It’s the little things.

it’s warmth and shelter in the middle of the storm
it’s card games and Mario Cart and wii
it’s lingering over books
it’s baking cookies and bread to enjoy together
it’s a selfless man who constantly and consistently works hard with no need for a spotlight
it’s food for sustenance and enjoyment
it’s soothing, soul-feeding music
it’s more than enough of everything even when my warped view tries to tell me otherwise
it’s reading Truth freely and without constraint
it’s sharing memories over old photos
it’s prayers prayed with the same, loving man for nearly 3 decades
it’s the love and affection and friendship of mothers and daughters and sisters
it’s laughter, unforced and free
it’s a future Hope of more than enough Grace
it’s everyday reminders that we’re not alone…
and there is a God…
and He does love us…
it’s grace in the little things and as well as the big.

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It’s the little things

it’s seeing the morning star each day as I stumble down my stairs in the dark
it’s the kind smile of a stranger
it’s celebrating milestone birthdays with loved ones
it’s the surprise gift of chocolate from a thoughtful co-worker
it’s the thank you received after helping a kid succeed
it’s the faithful prayers of a loving spouse
it’s the bright smile and sweet laugh of my favorite 18-year-old
it’s hot coffee on a chilly morning
it’s cold water on a warm afternoon
it’s night-time walks with the one I love
it’s the fields, golden and ripe for harvest
it’s the way you know the sun is still shining even behind the clouds
it’s the soul-calming knowledge that this world is not all there is
it’s everyday reminders that we’re not alone…
and there is a God…
and He does love us…
it’s grace in the little things and as well as the big.

 

In the moment

It happened several times on my trip, and although annoying, didn’t seem like that big of a deal. Then, it happened at my niece’s wedding and I was ticked. Snapping photos left and right, my memory on my phone quickly filled up and just when Steph & Scott were ready to walk down the aisle–bam! No more room for photos. Ugh. I rushed to erase some, but with the bright sun, I couldn’t see the screen. Thankfully, after only a few seconds of scrambling, I put my iphone down and turned to focus on the beautiful event unfolding before my eyes.

The ceremony was simple, worshipful, meaningful and happy. Two lovely souls declared their love, spoke solemn vows, washed each other’s feet (as a symbol of mutual servanthood) and became one under a perfectly blue summer sky. And I almost missed some of the beauty because I thought I needed to capture it through a lens instead of treasure it in the moment.

It happened on my trip as well. For those of you who don’t know, I just returned from a 10 service and learning trip to Nicaragua. What a stunningly beautiful country! The whole trip I kept trying to capture the loveliness of volcanoes and rivers and lakes and people and wide sweeping vistas and not a single picture lives up to the joy and beauty of the real thing. It’s a bit dissappointing but drives home the point for me that you can’t hold beauty and save it up for later. Beauty is meant to be savored in the moment. It brings refreshment and hope in the moment and you can remember that beauty, but you can’t recreate the moment. To some, this is frustrating. We’re such keepers aren’t we? We want to possess and control and you simply can’t possess or control beauty, you just have to soak it in when you see it.

I’m glad my phone’s memory was full. I’m glad I had to put it down and simply listen and engage without framing the next shot. Hopefully, I’ll be more aware from now on of living in the moments of beauty instead of trying to capture them.

Be Still

Man, that happened fast! I thought as the half pan of week-old egg bake slid into the garbage. The fact that it was no longer edible wasn’t my main concern. Struck with the reality that any food item would be thrown away because of lack of eaters occupied my thoughts. Another subtle, yet harsh reminder that the faces living at home change weekly. Just a few days ago, my oldest son still hung his coat up by the door and parked his beater in the driveway. Only a year ago, we were planning a high school graduation. A short 4+ years ago, I washed mounds of laundry on a daily basis, attended countless soccer games and track and cross-country meets and baked more cookies in a week for my own family than some people bake in a year. Food never spoiled and egg bake never saw the bottom of the garbage bag. Life whirled with activity and energy and noise and mess and we enjoyed the beauty of a full home.

How quickly quietly days slip into weeks, weeks to months and months stretch into years. It feels like there’s barely time for a breath before someone else moves out and moves on. Don’t get me wrong or misunderstand, I don’t want a 30-year-old child sleeping on my couch. I get that this leaving –this growing and transitioning– is good and necessary. I love that my kids are maturing and taking flight. I love that they’re adventurous and revel in trying new things, seeing new places and meeting new people. I’m proud of each of them for their blossoming independence and firm, authentic faith.

But with each departure, the grazing time for my thoughts lengthens. It’s easy to ruminate. The rooms of our home say goodbye to their occupants and the sounds echo in the void, and Brad and I ponder the past. We made so many parenting mistakes. Did we equip them well? The closets empty and the grocery bill gets smaller and we wonder about the future. Will they be ok without us? Will we be ok without them? As new faces are introduced and we imagine the reality of our kids having families of their own, we think about the paradox that as the kids leave, the family grows. Will the in-laws like us? Will they want to come home–to our home? Will they value the homelife we’ve made?

Real questions and honest fears ring in my ears along with whispers of peace.

Peace, daughter, never will I leave you or forsake you.

Peace, child, I am the same yesterday, today and forever.

Peace, beloved one, you are mine, you belong to me.

Peace, dear heart, my banner over you–my anthem for your life–is love.

Peace I give you; no matter the past, present or future, I am with you always, until the end of the age.

We all need reminders of God’s love and presence. You may not be saying goodbye to your kids right now, but perhaps your soul needs soothing because of another circumstance. Take courage, my friend.

He knows you. He loves you. He sees you. He cares.

“Be still, be calm, see, and understand I am the True God.” ~Psalm 46

It’s the little things

“After all,” Anne had said to Marilla once, “I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.”
L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

it’s the mirrored reflection of flowers on my wet deck

it’s old, broken-in, comfy, warm slippers on a chilly morning

it’s hearing beautiful, life-affirming words from a brave co-worker

it’s my hardworking teen learning perseverance

it’s an unexpected gift card for gasoline

it’s the yellowing bean fields on the gently rolling hills

it’s sleeping next to the same, faithful and faith-filled man for 26 years

it’s the coffee mug with cherries on it that sparks memories of grandma’s house

it’s fresh potatoes from a friend’s garden

it’s a reliable car

it’s the privilege of praying for and with a dear friend

it’s knowing I’m loved even when I feel unloveable

it’s the laugh of a wonderfully made 17-year-old anticipating his birthday

it’s sharing life’s journeys with a courageous friend

it’s experiencing grace for the moment

it’s the “love you” text from my kid at 11:47 at night

it’s believing that everyday “is a new day with no mistakes in it yet”

it’s dear parents leaving a legacy of love and prayer

it’s the myriad of reminders that we’re not alone…

and there is a God…

and He does love us…

it’s grace in the little things and as well as the big

*I’m not going to lie, today’s post is an exercise in faith for me. So please, if you’re struggling and in a crappy place and you read this and just want to gag, know it’s not born from everything being perfect, but from needing to remember the little gifts that are truly present in our everyday lives.

May you be encouraged to look for the little things in your life today, friend.

4 weddings and a marriage.

They sat, side by side, poised yet uncomfortable. Married almost 56 years, they came to share their wisdom and experience with kids younger than any of their own grandchildren. As they spoke of dating and marriage and child-rearing you could both see and hear the love they had for one another and for their God. Faithfully and un-assumedly following His leading, they’ve lived a beautiful, rich life. Ministering to people all along the way, they’ve journeyed side by side. The grace, humility and sage-wisdom poured from them both. They readily admitted their shortcomings and praised one another for their strengths. A picture of love, perseverance and grace, listening to them felt like a beautiful privilege. Specifically, the way he spoke of her strength and dignity and grace touched my heart; he not only still loved his bride of 55+ years, but much more so than the day they wed. She sat, silent, with tears streaming, as he praised her child-rearing and patient love for him. The mutual love, loyalty and respect exemplified the selflessness necessary for a marriage to thrive.

This summer, we enjoyed attending four weddings and, at least three times I started writing about them but never finished. Each wedding had the usual beautiful bride, nervous groom, loving family, sweet bridesmaids, fun groomsmen, ball jars, and lots of lace and burlap.  Above all these typical similarities, though, one stood out: each groom was enraptured with his bride. Each groom stood, beaming–at least two with tears–watching his beloved walk down the aisle. Each man possessed a gentleness and beauty of expression that showed his complete devotion to the woman walking to join him. Enraptured and heart-captured, as I’m sure the 80-year-old man had been 56 years ago.

As I reflect on those young grooms and the much older groom sitting in front of the classroom last week, I’m struck again by the beauty of love and the gift of a partner in life. Through all we encounter in this oftentimes hostile world, a loving life-partner is pure grace. Even in less-than-perfect marriages, having someone with whom to share life is a gift. And we so often squander the gift don’t we? Or forget it’s a gift at all.

It’s my prayer today that if we’re married, we remember the gift of our spouse. And it’s also my prayer today, that each of those 4 grooms will have the privilege of sitting next to their bride in 56 years and being even more enamored of her then than he was on their wedding day.

 

It’s the little things

it’s the bright early-morning moon greeting me as I wake

it’s hot coffee on a cold day

it’s a warm house in the middle of a blizzard

it’s the quickly scrawled thank-you note from my daughter before she rushed out the door

it’s the two minute conversation in the hallway that builds a bridge

it’s the darling red-headed three-year-old singing “Annie” songs in her kitchen

it’s the unexpected snow day

it’s seeing the boy who struggles interact well with peers

it’s a little text in the middle of a long day from a good friend

it’s shared laughter with my kids

it’s knowing the warmth, love and grace from the same man for over a quarter of a century

it’s hearing the Star-Spangled Banner sung in the middle of the day in the middle of math

it’s getting glimpses of wonderful things to come

it’s little scraps of paper falling from jam-packed notebooks testifying to a well-fought faith and extraordinary life

it’s the myriad of reminders that we’re not alone…

and there is a God…

and He does love us…

it’s grace in the little things and as well as the big