A Small, Silly Thing

I am a creature of habit. I thrive on routine and ritual.

In our home, if something happens twice, it’s a tradition. And it will keep on and keep on and keep on.

Sometimes, this is how I create heavy burdens and too-high expectations. I’ve had to teach myself how to let things go. I’ve had to learn to find the humor in the fact that a child will hold tightly to some ritual they never liked all that much simply because you’ve canceled it.

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But the rhythm of daily life changes. Rituals come and go and, yes, sometimes they come back.

I’m writing about one such family ritual for a Tuesday blog series hosted by the wonderful Cara Meredith. Every Tuesday you’ll find a new story inspired by this thought: “The boring rituals make the story deeper.”

Because they do, don’t they? Life is composed almost entirely of small, boring things. Silly things. Inconsequential things. But if we take the time to stop, to look, to trace the pattern of just one or two of these very small things … well, we may see how a bubble of water becomes a spring becomes a river.

I’m sharing the story of one of our own silly, little things. It’s a very small thing. But I know that if my parents or siblings are reading, if my children were reading, they would feel something very real, and deep, and powerful when they read these words:

Shake the love around.

I hope you’ll read my story. And while you’re there, I hope you’ll explore Cara’s website, and I hope you’ll read through all her Tuesday guest posts. It’s a treasure trove.

This Table Prepared For Me

When I was invited to write about “quiet hospitality” at Grace Table, I knew just what I would say.

I meant to tell you all about the loud hospitality we used to practice. About the parties and events and big efforts. Those days were good, but they are long gone.

I meant to tell you about the daily rhythms of our current life at Maplehurst. Those quiet practices, like a cooked breakfast every morning and homemade pizza every Friday night, that are easy and natural to share with others.

But all the while a very different story was unfolding at my own kitchen table. And that is the story I’m sharing today.

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Grace Table is about love for God, love for neighbor, and love for the table. If you haven’t yet spent time there, I suggest you do. The storytelling is excellent, and the recipes are mouthwatering.

It’s a delicious combination.

Find my story here.

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This Life of Loose Ends

Summer came to an end at approximately five pm on Sunday night.

At five pm on Sunday night, I was sauteeing squash ribbons (that four out of four children would not eat) and flipping cheese quesadillas (that two out of four children would not eat) while hollering at the boys to clean their room and listening to the firstborn debate first-day-of-school outfits.

I was mentally prepping school lunches, signing an emergency-contact form for the oldest, and telling the youngest that now was not a good time for playing in the sink.

The youngest threw herself across the floor while I two-stepped toward the dinner plates.

And there, at utter loose ends in my kitchen, is when I knew summer was over.

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Summer may be chaotic and intense, but in summer there is less pressure to chase down every last loose end.

Did we eat popcorn for dinner instead of vegetables? Well, it’s summer. Tomorrow we shall raid the garden.

Did the five-year-old hop into bed with dirty feet? Well, maybe we’ll wash off with a visit to the creek tomorrow.

In Fall, we remember the calendar and the budget and the email inbox.

In Fall, the overgrown garden looks sad rather than abundant. In Fall, the baby’s hair is plastered to her forehead with applesauce instead of sweet baby sweat.

In Summer, loose ends twine like pea vines on lattice. They tempt us to stay up past our bedtimes. They draw us on to look deeply at sunsets and the freckles on our loved one’s nose.

In Fall, loose ends scatter themselves like beads from a broken necklace. We scramble and cry, but we know we will never find them all. We will never manage to gather the details. We will fail to live up to at least a few of our responsibilities.

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I long for my own little chore chart. With three neat rows and a gold star for each grid.

But there are no gold stars waiting for me at the end of my email inbox. No gold stars when I have packed three healthy, nut-free, school-approved snacks.

So here is a reminder – for me, for you – to hold on to summer’s lessons.

Let us remember where the gold stars live.

They live in sunsets and freckles.

They live at the ends of every loose strand of a young girl’s hair.

They shine in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome them.

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Reunion Days

I’ve written about my extended family before.

These are almost always stories of absence. The cousins we have yet to meet. The grandparents we too rarely hold. Family, for us, is always too much or too little.

I am a foreigner to my own family,

a stranger to my own mother’s children.

(Psalm 69:8).

Our lives are stretched across too many time zones. My father has always said it is a good thing our country is not any larger because then we would only live farther apart. But with one sister’s imminent move to Hawaii, our country has suddenly grown much larger. And we will, indeed, live farther apart.

But summer days are reunion days, and through some miracle of spirit and frequent flier miles, we came together.

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and I have found this to be true. But now I know that absence grows other good fruit. Because the holes in our lives where family might be do not stay empty. These gaps and fissures turn out to be fertile ground for things like hospitality and community. Friendship and adventure. Without family to lean on, we become needy, but these needs are always met.

We come together and discover that we do not have less but so much more. We have family, and we have friends. We have family, and we have neighbors. We have family, and we have our communities. We have family, and we have life in abundance.

We have more.

May your deeds be shown to your servants,

your splendor to their children.

(Psalm 90:16)

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Our Stories Come From Hunger

Our Easter feast began the day before, on Saturday morning. One hundred or so neighbors. Two thousand or so eggs. Warm sunshine and hot coffee. Conversation and sticky children.

Or maybe it began earlier that week. When my sister and her four children tumbled, along with the crayons and crumpled napkins, from their minivan. A three-day road trip from Florida suddenly ended.

It is Easter, and we have feasted. On cousins sprouting like weeds and epic games of Monopoly. On baby chickens discovering bugs and grass and baby lettuces discovering rain.

We have feasted on hard-boiled eggs turned somewhat unappetizing shades of blue and my mother’s recipe for Greek chicken.

But mostly, we have feasted on time. On moments stretching into days spent at the table side-by-side with family.

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under The Tree

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Family, for us, has always been feast or famine. Separated by miles, our mailing addresses like stars in a far-flung constellation, we do not relate casually. There is no dropping by. No Sunday lunches then home again. No Christmas gifts delivered in person. No grandparents to babysit for date night.

We have only not enough (telephone calls and emails) or too much (three daily cycles of the dishwasher and four of laundry just to keep the show running).

We know Lenten hunger, and we know Easter fullness.

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Feast days leave little space for story-making. Not storytelling. There is time for that as we sit at table. Storytelling is a necessary part of celebration.

But story-making is born of hunger rather than plenty. It is our longing that reveals the contours of new dreams and new stories. Because we hunger, because we do not have, because we suffer, we search for meaning like desperate sailors search for land.

We search for cool blue in desert wastes. We search for Kelly green in stubborn snow.

In winter, we toss in our sleep, and we dream of spring.

In spring, we sleep dreamlessly and wake refreshed.

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“For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Matthew 7:8

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