Growing up I remember hearing my mom say to my dad, over and over, that we kids didn’t know how lucky were were to grow up in such a beautiful place with so much water.
Each time I would internally roll my eyes, “it’s not like there aren’t lakes all over the country.”
Age, experience, and five years living in Missouri (which has its own kind of beauty but felt completely land locked to me) has proven her right.
I’m pretty sure that in my home town you are never more than five minutes from a lake- and not just any lake- pure, clear, sandy bottomed lakes with enough room to boat and tube and water ski for hours on any summer day.
Like any other place there is a culture to my home town. I didn’t realize until I grew up how unique it is to go to the beach every day in the summer, to have parents drop you off on the docks downtown before you go to work, or to have such easy access to kayaking, boating, or bonfires on the beach. I didn’t realize how unique it was to watch fireworks over the water every year, or to have a boater’s safety course intertwined with your middle school computer class, or to have a bridge in the middle of town that opens every half hour during summer months.
I was literally in my 20s before I realized that “fudgy” is not a nationally known term for “tourist.”
So as I’ve grown older I have learned to appreciate my unique upbringing in my unique little community. I think also that making these realizations helps me appreciate the unique quarks of other places I’ve lived- like that fact that there are still a lot of businesses closed on Sundays in Warrensburg, Missouri or that asking for ketchup on a Chicago style hot dog reveals you as a non-native in the Chicago area (I do it anyway. Who wants a hot dog without ketchup?).
If you try and you are open to it, I think you will notice some of the beauty in quirks, culture, and community anywhere.
And as I’m writing this (with no idea where I’m going) I’m wondering if maybe this is all related to grace and redemption? …that we all have strengths and weaknesses and sometimes God uses those weaknesses to produce something crazy and quirky and beautiful.
Some things are easy to see- like the beauty in my little home town- and some you have to work for- like in Oklahoma where my husband’s from. Outwardly it looks barren and brown to me, but once you get to know it you discover warm people and trendy restaurants on a hill in the middle of nowhere where you can watch the grapefruit sky fade to night while tumbleweeds drift past your feet.
Yes. I think God is kind of like that. I think grace is kind of like that.
When I was a little girl my dad used to take us night swimming. There’s something magical about swimming at night in dark waters as the moon dances a path across the lake. I remember this is where I did my first belly flop and I bit my lip from the pain as my family benevolently chuckled from the dock.
Even beautiful places don’t keep us from pain.
Our lives are an amalgamation of beauty and pain- and most of the time both at once.
The best we can do is grieve the pain and embrace the beauty. We can appreciate the uniqueness of where we are. We can be grateful for what we have. And we can try not to always be wishing that we lived somewhere else, that we looked different, that we had a new job…
Instead, we can wonder at the uniqueness of a small town in America’s Heartland or the Arizona heat. We can appreciate our frizzy hair. We can do the best with the job we have. We can be grateful. We can notice redemption.
We can be content.