Tuesday, December 30, 2014

ordinary abundance

"There are two ways to get enough. One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less."
G.K. Chesterton

. . .

I've been sitting on a version of this post for almost a week now, waiting for the words to come more easily and eloquently. Maybe I'm still feeling the holiday fog, but I'm tired of waiting. This is so close to my heart right now, and I just need to get something down and out into the world, however imperfectly expressed.

. . .

I love Christmas. I really do. I used to take more joy in the preparation than the actual celebration, but slowing things down this year and honoring Advent as a time of reflection and simplicity helped make both more manageable and merry. Which isn't to say there isn't plenty of room for improvement, but we're taking it one year at a time.

All that said, I find myself so hungry for Ordinary Time. Maybe it's that I'm getting older, or perhaps it's just this season of life, but I long for routine, simplicity, and everyday grace. For the unexpected beauty of "normal," the bounty beneath the surface, just waiting to be noticed. In this way, Advent and Christmas mirror the cycle of our entire lives. 

Our tree was beautiful this year (it still is, actually, as we're keeping it up until Epiphany). We never got around to hanging more than a handful of ornaments, mostly those that belong to Caleb or have been gifts to Andy and me during our marriage. Still, I love having those little lights on in the evenings, and I love watching Caleb wave hello to the tree when he wakes up in the morning. It was wonderful to see gifts wrapped and ready piled underneath, too, tokens of love given and received. I generally enjoy buying presents. We don't go overboard, but we do try to carefully consider each person on our list. I offer up prayers and goodwill as I wrap everything, hoping to somehow imbue the items with the spirit of care in which they were chosen.

But -- in the midst of wrapping gifts and baking counters full of cookies (I managed four kinds this year, phew!), the thing that really grabbed me was the fruit basket sitting on our counter, in the same spot it lives most days. Suddenly it was so inexplicably beautiful.

Call it satori, call it the "wow" prayer, but whatever name you give the moment, it was as though someone pressed the pause button on the world for a second. 

Recently I started watching the BBC drama Cranford (I promise this is connected), and in the second episode there's a scene where the main characters are given oranges to enjoy. For reasons of dignity and decorum, they go to their bedrooms to eat their fruit alone. The idea that oranges could be such a treat, so exotic, and pleasurable to the point of inappropriateness really stuck with me. And I think that's part of what got me when I saw our fruit basket, full of bananas and limes and clementines and even a pomegranate. The basket itself is something Andy and I brought back from Oman. What a miracle it would seem to the people of Cranford to see such treasures sitting in our kitchen! Yet we very nearly expect that we'll have access to these things at will. They blend into the background. But to really see them, even if briefly? Wow. 

The same thing happened last night when I caught a glimpse of my hands in a sink full of dishes, scrubbing the pans from dinner. And I saw them. The whimsy of the soap bubbles, the dim light just so, and two capable hands -- hands that help me care for a family. Wow. I felt my throat catch at the wonder of my regular life. I get to be a wife! I get to be a mom. It is so beautiful. I'm learning how to nourish my family both physically and spiritually, and while the journey has no endpoint, I can't believe how far I've come in the past year. In a way, I'm even more grateful that I was finally able to be present to this abundance, to recognize the profound blessing that is my ordinary life.

I've gotten pretty good at saying "HELP!" and "Thank you, thank you, thank you!" this past year. Or at least, I tend to call out those prayers often. But I've often stopped short of "Wow." So that's what I'm aiming for in 2015: Eyes to see the abundance that surrounds me, and a soul moved to tears by the wonder of it all. x