My desk nestles under two windows in a nook at the far end of the kitchen. The double-hung glass in their original frames give view to our small porch and sprawling backyard. (Sprawling, by SoCal standards, I should say.)
It’s at this desk that I fall into the quiet afternoon hour—three boys napping—with a cup of reheated coffee and open my computer to work or write.
But one day a few weeks ago, I had barely perched my behind on my desk chair with the chipping black paint when my attention was captured by something outside. The scrawny tree in the corner of the yard with awkward shoots sprouting from its bark had been transformed into a glowing conduit of light.
I was drawn outside.
Tender leaves aflame in sun’s rays, glorious against the simple grain of a fence leaning and forgotten. Ordinary green transformed into translucent wonder, alive with light like Christmas lights long hung on a house then electrically ignited on a merry night.
This tree, these leaves, they were really nothing special. But in this moment, they became an unexpected gift, an invitation to a new perspective.
I could have kept my eyes lowered in laser-vision on the screen at my desk, straining in routine productivity toward the task at hand.
I’m sure many times I have.
But this day, this moment, I felt a beckoning to come. To explore. To breathe. To awaken to the wonder around me.
I turned from the glowing totem and discovered another organism of wonder. A cluster of mushrooms ballooning from the earth. The boys had been playing in this very spot a couple days ago without a trace of toadstool to be found. But now a fungi bouquet decorated its place. And a growth I would normally disdain for its potentially poisonous power had now become a gift of golden orbs.
Something despised transformed into something wrapped in delight.
The work at my desk was still waiting. Minutes ticking away till the three energy-pulsing pieces of my heart would emerge sweaty-head awake, and I would be thrust back into the regular rhythm of the day—dinner-making and homework-helping and mommy-I-need-you-RIGHT-now demands.
But somehow time slowed in the slow turning of one mama in a quiet suburban backyard.
I noticed the blanket of fallen leaves covering the concrete slab, smothering the dirt the whole side yard long. No longer drenched in fall colors of crimson, carrot, saffron, and amber. Now dried up brown andblown over with dirt from our unusually hot winter and Santa Ana winds.
But there in the bland crust of a chore waiting to be raked and hauled away, even there, a fresh glimpse of beauty peeked through.
Hundreds of discarded leaves, each with its own unique crinkle and curl. Veins that once thrived with chlorophyll life now displayed delicate patterns of artistic symmetry.
I no longer saw the ugly shell of what used to be glorious—I saw a patchwork of transfigured beauty.
I saw a story.
I could keep going on about the single stem of sour grass burgeoning from an unruly lawn, fluorescent yellow petals dancing against the cerulean blue sky. I could tell you about the last read leaf waving like a lonely flag on the pole of the tall maple tree, soaring over power lines and telephone wires like a symbol of hope commanding respect.
Have you totally checked out? Or are you still with me?
This may all sound too verbose and like a ridiculously poetic, unwise waste of the one quiet hour of my day.
But here’s the thing, friends…
if I can find exuberant beauty in my own ordinary backyard,
if I can find baffling grace in the middle of unkempt grass and unwanted weeds,
can’t JOY be found anywhere?
There’s enough cynicism and criticism, satire and sarcasm. There’s enough negativity and idolizing productivity. The world is drowning in adversity, hostility, and animosity.
Isn’t it time for a little more backyard hope? Isn’t it time for more everyday wonder?
I tromped through the overgrown grass, picked that lone weed in bloom, and chewed its stem like a little girl in summer. As the sour-sweet juice rolled around my mouth in lip-puckering delight, words from my favorite thanks-living trailblazer rolled sweet in my mind:
I redeem time from neglect and apathy and inattentiveness when I swell with thanks and weigh the moment down and it’s giving thanks to God for this moment that multiplies moments, time made enough.
I am thank-full. I am time-full.
The moments add up.
Do you believe it? Do you live it?
I’ve lived life weary and drained by the mundane that drones the same depressing refrain. I’ve lived life sucked dry by my own striving and anxiety-winding.
But I’m done living that way.
I’m not saying awakening to wonder and giving thanks is a magic fairy wand that will make your disappointments or drudgery vanish. Dishes and diapers, long commutes and short paychecks won’t go away.
The mundane might be here to stay—but whether we barely survive it or actually thrive in it is a choice!
I recorded the words Ann once wrote in a New Year’s blog post because I wanted this to be the record of my life:
Looking for the beauty of Christ in the everyday isn’t some quaint exercise in poetry. It’s a critical exercise in staying alive.
It’s no longer 2014, but a prescription for staying alive can’t be confined to just one calendar year. The gift of beauty does not expire. So we must continue.
To look. To see.
To give thanks to the One from whom all beauty comes.
Let them GIVE THANKS to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for men. Let them sacrifice thanks offerings and tell of his works with songs of JOY.