I stood alone, staring at a display of brightly-painted clay women in that Dominican Republic market. Who knew I’d find myself here? Now. For such a time as this.
Moments earlier, I’d been giddy over a painted canvas I’d purchased from the upper level of hidden gems nobody seemed to have found. But joy eventually subsided, and I found myself drawn to the front of the store, to a dusty row of clay women.
I picked up the figurines, one by one, analyzing for beauty, for message, for heart and soul. Each was unique. Their colors, postures, heights and weights told stories of who the artist thought they might be. Some held flowers, some held clutches, some held bellies, and some stood pristine. Some were royal. Some were plain. All were dusty. And I wondered. When did someone last ponder the purposes of these beauties?
Our minutes in the store were numbered. I was bound and determined to find a figure that matched the state of my soul. Truth be told, I wasn’t sure what I was looking for. I just knew I’d know her when I found her.
After a while of looking, my heart panicked a bit. They were all so beautiful and many would suffice. But the one was yet to be found.
My fingers were dusty, dirty in fact. The figures weren’t in pristine pretty rows anymore. Dusty glass marked the places they once stood. I kept my favorites to the front, but kept reaching back, further back.
There she was.
Golden. With white and red accents. And long brown hair.
She was clutching her belly just like the figurine I purchased in Haiti and adore on my dresser every morning before I wake. There was something contemplative, ready to be birthed in her.
She was the one.
From the moment I picked her up, I noticed her imperfections. Her dress was chipped at the bottom. Her long brown hair revealed hard clay beneath.
I decided I’d take her anyway. After all, if there was one thing I’d learned, it was that perfection wasn’t getting me anywhere. I might as well take her, imperfections and all. She was beautiful, even so.
$8. A bargain, I thought, for such beauty.
They wrapped her up and our group parted the market within moments. I carried her around the rest of the day, then back to the hotel by my suitcase for our last night in the Dominican.
In the morning, I began packing. I’d carefully set aside miss beauty until the end. I wanted to reserve a specially-padded place for her in my suitcase, or maybe in my carry-on. She was wrapped quite well, but still.
I’d packed nearly everything. She was last to go except a few strays for my purse.
I stepped back, and crunch. I’d broken miss beauty in two.
Apparently, she was too fragile to withstand the blow. I lifted her up, opened the bag and unwrapped her goodness from layers of tissue paper. When I stepped back, I’d literally broken off her head. She’d lost her head. On my account.
I laughed. Yes, I was a little heart broken. But I laughed anyway.
What else could I do?
This beauty I spent 20 minutes selecting the afternoon prior had lost her head already!
Was it a complete waste, or maybe meant to be?
I told my roommate about the accident, and packed that clay beauty right back up in her tissue. I’m quite sure others would have tossed her straight into the trash. After all, she was only worth $8 with her head on! But something told me she was meant to go home just like that. Broken. With her head off once and for all.
You see, I’d been broken that week. I’d completely lost it on that trip. The dream I’d had for four, nearly five years – to write on behalf of children living in extreme poverty, FOR Compassion International – had come true. But my husband had just been diagnosed with eye cancer. And whether I wanted to admit it or not, life was going to be impacted. The trip was going to be impacted. Yes, I’d lost it. I’d lost my head. All the plans, all the purposes I’d ever envisioned, all the ways I’d write every day and everything would flow perfectly just like it had in Haiti? Well, it didn’t happen quite like I envisioned. God, in fact, had a better way in mind. He emptied me, broke me, then filled me with a new kind of grace. It was a humbling place.
Today, miss beauty stands in all her grandeur on my table. She looks perfect just the way she is – with no head.
I know it’s a little weird. (Maybe a lot weird?) I get it. Some of you think I’m a freak for overanalyzing this random figurine with no head. But hear me out for a minute. This is how I think, this is the way I process life. I’m a firm believer that there’s purpose in everything. Every. Thing.
For me? I needed that trip to the Dominican to bring me to a place of surrender. I needed to lose my head. I needed to stop overanalyzing, to stop planning and purposing my life my way. Kris was right, my “five point plan [wasn’t] going to work anymore.” I needed to surrender my life so God could take it and do immeasurably more than I imagined.
So here I am. 2 1/2 months later with a beautiful statue sitting on the table in front of me. Her head is broken off. But she’s still oh so beautiful.
I’ve never been the same.
I thought Haiti changed me forever. Now I know Dominican changed me forever in a whole new way.
I’m still empty. I’m still broken.
But I’m more sure of God’s Spirit, God’s sovereignty, God’s ability to work it all out than I’ve ever been.