Beautiful Between

living fully in the now & not yet

You are delightful. But you need to learn to see.

I found joy for the first time 10 years ago in a perfect, Parisian spring. 

Paris is every bit as magical as you’ve heard, but perhaps not in all the ways you’d expect. It’s still a filthy, crowded urban area. Traffic is ridiculous and there are homeless people in desperate need of help and racial tension and all the issues in a big city.

But Paris is slow in a way I’d never experienced. That mysterious joie de vivre (“joy of life”) people talk about is real and evident in each area of life.

Things are slow and small: tiny cups of espresso, well-portioned meals, simple wardrobes, and long lunches. Paris, for all its reputation of glamor and glitz, seemed almost minimalistic in comparison to my hometown. Instead of constantly consuming, locals seemed to delight in the little things in life.

People spent long, lazy Sunday afternoons picnicking in the parks. They didn’t seem to go on shopping sprees, but they bought things they found beautiful and useful. They lingered over meals and shopped daily for the best ingredients, inhaling the fragrance of fresh produce at the local shop.

But most of all, Paris forced me to slow down.

I couldn’t get a job with my student visa and there were only a few hours of classes each day. Coming from a life where I worked full time, went to school full time, and filled my remaining hours with volunteering until my calendar stretched at the seams, I didn’t know what to do with myself.

I spoke little French and my host mom spoke even less English (she knew the word “three” and that was about it). My classmates were wonderful but enjoyed different things than I did.

I was immersed in beauty, insulated from the pressures of home, and alone with nobody but God to really talk to. There was nothing to do, no way to perform (aside from classes, but even those subjects were all pleasure: fine art, creative writing, and French language and culture).

So I did the only thing I could: I slowed down. I learned to savor and learned to see things I’d missed before, like the simple pleasure of crusty bread with fresh butter. The pale, delicate petals of cherry blossoms fluttering to the ground.

There were sun-warmed cobblestones on zigzagging streets and fragrant herbs at the market. I noticed how a cool breeze sometimes feels like cool water pouring over skin on a hot day. I stood in front of art, wondered and wept and let my heart be caught up in beauty for the first time.

I began to see how rich and wonderful this world is. Why did it take me crossing an ocean to believe it? I knew all these lovely things were just as present in my hometown of 26,000 as it was in this historic city of millions.

And it struck me, how God had set this thing up so I could find joy for the first time – because He finds joy in me?

He took me away, gave me nobody else to talk to, and listened as I whispered thanks in ancient streets and old Metro cars. He was there with me in the museums and ancient streets and quiet cafes as my awareness grew of His kindness and happiness toward me.

All the while, He was teaching me to see. It took me crossing that ocean and leaving everything I know to see all the beauty He’s woven into this world to delight us.

As I remember that Parisian spring, I can’t help but think this:

Funny how He showed me how much He delights in me while He was busy delighting me.

It wasn’t what I expected. I knew my faults and failures inside and out. I was convinced I didn’t deserve it, but He had other plans.

He wanted me to know joy. He wanted me to experience delight so I would know how He feels about me. And I wonder if this isn’t part of the plan for all of us.

God wants you to know joy because He finds joy in you. He wants you to experience delight because He finds you delightful.

Maybe it won’t happen this way for you, with a trip halfway across the globe and most responsibilities cast aside for a few months.

Maybe it’s in a million little ways that are so easy to miss but so beautiful once you see them.

Either way, there’s something God’s been saying and I want to tell you this in a way that shakes you to your very core:

You are delightful.

I want to repeat it until you can’t help but believe:

You are delightful.

You are. It’s an indisputable fact because right now, God delights in you.

And everything changes when we know how God delights in us.

With our secrets and imperfect bodies and short tempers and chronic soul pain. God delights in us with our crooked smiles and weary, shattered hearts and confusion and questions and doubts. God delights in us with our failures and not enoughs and even with our sin.

God delights in us. You make Him happy.

And He wants us to know joy.

In the messy and mundane and every single day. In the piles of laundry and the broken heart and in the quiet moments with loved ones. This is a big, beautiful world full of little love notes from God designed to fill us with joy.

We just need to learn how to see.

 

If you struggle to find joy or know the delight God’s placed in the world, you might be interested in Joy-Full, my  5-day online course. These short, simple lessons will open your eyes to the beauty surrounding you and fill your heart with true, unshakeable joy. Click here to find out more.

P.S. I chatted about joy, hope, and uncertainty with my friend Steve Austin on his podcast this week. Check it out!

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About Sarah

Hi, I'm Sarah. I love coffee, pancakes and street tacos. I'm a learner, a traveler and a creative mess. I've got a thing for redemption and seeing broken people living beautiful lives. That's the story I've lived, and the one I want for you. Let's be friends!

3 Replies

  1. benn

    you have changed my perspective on joy

    1. Wow, Benn. That’s a really big deal. Thank you for sharing that!!

  2. Mary P. Nettles

    I can’t begin to tell you what you’v done for me. The first blog I read was on Facebook about suicide. I have never been suicidal, but the symptoms of depression have been screaming for attention and you nailed so much of how my thinking has been for most of my life. When you said that the Lord told you the darkness would always be there, but He would always be in the darkness, I knew you were an answer to prayer. I was intrigued and began to look at still more of your blogs and I’ve sent for you Bible study on joy. Cannot wait to begin. Your information has been passed on to a young friend whose life is also in need of your encouragement and perspective. Thank you, thank you.

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