Red Nails

Perfectly manicured nails, red, wrapped around a warm mug its contents the color of caramel. Books and journals lay piled about. I took a picture, but didn’t post it. Was it really necessary to perfectly crop and Instagram it, after all?

It’s funny how memories work. Red, lovely nails came to mind this morning as I snatched a few minutes, Bible open before kids clamored down the hall.

Widowed, I had hours of quiet— reflecting, reading, writing. I became close friends with solitude. It was a beautiful, needed, and gracious gift of God as I worked through the depths, leaning into the pain. Somehow the only way out was through. I think I’m much better for it as a result.

Some days I look back on those quiet times wistfully. But if I take off the rose colored glasses, loneliness was profound. 

The quiet was rich and sweet, a time of knowing Christ more intimately than I’d ever thought possible. But it was also a battle. I was surrounded by the best friends a girl could ask for in such a dark time. But loneliness clung like a heavy blanket. I had been part of two and now I was one. 

My days are no longer quiet. My nails no longer manicured or my hair beautifully colored. I don’t often get hours to sit and be quiet. Coffee cools down and then it lies forgotten in the microwave, cooling again.

But I am not lonely. 

Though days are exhausting and sometimes exasperating, they are rich. I prayed for these days for a long time. And they’re here. What lavish grace!

When sleep gets interrupted, when the day is a mundane slog of chores, or I deal with the hundredth sibling squabble, I tell myself “slow down.” See them. Remember, they are answers to prayer.

Sometimes the season feels long. “Even youths grow tired and weary,” (though one might argue I no longer get to claim youth). But don’t feel sorry for me. I adore these little ones close in age. 

I love seeing them reach new milestones, hearing the funny things they say, and watching their imaginations take full flight. I love being the one they run to when they are scared or hurt. There is joy in seeing them learn to clean up after themselves or put clothes in the hamper. I like teaching them life skills and watching them start to spread their wings. 

“Yes, you may pour your own milk.” 

Snuggling them on my lap book in hand; it’s one of our favorite places to be. I also love rocking my babies and even cuddling my 60 lb, gangly leg, tall 4 year old who stretches long across my body.

And I actually do like being home with my children. They’re pretty great people.

I taught kindergarten for awhile and later was a developmental therapist. Both were career paths I enjoyed, but I never saw myself doing them long term or continuing to climb the ranks.

But I always wanted to be mom. And it’s so good to remind myself. 

What a tremendous privilege to be entrusted with the shepherding of their souls, with the task of cultivating the soil of their hearts. 

And I am learning the joy of abiding, snatching time as it comes. Audio Bible in the shower, scripture songs in the car. I take advantage of nap times for reading. Index cards with truth line cabinet doors. Even the resources we use with our children stir my heart. Abiding doesn’t have to be hours of quiet with a leather bound journal in hand.

I do love to fill a good leather journal. But it’s not always what this season looks like. 

I don’t always abide well. Romans 7 barges in. But I press to know, press on to grow. I lean into Jesus. I run to find help from others when I can’t get truth into my own heart. I ask the Holy Spirit to guide my actions and words, filling me with “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.” (Galatians 5:22)

I painted Charlotte’s nails the other day; little finger nails seem much easier to paint than my own. I place the new memory beside the old. My hands alone. My hands holding hers. 

Red manicured nails and hours of quiet. It was good for a season. 

Pink nails on tiny hands. Snatches of quiet savored when I get it. Beauty in this season.

“For every thing there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.” Eccl 3:1

For Everything a Season

Folding laundry may be my undoing someday. Seriously, it’s my least favorite chore. The clothes are clean, and they’re doing just fine over there in a tumbling mountain not hurting anybody, thank you very much.

We seem to produce a lot of laundry for just the two of us. My husband is a giant, so that makes a difference, I suppose. Eventually my love of order trumps the chaos.

One day it occurred to me what a privilege it is to get to fold laundry. It’s a lovely side effect of God’s lavish grace on my life. I have another husband to love, care for, and to serve. I missed the every day things of being a wife.

Here we are in the beautiful mundane, the place of dishes and laundry, of ministry, work, and cooking dinner.  I should note that upon reading the draft, David interjected “Except nothing’s ever mundane when I’m around.”  He makes me smile.

Life buzzes with the hum of daily tasks. Ordinary days. After several years of deep sorrow, waiting, and big changes, this season feels a little foreign. I haven’t been here for awhile. I don’t always know what to do with it.

But I love it.

After loss, tiny moments become treasures. Playing games, seeking new adventures, dancing around the living room together, having quality time, being held tightly,—all are things I soak in.

Oh that I could bottle up these mundane days, storing them to revisit through a trip in Dumbledore’s pensieve. And if you don’t know about the pensieve, I’m not sure we can be friends.

I’m thankful for the beauty of mundane days. I well remember how much I longed for them. But sometimes I feel guilty about this calm and peaceful season. Maybe that seems weird.

Perhaps it was easier to worship God in the midst of trial than it is in the normal, typical every day sort of days. Am I wandering away from God because something “big” is not going on?  But what about my friends who are sufferingly deeply? Is it wrong that I am not suffering also?

But the older I get, the more I see how God often deals in seasons.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die: a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and  a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

As physical seasons reflect reversal, redemption, and newness of life, so do life’s seasons. They reflect the character of our God, and His unrelenting zeal to transform.

J. I Packer put it this way.

Live in the present, and enjoy it thoroughly; present pleasures are God’s good gifts. Though Ecclesiastes condemns flippancy, he clearly has not time for the superspirituality which is too proud or too pious ever to laugh and have fun. Seek grace to work hard at whatever life calls you to do, and enjoy your work as you do. Leave to God its issues; let Him measure its ultimate worth; your part is to use all the good sense and enterprise at your command in exploiting the opportunities that lie before you… We can be sure that the God who made this marvelously complex world order,… and who compassed the even greater redemption from Sin and Satan knows what He’s doing, and ‘doeth all things well.’ even if for the moment He hides his hand. We can trust Him and rejoice in Him even when we cannot discern His path.”

Therefore, I get to enjoy the lovely early days of still being considered “newlyweds.”  Life is not about always being happy, but sometimes happiness is part of God’s grace. There is no need for guilt. God is sovereign over the ebbs and flows. His narratives are complex, and there are appropriate times for every emotion. Of course, beauty and calm are His good gifts.

A year and a few weeks ago, some of my dear friends experienced the deaths of their twins born too early. Apart from Jon’s death, being with them that night was one of the hardest things I’ve experienced. Grief was deep and heavy. But what a privilege it was to hold their tiny, perfectly formed babies, to see God’s grace surrounding them, to cry out to the Lord for them, and to weep and ache with them.

In the same week these friends remembered what would have been their babies’ first birthdays, David and I traveled for a family member’s wedding. We were in the thick of wedding preparations and all the delights that come with them. It was an exhausting, but immensely joy-filled week. What an tremendous privilege it is be in a wedding and to share in a couple’s radiant joy!

Seasons. Contrasts. Walking beside others both in joy and sorrow are God’s good gifts.  Likewise, in my life sorrows and joys are equally God’s good gifts. Though it’s not always easy to understand, both kinds of days teach me the gospel, pointing me to Christ.

  • I remember the sorrow and suffering of the cross.
  • I recall the triumph and joy of the resurrection.

Both are necessary.

As long as this season lasts, I’ll just keep soaking up the sunshine with raised hands and a thankful heart.

Thank you Lord, for good and beautiful gifts in every season.


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