The Ants Go Marching, II

My favorite ants went off to school last week, and the dog days of summer seem now a Polaroid faded by time. Ah it was a lovely summer! I thoroughly enjoyed its spaciousness, and I’m sad that it is over so soon. But such is the nature of rest (and vacation). It’s a lovely and needful thing, refreshing body and soul. But if we were to stay in it always, never to leave it, something beautiful and refreshing would soon deteriorate into something disfiguring and life-draining. “Too much of a good thing,” the saying goes, and it’s mostly true.

I am thoroughly caught up in the transition from rest to work. Schedule has marched us forward with the constant beat of a ticking clock. And it’s suddenly necessary to watch the clock again because something or someone important will surely be slighted otherwise. I’m not entirely in the groove yet. I’m running to catch up to the schedule like someone late for her train. When back-to-school descends upon us, it comes into the station like a bat out of hell. And I’m still not the step ahead I need to be. So this morning I rushed into my second cup of coffee, sat down at the computer, determined to knock out a new item on a swelling to-do list. I’d started the day behind; I’d hit the “snooze” button three times this morning and set off a falling-domino frenzy. It has not been the prettiest of mornings.

But as I sat down to work, my spirit was unsettled. Soundlessly, my name was being called. I’d reacted to the demands and work at hand as if my season of rest were gone forever. But it’s not gone. The taste of summer still lingers, faint though it is. And there’s Sunday, the day our family turns off electronics (kind of consistently), wakes up to daylight instead of alarms, and goes off to worship the God that transcends all this frenzy. And then there’s this quiet part of the morning I’m having right now. Even if I did hit snooze too many times, I still have this precious moment of quiet once my four little ants are safely at their desks.

How quickly I forget the graces of God, brush them away in my determination not to fall behind. In this lifetime, my work will never be done. And I need this daily moment of rest, if only for a small number of minutes, to listen to the sweet call of my name. Our God desires to meet with us, to settle our spirits and gently call us into the real work of each and every day. The emails, the phone calls, the paperwork and the laundry can wait a few more minutes so they can be transformed from the pesky nips at my heel to a kind of work that is somehow connected to the life and service of Christ. What could be oppressive can sparkle with the signs of Christ and become instead a labor of love, when we can stop and rest in Him. My friend wrote about just this thing recently, and it took me back six years to a time when I was pondering the same ideas, reading the book you see pictured above (and so you can witness personally just how quickly I forget the graces of God!).

Four little ants are at their desks now, in clothes that adhere to dress code, finished homework papers, and miraculously, a packed lunch. Their breakfasts were odd, but they will get them by ’til lunch. My work is yet ahead of me, but it holds more potential now. God has touched me and it, and I am ready to follow Him into it. It’s a much better way to do life. Perhaps the rest of summer is not gone forever. There is a rest for the people of God, the scriptures say. And I believe it can happen in small ways even now, in the busyness of this day, in the labors of my work. It is clearly a different kind of rest than summer, but it is a rest, a pause, a deep breath, a looking above rather than just in front.

This ant is marching in, but thankfully not on her own and hopefully not for herself. And I’m so grateful for a God who calls my name.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:23-24)


The Ants Go Marching

The ants go marching four by four, hurrah, hurrah
The ants go marching four by four, hurrah, hurrah
The ants go marching four by four,
The little one stops to shut the door
And they all go marching down to the ground
To get out of the rain, BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!

At 43 I am still learning who I am. Still becoming. Changing. Parenting four little ants over the years has taught me to place fewer demands on life and adapt better to unpredictability. Even so there are areas in which I’ve grown rigid, like an old man who plans his day in the comfort of worn grooves, who drives the same route, goes to the same stores. Days have developed into ritual. I live in a body that often contradicts itself, at one moment flexing more easily and at another resisting movement in any direction but the one I’m headed. Continue reading “The Ants Go Marching”


My first grader finished an assignment on Harriet Tubman last night. She did all the work herself with the exception of finding the photograph online (her big sister helped with that while I was playing taxi for my other kids). She was beaming, a smile spread wide across her face when I walked in the door. “Look what I did, Mommy,” she said, and I looked over her shoebox lid with the pictures pasted on purple construction paper, careful cuts around each one, the words “Harriet Tubman” written in marker across the top. When I read over the finished project and I saw all the “inventive” spelling, I wondered if I should have her correct the spelling before turning it in. But I just couldn’t. It was just too heart warming. Pencilvanya? Oh I LOVED it! I love that word and the “anportant” person Harriet Tubman was and the “varry anportant” person this little first grader is, one who warms her mother’s heart with what she makes with such pleasure. Continue reading “Pencilvanya”

Making Straight

Pictured left is my blue-eyed first born, my “trainer baby” (the one on whom I’d practice motherhood). I witnessed with awe and excitement every nuance of this kid’s growth, including the cutting of the first tooth. From the first one at 6 months to the many more that followed, those baby teeth erupted out of her sweet baby gums in neat rows of shiny white. Her smile was perfect. She was in first grade when she lost the first baby tooth. More followed suit, and as she grew, that little smile kept changing. Teeth came loose one by one, making room for new ones. Continue reading “Making Straight”

The Grit

Summer. And I can’t seem to write about anything but parenting. Mothering is large and constant. Kids take up more space in my world. Little else is loud enough to compete with all this life and energy I share home with. And even if it is a season that makes me yearn for quiet, it is a season to treasure and use wisely.

Yet today has been more failure than wisdom. A child or two did with good spirit what was asked of them, when it was asked. And a child or two bucked and brayed their way through this day, a discouragement that seeps deep in my bones. It makes me grumpy and short tempered. I react, pursed lips. I rebuke, resentfully doling out the consequences — loss of this, extra work, laps around the neighborhood on bikes. Continue reading “The Grit”

Sermon Art

I never know what I’ll see my kids doodling during the sermon while we sit quietly in rows, mostly looking forward. With a notebook in her lap, my six-year-old usually draws hearts and flowers with big skies and suns that consume the corner of the paper, with straight lines for the sun rays. My eight-year-old boy, on the other hand, usually draws elaborate scenes of stick figures falling into the mouth of a great shark that protrudes from the bottom margin; from the top margin dangle army helicopters with stick figures who are descending on lines, elaborate assault rifles in hand. And then further down the row sits the pre-teen on whose lap are anime-style portraits of girls with gargantuan eyes and skinny necks. Next to her is the teen who no longer doodles but listens, one leg crossed over the other, foot swinging restlessly back and forth. It’s quite a juxtaposition, this art displayed on laps spanning the row beside me. Continue reading “Sermon Art”

Summer Cooking Camp

I love to cook. As a kid, I stirred dough, cut vegetables and washed dishes daily (not necessarily as a volunteer; I was drafted by my mom). My mom believed in equipping me with the ability to care for myself. So she gave me as many chores and responsibilities as possible (though I suspect that her teaching me to care for myself was as much about employing me and my siblings to help her survive the mothering of five kids as it was equipping me for adulthood). I was small when my mom announced it was time for me to do my own laundry. When my friends’ moms were loading up their dresser drawers with neatly folded, clean clothes, I was dragging my wrinkled clothes out of the dryer and schlepping them upstairs to my drawers all on my own. My mom made sure I could sew on my own buttons, patch my own pants and clean all parts of a house long before I ever hit my teens. She taught me how to follow recipes, cook rice and bake cakes. She taught me single and double crochet stitches, the whip stitch for hemming and how to embroider. I can’t say I loved any of it except for the cooking (and maybe the cleaning). Cooking was the one thing that really stuck. Continue reading “Summer Cooking Camp”

Mother’s Day Three Days Later

Last week my two youngest kids brought home Mother’s Day gifts they made at school (bless you, teachers, for your Mother’s Day gifts via your students). Will painted a handy little pot that I think will hold pens and pencils, and Ellie made a beautifully crafted flower from brightly colored tissue paper. He and Ellie also brought home a fill-in-the-blank note about their mom (I especially love these). Continue reading “Mother’s Day Three Days Later”

The Ant List

Our school calendar has summer break lasting 80 days this year. In Tallahassee, those 80 days average about 14 hours of sunlight apiece. So I made an ant list. You see May is already half over, and I’m terrified. In two weeks the schedule gets pulled; my 9-2 workday gets the squeeze. And somehow I will need to work with four kids wandering aimlessly about the house, four kids whose natural bent will be to use electronics like a lollipop, balk at being turned outside in the hot and humid Tallahassee air, and to exploit the words “I’m bored.” Continue reading “The Ant List”