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broken beauty

Yesterday a person I don’t know all that well sent me a message that said, “Just saying hi. You’re really a beautiful soul. How are you?” I kind of wanted to cry a little bit, but instead I tried to cultivate a response to him:

…Oh, you really have no idea.


…Oh, not so much lately.


...Oh, you don’t truly know me.


Thank you.

{I settled there.}

The funny thing is, a dear friend that I know very well had sent me a message earlier that very same day that said this:

You are a good person, with a beautiful heart. You are lovable, you are loved, and you are a treasure and a delight. 

Now wait wait wait! Before you click away from this seemingly-full-of-self piece of writing, just hear me out a minute. This is not a post about how lovable and loved I am (although sometimes I scroll up through my phone to read a text my mom sent me last week that simply said, “Have I told you lately how much I love you?”). This is actually a post about stained glass (that subject probably isn’t the most alluring hook, either, I suppose).

For some reason this afternoon I started thinking about stained glass (likely because my brain was looking anywhere to land other than writing a lesson plan on close reading strategies). I love stained glass. I am mesmerized by its prisms of light, its multifaceted colors, how one’s perspective shifts when standing close or further away. But mostly, I am mesmerized by how all those broken shards are pieced together to make something beautiful. 

I love the stained glass in churches, I do, but I also love stained glass made from bits of broken glass – broken sea glass, broken bottles, broken tea cups, broken china. Sometimes there is a pattern to the brokenness. Sometimes the brokenness looks chaotic. No matter how it looks, though, whether neatly fit together in color-coded rows or pieced together in an explosion of riotous color, it’s beautiful. 

I realize that writing about beauty and brokenness is cliché. I agree wholeheartedly. I am sitting here at my laptop trying to figure out how to dig my way out of the cliché.


Nope. Not getting anywhere.

So I’ll just continue.

The thing is, you can’t have the beauty of stained glass without some sort of brokenness, some sharp edge, some cut. Likely, when a bottle crashes to the floor, the pieces of glass don’t look all that beautiful. In fact, we may very well just sweep up the glass and toss it in the trash. 

We can do that with our broken selves, too, I think. Sometimes we crash to the floor in a scattered heap of shattered glass. We can sweep ourselves up and toss that part of us in the trash. Or we can dig through the sharp rubble, pull out a piece of glass with a certain curve, a magical glint of light, a prism of color, and then place it carefully onto our soul’s mosaic. 

Maybe the broken pieces of your soul are already beautifully pieced together with the precision of a stained glass window in a lofty cathedral. Maybe the broken pieces of your soul look more like a failed Pinterest project. Maybe it doesn’t matter. Whether your soul looks like a cathedral window or a heap of chaotic color, you and your beautifully broken shards of glass are welcome to sit around my table. Maybe I could help you find just the right piece to glue onto your soul’s mosaic. Maybe you could find just the right piece to glue onto mine. Maybe we could look beyond my table and honor the beauty of other broken-glass souls sitting at other tables. Also, maybe we should look inside and honor the beauty of our own. And maybe every once in a while we should reach out to someone and say… 

Just saying hi. You’re really a beautiful soul. How are you?



  1. Richard Brewer on July 12, 2019 at 2:47 pm

    You are a beautiful soul!

    • Jill Clingan on July 12, 2019 at 3:26 pm

      Thank you. As are you.

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