Tag Archives: joy

The Last Morning in September

This morning the last one in September, I woke early to finish an edit and got sucked into simply reading.

As I read, I listened to the quiet house waking and the sounds of the day starting. At first there was nothing, then a twittering songbird, whistling briefly until silence again. Then a distant crow, and eventually, the kids’ on the street screeching outside while they grab the last moments before the school bus arrives.

IMG_5817In the hue cast by the closing pages of this novel, it’s become a morning that proves the day can be full of magic moments—if we pay attention and don’t ruin them. So many things can ruin them. Sometimes the days become worried by nothing we’ve done, simply the day’s own trouble. But mostly, it’s our own willfulness, our unwillingness to slow down and recognize what we’re really seeing, what’s really happening, what this chance before us really means.

And a day like this can bring me back to all the things our hearts and souls truly long for—the bright sounds and rich colors and bits of memories that pierce through it all. So many hidden little reminders of why we love this place we get to live in, and how full and happy it can be in the earth’s slow turning.

I needed this book because I need these reminders. I didn’t know it, but I do now. Life will pass and time will be gone and I could have known love in these moments that are ours to inhabit. Or I could still. Even in the moments that at first seem inhospitable, there’s the endless possibility of God’s great, boundless joy.

And we can feel it rising in the waking daylight like the best dare, like an invitation to unwrap the biggest gift of all….

[p.s. I’ll share the book soon….]

For the higher purpose,

Mick

Taking for Granted vs. Taking with Gratitude

It’s a familiar story. But it still has the power to change your thinking.

Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room.

One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs.

His bed was next to the room’s only window.

frontyard


The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back.

The men talked for hours on end.

They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation.

Every afternoon, when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window.

The man in the other bed began to live for those one hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and color of the world outside.

The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake.Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every color and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance.

As the man by the window described all this in exquisite details, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine this picturesque scene.

One warm afternoon, the man by the window described a parade passing by.

Although the other man could not hear the band -he could see it in his mind’s eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words.

Days, weeks and months passed.One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep.

She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away.

As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window.The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone.

Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the real world outside. He strained to slowly turn to look out the window besides the bed.

It faced a blank wall.

The man asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased roommate who had described such wonderful things outside this
window.

The nurse responded that the man was blind and could not even see the wall.

She said, “Perhaps he just wanted to encourage you.”

There is tremendous happiness in making others happy beyond our own situations. Shared grief is half the sorrow, and happiness when shared, is doubled. If you want to feel rich, just count all the things you have that money can’t buy.

As Master Oogway said, “Today is a gift, that is why it is called the present .”

oogway

 

“When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.”

~Gilbert K. Chesterton

How to be a child again this Christmas

Reading my Christmas post last year was enlightening. It's so sad! I apologize to anyone who read it. I sound like someone who desperately needs a new perspective.

This year, I found one. After 10 years in Colorado Springs and Christian publishing, the miracle happened and I was finally let go from WaterBrook a few months before my 5 year anniversary. Within weeks, our house sold, and we moved to Portland where I've been pursuing my fortunes as a consultant and freelance editor. And after being away for a few months now from that difficult town, which is also beautiful and fun and has many things we miss, especially our great friends, and the corporate traditional publishing world (which is valiant and filled with the most incredible and smartest people in the world), rather than loving the season for brief moments and savoring the fleeting reminders of childhood and love, I'm enjoying a far more sustained enjoyment, sharper and heightened.

But I don't think these are the biggest reasons.

No doubt it's much to do with this great book I was fortunate to help with recently. I'm also no longer the father of young children, which is both frightening and revelatory. This fact alone fills me to brimming with a wistful glee. I'll miss their younger selves someday. But now I'm too grateful not to be among the dozens of friends of mine with kids under 4, flinging their little socks into overnight bags and searching for two rested neurons to create a spark. With regular sleep this year, I don’t find it so hard not to say the evil thoughts I'm thinking; I’m not even thinking them to begin with. There isn't nearly so much that needs to be done, and the familiar struggle to appreciate the real reason for all the running around doesn't seem so hard. I'm hoping this also means I won't have to eat so much or excuse my lack of self-discipline. I may even get to write when we're back at my old house. 

This is crazy but the more I think about it, the more it seems to come down to regular sleep. With clearer thoughts, I no longer feel so old! There's a noticeably sharper sense of wonder to the songs and sermons, and I don’t miss the old electric blanket of food and wine to pull around me. My memories are returning–of beauty, love, hope–in my haze last year I feared I’d never recover them.

But I’m remembering. Being put back together. And what’s more, the girls' excitement seems all the greater. They're like little sprinklers of happiness. It’s their Christmas cheer that fills my cup this year. Christmas is for children and now I get to be one again! And maybe it is mostly because they aren’t quite so needy anymore. Who knew?

This year, I get to go back for a little while and remember it will all be okay. Somehow. All of it will be redeemed. The evil can not stand. With older kids I can see through the eyes I used to have again, the eyes that knew it was all right, that everything will be as it should be forever.

Is this how home is regained?

For all of you who have chaos at home right now, I know it doesn’t make sense when you can’t see it. I was there last year. There's too much that can cover it up. Such simple, ordinary things. Too much responsibility. But it will be put right again. Just know that it's not really up to you how things will go, and it’s so much better to accept your ignorant bliss. The frustrations hidden by a sovereign hand, the strings all under perfect control. The tremendous effort to pull off the celebrations can be forfeited. (And maybe it's when we don't that it starts to resemble anything but a celebration.)

Too often today, the ties of family, the significance of our being here at all, it can all go unnoticed. We turn blinded eyes to the very things that make seeing worthwhile. But don't be afraid of losing those children we were. Don't worry about stuffing in the trappings and wrappings to bring them back. They can't come back. And that's good. That's as it should be.

Instead, if we can let go those children, we can embrace the new ones better. When they're 5 and 6 and 7, you find these things in them you've been fighting to recover. It's as though it's the payback for your sacrifices–they do eventually bring back your joy at Christmas. And in their happiness is our escape. It's what Christmas is about, after all, a child bringing hope in the darkness to show us the way to wonder.

It felt so hard to see last year, like trying to guess if this gift was in one of the tightly wrapped boxes behind the tree. I wish I could have told myself last year to focus on giving instead–it may have been easier to find what I was looking for.

Of such as these is the very kingdom. And a child shall lead them…

So once again, come now little ones. Come into our broken-down world and re-member us. As we gather, put us back together, and may we see in your innocent eyes, those windows still so clean, the easy belief we used to know. For in your raised faces, bold and bright, we can see the great star shine through the dark.