I have this verse hung beside my bed, “This is the day that the LORD has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”* I put it there before the twins were born, because I knew their arrival would bring struggles to rejoice. Those days I did not find much to rejoice in. In fact, I started to question the validity of that verse altogether. Do we have seasons where we can rejoice and others where we have to simply plod along? Only when I entered the enlightment of cancer survivorship did the answer start to be apparent.
I will NEVER be one to discount the difficulty of motherhood. However, can joy be found daily even in such trying circumstances? I proclaim, “Yes!”. Ann Voskamp has written the book One Thousand Gifts. I read this a few years ago. Her prose is choppy but poetic and in this book she seeks out the little gifts of joy through out her day. Where do these joy moments or gifts come from? From finding the beauty in the ordinary.
The value of beauty and art has been brushed aside in my life for a few years now. I am university-educated in sciences which followed with a career as a Pharmacist. The current model of medical practice is “evidence-based practice”. In lay man terms: make medical decisions based on what good medical studies have proven. This is good, but it does have a propensity to turn people into numbers, if you let it.
As I processed my diagnosis I began to see the very usefulness and power of beauty in one’s life. Furthermore, I realized how little I had given pause in the most recent years to ponder, to create a gap in the incessant busyness that bombards life. People most certainly are not numbers. They are beautiful creatures created in God’s image, each one of them!
Indeed, as Voskamp highlights, there is much beauty and value in the rote tasks of the day. In the mundane. Say, for example, in the days of changing diaper after diaper after diaper. Also remember the beauty in the people themselves whom we are surrounded by. Be it our kids as stay at home moms, be it our care-aid for the shut-in senior, be it our friends, be it the cashier at the grocery store. It may seem cliché, but I speak this truth to my daughter regularly: at the core of all hearts is a sparkling diamond.
As I explore how to leave a positive and beautiful mark on my sphere of influence, I find myself praying “God, bring out the beautiful from within my soul and give it words.” Honestly, I long to know how I can also follow my words with action. Yet, I have been reminded by Philip Yancey that there can be great purpose in art and that it can “suspend the relentless passage of time.”** Is that not the breath of fresh air we need in the busy, busy rushing? Art creates space. When I took time to contemplate at my cancer diagnosis I saw the need for beauty; but, oh how we need space to pause.
In light of Ann Voskamp, can I assert that art extends beyond the written word, the artist’s paint stroke, the filmmaker’s performance? Is not art present also in the mundane rote tasks of life? Is there not living art in a parent coming up with a creative solution, in the cashier serving respect and a compliment to the customer who belittles and criticizes him, in the daughter in law who holds her mother in law as she breathes her last breaths?
Art and beauty are often overlooked. This is certainly to our detriment. For, I have come to see that in order to rejoice in the impossible places where life takes us it is necessary to embrace the artful beauty that abounds in our lives***.