when i was a little girl i belonged to the type of churches who loved to bring in people to do "special numbers". this was usually an elderly gentleman belting out a hymn for the offeratory (my mom would advise "if you can't help laughing when you look at him, close your eyes like i do!"); or a middle-aged woman singing boisterously to a recorded track; or a young, terrified girl, skinny and awkward but proud in her accomplishments, sitting down at the piano and wavering through "arms of love" by amy grant. (that last one was me). but once and a while we were priveledged to have a WHOLE service dedicated to "special numbers", and if we were really lucky, it would be a travelling singing group. and really really lucky? (i know you're thinking "i don't believe in luck. i believe in blessing". keep those thoughts to yourself, i'm trying to be poetic here). a singing family.
i always instantly crushed on the older brother. of course! i dreamed of us marrying and having our own family singers. present-day von-trapps. we would look into each other's eyes when we sang. our kids would wear matching outfits. i would wear heels.
well, on sunday night my dear husband had a concert. and i got to sing with him. and on the last song, our little girl joined us. she sat on my lap and i wrapped my arms around her and she crooned away into the mic. she was glorious. the perfect mix of timid and brave. and i sang my heart out with her on my lap and my hubby beside me. it was a life-moment that i'm sure i will look back on with happy heartache for years to come. if i'm ever in a coma talk to me about sunday night and i'm sure it will snap me out of it.
and to be clear - no matching outfits. and no heels. we actually pillaged our living room and set it up on the church stage - rug, chair, lamp, painting. so i sat bare-footed with my toes in the nice plush rug, feeling at home, despite the many pairs of eyes on me. i loved every second.
this week my dear friend Cori (hi cori!) sent me a short excerpt from a book she's reading. it's called "the gifts of imperfection". you had me at imperfection. let me give you a taste (or a tastey as my son says):
Joy and gratitude can be very vulnerable and intense experiences. we are an anxious people and many of us have very little tolerance for vulnerability. our anxiety and fear can manifest as scarcity. we think to ourselves:
i'm not going to allow myself to feel this joy because i know it won't last.
acknowledging how grateful i am is an invitation for disaster.
i'd rather not be joyful than have to wait for the other shoe to drop.
i've always been prone to worry and anxiety, but after i became a mother, negotiating joy, gratitude, and scarcity felt like a full-time job. for years, my fear of something terrible happening to my children actually prevented me from fully embracing joy and gratitude. every time i came too close to softening into sheer joyfulness about my children and how much i love them, i'd picture something terrible happening; i'd picture losing everything in a flash.
most of us have experienced being on the edge of joy only to be overcome by vulnerability and thrown into fear. until we can tolerate vulnerability and transform it into gratitude, intense feelings of love will often bring up the fear of loss.
these are anxious and fearful times, both of which breed scarcity. we're afraid to lose what we love the most, and we hate that there are not guarantees. we think not being grateful and not feeling joy will make it hurt less. we think if we can beat vulnerability to the punch by imagining loss, we'll suffer less. we're wrong. there is one guarantee: if we're not practicing gratitude and allowing ourselves to know joy, we are missing out on the two things that will actually sustain us during the inevitable hard times.
woah woah woah!!!! i should tattoo that somewhere noticable - like the tops of my hands, or write it on my contact lenses. i would add to it though...there is another guarantee: there is a God who loves you and who is worthy of trust. a God, who i sang about, and sang for, with my daughter cradled on my lap, my heart bursting with joy.
God, i am filled with gratitude.