Today like many days, I folded endless piles of small clothing. I scrubbed dried baby food off of my wood floors. I ran errands. I made meals and washed dishes, wiped faces, and listened to arguing kids. I cuddled and sang and read. I pushed my baby on the swing in the sunshine and felt tired. I bathed children and held little toweled bodies. At the days end I finally laid down for a moment on my couch with a mild sense of discouragement for all of the things I didn't finish, frustrated with my own inadequacy. Then I watched my children who were all piled on our big chair writing in their thankfulness journals; notebooks I had given them last year to write, or in Naya's case draw, all of the things they are thankful for.
Here is what Juden read to us tonight:
" I am thankful for my family, my friends and my cousins. I am thankful for what I have. I am thankful for art. I am thankful for books. I am thankful for my fuzzy blanket! I am thankful for monkeys, snakes, bears and birds! I am thankful for God! I am thankful for National Geographic. I am thankful for Harper and fairy tales, and LOVE. And I am thankful for heaven. I am thankful for science.I am thankful for my teacher. I am thankful for yummy dinners on Thanksgiving nights. I am thankful for acorns. I am thankful for snowmen and Christmas trees. I am thankful that God saved me."
~Juden age 8~
As I watched my sweet husband and children and listened, my soul overflowed with one thought. Is there really anything else to say? Thank you for this imperfect, perfectly beautiful life...thank you.
"At its most successful, my ‘touch’ looks into the heart of nature; most days I don’t even get close. These things are all part of the transient process that I cannot understand unless my touch is also transient—only in this way can the cycle remain unbroken and the process complete. I cannot explain the importance to me of being part of the place, its seasons and changes. Fourteen years ago I made a line of stones in Morecambe Bay. It is still there, buried under the sand, unseen. All my work still exists in some form."~Andy Goldsworthy
It makes my heart glad to see the glory of nature and her play coincide.
Ella brought this home the other day and it made me smile. To be honest, I am a little relieved that all the clamor surrounding the election is over. I tried to wade through the issues, to look for truth and justice. I voted my conscience and enjoyed entertaining dinner time conversations with our politically divided children:) It is always so disappointing to me though; the pride, disrespect and divisiveness that inevitably comes out in the heat of political debate especially among believers. I saw some people ecstatic at the results of the election and others acting like it was a national tragedy. We are not one person or one government, we are an entire nation of people. It's my hope that we would start where we are, love the people around us, build something, plant something, work in our communities to take care of the poor, live compassion to all people, raise our voices against injustice.
As Ella Bella put it. "be kind to peple. and take care of peple." "John Wesley once wrote the following during a heated political season:
For people who will vote, I urge them to vote for those they judge most worthy, and to speak no evil against the person they voted against, and to take care that their spirits are not sharpened against people who voted on the other side."
Election evening I stood in my kitchen slicing peppers for a big pot of soup boiling on my stove when "America the Beautiful" came on as I was listening to public radio.
"O beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain, For purple mountain majesties Above the fruited plain! America! America! God shed his grace on thee And crown thy good with brotherhood From sea to shining sea!"
I stood at my sink with tears in my eyes, not over anything about the election, but just hearing the words, realizing how blessed I am. I was standing in my kitchen with my full pantry, cooking for my children. I was born in a country where I have never had to suffer not being able to feed my children. I have never had to fear for my life or well- being because I worship Jesus. I have never been denied employment or respect because I am a woman. I have never had to live through warfare or poverty. I am so very thankful for His grace to me, for the freedom and opportunity I have had. I don't understand it sometimes. I don't deserve all of this. I am bothered by my own comfort compared to so many. Bothered that I don't think I can ever give back enough from what has been given to me.
What an incredible diverse amazing place is our home. God shed his grace.
“Pay attention. Be astonished. And tell about it. We’re soaked in distractions. The world didn’t have to be beautiful. We can and should think about that beauty and be grateful.”~ Mary Oliver
The seasons have changed into all that Autumn glory, bringing with it the most brilliant pink sunsets, nights sitting around a fire, sweaters, boots and drinking in the changing colors and sunlight. I want to store it up for dreary days ahead. I turned my calender to November and I want to say I am thankful...so thankful for everything... I could make lists, fill pages that just keep going and going, and I do. But thankful is not what I feel all the time. Like my children who after a warm meal and a evening of play, find themselves asking for something else, whining for just one more thing... I do the same. I don't want to, but I do. My complaining spirit is just less obvious. When they are being ungrateful it frustrates me. I want to say, "Look at all you've been given, why are you discontent? Why aren't you more thankful?!"
I see my own ingratitude when I find myself thinking,"Why can't I be better at this, or why is this relationship so hard, or why can't I have some time to myself?"
Although I am acutely aware that I have an abundance far above anything I deserve, I struggle with this heavy cloak of sadness at times. It comes unbidden stealing peaceful sleep, writing fear, guilt and insecurity across my thoughts. It is just that for all that is good and beautiful there is still this old broken tattered world with whispers of what will someday be. What will someday be. It is part of a longing for home, for what is promised. As one writer put it, "This is not a beautiful place. Not in full, not yet. And you hold on to that not yet. You hold on to it because it is all you have, like Him in the wafer and the wine, this too is the promise of the not yet."- from the seePrestonblog.
It is the same with our own hearts. I listen to headlines about children killing other children, storms sweeping away peoples homes and livelihoods, soul-sickness, poverty and little girls sold into sex slavery and on and on. The pain and vulgarity of it breaks my heart. Then there is the guilt born of falling prey to this Melancholia. On those dark days where I feel like a weight is on my chest, where is my joy, my gratitude? Can the two coexist simultaneously? I don't know. But I have an increasing sense that it is okay to come to my Father wanting to scream into the sky, laying before him this broken heart. In the same way I want my own small son and daughter to come to me when their souls are a fit of rage and questions. I think our Father wants us to come to Him in our hurt if that is where we are. He shelters us with His wings. If I could be healed from these darker days would I even want to be? A mantra of mine for years has been that I would love what Jesus loves and hate what He hates. Maybe he is increasingly answering this prayer and building this in me. Has not His own heart already been broken to the point of the death over these sorrows of the world? He knows the depths of our struggle.
When you hold a photo's negative up to the light it makes the picture become clear. In the same way this sadness, on some level, makes the picture a little more full of contrast, vivid, more I-can-hardly-breath for the depth of the beauty in my days. The grief has given birth to a more intense joy and aliveness.
We all have coping mechanisms on days with raised voices and harsh tones, on the days that are lonely and we realize that who we are doesn't look anything like who we want to be. We medicate ourselves in a million different ways to anesthetize what we don't want to feel. I am guilty. I want to turn always to His fountain of grace, but some lessons have to be learned over and over.
This space is one of my coping mechanisms, a place to think on what I am thankful for, to capture light and expressions, to collect the beauty, to stretch out moments. Being thankful and finding joy is largely a choice after all. One that I will make and strive for despite circumstances. I can see Him growing this in me. I will water it, cultivate it, and nurture it like a fragile shoot until it flows from me. I will fail but I hope to do these things. I will choose to love when it is undeserved and un-reciprocated. I will give when I feel like I am spent. I will listen more than speak. I will silence lies that lead to bondage. I will quiet the urge to complain with reminders of the love He spills on me. I will choose to live with hands open. I will choose thanks. I will not do it perfectly, but I will trust that He will grow this in me by His Spirit when I am weak.
Here is some of the beauty spilled out on me as of late...
* a hill covered with children under stars all aglow
* a mountain bike ride with just my love
*Ginkgo trees, unreal, the color....
*the way Harper's head smells
*children reading to children
*the smell of fire
*my brothers, goodness, I love them.
* Ella's night time prayer that usually says," Jesus thank you that you wash our hearts as white as snow."
Every Fall we meet out at my brothers house for brunch, pumpkin carving, tree climbing, and just a chance to be together to welcome the cool weather and the seasons changing horizon. I can not express how much I love this crazy, quirky beautiful family of mine.
Tonight I tucked in my four loves, and sang them the same lullaby he used to sing to us when we were little. I came down to my quiet living room and lit a candle and listened to this song that my sister sent me.
Amazing, the power of music to say what our words alone can't.
Tomorrow marks eight years since my dad left this earth. I wish I could take a drive, sit by a fire and have a smoke and a Moosehead with him. I wish I could hear his voice say my name. He loved to make fires, loved to unwind with a pipe or a glass of wine. He was such a storyteller, such a lover of words. His memory was long, so long. Poetry flowed from him. I miss him. Tears are fewer than they used to be, but they still come and catch me off guard. I remember him when the leaves start to change, when I help my kids push seeds gently into earth. I think of him when I teach my kids about birds and flowers and every time I hear an English accent. I think of him when I find treasure among trash and while I sip my tea early, watching first morning light. I remember his hands when I help my sons small hands whittle and the way he smelled of wood-shavings... always making. When I read Dylan Thomas and when I hold his Bible, I remember the way his voice wavered. I am so very thankful to be his girl and for everything he left with me.
I was attempting to get on the bandwagon of NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-nablopomo.htm. I just thought it might be fun and I kind of wanted to see if I could do it. But what can I say? Last evening got away from me. Besides, there is always today:) I was too busy eating macaroons and thumbing through beach pictures with my family in celebration of my lovely mom-in-law's birthday. It's hard to believe I have known her for something like sixteen years now! She is a light in our family. She always knows when to speak and when to listen. She always has a song you just have to hear or a passage from something she is reading. She speaks life to people; it is one of her gifts. Every year she hosts Acorn day at her home. She reads a children's story she wrote about her own father and it is a time to celebrate the wonder of the change of the seasons. I am so thankful that she is a mom and a friend to me and a beloved Mimi to my kids.