We played Monopoly and card games. We lounged about. We stayed warm under blankets. We watched live television game shows.
I told my girls that this was what is was like for me as a girl, too. I’m thankful that boardgames and cards and TV game shows remain part of family life and snowy, cold days home from school. So much has changed, but so much hasn’t.
A large part of parenting always involves this singular conversation about how they must wear more clothes to stay warm. I’ve spent all their lives coaxing them into outerwear. It’s like negotiating a peace treaty.
And every day, they race on into their lives insisting they need no such clothing or accessories.
(I imagine these items weigh down their joy and hope in living somehow. They imprison them. Appropriate outerwear must represent all the old, conventional, disciplined things of aging. A coat symbolizes the burdens of life, and they want freedom.)
So every day, it’s this: You’ll freeze. You need mittens. You need a sweater. Here’s a hat! Here’s a scarf! You must wear a coat!
It doesn’t matter; they leave the house in sandals or flats in winter. In winter! They fly out the door, claiming “I’m fine! I’ll be fine!” in t-shirts and thin leggings.
I stand there, coats and mittens in hand, begging them.
(What are they, animals? Cats who find some spot in a neighbor’s garage to warm themselves? Dogs a kind neighbor takes in on cold afternoons? How do these children stay warm? How do they stay dry in the rain?)
I realize that at some point in my life, I took it upon myself to bring mittens and an extra sweater everywhere. I carry an umbrella. But maybe at some point in my life, the weather was the least of my concerns. Maybe, back then, life was too full of hope and laughter and busy, joyful things to bother at all with the cold or the heat. I, too, raced out the door.
Twice now on my snowy walk, I see a van of photographers pull up to the edge of the woods. They tumble out, gear swinging from their arms, as they gingerly make their way through the mounds of snow. They stand with cameras ready.
This time, I follow them. I watch what they’re watching. I look. I do what they do, stopping only when the too-deep snow keeps me back.
And then I see it. A flash of gold and white, magnificent in the winter sky. A swoosh of wings, and the enormous bird shakes the snow down from the branches of the tallest tree.
They aim their cameras.
I have no idea what I’m seeing. An owl? An eagle? Some outrageously large hawk? And why would it matter so much? What is this thing I’m witnessing? What makes it that worthy to follow like this?
I don’t know.
But they do. They follow the mystery, the beauty, the magnificence. They seek to capture whatever this marvelous thing is. They know why it matters and what it means.
I think of all those people ahead of me who captured the beautiful, marvelous things I didn’t know how to see. I thought of those before me who pointed out a wonderful God I didn’t know how to find. But they did. I followed them down the path until I could see for myself.
Teachers, parents, coaches, and friends. They raced to God, and I was captured first by their marveling.
Nearly every Sunday now, we take part of the day or evening to make food for our lunches for the week. This includes popping popcorn and storing it in baggies to grab for the lunch box. It also means making some kind of salad (maybe a Greek pasta salad or a Quinoa Tex-Mex salad) to scoop into containers with a spoon for lunch. We also wanted to try a 16 Bean Soup to warm up for cold days when a hot thermos of soup would hit the spot.
It’s fun to cook ahead, especially in the winter when it’s so cozy to have a kitchen full of delicious smells and warmth. And it makes the week much more organized and nourishing.
Recently, I’m hearing that folks feel I’m folksy. I’m told my writing and speaking is folksy.
The false-self, pretentious kind of me would cower in shame over such comments, but the real me knows this:
It’s a compliment! It’s a wonderful thing for others to see you–and your writing–as down to earth, lacking pretension or even sophistication, and friendly. It’s OK that you’re not snobby, elite, refined, or cultured in the way others might expect.
Folksy. Come sit and be yourself here. Dress as you wish. Share your ideas. Let’s walk in the woods together and then eat fresh bread and homemade jam. Let’s admit we don’t know everything and that we’re superior to no one. Let’s stay warm by a fire or under this quilt.
In graduate school, my dissertation committee commented that my writing was jargon-free in a surprising way. I didn’t sound like an academic. I didn’t play the part well. So my writing seemed, well, folksy.
And I’m happy about it. I’m comfortable with folksy.
Today I return to the phone for a second radio interview. But it’s not about my books; it’s about my dissertation on shame I wrote nearly 20 years ago at the University of Michigan. I had mentioned–in that offhand kind of way that you never think people really take note of–that I had studied shame once.
The host really wanted to learn about what I discovered about shame and all the Lord has taught me since.
I tell my friend that God wastes nothing about us. All these years later, someone wants to talk about my dissertation.
I find myself talking about shame all over again today.
And you? I find myself wondering if there’s something you studied once, some experience you had long ago, or some project you completed that you thought was a waste or something now buried away. You never know when God will unearth that thing and use it for the benefit of others.
Today felt like a day to finally coast after pushing, pushing, pushing with work. I looked at the calendar and realized I didn’t have one single meeting or commitment.
It was a glorious downhill after pushing up hill. And it felt like an invitation to a kind of Sabbath rest.
A Sabbath rest? Shall I?
So I bundled up in blankets after dropping the girls off at school in 11 degree weather. I sat by the heater. I just did nothing but the usual chores: feeding the sourdough starter, tending to the laundry, setting out the Warm Welcome and after school snacks, and planning our dinner.