The Big Nag began a couple months ago; January maybe?

Let me back up. One morning, I was in one of Lansing’s elementary schools on a preschool tour. Louisa’s old enough to go next year and I’m old enough to see the value in free childcare, should we get in (please, sweet baby Jesus). This particular building is a public Montessori school called Wexford. Sounds very British (it’s not). Its neighborhood is near ours; it’s full of small, tired houses and potholes. Koi swim in a small pond outside the front door.


On our visit, the principal walked Louisa and I by another fish tank in the lobby and into a preschool/ kindergarten room. I’d braced myself to see typical preschool fare: glitter glue, blocks, someone crying. I have children; I know what this looks like.

Instead, hear me: all was quiet. Children’s bodies lay in a loose circle on a big piece of carpet. Their little eyes were closed; they inhaled and exhaled at the teacher’s yoga instruction. We watched, mesmerized (my children are never this quiet, not even in sleep). After a minute, the class returned to “pretzel legs.”

Namaste, they all said.  

“What’s that word mean?” the teacher asked.  

A boy said, “It means, I see the good in you and you see the good in me.”

He couldn’t have been 5 — but there it was, a message from God — speaking for the whole school district, the whole city and each person in it. … Speaking to the person who’s read more about school choice and new monasticism than is healthy; the woman who’d spoken from the chasm between the two ideas and tried to keep a foot on each bank. His words were prophetic. 

Here was the beginning of the Big Nag, that feeling that there would be no peace without much prayer by Dave and I and the friends who pray with us. 

I use that phrase lightly, jokingly: the Big Nag. But you know how everything feels unsettled when God is moving? He’s so big as to knock over all the pieces on the board; that’s the Big Nagging feeling. The Big Nag follows you so no matter if you’re elbows deep in dishes or driving to the post office, everything reminds you of That One Thing. Like a child who’s heard there’s gum in your purse, every five minutes is another Are you thinking what I’m thinking: G-U-M?

Kids often deploy the Big Nag feeling. The Holy Spirit might, too, because that boy’s voice has run through my imagination since; what was a preschool-searching venture has become more, more of us asking “How far do we want to go through with this?”

I see: I see the good in you and you see the good in me is not about one boy on a carpet doing yoga.

That line was merely an invitation to go further in, the whole family, to continue to grow in living out those new monastic values, which are clear about being here. This is an invitation to think about going to school in the place where we live instead of choosing other schools for other merits.

Can we grow in love for the place God planted us if we’re not all-in here? Can we?

(And is moving your kids from homeschooling to public school to another school in two years a little bit asking for trouble? Next book title: Discernment Gone Wrong:  Are You Thinking What I’m Thinking: G-U-M?)

Anyhow, yeah. We don’t know yet all the pieces for next fall, but we do know there’s something in Lansing we don’t want to miss. We want to go further in.

{Scary though, isn’t it, to think about rocking a perfectly peaceful boat? To think, what if we’re wrong? To think, well, this could be indigestion? How far do you go with this Big Nagging invitation? (Pretty far, I’m beginning to think.)}

Snapshot, possibly related: Two years ago I found a tiny peony shoot fighting the good fight underneath obnoxious weeds at our rental. I dug it out and replanted it near the front door. He never blossomed, but when we moved last summer to our house in Lansing, I couldn’t leave him there — I put him in a bucket, drove him the 20 minutes north, and planted him near our new side door. We hadn’t even moved in the furniture.

And yesterday it snowed and sleeted and other ugly things, and yet there he is, already four inches tall. He’s going to be fine. He may not bloom for years, but I have hope he will. He may be more resilient to change than I. I see the good in him, that little buddy.

So may they, these kids. They’ve got a better gardener, at any rate.