“The truth is that we don’t want to be saved by in the way God has chosen; we want to keep absolute control over our every step, to be fully conscious of our decisions, to be capable of choosing the object of our devotion. It isn’t like that with love – it arrives, moves in, and starts directing everything.” ― Paulo Coelho, The Witch of Portobello

When I met my husband I did some serious daydreaming. I dreamt about all the things we’d do together, the place we’d go, the family we’d raise, and the love we’d carry throughout. I dreamt about these things in abstract form without consideration of limit or impact.

Many of these dreams have come true, changed direction, and/or expanded. For this, all the lessons and memories, I am grateful. But for me, the most unexpected part of love has been its beauty in and/or through pain. I know this sounds strange so let me explain.  Our marriage has thrived in our toughest moments or most stressful scenarios. We are and remain best friends. As true opposites, we challenge each other. But as we drive each other mad, we also drive each other to elevate and excel ourselves and one another.

My mother-in-law and I are not alike. She is quiet and I am loud. She presents polished and I am unfiltered. But we share something incredibly special, which is that we both love the same man.

She has cancer for the second time. She’s currently undergoing chemotherapy and as I write this, I am sitting beside her during her treatment. I am in a crowded cancer center overwhelmed by the volume of patients and humbled by my own health. Seriously, this place is the ultimate motivation for more exercise, better eating, and simple gratitude. But this isn’t a happy place to be or visit. It’s a reminder that there’s some serious pain and suffering in our lifetime.

I see the pain and suffering, but I also see beauty. It’s the husband across from me sitting next to his wife. It’s the friend next to me who has taken careful note of her bestie’s lab work and lunch. It’s the nursing staff and their tender touches. It’s this time with my mother-in-law. We’re four hours in and we’ve covered tons of topics.

In all my daydreams never did I imagine the tough stuff. I think it’s natural that we don’t. Overthinking about the oppressive or offensive things in life isn’t good for the soul. But here we are in a tough time and I’m all in. There’s beauty here. Taking care of her makes me feel good, it makes him feel good, and most importantly, it makes her feel good.

The Coelho quote above gave me a good dose of humility. None of us would choose this route. It’s heavy and full of unexpected twists and turns. But we’re here. There’s beauty in this togetherness and there are layers of love that develop and deepen because of it. In what’s not an obvious place for beauty, the cancer center has given me some great gifts and long-lasting inspiration.

Love directs and demands we find the unexpected beauty. It’s everywhere.