faith, life together, marriage, photography

So hard, so sweet

Hypocrisy is like saccharin: no real sweetness, but mixed into something good, it might fool your tongue into relishing the taste you crave. In my communication with friends, my status updates or Instagram posts, I’ve been veering between hypocrisy and silence lately. I don’t mean to say that what I’ve posted is untrue; merely that, for the first time in many years, the most cheerful updates have been the exception, not the rule, to my general mood.

My intellect keeps insisting that I need to snap out of my sadness, but my spirit knows better than to obey. My spirit knows that change is hard, and that is entirely possible to be full of joy and hope, full of gratitude and awe, but dreadfully homesick at the same time. I know how to share the joy, the hope, the gratitude, but I don’t know how to share the sadness. I don’t want maudlin status updates that sound like pleas for pity. I don’t want anyone to misunderstand my sadness, blame my husband (who is, next to Jesus, the greatest bulwark to my joy right now), and come riding in on a white charger with sword drawn. I simply want to tell the stories of these days: truly and in full color, but tempered and measured according to the truth.

Thus, my September experiment and challenge. Each day I will share a picture of one thing about life right now that feels hard, and one thing that is beautiful and sweet. Some of these glimpses may be profound, others will certainly be silly. Some days I will explain the pictures, other days I won’t. My purpose is not to provoke pity or solicit solutions, but rather to train my own eyes to the truth.

Today’s picture has to do with the world right outside my door. I grew up in a green place, a city of tall trees and green canopies. In Alabama, I owned a house in an old neighborhood, and three enormous live oaks shaded roof. Given my love for green ground and tall trees, it’s been really hard living on the edge of a parking lot, on ground that has been upturned for so much building. I know that once the Village has all its buildings in place, landscaping will begin again, restoring the green. But still, the concrete and the bare dirt are hard for me to love. And the sweet? Just outside, there are a thousand promises of growth and green. Last week my husband brought home a parched soapberry tree. It’s leaves were all scorched from neglect, and we worried it might not flourish. But after a week of watering, its branches have sent forth so many hopeful shoots. Even sweeter? The tree was a gift, serendipitious generosity from the man at the nursery. We were not looking for a tree, but it came to us without striving or seeking. Our tree is, in more ways than one, full of grace, and that grace is very sweet indeed.

What has been hard and sweet for you lately?  Would you your pictures or juxtapositions? You can do so leaving a comment, or by posting photos to Twitter (@bethanyjoy) or Instagram (@bethanyjoyful). Tag your posts #sohardsosweet


6 thoughts on “So hard, so sweet

  1. Sabrina Green says:

    Bethany, you may not know that on June 1st, I began the next phase of my life-ministry, by retiring after 33 years as a public school teacher. I LOVED teaching my students, and LOVED my school and coworkers. But I felt God telling me He had something else for me to do. So, I am currently trying to find balance and usefulness to the Kingdom in a different way. Opportunities have been pouring in, almost overwhelmingly. I miss interacting with my students and my sweet colleagues. But seeing God open doors for me to work with Sav-A-Life (a crisis pregnancy center providing support for girls who might otherwise seek an abortion) has me very excited! Change is hard, but Jesus provides the sweetness:)


  2. Anonymous says:

    Pregnancy. What’s hard is the morning sickness that lasts all day, the fatigue that comes long with it, the mess that is my house due to fatigue and my attempts to give my body the rest that it needs. I hate that my taste buds have changed, and what sounds delicious in theory will quite often turn my stomach with just one sniff. And yet. If I don’t eat, often (every hour or two) the nausea and fatigue only gets worse.

    And yet the new life growing in my belly is truly a gift from God, a miracle that grew from the union of two microscopic cells, and will continue to grow, develop, learn, and teach. My other two children bring me so much joy and I am grateful that God has already blessed me with so much family.

    But it’s hard to appreciate the miracle when you feel like you have the stomach flu.


  3. I totally understand about the lack of green. One of the worst parts of the drought of ’11 for me was the fact that there were no flowers that spring. But huzzah for saving trees!

    This semester’s been pretty tough so far–I’ve been battling fevers and cluster hot flashes since the week before school started, and as a result, I’ve been really struggling to keep up with school, never mind taking on other projects. But God’s been providing, and the students are learning, and at least one’s already used what he’s learned to lead someone to Christ! So yes, #sohardsosweet.


  4. Pingback: #sohardsosweet | Foster Good Wins

  5. RaeAnne Tyra says:

    Oh Bethany. I feel such empathy for you. I married my true love at 18 and moved 450 miles away the next day. It was an exciting adventure for three weeks and then the gloom of homesickness decended on me. Do not worry. God uses this pain to focus you on your wonderful husband and strengthen you in soul and spirit. It will pass and when it does you will have gained so much. Love you and praying for you. RaeAnne Tyra.


  6. This is a lovely insight as I’m adjusting to being back in the States after my beloved Jerusalem. There are pangs of homesickness and there’s lots of joy, especially in being near my precious newborn nephew….plus simple comforts like apple cider, cheddar cheese, and central heating. I think I’d like to take on this challenge myself.


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