An Invitation into the Spacious Ordinary
It’s a Saturday afternoon. Brooksie’s napping and Chris is upstairs vacuuming. August has wandered downstairs to see what I’m up to. I’m sitting cross-legged on the carpet folding clothes. He joins me.
“Mommy, how do you fold a shirt?”
We each take one in our hands and I walk him through how to pinch the seams and how to bring them toward one another. We lay the shirt on the floor and crease and smooth. He works hard at it, producing a lumpy t-shirt and a pair of earnestly gathered shorts. We work together. I explain why we fold clothes and how it keeps our things from being wrinkled and how it’s important to take care of our things.
It doesn’t last long, this folding session. Soon, my five-year-old is off to more interesting endeavors. But, for a moment, I remember my mom teaching me to fold clothes. I remember the spot where she sat in the living room floor, how I still fold the way she did, sitting cross-legged, setting the piles in a rainbow around me. I remember those small moments of encountering my parents and learning from them, and I know those are the moments that shaped the most intricate details of who I am.
I’ve been working every Saturday for the past 16 months. While I was writing the book, from December to September, I worked full days on Saturdays while Chris took the boys out for trips to the beach or aquarium. When the book writing and editing work switched to book promotion, I worked only on Saturday mornings, and our Saturday afternoons were saved for family adventures. My Sunday afternoons over the past nine months have been spent in a fairly intensive counseling course through my church. All that to say, I haven’t been around much on weekends. And when I have, it’s been scheduled time. We’ve done something “fun.”
The past two weekends have been my first two Saturdays off. I’ve been around, not simply for the fun stuff, but for the ordinary stuff. This past Saturday morning we went as a family to my son’s soccer game and then we went out for family breakfast. Then we came home and cleaned the house together.
Those are the kinds of weekends I remember from my childhood. I remember Sunday afternoons after church, when my parents would change into comfortable clothes and read the paper. We’d beg them to play with us and they’d send us outside to jump on the trampoline. And eventually, Dad would show up to play “Zombie” in the backyard, chasing us with arms outstretched and eyes all wonky, slowly walking our direction. We’d run and scream. Or mom would call us into the kitchen, where she was baking cookies or stirring pudding, and we would help or lick the spoons.
Sometimes Dad was fixing the fence and we’d practice hammering a nail. Sometimes Mom was cleaning house and she’d hand us the Windex and paper towels.
All of those memories happened in the open spaces, in the unscheduled hours of my childhood’s Saturdays and Sundays.
There was something about that moment on the floor with August, teaching him to gather the seams and smooth them straight, when I saw what I’ve been trying to get at for a while in this series. Space. Spaciousness.
When do kids’ legs grow long and lean? At night, when they sleep. In the in-between spaces.
Life happens in the unplanned spaces. Kids learn and change in the slow moments, while they dig in the dirt or make their crayons talk to each other or stare at books on the couch. I want to be present for those moments.
And I’m counting this as my biggest takeaway from the past nine months of this school year, September to May. Over and over, with my kids, with my friends, in my marriage, I’m learning that growth (individual and relational) happens in the quiet moments, in the space we make for one another.
Hospitality, especially in our frantic, stressed out culture, is less about the food we serve or the party we throw, and more about the space we make—in our schedules, in our homes, in our openness to stop the pace of our day and listen to the needs of the friend in front of us, in our willingness to be vulnerable with one another.
The space we make for each other in our ordinary days is not quantifiable. It will not get us promoted. It will not get our books written. It will not be documented and tagged on Pinterest. It will not earn us more likes on Facebook. But it is the hardest work we do. To show another person that there is time available, here, right now. To show another person that he or she is worth your willingness to sit together and accomplish nothing.
We are invited into the Spacious Ordinary, where nothing and all the most important Everythings happen.
Photo Credit: Meena Kadri on Flickr