finding joy in being real

I CAME ACROSS this poem today in my time with God. It speaks directly to what I was processing yesterday. I think it can be fitting for many people during the holiday season, when the pressure to be happy is at an all-time-high.

Be brave enough to be real.

Be curious about God’s world.

Be fully present to each moment.

Be gentle with yourself and with others.

Be filled with wonder.

And be ready for joy.

This poem is from the December 8th devotional on



I eat only mushy foods. I sense a small pinch in my gums every time I swallow. My smile is lopsided. I feel undesirable.

In the course of 3 days, I have been swept off my usually cheery disposition and dropped into a ditch of despair. All because of a minor toothache and swelling in the left side of my mouth. And also a cavity. How does a small malfunction in my body undermine my confidence in such a significant way?

I usually avoid vocalizing discontent with my physical appearance, but every day I have experienced this inconvenient swelling, I’ve mentioned it within the first 2 minutes of almost every conversation I’ve had. Just so they won’t be staring at my face (although most people didn’t notice until I said something). I see myself shrinking away from ambition as anxiety about my body and insurance fees consumes me. Everything within me cries out against my affliction:

I’ve always been healthy! Why must my schedule now be dictated by the pills I take?

I wish to return to my extroverted, energetic, adventurous self. I wish this irritation would disappear. I wish to eat a burger.

Yet with every exasperated sigh and angry tear, I realize more and more the depth of my superficiality and brokenness. My idea of perfection is unattainable by human standards. I have imposed my desire for flawlessness onto myself and others. Now I don’t have an excuse to appear perfect.

Living with a swollen cheek has knocked me off my pedestal. It’s reminding me of the immense suffering that countless others endure on daily basis. If such a small area of my body affects my emotional and physical well-being in such a noticeable way…

what is it like to be a parent battling cancer? a child playing soccer on crutches in a refugee camp? a young woman forced to sell sex to provide for her family? a single, teenage mother trying to feed her kids on her own?

Maybe this physical affliction is my form of awakening: a little nuisance to remind me that my life (and my time and capability) is a fragile gift and that BEAUTY sometimes looks lopsided.