Wednesday, January 20, 2010

By Degrees, The Separation

It is 59 degrees.

I am ecstatic. Though we live in Florida and heat is just part of the job description here, it is mid-October and we have just experienced the hottest, longest heat wave in as long as I can remember. Usually at this time of year it is at least in the mid 80's, though often in the high 70's. But we have had July heat around here and there is no one who has been more affected by it than me.

I am Autumn's biggest fan. When I woke up this morning, I could just sense that it was cool outside. You don't believe me. You will have to verify with my husband that I have a sixth sense about weather. Sometimes I can smell the rain coming - I will run outside, sniff the air like a dog, and announce to anyone listening that "rain is imminent, I smell it!" Of course, the first time I did this, Derek didn't believe me. He made fun of me. But when it started to pour 20 minutes later, I watched the amazement on his face with relish. Never again has he mocked my weird ability to ascertain precipitation or temperatures or clouds...So this morning, as soon as I woke up and felt the cold air outside pressing against my window, I asked him to open every window in the house.

For awhile, the kids weren't sure what to do with this new freedom they had been granted. Open windows meant the world could hear what was said if they yelled loud enough and so, for a while, Lane (4 year old) stood in front of his open window in his underwear and yelled "Helloooo", hoping to get a response. When that didn't happen, all three kids practiced smashing their faces against the screens. Then they started running in and out of the sliding glass doors and knocking on all the windows from the outside, trying to freak each other out. Since that can only be entertaining for a limited amount of time, they got bored and decided to do laps around the house. They have a circuit that they run, it goes: around the kitchen island, around the wall that divides the kitchen from dining room, around the island again, down the hallway, into the office, jump over the chair or something else, back down the hallway, and repeat. Meanwhile, Derek was outside mowing the grass and I was sitting in bed with my coffee and a sloppy grin on my face. Every so often a blur of a child would run by my bedroom door (which is off the dining room), accompanied by much laughter and yelling. They like the cold air as much as I do.
What is it about a mere change in temperature that excites me? Why do I feel a sudden reinforcement in strength, what is it about fall that dusts off and shines up my hope? I think it has something to do with the definite signal of a change of seasons. Not just physically, but mentally and spiritually. Maybe it's the matching up of my outsides with my indsides. I have different seasons of the heart. Different seasons in my circumstances, in my relationship with God, Derek, my children, friends. Different paces of busyness, different weather in my writing. I even have different cookbook seasons. :)

So perhaps it is the feeling of being more aligned with my outer surroundings that gives me a newfound buoyancy in my soul. I've always loved seasons. I've always loved the gentle dropping away of something old and well used and the moving forward to something shiny and new, totally undiscovered and mysterious. Living in Florida doesn't allow me much opportunity to feel the outer seasons harmonizing with the inner ones, but when those times do come, I feel so grateful. One day, I hope to live somewhere with all four seasons. To have four separate outer starting and finish lines each year is something I have a strong and inexplicable desire for. In Florida we only have the heat and the fickle cold fronts that populate the October to May months. It's beautiful here, and I enjoy my garden year round but after awhile the constant heat and the monotony of season sameness can burrow deep into your optimism and start to germinate into small veins of despair. Despite the best efforts of blooming where I am planted, I sometimes find my "leaves" wilting.

As I get dressed on this (for us with thin skin) chilly fall morning, I thank God for each simple pleasure he built this world with. Each tiny miracle, each day that passes, each season and change of temperature is a gift, a joy, an occasion to rise to, a mystery wrapped up beautifully and, sometimes so personally that it seems it was made just for me. I am off to the craft store this morning to find paper for fall cards. I need no pictures of leaves in northern states, or fantasies conjured up about sweaters and seeing my breath in the air, I need read no fellow bloggers comments about the oranges and browns in their front yard. No, I have my own inspiration for today's cards, derived directly from the world in my front yard.

As I walk down the sidewalk toward my car, I take in all the fun around me. The kids are wearing all manner of creatively combined "winter clothes, Mommy". Derek and Lane (4) are at the side of the house, trying to find a tiny black snake that they have discovered and that disappeared a moment ago. They are afraid Derek might have run it over with the lawn mower. Carson (7) is standing across the street at the edge of the woods with her back to us swinging a basket full of dead wet leaves and singing something, I can't hear what. Matthew (3) is crouched by the front flower bed, wearing his bike helmet, and a hood over that, and picking grass and putting it in a sand bucket.

I slide into the front seat, start the car and back down the drive, still sloppily grinning, still offering thanks for all of these blessings: the wonder of childhood that spins around me every day, the beauty of a marriage steeped in unconditional love and grace, the love of a God who calls me by name and knows the number of hairs on my head, the fun and fulfillment of making something as silly as a card to celebrate the weather, and the non-eternally significant change in temperature. Yes, these things are small and normal, but for someone like me, they are enough. It is simply enough to have the rare and wonderful affirmation of my inner and outer weather walking hand in hand.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Greenest Version

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

How often have I heard this expression? How often have I said it? How often have I nodded my head in assent as it fell off another's lips with certainty and nonchalance?
How many times have I felt the discontentment, envy, cynicism or resignation that is wrapped up in this statement?What about you?
Think about life as dirt, with certain seeds that were placed there when I was created, before my birth (Ephesians 2:10).These seeds are the gifts and abilites, the choices, the opportunities and relationships that I would inevitably and undeservedly walk into by merely being born. I picture them waiting there for water and sun and eventual germination. Some of them grow right away, others grow slowly and need a little fertilization, some are not meant to flower until enough time and experience has passed, and some will never grow unless I pointedly cultivate and discipline them.
In me, these seeds are accompanied by an incessant and often secret thirst to pursue them to their most excellent end. I long to be in bloom, to stretch my mind, heart and soul to the very ends of my God-given abilities, to dive deeply into each appointed relationship, to make the most of each moment I am given. I seek to discover the trick of dropping off those unfruitful or weedy or bug-infested propensities that "so easily entangle me and run with endurance the race that is set before me..." (Hebrews 12:1). I am driven to be a garden in thriving vigor, succumbing to the beauty of each season with grace and humility.
Instead of always looking at my neighbor's lawn with anything but kindness and celebration for their very green grass, why not determine to have it all? Why not live a life full of life? Why not embrace who I am, what I've been through, and who I was meant to be? Why not be thankful for my particular handful of seeds, and why not grow and thrum and sing in the time that I have?

In being born, I have been given dirt. And seeds. The water and sun has been provided in many ways. The growth is up to me. I can choose to be a plot of dirt bereft of flower and color, with drooping stems and jealous roots. I can be average and settle for lesser growth and thinner heart and lighter fruit-bearing.
Or I can come to life, fill out superbly, accept the self that was fearfully and wonderfully made for a purpose and reach roots and stems and petals to the utmost of their longings and to the outskirts of possibility.
This blog, my new fun, has been named The Greenest Version. As I write about my faith, my marriage, motherhood, creative pursuits, the daily routine, doubts, struggles and victories, may you be inspired to the same determination.
May we insist on being chunks of sod infused with real growth and new growth, with bravery for each season, with love for the us that was made, and with surrender to a wildly creative and hugely huge God. May we live our best life and be the best version of what was intended at our very beginning.
May we be The Greenest Version.