There is so much beauty to be found on a grand scale.
A shooting star against a dark blanket of stars.
A masterful work of art displayed in a museum.
They all make my breath catch in my chest and I have to pause to let it soak it’s way deep into my heart.
But I think these are just one kind of beauty. I think there is also the beauty to be found in the ordinary, hidden moments of life. And these, perhaps, are the most powerful and profound. These are what change us. I’m learning that these are what make us come alive.
I love making food for the people I love. I love onion sizzling in a pan, just waiting to be added to a soup. I love mixing flour and eggs and milk to make crepes, ready for fruit to be rolled up inside. I love the little bubble pockets in oatmeal as it cooks. I love the smell of cookies baking, in their neat rows, dotted with chocolate chips. These smells and sounds of food cooking and being created breaths life into my heart. Often the first thing I’m itching to do after a vacation or an illness is to make food for my family. My heart is full when the people around my table are fed and loved.
But it isn’t always so easy for me. I have a hard time making food when we aren’t all together. Sometimes there isn’t a new recipe to try or an occasion to bake for. Sometimes there are less people at the table and it feels lonely. Breakfast feels much less inspired and fun when it is just me and a little lady to eat it. I don’t know what to make for lunch when the person I’m sharing it with can’t talk yet.
I’ve been doing some form of the Daily Examen since the beginning of August. I had no idea how much my heart needed this repetition and reflection to look for patterns of gratitude and grace. Six months later, and I’m beyond grateful for this practice taking root in my life. I love remembering the food we ate, the things we laughed at, the books that were read, the people who I spent time with. It also helps my heart to see the patterns of what makes me drained and what makes me come alive.
It may seem obvious, but it is really helping me to see these patterns and name them. Baking makes me come alive. Writing makes me come alive. Spending time with people makes me come alive. Reading makes me come alive. Trying a new recipe makes me come alive.
Recently, as I sat and reflected, I felt a whisper in my heart say, “It is okay to pick things that make you come alive. I have come so that you might have abundant life.” My heart skipped a beat. As a fairly compliant girl, I often need permission to do things, even if it is permission from myself. This permission from the Lord was such a gift.
It was okay to do things that made me feel alive. It was okay to make decisions based on what would make me come alive. I sat in that knowledge, trying to wrap my head around the application of such an idea.
Only moments later, I heard the sounds of my girl waking up. She was babbling and making herself laugh. I sat for a few minutes, just listening, delighting in these silly, sweet noises. I remembered what the Lord had said. I knew in my heart that those few minutes of pausing to listen fed my heart some life. And it was okay to choose it, simply because it made me a little more alive.
After our morning routine of making the bed, diaper changes and getting dressed, we made our way to the kitchen. My heart felt the dread of not knowing what to make us for breakfast. I was already looking forward to the weekend when we could all be together and eat pancakes, but that didn’t solve my dilemma of what to make us today. It was then that I remembered what the Lord had told me that very morning. I felt that same whisper tell me it was okay to make pancakes today. It was okay to do things that made me feel alive.
I almost laughed out loud. On that grey January morning, when my heart felt a little lonely, the Lord was telling me it was okay to make pancakes. Who was I to argue? I love pancakes! And if these were the Lord’s pancakes, they needed chocolate chips.
We mixed the batter. We plopped chocolate chips in one by one (with a few being diverted to a baby’s eager mouth.) And we sat down to our steaming stack of pancakes. With L’s small hand in mine, we thanked Jesus for the gift of pancakes that morning. But more than that, I thanked him for the grace it was to be alive.
I’m reading The Lifegiving Home and it is a gift to my heart. These words leapt from the page, only a few days after the Lord made my heart come to life with pancakes:
When I speak of beauty in this chapter, I don’t mean the ideal. I mean the real loveliness lurking in the corners of the ordinary: a bowl of apples, a child’s face, a Mason jar of wildflowers. I mean the breathtaking loveliness that comes when ordinary moments are filled and formed by hospitality, ritual and relationship: dinner by candlelight, heart-to-hearts over hot chocolate, a shared autumn walk, a sick day in which real love is made tangible in ginger ale and chicken soup and a child’s favorite quilt. On the level of home life, beauty is the order and grace we bring to the waiting hours and spaces of our lives, the celebrations we choose, the rituals we make, the gardens we plan, the care we give with as much attention as we can muster.
Such beauty speaks to our belief in a God of the details, a God aware of each sparrow, each tear, each heart. Our creativity affirms His care and presence in every aspect of our lives. Such beauty is also a shelter; it makes home one of the primary places where we can step back from the impersonal, deadening craze of life in order to encounter the life of God in the midst of a fallen world. (82)
I’m learning that the Lord is in the big things. He is absolutely in the wedding vows, the new jobs, the miracles, the sunsets and the waterfalls, and all the things that take our breath away. He is absolutely in the big moments.
But he is also in the small moments of ordinary. He is in a baby’s babbling and a quiet moment to sip coffee. He is in a kind word and chocolate chip pancakes. And I’m convinced he uses not just the big moments, but those small, beautiful moments of ordinary to make us come alive. He came so that we could be made more alive. It is okay to choose things that make us come alive.
*I’m joining up with Emily Freeman to share what I learned in January. What a gift to tell the story about what pancakes taught me AND join with others from all over the world as we talk about what we’re learning, both the serious and the silly. You can read more here, if you’re interested.
*The Lifegiving Home is an absolute delight. This book was written by a mother-daughter team over the course of many years. They share from two different perspectives on some of the same experiences about the mess and grace in “creating a place of belonging and becoming.” They share both theologically and practically about what it means to create home for people. I love the perspective Sally Clarkson offers as she shares about creating home for her husband and four children throughout the years, combined with the glimpse Sarah Clarkson offers of a less-traditional, but just as needed home during years as a room-mate, student and daughter. If you couldn’t already tell, I love feeding people and making a safe place for them to be themselves. This book provided some beautiful ways to do that more, as well as encouragement to not become focused on a particular structure or formula. Home and the people in it, change from season to season. My heart was refreshed and encouraged as I soaked in their vulnerable stories and wisdom. 5/5 for me.
Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of “The Lifegiving Home,” in exchange for my honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255