Practice

  I am only just learning about practice. I mean that life is all a constant learning and growing, and not to hoard supplies or wait until we’re better. To just do. I used to stress out about not wanting to “waste” paper or paints, not understanding that they are never wasted in learning, experimenting, discovering–only in not being used.

Now, all of my life is practice.
I practice being grateful for the low early rays and cool air of the morning, for the excitement with which small children greet the sun and each other.
I practice asking for help and calm before I rise.
I practice taking a moment to take care of myself.
I practice sticking to my grocery list.
I practice being gentle with my family, taking a calming breath and reminding myself a mess is not an emergency.
I practice naming my anxiety.
I practice, every day, the life I want them to learn.

The pressure of trying to get it right every time lifts a little each time I remember. Every day is an experiment, something which my kids seem to know already. Like the person who practices yoga or meditation, practice is not for an upcoming test, or for the “real thing” later (whatever that means). The practice is the thing, the step every day on the path I want to live.

Hone

Skull slams my glasses, the bridge
of my nose screams and tears erupt.
This child barrels through his days,
cranium a cannon shot propelled across
the room. Parenting is a contact sport, full
of all that salt water of sweat, tears, gore
and brokenness. He exposes my weak
spots, seems to be programmed to hone
in on them, pointing out just where I need
to care a little more kindly for myself, the places
I’m tender, sensitive, bruised and wounded.

Note to Self

I am giving notice:
my home will be more
messy than I like, our meals
will not be as balanced
or fancy as I used to make,
my makeup will be mostly
nonexistent, my clothes
will be simple and not likely
trendy. But I will see more, catch
the exact tenor of my child’s
giggle, will trace the slight
curve of his calf as he jumps
and jumps, will note the clouds
sinking like a too loose skirt
over the mountain range, the way
my son exclaims over the tiny
point of light blazing
through the marble’s shadow.

Changing Plans

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A few weekends ago, we headed out for a drive through the country, looking forward to open vistas, an extended conversation, a walk in the country.  We passed a small stone church on the outskirts of the county, one that seemed anomalous in our corner of the southwest.  I’d like to get a picture of that, I mused aloud, and, careful what you wish for, the next thing we drove over a jagged piece of metal that planted itself in the front tire of our van.  So we pulled off into the parking lot directly across from the little chapel where all three boys assessed the damage and proceeded to change the tire.

In his book Margin, Richard Swenson, M.D., talks about having the space and time to be interrupted, particularly by God, in our lives; that sometimes the most important thing that will happen in the day isn’t on our agenda.  This was one of those times; our outing didn’t go as we had planned, but it was quality time together, all of us learning, and I had the opportunity to record it.

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Donut grin.

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This takes serious effort.

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Grace to Show Up: a Guest Post for A Feast of Crumbs

I wrote a guest post for my good friend Emily Luna’s wonderful blog, A Feast of Crumbs, where she chronicles her spiritual journey one breadcrumb at a time.

I feel like I keep failing the Sunday morning test. The one where I’m supposed to get myself and the two kids ready and out the door for church without yogurt smears on my skirt or sweet potatoes caked in their hair, and without going all Crazy-Mom on the four-year old when he strips his pants and underwear off to go potty and will not be wrangled back into them 20 minutes past our departure goal. The one where I’m supposed to show up on time…

Head over to her blog to read the rest, and while you’re there, check out Emily’s beautiful writing, too!

The Holy Unhurry of Advent

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I had such high hopes for the Advent Calendar.  This was going to be the year that I Got It Together in time for Christmas,  The Making of the Calendar the first of many daily Christmas-related activities I hoped to accomplish.  When the kit arrived (all the reviews cheering in my head how Simple! Quick! Easy! and Fun! this was going to be), its precut adhesive-backed components ready to be affixed to the pocket-lined Christmas tree, we cleared the table.  The four-year-old immediately took over, carefully studying the accompanying diagram and applying the brightly colored felt pieces exactly as the example showed.  For an hour, I felt the blessed peace of unhurried being, as he worked and I admired his focus.

Then, he was ready to move on to something else, and we set the materials aside to finish later.  He pulled the whole assembly out several times over the next two days, each time for shorter sessions, and each time, leaving ever-increasing piles of felt stickers and scraps in his wake.

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I tried to ignore the voice in my head: if you were a better mom, you wouldn’t let him leave messes like this.  If you were more organized, this would be done already.  You should be more in control of this project.  Despite my attempts to counter argue, recognizing it as my own anxiety rearing its head, I nevertheless became more stressed with each day that we weren’t Finished-With-The-Calendar-So-We-Can-Celebrate-Advent!  We were into the second row of pockets by now, each passing day a reminder that I so didn’t Have it Together.  Behind again.

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I’m always feeling behind, a need to hurry and catch up, to do more.  That I don’t measure up, that I haven’t accomplished enough.

But the One Whose coming this season of Advent anticipates?  His time is relaxed.  Unhurried.  He had no problem with taking the time to gestate, starting his mission as a zygote and spending His first nine months of humanity simply being.  Content with receiving the love and nurture of a young mother, existing His only accomplishment.  When the Eternal One wove Himself into the fabric of time and space, He seemed to bring with Him His Outside-of-Timeness, as though, while choosing to be contained in a body, He nonetheless refused to be enslaved by Time.  For someone who didn’t start His ministry till the age of thirty and knew that He would only have about three years to accomplish His mission on Earth, He never allowed Himself to be rushed.

Contrast this with my constant anxiety to hurry and do more, to prove my worth, my value, by producing something.  Look at the essay I finished!  Look at the clean dishes!  Look at the pounds my baby has gained!  Look at my blog!  This!  I’ve produced this!  My life was of worth this day, because I accomplished, produced. 

Christ’s example to us, though, especially in this season, is simply to be.  To wait for His Father’s perfect timing. To become like an unhurried child, whose greatest “accomplishment” is receiving the love and care of the Heavenly Father.

The calendar is mostly finished.  Maybe someday I will cut out some felt numbers to fill in the ones that are missing.  But for now, it’s a reminder to me that the state of being is more important than the product.  That, for over an hour, my son and I were patient with each other.  That he exercised his focus and his stick-with-it muscles, and I exercised my let-him-figure-it-out muscles.  That we were together.  That, for an hour, we relaxed into the holy unhurry of this season of Advent.

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