Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sincerely thankful...

161. Christopher Robin's flushed cheeks and eyes wide, concentrating, bright mind learning to scheme as he nears the end of our Spy Alley game, keeps his identity secret, and lands on the winning space.

162. Winter days with nowhere to be, time to fill with imaginations, relaxed hours of play for the three little ones, time to organize and clean and create and read for me.

163. Simplicity of steady crocheting, hands busy while mind is free to meditate, or soar, or be filled.

164. As we know Jesus better, his divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life. He calls us to receive his own glory and goodness. II Peter 1:3
It doesn't feel possible, but He assures.

165. Ice cream after supper for any boy who keeps his lips from whining all day long. Home is becoming a happier place.

166. Little eyes locking mine, intensely arguing her case in words I have not learned yet to understand.

167. Warm thankfulness flooding through me when I hear an unhappy wail from the kids' room. That little one is alive and healthy, and I can go in and hug them close, then live my days with them.

168. Routine becomes expected, and home philosophy embraced. "Work before play." Whines and protests fade as normal sets in and the simple principle is adopted willingly by oldest boy. "Work before play," he reminds our 3 year old.

169. Conversations with friends that linger, feeding my mind with new thoughts, my spirit with prayer for others' situations, my soul with warmth of being close to someone.

170. Grandmother across the street dropping in for a visit. The dream of living near enough for that is finally realised.

171. Golden sunbeams gilding our ordinary living room for half an hour each late afternoon. Boys stumble out from naptime to cozy afternoon glow.

172. Daily donning of old winter jacket and boots and work gloves, short treck to the woodpile to fill the wood box ensures that I enter the winter landscape outside at least briefly every day.

173. Tallest boy keeps growing taller...bags of hand-me-downs re-explored to fill drawers again with clothes that reach to ends of wrists.

174. Pre-worn clothes passed along from friends to our family that help keep children clothed (well!) without heavy expense.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Because I'm not poor.

"Poverty in youth, when it succeeds, is so far magnificent that it turns the
whole will towards effort, and the whole soul towards aspiration. Poverty
strips the material life entirely bare, and makes it hideous; thence arise
inexpressible yearnings towards the ideal life. The rich young man has a
hundred brilliant and coarse amusements, racing, hunting, dogs, cigars, gaming,
feasting, and the rest; busying the lower portions of the soul at the expense of
its higher and delicate portions. The poor young man must work for his
bread; he eats; when he has eaten, he has nothing more but reverie. He
goes free to the play which God gives; he beholds the sky, space, the stars,
the flowers, the children, the humanity in which he suffers, the creation
in which he shines. He looks at humanity so much that he sees the soul, he
looks at creation so much that he sees God." -Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

I know poverty does not always have such happy results, but the idea that a life closed to trivial amusements ends up a simpler, better life rings true to me. Should I lament that my life is full of good things and endless opportunity? I don't. But I am discovering that if I truly want to be devoted to Christ and to hunger and thirst for Him, I have to stop filling myself with other things. When I have Christ, I need very little else.

It truly would be far easier to choose Christ if I didn't have so many other temptations luring my attention away every moment. Since God has given me far more than I need, my work is to focus my eyes on Him, and following his example, begin pouring out all this good in love to others.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Rethinking the Rethinking

It's not a matter of making up my mind to do something. It's not gritting my teeth and setting my jaw and determining that I will do better. It's not battling fiercely against the selfishness, the laziness, the self justification, the endless pitfalls that foil my attempts to live life well.

Success doesn't come from me.

Ann's quiet voice reminds me that setting goals and making up my mind to do well will not bring success. It's not a matter of willpower.

A thousand times I've told myself, "I simply must try harder." Try
harder to be more organized, try harder to educate our children better, try
harder to be more after God's heart.
But I know it: trying harder only results in harder trials.
Self-striving nurtures self-hatred. Toiling in the flesh produces
foiling in the soul.
Looking back on the trail tromped through other years, I can see that to
forge new tracks across this year will need more than simply sheer effort,
gritty determination.

Past experience has already taught me this. How many times have I sunk to the floor in despair, defeated. Loft goals hoisted bravely onto my back at the beginning of the day only end up exposing my weakness, crushing me into the dust before the day is half done. How can I live this life You call me to live, God, when every brave attempt ends in failure?

The answer? Christ doesn't call us to try harder. "Martha, Martha, you're worried and upset over all these details. There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her." Mary sat at the Lord's feet, listening to what he taught.

Christ calls us to surrender. To take our lofty goals and our agendas and our hopes and dreams and give them all to Him. Let Him rearrange them and prioritize them. Our call is to listen to Him, and match our hearts to His. Listen to Him until we start wanting what He wants more than anything else. To give up all the good things we have always planned to fill our lives with, and fill ourselves with Him instead.

Some of the things I hope for this year might come to pass. But not because I'm so strong and self-disciplined and wise. His Spirit is the wind beneath my wings, and the power to make things happen belongs to Him. My job is to spread myself in surrender, and let Him carry me in His direction towards all the good He promises to those who follow Him.

The first step towards my ambitious goals for this year is to place myself, my ambitions, my dreams and goals, on the alter. To replace my passions with His passions, and then soar with His strength and power.