Wednesday, August 14, 2013

small things

“if you are faithful in little things ...” 
~ luke 16:10
silverware soaked                    story read                          fingernails clipped

 dryer lint removed       stain scrubbed              green apple sliced
  syrup blob wiped   

cake batter stirred          note left              joke heard. again

          dry cleaning picked up                

                                                                library books dropped off 

socks matched                         towels folded                              shoulders rubbed

                       ball game watched                               seatbelt buckled

neck hugged            dog walked              floor swept                    piano played      

soup poured            weeds pulled            ball tossed

                           hinges oiled                 car washed                roses trimmed

shoelaces tied                                   hair braided                               head kissed

                                                                                           ... family loved                                  
"let me get that, mom." my almost 16-year-old son grabbed hold of the trash bag which was beginning to tear. he took it from my arms, hardly breaking his teenage stride on the way out the door. there was no glance back for approval. no waiting for his mother's words of praise. no looking for my nod of affirmation. my boy simply walked out the back door with the garbage.

and there's really no way to tell you -- to tell him -- how much that means to a mother.

i'm flat out of words when it comes to those little-ordinary-every-day-love-acts.

i mean there's nothing special about my son taking out the trash. in fact, he's supposed to. that's one of his everyday chores -- one of the things we just expect him to do. all my children have their lists: make beds, clean bathrooms, walk dog, fold laundry, sweep floors. they know what is needed to keep this wild place running. they know they are what's needed!

many hands make light work and all that yada-yada jazz ...

but still.

it's the little things which matter most -- and it's not just the little acts of serving, but the little acts of loving as well. if you ask me, these two present participles kind of mix and mingle a bit.

at least, they should.

sisters curled up on a couch reading. a dishwasher emptied (without bribes, threats or arm twisting). a handful of dandelions carried in from the yard. a boy brushing out the dog. gas in my car. an extra gallon of milk brought home just in time for dinner. "i thought we might need this." in our home, we are always in need of milk.

there isn't extraordinary effort in these ordinary acts, but there doesn't need to be. because the small things have a way of adding up to something big. love.

isn't that what we women spend the first part of our marriages explaining to our husbands? it's not about the dozen roses on anniversary evenings. it's not about the size of the diamond or the swanky dinner place or even the tropical island.

{not that, mind you, there's anything wrong with roses, diamonds, swanky dinner places or tropical islands} ...

BUT ... it's about our man taking time to vacuum out the mini van or flip the pancakes or hunt for the missing shoe. it's about him bringing a hot cup of coffee to the morning porch ... bringing two cups of coffee ... bringing coffee even when the man doesn't drink coffee.

small gestures. simple gifts. unassuming graces.

life isn't about chasing the big glitz ... it's about cherishing the tiny glimmer.

and, like it or not, most of life is lived in the glimmer -- the glance. the dash. the dot. the pause ...

as we begin to wind up the string of our summer, it occurs to me that what i love most about this season is the stringing of simple things. it's about the collection of nothing majorly important:  red strawberries ... golden retriever asleep in the sun ... black-eyed susans smiling in a jelly jar ... little gal in her swim goggles ... orange petunias ... loon on water ... teenagers loud in the house ... charcoal grill smoking ... summer rain tapping ... brown eggs in blue bowl ... a screened in porch ... watermelon sliced ... weeds pulled .... a sprinkler's hum ... blueberries ... a game of cards ... tan lines ... late night movies ... popcorn ... tire swing ... freckled noses ... ferns ... bird song ...

the list could go on. you know it could.

we've done our share of traveling this summer. it's all been lovely and fun ... and busy. but in between the arriving and departing, we've shared my favorite part -- the days of doing practically nothing. the time in our home when we just shlunck around from one seemingly insignificant activity to another: blowing bubbles, cutting hydrangeas, petting the dog, baking chocolate chip muffins. slicing tomatoes. you know what i mean  -- the small stuff.

it's not just what strings summer together in delight ... it's what strings life together.

it is easy to count all the big things we've been through ... the large things we've endured or encountered or experienced. we list them all and tally them up like some kind of lifestyle resume -- the big trips we've taken or the big travels we've had or the big tickets we've booked.

often people get to the end of these big things and find they are simply not enough -- they are too light, too little, too too empty in their enormity. we might long for the next larger-than-life-moment, but, the truth is, we live amidst the little stuff of the in-between.

and whether we're five or fifty, that's just the way it is.

that, by the way, has nothing to do with being small minded, but it has everything to do with being mindful of the small.

sometimes life does explode gloriously in the big plans, but mostly it settles beautifully in the small pauses.

our truest moments are found in slicing oranges, sweeping crumbs and matching socks. even those of you with lives much more glamorous than mine, you, too, live life in this everyday space. we can talk about the next big thing or the last big thing or some big thing ... but when we add up the real minutes of real living, it's simply about a string of small stuff.

and that's okay.

in fact, that's really good.

"enjoy the little things,
for one day you may look back 
and realize they were the big things."    ~ robert brault

today: let's challenge ourselves to take a treasure hunt for the tiny. savor the simple moment at your kitchen counter or out in your backyard. look past the large plans and peer intentionally into the present  -- into the pause of right-this-very-minute.
if we are willing to hold open our hands to the small, we just might find something we didn't know we had lost.

but don't just take my word for it. let's look into God's word:

because clearly, God blesses the simple. in fact, He uses the simple. time and again, He employs small stuff to tell big stories with even bigger outcomes -- outcomes which show His incredibly large love. and, guess what? often these big stories started with very small beginnings:

let there be light.
                            man formed from dust                                      woman from a rib
                     the bite of an apple               two of every animal
a dove returning                     a rainbow promising                stuttering moses    
                              a boy with a sling shot
                                                                        a virgin mother
                                         simple carpenter
                  babe in a manger         a donkey                
 a wooden boat
two fish
five loaves of bread
                 the rough wooden cross                      a stone 
friend, don't let the idea of doing something big, even something big for God, get in the way of serving Him in something small. i've seen that happen. we so desperately want to do grand stuff with the gifts God's given, that we pass by perfect everyday opportunities.

yes, some days are water-to-wine kind of days. most days, though, aren't about miracles, but about simple moments.

in matthew 19, Jesus, in judea is surrounded by "large crowds."  He has the perfect audience. He has their perfect attention, heck, Jesus has perfect platform! this was prime opportunity to whip out a miracle and snag a few more followers. the time was ripe for some kind of grandiose something, but Jesus, instead of employing His supernatural power, uses His gentle voice to say what wasn't expected,"let the little children come to me ..."

this little moment is nestled between the pharisees badgering Jesus about huge issues like divorce and adultery and the disciples asking about wealth and eternal life ... but in the middle of all their questions and serious discussion, Jesus stops.

Jesus pauses.

Jesus puts aside all the puffed up important men and, instead, invites the little ...

overlooked opportunity? missed miracle? i don't think so.

"there are many of us that are willing to do great things for the Lord, 
 but few of us are willing to do little things." 
                                     ~ dwight l. moody

by the way, just this morning i ordered jeff goins' new book "the in-between."  check it out! i haven't read the book yet, but i'm in his "tribe writers" group and i really like what this guy has to say. i'm pretty sure he's chatting about the same topic as today's post. can't wait to read!

a few small  favorites from our summer ...

4th of july flowers from my yard -- pickle jar vase!

more gifts from the yard ... those big pink blooms are peonies. 


Lindy D. said...

What a cute picture of Bella and the dog. She is the sweetest thing!

Aus said...

Good words - and something I've always tried to live by - maybe it's the Franciscan in me or something...

Oh and Bella - is that a dog or a wookie? ;)

hugs - great joy in just life -

aus and co.

snekcip said...

Oh how this post touch me in so many ways! I was just talking about how "the summer passed too fast" and "we didn't seem to get a vacation NOT even a mini-vacation in", this post made me realize that "we had a FUN SUMMER out by the pool, balloon fights, grandkids running amuck on summer visits, playing "beautyshop" w/my 6yr old, sitting in a darkened room munching on popcorn and watching my 6yr old watching and hear her recite the movie RIO verbatim for the UMPTEENTH TIME. I'm sure she will remember these moments far more than a ritzy vacation. Thank you for reminding me "its the small things" that really counts!! LOVE YOUR BLOG and ABSOLUTELY ADORE YOUR BEAUTIFUL PICTURES!!

Christa Sterken said...

Your post and pictures made my day!!! Sort of a long one, and this makes me end feeling happy