In the mornings I like to make coffee (this is after the Belgimonster goes potty) and sit outside by the pool. I love mornings and always have. The birds are singing, and the light and coolness of mornings bring to mind all the best memories of life, even childhood, as we awaken with hope for each new day. I enjoy business in the sense of making plans, doing them, and feeling accomplished. Mornings are the way in which these things are paved. There is rarely a time when I just get up and go (except on the days I have to get my son to campus) without taking at least an hour to just think and absorb the day’s needs.
There is practical wisdom in getting up and taking a break before starting your work. According to the Bible, Jesus started His days in prayer and solitude, and I believe that He thought about all that He had to do according to the will of the Father. Even so, my mornings, even when I do not feel well or have a very difficult task or meeting on my plate, are my tiny refuge. If I do not get this time, I am not well in my mind the remainder of the day.
My house is 124 years old. There have been some updates through the century but for the most part, the bones of the house consist of 4000 square feet of pure heart pine that is too hard to drill with a diamond bit. I spent four days a week for ten months renovating this home ten years ago in preparation for us to live here. It was in extreme disrepair and had to be completely rewired and plumbed according to updated codes and requirements. The flooring and woodwork alone took me nearly four months to complete. Did I say we also put in HVAC and added two bathrooms where there was only one? Yeah, one bathroom with five kids. Right.
Toward the end of the project, my bride was on mandatory bedrest in the last trimester of a difficult pregnancy. So, we had a timeline that had a hard stop (the birth), and I had one less much-needed partner in the process. Robyn and I are masters at accomplishing a task together. But she had to keep safe. By the last week, I recall trying to mitigate some difficult places on the living room floor and on the banister of the staircase. I was exhausted, working 16-hour days and some nights staying in the house until 4 AM. My beautiful best friend, bride, and advocate would sit on the floor next to me and say, “You can do this James, you’re almost done.” She would add often, “That is good enough, it doesn’t matter that it’s not perfect.” Those little encouragements overcame the impossible burdens in my mind. (There is a lesson here on focus, encouragement, and purpose)
This morning as I sit outside enjoying a 57-degree coolness, I write this article because the stuff around me, for a minute, got in the way of the beauty of it all. I imagined the mockingbird above my head seeing all the stuff I have built, paved, and landscaped saying, “Man, look what these people have done to the place, it’s a wreck!” What if I didn’t have all this stuff in the way? What if I could just see the endless fields of this once dairy farm without the house, the garage, the pool, and the weeds? I am thankful for my old house. We bought this house for less than what people pay for a new truck and while I may have put a piece of my soul into it, in the end, the value here is not what I have accomplished, not the walls or property, but the lives that exist within the walls.
My family, friends, and even enemies that have been hosted here are the vital reality of why we have anything, to begin with. If we are not using our talents and treasures for the sake of others, in the end, we will be alone. Life is about living together with people in true love and hope. Just like the beauty of the trees, sky, and birds, they too are in the way at times of the perfect beauty of those around me.
I can enjoy all of the stuff and yet see past them to a simpler, more organic beauty. A deeper joy. This is what it is like to have true hope in the midst of a grand mess. For me, that hope is found in a man whose name is Jesus. The Bible calls Him the Christ (Anointed of God) and He lived in first century Palestine, claimed to be the Son of God, God in the Flesh, and the Savior of His people. He taught of God, performed miracles, and was killed and rose from the dead. He promises that He will make all things right and restore the simple glory of all things in time.
Even in the days of Jesus, I am often misled by the stuff. The culture, details, and the dust on the sandals can catch my attention that needs to be on Jesus. One day, according to His promise, we won’t have distractions. Until then, we are going to enjoy a weak beauty.
What beauty do you see in the world despite the dark and ugly?
What practices and hobbies do you have the help you appreciate the smaller things in life?
What areas of your personal faith often get overrun by other things?
Have you ever worked hard on a project and felt like giving up?
I want to know. Comment below. Let’s talk soon!