Sometimes, it is easy to forget to give thanks for the many blessings in our lives. If they are exciting, sure! Joy and thanks are a natural response. But what about the little necessities God provides for us every day? Can we consider them any less?
On a steep uphill climb during a college retreat, this freshman and first-generation college student felt rather lonely. For multiple days before the retreat, I had been steeped in the challenges of dissecting financial aid nomenclature, navigating an obscurely written campus map, and combing through my nearest Bed Bath and Beyond to stock my empty dorm room. My parents weren’t there to drop me off (we could only afford one plane ticket from New York to Chicago), and I had no compass to guide me through the uncharted territory I faced. Thinking about all of the unknowns ahead, I lay in my twin bed the night before the retreat feeling totally and utterly alone as a single tear dropped down my face and onto the dry, brown carpet below me.
For as long as I can remember, the word rest has never been in my vocabulary. As a child, my parents reported that I would constantly move and shift items around in my room, rearranging and retooling. Going from one activity to the next. I would read, then write, then play, then bike, then talk, then—well, there were so many “thens.” That overly planned childhood nature ended up demonstrating itself in adulthood.
The Japanese kintsugi cultural tradition is a wonderfully pure example of what a life in Christ is like.
The art of kintsugi is practiced by only the most skilled artists in Japan. These artists spend years studying the art of pottery. They give each jar special grooves, designs, and nicks that result in a perfectly crafted piece with an absolutely vulnerable, breakable, lovely form. Each of these jars could run up to $1,000 American dollars—one pretty penny!
My grandmother (who we lovingly called Mema) used to say, “There is a time for everything—a season for every stage—an ending for every beginning.” It reminds me of these words from Ecclesiastes 3:
“You can’t be like everybody else. You’ll have to work twice as hard for half as much.”
I find myself fighting with a tangled ball of lights year after year as we decorate the Christmas tree. Since we have had children, this has gotten extraordinarily difficult.
As I prepare to serve as a host for a Thanksgiving celebration, I cannot help but stop and realize that this holiday season is going to be entirely different than any other. I don my mask as I enter the grocery store, staying at least six feet from my shopping counterparts. Inside, I see a little girl in a shield drop her doll in the aisle; I smile at her through my mask (you know, the eye smile) and pick up her doll. Her face lights up behind the shield as I move toward her with her toy.
There is a glossy sheet of paper adorned with the face of a young man, which I keep in my car at all times. I like to pull it out and look at it as I am driving home. It makes me feel at home. I have written a Bible verse in the bottom right corner that reads:
The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. Matthew 7:25 (NIV)
Special thanks to the ministries of St. Lucas Lutheran Early Childhood Center and Word of Life Lutheran School in St. Louis, Missouri, for taking the time to educate my children and many others on the promises of God.
In my household, I get the pleasure of dropping both of my children off at school each day. My wife is a full-time Lutheran school teacher, so she arrives at school quite early and is not able to drop the kids off on a consistent basis. As I load my two- and four-year-olds into our purple Ford Flex, they fill my car with songs from school—songs about Jesus. They kick their legs with excitement as they belt “Jesus Loves Me” with a remix of “Jesus, Remember Me” with a feature by the “ABC” song. I open our sunroof to get some fresh air and therapeutic sun into the car as the kids scarf down their breakfast, bellowing lyrics as we drive along.