Friday, September 19, 2014

A Celebration of Regular Ol' Moments

It’s just after midenight and I’m sitting in my bed listening to soothing melodies of worship music reflecting on my day. Today was one of those days where you just don’t want it to end. There was no grandiose event or spectacular incident just a string of regular ol’ moments that even though were rather simple, they painted an exquisite display of God’s love and grace. I think these kinds of days are exactly what I long for...the days were I find so much beautiful in the unique, yet small moments. Don’t get me wrong, I love the days with seismic activity, but small moments that point to Something/Someone greater in the midst of everyday life are special and I’m learning to treasure them!

It’s Thursday. I had one thing on my calendar for today. Dinner with a friend. That’s it. I didn’t have a plan or list of what needed to get done. Nope. There was no agenda today except to make it to dinner on time. So when I got up, I made myself breakfast, drank coffee and tried to sort my thoughts. My mind felt a little cluttered, so I do what I know always helps. I got on my walking shoes, hopped in my car and headed for the trails. There is something magical that happens when I get on a trail....within the first few steps every worry, fear, problem, distraction just melts away. And the weather today, oh the weather today! It was absolutely gorgeous. The sun was shining, the crisp air and the light breeze rustled the leaves that have slowly started losing their lively green, the temperature just barely in the 70’s...my ideal weather. I breathed in deep and as I exhaled it was like every care left with that breath. My walks with Jesus always refocus me. I come alive when I take in His creation and talk with Him. It’s in this simple act I encountered such immense beauty. A walk in the park with my Best Friend refueled and refocused me today.

On my way home from that walk I knew what I wanted to do that afternoon. I wanted to sit in a coffee shop to read and write. So after a quick lunch at home I washed up and got in my car. I took a few seconds to consider my options...4 different Starbucks, Panera or The Well. All of these are within 5 miles of my house. I wish I could say that I prayed about it. I didn’t. I chose whatever sounded good to me at the moment. I don’t enjoy how I smell when I walk out of a Starbucks and since I had dinner plans I quickly crossed those off the list (and they don’t have almond or coconut milk...come on now, seriously?!?!). So, between The Well and Panera...The Well won. Even though I didn’t pray about it, looking back it seemed like God had something to do with where I ended up.

I settled into a comfy chair and got a cup of whatever the barista recommended. I noticed an acquaintance at one of the neighboring tables chatting with someone. Their convo looked pretty intense, so I thought better of interrupting and waiting until they finished. I’m a slow reader...well, to be fair, I’m more of a distracted reader. I’m easily distracted with what is going on around me, so every couple of paragraphs and I’m looking up and around at what’s going on. Sometimes it’s to ponder what I’ve read and sometimes it’s because...squirrel. Ha! I pull out my book Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist. I’m only on chapter 7 of forty-something. It’s a chapter on Friendship and she so eloquently puts to words what I’ve been wanting to express for years in a couple paragraphs. I’m enthralled in the chapter. I stop several times to underline and to sit and take in the weightiness of the topic. I decide to stop reading when the chapter was done so that I could let that settle. I wanted to absorb it, fully.

I catch myself staring into space several times...which can get awkward when it’s actually a person you are staring through. As I surveyed the room I noticed that my friend had left. I made note that I should send them a message to acknowledge that I saw them and had every intention to say hello. But then someone caught my attention. I don’t know this person, but they made me smile. There was something about them. Yes, it was a guy, but no, it wasn’t like what you’re thinking. There wasn’t anything extraordinary that stood out...it was obvious that he was a Christian by the 20lb Bible he had in front of him and the stack of Christian books and journal nestled on the table. But maybe more than all of that, it was his joyful countenance and light he carried. Several times he was greeted by friends that were coming or going. Each time he lit up and looked at each person with intention and love. It was such a beautiful display of Jesus. As I said, I don’t know this person. I have no idea of his journey with Jesus or his profession or anything other than what I witnessed from a distance today.

And then there it was, that still small voice, that suggested I write a note of encouragement and hand it to him when I left. Oh boy. There was no question of what I heard and so I reached down into my computer bag and pulled out the notecards that happen to be in there. Why am I always so prepared? Haha! I say a prayer that goes something like this...“Lord, if you want me to write this, than you better give me the words.” Real endearing, right? Yeah, not so much. I was already more worried about the delivery of the note than writing the note. I love to encourage people, that part is easy. It was the awkward moment that I would go up to him that had me a little uneasy. Honestly, I’m pretty outgoing and can talk to just about anyone, but this seemed more vulnerable...much more vulnerable.

Just then I see a long time friend I haven’t seen in quite some time. We spend about 15-20 minutes catching up. It was refreshing. It was fun. It was ordinary, yet felt...yep, beautiful. I love when there are people you know that you can catch up with no matter the time that passes between with such ease. We hug and get back to our spots.

I look over at this gentleman and I say another prayer...this one went a little better...something like... “Jesus, what do you want to say to this person today?” That perspective changed everything. I found myself smiling as I was writing what I felt the Holy Spirit leading me to write. Oh the love that Jesus has for this man! How proud He is of him and his life. So, I wrote down as best as I could what I felt. I put the card in an envelope. And then...I put it in my book. I wasn’t ready to leave and I was not giving it to him until I was walking out. I go on to read another chapter of Cold Tangerines a little squirmish and distracted as I didn’t want him to leave before I did. My eyes jolted every time there was movement in his direction...which was often as it was busy as usual at one of the only true coffee shops in the area (and did I mention that it supports such great causes? Find out more here). I finally decide to give up on the reading and do the next logical thing...I pull up Instagram. :)

I decided that I must post on Instagram a pic of the paragraph that truly hit home just a little bit ago. I snap a pic and post it. It was so much what I always wanted to say that I had to share it. I am so delighted by the words...I find the moment...well, beautiful.  They are just words, but the sentiment and meaning are a real part of me that has been expressed in a way I couldn’t. Finally. It was written out. Beautiful.

I check my watch and I’ve got about 5-10 more minutes before I needed to pack up, so I was going to message my friend before I forgot. Pulled up Facebook and sent a quick message. As I hit send and see the comment post I notice one of the most recent posts was an article about the benefits of writing (read it here). It looked interesting enough. I read the article and it reminded me of a recent conversation I had with a friend of mine who is writing a book. The conversation centered around how writing is very therapeutic and can bring healing to deep parts of us. The article had research that proved what we already knew to be true through our own experience. I instantly copy the link and send a quick text to my friend. I simply say that the article reminded me of our recent convo and then I pasted the link. I got a quick response that thanked me and they would read it later. I was satisfied with that.

Well, I successfully procrastinated leaving, but it was time to pack up and head over to meet a friend for dinner. I pulled out the notecard and packed everything else up. I said my farewell to my long time friend and headed toward the man. Instantly, I felt my cheeks flush. I can’t remember the last time I felt myself get so flushed! There is always uncertainty with stepping out and taking a risk. I knew I needed to be obedient and not pass up an opportunity to show someone how much Jesus loves them, but I was uncomfortable this time. I wasn’t questioning myself and felt that I needed to push through it. I got to the table as he is scrolling through his phone. It was about 5 seconds before he looked up...oh man! did those 5 seconds feel like an eternity! He takes his ear phone out. I say something like...hi, so, uhm, I felt like I was supposed to write this. He, being much more comfortable than me, introduces him self and I introduce myself and meagerly mention that I felt compelled to give him this note. I hand him the note and bolt. No, seriously, I smile and leave. Ha! It’s comical thinking about it now, but I could have done that differently! I wanted the anonymity of it to remain. I didn’t sign the card with my name or any of my information. I wasn’t even planning on telling him my name, but it probably would have been rude to not respond when he introduced himself and I was being awkward already. I normally would have made room for a conversation, but I didn’t feel that way this time. I don’t know if anything on that card touched him. I don’t know if it meant anything to him. I may never see him again and may never know if it impacted him at all. And I’m okay with that. There is something special about taking a risk and walking away without ever knowing the results. Being vulnerable, overcoming fear and discomfort only to never know the result is absolutely...crazy, but beautiful at the same time. To be obedient was my only required response. What the Lord chooses to do on their end is up to Him. What He did in me was for me to glean from. I may not have done it as gracefully or comfortably as I hoped, but I did it. And I’m letting Jesus walk me through why He wanted me to do it.

I got into my car and was out of there. No looking back. Ha! Sushi with a friend was exactly the perfect way to get over that awkward feeling. My cheeks still feeling a little flushed, but easing with each laugh. As we are finishing up and chatting my sweet niece and my sis-in-law walk in and the joy on my niece’s face melts me. She makes me feel like the most special person in all of the world at that moment. Kids don’t hide their feelings that well, especially this one. She’s passionate and expresses it every chance she can. They are seated at their table. And across the restaurant I hear her saying “my Tasha.” My heart can’t take it...it might just explode. Before leaving I head over to their table to say my goodbyes. My niece grabs my hand and won’t let go. She begs for me to stay and with each time she squeezes my hand a little tighter...white knuckles tight. It breaks my heart to have to leave, but at the same time I couldn’t be any happier. I’m not sure what I did to deserve her love and adoration, but I’m undone by it. It’s not a huge scene, but it’s a beautiful moment that I won’t soon forget. My heart was overflowing.

As I get into my car I get a text from my friend that I sent the article to. It says something to the effect...It was an amazing article and affirmation for them. They have been struggling for a couple weeks and helped them realize how journaling was helping them.   I didn’t know that they were struggling. I had no idea that the night before they had a hard time sleeping because they felt hopeless. I had no idea that when I sent them that article that it would remind them of a simple act that calms and eases the hard times. I had no idea that a simple text would impact them the way it did. I had no idea. I’m, in no way, giving myself credit for this...it was completely at the prompting of the Spirit. It was His leading that I saw the post to begin with and Him who suggested that I send it to my friend. So, don’t hear me taking credit. I’m not. I am marveling in the beauty of the events that unfolded. It was orchestrated so perfectly by a Creator that is insistent on letting His children know that He loves them.

Think about it...If I would have not been enthralled in my book I would not have missed saying hi to my friend. If I would have said hello to her I would not have gone to her Facebook page to post a message. If I didn’t post a message on her page, I would not have seen her post with the article about writing. If I didn’t see that article I would not have sent it to my friend. If I didn’t send it to my friend they would not have been affirmed at that moment. If they weren’t affirmed they could have forgotten about how much Jesus loves them and felt hopeless. How can you not look at that succession of events and not see Jesus in it and the beauty of it all?

I was surrounded by life moments today that were not extravagant or massive. They were every day instances that could have been quickly overlooked or forgotten. And I look over on my bed and see my copy of Cold Tangerines and the tag line reads “celebrating the extraordinary nature of everyday life” and I’m reminded that all of these beautiful moments are worth celebrating to the fullest. Big moments are awesome and fun and great, but we can miss out of a lot of celebrating when we ignore all the small moments that are just as beautiful and worthy to be recognized.

As I reflect on my day, I remember that I asked the Lord on my walk with Him what my next steps should be. He didn’t answer that directly, but I committed to Him that I will take them as they come. He didn’t give me advance notice of my steps, but He led me today. He led my steps and gave me the opportunity to act...to take a step. As I acted in each of these small moments, it felt like forward progress. Leaps and jumps are great because it’s when you see the most change, but the strength that is built through faith in the small steps is life changing. At the end of it all, all I can really say is that He led me today and it was beautiful.