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Nothing special has happened lately. I can’t think of anything particularly beautiful or graceful to write about. I’ve actually been kind of down.
But God is still good, and He still loves me. That feels so trite and cliche to write, but you know what? It’s still true. In spite of it all, in spite of everything, in spite of nothing.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
And that’s all I need.
I’ve been listening to a lot of Radio Lab lately, but after three episodes in one week, I was getting tired. I get so caught up in podcasts and audiobooks that I sometimes forget that my iPod has music on it. A lot of music. So much that I couldn’t even make a guess at how many different artists or songs are housed in that little device.
Yesterday, while running errands, I set my iPod on shuffle and just let the tracks play. It was refreshing: just listening to whatever came on, reminding myself of all the different nooks and facets of my musical interests.
Anberlin. Mendelssohn. Meiko. Ingrid Michaelson. Radiohead. Beck. The Marie Antoinette soundtrack. Four-minute excerpts from A Thousand Splendid Suns.
Shuffle: the audible conglomerate of a personality. The ability to surprise yourself.
On Thursday evening I was walking across campus to our weekly OCF (Orthodox Christian Fellowship) meeting. It was just after six o’clock, and (thanks to daylight savings) the sun was still shining. As I walked past the duck pond near the middle of campus, I heard a bird singing. Everything else was quiet, save for the soft, watery sounds of the fountains in the pond. I looked up and saw, perched on a west-facing branch of a large tree, a single robin, singing toward the sun. His rusty red breast shone in the late-afternoon light and I was close enough to see it expand with every breath.
I stopped walking and watched him for a few moments. I forgot about my stress and my deadlines and just enjoyed this lovely little creature and his beautiful song. Every note echoed off of the nearby buildings and seemed to fill the air. He never has to practice. He just does exactly what God made him to do.
The first (four-day) week of school is not even over, and I’m already refurbishing my need for a (twice) daily cup of coffee just so I can think clearly. Schedules; deadlines; decisions; expectations; fears.
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
- Matthew 16:18
And my heart finds peace.
It’s been a rough week.
Heck, it’s been a rough semester. Busier than I’ve ever been, and more stressed (which is saying a lot, for me; my husband half-jokes about me prematurely losing my hair).
I’m so tired and ready to be done with everything, but there is still so much to do.
But yesterday, I didn’t think about all of that. I didn’t get on my laptop, I didn’t check my email, I didn’t worry about assignments that will be due soon. All I did was make a pecan pie, sit around and talk with family, enjoy a delicious meal, veg in front of the TV, watch a movie, and go to bed early with my husband.
And it was beautiful.
I got to sleep in this morning. I took my time eating breakfast. I read in Isaiah. I said my morning prayers. Today is a cloudy, cool, blustery day that hints at the coming of autumn.
I had Moroccan Mint tea. I’m getting work done. I’m believing that my being able to handle my stress today is more than just a coincidence. I’m having faith. I’m seeing God do amazing, impossible things in the lives of people I love.
I’m beginning to believe in miracles.
The first sign is the smell – the smell of water, of mist, of wet dirt. The clouds are unreliable; black nimbus towers can threaten and glare, but if the air below is too hot, the most we can expect from them is extra shelter from the sun.
But if we can smell it, it’s raining somewhere. And then we dare to hope.
Desert rain is rare and beautiful. The people here long for it, pray for it, as temperatures reach the low 100s and make this dry and thirsty place drier, and thirstier.
Even when it comes, though, we can’t trust it. Desert rain is fickle, and we know better.
Yet we notice with relief that the sun has faded, and our spirits rise when we hear the uneven pinging on the roof and see the trees wrestle with the wind. And so, inspite of our uncertainty, we can’t help ourselves. We emerge from our air-conditioned homes to revel at it. We lift up our faces and stretch out our hands in a posture not unlike that of worship. We let our hair, our clothes, our whole selves get wet, because it feels like forever since the last time we could.
Minutes later, silence. The sun has returned, although lingering mist dampens its glare. The trees sway listlessly in the now gentle breeze. We hope the clouds will stay. We hope the storm will continue.
But we go back inside, and resign ourselves to waiting.
My husband and I had dinner with my brother and sister-in-law tonight. We got to see our newborn niece for the first time in almost a month.
I always forget how much energy it takes to simply hold a child. Vivian got fussy, so I carried her around the house, rocking her in my arms and talking to her softly. I watched her watch things; if we stood still, she’d get upset. She wanted to explore, to see. After twenty minutes or so, my arms started to ache, and she began to drift into a nap. Gradually she lost the fight with her eyelids – those tiny little eyelids, fringed with her wispy lashes.
Sometimes I wonder about motherhood. I want to have children, but part of me is fearful. I wonder how much I’ll have to sacrifice, or for how long. I want to be present and active in our children’s lives, but sometimes I think people forget that mothers already had an entire life before they became mothers. How will I handle the stress? The exhaustion? I wonder how much my life will change.
But then I remember holding Vivian on the day she was born. So tiny, so delicate, so small that it was difficult to believe she was a human being, and a human soul. A human soul that did not exist until nine months earlier. As I held her on my lap tonight, I brushed my face in her thin, soft hair. I smelled her skin. She’s already grown so much, but while she’s fiery, she’s still fragile. She needs to be cherished.
And I don’t wonder anymore. I just know.
Great are You, O Lord, and wondrous are Your works, and no word will suffice to hymn Your wonders. For by Your Will have You out of nothingness brought all things into being and by Your power sustain all creation and by Your Providence direct the world.
I could have stared forever.
Sitting at a red light, I indifferently glanced around. To my right was nothing exceptional. To my left was beauty.
The late afternoon sunlight poured beneath the freeway overpass, bathing everything below in golden-orange. Particles of dust – or were they insects? – flitted aimlessly in the air, each one a tiny, brilliant piece of light. I felt silence; peace; stillness. Suddenly, the mundane, industrial, typically dirty setting transformed into one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.
The traffic light changed. I had to move. I didn’t want to.
I could have stared forever.
Let’s depart from the trend and focus on seeing and hearing over writing and speaking. While this blog features writers and storytelling, I think the following video fits our overall goals to open our eyes and see how something ordinary and everyday can be beautiful and breathtaking. I hope my fellow contributors will agree.
I’ve posted this on my personal blog, and since I haven’t been inspired to write much lately, I thought I’d share it here as well.
Here’s to finding mystery and grandeur in your everyday routine.