Secret 13: It’s okay to be a little broken.

shell thumb 2Whahooo!!   I just submitted this essay to the Secret 13 Essay Contest, an extension of Ruth Soukup’s book, “Living Well Spending Less: 12 Secrets of a Good Life.”     If my essay is chosen as a finalist, we will be entered to win an all-expenses paid cruise!!   I will certainly keep everyone posted.  Now, on with the letter….

Secret 13: “It’s okay to be a little broken.”

My little Sam Bug,

By now I am sure you realize that life’s “oops” moments are not a singular event, but a recurring one.  Some are preventable and some are completely unforeseeable, but either type of crisis can paralyze us, and keep us from engaging in the beauty and excitement that is around us.   For me, Secret 13 is about accepting my broken circumstances and living the good life anyway.   If you are reading this for encouragement someday, I hope you see a little bit of your story in mine…

Fall 2014
I walked through the sand at a near frantic pace as the sun rose.  “This is the last day, there has to be one here,” I said out loud as I scanned the beach.   A few months earlier, along the same piece of shore line, I stumbled upon the most perfect, big, conch shells – one each morning.  But now, nothing!    Hot tears rolled down my cheeks.  “I don’t understand,” I whispered.  DSC_0373

I really thought I needed to find a perfect shell that day.   It had been seven weeks since the flood that destroyed our house, and two weeks since the rotting leftovers had been hauled away leaving a gaping hole where our home once was.   I wanted some symbol of assurance that everything was going to be perfect again.  I wanted something beautiful to hold on to.   And, of course, I wanted all that very specifically in the form of a shiny, flawless, (preferably animal-free), conch shell.

In my last steps off of the beach that day, I found it.  I ran my fingers along the mathematically perfect swirls and pulled it out of the deep sand.   But as I turned it in my hands I saw that it was – gasp – broken!  I sighed heavily and let that word sink in as I gently lowered it to my bucket, pasted back on my happy face, and steeled myself for the road ahead.

DSC_0046
In the weeks that followed, I rarely thought about that shell, which made a quiet home on my kitchenette window sill.  I was busy homeschooling you and keeping your life as normal as possible, making our new temporary camper home functional, preparing for a house rebuild, and settling on the reality that there is no “fund” for an isolated natural disaster in which a single desert home is destroyed by an unprecedented flash flood.  We simply pressed on.

January 2015
Fast forward to the new year.  I stumbled on this verse last week, just grazing through the bible, looking for an encouraging DSC_0026verse of an entirely different kind :   Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?’  -Isaiah 45:9 (NLT)

I actually laughed out loud, which was probably a devotion-time “first” for me.   I let that one roll around in my head before declaring inwardly,  “Cute.  But not what I’m looking for.”  I kept reading on for the kind of encouragement I wanted.   I was specifically looking for the verses that assure you treasures, proverbs that promise wisdom as a reward for hard work, and something vaguely about fairness.   No luck, so I brushed it off and moved on with my day.

Isn’t it funny how unwanted, yet important messages just keep weaseling their way into the spotlight, until “not what I’m looking for” becomes impossible to ignore?    Our days had been getting worse lately instead of better and the weekend culminated in a doozey.  Burst pipes,  major equipment failure, growing expenses and sleepless nights.  The last straw was when I swiped my favorite coffee cup off the bench.  Chunks of the sharp pottery flew across the garage.  Broken.  Your dad and I, without looking at each other, agreed that we were done for the day.  We cleaned up a few things, but eventually just let things be and trudged up to the camper to listen to Sunday’s podcast, the one we missed because of projects gone awry.   DSC_0024

Clumsily bumping around, we peeled off our muddy boots and outerwear.   I started the message and we slumped down in our chairs as we heard, “Turn with me now, to Isaiah chapter 43.”  What’s this?   I bolted up and hit pause.  With new energy, I blurted out what I had read earlier in the week.  We laughed together and agreed that chapter 45 was sure to be included, and we should probably listen on.    I joked that all I wanted was some encouragement, but it appeared that we were in for a lesson instead.  I feigned frustration, rolled my eyes and pushed play expectantly.

As the speaker continued, I began to hear through my own history, the message that was meant for my heart.   Memories flooded back of the time I walked on the beach this fall, searching for the perfect shell and finding only a broken one.  I saw the house as it was crushed and reduced to five dumpsters of debris.  I watched my coffee mug shatter in slow motion across the garage floor.  I heard the words, “It’s okay to be a little broken.”

I laughed out loud to myself again.  What pot could tell the potter it’s a little lumpy?  Or that this edge is too thin and fragile?  What pot screams to the potter, “I am ugly!” or  “Please hurry!” or “I am broken!”   Let me tell you.  This crackpot.

(It is great consolation to me – and maybe to you – that I’m not the first one in history to make this mistake and probably not the last.  Isaiah was written hundreds of years B.C., and despite many chances for this little tidbit to get lost in history, still it remains part of the bible today.  I’m guessing it wasn’t just for me.)

In the days that followed, I approached life with an altogether lighter attitude.  Yes, there is still an overwhelming amount of work to be done and a never-ending stream of new bills to pay.  Yes,house after it will be hard, things will continue to go wrong, schedules will fail and trusty equipment will break down.  But, I have discovered these two more important truths.  1)  The stories I know don’t end with brokenness – they end with redemption.  They end with something amazing.   2) I don’t want to give up the Good Life that is happening all around me while I am wallowing over the crack in my shell or pining for happily ever after.  So what is the alternative?  Decide that it’s okay to be a little broken.  And keep moving forward.

All my love,

Mom
————–
For my mom, my sisters, and all the women in my life, who not only help me to endure through times of brokenness, but inspire me to see it as a beautiful part of my journey. 

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Hello Amanda,

    Brooke just had me read this. I’m Brooke’s mom, Chayse’s grandma.

    I’m sitting here writing thru tears…oh how this has touched me! Thank you for writing this, while it’s directed to Sam, it’s audience is global!! I pray that many readers will be able to also read your words. If they do you’ll have shared a precious message.

    Although I’ve only met you a few times, I love you and your courageous and godly approach to life.

    Love,
    Cheryl

    Reply

    • Posted by letters2sam on January 31, 2015 at 1:52 am

      Cheryl,

      I am so very thankful for your words of encouragement! Our family has been on the receiving end of so many acts of love and gifts far greater than we could ever return. I hope this is one small way I can give back to the multitude who have held us in prayer – including you! Thank you for reading, sharing, and relating!!! (((HUGS)))

      -Amanda

      Reply

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