Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Begin Again

We've started back in that way we do, both resisting and loving the restructuring of our days into something a bit more productive, at least in the literal, pen-to-paper sense. Truthfully we've been producing things all summer - things like rest and contentment, things like space to breathe, things like friendships. It has been good, but it is time now, again, to get back to it. So we do - reluctantly at first, but getting better all the time. This year, 5 of my kids are being formally schooled. 8th grade, 6th, 4th, 2nd and Kindergarten.

On the first day, just after bible and prayers were hollered over the din of shrieking toddlers (isn't that how everyone prays?), I cracked open "A Wrinkle In Time" to share with my kids. This is my very favorite part of homeschooling. When I get to pull something dearly loved out of my past and hand it right over to my kids, like the precious heirloom it is. It has been many years since I've found myself in the pages of one of Madeleine L'Engle's award winning children's books but oh, it very nearly felt like the first time.

They just don't make books like this anymore. Not that I've seen for kids. The beautiful writing. The sophistication of ideas and plot lines and the grand supposition that, yes, you, little one, you can hang with a quick little lesson on quantum physics right smack dab in the middle of a child's fantasy. This type of book elevates thinking. It inspires and challenges, yet it avoids boredom by being unspeakably beautiful. It's real, good, thoughtful. It is art, life, science and faith all wrapped into one. It's a work of art, a labor of love.

Long after I closed the book and slid it into it's spot on the living room shelf, it stayed with me - just like a good book does. We went about our day with the usual swirl of laundry and personalities and meal time drama that consume our days, but my thoughts kept turning back. I think I know why.

Everything that I love about that book? Those are the things I love about our life. The things I want to cultivate in our days here together. A place where kids can be kids, but are spurred onward to be curious, to push themselves, to take on more and more responsibility, to ask questions. To seek the good, know the truth, rise above and claim rightness. To love life, art, science and faith. It's everything I want for my kids and, truthfully - myself. To know what it is to experience beauty in the every day.

To walk with God. To love one another.

It's the beginning of another school year and my friend tells me - "I feel like I've been run over." Yeah. That. But also? This:

Life is raw, real, relentless. People aren't perfect. Plans are almost certainly made to fall through and there never seems to be enough time.


And it's a good, good life.

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Monday, August 22, 2016

Haphazard Summer Confessions

I paint toddler toes on the back steps, because that's the rule. No nail polish in the house, even though she runs right back through when she's finished and it certainly wouldn't be the first time I notice little flecks of nail polish on the hardwood floors. But I paint toddler toes because she brings it to me and this is my job. It's small and it's silly and it's mine.

This summer has been a bit ridiculous. I haven't had time to write, but what really have I been doing? I'm thinking back on it, this first Monday after vacation. What do I have to show for it? I feel this way at the end of every summer, when the days cool off and twilight flutters down a bit earlier each evening. On paper, it seems almost sad. I've started a handful of knitting projects and have finished none, even pulling them out in frustration that they don't seem to feel right. Try a different pattern, a different yarn? Take a week, a month off? Haphazard. My work out routines have lacked my normal focus and my plans for kids and chores and summer math went out the door months ago.

But sometimes the on paper list of what (wasn't) accomplished misses the bigger picture. This summer I became best friends with my neighbors, surely a gift after so much loneliness. This summer I opened up my home to a gaggle of kids and learned to not sweat small stuff. This summer I began cautiously dreaming about the future. This summer I feel stronger and more sure of who I am and what I want than ever before.

It's something I come up against time and time again, challenging me, stretching me, strengthening me. If you're so busying convincing yourself that the small things, the things you don't understand or haven't experienced, the things that feel frivolous or excessive or trite, that these things are ridiculous - you run the risk of missing out on a divine appointment. Because God doesn't just reach us in the thunderhead moments, in some sort of magnificence that dwarfs our every day struggles. The depth and height and breadth of His miracles are always, always that they apply just as surely to the humble things of human life as they do to the majestic.

So I've done a lot of toddler toenail painting and water table filling and dancing-while-breakfast-is-cooking and a lot of talking, singing, wishing, praying. But I'll never say that those things don't have the potential to carry every bit as much weight and power as anything else I could come up with.

I know better.

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Monday, August 1, 2016

Dishwashers and Dryers and Space-making Grace

Right smack in the middle of the summer, between sticky humid days that never seem to cool off, the dishwasher quit working. I pushed the start button twice, then three times - as if it just needed to be jarred awake. Hey - you've got a job to do. Wake up! I bought paper plates at the grocery store and stood at the sink late at night, plunged in deep, right up to my forearms. Before we found the blessedly simple fix, the dryer decided to take a vacation as well. On Monday afternoon I stand in a sun spot and hang wet clothes up on the line while the toddlers run back and forth beneath flapping sheets.

It's been a while since I've been here. That line waits between my garage and the oak tree but somehow life gets in the way when one clothesline is no longer enough to hold the laundry needs of a family our size. Revisiting it for a bit reminds me, like a gentle tug, of this type of meditative work that helps to center me, to free my mind even as my hands work. There's never anything small about the smoothing out of chaos, the gentle setting to rights type of work that makes up a housewife's days. It's here that I find order, and, thus, peace. It's here that my mind is unleashed to dream and to wonder, to listen, to pray. It's a good place I didn't know I missed.

The summer is beginning to wind down and we're in the middle of a whirlwind, visiting friends and family and so much goodness that my heart feels heavy at the thought of it ending. Because when this is over, then what? Just regular life. Nothing special. Work and school and life. But then appliances break and I'm reminded that every day is an opportunity to make space for grace. To beckon it close, welcome it in, hold it up. To look through it like a lens, aperture opened wide to let all the light in. It's a precious miracle just for us, and each time I'm reminded of it I wonder how it's just so easy to forget. There are no circumstances, no secret hurts, no busted up and broken lives that are exempt from grace.

It's all from Him and all for us.

All heaven and earth a wild tangle of unfathomable grace.

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