I remember that my entire family was sitting at a table in Bob Evan’s after a Sunday morning church service. This was nothing out of the ordinary, our usual Sunday routine. When I say my entire family, I mean my mom and dad, my grandma, and my aunt and uncle. I do have other family (not much more) but this is the typical group that can always be found together. And if you can’t find one of them you can be sure that calling one of them will lead to the others. Somehow. Always.

Anyways. It was probably towards the end of my sixth grade year. It was awkward for everyone when I was in the sixth grade. We had finally convinced the orthodontist to let me lose the all day head gear (more like handle) on my face so that I could be somewhat acceptable to begin my public school career. I was a little chubster (I’m certain that’s a word) and my braces were still front and center. And I loved choosing all of the bright, obnoxious colored rubber bands to ensure they stood out a little more than metal tracks on your teeth tend to do on their own.  I was still trying to navigate public school world after emerging as private, Christian school girl.

So on this particular Sunday, my aunt made the discovery that I was twelve and had somehow never been to Disney World. She decided instantaneously that this was unacceptable and needed to change as soon as possible. So, right there in Bob Evans, between biscuits and pancakes and cups of coffee and glasses of orange juice, she made a few calls. By the time they were boxing up the rest of our breakfast we were heading to Disney World.

I suppose that part of the story really isn’t that relevant, but it’s a funny story that we planned a trip to Disney World in Bob Evans and for a long time I have felt it should be put in print.

I said all of that to say this. Our last day in Florida on that trip to Disney World that we had planned in Bob Evans one Sunday after church a few months before, we spent the afternoon shopping/eating in Downtown Disney. As we wandered the little boardwalks and shops, we stumbled on a stand that caught the attention of my aunt and I. We are girly girls through and through. I get all of those frilly, perfume-y, shopping genes from her. At this particular little stand, you could choose an oyster out of a giant basket of them. They would open the oyster, pull out the pearl in front of you, and then you could choose what sort of jewelry you wanted them to make it into.

I remember to this day my aunt advising me to pick an oyster that looked really old and dirty and worn. She knew that my instinct would be to choose a shiny pretty oyster. But she knew what my twelve-year-old self did not. She knew that the dirtier and more worn and old the oyster looked on the outside, the lovelier and larger and more brilliant the pearl on the inside would be. I suppose she knew because she loves jewelry so much, but also because this is just one of those universal life truths that we pick up along the way. One of those things that makes no sense and that somehow as humans we innately understand. One of God’s great paradoxes. That something so painful and ugly can create something so beautiful.

I dug a bit through the oysters until I found one that looked beat up enough and then passed it to the man to open. Sure enough, there was a decent sized pearl inside the lining of the oyster. I decided to have the pearl set in ring. It’s a piece of jewelry I have always treasured for the memory and for the life lesson that it holds each time I see it on my finger. I still wear it often.

Of course the older I have gotten the more sense it has made. The more of life I have experienced, the more I have come to know God, the more beautiful and precious that ring is to me. To look at that perfectly round little gem on my finger is to remember that whatever pain and pressure I am facing in that particular moment will be worth it. To catch a glimpse of its luster and purity is to take a deep breath and remind myself that what I wish would end is most certainly forming me into a rare and beautiful gem.

 The pressure of the head gear that I wore day in and day out and the irritation of the metal rails across my teeth and the stares and glares that threatened to steal my confidence gave me the straight, beautiful smile that adorns all of my photos today and a deep sense of security of who I am in Christ.

The pressure of approaching deadlines inspired me to produce some of my best work throughout college.

The painful grind of a little bean found in the jungle results in a dark rich drink adored by everyone. Me especially.

The tight and suffocating cocoon a caterpillar spins makes it possible for the little creature to grow wings and gain its freedom and soar through the bright blue sky.

And the dainty little petals of the loveliest flower you have seen beneath the heaviness of a book leaves you with a forever piece of art that captures the beauty that captivated you in the first place.

That ring that I wear and admire is the result of great amounts of pressure and irritation. Irritation from a gritty grain of sand and pressure from a tightly clamped shell and the weight of the entire ocean on top of it.

You see where I am going with this, right?
Pressure creates beautiful things.
Pressure is often necessary for beautiful things.
In my life, it has always been necessary. I believe it always will be.

So, today I am going to encourage you in this. Let’s be thankful for the pressure and the pain and the ugly awful irritation that is so often present. And I mean really, genuinely thankful. Not simply because we should be, but because in them we recognize the beauty that is bound to become. Let’s learn to embrace all of it. To live in this God paradox. And let’s not only see it, but together let’s be beauty beneath the pressure.

If you have followed me on Instagram for five seconds or less, you have probably seen at least 13 posts of flowers. It doesn’t matter where I am currently living, I will find them and I will take pictures of them and I will post them. Each with the #flowersaremyfavorite (I bet I am single handedly keeping that # alive on Instagram).

While I do love printing and displaying these flower photos, lately I have been thinking I should find some other fun and creative ways to display the simple beauty of flowers around my home. Here are a couple of projects I plan on trying this spring! I will certainly share my results on the blog and would love to see yours if you get a chance to try it out!

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