Picking up sticks, rooted and deeply established in love

The size of the wagon nor the size of the sticks deter the youngster from his single-mindedness.  He is on a mission to pick up sticks.  That's what he wants to do every Sunday night after dessert is done.  Last winter he wanted to play hide and seek with his great aunt, then he moved on to stories with Poppa, now halfway through supper he begins asking about picking up sticks.  "I'm done, I'm full.  Let's go Poppa.  Let's pick up sticks."

There is a routine to the activity.  Supper is finished, and a request is issued for being excused.  Poppa and JMH leave the table together and find the shoes stored safely in the closet away from Doozer and his interminable desire to fetch and bring shoes to someone, anyone.  The next step is retrieving one of those Radio Flyer wagons I picked up in September 2016 at the farm auction.  Then Poppa and JMH head off up the driveway, venturing into the woods to pick up deadfall, actively avoiding Kanti's attempts to steal the sticks and swing her gigantic German Shepherd head around with a stick clenched between her teeth.  She's helping or she thinks she is.  Truth is she makes a simple adventure down the driveway more of a dodge the stick game of imminent danger to one's shins.

What makes this adventure so appealing to the little person?  What is it that sticks with him from week to week, lingering in his memory as an adventure he wants to repeat?  It is an event he counts on.  It embodies a certain amount of challenge for him.  The sticks they pick up can be quite large which means they have to drag them onto the wagon together, with Poppa allowing JMH to feel like he is helping.  Helping is a big deal.  When they work together, JMH talks almost non-stop.  The talking is a gift.  It offers Poppa a window into JMH's thoughts.

There are the announcements, "We pick up sticks Poppa. Kanti's playing. I pull the wagon. Why Kanti's doing that? Help me, Poppa, it's BIG.  I do it, Poppa..."

They aren't really announcements, they are a play by play of whatever JMH is seeing, experiencing, or processing.  The stream of consciousness continues as long as Poppa is present, encouraging, and listening.  I observe from a distance because this is JMH and Poppa's special adventure, and I vow to do my best to be present, to encourage, and to listen to our little people as they grow up.

All three of our little people are rooted and established in love, they abound in it.  They have parents who care for them selflessly.  There are grandparents of the blood-line relations and of the adopted variety.  Great grandparents are part of their lives.  Aunts, uncles, cousins, on and on the relations go, all rooted and established in love.  They are part of family and community.  Goodness abounds for them, and I have this overwhelming sense of wanting to protect them from the harshness and ugliness of the world.

The reality is I can't protect them, but I can help to prepare them.  I can make sure they know without doubt how much they are loved.  When they do get whacked in the shins by life's sticks, Poppa and I will be there to remind them how strong they are, how resilient they can be, how worthy they are of love, and how loved they are. We can walk along side while they pull their wagon on their own life adventure.  We can listen and encourage, sometimes we might be called on to help put one of the big sticks into the wagon.  Undoubtedly, the most important thing is to love them over and over and over again so that it sinks into their bones and shapes their confidence, so when the hard stuff piles up in their wagons they remember that they are deeply rooted and established in love.

As adults, we all pull our wagons everyday.  Sometimes the sticks that are piled in them make that difficult and we don't feel loved.  In fact, we feel like failures and giving up appears to be the only option.  Then what?  Reality is life can suck, and it can feel really lonely.  Pay close attention.  Watch for those who come alongside you when your wagon load gets too big to handle.  Listen for the person who offers grace and acceptance.  Park the wagon for a moment, imagine and feel the sacred in your bones.  You too are deeply rooted and established in love, and you don't walk alone.

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