Joy feeding a duck she named Hildegard!
Today, I was out on a walk, (a regular habit of mine for many, many years.), and Joy called. I have a habit of always taking the phone calls of my children, no matter when they call, even though I almost don't answer for anyone else! "Mama, I just took my car out for a drive so I could get away from other friends so we could just talk and talk."
Over the next half hour, she bubbled up and spilled out the amazing things she has been thinking, what she has been thinking about her life, about God, about our pending summer together, classes and all that is in her heart. At this point, I stand amazed.
I learn from her every time she calls me. I want to love God more each time I talk to her, because she has such a vibrant walk with Him. I want to read the books that are inspiring her, and stay sharpened so that when she comes home, I will have something to enrich her life.
It is pretty much the same way with all of my children. I am inspired to keep growing and becoming more excellent because they follow hard on the heels of God.
Yet, it was not always that way.
"He touched my toe! Make him stop!" as we are reading a great story on the couch together, and the pettiness interrupted the magnanimous moment.
"Why do I always get in trouble and have to have higher standards than anyone else." (Teen years.)
Pouty eyes as I ask that someone set the table. "I always have to do all the work."
Screaming and throwing a fit before falling asleep because I let them get too exhausted while we were out.
So many times wondering, "Did it all matter? Were they listening? Was I accomplishing anything? Does all this work matter, Lord?
Yet, as I have lived through 4 children and seen them into adulthood, I see that God has made them to mature, to grow and to become stronger, almost in spite of you. Our part is to trust Him, love them, be faithful and patient and kind. And then He has access to their hearts and minds and somehow makes my work of love and faithfulness bear fruit, eventually, because He has set maturity in their hearts and given me the desire to be their guide, for His sake.
It is all a miracle. I sow, daily in faith, and it does grow and bear fruit--miraculously.
Now, during this season, I am looking at each day as one to savor and remember and choosing to love a little more generously, be more patient, and end my days with grace, and choosing joy.
I ran into this picture and this post from 5 years ago, and remember how young she was and how delightful. Wish I could curl her up on my lap, but she is gone and grown up--and though I love her sooo much and enjoy her so much now, I do still wish I could turn back the clock on occasion. But now this season has come to an end. So I also share with you these thoughts from that time with you and hope that the sentiment which I wrote years ago, and still even encouraged me today as I was looking back and reflecting, will encourage you.
My advice, yet again, friends, is to live life joyfully today, and take notice of the beauty along the way. It is a great way to invest in a Saturday.
Off to make make dinner--but this time without my sweet Joy.
I am sitting in my little quiet time chair with a cup of strong Austrian coffee in hand, (there are advantages to travel—I brought home 4 packages of the great tasting stuff along with a small box of chocolates!). From my second story window, I look out on the tops of countless pine trees with the Rocky Mountains peeking through the tree tops in the distance, and a sky full of wispy clouds slowing moving by. A reflection of God’s creative artistry is something I seek in every house we live in. I choose windows that look out on the most beautiful natural scene, so that I can have some of His life-stuff to bring peace and quiet to my soul each morning as I meet with him.
In front of me is a pile of books scattered over a coffee table, a couch pillow thrown onto the floor, a couple of pairs of shoes where they were shaken off and a potted plant that holds 3 wilting flowers in desperate need of water, some child’s abandoned sweat shirt, and a half-eaten candy bar. And this is only the picture of the eight feet in front of my chair. The rest of the house is much the same—meticulously decorated for this season—potted ivy with candles on my dining table, containers of flowers at the front door—blooming, but waiting to be potted, yet other life messes in the midst of the order and beauty. As the proverb says, “Where there are no oxen, the stalls are clean.” I comfort myself daily with the fact that I have 6 oxen living in my home, and thus my stalls are not always clean. My world is always a mixture of beauty and mess, order and piles of things not yet subdued. (Did I mention that Joy has interrupted me three times since I started writing this article? “Have you seen my brush? Will you practice my play lines with me for the play this afternoon? Do you think this shirt is too short to wear?)
Yet there is a significant little wooden plaque within my eye range. It reminds me daily, “Live Life Joyfully!” Choosing to live life joyfully is a choice that I have learned over a period of many years. Choosing to enjoy the moment is an inner discipline I have had to learn. It is not necessarily natural, but has become more so with the choosing of it as my practiced heart attitude.
I often love to watch toddlers. They move through their worlds with delight. We were waiting in a park on our mission trip for a friend to meet us. A toe-headed little boy was squealing with delight as he chased an illusive butterfly around a planting of bright red tulips and yellow daffodils. He was caught up in the joy of the moment, delighting in the toy figures that God had placed in his world for his pleasure. The little one was unaware that he had a milk-mustache, a shoe untied and a soiled stain on the knee of his jeans.
I hope that I am like this little boy to God—choosing to enjoy the beauty of the treasures he has place in my path. Noticing the toys he has given me for delight—Joy dancing through my room—beginning to look more like a young woman than a little girl—truly a beautiful sight to behold. One that will pass quickly. I am enjoying the tulips on my next door neighbors driveway—closest to ours, the green grass that has been so long hidden under piles of snow.
Many years ago in the midst of another possible miscarriage, I was sitting by a window near some mountains in Austria. I had begun to bleed and was asking God from the bottom of my heart to please let me carry this child to completion. Just then, a little sparrow hopped up on my window sill and began to chirp. It stayed there for several minutes and hopped closer and closer to the edge where I was looking out. What a sweet, amazing creature—singing its heart out with no one to applause. It was as though God was saying to me, “I am listening. I see the birds on a thousand hills. I see you. I love you and am with you!” I didn’t know what would happen, but I knew that God, who is love, was with me and would be with me in whatever happened. The pregnancy turned out to be Sarah.
From then on, I decided to take notice of birds who sing—to believe that they are especially praising God. I see them also as a personal reminder from God that He is present. Often on my walks when I am pouring out my dark heart to God, a bird hops or sings along my trail and I am reminded that God is there—present with me!
May He bring the reality of His joy to you today in the midst of your order and mess.