sacred moments

I had a moment of vivid memory last night: a sacred time in my life, the place startlingly clear. An almost tangible presence of Jesus, with me, meeting me. Exhaustion graced with joy as His strength filled my weakness.

It was in a little kitchen — dark oak cabinets and yellowed tile counters, faux-brick linoleum floor always dingy no matter how hard I scrubbed. A tiny table, barely big enough for three, and washer and dryer hidden behind louvered doors.

That kitchen was holy ground.

There, at that table, I read my Bible morning after morning. My 18 month old baby learned to join me without whining for food. I’d never had an 18 month old before, and that was all new for me. He learned — Mama is reading, and you may join quietly. We shared many, many special mornings together.

I bent over that washer hundreds of times, switching loads, filling a basket with clean diapers to hang in the sun. The back door was open with the two year old running in and out while the baby clung to my legs.

Dishes were washed over and over, cupboards filled with the staples from Trader Joe’s after a morning of errands, the very first chore chart developed and displayed on the fridge for a growing little boy to use.

But mostly, just minutes and hours and days of pouring myself out till there was nothing left, and then faced with two little boys who still needed more, crying out to Jesus. Singing as I washed, singing as I laundered, singing as I simply held them and swayed, not sure what else to do at times.

And not for a moment did He leave me. In that kitchen, I knew that I knew that God was equipping me and providing me with the grace for that sacred moment of service — and He would do it again in the next moment.

I love the season of life I’m in right now. But I’m not gonna lie — there was something so raw and real about the way God walked with me when it was just me and a couple of babies. The demand on me was so intense and completely unlike anything I’d experienced, but the profound (and incredibly simple) way in which I met Jesus in those moments of my deep need was incredible.

That linoleum was really pretty hideous, but somehow it has found a place in the treasure chest of my heart.

S I X months

Six months! Where, when, how? But somehow, over 180 days of holding this sweet boy in my arms morning, noon, and night, and I still can’t get enough of him. None of us can. He was instantly the dearest thing and yet grows more dear every day. Isn’t that amazing? Love is like that. It’s vast and complete, but then the details get filled in as time goes on.

He’s a solid 27 pounds, which just causes anyone who sees him to break into laughter. Who knew baby thighs could make anyone and everyone laugh out loud? His fat little hands are my favorite. He has a mouth-wide-open smile for anyone who makes eye contact with him, and his deep blue eyes are so friendly and inviting. He rolls but still doesn’t sit without help, and I’m assuming he’ll just be on the slow track with all that movement stuff, as was his similarly-round brother, William. His siblings adore him, his daddy adores him, and I certainly do. And when we see the way he lights up at each one of us, we’re fairly certain the adoration is mutual.

He is a treasure, and my soul is fairly bursting with the wealth that’s been poured into my lap. Pressed down, shaken together, and running over — a house full of children formed by God, put into my hands to love and nurture and steward as disciples. It’s overwhelming — and I don’t just mean in the 5pm dinner is burning the baby is crying and there is noise everywhere kind of overwhelming. I mean I am overwhelmed by the bountiful goodness of God. It is so much.

And yes, the treasure and gifts of God require something of us, and when He expands our territory we find ourselves stretched further than we’ve been before. There is weight to it, soberness in it, the sense of stewarding the treasure of another. I’ve been tempted to say about so many things, “I’m not sure I’m really up for this,” but then I catch myself and think, “What are you talking about?? Serve the purpose of God in your generation! Now or never!” And suddenly it all becomes clear again: I just need more Jesus along with the increase of blessing.

Yes, I have grown. I have been expanded. I am probably more wise, less frantic, and don’t react to every seeming crisis. But also?? There is fruit. God knows what He’s doing! Our house is so loud and busy but it is teeming with capable children who delight in one another and in serving me. I’m pretty sure 28 year old me would have an emotional meltdown at the level of “lived-in” my house daily achieves, but that makes sense: 28 year old me had to stay on top of it all by myself. And now? Now we are a team.

But so much more than the practical blessing I’m living in (pinch me, is this real?, I think whenever I walk into a clean kitchen after guests leave and I spent the whole evening visiting and didn’t lift a finger), there is fruit in their hearts. There are young men who I simply enjoy, who make me laugh, who I lean on for help and encouragement. Daughters who spill joy and kindness everywhere they go. Little ones who are caught up by older ones, taught and read to and led by example. I know that I know that I planted seeds and watered and weeded for day after day after week after month for years, but this fruit that I see? I can’t begin to take credit for it any more than I look at the stunning beauty of my favorite peony and pat myself on the back for my stellar planting job. My part and the result just don’t add up, until you factor in the faithfulness of God. It’s Him.

That is the bounty that makes me want to weep in thankfulness. And it gives me hope for tomorrow, because guess what? I am so far from a perfect gardener when it comes to my children. I do my best, by the grace of God, to show up and ask for help, but repentance is my most-often used tool. The skill is all Him. His Spirit pursues their hearts as I apply faith and diligence. I never feel that these children are somehow mine, or my doing — I am so aware that these are people God crafted and called, and is asking me to serve in a truly precious and unique way. But as they grow, and I see softness and humility and forgiveness flowing from their hearts, I marvel even more at the things God has done, and what a tremendous honor it is to be used by Him.

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”

“to love their children…”

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how much my heart bursts with love for this baby.

Or any of my babies.

Because isn’t that natural? Regardless of how “good with kids” any one of us may naturally be, don’t we love our own with a fierceness that is unparalleled? I’ll give any Mama Bear a run for her money ANY day in my love for my kids.

So, then, I have to wonder, why is “love their children” listed among the things that younger women are to learn from older, God-fearing women?

Is it possible that God is calling us to love our children in a deeper, more profound, more godly way than we ever could apart from His help and instruction?

Possible that our selfishness, humanism, and general environment of “you’re okay, I’m okay, we’re all okay,” leads us astray? Instead of pressing into greater grace and selfless giving, we decide that if our natural wellspring of maternal love is dry, then either we’re not really cut out for this kid thing after all, or at the very least we deserve a break to commiserate with our girlfriends.

And maybe, too, it’s possible that our love is needing to be refined, submitted, to Jesus? That as Augustine said, we have a case of disordered loves, or idolatry? A Mama Bear identity that leads into all sorts of trouble — the trouble of prioritizing them over Jesus. Taking up offenses, coming up with excuses for sin, moving ancient boundaries in an attempt to keep our kids inside the pasture… oh, it happens so easily.

Yes, my heart bursts with love for these children. The moment my first baby was laid in my arms, I exploded with feelings I didn’t know I could have, and it’s happened seven times over! But we are called to even more than just what may (or may not!) occur naturally. We are called to learn a holy, God-fearing love that ultimately surrenders our hearts, and our children, to the hands of an all-sufficient Father.

the march of time

I drove him to the town office, where he knew all the answers and had all his paperwork, and I simply stood by, wondering when he got old enough to manage so well on his own. I walked beside him, aware of his height and confident stride, as he showed me the hunting blind he and my dad worked so hard at preparing. I heard the shot that belonged to him, and took the phone call minutes later when his deep voice proudly let me know, “I got a deer, Mom.” Just yesterday he was a baby. My baby.

She came out crying, clearly upset and needing Mama. Ryan gave up his spot, and she quieted right down in my bed. I could have stared at her little lips, her little nose, all night. Her sweet hands, her quiet breath. The littlest one, with so much energy and personality, who has captivated all of us for over two years. About to become an older one, the baby no longer. How did that happen so fast?

June is bustin’ out all over

Every year, I swoon over June. How could you not? The brown and bare earth breaks out into shades of brilliant emerald. Dainty buds of promise suddenly erupt into blooms of deep purple, golden yellow, delicate pink, rich magenta. Skies are high and blue. The sun’s brilliance lights up the early morning and late evening and invites you to live the day full and strong. Books begin to close and and kids run free. Screen doors slam and sunscreen is slathered. Bikes and chalk and basketballs and sprinklers. The intermittent cool day that (if I’m honest) becomes the highlight of my week because I can garden and work without the full heat of summer.

June doesn’t hold back. Halfway through, and I already can barely recall the beginning. So many full days: house projects continue. A new niece to welcome. Finishing an intense sprint of store redesign and renovation. Church opening back up, a bit at a time. Visits from out of town sister. Zoom piano recital. New perennial bed turned and planted. Three meals every day, eight sets of clothes (at least) to launder every morning, the never-ending list of little homemaking tasks that wait for school’s end.

Children growing by inches, literally, before my eyes. Pressing into Jesus together, knowing we need Him so very much. Praying with young men who have become humble wisdom-seekers. Answering the four year old who wants to know, through tears, “how can I ever do nothing wrong?” and assuring her that’s exactly why Jesus came. Feeling my human limitations when trying to keep up with the two-year-old’s training, tired and stretched and knowing that there is grace for me to lay hold of. Heading into summer’s carefree days and knowing that freedom is the power to do what one ought, not simple slipping into lazy waste of days, and praying for wisdom to lead my brood into restful joy and growth.

Bustin’ out all over. In me, too? I pray yes. Pray that all of this showing up every morning, asking for help moment by moment, praying through national issues too big for me to even understand and dealing with little hearts too deep for me to plumb will result in growth in me, too.

being present

Saw this today. Thought, YES. A thousand times, YES.

We read a lot about being present. Showing up for our own life. Setting down the phone and looking into someone’s eyes. Pausing the housework for long enough to notice your baby before they’re walking out the door to their first job.

Be present.

Trouble is, we want to be present in a world that isn’t real. We want to show up for a dream life that doesn’t exist.

I want being present to always look like reading a favorite book with a sweet child nestled in my lap. I want it to be taking a walk while we hold hands. I want there to be candles and joyful laughter but quiet when I’m tired. I want us to listen to classical music while we study paintings together and have a deep conversation. Movie nights and board games and make-your-own-pizza in a perpetually clean kitchen.

What it really looks like is putting the laundry down to help with a shoe. Inviting the toddler to pull up a chair even though dinner is already late. Stopping your racing brain to realize your son is telling you about all the nicknames for Japanese fighter jets and it matters to him. Setting a timer for 5 minutes and all chipping into pull the house together, and then sharing a deep sigh and some high fives. And over and over, more times than you can count, it’s not ignoring the tantrum or eye roll or sibling bickering, but pressing in and dealing with it, no matter how much you want to pretend you can’t hear it from the laundry room.

Welcome to the real world. The best part about this world is that it’s the one Jesus came to save, and it’s where His Spirit is moving. He’s not so much into instagram fantasies. But this one — the one with noses that run and math that needs a mom and 4-square that sure could use a fourth man — this one He’s all in for.