there is beauty in detail

Jane and I walk the road that leaves our little town and wanders along the shore. Snow-capped mountains to the west shine in the morning sunlight. Sailboats sleep on the glassy bay. We spot a heron, three seals and two coyotes on our walk. We are blessed to live in this place.

I stand in a farm field in the warm afternoon. The fragrance of strawberries rises to entice me. A glistening red catches my eye and I eagerly bend to add another to the heavy bowl.

I wander the beach below my house. At my feet, a thousand sand dollars. I stoop and stare into a tide pool of life: inhabitants blissfully unaware of exposure.

There is beauty in these points of finery. Footnotes of love from the Maker of all things.

On cold, gray Puget Sound days that fill most of the year, we remind ourselves there is a piece of heaven all around us. If only we will wait. We will see this glory.

* * * * *

We moved to Washington in July ten years ago.

The youngest of our four children was just a few weeks old. I spent the weeks before his birth packing our house in California, praying that this was the right thing.

We were leaving my dear family. The close friends with whom we had gone to college and walked together through the first ten years of marriage and parenting. A school and a church (our employers) that loved us. A pediatrician, so important to a young mom of four, who made me laugh and who assured me on what seemed to be a weekly basis that the sicker they are when they’re babies, the healthier they’ll be as children.

I packed in tears. But I also hoped.

The first serious mention of seminary had been on my 32nd birthday. But it was to be a year before we would move. A year we thought the world might end. Terrorist attacks, painful revelations, a surprise baby and awful sickness.

I had been as enthusiastic as Dave. I convinced myself that in the right place, our marriage and his health would be better. We researched schools. I made plans and budgets. We could easily pay off current debts in a year. We could do this.

But headaches and money problems had persisted. And anger crept back in.

After one particularly heated fight (during which I’d thrown an iron pot across the kitchen and dented the wall behind Dave’s head) I wrote in my journal: “Dave is not a fool. There was a reason deeper than just folly with money . . . at last he broke and said he had been running from what he knew God was calling him to do for 10 years . . . we cried and prayed and I knew right away that something had changed. . . he will be a different person from now on, I know.”

Seminary was supposed to be the answer. Dave had simply been running from God’s call. Like Jonah. That’s why the boat of our life was tossed and sinking.

(Years later, I read about how addicts in their downward spiral attempt to end their addiction by “geographical escapes.” But I knew nothing of that then.)

* * * * *

We arrived here in July of 2002. Jobless. Homeless. Optimistic.

Gracious cousins and friends took us in. Dave, me, and the kids who were 7, 4, 2 and a newborn. Six of us. Family and friends sent money to help us stay afloat.

Then came a terrifying car accident with all our little ones on board. Totaled our van. And a new back injury gave Dave an entree into any doctor’s office for pills.

I had picked up the habit for busy seasons of reading through the book of Psalms in a month, five Psalms a day 1, 31, 61, 91, 121 on the first day, etc.

Promises fill my journals:

By awesome deeds Thou dost answer us in righteousness, O God of our salvation. Psalm 65:5

Blessed is the Lord who daily bears our burden. Psalm 68:19

For every beast of the forest is mine. The cattle on a thousand hills. Psalm 50:10

But weeks of homelessness and unemployment turned to months.

The enthusiastic journal entries came to an abrupt end. Despair crept into the pages once again.

* * * * *

I am deep in discouraged thought. As he settles beside me on the back porch in the evening sun, there is a tone of comfort in my teenage son’s deep voice. He puts his arm around me and it takes me back a decade . . .

Three small kids and an unhappy baby, homeless, homeschooling the oldest, jobless, living only off the generosity of friends and family. Exhausted. Hopeless.

I took the kids for a drive in our new-to-us van and turned on the cd I’d picked up at a yard sale.

God will make a way Where there seems to be no way
He works in ways we cannot see, He will make a way for me
He will be my guide, Hold me closely to His side
With love and strength for each new day
He will make a way, He will make a way.
By a roadway in the wilderness You lead me
Rivers in the desert will I see
Heaven and earth will fade, But His word will still remain
And He will do something new today.

A deep little voice from the back seat interrupts my thoughts. He notices my tears.

“We’re in a wilderness, aren’t we Mommy?”

Yes, baby. We are.

He sings. What does he know of wilderness? He is four.

Out of the mouths of babes.

You have taught children and infants to tell of Your strength. Psalm 8:1&2

* * * * *

I think I’m going through a phase.

It’s possible that it’s just taking time for the cold and gray to unfetter me and allow me to enjoy the sun.

But I’m inclined to think it’s my age. And the number of and ages of our children. There is much about having teenagers that resembles the toddler years, I am sorry to say.

Constant activity. Difficulty making time for my friends. Peacemaking. Falling into bed exhausted at the end of the day. Unknowns that must be released to God. Soon I will be launching them into the world.

And then there are these words. I don’t have the time.  Work. Responsibilities. Self-consciousness. But they press on me . . .

The Psalms are once again my daily food.

* * * * *

Morning sun warms the new chair I placed next to my bed (another blessed yard sale find). I stop what I am hurrying about and sit down. Reveling in light, pleased by the unexpected.

God, help me to notice. These details remind me of Your love.

This morning, words from Psalm 71 are a message of encouragement:

My life is an example to many, because you have been my strength and protection. That is why I can never stop praising You; I declare Your glory all day long. vs. 7-8

“I will tell everyone about your righteousness. All day long I will proclaim your saving power, though I am not skilled with words.” vs. 15

“You have allowed me to suffer much hardship, but you will restore me to life again and lift me up from the depths of the earth.” vs. 20

It is a Psalm of telling. Even if it takes a thousand words.

* * * * *

God speaks in the details.

It is the way He spoke His encouragement to the patriarchs and prophets. In the water and wind, in the storm, the stars, the grains of sand. And to His disciples. Consider the lilies of the field. Are you not of more value than they? And it is the way He speaks to us now.

Images and words He writes on my heart. The still small, but deep, voice. A ray of sunshine, a lifting of my eyes to the mountains, a sweet fragrance, a child’s voice, a song, a verse.

Stop. Notice.

He is whispering His love.

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