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If I go for a walk down the back road behind my house, and if I glance to my right, this is what I see. Beauty, no? On a sunny, warm, early summer day, it’s glorious. It’s a view.

If I take the time to walk through the field to actually get close to the water, braving ticks and snakes and general inconvenient ground cover, and if I stop and lean right close to the ground and push away the grass, I see more. The close up. The detail.

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Some days I’m fine with the walk and the glance and the glorious view. Some days, I need to get closer.

Either way, it’s a good day.

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It took her a few days, but she finally got the joke. At first she kept feeling her face every time I popped her nose off and tucked it between my fingers and held up my fist for her to see.

When she finally realized it was my thumb (and not actually her captured nose) she fell off her chair with delight. It was the greatest joke ever, in her three-year old world.

Remember the first time you heard or saw something new and delightful? Like the first time you saw that funny internet picture with the squishy dog flat on the floor and the caption Please don’t make me adult today? Remember that?

I laughed so hard the first time I saw that silly dog, and I posted the photo to my instagram page. And then everyone else did the same and after a while I was like, ok, enough with the dog and the joke, already.

Or that song that you loved when it first came out, but now you can hardly stand to listen to it? Or the Jimmy Fallon youtube or the once-hot TV show?

Got your nose is only funny the first few times. Once the joke is old, well, who cares any more? And after a while, it’s just plain annoying.

The thing is, whatever it is, it’s going to be new to someone else down the road. And the joy of rediscovering something fun through another person’s eyes can be just as wonderful and silly and hilarious as the first time you experienced it yourself.

Every once in a while I need to remind my jaded, tired, disillusioned self that the world is a delightful place.

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You know, there’s something glorious about having a playground to yourself.

You can twirl on the swing without anyone complaining. You can run up the slide or pour sand down it, and no one will say a thing. You can holler and sing and pretend you have a gun to shoot bad guys with, without any social pressure to be quieter or play nicer.

Whether you’re a parent or a kid, it is easy to be who you are and do what you want when you’re alone. It’s harder when people are watching.

Maybe that’s a good thing? I suppose it’s important to learn social acceptability. But maybe there’s also value in learning to be brave enough to be willing to be socially less-acceptable once in a while.

This has been the conundrum that has challenged me for my entire parenting career.

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I watch her roll the ball from her hands. She pushes it with all her tiny strength and it leisurely makes its way down the lane, slowly slowly slowly, and my eyes follow the journey.

I understand goodbyes. I understand watching as the vehicle drives away or the casket is lowered. I’ve blown kisses to their backs as they’ve turned and walked away from me. There’s no getting around goodbyes. No shortcut, really.

I find myself watching her now with memorizing eyes. She’s leaving soon and there’s a part of me that is jealous of all her time in other places or with other people. I scramble to hold the hours even as they slip from my hands.

Then my mom gets sick and I have to go, of course.

I’m gone for a week and my husband sends me texts with pictures of them all, and her. Pictures of normal family stuff and he sends updates of their days and I realize it’s good for them to have their time, too. Time without me as the defining cornerstone in their relationships.

She’s different when you aren’t here, he says. And I’m glad they’ve had their chance to hold and spend their own hours, without me.

I’m learning to share the goodbyes.

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I read Matthew all through Lent. Fifty-ish days of Matthew and a little N.T. Wright and some stuff on vulnerability and a fair bit about the Kingdom. Funny how the threads of all these different words have been weaving their ways into some kind of garment I’ve been wearing for a while. Like a loose, flowing summer dress, these words have been sitting on my shoulders and falling across my breasts and belly and floating around my legs as I walk through my days.

This is how I read words now. Wearing them instead of studying them.

I wore them through my mom’s heart attack and bypass surgery, through hard and happy family days, through challenging and exciting life-change days, and through heartbreaking and sweet foster parenting days. I’ve dressed myself morning after morning in their comfort and security and they fit perfectly. They make the hard days less hard. They make me feel beautiful.

The days rush me toward change – as my husband heads west for work and the house gets packed up and the children near the finish line of another year of math – and even as I feel the wind of all the rushing blow through my hair, I wrap the comfort of all the good-fitting words around me and I know I am well-dressed for the weather of this changing life.

If clothes make the woman, then these are the clothes I want to wear.

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I wrote this amazing post the other day. It was really good, you guys. You would have liked it a lot. And then I lost it (don’t talk to me right now about farm internet) and try as I might, I couldn’t remember the way the words had gone together.

They were words about how a random, throw-away comment can sometimes wiggle its way into your head and haunt you for years. It’s happened to me more than once, but the time I’m thinking of was when, years ago, a friend and I were talking (who knows what about?) and she said, I hope I never get fat arms. I hate it when women have jiggly arms.

Now, this was back when my arms were young and skinny, but from then on I was terrified of getting jiggly arms.

Time and children and a few thousand cookies later, I spent a year being Mom to a little girl, which was wonderful and fun but also hard and challenging, and I super-snacked through the struggles of loving her. One day I saw a picture of myself and, horror of horrors, my arms were fat. And the shame of having fat arms, of having let myself go, was overwhelming. I resolved right then to never ever ever wear short-sleeved shirts again. Ever.

I wrote words about all of that in the post I lost the other day, only I wrote them better, and then I ended with a whole thing about how I’ve made a kind of peace with my arms, and the rest of me for that matter, and some more tralala about loving ourselves for who we are on the inside and all that stuff. There are a thousand articles out there telling us the same thing.

Then, boom, I lost it all and I spent the day frustrated and out of sorts because losing words is not fun for me.

Here’s the thing though, because God is awesome and has amazing timing. See, after supper, while the dirty dishes were still scattered across the kitchen table and the children and I were in the living room doing living room things, there was a knock on the door. I walked out to the entryway and found two women there, a friend of mine and a young girl. It took me a second to get my bearings enough to realize the girl was my girl. The girl I’d written the lost words about that very morning. The girl who’d given me fat arms.

Guess what? I didn’t give a fiddlestick about any of that, and my arms worked just fine for holding her in the tightest, squeeziest hug I could manage.

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I gave up Netflix for Lent. It’s been easier than I expected, except when it’s been hard.

It’s been my distraction, you see. It’s been the escape-from-reality and the end-of-the-day reward. And hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escaping and rewarding. But I know myself, and of all the things I considered fasting from, Netflix was the one that made me kind of sad. And that’s, well, kind of sad.

So I gave up Netflix. It’s my first time to practice Lent, let alone to fast from anything during Lent, and it’s been slow and deep and kind of beautiful in ways I didn’t even know to expect. I had no clue, basically.

I signed up for an N.T. Wright online Lenten devotion, and together he and I and the book of Matthew have been making our way through the season. Slowly and carefully, like picking our way down a pebbled path, looking for wild flowers that might be growing along the edges. It’s really been a lovely walk.

And Netflix? Mostly, Netflix has been replaced with reading or visiting or watching movies with the family. Mostly, it’s been a fairly easy temptation to resist. Easier than I expected.

But the other night, after tossing about for hours and finally relocating to the downstairs sofa, I gave in. I tapped the app button on my phone and looked through the menu options and feasted on three episodes of a show I’d been watching before the whole Lent thing started. I caved, big time.

I’ve been trying to feel guilty about it, but you know what, I really don’t. I’m not sure what that says, exactly. I guess I’ve decided it’s not about perfection. I know I am weak. I’m totally the follower fretting in the storm while Jesus sleeps, or sleeping in the garden while Jesus prays.

This morning, N.T. and Matthew and Jesus and I picked up where we’d left off. And you know what? It’s still beautiful.

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