Negativity. It sinks in quickly, doesn't it? It does for me. I have been really aware lately of the negativity that surrounds us every day. I hear it on the news, read it in the newspaper and can sense it creep into my thoughts as I go through my days.
Spring came slowly this year. On evening newscasts, the weather man and reporters commented incessantly on how cold it was, questioned why it was not yet warm, and wondered when it would happen. When the weather finally broke, and we truly did have to wait, within 24 hours the same newscasters were complaining that it was too hot, when would we have a cooler day? I noticed it then... heard it in a new way and saw it in myself, as well. Discontent. Frustration with things outside my control. Negativity.
Where do you see this in your own life? Where does it sneak in and take away your joy?
We grow a huge garden every year. Last week, the garden had grown a bit dry and we knew we needed rain. As the holiday approached, we could see it on forecasts all week long. Rain. It was going to rain alright. On the 4th of July.
Come Saturday, all day it was dismal. All day it rained. The clouds hung low as we cleaned the house to prepare for our barbecue. Streams trickled down the street as I boiled potatoes for potato salad and added the perfect spices to our inch-thick hamburgers. Our kids got squirrely and Mark and I struggled for a while with a general crabbiness that seemed to fit the day. Fighting this feeling, Mark took the kids outside to play football and frisbee (simultaneously) in the rain.
Our guests arrived and seeing the children laughing with their dad in the front yard, dripping wet, likely thought we were a little nuts. We grilled under umbrellas and we laughed at each other' stories and our children played. Then, at about 8PM, the clouds broke and we headed to a local park to watch fireworks. We packed umbrellas and a thermos filled with coffee. Upon arrival, we set up our chairs and the announcement was made that the fireworks would start early in hopes of getting them in. Clouds were rolling in again. Looked like rain.
We watched as the sky exploded in color. Fireworks big and beautiful and colorful in a way that a sunny day would have likely led us to overlook. We did what we always do, sit side-by-side with friends and ooooh and ahhhh at the spectacle above.
As we sat watching, drizzle fell and turned to light rain. But, after the show, it broke again and, not wanting to fight traffic, we played frisbee in the dark and stood smiling as our children ran with sparklers lit. As the rain returned, we packed up our things and headed back to the nearly empty parking lot. We drove home with the wipers on and the kids were damp and happy and tired. As we tucked them into bed and fell exhausted onto the couch, I suddenly realized that we did not miss a thing. Yes, it rained. A lot. But, in all honesty, every single thing that we had planned to do that day, we did. We had friends over, grilled out, played outside, watched fireworks, lit sparklers and had a fabulous time. It didn't LOOK like we thought it would. It didn't FEEL like we thought it would. But it was all that we had hoped for and more. And our garden got watered, as well. : )
We could have missed that truth, my friends. We could have missed it altogether. Had we fallen onto couches and spent the night complaining about how the rain ruined everything, we would have missed the joy.
Negativity is a nasty thing. It surrounds us and keeps us believing that we are somehow entitled to having sunny days. It causes us to see the foibles of our children and the weaknesses in our spouse and the smallness of our house and the struggle of our bottom line...and leaves our focus there. The wonder of our children, the kindness of our spouse, the shelter of our home, the lessons in tight budgets, all of this falls away and we are left shaking our empty hands at what we do not have.
We have lived 2.5 years with two houses and two mortgages and a budget that can never really work. I have children who misbehave and have struggles all their own. And sometimes it rains. It did today. A lot. But, I ended the day with three boys snuggled on the couch with me, laughing outloud. We wrapped blankets around ourselves and I loved the way they felt, warm and cozy and close to me. A warm and sunny day would not have given me that moment. A cold and rainy day caused it to play out just like that.
I know some days are hard. They are hard for me, too. I know this time of struggle leaves us frustrated and often in need. I know. I really, really do. But, I also know this. I have this day. I am still here. I have these children all around me. I have a husband who loves me and plays with his kids. I have a life that is simple but true. And I am not entitled to anything at all. I have not earned this beauty. How could I? I have been deeply blessed and can see God's hand in it all... offering me this gift. Handing me well-wrapped gifts of my children's giggles, Mark's hand in mine, and food on the table. I sit surrounded by all that He has made and the wonder of creation is clear... and sometimes it needs rain. It is blessed by rain. And sometimes blessed in spite of rain. Like me. Deeply blessed in spite of all that seems to fall around me. I will not be distracted by what does not look or feel like I thought it would. Instead, I choose to hunt for what is good... and that hunt always ends well.
Today, I will push the negativity aside and squint to see what is freely given my way. This life. Good and gritty and simple and clear. And that is just enough. I will not ask for more.
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