[guestpost] This week I’m taking a small break from blogging as I’m in Las Vegas, NV with my mom and brother. Today marks one year since my dad died of pancreatic cancer. In spite of the fact that we miss him, we’re determined to make the day a party! That’s why today I’m passing this blogging space to someone who understands a thing or two about both grief and life. Kathleen Thompson is a blogger, podcaster and singer who uses words and music to help people find their unique voice and make their life sing. Kathleen inspires people to celebrate each moment as a precious gift and find beauty in the everyday. I believe her story and her heart fit this particular day beautifully. Enjoy. [/guestpost]
When we fall in love the whole world seems beautiful.
The sky is bluer. The sun sunnier. The flowers brighter. The world feels more colorful. We could dance on air. Or even sing in the rain, as Gene Kelly did in the movie “Singing In the Rain.”
Love colors our perception.
There’s nothing like new love to cause a cosmic shift in the way we view life. A triumph can do that too – opening the doors to our new business, performing in our first professional play, watching our child graduate from college. Life glows. We see beauty everywhere, colored by our love of life.
Not so when hard times come.
When my husband died, everything turned gray. Dull. Dead. If there was beauty around me, I couldn’t see it. All I saw was the fog of grief. Even when the fog began to lift, I still saw only gray. Dull, colorless living matched my broken heart. I shunned the beauty around me. Why should there be laughter, or color, or music when my entire world had crashed around me? It was a reminder that the rest of the world was in the land of the living, and I was in the shadowlands. Not dead, but not living either.
Eventually I began to crave beauty. Something to remind me that life could be something other than it was. We’re all like that. It’s part of our nature. Even those living in the most adverse conditions attempt to create art or beautyto push back the darkness.
Even though I longed for beauty, I’d grown accustomed to ugliness. I had to learn how to see again. I tried looking at photographs of our life together. That just made me sad. I tried listening to my favorite music. Same result. Singing. Yup. Favorite movies. Yup, again.
Then my friend Chip gave me a CD he’d compiled just for me. The songs spoke to my grief, reminding me that beauty was still possible.
I read a book called “Letter to a Grieving Heart” by Billy Sprague. Like a letter of encouragement from one who’d walked a similar path, his words were gentle, warm, and filled with compassion.
I started walking outside with fresh eyes, searching for beauty in the smallest, everyday miracles. Fresh eggs. Newly mown hay. A single wildflower. A hummingbird. Icicles, snowflakes, a brook running through the woods. Lily pads.
I looked at my baby book and old photos of grandparents, aunt and uncle, parents, sisters, and friends. I saw beauty in the love of those relationships. Joy. Laughter. Celebrations. Color returned. And I came back to life.
It takes effort to see beauty when life is difficult. Especially if we haven’t cultivated the practice when life is easier. I hadn’t done that, and as a result I let my circumstances color my world.
But when we look for beauty in the everyday, it changes our perspective. Just like when we fall in love. Not in so dramatic a fashion, perhaps. But real change nonetheless. Seeing and experiencing beauty in the world helps us see that our lives can be beautiful too. Even as we mourn.
Michele Cushatt speaks to that in her book, Undone.
“Sometimes life’s greatest beauty shows up right in the middle of the mess.”
As Michele says, when we look close up, we see a mess. When we take a few steps back and have a different perspective, that’s when we see the beauty, the art. To put it another way, even the “undone-ness” is beautiful, because that’s when God can do His best work. When we are undone.
Some of the beauty I saw in my life once I had eyes to see:
- Deeper relationships with friends and family
- My fellow worship musicians, pointing me to praise
- A faithful God, who mourned with me and held me in his arms
- A neighbor who came over with his snow blower after every winter storm
Incredible beauty. Incredible riches. Incredible blessing.
Yes, I had lost much. And when I focused on loss, it was all I could see. But when I focused on the beauty and blessings, I began to live.
It is a discipline that I still practice to this day—choosing to see beauty. To develop this practice, I’ve started a 30-Day Beauty in EVERYday Challenge. Want to join me? Click here to find beauty in each precious moment, and start to live.
Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting. —Ralph Waldo Emerson
Thank you for sharing your beautiful story. Your words will bring comfort to many, confirming God truly does bring beauty from ashes. Billy Sprague is our worship leader here in Edgewater, Florida, and he sure does write beautifully and has a beautiful heart for God.
I’m sharing this post, as there are several I know right now who need to read it. Thanks again, and blessings to you!
Thank you for this heartfelt, honest post Kathleen. I have feared what my life would look like without my husband, and I can see how easy it would be to stop seeing beauty all around me. Though I have yet to lose a loved one, I struggle with chronic illness that often colors my world grey. I am thankful that God comes alongside us and reveals beauty once again. He is faithful and he gives us the paint and the brushes we need to color the world once again. Blessings to you, sweet sister.