4.18.2016

Focus and a Yellow Rolling Pin

The long yellow rolling pin swirled in an almost-circle on the hard wood floor.  I wondered if the short flecks of brown dog hair on the tile would stick to my 10-month-old's slobber on the end of it.

Yum.

I'd given my son the rolling pin as something to play with, a new shape to occupy his ever-curious little mind.  As soon as I handed it to him, my two-year-old came running in from the other room, suddenly disinterested in the Daniel Tiger cartoon she just had to watch minutes before.

"But I want the rolling pin, Mama!" she wailed as the tears streamed down her cheeks.

Let's be honest.  A yellow rolling pin is a little cool, but not really.  It's not even a toy, and yet she was wailing for it like a possessed hyena.

How often do I focus on, and therefore magnify, what I don't have?

I see it in my daughter as she hears a toy commercial in the morning and then mentions at suppertime how she, "would like to have one of those."

What if instead I magnify the things I'm-glad-I-have, and not always even things, but the small joys that come my way each day if I would only open my eyes and notice.

What if I move my gaze from the mess on the carpet to the built-in bookshelf that I love?  This might feel like work, at first, but then I see the sunroom differently later that day.  The thanks comes to me, somehow not even my action, and later in the same day my eyes draw up to notice the little spiral light fixture in our high-up hallway ceiling.  It is beautiful, quirky and unique.  Why hadn't I seen it before?  How is it that even the tiniest things can start to shimmer when we stop and say thanks?  

Were they shimmering the whole time?  

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."  (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Thanks Today:
Electric green leaves, brand new
Small purple flowers peeking through concrete cracks
My daughter loving the word "camouflage."
Re-Reading A Wrinkle in Time. . . "You see, you don't have to understand things for them to be."
Your turn. . . 

4.17.2016

The Why is Joy


My work is a cell phone dead zone, so each day when I emerge from the building, I listen and watch to see if I've received any texts.  This past week my phone buzzed and beeped for almost a minute as a string of messages came in one after another, one and then the next, like stair steps on my phone screen.  

A pair of good friends had just welcomed their second child.  Below the image of his tiny head,  adorned with the typical blue and pink striped hat, were a line-up of loving responses saying how cute he was, how perfect his name was, and inquiring about the mother's health following delivery.

It almost felt like a text party as we welcomed the new life by sharing the good news and commenting back quickly and at length.  The joy was electric.  Recently, I was reading a Bible text for devotion writing that has notes from the people who physically experienced seeing and hearing Jesus.  "The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it."

The first few times I read these verses I thought it was about proof--how these writers "saw it with their own eyes," so we should believe because we have a primary source.  But after reading again, I was struck by the last line: "We write this to make our joy complete."  In the Message version it reads, "Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy!"

This intention makes all the difference.

I love it that these early writers tell us why they're sharing these stories, and the why is joy.  This joy is so contagious, this life-conquering death so full-to-the-brim-overflowing that they know it can't quite be complete until they share it.  How might we be filled to overflowing joy today?  But what if today we're not feeling it?  What if stories of babies and pregnancy weigh us down instead of lifting our spirits?  Whether we're feeling that joy or not today, I believe that a deep goodness wants to meet us right where we are.  Right here.  Right now.  I read once that if you ever find yourself feeling out of it, turn your head to the left and notice something there you can be thankful for.  May we be open to seeing it, savoring the small joys that come our way today, breathing them in with thanks.
"We write this to make our joy complete." - 1 John 1:4
Today's Thanks:
A yellow tulip almost falling apart, but still holding its petals
Cuddly jammies on kids after bathtime
A good friend shooting it straight with me
A student coming back from a mistake
The smell of my dog's wrinkly ears
Your turn. . . 



4.11.2016

I'll Be There for You


The rent was cheap, but the freedom felt rich.

I lived with three friends the summer when I turned 21.  Each of us worked a job during the day and returned each evening to our cheap, run-down rental.  I bought large bottles of cranberry juice on our weekly grocery trips.  I had always liked cranberry juice, and it tasted so much better when I bought it myself.

After recounting tales of the day, we would bop in a DVD of a season of the popular TV show Friends.  This wind-down evening time transported us to Central Perk from our two-story, paint-chipped house.  We weren't as well off, but we were living the friendship life of Ross, Rachel, Phoebe, Monica, Chandler and Joey.

Photo courtesy of Amanda Goracke.
All of these memories came flooding back when I recently learned of a Friends TV show reunion while trolling Facebook.  That summer swept through me; I could almost taste the cranberry juice.  But as I scrolled through the online article, I realized that Chandler, one of the key characters in the show, would not participate.

"Are you kidding me, Chandler?"

I found myself feeling somehow deeply sad at his absence, then felt silly for caring so much about something so silly.  "The beautiful and terrible thing about our lives is that nothing remains the same."  Liz Gilbert said these words in a recent podcast, and they seem to sum up the nostalgia I was feeling.  Why couldn't everyone be at the reunion?  Why couldn't things just stay the same?  I realize that college summer was probably not as idyllic as I remember it (but let's be honest, it was pretty sweet.)  No matter how hard we try to hold onto life or make it how it "used to be," nothing stays the same.  Change is guaranteed.

And, life happens in the changes.

When we feel nostalgia, I think we're hungry for past times of community and freedom.  Those spaces where we were together and apart all at once.  God is, was, and will be with us like that in the dance of the trinity.  Loving us, holding us close, and also watching as we freely embody God's hands and feet, making our own choices.  God was in the feeling of community in my house that summer.  God is in my life today as I troll Facebook.  God is deeper than nostalgia, wider than any change that comes our way, and truer than any planned or feared future.  God in all things.

In the beginning the Word already existed.    The Word was with God,    and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him,    and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. (John 1:1-4)

Today's thanks:
A baby elephant at the zoo
Seeing the stars this morning, and stopping to notice
Doing something different
A new recipe
Your turn. . .  

4.04.2016

What Confidence Really Looks Like

Maria von Trapp swings her guitar and carpetbag in a wide circle and belts her song with gusto: "I have confidence in sunshine.  I have confidence in rain.  I have confidence that spring will come again.  As you can see I have confidence in me."

The Sound of Music will always be one of my favorite movies.

She is singing, and she's terrified.

She looks at the big house, the big challenge, the big unknown in front of her and her gusto fizzles to a whisper as she says, "Oh help."

Um, yeah . . . I can relate.

And the help comes.  It comes from outside of herself, and from inside as she garners her nerve.  Confidence looks a lot less like bravado and a lot more like faking it.  To be confident often requires courage, and courage doesn't happen without fear.

When we let fear run the show, things all start to look like sludge on the January highway of life.  But even when we're in the muck, electric white clouds and pristine blue sky are coming.

"I have confidence that spring will come again."

The call is not to manufacture courage, but to receive it, to lean into it, like Someone is holding it with outstretched hand, waiting for us to jump.  Someone is.

The more thankful I am, the braver I feel.  The beauty and wonder of this world--even the hard-fought beauty and grace on the other side of really tough stuff--are crazy-encouraging.  If only I could tattoo my brain and remember:
  • The sunrise on the way to work and how it catches me differently, as the green and brown grass glisten pink for a bit under weird springtime snow spirals.  
  • The feeling that gratitude might rip me apart, like the two times I held my Charli and Oliver, miracles in my arms, for the first time.  
  • That sense I got when a group of my very best friends danced with abandon to some favorite lyrics on a beautiful night in the middle of an amphitheater circled with pine trees.
  • The deep smallness I felt as a church camp counselor when we looked up at the stars and sang How Great Thou Art.
Being filled with gratitude is the key that unlocks our courage to truly be ourselves.  There's God in the gratitude.  But the crazy part is that there's also God in my moments of complete and utter failure.  God in all things, alongside us even in our suffering, cheering us on as we try to bolster up courage to live life in a way that's a little more zesty than the status quo.

Maria's best lyric comes toward the end, "When I show them, I'll show me."

"For I hold you by your right hand--I, the LORD your God.  And I say to you: Don't be afraid.  I am here to help you." - Isaiah 41:13

Today's Thanks:
Yukon Gold potatoes in the brown dirt
Sweet Ollie turning two
Connecting deeper with my best friend
Springtime daffodils
Your turn. . .