Thursday, September 13, 2012

On Aging Wood and Overanalysis

I love Pinterest. Who doesn't?

(Actually, I love/hate Pinterest. Who doesn't?)

I love the ideas for beautiful, handmade things that you can find on Pinterest, one subset of which is all of the things you can make from wood. Do you have some favorites? I've seen (and dreamed up) carved toys, kitchen spoons, nativity sets, wood-burned icons, home decor items, kids' handmade blocks... But it all starts with the wood. And the purist "handmade" you can get is the wood you find yourself.

 There's plenty of wood where I live. This is a pine tree cut down by the power company earlier this year. I wanted to stack the pieces somewhere and season the wood and maybe learn to carve some rough items with my kids. I would forget in the face of all this bounty how heavy wood is. And I didn't know where to put it. Everywhere I thought of had some problem: too near the house, too far away to make it happen, too much in the way of the rest of life. I couldn't do it yet. Not with so many little ones running around, and frankly, other priorities for my time. Maybe later.

So here it sits. Getting old and useless.

But it seems like such a waste.

This is symbolic of the way I often see my life. The parable of the talents makes me tremble. I have been given so much: do I truly come close to giving enough back? And this piece by Ann Voskamp hit home yesterday: How do you know how to best invest your life? The answer is so obvious to some; but I keep getting paralyzed by the question, and I constantly feel myself in grave danger. In the battle for my soul, one side wants me to take the impetus of that question and move me to actionto love —and the other side wants to keep freezing me up in my own fears and insecurities, while it all goes to rot.

Those who think this proves some point about the banality of devoting one's life to motherhood, or homeschooling, or the likethey miss my point. It is exactly in the blessings of my family life that I am overwhelmed by possibilities. How best do I teach my children? How do I form their character? What system of chores should I use? What do I make for their dinner? What should they do today to learn to feed the hungry, know their math facts, honor their father and mother, know, love and serve God?

There are so many excellent ways of doing each of these things. There are so many difficulties to contend with in doing them. It's easy to sit and just... ponder on them all.

Those who already understand that the family is their first sphere of influencecharity begins at homeface another danger, that of becoming so insular that they don't recognize when God may be calling them to give of themselves outside of it. In fact, I am afraid that the more the world devalues this particular lifestyle of staying at home with my kids, the more reactionary I may become at the idea that I need to do something beyond, until "my vocation" becomes a reflexive shutting out of any other idea.

There, that. You see the pattern, no? Back and forth, analyzing everything, engaging nothing.

I used Jennifer Fulwiler's Saint Name Generator at the beginning of this year to choose patron saints for our family. St John of God "picked" me, and I immediately knew why. He is an impulsive one, so impulsive that he sometimes got it wrong. But he was motivated by the love of God, and that love was so great, so impetuous and tenacious, that he was able to do great things because he made the start and kept on going.

I've already made a start on a great thing. This family is my life and my vocation. But sometimes I need a little impetuosity to shake off the plodding, overthinking questions that cause me to stagnate. So here is a question, a wide-open invitation to act that has the capacity to be thrilling.

What shall I do first today?

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