Smiling in the Trenches

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Okay, this is really interesting. The picture above is of a randomly thrown together collage of my “happiest moments” made by a computer generator on Facebook (via meaww.com). Not taking the claim very seriously, I decided to click the link anyway, out of curiosity, just to see what appeared. Isn’t it interesting that some of my “happiest moments”, as deemed by this silly collage generator, are also some I would consider my absolute toughest?

In this collage, you can see: a picture from before and after a medical procedure I had to have because of my illness, a picture of my service dog and I in the hospital after my invasive abdominal surgery in September, a picture of my husband kissing me as I sit in the wheelchair my severe chronic illness left me in, a photo of my parents and I clinging to one another, smiling, as we reflect on a courageous, joyful, Godly woman we consider family who we lost a few weeks ago. Of course, there are also several other less apparently somber snapshots involved: one of Sean and I on my 25th birthday, making the absolute best of a low-key day spent at home, because I was too weak to go out, one of an anniversary involving a rare trip to the movie theater with my husband. One of a selfie the first day I was able to put on makeup and change out of my pjs months after surgery. There are also a few pictures from a day of pampering I spent getting my hair done. I admit, my trip to the salon also happened to be incredibly exhausting and even painful for me; however much I loved every minute of feeling social and well-groomed again, my disability virtually invisible to the other clients.

My point in bringing this up is to say that sometimes to the casual social media acquaintance, a few glances at a photo or two of me smiling indicates happiness, satisfaction, comfort, and leisure; however, in reality, I may be fighting my own epic battles, overcoming worries, heartache, and pain to create the smiling moment in the photograph.

The truth is that most people are similarly battling to overcome the same odds in one form or another to reach their own happy moments. In a society that LOVES to compare and label, let’s not forget that too often we are comparing our REALITY to someone else’s HIGHLIGHT REEL. In so doing, we underestimate the struggles and challenges others face simply because we make judgments based on a snippet. It paralyzes us from making genuine connections with others.

I love that this random collection of photos from my highlight reel (so to speak) were placed in this collage because it provided an opportunity to explain their significance, their deeper meaning. When you get a chance to see the deep, the impactful, the obstacles, and the triumphs, and you reach the part of someone’s life where the heartache and joy become all mixed together – thats the part of the picture, the story, that’s truly beautiful. Now, you appreciate that in order to achieve my moments of happiness, I have overcome my demons. I fought against the ceaseless pain, illness, hopelessness, depression and fear, and embraced a spirit of hope, joy and courage. I found happiness in Jesus that allowed me to SMILE and shine, even if only for a moment before I returned to the trenches.

Look for that depth in your peers. Look for that relatability  when you scroll through highlight after highlight on social media. When you find the core, the humanity, CELEBRATE IT. It’s not often we connect like that. What a beautiful thing.

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