Recently I had the chance to escape the cold and travel to California with my four year old son. We spent many hours walking on the beach and looking for treasures. One afternoon we took a bucket along on our walk with the goal of filling it with beautiful shells. I immediately envisioned the charming glass bowl I would set on my coffee table, filled with sand and pretty white shells with perfectly intact scalloped edges. I set out upon the task of finding the perfect shells, discarding any with chips, cracks or broken edges. Watching this process, my son looked at me horrified as I threw one back to the ocean. “Mom” he exclaimed, “The shells don’t have to be perfect to be beautiful”. His words rested heavy upon my heart.

I find that often we are so busy trying to make our lives perfect that we miss the lessons we are supposed to learn during the messy seasons of life. We get so occupied with the constant striving towards the next goal that we miss the joy of the moment …perfect or not. Working with patients going through chronic illness, I see this all the time. When experiencing pain, it is tempting to become discouraged and become focused on the suffering. Rather I think it is important to cherish those challenging times in life, to consider the greater purpose behind the suffering. Beauty surrounds us all the time, it is our decision to see it or not.

I have recently been reading Ann Voskamp’s book, Broken. I love how she speaks about the necessity of being broken. “The seed breaks to give us wheat. The soil breaks to give us the crop, the sky breaks to give us rain, the wheat breaks to give us the bread. And the bread breaks to give us the feast. There was once even an alabaster jar that broke to give Him all the glory.” All to often we are afraid of being broken, instead I think we should seek to find the beauty in the broken. That afternoon as we walked down the beach, we collected beautiful broken shells.