My former pastor Brad used to say something that now, ten years since I heard him say it from the pulpit, is a statement I think about often.
Life sucks and life is beautiful, all at the same time. Sometimes there is more beautiful than suck, and sometimes there is more suck than beautiful. It is rare that you have one without the other. The important thing is which one of those things you focus on.
Here’s how my life is living out that statement right now:
I live in a tiny house during the day and a bus at night. This seemed fun and romantic until it turned November. My husband and I are absolutely freezing when we climb into bed. The electric blanket helps, but even with my winter hat on, my face is still so cold, all night long. Also, I don’t feel very sexy when I am shivering and have a huge ball of yarn on my head.
I have a wonderful, loving, oh so handsome husband that I prayed for 20 years to climb into bed with. His cuddles keep me warm and his stability is a lifeline for me.
On said bus, there is no bathroom. Only a bucket. I call the bucket a chamber pot so that I feel more like a princess and less like a homeless person. To cheer myself up in the morning when I am emptying it, I sing this little song to the tune of the old Folger’s jingle.
The best part of waking up, is emptying the chamber pot!
I have a roof over my head and am not homeless. We have an inexpensive place to live while we build our cabin. We live on the property of our dear friends who are like family. I have to drive far to get to our house, but when I take walks on the golden leafy paths with rolling hills all around me, it feels worth it.
I was single until I was almost 46. I am used to having my own room. Now, during the day, I share one medium sized room with my husband, my two step daughters, a pitbull, and a cat.
This room is like a spy that has a dozen costumes to change into. It’s a living room, kitchen, dining room, bedroom, homeschool room and playroom for the girls, sleeping quarters for the pets, and an office that I teach music lessons out of. Sometimes all at the same time.
We have one closet that is smaller than any closet I have ever had on my own for all four of us.
The kitchen is tiny. No oven, so we make most of our meals in two air fryers.
The bathroom is ridiculously cold and so damp that almost everything turns moldy.
Also, where did those nail clippers go? Oh yeah. They are under the pillow of our only nice piece of furniture, a couch that takes up almost the entire room and acts as the girl’s beds. And also, apparently, is a receptacle for toenails.
This husband that I live with and his kids are the best thing that ever happened to me. They are so kind and so easy to get along with.
I read somewhere that something like 70 percent of people with step parents don’t have a good bond with them. That couldn’t be further from the truth for us. I have a uniquely wonderful relationship with my step kids.
My 15 year old step daughter is perhaps the most hilarious and delightful person on the planet, and calls me her best friend. We get along so well that we can be in the same room for 12 hours, her doing her school work and me teaching my lessons, and still really love each other.
Also, my husband is my other best friend, and I get to live with him too.
Also, my 7 year old step daughter is feisty and fiery but also so very sweet to me. She kisses me and calls me mama Kate.
Also, I have longed with all of my being to be a wife and mother my entire life, and finally, finally that is a reality for me.
We have had a lot of hard things happen since we got married. What feels like a million things have gone wrong with the cabin we are building and there is a possibility we will not get a loan for it, which would mean $40,000 of my savings and $700 a month towards a cabin we can’t build.
We thought we would be moving in by Christmas, now we haven’t even broken ground.
Also, for a while it looked like I was going to be sued for a car accident I was in two years ago.
Also, I got in another car accident and am scared to death to drive now, especially with my step daughters. I had to buy another car from our dwindling bank account, a large, unexpected expense.
Also, I have had to switch sleep medications the last few weeks, and that along with all this other stuff is making me super sad and anxious.
Also, in July I got COVID, was super sick, and was absolutely terrified that I had gotten some of my old people at the church sick. Now, three months after the trauma to my body, I have lost about a third of my hair in two weeks.
I pulled it all out of the trashcan the other day to take a picture for my doctor, and realized that there was so much hair that if I dyed it black I could make a Cher wig for halloween. I will definitely have super short emo bangs in the near future where all my hair broke off, a look I am not particularly fond of.
(If you haven’t heard that before it’s an acronym for Where’s The Food, which is always my question when the sucky things come.)
I have an amazing family, an amazing job, and amazing friends. I have been through a lot of ridiculously hard stuff before, and with God’s help, I am going to get through these things too.
How do I move past the sucky and focus on the beautiful? How do I choose to be content in the midst of really hard, painful plot lines in my life?
Something to note is that Adam and Eve struggled with discontent, even though they were in paradise. It seems that discontent was a problem even before the fall. It might even have been the very first problem.
The discontentedness that was ingrained in our oldest ancestors seem to be woven into our human condition.
Perhaps we should stop chasing after the idea that when our sucky circumstances change we will be content.
It seems that once one issue of discontent resolves itself, another one rises, like waves crashing back to the shore. Once you do have the husband you longed for, you miss things about being single. Once you do have the baby that you gave everything for, you are overwhelmed with the struggles of motherhood. It seems never ending.
It’s time that we started rewriting the narrative of never enough. It’s time to take the needle off of those broken records of discontent that sound in our minds. Perhaps we can stop, breathe in, stop longing for something different, and instead, just for this moment, look for a reason to be thankful.
There is always something that we can be discontent about, but there is also always something we can be grateful for. Which one will you choose today?
Can you move your mindset from “anywhere but here” to “nowhere else I’d rather be?” Perhaps “nowhere else I would rather be” is not a geographical location, but a state of mind.
As Cheryl Strayed says "Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you'll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go.
Acceptance is a small, quiet room. "
In other words, the sucky will probably always be there. The best way to move forward is to accept the sucky and remember the beautiful.
I challenge you to do what I am challenging myself to do. Embrace your life. Embrace your story. The bad and the good. The beautiful and the sucky. Own it. Accept it. Let it teach you. Let it nourish you.
God is waiting for you in the lines of that story. He will help you through the scenes that are painful. He will guide you through the plot lines that are sucky.
He will rejoice with you when you get through that chapter, the one that seemed so impossible when it first began.
What are some of your suckies and beautifuls in this season? What have you done in the past that has helped you be honest about the sucky but also be grateful for the beautiful?