The Eighty-Fourth Letter: Greasy Linoleum, The Promised Land, & All The Things

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Dear Daughters,

Your dad dropped the metal spatula into the narrow crack between the counter and the refrigerator this evening.

Our normal solution to items falling into this crack—yes, it happens often enough to have a “normal” solution—is to use the tongs or the yardstick to fish the dropped items out. The spatula, however, had fallen on its side with the flat part against the linoleum so that it would not come out without turning it first. And we couldn’t get a grip on it to turn it, which is really just way too long of a story to tell you this:

The whole refrigerator had to get pulled out away from the wall.

I’m pretty sure we haven’t pulled that refrigerator out since I painted the cabinets, and that was before either of you were born.

Oh my goodness was there dirt and grime and grease and general fuzzy-stickiness.

In fact, there were solidified nasty drips of who-knows-what down the side of the refrigerator up to the level of the counter. Because clearly we drop a lot of things down that crack. And the linoleum under the frig had a top layer of dust but an under layer of sticky, greasy, black stuff.

Yuck.

Your dad got out the Pine Sol and began cleaning the side of the frig while I used the vacuum behind it to get the loose stuff up. Then he gave me the soapy bucket of water to begin scrubbing the floor while he dished up dinner for the two of you. Appetizing, I know.

As I scrubbed at that floor, as the water in the soapy bucket turned so dark it could be mistaken for black tea, I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be grand if this were enough?”

What I mean is, I like a well-cleaned house.

I like the feeling of a rewarding project accomplished, and I happen to consider a clean bathroom a rewarding project. I like taking the time to, say, prepare a nice meal, organize a junk drawer, sort a closet, get on my hands and knees and scrub the grease off of linoleum, or paint the aforementioned cabinets.

What I mean is, I actually like housekeeping and housetending and doing the tasks of daily life that keep a house tidy and running smoothly.

They are wonderful and rewarding tasks.

And I often wish they felt like enough.

It’s the same with mothering, girls. Mothering is rewarding and beautiful (and tiring and exhausting and infuriating and mind-numbing sometimes, too, but mostly rewarding), especially now that you’re turning into miniature human beings.

I have friends who so rock the mom thing, and so rock the clean-house thing, and so rock the house-decorating-project thing, and so rock the keeping-their-kids-clothes-sorted-by-size thing. I envy that a bit, to be honest.

I want that to be enough, and to find joy and completeness in that, because those are beautiful and fulfilling things. And many of those rockin’ friends really are fulfilled and happy and thoughtful.

But: me.

I remember sitting in my friend’s minivan after I became a mom and feeling so utterly not fulfilled with motherhood and telling her that I keep swinging back and forth between two extremes: one, wanting to be content in this new season—to just get acclimated, stop complaining, accept it for what it is—and, the other extreme, being content to be as Abraham was, which means not being settled, living as a stranger in the promised land, living in tents, not having much except God’s promise of what would be eventually.

I told my friend that I didn’t want to be comfortable, that I wanted it to feel strange, wanted to be the stranger, because I knew that there was more than this to my calling.

More than the greasy green linoleum.

More than the clean house.

Yes, more than mothering.

And, girls, I still believe that, but I can see a little more clearly than I could in those early months of mothering. I’m not so swallowed up by the misery of it all. (That sounds awful, but it was a tough time at first.)

I can see how this—all of this beautiful messy life of house and mothering—doesn’t just live in a tent alongside all the other beautiful messy things I do: the writing and painting and designing and loving and leading and teaching and serving and laughing and encouraging and following up and showing up.

No, the mothering and the wife-ing and the house-making are right inside the tent with me. I can’t be a stranger from them.

That said, tonight, girls, tonight I wished longingly for a life that could focus on one single thing, rather than a million things.

It’s a life that nobody has, not really.

Especially in this culture, where it seems everyone is trying to do all the things and be all the things and post pictures of all the things on social media.

Still, tonight I wished for a life that after the floor got wiped down, the rag hung up, the frig scooted back, I didn’t feel compelled to pick up my laptop and write you a letter, didn’t have a freelance project to work on, didn’t have a chapter of a book to read for homework, didn’t need to read Amos and prep for the Bible study I lead tomorrow, didn’t feel like I needed to touch base with a half-dozen friends and acquaintances going through tough times, didn’t have two art commissions to paint.

I won’t do all those things tonight.

But I could.

Don’t get me wrong: I love those things and I love my full life and I love being called to do the work of the Kingdom and seeing that Kingdom-work all around me in each poem written, each banner handlettered, each text sent, each chapter of the Bible pondered and discussed.

I love it.

But sometimes I just want to put on my PJs and snuggle up next to your dad and watch Madam Secretary.

And ignore all the things.

And sometimes, girls? Sometimes I do.

Love,

Your Momma

The Twenty-Fourth Letter: Gratitude and a Full Life

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Dear Daughters,

Life has been full.

I don’t like the word “busy.” Everyone is busy. Busy is overcommitted, flustered, multitasking, doing, and going. Busy is the struggle to find time that doesn’t seem to be there.

Full is in making time.

Making time for a full life is staying in bed to cuddle with a sweaty child who arrived in the wee hours of the morning instead of rising early to write my morning pages.

A full life is playing pingpong while a preschooler circumnavigates the table. It’s cinnamon sugar cookies for a trivia night fundraiser, campfires and s’mores on Saturday night, Sunday morning bran muffins, and a Mary Kay open house.

A full life is hot black tea with milk and sugar every morning, children who take ages to finish dinner, dealing with congestion at 4 am…getting another cup of water, dosing Benadryl, falling asleep on the couch with a no-longer-lap-sized baby breathing heavily through the timer light kicking on at 5 am. It is a de-scaled humidifier, abhorring Wal-Mart but going there anyway, and eating lunch at Chick-fil-A so often the three-year-old says “my pleasure” instead of “you’re welcome.”

A full life is a child who sings “Through many dangers, toils, and snares…” as well as “The doc is in, and she’ll fix you up…,” who asks beautiful questions about Jesus being in her belly, and says spontaneously, “All of the days I love you, Mom.” A full life is a baby who shrieks “Yay!” when I tell her that Daddy is on the way home, who “counts” for Hide-and-Seek like this: “Nine…Nine…Nine…Nine…”

A full life is leading a women’s Bible study, meat-heavy Wednesday night dinners at church though we’re primarily vegetarian at home, looking forward to Advent, gifting spray-painted mason jars.

A full life is a preschooler who says her mom’s job is “artist.”

A full life is a 12-week Artists Way class winding down, writing an Advent devotional, a poem about cardamom, getting inspired at the Peddlers Mall.

A full life is signing up to bring Crockpot macaroni and cheese to the preschool Thanksgiving feast, a child who remembers her Sunday school lesson about the Ten Commandments, who out of the blue said “Saul was good at being good” (quoting her children’s Bible), who continues to think that Goliath is the best Bible story, who can write her name and spell her sister’s name.

A full life is taking the time to go to the library, to spell out words and practice letters, to collect leaves until every window and arch is covered with construction paper leaf flags. A full life is a monthly reading group at Panera, buying fundraiser items from the neighbor kids, loving on Lulu-the-Cat, our neighbors’ pet who lives in our yard and prefers our porch to hers. A full life is scarves and gloves and snotty noses outside but going outside anyway. A full life is too dark at 6 pm to go running on uneven sidewalks covered with leaves.

A full life is the large tupperware on the toddler’s head, a homemade grape costume and comments about Fruit of the Loom, and a list of gratitude for November.

A full life is being grateful for the simple things that make up a full life.

A full life is a grateful life, girls.

A full life is gratitude.

A full life is grace.

Love,

Your Momma