grief, glory, and hope

Having recently returned from our annual vacation at the beach with my family, I am basking in its beauty. One of my favorite memories from this week is the surprising delight of watching monarch butterflies migrate over the beach heading South for the winter. They flew constantly, in groups of 10-12 at a time, in a constant parade through the dunes.  I am feeling restored and refreshed from time with family with whom we can both laugh freely and converse deeply. And just in time, as only days after our return, a beloved sister in Christ from our church passed away to glory after a long battle with cancer. Seth and I both had the privilege of walking alongside her during this journey towards Home, and it has changed us. Reminds us of how very close we each are to eternity, and of how full of suffering this side of heaven can be. Her memorial service will be the second I’ll attend in a month, the first being that of my sister-in-law’s father who also passed away after a battle with cancer. It is sobering and causes one to reflect on life, its endings and beginnings. Death even when “expected” is always a shock. It feels so wrong, because it is. It is not part of the original plan for Glory.

Death tarnishes humanity, casts its long shadow of fear over life. But we have a God who conquers it, in whom we can rejoice even in grief. How do you walk alongside someone who is literally in the valley of the shadow of death? (Psalm 23) Or with those whose lives now are shadowed by the grief of a loved one’s death? You walk with them. You listen; you learn; realizing that there is much to be found in these times of mourning. Ecclesiastes points to that:

It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. (Ecclesiastes 7:2)

And you hold out hope with them in the midst of grief. Not in a shallow Pollyanna-rose-colored-glasses-this-isn’t-that-bad kind of way, but in a deep way rooted in the hope of the One who also hates death. The One who hated it so much that He sacrificed His own Son to destroy it – through His own death and then victory through His resurrection. We have hope that all who believe in Christ by faith will live again in the place where there are no tears, no pain, no brokenness. We have hope that we will see the One face-to-face we have only known by faith on this side of heaven. We have hope that in the midst of deep grief and mourning, there is One who meets us there – one who uses these very places to open up our own souls to more of His love, to know more of His comfort.

For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. (2 Corinthians 1:5)

The hope doesn’t take away the tears, nor should it. It doesn’t answer the questions; it’s not meant to. But it gives peace and courage amidst the pain and the questions. I have seen that in my sister-in-law and her family. We are already experiencing that in our church family here too. I want to learn more of that. This is the Glory hidden here now: it weaves through life, mixing joy and sorrow, grief and hope.

Joy in my “lot in life” (Ecclesiastes reflections)

I don’t know about you, but most of the time when I hear or utter the phrase, “It’s just my lot in life,” there is the connotation of reluctantly putting up with what one wishes she could change about her life. In reading through a rather obscure and not often studied book of Ecclesiastes this summer, I am realizing that I’ve got it all wrong. To realize that God has given me my lot in life is meant to bring joy. Why? Not because life is easy – far from it. Ecclesiastes clearly portrays the toil and burden of life that often feels vain and meaningless. Toil, vanity, “striving after the wind,” are popular refrains here. But the writer of Ecclesiastes is pushing into life, seeking to see if God entering the picture makes any difference to life on earth.

I’m only a few chapters in, but he’s already seeming to paint the tiniest bit of hope that yes, life feels futile and meaningless, until you acknowledge God as Creator and Giver of your lot in life. In fact, the ability to enjoy life is in and of itself a gift from God, whether one recognizes this or not. My lot in life – the portion God gives to each of us, which feels heavier and harder in some seasons than others – is given to me precisely to bring me the greatest joy possible. I agree that this sounds different, difficult, and incongruent with my daily experience. Especially because my daily experience of life is filled with many mundane and monotonous tasks. And yet –

To know God as giver will bring joy. There is no joy in my toil until I begin to accept “my lot in life” as something that’s divinely orchestrated not only for my good, but for my enjoyment. Could it be that this is what I too often miss in my focus on God’s sovereign arrangement of the world and my life? I forget that God arranges and orchestrates not just for his glory and my good, but for my joy. There is a joy in this day, in this week, in this month, in this year and in this season that God has arranged the details of my life to provide for me. And God will give me the ability to enjoy my toil and to find that joy.

If you’re finding this hard to believe, don’t take my word for it. Enjoy this passage from Ecclesiastes 5:18-20:

Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil – this is the gift of God. For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.

How my toddlers’ tantrums expose my own

Twin toddlers. Whew. Really it’s a whole new ball game, but then I think I’ve felt like that about every stage of having twins. The exhaustion never recedes completely, just shifts from one stage to the next. The good thing about this age is that they sleep really well and very predictably 95% of the time. Twelve hours at night; two-hour afternoon naps (at the same time). So I should be more physically rested. And I think I am most days. They’re also independent, so getting places is much easier now. They can walk down the stairs to the car; they can each crawl up into their car seats; they (usually) hold my hand when heading through a parking lot. The only things I have to remember to bring with us are diapers and lots of snacks. They eat on their own, so I place their food in front of them, and voila – anything that they are going to eat, they do on their own. No more of me feeding them. All of that is doubtless easier than the first six months when I remember days when I didn’t know how to find time to take a shower, much less anything else. It was survival mode.

But. The emotional drain of toddler twins is not to be underestimated. One tantrum at a time is bad enough, but two of them at the same time? Exhausting. And even if they’re not simultaneous, with two there is just more possibility that a tantrum will erupt at any given time. Yesterday when I was shopping at Bj’s Wholesale Club (my favorite store because they have grocery carts that fit two in, which are easy to navigate), I was looking through the yogurts trying to find one with an expiration date later than tomorrow. (I kid you not – there were none!) While I had my head in the cooler, I was interrupted by a shriek of pain from one twin and turned to see a familiar sight of the other twin clamping down on her arm. Yikes! What do you do then? One needed comfort; the other needed discipline; and we were in public and I was at the start of my shopping trip. So I forewent discipline (a topic for another time) and separated them, putting the victimized twin in the cart as a treat – with all of the other groceries. As you can imagine, this arrangement didn’t last very long since the twin in the cart was enjoying trying to open all of the familiar packages. “Nanas!” “Boo-berries!” “Crackers!” Whew … thankfully, this particular story ends well. I put them both next to each other; gave them another snack in hopes that they would eat that instead of biting one another; and we made it out without any further incidents. I feel like my days are characterized by what feels like endless moments such as this one.

Then I add my own frustration and anger to the mix, and it is not pretty. I remember moments when they were babies and were both crying and I would join in with my own tears. I feel like at this stage, it’s way too easy for me to join in with my adult tantrum as they tantrum. My tantrum looks much different. More socially acceptable (usually). I yell; I tell them to stop; I make empty threats hoping they’ll change; I pout until I get a break and count down the minutes until nap time, or Daddy’s arrival home, or bed time. Then I collapse in guilt and exhaustion and get angry at God for arranging days that feel like too much for me to handle. The truth is that these days are exactly what God’s arranged, and they are too much for me to handle. I need grace. I need grace to pray in the moment instead of getting angry. Grace to exercise Spirit-infused self-control instead of joining in their out-of-control tantrums. Grace to know when I need help and to ask for it. I’m learning; we’re learning; and I am glad for a community of friends and family to support all of us as we go through these days.

A few of my favorite things

A couple weeks ago, I had a birthday. It was simple and sweet and filled with my favorite things. That’s the inspiration for this post – as I started then, I have kept going with the mental list of what I’ve enjoyed anew lately.

  • Mom’s visit during my birthday, which meant Gigi time for the girls and a break for Mommy and a date night for Seth and me. Win, win, win, win … you get the picture
  • Stella’s Cafe
  • Lunch at Press 626 with Mom
  • OpSail 2012 – majestic ships sailing in from around the world, as far as Brazil and Spain, and docking for a few days’ celebration of the War of 1812 in our own little city
  • Dancing to Brazilian music with our girls and the daughters of another family friend on the deck of a Brazilian Naval ship – it really doesn’t get much better than that, without a passport.
  • Live Colbie Caillat concert under the stars and the twinkling lights of the ships’ masts. I looked over at Seth at one point and said, “If you just realized, what I just realized …” No, only kidding. We realized our love a long time ago now (if 7 years counts as a long time). And yet marriage is a continual re-discovery of our love for one another. That’s a post for another day.
  • Long nap-times and early bedtimes. Just being honest. This stage of almost-2-year-old twins is quite emotionally and physically taxing.
  • Harris Teeter’s Express Lane summer special – order groceries online, pick them up curbside outside the store for only $1.95 during the summer. Grocery shopping made easy.
  • Lunch with a friend whose birthday is just a few days before mine at Bite. Great food and wonderful conversation. Adult conversation, which is so rare these days.
  • Banana Republic Factory Outlet + birthday money + Seth giving me a morning off = a very happy Mommy with a new wardrobe
  • Dark Chocolate Roasted Almonds (with sea salt and turbinado sugar) from Trader Joe’s. Seth and I are officially addicted and stock up every month now. Thanks, Mom, for getting us hooked.
  • Summer!!! I really love almost everything about this season. I think my life motto about seasons would be: “Winters are to be endured; summers are to be celebrated.”

If you care to post, what are some of your favorite things/people/events/etc these days? I’d love to hear.

memoir writing workshop

Two of my favorite things discovered anew in 2012 are lavender hot chocolate at Stella’s Cafe (I mentioned that in my last post) and the free memoir writing workshop I saw advertised at our local library. It seemed to have my name all over it (pun intended): meeting on Friday (the day Seth can watch the girls for me), once a month, and FREE. For a long time I have wanted to get some sort of additional input/training on writing, but the opportunity never presented itself so clearly. As I showed up at 10:25 on the first meeting in January, I was almost giddy with excitement. And I felt very young. With the exception of our instructor (someone my age who is getting his Masters of Fine Art at a local university), I was the youngest by at least 30 years. Perhaps longer. Sweet, dear old women who have lived life with stories to tell. Like long, memoir-length stories to tell of immigrating from Europe and Russia, having children, grandchildren, careers, and years of retirement (one woman’s been retired 25 years which should make her at least 75 by a conservative estimate). When I floated my idea of writing about my life thus far through the lens of the various places I’ve lived, each of them representing a distinct season of my life, one woman replied, “Honey, you’ve only had two seasons of life.” Well meaning, I’m sure. But I’ll admit my enthusiasm was a bit squelched by her dose of reality.

Nonetheless, I began writing my memoir and returned to our February meeting with my typewritten 5-page draft. It felt good to be back in “school” with an “assignment.” I was eager to share it and get feedback. Alas, our group had doubled in size and so most of the hour was spent reviewing last month’s class – with the instructor repeating every few sentences because much of the group cannot hear very well. Then there was the woman who responded to finding out that I had twin daughters by walking me to the door after class and asking me quietly, “So, were they natural?” Oh, my. I didn’t think we were that close yet.

All jokes aside, I really am enjoying the experience to mix with an entirely different generation than I’m a part of, and I am looking forward to hearing the beginnings of their memoirs, whenever we get to that part. Maybe in March? I can’t set my expectations too high, as this class is free, after all. At least I’m getting good connections with other students of writing, picking up a few helpful tools along the way, and it’s provided outside motivation to write.

During the last five minutes of class, I shared my first paragraph with them – and I’ll do so with you, too. There wasn’t time for the full critique I was hoping for, and half of those at the table probably couldn’t hear me read it. But I will share it with you – my virtual audience – feel free to offer your thoughts. I’m framing this memoir as if I’m writing it as a letter to my daughters about my life.

Nestled into a cozy suburban neighborhood in the South, filled with families just like ours – you’ll find the house. Even its address reflects the idyllic life we lived there: Sweetwater Court. It was the second home where I lived, but it’s the home where my memories began. Both of your uncles were born there (not literally, but taken home there after the hospital). In the summers, our backyard was our center of adventures. We planned a putt-putt course and charged admission – even got featured in the local newspaper! Mom and Dad (Gigi and Pops to you) generously assisted our efforts, taking us to various putt-putt centers in the town to see about donations of the green carpets, helping us install PVC pipe for the “challenge” holes, making copies of the scorecard I designed, and letting our backyard be overrun with neighborhood kids for much of the summer.

Love is …

For this Valentine’s post, I thought it would be celebratory to meditate on LOVE (what else on this day of hearts?). Here goes –

L O V E  is …

  • A spontaneous hug around the legs from an adoring daughter
  • A wet and sloppy kiss from her twin sister
  • Bright smiles to greet you in the morning (even when you quite frankly don’t feel so bright and cheery)
  • A bouquet of yellow roses blooming into orange
  • A friend’s understanding words and listening ear on a hard day
  • The unexpected beauty of a sunset over the river as the day fades, sea gulls’ silhouettes flying into the light
  • A heartfelt note from my husband
  • Dinner shared with friends and family, rich with feasting and conversation
  • A date at Luna Maya while friends watched the girls as part of a baby swap
  • Uninterrupted conversation
  • Conversation interrupted by little hands tugging for your attention
  • Heart-shaped sugar cookies to savor
  • Lavender hot chocolate at my new favorite coffee shop, Stella’s Cafe
  • Timeless words written by God to assure his people of his undying, steadfast, never-giving-up love for them
  • A cross on a hill in Jerusalem where the innocent died for the guilty
  • THE story of love  from where all other love derives its meaning and truest expression
  • My husband’s offer to feed the girls dinner so that I could have a break from a long day that felt rather loveless, not because of him or my daughters but just because it was an extraordinarily hard “ordinary” day of tantrums, fussing, and short naps.
  • Choosing not to write more so that I help him in this “witching hour” before bedtime …

2011 in review

As long as January isn’t quite over, then I think there’s still time enough for letting January be a time of reflection and resolutions. Without further ado, here’s my review of 2011 – in the format of a Christmas letter (which we did not send out this year).

THE (un-sent) NELSON 2011 CHRISTMAS LETTER

What a year for the Nelson family, full of headlines and milestones as we completed our first year with our twin daughters, Lucia and Alethia, and became increasingly rooted in Norfolk, Virginia, at Trinity Presbyterian Church. A few of these, in chronological order:

  • Lucia and Alethia learn how to roll over
  • Heather returns to work as a part-time counselor at Trinity Presbyterian Church after an 8 month maternity leave
  • Seth turns 30 (without the fanfare Heather sought to give him, his request)
  • Reverend Seth Nelson baptizes his daughters, Lucia Elizabeth and Alethia Sarah
  • Lucia and Alethia begin solid foods – pureed peas and bananas are the favorites
  • Trinity Presbyterian Church votes as a congregation to promote Seth to “Associate Pastor”
  • Davis Family Kiawah Week 2011 introduces the twins to the beach; their favorite activity: eating sand
  • Lucia and Alethia learn how to crawl
  • Seth and Heather baby-proof their home, finally giving in and moving all valuables up a few shelves and moving toys into the living room
  • Seth and the other assistant pastor at Trinity “hold down the fort” while our senior minister takes an 8-week sabbatical during July and August
  • Seth and Heather celebrate their 5th anniversary with a brief overnight getaway to the Chesapeake Bay, while Hurricane Irene makes its way toward Norfolk
  • The Nelson family evacuates Norfolk for Aunt Maryann and Uncle Glenn’s house in Raleigh, NC, as Hurricane Irene is predicted to make a direct impact
  • Their home and neighborhood are spared; however their 11-year-old car breaks down – they purchase a newer one with much needed extra space 
  • Lucia and Alethia turn one with a ladybug birthday party; Lucia loves her cake – Alethia does not
  • Alethia takes her first steps and begins walking
  • Heather returns to Wheaton College for her 10 year reunion – leaving the girls (and Seth) for the first weekend since their birth
  • Lucia takes her first steps and begins walking
  • Alethia and Lucia begin talking – favorite words are “ball,” “dog,” “baby,” “bath,” and “door”
  • The Nelsons travel to New Jersey for the girls’ first Christmas with Grandma & Grandpa Nelson; then they travel to South Carolina for New Year’s with Gigi & Pops

This captures the events of our year – and what a year! – yet falls far short of describing the fullness of our days. How I (Heather) am learning how to embrace my new calling of full-time mom without losing my sanity (which involves lots of prayer to a God who is always near, many great friends with similarly aged children, “Mrs. Becky” who watches the girls biweekly, a husband who takes my calls and rescues me when I’m really desperate, weekly women’s Bible study and baby music class). How Seth’s gifts continue to be grown and developed through his responsibilities training teachers, developing Sunday school curriculum, leading community group ministry and our missions team. How we are both learning the how’s and why’s of disciplining infants-turning-into-toddlers whose wills are exerting themselves strongly. The books we have been enjoying this year: The Help, One Thousand Gifts, Loving the Little Years, The Foundations Trilogy, East of Eden, among many others. One thing the girls are already showing is a shared love for books and “reading” like their two bookworm parents. They will often sit and just flip through board books for 10-15 minutes at a time (an eternity for 15-month-olds!). Then there’s the growing delight in Lucia and Alethia as their personalities continue to emerge, like Lucia who giggles often, waves to strangers while shopping and gives a “cheesy smile” upon request and Alethia who calls every stuffed animal “baby,” stays close to mommy in new situations and enjoys learning new skills like walking backwards (her latest greatest).

Although it’s an often quoted cliché, we are finding it to be quite true for this stage of our lives: the days are long, but the years are short. We find it hard to believe how big our girls are, increasingly thankful that these 5 week premature babies eat sooo much and are in 50th – 70th percentile for weight and 90th – 98th percentile for height. It is a gift to watch them grow and to be their parents. And it is a gift to be in a community, both locally and long distance, of ones who love us and them so much. Thank you for being part of this community!

 

A month’s worth of miscellaneous musings

I checked my blog today and saw that my last post was a month ago. Where has the month gone? After the really fun Wheaton Homecoming weekend, there haven’t been any such exciting events on the horizon. So it’s been a normal month of loads of laundry, endless dishes, priceless grins from 14-month-old twins, terrible tantrums from the same precious darlings, enjoying our fall rhythm (soon to be waylaid by the holidays) of Monday music class, Wednesday Women’s Bible Study, and trying to catch up on errands and perhaps throw in a few play dates on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Fridays are usually Seth’s day off, which we always look forward to, and then it’s Saturday, and then our full Sundays … and another week is beginning again. Our regular routine was broken up by a wonderful visit from Grandma & Grandpa Nelson last weekend, during which they brought much delight and spoiling to the girls (and us as well).

My newest project/spiritual challenge: A friend who was reading “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp said that she was starting a gratitude journal (the idea being to count at least 1000 things you’re thankful for), and I decided to start one with her. So I have been purposely starting my quest to find the graces of everyday life. As you would imagine, some days are much easier than others. The fall walk we took last week with the crisp blue sky as the backdrop for brilliant leaves. Or the evenings out with friends savoring the tastes of fine cuisine and drinks and being refreshed by shared laughter. The challenge (as Voskamp talks about herself throughout her book) is to find these graces in the midst of the really frustrating days and moments. Like having to stay home from church on a Sunday because one of the twins has a bad cough and runny nose (and my husband as a pastor obviously can’t “take turns” with me). Or the day the girls woke up from their last nap of the day at 1:45 pm (having slept a total of an hour), and they were as cranky as I was. [sidebar: calling the friend in my community group who had volunteered to come help on days like this AND feeding the girls some Nerds candy were total life-savers that afternoon!] This is where I’m struggling and wrestling.

And it seems like the more I try to be thankful, the more I am aware of the resentment that lurks in my heart. Which should of course lead me back to finding grace in Christ, asking him for the joy I can’t muster up and asking him to remove the pride whose domain in my heart produces bitterness. So many days it doesn’t.

Enter the other project I’ve been working on the past few weeks: writing the lesson I’m giving this Wednesday at Trinity’s women’s Bible study on Psalm 51. A psalm of confession, interestingly enough. And I, in my pride, initially thought I really couldn’t relate much to David the adulterer and murderer who penned this psalm. How wrong I am! I, who daily leave the Love of God my Savior to pursue other loves in the saviors I set up – like the conveniences of technology, a good sleeping schedule for the twins, a well-managed home, a “put-together” appearance. I invest my heart in these, saying to them, “you are my Savior!” And so I become an adulterer in my heart towards God as I run to other idols. And murder? I’m convicted to remember Jesus’ words that hating someone in my heart is like murdering them. Do I hate? No, of course not … but then, what is gossip other than seeking to bring down another’s reputation? And what is jealousy other than wishing I had what that other person did? And isn’t my anger saying that I alone deserve to be right, an attempt to at the very least emotionally cut off those around me? I need Psalm 51. I, the one surrounded by more graces of God than I could count in a lifetime, who finds it hard to scratch down even one on a “difficult day.” God invites me to worship … through confession. After Wednesday’s talk, I’ll share highlights of my study on the blog as before. Do pray for me if you’re a praying person, that my heart would be open to what God wants to share with me and through me.

parenting princesses

 It shouldn’t take even the casual observer long to notice the princesses in this picture. At the moment this photo was captured, they are both occupied with attempting to take off their *distasteful headbands* [read in a British accent] that aren’t quite to their liking at the moment. But, my, aren’t they pretty in them?! I only wish they would keep them on for longer than two seconds.

It’s a small picture of life in our home these days. This trivial matter didn’t cause much fuss on that Sunday morning, probably because both sets of grandparents and an aunt and uncle were visiting and kept them otherwise distracted. And, really, having the girls keep their adorable headbands on isn’t a battle I’m going to fight every day. (at least not in my sane moments) As babies-turning-toddlers, however, there are many more “princess” moments that we are (ahem) dealing with right now. Like the 10 second delay between me putting her in her high chair and then moving into the kitchen to get the food to place on her tray. Or their propensity to explore the world and find the off-limits areas especially appealing (tall floor lamps, electrical outlets, and the dishwasher dial among their favorite). It never ceases to amaze me, in a frustrating way, how they can have a nursery full of toys but be inextricably drawn back to the nightlight in the corner or the diaper pail that seems tasty.

Seth and I are in a whole new world of parenting. Some days it feels like sink or swim, and many days we think we missed those swimming lessons we needed. Where is the instruction manual that should come with a baby?!? We are eager to learn and are finding these resources immensely helpful for this stage of parenting, as our need to discipline and instruct moves more into the foreground, replacing the “let’s just survive” days of early infancy. Perhaps this is a strange blog post after over a month without writing, but I had to start somewhere and this is where I’m living these days … welcome! So – those resources are:

Paul David Tripp’s “Getting to the Heart of Parenting” DVD series – we are loving this series from one of our professors we had during seminary days. I love how gospel-focused he is.

 

 

 

 

“The Obedient Child: A Practical Guide for Training Young Children in Confidence, Character, and Love of God” by Ken Wilson – My mom shared this now out-of-print book with me, and I’m finding it immensely practical for dealing with the younger years.

“Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches” by Rachel Jankovic – My mom gave this one to me as well. It’s a recently published book that really “gets it” as far as how to encourage moms through her short 3-5 page chapters that are both witty and challenging.

“One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are” by Ann Voskamp – This memoir is not just for mothers by any means. She beautifully invites all of us into a life transformed by “eucharisteo” so that mundane becomes glorious. I am savoring each page of this gift given to me by my best friend.

 

And one last thought about parenting princesses. When I see their tenacity to return to what we are clearly instructing them is dangerous (they will often shake their head “no” as they approach the very task we have told them not to do) or their impatience with our momentary delay in meeting what must feel to them like an immediate need, I am reminded of the very first princess in whose footsteps I follow daily. Eve, who bit of the forbidden fruit though she was in fact surrounded by Paradise itself. And I see in them a mirror of my own desire for what’s beyond my reach and my impatient demands  to have right now what my good Father will provide in the future. He loves princesses like them … and me!

my life in piles

So I will be the first to say that this won’t be a profound blog entry, but it’s very indicative of life for me in the now. And perhaps a bit humorous as well. I finally found the perfect metaphor (that actually isn’t merely metaphorical) to indicate how life has changed since having twins. Read on …

My season of life as a mother with 9 month old twins who works (very!) part-time as a counselor and distance education instructor could be summarized by one metaphor, that’s actually also quite true literally: PILES. In order to open my laptop to write these musings, I had to clear off piles of old Christmas cards, unread mail, coupons, photo albums, Father’s Day gifts in the waiting. [note: this was originally written last week – pre-Father’s Day – those gifts have now been appropriately distributed] And to actually get to my desk, I had to move the piles of unwashed laundry from the doorway, carefully making sure I did not mix them up with the piles of washed laundry yet to be folded. There are piles of books beside my bed that I hope to get to one day when “I have time.” And piles of magazines I would like to peruse “when I have a minute.” A growing pile of “to-do” lists on sticky notes littering my desk. Piles of bills and receipts yet to be accounted for in our budget. Outside my office door are piles of baby shoes, shirts, socks that have migrated up from downstairs but have yet to be put away into their closet. And downstairs holds piles of toys and stacks of dishes – which would still be there except for my amazing husband.

And now let’s move into the electronic realm: layer upon layer of unanswered and in many cases unread emails. There is a “pile” of three voicemails from this afternoon that I haven’t listened to yet. The unending “to do” list on my iCalendar, with items that have been and may remain for weeks, months, years?  A heap of quizzes yet to be graded, counseling notes yet to be written, invoices yet to be sent out.

If life wasn’t cluttered enough already, these physical loads are metaphorical for the emotional and mental items that pile up in my head. Of people I want to be in touch with but have lost touch with (since “the fog” of the past year descended), of decisions and plans to make about the girls’ one year birthday party and our 5th anniversary and my 10th college homecoming (which all occur within a two month time period this fall), and of all the things I wish I had time to do but don’t.

Sigh … words from David Powlison’s devotional thoughts on Psalm 131 meet me right now. Here’s part of the intro to this article (well worth reading in its entirety, by the way):

Amazingly, this man isn’t noisy inside.
He isn’t busy-busy-busy. Not obsessed. Not
on edge. The to-do list and pressures to
achieve don’t consume him. Ambition doesn’t churn inside. Failure and despair don’t
haunt him. Anxiety isn’t spinning him into
free fall. He isn’t preoccupied with thinking
up the next thing he wants to say. Regrets
don’t corrode his inner experience. Irritation
and dissatisfaction don’t devour him. He’s
not stumbling through the mine field of
blind longings and fears. 
He’s quiet.
Are you quiet inside?

Its essence is about not concerning myself with more than what I can do. With being content with my limits. And so I ask for the daily sufficient grace yet again, trusting it will be there as I need it.