Saturday, May 21, 2011

{The Things that Keep}

I've been frustrated this week. It seems like everywhere I look, I see the mess, the chaos and disorder that inevitably happens where two or more are gathered. In this case, six have gathered. And let me tell you, six people can make a mess.

The girls (whom I call my little tornadoes) seem to have it pretty bad. It literally looks like they drop and leave and misplace everything in their wakes. I was out of solutions. Finally, I decided to ground them. From their very own room. Some children are sent to their rooms. Well my girls were sent out of their room. They could use it only for dressing and sleeping. They weren't allowed to play with anything from their room or even use the books in their room until it was spotless (we're talkin' serious consequences here). They quickly got the message.

This helped with my girls, but it didn't help me. I still found myself focusing on the yuck. It's a pit that I sink into every once in a while, and the climbing out can be arduous. A few words in the last few days have begun to pull me (once again) from the yuck. Might I share them with you?

A single line from a young mom's blog, Raising Arrows, jumped out at me early in the week:

If you spend your day striving for a home that looks devoid of family life,
you will quickly find yourself . . . devoid of family life.

This is exactly the place in which I found myself. Striving, striving. Frustrated with the laundry that never went away, the dishes that piled up, the papers that stacked, the toys that tripped me. Frustrated with . . . dare I say it? Life. Because that's exactly what I was trying to erase. If I look at the scraps of paper all over the school table which are destined to become a medieval castle and wish it could just go away, am I in truth acting as though I would wish away the creativity of my children? Am I striving for a sterile home, devoid of life? I shudder.

Thursday morning as I read Isaiah 30, my soul was lulled by verse 15, which reads, "In quietness and trust is your strength." This is one of those "cling-to" verses. I cling to it, knowing it's true. I repeat it to myself, rhythmic breathing reminders. Quietness. Trust. When I'm tempted to scream chaos! I run back to the truth. Quietness. Trust. This is my strength.

And then this afternoon, I ran across a poem that my friend Katie illustrated for her new studio, Paisley Kate. (I love, love this name, by the way. Her stuff is amazing, too!) I was drawn first to her artistic touch, and then to the words of the poem, penned in 1958 by Ruth Hulbert Hamilton:

Song for a Fifth Child
Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is this mother whose house is so shocking?
She's up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.
Oh, I've grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue
Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo.
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo.
The shopping's not done and there's nothing for stew
And out in the yard there's a hullabaloo.
The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
For children grow up, as I've learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep.

The other day when I was driving with Aidan, I felt the pang of this. Babies don't keep. As we wound our way through Lake Road, he played with the dinosaur silly bands on his lap. I teased that the T-Rex might just nibble away at his knee -- he had better beware! He teased right back, "He's nibbling on my knees!" I laughed outwardly, but my heart ached. How much longer will I giggle with this boy over knee-hungry dinosaurs? Not much longer. He'll outgrow it in a flash. Eight-year-olds don't keep.

These children with their messy rooms, their paper castle scraps and stacks of books, their jeans with holey knees, their little toes with chipping nail polish. These won't keep.

But there are things which do keep. Most importantly, the souls of the little ones whose clothes I wash, whose dishes I scrub, whose backs I scratch and whose books I straighten, these will keep. And so if I strive for anything, it should be for life. It should be for quietness and trust. It should be always and only for the things that keep.
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  1. "Oh, thank you so much Julianna!" she says with tears in her eyes.

  2. great post! I had to learn to let go of my perfectionism, and instead be grateful for the constant of dirty dishes and full laundry baskets because it is proof that my life is full of people who use these things; and how very blessed I am.
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Just lovely, Julianna! Thank you for putting into words what all the rest of us feel like, day in and day out. I still choke up a little bit each time I see that poem, even though it's on my wall.



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