Trading in my cardboard crown


We listen to Grace Potter for a whole month straight, and I dream of cutting the foot pedals off one of my organs and building a revolving amp like the Leslie she had custom-made. (One of the major perks of being a famous musician has got to be the custom-made instruments. What a dream come true!)


We fire up the organ once a day and Caleb is always first in line. I'm not sure if it's the many buttons and slides he can manipulate to his little engineering brain's content, or the thunder of the bass pipes rattling the wall in front of him. Either way, I guarantee this kid is going to have a love of organs for the rest of his life.


I look down at the walnut furl of the organ leg descending out of the cabinet, and I think about how Amy told me once that photography is the gift of seeing beauty in the little things, the romance that exists in your own life. I think about the book she recommended slowly drawing my heart back into prayer and praise, Ann's book tuning my ear to the music of the universe that plays everywhere, Serena's book finally bringing the light of Grace to the forefront of everything, as sin and hell and death finally get pushed into the shadows of my heart instead of the doorway. I look around me, at the table with the beautiful poinsettia embroidered red tablecloth covered with oatmeal from breakfast, and the laundry, with it's brief breath of summery freshness wafting, piled in mountainous heaps in the laundry room. I see the glisten of the professional wax on the 1950's linoleum tile glistening glints of my husband's love, borne with hours of labor on hands and knees. I think of those scabbed knees, and look at the Clementine peels and pistachio shells littering the floor, and I wonder that what glints through is love and not the endless labor that awaits a woman every time she opens her eyes to her home.


So I cut a neat slice from the center of the pie of this home, and look at my camera's display as a smile creeps over my lips. That smile is the thud as joy takes off from my soul like the sky-bound firecracker still encased in it's pretty paper shell, and then a moment later the explosion. It trickles down all over the room in a shower of colorful sparks, and here I am, soul abandoned to joy, in the midst of my toils of the day and the frustrations of it all. It is slowly dawning on me that He is so different from the rest of us, this God who tells me that He knows the plans that He has for me...plans to prosper me and not harm me, plans to give me hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). I think that means an easy life, an entertaining life, a blissfully happy life, a life of wealth or fame, perhaps. He whispers through these joy-moments that He's giving it to me, right here, in this messy house with these raucous children.

The "hall of fame of faith" in Hebrews 11 starts out by telling us that we need to have faith in two things to seek the face of God: that He exists, and that He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. But what follows, in that "hall of fame", are not the stories of prosperity, but the stories of great suffering. Noah, who watched his whole world disappear in the flood waters and rebirth different and desolate; Abraham, a sojourner in a land of enemies, who twice sent his wife to sleep with other powerful men, was asked to sacrifice his only son, and never saw the promise God made him brought to fruition. Moses lost his family as a babe, was raised by the enemy of his people, led the most worrisome group ever through an exile in a desert. Rahab endured a life of prostitution before going to live as an alien with an enemy people. The end of this passage is a litany of what we might have in store for us: beatings, floggings, sawed in half by the sword; we might live as destitute, persecuted, mistreated people wearing skins for clothing and welcomed nowhere. It says again, at the end of the chapter, that all those listed where commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.

Abraham lived in tents, abandoning earthly comfort for the hope of a city with foundations, whose architect and builder was God.  Trading prosperity here for prosperity there. A crown of jewels in heaven for faith through suffering here. Am I willing to join these ranks? These people who did not receive the things promised...only saw them and welcomed them from a distance... and admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. This is what I have faith in? Not worldly blessings and rewards, but heavenly ones? Is that what starts the thunderous firecracker of joy exploding in my soul? This giving up of everything that ties me down so my soul is free to see? See the blessings?

I am on the notorious middle ground that has bred discontent for the middle class in societies everywhere since the beginning of time. Who wants to be average? Surrounded by people just like yourself? There is that seed, deep in the soul, that begs us excel. Yes, our culture cries it, too, a cardboard-crown copy that says "be all you can be" and commands us to find our individuality and live it out limited only by how high we can dream. But that seed is common to humanity, and comes with the unique stamp of our soul that sets us apart from every other person on this planet. Did God put it there? Can He light that unstoppable seed of desire up like a homing beacon for all the world to see as He teaches me that this, the blessed wonder of relationship with Him that is known only to Him and I, is what makes me unique and precious? Not accomplishments, not the individual wonder of my talents, but, like the parable says, what I invest those talents in. Here, or eternity? This question calls from every blessing-dressed-in-ugliness that surrounds me today:

26: the laundry piles (that I have a machine to wash fresh and sweet)

25: the dishes piled (waiting for the automatic dishwasher to spray clean water from 100 feet underground)

26: the Clementine peels and pistachio shells (that fill my children's bellies with such nutrition my forebears never dreamed of in this barren, snow-covered wilderness)

And from earlier in my first week of counting the blessings up with a number for each one:
16: sweet resolution after an argument

15: my baby girl learned to button

11: wind whirling snow crystals into the dawn off the roof of our bedroom wing

6: waking to Rosy singing

3: PG Tips tea, caramel-colored by fresh cream