in action

Lego creations.
Friendship bracelets.
Drawing pad.
Hot wheels.
Softball glove.
Train tracks.
Baseball hat.
Doll clothes.
Book stacks.

These things have homes.

Yet, if you would stop over for a visit, you would find these things in action. At least that’s the new term around here.

In action.

Ironically, in action doesn’t actually mean there is current movement. In action, according to my kids, means there is potential for action. So instead of putting the football and frisbee in the ball tote, they stay by the back door or at the edge of the garage because there is a potential for action…sometime this summer. The sunscreen doesn’t get returned to the bathroom cupboard because it will be in action this afternoon or the next afternoon.

The Legos remain out because they will be in action later. The friendship bracelet is pinned to the couch pillow because it might be in action tonight or tomorrow or next week.

Yesterday we had a little talk about the action of picking up and putting away. There is something soothing about a tidy house.

That’s what I said, too. So we picked up. Vacuumed. Dusted. It was soothing. I walked around the house, smiled, and then walked to the mailbox.

I returned and found Lego creations, friendship bracelets, a drawing pad, everything on the above list all out again. “What’s going on?” I asked, trying to keep the frustration from spilling on anyone.

“It’s soothing to have our stuff ready for action,” they said.


“You never know when you’re going to want to play dolls or draw a horse or make a friendship bracelet,” Hannah said.

“Sometimes I want to read my book, then I want to play softball,” Steph added.

“And if you only have one thing out, how can I make a Lego garage for my Hot Wheels?” Jordan asked.

“I need all of these books,” Sam said, surrounded by eight books. “I never know what I’m going to feel like reading. And I have to have my notebook, writers have ideas all the time, especially when they build Lego ships.” He snapped another Lego in place.

I rolled my eyes and turned away from them so they wouldn’t see. My eyes landed on a sign I bought last year because I thought it was funny way to welcome visitors.

It didn’t seem so funny now that it was chastising me. And if you look beyond it, you’ll see a photo. That’s Nate. Three years ago, you would have found him at our house many nights each week. We’ve not shared a story with him since then, because his heart stopped. In a moment, he wasn’t here anymore. When you have a friend who is healthy and young and you expect him for dinner after he spends the day at the lake, but instead you stand in a hospital room with his family and his body, it changes you. It makes you evaluate what is important.

Why do I sometimes forget what matters most?

Perhaps I should redefine a tidy house. The floors cleaned. The surfaces dusted. The appliances shined. The bathrooms scrubbed. The laundry folded.

Sure, toys are in action, and I have to step over and around them one more time. But they are evidence of kids who are alive and creative and content and available to hug and laugh and play — in action — here on earth for one more day.

Instead of chasing after a perfect house — after all, perfection is always too sterile for me — perhaps I should refuse to miss the blessings in action surrounding me moment by moment.

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  1. I love the term “in action”. When my boys were still home, I had a sign that said my home was clean enough to be healthy and dirty enough to be happy. That pretty much summed it up.

    Our lake cabin always seems to be ready for action this summer. It seems silly to let the air out of mattresses and beach balls or to put the sand buckets away. They are always ready for action!

  2. Love “in action.” Right now, a football is sitting on the dining room table, ready for action, as is a box of books, because I might find five minutes to blog. And the boys' music stuff, because at some point today, in the precious four or five days the boys have left before Isaiah goes back, there will be music making. So I guess I just need to appreciate it for what it is and not sweat the small stuff…

  3. Love 'in action'. We used to say 'just in case'. And even now, living alone, I like my stacks of books, notebook on the table near me, and so on-my toys! Right thinking, Ruth! And, I'm so sorry about your friend Nate. We never know what the next hours will bring, so I enjoy each one.

  4. I'm going to have to borrow “in action” next time I am accused of leaving my things out. A perfect way to justify my stuff nearby. The final paragraph says it all. You have a way to get to the heart.

  5. I discovered when my kids left home and my husband traveled frequently that I excel at making messes or having many projects 'in action' all by myself. I'm usually scrambling to straighten things up before my husband comes home from a business trip. Now I'll remind myself that my 'in action' projects are evidence that I'm alive, creative, and content. I like Sam's words, “I need all these books.” My books soothe me too!

  6. I love that you have a new definition of 'clean house'…and how they kids helped you make the definition, including Nate. I do think if it is important and soothes you that you should have your own space and keep it as tidy as you like. My very tidy Dave has his office….just like he likes it. I have my office too…just like I like it 🙂 xo PS Mine is always in action!