I pull back my morning curtain and smile inside, wondering if it is ever possible to fully comprehend the depths of how much God loves us. Glancing at the sunrise, seeing the snow laden pine branches hang low and the cardinals red streak across the pristine white new layer and the black capped chickadees flitting about so playfully, I fill with awe, with joy and peace beholding creation’s new chapter of a day to live. I take a deep breath in Him and whisper a prayer to start my morning. I dress and make my way out to the kitchen and see the delicate faces of miniature daffodils in the very dead of the winter, warmed from the memory of my mother’s visit the day before and their faces pull me toward them and seem to nod in agreement with the happiness of all the goodness that I am aware has grown through the years. All this, and the day has just awaken and I know that I must seek to live the experience of life, and wake up the senses to receive the here and now.
The girl’s laughter floods the room like sunshine, and they are chewing over breakfast and the idea of skipping lessons today and heading straight for the hills with their sleds. I spin with the thought of all that truly needs to be accomplished, yet in their eager faces I am once again reminded that we can do this, we can slow in all this busyness and hold onto a contemplative way, into the presence of God and live our lives like a prayer. We pile onto the school room couch warmed under the thick quilt together as we review our assignments for the day and Little One reminds me that it is day twelve on our ‘100 Day Calendar for Joy Habit’s by blurting out her memorized quote of the day from Helen Keller, “You will find joy in overcoming obstacles,” she tells me, face peering up like a shining new penny. She’s chosen a good one I chuckle to myself inside.
“Yes,” I answer, “ and we can count the joy until it becomes a habit and we can celebrate each new day.” Daughter Two adds her poem she wrote from her blog last week. We slow and linger under the quilt in the schoolroom while we move through the sharing of the new poem and literature of the week, plan for a history project together and math. Calmed and contented we move through our morning routine and I reach back in time and am suddenly become that excited and happy child in my mind and announce that school is out early and they scramble for the hills.
I sink into my chair by the window and know this was an exceptionally good morning, and I am relieved to have an unexpected break in my schedule. Even though I’ve got a truckload of more stressful work awaiting me, I grab the time to pray for more grace and reflect on what moment I was most grateful for in the past twenty-four hours and what moment I was least grateful. As I do so, I am reminded that Jesus was so very busy while on earth, yet he was known to slip away for solitude. So, I take the moments to think on these many consolations from my morning that left me feeling peaceful, happy and connected to God and while uncomfortable as it is at times, I let my mind seek out the moments of desolation. These are moments where I commonly feel a lack of peace- perhaps a bit rushed, stressed, or a bit nervous and I know in time that I can come to use these patterns for deepening inner growth. This involves a practice of trust, this continuously listening for God, yet it draws me in to feeling safe, because listening and following God is following the voice of love.
I’m quietly adding this habit of examen to my own ‘100 Days of Joy Habits’. For some time now, I’ve done a daily review of sorts at the end of my day by reading through ‘The Serenity Prayer’ and contemplating the day. I’m now eager to go a bit deeper in awareness, knowing God always speaks and wishes us to balance our deepest desires together in union and I’ve just got to keep remembering to fully show up for life. This God always longs for us to have freedom, and is drawing us to himself, The Light, and I know that I will never be done with this process of continual discernment in life.
In fact, it is the very time that I think I know the will and way of God in my life, that He moves in an unexpected way and reminds me to live with my hands and heart a bit wider open to listen to him, to make more time for him and to allow his transformation to take place and grow. In learning to evolve from this daily life review to experiment with more of an Ignatian examen, I am reminded how critical it is to not to journey in this life alone. It helps to have others to hold out a mirror in which I can see my own reflection, perhaps in many different ways that I’d not normally come to realize by myself. Also, I’m finding lately that being more transparent isn’t always comfortable, but laying one’s self bare tends to yield the most fruit. I’m eager to grow this habit over time to note the repetitive patterns in life that resurface and need my attention and obedience. It is a one-piece life of communion through the day and God speaking in the many moments that keeps me coming back to invite God into all of my moments. Life at times is full of ambiguity, but it is also true God is moving around us and in each of us and we are never done with this living communion and discerning life circumstance until we take our last breath. We are made to commune and to be faithful to follow his voice.
The silence is broken by the sound of footsteps and boots being flung across the entryway. Rosy cheeks enter, chilled but thrilled with the break in our routine and while the snow gets tracked into the house, wet cloths are scattered about and the list of chores must be attended to, joy is there. I count it and I hear the laughter and life that fills this house that reminds me to take a deep breath, to capture the fleeting moments, to pray and that there is no separation within all these moments as I try to place the whole of my life in balance under the leadings of Christ. And God is there in the faces satisfied with the hot cocoa and the mess and the whirl of the rest of the day on the way and warms our hearts with his freedom, love and grace for gifting us our heart’s desires among our messes.