Most of the time when I walk into a room I see all that needs to be picked up. It's a fairly common phenomenon, experienced by most people who have a place to live in and have people who do just that, live in it. I'm forever wanting to clean things out, weed through the baskets of toys and the closets stuffed with everything from art supplies to linens to hand-me-down-bins to basketballs and football pads. We have pretty limited storage space, you see. But I still think we have too much.
It's when I come across items like this that I have to pause, and more than pause, I have to wonder and think about what makes me buy certain things in the first place and if I am too hasty, and if I care well enough for the things I already have.
It's just a piece of green burlap cloth, with simple drawings etched in permanent marker. But my friend, Andrea, she drew it when we left to make our home in this other land, and she made it for our boys to play with on the plane when the hours grew long, these roads and houses that say things like "Jack's house" or "Uncle Brian's apartment." I sift through these toys again and again and each time this little piece of cloth sits on my lap, but I can't part with it, even though it mostly just sits in the basket these days.
And every day when we straighten up the beds and we put our clothes away, when I say for the four thousandth time to not leave your underwear on the floor and to put the books back on the shelf please, I have to wonder at why we do it over and over and over again. But it comforts me to know that this act is, in a sense, a God-given way to undo some of the curse-work, some of what has gone wrong in the world. It's our making things right, day and after day after day. And I sense the peace and calmness and restoring power of things put back in their place.
And each morning, when I pull those wiggly legs up on my lap and reach for something to cover them with, I am thankful again for the thrifty generosity of others, who have supplied nearly the entire wardrobe of my fast growing child, for nearly the entire length of her life. It's no shabby wardrobe either. Her charming ensembles rest squarely on the shoulders of the fashionistas who have gone before, and have not forgotten to leave some for the little people coming up behind them.
The lives of the little ones who share these rooms, the life I now live, none of them are of are not lived in isolation. We are surrounded by the gifts, the thoughts, the prayers, the memories of others. The way their dad hauls them off to soccer each Saturday, it is not without some measure of memory from the years of glory he too experienced at 6 and 7 years old, and his picture reminds us that he too was a squirmy, energetic, sport loving boy not so very long ago. And once in awhile, when my eye sits long enough, I see two laughing Chinese boys and remember the people I shared this card with, and how many times it exchanged hands, and how much each of those hands had a part in the shape of my own life.
Sometimes all I can see is what must be put away. But there is much more here than that. And when I notice, when I take care to be mindful, I can sometimes see that both are important... the daily routines and the lives that are lived around them.