Living Life Unfinished



If I were organized, I’d be a killer list person.

Alas. If I manage to find a pen in my house (the child security locks on the office cupboard have long been hacked) and write out a few daily tasks, more often than not, I find myself staring at them at the end of the day, in all their bullet point glory, whole and uncrossed.

Let me tell you something. It’s tough to never, ever finish things.

The work ethic in my family is strong. My mom still wakes up at 5:00 am most days to exercise, shower, make breakfast, and tackle what needs to be done. My dad will run the combine at harvest time long into the cool fall nights. My husband will stick with a project for hours until it’s done, or he’s reached a finishing point.

Me, on the other hand? I move around my home in never-ending circles. Load more dishes in the dishwasher. Pick up the deflated socks that seem to be everywhere. Comb someone’s hair. Change the baby. Check the dryer.

Kitchen. Laundry room. Bathroom. Circle. Circle. Circle.

It’s work of the most frustrating kind. Things never, ever stay finished. As soon as the holy grail bottom of the laundry basket appears, someone throws another wrench in my Indiana Jones-like quest for clean clothes. Dishes get dirtied. Something spills and the floor has to be swept. The circle starts all over again.

I know it’s a phase, and that these days of my children being little are like the sunlight hours after daylight savings time: so very short. So I’ve been trying, trying to sit down in the middle of the chaos and be present. To be silly. To take *awesome* family pictures so I can remember life in this season. I’m learning to leave dishes in the sink. I don’t pick up toys every night. I can’t tell you the last time I deep cleaned anything


But somehow, it’s still not working. I still find myself a little on edge most days, wanting to recount just what it is I’m doing besides endlessly picking up gently browning apple cores left out from morning snack, and supervising cleanup of whatever catastrophe happened while I was nursing the baby last.

Last night at a family birthday party, my sister in law recounted the wonderful stuff she’s been up to lately. Then the tables turned on me. My mind went blank. What have I been doing? Um. *Scramble scramble scramble* I’m…reading a manuscript for a friend! Painting a bedroom! Teaching Ellis not to use an entire bottle of shampoo in one sitting! Making a small attempt at national novel writing month (#nanowrimo y’all!) with the goal of two chapters!

See my exclamation points? Isn’t that big? And exciting? Have I convinced myself I’m worth something because I made a list? Yes? Yes? Yes?


As much as I’ve always wanted to be the serenely-listening Mary in the new testament story when Jesus visits two sisters, deep down, I’ve always know I’m the Martha clanking away in the kitchen, furiously working the dishrag, trying to do all the things.

The things that could have waited.

Because they were just that. Things.

Jesus didn’t care about a clean counter or a swept-up floor. He wanted to be with his friends, Mary and Martha. Likewise, when my daughters come tromping down the stairs in the morning, they aren’t looking around going, Wow. I sure feel safe and secure at home because the house is picked up. Not a chance.

They’re looking for me.

Which means maybe I need to figure out a new approach. Maybe I need to stop measuring the value of my work by the things I’ve accomplished, and starting looking for more places to be available.

Maybe I need to listen to more Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros, because if home is wherever I’m with you, then the best things I can offer my family are my empty, waiting hands.

And maybe one of those creepy automatic vacuum robots.











More than being present

I have a chalkboard in my kitchen. It’s one of those Pinteresty decorating ideas that I totally fell for, because I love words, and more importantly, I have a kindergartener’s obsession with chalk. IMG_20131016_221806_390

Earlier this summer, I wrote a verse from 1 Thessalonians on the board. In a way, I did it as a sort of challenge to myself. The verse read “Be joyful always. Pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances.” It seemed like the formula for living present and aware. I figured the timing was about right, because I was already feeling all sorts of pregnant crazytown and it would be good to see a reminder about resetting my focus when things went haywire.

The idea of being present has become a little bit of a catchphrase. It’s all over those inspirational wall sayings on Facebook. It’s in the quarterly newsletter from my local healthcare provider. It was even a story in my REALSIMPLE magazine this month – “Ten ways to be present NOW.”

Don’t get me wrong. Being present is really important. But should it be the end stop? I guess I don’t want to show up to something just to be there. I want to be transformed in my awareness.

If I’m present in my happiness, I want to filter that happiness into some sort of creative act later. If I’m sad, I want to remember that other people get sad too so I don’t feel so alone. If I’m angry, I want to figure out how to curb it without damaging anyone or anything around me.

All the snowboarders and thrill seekers in the world might disagree with me, but I think there’s more to experience than just the actual experience. What if I experienced to relate, to encourage, to emote, to praise? What if I took those things back into the community I lived in, and put them to work?

When I whipped out the best cursive I could muster and scrawled down that bible verse, I told myself I was ready. I was going to do more than just be present when the babies came. I was going to be transformed by it.  I was going to search out the GOOD in the moment, trace it back to its Creator, and then give thanks for it.  

Now let me be honest. It’s all fine to lay out my good intentions, but it’d be another thing entirely if I let you think I’d learned how to be Mother Theresa overnight because of a dusty bible verse on a chalkboard.

Being “joyful always” is not my natural first choice emotion when I’m scrubbing yellow mustard poop out of the outfit one of the girls was supposed to wear. “Praying continually” doesn’t happen when I’m blind with exhaustion. And “giving thanks in all circumstances” was the last thing on my mind when the doctor called to tell me Lucia failed her newborn hearing test and we needed to get her re-screened right away.

But I’m trying. And in the middle of it all, sometimes, a tiny part of me changes.


Yesterday the girls turned three months old. And you know how sometimes, you look at mile markers and think, where did the time go?

I know exactly where it’s gone.

I feel every single one of these three months. Nothing has been a blur. (Well, okay. Maybe the diaper bill.) There have been moments of deep and crazy love, and moments of completely disheveled how-am-I-going-to-handle-this insanity.

I feel these months in my feet the way I did when I worked at a bridal shop that didn’t allow anyone to wear shoes in the store. I feel them in my newly re-muscled arms. In my ravenous appetite and never ending water bottle refills. I feel them in my conversations, which constantly tread water around the topic of babies. I feel them in quickly whispered prayers that I breathe over the girls when I lay them down to sleep.  I feel everything.

The past three months have been an exercise in dealing with all this feeling. But perhaps the hardest thing for me to acknowledge in the middle of all this change and miniscule amounts of transformation is this:

I feel a lot better when I have help

Whether I ask for or simply accept it, help makes everything less overwhelming. Help makes the present something I can enjoy, instead of something I rush through so that I can get everyone to bed.

Ellis has a new phrase lately. “I do it myseff, mama.” Pretty standard among toddlers, but the first time she said it, I had to try not to laugh out loud. Of course she couldn’t put her hair in a ponytail by herself, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t going to try.

And fail.

And then holler, hot-faced and cranky, for help.

I laugh, because I’m the adult version of my daughter. I maybe have a teensy little problem with being independent, self-sufficient, and a measure too stubborn for my own good.

But maybe, just maybe, I’m learning to get over doing everything “myseff” so that I can teach my daughter to do the same. I’m learning that over-independence sometimes ruins any chance of being transformationally present. I’m learning to lean, to accept, to ask so that I really can practice what it means to be joyful always.

Pray continually.

Give thanks in all circumstances.


PS- three month pictures forthcoming.