The words and the Word

The regular morning babysitter texts to tell me that she won’t be able to watch the boys for the rest of the month.

(She’s seventeen, all sweetness and last-minute notice and text messages.) The new semester has started, she says. Her schedule has changed; her classes start earlier.

I read the text and burst into tears at my kitchen counter. Sometimes you don’t realize how thin the thread is that is holding all the pieces of your life together until it snaps.

I keep thinking about all the words. The ones I have to write. Blog posts and guest posts and essays. Freelancing projects pushed to the side but coming due: newsletters, website updates, employee bios.

The words take time and space and a lot of staring out the coffee shop window. I am a slow writer. I’m up at 4:30 or 5 every morning, working in the darkness. Then I’m gone two mornings a week for three-hour chunks that disappear under my fingers as I write, write, write.

And still, it’s never quite enough – the bits of writing time I scrape together from the wild, constant work of mothering are a threadbare blanket that never covers me all the way up.

It’s all well and good to commit to an imperfect Christmas on my terms, but it feels entirely different to have imperfection thrust upon me by the suddenly realized schedule changes of my babysitter.

This is what I’m thinking about as I sit in my kitchen, re-reading the text message and hyperventilating.

*

It is Christmastime, and the nativity is set up by the Christmas tree to remind us that Love came down. In the beginning was the Word, John 1 says. And the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And this has always appealed to my writer-heart – God as Word.

It’s a thread that’s always running through this blog, a theme of my book: words are fragile. Our language is powerful but limited. How quickly the most beautiful metaphor can turn into cliché. Words accumulate so much – particular the religious ones, which pick up the debris of hate and failure and brokenness as they roll through the world.

The tension for me is to put the words I write in their proper perspective. They are my gift, my calling. And yet, all does not hinge on whether I write it perfectly. The point is not these words written carefully in the darkness; the point is The Word, that one singular person who changes everything.

*

The Christmas series at the new church is about selflessness. They send home a calendar and encourage us to come up with tangible ways we can serve others every day this month.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

And it occurs to me as we sit at the kitchen counter, thinking about all the people in our life, that my words are not the revelation here. Love is the revelation.

It occurs to me that the time spent staring at the blank screen, those moments zoning out at the kitchen sink while the words begin to emerge piecemeal from my heart – all of this is important.  It matters that I’m a writer. I was created this way on purpose, and it is good.

But to live the bulk of my life in that ethereal, creative place, somewhere above the daily stuff of life, is missing the point. To be so lost in all the writing that I forget to live and to live abundantly – that would be a tragedy.

After all, it’s Christmas. We’re celebrating that Word that became flesh. We’re thinking about tiny hands and feet that would grow and grow. Feet that would walk the dusty roads of the world, hands that would touch and heal and transform.

And in that place where the Word comes down and dwells among the great need of humanity…that is where the world is changed.

*

I may be a little quieter on the blog this month. After all, my babysitter texted. After all it’s Christmas.

Sometimes you don’t get to choose your flavor of imperfection; sometimes one thread breaks and the whole thing crashes down around you a little bit, and faith means saying, OK then. Let’s go with that.

An Amazon box arrived with a Christmas gift I’d ordered for a friend: Brené Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection. You know I have baggage around the whole “God told me…” line, but I could have sworn I heard a deep laugh as I held the book up to my face. “Yeah, that one’s actually for you, pumpkin.”

So I’ll be reading. Writing when I can. Baking Christmas cookies for Dane to take out to the garbage man. I’ll be trying to figure out what it means when words become flesh.

I want to see what happens to my words when they come up off of the computer screen, out of the confines of the blog. When they become chapped winter hands, reaching out. Boots and two pairs of socks walking toward someone. A smile. A voice. Arms strong enough for the holding.

42 thoughts on “The words and the Word

  1. Thinking of you as you cope with this unexpected change up, Addie. I hope you can get the help you need to keep doing what you need to do; and that you’ll have peace to let go of the rest. Will miss you if it’s a little quieter on the blog, but understand completely and will just imagine those beautiful words of yours becoming flesh from very, very far away. xo

  2. I have the exact same kind of schedule as you–if everything comes together perfectly, nobody fusses and nobody sneezes, I can get everything done. I think I did it all just right once back in June 2008. I’m completely sympathetic on the babysitter (mine texts every week that she can’t make it and I have to convince her that yes, she can). The thing that exhausts me the most is all of the work piled up in my mind that, if I could just have a little time and space, I could sail through beautifully. I’ve been thinking lately about how my life is my art rather than my writing and I want to blog about it. But of course, who has the time? Maybe you’ll inspire me to get on it. Hope you get both peace and time this season.

    1. This is exactly right. That is a constant frustration too — the knowing that if I just had a few uninterrupted hours, I could get it all done! But of course, I never do. I’m not great at recognizing and honoring my own limitations, but I’m trying to be better at it this month. Thanks for the empathy and great comment. It made me smile!

  3. “It’s all well and good to commit to an imperfect Christmas on my terms, but it feels entirely different to have imperfection thrust upon me by the suddenly realized schedule changes of my babysitter.”

    That is so true. SO true. Whenever something is thrust upon us, it feels completely different. I love the way you wrote out your feelings about this change today. You are right on with this post. Your perspective is so good.

    It just so happens that Matt Appling guest posted for my Advent series today using the John 1 text. He said, “We anticipate and get excited for another, lesser, imperfect gift than the one God was so excited to give.” I love that you seem to be taking this change in plans as a potential gift and I love that. (His post can be found at http://www.everydayawe.com/wonder-waiting-for-the-right-gift/)

    I pray the book and this unexpected time with your kids wind up blessing you richly in ways you never would have expected.

    1. Stephanie,
      I think that is why sometimes we have to take the attitude that “I will take whatever is thrust upon me”. It does help the soul if we are willing to do this. My son and I were talking one time and we came to the conclusion that we had to “take what comes and overcome”.

  4. I get so much of this. There’s nothing wrong with quieting oneself for awhile and curling up with a good book. I haven’t read Brene’s books but I’ve heard her speak and I’m better for it. I wish I could come over and watch the boys for you for a few hours or sit in a coffee shop together while we tapped away on our respective keyboards. But mostly I wish peace for you this season: this is your now, may you live it to its fullest and may you experience Christmas in a whole new light. Much love to you, friend.

    1. Thanks Leigh. Just started the Imperfection one, and I think it’s going to be good for me — that eternal first-born, that ever-striving teacher’s pet, the one who always wants to do it exactly perfectly right. Hoping that I can honor my weakness this month and find that He is big enough to bridge the gap. (Wish you were closer too. All the dang time.)

  5. Good for you. You’re choosing health over all else, and this is wise. Here’s to the start of a new year and seeing you back again in full force. Much love.

  6. Lady – firstly, you need to know that very single one of your blog posts is a gift to me. And I don’t use that word lightly. I feel that so often we are living parallel lives or something – you voice my thoughts and give them grace. Yes – yes to the fleeing overwhelmed by the deadlines and the words and the daunting bar of perfection that hangs over my head and tells me to work more, think better, do more, do less, be quiet, run and hide… And yes to it being about incarnation, and being present with my boy, and the real stuff that can so often feel like a distraction to the world of ideas, but is the stuff of eternity and humanity, and Jesus being born. Thank you – I needed this.

    Secondly – praying for a babysitting solution for you. I know that feeling when it all unravels and reveals just how precarious the tightrope is. And I know the bargaining of ‘this bit of my life can be imperfect, but not this bit…’

    Thirdly – it’s a cliche, but can I say with you it’s about quality not quantity? Which isn’t to say you need to suddenly increase your quality somehow, to ‘make up’ for being quiet a bit (that would be my instinct, I know…) – but that I will be waiting, and enjoy the next post you do, whenever you get to it. And I am praying that you would have a gloriously restful Christmas, with time to breathe and be.

    If I lived down the road, I would pop round, I would lend you my babysitter, I would bring chocolate – but I don’t and I offer these imperfect words instead. With much love.

    1. Such a kind and beautiful note, Tanya. Thank you for your encouragement, support and grace. Love to you friend.

  7. I struggle with this, the living my life in my head and on the page/screen instead of in my body, with people, in the messy world. The words are important, but so is the living. Somehow they must meld together.

    Peace to you, Addie. And thanks as always for sharing so beautifully.

    1. “The words are important, but so is the living. Somehow they must meld together.” Yes, this is the eternal struggle for this writer/introvert. Thanks Katie.

  8. Hey friend. Not writing too many blog posts in December is always a good idea, whether you have a babysitter or not. Rest up. And call Young Life. Their leaders are usually in college and they always need jobs. (I’m on a role. Third part-time babysitter from YL in a row!)

  9. “Sometimes you don’t get to choose your flavor of imperfection.” You nailed it, Addie. If life came with garment care instructions, this would be on the tag. I hope these quieter days are filled with everyday grace friend.

  10. Addie, I appreciate your humanness, something of which the Father knows we cannot deny. Rest deeply. Love your family to capacity. You know The Word(s) always come back again, last minute as it may seem. They will come back richer after a few deep breaths of distance. Your readers grant you that time, pressure free. We’ll be watching for posts as the come. Merry Christmas!

    1. Thanks for such a graceful comment Lauren. “The Word(s) always come back again, last minute as it may seem.” Beautiful.

  11. Absolutely riveting, Addie.

    My heart has been crying this same wail and finding this same life. The kind with the chapped winter hands, and the unraveled threads that I didn’t know held it all together.

    A perfect post for an imperfect world. For this is the essence of being human, isn’t it? Thank you. So glad I stopped in from IP.

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by and for the kind comment Kelli. So thankful to meet other people struggling honestly and trying hard to embrace the disappointing imperfection of it all. So thank you. 🙂

  12. Hi Addie, You articulated, like so many other times my dilemma. All our plans and dreams need to placed before the God in whom we trust. He knows our heart. With Him all things are possible. Sometimes, it requires just a little more patience and a little more faith for dreams to unfold. Your gift for writing will continue to prosper. It cannot but continue growing through all the challenges.

    Vincent

  13. “And the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And this has always appealed to my writer-heart – God as Word.
    The point is not these words written carefully in the darkness; the point is The Word, that one singular person who changes everything.”

    Lovely writing. God will find a way, Addie. Your writing will get done. And the time with the children will refresh you. Don’t fight it!
    Blessings!

    1. Thanks Anita. (“Don’t fight it!” Such great advice, and so un-intuitive for this Type A girl. Working to let go.)

  14. Addie,
    It seems to me that in my life and in others I observe that like the writers of songs, poems, and prose that those words flow so honestly from their life being lived in the daily grind and minutia. Your writing is better from an impact perspective even if it is not from a all tight and wonderfully put together perspective. It is the raw and unfiltered and down in the dirt writing that resonates with people the most at times. You does this well and you also put it together in nice packages too. 🙂

    1. “Your writing is better from an impact perspective.” Thanks for the reminder Mark. This is so true — this is the kind of writing I resonate with most myself.

  15. oh, these changes! hard and sudden and consuming. And with all that looming, looming over your shoulder. you write it out here with such grace, you will navigate this. take your breath, take your space, allow the quiet to fill you.

    1. Thanks so much Tara (and yes, “consuming” is a perfect word for these changes. Trying to let go so I’m not totally consumed.)

  16. I have had a teenage babysitter who would also send text messages about sudden changes of plans that I would much rather have received a lot earlier!
    I also understand about having a life going on in your head and on the screen that is quite different to the life happening in the fights and cuddles that are ever-present in the home with young children.
    I have been thinking a lot lately about how easy it is for me to become unplugged from my kids and grab every spare minute for the screen… and how I’m robbing them and myself when I do that. Sigh… it’s a balancing act!

    1. Such a balancing act. Wanting to be present to them, but also needing to be present to myself (through writing.) Always feeling like there’s never enough time and space for both. Trying to believe this year that there IS time. That I am enough because He is enough.

  17. wow friend. it would seem we’re in a similar boat this month. i too, had an (18-year-old) babysitter up and move on me and tell me she couldn’t help with the boys anymore. i too burst into tears. but here we stand, wrapped in The Word, serving his beautiful babies, soaking in this season of Advent. and think about how much richer OUR words will be when this season is over? (if we ever make it through… :P)

    1. Seriously. I knew it the moment I read your post the other day…that bit about falling apart. Peace to you, beautiful friend.

  18. Keep at it, friends.

    The demands of this world are relentless. It is a tough row to hoe, often.

    If we can somehow stay cheerful and remember what our Lord has done for us, and maybe remind others around us when the opportunity arises, then we are a good and faithful servant. And when we fail. We are forgiven.

    Thanks. Hang in there, all!

  19. I am so glad I stumbled across your blog! You write beautifully, and God has indeed clearly gifted you in this area.

    I am at the beginning of my blogging life, and with four little ones in tow, I can already see how much time it is taking. It is a constant challenge to find balance, and not to let my blogging interfere with my family.

    Thank you for sharing your life with your readers. It has been a privilege to take the peek into your days…

    God bless you as you abide in Him!

  20. I love this…. that you’re babysitterless…not so much. WIsh I could send my 17 yr old to you. I had many a meltdown when mine were young (my littles are 17, 18, 23) over babysitter “issues”. I felt that thread unravel and my thread unravel and that feeling of the wheels coming to a halt. Thinking of you sweet Addie. And love your heart and words. Im so late in reading this, maybe you have a new reliable sitter. Wouldn’t that make things Merry.

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