Both/And

I mourn the end of vacation… we got back Sunday afternoon from a few days away- lots of time with family, a cabin with a hot tub, mountains, it was wonderful. Sunday night the funk started in, Monday I was crabby and off my game.

Vacation is fabulous but coming down from the high of it is hard. I think about how I never want it to end but after my post-vaca blues fade I realize all the things I love about home. We drove into spring in full bloom, I realized the tree in our back yard was the same beautiful red bud that I had admired along the highway our whole drive home. This morning I got up early with coffee and snuck upstairs before everyone was up and had some peaceful alone time. Home is good, yet we love to get away. Vacation is good, but we love to come home.

For some reason every thing I’ve been reading lately has talked about how all the crappy things can later become beautiful things. Or at least beautiful things can come from them. I’ve seen this in my life many times but in others I’ve felt like crappy things have just been crappy things. So many events in our lives are both/and. I read part of Psalm 71 today, which is a beautiful prayer of acknowledging all God was to David and all he hoped he would continue to be even though people called him forsaken. He calls himself a portent at one point. I had to look that one up, I mean, using my context clues had gotten me the same answer but what I found surprised me. It’s main meaning is to be a bad omen but it has an archaic meaning of being a marvel or prodigy. How could one word have two completely different meanings?

I don’t know about you, but I see this in myself all the time. I’m both/and. I’m impatient, rude, and selfish but I’m also compassionate, empathetic, and giving. I don’t know how all of these things can reside in my person, but they do. I don’t know how all the ugly and beautiful can fit into life and reside side by side, but they do.

About a year and half into our marriage, Michael and I had multiple losses that really rocked us. We had two miscarriages, lost his dad and his granddad in the course of two years. It felt like death surrounded us, like when we finally came up for air we got shoved right back under again. It was awful. I didn’t know how anything good could come from those two years. They were terrible. They were ugly. But somehow, looking back, now all I see is the grace of God strewn everywhere. Of friends holding us and mourning with us. Of people driving hours just to be by our side and making us laugh when it felt impossible. Of learning what community truly was meant to be and experiencing it in amazing ways. Of deep healing God brought out of the deepest pain. I can’t logically figure out how those memories can cozy up with some of my most painful, but they do and I’m so thankful for it.

My last semester in college my senior seminar was on C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkien. I don’t know how I lucked out with that being offered but I did. One of the most interesting conversations we had was about how Tolkien considered himself, and all of us, sub-creators. His theory was that if we are all made in the image of God, the ultimate creator, then we too by nature are creators, sub-creating our own worlds within our walls and out on our streets. For our final project we could “sub-create” an entire new world (woah) or write a 17 page paper… I went for the paper.

Today sub-creating was on my mind. I thanked God for using the ugly to create something beautiful, and in that prayer realized that if he can do that, so can I. I, in my home, on my street, in my city, can create beautiful things out of the seemingly hopeless things. I’m not talking about rebuilding neighborhoods single handedly or planting trees on every street corner- but I can pick up the trash I find while I walk down the street, smile at the person passing me who looks like they’ve had a rough day, even (what?!) ask them how their day has been and be a listening ear! I can sit down and help Jack fix his broken toy instead of deciding the laundry has to be finished that moment, send flowers to a friend I know is feeling alone, love on the people God has so graciously placed around me. These things are doable and in my power.

For some reason, we live in a world that is both beautiful and ugly, both amazing and appalling. And we find these things to be true about ourselves a lot of the time too, at least I do. Yet, in that, we don’t have to focus on all the negative or endlessly hunt to find all the beautiful outside of where we currently are, we can simply be and sub-create in simple ways, bringing beauty in the most tiny and magnificent ways.

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Both/And

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