There have been some big challenges that have arisen in our lives in the past week. First, almost out of the blue, my dad had open heart surgery (last Tuesday). A bypass and valve replacement. He remains in critical, but stable, condition due to some post-surgery problems (not having to do with his heart). Dad will definitely be in the hospital for quite a bit longer than was initially expected. All prayers are welcome and very much appreciated!
One or two other things have suddenly come up that are quite difficult, too, so my attention and focus have been on all of these things, as well as going about my daily business. I was out of town for a few days this past week to be at the hospital with my extended family, and it's quite likely I will be away again for most of this week, so if nothing new shows up here at my blog, well, you'll know why. :-)
Yet... this is real life. Things happen, good and bad, but God remains unchanged. He is not passive or bored, busy or distracted. He is real, and He is very much active in our lives. Even more, He cares. Sovereign, All-Powerful Love-- there cannot possibly be a better combination than that. It's what makes it possible to settle in to the truth of Isaiah 30:15: "...in quietness and trust is your strength."
And, it's a fact that no matter what is going on, there is always much to be thankful for. So, I'm taking the opportunity to count my blessings...
1. Last night, as I hand-carried many loads of firewood from the barn to the back deck, I couldn't help but stop and stare occasionally at the beautiful, clear, moonless, starry sky. I often choose to carry wood after dark because I love the feeling of being bundled up warmly against the frosty night, my face cold, and my breath blowing out in puffs as I walk back and forth. I love watching the sky, both during the day and the night, and last night, as always, it did wonders for my soul. Somehow the night sky always makes God seem extra near and full of love and limitless power.
2. Walking down our country road in crisp, fresh air and abundant sunshine. The weather is decidedly non-Decemberish, and right now, I'm glad. I'm also so thankful that I have the health and strength to enjoy a nice walk.
3. Simpler holidays. Both by choice and because the situation demands it. Our Thanksgiving plan was greatly altered, and my Christmas plans are necessarily getting simpler by the minute. I was already happily slashing back on everything for the holidays this year-- spending, activities, projects, food-- but now even moreso. It's been quite nice to relax and depend more on thought and creativity as I increasingly need to streamline the celebration. Oh, and I'm rereading The Hundred Dollar Christmas by Bill McKibben, which goes right along with what I'm doing.
4. Family. My siblings. My parents. My husband. My children. My nieces and nephews. Everyone! In times of challenge, true colors show, and I have to say that what I'm seeing is pretty lovely. God blessed me with a wonderfully loving extended family, and it was also sweet to have my own little family home for Thanksgiving weekend.
5. Work to do. Work really is a blessing. What's that old Shaker saying? Hands to work, hearts to God? It's true! I know I alluded to this just recently, but I'm saying it again. As I carry loads of wood to the porch in the starry night; as I finally put away the rest of the summery outdoor items (in shirt-sleeve weather in December!); as I clean the house, pack away the autumn things, and start setting up a few simple Christmas decorations, I'm thankful for busy hands and a mind that is free to pray. This sort of prayer-work is restorative.
6. Good food. Abundant food. Healthy food. This is a true blessing and not to be taken for granted. Fresh fruit smoothies. Beet salads on greens. Roasted carrots and squash (with onions or shallots, whole garlic cloves, potatoes). Tasty curries. Yumm! bowls. The abundance of the Thanksgiving table. Clementines. Pomegranates. Coffee. Too many M&Ms, thanks to Mike keeping his M&M "dispenser guy" filled for his grandsons!
7. Sweet grandchildren. They bring laughter, exuberance, love, energy, and joy into the house and wherever they go. And not a little bit of eccentricity.
8. A quiet life. God knew I would thrive best this way, and so He led me along this path. There is strength in solitude, rest in quiet. We can hear when we are still. And then we are fit company for others! I, more than most people, I think, need a slow life, and I am blessed to have been able to choose one.
9. Books to read! Light, simple reading-- that's all I have room in my head for right now. Books that are lovely to view. Books that encourage.
~The Country Wife (this is about as light and innocuous as they come, by Dorothy Van Doren, the wife of one of the authors of How to Read a Book)
~3191 (I keep looking through this one because, somehow, it's soothing)
~Gold By Moonlight (Amy Carmichael's deep, comforting wisdom)
~The Hundred Dollar Christmas (a refreshing book about scaling back in order to focus on what matters most)
~My cookbooks. Very pleasant, easy, relaxing reading.
10. The faithful love and goodness of God. It's real.