Saturday, December 28, 2013

living the art you were made to live

{On my nightstand: I've been enjoying emily p. freeman's new book 

My daughter is screaming in her bed.

I just sat down to write.  She just started screaming.  I’ve been waiting all day for the house to get quiet.  

An hour or so earlier, I put her down for her nap, read to my second son and settled him in his bed, sat on the couch for a reading lesson with my first son and then set him up with paper and markers, and I’ve just settled on my bed with my computer….

And my daughter wakes up.  

I ignore her as long as I can, try to write a few sentences, but it’s no use.  She’s teething, poor thing; this is the second time she’s woken up screaming this afternoon, and I’m pretty sure she’s not going back to sleep again.  

I sigh, slide from under my cosy blanket.  I slip into her room.  She’s sitting forlornly in the bottom of her portacot, heaving with sobs.  My heart breaks a little.  I gather her up, try to contain her writhing body while she screams for another five minutes in my arms, punishing me for making her wait so long.  She hiccups, snotty and streaming.  I cuddle her close, pushing down my longing to write, trying to quell my rising frustration.  

Didn’t I sign up for this parenting thing?  Isn’t this what I’ve always wanted?  But how do I weave it all together?  Maybe I should just give up writing for now… I think in despair.  

But writing is part of who I am.  If I was locked in solitary confinement for twenty years, I think I’d write with my fingernails on the jail cell wall.   

Ruby sits with me now at the kitchen table, still hiccuping.  We need a treat, both of us.  I look over at the bag of tiny Mandarin oranges my sweet husband brought home from the bazaar yesterday.  

“Would you like an orange, Ruby?”  

A blank stare.  We’ve bought them twice already this week and she adores them, but she doesn’t yet recognize the word orange.  So I cradle her pink-tighted legs in the crook of my arm and we walk over to the bag.  I show her two little oranges in the palm of my hand.  She grins, and starts her new skill: nodding.  Chin up, chin down, up, down. 

“This, Ruby,” I tell her, “is an orange.”  More nodding.  She reaches.  We sit down.  I peel one slowly, taking off the skin in bits and laying them on the table.  Her body is quiet on my lap.  Attentive.  She’s stopped hiccuping.  She reaches toward the  orange I’ve peeled and grabs it.  Then, instead of eating it, she sets it aside.  Reaches for the unpeeled one.  Presses hard on it with her fingers and thumb.  I try to help get her started - she pulls away with a grunt.  More pressing and poking.  She slides her little fingers around the orange, trying to find a hole.  Finally, I sneak in a fingernail and scratch a hole to get her started.  She works away for a while, excavating one tiny bit of peel at a time.  Some goes on the table, some tumble to the floor.

I think about independence.  The innate drive to do something yourself, with no help.  The need to test ourselves, to prove ourselves - to ourselves, first of all.  A 13-month-old isn’t out to impress anyone - she just wants the thrill of accomplishment.  

What am I aiming to do when I write?  Impress others?  Or can I write just for the joy of writing?  Is writing really necessary to me?

I know the answer to that last one: yes.  It’s necessary.  As necessary as breathing.  

Her sobs have subsided, now that she’s with me.  All the noise hushed for now.  My lap, and oranges.  That’s all she needs.  

What do I need in order to hush the noise?  

I know the answer to that one too: quiet.  And Jesus.  I need to be aware of being together with Jesus.  

I think about togetherness.  I cradle her in the crook of one elbow, still clutching her half-peeled orange, and we go to the bedroom to retrieve my computer.  Laptop balanced precariously in one hand, baby in the other, I go back to the table.  I think about balance.  While she’s occupied with oranges, I write this post.  And consider.

How do I balance motherhood and art?  What is the point of all this longing to write, planning to write, all these words, anyway?  Is it really worth it?

Emily P. Freeman would say, yes.  Yes, it is totally worth it.  Keep writing.  Keep making the art you were made to live.  And she would also say (from the chapter I just finished today) - sink into Jesus, before, during and after.  

Follow His leading, let His life live through you.  Be together with Him.  Let Him hush the noise.  

Because, I realize, Jesus, not me, is the primary parent of these children.  Jesus, not me, is the primary source of these words I'm writing.  His life is tinted with my personality as He shines out through me, but it is His life“I have been crucified with Christ, therefore I no longer live, but Christ lives through me.”  

If I’ve been crucified with Christ, then even though I’ve been waiting all day for Jesus to give me a slot of time to write, I can release it even as it began, for the joy of comforting my daughter.  

If Christ lives through me, I can write about oranges, surrounded by the smell of oranges, with sticky baby fingers reaching for my keyboard.  As long as my children are happy, with me, learning, growing, being fed (or learning to feed themselves), it’s ok to sometimes have the computer on the table.  There were other moments today when I focused in on each of them, put my hands on their shoulders, met their eyes, told them how much I love them.  

Now they can happily munch, while I happily type.  This is not ignoring them, and I don’t need to feel guilty about it, I tell myself.  

This is just all part of figuring out how to live the art I was made to live


What is the art you were made to live?  Are you managing to weave it into your day-to-day life?  Is the whole process more challenging for you some days than others?  


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