Today Ohio got its first big snow of the year. The world outside is frigid and cold, but perfectly painted all in white. Days like these, filled with a little more quiet, gives me more time to reflect on what is coming and what has gone. So I think about my year - Surrounded by grace and then some. love. joy. peace. patience. kindness. gentleness. faithfulness. self-control. (Check out Galatians 5:22-23) Why these things, in this order?
Grace, I think, has been my theme for this year. Being the year of my nieces birth - a tiny girl named Grace took the stage like a permanent sunny day in my life and with her brought this very appropriate word. It suits her perfectly. She, so aptly named, came in her own time, in her own sweet way and with her, changed everything about the world that was before her existence. As I watch her grow, she is my reminder that someone can be filled, so naturally with gifts from God that is simply ingrained in her spirit. It pours out on everyone who encounters her. I aspire to that.
And so in the reflections on my year - I am learning - always learning, how to give myself and the ones I am surrounded by, a bit more of that grace.
Meaning, any and all of the following: elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action. favor or good will. mercy; clemency; pardon. favor shown in granting a delay or temporary immunity. the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God. the influence or spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them.
When I was in college, I was an interdisciplinary fine arts and American studies major, and so, my purpose became seeing the interconnectedness and relationships in that which I was studying.... Oh, St. Olaf, you've made your way into how I've set my sails on my life. Go figure. My lens is filled with these relationships and so, as the fruits of the spirit so naturally do - they create a relationship. Each within the others, they bring out all the rest of the goodness we hide within our crevices.
Love - tenderness, passion, affection - but it's bigger than that. It is filled with joy, it brings out the counterpoint of peace in its opposite, it is a practice for patience, requires gentleness and a faithfulness larger than we can imagine. And self-control, too - which keeps all things in check - tying itself to each of the attributes above.
Joy - delight, happiness, wonder. What a word is joy - and how can you build it into every aspect of the life you live? You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy. Psalms 16:11
Peace - Peace is not something you wish for; It is something you make, something you do, something you are and something you give away. - Robert Fulghum And too, it completes the circle. It cannot be found externally, but from something settled inside. Peace fosters courage - and that is what the fruits of the spirit require. A courage to take them on.
Patience - I am wondering what miracles God has hiding in his shirt sleeves. And my hunch is that for 2011, patience may become a focal point. It is something this world does not give enough of; Patience for the learning curve, Patience with ourselves and each other - it is a natural extension of grace.
Kindness and Gentleness - I pair these two together because in my mind they are twins. They live and breathe the same air - the same care, the same compassion, similar challenges - can you really be kind without being gentle in return?
Faithfulness - In our world today, we have more distractions, quite possibly, than any time before us. To be faithful we must first be faithful to ourselves - finding our individual connectedness to the spirit that dwells within ourselves. Only when we've found our inner "faith" can we extend this to another. And so, to be faithful is to know who you are, what you believe and to stick to it. Things will, as they do, adapt and change with the eb and flow of life. But to be faithful to another is also the faithfulness within ones self. Without faith, can there really be love?
Self-control - Control in so many connotations can be held in a negative light. But think of self-control in terms of all the antonyms of the words above - hate, jealousy, anger, bitterness, meanness, infidelity, hard, hurtful, anxious - If we use our own self-control to tie down these less than stellar words when they can be found within ourselves, how much better would each and every encounter of our lives be? So in many cases, self-control gets to play the role of the outcast. The connotation is that it takes the "fun" out of it. But I think there is a time for every season under heaven - and so, exercising self-control is sometimes the right thing. Tying down the darkness within ourselves gives the fruits of the spirit a chance to grow.
With all these things in mind - I approach my life - a birthday, Christmas, a new year and hope for all of you "As you abound in everything, in faith and knowledge and diligence and in all your love - may you abound in this grace, also."