A Little More Than Empty

Earlier this week, I finished journaling back through all my underlines from the book Running On Empty, which I read a few months ago and have been slowly processing ever since. But that finish is only a beginning.

I decided during Lent to practice moving toward Story on a daily basis as a way to surrender my identity around motherhood and to lean into God and not my own feelings about what I can or cannot do. On my to-do list each day, I have been writing three words at the top: PRAY, PLAY, POEM.


I have been trying to take a few minutes near each day’s beginning to pray for wisdom and help from God to know when and how to engage with Story in an intentional way that day. Then I look for the opportunity that presents itself to do something with Story that I wouldn’t naturally do. Rarely is this what I would actually call play, but the spirit is the same. We’ve read books, done workbooks, sat in the sun to eat a snack, done a science experiment, started a collage on posterboard, played TicTacToe, played Lego, or simply talked. The play portion has happened at various times and in various places (at home, in the doctor’s office, in the yard, in the car, and in the bath). Finally, my favorite part of the practice has been to write a short poem each evening as a way to reflect back on how the time with Story was for that particular day. I shared a couple poems near the beginning of Lent a few weeks ago but here are a few more.

March 16
I found you playing Legos
All alone,
Which you expect.
I made a stack of mini-figure heads
And talked to you,
Which you did not expect.
We built our relationship.

March 18
For time together,
You asked for more of
I wondered if that counted,
But decided it did.
Not reading to say we read
But time for what you wanted.
This is all a wonder.

March 21
On school days, it is harder
To carve out special time -
But I tried to make bedtime
Calm and close.
Even that can be special
If I pay attention
And talk and listen for a minute
Or two.
Just a scrap of time is enough.

March 28
We drew
For a few
Three bear faces,
A great blue heron,
A shark,
A girl and a boy.
It was very ordinary
Yet not.
This still doesn’t mean
All is well,
But drawing
Was a way of
Drawing near.

Because of these experiences, an image has begun to form in my mind of the needle on a gas tank lifting slightly up off the E. The tank is nowhere near full, and there is still much work (play) to do. But I can feel a warmth being created between Story and me that has been absent for a long time. Can this be true? I think. Am I really doing this? I am amazed and grateful beyond words.


The “drawing near” reflections, like the ones above, are just part of the journey. The struggle is still real and days which start well still sometimes end poorly. I wrote a longer two-part reflection last night before bed that helped me to process where I messed up.

April 5
Today was harder:
My patience alighted
But flew too soon.
Your anxiety is a storm
Blowing, showing
Me my heart.
I forgot kindness
A few times today,
But it is there on the wind, too.
Let me hang on to it
For it is solid
And we can both
Stand on it.

So many questions
Beginning with “Should?”
Make me crazy,
The cactus version of myself.
I want to receive
This form of suffering
And take it in
The way I let the sun
Beat my skin.
It is my salvation.

There isn’t a neat and tidy ending to this story. There is just more to pray, more to practice, and more to process. The past couple of weeks have brought significant challenges for Story related to bathroom issues, including a doctor’s visit, phone calls from her school, and many tears and fears. If I’m learning anything, it’s that emotional business, either dealt with or undealt with, is no joke. Anxiety is high. But nurture is happening at the same time. We are a little more than empty at this point, and that is something to celebrate.