Life is hard. Marriage is hard. Parenting is hard. Work is hard. I’m not the first blogger to write this. I’m actually one of many, many “mommy bloggers” to add her own twist on the hardships of daily living.
I’d like to say that I’ve got a unique perspective, but honestly, I am still trying to figure out what the heck to do with the days, hours, minutes, and seconds I’ve been dealt. Aren’t we all? In my searching, there is one place I seem to always land, one little treasure I always find at the end of my daily hunts.
And here it is:
Beauty…good…purpose (whatever you want to call it) usually is unearthed with some digging. When life gives you lemons, you don’t just get lemonade. There is an important squeezing process necessary to get to that final glass of goodness. A caterpillar doesn’t just become a butterfly, it goes through months of isolation and slow transformation. A tulip doesn’t just appear from the ground, its bulb requires a 2-inch depth hole to be dug.
I am not saying that beauty is only obtained by work, or that good is created by our own efforts. Nor can you expect good things to just sprout from an untilled ground. Within the lemon exists the tartness, the acidity, the edge of sweet to produce quality lemonade. The caterpillar contains all the necessary DNA, food storage, and stamina to make the journey from chrysalis to transformation. The gardener is provided earth, sun, and seasons by which the tulip blooms from the ground. God provides all and does all when it comes to good in this world. Psalm 16:2 says, “I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.'” But what makes one glass of lemonade stand out from the rest? One species of butterfly outlast its competitors? One garden flourish, while it’s neighbor bears sparse buds? How do we thrive, not merely survive?
Here are two ingredients when it comes to finding beauty and goodness in the mundane. I know them in theory, but in them I don’t have a whole lot of experience.
Practice and Joy.
What makes one life seem full of sweetness and beauty? What makes one marriage seem to outlast even the hardest seasons? What makes a family flourish and bear enviable fruit?
Practice and Joy.
Happily thriving in life is not acquired by simply hard work. At face value, it may appear that commitment and determination are the key. However, one can strive, labor, and (in principal) take all the right action at all the right times and still not experience beauty or see God’s goodness in the hard things of life. It has to be practiced. It has to be done in joy.
My 5-year-old son likes to practice things that for most would be begrudging work. He likes to get a shovel and perfect digging a hole. He likes to practice manual labor by rearranging landscaping stones. About a month ago, he even practiced squeezing lemons. He went through about 5 of them. Using a handheld metal lemon squeezer, he extracted every last drop of juice from the small fruits until the muscles of his hands and forearms were sore. As he practices, he enjoys it. His fatigue only made him feel strong. Had I asked him to dig a trench, remove large rocks, or squeeze half a dozen lemons for me, as an act of obedience, he would have thrown a strike for unfair labor requirements. But, with a heart of discovery, a desire to grow, and a spirit of joy, these tasks became beautiful experiences.
When’s the last time you played in the dirt? When’s the last time you did hard manual labor, just for fun? When’s the last time you happily reviewed 3rd grade multiplication tables or allowed yourself to excitedly play an extra 5 minutes with your little one before bed? When’s the last time you looked at the full kitchen sink and were excited to play with the bubbles? When’s the last time you entered a difficult conversation with your spouse or co-worker with a spirit of joy, a desire to grow, and a heart of discovery?
Life is hard. Marriage is hard. Parenthood is hard. Work is hard. It is hard to find reasons to be thankful or to have joy. Sleuthing for beauty in difficult terrain is complicated and can be ominous. But it takes practice and joy. The best lemonade is usually mixed by the hands that have squeezed the lemons time and time again, out of excitement to uncover the perfected secret ratio of sugar to juice. The hardiest butterfly species has successfully adapted over a long period of time for the chance to fly free from its captive cocoon. The fullest garden has most likely been planted and tended by the oldest and wisest gardener who has years of experience with a hoe and pruning sheers, who enjoys the outdoors and studying weather patterns.
Practice only becomes another task, another chore, another hole to dig, if it were not for joy. In our task-driven society, even the art of conversation, the peacefulness of a nap, and the sweetness of story-time is lost in the ticking of the clock. Children grow up only blooming partial and undeveloped emotional fruits. Marriages lack luster and vibrancy. The daily dance of life is experienced as merely the daily grind.
I hunt for beauty everyday…because I have realized that I can’t survive without it. While I am currently confident of it’s existence, I am still learning to allow joy to be a part of the pursuit. I’m not good at this. I take life and all its bits way too seriously. I am beginning to understand that it’s taking me years of practice just to smile while on the hunt. Uncovering God’s goodness amidst the brokenness of this world is only half of the experience. The trekking of sandy shore with shovel in hand and metal detector in the other is the fun I’ve been missing! I will risk miserably failing at times to have the chance of uncovering such priceless treasure. Finding beauty from the ashes, the living among the dead, the lemonade in the lemons…there is joy to be had in the searching. It’s hard, sweaty work–no doubt. But, I don’t ever want the application of Romans 8:28 (“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”) to continue to be something I have to do. It is a privileged opportunity to walk alongside God seeing life through the eyes of the One who crafted each and every treasure. I get to squeeze the lemons…all of them…with joy.
Oh, to be this:
“Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
She opens her mouth with wisdom,
and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
‘Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.’
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the gate”