Eleven and a half years ago, Justin and I went away for one night to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. We left at home (with his Gramma and auntie) our 2 1/2 month old infant son. (We packed the pump and several glass jars.) We stopped at the grocery store before leaving town and bought fresh October whole crab and a plank of salmon, then skipped away to a beautiful vacation home owned by relatives out in the San Juan Islands....experiencing the oddity of driving in the opposite direction from our baby and knowing we were doing something that was important for our marriage.
We arrived at the house in the evening, barbecued our salmon and cooked a smattering of gorgeous fresh veggies, then photographed our food and each other sitting out on the deck, just a stone's throw from the water. We exchanged our "paper" gifts and talked about our son. We sat on the bed in our jammies and ate crab dipped in melted butter. And we giggled when we turned on the cable TV (a luxury for us) and discovered a cooking show called The Naked Chef.
Of course we fell in love with Jamie nearly instantly, once we saw the magic he could make from a few simple, fresh, local ingredients. We don't have access to television and we've caught very little of that magic over the years, but he remains a special figure to us. We spent our first anniversary with him!
So a couple of years ago, on a cold Christmas morning, I was delighted to open an oversized package in my stocking and discover a cookbook: Jamie's Dinners. I was even more delighted to look inside and see that our favorite chef had married and had two beautiful babies of his own. I still remember the bliss of that moment: Christmas morning breakfast was in the oven, the coffee was brewing, I had my Beloved and all of my sons about me, and all was right with the world. I wanted to freeze time, sit with my mug of coffee, and read every word of that cookbook cover to cover--twice.
But Justin was beside me, urging me to continue opening the trinkets of my stocking. I persisted, relishing the moment, and said No, no, I'm so happy right here, please, this is so much more than I ever could have wished for, let me be. I'm so happy. I want for nothing. He laughed and protested: But there are gifts for you under the tree!
In the end, he won out. He had chosen special things and couldn't wait for me to open them. My children didn't understand how I could look at a Christmas tree brimming with bounty and not want to dive in headfirst. We enjoyed the gifts of our stockings, we shared breakfast together, and we opened the tree gifts...but when all was said and done, you better believe I found a quiet little corner of the living room and snuggled right back up with my new cookbook.
In February of this year, I was 8 weeks into training for the Seattle Rock and Roll half marathon when I missed a period. Thinking it was nothing because I was running 5 to 6 miles at a time with no loss of energy, I assured my husband that I must just have the dates wrong or my training was affecting me physically. But within a matter of weeks, when I began falling asleep on the couch at 9pm every night, he started giving me knowing glances. I was still unsure. A new baby? Really? When Henry is only 9 months old? Our usual MO is one year...
In those quiet first weeks when he and I began to adjust to the idea of our family growing again....privately, without involving the children or making it public, taking our time to move through the normal range of emotions....I remembered my cookbook on that crisp December morning and that feeling of wanting to pause time. For the past seven years, God has been whispering to me about living with open arms, living sacrificially, holding nothing back. Primarily this has played out in the way that we have perceived our growing family. I want so much to learn to live with this heart! I crave a life of listening to that still, small voice and being willing to follow its leading. It's a long, drawn-out message and though I've made strides, I feel like I have so much further to go. This was the first time that I felt like I wanted to put my hand up and say Abba, no, it's too much, you have given too much love, these gifts are too great, I am so undeserving. Leave me in my corner to enjoy what you have given! ...and I hear him saying, But there is so much more for you under the tree!
Oh, our God is so gracious. How humbled I feel by the way that he continues to give, and give, and give, even when I am fumbling with what he has already given. He gave us this land...and we have allowed the grass to get too high and the weeds to overtake the flowerbeds. He gave us these children, and I misspeak when I attempt to parent them. He gave me a roof over my head...and its corners have cobwebs. And the floors need to be swept and mopped. And my desk is overflowing with papers...
But still he says, Child, there is more for you under the tree. And I am overwhelmed at his goodness. I repent of my inadequacies and I thank him for new mercies every morning. To get up, to see the sun rising, to dust myself off and to try again to make what he has given into something beautiful. I want it to be beautiful. And in the midst of all of it, I find an inkling of communion with him, and I feel like I get to experience the tiniest bit of the love that he has for me.