There were so many things I looked forward to before having children, but one that couldn’t come fast enough was getting to enact the nightly ritual of story time again. (Seriously, not fast enough. I think we started reading books to our firstborn when he was five weeks old and his eyes didn’t even open all the way…)

I love reading and being read to. So many of my own favorite childhood memories involve cuddling up with my mom or dad, listening with anticipation as we read and re-read favorites like The Busy World of Richard Scarry and Quick as a Cricket in the waning minutes before bedtime. The ritual of time together discovering new worlds in words and pictures is one that shaped my lifelong love of reading and nurtured my relationships with my parents.

It’s proven still delightful, even as I now find myself on the other end of it, parenting little people who like to be read to. We may not be great at sticking to a particular bedtime around here, but we have our pre-bedtime rituals down pat. Dinner, followed by (a very splashy) bath time, pajamas with a little wrestling, and stories together before the lights go out.

We’ve laughed at King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub.

We’ve been surprised by The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

We’ve indulged in some off-key renditions of Down by the Station.

We’ve searched (and searched and searched) for Waldo. (Come on already, Waldo, stop hanging out at medieval festivals with other guys in stripes…)

I love that my one-year-old knows when to turn the pages, pointing with delight at animals he recognizes. It thrills me that my toddler has favorites, that the rhythm and cadence of Marvin K. Mooney make him smile and nod along. Whether the two of them are sitting with my husband in the rocking chair as I watch from my perma-post at the laundry pile or on those truly wonderful nights when we’re all nestled together on our bed, these moments of telling stories to each other are sacred. As we gather together, the day coming to a close, I wish I could freeze time, that there would always be wide-eyed wonder and the smell of baby shampoo in my lap.

My boys are loving the story, and I am loving my boys.

But if I’m honest, I’m a little worn out lately. Summer with little ones is full of long hot days needing to be filled. All of our usual activities are on hiatus. Nothing and no one stays clean for long. And here, on my couch, in the midst of my mess on a day less than half done, I hear Jesus’ words from Matthew 11:28 anew.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

And for the first time, I imagine my favorite little pocket of time, the precious moments of stories before bed with my babies. But, instead of a rocking chair in that tiny bedroom, it’s a grassy green hillside, just me with the best Storyteller of all.

Come to me, Lindsey, and I will give you rest.

And I lean in and listen as he tells of a King and a kingdom that’s everything I’ve ever wanted and nothing like I expect. Here, in my bleary-eyed tiredness, my feelings of inadequacy, the exhaustion that seems sustained, I find my heart softening at the necessary reminders that I am not made for this world, but a new one.

Come to me, Lindsey, and I will give you rest.

This storytime is just for me, and I revel in it, remembering that I am the lost coin that was searched for, the lost sheep that was found with delight, the lost son who was welcomed home. I hear again the fearful words of grace that a new life awaits me if only I’ll die to this one.

Come to me, Lindsey, and I will give you rest.

Hope fills my chest, making me lighter, unclouding my fatigue. I hold this good news in my heart, grateful to find myself again in an old, old story that always bears repeating. I am not a cog in the machine or the sum of my accomplishments. I am beloved daughter and kingdom-bringer. And as I am held in this moment, hearing these truths again in Scripture and through the sweet voice of the Spirit, I know this to be true.

I am loving the story, and my Jesus is loving me.

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