10 February 2016

Embracing Hard

Winter is a funny thing because it fits better as a metaphor about both hard times and beauty than any other common experience.  Winter starts out so lovely--quiet, dark nights filled with the cozy comforts of home.  Snow falls softly, covering all the imperfections of the world, and even the gray skies hold promise of beauty coming.  Here in the mountains, we can see the snow come from far off, and there's great anticipation of its arrival.  This part of winter is beautiful and comforting.

But somewhere around mid-season, winter becomes something heavy and stifling.  We tire of wearing coats everywhere we go, of barren trees and grass sodden from the weight of snow, and of the grayness that never seems to lift.  If there's a sunny day we soak it in and feel our spirits lift, but then the next morning that dawns without light feels hard to bear.  Spring, with all its lilacs and daffodils and sunshine feels like an impossibility, a miracle that might not happen.  May feels far.

This morning as I had my quiet time I reflected on the odd, dualistic nature of winter.  There is no other season quite like it.  My life has felt very much like the latter half of winter lately.  The strain of relationships and work and children has been difficult.  I have a moment's lift, not coincidentally when the sun makes its rare appearance, and feel glad for hardship and suffering, knowing it makes me more mature and complete.  (James 1)  But most of the time I feel a weight, and ministry and life seem too hard.  People can be so very difficult.

When that difficult person is my child, it is easier to bear because of my great love for him or her and my grace for the challenges of that stage.  When the difficult person is somebody else, it is hard to keep perspective.  There is nothing like ministry to expose how picky, difficult to please, and irrational humans can be!  Everybody jokes that cats are difficult--cats have nothing on people.  Of course there is the mandate to aim only to please God, and I find that He is much easier to please than others.  On the other hand, when He is not pleased with me, He is kind, but when others are not pleased with me, they are not and I feel hotly their displeasure.  It is hard to ignore that.  I'm discovering more and more that the person who not only receives grace but also gives it, is rare indeed.  It is a true challenge for me, too, as I see what I do not want to become and fight instead of excellence and maturity.

Yesterday the sun was out for the second straight day, a true gift in early February in the Northwest.  Today I woke up to fog covering the world again, and it feels harder to be thankful for trials.  I remind myself that above the fog and clouds is the sun, which never fails to come out; it is only covered by what's below.  The daffodils and tulips are also covered right now, and they will not come out until they're fully ready.  But they're there, whether or not I can see them.

These hard days produce maturity in me, as well.  I cannot become the woman I want to be without them.  I see so many people complain about their lives and chafe against trials, offering up excuses why they can't strive for excellence.  But I find that the women who really are excellent, have not had easy lives.  Instead, they dug in and sought God and never gave up under the refining fire.  As a result, instead of being negative they are triumphant.  Rather than wilting under hardship, they clung to God and allowed Him to shape and change them, to mature them into deeply loving, wise women.

I still don't like this part of winter.  I'd prefer early summer or mid-fall most days.  I don't like hardship, either.  I don't like conflict or criticism or drama of any kind, but I know that if I'm going to grow, there will indeed be growing pains.  It is up to me to decide what to do with them.  Today, I've lit my candle and am choosing joy and love and grace, regardless of what the forecast says.

08 February 2016

Lakeside Monday



Today dawned sunny and warm, and the boys accompanied Pace to the valley for some shopping and car repairs, so the girls and I did a quick clean of the main floor and then headed out.  

We drove down past downtown and out onto Lakefront Drive, winding around the near side of the lake.  I parked in a little area by the trail, put Sarah Grace in the stroller, and we slowly walked the path, nestled between the mountainside and the lake.  

It was perfectly sunny, the lake was like glass, and geese were sleeping on the water.  Addie played on all the exercise equipment along the way, and we marveled that come spring, the lake will have risen enough to float all the docks.  

After awhile we turned around and I let Sarah walk.  She picked up sticks and rocks and chattered nonstop.  We went slow, sun on our faces, all the way back.    

02 February 2016

Home Shopping Network

I realized recently that I have an entire bookstore located within my own four walls.  This was a very happy thing to figure out, because we left built-in bookcase heaven at our old house in Texas.  Our family room had an entire wall of built-ins, and so did our guest house, and all the kids' rooms had huge bookcases, too.  It was a book-lover's paradise.  When we moved we left all that behind, including half our furniture, a vehicle, and over 800 books.   There's only so much you can put in a moving van, and unfortunately a lot of my books had to find new homes.


Once we settled in I realized that we needed bookcases to house the remaining books, so I ordered two glass-front pieces.  They were in our front room in our rental house here, but once we bought our house they had to be relocated to the basement.  I tend to forget about the basement, even though that's also where all our school stuff and the boys' bedrooms are.  I also forget about the cozy spot we created for reading which I have never used.


The other day I was looking in the bookcases for a particular book and noticed there are many books I've not read yet.  Then I took a peep at my Kindle Cloud reader and saw many others!  My own house is a treasure trove of stories, just waiting for me!  No need to drive to the library or even click over on Amazon.  I can just walk downstairs and find enough reading material to last me all year, without buckling on my seatbelt or spending a penny.  It's like the Home Shopping Network, except it's free and involves no buyer's remorse.  That's really pretty hard to pass up.


 
I wonder what else is in my own home, just waiting for me to enjoy?  I think I'll use this month, the month of love, to fully love my home and all that it offers, starting with a date tonight with that chair and a good book.  

31 January 2016

Unmitigated Adoration

"O setting sun! though the time has come,
I still warble under you, if none else does, unmitigated adoration."
~Walt Whitman


30 January 2016

Anticipation

Good things are coming:

Sally's newest book and guide, already pre-ordered and Amazon says it'll be on my porch Wednesday.  I've been anticipating this since last winter when she talked about it at her conference.

Snow!  Yesterday it was raining and then slowly the raindrops got fatter and slower, and poof! They were morphed into snowflakes, and within an hour the grass was covered again.  The sky never changed, but my spirits lifted.  Snow is so much nicer than rain.  Our next week has snow in the forecast several times, and that's a happy thing.

Pace has a trip coming up soon, and Caiden is a surprise co-traveler.  Pace knows, of course, but Caiden doesn't, and he's going to be thrilled to be going with his dad to sunny Texas, the land of old friends and Tex-mex and sunshine.  I can't wait to see Caiden's face when we tell him, because he asked to go a month ago and we told him no before changing our minds.  He will be shocked.  And it's a double blessing, because when Pace travels, I have extra time at night to do whatever I want.  I need to finalize my plans:  do I go ahead and paint the kitchen cabinets, or sew, or finish my bedroom, or just watch BBC movies at night?  Decisions, decisions.

My mom and sister are taking me on a cruise for my birthday!  That is rather monumental all on its own, but the fact that we're going to sun-filled Mexico for nearly a week?  That's medicinal at this point in winter!  I need to start thinking about what I want to wear and pull summer clothes out of storage.  We can't wear summer clothes here until mid-June or later, so this feels miraculous.

And to top things off, there is a possibility of a trip to London later this spring.  I have never been out of the country, unless you count a quick afternoon drive across the Canadian border when I was 8.  I already lived in North Dakota, so it wasn't like we actually traveled, and it was only to see the Northern Lights and then we turned around and drove home.  So the thought of flying over the ocean to land in London?  That's something I wasn't sure would ever happen.   My mom has very generously offered to watch our four for the week-plus, so we're waiting on details about the trip to see if it's really going to happen.  If we do get to go, we're going to need to take a quick trip to Canada this summer, too (We live only 99 miles south of the border), so that I can have three countries on my passport in one year.  If you wait forty years to get a passport, you should have something to show for it!

Finally, a Cracker Barrel is being built here in our little city after several years of speculation.  The corporate jet was spotted landing here a long time ago, and it's been whispered about ever since.  The nearest CB is 5 hours away in Missoula, so needless to say we haven't had chicken and dumplings CB-style in over two years.  I'm pretty excited about having it a couple miles down the road!  (Although I'm pretty sure it's going to be standing room-only for a very long time.)

Good things are coming, and that's a pretty nice feeling on January 30th.