it's funny how quickly we forget things that we promise ourselves to always remember. it's funny how we can be so convicted by something, and then stumble into the very same mistake the next day. it's frustrating, troubling, and funny being a human with a spirit so willing and a flesh so weak.
since returning home i have found myself doing very different tasks than what i have been accustomed to for the past nine months. and although when i was at school writing papers and studying for tests i could not wait to get home and do "manual labor" as opposed to studying, now that it's here - i kind of miss the paper writing. maybe it's the heat combined with the humidity combined with a restless heart that wants to do whatever it pleases but i have been wrestling with discontentment and so far this week, i'm losing. it's a painful fight.
this week my mornings and late afternoons have been filled with weeding, raking, mowing, leaf blowing, etc. and although it is true that in the spring i raved about this work and how much i enjoy seeing such tangible results, this week i have been swallowing my words and they are not going down easy. it's hot and most days i don't want to do it. yesterday as i was walking up and down the driveway picking up sticks (SO many sticks.) my mind wandered to everyone who has a job in air conditioning, my mind started circling in familiar patterns of envy and pessimism. as soon as i started dwelling in the cycle of cynics however, God brought to mind something i poured myself over in the spring. a small little collection of letters and conversations by Brother Lawrence, a monk who washed dishes for a living and spent his life practicing the presence of God. he disciplined himself to see even the most menial and seemingly unimportant tasks as acts of love and devotion to God. he trained himself to live constantly in God's presence.
"We need only recognize God intimately present with us and address ourselves to Him every moment. We need to beg His assistance for knowing His will in things doubtful and for rightly performing those things which we plainly see He requires of us, offering them to Him before we do them, and giving God thanks when we have completed them...Our sanctification did not depend on changing our works. Instead it depended on doing things for God's sake which we commonly do for our own...We ought not weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed."
as i continued to pick up sticks and occasionally wipe the sweat from my brow, i tried really hard to find some great metaphor for what i was doing.
i failed. no metaphor came to mind. no poetry or story or lighthearted revelation. it was just me and the sticks and a tractor panting on the driveway.
but sometimes we just have to pick up sticks because we love God and we know that he is present with us always. sometimes God provides blessings wrapped up in boxes that we do not recognize and we do not particularly want to open, but we must. and we mustn't pretend to be grateful for those boxes like we pretend to smile when we open a really ugly sweater from our great grandmother. we must truly really sincerely and genuinely be thankful for that which God provides us with, knowing that all we have is a gift. all, everything, every single thing i have is given to me. and he knows us better than we know ourselves, he knows what we need - which means no room remains to complain. and yes, i suppose that even picking up sticks and getting poison ivy and hoping the groundhog that lives under the playhouse doesn't bite you can be a gift. because all of these things are signs that God is providing for me in ways that i could not have imagined.
so i'm learning again what it means to practice God's presence. to every moment practice being in the presence of God, to do all things out of love for him, to do all things for him. i'm praying for mercy and trying to discipline myself in gratitude, attempting to be thankful for that which is far easier to complain about. like the parable of the talents, i want to be faithful to that which has been given to me - to invest all i am in what i have, multiplying that which God has entrusted to me. . .
"The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. 'Master,' he said, 'you have entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.'
His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your Master's happiness!'"
if you want to... google search "Brother Lawrence, practicing the presence of God" - print it out and read it read it read it.