A Warm Welcome

It is the first day of spring, but it has been creeping up on us for weeks it seems, so close I’ve been able to taste it. I can feel it beckoning me outside every opportunity it gets.

Birds chirp in what was just weeks ago the dead silence of winter.

Fragrant, breathtaking flowers bloom on recently bare branches.

The sun – comforting, crisp, warm – beams down on my face.

I am thankful.

The kind of thankful that doesn’t have words or reasons, it’s just there, filling my soul in ways that only spring can.

I’ve longed extra deeply for sunshine this winter, for the warmth of its rays and the beautiful aftermath it leaves in my garden. Particularly, its symbol of promise and hope.

I love spring because it reminds me that death does not have the last word. It reminds me that no matter how long the winter, the promise of those breathtaking cherry blossoms still remains. It reminds me that there’s nothing that can stop the sun from eventually coming out, from bringing beauty to the blank space of winter.

The fact that you can literally watch the bare branches of winter morph into beautifully adorned limbs lining every street in town, completely unprompted yet perfectly timed, is one of the most holy things on earth.

Perhaps what fascinates me most about spring is the tangible example it is of change. It is a reminder that there is an allotted time for everything in life: laughter and mourning; joy and sorrow; celebration and loss. We don’t just know the sweet smells of spring; we know the bitter cold of winter, too. Without the quiet, bitter, colorless chill of winter, the warm colors and smells and sounds of spring would not be as profound, as powerfully life-giving.

To know spring is to know winter. It is to understand that there are seasons in life, some full of joy and laughter, some full of mourning and heartache. I don’t know that you can have one and not the other in life. But the beauty about seasons is that each one cultivates a deeper gratitude for the others. By the time winter rolls around again next year, I’m sure I’ll be ready for it, too – whether I know it or not. My soul will be full after soaking up every moment of spring, summer, fall.

Of course, there is certainly something to say for the fact that when those autumn leaves begin to fall off the trees and we begin to head into the winter months, I’ll be ready for that bitter chill, too. Once again, winter’s predecessors prepare and strengthen my heart to take on the frigid winter months of quiet, still reflection. They refill my reserve to brave the cold, figuratively and literally.

But for today, that glorious sunshine is calling my name. And I can’t get enough of it.

 

Adjusting the Lens

This week marked a turning point after two weeks of sickness in our home. Sickness is monotony at its finest – especially when kids are involved.  It has a way of making time obsolete. Two weeks, but really, it felt like one continuous day that simply built on itself every 24 hours. Not only is every day slow and repetitive, but there is a seemingly gargantuan lack of sleep mixed in all the snot and body aches and fevers and fussiness.

Oh, what a glorious hot mess we have been over here. And yet, as usual, out of the the most strenuous and exhausting times come the most valuable lessons.

“And all of a sudden, what’s valuable is not the multitasking, but the single task – being with [her], only [her], doing nothing else.” – Shauna Niequist, Savor

There could not have been a more timely reminder; not just in the midst of this awful flu season, but in all of life.

Presence.

The mundane matters. It matters more than productivity, efficiency, responsibility; this is the hardest lesson I’ve learned, perhaps.

Appreciating this season for what it is, for all the “inconvenience” that having a two year old brings with it. Because maybe the “inconveniences” are not inconveniences; maybe they are in fact the good stuff and our lens just needs to be adjusted.

Reading all the books again.

Again.

Again.

Slowing down enough to let her into my everyday instead of trying to orchestrate her around my “everyday,” even if it means accomplishing less.

Because sometimes we need to slow down. Do less. Juggle less – sometimes less truly is more.

More for your soul.

More for your mind.

More for those closest to you. I guarantee that the people you share a home with are more concerned with a joyful you than that perfect life rhythm you seem to be chasing – so why aren’t you?

Contentment where we are is such a hard lesson to learn.  And by the time we do learn it, it’s often too late; our opportunities to enjoy the moment for what it is have already come and gone. I think there are two secrets to contentment in the present:

The first is that there is no such thing as the “perfect” life. In every season, even the best ones, there will always be something we wish we could change.

Secondly, the perfect life does not equal the “good life,” anyway.

These two principles change everything. Contentment is learning not only to be satisfied and grateful with the imperfect, but realizing that maybe the good stuff is the imperfect.

It’s the slobbery kisses.

It’s the unwanted interruptions; one day they won’t need you for everything anymore. And while that’s a good thing, you won’t miss it any less.

It’s reading Corduroy for a billionth time (no hyperbole there); when they’re older, their love for books will implant a hunger for learning that will drive them their entire life, yielding an invaluable depth to their human experience – and to the people around them, for that matter.

It’s all of the cuddles that come with being sick because the cuddles get fewer and further between as they grow.

It’s the little bubblebath footprints all over the bathroom that won’t always be little.

It’s flour covering every inch of the kitchen; one day that mess will become some of your most cherished memories (and theirs, too) and what you’ll remember is not how much longer it took to make those cookies or how much lumpier they turned out because you let tiny hands do the mixing.

Sure, teaching them along the way is important, but it’s not more important than creating a fertile ground for connection. For relationship. For gratitude. It’s much easier to teach a child how to clean up a mess or do their own laundry than it is to teach a child the significance of patience, of love, of gratitude – of the good stuff. What good is a perfectly ordered life if the latter are not the foundation of it all?

What if we could learn to refocus our lens? What if we could see what seems like inconvenience now through the lens of what it may look like 10, 20, 30 years from now?  What does it look like to be content in the “now,” that precious “now” that we will eventually be wishing we had back?

The answer is easier said than done, but it is simple:

Learn the sacred secret of joy.

Learn the art of cultivating an inner groundedness that is not based on being happy, but being grateful. Learn to be thankful for every glimpse and glimmer of good that God is whispering through his good world. Cherish every second of the life you have been given. And remember that everything lasts only for a season – which can be bittersweet, depending on the context.

In the bitter, may we remember that morning will come again and that there is always good to be found in the meantime – we may just have to look extra hard to find it.

But yes, it is there.

In the sweet, may we remember to slow down, soak it up, and enjoy every second.  It will come to an end too, as every season does. And when that end comes, you’ll want to look back with gratitude that it happened, not regret that you let that time slip right through your hands.