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.”

 

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.

 

This little light of mine

Our little light

Our little light

Since my daughter’s name, Margaret, means “daughter of light,” and since my 2013 word of the year is light, almost every night while nursing her, and other times during the day when I spontaneously break into song-and-dance (happens often, folks), I sing her a sunny compilation of light-themed songs. You Are My Sunshine. Shine, Jesus, Shine. And of course, This Little Light of Mine.

Maggie was named after both sides of our families. Margaret is her great-great grandmother on her father’s side of the family. Jacqueline is my mother’s name. When selecting her first name, I was torn between one name I absolutely loved the sound of. It was more trendier and cuter, really. But its meaning fell flat for me, even though I tried to repeatedly convince myself that it didn’t matter.

It did. Meanings matter to me. Words matter to me. So names matter even more.

When I learned that Margaret means “daughter of light,” I was sold.

My life’s love story has been one of Light piercing through what seemed at times to be impenetrable darkness. Over and over again. The passionate pursuit of Light, in search of my muddled soul’s heartbeat. Never thwarted by layers of stagnation, sadness, or sin, the Light has searched me out. It has found me. It loves me.

Maggie's room and her life verse hanging above her crib

Maggie’s room and her life verse hanging above her crib

As I painted the sign for my daughter’s room with her life verse on it, I had no idea that a few months later, I’d read the book Praying Circles Around Your Children by Mark Batterson and that I was setting into motion a master plan, orchestrated by Someone much more omniscient,  to pray meaning and purpose into my daughter’s life.

“Arise, shine, for your Light has come. And the glory of the Lord rises upon you.” -Isaiah 60:1

That she would glorify God. That His glory would rise upon her. That she would reflect the Light her entire life.

She already does. My mom, not knowing at the time about her life verse, commented a few weeks ago that her smile lights up the room so brightly that there’s no need for electricity. Of course, this is a grandma speaking. But it’s true. Through bouts of illness since becoming pregnant, she has brought light and joy and hope to me countless times. I see her father’s countenance change, too, when their eyes meet.

And tonight I got to take my little light to church for the first time. Even though she wasn’t a fan of the music and also seemed to be missing her teething toy, Sophie the Giraffe, there was one brilliant moment.

As I swayed with her in the back of the room, hoping to soothe her, I noticed a woman crying. Not weeping softly. Crying. Sobbing. Holding onto her husband and shaking from sorrow. She reminded me of my stepmom, Jodi, a recovering addict whose health problems related to her addiction cost her to lose her life a few years ago.

I caught the woman’s eye. And that Still Small Voice reminded me of my daily prayer over my daughter.

“Let her be light.”

Sucking it up and overcoming my germaphobic tendencies, I slowly walked up to the woman during the worship music with my four month-old daughter and hugged that woman close and whispered words of encouragement in her ear. She stopped crying and touched Maggie and smiled. And of course, Maggie smiled that smile that wins everyone over who is privileged enough to witness it.

Maybe Jesus wants some of us for sunbeams, but Maggie’s the moon, reflecting Light in even the darkest moments.

That little light of mine shone bright tonight.