Friday, February 24, 2012

My soul is singing.

We dread early morning band.  As a family – we disdain it.  It’s not the “band” part.  It’s the “early morning” part.  No one wants to get up a half hour early to deposit the kids on the school roundabout, half asleep and a little hungry, because they inevitably have to settle for a fiber bar and a piece of fruit for breakfast on early morning band days.  My husband especially hates it, because he usually has to make the run while I’m wrapped up with the baby.  While I think it’s well worth the trouble for our children to have the chance to learn an instrument while they are still young – it is much harder to put in the practice time, once there are the competing demands for your time that come with maturity and responsibility – I haven’t minded letting him bear the brunt of the crabby kids and pre-coffee driving.

It was one of the rare mornings where I was not otherwise occupied, so I thought I’d better step up to relieve my husband from his least cherished duty this morning.  We got another minor snowfall last night, so I wasn’t sure how the driveway or roads would be, but we got our coats on and left the house at sunrise; to my delight, right at the pinnacle of this snowfall’s immaculate beauty. 

The snow wasn’t enough to sled or build a snowman, but it was the kind of icy snow that coats the world with crusty white sparkles that catch the light and turn a tree or a road sign into a work of winter art.  The sky was a rich winter blue, and the light of sunrise on the horizon was warm and golden, silhouetting the snow-decked branches of the trees, and casting halos of sparkling iridescence around them.  Despite the cautious driving, and the lack of caffeine to fuel my cautious driving, I felt the warmth and joy of praise spreading through my body.  As I inhabited the moment, I did not sing aloud, but it honestly felt like my soul was singing.

I could try to pen new words for that old feeling, but we already have the beloved words of every church hymnal:

When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze:

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee:
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

A hymn so loved, because so many have shared in the same experience.  This amazing universe, this fantastic world, leads humanity to ponder the possibility of a Creator.  Many argue that God must certainly exist, for such complexity and beauty can’t have simply evolved on its own.  I argue that God must certainly exist, because when I stand in awe of the world around me, it moves my soul to sing.  I believe it must be the image of God in me that the sunrise stirred so powerfully.  In those moments, God is not just real, but present.

I pray you also are blessed to know such a stunning moment of clarity today.

I often think of the heavens your hands have made, and of the moon and stars you put in place. Then I ask, "Why do you care about us humans? Why are you concerned for us weaklings?" Psalm 8:3-4

Friday, February 17, 2012

I need to quit interrupting.

Communication is usually one of my strong suits.  It’s never going to earn me a medal, but I’m the goddess of the drive-thru.  Back when I was taking orders, happy customers repeatedly commented on how remarkably clear and pleasant our loudspeaker interaction had been.  Even today, my husband jokes that it would be better if he could back up to the speaker so I could place our orders from the passenger side, because it would up our odds of getting the food we actually want, and lower his stress levels.

Despite my ability to interact effectively and pleasantly, even without the assistance of visual clues, I’ve been troubled lately by my tendency to interrupt others.  A topic piques my enthusiasm, someone says something intriguing or funny, and, next thing I know, I find myself verbally jumping into conversation gaps that aren’t gaps.  This has probably been going on my whole life, but there are a couple circumstances recently that have made me realize I need to install a governor on my discourse.

First, I’ve had laryngitis.  For the last week or so, speaking has been a labored effort.  It takes so much extra breath to say something with enough clarity and volume to be heard, that when anyone, especially my kids, is inattentive, interrupts, or ignores me, I feel the burden of the added work it takes to repeat myself.  I find myself surrendering my point, rather than repeating something that seems too inconsequential to muster the effort.  It’s made me realize how important it is to be a good listener, to slow down and put more effort into hearing what others have to say.

The challenge of laryngitis has also heightened my sensitivity to a friend of ours for whom speaking is an act of deliberate effort.  I have caught myself interrupting him more than once in the last couple weeks, and it humbles me.  I should already be humble that someone values our friendship enough to work for it like that; I definitely shouldn’t be making him repeat himself by talking over him.

If I’m foolish enough to interrupt in those circumstances, it a guarantee that I’ve been interrupting everyone else, too.  So, if you’re one of my victims, I apologize.  I’m going to work on it.  Maybe flick me on the forehead, if I interrupt you.  That should shut me up.

Anyone who answers without listening is foolish and confused. Proverbs 18:13

Friday, February 10, 2012

The chickens are going to have to wait.

Imagine the kids’ surprise on Easter morning, when we open a seemingly routine express mail package and out pop – chicks!  Downy soft and ready to eat their first meal, the three day old chicks cuddle up in their warm hands and the girls’ eyes sparkle with delight as our new adventure in hobby farming begins.

We’ve had that image in our minds since we first put an offer on this place.  With great optimism, we imagined that we’d get settled in over winter break.  We’d be hosting sledding parties in January.  We saw ourselves, as March rolled around, rearing to get out there to plant a giant garden and build a chicken coup.

Reality is reining us in yet again.  With the mildness of winter this year, we spent winter break building a shed and cleaning the garage, instead of unpacking the basement.  Old Man Winter withheld sledding until just this past weekend, when we finally got a snowfall that could cover the grass on our hill.  As the dominoes are toppling, I see that our Easter fantasy is fading as fast as my laundry pile is growing.

I am in no way deterred from the vision of what this place is going to be for us, but I am having to rethink the timetable.  We chose a smaller house, and it takes a lot longer to get organized and settled in when you have half the cupboards, closets, and garage that you did before.  My spring chickens aren’t the only thing I have to let go of.  There’s also the extra set of dishes, the spare bed, the computer armoire, that stunning teal sectional…and many, many things that are still in boxes downstairs, yet to be identified for sale or donation.

Finally breaking in the sledding hill last weekend!
We took a lot on, pursuing this vision of self-sustenance and simplicity; it may take us quite a while to achieve even a basic start to all we hope for.  But it was a gratifying moment last week, when my oldest came in after school, dropped her bag and coat by the door, and sighed, “Ahhh…home sweet home.”  Yes, my dear girl, it really is.  And whenever we do get to it, farm fresh eggs and garden vegetables will only make it sweeter.

Hezekiah, I will tell you what's going to happen. This year you will eat crops that grow on their own, and the next year you will eat whatever springs up where those crops grew. But the third year you will plant grain and vineyards, and you will eat what you harvest. Those who survive in Judah will be like a vine that puts down deep roots and bears fruit. 2 Kings 19:29-30

Friday, February 3, 2012

I am helpless against roses.

My husband was the first man to ever bring me roses.  After our first date, I came home to my apartment one afternoon and found a dozen roses, left on my doorstep, with a note from “guess who.”  In the years since, he has often made similar gestures, usually not on Valentine’s Day, or my birthday.  Very rarely even on our anniversary.  Generally, it’s just some random evening that he decides to show up with a romantic gift.  Those moments are wonderful in their unexpectedness, remind me that he still considers me worth wooing, and humble me for being such a cold-hearted, “don’t waste your money on romantic gifts,” kind of girl.  Let’s face it, no matter how down to earth and practical I try to be, there’s still a little girl inside me, who loves playing dress up, things that sparkle, and, emphasis on occasional, romantic gestures from the man I love.

My daughters don’t have any of that practicality yet, but also don’t attach any romantic notions to flowers and jewelry.  Whether you are mother, father, aunt, sister, or random acquaintance, they will joyfully accept any flowers, trinkets, or jewelry you’d like to offer, without making any awkward relationship assumptions.  While, anymore, they seem to enjoy dance for its own merits, it rose to a place of prominence in their priorities when my oldest was showered with bouquets after her first recital.  I think my middle daughter danced her first year, purely in anticipation of cellophane wrapped roses and baby’s breath.

It was my oldest’s dance acquisitions, not my husband’s romantic overtures, that overwhelmed me this week.  After dancing her first principal role, she was blessed with an abundance of beautiful flowers from us, and from family and friends.  Then she got another big bouquet during curtain calls.  I filled a two gallon pitcher and dutifully arranged them all for her, placing them in the dining room for her to enjoy.  I immediately started a sneeze and runny-nose fest, but I didn’t think it was that big of a deal to live with flowers for a week or so until they died.

After a day and a half of cohabitation with their loveliness and aroma, however, my husband came home from work and blurted, “Whoa!  What’s wrong with your eye!?”  I hadn’t looked in the mirror all day, so I was shocked to see that my eyes were severely blood shot and there was a yellow blister growing out of my eye ball.  I scoured the internet to find out that I had a cyst on my eye ball, and that allergies can cause it.  So much for any future romantic gestures; so much for enjoying the girls’ recital gifts; so much for that lovely Japanese orchid I’ve been hinting about for the last six months (I stuck my face in one yesterday to see if it would make me sneeze; no sneeze, but the reward for my stupidity was a thirteen hour sinus headache and a scratchy throat).
Recital flowers are now quarantined to an upstairs bedroom, and I guess my husband’s going to have to woo with diamonds from now on.
 Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land. Song of Solomon 2:12