Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Life Unfolded

Unfolding is the easy part. Just ask my kids, particularly the smallest one, who can impressively unfold in mere minutes a stack of laundry that took me two full episodes of Mindy Project and one New Girl to fold up properly.

Perhaps that’s why unfolding to me feels dangerous, subversive even: it's far-too-likely to make a big mess.

After all, think of all the time and energy I have spent, tucking away my ragged edges and tears. Carefully folding over to hide the corners and stains. Creasing and flipping, precise and careful, until I am small and uniform. So I will fit in on the shelf with all the other good moms and housewives.

I learned young, I suppose, the importance of fitting in. If you don’t want to be ridiculed, I discovered, dress this way and talk like this and wear your hair like this. And, especially if you’re a girl, certainly don’t be too loud or too smart. Fold yourself as small as possible, make yourself less. Pleat, tuck, starve, do what you must, and then sit nicely with all the other girls.

I think about this fitting-in and folding-up as I put away the laundry this morning. Let me tell you, if there’s anything I hate and loathe but also KNOW because, good gracious do we generate a lot of it around here, it’s laundry. Honestly, rarely does it all get put away; more often it sits in baskets clean and wrinkled, or sometimes clean and folded. Or perhaps it gets left in the washer for a few extra days until it mildews. Sometimes, it stays in the dryer until we have no choice but to take it out, because all our dirty laundry hampers are overflowing and it is time to do laundry, seeing as at this point we have no clean underwear. I’m not even, as it turns out, a very good folder-of-laundry. I’m not precise or neat. And heaven forbid I should have to fold a fitted sheet. I’ve Pinned and poured over the tutorials and videos and I try to emulate, really I do. But inevitably I basically flip the thing in on itself into a semi-neat-ball shoved in the bottom of our linen closet.
This past summer, Adam’s aunt stayed in our house while we were at camp. And she washed and folded everything with a kind of precision that quite-nearly blew my mind. When we came home, we found our linen closet (which, bane of my existence, has no door) arranged in perfect stacks of sheets and towels by size and color. I literally could not tell the difference between a fitted and flat sheet. I’m still not really sure how she accomplished such a magical feat.

But here’s the thing: when it came time to put sheets on the beds, I couldn’t figure out which sheets I needed without unfolding them.

And this is what I’m discovering about living all folded up: we can’t discover our purpose without unfolding.

I’m realizing, finally, that God has made me a certain shape. My frame was not hidden from Him, even as He wove me together in the depths. And too, He has written my story. He has authored all the ragged bits. He knows intimately the spills and faded places; He knows where I am threadbare and worn out. He sees even the deepest-of-places, which I have tried to tuck away a million times over. We spend a hundred hours and two thousand minutes origami-ing ourselves into the shape we think He wants from us, when all He really wants is life opened-up, pressed firm into the shape we really are.

Jayci came down with a nasty virus this week. Wracking and fever-ish, she spent hours on the couch sleeping during the day, and nights awake coughing in her bed. I have lain beside her and cancelled my plans. Missed field trips to art museums, cancelling play-dates for her and game nights for us. And together we lay while I run fingers down her back and pushed hair back from her flushed cheeks. I have been reminded of just how deeply and fiercely I love my sweet girl. And, even at five years old, I see the ways she notices things and begins to fold up.

And how I ache for her to live unfolded. To both know her identity and shape, and to embrace it. More like a linen flapping wild and free on a clothesline than a carefully folded up sheet in a stack of other good girls. I watch her perform concerts and make cards for our friend Milton on the corner. Because I watch her love the kids in our neighborhood and I watch her craft gifts for her friends. I see her shape and her smarts and her voice, and I think she might just change the world. Or not, and that’s ok too. But either way, she has things that need to be heard.

And yet, she cant learn to live unfolded unless she watches the women around her. Until she hears strong women living free; leading and living out their purpose and shape. Until she watches them live unfolded. And so, I think, perhaps for her sake I’ll risk the unfolding.

But here’s the thing I am surprised to discover: I might have something to offer too. I might have a voice and shape that matters. I might not actually be too loud or too smart or too anything. In living unfolded, I am true to myself, beautiful even.

If I’m honest, it feels a little scary. But by-golly I’m going to do it anyways. Because all the most beautiful things in my life have walked hand-in-hand with fear. So I am kneeling and unfolding myself, laying my life down like Gideon’s fleece and waiting for God to show up.

“I want to unfold. Let nothing in me hold itself closed. For where I am closed, I am false. I want to be clear in your sight.” - Rilke

*From a prompt via Story Sessions


  1. Um... I absolutely ADORE this post, Becca! And I cheer you on as you take brave steps to be fully yourself. Love it! :)

  2. I am so sorry that Jayci got sick. I am glad you are her Mommy and you are able to care for her. What a blessing that is. You are a great mom.

    1. You dont know how much the words: "you are a great mom" mean to me! Thanks friend!

  3. This is so lovely. I read it right after reading Momastery's post about being "extra." So neat how similar your thoughts are this week.

  4. So good. So so good. And the way you make even laundry look beautiful.... inspiring!

    1. Thanks girl - and cant wait to meet you soon :-)

  5. I love your wisdom and your courage and the example you set for Jayci and many others. You are a blessing, Becca. And your unfolded bits speak of the faithfulness and goodness of our God. Thank you for being YOU!

    1. I love you!!! :-) and want to see you again soon!

  6. These words! Just what I needed to read tonight. I'm going to let them simmer for a while. Beautiful.


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