Present-Oriented: Thoughts after a Children’s Service

There’s something inherently wonderful about little children doing motions to “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.”  I always love watching the girl or boy who just graduated from the nursery, intermittently waving arms with the music and reaching out to be lifted off the stage.  Then I love the older children, who take their “performance” seriously.  These are the ones who remember every word, every motion, but in their concentration forget to smile.  Perhaps the most interesting thing to watch, though, is the flock of parents standing in the aisles, camcorder or cell phone at the ready.  Every little mishap on stage is worth memorializing.  Every silly face or crooked ponytail deserves a photograph.  And every time I witness moments like this, I get a buzz of excitement for that chapter of our own life.

I say all of this to introduce something of an odd topic that I’ve been mulling over lately.  After Googling the word “homemaking,” I was surprised at how many young women who are exclusively wives, mothers, and homemakers have vibrant blogosphere lives.  I’m not referencing “secret” lives, of course; I’m describing a culture of homemakers who share (as one blogger writes) their “simple days” via the web, constituting a unique, artistic community of women writers who share a common vocation in homemaking.  These blogs have clean finishes, attractive headings, and very distinct tabs that range from femininity to homeschooling to recipes to crafts.  In the grand scheme of blogging, it’s a sub-genre that stands out in such a striking way since it seeks to turn personal blogging into a ministry rather than a viral, often self-focused broadcast of opinions.  For the most part, they are pointed, listing specific beliefs that shape their interpretation of the world and they use these tenants as a framework for their reflections.  At first I found some of these lists (almost always in the “About” tab) a little alarming, but I suspect that my response is grounded in the fact that many of my own opinions appear like creatures in a primordial swamp, unformed and inchoate.

The homemakers who write within this particular sub-genre have an undergirding sense of eternity, a sense that turns up consistently in their words, tone, and presentation.  Each simple day for these women is worthy of a moment of reflection via the blog.  There’s no venting, no complaining – just a realistic picture of daily life infused with a sense of holiness, maybe even ritual.

Ritual always reminds me of transitions.  Graduations.  Weddings.  The church calendar.  One of the things I fight in my life is a persistent sense of liminality.  I feel “betwixt and between,” always waiting for what Arnold van Gennep called the next “transition rite.”  I’ve checked a few off the list: high school graduation, college graduation, engagement, marriage, etc.  But there are a few that still remain on deck (and will probably stay that way for several more years).  Graduate school permeates nearly every facet of my life, filling in the gaps between my marriage, my social life, and my spirituality.  I wish I could compartmentalize my graduate work a little more efficiently, but it inherently resists it.  There’s also a sense that being married implies that another shoe is waiting for the drop: the other shoe being children, of course.  We know that children are in our future, but this liminal, interminable realm of graduate school makes us feel unready.  We’re working toward something else right now; in many respects, we’re working toward a life that we want for our children — a life overseas, of adventure, of wonder mingled with the quotidian.  And so we wade nose-deep in liminality, with the hope that we’re filling this waiting game with work that is good and purposeful.  The ultimate goal, I think, is to forget that we’re waiting, to be present-oriented.

Funny, isn’t it?, that our faith is so often defined by this anticipatory vision of the New Heaven and the New Earth, and yet we’re called to do the opposite: “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own.  Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matthew 6:34).  These women’s blogs accomplish this, I believe.  Their form is present-oriented, and their structure (albeit digital) lends itself to a backlog of past instances of present-oreientedness.

Back to the children’s service.  One of my favorite things to read on these women’s blogs are their accounts of their children, whether they are in high school or still in the womb.  I love to be updated on a pregnancy story, and I think there is a sense that by reading these updates we are participating in the birth story itself; perhaps we help affirm the mother’s experience (and maybe our own as well) through our “online presence.”   More than anything, though, I love the joy of these posts and their inherent departure from outside tasks or jobs.  They explore what Hopkins called the “inscape” – the inner life of a thing.  In this case, the thing is a tiny soul, growing in these women-poets’ bellies.