Beautiful Honest Things

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Today is day eight of our family’s social distancing and, like everyone else in the world, all our notions of what “normal life” looks like have been turned on their head. We’re limping along, figuring out what’s right and best for us one moment at a time, knowing full well that none of us have it figured out, and what worked the hour before might no longer be relevant or necessary as we move throughout this strange, stretching season.

There is grace in these moments though, a deep and hearty grace unlike one I’ve ever before known. We’re quick to apologize, quick to forgive when we end up being sharp in the places we’re normally soft. We’re looking more closely for moments of beauty and joy throughout the days. We’re checking in with our loved ones more; we’re asking our bodies what they need to make it through; we’re praying with an earnest that can often be missing when we’re content in our complacency.

It’s hard, but we’re finding ways to chase the goodness.

I had church yesterday with a group of my SheLovelies, women from all over the United States and Canada and beyond, women I connected with at our Rise Up conference three years ago in beautiful Chilliwack, British Columbia. It was a beautiful service — no, the word beautiful is actually not adequate enough to describe it. We brought our own communion (I celebrated with M&Ms and water), we studied the women’s stories in Exodus and were reminded of our need to be connected to one another. It moved me to tears in my living room, especially as we gave thanks for those all around the globe who are actively fighting this disease.

And then, one of the women (I honestly don’t even remember who it was right now) gave thanks for the artists, for the poets, for the creators who are making beautiful things from nothingness and bringing them as an offering to a world hungry for hope.

It made me think of a post I’d just seen from Morgan Harper Nichols about creating beautiful honest things. “I cannot tell you how things will fall in place,” she writes, “but I can tell you, you are free to create. You are free to make beautiful, honest things. And even if the only thing you made was room for a conversation, or space on your desk to open your journal, that matters. That matters just as much as the bigger things. This is still a part of your progress, your process, your story, your journey.

This does not mean you will get the attention of the world when you make something. What it means is that when you choose to make beautiful, honest things, you are choosing to say: “no matter what I lack, I am making the most of what has been given to me.” So keep putting things out in the world that are true. Make work that you believe in. Make things with what you have. And one day you will look back with gratitude that you kept going.

Our lives these days are anything but perfect, but they’re real, and there’s beauty to be found in that. One day we will look back and we will remember the pockets of goodness we were able to find in this time. We will be glad we used our gifts and made things that were true and put them out in the world and said “Here, this is for you. May you find the hope or the love or the understanding or the beauty or the hard truth you are looking for.” We will be thankful for our beautiful honest things because they tell our stories, the stories of who we are today, right now, as we figure this new thing out.

So in this moment, as I sit in the armchair and watch the cold March sunlight stream through our front window, I give thanks:

for a fridge that is full and children’s bellies that are too;
for music that soothes;
for the click of the heater turning on
and the weight of the knit blanket across my knees;
for coloring sheets completed by a toddler
and a teenager asking for help to wrap her hair;
for my husband’s hand on my leg;
for the smell of orange peels and peppermint;
for health insurance;
for the technology that allows us to work from home
and still earn a paycheck;
for the psalms;
for FaceTime calls after lunch;
for a planet that is experiencing less air pollution
as we hunker down indoors;
for slowing down;
for morning light on the yoga mat;
for texts and voicemails from loved ones;
for medical advancements
and people sewing masks for those on the front lines;
for teachers who love our babies
over screens and through letters;
for long division practice
and stories written in brightly colored notebooks;
for plastic whale sharks
and afternoon dance parties
and messy bookshelves
and soap
to wash the marker
and the germs away;
for books and Bibles
and bouquets of flowers.

And I pray
for teenagers who are bored
and children who want someone to play with them
and parents who hear the cries
and feel the guilt because of deadlines;
for the elderly who live alone;
for the mamas wondering where the next meal is going to come from;
for the laid-off
and struggling small businesses;
for the Asian people
who have encountered such hatred
and feel such hurt
in the land of the supposed free
and home of the brave;
for the grandparents who miss their grandkids
and the doctors
afraid to see patients;
for those who can’t shelter
in place
because they have no roof over their heads;
for families afraid of losing their food stamps and
for families who hoard
at the expense of others;
for teens stocking grocery shelves
and tired cashiers
and nurses
and transport truck drivers;
for people who’ve had to cancel weddings
and birthday parties
and family vacations;
for those who live in food deserts and
out-of-grid areas
because our society still doesn’t see internet access
(or lack thereof)
as a human rights issue;
for leaders trying to do the right thing;
for those who quite simply couldn’t
care less
about a stock market crash
when they don’t make enough to pay their rent
or keep their water from being shut off.

And then I think — we’re all talking about what it’s going to be like when we get things back to normal.
But maybe normal was the problem to begin with.

Maybe the beauty can only come after we’ve been honest
about what needs to change if we’re going to say that we all belong to one another.

  • Charlotte Buehler
    March 22, 2020

    Thank you Elena! I have been thinking about all of the things you so eloquently put into words for me. Bless you……..

  • Kathleen Orbaker
    March 22, 2020

    Elena, I so much enjoy your beautiful, gifted writings. Thanks for sharing.

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