A Simple Look at a Not-So-Simple Life

Start Off Ugly

I’ve been working along with the Fifteen Day Writer’s Challenge. The last few days have been action items, but not necessarily blogging items. Today’s challenge – Start Ugly – is something I know I can do. I’ve done it a lot.


When I started out in ministry 13 years ago, I did a lot of things ugly. Like, for example, an embarrassing number of bad, boring sermons. I know because I kept them all. Every now and then I’ll shuffle through the old file folders (yes, all paper copies) and pull out one to see if it’s worth reworking. More often than not, it’s not. Some of my old sermons are horrible! Bless the hearts of those poor souls who put up with me while I found my voice and learned a few lessons about ministry in general. I’m sure I still write some horrible sermons sometimes, but I hope not nearly as often as before.

I made plenty of mistakes as a fledgling pastor. I still make plenty of mistakes, but usually I don’t make them as big or as ugly as I did back then. For instance, when it finally happened that I crossed a church member in my first call, I didn’t cross just any church member. I crossed the church matriarch. And she wasn’t just the church matriarch, but also the matriarch of one of the big family names in that very small town. Let me just say, I don’t recommend that move to anyone. Ever. It was an ugly misstep.

Lately, I’ve been getting back into the running routine. I’m an ugly runner. I don’t think it’s so much my running gait, although it’s not nearly as fast or graceful as that of, say, a gazelle. Or my 20-year-old running partner. I’m slow. Not as slow as I used to be, but still slow. When I exercise, my face gets red – Bob the Tomato red. And I sweat. Whoever said: “Southern women don’t sweat, they glisten” has never met me after a run. I’m Southern through and through (except for that slight trace of Yankee left in my accent from my family’s New York adventure when I was learning to talk) – and I sweat. Running for me is ugly – a slow, red, sweaty kind of ugly.

bob tomato

Sometimes my writing is ugly, too. When I write by hand, my handwriting gets more illegible with every word. When I type, I usually have a ton of typos. I’ve noticed that I frequently leave the “s” off the end of verbs that need them. “The” is often “teh.” The touch pad on my laptop is freaky sensitive, so sometimes I’ll be typing away and will go lines and lines before I realize I accidentally brushed the touch pad and moved the curser to the middle of a word three paragraphs up, inserting all those lines there. Aggravating!


If only the ugly was in the handwriting and the typos! I usually have to write a long time – through the favorite author imitations, through my flaring emotions, through the snark and/or feeble attempts at brilliance or humor, through the mud and the muck of my brain – before I get anywhere close to what I really have to say. I will never forget the freedom I felt the first time I read in Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird about the normalcy and the need for sh*tty first drafts. Really? I’m not even supposed to be able to get it right the first time?! If the amazing Anne Lamott doesn’t get it right the first time (and she is amazing), then I sure don’t have to either.

So I start off ugly. Whether it’s learning something new (like I did in those early days of ministry), or starting up something I’ve let fall to the side  (like I did with running), or exploring life through words (like I do here on this blog) – I start off ugly. It’s my hope that with each lesson, each step, each word, I am getting better, a little bit at a time.

P.S. My friend Cathy warned me not to google images for “ugly.” I really should have listened. ~ shudder ~


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7 thoughts on “Start Off Ugly

  1. I am glad I met you after the ugly sermon period. Lol. I hate spellcheck, word correct , and grammar check. I am reading your blog and texting your daughter at the same time. Double dose! You should know by now I am always right! Lol. But what is the applesauce thing?

  2. ugly is such an ugly word. icky….I think I would have a difficult time doing this exercise because there is not much I would categorize as ugly – boring, bland, lacking in focus, lacking in content, unstimulating…and so forth….but ugly? curious… there is a big black duck/goose critter that hangs around the parking lot of a local restaurant – and that boy is ugly!

    You however, are not. Not in any way.

    • Terri, you are truly precious! Thank you! Ugly is a harsh word. Typically I reserve it for the big black duck/goose critter things that hang around the duck pond near the church – and my big cries. Dang, those are ugly too! Lol!

  3. I am glad you told me not to google ugly but thanks for the post.

  4. Love this post. It inspires me, because I start off ugly in almost everything I do. I like the process of turning things into beauty versus expecting beauty to flow right away. And, like you, I am an ugly runner. I see women run past me looking like gazettes or cheetahs, beautiful. But I wonder if they are pushing themselves. I am soaked with sweat and feeling a sense of accomplishment when I’m done. 😉

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