Bewildered by beauty

March 18th, 2016

Beauty…or one could call it joy.

Before, the experience of beauty and of joy were one to me.  For others, it may be different; I do not know.

Then, the searing, slicing, smashing of that time.  My soul is cauterized until I can not feel beauty and forced to walk a tunnel where I can not see beauty.  All feeling is a raw and bitter and desperate pain.

A month, two months go by before I sense any salve of peace applied to my open wounds.

Another month, a glimmer.  Yet another month, another glimmer.  Another soul-prompting that beauty is there.  I can believe beauty is there as I believe God is there, and with Him, hope.  I can seek beauty and there, perhaps find joy again, back at the Source of all that is good.

But still, the painful grief pours forth daily.  Will the flood of tears never end?  I seek beauty only to find grief.  Peace of soul is fragile and transient.  The more I long and grasp for peace, the more elusive it grows and the more exhausted I become.  Did we celebrate Christ’s birth?  All is blotted from my memory save one vivid picture, my plea to those gathered around the room…Tell me, how did his life impact yours for the better?  I need to hear it right now.

And then I grieve for the loss of my father’s mother.  And grieve the imminent loss of my dying friend.  And grieve for the brokenness emanating from other suffering families.  Grieve for the endless, bottomless grief in a world that writhes and cries out in its agony.

Almost six months have passed now.  The tears no longer flow every day.

Three more months of soul battle.  To the death!  Suddenly, here is the end of the tunnel and the clear light of day.  The change is striking and shows in my face.  The Truth has given me back my bearings.  I see and feel and know that up is up and down is down.

Another week, two weeks go by.  I can turn around and see the end of the tunnel, back there, receding into the distance.  He promptly calls us into the next journey, ready or not.  But I walk, we walk together, in the light.

Months of knowing only the next step He asks of us but not where that step will lead.  Bracing for more soul-slashing pain.  Asking today for the courage I need today, I receive more than I ask for.

Months of living in ever more cramped and crowded conditions, truly a confinement.  “How well does Josie tolerate the noise and commotion?” they ask.  To which I reply, “Better than I do!”  Asking this moment for the patience I need this moment, again I receive far more than I ask for.

And now, this wide and pleasant place.  Relief, light, space, rest, privacy, loveliness, quiet, calm.

By His light, I can see beauty again, but how do I respond?  Beauty has divorced itself from joy and wedded itself to bewilderment.

I am thankful for this gift of beauty, but my soul is perplexed.  Wouldn’t the joy come easily now?  I am like an infant who protests, choking and spluttering, at the flow of milk gushing forth too abundantly.  It is too much, too fast.

The question “Why?” rises unbidden and unanswered.  I want to understand this gift before I can accept it.  I still want it all to make sense.  But no glib answers, no glib conclusions about cause and effect are left to me.

Unbeknownst to me, chunks of the black tunnel embedded themselves in my soul as I passed through.

I know their names.  They are Mistrust and Cynicism.  They numb me to joy, whisper that I must guard my heart against joy.  How can you take delight in what is too good to be true, they ask?

Their whispers are compelling.  I am no longer the whole-hearted, easily-gladdened soul I used to be.  I am hesitant to trust.  I am not easily moved, certainly not by what moved me in the past.  My pulse no longer quickens at any signs of coming happiness.  I feel old and grave beyond my years and miss the passionate joy I once knew.  I miss the earnest, eager me I see in photos of past years.  I feel sorry for that young mother, grieve for her impending loss of innocence.  “You have no idea what is about to hit you. Don’t get on that plane!”  As if godlike knowledge would endow us with godlike power.

He prays for me daily, this husband of mine, with his stout-hearted confidence in God.  He towers over me like a sturdy oak, asking for a breaking up and a melting within me.

Of course this time of peace and beauty can not last; man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.  How to be abased and how to abound, that is the question.  So in the midst of all the graces God has seen fit to shower on our family, I ask for one more.  I go to the only One who can give me what I long for.  Today, I ask for a pure heart that honors Him by taking joy in the beauty of who He is and what He gives me today.


I don’t ask a life that’s easy,
The world’s gold or its fine pearls:
I ask for a joyful heart,
An honest heart, a pure heart.

Heart that’s pure and full of virtue,
Is fairer than the pretty lily:
None but a pure heart can sing –
Sing in the day and sing in the night.

If I wished for worldly wealth,
It would swiftly go to seed;
The riches of a virtuous, pure heart,
Will bear eternal profit.

Evening and morning, my wish
Rising to heaven on the wing of song,
For God, for the sake of my Saviour,
Give me a pure heart.

~Calon Lan/A Pure Heart
Beloved Welsh hymn




O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee:
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain
That morn shall tearless be.


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17 Responses to “Bewildered by beauty”

  1. Becki says:

    Dim on calon lan all ganu….. canu’r dydd a chanu’r nos!
    The mountain views from that youtube clip are on our doorstep. And Conwy Castle. So blessed to live yn nghymru!

  2. Missy says:

    I’ll keep your heart in my prayers.

  3. Esther Paris says:

    Precious beloved Susanna! How I wish I could take away your soul-and-spirit pain! I would gladly take it in an instant. Alas, I can take yours no more than you can take mine. The best we can have Here is Sharing and Support and Compassion and Hand-Holding as we seek Enlightenment and Peace.

    Ages upon eons upon decades ago I read all the Hannah Hurnard books. Just today I downloaded from my library the first book: Hind’s Feet on High Places. You KNOW I’m so NOT a reader, but will you read this with me please? I’ve just finished Chapter 1.

    I’m always Surprised by Joy, just like the book title from CS Lewis. My spirit entered the dark tunnel some time in the 1970s. The tunnel has been awash with filth at least since 1983. Every now and again there’s a chink and I get a glimpse of light. But I haven’t gotten out yet. I have sort of resigned myself to the thought that I may be stuck in this tunnel until my end, will likely die in this tunnel, that there is no hope of my rescue from the tunnel. The best I seem to be able to do is trudge along and enjoy the glimpses of light as I encounter them.

    Hugs to you! I am grateful you shared this joy. It is a glimpse of LIGHT to me.

    I’m so very sorry for your sadness of losing a friend.


  4. Becky says:

    Your journey is so unique….You, Susanna, are unique. And I really like you for it. I continue to pray for you as changes and life happen in your heart and home. It will be a sweet day when we can once again sit and share about things of the heart. I feel those days are closer now than they have been in a very long time. :-) May God continue to bless you and yours.

  5. Robin Osteen says:

    Thank you. You’re words are like a clear echo to my heart’s journey. Not identical journeys… but sisters. I hear my Father’s voice in you. It is good. :) One day we will know full healing and we will celebrate with a complete joy that feels impossible now. Joy that isn’t a choice but a sincere reaction to the most whole beauty ever known. That day WILL come! And until then, we will worship and grow, rejoice in the small victories, and find peace in the moments between the ground breaking upheaval. He’s planting his truth in us. There’s a harvest coming! :)

  6. Deanna Rabe says:

    Hinds Feet In High Places came to my mind as I read this. He is good in all His ways, but our flesh holds out in distrust – wary that this is going to last. How I long to trust Him for all of it in each moment – a quiet peace-filled trust.
    We’ll walk together, all of us, with our eyes on Him, even in the hard things.

  7. Blessed says:

    I’m surprised by this post this morning–and how much it resonated in my own spirit. Thank you for taking the time to search your soul and write this piece.

  8. Joy says:

    “Asking today for the courage I need today, I receive more than I ask for.” This post, and this sentence in particular, has me in tears today. I cannot express it nearly as eloquently as you have, dear one, and though I have not lost a child, aside from miscarriage, I can relate to so much of what you wrote. I love you, precious friend, and stand amazed at the beauty that continually pours out of you, no matter what you are facing. I can only imagine our Father’s pleasure in you.

  9. MamaV says:

    So many people are praying for your heart, Susanna!

  10. Louisa says:

    Such beautiful words to express where you are….I think some it resonates in each of us as women who do hard things for God….when we give up pieces of our heart for children….any children—it does something to us inside our hearts….we need to walk forward and let God write our story….it is hard, there is sorrow….but somewhere in there we will find joy and hope and the light that reflects Him into the world will shine brighter than we can ever imagine….you dear one are shining very bright for the One you serve….Shine On!

  11. Cassandra says:

    (In advance I commit to not editing this post because I tend to become less genuine, more “edited.” )


    1. Another parent was doing hard things and even through pictures, I could see there was growth. I knew that must be true of my situation, as well, even though it barely evident to me.

    2. ONLY because I thought you might really understand, I took the opportunity to dialog with you privately about what you might do in my situation. You, like myself, knew that we must stay the course and love bigger than we have ever done before.

    3. You may recall that I was somebody who believed, still do, that Tommy was so much more mentally present than it may have appeared. Your family’s love delivered that child back to his “right mind.”

    4. Even at your most exhausted moments, Tommy’s life encouraged me. You showed a fierce determination to believe for the best. Tommy’s winning ways reminded me that people can communicate without saying a word. Absolutely.

    5. Tommy’s life changed me bc I saw in real life how God cares for even the “least” of us and would not allow Tommy to finish his life without knowing the love of a real family.

    6. Tommy’s life continues to affect me since it could only be God’s love for Tommy – rerouted back to you – that made it possible for you to even consider risking love again.

    7. Tommy’s mother saw the beauty in him and because of that, it became evident to the rest of us. I, too, can be that mother who makes my dd beautiful in the world’s eyes.

    8. Tommy’s life showed me that it’s a lie that a very needy child sucks the life out of the rest of the family. Yes, a needy child can be exhausting but they also breathe life into the family.

    9. Tommy’s life showed me that God considers me “worth it,” too.

    9. Tommy’s life reminded me that only in God’s economy, Love Shows Up.

    9. Tommy’s life underscored for me that as with yourself, my children “lucked out” with the most incredible Daddy a child could imagine. Your posts (mentioning your dh) exposed to me what I had taken for granted in my own life: My husband is over the top kind, protective, generous, godly, loyal, ambitious, hopeful and in love with me beyond what I deserve.

    10. Tommy’s life impacted me because it reminded me how joy has nothing to do with the absence of conflict.

    11. Tommy’s life and death provided me with insight into how resiliant humans can be – like it or not.

    12. Tommy’s life changed me because I see how it changed you.

    13. Tommy’s death showed me it is possible to forgive myself, which is not the same things as not accepting responsibility.

    14. Tommy’s death inspired me to thank God for His grace – unmerrited favor. You know, “Therefor but by the grace of God go I.”

    15. Tommy’s life proved that as christians, we have already had victory. Satan has been defeated.

    16. Tommy’s new address (Heaven) makes me smile. I can’t help but to imagine Tommy healed and laughing.

    To be honest, #13 is something I’m still working on.Forgiving myself. For this I thank you for your continued, raw posts. Because “forgiving” you was the almost immediate and obvious response for me. I know that you have tortured (still?) yourself. I know that you’d do anything for a different outcome (OBVIOUSLY). I need to learn to be that same friend to myself. Hating something about myself is akin to rejecting God’s love. And that’s just wrong.

  12. Esther Paris says:

    Blessings on you, Cassandra. Tommy’s life showed me (again) what Unconditional Love looks like, in terms my wee brain can grasp. That’s truly potent soul-balm indeed!

  13. Susanna says:

    Thank you, all of you.

  14. JCD says:

    Praying for you, friend.

  15. Oh Susanna, thank you for sharing this post. It touched me deeply. Your whole family and your testimony has radiated widely amongst the world. Thank you for that. Thank you for not barricading yourself. Thank you for being transparent. Thank you for arising and shining amidst the pain and sorrow, and grief and despair. For such a time as this, I thank you from the bottom of my heart! We sure do love you here and pray for you all daily. We are in country now, the country of Katie and Tommy’s birth, meeting our newest blessing. Thank you for not giving up. Thank you for paving the way. I’m reminded of one of my favorite Casting Crowns called Be Held:

    “Hold it all together, everybody needs you strong
    But life hits you out of nowhere and barely leaves you holding on
    And when you’re tired of fighting
    Chained by your control
    There’s freedom in surrender
    Lay it down and let it go”

    “When you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away…you are not alone, stop holding on and just be held.”
    “Your world’s not falling apart it’s falling into place….I’m on the throne stop holding on and just be held.”
    There are more lyrics, too, but truly the most important thing to remember is to “Be Held”. Praying that you continue to feel our Father God’s arms holding you tightly. <3

  16. Susanna says:

    Thank you, J and Mary.

    Mary, it’s good to see your visits with your new little girl have been so positive. Emailing you…

  17. Kristi Anderson says:

    This really touched me. And I followed your link to “shows on my face” post…and wow. I could so relate in many many ways. “This is what dying feels like…” yes. You have a gift with words and explaining the mystical. Thank you for sharing. Thank you.

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