Mining the Moments for Joy
by Sue Fulmore
This morning I noticed the ghostly image, as the sun traced the outline of my window upon the sloped ceiling of my writing room. The edges were indistinct, soft.
Last night the sun slanted across our kitchen table, haloing the ordinary bowl of soup and freshly made biscuits. A simple meal turned elegant with the sun’s warm glow.
Maybe it is because, for the majority of the past two years, life has been lived within these four walls, that I am noticing more. Since there are fewer distractions from outside, fewer social engagements or calls for my attention, I begin to see the small, everyday moments. I am aware of how often I have passed by the small on my way to something bigger and better. This enforced slowing has taught me to remove my sandals and notice the moments of holiness right here in the ordinary.
It was only when God saw that Moses had stopped what he was doing and was paying attention, that He called to him from the burning bush.[i] This story makes me pause to wonder how often this has happened in my own life. I wonder how regularly have I been so intent on my plans, my efficiency in all things, that I fail to stop and take note.
I am learning to pause long enough to hear the inner rumblings of my heart and soul. The longings are making themselves heard as I spend time in stillness. The emotions I would normally push aside while I went on to the next project or chore, are now held up to the light and examined. I am learning more of what it means to “listen to my life” as Frederick Buechner says. I am starting to “see it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness…”[ii]
For the first time in many years, I have been bored. The days stretch out before me with no scaffolding or boundaries. There are times when the canyon between morning and evening seems too wide and too deep to traverse. Boredom becomes my teacher, asking me to pay attention to the often overlooked, sparking a desire to create and try new things.
I pay attention to the world outside my window. Every arrival of a new variety of bird is noted, their antics observed. I was on hand to witness the murmurings of flocks of cedar waxwings as they dipped and soared as one unit. I watch as they strip the mountain ash of its berries, becoming tipsy from the fermented fruit. As the sun goes down, I celebrate the intricate dark web of branches back-lit by cotton candy skies. Watching the trees for signs of life, I wait for the bursting open of the scales protecting the tender buds at just the right moment. I listen for the spring call of the chickadees, and look for the gradual browning of rabbit fur. I notice the squirrel outside the window, safe on his perch high in a tree, as he scolds the neighbor cat, and laugh at the absurdity.
Small children have always known how to pay attention to the little things. They are the ones who stop to watch the caterpillar make its way across the sidewalk, or get close to the ground to see the patterns in the thin layer of ice on the puddle. I feel like a child again and I search for all of the gifts wrapped into each moment by the Giver. Is this what Jesus means when He tells us to become like little children?[iii] That we pay attention to the moment we are in, searching for the sight of Him in the midst of the mess of where we are? Can we be like the children, welcome each day, each hour, and moment with trust, openness and hope?
This noticing, this paying attention is grounding me in the present. I am not looking back to the way things were, nor forward to what may be, but only allowing myself to root in the moment I am living. I am becoming like a child who only knows how to dwell in the now. I pray for daily bread, not weekly bread, and trust the good Father to supply the need of the moment.
I am realizing this is where joy resides.
Collectively we have become more aware of our fragility lately. Maybe for the first time in our lives we contemplate the number of our days as we see many around us succumbing to an illness, we never knew 2 years ago. It is often those who are on the threshold of death, who become most keenly aware of life. I read about an oncologist who tells his patients to start the day with this mantra, “I do not know what will happen next week or next year. But I know I have the gift of this day, and I will not waste it”.[iv] This outlook makes us laser-focused on today, and all the joy to be had from each moment it contains.
When each breath and each day are viewed as gifts we are awakened to all that is beautiful, good and true. We become aware of the ways God is bending toward us, attentive to our needs, in it all alongside us. It is in His presence, and ultimately nowhere else, where we find fullness of joy.
Today may we listen more closely to our lives and “touch, taste, smell our way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”[v]
[i] Exodus 3:4
[ii] Frederick Buechner, Now and Then: A Memoir of Vocation
[iii] Matthew 18:1-6
[v] Frederick Buechner, Now and Then: A Memoir of Vocation
Sue Fulmore is a freelance writer and speaker, seeking to use words to awaken mind and soul to the realities of the present. Some of her work has been published at Red Letter Christians, The Perennial Gen, Convivium Magazine, Joyful Life Blog, and Asbury Seminary Soul Care Community. Like a prospector panning for gold, she uses her pen to uncover beauty and truth hidden just below the surface of our lives. She is the mother of two adult daughters and lives in sunny Alberta, Canada with her retired husband. You can find her at Instagram and www.suefulmore.com.