Right in front of me

I'm forgetting. I'm not writing it down, not here, not anywhere, and I'm forgetting all the cute things they say, the ways they make me laugh, the ways they make me think.

I'm forgetting, and then I'm feeling guilty for forgetting, for failing to process with words, for failing to download (or even take) any pictures. And we all know what a productive response guilt is, right?

So then....no kidding....I berate myself for feeling guilty, tell myself to let it go, to allow myself the freedom of not keeping up. With everything. Perfectly. All the time.

But instead of allowing the aforementioned freedom, I feel guilty about feeling guilty. (And this is the part of the show when I start hearing Seth Meyers' voice in my head on repeat: "Really?! Seeeriously? You think it's a good idea to fight guilt with guilt? Reeeeally...")


I've been thinking lately about the way I'm wired, how I gravitate toward structure and that which can be measured (but please only measure it if it means I come out ahead). How I shy away from the subjective investments, the unquantifiable expenditures of time--like throwing the football with him or playing doll house with her or cuddling just-one-more-minute with them both. Like choosing to sit and engage in eye-to-eye conversation instead of loading the dishwasher while tossing in the obligatory "uh huh" at regular intervals.

This internal drift toward structure and efficiency and measurement--it's a fine way to be wired if you're running a department at a faceless corporation. But it's no way to run a home.


When my friend asked me how she could pray for me this week, I told her that I had a to-do list threatening to overwhelm me, but not to pray that I would get it all done. I asked her to pray that I would keep my trivial to-do list in perspective, that I would regard relationship more important than accomplishment, put people ahead of tasks.

Because even someone as wire-crossed as me, someone foolish enough to waste emotional energy feeling guilty about feeling guilty, even I know what really matters. What really, seriously, (yes, Seth, reeeally.) truly matters. 

And it's right in front of me.

If it weren't for Heather and her simple yet brilliant Just Write idea, I'm not sure I would still have a blog. So here I go again, linking up for another installment.


Imperishable Summer

As the trees stretch bare, as the sky shivers and winter blankets us with dark before dinner time,
as we lean into the slow hum, the warm fire, the open book,
we do so believing
green will again grow wild,
sun will again shine warm,
summer hides only
from the eye and the fingertip.
We know even without seeing
where she crouches.
And it's enough, isn't it,
in these cold dark hours,
to know she is there,
to know the way
forward to our own
imperishable summer.


Would you believe I set down to write a holiday letter, and wrote this instead? So yeah, apparently we won't be checking anything off the to-do list today. Unless maybe when I start packing tonight (attheverylastminute), I might decide to type a holiday letter instead. Sure, I'm a procrastinator, but at least I'm creative about it.

Linking this non-holiday-card-whatever-it-is with beloved Heather for Just Write. I was going to link up with some other fantastic little memes like Just Pack or Just Finish What You Started for Once, but neither this post nor my life met the specifications for participation. Go figure.


Because now is now

When the fiddle had stopped singing Laura called out softly, "What are the days of auld lang syne, Pa?"

"They are the days of a long time ago, Laura," Pa said. "Go to sleep now."

But Laura lay awake a little while, listening to Pa's fiddle softly playing and to the lonely sound of the wind in the Big Woods. She looked at Pa sitting on the bench by the hearth, the fire-light gleaming on his brown hair and beard and glistening on the honey-brown fiddle. She looked at Ma, gently rocking and knitting.
She thought to herself, "This is now."

She was glad that the cozy house, and Pa and Ma and the fire-light and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, she thought, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago.

An excerpt from Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder


The snow fell like glitter last night, fine as dust. She nestled next to me in her hand-me-down Hello Kitty pajamas, toes buried beneath quilted butterflies, as I read these last lines of the first "Laura book".

She's just one month shy of five, and I want to go on about how she was two the last time I checked, but this is now. And I'm so glad, like Laura, that it cannot be forgotten; because now is now.

We're here in it, she and I. And what we need is here. All we need is now.


A rhythm of unremarkable days (just write)

I live in a rhythm of unremarkable days. We get up (too early). We get dressed. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, she fights me about wearing long sleeves. On Wednesdays, it's usually about the tights or leggings. Then we go places. To school, to the grocery store, the gym, the dry cleaners, the dentist.

Sometimes he bounds off the bus, reporting his spelling success as a "dream come true." Sometimes he drags every step up the driveway, head down, because a mean boy smeared cheese on his cheek and sleeve at lunch. (A nightmare for a boy who equates the smell of cheese with the end of the world.) Sometimes we sail through homework, and sometimes he stretches 20 minutes of work into an hour. Sometimes I beam. Sometimes I growl.

It grows dark, even before we sit down for spaghetti and broccoli, and by the time they start rifling through their halloween candy bags, half past six might as well be midnight. We are all tired, but I'm the only one willing to admit it.

She scooches under the covers she will most certainly kick off in a few short hours. We read about the time Pa thought an old stump in the woods was a bear, and how Ma thought a real live bear was just Sukey the cow. Her brother puts down his Boxcar Children book, wanders in to listen. He's not interested in girl stories, and besides, he's read this one before. But still, it's a story about a bear, so he thought he'd check whether his sister was scared.

I turn out her lights, and now it's his turn. We take turns reading, page for page, and he stands straight up on his bed, throws his arms in the air and shouts, "Asaahlan's on the move!" And when Father Christmas gives Peter a sword, he flips ahead. Only one more chapter until Peter's first battle!

We pray. He almost always prays the same thing, a quick thank you for a wonderful day, for a warm house and food to eat. But tonight he says only, "Thank you for my mom. Amen."

I turn out his light, then change into PJs before tackling the dishes. I scrub the saute pan and debate whether to write. I decide I'm too tired, that there's nothing remarkable to write about.

Then I change my mind. I write anyway. I begin to remember, to smile. I add it all up, find myself shocked at the sum. Next thing I know, I'm tapping my foot to the rhythm of these unremarkable days.

Joining Heather today for Just Write.


What cannot be graded (Just Write)

His pager is dying, and it beeps at me every 20 minutes, and you'd think after three hours of this, I wouldn't jump each time. Or that I'd just change the battery.

I remind her again that the tights she's whining about putting on today weren't my idea. She's the one who insists on wearing a dress every. single. day. And if these creamy white tights are really the torture she claims they are, then why can't she put on a stinkin' pair of pants for once?

We head out early to have donuts at school and peruse the book fair. And while my girl and my boy beg to buy a Pinkalicious set and a Clone Wars paperback, all I can think is this is why we have a library. Because when I can't possibly read another page of Pinkalicious, I can at least blame the book's disappearance on a due date.

His report card came home this week, and my heart pounded faster when I opened it, as if the entirety of my child's college aspirations rested squarely on the first quarter of second grade. What is wrong with me!? (Should I mention the time I cried over what would be my first and only B--in third grade penmanship? To this day, I still hate penmanship. And I love typewriters.)

I drift through the rest of the morning thinking about achievement and success, how it still means much more to me than it should. How I continue to define "success" too narrowly and shallowly--and how now if I'm not careful, I could stretch this same warped grid against my children. Oh God help me. No. Haven't I grown at all? Or am I still that fearful freshman hiding behind a lifelong 4.0, with a remarkable talent for avoiding failure, and life along with it?

I take her hand, the girl wearing the creamy white tights and the sweater dress (which I admit now is absolutely darling, much cuter than a dingy old pair of pants). We mingle among a dozen other residents, all quite elderly and all probably voting against the desperately-needed school levy. On our way out, my daughter puts on a sticker that says "I love voting."

Then a man with thick glasses and weathered skin and barely a hair on his head, though plenty above his lip, he smiles wide and holds the door open for us both. I return his smile and say thank you. And I hope that when I'm 73, as I imagine he is, that I'll have learned how to be a breath of fresh air to a neighbor. And I hope too, that by then that I'll have mastered what cannot be graded--how to show grace, to choose joy, to lean into difficulty, to refuse anxiety, to persevere, to love.


When it isn't mutual

Maybe you're the meal maker--the one who can whip up a chicken-rice casserole in the time it takes to say "new baby!" And the brownies, you'd never forget the brownies. Who knows how many of your old pans and containers (though they were carefully labeled) got lost in the kitchens of those once in need? Shoved in the back of the cabinet, forgotten, unreturned.

And when it's your turn to recover from surgery or have a baby or spend a week with your eight year old in the hospital, it's hard not to wish that someone else knew that chicken-rice casserole recipe. And that someone else cared enough to bring it.


Maybe you're the young wife, the one hanging on to a love he says was likely never there. You want to believe you have enough love for the two of you, that he'll change his mind, that what felt at first like a fairytale wasn't just your imagination, that what feels now like a nightmare will pass, that he'd be there to say he loves you too if only you could find a way to wake up.


Maybe you're the middle child, the average-at-everything, never-enough-to-be-noticed daughter who wishes just once you could vault yourself toward the exceptional side of the spectrum--in something, in anything. Just enough to be admired, just enough to be seen. So many times you sat on the sidelines to cheer a brilliant goal or in the audience to applaud a beautiful solo, or off to the side at a party, wishing you had just a drop of the social confidence those gorgeous gregarious girls seemed to be swimming in.


You give and you love and you admire, and really, is it too much to ask to be on the receiving end every once in a while? Of a casserole dish, a kiss, a compliment?


Could it be that this desire to be loved, to be thought of, to be seen, that it's all by design? His design? And while we frantically hunt in every other realm but His to find it, to meet that need, He waits with arms wide, loving us long before we even acknowledge Him, let alone love Him back. With Jesus, it isn't mutual. He's been all in since the beginning, long before we noticed. And when we see the lengths He'd go--the lengths He's gone--surely we can believe it's for real when he tells us his love is enough for the two of us.

Linking up today with Emily at Imperfect Prose.

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