When More is More

I always knew I wanted a larger family. Somewhere along the line, I reasoned that three kids would bring just the right amount of noise to our family rhythm, and that is exactly the number we were blessed with.

Our house is frequently chaotic. A few days ago, there were five children — my three and two of their friends — making the rounds in and around the house. I prepared lunch for all of them. Evidence of imagination decorated my cozy living room. The Legos rattled. The dryer hummed. The TV talked. My heart swelled.

There are many extras in life I would love to slough off, pare down, and smooth out, and I have, in fact, been doing just that. But when it comes to the lives within and around my own little life, I only want more.

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A Spelling Lesson

We have a tidy evening routine. My husband and I prepare dinner, the kids help us set the table with our good dishes and silverware {why save them for special occasions, it occurred to me one day, when every day with my family is special?}, we eat, sometimes I serve dessert, my husband and I enjoy coffee or tea, we catch up on our day for a bit, and then I shuffle everyone off to the upstairs. When I’m finally alone, I turn on classical music and clean. I follow the same cleaning pattern every day. It doesn’t take long, but the result is a tidy, cozy, sweet-smelling house and a sense of accomplishment. We haven’t always had this routine; in fact, it’s a fairly recent development, hard won after almost a decade of constant change.

I thought yesterday as I cleared the dinner dishes about how a routine can quickly turn into a rut if I’m not intentional about remembering the difference between the two. Not that many letters separate a routine from a rut — four, in fact {but who’s counting?} — but when my routines become habitual rather than purposeful, they can quickly turn into ruts.

Routines suggest care and concern. Ruts suggest aimlessness and apathy. Routines are mindful; ruts are mindless. A routine is a train solidly on the track. A rut is a car stuck in the mud.

A rut is a burden; a routine is a gift.

She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. — Proverbs 31:17

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The Tree of Life

Image courtesy ElliottPond.com

Almost every morning lately, I look out the kitchen window and admire a handful of trees that were recently planted on the street perpendicular to ours. Our neighborhood is fairly new — less than ten years old — and as the common areas are landscaped and trees are planted in front of individual houses, the neighborhood looks more and more intentional, more lived in.

What occurred to me this morning, what I did not expect to discover but which was a wonderful revelation to me, is that I prefer neighborhoods with lots of trees. The mere sight of a tree-lined street fills me with such a sweet mixture of comfort and nostalgia that I find myself smiling and sighing the contented sigh that so often accompanies heart-swelling small moments.

Trees mean forts and imaginary castles. Trees mean tire swings and tangled kites and lazy naps on hammocks. Trees mean shady picnics and reading nooks. Trees mean life, and I can’t get enough of them.

Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. — Genesis 1:11

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By Any Other Name

If decades can be named, then this one has definitely been the Decade of Exhaustion. The one prior was the Decade of Growth. The one before that was the Decade of Creativity. The one before that, the one that ushered in my existence on the planet and took me into double digits, was the Decade of Innocence.

I’m still in the Decade of Exhaustion, but there is the promise of a new decade, one in which I am not fumbling and stumbling blindly through my daily existence. I should qualify all this by stating that I chose this decade, exhaustion and all, and that I would not un-choose it, not for any amount of leisurely dinners with friends, spur-of-the-moment shopping trips, or four-hour naps. Still, I’m ready for a new decade. My arms are full of all that I have learned, and am still learning, during my Decade of Exhaustion. The bundle still feels a bit cumbersome at times, but I know that soon enough, it will feel like a gift.

I wonder what my new decade will be named. I’m tempted to name it myself — prophetically? arrogantly? — but I know that it needs to take on its own identity. It will likely be years before I find out its name. Whatever it is, I love it already.

 

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Consumed

We still have a land line. Our kids’ friends are fascinated by the phone hanging on the kitchen wall. It rarely rings, but when it does, we know that it’s going to be one of two people or a telemarketer. In the weeks before the election, we averaged half a dozen calls per day on the land line, with that number increasing in the days and hours before the final votes were cast. We would pick up the phone only long enough to stop it from ringing, and then we would replace it on the cradle. Long before the election, we had resolved to let the candidates’ actions speak for themselves; no amount of ruthless lobbying on either candidate’s behalf by a third party was going to sway our vote.

There is something about human beings that compels us to sway others to our way of thinking. When others don’t agree with us, we become defensive, even angry. I once read about an argument between a father and a son. When the son protested that the father wasn’t listening to him, the father lovingly retorted, “Oh, I hear you. I just don’t agree with you.”

In my mind, this is the beginning of the issue, the very tip of the proverbial iceberg. When we are passionate about something, our first instinct is often to sway others to our way of thinking. When they don’t agree with us, we become defiant. Before we know it, the desire to make others agree with us takes over. It consumes us. Soon, our passion is redirected, and it is precisely this redirected, misdirected, passion that gives the enemy a foothold. If we can be consumed with the act of pursuit and forget the intent behind it, no matter how pure, then his purpose of derailing us has been achieved.

I wrote this in my journal recently:

Let the Light open the eyes of the blind, not our own limited vision. We are called to love Him; He does the rest.

Does this mean that I believe that we are not to be fishers of men? Absolutely not. But I believe that it is our willingness He wants first and foremost, not our own self-made bait.

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The Spirit of Truth

The longer I am on this planet, the more I believe in the spirit of confusion alluded to in 1 John 4:1. With Election Day looming tomorrow, I think this spirit has been sent out with carte blanche, not only to confuse the minds of voters already pummeled with information from opposing sides, but also to creep into the everyday moments and complicate the simple. I have been in a muddy, ugly place today, and I can’t help but want to blame it on this elusive spirit.

I am not so much confused about the election as I am about truth in general. The spirit of confusion has come in uninvited today, infiltrated the simplest corners, and cluttered them up, no doubt to get me to a place of fragmented thinking so that I will forget that the truth is anything but fragmented, and anything but confusing. Truth is a plumb line from God’s lips to my spiritual ears, yet the enemy would have me believe that there’s a whole bunch of static on that line that makes it convoluted and irrevocably tangled up.

The future is not certain — not on this side of heaven, anyway. But one thing is certain: my mind was made for truth, and to truth I will always turn.

For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. — 1 Cor. 14:33

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Heaven

I once read that heaven is all our best memories times a million. If that’s the case, then I hope heaven is:

Christmas Eve, with soft blue lights against the snow-frosted windowpanes, chipped beef and crackers, Pepsi in plastic cups, and sleepy candlelit services;

Summer afternoons at the neighbors’ pool, bowls of raisins in the air conditioning, and time lost in an unforgettable book;

Birthday parties with homemade cake, chocolate marshmallow ice cream, and lots of giggling;

Flashlight tag on the cul-de-sac, building forts by the creek, and digging for fossils in the backyard;

Gathering around the dinner table, talking a mile a minute, and heaping on the seconds;

Twirling in front of the mirror in a pink prairie dress and bonnet, and running through North Carolina tobacco fields;

Tucking into a booth for a soft-serve ice cream cone after a hot, sticky baseball game, and a cool bath before bed;

Shopping with Mom for back-to-school clothes, and grabbing lunch after;

Driving through the country with Marty Robbins on the tape player, and Dad singing along;

Sprinkled doughnuts for breakfast, and a Sunday flea market;

Hiding away in a bookstore with my husband, and sharing a decadent dessert over a cup of tea;

Watching my kids build their own heavens, and being there to share it with them.

Times a million, of course.

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