When Life Isn’t Pretty

“I want to see beauty. In the ugly, in the sink, in the suffering, in the daily, in all the days before I die, the moments before I sleep.” –Ann Voskamp

“I want to see beauty. In the ugly, in the sink, in the suffering, in the daily, in all the days before I die, the moments before I sleep.” –Ann Voskamp

*name has been changed

Just before the new year, a popular monthly publication requested permission to publish “Loving a Child Through the Challenges of Life” in their spring edition.  As if this opportunity weren’t surreal enough, it would include a photo shoot and a video interview.

The child in me – the one who spent hours filling notebooks in her lemon-yellow bedroom – was giddy at the thought of my writing being published in a magazine that my parents and grandmother often read. But what thrilled me even more was that the message of hope contained in the article would reach a worldwide audience.

Little did I know this experience would offer another chance at letting go to grasp what really matters in life.

This is my story …

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Take a Look In My Closet

My friend, Lori, doing what she does best.

A few years ago, I had a small group of women over to my home for dinner. My husband and I had resided in this location for about six months, and I had enjoyed getting to know these particular ladies and wanted to know them better.

I will never forget when one of the women inadvertently opened the closet door instead of the pantry to discard her trash.

Much to my embarrassment, an enormous accumulation of “crap” fell from the sky. She protected her face from flying cookbooks, outdated school directories, headless Barbie dolls, school projects, half finished scrapbooks, and yes, even a dirty sock.

“Oh my gosh, I am so sorry!” I gasped.

I scrambled to uncover her, hastily brushing off the stale crumbs stuck to her forehead that had fallen off the completely over-used recipe for Mom’s Banana Bread that had also descended from the closet.

I will never forget the look on her face.


Pure and simple relief.

She looked me in the eye and said, “You don’t know how happy this makes me. Thank God, you aren’t perfect after all!”

I hugged her tightly and we both laughed.

Although I hadn’t yet experienced my Breakdown Breakthrough to begin living “real,” the notion that I appeared perfect (until someone saw the contents of my closet) sat on my shoulder gently reminding me that it’s perfectly OK to be imperfect, in fact, most people welcome it; most people actually embrace it!

But it is not easy to show people the contents of your closet, the messy, unsightly, most unbecoming parts that we can hardly bear to look at ourselves, let alone allow anyone else to see.

I recalled this incident vividly when a former classmate, dear friend, and fellow blogger recently made an announcement.

She posted this message on her blog, “Wisdom Comes Suddenly”:

I’m headed in a new direction here at Wisdom Comes Suddenly, and I hope you’ll like this chapter as much as you’ve enjoyed previous escapades, because this chapter is…um, well to be honest, it’s REAL.  Really…real.  It’s begins with a new affiliate relationship I’ve formed with a company I blogged about one year ago named “Celebrate Calm“.  They specialize in teaching parents behavioral techniques for intense and/or special needs children, i.e. Gifted, ADHD, ODD, OCD, Anxiety Disorders, Asperger’s, Autism, Sensory Integration Disorder, and other learning or emotional disorders.  That being said, I think their techniques are so common sense, they would work on any child.

So here comes the real part: Sara is a special needs child, which would be the first time in 5 years I’ve said that out loud.  I like to refer to her as “high needs,” because for some reason, I find it easier to say.  It’s ambiguous; ambiguous can be comforting when you climb a mountain with a child, only to look up and see another standing in your way. We live with the fuzzy hope that each mountain will be our last.

Sara’s diagnosis list is so long that it truly deserves its own post, and I promise to share that journey in the very near future.  For now, I can tell you she is simply a very intense child who defies all common parenting logic.  We are not alone in parenting an intense child, this much I’ve learned.”

I have been following Lori’s blog for several months now marveling at her brilliance and endless talents. Although I am not “crafty,” I enjoy her creative “20 minute” sewing projects that turn a piece of scrap into a sleeping bag for a doll (or a cat, if it is cooperative). I drool over her organic dinner menus and homemade pies that would give Paula Dean a run for her money. And I enjoy seeing Lori transform an ordinary room into something from a vintage bed and breakfast for next to nothing.

But most of all, I love the warm and fuzzy feeling I receive each time I am invited into the beautiful life Lori has created in a home where love always comes first.

And when I had a chance to look in her closet to see the messy, difficult, disorganized, and unpleasant parts of her life, I loved her even more.

As I read her words on my computer that night, I wiped away the tears. I applauded her courage. I admired her honesty. I anticipated her wisdom and her journey.

And being a writer in a public forum, I couldn’t help but think of Lori, the woman who had to push “publish” on that bad boy.

I can only imagine the hesitation, the deep breath, the anxiety, and the wonder.

Because once you speak the words, you cannot take them back. Being real is not the easy path.

But I would wager to say that every single person who reads of her new chapter feels a sense of relief.  And like my friend who saw the contents of my closet, a bit of the “thank-God-she’s-not-perfect-after-all” kind of relief. Maybe there is hope for the rest of us, after all.

It is difficult, painful even to discuss the challenges of parenting life. We often withhold information because we think people will judge us or that people will think we are bad parents, but by holding back, you are diminishing your chance to connect with someone who says, “I am going through this, too. Let’s help each other.”

Lori is creating a community. She began by putting herself out there, by being real. And now there is a safe place to lay your worries. There is a safe place to say, “I’m scared.” There is a safe place to say, “I am having a really bad day.” And there is a safe place to say, “Things didn’t quite turn out the way I had planned. Where do I go from here?”

And there will be my friend Lori, reaching out her hand providing encouragement along with humor, along with creative ideas like “I Promise” and “Ear Comforters” that work for her child and might work for yours, too.

Isn’t this what it is all about? Living Real equates to Loving Real. Building a community that allows for scars, blemishes, struggles and messy closets?

Isn’t it when we expose the imperfections that the healing begins?

Isn’t it when we stop hanging on tightly to perfection that we can truly grasp what matters?

Isn’t it when we open our messy closets that the joy, the laughter, and the love can find its way in?

Isn’t it when we show each other our scars that we love each other more?

I think so.

Could those of us reading today become a community of people who embrace and welcome realness? Could “The Hands Free Revolution” become a group of people striving to grasp what really matters by living real and loving real? It starts with me. It starts with you. Open your closet. Uncover your scars. Let the healing light shine in. And while you’re at it, spread the light to someone else by clicking the “share” button below.