the small stuff

The reason I don’t take pictures of the inside of my house is not because more often than not it’s messier than I’d prefer. Though clutter and prolonged disarray still drives me nuts at certain times, I’ve mostly gotten used to things like an extra old and needing tuned piano sitting in the living room from someone giving us one before moving. I don’t like taking pictures inside because most of the time the lighting looks dingy to me.

Come evening though, the sunset fixes this. For about a half an hour in the pre-dusk time frame, the light is far enough down to make into the northwest facing window. At the same time the sun is still high enough to light up the trees on the other side of the house. It was during this time when I sat down, and thoughtlessly stared out of both of the side windows. Dad and the kids were gone for the evening at a family supper. I normally go to the family gatherings, but tonight I asked to stay home and be alone, to be able to work on sorting and cleaning in the quiet time and space.

I stared out the windows until the thoughts came back. When they did, I picked up the book beside me and opened to a picture of ginger on a cutting board. It came from a book that I’d bought for my daughter for our first full school year of homeschooling. I’d picked out books, or “electives”, for each of the older kids, with each book containing way more pages and projects than I could ever individually get to with each of the children in a year. Though they didn’t get used in the way I imagined, they do get used, and even used by the kids. Though always somewhat tainted with the stain of pain and longing, it still brings me joy to sit down and look at them.

When I got up from the couch I got down on the floor and started sorting papers and last year’s school books, making piles of books I’m still keeping and old used workbooks that can now be stacked and thrown away. I came across an envelope that my aunt had sent me from a time when she too had been sorting through stuff. In the envelope were pictures that I didn’t know what to do with either. There was also a funny thank-you note from me and my sisters for a time when she’d taken us all to Cape Cod. We thanked her for the trip, but most memorable apparently, were the late night talks we’d had in the motel. I’d forgotten that two big things I’d learned from her on that trip were “happiness is a choice” and “don’t sweat the small stuff”.

I remember thinking my aunt’s advice always sounded so secular. Weren’t we all supposed to be trusting in the Lord or casting all of our cares on Jesus? I have always struggled to like the word “choice”, as it implies we have control over things in a world where there are way too many things that are out of our control. It seems to me now like the perfect advice. Not only does the small stuff often bring happiness, I like it that happiness isn’t just something we can want but not have, but something we can choose.

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