Friday, November 6, 2009

Lucky Me

Our everyday dinnerware is a set of blue and white willow china that belonged to my grandparents. When Don and I moved into our first apartment owning few of the necessities for living on our own, my mom's parents showed up with boxes of dishes that they no longer needed. They remembered that I liked the china set depicting Asian scenes reminiscent of Tiki Tiki Tembo, and I was thrilled to have our own dish set, especially such a special one.

Of course, through the years with young children and daily use, some of the dishes have broken or chipped. At one point when Donny was a toddler, he commented that his bowl was broken, and not wanting him to see it as something to complain about, I replied, "Lucky you!" After repeating this interaction a few times, Donny came to believe that he really was lucky when he got the chipped plate or bowl. In fact, apparently the word "lucky" is exclusively associated in his mind with broken dinnerware, because a few weeks ago, when I said something along the lines of, "I'm so lucky," his response was a confused, "You're not lucky. You don't have the chipped bowl!" And after glorying in his chipped plate one day, he even comforted his brother by pointing out all the cracks inside Hayden's teacup. "See Hayden, you're lucky too!"

When most people think of being lucky, they don't think about dishes. They think about big houses, cars, health, wealth, perfect bodies, perfect spouses and children, and tropical vacations. When things go wrong, we don't say we're lucky. We see the chip on our plate or the crack in our teacup and wonder why we were the unfortunate ones to get an imperfect dish. We see our spouse's bad mood, our children's disobedience, a stack of overwhelming bills, or a rainy day when we wanted sunshine, and we become unhappy. Instead of thanking God for giving us a plate, we carelessly pile things on, around, and under it while sighing over the menacing flaws, or perhaps wondering why we don't just break the whole thing.

Yet we each have so much to be thankful for if we choose to see it. I am blessed - or lucky if you will - to have a hardworking husband who commutes through rain, snow, and traffic jams to provide for our family, who protects and leads us, and who always makes me laugh. I am blessed with three healthy, intelligent, adorable children. We have a comfortable home with three bedrooms, space for entertaining, and locks on the doors. (If you have small children, you can appreciate the luxury of bedroom and bathroom doors that lock!) We have a yard full of trees and flowers and enough wildlife to provide countless hours of nature study. We have cupboards full of food and a reliable minivan to haul the food and children home from the nearby grocery store. We have family and friends and our amazing church family all within a fifteen minute drive. God has given me so much!

It's easy to forget how lucky we are when catalogues full of delightful but unaffordable items fill the mailbox. Or when we wake up to find toys strewn all over the living room and the adorable children inside - yes, inside - the couch cushions, pulling the stuffing out to make room for their mischievous bodies. Toys break, cars break, computers break, washers and dryers break, sometimes all at the same time. In these moments - and lives are made up of moments - it would be easy to complain about the chipped plate of my life. But God doesn't see it that way. No matter what our specifics look like, He commands us to be thankful, giving "thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

So I pray that I will give thanks in all the imperfect circumstances that threaten to shatter my joy. May I rejoice in the life God has given me instead of dwelling on my wishlist of improvements. And next time one of our heirloom dishes crashes to the floor, instead of sinking into despair or anger, may I say along with Donny, "Lucky me!"

But beyond being lucky, God has an amazing way of working things together for His glory. I thought through this blog post last Friday, but when I finally sat down at the computer to type it out, I was too tired to begin. The weekend with its busyness quickly pushed any thoughts of blogging to the back of my mind. Then on Tuesday morning, I had just finished getting dressed when I was startled by a crash. I hurried into the kitchen to find my charming helpers carrying out my instructions to unload the dishwasher, but instead of neatly stacking the breakable dishes on the counter as usual, they had decided to use them as building blocks. Plates, bowls, mugs, and pots were all stacked together on table, counter, and floor. And Hayden was guiltily standing in china dust, apologizing for dropping my plate. I quickly hurried the boys out of the room so that I could sweep up the shards before they stepped on the mess with their bare feet.

But on second glance, there wasn't much to sweep up. A tiny bit of dust, yes, but the plate had not shattered as one might expect. On the floor beside it was simply a chip - a big, perfect chip broken off the edge of the dinner plate - resulting in the second chipped dinner plate of our collection. I used to keep the other one on top of the stack, figuring that if one was to be broken, in our frequent use of it, it would be the plate that was already chipped. Yet for some strange reason, on Tuesday the previously chipped plate was about six plates down in the stack, even though we normally only use a few large plates each days, and the the dishwasher is emptied daily. So now, if you join us for dinner, please excuse our chipped plates...and know that your chances for being the lucky dinner guest have doubled!

I don't believe in coincidence; God is in control of every situation. He knows exactly what we need to be encouraged, convicted, or reminded of His Greatness. And while yes, I forgave Hayden, and no, he won't be unloading the breakable dishes for a long time, I do not see this as an isolated accident. Instead, I see the hand of my Heavenly Father, lovingly handing me another chipped plate to remind me how lucky I really am.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Fall in All Its Glory

Sing for joy, O heavens,
for the LORD has done this;
shout aloud, O earth beneath.
Burst into song, you mountains,
you forests and all your trees,
for the LORD has redeemed Jacob,
he displays his glory in Israel.

Isaiah 44:23