One Christmas Eve -- a rather typical Christmas Eve -- found me in my sister's kitchen baking cookies and a torte, a yule log and and other assorted goodies. Spices were strewn about. Dishes overflowed out of the sink. The floor was dotted with whatever the dog didn't find appetizing.
My brother-in-law came in the kitchen and took in the scene. He shook his head and said something like, "So much work!"
We begged to differ.
I don't remember being stressed or frantic, pushed or burdened. Yes, there was a component of work in all of it, and some of it really needed to be done, but for the most part, we were simply wasting time together.
We baked; we played Scrabble. We washed a pile of dishes; we talked to the kids. We baked a little more; we poured a few more cups of coffee.
The point wasn't the baking.
My friend Christine -- a knitter and a writer -- was hard at work on a complicated knitting pattern. Discovering a problem, she was forced to do what knitters so often are forced to do: Pull the darn thing apart. Seeing her mother undo her progress, Christine 's daughter put a positive spin on it: You get more knitting for your money.
A few years ago, I spent a few moments in deep thought about my hobbies and ended up examining an interesting question: Did I, in fact, actually enjoy any of my hobbies?
There was cross stitch -- too taxing on my middle-aged eyes. Gardening -- all that confounded weeding. Scrap booking -- thank you, good and merciful God, that blogging came along and photo albums are once again just photo albums. Quilting garnered the best review, at least for a beginner like me. The problem with most sewing projects is that the actual sewing -- hands on the fabric, machine going vroom, vroom, vroom -- is actually a minute component of the whole process. Gathering the materials, ironing fabric, threading the machine, winding the bobbins (and for some reason, I've always been really, really bad at bobbins) -- well, in the end, you don't get a lot of a bang for your buck. Quilting, however, has a higher ratio of sewing to all that other stuff.
As I thought over all of this, I wondered if I really wanted more knitting for my money. You want more knitting for your money if, and here's the key point, you actually enjoy knitting rather than just enjoying the outcome of knitting.
It struck me as odd that I didn't actually seem to like most of my hobbies.
Are we invested in the process or the outcome or both?
I apply this to motherhood. What, for example, is the point of bedtime stories?
a) To spend time snuggling with my kids
b) To get the little buggers to sleep already
c) All of the above
I recently stumbled on a new blog (or, I should say, a blog new to me). Over at The Rhodes Log, I read:
I feel like I'm productive at the expense of mothering. Or actually. The opposite of that. I feel like I mother at the expense of being productive.
And I feel the expense keenly. Some days everything falls enchantedly into place, but those are just days when Jake takes three hour naps and then contentedly bangs his hammer on the floor while I hum about my business. I try to remind myself that getting down on the floor with some blocks to appease a fussy nineteen month old is not only doing "something," it's doing something wonderful, something good, something I will miss terribly in fifteen years. But instead I glance warily at the mess in my kitchen or make to do lists in my head or sneak peeks at blogs on my phone.
There isn't a parent on Planet Earth who doesn't wrangle with this. Most of us struggle far more with being than with doing.
Kids help us to live in the present.
They almost always want More Knitting for Their Money.
Note: This doesn't apply to church, haircuts, car rides, any event that involves itchy clothing, etc.
But for the most part, young children are wholly unfocused on outcome. There is no anticipated finished product when they jump in a mud puddle. They don't do a quick cost-benefit analysis weighing the stack of muddy clothes and the trail of dirt through the house versus the fleeting moment of ker-splash!
They just do it.
I apply this to my spiritual life. What, exactly, is the purpose of prayer?
Here my friend Mark expresses beautifully the point of deep, saturating prayer. Like Christmas Eve with my sister, it's about wasting time in the presence of someone you love.
Which turns out not to be a waste at all.
We can't snap our fingers or wriggle our noses and presto! find that we've morphed from a doer into a be-er (had to add that hyphen!).
But we can practice.
And we can pray.