My new favorite book to read John Paul is All the Places to Love, by Patricia MacLachlan. It’s a sweet story about a little boy learning to pass on an appreciation for all the places to love in his farm town to his new baby sister, and at the end, he says this:
“All the places to love are here, I’ll tell her,
no matter where you may live.”
In the context of the book, the little boy means that no matter where and what his sister experiences in life, all the places to love are right there on the farm, where beauty in simplicity reigns. For the past week, every time I would begin to read that line to my son, I found myself choking up. Now, if you haven’t noticed yet, I’m an extremely emotional person. Still, even for me, crying over this simple line in a children’s book seemed excessive! But I finally realized why that line always catches me off guard: to me, that line is a reminder that no matter where we live, beauty exists.
It’s no secret that I have a hard time with change and facing the end of things. Moving eight times in the past six years has done a number on my emotions, and it’s been a hard fight for me to learn that it is indeed possible for me to find stability in my heart in the midst of instability in my life. As well as realizing that I always have control over how I face even the difficult things in life, even when I can’t control whether or not they happen, I’ve found that putting my hope in the knowledge of their being something-specifically, someone-greater and bigger and stronger than any of the pain my human heart feels, is the key to finding peacefulness amidst turmoil. But, of course at times I still stumble and struggle. Too often I find myself blind to the beauty that is indeed always around me, wherever I am. Too often I neglect to notice the beauty that exists within all things, all places, and all people-beauty which is a reflection of the face of God.
When Mike and I first moved back to D.C. last fall, I was miserable. Although I loved reconnecting with dear friends, being closer to beloved family members, and being able to visit my wonderful L’Arche family, I could easily rattle off a list of all the things I hated about the east coast, the mid-atlantic, and specifically D.C. Then, spending much of the winter, spring, and summer fighting traffic to go to my doctor’s office and receive chemo certainly didn’t help diminish my strong feelings! And I’ve found that even now that I’m done with treatment and have been blessedly able to return to a somewhat normal routine of living, I’ve continued to cling tightly to my strong dislike of the area.
But when I read that line in All the Places to Love, I was ashamed, realizing how little of a chance I’ve given the D.C. area, especially our little waterfront town in Virginia. And lately, I’ve been even more critical of our town than usual, fueled by anger in realizing that it would probably not be wise to move away from the incredible doctors in Virginia who recently spoke the beautiful word “remission” to me anytime soon. I’ve also felt conflicted by my dislike of the D.C. area and my deep appreciation for how our family has been supported by so many wonderful friends and family members who live nearby. Needless to say, when I read that beautiful line in All the Places to Love, I knew that it was time for a change of attitude, time to open my eyes to all the beauty I know exists all around me, even though I’ve perhaps been guilty of pretending it isn’t there.
So, today, with a new fire lit in my soul, I set out to explore our town with my eyes and heart open. And this is what I found:
Today, through the grace and love of God, I asked for a cure to my blindness, and the answer was given to me. I sought beauty, and it was found. I knocked, and the door to happiness was opened to me. Allelulia!
My prayer for you today is that you might see all places and all people in your life as the places and people to love, right here and right now. And may you find yourself surrounded in beauty, wherever you might be.
Thank you for joining me on my 31 day challenge!
Day 1: Be Not Afraid
Day 2: Fearfully and Wonderfully Made
Day 3 Keeping a Faithful Heart in Light of Suffering
Day 4: Facing Fears with Laughter
Day 5: Listening to My Heart
Day 6: Daring to Love Myself in Order to Love Others
Day 7: Opening Up My Idea of a Remarkable Life
Day 8: Giving Voice to My Fears
Day 9: Being a Bearer of Joy
Day 10 & 11: Give Everything
Day 12: Switching My Focus
Day 13: Reaching Out
Day 14 & 15: Letting Go
Day 16: Giving Voice to My Dreams
Day 17: Putting Fear into Action
Day 18: Clear Eyes, Full Heart
Day 19: Strength, Wisdom, Courage, and Clarity
Day 20-22: Facing the End of Things
Day 23: Showing Delight in Others
Day 24: Embracing the Dawn
Day 25: Saying No and Letting Go of the Guilt
Day 26: Find Love, then Give it All Away
Day 27: Doing What I Have to Do
Day 28: Snow in October
Day 29: People Should Know