love and litmus tests

I’ve been letting two things steep together in the deep pools of my mind for the last week.

The first is a litmus test. (You know, because I like to spend my time thinking about particularly exciting things.)

A decisively indicative test.¹

A test in which one single thing is the deciding factor.

It’s not unlike when your kid comes in the kitchen for lunch and sees a plate in front of her with circles on it.

That one single thing is the deciding factor that lunch is, no doubt, ruined.

And then there’s the second thing. The second thing comes from the book of Revelation:

I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.

I know I’ve read this verse before, and I know I’ve passed it by blithely. There are, after all, plenty of people in my life whom I love.

But then this week it hit me: Maybe Jesus isn’t talking about abandoning my love for people. Maybe He’s talking about abandoning my love for Him.

Maybe He’s reminding me that if I don’t first fervently love God, nothing else matters.

Nothing.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.²

Nothing.

A.W. Tozer once said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

It’s the litmus test.

The test in which one single thing is the deciding factor.

(Although “test” is, admittedly, one of the worst words I could use to try to explain this train of thought.)

God calls me to love others. To clothe the poor, feed the hungry, and offer a voice for the helpless and vulnerable.

But somewhere along the way, I think I overlooked what He called me to do first: Love Him with every part of my being.

I’ve been thinking about what that looks like this week. I mean, what does it look like to love God first?

I do not, of course, have all the answers (and, of course, never will), but I read two more things this week that provided me some insight.

The first came from Nancy Leigh DeMoss:

It’s the ultimate miracle. Certain death has been replaced by certain life. We who would never have sought after God on our own have been redeemed by One who sought us in His love and mercy. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).

That’s the gospel–the good news! Our guilt has been swallowed up in the gift of God’s grace–the only thing big and powerful enough to forever and fully overcome and remove that guilt.

What follows next, then, should be the logical reaction to this kind of rescue. Snatched from the brink of death, the burden of our sins lifted from our shoulders, you’d think the entire remainder of our earthly life wouldn’t leave us adequate time for all the ways we’d want to say thanks. No longer dependent on our good works and performance, with the destination of our souls secured for all eternity, you’d expect that the energy of sheer gratitude, if nothing else, would propel us to never-ending acts of worship and service. “Whatever you want, Lord. It’s the least I can do after all You’ve done for me.” ³

The second comes from God (you know, because primary sources are always best):

“Be still, and know that I am God.”

Which translated for me this week as, “Stop, and think about what I’ve done for you.”

What comes into my mind when I think about God is the most important thing about me.

It’s the litmus test for everything that follows.

For every thought. For every word. For every action.

An awareness of all that God has done for me shouldn’t leave me adequate time to say thanks. It should propel me to never-ending acts of worship and service.

It should change everything.

And that’s not something I want to look at blithely ever again.

Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent…He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” 

 


¹ The official definition if you Google search “litmus test.”

² 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

³ Demoss, Nancy Leigh. “Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude.” Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy, Moody Press, 2011, pp. 33–34.

 

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nothing gold can stay.

I am a bit of an Autumnal Purist.

It’s an unpopular position, I know (even though I may have invented this title).

I love fall as much as the next person.

I just love fall once it’s fall.

You will not see any red and gold wreaths, smell any pumpkin candles, or hear me rejoicing over my closed-toe booties until the fall equinox (September 22nd, in case you’re keeping track).

I just can’t do it. As far as I’m concerned, it’s still summer until it’s not, and I will not wish these remaining days of warmth away (even if the temperatures keep trying to trick me into doing otherwise).

The kids and I passed a tree on our walk today that had started shedding its green for hues of yellow and orange and I got all Robert Frost about it.

Nothing gold can stay.

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///

I sent two kids to preschool last week and was all, “It’s cool; no big deal. See you later girls.”

Okay, yes, that’s a lie.

Of course I overanalyzed it with painstaking attention.

(And asked Jake no less than 87 times if we were doing the right thing.)

It isn’t preschool that’s got me reeling a little bit though.

It’s Kindergarten (which, interestingly enough, isn’t even a bridge I have to cross for another couple of years).

I told Jake the other day that I can feel time slipping through my fingertips. That I see the end of these home years — these years in which our kids are with me the vast majority of their days — on the horizon, and I don’t like it.

My people are growing and changing each time I blink, and I feel the end of our long days together looming.

Nothing gold can stay.

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///

I realized today that I take such issue with the leaves’ tendency to don their fall apparel early because of my inability to enjoy the vibrancy of colors until it’s officially fall. The earlier they start to change, the earlier they fall off. And the earlier they fall off, the less time I have to enjoy them with a warm mug of apple cider in my hand.

Jake loves my keen ability to let my anticipation of the future dictate my feelings about the present.

Right, yeah. Caught me again.

It’s one of my worst qualities, really.

If I wanted, I could live entirely in a state of anxious anticipation.

I could spend this entire year agonizing over the time I’m going to lose out on with my kids in the inevitable future school years.

I could. 

Or, I could live more intentionally inside each day I’m given when I’m given it. Choose to do today well and all that jazz (which is obviously the better option).

Living in the future takes me out of the present, and I don’t want to miss a single moment of these home days.

Nothing gold can stay. (My sister-in-law likes to say, “Babies don’t keep.”)

But everything is gold in its time, and today I am resolved to enjoy each day. Each moment. Each stage.

I want to see the good in each day instead of anticipating how quickly it’s going to be gone.

This 80 degree day. My increasingly independent kids. The yellow tint in the tree next door.

The lazy and sometimes boring mornings. The 800th children’s book. The pre-bedtime insanity ritual in which every child in my house pretends they can’t hear me.

I’ll take these moments and live in them because they’re what I’ve been given today.

And today is something to be deeply grateful for.

Now, if anyone is in the area, I think I’m ready for my first Pumpkin Spice Latte.

(Okay, yeah. You’re right. Baby steps. I got ahead of myself there. Opening the windows and being happy about the cool breeze is probably a better place to start.)

nothing can sit empty.

The world feels like an especially ugly place lately.

It seems like every screen I turn to shows me something more terrible than the thing before. Something more horrifying. More gut-wrenching. More mind-boggling.

And, as if it all weren’t bad enough, I also have to deal with the fact that I don’t particularly like my knee-jerk reaction when faced with this ugliness.

Because before I can get to the feelings that lead to the actions that might elicit some kind of positive change, I’ve first got to wade through something else:

Fear.

It’s a both a familiar and unwelcome feeling–a sort of paralytic fear that rises and falls from my belly to my throat.

I’ve met this fear enough to know that it stems from uncertainty and anticipation and helplessness all rolled up into one.

(You know, the same kinds of feelings The Left Behind for Kids series elicited way back in the late 1900s. Please tell me I wasn’t the only one traumatized by those.)

I have prayed against this fear a lot in my life because I believe I serve a God who promises that I don’t have to be owned by fear. Fear is rooted in lies, after all.

Please take away my fear.

Please give me peace.

Please shift my perspective.

Again and again and again I have prayed these prayers.

And still the thorn remains and digs in deeper every so often.

A friend of mine recently told me a parable from the Book of Matthew that I didn’t remember ever hearing before (or at least understanding). It’s been on my mind a lot these past few weeks:

When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, “I will return to my house from which I came.” And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.

The evil spirit leaves the man. So, the man cleans his house. Empties it, sweeps it, puts it all back in order. But he doesn’t fill it with anything.

The house just sits empty. So, the evil spirit comes back with seven of his more terrible friends and things end up far worse for the man than how they began.

Nothing can sit empty.

So, if I want to eliminate the presence of fear from my life, I have to fill its void with something else.

Truth.

And this is a daily and vigilant task.

It’s a change from output to input.

It’s leaning into what God actually promises me when it comes to fear and allowing those truths to fill the unoccupied spaces fear leaves behind.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. 

When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved. ¹

There have been so many times in my life when I’ve felt frustrated in the face of fear. I was asking God to take it away, after all, and yet, it persisted.

Now, I wonder if the problem wasn’t that God wasn’t answering my prayer, but rather that I was expecting Him to empty something from my being without seeking out what I should fill it with instead.

Fear still creeps in (I think it always will), but when I choose to breathe in words like “love” and “power” and “sound mind” in the face of that spirit of fear, I suddenly have a filler for the void fear will leave behind.

Will leave behind.

God promises as much.

The world will continue to be an ugly place. I know this because, again, I know that you can’t expect things like hateful rhetoric or twisted beliefs to be righted unless Truth moves in to fill the empty space. 

So I’m going to keep pushing through the fear. I’m going to keep asking God to fill my house with the things He is: Love. Hope. Grace. Righteousness. Wisdom. 

And then I’m going to ask Him to help me breathe that Truth into all the various empty spaces I can find. I’m going to ask Him to give me opportunities to love the marginalized and oppressed and hurting.

Which I know He will.

He’s the answer to the ugliness if only we will ask Him to fill the voids left in its wake.

And even on the darkest of days, there’s hope in that.


¹ John 14:27, 2 Timothy 1:7, Philippians 4:6-7, Isaiah 41:10, Psalm 94:19, Psalm 55:22

two minutes and forty-three seconds.

My life felt like a scene from a movie tonight for about two minutes and forty-three seconds.

I had just finished a three-kid bath when “Something That I Want” by Grace Potter came through the portable speaker.

I threw a purple hooded towel over Lily’s head and tousled it through her hair. She laughed, and while I pulled her in close to me to kiss her forehead, I caught Sawyer and Norah out of the corner of my eye. They were face-to-face and smiling at the other end of the bathtub.

I sent the girls into their bedroom and carried Sawyer to his with the speaker in hand. I squatted low to get a pair of pajamas out of the bottom drawer of his dresser and promptly lost my balance and fell backward.

Sawyer craned his neck to look at me and laugh and then the girls burst into the room, half-wrapped in towels. They dog-piled us and added to the laughter.

Everyone was happy.

And that made me happy.

This parentsofsmallkids life is something, isn’t it? It moves both slowly and quickly all within the same inhale of a temper tantrum and exhale of extended grace.

It’s filled with juxtapositions and monotonies¹ and failures and victories and stresses and questions and (more frequently than I’d like to admit) months-old spots of dried spit-up.

It bogs me down sometimes.

But then God lets me look in on it from the outside. Tonight, for two minutes and forty three seconds, I saw only my kids’ smiling faces while the scene evolved (thanks to Grace Potter’s peppy number).

It was the scene in the movie meant to remind you that everything is going to be okay. That despite the chaos and conflicts, these kids are loved.

That they’re happy.

I’m no perfect parent (see: too sharp tone tonight when four-year-old decided bedtime might be optional). But I do love my kids, and tonight I was reminded that that deep love goes further than I often realize.

When I looked at my kids tonight, I saw a happy childhood and a reminder to keep doing everything I can (which is certainly not done out of my own strength) to love them well each day.

These are hard years. But they’re good years. And I refuse to wish them away.

I’m thankful for moments like tonight because they remind me to live more fully in my kids’ childhoods with them. To laugh. To smile. To let them smother me even though they aren’t fully clothed.

Oh, and it’s also worth noting that our laughter-filled dog-pile ended when “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” came on next, and in fitting fashion, in the music queue. The girls were promptly sent back to their rooms to get their pajamas on.

This mama doesn’t mess around with bedtime. (Ask the four-year-old.)


¹ sometimes I make up words. this is one of those times.

a lighter, a broomstick, and an anniversary.

A few nights ago, Jake and I climbed into bed only to realize the monitor in Sawyer’s room had gotten flipped off earlier in the day.

Now, this is pretty boring backstory, but it’s worth noting that said monitor is mounted in the back corner of the crib. And, it would be super easy to reach over the top of the crib to push the power button if Sawyer didn’t insist on sleeping, instead, in the pack n’ play which is set up right next to the crib. Really, the only way to get a hand on the monitor (while the baby sleeps) is to climb stealthily into the crib.

Jake: “How am I supposed to turn it back on without waking him up?”
Me: “I don’t know.”

*Three minutes pass*

Jake: I used a lighter and a broomstick.

///

It’s a little known fact that the summer before Jake and I started dating, we wrote letters to each other while he was in Kansas and I was in Iowa. We exchanged about a letter a week as, really, our only means of communication because Jake didn’t have a cell phone at the time and I wasn’t too keen on calling his home phone where the majority of his brothers (who sound just like him) also lived.

Anyway, as I’ve been thinking about our ninth wedding anniversary, one paragraph from the last letter Jake wrote me that summer (dated 7/29/06) keeps coming to mind:

As the summer draws near its end, I couldn’t help but think of my summer as a whole. I find it interesting that a girl like you and a guy like me have been so faithfully writing each other, and furthermore, enjoying each other’s letters when in reality we don’t seem to have that much in common. I am a guy from the boonies who loves excitement, thrill, and pushing the limit, while (although you may object) I understand you to be a safe, down-to-earth, thrill avoider (note: he underlined “avoider” three times) who would just as soon stay in Des Moines, Iowa for the rest of your life. Is it possible that a mutual faith and similar Biblical values are enough to allow such a relationship between two seemingly opposite people to progress?

///

So, did anyone want to guess which one of us is the lighter and which one of us is the broomstick in this particular metaphor?

Jake and I are the unlikeliest of pairs.

Yet, together, I’ve seen us accomplish a lot of good and important things (you know, like turning monitors back on and stuff) in the nine years we have been married.

Furthermore, I can’t help but notice that so many of the things we have done together are things that a broomstick would never have accomplished without the initial spark of a lighter.

We’ve still got (and always will have) a lot of growing to do. We don’t have a perfect marriage by any means.

But we do have a mutual faith and similar Biblical values, and, while that’s certainly not all it takes to make a marriage work, I really believe those lenses have tethered us to the things that are lasting and have given us common goals with each passing year of our marriage.

The metaphor, after all, isn’t really about the lighter and the broomstick as individual units. It’s about how, united, they worked together for the good of someone else.

It’s about purpose.

And, in year nine, more than anything, I’m thankful to be married to a man who shares a similar vision as to what exactly our purpose is.

A man who lights a fire under my feet and continually pushes me toward our common goals. Toward the good of other people.

And, on the cusp of a decade, that feels pretty good.

You know what else feels good? I didn’t live in Des Moines, Iowa my entire life, so take that 2006 Jake.

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a seat at the table.

I read two books in June.

I know it’s the middle of July and pretty after the fact, but it still felt worth mentioning.

I read Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult first because literally everyone told me to. As soon as I read it, I figured I should probably write about it given all the recommendations, but I couldn’t figure out how to best formulate my thoughts.

So, instead, I picked up another book.

I heard about The Turquoise Table from another writer/bibliophile who had reviewed it on her blog. The premise was simple: Kristin Schell wanted to build community with her neighbors, so, in a quest to be, as she calls it, “Front-Yard People,” she put a big turquoise picnic table in her front yard and started hanging out at it as much as possible.

Simple. 

Needless to say, I’ve been thinking a lot about tables lately.

I’ve also been thinking about this Benjamin Franklin quote which Jodi Picoult so aptly placed before the first chapter of Small Great Things:

Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.

But how can I be affected by what’s going on in another person’s life — their battles, their struggles, their needs — unless I offer them a seat at our table?

Unless I bring them into our life?

A few weekends ago, we drove to Chicago for a long weekend. Four hours into our six-hour drive, we passed a broken down suburban on the side of the road.

Two hours, one new alternator, one attempted battery charge, and one tow-truck later, Jake got back into our air-conditioned-less car (it was hot) and said something important to me: I want our kids to be uncomfortable sometimes. I want them to know that it’s good to do things for other people even if it changes our plans or pushes us out of our comfort zones.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot since too.

I want there to be a seat at our table for people even if it changes our plans or pushes us out of our comfort zones.

I want there to be a seat at our table for people with a wide array of opinions, beliefs, and life experiences.

And, I want the people at our table to teach us to better listen, better communicate, and better love.

(Which, I suppose, is likely inevitable.)

In the two years we’ve lived in Cleveland, especially, I’ve seen how quickly friendships can be formed around a table.

And the best part is this: It doesn’t take much.

I think it’s probably as easy as making sure you have a few extra chairs.

•••••

I haven’t given a book away in a few months, but I bought Small Great Things fully intending on passing it along to someone else.

That someone could be you!

If you want my copy, just leave a comment and let me know either straight on this blog post or on the social media thread that led you here!

The only catch is that you have to discuss it with me when you’re finished because I have a lot more thoughts about this one that still need to be fleshed out.

Don’t worry — there’s a seat at my table for you. 😉

finding perspective: there’s always someone else.

The long awaited First of July is finally upon us!

Maybe you didn’t know that today is an important holiday. That today new doctors all around the country, fresh from medical school graduation and their Hippocratic Oaths, are coming to a hospital near you.

But everything’s coming up roses over here because we’re walking our way out of Jake’s second year of his medical residency and into year three.

(You know, pushing play on season three of Grey’s Anatomy.)

WE’RE HALFWAY DONE, and this is something that cannot be said in lowercase letters.

Last year I processed this important holiday by writing about how I’ve learned to deal when the hours are long. I think I thought I might have a lot more to add to the list this year, but, as it turns out, things like “Communicate” and “Die to yourself” still prove to be incredibly effective relationship tools.

There is this one thing though. This one phrase that has been on repeat in my brain all year and never fails to jolt me back to perspective just when I’m about to staple the “Feel Sorry for Me” banner across my entryway at the end of an 80 hour week.

There’s someone else.

My life always feels less hard when I think about my friends or acquaintances whose lives are, indeed, much harder than mine.

Yes, Jake works long hours, but then he comes home.

That sentence alone gives me reason to never complain.

Lately, though, I’ve been thinking about the “someone elses” in a different way.

It all started when I read 2 Corinthians 1:3-4:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

Two years ago we were uprooted and transplanted to Cleveland and God met us here. He has provided comfort in the affliction and constant reminders that this is where He wants us right now.

That doesn’t change the residency requirements though. And, when the long weeks start to feel agonizing and like I might indeed sink through the hatch and into the sea, I think about someone else.

It’s like five years from now and I meet her in line at the grocery store. She has more kids than arms, and I only have one (kid, both arms still) because the rest are in school. She tells me that her husband is about to start his first year of residency, so I invite her over for coffee. We talk about all the things and become fast friends and then scour places like the library and preschool parking lots for other new friends because when things get hard, we both know the importance of rallying the troops (a perfectly normal and realistic hypothetical scenario).

There’s someone else.

So that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

I’m learning that, with an eternal perspective, nothing is without purpose. That God promises to comfort me during the challenges of my life and then, in turn, comfort others through me.

That doesn’t make the hard things any less difficult to paddle through, but it does fill me with a lot of hope and the good kind of anticipation about what the future holds (and this applies to a lot of things in my life outside of medicine).

So, here’s to year three.

To the new lessons, new challenges, and new relationships born from hypothetical dreams.

And, in case, you’re out there celebrating this holiday too, make sure you don’t wind up in the hospital. I mean, give them until at least September to get the hang of things.

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the metaphorical preschool plant.

I have never been much of a gardener.

Years ago, Jake hand delivered a peace lily to me at school and I promptly killed the plant which was marketed as “easy to grow.”

(Also, it’s worth noting that I didn’t even know it was called a peace lily until about 5 minutes ago when I Googled “plant with white flower and spiky center.”)

My green thumb doesn’t have a great track record, really.

About a month ago, I got to spend a Wednesday morning with Lily at her preschool. We did all kinds of crafts, and, at one of the stations, we were provided dirt and flower seeds. Together, Lily and I filled her hand-painted pot with soil, dumped in an entire packet of flower seeds (because, you know, my green thumb forgot you really only need one or two), and sprinkled them with water.

And then we brought it home and waited for it to grow.

Now, I’ve grown things before, but most of the time, I buy them pre-grown. My tomato plant last year came with teeny green tomato buds all over it. The petunias in my front yard? They were already blooming when I thrust their roots into the ground.

This little preschool plant was the first thing I can remember growing from a seed.

And grow it did.

And then do you know what happened? It outgrew its container. The roots needed to be able to dig down deeper, so I had to transplant it.

I had to move it entirely, so that it could continue to grow and flourish.IMG_0224.JPGWe moved to Cleveland almost exactly 2 years ago.

If I close my eyes, I can still palpably remember the anxiety I felt while watching Jake haul the contents of our well-loved duplex to his hand-built trailer.

Everything was uprooting around me.

And then a few days later, it was all transplanted here.

As I helped Lily take our literal plant out of its tiny pot and place it into its new home, I was filled with an immediate sense of overwhelming gratefulness. The metaphor is not lost on me.

I know that God moved us here, so that we could continue to grow and flourish in new ways.

He took our roots and thrust them into the ground here, and, while very few things about this move have been easy, I can’t not see how this change has trellised our family to the important and lasting.

(Raise your hand if you’re impressed that I know what a trellis is.)

I never want to reach the bottom of the pot.

I don’t want to run out of room to grow.

I want my roots to run deep but also stay ready to be uprooted.

Our plant now sits on the front porch, growing steadily in its new space.

And, as I look at it each day, it serves as a reminder: I may not be a very good gardener, but I serve a God who is. And if I abide in Him, He will prune every branch that bears fruit, so that it will bear even more.

a story about a worm.

I saved a worm’s life today.

Lily spotted it on our morning walk. She stopped her scooter just past it, knelt down above it, and said, “Mom! It’s still squirmin’!”

Sure enough, there it was, smack in the middle of the sun-soaked sidewalk, baking on the concrete, and squirming ever so slowly.

I really only did what any good, conscientious citizen would–scooped it up with a nearby leaf, dropped it off in some dirt, and laid the leaf on top of the grass above it so the sun wouldn’t keep drying it out.

And you know what? I feel preeetty good about the whole thing.

I find anymore that it’s so easy at the end of the day to focus on all the things that have gone poorly.

The sharp tones. The unnecessary impatience. The moments of divided attention.

Recently I have found myself fixating on these moments during the quiet of the evening after all the kids are in bed and agonizing over my shortcomings.

Of course there’s something to be said for analyzing the day’s game tape and making changes as necessary, but there’s a lot of good in each day too. And I think I spend too much time overlooking it.

My new practice, then, is to pay more attention to the good as I end each day. In those quiet evening moments, I’ve been trying to make a habit of thinking about all the ways we loved and responded well throughout our days. To cut myself some slack and celebrate our successes.IMG_9947.JPG

So, here’s to the worms.

I was present with the girls in that small moment, and that’s something I want to remember.

Here’s to the books read. The twisted flower crowns. The patient correction.

Here’s to the times I left my phone in the other room, so my attention only had to be divided in thirds rather than fourths.

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These are the kinds of things I want to end my day thinking about, so that I’m more likely to repeat them tomorrow.

That’s right. We’re gonna keep on saving all the worms.

It’s definitely worth it.

the beautiful monotony of motherhood.

My morning wake-up call came at 6:45 this morning. The baby.

And when I walked in his “room” (I can’t be the only mom who has to use this word loosely for all children to come after the first), there he was, beaming his two-toothed grin at me.

We walked downstairs and pushed play on the unchanging morning routine.

Lily was next. Usually she lays in her bed hollering for me to come in and get her, but this morning she snuck into the kitchen while I was cutting a banana. She went straight to Sawyer and said happily, “I haven’t said, ‘Hi,’ to you yet!”

She left behind an unusually quiet room, and when I went in, I found Norah standing silently in her bed waiting for me.

“I didn’t scream and wake Lily up today!” she said proudly.

I swooped her up and let her jog into the kitchen with the other two. I heard, “Hi, Soy-ler! Are you a happy boy?” as I turned the fan off.

The rest of the morning went pretty much as it always does.

Cereal. Vitamins. Negotiations for more food.

Coffee.

Clothes. Pigtails. A showing of Peppa Pig to ease into the morning.

Coffee.

Books. Babies. A real baby who just wants to eat paper and spit up all over the carpet.

Coffee.

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We move through these rhythms together each day. They are mostly unchanging regardless of the day of the week or the schedule of the day.

Monotony gets a bad rap in parenting, and I get it. Life can start to feel a little bit like that movie Groundhog Day except instead of waking up to Sonny & Cher, it’s a chorus of yelling and/or happy screaming (it’s weird over here sometimes).

But monotony is also my friend.

I realized it this morning while I was slow sipping my coffee.

As we have worked hard to build routines for our kids, we also have inadvertently (and more importantly, I suppose) worked to build trust. My kids are never surprised to see me in the morning. They wake up and they do whatever they need to in order to get my attention, but (at least I don’t think), they’re never worried that I won’t come. They just innately trust that I (or Jake) will.

I’ve been overthinking motherhood all week (this, of course, shouldn’t surprise anyone). I spent a lot of brain energy looking for deep metaphors in things like can openers and making long, uninventive lists about all the things being a mom has taught me.

I tried to organize my thoughts a few times, but the words just wouldn’t come, so I put them back in the drawer with the philosophical can opener and moved on.

And then this morning, as my kids moved all around me doing their various morning things, I felt a small twinge of gratitude. An odd feeling, really, for a day much the same as all the others.

But that was it. It was the monotony of my morning which revealed the more beautiful things that have grown from its soil: Trust. Togetherness. The sense of being known.

These days we’re building so many foundations. Laying the groundwork for future expectations and experiences. And today that tiny twinge of gratitude reminded me that the work we’re doing is important and lasting.

Our kids are known. They are loved. They are learning to trust us.

And those are the words I want to remember today.