Yesterday I took the kids to the beach. Not an ocean beach, more like an oasis: a little man-made lake in yellow hills. It was hot. The sun and the sand and the heat kind of wipes your brain clean, like a natural sedative. I needed it.
I turned in line edits for my book this week. Next it goes out for the blurbs that other authors write, “endorsements.” I’m biting my nails, wondering if people will like it, if they like me, if I even wanted them to read it in the first place. I’m not blind to the privilege of this moment. But also I might be carrying a little bit more stress than probably I should.
But then a commenter wrote on my (things have been hard this week) YouTube video, “God’s mercies are new every morning.”
We opened gifts of books — my favorite kind of gift, which was also my mother’s favorite kind of gift — and one of them is Astrid Lindgren’s The Children of Noisy Village. I’m so grateful that this book was a gift for the little girl who can’t read, because I had to read it aloud and I had to discover that it made all the children laugh out loud and say things like, “I love stories. It makes me feel like I’m in the story.”
All this and we’re only four little chapters in.
God’s mercies are new every morning.
I told the kids only one or two little chapters each day, because I don’t want to be done soon. When you find a book that is medicinal, that heals broken things, you don’t want it to run out. You don’t want to waste it.
On the beach, chatting with my grown up friends, we were talking about food and food health and also a woman’s role in caring for a household. That’s a deep tangle, for grown-up women who have been through different places and have different words for things, but the one thing we could agree on is that there is a deep, deep wound. As mothers we so often feel like we just can’t do enough to take care of our children. We’re never doing enough. We’re never satisfied. We don’t know how to take care of ourselves and also take care of our families and we don’t know how to live lives that are actually in line with what we wish our lives would be. It’s like the map has been lost.
I’ve written so much about healing, and yet I still don’t believe it myself. I get stressed out and worry that I’m not doing enough. But reading a silly book aloud on a hot afternoon I know I’m doing more than enough. No, actually, more than enough. I need to do less.
I don’t think it’s wrong to try to grow my own food, even on days where I can’t believe how little I’ve accomplished. I don’t think it’s wrong to live the homestead life. But it is wrong to forget that simple is the point. And simple is not more. Simple is not more. Simple is less.
Simple is embracing the natural sedative of summer sun and welcoming in gratitude the perfect, gentle comment and then letting the magic of a child’s laughter break through. And simple is accepting this magic, in whatever words you understand it: that God’s mercies really are new every morning.
This doesn’t mean to me that the hard things will stop coming. It doesn’t mean to me that God’s people are charmed and don’t worry, be happy or that bad things go away in a puff of smoke.
It doesn’t mean any of that. It just means I can be soft.
It means don’t bother beating yourself up because every day does a pretty good job at it even without your help. So let go.
It means forgive yourself. And that’s a serious command, because being unwilling to let go of your own imperfections is an unkindness to the other spirits around you. It’s an unkindness to the children and the people with inner children who just want to receive grace and do their best and find funny things funny.
It means there’s a magical medicine, all around you, in your own capacity to heal. And you can’t tap into all that magical medicine if you can’t let down your guard, just a little bit.
This morning when I was watering the garden, Nick came to ask if he could help me finish up so I could come in for breakfast. I said, “Oh, I’m done. I just like it here.” He smiled about as big a smile as he could, considering the morning was coming on and he still hadn’t had any breakfast.
It’s good to like things. It’s risky, when you’re a grown up and you’ve lost so many things, and probably half of them just by your own mistakes. It’s hard to remember how to be that soft, or that there’s any reason why you should.
But now I’m sitting at my desk writing a blog post, and my big kids are both reading and my little one is turning pages and talking to herself. And if there’s one thing I know about healing, this is it. You have to be soft enough to like things. You have to believe that broken things can be fixed with a band-aid and prayer…and your earnest willingness to fix them.
It’s by luck and grace that I have a plot of land at all. My garden is a gift no less than the books were a gift. And it is no less healing to me, either, if I can just remember to do a little less and receive a little more. Even if I do mess things up, as I recently have, still it’s a great privilege that I can spend an hour in the cool of the morning tending plants, and even more so that I can send my children into the garden at snack time and tell them to eat whatever they want and have them come back with handfuls of green leaves and dark stains on their hands from ripened berries.
They have to wash their hands before we read the book, though. 🙂
Friends, I don’t want to candy coat things. Simple is simple, but it isn’t easy. Simple is crazy hard, and it’s hard for all the hardest reasons: all these things that have to do with my personal insufficiencies and my lack of knowledge or lack of courage or lack of skill. The whole darn thing is such a test of character.
But it’s also a deep, deep well of healing. If I can just get out of my own way, the simple life can get me right out of my own head and out of that desperate feeling that no matter what I can never do enough. Commitment to simple life (doing less, requiring less, tolerating a life with less) can reverse some of the damage done by a more-more life.
I’m wishing you all a bit of magic today. Especially the healing kind. Especially the softness to receive the natural sedative of summer heat (if it’s summer where you are now), or the natural healing of plants in the morning in the garden, or maybe the best healing of all, a good story and a silly laugh.
Love from the yurt,
Esther and family
This book my children love (on Amazon):