Irene hit us yesterday morning. For all the hurricane predictions, she was not as wild a woman as we all expected, reduced merely to a tropical storm by the time she reached us. However, she unleashed a bit of fury in her passing by, knocking over trees, throwing debris all across our lawn, tossing flowerpots onto the ground as if they were bits of paper lying around. I opened the door to shake out a towel, and she whipped the brush I had just used out of my hand, flinging it several meters away on the lawn. I pressed into the wind nearly clawing my way forward finding the truant hair brush lying on the grass. I wonder what a real hurricane feels like.
We spent the day inside as the winds remained high. The children had no interest in going outside, choosing instead to play with toys neglected during the busy summer months and read books soon to be returned to the library. By 9:00a.m., the power was out, just before little ones would come to the table for morning brunch, as is our summer time tradition. No worries, as my thoughtful husband had made a pot of coffee at 6:00 a.m. prior to leaving the house for morning chores. I settled in on the couch with my reading. By evening, the winds had died down enough for us to take a drive to the western shore, although waves still crashed relentlessly upon the wet sandy shore.
We took our camera to capture the children, but were mesmerized in between by the setting sun on the horizon. We took picture after picture of the sun as it made its descent into the ocean, until it slipped away like an egg yolk, leaving behind a pink trail of ribbon woven in and out of grey clouds. The children jumped waves in the afterglow until the chill chased them from the water. We happened upon a small waterfall between various slabs of sandstone. Little ones climbed up, over and down again, delighted with their discovery. There were stones to carry as small hands picked treasures, wet and cold, from the slick sand. A few special finds in the form of green, brown and white sea glass were collected in the pockets of my fleece jacket. Pictures of each child were taken, frame after frame, depicting moments frozen in time. As we made our way back towards our van, I stopped for one last lingering look at the rough waters mirroring the glorious sunset, reflecting light on water. A lady I know from the neighbourhood was behind me as I turned to go back to the waiting crew up in the parking area, and I remarked to her how special it was to see this view. She replied that it was something she took for granted.
Initially, I was taken aback at the comment, slightly unhinged at her flippant words. Oh, that we would never cease to be amazed at the power of beauty and awed at the glory of nature. Yet, I have since thought how easily I am guilty of doing the same. I am the expert in taking things for granted, having had lots of practice doing so on a daily basis. I dash in and out of the house, from day to day, rarely stopping to examine the littlest of blessings. Bunches of grapes growing in thick clumps on the climbing vine, a lone raspberry still remaining on the bush after all the others have been eaten, a plum hanging on a branch that broke off during the storm. Children jumping on our trampoline, a kitten purring, flower petals opened to the sun. Good gifts from a good God, I humbly offer up praise from a thankful heart. O Lord, our Lord, How excellent is your name in all the earth, who have set Your glory above the heavens! (Psalm 8:1, NKJV)
It is not just in these that I forget to offer praise. Praise for the good as well as what I consider the bad. Those times when the children are whining, screaming, crying, fighting, I must remember that there is good to be found. When I feel tension in my marriage and communication breaks down, there is good to be found. When I feel on the outside of the clique and friendship falls short, there is good to be found. When I am sick, tired, exhausted and weary, there is something of worth to be mentioned amidst the doldrums of everyday living. In the words of Matt Redman, I echo his refrain:
Blessed be Your Name in the land that is plentiful, where Your streams of abundance flow, Blessed be Your Name. Blessed be Your Name, when I’m found in the desert place, though I walk through the wilderness, Blessed be Your Name. Every blessing You pour out I’ll turn back to praise, when the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say: Blessed be the Name of the Lord, Blessed be Your Name, Jesus. Blessed be the Name of the Lord, Blessed be Your Glorious Name. Blessed be Your Name, when the sun’s shining down on me. When the world’s all as it should be, Blessed be Your Name. Blessed be Your Name on the road marked with suffering, though there’s pain in the offering, Blessed be Your Name. Every blessing You pour out I’ll turn back to praise, when the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say: Blessed be the Name of the Lord, Blessed be Your Name, Jesus. Blessed be the Name of the Lord, Blessed be Your Glorious Name. You give and take away, You give and take away, my heart will choose to say, Lord blessed be Your Name. (Matt Redman)
We walk again tonight, this time along the eastern shore. We sit, my husband and I, on a picnic table at the edge of the sandy beach. We watch waves crash and share dessert: Chocolate Confusion and Toffee Sticky Pudding. All that is missing is the coffee. There is sadness in life, and we talk of those things in the quiet of this moment together. We talk of loss, pain and suffering. And yet, we laugh and find joy amidst the sorrow. Life is somehow beautiful. You give and take away, You give and take away. My heart will choose to say, Lord Blessed be Your Name. We walk hand in hand to the waiting van that will transport us back to life, in all its messy glory. A return to children who will doubtless fight the instant we walk in the door. To a house and yard that demand we take notice. To stray cats that need food and shelter. To jobs, bills and the pressures of adulthood. To people we know that have great sadness, sickness and loss. And yet, there can be joy and praise in spite of it all. There can be joy on the road marked with suffering.
What then shall we say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulations, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Yet, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-32, 35, 37-39, NKJV)
And so the Blessed is the Blesser, sparing nothing to impart love on those undeserving of that love. And we are able to give thanks for the beauty of moments spent in joy as well as those that are lived amidst the everyday rubble. Beauty from ashes, joy from sorrow, blessing from loss. Yet this life is somehow beautiful, worthy of living well and taking notice of its gifts. It is a blessing; may we not take it for granted.