I'm standing in the snack aisle at Costco months later when a wave of homesickness washes over me. After living in Israel for 14 years, we moved back to the United States. It was a huge adjustment for us and our five children. And I still felt like a fish out of water. Holding an enormous box of pretzels, I pause for a moment before letting it fall into my cart. I glance at the shoppers beside me, and I wonder if anyone can tell that I am a stranger in the land of my birth. It's just so many pretzels! I want to tell the woman beside me. It's weeks and weeks of pretzels! What if next week my kids don't like these pretzels anymore?
It reminded me how in August most people were already registering their kids for camp next summer; in Israel the earliest we would register was the month before the first day of camp. How can anyone know now exactly what they want to do next summer? we wondered. Did I ever live that way, planning months and years in advance?
I think about that Israeli gesture that used to bother me -- the thumb and forefinger combo that meant: Wait. Slow down. Stop stocking up and planning out all the years of your life. Wait.
My mom recently took my daughters and me to see Annie on Broadway. I remembered seeing the play years ago as a little girl, but it looked so different to me now. The lights were just as bright and beautiful. The costumes and voices filled the room with vibrant talent. But for some reason that beloved song sounded so strange to me now. "The sun will come out tomorrow... Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you, tomorrow. You’re always a day away.” The song still makes me smile, but it no longer makes sense to me.
Sometimes tomorrow is gray and lonely. Sometimes it's still raining. Sometimes the bad guys win and no one comes to rescue you. Sometimes tomorrow is boring, ordinary. No color at all. And some people will never see tomorrow. No one promises us that the sun will come out tomorrow. No one can guarantee where any of us will be in a year or even in a day. But here is what God does give us: today.
Every year I have a hard time saying good bye to our sukkah. I watch my husband take down the pieces that he had worked so hard to put together just two weeks before. And I miss it before it is gone. My children's glittering decorations and the slivers of sky peeking through the roof. The soft autumn breeze and the blessings that encircled us. I already miss the intensity of the prayers and the precious family meals from Rosh Hashanah through Sukkot.
But that was yesterday. And we don't have tomorrow yet or any promises of what it will bring. So I walk back into my home. And I look at today. Right now. All the changes I worked on for the new year. All the inspiration from hours of quality family time. All the exalted heights of introspective prayer. What am I going to do with all of that today? This moment. When I may be tired or overwhelmed or side tracked by one of life's many challenges. Can I take an ordinary, gray today and make it extraordinary right now?
Can I walk through Costco and still carry the streets of Jerusalem in my heart? Can I make my kids' lunches, set up their uniforms, wipe up my toddler's spilled milk and still feel like I am the daughter of the King, accomplishing all the details of the mission He designed just for me? I think of the now beloved Israeli hand gesture: Wait. Deal with now, today. Wait right here. Don't rush to plan tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. Make it count, today.
We are entering the Hebrew month of Cheshvan, a month with no holidays. It’s all routine. But that is the real test. Can we maintain our resolutions even when we are tired or lonely or frustrated? It's not a day away. It's now.
I place the huge box of pretzels on the counter when the kids come home from school. They look at it strangely for a moment until my five year old asks: "What's it for?" I open it up and hand each of them a pretzel. They each say a blessing, the Hebrew words fill my kitchen with the sweetness of home.
"It's for today." .