Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thankful Thursday :: Thanksgiving 2017

Every Thanksgiving for the last 13 years, I've logged in to compile a list of 100 gifts for which I'm grateful--the big things, the little things, the silly/random and the profound. In the last twelve months, it was nearly the only blog post I managed to write. I'm still sorely out of the habit--both the habit of giving thanks and the habit of blogging--but at least today, I'm jumping back in to continue what I think is a valuable tradition.

As I look back over the past year, I'm especially thankful for... 

1. a thriving, growing girl in our family
2. her squishy legs
3. her happy disposition
4. those glorious three months when she slept well (long gone now, alas)
5. endless raspberries and motorboat noises

6. the way Miriam lights up when she sees her brothers
7. the way they greet her and shower her with attention
8. Steve babywearing
9. hairbows
10. a house full of laughter

11. obstetrician
12. midwife-turned-doula
13. chiropractor
14. aqua yoga instructor
15. craniosacral massage therapist

16. pediatric dentist
17. babysitter/mother's helper
18. occupational therapist
19. physical therapist
20. friend-turned-counselor

21. sertraline
22. loratadine
23. whatever drugs they put in an epidural :)
24. ibuprofen
25. clean water

26. help from my mom during pregnancy and postpartum
27. help from my MIL during pregnancy and postpartum
28. support from our church family
29. my BIL and SIL coming to visit and serve
30. generosity and prayer at my baby shower

31. boys doing laundry
32. boys making eggs
33. boys emptying the dishwasher
34. boys cleaning bathrooms
35. boys entertaining Sister

36. plentiful milk supply
37. grace to persevere through months of nightmarish nursing
38. a stellar lactation consultant
39. insurance-provided double electric pump
40. relief from pain and a smooth nursing relationship at long last

41. sharing book recommendations with Elijah
42. hearing Jude's reading skills take off
43. reading Sandra Boynton board books to Miriam
44. a Kindle with a light for reading in bed
45. extensive selection of e-books for free through the library

46. Every Mile Mattered, Nichole Nordeman
47. Red Sea Road, Ellie Holcomb
48. The Burning Edge of Dawn, Andrew Peterson
49. A Home and a Hunger, Caroline Cobb
50. Fortunate Fall, Audrey Assad

51. big skies in Ohio and Indiana
52. German Christmas markets
53. the canals of Amsterdam
54. rolling hills in middle Tennessee
55. getting to see Hamilton on stage in Chicago

56. cold brew coffee
57. hot apple cider
58. smoked turkey stock
59. Vanilla Coke
60. fresh squeezed orange juice

61. Vienna Springs ring slings
62. Moses Basket custom handmade baby items
63. Binky Beads pacifier clips and teethers
64. winning a giveaway from Brass Bee Bonnets
65. VIP and buy/sell/trade groups on Facebook for these mama shops

66. piano lessons
67. soccer games
68. basketball camp
69. school bus stopping right in front of our house

70. long-awaited daughter adopted by a friend
71. long-awaited daughter born to a friend
72. friend with a new house
73. friends with new jobs

74. hard, grown-up conversations with Elijah
75. snuggles with Jude
76. Miriam's kissable cheeks
77. unprompted hugs and "I love you"s from Elijah 

78. Simeon Trust workshop for women
79. women's Bible study during Sunday School
80. monthly women's prayer meeting
81. others connecting with and being encouraged by my writing
82. Steve in my corner, advocating for me

83. student of the month awards
84. keys of excellence awards
85. glowing reports at parent-teacher conferences
86. skilled, caring teachers
87. dedicated, hardworking administrators and staff

88. health insurance
89. stable employment
90. a promotion for Steve
91. his being accessible/flexible at work
92. getting to tour the facility on a recent family day

93. Steve's tremendous wisdom
94. his relentless servanthood
95. his willingness to listen and then tell me what I need to hear, not what I want to hear
96. his back rubs
97. his gorgeous gray-green eyes

98. recording of "He Will Hold Me Fast" from T4G 2016
99. the fact that our church started singing this song right after I fell in love with it
100. the reality of Christ holding me fast when my love is cold and my faith is weak

Friday, November 03, 2017

Autumn Disappointment

 I'm on a walk with Miriam, and the sky is a gloomy gray. For the last couple of weeks, Timehop has been teasing me with pictures of past autumn glory. Orange and red, gold, scarlet, rust, yellow, vermilion--our neighborhood a beautiful blaze of color. Today I mostly see dull, faded green and the occasional brownish-orange, nothing brilliant or spectacular.

I'm not sure what to make of this. I have the impulse to try and write about it. And then instead of adding it to my to-do list as one more "should" that I'll never get around to, I pull out my phone and start dictating as I walk through the neighborhood, pushing a stroller with my daughter.

It's 70 degrees today, and I'm sweating. The deliciously cool fall weather that finally seemed to have arrived for good has disappeared again. I hear someone mowing his lawn. Are the leaves actually going to change, or are they just going to let go in disappointment? I can't believe how green the trees still are on November 2. The wind kicks up, and dozens of leaves float to the ground without having revealed their beauty. Why?

Too much warmth? Too much sunshine? Too much chlorophyll? I have no idea of the scientific answer, but I can't help feeling let down. The promise of autumn's beauty--the glory in the dying that I have waxed poetic about so many times--isn't showing up this year. What does that mean?

It's this strange reminder in this strange new season of my life that nothing is promised. Or is that even true? Lots of bigger, eternal things are promised. I can trust the God who is sovereign over the seasons. Even when the transition is unremarkable and disappointing. Even when the beauty I anticipated and longed for falls short of my expectations.

We keep walking, and suddenly I see a beautiful red tree--the kind that usually populates our entire neighborhood. It stands out all the more because of its solitary beauty; there are no other colorful trees around to distract from its brilliant red leaves. The clouds shift a bit, and above the red tree I get a glimpse of that crisp blue autumn sky I always love to see.

A question surfaces: What will I choose to remember? The dull green-brown trees under the gray clouds...or this flash of crimson and bright blue?

It's a dilemma I face every day--a lesson the Lord has tried to teach me countless times. It's a question as old as Eve. Will you emphasize what you have, give thanks for what has been given, celebrate with gratitude? Or will you complain, meditate on what is lacking, focus on what is not yours--what has  seemingly been withheld?

The choice is always mine to make--even about something as simple as autumn leaves and brilliant colors, on a walk around my neighborhood on an ordinary Thursday morning. I'm hot and uncomfortable in my short sleeve shirt, but the breeze is blowing through my baby girl's hair. These sidewalks are uneven, hard to navigate with a stroller, but rundown houses are being renovated and given new life. The sun briefly peeks out in between all the clouds. I can walk again, after so many months of being immobile and in pain. And instead of the "all or nothing" thinking that plagues me, I'm choosing "all or something": I'm dictating this blog post instead of letting the idea disappear into the draft folder of good intentions. 

But how is all this different from Pollyanna, from naivete and rose-colored glasses? Reality is also that my girl is starting to whine, and chances are good she might be full-on screaming by the time we return home, my blood pressure rising. The lack of color is still a disappointment. I'm still going to need a shower. My jeans are still too tight.

It's a matter of who gets the last word. Sunshine briefly warms my face. Tiny dimpled hands grasp the side of the stroller. No matter how unspectacular their dying, these trees will still be reborn in the spring.

The darkness will always be there. The disappointment is a permanent fixture east of Eden. But the light is more permanent still--the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness will not overcome it.

Beautiful Through Dying
Autumn Beauty
Contemplating Beauty
Part of the Whole
The Last Word: BUT God