Lord, I'm regularly unsure what day of the week it is but today I nearly missed a big one. It was brought to my attention today that it was Shrove Tuesday, and so, quickly putting two and two together in that quicksilver-like manner to which you are accustomed, God, I realised that tomorrow must be Ash Wednesday, which did ring a bell as there's an Ash Wednesday service at Church tomorrow so that must be why. Lent is about to begin. Of which more later...
So, following on from the realisation that today was Shrove Tuesday came the heart stopping moment when I realised that I had eggs, flour and milk but no lemons. We all know that pancakes are impossible without lemons, or at least one of those squeezy ones, as a pancake with any other filling but lemon and sugar is not a Real Pancake at all. To those who put golden syrup or jam or guacamole on a pancake, I say you're just plain wrong.
So, the local shop happily supplied a squeezy lemon and pancakes were made. How wonderful was it to toss a pancake in a frying pan to cheers from two small girls (who then went on to add sugar and golden syrup to their pancakes, mess around with them for ten minutes and then run away to play with Buzz Lightyear).
I love how the girls can exhibit such joy at such simple things. It reminds me to look for pleasure and delight in everyday things. Today I could very easily have not bothered with pancakes as it seemed a lot of trouble, though it wasn't me who trekked to the shop for the lemon (thankyou Mum). But Lizzie and Katy, despite clearly not actually wanting to eat the pancakes, were full of delight at the cooking and tossing of them. It made me smile.
And then it made me eat the pancakes.
It was the same on Saturday as we went to Brewster Bear's for Katy's fourth birthday party. A group of friends and she clambered about on the soft play, did pass the parcel (Katy won! Imagine the chance of that! She won a pair of Brewster Bear socks that she has barely had off since) and then they had a meal (I turned a blind eye to the nutritional content since it was Brewster Bear). Little Kate got to sit at the head of the table and wear an immense crown made of balloons twisted into a hat shape and she was made up. The Bear himself made an appearance with a birthday cake after the meal and the little ones queued up for a hug from him.
It was a woman in a bear suit. Or a smallish man. Though the mannerisms were decidedly feminine. But anyway, whoever it was did a great job dancing, making the children laugh and hugging them in turn. My two girls were transfixed and entertained and just loved Brewster Bear. I don't know where they get it from; I would have run a mile from someone in a bear suit when I was four and am not that disinhibited four decades later. But they embraced it. They hugged and laughed and jumped about and had a lovely lovely time.
You once told it to us in no uncertain terms. You stood with some children and said:
'The kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these'.
Just because I am grown up doesn't mean I have all the answers. Sometimes the exact reverse is true.
There are many ways that my little girls can show me what's what in this life and their capacity for innocent joy is one of them.
I'm far too cynical. I'm doubtful and suspicious and self conscious and scathing and sarcastic where they are open and accepting and honest and straightforward. I look for the catch when they just see the wonder.
They wanted to make pancakes!
They wanted me to toss them!
They wanted to smother them in sugar!
I, on the other hand, wanted to leave the kitchen clean and tidy and not smelling of frying and make a cup of coffee and sit and nurse my poorly eye and maybe have a quiet surf on the internet....
But they were right. It was fun.
I want to see the joy in life and stop seeing the fly in the ointment all the time. Make pancakes and throw them in the air. Cuddle Brewster Bear. Dress up as Buzz Lightyear. OK, maybe not the last one. Or the Brewster Bear one, actually. See? There I go again.
You know what I mean. Its the half full/half empty thing again, but with a new dimension.
Not just a wry smile or an arched eyebrow. I just want to be the sort of person who can relish life, not groan under the weight of it.
May it be a long time before my children grow out of their innocent capacity to make fun.
So show me, Father God. Show me the pancake tossing moments in each day. Give me the grace and the energy to laugh at things, to join in and celebrate what needs celebrating. No, more than that. To find things to celebrate. Because life is a gift that you gave to me to enjoy, and to trudge through life with seriousness and a furrowed brow all the time is to fail to grasp something that is beautiful and full of surprise and wonder and brilliance.
And that would be a real waste.