Making the world more beautiful

miss-rumphius-inside5Recently, my beloved Hillsdale College has produced beautiful marketing videos, many of them highlighting alumnae doing remarkable things. It is exciting to see classmates of mine who are working for the Denver Broncos or producing for Fox News. They are polished, driven, and remarkably successful. I love seeing the amazing work of my friends and the passion that they have about their work.

But when I watch the promotions, I don’t only feel pride at the accomplishments of my friends. I feel something else, too. A twinge of jealousy, perhaps. An underlying doubt, certainly.

My life is not one that will sell my alma mater to prospective students. My teaching job and my days of raising a child, loving a husband, and doing the dishes at 9 p.m. every night aren’t necessarily polished, marketable sorts of things.

I believe in the goodness of motherhood. I know the goodness of family. I believe that what I am doing is important, and meaningful, but saying those words is not always easy to believe.

What am I doing, I wonder? Ought I be more ambitious? My degree, my journalism experience, my Washington Times internship, all formed me and made me but in light of those, my life now sometimes feels as if I am not doing anything.

These feelings come and go, never settled, although usually quieted by the knowledge—but perhaps a less solid conviction—that what I am doing matters. I tell myself that often, hoping that I will learn to believe it.

But tonight Edith was sitting on my lap, calming down before bed. We were reading Miss Rumphius, one of my beloved childhood books and one that I hope she will come to love, too.

Miss Rumphius is a librarian, a traveler, a polished, worldly woman who sees remarkable places and meets fascinating people and has many stories to tell her grandnieces and nephews as she grows older. She moves to the seaside and has her own sweet little cottage by the sea. But one thing in her life remains undone, the most important task her grandfather gave her, “the most difficult thing of all!”: making the world more beautiful.

Miss Rumphius plants lupines by her house and the wind scatters the seeds into the fields and hills by her home. She discovers the flowers far from her little spot of coast the next spring and finally knows how she will make the world more beautiful.

So she plants lupines all over the town. She walks the roads and the fields, past children laughing and calling her That Crazy Old Lady, around the churchyard and by the school, throwing seeds as she walks. And the lupines bloom and the town glows and the children call her the Lupine Lady.

As I sat there with my sweet little girl on my lap—which is quickly growing smaller as my belly grows larger with another new life—I heard the words in a new way. You must do something to make the world more beautiful. And I realized: this, right now, is how I am asked to make the world more beautiful.

I am not asked to do something remarkable or noteworthy or publishable. That doesn’t mean those things are wrong, or less worthwhile. But it does mean that we are all asked to do more than only those things.

We are asked to make the world more beautiful, each of us in our own different ways. This task is ultimately the most difficult and the most important thing we can do.

And this little girl and this new baby and this husband and this grad school wife life right now, these are mine. Perhaps one day they will include writing a book or getting another degree. But that is not now.

So I will work, and pray, and hope that my small efforts are even now and will one day make the world more beautiful.

4 thoughts on “Making the world more beautiful

  1. This is such a lovely post, Shannon. Thank you so much. I can relate to those twinges of jealousy and doubt about the direction and worthiness of my life…your answer to them is so good. Now, I really want to read Miss Rumphius!

  2. Greg Wilhelm

    The Lupine Lady… one of my favorite children books…
    Love going to Maine when the lupines are in bloom.

    2 Corinthians 10:12 “But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.”

    We often need to look objectively at what our lives are all about and how they compare to the calling that God has placed upon us individually to see the beauty therein. Our perpetual issue is to look about and “compare themselves with one another” and value our worth from that comparison.

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