Life has been full. Over-flowing. Busy, fun, tiring.
Several weeks ago my camera got shoved to the side, then eventually put away in my closet in preparation for a gathering in our home. I'm not really great at taking pictures when things get busy, even though I do think about it. When it comes to holidays and special events, I have done an especially poor job at documenting.
The verse I have written out on my chalkboard is from John 1:16--
"From the fullness of His grace we have all received one bless after another." (NIV)
Or, in a different version--
"For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace." (ESV)
We have been abundantly blessed, we are being blessed now, and the greatest blessings are yet to come. As I sit here and think even for just a moment, I see that the busyness of recent weeks are simply evidences of our blessings. And as I sift through the pleasant and the painful parts of our lives currently, it is easy to come up with a multitude of blessings that the Lord lavishes on our lives in every respect.
And yet, I also realize just how slow I am to see that abundance and to live in a thankful manner. I see the undone, I feel the exhaustion and sadness, and I sense a lacking. Perhaps these gaping holes, this persistent dissatisfaction, are a reminder that I'll never really live that abundant life unless I look to God alone for fulfillment. He never fails, He is never lacking, and He gives grace upon grace.
I sold Michael's lizards today on Craig's List. It was his idea, and one that we fully supported. He had wanted lizards for as long as he had any real thoughts in his head! I think he was born with a fascination for reptiles. But after owning two bearded dragons for nearly a year, he had lost interest and decided that they would be better off with someone else. It was a good experience for him, but we let him know it is not a failure to decide that the experience needed to end.
Anyway, Jon couldn't be home when the guy came to buy them, so I was a little reluctant. Michael reassured me we'd be fine because he had his biggest knife in his pocket. He didn't even say good-bye to Beauty and the Beast (his lizards). I asked him if he wanted to say good-bye, and he looked at me like, "Mom! They're lizards. They don't know and they don't care." Duh. I think he is just as happy as I am that they are gone.
I've been baking and baking, and baking some more. I make up for a lack of it the rest of the year, now that we've decided to drastically cut back on sugar and refined flour. But for the last six weeks of the year, my rules go out the window!
The week before Thanksgiving we hosted an evening for the elders and deacons of our church, and their wives. For days I baked and baked, cooked, cleaned, and decorated. I have this thing where I insist on making everything from scratch. Don't know why, but I feel like it's an expression of love and care when I make it myself, even if no one knows. Anyway, it was a nice time together. It was a rare time, actually, when that core group is all together.
Then there was Thanksgiving, so I baked and baked some more, cooked and cleaned (because cooking and cleaning is mostly what I do year 'round anyway!). And then I got up early the day after Thanksgiving and baked a birthday cake for Andrew.
And now, let me just say, I am beginning to think I must get back into my routine of running regularly again. The motivation is growing-- pun intended!
Ha! But the baking continues! Just now I pulled out of the oven all the little sugar baby pumpkins that were used as decorations last month. They will be puréed and turned into muffins or quick breads or something. The boys are having a fun time with all the pumpkins. Michael used a hatchet to cut into the larger ones or my largest chef knife for the small ones, and Jacob enjoys picking out the seeds from the "guts." Our chickens love pecking at the flesh of the big pumpkins too, which is a treat Olivia likes to deliver when they start making too much noise in the morning.
It's hard to believe we celebrated Andrew's birthday again! I say again because, didn't we just do that?!
My boy is 9 years old. It's crazy to think!
On the morning of his birthday...
He is an easy, easy kid. A real sweet-heart! He wants so badly to be tough, to have a tough exterior and never show weakness, but he is just too sweet and sensitive to fool anyone. He cares about what people think (sometimes to a fault), and he is considerate and thoughtful.
Just recently I was alone with him in a situation that was majorly intimidating to him. We walked together to our appointed place down a long, foreboding hall, the fast pace of our steps only adding to the uneasiness. Knowing how nervous he was feeling, I reached for his hand. He held on for a moment until his eyes started filling with tears, then he pulled away blinking and continued to walk on his own. He is tender, but he has always believed he has to be tough on his own. He knew I was there, but I couldn't be his crutch. In so many ways in his nine years of life, I have seen this tender little boy take a deep breath and face his fears.
I am abundantly blessed to be his mother, and I pray the Lord would use his life to bring Him glory.
The days have been so gorgeous here. Like in an amazing kind of way! We recently had rain and it's like the world and the air have been bathed and everything is fresh and crisp. The colors of the sky and ocean are brilliant, and it's been fascinating to watch as the days unfold. Sometimes I wake up and look out toward the ocean, a deep blue-purple on some mornings, and I want to ignore all the jobs and responsibilities. I don't though, but now and then I probably should.
The pull is strong, though, so this weekend the kids and I took off for bike rides a couple times. The basket on my bike is a perfect spot for my camera. I am glad to have pulled it out again this weekend.
On Saturday it was just the two older kids and I. We stopped at a favorite tree in our neighborhood...
...then at a neat wall/fence. With my camera out again, I'm searching for beauty. I'm searching for the things right in front of me that ought to bring out thankfulness.
Our winter sunsets are pretty spectacular. My photographic skills don't do them justice, but I try nonetheless.
Sometimes the water takes on the color of the sky, other times it keeps it's own hue. When there are no clouds the sky is painted in a gradient of color. Nearly each evening at this time of year, we all find ourselves setting down what we are doing and making our way upstairs to watch the last few moments of setting sun. It's like there is a silent, magnetic pull that happens each time the interior walls of our house start dancing with pinks and oranges, and we find ourselves running up the stairs and congregating side by side on the upstairs deck.
Such a neat reminder to me of God's creativity and expression of His beauty.
I read today in a book I was leafing through while I waited in the car on someone to finish up lessons:
"It's easy to forget that simple, truthful beauty emerges from ordinary things and can be found in every little corner of our homes and everyday lives... When we seek out the subjects that slow us down and give us perspective, what we see then becomes imbued with a sense of quality and beauty." (Tracey Clark in Expressive Photography)
Yes, just what I was missing. So I stuck my grocery list between the pages to remember.
The vacuum cleaner still sits at the bottom of the stairs tonight, another job incomplete, another nagging sight for me in the morning. Recently, it seems my days are mark with an "Incomplete" grade.
But who says the vacuuming has to be done for a day to get a good grade?
I don't think living worthy of the gospel has anything to do with vacuuming! Perhaps thankfulness has something to do with it? When we recognize what God has done for us --what He is in the process of doing, and what He has promised to complete-- we then live in a way that expresses our deep gratitude. We live worthy of the gospel because of our gratitude.
Several waves of busyness have passed now. I go to bed at night and usually fall asleep before the coldness of my bedsheets heat up, and I wake in the very same position. We're onto December now, and tomorrow is a new day with new mercies and abundant graces.
I pray that I will love deeply, sincerely, sacrificially, and out of intense gratitude for what Christ is to me.