I am grateful for my life - the sum total, no exceptions.
It seems strange to say so, given all that I've experienced but still, it's true. If I had a magic wand that could erase everything that ever hurt me; if I could go back and fix all my many mistakes - I wouldn't do it.
I've decided that pain is important to learning how to live well. Mistakes are essential to shaping our core, cutting away the stuff we never needed and showing us what really counts.
And living well counts. Loving fearlessly, with everything you have and finding more when you need it, counts. Trusting others even though you know they're human, counts. Standing up for what is right, even when you have to stand against yourself, counts.
We need the heartache, the bittersweetness, the awful mistakes we still regret. If we didn't, we would be shallow, empty shells skimming the surface, never knowing the fierce beauty that lies so far beneath our skin.
And there is beauty beneath the skin. I see it in others everyday.
I see it in my friend who fights to provide well for her son, to put a roof over his head, to afford transportation and yet still laughs freely, gives generously to others what she needs for herself, loves fiercely when she has been deeply hurt.
I see it in my friend who opened his eyes to what true strength is and selflessly gives of his love, his time, and his heart to others even as he fights his own battles with anger and fear.
I see it in my friend who knew her baby wouldn't live but gave him every chance to do so - displaying the rare courage and tenacious love of a true mother.
I see it in my friend who looked in the mirror and saw a drunk and found the inner strength to walk away from alcohol on his own.
True beauty, the kind that is soul-deep, surfaces when we face our worst fears, our hardest roads, our most agonizing grief. We couldn't have all that is rich and wonderful in our lives if we didn't also embrace all that is painful and messy and scary and dark.
It helps me to remember that whenever I doubt myself. I can't erase my past and I don't want to because through it, God is shaping me and the kind of soul-deep inner beauty that comes from Christ is all I ever really want.
I am content.