It’s Time to Fall Again

Fall.

My favorite season.

I close the windows of summer and bask in the new quietness of the inside.

bask in quietness

The spicy aroma of cinnamon, apples, and cloves overcomes the sweet fragrances of snapdragons, lilies, and roses. Nature walks lead to pockets full of pine cones, acorn hats, and seed pods. Tree limbs bow, yielding to wind’s power. Leaves dry, crinkle, and . . .

. . . fall.

They come down, and I receive their beauty like blessings.

James 1, 17

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). And we do see the shifting shadows around us. The shortening of days, the brisk movement of clouds across the sky, blocking the sun, casting shapes across hilly landscapes.

Nature is hunkering down, preparing for dormancy. I am ushered to stillness by this thought. I am brought to that place where I can utter, “Speak, Lord.” The clutter drops from my life like the chestnuts from my neighbor’s tree, and I know if I reach to pick up the busyness again, I’ll be pricked.

Busyness

Fall.

Twelve years ago, he fell into my heart and sent down thick roots. And eleven years ago, October 15, our I do’s not only fell on the ears of friends and family, but rooted deep into God’s heart. A holy covenant formed. That man of mine, he still falls a bit deeper every year.

And when I fall–which I do so often–he catches.

I slip my feet into socks, the first time in months, and the threads hug my toes, a feeling that by January I won’t even notice, but now seems foreign. I light a candle. The soft glow from the string of white lights twining around my bookshelf brightens my heart. Tea on the stove, book in hand, afghan across my lap, and Strauss waltzes on the iPod. Thanksgiving floats through my soul, prominent as the pollen stirring up my sneezes.

And can I mention that great game? Football—the grinding of padded warriors working together, fighting, winning, falling. The delight of my loved ones, cheering, smiling, laughing, yelling at a television screen.

Yes, as an introvert, I love the intimacy of fall. The winding down, drawing in of nature. The time for gathering close what really matters—food for the soul—and storing it up for the barren seasons. Harvest time, a season of celebration for His provision. The garden finishes its offerings, and the dirty potato I pull up paints a silly smile on my face. I made this. I grew it. For this non-green-thumb, that sense of accomplishment is a grace gift.

food for the soul

Fall.

As a church musician, I pull out the Christmas music, begin to anticipate the bursting in of the baby Savior. The joy of the incarnation washes over me, like the pelting rain against the window. I let Christmas linger in the distance, the light at the end of the tunnel, and I keep my eye on it throughout the pumpkins, the football, the pilgrims, and the turkeys. Always, Christ coming . . . as flesh, as divine . . . into my life, wrapping around the sin and yanking it out by the roots.

Soup simmers on the stove next to the fresh applesauce, and so much simmers in my heart. Hopes for my children, quiet moments with my husband, prayers for the peace of the world, love for friends and family.

Fall.

What do you love about it?

An Honest Look at 10 Years

Ten years ago I said “I do”to Nate, and vowed to be his wife in good times, hard times, sick times, fun times, confusing times, and any other times Nate and I might traverse together.

Some might say we’re lucky to make ten years, and a look at the marriage statistics in our culture would confirm it. luck has nothing to do with it. Neither does “being in love.”

Commitment

When we said “I do” I knew there would never be an “I don’t” between us–not in the divorce way. There have been plenty of “I don’t want to” times and “You drive me crazy” times (interpret that as you want).

But all the time is “I love you” time

That’s commitment. We know that we know that we know that we love each other. No matter what. To be honest, I’ve had to remind myself of that a few times. I’ve asked myself, “Why does he love me?” because I’ve seen nothing good in myself. And at other times I’ve asked myself, “Why do I love him?” Even if I can’t articulate why at the moment, when I climb into bed at the end of the day and he’s there, I know that I do.

So do I have a good marriage?

I have a great marriage. A spectacular, wild, heart-thumping marriage. That doesn’t mean it is struggle-free, and in today’s social media culture we can pretend that a great marriage is two-dimensional, something we see on the pages of a magazine or on TV. Happiness looks so easy.

Let me assure you, I’ve yelled at my husband for the stupidest things. Like when he leaves mounds of dishes by his side of the bed, or blatantly rejects the facts of science (like germ theory) or refuses to attend social events with me.

But this post is not about the struggles. It’s about the blessings. In honor of ten years of marriage, here are ten things I love about Nate:

10 reasons 1

Does this need explanation? He endures the yucky in me, and I’m thankful. And he even cuddles me when my bearish ways are at their heights.

10 reasons 2
This man can hike and work with the best of them.

10 reasons 3

No loud speeches or fancy talk, just action.

10 reasons 4

 

The things this man has made me would blow your mind. And just because he’s a quiet server, someone who likes to give. I’m lucky to have received from him.

SONY DSC

Yes, you read that correctly. I love that he loves football. It’s manly. It exhibits the strength and wildness innate in a man. Label me whatever, but that’s how I grew up–with sports-loving men. When I was in seminary, we used to joke that Sunday’s were “s” days: Sabbath, sports, study, and . . . .

10 reasons 6

We had this great idea once to hide a turtle in the bed of a friend for a practical joke, but as soon as we took it inside, it peed all over. We never knew a turtle could go so much. And we laughed. There have been so many more times that laughter gets the best of us and we can’t stop. He’s got a great laugh, and I’d do almost anything to hear it.

10 reasons 7

He took a personality test once, when I had to for seminary. He came out a loner. A LONER! I’ve always thought of him as my mountain man, someone who could disappear into the hills for months on end without seeing others. Though his introvertedness has its frustrations, it’ good for me, also an introvert. Talking can be overrated. Being together while being silent, now that’s a five-star night.

10 reasons 8

Respects it, loves it, thrives in it, and makes me feel safe in it. This man appreciates the beauty of God’s creation.

10 reasons 9

It’s amazing to look at our kids and think, “We made them.” I couldn’t have made these two without him. And even with him, what are the chances of that one sperm connecting with that one egg? The creative power of procreation is a wonder to me. I think I could have ten more kids with this man and be continually amazed at the results. “I am fearfully and wonderfully made,” wrote the Psalmist. We all are.

10 reasons 10

Sometimes I like to fight with words. I can zing some good phrases his way. He doesn’t take the bait. He goes quiet on me. Which drives me crazy. But really, it’s a good thing. I married a man that lets me get the wild out, and stays tender. He’s patient with the kids when I want to run out of the house and up the road all the way to the railroad tracks and jump on a westbound. Tenderness should never be underestimated. A tender man is a rare and beautiful thing.

 

Home

Home.

In the house in which I grew–up and out and on and into–me.

Laying down to rest after an early plane flight, the smell of the pillowcase finds me. I whiff years of love. I feel the air here, as if it were the same air I breathed the first eighteen years of my life.

The house feels smaller each time I come back, and the memories more and more cramped in the back of my mind, taken over by smiles and giggles from curly-headed children and the kisses from he who shares my life.

Staring at the ceiling in my old room, time rewinds. Blue residue from sticky tack that used to hold notecards above my bunk bed hails my high school years, and that one word in small black letters, snuck between the bumps of the popcorn finish of the ceiling: PRAY.

I’m struck by the distance. Not only that I scribbled that word half my life ago, but that I’m farther away now in my spirit. Farther away in passion. That youthful wildness of heart that believed my life would be … well, not how it is now. I’m farther away now. Discouraged.

But strangely, I’m closer. In this weakness and weariness, I’m closer to grace. Closer to Strength.

Need pushes one to Revelation. And that Living Revealed Word brings one truly home.

Home.

In the sanctuary of His presence, breathing the whispered air of grace. Where the house of His Spirit seems bigger each moment I stop for respite. Where a vision of streets of gold, a Lamb on a throne, and a flowing, endless river keep my earthly steps steady.

Even the silence of my childhood home has a fullness that can’t quite be explained because home is like that–rooted in eternity, a reflection of a place so rich and sweet that to glimpse it only in part, now, in the flesh, is almost too much. But the glorious expectation of drinking in the sight fully, someday, keeps one pushing onward, reaching.

Home.

How negative emotions can be good for you

I hardly live a day without some sort of frustration (or other negative emotion). It could be a hang nail that sets me off. Or it could be a harsh word from someone I love. Or it could be spilled milk, like yesterday at dinner time when I pulled out the tray of the high chair, not slightly as I intended, but all the way, and dinner and milk succumbed to gravity’s irresistible pull.

I must admit I’m feeling worn out from my daily confrontations with frustration, anger, discouragement, fear, doubt, worry, or impatience. It seems I am always battling something. It’s like mastering juggling, trying to deal with one blow after another without letting life crash down around you.

Enter perspective. What if instead of viewing these negative emotions as inconveniences to our happiness (at best) or enemies of our souls (at worst) we “turn the tables”. If frustration and impatience pop up quicker than weeds in a carrot patch, why not use them for our good? Why not make trials of the spirit work hard, like the irritants that drive the formation of a pearl?Where we see a struggle with fear as harassment from the enemy (which it may be) God sees a useful tool for character development.

That’s the goodness of God, constantly reworking the yuck of sin for his glory and our betterment. I think this is what is meant by Paul’s oft quoted warm-fuzzy verse, “We know that God works all things together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

All things are not good. All things are not fun. All emotions are not hip-hip hooray. And the previous verses of Romans eight confirm this. The same verse that pronounces us children and heirs of God, also names us co-sufferers with Christ (17). There is and waiting by creation and believers (21-23). There is weakness and confusion in prayer (26).

But, as verse 28 states, “God works.” He is at work, through his Spirit. Consider the “work” listed in verses 29 and 30. He knew us. He predestined us to be like his Son. He called us. He justified us. He glorified us. That’s a lot of work, and none of it is done by us.

And if that is not enough, chapter eight ends with several promises. First, “He who did not spare his own son but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” All things can work for good because God did not spare his son. The gracious giving of all things is not that I get whatever I want (that would not be fulfillment of verse 28) but that all things are delivered to us for our good. Even the unpleasant things of life, though painful and sometimes appalling, must yield to God’s redeeming work.

Second, “…neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” I think frustration, anger, doubt, fear, and worry would be included in that list. Not only will they not separate us from God’s love, but they will be worked for our good. They will be worked to turn our characters from lackluster to shiny pearl. That’s a promise we can live by.

Monday Gifts: Fellowship Offerings

When Jesus said, “Come to me, all who are weary and I will give you rest,” I think he had in mind the ministry-mom walking in the door after church. It’s early to church for me on Sundays, stay for two services, home at (a late) lunch time. One child wants to tell me about Sunday school, the other child just wants me, and we are all hungry for lunch. They fight to hug me first. I fight to wash hands and sit down. My husband has entered Sunday afternoon “time-off”, after all, he’s just done the whole single-dad church routine all morning.

Hours of people interaction on Sundays turn into moments of people desecration on Monday (i.e. snapping at children nearly the minute the get up). It’s not that I want to scream, it’s that I do scream. They reach for cookies at breakfast, after I said, “No cookies.” I scream. They color on toys. I scream. They pull all my pillows off the bed and refuse to pick them up. I scream.

Please show me the screaming moms in scripture. They must be there somewhere between the crazy pigs and the talking donkey.

Actually, I think Jesus was a screaming mom. Remember the time he was preaching on the shore when the crowd pushed and pushed so hard that Jesus backed straight into the water (which probably felt good to his dusty feet)? He had to escape into a boat and back away from shore. He had to go home to twelve “children”. Twelve men, infants of faith, constantly with him, constantly confused. I know he must have screamed some. Although the difference between him and me? He was without sin.

My Monday goal? To scream without sinning. I think that’s only possible by changing the direction of my frustration: aim it away from my children. Or better yet, burn that frustration on the altar.

And while we’re talking of sacrifices, how about this verse?

Deuteronomy 27:6-7, “Build the altar of the LORD your God with fieldstones and offer burnt offerings on it to the LORD your God. Sacrifice fellowship offerings there, eating them and rejoicing in the presence of the LORD your God.”

Burnt offerings are for sin, and Jesus’s sacrifices covers that. But I think I understand fellowship offerings.

My new Monday goal? To view meal time as fellowship time, not only with each other, but in the presence of the Lord. It can be a sacrifice to set aside tiredness and impatience to enjoy meal time together as a family. However, if I am truly grateful for my daily bread, then I can view the partaking of it as a gift. A gift of nourishment, not just that of food and body, but of fellowship and spirit.

 

The Work of His Hands

I knew I liked my ears rubbed, but I forgot how soothing it is when someone finger-brushes my hair. My five-year-old daughter is pretending to style my frizzy waves with water from the sprinkler, and I like her standing by me, a sort of reversal with her rising above my sitting form and doing my hair. I’m always on her about crying when I brush her hair, so I will not give any indication of pain even though she’s pulling a few tangles. I ask her to look for ticks, since she’s already had one taken off her head this spring. It becomes a game. I pretend to scream. She runs over to me and tweezers it out, her fingers still delicate and relatively untested by life’s tasks.

Her small hands haven’t known hard labor. They’ve yet to tie a shoe. But they hold a pencil quite nicely, and yesterday they learned the beginning notes of Twinkle Twinkle on the piano. And once upon a time, those hands, by reflex, grasped my finger like I was her last lifeline, and I was.

My hands (on the other hand) hold kitchen knives, plunge into weed-infested garden soil, bandage wounds, attempt a Chopin Etude, and are always a bit dry, even when I remember the lotion. My husband’s hands retain the ink from newspaper, have calloused palms, sport long strong fingers, and have strung more tennis rackets than Roger Federer has broken.

What were Adam’s hands like, the hands that worked Eden, that later wiped sweat from a toil-weary brow? Or Eve’s hands? Hands that cupped the forbidden fruit which later held the first nursing baby. Rebekah’s hands dressed her youngest son, Jacob, in goatskins for the purpose of stealing a birthright. Moses’ hands carried the Testimony down the mountain, down to the idolatry, and then those tired hands smashed those burdensome tablets. Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the bull as it was slaughtered on behalf of the people, a burnt sin offering.

Hands work. They don’t dangle at the ends of our arms just along for the ride. They’re the work mules of our bodies, always moving, always a part of the action. Hands give directions and suffer paper cuts. Hands hold on tight. Hands raise in worship.

The Lord establishes the work of our hands (Psalm 90:17), and I pray this verse when I administer a spanking, that the discipline reaches the heart. Without the Lord’s blessing, what good is all the toiling of my hands? Meaningless, as so well put by Solomon.  At the end of my life I want to hear the words of Moses, “The LORD your God has blessed you in all the works of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast desert. The LORD your God has been with you and you have not lacked anything,” (Deuteronomy 2:7).

The hope is that because of the work of His hands, we will hear those words. His hands fashioned all creation, and “in his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind” (Job 12:10). His hands were nailed to a cross, and that “work of his hands” is faithful and just (Psalm 111:7). His nail-pierced hands are the hands that made us, that hold us. His are the hands of which we can confidently pray, “Into your hands, I commit my Spirit; redeem me, O LORD, the God of truth” (Psalm 31:5).

Picking Your Life Up Off the Floor

It was the end of a long day in which frustrating events had strung together like beads on a necklace, an ugly mismatched necklace I’d only be wearing in a fashion nightmare. We were having cereal for dinner. In the midst of sternly voicing frustration over something child-related, I spilled the Life on the floor. Our favorite cereal strewn across the linoleum like a peace offering scattered on an altar.

As I knelt to pick my Life up off the floor, my two-year-old offered his version of help (which resembles hindrance more than aid). While separating the Life from the dirt and grime, meaning came marching into the mundane. And here was the deep revelation: I’d much rather be picking Life off the floor literally than figuratively. My relationships are in order. My finances are in order. My health is in order. My house is in order, more or less. If you can’t cry over spilled milk, you certainly can’t cry over spilling something dry and easy to pick up.

When life gets spilled out (jobs or health lost, relationships busted, property damaged) we can respond in two ways. Most often, we put on our work clothes and do some cleaning – spiritually, relationally, whatever. We reorder our hearts and minds. We try harder. And usually, to our dismay, things just get more complicated.

Jesus looked at a stressed-out woman who was employing these very tactics and said (lovingly, I’m sure), “‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her,’” Luke 10:41-42.

Two Greek words are used to refer to Martha as worried and troubled, and bother imply emotional anxiety. Martha’s concern goes beyond the annoyance that Mary, a female, is sitting listening to Jesus instead of helping to prepare the meal. Martha is deeply upset about something. Her heart is simmering anxiously. Jesus sees into her spilled life and speaks of Mary’s choice, not to put Martha down, but to show her another way.

Mary’s humble way is an admission of need. Whatever was bothering her in life, she set it at the feet of Jesus. She listened. She ceased activity. She took advantage of the moment when Grace was present.

How do you pick your life up off the floor? Like Martha or Mary? With dependence on human effort or God’s grace?

I felt like Martha in that moment of gathering expensive name-brand cereal off my floor. I was like a frantic mother hen working to keep a grip on things, to maintain control at the end of a wearisome day. I had another choice. I could (metaphorically) sit at the feet of Jesus. I could quiet an outwardly chaotic moment with an inner submission to grace.

There is a better way than striving. And that better way has a promise attached to it. Jesus told Martha that Mary’s “good part” would not be taken from her. When we choose grace, it sticks. It doesn’t go away and no one can snatch it from us.

Why is there an empty baking powder container with a straw in it sitting in my fridge?…and other questions you ask when you live with small children.

Why does it smell like onion grass in my daughter’s bedroom?

Who broke my headband?

Why are my piano keys sticky?

Where is my spatula?

Who wiped all these boogies on the wall?…and who will clean them up?

If you have children, or have been around children, you know that anything is a toy. And any toy can be used for any playful purpose, aside from its intended function. A regular old Tupperware becomes “Lamby’s night-night box.” And thus, while walking through the store, my daughter exclaims, “Look at all the night-night boxes!”

Instead of a guardian angel watching over me at night, I have Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer tucked between the headboard of my bed and the wall. And sometimes, keeping company with him is Hello Kitty, Bearsies, and Ducky. We feel very safe at night with all that attention.

I wonder why we don’t retain that amazing capability for imagination. What would the world be like if we could keep hold of our childhood creativity while maturing into responsible adults?

I’m fascinated with brain development, not that I know much about it. But I do know that during late elementary years or early middle school years, a child’s brain begins to function more abstractly. I think it is during this time when lots of our creativity says, “bye bye! It’s too crammed in here for me!” Suddenly, we’re thinking about deeper issues. We’re studying why things happened in history, not just what happened. We’re beginning to internalize financial burdens or joys, sports failures or successes, how musical and artistic talents, or other abilities, affect our identities. And we realize we actually have identities. Life becomes more than, “Let’s play!” Life becomes, “Let’s think.” Or for some, “Let’s worry.”

There’s a part of me that mourns my forever bygone childhood. I yearn for that freedom when I wasn’t worried about mortgages, job security, or relationships. I was loved and I knew it. What more could a child want?

Sometimes, when I lay in bed quietly at night, I remember being little. I think of the family vacations we took, I remember learning to play basketball with my dad, practicing the piano with my mom beside me on the bench. I remember the contentment of simple silliness with my sister. And with these memories, something cries inside my heart. Time is a back-stabbing friend. You look ahead to future days, but after you’ve lived through them, you miss the past.

I don’t write these things to sound melancholic. I had a wonderful childhood which I’m trying to recreate with my children. But I do write these things to think about Christ’s words calling us to a childlike faith. This is good news, that we don’t have to set aside childhood. We may gain responsibility, which is inevitable, but Jesus gives us the excuse to be childlike.

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  He called a little child and had him stand among them.  And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:1-4

A child knows his need. She is not afraid to show affection. He is not side-tracked by “important” things. She willingly accepts truth from those she trusts. Can we be these things in our relationship with the Lord? Will we allow ourselves to remain unburdened? He has promised that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. Will we seek out his affection and delight? He’s given us the freedom to be innocent and full of wonder before him. Let’s not throw away that opportunity.

It’s a Long Road and a Steep Mountain

Passing the field where last year’s Easter egg hunt took place, my four-year-old daughter said, “Next year we’re going to have an Easter egg hunt again and I will go.” I asked her what Easter meant. “Honey, we haven’t had it for a while.” Yes, but what does Easter celebrate? “Eggs and candy.” I sigh. Has she not been listening? One of her favorite bedtime stories from her children’s Bible is the empty tomb story. I explain again, “Easter means Jesus is alive. Jesus rose from the grave.” I ask another question, “What does Christmas celebrate?” Silence. I sigh again.

Raising children to understand matters of the faith is a road of reiteration and reminders. It’s a long road, one foot in front of the other, one hand on the side of the mountain to keep from slipping. Occasionally the right answer seeps out and our hope sparks to life, only to be dulled when the next day, confusion and creative theology persist.  Jesus must have felt the same way with his disciples. Even when he came right out and said in plain words, “the Son of Man must suffer and die”, his disciples didn’t get it, and this right after they proclaimed him the Christ.

We think we get it now. We’ve read the Bible for years. We are the teachers, our children the disciples. In reality, on this long road of faith we’re only standing a short distance ahead of our children. Sure, we’ve grown up into abstract-thinking adults who can comprehend the deep message of the Gospel. We know the Sunday school answers. However, for us finite beings, the knowledge of the Lord is infinite and the long road prevails until, as Paul writes, “we see clearly face to face.”

Subtle lessons of character catch us off guard. When I got married I realized how selfish and independent and controlling I was. After struggling through that, I checked it off my list as character learned. And I forgot. Then I had a child, and suddenly I realized I was more selfish than I thought I was at first. It’s a sweaty job, character building.

When we have that proper perspective, that the journey continues up to eternity, this character building seems more manageable. We can buckle down for the long hike, settle into endurance mode, and grow alongside our children. All that reiterating and reminding actually strengthens our own hearts. Whereas our children glean the basics as we read them Bible stories, we capture the subtle. Fresh nuances plough deep into the forgotten places of our hearts, the hidden hurts, the proud routines that run our lives. Lessons of faith are learned more than once.

Why I Am A Stay-at-Home Mom

One December afternoon when my daughter was ten months old, I went to get her up from her nap and found her wrapped in colored lights, a human Christmas tree. Apparently, attracted to the multi-colored display on the windowsill, she had reeled them into her crib.

What keeps me home day after day, tending the needs of my children, is not some ideology of motherhood or the lack of desire to pursue a career outside the home. I am a stay-at-home mother for two reasons. One reason has brown hair and large eyes, stands 40 inches high, calls everyone “honey”, and announces to strangers that she has a “poop chart”. The other reason has blonde hair, throws his food off his highchair, and cries when he cannot follow his daddy out the door each morning.

I could expound on my philosophy of parenting or state statistics to support the consistent presence of a mother inside the home. But would you be convinced? And is there even a right position? Beyond the arguments for stay-at-home mother versus career mother is my delight in the presence of my two children, Faith, four, and Silas, 17 months.

I definitely do not stay at home for the luxury of sleeping in and reading books all day. I put the pans back into my cupboards at least five times a day. I usually fold my laundry a second time after a pair of little hands undid the first try. Vacuuming my small house takes twice as long as it should because my boy is attracted to the light on the front and plops himself down for a closer look. Why do I even bother to sweep and mop our dining room? Watering the flowers usually does more harm than good because someone is “weeding” while I’m not looking. This is all how it should be, isn’t it? Little people exploring their world. Having a few minutes to get something done is worth a small mess.

Some days being a stay-at-home mother is akin to refereeing a rugby match. My son attaches his pudgy hands to my daughter’s dress and drags behind her as she quickly tries to shove him off. He falls down only to jump up, laugh, and pursue his irritated sister again. He steals her favorite “lamby” and runs in the opposite direction. She screams and pursues him. I pursue them both, trying to keep my voice calm.

Amidst motherly frustrations of fighting children or naughty words, it’s easy to dream of the days when diapers will be bygones and manners will be firmly established. Sometimes when I’m out with my children an older person will remark, “Enjoy them now, they’ll be gone before you know it.” I think, Do you have any idea of what daily life with young tots is like? The work of insuring my kids are learning to love, growing in character, not harming each other, and not destroying something? Sure, in hindsight everything appears rose-colored. In the present moment, motherhood is work, and progress is elusive. In the minutes and hours of a day mothering can seem like running a marathon, but over months, seasons, and years, the emotional, spiritual, and physical growth of my children are unmistakable. I need every moment of every day, however challenging. I’m not able to do the quality of mothering that I desire in a couple of evening hours when children are often grumpy and vying for attention.

Sometimes in life less is better – less fat calories in my diet, less stuff cluttering my house. However, sometimes more is better – more wipes for a messy poop, more “I love yous”, more time with my children. If my daughter had been napping at a day care center, would I have had the pleasure (and horror) of seeing her all lit up with the glory of Rockefeller Plaza? The precious experiences that might get missed or crowded out by my working outside the home seem innumerable: watching my son take his first steps, teaching my child to write her name, watching my son play with a sweet potato as if it’s a ball, laughing at my daughter’s marker-tattooed arms, feeding carrots to my son (ducking when they come spewing out), or making sugar cookies with my daughter (cringing when the sprinkles cascade like Niagara Falls all over the dough). Make-believe tea with a four year old is more rewarding to me than coffee with a boss. Showing my children how to plant seeds in our garden out-values growing in my career. Hearing the humble words, “Honey, sometimes I make mistakes,” from my daughter is more joyful than a promotion. I only have so many hours in a day, and days in a week, before suddenly, I’m the woman remarking, “Enjoy them…” to the young mother at the store.

I won’t deny that I battle internally over my worth and question if I am using my abilities and gifts to the fullest. After all, I spent three years getting a master’s degree only to promptly have two children. Even so, when frustration outweighs joy and I’m tempted to trade places with my husband (wouldn’t that be a good joke on his employer if I walked in and announced we were switching places for a day?), I remind myself that staying at home with my children is a season. Time isn’t static. It can’t be captured like a photo and kept in a solitary position. It changes, and it’s irreversible. Making the sacrifice now, in this moment, to be with my children daily, won’t mean that future moments won’t be spent working outside the home. It does mean that the memories I have of my mother staying home with me will be replicated with my children.

As for seasons, many of the dreams that burrowed into my heart during my early twenties are still hidden and dormant. Not dead, just awaiting the proper time to emerge. Coming up too soon, like an eager daffodil, could result in frost-bitten failure. The beautiful blooms in my garden now are the delightful moments of motherhood: singing to my son before nap time, reading to my daughter, wiping tears, bandaging cuts, and cuddling – lots of laughing and cuddling.