When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Look for the Beauty

My sweet son begs to play tackle football and I can’t give in and instead let him negotiate his first bike ride to school alone. My mothering heart aches in tangled pride and fear. I follow secretly behind him in my minivan.

Sometimes I don’t know how to say yes or let my kids grow up.

I bribe my five-year-old to stay in bed one more night and step over tantrums before church on Sunday morning and I wonder who’s really in control.

Sometimes I can’t breathe because this mothering thing is so hard.

I wake up with a list full of plans and ideas and instead spend the day trying to solve a crisis. I am overwhelmed daily with inadequacy for this calling.

Sometimes I want to run away because I don’t know how to live this thing out.

Some days are hard: There are relationship challenges, misunderstandings, the money is tight, the house is broken, the kids fight, the dog pukes, chronic neck pain, the pressure to keep it all spinning builds…

I collapse into bed and second-guess my day, wondering if I was good at anything.

My life isn’t always beautiful.

As a matter of fact, there are parts of it that are just downright ugly.

The fear, the doubt, the second-guessing, the duct tape holding my dryer together.

But it’s in the tough places, that He teaches me.

If life was always pretty and perfect, I wouldn’t know how to search for the beauty. 

I wouldn’t understand that caterpillars need time in the ugly cocoon so they can transform into a butterfly.

I wouldn’t know that it’s only through irritation and pain that oysters form priceless pearls.

I wouldn’t appreciate that unbelievable pressure and heat produce sparkling diamonds.

Beauty is everywhere, but it’s appreciated even more in the hard places.

I have prayed for courage to rise up in my sweet son. I see it in the tilt of his chin as he buckles his helmet and leaves me waving in the driveway. I see beauty.

My oldest child comes to me late at night, so tall and mature, I hold my breath. “Will you lay with me?” she whispers and we talk deep into the night. Her little sister, following in her shadow. I see beauty.

Over Skype on a particularly hard day, Maureen and I say the words we are both feeling. This is hard. I want to quit. The very next day, we are a part of bringing a strong son into the world. We say it and mean it: I love this job. I wouldn’t want to do anything else.

An unexpected check in the mail, a cupcake on your doorstep, a friend who helps, a massage, a husband who loves–all beauty.

When the going gets tough, the tough look for the beauty. I’m learning this lesson in the hard places.

Beauty is often wedged between the hard and uncomfortable, adjacent to the difficult.

But when you find it, you’ll know exactly what to do with it.

How to Find Beauty in the Hard Places:

  • Rehearse His promises: Life is going to be hard, but take courage, He has overcome the world. John 16:33
  • Run to Him– He is our refuge- a very present help in the time of trouble. It may be hard, but we are never alone. Ps. 46:1
  • Rely on Him– Cast your cares (big and small) on Him, He cares about every detail. I Peter 5:7
  • Remember He’s got this– all things work together for good for those who love Him. Rom. 8:28


  1. 2


    So true. I too am learning to see beauty in the hard places. This season of my life has brought chronic illness and pain but it has fertilized and matured my relationship with my mom in ways I could not have imagined as she has stepped in to do those things I can’t. My mom and I are experiencing a sweetness in our relationship that we’ve never had before. I am so very thankful for the beauty that is my mom.

    • 2.1

      Brenda M. says

      He gives beauty for ashes..strength for fear…gladness for mourning and peace for despair! Thanks for sharing!

  2. 5

    Angela says

    Thank you for allowing God to use you through this blog by sharing things like this. This was perfect timing and really hit home for me… And it was a huge encouragement!!

  3. 6


    I loved this post. Every single word. I hope you are encouraged that, through the difficult times you experience and the insight and wisdom you learn and share, that you help reach others…moms, also in the trenches of difficulties, wondering how to see the beauty through the difficult times.

    God works powerfully through you, and that is an awesome thing.

    Romans 8:28 being proven as true :-)

  4. 7


    Those days of turmoil and business are the source of our inability to see the beauty. I do it so often. I forget to find the blessings in disguise. You are right where God wants you to be. You know where to look when you feel this way. That is important. You do a great thing – caring for others. It is in this caring for others, we are selfless and look to do His calling. You are an example of faith and perseverance to many. Keep your head up looking to the clouds. Know He is in control.

  5. 8

    Brenda M. says

    I read this morning from “The Resolution for Women” that ….God’s choice of you for this leg of the marathon was by design. Not because it has accidentally happened like this but because you have been known and chosen by the one Coach who sees you as uniquely suited, equipped, and capable of carrying out such amazing plans with such intricate precision.

    The past 4 years God has been pruning me and causing me to see that He is enough no matter what my circumstances. Whether it was my husband being unemployed for a full year 4 years ago or his currently being unemployed for almost 4 months now…God is enough! Whether it was my youngest son calling off his wedding a month before it was to happen or my oldest son going through a deep personal crisis…God is enough! Whether it was my going through a deep depression…so deep I wanted to kill myself…God is enough! Whether it was because of my husband losing his current job that I had to give up a job I loved to get another job with insurance benefits…God is enough! Whether it was having to sell off pieces of our furniture to have enough money to buy groceries and pay the mortgage…God is enough!

    I am learning to be content no matter my circumstances. I have had more opportunities to give God the glory and praise the past 4 years than ever before because of His pruning away the unnecessary. God is enough…always!

  6. 9

    Brenda M. says

    Thank you for your beautiful post, vulnerability and deep desire to see the beauty in the ashes! May God bless you richly!

  7. 10


    I love this — thanks for sharing!! That intersection of beauty & joy with the reality of suffering in our world & the desire to live simply and help others… that is such a wonderful, crazy place to be. I’m so grateful for your blog, bringing it to the forefront. Even though my posts are more on the silly side, sometimes (today it’s about cleaning out your closet…. ha!) this is where I am trying to be. Looking hard at the ways that life actually becomes MORE beautiful when we rely on God, when we give up some of our stuff, when we see the hard things. You are such an inspiration to me!


  8. 11

    Heather says

    Your post today made me think of one of the songs we play in Boot Camp every morning. It’s “Gold” by Rebeka Shae and the verse I thought of as I read this was:

    “This fire is makin’ me better, refined it don’t matter whether,
    I’m lookin’ like a loser, cause ima show you all a winner!
    You can have it all cause I’m a giver,
    But ain’t givin’ up, I ain’t no quitter!
    So I think its better off you know, I’m comin’ out Gold!”

    So even if you feel down and out and like you just want to give up, just remember that it is God refining you and you, Kristen, are coming out GOLD. :)

    Blessings to you today!

  9. 12

    Teresa says

    Thank you for showing me I am not the only one. As an adoptive single mother of two wonderful girls that I adore, but girls that have a mind of their own and are very strong-willed, there are so many nights lately I lay in bed alone wondering if I am good enough, if I have screwed them up too much, if I am succeeding in this mothering thing at all. Lately, I see my failures reflected in them more than my successes. It’s brutal, and it cuts me to the core. Every morning though, I get up, and I try again. And in those moments where the oldest hugs me and tell me she loves me, and we laugh together over something silly, and we cuddle on the couch before bed, I find the beauty. And when the youngest yells Momma when I walk in the door at night, and toddles over to me with her arms stretched up so I’ll hold her, and she buries her head in my shoulder with her little arms wrapped around my neck, I find the beauty. We’ll make it – sometimes just a second at a time – but we’ll make it.

  10. 15


    so very true! It’s hard sometimes to even put a smile on my face when the tough gets going…BUT then I see something (usually not something that shouts “Look at me” but something in the corner or a funny picture or a rose my husband cliped from our rose bush in a vase) and I have to smile and remember that this is all in His plan and it will be ok and I have SO much to be thankful for…beauty is everywhere!

  11. 16

    Nichole says

    I was just crying out to God about nearly all of this when I heard him whisper ” humble yourself to the beauty that surrounds you”. You have no idea how much this post blessed me…..

  12. 17


    Oh, this is so true! Love the image of your son buckling his helmet and riding away. That makes my heart ache! But it makes me smile too – it will be happening to me before I know it.

  13. 22


    Recently experienced my son riding away by himself for the first time on his MOTORCYCLE! So completely understand the feelings. And having a lot of struggles and challenges with 15 yo daughter. A great reminder to find the beauty in the midst of it all. Thanks!

  14. 23

    Leslee says

    Sometimes the fear of being a parent is overwhelming. Will they be wise in choosing friends? Will they have the godly character you pray for them to have? My oldest, my son, is going into the Marine Corps right after high school. His recruit date was bumped up to July 23rd. That is only three months away and this mom is starting to panic a bit from the fear of his future. We just picked up his senior pictures. We came home and hung the 8 x 10. Later, I walked by and just stood looking at it and started to cry. Because I fear for his safety, fear for his character, but most of all because of the beauty within him. He is an amazing young man and I am constantly amazed that this is my son. I can’t believe the faithfulness, loyalty, kindness, humor and integrity he exhibits daily. So I am learning to let him go in God’s hands. We all need to pray for each other as mom’s to handle the letting go a little each day and see the beauty God has put into our children. Thanks for a great post Kristen!! Your blogs are always timely for me…

    • 23.1

      TN Lizzie says

      I pray that the Marine Corps will be the best-shaped tool in God’s hands to make your son more like Jesus. I will pray for you and for him each time I wipe fingerprints from the schoolroom doorway – that you will see God’s fingerprints in your son’s life. Please tell him that my family and I thank him for his service in the Marines? It’s men like him that make me feel safe!

  15. 25

    Mary Jepperson says

    One moment. One step at a time. One breath. And another. Another. Sometimes that’s all He asks of us. I pray you always find Him in the moment, the step, the breath. Trust Him that you are becoming all He wants you to be. And that is enough. Father is so proud of who you are becoming. Such a tender-hearted mom. Such a thing of beauty.

  16. 27


    Grateful for your truth shared here. Press on, sister! Your life is making such a difference — even if your clothes are dried in something held together by duct tape. :)

  17. 28


    great post. i love your transparency and honesty. so many women try to look all pulled together and are screaming inside. i appreciate your sharing heart and that you always point us toward the true source of life, love, salvation, and comfort– our Father’s arms.

  18. 30


    So well said. It’s so hard to let go. I have a soon to be sixteen year old daughter and thirteen year old son. Since my son entered seventh grade he is like a different person, physically, emotionally, socially. I think who is this person? Where has my little boy gone? My daughter is going on a Spanish trip to Costa rica next summer. It’s a whole summer away and already I don’t know if I can let her go. (I know I will in the end) Thanks for sharing and for your wonderful blog!

  19. 31

    Ann says

    Beautifully put… and gratefully read! Thank you. There is also much wisdom and beauty in the comments.

  20. 33


    So glad I clicked over from Ann’s post today – I am going to make a poster of parts of this to hang on the refrigerator! Beautiful and profound…thanks for sharing!

  21. 34


    Thank-you for being real. It’s so easy for me to look at someone like you and think oh, she’s got it together even though I know you’re just a mom like me. And we all have hard days and yet we all can find the beauty. Thank-you for this gem.

  22. 35


    One Christmas I bought my daughter the ugliest doll I had ever seen. I could not help it because it was so CUTE !! In its ugliest was beauty. My daughter loved that ugly doll and wore it out with love. Don’t give up your day job, no one else could do it as well as YOU !!

  23. 36

    Debbie O says

    So insightful. Thank you for penning so many of the thoughts I have daily in this calling of Motherhood.

  24. 37


    I loved this post! I’m going to remember it for a very long time ….especially the part where you said, “Beauty is often wedged between the hard and uncomfortable, adjacent to the difficult.But when you find it, you’ll know exactly what to do with it.”

  25. 38

    Victoria says

    Thank you for saying all this…for thinking all this…for sharing all this…

    “I wake up with a list full of plans and ideas and instead spend the day trying to solve a crisis. I am overwhelmed daily with inadequacy for this calling.”

    I can relate to this and am grateful for sharing the answers in His Word.

  26. 40

    Katie says

    Thank you, Kristen! I am in a hard place and searching SO HARD to find beauty in the pain… You have written grace and given me grace and I’m grateful. Thank you.

  27. 41

    Krissi says

    Thank you for the reminder of real beauty. I see it too. So many days I see it. Some days I still forget to look. Some days I refuse. It has to be seen.

  28. 44

    Melanie says

    HI Kristen, I read this and felt like you are my twin!!! Except I have 2 girls :)… I am so grateful to God for the amazing blogs of christian women such as yourself to find encouragement and that I am normal! Other women think and feel the same ways and get blown away by the learning and guiding we are under with walking this parenting journey so intensely with God. Bless you heaps… x

  29. 45

    Munish says

    Thank you ever so much for reminding me and all of us that to look at the work of God in our lives, no matter how hard they are, and to just to be still and remember God is God, the Supreme Shepherd, the all-knowing One and how He loves us so much, and we fall only into His arms — thank you for reminding me of that. I need that — to be reminded that God is in control (no matter how ugly it all seems): He will reveal His beauty and we will there find His glory and our delight.

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