Nathaniel and I had a good long talk on Sunday, sitting on the porch swing in the unseasonable January sunshine.
Something that we started a few years ago that has made a big difference in our marriage is the Sunday check-up. We put the kids down for their nap and then we take a break. We go over what is on the schedule for that week, who needs to do what and who needs to go where, and once that is done, we just talk.
Our talk this Sunday centered around what we want the ideal of our life to be and what it actually is. My morning ideal (ideal, mind you) is everyone waking up happily, and then we traipse (yes, we traipse) into the kitchen to make pancakes from scratch. Breakfast is calm and orderly. Then, Nathaniel and I sip our hot coffee while the children run along and happily play together. We have wonderful adult conversation and laugh at each other's jokes. It's all very nice. The actuality of our mornings is cranky children that wake up very, very early with sheets that need to be changed because a diaper leaked, breakfast is cold cereal (with whatever is at the bottom of the boxes because I need to go grocery shopping) that then gets spilled on the floor. Cups of coffee have to be microwaved and then re-microwaved because there's no time to drink them in between cleaning up whatever the shrieking children spill. Attitudes are poor, all-around. The dog is licking the bottom of the high chair. Conversation consists mainly of questions to each other such as, "Why do we have two shrieking children?" No one is laughing at any jokes.
What I love about this quote from Mitch Albom is that life is made up of beautiful minutes. The hours and the days are often messy, or dreary, or just simply hard. But those beautiful minutes are what makes a life full and rich. The stage of life that Nathaniel and I are living is hard. Toddlers and babies take up so much energy. Teaching takes up energy. It never feels like we have enough minutes for anything.
Yet, in the middle of that not-so-ideal breakfast, we looked out the window at the bird feeder that Nathaniel had filled weeks ago. There at the feeder was a cardinal, with his partner waiting her turn on the fence.
A beautiful minute.
As we were getting ready for church, Zoe so sweetly helped get Eric's blanket and bottle ready for the car without asking.
A beautiful minute.
Everything in the sermon at church seemed to speak directly to what we were going through. Every song had a line that meant something.
A beautiful minute.
Mitch Albom gets it. Life isn't perfect, our marriage isn't perfect, but minutes can be. And those beautiful minutes are what makes life beautiful.
I had a moment about a month ago. It was 10:30 on a Thursday night. I was exhausted. The kids were sick, and had been sick for what felt like months. Nathaniel was upstairs, reading and writing. He'd had to stay up late the last four nights, trying to get his last papers finished up for the semester, and I missed him. I was grouchy because I was staring at a sink of dirty dishes that needed to be washed. And since the dish fairy doesn't visit our house, well, ever, I needed to do them. And I didn't want to. I had three stacks of papers that needed grading, and I didn't want to do that either. The next day was a work day, and all I could think about was how unfair all this was. All I wanted was to crawl into bed and to wake up to a clean house, well kids, graded papers, and a husband who didn't have to stay up late working.
And then, it happened. It was one of those times where you step outside yourself and it's as if you're looking down on your situation. What I saw was an ungrateful person, standing there complaining about a blessed life.
I have absolutely nothing to complain about.
I am saved by grace. Christ died so that I might have life. No other words needed.
I have an amazing husband who helps so much. He stays up late so that he can spend the evenings with us. He encourages me, brings me flowers, loves me even in my too-frequent grouchy moments. He supports me in so many ways.
I have two wonderful kids that bring us such joy.
I have a house, two vehicles, amazing friends that build me up, a job that allows me to work part-time at something I love, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
So my word for 2014 is gratitude.
When I have the worst attitude, when I find that my priorities are all out of whack, these are the times when I have the least amount of gratitude. Part of becoming more like Christ is living outside of myself. For me, this means I need to actively focus on what I am thankful for. This is a practice I want to develop in myself. I want to choose gratitude.
Instead of focusing on what I don't have,
or what I wish were different,
or what I wish I had more of, or less of,
I am committing to a year of
A life of gratitude doesn't mean that there won't be problems. It doesn't mean hiding the hard things under the rug. It does mean a shift in perspective and a willingness to look for the good in a situation. This is what I want to grow in this year. I desire to see beyond my first reaction. I want to learn that in everything, God is already there.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication
present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Phillipians 4:6-7, ESV