Thursday, April 13, 2017

Bland vs. Grand (And Perhaps Some More Mopping)

Here shortly, I will celebrate nine years of marriage to my husband. We are not quite newlyweds, and we are also by no means seasoned experts. We are stuck somewhere in the middle where you ask each other what you want for Christmas and you get a table top grill and a workout DVD for the total damage of $40. (True story.) For Valentine's Day, I got my husband a bag of "Big Hunk" candies that I randomly spotted at the grocery store, and I put them on his pillow for, I don't know...creative flair?? (Why, yes. He is one lucky, lucky man.)

It's not that the romance is dead so much as we are finally becoming comfortable enough in our affections not to have them influenced solely by the calendar date. It is so nice, and easy, and good. And did I mention easy? (Easiness cannot be overstated here.)
Sometimes, romance really is as easy as making time to sit on the front porch together for some drinks and conversation, or pouring a couple glasses of wine while you cook dinner together, or even having a hallway dance party while one of you holds a laundry basket. (True story again.)

I worry about our culture's desire to make everything be grand.

Do you know how I got asked out to prom? In the hallway, leaving the cafeteria, like this:
Boy: Hey Liz. Would you like to go to prom together?
Me: No, sorry. (True, and HA!)

Do you know how I announced my pregnancy on social media? One sentence, no picture: We're expecting another baby!
Gender reveal? Called my mom and dad on the phone. Told all the other people who asked when they asked.
My proposal was pretty nicely done, I won't lie. But immediately afterwards? Dinner at Bennigan's. (Not sure if those even still exist.)

None of these moments in my life were any less special for having been done simply.

I wish I could say that I am still that person most of the time--that given the chance to do these things all over again I would have the same sweet, simple expectations. And yet, I know I wouldn't. I, too, am a victim of the siren's call to always showcase my best. The appearance of grandeur has gotten the best of me.

I strive all the time to make my life seem like more. I put unnecessary pressure on myself for things to appear effortless. I set unrealistic expectations for things to always go perfectly. I cling to an unfounded belief that if I make my life appear just a little more special, then I will somehow actually be just a little more fulfilled.

This always sets me up for disappointment, because while life is beautiful, it doesn't always read as being grand.

And here's the kicker, folks. It's not SUPPOSED to be grand, and we're not supposed to *want* it to be.

-In 1 Thessalonians we're told to make it our ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind our own business, to work with our hands.
-Jeremiah 45 asks "Are you seeking great things for yourself? Don't do it!"
-Proverbs 13:7 says "A pretentious, showy life is an empty life. A plain and simple life is a full life. (MSG translation)
-Solomon, regarded as the wisest man on earth except for Jesus, shares this happy nugget:
"This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them-for this is their lot." (from Ecclesiastes 5)

Y'all, I'll say it... This is depressing.
Not fabulous.
Not Facebook-worthy.
Not at ALL what I picture when I think of abundant life.

I know I just wrote a blog about mopping and you're tired of me talking about it, but housework has to be done--and it ain't grand! Neither is disciplining children. Neither is taking care of sick people in your home. Neither is paying the bills, or driving your kids to and from school and ALLLLL the activities, or making all the meals, or having Saturday be "more laundry day".

These little moments may not seem like a whole lot, but they were never meant to stand alone.

The finest grocery store candy on a pillow is not enough on its own to be a seed for romance. (Shocking, I know.) But when it's paired with all the other memories and efforts and laughter and tears it somehow adds up to nine years of really good stuff.

That's how life goes. These little bitty, totally lackluster things that we spend life doing-when stringed together-make marriages, parenthood, friendships, community, homes--which are some pretty neat things! And then these things, when put together into the same story, make something grand.

That's all our lives are ever intended to be: single threads, seemingly unpresumptuous, but being woven together in God's grand story. It's not our tapestry, but we get to be a part of it. Our highest aim is to become humble, strong threads, made more beautiful by the multitude of all the others above and below and beside us.

We're making things much harder than they have to be. If a showy life is an empty life, then I have no business chasing it. Truly, if my lot is to eat, drink, work, and be happy then that ain't a bad life!! In moments where I want more, I think it takes me two hot milliseconds to realize how much I have, how good I have it, and how content I ought to be. Maybe even to the point of OVERWHELM. Jeremiah 45 says to me, "Do you seek great things for yourself, Liz? Don't do it! because your heart will literally burst with gratitude and awe and you'll just always be a sobbing mess."

Are you striving, friend? Don't.
Stick to your corner. Do your work. Love your people. Be content.

*I promise you don't need to impress me, because I already think you're pretty grand.*

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