gratitude

Sitting comfortably: Gratitude & couches

Last night, my friend Janet and I shared our dreams with one another.

I’m not talking about lofty dreams about life goals. No. I’m talking about couches. Yes. Couches. #MomGoals

“I just want a deep, rich blue couch. I love blue. Royal blue, you know, and textures. Lots of textures.” I think Janet might have begun drooling at this point. Pretty sure.

“I’ve always wanted an emerald-green couch, like dark emerald green… Oh! There! That color right behind you on that metal wheel. That’s it!” I, too, salivated a little while sipping my 8 p.m. cup of coffee while sitting on Janet’s floral sofa. The same sofa cushion Janet admittedly accidentally scorched on her wood stove that very week after one of her children peed atop it.

Yeah. Our lives are super glam.

While we dreamed about couches, we both recognized that we lacked gratitude for our current couches. Sure, the couches are worn. Our children have peed on the cushions. Do you know how to remove urine from couch cushions? It isn’t easy, and honestly, the smell never fully dissipates. And milk? Same. Then there’s the glue, the markers, the Sharpies, for the love of parenting.

But at the end of the day, we both own two couches. We can sit on the couches and even sleep on them if we must. The couches serve a purpose, right? Yep. So even though we dream about luxe versions, we’re okay with what we have, ultimately.

Sometimes it helps to sound off to a friend. And sometimes it helps to have a friend remind you that she wants your worn floral sofa! Here’s a video capturing some of our conversation from last night.


If the video is not playing click here.

Maybe you can relate if you’re a mom struggling to get by with your crusty old couch for a few more years while your kids continue to trample over it. Or maybe you can relate because you don’t own a couch. You don’t own a home. You don’t even have a place to call home, and you’re reading this blog on a computer in the public library, wondering why this pretentious woman would ever find room to complain about a crusty old couch at all.

That’s exactly why I’m writing this blog. Because I need to remember to maintain perspective. What I have really is enough. It’s not enough for me to accept that “it is what it is.” I must sink into my couch, smell its stench, and remember that it stinks because we’ve lived here. WE LIVE here. And thank God for our lives.

And then, only then, can I live in contentment and peace. In gratitude.

gratitude

Day 14–Love that lasts

*Big thanks to my friend Judy Woolf, who has lived a love story in front of me and set a great example of what real love is, in good times and bad. Love you, Judy, and you too, George. Happy anniversary to one of the most amazing couples I know.*

Judy and George
Judy and George

This story of love and gratitude began 38 years ago today on Feb 14, 1975, when my sweet Valentine proposed!  It actually began 4 ½ years earlier with a blind date, but that’s a story for another day.  Although he was one of the kindest, gentlest, most compassionate people I have ever known, he rarely showed that through overt action.  This day he came through in spades!  I guess when it is most often subtle, those rare moments are all the more meaningful.  His romance would sneak up on me and just overwhelm.  I remember one day during our first year when he came home from work and said he had to put in days for vacation.  When I looked at his dates, one week was during the time of our one-year wedding anniversary.  What man would think of that? Overwhelmed!  He just made me smile – a lot!

Our life together was not always easy, but always full of joy and contentment and commitment.  I never questioned his love for me, and I think he felt that in return.  I have often told people I was fully committed to living the rest of my life with that man!  But another fateful February day changed that when on Feb 2, 2009, he slipped into eternity.  February now had a whole new feel for me, full of sorrow and grief and questions and . . . I don’t even know how some of the feelings can be described.  How are you supposed to go on when you had worked so hard at this “two becoming one” thing, and now you are no longer whole?  Then I happened upon some writings of C.S. Lewis, “A Grief Observed”, that he had penned after the death of his wife. In it he discovers that we must be careful to separate our emotions of the loss with the memories of the person else those memories become tainted with sadness.  So therefore, I choose to be grateful for the time we did have together. And now you can be grateful that I turn to the gratitude part of this.

George's namesake, Georgia Leigh, with Grandpa's guitar and hat
George’s namesake, Georgia Leigh, with Grandpa’s guitar and hat
George and his girls
George and his girls

I am so grateful for our three beautiful daughters that our union produced.  Each so unique in their own ways, yet to me they each also mirror a little of their father.

Sarah has such a sweet spirit, loyal, tender-hearted; Cindy has a quiet resolve about her, competitive, steadfast, committed (but  not always so quiet); and our February blessing, Amy, is her own self, has a special sense of humor, and has developed into a strong woman and just the best mother around to our next February blessing, Georgia Leigh.  Two years ago, this little sweetheart came along and again changed the feel of February.  We celebrate her life as his namesake and know that he would have been just the best “Grandpa George”.

Little Georgia Leigh
Little Georgia Leigh

I am so grateful for the time we had together, the lessons learned, the things he taught me.  George was content to be at home with his girls around him. Or to be at their ballgames cheering them on and encouraging them and their teammates.  I think he had an extra dose of the gift of encouragement.  And time with family was important to him.

George did not finish college – I did – yet I never felt smarter than him (well, maybe in some things, but generally, no).  God endowed him with a special wisdom.  He became my sounding board, always had a wise word, but never too quickly.  Again, his words carried weight because they did not come fast and furious.

George taught me many things, like maximize the positives, minimize the negatives.  Also, the importance of reading instruction manuals, the most valuable one being that one for life, the Holy Bible.  He spent time there, thus arriving at aforementioned wisdom.

No story of love and gratitude would be complete without focusing a little time on the ultimate Love, and gratefulness for the eternal Hope found in Jesus Christ.

These last four years have not been easy, but my faith has never wavered.  I think maybe the Lord gave George some “Hezekiah days” (look it up).  Three years before, he had a pretty serious health scare that could have resulted in death, but the Lord saw fit to leave him yet a while with us.  During those years we had opportunity to grow in our faith together and spend a lot of time just the two of us together.  I am so grateful now for those days; they are so special to me.  Did the Lord provide that as preparation for what was too soon to come?  Maybe.  It is hard for me to worship now without my soul mate and with a broken heart, yet my faith remains strong.  It is a puzzlement.  I am still at times mad at God, question God, and cry out to God. Yet Scripture promises that His mercies are new every day and I hold to that.

There is a popular worship song that has a fitting message by which to close.

It says,  “Higher than the mountains that I face, stronger than the power of the grave, constant in the trial and the change, one thing remains: His love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me. On and on and on and on it goes. It overwhelms and satisfies my soul.”

And this old hymn speaks to me about that unexplainable peace that passes understanding which only comes through faith and knowing this Great Love:

“When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, “It is well, it is well with my soul.”

gratitude · photography

Day 10–Dearly loved

Photo by Kelly Booy
Photo by Kelly Booy

*Big thank you to my friend Kelly Booy for agreeing to contribute to the “28 days of love” project!*

I have had a consistent prayer for contentment these last couple of years!  My awareness of this need came one summer day in 2009 while on a walk in the Dutch farmlands.  A quiet, picturesque moment on a bench overlooking Kinderdijk’s windmills was interrupted by a pesky bird.  In the midst of worship, I found myself wiping away bird poop from my temple and hair!!  Striking me as funny and strangely appropriate, I could not hold back the giggles.  It was an intimate message as strange as the delivery.  I couldn’t shake the imagery, sweet silence and the words that came to mind, “Even in this mess you are dearly loved and cared for.”

The years following could be described as a roller coaster.  My family and I made the decision to move back to Arkansas, September of 2009, after spending two years of our life in Holland.  My husband had gone back to school in the country of his birth, receiving an International MBA, our two small children had learned some of the language and culture, and we had connected with family and made new friends.   It was an amazing experience with many highlights and some obstacles, but overall we were super thankful.  In thinking about moving back to Arkansas, I knew that I would struggle with contentment.  I would even venture to say that there was an underlying fear of the mundane–like walking down the mountain into a valley.

Within the year following our return to central Arkansas, we had bought a car, a substantially sized home, and thankfully had a job!  We settled into a church that we loved and were challenged every day by the Gospel, a simple message:  While we were still sinners Christ died.  We were surrounded by dear friends and making many new ones.  Life was good.

Soon we were staring unemployment down;  contemplating selling the home we loved because we couldn’t afford (it) to get it to the state we wanted, nursing a torn Achilles tendon, had a shingles flair up, facing impending student loans, medical bills, a second round of unemployment , professional rejections,  car issues, etc . . . Needless to say our faith was tried, and we were feeling seriously helpless, anxious, and humbled.

My prayer for contentment had taken an interesting twist, and honestly I can’t say that it was what I had wanted and/or expected!  My perspective was skewed, and I was doubting the truth that God was my provider.  Slowly I started to notice the little things, like:  we had never gone without food, we had clothes and shoes, we were able to continue making our mortgage payments, and those gentle offers of help from friends and family.  Literally, every time I turned our ignition in our car I would say, “thank you God!”  I realize that this might sound a little “third world”, but truly God was doing a great work in my heart.  It became glaringly obvious that God was providing.

We welcomed our third child in August of 2011, Emma Jeanne Booy,. . . 10 days prior to losing our insurance due to our second job loss.  Strangely, the period of time following Emmy’s birth has been some of the sweetest I have ever experienced in my life to date.  (I had all but convinced myself that I would struggle with postpartum depression after the birth of Emmy.)  Stefan was home rigorously job hunting and working contract work on the side.  He had time to take morning walks with me and the baby. We sipped our morning coffee and shared difficult, intimate conversations.  Those months were profoundly precious and healing when they should have,  by all circumstantial appearances,  been shrouded with worry and fear.   I secretly began to praise God in the midst of the messiness.  My emotional state was more than intact, and I began to see glimmers of what it means to “give thanks in all circumstances.”

As I reflect over these last several years I am completely dumbfounded and thankful for the roller coaster.  My hope and prayer is that I never lose this realization– my “satisfaction or contentment” is not directly related to my situation or comfort.

The pesky bird might have shat on my head, but I can wipe off the mess all the while knowing I am dearly loved and cherished.

 

gratitude

Like sides

“Just remember that like sides always go together.”

My very patient friend sat across from her dining room table, patiently pinning together fabric to fashion a throw pillow for our baby’s nursery. Not only was she patient with the fabric and with the process of learning a new technique, but she was also patient with me.

Unfortunately, the small hand-eye coordination thing wasn’t one of the gifts God granted me. Dancing? I can do that with my eyes closed. Gymnastics? Easy. Knitting? No. Crocheting? Not even after lessons from one of my mom’s friends. Scrapbooking? Not for more than 15 minutes at a time. Small pieces and objects don’t coincide with the way my hands works, much less the level of patience I possess.

Yet my friend answered all my ignorant sewing questions and let me watch her seemingly seamlessly create useful, beautiful objects from huge swaths of fabric.

When I told her that I didn’t understand how she could just throw things together and make them work, she explained that sewing actually has several constants, and if you get them right, you normally wind up with a nice finished product. Like sides go together. Take your time pinning the first time, and you won’t have to redo your work. Save your scraps for other projects.

She might not have meant to, but she gave me food for thought and life lessons to chew on while I nibbled on chocolate chip cookies, watching her work. I felt grateful when I realized that these lessons resonate within me now, rather than falling on deaf ears. I understand the importance of spending my short, precious time on earth with people whose values and interests coincide with mine. I have acquired the ability to take my time the first time when cleaning, writing, and living, eliminating much of the frustration I used to feel in my younger days when I’d wind up redoing a task three times before I got it right. I’ve learned the benefit of thriftiness since I was a child, and as I spend my time finishing graduate school without the added stress of holding down a job in order to pay for expensive possessions, I give thanks for those who taught me to be content.

So maybe sewing isn’t that bad. Or at least watching someone else sew while eating chocolate, anyway.