Defining Beauty

While traveling today I read an article in the U.S. Airways Magazine by Brion O’Connor about a topic I barely remember.  It included the story of an artist, Fritz Drury, who studies and understands beauty better than most.  He spent some time with the author’s brother, and they were discussing what makes something beautiful, which is a concept very hard to define. 

They came to agree upon the one theme for defining beauty:  contrast. 

 

From mountains to oceans, to paintings to performing art, contrast is what awes us and creates the feeling of beauty in so many cases.  Sometimes it’s as simple as the contrast from our daily view, something so different than what we’ve grown accustomed to, that we can’t help but see it as beautiful.  But we might not have seen it’s beauty otherwise. 

Contrast is where we find beauty in life too, where God shows us His wonders. 

Watching an adult walk down the street is no miracle and is hard to see beauty in when you see thousands of the same every day.  But learn that the young man walking down the street in front of you is recovering from a stroke that partially paralyzed him, and that loved ones feared he may never walk again, and you see beauty in those steps. 

 

Hearing a story on the news of a person found deceased is sad and far from beautiful, when you know that someone has lost their loved one.  But learn that the family has been searching for 11 years and celebrates the selfless volunteers who gave their time and talent, and never gave up, and you see beauty in the pain. 

Reading a message from a woman who is getting ready for work seems mundane and ordinary.  But learn that she had been out of work for over a year and desperate, and you see beauty in that every day task.

 

Seeing a mom watch her son play at the park, just like a thousand other moms is forgotten in an instant.  But learn that she has tears in her eyes because her son is playing with other kids, and feels typical for a few minutes despite his disability, and you’ll see beauty. 

 

God’s work is best displayed in the contrasts.

 

Every few months I get upgraded to first class on a flight.  I try to hide my excitement and act like I have that special treatment all the time.  I look around at people who really do fly first class regularly, and realize that they aren’t enjoying it nearly as much as me.  They’re used to it.  It’s only so cool when you’re used to the back of the plane begging for water. 

 

Despite that, I still want first class all the time.  Despite the beauty of the contrast from struggles to overcoming, I still want no struggles.  But God’s work is best seen in the contrasts, I remind myself time and time again. 

 

Our two big valleys for God to use are Michael’s health and everything that comes with that (financial challenges, emotional challenges, logistical challenges), and our ongoing search for Austin. 

 

Right now, the only real contrasts in our life is the difficulty of circumstances vs. the attitude to persevere and find Hope no matter what.   But I keep believing that one day, the contrast God shows in our life will be that much greater and show His work that much more. 

 

I will keep believing.   

 

  

Abaco Islands, Bahamas

Abaco Islands, Bahamas

If There Were No Valleys

I’d like to write a post about how much better today was than yesterday, some lesson about how a new day brought a new perspective.  In a way that was true, as Michael actually went 12 hours in a deep sleep with no shower or vomiting (shower= even better than meds when he’s sick).  We thought he was turning the corner on this episode.  I even got a few hours sleep, even if it was in a chair.  But that’s a lot better than the night before.

Instead, a new day brought news of my grandmother suffering two strokes in the night.  And my mom, who has been watching the boys while I focus on Michael, needed to go be with her.  But to add to the struggle, her car needed work that she can’t really afford, leaving means taking yet another unpaid day (or more) off work, and of course there was the matter of figuring out how to get my boys taken care of.  I reached out to friends to help solve the matter of the boys, and as I knew they would, faithful friends took that burden away.  There was still the puzzle to figure out of who would take them when, and what they needed, and where they needed to be, but there’s no question of them being taken care of and loved on.  My mom’s car/financial situation didn’t magically resolve itself, and as I write the work still isn’t done and she hasn’t been able to leave yet.  But God will provide, I do believe that.  

Reaching out and asking for help isn’t in my comfort zone.  It’s a phobia to tell the truth.  But I know that I can’t do it alone, and I miss out on so much when I don’t get pushed out of what’s easy.  With our search for Austin and our battle with Michael’s illness, I spend more time asking for help than I’d ever choose to.

But I can tell you this… if I didn’t face these valleys I’d never know the full gratitude of love and friendship.  I would miss the chance to be encouraged by a text, phone call or email that just checks in.  I’d miss a cup of coffee being delivered that wasn’t even asked for but much needed, that warmed more than just my hands.  My kids would miss the chance to know that they can count on others too, that this life is meant to be lived together.  They might grow up thinking church is a place we go, instead of the people who live it.

I’m not crazy, if given the chance I’d skip the valleys.  But since we’re here, might as well look around and enjoy the view.  I couldn’t ask for more.