I do a lot of little things throughout a day. I make breakfast, lunch and dinner for my trio of minis. I also make morning snack, afternoon snack, and bedtime snack. I drag out school books, only to nestle them back on shelves at the end of the day. Toys come out and get put back. All this on a seemingly endless loop. Like the tides, like breathing, in and out, in and out. A law of nature, an irresistible instinct. Monotony.
I read somewhere that the spirit of God is simply breath, wind. It's in everyone, in everything, if you look carefully. Wendell Berry writes,
"There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places."
The little things, the ordinary things, there are days I believe the lie that they aren't the important things, the vital things. I grow restless for whatever else is out there that I don't have. There are two types of restlessness: one says "I must keep going, there's more to be done, onward," this is the hallmark of healthy striving, of following a calling. The other says "what I have is not enough, I must go get more of what they have," this is simply covetousness. Sadly, my restlessness is sometimes born of the latter.
When it is, it desecrates all the sacred places I inhabit in my life: my relationship with God, the relationships I have with my children and my husband, the tentative cultivation of my creativity. The monotony of life, of growth then comes with a black weariness and a terrible lack of purpose. There is nothing more deadening than simply going through the motions.
I believe the little things are holy things. The little things accumulate to make big things.
Once, when I was on a missions trip in Malawi, we built a wall, brick by brick. We had to make the mortar. To make the mortar, we had to go to the sand pit and sift it and haul it back to the base. We had to carry our water from the river, we had to go to the quarry to break up rocks for the foundation. It was tedious and tiresome work.
Once, my sister-in-law showed me the lettuce seeds she was starting for her garden. They were slender and delicate, they looked like they'd get lost easily. She buried them, one by one, in the dark, rich peat, under the grow lights in her backroom. Once they sprouted, she planted them in her small, weedy garden. I surveyed it then, as the seedlings were raw, new, and tender and just settling in. It wasn't much to look at.
Once, in sixth grade, I procrastinated on a huge spelling test. In tears, at 10:30 at night, I called to my mom who took a deep, steadying breath, scanning over the list, and said, "let's go word by word."
This is how things get done, not big things all at once, but in little things, done incrementally across time. They come brick by brick, seed by seed, word by word, breath by breath.
The dirty, monotonous, hard work is holy. So I breathe in and out, every day, every hour, and begin again. And again. Ever onward, ever building sacred places with the little things.