The Fiftieth Letter: It Just Feels Full

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Dear Daughters,

Yesterday, I had to walk by Christmas trees and ornaments at WalMart in order to get to the mums. The mums! In October! Which is the perfect time to purchase mums for your front porch.

And there were the Christmas trees.

Sigh.

Forget Advent. Forget Thanksgiving. It’s not even Halloween yet, girls.

I was perturbed.

Maybe it’s just me, but I want to appreciate the mums and pumpkins and cider and colored leaves on the trees. I don’t want to move on to the next thing, to answer your questions about why we can’t buy that bin of silver balls, to talk about how pretty that wreath is.

I want to enjoy the swingset in the cool breeze, taking you out on a run without having to slather you in sunscreen, painting pumpkins and maybe even that random decorative squash a friend gave us that is shaped like a character out of Veggie Tales. I don’t want to start counting down to Christmas, and worry about what our travel plans are for Thanksgiving, and Christmas lists and gifts and painting a Jesse Tree.

It’s too much, it’s too fast, the calendar is too full. It stresses me out.

Well, it does when I look at it that way.

But sometimes I don’t look at it that way.

I glanced at my monthly calendar this morning and was astounded at All The Things on the schedule. It’s felt a little hectic the last few weeks, and no wonder. It has been.

All The Things distract us and keep us busy, All The Things pile up and wear us down, All The Things fill up our weeks, our semesters, our days, our moments.

But there was a moment of grace this morning. I felt a distance when I looked at the calendar because I realized that All The Things are things we do; they are not the things we are. They are what we do but they do not determine the way we do life.

I am more convinced than ever that a full life does not have to be a stressful life. A full life does not have to feel like a “busy” life. Full might mean doing a lot of things–or it might not.

It’s more like a way of approaching the things on the calendar. Because the calendar will be full regardless.

A full life is about being present.

Being attentive in the moments.

Breathing.

Enjoying the warm breeze, or the cool breeze, the feel of those soft mum blossoms as I water them every day. My mom tells me that’s how you keep them alive.

For me, it’s taking the time to write, to make art, to create, to paint. It’s reading a novel instead of watching TV. It’s putting down the novel to set you up to paint a pumpkin.

I was astounded last week when I sat down to go through these fifty letters and the poetry I’ve written over the last four years, to sift through the words I’d forgotten I’d written in order to share some of them publicly at a poetry and art night at our local arts and cultural center. Girls, there were so many words. I’ve written so many words. But I’ve been so tired for four years, girls. So tired. How could this be? It perplexed me. It still does.

Being present means seeing the way grace is already present in my life.

Being present means slowing down to really see beauty.

Because when I slow down in the moments, the days slow down too, the whole life slows down.

The busy-ness becomes full-ness instead. The activities become separate from the way we feel about the world.

And that full-ness, even when I’m bone tired, becomes happiness.

That sounds trite, doesn’t it? To say that I’m happy?

Of course, I’m worn out and frustrated and on the verge of losing my temper a lot of the time, too, more times than I like to admit, but when I do that whole being-attentive-thing? There is peace there. There is happiness.

Don’t get me wrong, the truth is, I didn’t really want to scrape Cinnamon Life out of the carpet this afternoon. But I did it. And for some reason, as I sat on the floor, there was peace there.

I did not like extending my shopping trip to WalMart yesterday by stopping in the bathroom for a potty-training two year old. But I did it. And, okay, there was not peace there. You spilled my purse on the floor. But there could have been, I can see that. If I hadn’t lost my temper.

I haven’t really wanted to read a Harry Potter book every week for the last four weeks. But I’m doing it. Making space for these enormous books in my life—750 pages this week, girls–means making space for good discussions in our house on Thursday nights with college students and friends.

I didn’t want to do my freelance work from a desktop computer tucked halfway into a hall closet last week when our ethernet cable went bad, but I did it. And even found it amusing at times, working in a linen closet.

Most days, I don’t want to rise early to have some quiet before you wake up, and some mornings I don’t, but some mornings I do.

I don’t like to wash the dishes or do tedious chores like folding laundry, but when I’m willing to see grace here, I’ve found in that tedium surprising moments of meditation when I’ve least expected it. I was asked at my poetry reading about inspiration and writing habits, and I realized that most of my ideas for poems and blog posts come when I’m chopping vegetables.

This, girls, is a happy season. It’s a tiring season. It’s a full season. There is much to do and places to go and ministries to serve and friendships to build and art to make and you to love and hold and snuggle and teach.

Sometimes it feels stressful, if I let it.

But most times, it just feels full.

And happy.

Love,

Your Momma

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