Joy, week 43 (tardy)

{Deep breath.}

What a week it has been!  A week of everything except blogging and laundry, I’m afraid.  October is such a whirlwind!  No matter how I try to prevent it, I always feel this way at this time of year.  I was too tired on Sunday night to sit down and type so here I am on Monday instead.

Life is such a paradox sometimes, complex beyond my abilities and yet dazzlingly simple at the same time.  We ran like crazy and slowed down (is that even possible?  And yet we did!) and then it was over.  Like the month will be in two more days.  Like the year will be before I know it.  I swear the last three months of the year are half as long as the first three!

I had so many moments this week when I felt like I was living in a painting.  They were entirely unexpected and they filled in the tiny cracks in my days so beautifully.  I was sitting in my car at a stoplight to turn left and while I waited I looked at the road ahead of me and it struck me how perfect it was.  Old houses along a tree-lined street.  The ancient trees were the perfect height, long limbs stretched out over the road.  A few scattered cars parked along either side and piles of yellow leaves in all the right places.  It looked like a movie set, or a gorgeous photo I would pin on pinterest or a painting I would pause to admire.  I felt so lucky, sitting there in my car, seeing it in real life, composed for me by the master Creator.  It happened again on a rainy morning as I came up a hill.  There, on the hilltop, was the tall white spire of a church, framed behind it by purple and red mountains, and in front of it were trees with leaves of yellow, red and green.  I caught my breath and felt that feeling again.  In an ordinary moment of my day appeared this lovely composition for me to savor.  I should have kept count of how many times this week I stood, looking up at a gorgeous blue autumn sky to watch perfect formations of geese fly overhead.  I watched it, listened to the honking of the geese (one of my favorite sounds) and anchored myself in the moment so the stress and rush of my day could wash away.

I was talking with a friend this week and she asked me how close I was to my quilting goal for 2012.  It reminded me how far behind I am on many of them.  I think back over this year and it’s been a very unique one for our family.  It’s also been one that has stretched me personally and has challenged all of us.  My heart swells with gratitude for the prompting to focus on feeling joy this year, even when it felt like the only thing to be joyful about was that things weren’t worse.  Nothing about my goal has unfolded in the way I hoped or anticipated it would, yet I am so very happy.  It’s not the kind of happiness you feel because you’ve had a lucky break, or because all the little details of your life are falling into place, or because you’ve had some big events work out.  It’s not the kind of happiness you feel when you’ve finished a huge project or when your resources are larger than your demands or when you can stand back and survey your work and see just how much you’ve done.  It’s a different sort of joy that I feel.  It’s a joy I’ve learned to dig for, a contentment I’ve had to choose, and as I’ve practiced doing it over and over again it’s become like a spring, bubbling up and over, running into so many little cracks and moments until, having come from all directions, at last my heart runs over.  And so I see the paintings in the landscape all around me.  My eyes fill with tears of gratitude as I drive my children to school simply because they’re all there with me in the car.   Things are much funnier when we’re joking as a family.  It’s so much easier to let go of negative emotions.  Doing homework with all the children feels like such a privilege.  There are SO MANY things I’m worried about, and yet I am so richly blessed.  It is all a gift from God.  And so, while I would never wish to re-live most of this year, I am forever grateful for my path to joy.

Last week was a continuation of this theme.   We had a Halloween party to go to at our Church.  I always dread the day the costumes come out.  They seem to sneak into all the corners of our home until they’re spread everywhere and by Halloween night no one can decide anymore what they want to wear, if we can still find all the pieces.  I was dreading the entire occasion because Halloween is my least favorite holiday, when I looked around and asked myself how I could re-frame the situation so that I would enjoy it more.  My children love this even if I don’t, and I realized that I could be grateful that someone else was putting on a party we could go to.  Their generosity allowed my children to enjoy something they love.  So I looked up at those geese before I walked in the building and thought about how thankful I could be for this opportunity, then went inside and the evening went great.

We had a weather war going on all week.  Our oldest son, obsessed with snowboarding, now calls snowy weather “good” weather.  The first snowfall came and went with him leaping for joy and my soccer players grumbling and the two sides in an ongoing debate about which opinion was more valid.  I tell ya, these teenagers will argue just about any point!  So with every ray of sunshine, every cloudy sky, every raindrop and snowflake we’ve had plenty of commentary.

We finished our soccer season in a whirlwind of 5 games and four practices in five days for two players.  I’m grateful to be done for a little while and am so proud of my daughters for their efforts.   We finished the first term of the school year with most of my students performing superbly, the oldest two in particular.   The physical therapy seems to be helping my daughter’s Achilles tendons.   On the other hand, unexpected challenges were thrown in our faces which require attention I intended to direct elsewhere.   One of my great parenting lessons is that of learning how to become an effective advocate for my children, especially when they are placed in positions where the (often unfortunate) decisions of adults directly affect their experiences and opportunities.   Much as I dislike it, it appears that skill will be getting some practice time this week.  To quote the band Blue October, “Up, down, up, down.. Life’s like a jump rope!”

Time spent at the physical therapist’s office allowed me to finish two books last week, both of which I enjoyed.  I have three more that ought to be read this week… we’ll see how far I get!  We’re reading a Halloween book as a family this week.  I’ve tried some new recipes lately, which adds a feeling of novelty to the daily task of feeding ten people.  Yesterday we were all in the kitchen doing various things.  Some of us were clearing the table, others filling dishwashers, etc.  Three of us were slicing apples to place in the dehydrator.  My daughter decided to try making cheese popcorn so we also had the cheerful sound of kernels popping on the stove.  It was such an ordinary moment, completely lacking in technology, entertainment, or anything that could be considered “latest and greatest”.  Ordinary, boring, definitely not noteworthy.  And yet, it was perfect.  There we all were, working together, trying something new, talking, being a family.  I stopped and said to the children, “Someday when you’re all grown up, these are the times you’re going to remember.  You’re going to remember Sunday afternoons when we came home from church and ate chips and salsa.  You’re going to remember helping mom fill the dehydrator with apples and learning how to make cheese popcorn.  This isn’t fancy, but this is it, guys.  This is what you’re going to remember.  And I predict you will remember it as great.”

So there it was.  Joy in my kitchen.  Joy, with sticky hands from all the apples, with popcorn spilled on my floor, with dirty dishes in my sink, and happy children running in circles.

My heart is full.

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