Monday, March 5, 2012

Polishing the Pavers and Other Life Pursuits

In her book Around the Table: Connecting with Your Family at Mealtimes, author Sharon Fleming writes:

Around the Table BookIn Bogota we live in an enclosed community with seventy-five townhouses squeezed onto five acres.  Each house comes with a brick-tiled parking spot out front.  The day we moved into our house, our neighbor’s “driveway” was torn up.  I asked her if there had been a problem.  “I can’t get the old tiles to keep a shine,” she told me, “so I’m replacing them with a better quality.  Hopefully these will stay nice looking.”  I had never heard of shining a driveway, so I wasn’t sure what kind of a community I was moving into.
Every morning she comes out armed with a bucket, mop, and hot soapy water to wash her parking spot.  Then, with a rag pushed by a broom, she dries the driveway tiles.  After that she uses her electric floor polisher to bring up the luster of the wax.  When her husband comes home, he has to wipe his feet on their patch of grass and then on a mat at the bottom of the driveway before walking the ten paces to the front door. 
One day my children got out their sidewalk chalk and decorated our parking space, filling in each brick with a different color until it looked like a patchwork quilt.  After I admired it with them they ran off to the park to play.  A short while later, my neighbor came to my door to tell me that the unthinkable had happened:  my children had left chalk dust footprints on her driveway. 
She scolded me for their thoughtlessness and complained about how much work it is to clean her driveway and that she had already done it for the day.  Later as I hosed away the work of art, she lugged out the bucket, mop, water, and floor polisher again:  crash, swish, whirr.  And that is just how she cares for the driveway! 
That house is my neighbor’s life devotion.  It’s what she talks about “when she sits in her house and when she walks by the way.”  It’s what she is thinking about when she gets up at 5 a.m., and it is what she is consumed with until 11 p.m. when she turns off the news to go to sleep.
What is your life’s devotion? 
I want my life’s devotion to be the person of God as He has revealed Himself in Scripture.  My “devotions” or “devotional times” are the food for the devotion of my life, but my devotion to God continues all day.
*     *     *
(Shared with permission)

It’s so easy, in the busy-ness of life, to get caught up in other things.  Pretty things, important things, even good things.  What do we think about when we rise, when we’re sitting or walking along the way, when we lay down at night?  Are we consumed with things of this world, even good things? 

I confess I didn’t have a lot of hope when I first sat down to read this book.  I thought it might be helpful for others and was hoping to share about it for that reason, but thought it probably wouldn't offer much for our family.  After all, things that “work” in “normal” families, don’t usually work for us.  The structure of our days often revolves around the uniqueness of my husband’s disability rather than things we can “plan” and “count on.”  That makes meal times with all of us together difficult to accomplish.

But I came away renewed by her encouraging tone and the variety of creative solutions she has, especially:

  1. Hospitality can happen anywhere
  2. Meals together, even when some are missing, have value and significance
  3. Ideas for special celebrations (with Easter coming up, I think I’ll try to make this meal more special this year)
  4. Spending a little time ahead of time thinking about topics for deeper conversations (and she presents lots of ideas).

I found the first and second points especially encouraging.  Hospitality is hard when you have a family member with chemical sensitivities, but I can be warm and hospitable in other situations too—it’s not just about “home.”  

Meals together have great value—even if my husband isn’t up when the kids and I eat, I can eat with them, and sit down with a cup of coffee or tea when he is up, and still share time together.  And on days when we don’t all eat breakfast or lunch together—I can take a few moments to sit with a child or with Dave.  I can treasure those moments instead of lamenting that we are not “all” together, we can still make them special.  I can create a home atmosphere that encourages together time, even if it's not always "all together."  

This book has a lot of hope for families who struggle against the cultural constraints of our society to find time together--activities, work obligations, and so on.  And in those moments we carve out, we can share windows into our faith journey, the One we are devoted to.  I often hear parents asking for a "curriculum" to teach character qualities and those have value, but I think most character training happens in times together such as mealtimes.  I hope when my kids are grown that we will be "Still Talking" and talking deeply about the things of life that are important. 

It’s easy to get caught up in "polishing pavers"—but how much more meaningful it is to capture those moments here and there with someone and remember together, marvel together, about Christ who has captured our hearts.  

May God bless your homes and families.

If you'd like to find out more about this book, it is available for a 25% discount.  The author, Sharon Fleming, is also sponsoring a giveaway.  Read her blog entry here for more details.

No comments: