So many things clamoring. So much demanding attention.
I don’t know about you, but my personal life is a roller coaster.
Surgery in January. A close death in our family. Homeschooling three kids. Graduating a senior.
Just doing dishes has been a challenge. I’ve been sleeping under a pile of waiting-to-be-folded laundry at the end of my bed for a week. It’s kind of like another blanket.
The last couple of months were a blur as life and errands and kids and tasks and grief and joy rushed by.
And then, one night this week, it rained.
Like, really rained.
The sky poured. Pounded on the roof and on my windows, the most comforting sound.
I put on new flannel pajamas. I picked up a mystery that I had waiting by my bed and climbed under the covers. And the laundry.
The dark and the rain and the novel and the blankets wrapped me up in a beautiful pause. I needed this.
I heard little feet and looked up.
My youngest stood next to the bed in her pajamas, holding a teddy bear and a worn copy of The Secret Garden.
She looked at me with big green eyes as the thunder rolled.
“You want to join me?” I asked her.
She smiled a little sheepish smile. And jumped on the bed.
We pulled up the down comforter and read in the lamplight.
A few minutes later, my husband came in. He lay down next to us and put on his glasses and started reading the news and checking the weather.
It was a perfect family moment. I smiled and read on. My mystery turned a corner. I shivered.
And then my head jerked up.
I looked over at my husband, sleepy and checking on all the things.
I looked at my daughter, head on my shoulder, teddy held tight, book in hand.
I looked out the window, the dark night, the rain drizzling down the glass.
And I looked around my room.
I felt solid and slow and electrified and aware all at once, like time folded in on itself and expanded simultaneously, the two ends of time swelling out and meeting like a ribbon or an ocean wave, right on top of me in my bed.
That’s the best I can do to explain it.
Arrested in a moment. Time stopping, but speeding up, and you have to grab it to make it count.
Once, when my oldest daughter was a toddler, I sat in the floor with her in our living room, playing with a puzzle. I was like most young parents, I think, in that I wanted to play with her, but I had a list running through my mind of all the other things that needed to be done. Clean the bathroom. Make some phone calls. Go to the store. Start supper. And laundry. Always laundry.
I loved watching the careful way she picked up the pieces, how she tried to put them in place with fingers that didn’t quite know how to do what she wanted.
I loved the way her hair curled over her round pink cheeks and the serious expression on her baby face. Intelligence incubating in sweetness. Pure vulnerability trusting me to teach her independence, the paradox of parenting. Precious, perishable time.
But the to-do list. It nagged at me. My own need for busyness. I felt restless, but I hadn’t yet let myself run away.
Lily looked at me, frowning, and held out a piece of the puzzle.
I reached out to take it, and over her shoulder, I saw the stop sign on the corner outside my window.
And that thing, that Minkowski spacetime thing, it happened again.
Time stood still, and yet I could feel it racing on, straining against the clock. Everything froze and blurred except the sign, and it grew larger and clearer and threatened to outshine the sun.
Huge and clear in white letters on a bright red field in front of my eyes.
And I felt a buzzing like a light shock from an old refrigerator, and yet, also, a first-waking morning drowsiness. An awareness, and yet a stillness.
And I looked at her. And back at the sign.
And I stopped. And I told myself–it can wait. All the nagging to-dos. They could wait.
And I looked at at my daughter as through a frozen glass, she so clear, and misted white light all around her.
It’s a snapshot in my mind.
Like the other night.
The rain and the books and the dark windows and warm blankets and my husband and my daughter.
A perfect moment.
Stop and seize the time.
If you haven’t done it in a while, do it now.
Stop. Really stop. Lay down your phone. Put down the coffee and the stuff in your hands. Take a breath. Feel your feet, they are cold, or they are warm, in socks or shoes or bare on the floor. Be aware of your shoulders, your forehead, your scalp, all the parts of you that get forgotten in all the hustle of all the days.
Who is in front of you? Look. See. They are there for a reason, a divine appointment.
God, what would you have me do? What do they need? He is beautiful. She is beautiful.
Thank you, God. For my feet. For my hands. For this moment. For the sensations, pleasant or unpleasant, that let me know that I am alive, stirred, charged, tingling, electric.
Seize life! Eat bread with gusto! Drink wine with a robust heart. Oh, yes! God takes pleasure in your pleasures. Dress festively every morning. Don’t skimp on colors and scarves. Relish life with the spouse you love each and every day of your precarious life. Each day is God’s gift–it’s all you get in exchange for the hard work of staying alive. Make the most of each one! Whatever turns up, grab it and do it. And heartily! This is your last and only chance at it, for there’s neither work to do nor thoughts to think in the company of the dead, where you’re most certainly headed. Ecc 9:7-10