remember that we don’t have to run around like banshees making something happen, cooking up a storm. For Christmas is a place in our hearts, not a spot located under the tree or a container stashed away inside a kitchen pantry. Her plan is to just let Christmas happen- let it unfold, without adding unnecessary things or events to clutter the soul.

Christmas was never about all that stuff anyway.

So many Christmases ago, another woman- worn and weary from travel, aching from the load she bore, came to rest in a humble cattle shed. Pregnant, she longed for a place to lie down, having just traversed with her husband-to-be over an eighty mile trek. All this, mostly by foot. Consider the thoughts in her head- fear mixed with worry. Wonder mixed with concern. The two sojourned through country riddled with robbers and vagrants waiting for an easy target, yet still she and Joseph pressed onwards- knowing all the while that her body housed the Savior of the world. Tradition would have us to believe that she traveled on the back of a donkey. We will never know for sure in this life; but if it were a donkey, consider the ride a woman in her state would have taken. Awkward, uncomfortable, painful at worst. She must have felt like giving up, turning back. Must have wanted to cry and scream out for the exhaustion of it all. Tired, hungry and thirsty, they forged onward- in spite of the harsh reality of their lives. In spite of it all. And all this, so as to bring Christmas to all of us, to deliver hope to a cold, dark, dreary world.

Jesus never came to us when life was good. He came to earth when it was not. So as to give us Christmas. So as to bring us so much more. He came to bring hope. Came to bring healing. Came so as to comfort us. Provide us with salvation. That baby born rough and ready in Bethlehem became a man who indentified and does even still today, understanding the pain and hurt of our situation. Because the life He lived here on earth as a human was never easy, was never simple. But He lived it so as to give us hope that we can do the same.

Because He lived as we did, we too can face our present situation, our uncertain tomorrows. Because He still lives within the heart of humankind, for all those willing to provide Him room- we too can face the future without fear, finding hope in the knowing that because He lives, so can we.

This year, Christmas will be different in our immediate family. Life doesn’t always work out how you plan it, how you wish it would be. But life can still be beautiful even in the messy. Can still be precious even with the unexpected. Christmas can still be miraculous even in the harshest realities of the moment. For Christmas is in our heart. And we hold it carefully as a precious gift, thanking God that He has granted us the opportunity to experience the wonder of it all for yet another year.

This year, I too am keeping it simpler. Cutting out the stuff that really doesn’t matter anyway. And I pray that this Christmas will be one I never forget. That this Christmas will be one I remember forever.
That Christmas this year will be a place in my heart, not an event on my calendar. A blessed Christmas of hope and healing.

That’s what Christmas was meant to be from the very beginning.

Christmas Miracles {for when you are at a sad part of the story}

It was mealtime at the manor.

She was seated eating her lunch directly across from my grandmother, my own Mom gently assisting my 94-years strong Grammie. A conversation was struck up between the three, Mom, Grammie and the friendly resident.  And all this, inviting the launch of an unexpected conversation which was then to unfold over the course of the shared meal.

As the woman talked, she became passionately involved in the tale she was sharing. A former educational administrative assistant, she spoke of years gone by: talked of joys and eventually of great sorrows. And when she finally bowed her head and began to sob quietly, it seemed incongruous with the strong, able woman of moments prior. The nurse- alarmed, ran over to see what had happened to cause the change. The woman’s reply,

It’s okay, I am just at a sad part of the story.”

And isn’t this the reality of our lives so much of the time?  We find ourselves living the sad part of the story. Those moments, when mere words fail to abate, fail to ease the pain; when mere words fail to act as consolation. For what is a word, a phrase or expression in the face of desolate sorrow? What is a word when it is found hanging, suspended in the thickness of the air in which we exchange our pleasantries? What is a word when expressed within the shadow of pain, in the overhanging spectre that is our grief?

What is a word anyway?

Another, this lovely One much younger than the first- she stood in front of me, worn. And our eyes locked- perhaps so did our hearts. In her gaze I could read a thousand stories, could see a thousand pictures flash before our eyes: such was the depth of her sorrow, her intensely felt pain. And my heart moved within me, reaching out to hers: because I wished I could do something. Wished I could do anything, anything– to meet the need I felt so tangibly was there. I wished beyond hoping to find a way in which to share the load she bore. Wished I could present some small offering so as to carry and hold. Wished.

If wishes were horses (far stronger than I).

And this pain we sense in others- is it not felt more deeply when we have known of it first-hand? When we have drank from the bitter cup and tasted the wrath? We who know first-hand- we are the ones attuned to the pitching fork of life’s harshest realities. Like skillfully adept musicians waiting for the lament. We feel deeply, care heart-fully, weep openly, rage sorrowfully. For the injustices at both the intricately personal level of living as well as those felt more widely, the world over.

We long for a word of hope to let light shine if only through the crevices of our broken hearts. We all ache for the hurt we know is there inside us all. And our hearts overflow with the weight. The immense vastness. We long for a droplet of hope giving promise for a thaw, so as to ease our unquenchable thirst for more. And at Christmas of all times we long the most for that Word of hope bringing expectation that something more awaits us if we just BELIEVE.

Believe.

We talk of Christmas miracles. We dream of, pine for, long for the possibility of the extraordinary at this time of year when at all other times we might resort to despair. We hope for so much more than we could ever even imagine. Wanting our lives to be something they might not already be. Wanting our situation to change, our extenuating circumstances to right themselves. Wanting our path to move forward in a positive direction. Wanting so much- and believing against the odds that it all might be possible. That it all might happen at this time of year.

But perhaps we’ve given up on the miracle. Perhaps it has been lost on us over the years. We feel there isn’t any substance to thoughts of wonder, to thoughts of the miraculous. We’ve given up on miracles, cast off thoughts of the supernatural. Stopped believing in the Divine. Ceased embracing the world around us as potential for miracle; we only feel its pain. Only sense its horror. The sadness and heartache that is a world gone horribly wrong. And we wonder if the idea of miracles is all just a lovely dream for others in more fortunate circumstances. For others with a life of ease and pleasure, whoever those others might be. It could never be for us. Could never be for ordinary folk.

But what if:

The Christmas miracle was planted as a seed inside us all?

It was a gift of perspective, outlook- a turning point of sorts?

A way of viewing the world, our lives and the people we encounter as we never have seen them before?

What if the miracle was caring for the very lives we’ve been given along with caring for the people in these beautiful lives of ours, in ways we never cared before? Reaching out in love to meet the need, reaching out in empathy so as to cross the great divide?

And what if the people we saw right in front of us were part of the gift, were pieces of the puzzle telling us what this life was all about- were the mortal reasons for the gift? Placed in our paths so that we could share the miracle- the gift of understanding and hope with them, through our very words and deeds? Through our thoughts and our actions?

What if the Christmas miracle was closer to us all than we thought possible?

For Christmas miracles are only experienced when we open our hearts to believing that they just might be possible. Even when life fails us miserably, we believe that there is good to be found. Counting that good we see as a blessed promise that the best is yet to come. Believing beyond the reality of our present circumstances that Good can come from sorrow and pain. That joy, like the newborn Child from millennia ago, can be borne from the depths of darkness shining light among us. Hope was given to us long Christmases ago so that we might hold fast to the wonder even in this messy present- so that we could believe in miracles today. Given so that we could have faith as small as a tiny seed to believe that miracles are indeed for real.

And they are. They really are.

photo retrieved from wallruru.com

Our lasting hope, our consolation

My dear friend- buried Monday on a beautiful November afternoon. Snow softly falling as if to quell the pain. The hour prior, friends and family crowded into a small country church, four hundred strong to say last goodbyes. To sing and pay tribute to the woman they loved while honoring the God she adored. To bring humble offerings before the One who had held her through it all- knowing that same Dear One stood in God’s very presence even as we mourned. Her beloved family there, lining the rows. Clutching Kleenex in hand, heads bowed in sorrow even as they said final earthly goodbyes to a wife, mother, sister, daughter, aunt and kindred spirit. Not a dry eye in the place.

What if your blessings come through rain drops What if Your healing comes through tears What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

This life- it is never time enough for those of us who love. We always crave for more. More time, more moments, more memories, more laughter, more hugs, more touch. More opportunity. And when time is up and eternity claims the ones we hold the closest, we wonder: where is the good in all of this? How can good come from so much sorrow?

When friends betray us When darkness seems to win We know that pain reminds this heart That this is not, This is not our home It’s not our home

And this life- it is so hard. So much to bear. I talk to another precious woman, listening as she shares her story of a broken marriage, a baby lost and the hope of any other future babies gone with a medical complication not of her own doing. I talk to others, even as I think back over this past week’s events and wonder: how can we carry on? A colleague killed crossing the road, another three-car pile-up, a mother left to carry the burden of her sister’s accident, a father and mother-in-law struggling with the ravages of Parkinson’s. A father taken, a mother. Disease and death surround us at every turn. And that is just my story- my precious friends with their own stories of sadness to share. It is all too much. One doesn’t have to look very far to see the misery that this life brings. Our own dear family- both immediate and extended- a testament to this truth. So much suffering. So much pain. And I have to wonder, how is all the misery of this life able to become a blessing?

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace Comfort for family, protection while we sleep We pray for healing, for prosperity We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering

We pray for the realization of all that we believe would give us joy: an end to cancer, an end to disease. An end to brokenness of any sort. We pray for restoration in marriage, for lengthy lives lived until the grey hairs crown our heads in glory. We pray for an end to all suffering. We pray for inner peace, familial peace, relational peace, world peace. An end to poverty, famine, war and pestilence. We pray for an end to our misery and trouble. We pray.

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love As if every promise from Your word is not enough

And we wonder: where is God? Where is God in all of this? I come across a beautiful message in my Facebook feed from this same dear friend whom I am mourning the loss, a note written to me six years earlier. Who would have known that this message would come back into my present reality and speak to me- as if they were words given to me in my time of sorrow from God Himself. Words offering comfort and hope.She writes:

Hi Lori, I know things are going to work out for all of you, time is a healer and GOD is all powerful, nothing happens without a reason…the healing can start…. Time will bring everything back to where it should be!! …you are a wonderful person, God is not finished with any of us yet, and he is doing a wonderful work in you, it may be a very DIFFICULT time right now, but look how close you have come to God in all of it!! GOD is using you in many ways, some you are not even aware of, HOW EXCITING!!! Just let go and let GOD, he is carrying you and he will never let you go. I was thinking of that song today, it is my favorite and my prayer when I am down, “Draw me close to you, never let me go” I pray that you feel so close to GOD, I love you guys, and am still praying for you all!! Good night my friend! and GOD BLESS YOU.

And all the while, You hear each spoken need Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

What if the heartache of this life was the pathway to understanding? What if the insight we gained, the perspective we were offered- was the open door? What if the purpose of all this pain and sorrow in life was not for it all to end, but for us to endure so as to find the beauty within the pain? What if beauty could truly come through ashes? Joy through mourning? What if every-day, private miracles were just as necessary as public sensations? What if the little moments of victory were our true pursuit? And what if the moments whereby inner strength was gained were as valuable as those moments we derived the sustaining ability necessary to climb physical mountains?

What if life was less about the mountain-top and more about the climb?

And all the while, You hear each desperate plea And long that we’d have faith to believe

I take a walk the day after, last goodbyes already having been spoken; and the brilliant sunset brings me to tears. It is not that I see my precious friend or even Heaven in this earthly vision so much as I see hope. It makes me long for another time, another place. I think of Heaven and Wendy and others who are there. I think of Jesus and I long for home. Long for an end to the aching of this life. A brand new beginning.

What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy What if trials of this life The rain, the storms, the hardest nights Are your mercies in disguise

And this is our lasting hope, our consolation: eternity. Forever is such a very long time.

This messy, complicated life? {It’s worth it…}

She starts to talk, but her voice cracks. Tears are falling, even though I can’t see them over the phone-line. They’re there. Welling up in her eyes, free flowing down her cheeks. Splashing onto her hands and fingers- her chin trembling.

And even though I can’t see her- I know all about it, know that she is struggling. Struggling with accepting this. Struggling with understanding this. Struggling with living all this- putting one foot in front of the other. She is struggling with showing up each and every day to her lived reality.
Because showing up and facing this hard life that doggedly pursues us, day in and day out is one of the biggest obstacles we must overcome.

Life is hard.

She and I both know it. In fact, we all know it. And don’t we all just wish we could fix it up and take away all the messy? Take away all the trouble and pain and struggle and heartache we and our loved ones must endure? We just wish it would all vanish, leaving us with happiness and joy and peace as a trade-off. Because everywhere we look, it’s there.

Heart-ache.

It’s there. In our conversations. In our homes and our families. In our schools, and workplaces and communities. In our nation and scattered heavily throughout our world. Pain and heartache are there every time we turn on the news, turn on the television. This world is so full of trouble- it’s depressing. It’s certainly one of the surest things we can count on in this life.

And wouldn’t life be so much better without it there- without all that misery?
Because life would be so much better if it were perfect. And sometimes we look around and we compare ourselves and our lives to others. Maybe it’s simply comparing ourselves to what we see as the ideal. Maybe it is someone elses marriage. Or their seemingly perfectly-kept home. Or maybe it’s their children that we see as so amazing- and what we wouldn’t give to have our children behave/perform/act in the very same ways.

Maybe it’s another person’s career we’re after or their success in life we want. Maybe it comes down to money and health and overall happiness. We crave for what we do not have. Maybe it’s just everything at times- because things just look so bleak in our own lives. We look around and take stock of our troubled, pain-filled lives- finding they always fall short of where we’d like them to be.

Our lives are hard.

Maybe we might look around and see something we don’t have in our lives and think “if I only had that one thing”- that missing ingredient (which, if we had it, then would make everything just as it should be). Maybe it is something we see as missing within us, some imperfection:

Our struggle with weight.
Our frustration with appearance.
Our un-acceptance of our God-given personality.

Or maybe what eludes us is closer to home.

Our difficult relationships with significant others.
Our parenting mistakes.
Our chaotic households.

And when these things we hold near and dear to our hearts are in turmoil, doesn’t everything else seem to be affected? The whole world appears to be in disarray. Our lives are so colored by the success of what is going on inside our own minds. If we are not at peace within, there seemingly is no peace.

And when we live in such a state of personal discontentment, we look out and see the larger world around us and believe there is absolutely no hope.
How can there be when life is so full of pain? So full of struggle?

And so, that is exactly what discouragement and despair and disappointment can do to us. They restrain us, detain us- hold us in bondage. They pin us down, hold us back. Lock us up and leave us in darkness. For despair would have us to forget the joy and the sweet beauty that pain in its hardship can bring.

For what caterpillar in its simplicity could ever imagine that out of the pitiful ugly would come beautiful wings?

What soldier could ever explain the surrender of leaving all so as to serve a greater cause? It is a sacrifice made so that peace might come. All that hardship and sorrow and painful separation from family done so as to bring peace and freedom to the many.

What mother can ever forget the joy of delivering her precious children into this world? A journey taken for both mother and child that calls for great sacrifice and huge cost. It is hard, messy, difficult work to be born- to give birth, but what joy and precious beauty is brought because of it?

And for all of us. We forget that we are being made beautiful in time as well. Our lives count for something bigger- this is not all there is. Our pain is making us stronger. Our hardship causes us to grow more deeply in compassion. Our struggle helps us to become more empathic. And in sharing our heartaches, we help others to know that they are not alone.

We never are- for He is always with us.

And sometimes we forget to acknowledge that we’re in this life together. We are in this with other people. In this life with a God that loves us- who is always rooting for us, wanting us to win. We are in this life with a God who doesn’t expect perfection- He just asks that we show up to the imperfect, messy lives He’s given us to live and give them our all. Give it “mostly enough.” And might we all remember- not one of us humans is doing this life up perfectly. Because there is no perfect in the here and now. No such thing as flawless in this life.

Perfection is an ugly myth- it is a lie.

But for those who believe in the fullness of time, we know that someday we will have that which slips through our fingers today. Someday we will know and understand. Someday it will all be clear. And we hold fast to the hope that there is more to living life than merely surviving the messy present. More to it all than merely enduring the day to day heartache. For this world is not our home- He has set eternity in our hearts.

The story isn’t over.

And all the pain and trouble and heartache of this life are here to grow our hearts in understanding- grow our hearts in love. One toward another. So that we can come to realize: life is worth the living- worth doing it together.

It’s worth it all in spite of all the trouble we must face as we go through.

We are not alone.