Have a Beautiful, Terrible Day!

Daily Meditations for the Ups, Downs & In-Betweens



About the Book

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Witty, honest, and wise spiritual reflections that invite readers to embrace the bad, not just the good—from the four-time New York Times bestselling author of Everything Happens for a Reason (And Other Lies I’ve Loved)

Kate Bowler believes that the cultural pressure to be cheerful and optimistic at all times has taken a toll on our faith. But what if we could find better language than forced positivity to express our hopes and our anxieties? 

Have a Beautiful, Terrible Day! is packed with bite-size reflections and action-oriented steps to help you get through the day, be it good, bad, or totally mediocre. This is a devotional for the rest of us—which is to say, the people who don’t have magical lives that always work out for the best. As she composed these meditations during a season of chronic pain, Bowler understands how every day can be an obstacle course. She encourages us to develop our capacity to feel the breadth of our experiences. The better we are at identifying our highs and lows, the more resilient we become.

Like modern-day psalms, Bowler’s spiritual reflections look for the ways we can expand our capacity for courage, love, and honesty—while discovering divine moments with God. With bonus sections to use during the seasons of Advent and Lent, this is an easy book to read along with other people too. 

If you want to build your daily habit of spiritual attentiveness, this book is here to say: May all your days be lovely. But for those that aren’t, have a beautiful, terrible day!
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Have a Beautiful, Terrible Day!


When Everything is Out of Control

Give me a sign of your goodness. —Psalm 86:17a (NIV)

There is something people say when you are in a lot of pain or trouble or life is out of control. They say: “All you can control is your reaction.” And, sure, that’s often good advice. We can try to reduce the scale of our problem solving to a small, manageable step. But I don’t want you to have to skip that first true thing you are allowed to say: “I have lost control. This is happening to me.” This blessing is for when you need to say, “God, this is out of control. People keep telling me that I have control over this, but I really don’t. I need help.” Read or pray this meditation aloud if you need some divine rescue plan and some acknowledgment of that reality.

All you can change, they say, is you.

You don’t control anyone but yourself.

All you can do, they say,
is take a breath and
consider your reaction
to what is happening.

Return to yourself.

You are what is happening.

What is happening is a landslide, God.

The world melted before my eyes.

It is the feeling of my feet going first
then my back, smack against the ground
then the whooshing sound
of the earth as it moves.

It’s the speed.

God, why didn’t anyone tell me
about the speed at which it goes—
my horizon, my choices, my control—
before, blink, blink,
someone with a calm voice
is asking me about my reaction
to a world now left behind.

You are there, somewhere out there,
though I can hardly feel it.
Send an angel, send a fleet, send them now.

reflection prompt

A long time ago I started believing (mistakenly) that I wasn’t allowed to ask for help. Is there someone you can reach out to and tell them what you’re going through?


You’re Not Sleeping Much

I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. —Psalm 4:8 (NKJV)

When I was young I could never sleep peacefully. I would hover in that place between dreaming and awareness, caught in the webs of restless dreams. Some were absurd (where is the last piece of that puzzle?). Others were terrifying (I can’t get out! I can never get out!). I would pace the house—mostly still asleep—in my red pajamas, worrying, worrying, worrying. As an adult, I still have never really gotten the hang of sleep. I lie there thinking, rehearsing, planning, despairing.

This verse from the Psalmist has become a precious one to me. It says to me: Lord, you care even about this waking and sleeping self, the one who no one knows but you.

Nearby someone is snoring
with the efficiency of
an industrial meat grinder
and it’s not polite to hate someone
while their eyes are closed.

Or sometimes the bed is empty,
they are gone, gone,
missing and missed
and there’s no use being grateful,
for their silence now takes up
all the oxygen anyhow.

God, no one knows me like this.

Moving from my concrete days, my immovable schedule,
to nights when I unravel in long loops
like a knitted sweater.

I am someone else entirely.

Needy and hazy, lonely and yet
desperate to be alone.

God, I need the sort of peace
that calms storms into bathtub water.

Or the peace that folds origami
out of the tight corners of my mind.

I need peace like a weighted blanket,
a hand over my heart,
and this time you say it.
You say it like an oath.

You promise.

You will not leave me here, like this,
at the edge of where darkness meets darkness
while the rest sleep soundly on.

reflection prompt

Find a notepad or blank note on your phone. List three worries. Don’t judge them. No one has to see them. Now put them away and see if your mind can drift a little further than before.


When You’re Trapped in the Past

If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. —Psalm 139:8 (NIV)

The strangest aspect of a tragedy is how it can feel like it happened yesterday, even if it was years ago. (Proving, once again, that we can rarely say “Time heals all wounds!” with any confidence.) And many of us have had hard experiences that begin to feel like layers of sediment, one on top of the other. We can start to feel weighed down. Trapped. Buried alive. It reminds me of how C. S. Lewis described hell as a locked room, a room perhaps locked from the inside.

If you are starting to worry that the hurts of the past are making you feel claustrophobic, let’s try to get a little light in that room. This blessing imagines that revisiting our pain can feel like living in an old museum filled with what has happened. Let’s picture it and try to imagine that God is there. God is there when we are hurt. God is there when hurts are new or even when they are so old they bore people because we keep bringing them up. (Well, I wouldn’t be bringing it up if it didn’t still hurt, people!) So let’s consider our own “museums” for a moment and see if we can open some windows.

The flurry of dust particles
once invisible midair
have formed a thin film
over an inalterable fact:
my wounds are old now.

I used to find a terrible comfort
in fresh rage and tears—
this *just* happened
—but time burned this urgency
to a dull ash.

When you find me you’ll notice that
I’ve opened a museum.

Pay the admission at the door
(it’s a token, any kindness really)
and I’ll tell you all about
this person here, and that person there,
and who laughed and who didn’t.

And what great losses moved everything
out of the house and into boxes only to be
displayed here for your general interest.

But every feeling is cold to the touch.
Bless me, God, crowded out
by all that I’ve endured.

Unburden me, packed so tightly
in the memories of those
who loved me best
(and worst, if I’m being honest).

Relieve me of every fresh wave of guilt
of all I’ve already forgotten.

Bless me with enough forgetfulness
to notice the way the sun
is demanding another day
and you can mind the storehouse
of all I’ve loved
while there’s time to gather more.

reflection prompt

Some of our old hurts become stories we retell without thinking. Is there a story we’re retelling that isn’t getting enough genuine attention? Try to bring it up again with someone you really trust to listen. You might say: “I know you’ve heard this before, but I’m still really hurting.”

About the Author

Kate Bowler
Kate Bowler is the three-time New York Times bestselling author of Everything Happens for a Reason, No Cure for Being Human, Good Enough, The Lives We Actually Have, Blessed, and The Preacher’s Wife and hosts the popular podcast Everything Happens. A Duke University professor, she earned a master’s of religion from Yale Divinity School and a PhD at Duke University. More by Kate Bowler
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Random House Publishing Group