Monday, March 14, 2011

Multitude Monday XV: The Ugly-Beautiful

"One act of thanksgiving,
when things go wrong with us,
is worth a thousand thanks when things
are agreeable to our inclinations."
- St. John of Avila

This post was originally supposed to be one thing, but like a butterfly in reverse, it morphed strangely into something unexpected. 

If I'd written it at three o'clock last Friday,  it would have glowed with radiant descriptions (maybe even a poem!) of an afternoon spent enjoying the great outdoors with our friends and their dog. I'd probably have alluded to Charlotte Mason's "breezy open wherein it always seemeth afternoon."  

At three fifteen, you might have found me musing on how spoiled I felt by the gift of a lazy afternoon to bask in the sun with my friend, watching our kids play and swapping the stories of motherhood that always made us feel less alone. 

(Psst .. Here they're eating lunch, but three minutes later these two seven year olds were sitting there knitting. No lie.)

I mean, don't you want to be there? Kids, dogs, coolers, fishing poles, knitting needles, and all? 

At three twenty five, we returned to the parking lot of the out-of-the-way city park, hot, weary, thirsty, but contented.

Then we saw it.

A window out of Stef's car, completely splintered and lying on the ground.

Both of our purses gone from our cars.

Her son's iPod touch -- vanished.

At three thirty, the scene looked like this. I was a bit too busy to take pictures, so use your imagination: Two moms, pacing around their cars and talking on their phone to husbands and police officers. Children, wailing, keening, firing off questions. Dogs, barking. Shards of glass, everywhere.

As I drove home, treading delicately around my children's dawning realization that someone ill-intentioned was now in possession of our home address, what began to penetrate the whirling vortex of my consciousness was this:

"What if that which feels like trouble, gravel in the mouth, is only that -- feeling? What if faith says all is ... I think it. But do I really mean it?"

It's one thing to read Ann's words in this book, nodding agreeably, highlighting, thinking, Oh yes. Mmmhmmm, so insightful. I quite concur. 

It's quite another thing to put it all into hard practice. Will I take ALL as a gift from a loving Father's hand, and open my own tight hand to receive it? Will I celebrate the apparently ugly  along with the clearly beautiful? Will I say "yes" with thanksgiving -- in everything?

By His grace alone, I will. 

"The hard discipline [is] to lean into the ugly and whisper thanks to transfigure it into beauty."

Still counting the gifts, making the ugly beautiful ...

149. Safe, unharmed children -- worth more and more and more again than any plastic card.

150. Being drawn together in the face of adversity.

151. A lovely afternoon that can't be undone -- a joy that can't be stolen -- by a shiftless guy with a hammer and without a conscience.

152. The kindness of a stranger -- the man who found our purses roadside and messaged me on Facebook to let me know. We got back everything but the licenses, credit cards, and iPod -- naturally.

153. Lessons learned about leaving valuables in parking lots, even at seemingly unlikely places. (According to the police detective, even leaving cellphone chargers and iPod adapters in plain view can invite a break-in.)

154. Praying with the kids for the perpetrator. Perhaps no one has prayed for him in a while?

155. Kids learning that people are more important than things.

156. Adults learning that people are more important than things.


lnatt said...

This is so lovely. I almost (like I had to go back and delete the typed words) left a comment on your FB telling of the event that said, "Just keep reminding yourself - 'People before possessions', wash, rinse, repeat." But then I erased it because I didn't want to seem to preachy, LOL. Love to see that my instincts were right and you were just in that same mindset. And love to see what God is doing in your life!!!!

Lindsey V said...

Oh, I so feel for you, and I get it. When I walked into our house a year and a half ago to a robbed place, I went into shock and then dealt with violation and fear as the weeks unfolded and we kept discovering things that they took...I hated that feeling of invasion. I also remember how the Lord kept us and protected us and that I had THAT to be grateful for. Thank you for sharing your struggle and your decision to make the ugly beautiful.

Martha said...

I had to smile as the quote you posted was one I read again just last night. (I've not underlined those quotes the chapters start with, at least not yet.)

I am still struggling to see the beauty in my present difficult situation. I know it's there but I am finding my own heart rather "prickly" at the moment. I guess I haven't "arrived."

Thank you for your story.

The WoodLand School said...

Thank you, Hannah, for your wonderful insight on such a yukky situation.

Bethy Lynne said...

I love that you excersized once again, even in the face of adversity and stress, to see the beautiful in the ugly. Our car was stolen last month right out of a college campus parking lot in the morning hours of broad daylight while my husband was taking a test. The police found it two weeks later, but the tools kept in the trunk, and ironically 2 missing boxes of diapers and the kids' books. Anyway, with the sad reminder, as you put it, of "ill-intentioned people," it makes you thankful for the safety of loved ones and many surrounding reasons to be grateful indeed.

Laura said...

What a lovely, generous heart you have. And your children will always remember the example you set for handling scary things. It's still a really crummy thing to have happen, though, and I'm sorry you had to go through it. We had a car break-in on vacation once, and the jerks who did it were still sitting at the picnic table smirking at us when we returned to the car.