If you walk up to my front porch you’ll already get a glimpse of my quirky, decorator's heart. There’s a set of rocking chairs with seat cushions covered in cactus and llama fabric sitting on either side of an old whitewashed trunk. My front door is painted peacock aqua and carries a wreath of lemons.
But it is not just pretty on the outside. (Well, actually, if you come by right now it will be hard to see the pretty front porch through my massively overgrown bushes out front, but for the sake of this post we will just pretend I’ve not been ignoring them for months, okay? K.)
Most of my furniture is either antique, or repurposed, or bought to look that way. There’s a room off my dining room that is home to the most eclectic things I’ve acquired. There’s a teal couch, coral velvet curtains, a giant canvas of Audrey Hepburn, my favorite corner desk, and artwork from my grandmother on the wall. We call it the “craft room” because it houses a lot of our craft supplies, but the real truth is we have too many crafty hobbies to contain them in one room.
Pretty things. I love them. But they are not who I am. They are just things I have.
Inside those pretty walls, filled with pretty things, we live a pretty life. Or at least as pretty as it can be in our current season. We aren’t perfect. Work takes a lot out of me. There are more nights than I’d like where dinner is whatever we can manage to heat up from our last Costco trip or get from GrubHub. It’s not the life I want. I want to cook dinner and have the energy after work to be “supermom”. I’m actually a darn good cook! But right now work is draining in a way that I’ve not experienced before. The struggles of the pandemic we are in filter into my work space and, in turn, filter into my home. It all results in some real mental exhaustion. Whatever lackluster meal I’ve managed to get in front of us, however, does bring us together to our dining room table. And I love that. I love that we sit down to eat together as often as we can and use that space to just be. I try to be honest with where we are and honor it for what it is. It’s the best we can do right now and it’s okay. We are together.
A Pretty life. Sometimes it isn’t as pretty as it looks and it’s okay.
One of the recurring themes in our home is words. There are many letter boards with favorite sayings in every room, chalkboards with doodles of things that matter to me, and even a refrigerator that you can write on. I love words like I love things and pretty words get me every time. But I’ve been thinking a lot about pretty words. There’s this artist I follow on Instagram who embroiders these beautiful floral pieces, but when you look closely there are messages hidden in the negative space.
(If bad words offend you, you might want to skip ahead a couple of sentences.)
My favorite artwork on her feed draws me in because of the stunning embroidery work in some of my favorite colors. Nestled in the flowers are the words “shit happens”.
I had that sucker added to my Etsy cart before I realized what it said. To be fair, the message isn’t inaccurate, and part of me still wanted to buy it. But it’s just not the kind of thing I want hanging on my wall in my home right now. It got me thinking about how we gravitate toward the pretty things. Toward the appearance of a pretty life. And sometimes we get so caught up in the perceived beauty we miss the real message entirely.
We do the same thing with God’s words. We pull out just the pretty ones for our Instagram feed or to post as our Facebook status. We use the feel good verses in the Bible and proudly display them as if to say Jesus only gives us the good things in this life and the bad must come from somewhere else. It’s easier to compartmentalize our Christian lives and the experiences we have that way. Isn’t it? What we deem as good is God's and the rest is just "stuff" we have to deal with.
I literally cringe every time I see a beautifully crafted post with the phrase “God doesn’t give us more than we can bear!”. Such posts are typically comprised of a story about how hard life has been, but God must have thought they could handle it or they wouldn’t be enduring such hardship.
I mean, if that’s the mountain that you want to climb up and stand on it’s up to you, but I think the message beyond the pretty words is the one with value.
The truth is that the Bible doesn’t actually say that God won’t give you more than you can bear. Shoot. Try telling that to Job and see how he takes it. The whole concept comes from 1 Corinthians 10:13 which says this, “No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.”
I can see where we get the idea that God won’t give us more than we can handle, but if you read this verse in context you get a very different picture. The verse is referring to temptation. God is saying that we won’t be tempted beyond what is common to everyone, beyond your strength to withstand it. But that’s not the important part here.
The important part is tucked in at the end of the verse. He says He will provide a way out so that we might endure the temptation and kick that sucker right into next week! I think about this verse in John that totally debunks the whole “more than you can handle” thing. Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Do you know what really got me though? I went back to read the context of that verse in John and about fell out of my full-on-pandemic-quarantine-life seat. Here. Read it for yourself.
“I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.” His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.” Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:25-33
Do you see it?!? He said there was a day coming when we would speak the truth, when we would be scattered to our own homes (hello quarantine!), and know that the Father is with us even in the lonely places.
How is it that we get so hung up on the pretty words? The verses that make us feel good, the instagram posts that make us look like our lives are perfect, or our own self talk that maybe pushes aside the areas in our life where we need to be refined.
Forget pretty things.
Forget pretty lives.
Forget pretty words.
Give me the truth even if it isn’t pretty! Live YOUR life truth and don't feel like you need to pretty it up for the rest of us. We are all just trying to make it through the day.
And this is the real truth yesterday, today, and always…
Whatever it is you are facing. However hard the road has been to travel. Know this.
Take heart, dear friend. He has overcome the world!
And those are the prettiest words of all.