Birds make me very philosophical

“I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.”

Bob Goff, “Love Does”

When I left my editor job last year, my walking-away thought was something like that. That I came across this just the other night in “Love Does” reminds me of the fire I felt, which has since ebbed and flowed with the seasons, that being home is where I, Erin, must be right now. Home, and with people, and collecting our stories and experiences and weaving them together into a beautiful little life.

That tension, the failure/ success one, winds its way through everything.

When I think about homeschooling, my framework for making this sing is “what really matters?” What do my kids really need as people? What am I doing right now that doesn’t matter; what am I doing right now that matters a lot to me but isn’t important?

{What really matters in kindergarten now isn’t what I thought would matter in September. As we moved into the third semester last week, I quietly put the French down for a bit because the program bored me, and kindergarten shouldn’t be boring. It doesn’t have to be fireworks all the time, but subjects should increase our appetite for learning more and more. So instead we picked up more free reads; sharing stories adds joy. So does visiting the neighbors. Where we plant unstructured time, we’re gaining vibrancy we didn’t envision in September.}


That failure/ success tension’s not just for school. Example: Does running help me enrich my life more than spending time at home? Sometimes, yes, I must run. Chemicals in my brain require me to move and be alone for a while. But, you know? Sometimes, I get too caught up in running that I forget what it does to every other piece in my life.

I’ve spent a lot of time with this question of balance recently.

What’s the balance between being available and needing solitude? Between being helpful for my neighbors, and admitting I’ve plenty of room to sow grace and love into my own extended family? Between volunteering at a place that’s easy and gracious, and volunteering at a place that’s challenging and less boisterous with their thanks? Between volunteering and … not?

Between what I really think matters and what really does, and to whom? Or Whom?

What matters?


So, we do nature study often (when it’s above 20 degrees or so, which it was not all winter … I asked the Lord to make me more holy and He sent a winter. I am sorry you all had to endure that, too). Nature study’s a perfect place to be grounded and feel very much like these questions — which, if I’m asking, probably means God’s working on something in me — are insignificant and maybe off-target a bit.

Last week I found a birds’ nest, abandoned by the pond in our park. Ever stared at a bird’s nest? Really stared at it? How many details that mama bird considered by sheer instinct — location, height, materials, timing. I’m a poet for birds but, that — don’t I want to be that natural at this?

And: an empty nest. And isn’t it all that temporary?

You know who doesn’t get philosophical about all this? Birds. Birds don’t ever ask what matters. Birds just do what birds do.


What matters is that in the choosing one thing over the other, we’re making decisions as a family; we’re making decisions with prayer, we’re making decisions that try to stand on the side of building and strengthening relationships.

We fall. We’re selfish. Sometimes I go for a run with screaming children in the kitchen, my husband saying “Just go, I’ll be fine,” and it takes me until mile 3 to relax my shoulders and stop resenting their neediness. But we get back up.

What matters isn’t a grand life plan, all plotted out. It’s not spare bedrooms in a nice house. It’s not a kindergartener who can conjugate French verbs. It’s not six half marathons in a year or volunteering so many times a month. Not even paying off our debt. All those are worthy of celebrating, but I’m not sure they’re really important.

We’re trying to teach our kids to live, and we’re learning how to live, too. So, important: continually seeking God and sharing that; laughter over a dance Dad made up and cookies, warm meals on the table, sharing life with friends and church and family. And birds on the feeder.

I think my new question will be “Does everything else point to or allow those things?”

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