Wrangler Dani

Writer, editor, marketer and communication strategist. I'm also a wife, mama, hiker, cowgirl and experimental cook living in beautiful Central Oregon.
February 10th, 2017 by Dani

Balance and Being Still

I was going to write something about my little life when I started to feel embarrassed by the every-day-ness of it. Does anyone really want to hear about my daughter’s new obsession with fort-building (yay for Daddy and snow days!) or my attempt at Coq Au Vin this weekend?

I’ve been thinking about heroism and what that means. I think it’s tempting to keep heroes and regular people apart. This is why we either self-deprecate or self-inflate on social media right? We’re either assuring the world that we’re nothing special, nothing to see here, or that we’re a caped crusader with heroism leaking from every pore. You know who I’m talking about. It might even be you, but I understand. We all do.

We are small but we want to be big. Like children insisting that we are 6 and three-quarters, that we matter because we are getting bigger every day. It’s hard I think to balance the every day of life with the yearning for more, which is why we either hide or inflate ourselves – we try to pick either invisibility or celebrity and neither satisfies.

Yesterday I read the verse, “Be still and know that I am God.” It’s a nice verse. It’s often quoted to worriers and over-achievers like myself. But do you know what leads up to it? Read the whole thing:

Psalm 46
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. 
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. 
Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

This is so war-like! I thought “Be still and know that I am God” was embroidered on nice things, like tea cosies and grandmotherly pillows. It’s often been quoted to me as a helpful verse for the overcoming of frantic energy. But I think I’ve been reading it wrong. It’s not “Be still and know” as in, “sit there, dear, and try not to bother yourself”, it’s “Be STILL and KNOW” cried with the booming voice of thunder. This is a God who is not scared of Donald Trump or ISIS. This is a God who does not share power, who melts the earth with his voice. This is a God who offers to be our fortress, to be WITH us in war and peace, in heroism and dailyness, in abundance or in fear.

When met with this kind of God, my worrying attempts to either make much or less of myself seem quite silly. This is not a being who needs my help after all, is it? So I am free to live out redemption in my daily life without worrying about my heroic status or lack thereof. This doesn’t mean I’m passive, but it does mean that I am not worried. I am not anxious. I am not insecure. The God of Jacob is my fortress, after all, so I truly can “be still and know” that I have a refuge in him, better than any I could make for myself.

January 17th, 2017 by Dani

Writing What I Need to Hear

I usually write what I need to hear. I write about gratitude because I am so often whiny, redemption because I need it, creativity because I feel stuck, family because I know it’s important. As I write about these things, they usually come around as an encouragement to my own heart.

So I was asked to write a couple of stories this month for our local paper’s Special Projects – one on girls night out places and one on casserole/freezer meals. I’m writing about hospitality and care and friendship, warmth and long conversations and shared experience. This, friends, is what I need.

I love being a mom more than I have loved any other role I’ve ever had, but it is lonely. The hours I used to spend with a friend on a hiking trail or with my husband at a restaurant are now spent at home, chasing a toddler. We’ve had nearly six weeks of snow which means it’s hard to even get out the driveway, adding to my cabin fever. Addy won’t go to childcare and is really clinging to me – it’s the most profound feeling of love and dependence and yet I’d really like to work out or talk to a friend or get work done sometimes.

I am not complaining. This is just real life. Real life is messy and sometimes boring and sometimes lonely. Real life means that I have to put myself aside. It’s a precious burden God has given to moms, and one that we too often complain about or diminish. But here’s the kicker – we can’t do hard things alone.

A few weeks ago when we were flying back home from Texas, we were headed through TSA. They’d inexplicably changed the stroller regulations from the other bazillion times we’ve flown, and wouldn’t let us bring our stroller with us. So we were carrying two carry-ons each and a fussy toddler through a very crowded security check. I was snapped at for leaving my purse open on the belt and then the agent angrily grabbed Addy’s snack out of her hand. “She can’t have that!” As we stood at the end of the conveyor belt in our stocking feet, an agent start rifling through Addy’s backpack. “I have to check all of her toys,” she said, as Addy cried for her bottle and her baby doll and everything else that the agent was feeling up and placing on the counter. I lost it. By the time we were allowed to leave, I was sobbing and so was Addy. I was hungry, humiliated, frustrated and felt completely vulnerable. I stood outside the security checkpoint, struggling to get all of our things back into carry-ons and get Addy her snack, flustered, crying, as Adam tried to help. I saw a woman out of the corner of my eye, and, surprisingly, she came right up to me and gave me a hug. “It’s OK mama,” she said. “You’re doing good. You’ve got this.” I wasn’t even able to process that I was being hugged by a complete stranger in an international airport – at that moment, she was the angel I needed, and I just sobbed.

She hugged me for a moment, then patted me on the shoulder and went to reunite with her husband and kids, as I sniffled and gathered up my things. I was embarrassed that a stranger had noticed my emotion (who wants to be the teary mom in the TSA line?) but more than anything, I wanted to be her. I don’t know if she is always that forward with strangers in need, or if God just moved her heart at that moment, but I want to be like that.

Friends this is a hard season. I bet you are tired, no matter where you are right now – motherhood, wifehood, singleness, dating, working – life is tiring. I am tired. I don’t know how to get my baby to nap without laying on me. I am trying to figure out how to balance life and work and dreams and finances and motherhood and friendship and marriage. I need you, and maybe you need me, just as I needed that beautiful fellow mom in the Dallas airport.

Today I just want to tell you that you are doing good. You’ve got this. Even when you feel like you have screwed up for the last time or like you might get lost in your own mind (what Elizabeth Gilbert calls the “bad neighborhood” of your consciousness) I want to be there for you.

As always I am writing about the thing I need. I need friendship. I need intimacy and courage. I need to be in your corner, cheering you on, and I need you in mine. Maybe together we can change how this season feels. Maybe the harsh agent at the TSA line would change her tune if she saw us holding each other’s babies and carry-ons and giving hugs to strangers. Maybe this is how we change the world.

January 10th, 2017 by Dani

Top Five Moments of 2016

I was going to write a New Year post that I’ve written before (inspired by the ever-lovely Valerie) about my top three movies, books and moments. But I feel like 2016 has been full of moments more than anything else, so I’m eschewing the regular protocol for something more apt.

seattle

Chandelier Mamas Seattle Trip

Within a few minutes of reuniting at Pike Place Market, we were snorting with laughter and eating too much seafood. This group of girls are fun, honest, thoughtful, adventurous and opinionated and I love them ever so much. Baller alert: we rented a minivan and went thrift store shopping. WE ARE SUCH COOL MOMS. (Side note: It feels indulgent to go on a girls’ trip – heck, it feels indulgent to read a book some days – but it is SUCH a good thing. Nobody wants a burnt-out exasperated version of you and we all need a break whether we have kiddos or not.)

Trips to Texas

These two trips get to be together in one moment because it’s my blog and I say so. In September, we went to Fort Worth to meet Addy’s cousin, precious Stella! We also experienced an incredibly hot TCU football game (there’s a famous quote that goes: “Fight ’em until hell freezes over, then fight ’em on the ice!” from legendary TCU coach Dutch Meyer. I do not understand this. Why is TCU football talking about ice when most of the time they play ball ON THE SURFACE OF THE SUN.) Anyway. It was hot. But being in Texas was fun, as always and we love our family so it’s worth it.

Then, in December, we went for Christmas, which was full of warm weather, delicious food, fun gifts, lots of laughter, enjoying family and, OH YEAH – a DALLAS COWBOYS FOOTBALL GAME! Adam and I got to have the experience of a lifetime in a Ring of Honor suite thanks to my lovely in-laws and it was just as epic as you imagine. No, more epic. I mean, Dez Bryant threw a touchdown pass to Jason Witten in the endzone RIGHT BELOW US and wow! My brain couldn’t handle all the awesomeness. It was also amazing to get to share this experience with Adam – babysitters and date nights have been scarce around these parts and this was a date night to eclipse all date nights.

Jacksonville, Oregon

We rented an adorable AirBnB in downtown Jacksonville and had a lovely weekend together as a family. We tasted wine, we went on walks, we exclaimed over the cuteness of the historic downtown (OK maybe that was just me). It was a perfect getaway and a good start to the new reality of Kid Weekends, which are delightfully different than anything we’ve done before.

my baby

Addy’s First Birthday

My baby is one year old. Actually, at this writing she is 18 months old, which is blowing my mind. We had a little BBQ for her (and America, let’s be honest) on the 4th of July, and she ate cake and got a sand toy set and a new truck to ride on and was generally adorable. A few weeks later, the Do family came to visit and SHE WALKED for the first time! I wish that hundreds of people had told me that my life was going to change forever. Oh wait, they did. And it did. But it’s great and I am grateful for it.

New Endeavors

I joined a Creative Non-Fiction writer’s group in 2016 and it is the quirkiest, loveliest group of opinionated scribblers you’ll ever meet. I love them so much. We meet at a home and talk writing and critique each others’ work and drink tea and laugh kindly at our foibles. We range in age from 30-80 and we probably don’t agree on anything except this: good stories well-told matter deeply. That’s enough.

I also became the freelance food writer for our local newspaper’s special projects department, as well as did some more magazine work and communication coaching. I also spoke in public about adoption (Camp Morrow!) and it went really well. God has been pushing and pulling me into uncomfortable places, and with a trembling heart and quivering voice I’m striving to say yes to Him.

nashvegas

Speaking of new endeavors, I went to Business Boutique in Nashville with my dear friend Kate and then-copywriter Hannah. We were inspired and educated, uplifted and given focus. The conference was worth every penny and was truly life-changing – but being in Nashville was extra fun. We ate so much great Southern food, we laughed ourselves silly, we honky-tonked and blues-clubbed, we Ubered and walked down charming sidewalks to little cafes. Kate heroically drove us home through the night after a cancelled flight got us in to Portland at an ungodly hour, and even that was bearable with camaraderie and the reality that everything really is funnier at 3 a.m.

Honorable mentions:

SoCal baby shower for Adelay, a trip to the coast with the Nichols, hosting Thanksgiving for the first time, a lovely pampering spa weekend at Brasada Ranch for my 33rd birthday, getting to have my parents visit for several days/weekends, Labor Day weekend with the always-wonderful Annie P, a new practice of getting regular massages from my dear Kate, an entire weekend with horses at Camp Morrow, teaching at Healing Reins, reading (and comprehending!) books with Addy and getting to have Major here (even though I had to say goodbye, I loved that wonderful old fella).

All in all, 2016 was a heck of a good year. I know that’s not a popular idea these days, but from my corner of the world, it’s very, very true.

December 14th, 2016 by Dani

Snow Day

family hike in the snowIf you know me, you know I love Christmas. I love the whole season – I play carols and bake cookies and pull out the candles that smell like fir trees. I love to savor Christmas – I like to pick a particularly cozy Christmassy book to read every year, and no Christmas is complete without a reading of A Christmas Carol, like a predictable conversation with an elderly friend, one that somehow manages to surprise and delight even when you know exactly what will be said.

This year, Christmas has felt less like a quiet, sanctified season of traditions and more like a flurry of activity. I haven’t even met up with Marley’s Ghost yet and Christmas is a week away! I am running, keeping up with my toddler, my growing business, my personal projects, my list of responsibilities. I am on the edge – I might burst into laughter or tears, I might make a lovely braised beef shank for dinner or I might leave it on the heat too long and make a charred doggie treat for Guinness. Adam took us out for a lovely weekend getaway for my birthday, and I let myself fall into relaxation like a giant snowbank, only to find myself back in the frenzy within moments of returning home.

And then, today, like a miracle, like a kiss – we get a snow day. Just like that, all is calm. School is canceled, the barn is closed. Meetings begin to drop off the calendar and I hear the fire calling me, asking me to slow down and sit a while. I heat up a cup of coffee and watch the snow fall. Unlike rain, which either patters drearily or beats down with fury, snow just falls. Whether heavy or light, the first or the last snow of the year, it’s all the same in its perfection. It covers up ugliness, it silences the rattle and bang of a storm. Old cars and new alike look quaint when covered in snow, wipers propped up by wise owners. Christmas lights glow cheerily, tree branches hang down, heavy with beautiful white blankets. You can’t drive fast in the snow. Stores close early, hand-written signs grace small restaurant windows: “Snow Day”. You text your friends with cheery words of wisdom: “Drive safe! Stay warm.” I’m reminded of how blessed we are to have a warm fireplace and a full pantry on a day like today.”Though our sins were as scarlet, we are washed white as snow.” Snow hearkens of Christmas, because we need grace at Christmas. I need to be reminded that as much as I love the parties and presents and traditions, grace is what matters. Grace for today – snow on my roof, on my old car, over the places in my life that I’m not proud of and the things that I’ve tried so hard to make beautiful. Snow covers it all with the same grace and peace. Thank you, God, for snow days.

December 4th, 2016 by Dani

Keep Going!

Addy has a little walker that talks. She doesn’t use it much any more, unless I start talking about putting it away, in which case it becomes The Most Favorite Toy of All Time. Anyway, it talks when it senses movement, and it’s got a jumpy trigger finger, because said movement can be any person walking around the house, no matter how far away.

The other day, I walked by it and it chirped out “Keep going!” I laughed to myself and then thought, I need this little voice all the time.

Because I need to hear, “Keep going!” Because, and I’m being honest here,… is anyone else tired?

I used to get on Facebook for cute photos of my friends’ kids and puppies, and now I get on in fear and trembling that I will see another apoplectic political post. (I brave them for the pay-off of cute baby/puppy/Christmas tree photos but I’m just saying – it’s gotten a little hot out there.) I need reminders to keep going, that relationships are important and valuable, even when I’d rather check out and protect myself.

I need to hear “Keep going!” because all too often I hear the opposite. I hear that I’ll never be good enough or cute enough in Spandex, so I should quit going to yoga. I hear that I’ll never get a book deal, so I should stop writing. I hear that adoption is only a tragic choice and not a beautiful one. I hear that my choices for my kid is questionable, that my beliefs are silly, that my life is small and foolish.

At Christmastime, I hear that my love for this sparkly season is silly. I hear that my joy at big bows and perfect presents and hot cocoa on a snowy afternoon are childish or materialistic, silly or thoughtless. But I do love Christmas, because it is the season of foolishness. It is the season of “Keep going!”, don’t you think?

It is a season when we should be awed and not calloused, when we embrace an infant Savior, an angel choir singing to dirty shepherds, a blazing star in the sky. I’m daring to believe that God sent Jesus to tell us “Keep going!” that we don’t have to do this alone, that we have Emmanuel, God with us. Every time I walk past that silly plastic talking toy, I’m going to thank my Creator for the gift of wisdom through a child’s toy, hope through tragedy, joy to the world when it feels like it’s falling apart. After all, he didn’t say “endurance to the world” or “clenched teeth to the world” or “anxiety to the world” – I’m going to believe that the God who came as a helpless baby into a wartorn, oppressed country isn’t too scared by the troubles of 2016, and that he meant for us to live in joy despite them.

The angel said, “I bring you good news of GREAT JOY for all people!” JOY TO THE WORLD. Keep going!

November 16th, 2016 by Dani

Honesty and Love

I am a mother and a wife. I am created to love my child, my family, my friends. But that is not all I am.

I am also a writer. I’m a business owner. I’m passionate about adoption and hospitality.

Did you cringe when you read that? Does it seem self-serving for me to assert my talents here, as though I’m asking for validation?

It felt awkward to write it. I want to delete it, to tell you a cute story about how Addy is carrying around a baby doll everywhere she goes or how I need advice on what to do with my hair.

But the truth is, I am better at love when I am honest about who I am. A friend of mine and I were texting the other day and she said “there’s no time for chit-chat” and I wanted to run across town and hug her. Because there’s not, is there? We have only a few precious years on this earth and we dare to waste them on long conversations about the weather and the price of milk? No, heavens no.

Let’s be honest about who we are – who we were before we got married, or without our kids, or in spite of our job. Who are you and why are you here?

Only when we rip off the false humility and say the words “I am __________” can we give others the love we’re called to offer. You might be a warrior for the underdog, a hospitable helper, a creative soul, a joy-bringer, a thoughtful observer, a passionate pursuer of justice, a caretaker of the small and the weak. But you are not just an employee or a mother, only given worth by the people around you. You were not created to work 9-5 and collapse on the couch every evening. You are not just a wife or a girlfriend or a professional person. Don’t misunderstand – those are good things! But you are more than that. You are a mentor. You are an honest friend that we desperately need. You are created by an infinitely creative God to serve a purpose that no one else could possibly serve.

I’m mostly writing to myself and other moms, because we so often get lost in the massive needs of our family, but I think most women can relate. We are so relational that we lose ourselves without a outside sun to guide us – a job, a relationship, a family – and while that makes us hospitable, loving and nurturing, it can also leave us worn out, shallow and yearning.

Let’s quit the chit-chat. There just isn’t time for it, and frankly, it was never that fun anyway. Let’s embrace the creative, passionate, unique, hilarious and profound gifts God has given us – as we do, I think we’ll learn a new, deeper way to love.

November 9th, 2016 by Dani

What I will tell my children (Election 2016)

We got a new president in 2016, kids, just as we had for 44 election cycles before. It’s a pretty neat thing, actually, and it happens every 4 or 8 years, depending on whether or not We the People think the President deserves another term in office. The United States of America, unlike many other countries in the world, has peaceful, free elections. We transfer power within parties peacefully, without coups, riots or civil wars. We also don’t have a king or queen, which means that this President, like him or loathe him, will be gone soon enough.

When people vote, we often get wrapped up in the candidate we support or don’t. In 2016, Daddy and I voted for neither major candidate – that’s one of the many lovely rights we have as American citizens – to protest the status quo with our vote and our voice. After the election, a lot of people were scared, confused and upset. A lot of people were very happy. Others were sad, because they had voted for what they believed was the lesser of two evils, which isn’t a very good feeling.

But do you know what the truth is, in all of this? America is a great nation because America is us. Not just our family but all of us. We the People get to decide how to move forward, and sometimes, because we’re people, we make mistakes. But we try to believe in our ideals – the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the right to speak our minds and vote our conscience and dream big.

Our job is to be kind, when others are upset. When I was a little girl I remember being very nervous about the outcome of elections, but I am not anymore. Because we are more than our leaders, and we are not defined by politics. Out job is to love God and our neighbor, to give generously and act justly, to love mercy and live in hope. In 2016 I knew that God was in control and that America was still my beautiful country, my promised land, full of fascinating, wonderful, hard-working people who I am honored to call my fellow Americans, no matter who they voted for. My dear kids – my beautiful, wonderful, unique and precious children – do not squander the life you’ve been given or the country you’ve inherited. Never forget how to love someone who disagrees with you, how to keep eternal perspective in mind, and that you get to choose – not just a President, because sometimes that doesn’t flop your way – but who you’ll be in every circumstance, how you’ll lead and how you’ll live. I pray for you, that you surprise the world with your love and your God-given gifts, no matter what happens in politics or in the world.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” -Jesus (John 13:34)

October 18th, 2016 by Dani

Not Good, But Right. (My Goodbye to Major)

majorI’ve been thinking about doing right and feeling good. Yesterday, Adam said to me that it doesn’t feel good, but you know it’s right. He was right, too, of course. Yesterday, I had to put down my horse, Major. He’s only been here for a couple of months, but I’ve loved him for a couple of years, ever since Kathryn, the lead instructor at Healing Reins, asked me to ride him twice a week.

In the months before we had Addy, when I felt like my heart was going to be crushed under the weight of its own longing, I would go to the barn and spend time with him. He was an old Belgian, and had done everything, been everywhere, seen it all. He was slow-moving and long-legged, with large kind eyes and big ears that followed my voice. When I needed a confidante I had his big strong neck to bury my face in, and he was exactly the kind of horse I needed in a tumultuous time in my life, when all I wanted was something solid. He was solid as a rock.

majorSo when he retired, I brought him home and dreamed of giving Addy the kind of four-legged friend I’d grown up with – wise, kind horses who knew how to comfort a child, an emotional teenage girl and a grieving soon-to-be mother alike. I haven’t outgrown the need for a quiet nicker and the feeling of horsehair under my fingers to help me cope with loss or heartbreak, and now he’s gone – I had to say good-bye to my gentle therapist and he’s not here any more to make me feel alright about it.

I won’t go in to why we had to make this heart-breaking decision but I know that it was right, even though it does not feel good in any way. I asked him if he was ready, when I was agonizing over the decision, and he laid his head against my back, in a gentle gesture of understanding. He knew, and he was ready, but it doesn’t make me ready to let him go.

majoraddyIt was a beautiful day yesterday and we spent our last couple of hours soaking up the sunshine in a close-cropped fall pasture. I told him about the fields of long grass that I hoped awaited him, the endless gardens of carrots and apple trees, ripe for the taking. I told him I would miss him terribly and I would never forget him, that I would always tell Addy about her first horse, the first horse I let myself love completely since my wrangler days, more than 10 years ago.

He laid down peacefully, like the wonderful big man he was. Kathryn came and hugged me because she loved him, too – he’s been a confidante, friend and joy-bringer to a lot of people over his long life. I sat next to him in the gathering dark until they came to take him away, running my fingers over his neck as though willing myself to never forget what he felt like. I knew he was already gone, though, running through his green pasture like a colt again. I can still hear his gentle nicker in my head, and I just wish I could bury my head in his neck one more time, so he could tell me, in his horsey way, that it doesn’t feel good, but it’s right.

September 21st, 2016 by Dani

I want my daughter to know….

When Addy was just a tiny baby, I got in an unintentional fight with some adoptive parents of non-white kids. (You can read my thoughts about that incident here.) I was a new mom and I didn’t want to be painted as a poor soul who had already failed because of my ethnic heritage, and my supposed innate, unchangeable out-of-touch-ness.

I am still wary of any racial conversation in a public space because of that incident, so what I am about to write has been written and deleted many times, thought over, considered, and rewritten.

But I want my daughter to know that I, a deeply patriotic white woman from the boonies of the Northwest, grieve the loss of dark-skinned lives and therefore I cannot be silent about them. I am not here to debate the nuances of police brutality vs. appropriate force vs. outright racism. But I am here to say that I’ve gotten the “look” from white people in public places (rare, but true) when I’m with my daughter and it makes me want to punch them in the face. I am here to say that it takes a lot of denial to assert that nothing is wrong here, that there isn’t something deeply broken in our culture.

I am sad today. I’m sad that we should be gasping with hands over our mouths, crying and praying, and instead we are posturing and debating. Life should matter, but instead we elevate talking points.

I recently read Ann Patchett’s lovely essay “The Wall”, in which she talks about her dad, a 30-year veteran of the LAPD. She sadly notes that he will be remembered for the Rodney King incident, which happened after he retired, and not for decades of service and sacrifice. A couple of months ago, Addy and I went to the public library for storytime, and as we walked in the door a white police officer was standing there. He had been silently nodding to the other moms and kids, but he walked up to us and reached out for Addy’s hand. He tried to get her to smile and he asked good questions. I didn’t know what to do with it at the time, but today I am moved by the memory. I hope he doesn’t get jaded and stop trying. I hope he knows that the memory of his simple kindness makes me teary-eyed and very grateful.

We don’t need to accept death or hatred. We don’t need to lock our doors and stay silent because we’re afraid of being berated for saying the wrong thing. It sounds trite to say that love is the answer, and so it is –  if that love is the kind of unfounded, wimpy, however-you-feel-today love that is so often peddled. No, the love that is the answer is the love that is willing to be wrong, willing to look foolish, willing to stand down, willing to go to war. Love that always hopes, trusts, perseveres and never fails.

Today I’m praying for that kind of love. The kind of love that inspired a police officer in Oregon to make friends with my 10-month-old, the kind of love that makes eternal promises, the kind of love that gives courage, the kind of love that makes hate gasp for breath.

August 19th, 2016 by Dani

Being Needed

Yesterday morning, Adelay and I went to Costco. This is a regular occurrence for us, and Addy knows the drill: eat graham crackers, smile at passers-by, kick feet out of cart-holes and chillax. She has the best life. Anyway, we were checking out and this elderly lady decided to make friends with Addy. She finally coaxed her into a rousing game of peek-a-boo and Addy really turned on the charm, laughing and covering her nose with her short little fingers (she doesn’t quite realize that the point of the game is to cover one’s eyes). It was super cute and it made everyone in the check-out a little happier, to see this little friendship blooming between a lady in her 70’s and a one-year-old.

After we checked out, Addy and I waved good-bye to our new friend and she said to me, “this made my day! Thanks for letting me play with her and feel needed.”

I thought that was a strange thing to say. But my cart was filled with the stuff of a young family: milk and cereal and a fleece pajama set for my girl, while hers had a few single-serving dinners and not much else. I don’t know anything about her life (she just played with my daughter for a minute in the Costco check-out, after all). But as I drove home I found myself thinking about feeling needed, and feeling sadness for this lady I don’t know, that she doesn’t feel that way.

I like to be needed. (Doesn’t everyone?) I like it when my friends call because they want to hear what I’ll say to news or a dilemma, I like it when my husband asks my opinion, I like it when Addy stretches out her arms to me with a little “hmmmmm?”

But the dilemma of motherhood is this: it’s so lovely to be needed, and yet there’s just SO much need! Can you need me for hugs and snuggles and then happily play alone while I do dishes? Can you need me a little less before I’ve had coffee, or a little more when I’m feeling insecure and lonely?

Need is needy. It pulls and pushes at me when I feel cranky and overworked, then it drifts away and I suddenly miss it, just when I thought I really needed a break.

It’s easy to feel small and silly, to wonder if my life matters or feel bluesy about the state of the world. But then need rumbles me out of my funk and gives me hope. Because if I’m needed by this little pigtail-wearing blueberry-munching girl, or if I’m needed by friends or family or church or home or work, then that’s all that matters, isn’t it? God didn’t give us these little lives to make us crazy, he gave them to us because the daily work of life really matters – the picking up of fussy kids and the smiling in the Costco line and even the answering of emails – it matters.

I’m so grateful to be needed. When I feel tired and grouchy, I will remind myself about the lady in the checkout line, who’s day was made by a five-minute encounter with the little person who I get to share life with, who I get to be needed by. May I never forget, this endless need is an enormous gift.