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Finding peace when you feel undone

Sometimes I don’t feel like a very good mom.

Distracted, I stare into the lighted magnifying mirror to analyze the state of my skin. What I see there isn’t wholly comforting. I’ve regressed back to the bumpy hormonal skin of my teen years. I don’t like what I see.

I don’t always like the other things I see either. Like the myriad of ways I don’t feel like a very good wife, friend, writer or steward of all the things I have been given. The ways I have disappointed myself. Others. The many ways I don’t measure up. I have a tendency to look at my life from a frighteningly close vantage point. Not many things look good so close up.

Perhaps the beauty of a flower, but even up close you see the strains of life and the effects of the elements. The harsh spring rain and the scurrying life, alive in the garden. The unexpected, blemishes it’s allure. Once cut, the flower slowly begins to die.

It’s interesting how it’s always the unexpected decisions, the things we didn’t see coming and our reactions or responses to them, that cause us the most distress. It’s difficult not to question ourselves when we’ve been caught off guard. And yet sometimes our instincts are exactly right, even when our mind doesn’t want them to be.

Sometimes I look at the pieces of my life and they all seem broken; most certainly undone. I am a work in progress. Not great at anything really. A good mom, I pray. A good wife, sometimes? A good friend, I hope…? I’ve certainly had enough story to make me seriously question every one of those things. Life’s messy.

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Sometimes life’s greatest beauty shows up in the mess. Right now I’m certainly hoping this is true – I’m claiming it for myself – because there’s an important part of my life that feels like a big giant mess. Most certainly undone. I’ve learned through many storms and seasons of life, sometimes the greatest lesson is: wait. Perhaps like me, you need to know how to find peace through a season of wait.

I just finished reading my friend Michele Cushatt’s new book: Undone: A Story of Making Peace With an Unexpected Life. I’ve never read a book that so boldly and honestly confesses the joys and disappointments of motherhood, marriage and life. Regretful and hopeful and refreshingly sincere, Michele takes you on a journey of a life that has not stopped taking shots, and shares with you the story of a woman who refuses to give up.

Bravely, she steps into the life that has been given to her, even though it was never the one she would’ve picked. But perhaps that’s the greatest grace. The truest beauty. The courage to stand up in the midst of our own broken story and say yes. Over and over again, yes.

Yes to good things and hard things and impossible things. Yes. Yes to sacrifice and commitment and doing the right thing, even when it hurts. Yes. Yes to following God when we don’t know the way or have the qualifications to even begin. Yes. Yes to disappointment, rejection, misunderstanding and even times when the answer is no. Yes. 

Nothing worth having in this life comes easy. Our legacy isn’t written by how well we lead, but how obediently we follow.

I couldn’t help but relate when she said: “I have a bad habit of standing too close to my circumstances.” I tend to look at mine in the magnifying mirror. Unfortunately, what I always see is me. But I’m humbled as I realize through her words that it’s not my desire to see that brings me so close, but rather my desire to control.

I feel better when I’m in control. Like Michele, I crave structure, predictability and the illusion I can create of safety.

In stolen excerpts from her book, Michele says:

Standing close enough to control also means seeing every brushstroke in point-blank detail. I see flaws with shocking clarity. When I do this, the intensity is too much. I’m overwhelmed by life. Disappointed in it. This creates a fascinating paradox. Life, in all its shocking unpredictability, is to be lived up close, personal. We are to hover within arm’s length, interact and connect with real people and stories close enough to inhale, taste, and touch.

But although life is to be lived as such, its value can’t be measured from the same proximity. To do so will create an obsession with the countless errant details. Instead, to make peace with a life requires a stepping back. Although appearing undone, it hints that imperfection could turn into the makings of an incredible story.

And suddenly I realize, this is it. The beauty of our lives is in the imperfect, but fully lived. The following, even when we don’t know the way. The failures and missteps and the wholehearted way in which we live our lives. The grace in the middle of sorrow. Stepping back from the magnifying lens we see the whole picture, not just it’s tiny parts. A story. A legacy. A life embraced for what it is; the disappointments, failures and regrets and the unspeakable joy that ties them all together. The moments, the minutes, the barely whispered I love yous, and the desperately determined work it takes to build a life.

These are the things that up close look like failure. Up close, look like blemish. But stepping back, they reveal beauty. Character. Depth. And infinite grace.

Michele’s new book Undone: A Story of Making Peace With an Unexpected Life releases next week! You can preorder it now by clicking on the link below or any of the ones in this post. Her story is one that will live well beyond the pages of any book, and inspire you to live your life the best way you know how, one unsure step after another. It’s a beautiful message of hope for those of us standing in the middle of an unexpected life. I’m so grateful for brave voices like hers that make me know I’m not alone, and give me courage to keep going. Even if I’m afraid.

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{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Jenielle Harpster March 6, 2015, 9:11 pm

    You have no idea how much I needed to read this today! Thank you for being genuine and real. Thank you for speaking so clearly to my heart, when it seems like no one in this world understands. Thank you, thank you!

    • Tammy March 26, 2015, 10:55 pm

      You’re welcome Jenielle! I’m so glad it spoke to your heart. We’re better together. xo

  • Jayne March 8, 2015, 3:17 pm

    It is truly a gift how you can express such a vivid picture, being real, transparent, inspiring and encouraging!!! As I’ve heard over & over…. Beautiful people don’t just happen, they are made. The good, the bad & the ugly are just pieces to true beauty!!!! It is good to put down the magnifying glass, and take a good look at positive gifts your journey has left others, as well as yourself, & celebrate the successes. I was reminded of this just last week. Incredible progress & success of many baby steps have progressed the journey of learning the woman God created me to be. Often I focus on where I wish to be. The top of the mountain or crossing the finish line. There are many…. Once arrived, it’s “start over” time. Life is definitely an endurance sport. Enjoy the journey, a mantra from special coach!!!! Thanks for sharing your heart, you surely are beautiful in & out.

    • Tammy March 26, 2015, 10:54 pm

      Awe, thank you Janye! I love that message – that beautiful people are made. It’s so true. Only out of our deepest hurts and greatest sorrow can we find the other side. Compassion, hope, forgiveness… It’s the gift that comes of the pain. So glad you’re here. xo

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