This week some friends helped put up my Christmas lights outside on the house, garage and garden shed.
We talked and laughed and replaced bulbs and got everything all lit up.
It's pretty magical.
And even though the lights are up, my front lawn and backyard are covered with leaves, but I'm resisting cleaning them up until everything is down.
It's a veritable patchwork of browns and yellows and maroon rust out there.
It absolutely looks like Autumn, and absolutely just like Thanksgiving is around the corner.
But, earlier this week, it looked like this from the kitchen table.
One morning at breakfast, we sat there with hot cocoa and bagels with cream cheese, and clementines.
(The smell of citrus takes me right to Christmas, by the way. I kept noticing it that morning and it was deliciously perfect.)
We were reading about Jesus' teaching about knowing people by their fruits, about judging something by what comes from it.
Sometimes I wonder about the fruit I offer, the big deals I make out of stuff that should be small deals -- you know, the stuff that doesn't really matter but drives you crazy, and so you scratch it, even when you know you shouldn't.
(That's called stupidity.)
I wonder about my motives.
About my interactions with others.
About if I care enough or too little.
About all the things I wish I wasn't.
And I find myself really grateful for the way that life, over the last couple of years, has made me seriously evaluate a lot of things.
There's a lot of stuff I see in NEON YELLOW.
I worry a lot about whether I am learning the lessons, because it's really important to me that I do.
I'm reading Leif Enger's Peace Like A River right now, and I have loved it.
It has made me crack right up in several parts (the humor! the vocabulary! the characters!), and also made me pause. Several times.
Like last night, when I read this little passage:
"...all Waltzer's constellations told such turned legends. There was the Bowsprit, about another rotten boy who slew his father while he slept and later became a fire-breathing pirate who devoured his victims' limbs and decorated the rail of his ship with their heads. This fellow tramped up and down the high seas challenging men and gods until a brave captain met him in battle, the two of them going sword and sword across decks for days without rest. At last the captain by superior craft cleft the other in two, at an angle, so that the pirate's head with one arm and shoulder thumped on the deck with a terminal snarl. Job done, the captain returned to his ship to wash for dinner and looked in his polished brass mirror. You see what's coming: The poor captain saw not his own face but the pirate's, and the nastiest grin all over it. Following this all his noble impulses fell away like a mail shirt, and he developed a wild controlling lust for jeweled plunder and an appetite for boiled legs and arms. 'So you can win the battle, Reuben'---Walter shrugged---'but the war is lost long ago.'"
That last line stirs me: "You can win...but the war is lost long ago."
I read it and stopped, and then started thinking.
How many times am I hell-bent for leather on something that ultimately doesn't matter?
How often do I sit and really listen?
Am I focused on the things that matter most?
What fruit am I offering my children?
And then there's that whole bit about fruit, too.
The thing I love about Jesus' questions is that they always invite pondering.
They leave me looking inward, finding so very much that is lacking,
even though I find myself encouraged by the beckoning.
Because it is love.
I love His questions and I love His insights.
And I love them even more, I suppose, because they were meant for my imperfections.
They were crafted to urge me forward.
They shed light on my darkness.
And so all I really have today is that I'm thinking about this:
Come. Back. In.
Listen with my heart.
Say "I'm sorry" more.
Focus on love.
Put my phone down.
And listen some more.
Feel the joy.
Like citrus mornings where you break bread with those you love.
You read good stuff.
You talk about things.
You sing together, doing actions around the kitchen table.
Your fingers looked cracked with yellow from peeling clementines and your nose is ripe with it.
All that extra noise goes away and it suddenly becomes hushed inside.
And you know that
this is real.
This is true.
This is simple.
This is the very. best. thing.