I always feel a twinge of sadness on this weekend because I miss the days of swimming at the pool with little girls, running through the sprinkler, and eating sweet popsicles. It’s so different with teenagers.
Although we still have wonderful family times, I find myself more alone in the house. Teens move outward, and they bounce from fun activity and then to work and school and this vibrant life without you–just as it should be. They land back home like hummingbirds darting to the feeder, and I marvel at their beauty. Then, they flit off.
I wait to catch those iridescent wings. If I’m still enough and wait, they always return home.
I’m thankful for the strange, quiet house. I’m thankful that Jesus is here, just like He was when the house was strange with a sleeping newborn. I’m left with myself, my husband, and Jesus, and it’s just as it should be this weekend.
And just as I rediscovered myself in each new stage–marriage, small children, and teens–I’ll find out who I am here, too.
Today I discover this quote by author E.B. White:
“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”
My husband and I laugh with understanding. It’s the weekend dilemma: does he work in the yard or enjoy the yard? Do I work to make things better today, or is it a day to enjoy what’s right here? Maybe we fall into one of the two tendencies: we are improvers or enjoyers. I tend towards improvement, so all day, I consider enjoying.
To plan the evening, I consider a walk around the neighborhood–not to improve anything, but to enjoy the lawns and gardens.
I glean a final lesson from the Mother Robin: her work will indeed end. It’s not forever. I watch her gentle movements on her nest, and I let myself think of the burden, the boredom, and even the discomfort of certain seasons of life, especially the mothering of young children.
Then I remember that it’s so short. These eggs will hatch in 2 days since she laid them 10 days ago.
Then, she enters a season of nearly constant feeding. She will make over 100 feeding trips to that nest! I imagine the never-ending work of it. I think of all the family meals I prepare. But then, I know it’s not never-ending; her babies will fledge in 13 days. One of mine will fledge in 2 years.
The stages end. Nothing stays the same. Each season carries its own wonder and meaning.
I wander the woods in search of the blooming Lady’s Slipper Orchids, and today I find them. If you remember, eight years ago, I learned what it meant to live in community right where I am when I first discovered them. You can read the post here.
Today, I learn a little about the Native American folklore surrounding this orchid: a maiden ran barefoot through the forest in search of medicine for her tribe, but she collapsed on the way with frozen, swollen feet. In the place where she died, the forest bloomed with Lady’s Slipper Orchids to honor her bravery. The Native Americans also used the roots of this orchid as medicine.
I love thinking about the story told of these forest orchids. I love all that they represent and all the beauty they hold deep in the shaded woods.
I also love this: It’s nearly impossible to see the orchids. I cannot explain it. They seem invisible until you spot just one, and then you can train your eye to see them all. They blend in–which seems so strange because of the pink color–but they do somehow dissolve against the background of the forest. My neighbor and I suddenly spotted just one, and then we realized all at once that we were standing in the midst of twenty or so. It’s an enchanted find!
I watch the Mother Robin sit. All day long, she sits. I find myself deeply admiring her. I find myself respecting this work of sitting on a nest.
I observe how she shields her eggs from the heat of the sun, the driving rain, and from the chill of evening. She uses her body to incubate. As a verb, I realize that incubate essentially means to keep at a suitable temperature for development.
The Mother Robin lives now in a season of incubation–of keeping the environment at a suitable temperature for growing her chicks.
I consider my own season of incubating teens.
I consider the incubation of my spiritual life.
I consider how I create the right conditions for the incubating of creativity.
If I took my cues from the robin, I would know that to incubate for the growth of anything (my children, my marriage, my work, my relationship with Jesus) requires practicing stillness, sensing the atmosphere, making subtle adjustments so nothing falls destructively out of the nest, and surrendering other activities that seem rather bird-like (flying, soaring, singing, perching).
I take the season for what it is. I practice stillness, sensing, subtlety, and surrender.
And one day, everything hatches.
I ask my wise mentor for her advice about teenage jealousy. After all, it took me four decades until I made peace with my own life and found the deep contentment of knowing I’m already seated at the table my heart longs for. While teaching the truth of our seat at the table soothes so much of teen comparison, I realize that I need something practical and immediate.
I present the problem to my mentor, and she says, “Have your daughter tell God what she really wants. Maybe the jealousy about certain things is a God-given dream in her heart about something she doesn’t yet have that perhaps God intends for her.”
I had never thought of it this way.
I tell my daughter to think about that thing she’s most jealous of and to ask God for that very thing because perhaps it’s a dream in her heart! But then, something marvelous happens: my daughter says, “I actually don’t want [that thing.]I don’t know what my problem is!”
It was a fun conversation because I said we might write down everything we think we want that other people have that we’re jealous of. And by the time I went to get the pen, she realized that she never wanted those things any way. It’s like the spell was broken.
Driving home from a road trip to see friends with my oldest daughter, we find that a portion of the road is suddenly closed. A long stretch of highway shows only police cars directing traffic elsewhere. But there’s no detour sign, no directions, and no help–other than our GPS continually suggesting we take a u-turn to get back to the very spot we started.
We can only read the map and turn down unfamiliar roads the old-fashioned way. It’s so fun to bounce down back roads–some paved and some only muddy trails through woods and farm land.
It seemed like we’d never reach the highway, but then, just like the map showed, we intersect the highway just at the point where the road opened again to travelers. We felt so accomplished, so intelligent, and so ready for the next adventure.
In this case, the technology would never have taken us where we needed to go together, down unmarked, winding roads through Virginia.
I remember the powerful principle that God does not provide grace for imaginary circumstances. He gives us exactly what we need for every real and present moment. When I am filled with dread because I’m trying to work out an imaginary future happening, no wonder I don’t experience His peace and provision. It’s because God works in real situations, not in my anxiety over future events.
Whatever happens to me, then I will receive exactly what I need. Not before.
Today the strangest thing happened while I was emptying the bathroom trash. Every so often I wonder why I just don’t buy a larger trashcan. I have to empty that garbage so often because the container is so small.
I thought about small spaces, small containers, and all the limitations of an ordinary life. And then I remembered how marvelous it is to need that emptying out because the space is so small. I remembered the daily dependence on Jesus, the need for confession—of emptying out sin, and for daily provision.
The small trash can will do.