It’s in the contrasts that we see things clearly, isn’t it? Seeing the yellow white flame in a dark room, or the joyous victory of sunrise after a battle of night; a slow, long, deep breath after an asthma attack…we truly understand something in these moments. Seeing and feeling the dramatic differences teach us.  It’s where we “get it” and say “Ooooooh, now I see, now I appreciate, now I accept, now I love, now I hope…” We are reminded of this every 24 hours by experiencing the contrast of day and night or in the beautiful transformation of the caterpillar into the butterfly (from crawling to flying).  Aren’t we tempted to “help” the butterfly get out of the cocoon a little easier and faster? The struggle out of the cocoon is what changes this creature.  hmmm, I wonder if I could ever see my struggles in light of the gifts they they leave me? Yesterday as I walked in the forest, I enjoyed the texture and complexity of a tree that was twisted and gnarled.  The harsh winds and weather gave this tree it’s uniqueness.  Had I been around in those storms, I would have tried to shield the tree from it all. I often want to do this for those I love-shield them, protect them from pain, manipulate a course that is easier to navigate. I sometimes do it for myself. While I know there are elements in the story of our lives that we choose,  I am very aware that there are portions of our story that are chosen for us. The truth is, we need the struggle.  We need the contrasts. We need to overcome. This is what sharpens, changes, and  emboldens us.  This IS life. When we walk away and know that our values supersede materialism, when our honor trumps being misunderstood, when love truly wins inside our hearts, that’s when we LIVE. These are the true life lessons I need.  Lessons of struggle and survival, perseverance and hope, disappointment and surrender-these lessons shout to me every day. They remind me that I get to write part of the story and they cheer me on to write it well, just like the beauty of the gnarled tree on the mountain and the colorful butterfly that brightens my day.