I continue to learn how to build a beautiful and joyful home environment where people want to gather. I coax my teens out of their bedrooms with hot tea and some fresh treat always ready after school. I’m learning how to make spaces where they want to linger with me and others.
Lately, it’s keeping environments tidy and orderly with surfaces ready for homework or baking. It’s having candles lit, music playing, and snacks arranged. It’s having elements to foster coziness like freshly laundered blankets, soft pillows on the couches, and warm lighting. It’s having books and magazines to read, a promise of a movie we’ll all watch, or supplies set out for a seasonal craft as simple as paper snowflake cutting.
I’m learning how to make irresistible settings for people to gather and connect. It’s an art form and ministry, so I’m learning from others whenever I enter a new home or learn from another family. I ask questions about the food served and the elements of a joyful, relaxed environment. I take notes and revise.
I think about my own presence in the space as calm and cheerful, as creative and inquisitive (but not too much). I’m learning to listen and create a demeanor of availability by having my phone and computer far away. I’m learning!
On difficult days of long work hours–whether parenting or at a desk or any other kind of overwhelming, tiring labor, I think about building in little, joyful activities that help the day more along. That’s how so many of survived the baby and toddler stages, and it still works. Making a special coffee drink, deciding you’ll order out for dinner, or putting on warm socks and slippers can turn the around. Just little things!
Today I ate lunch with the older and wiser population who meet monthly at my church. I was the special guest of my 85 year old friend. As I loaded my styrofoam tray with all sorts of delicious but rather soft foods, I learned about how one must avoid nuts and hard food if you have new teeth. I also learned to move more slowly than usual.
I loved it! I love listening to older people who testify with all their might about the goodness of God, especially through trials. We listened to a speaker who shared his journey of escape from tribal warfare in Africa and his certainly of God’s work on his behalf through angelic, mysterious events.
I listened as I ate four kinds of casseroles but passed on the coconut cake. Even I have limits.
It has been a joyful, inspiring day.
My youngest exudes Christmas spirit the moment we allow her to begin playing Christmas music in her room mid-November. By now, she’s outlined her room in twinkling lights. As we decorate for Christmas yesterday, we find her list of Christmas activities to accomplish that day including but not limited to the following: Gingerbread houses, cookie baking, snowflake cutting, Christmas movies, hot cocoa making, and shopping.
Her older sister says, “You don’t have to stuff all of Christmas into one day. We can spread this out, you know.”
Some people spread out all the joy, and some people stuff as much as they can into every single nook and cranny of the day. I’m thankful for both personalities in my family, and I laugh and smile as I watch Christmas unfold in my home.
And it’s not even December.
I’m back to reading E. Stanley Jones more slowly and deliberately to gain wisdom. Today, I reflect on this quote: “Humans beings are in the process of finding out how not to live.”
I underline the sentence and record it in my journal to digest the truth of it. Everywhere I look–both in my own life and outside of myself–I see the inevitable consequences of living according to patterns and processes that do not work, that cannot work, that will not work because they aren’t God’s way. Eventually we find out. Eventually we experience the results of sin. We find out how not to live.
And then, sometimes, we find out exactly how to live because we tap into the peace and joy of the Holy Spirit when in alignment with God through confession of sin and repentance. We agree to live His way, for Him, and by His power.
Until then, we simply find more ways how not to live.
I’ve blogged in traffic before. You apply all the same remedies: practicing thankful hearts, embracing a peaceful resignation, knowing God works in delay, realizing your whole family learns togetherness in an acute way, and listening to endless Christmas music.
It can be annoying and frustrating or cozy and peaceful.
We choose. Every moment, we choose.
I love the question, “Do you want to talk a walk?” The best conversations happen on a walk. Thoreau famously said that an “early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.” The poet Wallace Stevens said that “perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake.” I walk around the lake with my husband on two occasions as we visit my sister and her family. It’s a refreshing, joyful excursion.
You are right where you should be. All the blessings from Jesus are available to you right now. You don’t need to think about another table, in another place, with other people.
Jesus is with you.
You are at the greatest table with the Greatest King because you have already been seated with Christ in the heavenly realms.
Ephesians 2:6 changes everything about the Thanksgiving Table.
I read in an old devotional by E. Stanley Jones about always living “as a witness to the new life.” He writes that we have nothing that has been given to us that we cannot now share. He quotes a writer who said, “When supply seems to have failed, you must know that it has not done so. But you must look around to see what you can give away. Give away something.”
Give away something.
I think about giving away joy and peace most of all.
Today the flair moment comes when a horticulture professor tells us that Kate’s avocado plant will thrive now that it’s in soil and not water. Last summer, we kept the spouted avocado plant in water so long, and it didn’t do well. But we just transplanted a new sprouted seed into dark, nutrient rich soil.
Moving that seed–with all those roots and the new stem leafing on top–seemed strange to me because the water was so clear, so refreshing, and so very lit with glorious sun. Isn’t that the best environment? Isn’t that the obvious goal for flourishing? Clarity! Light!
Now, the roots go into a dark and unclear environment.
I learn from soil science about the particular nutrition this soil offers. I learn the beauty of darkness. I learn that roots exposed to too much light endure unimaginable stress; they need the darkness to absorb nutrients and anchor themselves. When placed in light, roots grow frantically and abundantly to try and avoid the light. It only looks like thriving.
Roots grow away from light. Roots grow to where they find the moisture and nutrients they need–downward and hidden, dark and unclear–because that’s where they thrive.
I look at the newly planted avocado in that dark rich soil. I see two process at work: the stem that reaches upward, absorbing all the light, and the roots that seek the hidden, dark place of rest that receives all it needs.
When part of me stays underground, and if things feel unclear or murky, I rest in the Lord because I know that sometimes, when the light fades and clarity leaves, it’s because I’m here to absorb what I need for the next stage of growth.