Afternoon, Lord God.
I'm feeling smiley. It's been a good day. Actually, a succession of good days. I found when I was a teenager and I kept a diary daily for years and years that when I had a bad day, I wrote pages and pages reporting what had happened, analysing it from every angle and moaning excessively, yet when I had a good day, I would write. 'Had a good day.'
Why the need to wallow in misery and negative emotions, but to gloss over good ones? Does picking apart the scab make something heal quickly, and by the same token examining happiness diminish it somehow?
Maybe I'm just a pessimist at heart. Perhaps I just notice the duff things and not so much the things to celebrate.
Well, no more.
My good day(s) have been full of children, laughter, family, food, wine-and-sofa-time, gardening, countryside, smiles and time to relax.
Take yesterday. My sister in law and a couple of nephews were visiting and the children were so excited to see their cousins. The boys were so lovely; playing with my girls despite being much older and they were patience personified. Elizabeth and Katy were enraptured by this big grown up boy who lifted them high, acted silly and let them teach him their playground games with incomprehensible rules - and then let them win. At one point they were tearing round and all I could hear was laughter. Elizabeth was laughing so hard I thought she might be sick, and the big boy cousins were laughing too. It made me laugh.
I got to spend some time in the greenhouse potting up a big tray of baby begonias and watching the children as I bedded the seedlings down into small pots to grow a bit bigger before I fill the troughs by the front door. It was warm and sunny and everything felt happy. You were there too - I know you were smiling. You must have been sitting on a bench at the bottom of the garden and watching; feeling the sun on your face, legs stretched out in front of you watching the joy of your children. Listening to the happy sounds. I felt content deep down.
My tiny begonias could have sighed with pleasure as I planted them with more room to spread out their roots and I love seeing them in their little rows of pots on the bench in the warmth. You know each seedling. You made it. From the tiny, brown seed, through the first pair of leaves to the flourishing of a sturdy little flowering plant that soldiers on all summer long, none of it happens without your breath of life.
You are all around me.
Michael Card writes this:
'A young Chinese woman told me of the spiritual struggle of growing up in the shadow of communism, where official doctrine dictated against any belief in god. She said that ever since she was a little girl, her heart had resonated with the beauty of nature. First a sunset caused a deep stirring in her soul that she could not put into words. Then the beauty of the flowers in her mother's garden spoke to her of a simplicity for which her heart yearned. By observing the beauty in nature she became convinced of the existence of not simply a benign god, but a loving, caring Father.
With tender, moist eyes and a brilliant smile she said, 'Imagine the joy I experienced when I learned that he had a name and it was Jesus.'
(Michael Card, iPhone app: 'Joy in the Journey through the year'.
I know your name. I know you. I don't always notice you, but you're always there. I have days when my eyes seem to see and days when they seem to be out of focus, but that's me, not you.
Destined for great things
You are there in my tiny green seedlings and you are there in the sun warm on my shoulders. You are there in the companionship of my husband and his sister, and in the kindness of a nineteen year old youth for his small, adoring nieces. You are there in the joy of their laughter and in way that the sunlight made Elizabeth's long hair into spun gold. You are there in the ladybirds and in the huge, beautiful bumble bees that seem to abound this year. You are there in the grace of the neighbours cats, and in the variety of birds that visit our bird table. Though it has to be said that the presence of all of us in the garden yesterday afternoon meant that most wildlife wisely made itself scarce.
You are there in the countless resurrections that remind me of you at this time of year: things that seemed dead and twig-like a few weeks ago are bursting into life in bright greens and yellows. You are there in the Spring rain that sends us dashing for the washing and yet is over before we've collected it in. You're there in breeze that blows the clothes dry (again) and you're there in the bolts that hold the swing safe to the crossbeam so that my little girls can close their eyes and swing up the sky in safety.
You are in my heart. You have opened my eyes, and keep doing so even though I close them. You are endlessly patient, forgiving, full of humour and love.
Yesterday the children were playing some sort of game that involved dashing around and the girls were squealing and shouting. Suddenly something made me look up from my seedlings and it was my Katy, singing. She was singing:
'Blessed be the name of the Lord! Blessed be your name!
Blessed be the name of the Lord! Blessed be your glorious name!'
My heart was so full that I thought it might just rupture. I glanced at the other grown ups but I don't know if they heard, they were deep in conversation. I'm not sure what their reaction might have been. The children were running around and Katy kept singing, 'Blessed be the name of the Lord!'
The angels must have been smiling, weren't they, Lord? From your vantage point (for I know that you miss nothing) you must have blown a kiss in her direction, did you? Blessed be your glorious name, Lord God, and bless her heart.
Father, I am so blessed as well. I am blessed that like that lady from China who knew who you were before she knew your name; I am privileged to know you. To see you in the sunset, in nature, in the song of a five year old who was happy and that happiness burst forth in unconscious praise of you. Or maybe it was conscious; I don't know what she was thinking (you do) but I do know that you would have accepted that bit of worship with joy. Honest, open, uncomplicated, unpretentious, uninhibited praise. I can only aspire to that.
Later that day Bryan and I sat with our feet up on the coffee table and a glass of wine each and we watched a film on the television after the small girls had crashed out into bed after their exciting and energetic day. I think you were there as well. I reflected on how much I like sitting with my husband and feeling relaxed and at ease. You were there in the wine and in the good humour and in the bond that we have.
You are the best of me.
'The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.'
And so does the earth. So does the greenhouse. So does my living room when all is right with our family.
I want to as well. I want to declare the glory of you.
I go on so much about the times when things are not right. I bemoan my lack of patience and my troubles and my worries and I come running to you when someone hurts me. I wallow in my guilt and my shortcomings and that of other people, but there are snapshots of my life when the sun is out and the birds are singing and those times need remarking on as well. At length.
You are beautiful and glorious and you allow us to be part of that. You gave Bryan and I a part to play in the creation and nurturing of our wonderful girls. You let me plant out those tiny seedlings so that they'll fulfil their potential. You give me words and the ability to express myself. You give me so very much.
You give me beauty in the darkest corners if only I look.
Thankyou Father God.
You are good.