Beautiful and terrible

Jeff with Drew at Key West, Florida, winter 1986

Jeff with Drew at Key West, Florida, winter 1986

“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”
Frederick Buechner

That’s it in a nutshell, isn’t it? It might seem contradictory to affirm that terrible things will happen, yet advise against fear.  But I think there is a difference between feeling fear occasionally (or even often) versus being afraid.  As discussed in a recent post, there can be no real courage without fear.  Being courageous in spite of fear is what Buechner may have been getting at.

We’ve all known people who seem consumed by anxiety; whose major choices and daily lives are based on caution and self-preservation above all else. While it’s understandable, it’s also regrettable to think of the costs of such a defensive orientation, both to others who are denied what such people might have been able to give, and to the protected self that is closed off from  joys available to bolder spirits.

If we allow fear to paralyze us, we will miss the beauty.  It’s a worthy goal to see things as they are– both beautiful and terrible– and yet refuse to live in fear.  So here, today, is the world– your world.  I wish you appreciation of the beautiful and courage amid the terrible.

One year ago today:

Brilliantly disguised


  1. Susan

    Thank you! I’ll do my best to forge forth. Wishing you many glimpses of the beautiful today!
    Also, on YouTube there’s a vid where Kid President has a message for newborn
    It’s a similar sentiment. :–)

    • Thank you Susan! I did have many glimpses of the beautiful today and I took LOTS of photos, some of which will end up here, I’m sure! Thanks for sharing that Kid President link – Jeff and I read about him in the Christian Chronicle some time ago and I had forgotten about him until now. He is adorable and of course his story touches my heart, because I’ve spent so much time in pediatric hospitals and seen so many brave kids. Terrible things happen to them, and they are beautiful people. Thanks for being here!

  2. raynard

    Julia, the title of your blog just reminded me of the saying” Pretty Ugly lol If you live” in a concrete jungle( the city) you appreciate growth of any kind. ( you have do deal with people) Mna now you got me singing” Barbera Streinand ‘People who need People LOL be blessed

    • Raynard, I never realized that the term “pretty ugly” is an oxymoron – except if you use “ugly” to describe behavior, which is how I mostly use it. I love cities but I doubt I would want to live in one full time. If so I’d have to have a rooftop garden somewhere to escape to! Hope you are having a good week.

  3. Sheila

    Good Monday morning, Julia. Without planning it, your blog today correspondes perfectly with The Upper Room and Storms Of Life and worry. Our choice to live by the ocean accepts the beautiful, and the possibility of terrible goes with this choice. This is our physical world, but we gain much strength everyday through God’s beautiful creation. I wish a good week for you as these prayers close the miles between us! 🙂

    • Sheila, thanks so much. I’m rushed tonight, but tomorrow I will simply HAVE to make some time to get over to UR and catch up a bit. I think Michael has a devotional coming up there soon. He told me the date but I lost where I made a note of it and I can’t find it. I’ll ask him for a reminder. You are both brave and fortunate to live right on the ocean! Thanks so much for your thoughts and prayers – you are often in mine!

  4. Fear requires a response, to a circumstance, of fight or flight. To flee from a tornado bearing down on your home is a good reponse to fear. To stay and fight here, not wise. And this type of fear is temporary. As the threat passes-so too does the fear.

    A psychological fear of the market place or open spaces, can keep one from even leaving one’s home, and therefore, limiting opportunities for happiness and fulfillment. Here if one takes flight, it is an endless exhausting effort. For where can you run too, other than home, and therefore become unhealthily withdrawn. Here one needs to fight; to take a stand not against a real threat, but one manefested in one’s mind.

    Granted the symptoms feel as though they are motivated by a real circumstance, however, it is not. They can be desensitized, by holding one’s ground, and discovering that the worst we feared, did not happen. In time the boundaries we set begin to expand outward, until the fears that once shouted are now but whispers; and more easily ignored. And a happier confident person emerges.

    So fear “can” be overcome with courage that is founded in faith. For those, who have extreme cases of anxiety, and are at present lacking faith; professional guidance, in the beginning, would be advisable, until they get their feet on firmer ground.


    • Alan, I agree. Fear can be helpful when it’s appropriate, and can lead us to growth and understanding of ourselves even when it is irrational, as long as we are willing to see it for what it is. One thing that is surprising to me is how easily fear can masquerade as something else, such as anger, bravado, modesty or shyness. Probably other things too. Life is so complex at times, and people are more so, which probably is why it’s sometimes difficult to get to the nature and source of our emotions; things aren’t always about what they appear to be about, if that makes sense! Thank goodness for those who understand and can help us through it.

      • Your thought about things not being as they seem is quite true. Fear is the door by which such things as anger, bravado, modesty and shyness enter.
        Pleased to be a follower of yours, Julia.
        -stay well, and God’s blessings to you and your loved ones;

        • Thanks so much Alan. I appreciate your kind words, deep thoughts and encouragement to keep going.

  5. Jack

    Anything that has the potential for genuine good has it for bad as well. Want the joy of a relationship of intimacy and trust, then take the risk of rejection that accompanies it. All the good stuff is worth the risk, for a life apart from it is not worth living. CS Lewis said that being hungry doesn’t mean that you’re going to get food, but it does mean that there is food. I think I tend to see the bad and overlook the inherent good far too often…a brief glimpse up on the Cross can bring despair or joy unspeakable.

    • I love that thought from Lewis! And I’ve often thought about how our worst faults are usually our best traits taken to extremes. In the same way, sometimes the most beautiful things are also the most terrible or painful or scary or hard. (Relationships, for example.) Medical treatment is a good example of things that can be beautiful and terrible at the same time. Jeff gave a very touching talk at church about how sometimes he looks at his scars and sees all the suffering he’s endured, but other times he looks at them and feels thankful for the surgeries that are helping him to live longer. The ultimate example for Christians is the Cross. Thanks for reminding us of that.

  6. Julia, loving photo of Jeff and Drew. And a quote worthy of applying to my life.
    Thanks. Enjoy your day… 🙂

    • Thank you Merry! I’m so happy you like it!

  7. Carlyle

    I really appreciated this post. I relate to it because I have seen both the beautiful and terrible, often in the same enviornment . Things too beautiful or too terrible to describe, That inspire awe or fear. You have been close enough to me to understand what I mean.

    • Thanks Daddy, I am so glad you liked the post. For some reason your comment reminded me of something you said to me many long years ago when I was very young. I remarked once “I wish I could see an angel.” You looked at me with a somber expression and asked, “How do you know?” You then reminded me that every time an angel appears to a person in a Bible story, the first word out of his mouth is “FEAR NOT!” 😀 Which might indicate they weren’t cute and chubby little cupids or gorgeous ladies with wings or all the other things we imagine. Beautiful, yes, but terrible. Hopefully in a good way. 😀

  8. singleseatfighterpilot

    “Beautiful”? A similar question to Carlyle, from your elder brother, asked while pointing to a hideous, red-clad, creature with horns: “Dad, don’t you think that’s a pretty good depiction of The Devil?”. Carlyle’s response: “If the Devil looked like that, we’d have no problem recognizing and avoiding him — I think The Devil may appear in the form of a beautiful woman.”

    • Yes, and apparently the guys who wrote the song “Devil with a Blue Dress On” agree with him. Seriously, I agree that temptation to evil (or even questionable activities) comes in the form of a very appealing package, or it would not be temptation, and that’s going to be different for each person. Custom-designed to catch us where we are weakest. The same person who finds it easy to resist drunkenness or drugs may find it much harder to resist greed or deception, and vice versa. Almost anything can work to our detriment if we let it take over. The red suit and pitchfork were probably dreamed up by Screwtape or one of his colleagues.

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