When I was a kid, my grandmother had beautiful blue and white china painted with swirls and flowers and other (to me) exotic things. At the bottom of each bowl was a scene. I believe they were China inspired. Maybe Japanese. We're talking several decades here, so my memory is dim. What I do remember is this - there were certain things that I did not like to eat: Oatmeal (ew!), clam chowder (double ew!), that weird chicken stuff my grandfather made (shudder). My grandmother, being pragmatic and wise, would put these things in the blue and white bowls and I would immediately begin scooping food into my mouth. I hated the taste, but I loved the end result. Each bite revealed a bit more of the picture at the bottom of the bowl and each time I saw the picture I'd discover something new in it. Eventually, the bowl would be empty, the picture revealed, and I'd have those few moments to daydream and imagine as I stared into the oatmeal speckled depths of painted fantasy.
Oddly enough, these memories had been lost to me for a while. My busy life sometimes prevents me from looking back. A week ago, I was sitting in church, listening to a sermon about Heaven, thinking about loved ones who'd traveled on ahead of me, and I thought about those bowls. I realized then, that life is often the same. Hard to swallow, difficult to get down, but in the end revealing a picture filled with details and ripe with fantastic revelations.
I'm not a kid anymore. I'm not so hot for surprises. At times I think it would be easier to be given an empty life bowl....one with a clear view to the bottom and the painting waiting there for me. As I work on a novel and struggle to bring it to life, I wonder if I'm meant to do this. If perhaps the contents of another bowl might be easier to swallow. Really....how insane is it to sit in front of a computer, typing away hours of one's life? How crazy to daydream the lives of make believe people? How difficult to never know if an idea will fly or fail? Each bite out of the bowl reveals only a tiny bit of the picture beneath and that's soon covered with the muck and mire of an author's life. Still, I press on, one sentence at a time, one page at a time, alone in my quest for the story's end.
But I believe, and maybe you do, too, that we are knit together in our mother's womb with talents and gifts that can be used or not. When the going is tough, we can collapse and retreat, or we can keep moving forward, knowing that we are doing what we are meant to do. Personally, I believe that scooping a mouthful of bitter defeat gets me a step closer to that glorious picture. The one painted by God. The one only He can see.
Yes, it's true that I'm doing a lot of internal searching late. Chalk it up to heading for that BIG birthday. Or perhaps moving toward our daughter so far away from home. Or maybe it's just me, scooping, scooping, scooping at the oatmeal, the chowder, the chicken, looking for the beauty beneath the struggles.