Tuesday, July 17, 2007
This month, I thought I should be cleaning because that’s what good moms do. Last month, when I was cooking, baking, and meal planning for the betterment of my family, I neglected the dust and cobwebs until the “haunted house” look became unbearable, until I put down my spatula to grip our handheld vacuum, eradicating dirt like my life depended on it. If I was more balanced, I could spread myself evenly, I could function in the middle of the road. But unfortunately, I’m about as flexible as a charging freight train that would sooner crash than change directions quickly. The way I see it, when your role contains as many definitions as a dictionary, sometimes just picking one of them to perfect and obsess over seems saner than trying to memorize them all.
So I bought a Swiffer, some new dish clothes, and anti-bacterial wipes. I made schedules to stick to like glue. I listed jobs and hung them on the refrigerator because good moms, responsible moms, teach their children to work hard like they do. It takes 21 days to form a habit, three weeks of refusing to compromise before the actions necessary for reaching one’s goal feel natural instead of forced. I couldn’t sit down, I couldn’t stop dusting, or washing, or folding, or scrubbing, but the results were incredibly positive; for the first time in a long time, my home was haven of tidiness.
The side effects of this most recent preoccupation were minor, at least as far as I was concerned. My inability to pause for drawn out dialogue or an impromptu game of Uno was a small price to pay for the gift I was giving to my husband, my kids, and myself. I prayed for the discipline not to get sidetracked, to keep this train a movin’ straight ahead. But wouldn’t you know it, that this week, the third week in my quest to form a habit, our youngest daughter Mary has decided to break free of her sweet and docile temperament in favor of a new personality just a little bit louder and a whole lot more stubborn. This updated version of our baby girl is not interested in the rules so clearly posted. The fourteen days I’ve invested in bringing order out of chaos means nothing to one whose own obsession is to feel the tickling grass between her toes. Mary has made it perfectly clear that my unyielding distractedness is an annoyance that will not be tolerated.
The high-pitched whining reached glass-shattering decibels as she furiously scratched at our closed front door. Admittedly, I was frustrated and torn. “Just a minute,” I promised, “I am really almost finished.” But I knew in reality it would be more like half an hour before I felt free to step away from the daily chores. I also knew that one hectic afternoon could undo a week’s worth of effort and that vigilance was my best defense. But then, like a whistling in the wind, came an almost imperceptible nudging blowing through my thoughts, suggesting, but not demanding, that I stop mid-sweep and tend to Mary. “The work at hand is so important,” I mentally argued with my conscience, “Later, I swear, I will make it up to her. We will swing as long as she wants to, but I really need to get these few things done.”
“Take her outside,” came again that subtle prompting, Spirit filled whispers presenting me with one of a million chances to deny myself and simply obey – without question, without pausing, without trying to justify the hundreds of excuses slowing my response time and hardening my will. Begrudgingly, I finally surrendered, putting down the broom to take my anxious daughter by the hand. “Let’s go,” I said, as she wobbled her way toward the sidewalk, laughing and pointing at all of the commonplace miracles I have learned to take for granted over time - like dogs, ants, and bluebirds cheerily chirping. The sun warming my shoulders, the fresh air clearing my head, and the sight of my child truly happy were enough to elicit spontaneous prayers of gratitude, prayers that would have never have found their voice within the confines of my stringent to-do list. “How many times,” I wondered, “has God, in His mercy, offered me the opportunity to commune with Him? How many times have I lost a glimpse of heaven because my eyes were firmly fixed upon the ground?”
It is very inconvenient to stand before icons, to break-up a busy Saturday and attend evening vespers, to plan meals around periods of fasting, or to stop a charging train in its tracks. But of the many definitions summing up my current identity, there is one that must shine brighter than the rest. Should not all my actions be securely bound in Christ, fusing together, working together until each reflect the glory of my Savior? Because maybe, just maybe, amidst the rigorous requirements of self-assigned resolutions there are miracles light and joyous to rediscover - like smiles, conversation, and impulsive prayers of thankfulness for little girls, a change of scenery, and other such inconvenient blessings marking this day, and every day as holy.
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