I remember reading Kathleen Norris’ slim volume called The Quotidian Mysteries, where she talks about washing dishes as an entrance into the holy. And reading Ann Voskamp and her contemplation of the views outside of her kitchen window as moments of experiencing the goodness of God that she would number as gifts.
It all felt too good to be true.
With my first two children (of four) arriving on the heels of one another, just 19 months apart, the idea that something so simple as soap bubbles or a slant of light could communicate glory, felt frankly, like too much work. That was another person who could appreciate that life, those moments. My own poetic sensibility lay dormant in my soul with all the cloudiness of lack of sleep, nap times, snack times, and a PhD that was nowhere near completion. Any time that was unaccounted for would fill with research or housework.
My prayers were quick, to-the-point, words uttered to a God that felt distant, a God I couldn’t reach when there was just so much to do. And I was behind on everything.
Then we moved. Again. And those first several months of a new job, a new city and my two tiny babies, filled with resentment and bitterness; they were full of loud words and unhearing ears. We were just trying to make it through. And we thought that by toughing it out, we’d get there.
Something’s happened after children #3 and #4. Maybe after 4 kids I’ve had to dig down and give up all of this life that I thought I had figured out; I’ve had to give up this sense of perfection, where my children function as accessories to the life that I want to live. I’ve had to give up a boxed-up sense of holiness, of outlines and inductive Bible studies and unhurried prayer times. And yet, I’ve also had to lean in to a different sort of spiritual practice.
I’ve had to pour myself out for strength for that moment; the hymn “I need thee every hour” has been particularly appropriate for this stage of young child-rearing. And, I’ve echoed Anne Lamott’s 3 prayers again and again, “help, thanks, wow.”
Help, I’m drowning in children noise and needs.
Thank you that I got a nap. Thank you for someone seeing me and folding my laundry.
Wow. Thank you for shimmering leaves, and sunshine. Wow, you are just so good.
It’s been little moments that I can hold onto and lean into when the chaos looms large. These are offered up as prayers in fragmentary sentences between the soap bubbles, the pool, and the dirty knees. These little people seem to press against my need for alone time, for contemplation, for rekindling that poetic sense of self.
And yet. And yet.
They are loud bringers of joy. Freckled faces with sun on their backs who open their arms wide to welcome glory in. They are everything I never knew I needed. They, too, are prayers enfleshed, as they each draw me closer to Jesus in praise, in showing me my utter need for patience and self-control, in their enjoyment of all good gifts.
Their childhood is but a breath.
So as the trees dance outside my window right now, I can breathe in this moment of quiet, whisper a “thank you” and have the space to face the dishes, or the house-unpacking, or the refereeing. It’s all of a piece. It’s all a gift. It’s all grace.