My heart is full tonight.

It is a hot, humid evening after a hot, humid day. My house looks as thought it has been hit by a major storm and I realize in a very deep part of myself that there is truly no use trying to clean up for years to come; to put away the the books pulled from the shelves, the toys yanked from the toy-box, the shoes thrown out of their cubbie holes, the clothes tossed from their drawers. Just because Mr. Tornado is sleeping right now doesn’t mean he won’t do it all again tomorrow.

And he won’t sleep that long. He packs in 9 hours of sleep a night, then sneaks in a two hour nap during the day, if I’m lucky. How can he need so little sleep? He is so busy, I am so behind, so up to my neck in deadlines and work I haven’t done and emails I haven’t returned and thoughts I haven’t processed and phone calls I haven’t made and voicemails I haven’t returned and errands I haven’t run and laundry I haven’t washed and food I haven’t cooked or eaten.

But there he is, standing up by the changing table, carefully selecting one article of clothing at a time before tossing each one to the floor. And there he is, pulling himself up at the shoe-cubbies, pulling down each shoe, going carefully down the line. And there he is, standing up against the bookshelves, throwing caution to the wind as he undoes all the organizational progress we’ve made in four years of marriage.

And there he is, sitting on the floor, examining the new textures and tastes of the items he has strewn about. And there he is, remembering that I’m near, crawling over to me. Putting his fingers in my mouth, pinching my nose, laughing at me. Fussing until I pick him up. Screaming until I feed him. Arching his back and scolding me with a string of loud, angry nonsense words if I should offend him with a diaper change.

Precious. The way he shoves Cheerios in his mouth. The way the back of his head and shoulders look when he is sitting and chewing on something, facing away from me. The look of pride and curiosity when his head peaks above the coffee table. The look of slow determination as he examines first one sock and then the next and next and next. Precious. The way he inserts his finger into each and every hole in our house, exploring, bulls eye. The way he reads me the riot act with his blabbering words when he’s upset. The way pleasure ripples through him and he turns and bites my shoulder. The way he opens his mouth for something yummy, like a baby bird. The way he chats happily at me. Precious.
Each day is so full of a hundred such images, each one fleeting, each one priceless. Each one spilling over into the next so that I can never find a moment even to file them away in my heart.

There he is, growing up so very very fast. And here I am, watching him, exhausted. Overwhelmed. Longing for a moment to myself, a moment where electrical cords and sharp corners don’t need to be foremost on my mind. And here I am, enthralled by him, can’t take my eyes off of him, heart filled to the brim and overflowing as I watch him, this person who so recently was the size of a lime in my tummy; who now knows exactly what he wants, and when, and isn’t afraid to grab it or scream for it. Ten months old, today. Who has the body and the laugh of a little boy. His own person. My own boy.

I can’t sort out the exhaustion from the the chaos from the cuteness from the love and joy. My heart is full tonight.

Catherine McNiel
Catherine McNiel is a seeker who writes to open eyes to the creative and redemptive work of God in each moment. She is the author of “Long Days of Small Things: Motherhood as a Spiritual Discipline” (NavPress 2017), and her writing has appeared in numerous books and articles. Catherine serves alongside her husband in a community-based ministry, while caring for three kids, two jobs, and one enormous garden. Connect with Catherine at catherinemcniel.com or on Twitter @catherinemcniel
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