Osouji, and something new.

Between Christmas and New Years, osouji has occupied the bulk of our time (that, and Harry Potter for Bryan, Downton Abbey for me) — the tradition of cleaning your home, giving thanks for your daily space and all that has happened there, in preparation for something new. Now, after nearly six years of living here, it seems a normal thing to do, cleaning for its own sake during this season. How helpful, I’ve thought, to begin the hardest part of the year for most people — with dropping temperatures and the tendency to feel depressed — with a clean slate and a fresh living space.

I rearranged our bedroom, moving three bookshelves to new homes, then changing my mind and moving one back. I put the orange reading chair in the corner by the window, and moved my writing desk back to its first space, looking out over the trees in our small yard and the roofs of the neighborhood next to us. I’m sitting in the orange chair now, sipping coffee and tapping the laptop keys. (Harper spent five minutes crying at the locked door before I eventually gave in. Now she is pulling my sleeve and moaning, “Maaaaamaaa, taaaalk!” I promised her playtime after writing, but apparently the locked door didn’t send the message.)

Despite the fresh arrangement, nothing else about our bedroom is clean right now. There are wall hangings and pictures piled on my desk, waiting for a new home. A blanket is laid out in the far corner, with dolls and doll furniture happily played with and not put away. A full trash bag sits next to the closet. (Now Harper is begging me to go get her grape juice, and biding her time while playing with a headband.) Pillows are on the floor. Acorns from Harper’s play kitchen are waiting for an unsuspecting step. I took an instagram of Harper ‘journaling’ with me in this very room yesterday, careful to hide the mess behind her. Perhaps I should’ve made that part of the frame.

Osouji has helped me think about the naturalness, the innateness, of wanting to be clean — and about how, despite my best intentions, this stage of life, with its playtime and its creativity and its needs and its endless messes, rarely grants me the opportunity to exist in that physical cleanliness for more than a moment. What an amazing teacher this time is; how gracious of God to give me such a clear picture of my need for Him — how my best efforts to remain spiritually clean will fall to pieces in an instant without Him. Really, they are useless efforts, apart from His Spirit.

I am still caught up in the holy dichotomy of parenting little ones, with its amazingly tender moments I would give my life for, and its infuriating challenges that could send me to the loony bin. I am still here, and it looks like it will be a while. (Perhaps I thought the end of babyhood would usher in something new? But no, it’s as busy as ever, only with more talking, more instructing, more things to learn.)

2014 — You will probably be a year of more beautiful and frustrating chaos, though I feel like I’m ready for a bit more order. How long will it be before I could write in a room by myself again? (Now Harper is serving me acorn tea, with cream and sugar, and her diaper smells a little iffy.) I try to remember that I will look back with extreme fondness on the times she played at my side, constantly interrupting my deep thoughts and important impressions. But still, I sometimes long for more than a moment of coherent adultness in my day. Too much focus on children, and one can forget the deeper reasoning for giving their life in the first place. But too much time spent refreshing oneself, reflecting on that deeper meaning, and the relationships for which you are working will suffer. A holy dichotomy, yes.

Jesus, support me in this year, as I attempt to live in Your will. Show me when to be present, and when to forget my duties in Your presence, and enjoy what adult things You’ve given me to enjoy. Let me not seek balance, but dependence on You. Trusting it to be so.

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