What I Heard My Children Saying (or, What You Can Do With Ten Nails)

I listened through the open window, and because I stopped and waited and listened I could hear their tiny voices dancing through the summer day, accentuated by the metallic strike of a hammer on a nail, the thunk of hammer on wood (missed!), the raspy sound of the shovel as it shoved into our narrow strip of city yard. They are five and six years old, the two of them, and their voices were serious.

I listened through the open window and they talked about building a tree house out of only a three-foot long board and the ten nails I had given them earlier, five in each dusty palm, five white nails that they held like magic seeds. They raced outside and one began digging and the other began nailing and that’s how it went for an hour or so as they planned and schemed the massive tree house they would build in the tiny tree that lines our city yard. Out of one small board. And ten nails.

This is what it means to be a child: to believe that even a tree house is possible, though you’ve never built one before, though you don’t have the tools or the materials, though you don’t know why or how. To believe it’s possible.

Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

* * * * *

I spoke with Kelly Chripczuk the other day and we were talking about trust when she said something that made my ears perk up, something along the lines of,

“Until you lose your identity (as a writer or preacher or student or whatever), there’s so much pressure. Too much pressure. There are people to impress and a reputation to uphold. But once you can let go of that identity, it allows you to play again, like a little child, to create things and not worry about what anyone else will think.”

To play again, I thought to myself. This is what I have to allow myself to do.

* * * * *

I immediately thought of the novel I’m releasing this winter (I’m sorry if I’ve been talking about that too much, but it’s on my mind all the time, and to be honest I’m still terrified of freeing it into the world). But after talking with Kelly, I thought, That’s it! It’s all just play, this creating and conjuring and sharing of stories.

I enjoy writing stories too much to let what other people might think stop me from writing, from creating, from producing and sharing. When it’s me and all these potentially critical readers, I feel myself drawing inward. When it’s me and and the story, just us, and I’m making things up and chuckling to myself and nearly crying, that’s it. That is a life I could live and enjoy and be at peace.

That’s me in the back yard with not enough materials, not nearly the right tools, and ten measly nails. Making plans. Digging in the dirt. Climbing trees.

And believing.

What do you wish you could start believing for again?

10 Replies to “What I Heard My Children Saying (or, What You Can Do With Ten Nails)”

  1. I wish I could start believing for happy endings, that all this happens for a reason, that I’m becoming a better person. In the midst of a storm, it’s easy to think that the storm never ends, that it will constantly rage on. I want to hope again, and I think maybe I’m still managing to hold on to a tiny fragment (mustard seed size perhaps?) Oh, to be like those kids, and not realize the impossibility of it all. But He can make something out of one board and ten nails, right?

  2. That Kelly is a wise one, yes? And so are you by the way. I don’t think you should ever apologize for talking about your passion, I hope your novel hits it out of the park. This is so very good. I think Kelly’s summary is right. Julia Cameron’s words circle through my mind often, “When you make writing a big deal, it becomes a big deal.” But really, that can be anything. Kids don’t make things a big deal, everything is organic, authentic, truthful. So much to learn from our little people.

    1. That’s a great quote, Shelly. Another thing my children are teaching me again is the importance of play. And you’re right, so much to learn.

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