What is it that you want? 
I mean, really want?  A car? 
Chocolate?  Money?  To find your ever after? To be a famous
somebody? To cure something?  To save
someone?  What do you want?
But why?  Why do
you want those things?  Why do we want
what we want?  What is at the heart of all
our yearnings, our longings, our deep wantings? 
It’s our chase for happiness.  It is essentially at the heart of everything
we do.  I want chocolate because for the
one minute that it melts on my tongue I’m satisfied, I breathe out delight, I’m
happy.  I want a car because it makes
life easier.  Life easier makes me
happier.  I help someone because it makes
him/her happy, and because I make him/her happy, my heart smiles and I’m
happy.  I want money because, I mean,
well who doesn’t?   So what is happiness?  Why do we long for it, sell ourselves to gain
it, if only for a fleeting moment?
What is it that you don’t
want? What are you fears?  What do you
wish will never happen to you?  Or wish
never did happen?  Spiders, car
accidents, suicide, murder, death of a loved one, abandoned by a parent, sickness,
loneliness, depression, anorexia, self-hatred, living but unloved?  Pain. 
In the simplest and the most grotesque forms, we are terrified of pain.  In fact, we spend most of our lives obsessed
with avoiding pain.  We burry the
pain.  We numb the pain.  And we call that life?
In numbing the pain, we dull the life out of living.  What is there left?  The numbing dulls us, so our void is even
bigger, deeper.  But wasn’t that supposed
to lead to happiness?  We want more.  We crave more.  Never satisfied.   And we
become addicted.  Yes, addicted.  Drugs, alcohol, sex—those are the most
visibly destructive, but we all have addictions.  We are addicted to whatever dulls the pain,
minimizes the ache, kills the thoughts in our heads.  So we can be happy.  But it’s just that—the dulling, the avoiding,
this pursuit of happiness that
eventually kills us—the lives we are meant to live.  No second-grader ever says, “When I grow up,
I want to be a drug addict,” or “I want to be a drunk driver,” or “I want men
to want me, and I will do whatever it takes.” 
 No, when we are young we have
hope, we know what happiness is because we are fearless, until we are taught to
be afraid.   It was my mom who told me to
come home from the park before it got dark because she was afraid, not me.  It was my dad who told me to wear a helmet when
riding the bike because he was worried, not me. 
At that age we can dream, we can become anything.  And we are happy without having to dig for it
or numb the pain that divides it.  It’s
no wonder that Jesus says the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as
Did you ever wonder how your life might be different if
you accepted pain as a requirement of life? 
C.S. Lewis said, “If you think of this world as a place intended simply
for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable: think of it as a place of
training and correction and it’s not so bad.” 
If you want happiness, start by accepting the pain.  Feel it. 
Live it.  Overcome it. Face your fears
and that face in the mirror that sometimes disgusts you.  Don’t numb, don’t avoid, don’t bury.  Lift up your eyes and look.  See. 
Look at the world for what it is: pain, separation, sin.  And see how you can transform it.  You don’t need to change it to transform
it.  You simply need to see—to see the
beauty amidst the pain, to see the thanksgiving amidst the sorrow.  In her book One Thousand Gifts, Ann
Voskamp explains this as a directive to “lean into the ugly and whisper thanks
to transfigure it into beauty.”  She
continues explaining the paradox of the connection of joy to pain, saying,
“…they are but two arteries of the one heart that pumps through all those who
don’t numb themselves to really living.” 
Furthermore, Voskamp explains our model for this is Jesus himself,
who—on the night before he was betrayed, captured, murdered—“showed us how to
transfigure all things—take the pain that is given, give thanks for it, and
transform it into a joy that fulfills all emptiness.”
Ah, joy.  A joy
that fills all emptiness.  Could this be
true?  Take the pain that is given, give thanks, and transform it?  Can a simple utterance of thanksgiving
transform something ugly into something beautiful?  See how this transformed Ann Voskamp’s life
in her book One Thousand Gifts, and take the dare to do the same.  Indeed, my life, too is being transformed
when I whisper thanks over this sometimes- busily-soured life.    
Whispers of gratitude:
This pen with a child’s teeth marks – evidence
of a shared (or stolen) moment with my ink
The wobbly, wooden, worn bench that somehow
still invites unity when we sit together watching the sun go to bed
Water dripping from freshly hand-washed clothes
hanging on the line
Lucia’s afro, making her look like a mad
When Bongekile smiles
Benny’s belly shirts because Gogo insists on
feeding him too much on purpose
The way peanut butter glistens when it’s melted
just right on a piece of toast
The pumpkin spice candle from my friend that
melts the nerves after chasing and killing a cockroach
Ah, yes, sleeping children
The single, small stained-glass window in the
small chapel that casts a beautiful red streak of love on the wall
A woman in bare feet, immersed in her bible
during adoration
When my old students still contact me and
especially when they ask for advice
When Angel, Miss Tom Boy Who Never Shows
Affection, fights for my hand and hangs onto it all the way through town
When I hear noises in the front yard, thinking
Benny escaped to the outdoors, but I find out it’s a cow on the loose enjoying
our lush grass.
Rice and beans – no matter how many times a week
I eat the same thing, I can still enjoy them
Words – oh how I love words! Hearing them,
reading them, and most especially writing them
When Lucia draws pictures of me, even though I
look like a multi-eyed, harry monster — at least she got my shoes right!
So, when life around me is usually a blinding chaos, how
splendid it becomes when I see!  Even
amidst my complaints, my groans, my doubts, my “why me?”, and my fears the  beauty of God still surrounds me—every day,
every minute, every second—as he keeps whispering, “My amazing grace is enough
for you, if only you will take time to see.” 
Join me in asking God for eyes to see. 
“The art of deep seeing makes gratitude possible.  And it is the art of gratitude that makes joy
possible.  Isn’t joy the art of God?” –
Ann Voskamp

Hair, eyes, nose, cheeks, and shoes!  -A 3 year old’s drawing of me

Lucia’s fro after waking up

Recent Comments

  • Jenny Gorenflo, Early Intervention Specialist

    Monday, 24 Aug, 2015

    I love this, my beautiful Mary Kate. Life is not about our happiness, and you are so right–in chasing our happiness or numbing of the pain in life, we are missing out on life to the full. Jesus wants us to live in our beautiful, broken, messy, Kingdom-bringing lives, becoming more like HIM every day. Thank you for your words.

    • Peg Martin

      Tuesday, 25 Aug, 2015

      Well said Jenny.
      I am always amazed and humbled by your God-inspired words Mary-Kate. Thank you for ministering to us as well as the girls/women in Swazi.
      Love you!


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