Beauty and the Barbs

Recently I ran across the following quote by French critic Alphonse Karr: “Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses.”

IMG_4350 - Version 2I am certainly not a fan of those sharp spikes on my backyard rose bushes (how do they still poke through my thick leather gloves?!!), but thorns are part of keeping roses looking pretty. Botanists describe how beautiful, fragrant roses grow thorns to keep creatures from sniffing and tasting the attractive flowers.

Roses and thorns are the beauty and the barbs of Nature. Thorns add protection to the much-admired buds and petals. Roses give thorns an upgrade in appearance and a place to call home.

I wonder what thorns do in our lives. How do thorns protect us from harm? Maybe our thorns are warnings from our parents or traffic speed limits or even friends who speak the truth about our not-so-stellar behavior at times. Or, some thorns may poke us when we’ve neglected our nutrition and exercise or nudge us when we moved God to a far corner in the backyard, over by the overgrown rose bushes.

So as much as I’d like to grumble about roses having thorns, Mr. Karr’s perspective challenges me to find the patches of beauty in my own thorny circumstances. I face thorns, you face thorns. But a key is to keep enjoying life’s roses while respecting the thorns’ presence.IMG_4348 - Version 2

Life offers beauty sometimes right alongside the most painful, thorny situations. Here’s an example: I know of several people hospitalized this week with life-threatening illness/injury, but right in the intensity of the emotions, family and friends are rallying together and estranged relationships are mending. The beauty and barbs are bringing about good and the pleasant looking.

How have you seen beauty and barbs bring about the good and pleasant looking in your life?

(For me lately: My aging dog pokes me with the thorn of his health problems, but my beauty is he still has a cute, fun spirit and he brings me much joy.)

“And the earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit, with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:12

Brave and Resilient Tip #116: We all face thorns. Be sure to notice the beauty of the roses more.


Beauty Through Anything

Pummeled. Pounded. Pulverized. I could go on with words to describe the freakish twin tornadoes that decimated three-fourths of Pilger, Nebraska, the other day. And I know Liz, one of the hometown gals, from this quaint farming town now obliterated to rubble and nothingness. It was surreal to watch a nationally televised aerial sweep of Pilger and spot Liz’s family home still standing.

IMG_2584 - Version 2Pilger, with its 350 people, is three times the population of my hometown. I get the tranquility of small town living. The neighborliness of folks who even know your middle name. The recovering together when adversity roars with an unpredictable vengeance.

And I, like author Kathleen Norris, understand the tested resiliency of farmers, ranchers, and rural villagers. After living a number of years in voguish New York City, Kathleen returned to the rugged lands of her pioneer ancestors. Stumbling through her adjustment to the unforgiving landscape of western South Dakota, Kathleen wrote in her book Dakota, “I had to stay in this place, like a scarecrow in a field, and hope for the brains to see its beauty.”

Staying put. Riding out the isolation of the barren flatland or the desolation of a tornado-stripped community and hoping to see the beauty in the present. Somehow in our day-to-day and major life event struggles, we are designed to experience beauty poking through our layers of disbelief and depletion.

As the people in Pilger now exemplify, beauty comes in the people who stand by us through thick and thin. Beauty comes in learning to dwell on what we do have instead of on what we lack. Picking up the pieces unfolds fresh beauty as we shift our trust in the things of this world. Oh, for the determination to stay when we feel like running and the brains to see the beautiful good no matter which way the wind blows.

Brave and Resilient Tip #71: Determine to see beauty through anything.

Bravery Through Ashes

Although many of us have never experienced a devastating house fire or a raging wildfire like the ones in the past year that destroyed nearly 850 Colorado homes close to where I live. We all understand ashes in our lives, we’ve all sifted through the powdery fine cinders of burned up dreams, jobs, relationships, finances, or health. We all know what it feels like when unwanted soot descends upon our lives.

IMG_0259Yet amid the embers of disappointment and the rubble of loss, many of us have also experienced a fresh wind, a new beginning, a depth of bravery and resiliency beyond the vestiges of our own strength, our own determined will to keep moving forward.

You may be familiar with the words of the prophet Isaiah who described God’s promise of “a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning” (Isaiah 61:2-3).

Last year I took these photos in the initial weeks after the Waldo Canyon Fire roared into the foothills of Colorado Springs. Notice how the multi-colored pottery piece remained essentially untouched by the intense flames. Why? Because the pot had already been through the tempering fire of the kiln.IMG_0278

Perhaps you’re in the kiln right now or standing in the ruins.When you’re in the heat of things and the smoke hasn’t cleared yet, it’s hard to think of something good coming from the adversity. Yet, if you just hold on a little longer, the sprigs of something new, the bright colors of restoration will surprise you.

Isaiah also reminded us that that no matter how deep our pile of ashes or how scorched we feel, we are all God’s works of bravery and beauty. “. . .We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand” (Isaiah 64:8).

Brave and Resilient Tip #32: Bravery and beauty do arise from the ashes. 


What rubble are you sifting through right now in your life? How have you experienced bravery and beauty through the ashes?