The kids weren't with me last Sunday.
And, in that day's quiet, I took down our Christmas tree.
I slowly packed away the pieces of my great-grandmother's blessing.
I packed away the homemade ornament Benj made me for Christmas this year, and the German pickle, and the bubble lights.
And, as I slowly stripped the tree of its laden branches, and walked round and round removing strand after strand of bright twinkly lights, I found myself thinking about the beauty of now.
The last few years --- and even the last couple of months --- have taught me that what you have today might change tomorrow.
And the truth is?
That's an excruciating life lesson.
People that you love may leave -- through death or some other way of moving on. They may be here one day, and gone the next.
Relationships can change.
The beauty of the moment doesn't always stay.
Life inevitably marches forward.
But, in the wake of grieving several changes, I've also learned that beauty waits for you in the moments that come next, even when you can't see it coming.
(Sometimes you have to wait while it's in the works of showing up.)
I've learned that grief can fill you up, and spilling over, with gratitude.
For the experiences.
For the people.
For the love.
For the friendships.
For what you've picked up along the way.
That pain is a humbling, staggeringly beautiful thing.
And, as I listened to Bach's B Minor Mass and put Christmas away, I found myself thinking about being grateful for right now.
In that precise moment, I found myself reflecting on the gratitude I feel for four beautiful children to talk to and hold and learn from.
And I felt grateful that they're all here --- at least today.
Now, a week later, I'm thinking about embracing the concept on a wider scale---
embracing the paradox that fallibility and change are consistent parts of life.
And honestly, sometimes I'm not very good at letting go.
Sometimes I can love too hard -- or, conversely, not enough.
Sometimes, in wanting things to be a certain way or seeing things through a particular lens, you can neglect to truly acknowledge the feelings and needs of others, even though that's never your intention.
(And hey! Here's to life and figuring it out as you go, right?
Can I get an AMEN on that?)
But it seems like, when I round the corner and let go?
Life becomes bigger.
Possibility becomes bigger.
There are less limits and more gratitude.
And somehow, living that way seems to unlock gratitude for everything that IS making my heart sing, for all that is beautiful, right now.
All the bright lights of life, shining---even amid the struggle, even amid the questions.