Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Snowflakes

Snow flying in our backyard, 2011

I began reading a profound book the other day. This was perfect reading for the end of one year and the dawn of a fresh one (One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Life Fully Right Where You Are). The author writes about thanksgiving being central to our faith, about gratitude in all things being the secret to true joy. She spent a year writing down every little thing she noticed about everyday life that was beautiful. She ponders the nature of God, of grace, of suffering. Good, heady stuff. I read and drank it all in. I went on Facebook and scrolled down through everyone's resolve for the coming year. I will eat better...save more money...forgive...even spend less time on Facebook.

That evening Dan did something that irritated me and as I bit my tongue I felt the weight of it all. I want to say something but I shouldn't snap back because I'm trying to be better about that and it's not the right or productive thing to do and I should be like Ann, in the book, humble and deep and quietly listening to what God is saying and receiving grace.

Oh the irony, that this book about a woman who finally stopped doing and just received God's grace would instead threaten to set me on a treadmill of trying to, well, be as close to perfect as possible.

"I know I can't do this!" I wailed to Dan. Here we were, the night of January 1, and I was throwing up my hands. "I can't simultaneously eat better and exercise more and get enough sleep and spend less money and less time on the computer." I looked over at the cover of the book, momentarily with disdain. "Of course it's easy for her to be thankful for small moments, this homeschooling farmer's wife baking homemade bread and stoking the fireplace and looking over golden wheat fields." I live near dreary Hartford, I was thinking. I spend my time driving on concrete. Whizzing past malls.

About five minutes later, my tantrum was over and I surveyed the wreckage. There was selfishness, mixed with truth. When we set out to make a fresh start every contrary part of us, the part that really likes, say, McDonalds french fries and always having the last word, rises up and says "Nooooooo!"

But when we set out unrealistically, devoid of grace, very quickly we begin to feel a crushing weight of failure almost before we've begun. It's like Jesus talking about the loads the Pharisees were putting on people's backs. The Law. Must. Do. Everything. Right.

What hit me was this, as I decided to go to bed and start over: we must give ourselves permission to fail, and then we must start over. This is of course why so many New Year's resolutions are never kept. It's not the giving up, the "falling off the wagon." It's that we then decide not to try again.

The next morning both kids were back at school. Anna goes first. As we headed out the front door I looked to the south and east and for the first time noticed I could see some of the skyscrapers of Hartford through the trees, shimmering in the distance. Had it always been that way? Had a tree fallen in one of our numerous storms of late? Or had I, for eight years in this house now, just not been looking?

Ethan leaves for school a half-hour later. The moment we stepped out of the house, snowflakes started flying. Snowflakes, in this winter in which we've had no snow. Time stopped. "You have to catch them in your hand!" Ethan commanded. I tried. I whirled around and admired the falling grace. Each one was like a feather. On the car windshield, I took a closer look at a flake before it melted. I could see the crystals. I could see its shape, unlike all the others.

At school, the flakes were still falling. I pictured Anna and her class running to the windows to watch (Anna confirmed this is indeed exactly what happened). "It's snowing!!" a kindergarten boy shouted with glee. I watched the way the wind whipped the flakes like river currents on the sidewalk. They danced with us to the school's front door.

I can live on a busy street near the city and still see the beauty. I can fail but not give up. I can be me...not the farmer's wife...not my friends. And love me in all my imperfection, while still accepting the grace to be just a little better. This is my New Year's resolution.

1 comment:

rhemashope said...

love, love, love this, deb. reading this is liberating.