Important

Maggie’s obsession with carousels began six months ago when Nettie, her grandma, brought her a coloring book with sketches of horses. The cover featured an intricately adorned carousel in Tennessee. Maggie was hooked. She began begging to ride carousels and asked questions about them daily. I blamed Nettie for that.

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Maggie’s first carousel ride was a little anticlimactic; the carousel, a rickety three-horse ride at Wal-Mart, wasn’t working properly. We deposited coins while she giggled and shouted with glee. And nothing happened.

Maggie kept riding, though. She pretended the horses were whinnying, kicking, and dancing. She sat atop that broken carousel for at least five minutes while we watched, amused.

A few months later, she rode an antique carousel at the zoo. I’ll never forget her face while the breeze caught her golden hair, her eyes closed and tiny teeth shining in the June light.

part0_13 (1)Nettie brought Maggie a toy carousel a few weeks later. The carousel’s status surpassed that of her “snowballs,” globes swirling with white plastic specks, sparkling glitter surrounding Baby Jesus and his mother.

I knew Maggie loved her carousel, but I barely noticed it. When she pushed a red button, the Christmas-themed figurine played electronic carols. I couldn’t make it through two of them without distracting her to play with something else or leaving the room to finish loading the dishwasher.

Until last night, I had never heard all the songs the carousel carries. We lay in bed together, the three of us, watching the mirrored column in the center of the ride scatter its green and red lights around her bedroom. She showed me which horse she loves most on the carousel and explained why. I hummed along to the tunes and held her soft, squishy hand and rubbed her warm, smooth back.

Six months had passed, and I’d never heard the music.

How much beauty in small places do I miss?

I often ask myself, “How important is it?” I typically prioritize big, urgent, prominent things. Work. Marketing. Chores. Meetings. Writing. Scheduled events.

Last night, I saw the world through Maggie’s eyes once again.

From now on, my response to that rhetorical question when presented with moments like this will be “Top priority.”

 

Gumberries

My love for crimson clover started my senior year in college. I’d never really paid them much attention before then. Every spring since, I’ve waited expectantly to see them blooming on the side of the road and in yards all over Arkansas in April. They have never failed to appear. Their grassy, earthy smell reminds me of everything alive and good in the world.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen we added two small rooms onto our house last year and repaired septic lines, the dirt work necessitated ruining most of the grass on one side of the house. My husband’s ingenious solution was to spread crimson clover seed across the area. His solution not only covered the muddy, ugly mess in the side yard; it also created a blast of color this spring for me to enjoy.

I’m not the only one who’s enjoyed the clover. Maggie loves learning names of plants and animals. She asked for the name of crimson clover, and then quickly rejected it, dubbing it “gumberries” instead. Gumberries it is. Maggie has frolicked in the gumberries almost every day since they appeared, chasing butterflies, listening to bumblebees buzzing, and picking select gumberries to share with our neighbor’s horse, dubbed Mr. Gray, when we walk down the road on sunny afternoons.


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I recently recorded her chasing butterflies in the gumberry patch. While watching the video later, I expected to be mesmerized by the clover brightly swaying in the breeze, the birds calling to one another, and the yellow butterfly gently resting atop tiny gumberries. Instead, I was captivated by one short moment in the brief video when Maggie clutches her belly in rapture, squealing in glee, “Dragonfly!” The joy in her heart took my breath away.

I watched this moment repeatedly. I felt so lucky to have been there to see my daughter amazed by something so small, something I rarely even notice. Almost immediately, I simultaneously wondered how many times I had overlooked magical moments like this because of my obsessions with being on time, minding our manners, learning the alphabet, or crossing items off my own to-do list. Don’t get me wrong—those things matter, and running a business while staying home with Maggie is more than a full-time job. The laissez faire approach sounds great, but at the end of the day, if no one’s being the Mama, Mama’s business, Maggie, and the household are pretty amuck. I have to be quite the juggler to manage work projects, keep in touch with clients, and provide Maggie with a fun, balanced, semi-educational day. Oh, and keep the house moderately uncluttered and clean, too; my expectations of perfection long since vanished. Then there’s the list of things swimming in my head that simply never get accomplished… exercise, grocery shopping, vaccinations, painting my nails, etc… :).

But nothing matters more than living.

I needed 60 seconds recorded–so I can watch them every time I fret over the list of things I never get accomplished–to remind me to open my eyes, turn on my listening ears, and dig in the dirt. To notice the dragonfly, the beetle, and the eight kittens growing stronger every day, which we’ll soon share with other families. To be where my hands are with my own little kitten, who is four-and-a-half-and-don’t-forget-the-half-part, while she’s here.

Drowning the crocodile

peterpan66gm1I feel like Captain Hook every day.

I hear the tick tock of an invisible clock, and at times, it’s nearly audible. When I’m nursing my baby, and she decides to turn meal time into play time, I hear the ticking, telling me that there are three people waiting for me to return their calls and emails. When I’m checking my newsfeed on Facebook and take a moment to “like” my friend’s photo of her adorable, chunky toddler playing with his new tractor, I hear the clock ticking, tying strings to the index fingers of my mind, reminding me of the stack of homework and bills atop my desk.  When I’m reading poems by T.S. Eliot (which, by the way, I’m still proposing be removed from the list of American classics), I hear the clock ticking, reminding me of the stack of laundry waiting to be folded.

The clock is always ticking. It never stops. At times, I worry that I’ll just jump ship like Captain Hook, right into that crafty crocodile’s open mouth, giving up on the idea of even halfway managing to get anything done.

Nothing against crocodiles, but I’d honestly like to slit that crocodile’s throat, yank out the ticking clock, and smash it on the plank into millions of tiny, unrecognizable pieces.

But time doesn’t work that way. And neither does my mind.

I’ve always had a keen–probably overly keen–awareness of time. I’ve even written about it before. At times, it serves a beneficial purpose in my life. It keeps me on track. It helps me accomplish tasks. It motivates me to arrive promptly and finish work ahead of schedule. It reminds me of the great chasm between our tiny little lives on earth and eternity.

But every asset can be a defect if I let the pendulum swing too far in the other direction. And after having a baby, I have noticed the tick tock growing louder and louder and louder. I have allowed the pendulum to swing way too far in the direction of defective for me.

My very wise mentor reminded me last week that God will never give me more than I can handle, but that I will give myself more than I can handle every single time.

That wasn’t the touchy feely, fairy godmother type of reminder I was hoping to receive, but it was the truth.

All I’ve been given each day is one day. In fact, I don’t even know for certain that I will live past 10:09 a.m., March 21, 2013. All I know is that I’m here, right now. My daughter is here, right now, sleeping peacefully in her crib during her nap (which hopefully lasts until I finish writing this post). My husband is here, quietly crunching numbers on his computer and drinking his coffee.

Listening to the clock and attempting to hold way too many things in my hands at one time. FAIL :).

Listening to the clock ticking and attempting to hold way too many things in my hands while using tissue to stop my nose from running. FAIL :).

Yes, there are crumbs on my marble counter tops. Yes, there is an embarrassing collection of bark, leaves, and clods of dirt in my living room floor, thanks to our wood-burning stove. Yes, my collection of literature for my upcoming comprehensive exam for my Master’s degree lies next to me, waiting to be opened and reviewed (again). And yes, post-it notes reminding me of things to order, bills to pay, dates to prepare for, and topics to write about are slowly taking over my once-tidy bulletin board, having spread from a smidgen of hot pink to a blinding mass of fluorescent mess.

Yesterday, as my daughter performed a cacophony of coos and impressive wrestling and gymnastics moves while halfheartedly nursing, the clock ticked.

And I heard a Still Small Voice.

“Just enjoy her.”

So I did.

I remembered a note stuck to my bulletin board (still visible despite the mess of bright pink post-its). On it are two phrases, both phrases whispered to me during a meditation exercise at a women’s conference a few years ago.

020One of the phrases reads, “Time enjoyed is not time wasted.”

Let me silence the clock today. Let me drown that crocodile (or slit its throat–whatever works) that keeps lurking around, encircling my mind.

Let me look at my daughter’s ever-changing face as I hold her in my hands.

Let me listen closely to what matters–the steady, quiet ticking of her tiny, growing heart.

 

Setting down the bucket

Maggie at 6 weeks

Maggie at 6 weeks

Life is incredibly short.

I was reminded of this yesterday when my husband learned that a friend of his from college had passed away after battling cancer. He was in his early 30s.

As I imagined the grief his family must be experiencing, I held my tiny daughter. Less than seven weeks ago, we brought her home for the first time, and she weighed at least four pounds less than she does now. She has grown and developed right before our eyes; I marvel at the changes on a daily basis.

While praying for this man’s family, and for my husband, I also thanked God for my daughter’s little life. For my own life full of twists and turns. For my husband who God constantly uses to demonstrate His love for me.

“You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” -James 4:14

Last year, I created a bucket list to guide me through the year and motivate me to stay focused. I started my 2013 bucket list a few days ago.

  • Make my dream to operate a cement mixer come true. This was on my list from last year and was one of two items I didn’t get to cross off the list. This year, though…. this will be the year!
  • Graduate from my Master’s in English program in May.
  • Start the tradition of doing devotions with my husband and daughter each night.
  • Hike three new trails.
  • Teach at least one class on the college level after earning my degree.

After getting this far along in the list creation process, I paused.

I am almost positive that I’ll be able to cross these items off my bucket list in 2013, Lord willing. The items on my bucket list are things I’ve wanted to do for a long time, worked toward accomplishing, and have the means to achieve.

But whether or not I finish school, and no matter how many trails I blaze in 2013, I want to live my life right here and now. I want to be where my hands are.

Right now, my hands hold my baby, pat her back to burp her, wrestle with diapers to keep her clean and dry, soothe her skin with lotion, and cradle her fragile frame to feed her. My hands massage my husband’s sore shoulders, bring him coffee, and wipe tears away from laughing at his jokes. My hands do dishes, fold laundry, and carry firewood. My hands fold themselves together in prayer repeatedly throughout each day. My hands turn pages, type encouraging words to friends, and write research papers.

???????????????????????????????My hands are full, and they’re full with what matters.

This year, I might operate that cement mixer, and I might teach a college course, and I might even find myself sitting in a brand new sunroom writing my blog. Who knows?

I know that God has given me the right things to hold onto right now. And I’m going to hold on and let everything else go.