I come from the most boring state, according to some people. Interstate 80 stretches straight across from east to west with nothing but endless cornfields and empty plains to keep one company. The entire population of Nebraska is smaller than the city in which I now reside. There are no major tourist attractions, no professional sporting teams, no mountains, and you are about as far away from the ocean in any direction as you can get.
But come with me down the lane of my family farm, past the alfalfa that has just been cut and take a deep breath of its earthy sweet scent, provision for livestock for the winter. See the corn swaying slightly in the breeze, the last light of the day glistening on the leaves bright green, as the colors of a gorgeous sunset all pink and orange are painted across the sky by the Master Designer. You might see boring, but I see beauty.
We sat together on a wooden platform, curious neighbors gathering around in a little village to hear these strange foreigners speak Khmer. “Tell me why I should believe in God”, one young man challenged. I breathed a prayer, “Lord, why me? What do I have to say to him?” I shared my story, bits and pieces, mustering as much brave as my little heart could find to speak clearly the words in my second language.
I didn’t see her approach to be honest. But all of a sudden she was there, sitting on the bench beside the platform. A smile broke out on her face that bore stories of tragedy, the marks made by an acid attack leaving her mostly blind. In the midst of the mud and the trash of this village in poverty, in the face of all she had been through and the pain and loneliness of rejection, was there beauty here?
She gave me the gift of understanding. While some got frustrated because at times our words sounded different, because I didn’t know how to answer his questions the way he wanted, she nodded and affirmed and touched my knee and said, “Let me tell you what God has done for me.” Her brave shone forth as she poured out a heart story of God’s provision and His love.
We walked down the path, avoiding the puddles from the rain the night before, smiling and greeting the neighbors on the way by. We crawled up into her little house, built with love by the local family of believers. She asked us to pray, for peace in the hard things. You might see the ugly scars of poverty and loneliness and a hard life, but I see beauty.
In the midst of a tough morning of missing home and feeling less-than, beauty came in the form of a little boy who walked to the front of a church full of people and shared his testimony of God’s strength for a hard test, the verses he memorized and recited from Proverbs 3:5-6 echoing in my heart long after.
In the midst of the neighbor’s angry words out the window, day 35 of constant pounding from the construction in our building, beauty came in the form of Kristin’s violin playing, the sweet notes of “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” taking hold as the Father says, “Yes, remember this”.
The storms come, the boring and the ugly and the hard and the scary can altogether overshadow us. The Master Creator of the Universe and the Friend who intimately knows our hearts wants to take our hand and walk down the lane, and show us the beauty, the gifts in the midst of it all.
Where do you see beauty today?