When Life Seems Without Beauty, Love Pushes In

I need beauty.

I feel desperate for it some days.

We live in dust, surrounded by dirt. I hope for something beautiful all day long. I know it is here, but oh these long summer days that stretch into September and October and November... they burn right through you. I crunch across yellow grass and the air puffs with dust around my boots while I try to catch my breath in the waves of heat.

It aches, this need. It is a physical sensation, an inconvenient need I don't want to have, but that I can't deny.

I find myself drinking in the faces of my children. Staring long at the curve of their brows, the depth of a dimple. I watch the muscles move on their arms as they talk.

I scour the ground for one tiny weed flower. Stare at the sky needing the white on blue.

It is hard to find the words to explain this... I don't really fully understand myself... but I grieve still. I also feel guilty for grieving.


It has been two years since the fire. One of my dearest friends just moved into her replacement house. Just moved in.

Grief? She has experienced grief. Over and over and over. So my welling eyes and my stopped up throat seem like so much child's play.

But I can't deny the truth. I hurt deep for what is still gone. For what was ravaged and still lies naked and black.

I told Stephen the other day that I feel like I've had no beauty in my life since the fire. Is that really so? Of course not. Because there is a beauty wilder than those black sticks. There is gorgeousness in all the faces, in the skies and in the stars. In the reaching out hands. In the loving.

I know this.

But something more than just trees was burned to a crisp in that fire. I can't say what, I don't know, but I miss it.

Maybe it was a child-like sense of security. Truth: nothing is secure this side of heaven. But the illusion feels comfortable, doesn't it?

I think about this for my children. How the fire has shaped who they are now, who they will become. For the children whose homes were so much ash? Not a shaping as much as a pounding, a kneading.

Even still, for my children, with their home intact, there was much impact. If your childhood world had burned down... if every time you went to the grocery store you drove through a forest of pointy, falling over matchsticks... if everyone you knew was divided into two groups - burned out or not... wouldn't that affect your way of thinking?

Stephen made a new rule a few weeks ago and posted it on the fridge:

I didn't want to do it. I stopped regularly reading fiction years ago because once I start I don't want to put it down. If I could, all I would do is read. It's too hard to stop. But, I agreed. Abbie wanted me to reread Anne of Green Gables, because she had just finished it.

When I sat on my bed with Anne of Green Gables in my hand, I was doing it for the two of them. It was not where I wanted to be.

My husband is a wise man. From the first page I was lost. I soaked in that book, gulping down the lightness of the words, and the beauty of Anne's world. I sat there for an hour, a dried out raisin plumping up on words penned over a century ago.

A huge cherry tree grew outside, so close that its boughs tapped against the house, and it was so thickset with blossoms that hardly a leaf was to be seen. On both sides of the house was a big orchard, one of apple trees and one of cherry trees, also showered over with blossoms; and their grass was all sprinkled with dandelions. In the garden below were lilac trees purple with flowers, and their dizzily sweet fragrance drifted up to the window on the morning wind. - Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

And when I stood up, I was refreshed.

That man of mine went all analogizing on me the other night. He asked me what an engine needs in order to go. "Fuel," I said, wondering where he was going.

"Ah," he said, "but it also needs oil. A little something nice to make things run smoothly. Or else the engine seizes up. If it it isn't ruined, it is damaged. Forever. You need a little oil. A little something fun."

I think beauty is my oil.

I've tried to make a habit of finding beauty. I know that it is everywhere. But sometimes when the weight becomes heavy and the shoulders bow down, my head is just not lifted enough to look.

The other night I was pecking away at my keyboard, writing this and that, a deadline looming. It was after dinner. Everyone else was outside in the dismal overcast fields and the house was quiet. I was grim and grumpy and struggling... the words weren't coming and even my hands seemed to scowl. I started writing this very post.

The door slammed and I kept typing. Then in my left ear I heard my name. I turned and saw this.

It was a simple offering, love from the heart of a little boy who didn't even know what his mama needed. The grace of that small burst of flowery sun tamed my selfish storm.

I wrapped my grubby little boy up in my arms and nestled my face in his curls and thanked him and the good Lord who made him.

Everywhere, everywhere, there is beauty, and on the days when my eyes see only the dust at my feet, the love of those in my life bends in and puts it in front of my bowed face.

Grace abounds.

And though the base of that cross was charred two years ago, it still stands.

Stephen's gift of time to lose myself in beauty every night inspired another post which I shared on the HelloMornings blog. If, like me, you are burdened with more to do than you have time, and to-do lists that rule like tyrants, take a moment to breathe deep and read Love Gives the Gift of Grace.

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  1. Absolutely beautiful post! What a wise, wise husband you have. I pray you get oiled well each and every day!

  2. I agree with Sandy--your post is beautiful! When I got to the photo of your son, I smiled. And I'm pretty sure that the God who created all beauty does indeed want you to find some every day!

  3. WOW Patti... your post truly blesses me! The beauty that world offers is not the one God has for us. What you said about needing the "fuel" is very important to live day by day. Asking God for the new oil every day!

  4. Just discovered your blog, Patti. This post hits me spot on. While I have not endured the loss of fire, I struggle with living transplanted in the midwest (from New England). I do miss the beauty of where I grew up. -- Your words, the expressions of your heart, are encouraging, particularly as your faith in our Sovereign God shines through. Thank you for this. Joyce


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