Death, Focus and Finding Beauty


14 years ago I laid in a hospital bed being pumped full of heavy duty antibiotics, an oxygen mask snuggly fitted to my face and a stout, demanding nurse seated at the head of my bed who routinely refitted the mask and loudly ordered me to breathe. Just an hour earlier the room had been full of medical professionals whose sole mission was to save my life and maybe that of my daughter’s. But the sepsis had ravaged both of us by that point and only one of us survived. I laid in that bed and flashed back to just two weeks prior, as I held my first daughter in my arms while she took her last breath. It was only then, in the stark contrast that I realized that even those agonizingly difficult moments were a gift I was not given with both. Our twins, born two weeks apart and months too soon only lived for about 15 minutes.

I laid there full of disdain for the nurse who was fighting to keep me alive, she was holding space for a life I no longer wanted, so certain was I that it was the event meant to destroy me. It was in that space, wishing I could lull off to sleep and simply wake, held in the arms of Jesus, with my girls, that I first heard Him whisper.

“Look for the beauty in this day Crystal.”

It seemed like a cruel joke at first. How could there ever be beauty in spaces like this? Then I looked over at my mother’s tear stained face, hung low, seated beside a husband who was fervently praying for my life, and I began to understand. Seasons are always woven, they are rarely solitary notes, suffering and joy are often melted together into the tapestry of our lives. The beauty of that day was the love of two who were fighting for me even when I had no strength or desire left to fight for myself.

I would continue to hear that gentle prodding as the days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months and months turned into years. Eventually, I began to seek ways to capture the ordinarily beautiful moments through photography. What started as a vision-shift turned into a way to remember the beauty in the hard seasons. Today, after days of high stress, and countless questions in the midst of this pandemic season I looked over and my breath caught in my chest as I quickly picked up my phone to “snap” a picture.

Daddy is now having to work from home, uncomfortable at our rackety kitchen table, but he was briefly interrupted by a sweet 4 year old, dressed as Princess Jasmine, who just had to hold him tight for a moment. A moment that 14 years ago, laying in that hospital bed, I could have never dreamed of. One miraculous moment, again reminding me of just how big God is and the beauty He provides in the ordinary (and even hard spaces) if we will just have eyes to see.

What beauty are you prone to miss in the distracted hardness of this time? May I encourage you to always look for the beauty? It often shows up in the ordinary.