When missing a deadline gives you a gift

I missed the deadline to sign my kids up for soccer this year. I hate it when that kind of thing happens. I feel so... inadequate. I knew registration was coming, I knew my kids wanted to do it, and I just totally spaced. 

This fall has been a bit crazy as we have sorted through a new family rhythm and schedule. My youngest has been a bit of an emotional roller coaster as he gets used kindergarten, my oldest to sorting through a homework routine with a new teacher, my husband is bearing the load of some demanding work projects, and I'm trying to balance the responsibilities of the hodgepodge that is my job situation right now. Most families and individuals could tell their own story of September stress, filling in the gaps with their own unique details. 

fort building

Yesterday after school, I told the kids that we must do something outside that afternoon/evening. These crisp and sunny autumn days are too precious to waste. We talked through a few options, and settled on biking to a nature area that's not far from our house. We brought a picnic dinner with us and set about exploring the trails. We spent the bulk of our time in this great area they have set up for kids to build forts with big sticks and whatever else they see in that part of the woods. 

It felt luxurious to do something like this on a Monday. The wisps of fresh cool air, hints of fall, and glimmers of sunshine were exactly what each of us needed. 

I realized on your way home that Monday nights were when we would've had soccer, if I had remembered registration. What a gift it was to us that we had no commitments. How wonderful it was to have the freedom to explore and the time to be together.

Jesus talks a few times about not worrying about our lives. I think any application of these verses to imply that we won't have failures or missteps or frustrations along the way does not line up with real life. Sometimes it does feel like God is not there, and it doesn't do our faith or our soul any good to push those doubts aside in the name of Jesus. It also does no good to quote these verses to someone with clinical anxiety, which is something totally different than we are talking about here.

Anxiety and doubts are one thing, worry is another. Worry is carrying problems beyond their time, be they from the past or the future. Worry is the weight in our hands that closes us off from receiving the gift of the present moment. Worry is guilt and shame and fear rolled into one annoying burden. 

On Monday, something rather magical happened. My mistake had been transformed into a beautifully ordinary yet amazing kind of gift, and I was able to receive it. Because I was able to receive it, my kids were able to accept it as well.

We went to bed with dirt under our fingernails, wonder in our lungs, and gratitude around our hearts. I hope I can do that more often. I hope you can, too.

May we drop the weight of worry and leave our hands open to hold joy. 

"Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" - Matthew 6:26-27

sunset over the lake
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Look at these treasures! I love them!

My son lost himself in the quest, not noticing how much time was slipping away as the sun lowered on the horizon. 

While others were busy swimming or laying on the dock, enjoying the goodness of July temperatures in the north, he was looking down. My son's eyes were scanning the bottom of the lake, searching for the perfect rocks to add to his collection. 

When he asked me to help, I instictively asked why he wasn't collecting shells instead. "Look at this one," I observed, "It has such a lovely swirl and beautiful coloring." He looked up for a moment, uninterested but respectful, and told me we were looking for rocks. 

"Look at this one!" He yelled, as he lifted a stone the size of his fist from the bottom. It was gray, and rough, nothing spectacular in my opinion.  

"Wow," I responded, only half-looking at the ordinary piece of rubble he was turning over in his fingers. 

"Isn't it great!" He exclaimed, with his typical enthusiasm, "It's perfect for my collection!" 

As I kept scouring the bottom for one rock I deemed worthy of the word, "beautiful," he continued to pick up stone after stone, declaring them perfect. 

I stuck with him for a few more minutes of searching, finding two rocks I thought were good enough to collect. He kept at it much longer, delighting in the process as much as the outcome. 

At the end of the day, my son marched his bag of run-of-the-mill stones through the house and declared them to be a treasure he loved as much as Cam Bear, his most beloved stuffed animal.

These rocks were valuable to him because he declared them to be so. He loved them becasue he delighted in his search for them. He loved them because he found joy in their very existence. He loved them because of their similarities and distinctions, their smooth spots and sharp edges, their lightness and their weight. 

In his innocence, he adored them for being exactly the way they were, and he declared them to be his treasures.

Oh, how much children have to teach us.

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"He set me down in a safe place; He saved me to His delight; He took joy in me." - Psalm 18:19 (The Voice)

God delights in you. God delights in me. God delights in us.

God does not love us with an obligatory and dry, "I guess I should love them because they are my family" kind of love. God does not love us with a conditional, "I guess I should love them because they are beautiful and special and hardworking" kind of love.

No. 

God loves us with delight. He takes joy in our very existence.  

He shouts about us to the cosmos with the innocent glee of a small child, "Look at these treasures! I love them!" 

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