“He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God;’
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.”
Before we got into the busy-ness of Christmas this year, I took some time to pray. I prayed that I would be present in the moments; that we wouldn’t rush through the motions, but that we would really take the time to relish the season — to rest in the waiting; to practice Advent.
I am a do-er. I have a hard time sitting still. It is difficult not having something I’m trying to achieve. My kids and husband got sick over Christmas break. In a strange way, I can see how this was an answer to my prayer. We were forced to live in the moment; to make the best of the situation. For almost two weeks, I did what was necessary and let go of the things that I generally fill my days with.
The house wasn’t pristine. We didn’t eat a well balanced, home cooked meal every night. The beds were occupied more than they were made. The bathroom was cleaned often, and its door might as well have been a revolving one. We missed out on our Christmas Eve plans with friends. I wasn’t even sure I’d cook our Christmas day meal until late in the afternoon, but what could have been a disaster for the planner, do-er, friend-cherisher that I am, was a gift in disguise.
We made memories that would never have been ours, had everything worked out the way I had planned. I was forced to slow down, which was exactly what I had wanted. We watched classic movies and ate Texas Trash; we made a sick room downstairs so that no one had to be alone while sick; we read all our favorite Christmas books multiple times; we played game after game and laughed a lot; we ate prime rib in our pajamas! For as sick as everyone was, we had a great holiday!
With the start of the new year and the kids going back to school, it has taken some time to get back into a good routine. Two weeks in and we’re still not there yet. We’re playing catch up, and that has meant that I’m home a lot more than I usually am. Sometimes I feel like I’m moving in slow motion; that what a month ago I could have accomplished in a day, now takes me a week to complete.
All this being home, has given me so much time to think. It’s no secret that time is moving on and my kids are growing, and with every passing day we experience change. I thought I was good at change. Now I’m looking at all the things that are basically up in the air in our life, and I’m trying to hold it all together. My purse, kitchen counter, and my dresser are cluttered with little scraps of paper with numbers and notes on them, tangible pieces of me trying to figure it all out. I’ve worked out multiple scenarios … if this happens, then this will be the plan … but if that happens, then this would be the best solution. Seriously, I’m constantly “figuring” and in the end, all I have is a messy purse and no answers.
Mary Elena Leigh stayed home from school today. She took a four hour nap in the middle of the day yesterday, and so she was up really late. All of my kids outgrew their nap by two and a half years old, and so if a kid of mine is sleeping in the middle of the day and just won’t wake up, I know she isn’t feeling well. You’d never hear her complain; that’s not her nature. Parenting her is both a joy and a mystery. She is so laid back, so quiet, such a little partner in life, that I have to read between the lines and make the call on what she will or will not do. She is happy to just be and to be with.
For a mother of four, that is a gift. She’s at home this morning and she is with me, whether I am transferring or folding laundry, dredging eggplant in bread crumbs, doing the dishes, eating, lost in my thoughts, or writing. Mary Elena is there, and she is contentedly playing, whispering to her toys, smiling every time I look at her. Whether she is sick or completely healthy and full of energy, she takes joy in being.
These days, I’m learning a lot from my three year old. Though our days are woven together, my life looks so different from hers, and it’s not just the difference of an adult and a child. The difference is in the heart.
Mary Elena has always just gone with the flow. When each of my kids was a baby I gave them a lullaby — their song. Each song is filled with words that I hope and pray for them. Words of love. I’ve been thinking about different words in these songs, as I look at all that could change in the year ahead. Making decisions used to be so much easier, but the older I get, the more I realize that I do not live in an autonomous realm. My decisions affect others, and so often the people they affect are the ones that mean the most to me. It weighs heavy on me that I’ve sung these words to my baby for the past three years:
I won’t let nobody hurt you
Won’t let no one break your heart
Now no one will desert you
Just try to never grow up
What if I make the wrong decision and I hurt them … if what I do breaks their hearts and forces them to grow up just a little more this year? What if what I think is the best for us, actually isn’t?
And then I remember this
“For in him all things were created … He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:16-17
I can spend every free minute I have trying to work it all out. I can allow all the details of the life I’m trying to make for our family distract me from everything else. I can try to hold it all together, but in the end and from the beginning, that was never mine to do. It’s not my job.
Sometimes I’m overwhelmed with love for my kids. I see them playing or eating or sleeping, and I’m just overcome with a love that I would have never dreamed possible. I want what’s best for them. Matt and I would do anything to keep them safe, to give them what they need, to try to satisfy some of their wants. That sounds like someone else I know.
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ … your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
That being that Mary Elena is so good at? Part of that is her own wiring, and part of that is the security within which she lives. She’s never been given a reason to worry. Never has she had something disastrous happen to her, to cause her to question or doubt that her needs will be met.
I’m a little more weathered. I’ve lived thirty-two years longer than Mary Elena. There are times when I’ve been let down, disappointed, mistreated. Like everyone, I’ve thought my lot in life was unfair at times. The imaginary, perfect world that I’ve created in my mind rarely matches my reality, and my prayers are often poised to help God make my perfect world exist.
But if He’s holding all things together, then my ideas, my efforts, my “perfect” world, is completely superfluous to His perfection.
This year, while I continue to slow down, I’m feeling urged to trust in ways I never have before. To not expect that God will work everything out because of my efforts, but in spite of them. To trust, because He is good. To trust because like I would do anything for the good of my kids, He can do anything and everything for the good of us.
When I look at all the unknowns in my life right now, I get discouraged. I want certain things, because I think they are what is best for me, for my friends, for my family, for my church. But this year I want my wants to be submissive to His great love; to know that He is for me and I can trust Him.
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1