As I stared up into the lemon tree hunting for fruit that hadn’t been plucked, seven voices begged to be the first to use the basket on a stick I was holding in my left hand. In that moment the life I’ve been chasing found me.

I had just returned from a six hour round trip to the closest airport having dropped Todd off to catch a flight to Alaska. The girls met my car and informed me that they were making lemonade with friends for the evening potluck. After unloading myself into the trailer I checked on Katie, inquired where the boys were and started to settle in to get some work done.

“Mom, will you go with us to pick some lemons?”

I had no idea there were fruit trees in the park we are visiting, but a gaggle of girls quickly assured me that not only were there lemons but oranges and grapefruit too. They were positive they knew just where and how to find them but they needed an adult to accompany them on their search.

Here was the moment of choice. One we often miss when we’re searching desperately for what we think life is supposed to be. To play or to work?

As responsible adults we often choose work, shooing the kids off to play by themselves or to find another adult with less important things to do who will indulge their fanciful ideas.

In the past four years, I’ve been searching, praying, and working hard to create a life where I’m free to play with my kids, to enjoy each moment, to experience the joy I believe life is supposed offer. I have downsized, meditated, moved into a trailer, and still the joy has been elusive. “Darn it! WTH? I’m working so hard to make this work?!?” And so I double down, make a schedule and stick to it… force my gypsy soul to conform, to make SMART goals, to put words on paper…

Now, more than ever before, I shush the kids and shoo them away, promising I’ll play in a future moment… after I have my work done. Just a few minutes, turns into hours until they stop asking for me to play with them.

Yesterday, I made a different choice.

The Road Less Traveled
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

And just like Robert Frost promised, that choice made all the difference. It turns out that we can’t find the joy we crave by chasing it… it comes instead in moments of play and wonder when we’re completely present.

And in the blink of an eye, the life I’d been scrambling so hard to find showed up, without a drop of sweat or effort on my part. Surrounded by children, enveloped in the scent of fresh lemons, thinking about nothing more than how to catch yellow fruit with a basket on a stick.