I remember the evening I finally met Kari Patterson, and we hugged like we’d known each other for years. We’d heard about one another from our common friend, Cornelia Seigneur, founder of the Faith & Culture Writers Conference. Cornelia knew Kari and I would hit it off, and she couldn’t have been more right.
Kari speaks life, love and truth as she so freely celebrates others. She walks with faithfulness to God while serving with unmistakable joy. I am grateful for the ways my friend, Kari, spoke to the little (speaker) seed that God placed in me and said, “Grow, grow.”
This morning I am sharing at Kari’s blog, The Sacred Mundane, about recognizing gifts in the chaos of our days, giving thanks for the everyday small, seeing the beauty of flowers in the face of the mighty sea. I hope this message of Thanks-living encourages you today that the small matters, and your small matters. Happy Thanksgiving, dear friends!
I look out a large window upon the vast and mighty Pacific Ocean. The weather is stormy, the waves churning. I am captivated by this power because it causes me to consider afresh the One who set all of creation into motion and continues to be Lord of the wind and waves.
This morning, I am captivated by something else, as well. Framing the view of the sea is a fringe of commonplace beach plants – grasses and bushes whipped by wind and salt air. The vegetation is easy enough to look past in search of the Pacific, but when I slow to see, I recognize the beauty inherent in each detail. For these plants also speak to the Creator, the one who harnessed the full measure of his power and chose to paint the leaves glossy green, the small flowers lipstick pink, the grasses autumn gold.
While the mountains, skies and canyons are fully worthy of our attention and wonder because they point to an almighty God, so, too, do tender shoots, blinking eyes and the shocking coral leaves of fall.
How often does our North American culture (at times, including the church) celebrate grand gestures while dismissing the gift of the small? How often does each of us look to be wowed while gazing straight past the miracle of the ordinary, or the “sacred mundane,” as my dear friend Kari calls it?
We can struggle to see the everyday as miracle because it is filled with much work for us – and the same kinds of work, again and again. The wiping and washing and parenting and managing of jobs and life details are often behind-the-scenes unseen, and we often mistake monotony for meaninglessness.
Without recognizing it, we equate small with unimportant. We forget that loving, tending and creating are some of the most vital work of all, as we cooperate with God in making his Kingdom come on earth as in heaven.
My oldest daughter, Sicily, is an up-front, confident leader who knows who she is and to Whom she belongs. At the age of 12, she consistently works hard and follows through on her commitments with a unique combination of humility and strength.
This past summer, Sicily offered to help during our church’s weeklong vacation bible school. Because we were fairly new to the church, Sicily signed up for more behind-the-scenes work than that to which she might normally be drawn. She volunteered to work as an assistant in the little twos and threes class – a group that turned out to be mostly composed of VBS leaders’ children.
Practically, this meant she kept the littlest ones occupied and their eyes away from their working mamas and daddies, because, as we know, once toddlers and wobblers set eyes on their people, it’s all over.
While other VBS helpers her age were passing out prizes and belting out raucous praise with other little kids upstairs, Sicily worked in the basement, doing her best to busy the smallest ones, far beyond many of their usual bedtimes.
By the third night of VBS, the work had taken its toll. As I tucked my girl in that night, she broke down: “I don’t know if I can do this anymore. It doesn’t even matter! I’m taking care of these kids who I guarantee will not even remember me when this is over. I’m stuck in this basement and missing out on all the fun!”
My girl believed the lie that her ordinary work was without meaning. At an age where FOMS (Fear of Missing Something) is especially acute, she believed all the nose wiping, hand holding and story reading wasn’t the real stuff because the important stuff, the juicy stuff, the loud and fun stuff was happening upstairs.
How often have I felt the same? As a 40-year-old stay-at-home mom, wrapping up the young child season of mothering, how often have I conveyed (through my thoughts, attitude or actions) that I am missing out on something better?
In my figurative and literal basement time, in my unseen house cleaning, owie kissing and tantrum calming days, how often have I viewed my work as something to endure to get to the real deal?
How often have I looked past the tender pink flower in search of the ocean?
Particularly this time of year when needs and commitments chomp at our heels, and days can drag long and weary, I’d like to encourage you to seek Jesus, asking what he would say to you about your everyday service.
Ask for his affirmation and encouragement of you as his daughter, as one doing holy work. Ask him to give you eyes to see where you can let go or ask for help. Ask him to renew and sustain you.
Remember that God’s eyes are tenderly upon you right where you are – arms deep in turkey and meltdowns and forgotten side dishes. Remember the way your Lord is and has always been the God who sees (Genesis 16:13) and that he is the One who offers rest for your weary soul (Matthew 11:28).
May you recognize your preparations and the gift of your engaged presence as offerings of worship, when done as unto the Lord. Colossians 3:17 reminds us that every act and word of our lives can be done in the name of Jesus, “giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
So let us give thanks. While life’s waters churn, may we be still enough to notice and express our gratitude for his round cheeks, her laughter like music, the wafting smell of pumpkin pie, the hands of beautiful and imperfect people clasped together around the table.
And, sisters, let’s not only give thanks, but continue to live it – to his glory.