What we want in life are perfect moments and what we receive in life are imperfect moments carrying the seeds of beauty inside. “Sometimes life’s greatest beauty shows up right in the middle of the mess.” And this is what Michele Cushatt reveals in her heart touching story, Undone, written in the middle of such mess.
Her perfect life takes birth, but only after she goes through excruciating pain and that is why life looks so beautiful to her.
Weaving the tapestry of all her imperfect moments in this book, this story of her life, took her seven years of writing and two years of editing, this time, when she was constantly making peace with all her responsibilities and her own chaotic life.
So, Undone is the story of Michele Cushatt. A story of a woman and her catastrophic upheaval in life. A story of her devastating divorce and parenting her first child. A story of her remarriage and taking responsibility of her two step sons. A story of her son leaving home, but soon coming back, for she has immense faith in her God. The story of her cancer diagnosis at the age 39, and her confrontation with death so close, even when she had followed a healthy diet, brushed her teeth twice, exercised and lived her life, in perfect balance amidst all the turmoil.
This story is of a couple giving home to three little kids, who were in crisis, topping their life with more chaos. A story of recurrence of Michele’s cancer and her line of surgeries and recovery days. A story of a daughter facing courageously the death of her father with the pancreatic cancer, who hammered in her to have faith in God at the age of five. This story is of Michele, making peace with her imperfect life.
So, here are 6 lessons that we all can learn form Michele Cushatt’s Undone:
1. Life is full of unexpected surprises. At the age of 39. A phone call. A disease diagnosis. It was a “rare squamous-cell carcinoma” cancer of the tongue. Michele’s life changed completely after that one phone call, “like a tornado ripping through a town in just minutes but changing the landscape forever.” Ordinary days became unordinary. What followed were weekly and monthly visits to doctor. Biopsies. PET scans. Fear. Crying. Praying. Waiting. Worrying. And Thanksgiving of that year with unknown future.
So, reading the initial chapters of this book these questions may come to your mind: do we know what is our future? Do we know what is kept in God’s store for us? Do we appreciate the unexpected gifts send by God? Do we believe, “If God does not give us what we want, he gives us what we need?”
But to Michele, these were the ways of making an ordinary life extraordinary because she writes, “sometimes messy is the necessary beginning to the making of the extraordinary.”
2. Live one-day-at-a-time, but do we live that way ? Confronted with the news of her disease, Michele tried to celebrate Thanksgiving of the year with her full vivacity, completing all the domestic chores, cooking lavish feast for her family and friends and keeping her smiling face up, but deep inside her, she felt “crumbling” and crushed with passing of each day and every minute.
Since her kindergarten days she had developed faith in her God. She learnt to “pour out… lament.” She prayed, “Father God, help me. Please, help. I want to live!” She wanted to sit with someone and share her pang and her prayer was answered, again with a phone call.This time by one of her long lost friends Christine who called her to pray for her. Wasn’t this a true surprise? Christine prayed for her peace of mind and heart and for fulfilling ‘overwhelming and incomparable love of God’ in her life.
With her incessant prayers at the most painful days of her life, Michele anchored her faith in God. For “faith isn’t rooted in the past or future. It’s birthed in how we handle and approach today.”
3. Life is making imperfect moments perfect. Michele, like all of us, too wanted a perfect life. A life with a perfect partner. To be in perfect relationship. With perfect children. Perfect health. Perfect professional growth. Perfect home. Perfect finances. And not to miss her perfect spiritual growth. Life like this, was a perfect dream for her. In short, life to be in her full control. But life, instead, offered her full of imperfect moments, disorder and personal challenges, all wrapped up in perfect meanings which she unwrapped so well in her this book Undone.
She says that, “we come to love not by finding the perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly.” Everything imperfect in her life soon become perfect from a distant vantage point for everyone.
4. When we see chaos, we discover peace inside. With her three new kids, the home become a new place in few seconds. With the colors, crayons, slippers and shrieks and shouting all around which she has long forgotten with her grown up teenagers now. And in this chaos she realized that
“Peace isn’t a byproduct of control, the payout of a happy conclusion. Peace is the infiltrating, life-giving presence of a very real God. One who loves nothing more than to step into the middle of locked and darkened rooms and impossible circumstances, close enough to touch.”
5. Crisis is important in life for the growth of our full character.
In the moments of her crisis, struggle and randomness, Michele writes:
“Just as a writer must embrace a rough draft as the necessary means to a book’s successful end, I had to learn how to embrace my life’s process. Including the countless ways my shortcomings and flaws have made me a better character in my own story.”
6. When we meet death, we know what life is. Michele writes that “it’s a horrible thing to think you have lost your life. But it’s a wonderful thing to find it again. I hadn’t realized how much I valued my breath until I though it might end. With renewed hope, I wanted to savor every moment, every morsel this life can offer.”
In life everything has a price and a value. It is the absence of that person in our life that makes us realize the truth worth of the person. Death coming too close, makes us realize the worth of our near and dear ones and our own life.
Life may be chaotic, life may be full of turmoil, life may seem full of pain and life may seem difficult to decipher but as Michele says:
“Life may be undone, but we have the reassurance that God is not done with us.”