“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."
Amen my girl, Amen.