What joy! I arose this morn to be greeted by a gray sky and a chill wind. I squealed with delight as I donned a fleecy covering and went out to release the chickens. Now and again God gifts our dew-parched lands with a crisp hint of autumn smack in the middle of summer. Though this has proven the mildest summer of our nine years in residence here at Wisteria Cottage, the break from the monotonous blue-sky, heated-dry spell washes over me like a refreshing sprinkle of rain. (Dare I hope these gray travelers overhead contain moisture destined from my thirsty gardens? Oh yes, I do!) Customarily our August days blast like a furnace, with many days topping 100 degrees. BUT . . . I do hasten to add that each season experienced here has held a unique temperament, no two seasons alike despite the same title.
I sit here nestled in my favorite floral chair, sipping white jasmine tea from a blue willow tea cup, and I thank the Lord for so much that has risen to greet me already in this day. Top of my list: My blood pressure hovers gently above “normal” without any medication. Next: Gary’s business has picked up (taking him away to LA this day with my laptop . . . thus I tap away on my daughter’s testy Vista-born model). Having gone from languid to overloaded in a flash, our business has resumed its health and no longer borders on closure. God be praised.
From here on out my heart flows over with praises to God for health, harmony in my family, and a heartiness in daily life that catches me up in an eddy of praise-filled joy even on the most difficult of days. (“Do we have more difficulties than most?” I used to wonder wearily, but have since found our lot to be just right despite my reflex protestations to the contrary.)
I have learned a simple secret along this pock-marked path I call life:
Set Free the things clutched so firmly
Let life escape my imprisoning ways and the spontaneity of life and its many blessings will roll me like a playful wave, leaving me unscathed to play another day.
Once upon a time I assigned every facet of my life a value and kept a meticulous accounting. I sniffed in disdain at activities not offering a tangible, goal-oriented return. I fell victim to programming by those I perceived to be “successful” and I pared away all but the essential elements needed for SUCCESS. Sadly, my definition of success narrowed to include only the perfect, impressive, admired, applauded, and coveted. Unhealthy goals became nooses that strangled me, choking off my unique gifts.
In addition, I learned (quite painfully) the lessons of life in a fickle world (even a Christian one). My Grade A performances reaped applause and rave reviews immediately, but faded quickly – even yielding harsh critique in time. An off-day or a misspelled word became a tragedy in my precarious world of rules and etiquette. I flogged myself emotionally until I broke and admitted FAILURE. Like a ray of sunshine after a horrendous torrent, my brokenness showed the way to joy. The washing flood of tears revealed the pathway hidden under countless layers of earthly dust I had painstakingly collected. The wracking of my sobbing shoulders loosed the chains I had wrapped so tightly in the name of discipline. Like a butterfly broken free from a chrysalis, I stretched and soothed the cramped wings I had ignored in my futile quest.
Old habits die hard . . . especially when others depend on your slavery to meet their goals. I found my fabulous new-born wings weighted down with all manner of debris and decay. I had to lighten the load or lie immobile in my own dust. Slowly I severed the ties to things and thoughts inconsistent with freedom and joy. My load lightened. Some rushed to help me, but like a true butterfly I had to perform the task alone. Besides, I found that even the most well-meaning aid kicked up dust and imperiled my tenuous progress. Without malice I found a quiet hollow and set about simplifying my life.
I found a portal to joy whilst I worked quietly in that solo place – for unlike my expectation that “removing” things from my life would yield space, emptiness, loneliness . . . I found the opposite. The more “Stuff” I discarded, the more light and life I experienced. The material world and all my lacquered ideas had sealed me away from vitality. Simpler surrounds cleared the fog and I saw richer, deeper, fuller, sweeter, softer, longer, lovelier, and oh so many more treasures gleaming through the chink in my worldly walls. Where once I had set such store by the things my hands could make or my voice could command or my mind could devise, I now stood spellbound at a drop of grace . . . a gift of such beauty that I had not earned, nor ever could.
Sadly, my cloak of pride lasted longer than all the other obfuscating obstacles. I clung to the tattered fabric of “being right” because I feared that admission and abandonment of so much of the “acquired but useless” in my life would blow out the flame of joy burning just out of reach. I wanted to be fully free, BUT experience had taught me (been drilled in to my head during childhood) that everything has a price and a fool shares all for free. Would I find another booby trap if I let go my final garment of self, as had happened so often in the past? Did I grasp at a figment, only to be laughed at when I tumbled? Did those voices of shame and anger in the dark fringes really know the truth? Should I return to their calling command?
With little left to gain from my threadbare past, I slipped from the cloak of drab and walked through the crack in the wall and into a warm meadow. The sliver of light I had been drawn to proved but a glint. Once past the last vestige of prided wall I saw the landscape spread far and wide. A glance over my shoulder afforded a last opportunity to retreat into the dusky din of my conjured land of success, laying as it did in swirled dust-choked darkness. I turned to the light-filled expanse, inhaled the sweetness of a cloverfield and ran headlong to dip my toes into a crystal brook of icy chill. I found my arms free to follow my feet in dances of no purpose, save to celebrate the lightness of the moment.
Amazing! When I let go all but the simplest facets, my life grew into abundance. To run free and naked without fear of failure or loss . . . surely the Garden of Eden seeded this place!
I no longer seek perfection, for I know it cannot be found in this world. Instead, I find joy in catching sight of silvery shooting stars and flecks of pure gold glancing off a sunlit pond and every other fleeting moment of awe and wonder – rewards for keeping the dust at bay. My new world falls under storm clouds of fear and worry. My new world gets cluttered and tattered and jumbled just as the old dark one did. (I live here, you see, and am such a clutter-loving soul, it seems -- and did I mention the garments of pride I keep finding in my closet? Who knew pride came in so many colors, sizes, shapes, and fashions? Ugh!) The saving grace still rests in the rays of pure hope and love and joy that break though the clouds when I least expect it, but most need reminding. A rolled-up sleeve, a dustcloth, and a bended knee sweep away the gathered glop and I espy a sparkly glimpse of “what will be,” the glittering glint of “what awaits” contrasted with the indelible memory of that distant land of darkness and dust and ALL THAT WORK. This ray of hope frees me to dance today with joy and peace of mind.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I see some girls and kitties frolicking in the blissful coolness of an August afternoon and I do not wish to miss another moment of it now that I’ve finished my “dusting” for the day.