She was always better at finding them than I was. It seemed as though every Sunday morning, on our exiting from church, they'd just fall into her little palm. Four leaf clovers. My sister frequently found them. Spied them out. I, on the other hand, never found a one. And I did look, but maybe I wasn't as diligent.
I thought of this recently as I kept my eyes low to the ground, not because I was seeking out special clovers, but because I was watching the steps of my little boy. Following his lead. And I was thinking about love and luck and how the two have nothing to do with the other and how yeah, maybe you do seek out a plant with an extra leaf, but how with love, you have to be just as aware. You have to keep your eyes on the prize. Maintain the focus. Count the steps. Have the hand ready to catch or brush off. You stop watching and you stop seeing.
When I was single there seemed to be some themes running through books and the like. A lot of it came down to the fact that, "Until you are content being just you and God..." or "Be the kind of person you want to meet!" Which puts all this pressure to be perfect, to be pleasing, to be a great catch. And why aren't we content to be who we are before God and to allow someone else to love those pieces - the imperfect and impatient and unlovely on a Friday night parts? There's nothing wrong with preparing for the future and working on your foibles. But there is also something beautiful about learning to love the incomplete and the unsatisfactory in ourselves and in others - because let's be honest - happily ever exists but fairy tale living doesn't.
You are never, ever really ready to die to your self. You're just not. It's an unnatural, uneasy thing. But sacrifice comes with love. The body that I worked so hard on to be bikini ready for my honeymoon to the man I love? Just before our first anniversary, the reality of my beach body got shoved to the back burner as I focused on another body: the little one growing inside of me. It was a blessing and it was a struggle. Not just physically, but emotionally and mentally. Suddenly I had someone 100% dependent on me and I couldn't focus on myself when I wanted (or many times at all). I wasn't prepared to give up as much as I did. But love demanded it.
A week or so ago, I stretched out in bed, ready, so ready, for sleep. And my spine readjusted and the weight of our new baby, this Little Brother, shifted and rested. And I thought, "Man, my body is so tired." But I wasn't physically tired from a long day... I felt blessed and the smile curled and I thought, "I am weighed down with love, with life." Literally. The life within, growing and kicking and keeping me up at 3 a.m... and the life of my day, chasing the toddler, cutting up chicken nuggets and grapes and saying, "Yes, that's blue! Yes, that's a chicken! Yes, that was a truck!" And then him in his recliner at the end of a long work day and me on the couch at the end of mine. Life and love. Together, peaceful; baby asleep in the crib.
I want to be weighed down, anchored by love. By life.
I stretch moments and expand time when I watch. When I take note of how he laughs or the adorable way he says "leaf" ("weef"). I won't remember everything. A photograph won't capture every expression, every hilarious event. But when I take note of how soft and small his hand is in mine, or how surprising his young obedience is when I say, "Wait for Mommy" and he stops, reaches back for my hand before going further - when my awareness causes my heart to lift with thanks - then I remember. Not only do I remember how heavy and important loving is, but it makes my eyes shine as I think about the love I have for the man that my little boy looks just like... and beyond that: a reminder that it's all been given and even when a little body falls headlong into a mud puddle - it's all a moment that I might not have had.
I want to be tired at the end of the day. I want my spine to protest a little as I straighten out, complaining at me for putting another life out in front and forcing internal organs and muscles to shift and stretch. To change. Go ahead, body. Whine at me for loving. Wear me out with living. Make my arms tired from holding and swaying a toddler in the middle of the night when he's feverish and can't sleep. Make me waddle up and down the aisles of Walmart and when I finally get to my van, let me be out of breath because of the life and love within that demands all of me for all of them.
Sometimes I can crawl into bed stressed. Worried about the dust I didn't get to (for the second or third week in a row!) or how I can't remember the last time I vacuumed the entire house. I think over my to-do lists and my day, wondering what I should have done differently, how I should have streamlined, how I shouldn't have wasted. And there's some truth in all of that.
But if I can crawl in bed and remember how my little boy laughed when I tickled his fingers with the duster (when I was supposed to be dusting the piano) or how intent he was on feeding me his apple slices (never mind the fact that I nearly chopped my thumb off cutting it in the first place)... If I can throw something together and call it dinner and have my husband hold my hand as we give thanks for whatever it is and he calls it good... Didn't I do good work on that day? Hard work, even? Even if there are still dishes or windows to be shinier. My family will, I hope, remember the care I took of them - including not becoming a hoarder and having our home be a safe, lovely haven to grow and to learn and to chase each other and hide in the closets. And cooking and cleaning is part of that.
But growing life and love is more than my daily to-do lists. It's about more than whether or not the dishwasher got emptied or that sticky spot on the counter got rubbed away or how fast I can get back into my pre-baby jeans. There's a weight to love that I just plain love. I want to take such thoughtful steps and pay attention to the small in front of me so that by dark I am heavy and weighed down with the living of the day. With the gathering of blessings. I may lay down and think of what I didn't get to... but I won't lay down and think about the cheeks I didn't take time to kiss or the time I spent just watching football with him and not asking dumb girly questions.
"I will shed the sins and struggles
I have carried all these years.
I will leave my heart wide open,
I will love and have no fear..."
~ Brad Paisley
I don't care about gathering luck. But I really care about gathering love and being able to walk around with the stem in hand, knowing it was because of love, because of a more important Life that I'm able to pay attention at all. Because God was weighed down with love for me. And now I'm weighed down by the love He has dumped on my often ungrateful, unfocused, complaining head. And when I pay attention, I notice Him. In all of the daily, in all of the simple, in all of the diapers and the dirt... I gather love.
I'm anchored by blessings. It all weighs down my days, drags time slow. Gives life. And I give back when I notice. That's how love grows. You give it one way and get it back another and give it out yet again. The road stretches long, but not always hard. It doesn't always have to be so tough and tired.
It's just one little step, one little thank-you, over and over again...
"Then King David went in and sat
before the LORD and said,
"Who am I, O Lord God,
and what is my house, that you have
brought me thus far?
And yet this was a small thing
in your eyes, O Lord God,
Because of your promise, and
according to your own heart,
you have brought about all this
greatness, to make your
servant know it.
Therefore you are great, O Lord God.
For there is none like you.."
~ II Samuel 7:18-19a, 21-22, ESV