Not all that long ago – someone very important to me – asked me why – in the middle of a devastating global pandemic I keep seeking beauty in the everyday. She asked me why I persisted in seeking God’s presence. Why I look for flowers – rainbows – laughing little boys and beautiful skies with so much determination day after day after day? She said – you stubbornly insist on looking for the good and the lovely and these are not good or lovely times . . .
Yes – that is right. I do. I am. And I shall persist! I am stubborn – just ask Jason!
I do all of this because of this – I firmly believe our attention really and truly is like a magnifying glass. Our attention always expands and enlarges the importance of what we are thinking about. And I want to spend as much of this life as possible focused on beauty and kindness and our God’s presence in this world.
Years ago (well actually decades ago now) I decided I was going to spend my life focusing on the good. That I wanted to seek beauty. That I wanted to be a kind – loving – positive and if possible – gentle person. (And yes – I have met myself and am well aware that I am a work in progress!) This was a very conscious decision. And I have had to work very hard at it. I am not naive. I am no Pollyanna. I am not blind. I live in the “real” world. But in college I vowed I was going to be different.
The household I grew up in just was not a very happy place. It was a negative place. When I was a kid – I didn’t realize just how negative it was. After all – it was all I knew. It was my normal. I thought all kids lived immersed in a sea of negativity. And from the outside looking in – I am sure most people thought everything was fine and dandy – but it wasn’t.
My parents did not give compliments. They handed out criticisms instead. If you mowed the yard – they never just said “hey thanks kiddo.” Or told you that you had done a nice job. Instead they pointed out how you had failed to live up to their impossible standards. There was always a crooked line in the lawn or there were a few untidy grass clipping left in the street or a spot you had missed. The same went for cleaning your room or cleaning up the supper dishes or ironing a t-shirt or your confirmation report on Martin Luther. Nothing was ever good enough. Nothing received a compliment without a sharp verbal barb or two.
And it wasn’t just their children who couldn’t meet my parents’ standards.
It is true that children learn what they live. And so by the time I escaped to college I knew how to play the game. I was good at being negative and cynical and even two-faced. After all – I thought that was what everyone did.
Then freshman year – one of my best friends and I were walking across campus and I made some sort of snotty comment about another friend who wasn’t there at the time. I did it – because that was what I had learned to do. That was how I had experienced the world up until that moment. No one was ever good enough. No one was complimented. Everyone got torn apart when they weren’t in the room. You smiled while sliding the verbal knife into everyone’s back. That’s what everyone did – didn’t they?
But that night – Jen stopped dead in her tracks and looked me deeply in the eyes (honestly she looked right into my broken, damaged soul) and said – “Oh Kerri – that was so mean! I hope you don’t talk about me like that when I am not around.” I saw such hurt in my dear friend’s eyes. Hurt that I had felt so many times when I had been criticized and humiliated.
And in that moment I vowed to be different – to change. I vowed to stop being that person who brings hurt into the world. I vowed to start looking for beauty and love and kindness. I was baptized as an infant and had gone to church almost every Sunday of my entire life – but that was really and truly a “come to Jesus” moment for me.
Of course – I still get it wrong all of the time. I am a broken – sinful human being in need of God’s grace – love and mercy – but I keep on trying to seek God. To see the beauty in this life and to live with kindness.
So that is why I keep showing up in this space – week after week – month after month in the middle of a global pandemic with all of the pictures of flowers and puffy white clouds and bumble bees.
I am being not naive. I know that we live in a broken, sinful world. I am not blind to the suffering around me. I see it. I know.
Instead I am keeping a vow I made over 25 years ago. I am choosing to spend as much of my life as I can focusing on the good – even in the midst of a global pandemic.
What will you focus on today and in the weeks and months to come?
I am going to be wandering through this life with Jason – Jack and Will seeking the good in this wild – messy – sometimes terrifying – and occasionally beautiful life. Thank you for joining me and thank you for sharing in even a moment of it.
You are all in my heart – thoughts – and prayers.
In Christ and with Love –