In 2006, my daughter went to the world’s greatest preschool in Ann Arbor, MI. It was FUMCN (First United Methodist Church Preschool Cooperative). The teacher, Ms. Juli, sent home surprise Christmas presents that year made from handprints and footprints of the children.
This one of a reindeer, made from my 4 year old’s footprint as the body and her two handprints as the antlers, hangs on the kitchen wall every single December. And every single December, I get all misty eyed as I look at this smudged little reindeer.
And do you know what goes through my mind? I think about how Ms. Juli got all those children barefoot, placed a wriggling and uncooperative foot in brown paint, positioned it carefully on white felt, and then figured out how to get that foot all cleaned up in time for pick-up. Then I think of the containers of green and red paint, the glue, and the chaos of it all. I think of the pom-pom noses flying across the classroom and googly eyes that won’t stay put.
I think of the parent volunteer who stitched the fabric and the other one who tied the green string for hanging. I think of the wrinkled and bunched up wrapping paper, encircled by an entire roll of tape, that I unwrapped that year.
Was it worth it, this mess?
Yes! Yes! Oh, teachers and volunteers, yes!
I wanted to thank that teacher from all those years ago. One day, a parent will hang up the old preschool Christmas gifts when her daughter is a teenager, and she’ll cry her eyes out as she remembers. She’ll place her own hand over those little handprints and whisper a prayer, not just for her own growing daughter, but also for teachers who leave these kind of marks.
Today I was temperamental.
If you look this word up in your trusted dictionary, you’ll find that it means moody, mercurial, erratic, unpredictable, and even peculiar. I like to think that I’ve mastered my own moods after all this time and effort, but really, I’m just terrible. I’ve been known to pout if my schedule changes, if I’m too cold, or if I don’t get my way. You should see me in airports. You should see me when I’m tired. You should see me when I’m hungry. Goodness.
My husband gets the worst of it. He turns to me after one particularly mercurial situation in which I fumed over not getting my way, and he calmly says:
“Well, this hasn’t been your finest moment.”
I tell him that I’m honestly trying to be spirit-filled and full of joy like everyone else around me. I tell him that I’m just too sensitive and not like other people who can withstand all manner of discomforts. I wish I were stronger, but today was not my finest moment.
He doesn’t seem so bothered by it all. He’s moved on to blessing me by doing the dishes and folding some laundry. This is really happening right now on the very eve of my terrible pouting.
Sometimes, all you have to offer the world is your own broken down self, full of pouting and demands. It’s the honest you, and you find you are still loved.
So if today was not your finest moment, you weren’t alone. And we still love you.
We return from visiting grandparents at the seashore. We’ve been told that this particular shore holds the most extraordinary collection of seashells. People come from all over the world to comb this beach for shells. Shelling at Sanibel Island is something we’ve looked forward to; however, this particular season, we’re so disappointed.
Something’s not right. The shells simply aren’t there.
We discover from a local resident the reason for this season’s emptiness:
If you want extraordinary shells, you need a turbulent, stormy season. It hasn’t been violent enough to churn up the shells and deliver them to the shore. Shells like the ones on Sanibel Island require some deep disturbances. It’s just been too calm below the surface.
I love the symbolism of it all and how, if you want a life to showcase the most beauty, it needs the most turbulent inner storms–those deep disturbances that churn up the rare and hidden treasures in our depths.
The beautiful treasures hide inside, and it takes a storm to reveal them. So I ponder those moments in life that feel storm-tossed and unsettled. This kind of shaking gets to something authentic.
Don’t worry if you find yourself in a situation where you need help–emotionally or physically.
God is the Helper. How wonderful to know it! What an amazing cause for Thanksgiving! Today I read in Psalm 34:17:
When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.
I remember to cry for help and await a sure deliverance. It might not come when or how I wish, but I know that the Helper is here, working already.
The Helper is here, working already.
I love rereading Hannah Whtiall Smith’s comments on our inner life and how we have within us a refuge and fortress in God. Over and over again, I go back to this inner, invisible dwelling place.
Here, all is well. Here, all is just as it should be.
Then, what’s happening externally hardly unsettles us.
As you know, I struggle with so much travel anxiety. I pray and use all sorts of strategies, but sometimes I just feel all out of sorts. I imagine nothing will ever be right again and that everything is falling apart inside of me.
This morning in a little hotel coffee shop, I ordered some coffee. The counter displayed a huge variety of expensive specialty chocolates. My daughter bought a yogurt, but she said, “Let’s get chocolates!”
I shook my head and said that we don’t eat chocolate for breakfast.
As we turn to leave with our yogurt and coffee, the salesperson rushes up to us, opens her clenched palm, and offers my daughter a golden-wrapped truffle.
“For after breakfast,” she says, smiling.
She walks away as we thank her, but she returns to find us one more time.
“The mother needs one, too.”
She gifts me this lovely chocolate and tells me to have a wonderful day.
The day feels different and blessed. What I order up for it is always less than what God has in store. He runs after me to bless me with what I think isn’t allowed or is out of reach.
That little gesture reminded me to wait for and observe tiny blessings today. My anxiety lessens and changes to anticipation as I wait for what golden wrapped, lovely treat this day will offer.
As I grow older, I become more and more excited about what it means to bless others (instead of focusing on myself).
In the past, I’ve been supremely self-focused. Popular blogs about the holidays sometimes feed into our narcissism; we’re told to take care of our needs and focus on our own happiness.
I’ve tried all this. I’m finding my joy increases when I focus on the needs of others. Instead of wondering what I’m missing or who can meet my needs, I’m going back to the ancient truth: it is more blessed to give than to receive.
Today I think about how much we enjoy majesty. We feel so alive and full of joy in the presence of a truly majestic thing. Majestic things are exceedingly beautiful, exceedingly powerful, and exceedingly great.
I love thinking about majestic creatures, majestics landscapes, and majestic ideas. But what if I’m somewhere devoid of majesty? I remember that no matter where I am, I have the opportunity to think about the majesty of God. No matter where I am, I can find what is exceedingly beautiful in either people, patterns in nature (no matter how small), or in ideas.
Every moment can hold something majestic within it–no matter where we are.
I’m washing dishes and noticing how beautiful and full my terrariums have become. Do you remember in May how I made little terrariums with my friend?
They were precious and so fun to make. Perhaps you have family coming into town for Thanksgiving. They might enjoy making terrariums one afternoon. The two photos below are the original terrariums, and the third is the present day one!
They’ve grown so big in 7 months, and I’ve hardly watered them. They make the winter kitchen seem a little brighter, and they still remind me of what I wrote back then:
I love what those succulents symbolize; like them, I want to store up all the beauty and truth I can, fattening myself up with joy, so I’m able to flourish in the driest season.
I love studying all the growing things in my life, no matter what the season. Acorns, raspberries, peonies, artichokes, paperwhites, tomatoes–each has something to teach us.