Failure and Beauty

The sound of distant thunder rumbling it’s way nearer and nearer  our home and the pelts of rain and hail on our metal roof have been way too normal lately for my liking. I’ve woken up to darkness when it’s supposed to be sunny, to drizzle and humidity when it’s supposed to be clear and cool.

Supposed to be, according to Gabby’s almanac.

The basin we drive over day in and day out on the way to school has been closed more than I can count and detours have been the norm.

I’ve come to confirm what I’ve always believed in my heart–if I lived in a place like Seattle I’d go crazy, I’d get nothing done, and I’d eat way too many chocolate chip cookies.

Somehow the depth of the darkness outside has corresponded to the depth of thought that has been going on inside my head–not always as oppressive as the heavy clouds lying low overhead, but not to be ignored either.

Beauty has seemed out of reach in all this dreariness, beauty in this physical world but also beauty of spirit. I’ve grappled for answers in the Word and have come up dry–you’d think in the onslaught of rain and flash floods the Word would come through in the same way, pour over me and restore me just as the rain is restoring our dry barren land from too many months of drought.

Yet, I’ve come up somewhat empty-handed–God is here, no doubt, He’s working. But sometimes the things staring me in my face are hard realities that I just don’t want to grapple with.

Case in point: One of my kids couldn’t find her homework the other morning and I refused to be blamed for it as I always am (can I get an Amen that kids like to blame moms first for everything, when usually it’s their forgetfulness that’s going on here?). I was a little irritated about this whole homework thing, until I had this sneaking suspicion that I had tossed the homework in the trash along with a whole bunch of papers the night before.

I had a moral dilemma: if I look in the trash can and find it there, then indeed it’s my fault, I’m the one who threw it away and now she’ll forever and a day remember that and hold it against me. Do I willingly give her that ammunition? Should I or shouldn’t I look in the trash???

I looked. And behold, the homework paper was lying there oh so guiltily, covered in coffee grounds and completely ruined.

It was may fault. I’m not saying I’m a failure because of that, I’m just saying sometimes I fail, and lately it seems like it’s been a lot–not so great meals, empty refrigerator, throwing important things away, letting the kids watch too much tv, not elevating the Word to it’s rightful place, starting the argument when I never intended it to go that way, getting my first speeding ticket (I’m still rolling my eyes over that one).

In general, messing stuff up.

The “I’m a failure” talk is not always lame and untrue.

It’s sometimes very real and absolutely true.


He was standing there on the corner, long grayish blonde beard unkempt and ragged, drenched with sweat, or rain, with something green in his hand. A stem of some sort. This requires further inspection. I ooched up my car as much as possible to take a closer look.

Celery. It was celery.

But celery in a way I had never seen it before. He, a man without home or possession, creating art on the side of the road with the material he could find. He neatly carved the celery from the top half way down and carefully took it’s branches and bent them just right to form arches, tucked back into itself.

A celery sculpture. And it was beautiful. I gasped a little. My heart was sad though because I was too far away to buy one of his designs that had uplifted my eyes from my own mistakes and had helped me to look outward for beauty that restores the soul, a gift from God.


She carefully cleared off the centerpiece placemat with the blue tassels and headed outside with a pair of scissors. At first glance I thought she needed scolding for not finishing the job she’d been given to set the table.

But on further inspection she was looking for something beautiful to fill a pretty vase so that we could look at beauty while we ate. She came in with hand fulls of succulents and mistook my gasps for disapproval. Speechless, I could only smile assuringly as she gathered and arranged and filled the vase with water.

Why didn’t I think of that? The beauty has been sitting out there in planters and I haven’t clipped it and brought it in where my eyes and heart notice the green and the shapes and the lovely.

Beauty is within arm’s reach, we must notice it.

Snippets of beauty cry out for the noticing–if it’s beautiful, it is what it is whether I look at it or not. But my soul remains thirsty if I don’t see the beauty and take mental note of it’s presence.

Life with Jesus, it’s good. It’s light, it’s pure.

But it’s not without it’s dark days and frustrations. We are battling a very real and human flesh, we are, and it’s not pretty.

The glimpses of beauty speak volumes.

Our failures can stare us in the face and can break us. They almost have the power to immobilize us, to keep us from moving forward, to fear failing again.

Jesus is fail proof. He is the ultimate beauty–when we look up to Him we can be confident that He will never fail us, never make a silly mistake or a big one.

My failings are just a clue that it’s not about me, it’s about Him. All of life is about Him.

Failure can point us back to Him.

Beauty can point us back to Him.

Both are secret gifts.


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