Beauty in Blisters

Thankfulness. It’s hard.

I’ve been doing far too much grumbling lately. It’s easy to think only of everything you wish were different.

When everything is changing and a move to the other side of the globe is imminent.

When you’re given a trial that you never anticipated and never understood until now, and it seems as though everyone is judging you for it.

When you’re given kindness in the midst of hardness and all you want to think about is the hardness.

When all you want to focus on is everybody else’s faults.

In times like these, it’s easy to forget, to see only the small thorns in the midst of glory. And yes, thorns are still thorns—they’re poky, and they hurt. No one wants to keep walking when every step rubs blisters raw, even in the midst of the most glorious scenery.

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Looking down on the Snake River from Clarkston, WA.

But if you do keep walking, keep feeling the poke of the thorns, the blisters will turn into calluses and even the most obstinate thorn will become dull. And the beauty will still remain—the beauty of adventure, of friendships, of relationships, of character shaped and molded through trials.

No one’s promised an easy life, where beauty can be taken—stolen, almost. What we are promised is a beauty that will never fade, a glory that cannot be dimmed when we’ve fought through the trials and the pain of the blisters. So be thankful for your thorns—they’re leading you to heaven.

On the Meaning of Stuff

Boxes line the walls of our bedroom as we pack every one of our belongings. Who knew that books that take up so little space on the shelves would take so many boxes to pack them into? Just as we think we’ve neared the end, something else appears to be shoved into a box and labeled. 

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Is it any wonder tempers run short when THIS is our living area?

 There’s nothing much like packing for learning how much character you’ve built up (or failed to build up). Deciding what to bring and what to leave, what to keep and what to throw away is hard enough without worrying if your suitcase is going to be over the weight limit or if the valuable space a violin takes up is worth it. Pet peeves are also abundant–like the “Open-dangerous-knife-things” (otherwise known as safety pins). Every time he sees one, Jared groans and proclaims it loudly, whether it’s truly dangerous (like on the floor) or residing quietly in a drawer. And when Jared asked for the umpteenth time what I  was doing with a certain pile, suddenly I’d come closer to shouting at him than I ever have (I did catch myself just in time, though). When packing, I’ve decided, you say goodbye not only to your worldly goods, but also to your sense of actually being a good person. It shows up every ounce of original sin you possess!

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Jared looking melancholy after realizing how much more there is to do.

These upcoming years, we will be living the minimalist lifestyle–nothing except the bare essentials of clothing is going with us. Books, kitchen items, shoes, clothes, bedding will all be stored away. I have a feeling there will be few people in the world as grateful for simple belongings as we will be when we return. Stuff really isn’t important–but when you have to do without, it feels a lot harder!

So we say goodbye–to our friends, our little basement, our belongings, and to Virginia. 

Of Rituals and Repetitions: Hey, let me show you my books!

Around here, books are precious. So precious, in fact, that every time someone who would possibly be interested in them comes over, there’s an entire ritual dedicated to showing them The Books. Jared lures the unsuspecting visitor down to the basement with the promise of showing him his books, usually taking the opportunity to hold forth on the mysteries contained behind each colorful cover. Depending on the visitor and his level of interest, this ceremony can take up to an hour and a half.

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The Books

Two years ago, I was shown Jared’s books. Although I didn’t realize it then, it was a monumental occasion, for Jared’s books are his vocation. He studies. He reads. He writes. And he laments how much more there is to read to even be up on the scholarship of the day, much less the scholarship of twenty years ago.

I’ve read 81 books so far this year, and have always thought of myself as rather a bookish person, but when it comes to serious scholarship, Jared is far beyond me. His book showings are him showing his deepest thoughts–his life, in fact. But we can’t take any of them with us to China.

Tomorrow we’re packing up our books. And it’s a little bit like packing away our lives. No more book showings–at least for the next few years. No more studying of these particular books; no more looking at the faces of our familiar friends.

There will be new faces in Beijing, new books, new places. But it’s hard to leave the ones you know and love so well behind.