Joy to My (temporarily constricted) World


Sunsets. I really love sunsets. And when the sunlight hits the snow on the mountains, just as the sun is going down, so that one patch is highlighted when the rest of my world has already surrendered its daylight for the day.

When my son asks for a Christmas present, a strategy game that takes two hours to play,* and I’m the only one he plays these games with.

“That’s a long game, Buddy,” I tell him.

“That’s fine. We’ll play it a lot,” he says.

Two hours hanging with my son, no electronics? I’ll take that gamble.

Kim tells me about a student she has who is really behind, struggling to read, and we’re discussing what’s possible, the interventions that have already been tried, how he could still graduate and do well. Kim’s heart is heavy because this child is now at high risk. She’s been teaching for how many years and she still cares about all these kids and wants them to thrive.

I get this message: “Hey, I don’t know you, but my friend X told me you would be the one to talk to. We’ve just gone through [usually a child’s death] and have no one to talk to. Nobody understands.”

My son, who generally finds my writing and pastoring and counseling more of an annoyance than anything else, tells me “That’s pretty cool, that you’re the one they ask.”**

Dropping my daughter Aria off at my son Rowan’s house and seeing how long they hug.

Telling Annalise a joke and having her shout “Dad! That’s awful!” but she still keeps laughing. [Full disclosure: usually she doesn’t keep laughing and sometimes she doesn’t laugh at all.]

Having long phone conversations with friends while I’m out walking, enjoying reconnecting instead of feeling sorry for myself that I can’t spend time with friends in person.

Opening an envelope and gasping because a friend just sent me that baseball card!

Having Juan Ramon or Zeke or Alfredo check in and hearing that, in spite of everything, they’re doing okay. Praying for them and carrying them in my heart. Imagining the time when I get to visit them again.

Starting to get back into my yoga practice after letting it slide for far, far too long.

Watching the Mandalorian with most of my family and then debating a plot point, bringing in all relevant historical precedents. Reveling in our nerddom fandom.

Sending that envelope and knowing a friend will gasp when they open it because it’s that baseball card.

Pentatonix and Trans-Siberian Orchestra and John Denver with the Muppets and all the other Christmas music that has entered our canon.

Discovering new songs that enter the Christmas canon.

Hiking hard enough that I’m gasping for breath and remembering how good it feels to play ultimate. Hiking.

Reading friends’ reports that they or their loved ones have recovered from COVID-19 and seem to be doing well again. Being able to breathe for them again. Praising God for answered prayers.

Reconnecting with dear friends with whom I’ve fallen out of touch and realizing this is happening because things are shut down, so we’re taking the time.

Having my nieces, who live two houses away, come over to show me their artwork. Exclaiming at their art work because it actually is astounding.

Grasping how much I’ve taken for granted and, rather than feeling guilty, looking forward to enjoying those simple pleasures again.

Getting feedback that my books are helping someone. People who have read my books giving or recommending them to others.

Reading books that I can’t put down and wishing, when I finish them, that they were longer. Most recently: The Soul of Baseball: a Road Trip Through Buck O’Neill’s America.

Sitting down to read and having our “lap dog” (who isn’t) climbing up to enjoy my book with me.

Taking a minute to realize how much God has blessed me with amazing, loyal, real friends. Remembering what grace this is.

Soaking in Advent and counting down until Christmas.

*Terraforming Mars. Shhhh.

** Then he calls me a “fleeb” and goes back to his room.

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