On Waiting and Blessing


When Jacob wrestled, he waited, but he didn’t stop wrestling in the waiting. He wrestled until he received his blessing.

Waiting doesn’t always mean stopping. Sometimes waiting takes a “meanwhile…” stance as we multitask through life.

And sometimes, wait really just means wait. Like I’ve waited twenty years to read this one particular book. In the meantime, I’ve read hundreds of others, but the book always waited.

Twenty years ago, my parents gave a rightfully Brit lit obsessed teen a copy of The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh as a graduation gift. Having only recently rediscovered my love of reading, I was ecstatic to have it. And I flipped through it. And then I started two summer jobs followed by school and Rush, and suddenly I was much too cool and adult for Pooh.

But Pooh stayed with me, through a college transfer and back home again. To grad school and back home. Again. And through eight moves in the last decade. There was Pooh, always near my desk and heart, but with his binding never broken. Because that Pooh, the heavy one with the satin ribbon to mark your place and a small picture on each page, was meant to be shared with others. You read this Pooh aloud.

And while the first person who called me Aunt B will turn 17 this year, and my niece will be 8 next month, I never read that Pooh to any niece or nephew, whether they called me Aunt B by choice or by blood. Taking Pooh to another’s house just seemed strange.

So when the kids started staying with me for respite weekends, I thought about starting them with Pooh. But if you’ve ever tried holding a sprawling two-year-old and a 7 pound book, you know why that didn’t happen.

There was more than just a perpetual motion machine preventing the reading of Pooh by this time. To finally pull him off the shelf and read him would seem so final, and nothing has felt final these last two years.

For two years I was partially afraid that to begin reading would be to jinx it, and we would never get to finish. So we’ve read small Pooh storybooks and big Disney Pooh storybooks and Jesus books and truck books and princess books and pirate books and the complete stories of Paddington Bear, but not of the Silly Old Bear.

Until tonight. Because tonight, five weeks after the judge’s decree and five days after receiving new birth certificates, and about five hours after a hair cut to correct the one she started on herself on Saturday, two chubby little feet scurried back to her room from the errand of “Go find one book to read,” with two dimpled hands holding a blue bound storybook. “Here. I picked this one book. Read it to us, please.”

And there sat Pooh.

As I opened the book, I laughed, partly because Miss Smartypants brought me the biggest “one book” she could carry, but also because, after 20 years of wanting and worrying and whining and wasting and waiting, Pooh came to me. And we read of honey and the wrong sort of bees.

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When Death is a Good Thing


Death often makes room to see the past– and the future– more clearly.

I noticed the frozen creek from the kitchen window, and after a week trapped inside by single digit temps, I grabbed my camera, bundled up, and wandered into the backyard for a moment.

In the summer, my backyard is nothing but thick woods, but now it’s obvious that the vines once ran along a fence and there’s a clearing beyond the creek. Today it’s grown up, dangerous, useless.

But sometime in this house’s 90+ years of life, it was a sprawling, well manicured yard.

These fence posts reminded me of what happens when we don’t keep up with the little things in our lives. Boundaries are only effective when they are clearly maintained. When the yard was left to its own devices, a fence became a trellis and vines became thick and impassable.

But then came a deathly deep freeze. The vines that were so tangled in autumn that I couldn’t clear them now crumbled in my hands. With a little bit of work, we’ll have a backyard again and the kids will have a place to play this summer.

I never would’ve known there were both past and future stories here if everything hadn’t died. And I wondered, what things in my life need to die so I can see clearly the direction of my life? What needs to die so I’ll have better perspective on an event in my past? Sometimes, death— of a relationship, of a lie believed, of a habit or addiction— really can be the best thing that could happen.

So what do you do when the death clarifies things? There are really two choices: let things grow back up, or do the work to reestablish the boundaries and make the space useful again.