Life in a polar vortex

Our faces when we looked at the forecast:

We’ve been living under piles of sweaters and fleeces and blankets, the heat is at 63 and it still runs almost constantly, and the cold literally takes one’s breath away.

I feel particularly grateful for a warm house this week, and especially that we are able to give our children a warm and safe place to live.

In other news, Drew is still the front page headline of the day, almost four months later, and all of the time that he is awake we spend watching him, laughing at him, or trying to make him laugh. Edith especially has blossomed into a sweet and helpful big sister. Both boys are so lucky to have her.

She treasured all these things

“…but Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”
(Luke 2)

I wash the pile of dishes that seemingly accumulated overnight. Can one breakfast really produce so many?

Sticky plates, stacked glasses, a crusty egg pan and a quarter-inch of coffee left in every mug. Cherry jam, scrambled eggs, toast crusts, orange peels, all signs of a meal eaten and enjoyed and then quickly left behind for whatever is next on the little people’s agenda.

My counter alone can create chaos in my mind and in my heart.

The water warms my hands. Children scramble up and down the big, wooden tower stool that is not just a stool, but in their minds, an airplane, a car, a drive-thru window. They are busy. I am busy.

I can feel busy all day, if I allow it. The needs are tyrannical, the wants desperate, the emotions all too sudden. I think they call this the trenches of motherhood. Three children, three and under.

She treasured all of these things.

I stop suddenly, quieted by this thought.

A journey to Bethlehem, no bed for her to give birth, a stable, labor, transition, pushing and bleeding and moaning, and then a baby. A star, angels, shepherds, this new baby to feed, to learn, to take care of. And all of this so far from home.

If anyone had reason to feel chaos and mess in her life and in her spaces, it was her.

She treasured.

My son comes in, eager to tell me about his project in the playroom. Almost every word that comes out of his mouth is double the necessary volume, and this morning is no exception. But I don’t notice the volume. I notice his chubby little toddler hands, more baby than child. I notice his eyes, bright and excited, and full of life. I notice his cheeks, his belly, the cute way he says words.

She treasured.

There is something to this treasuring and pondering. It quiets and slows down even the most chaotic and scattered of mornings.

I often wish we were given more glimpses of Mary’s motherhood. This is one of the few we have. When the angel came, she offered a perfect “yes,” a fiat of unreserved, open-handed willingness and receptivity to the Lord’s will. Whatever you ask, Lord. And here we have this image of Mary, quietly sitting back and observing, soaking in the scene, pondering the details.

She treasured.

Perhaps this treasuring is the symptom, or the result, of a heart and a soul given completely to God’s will. The peace and the quiet come in a resounding “yes” offered to God in the midst of all of these moments. Yes to the sticky fingers, yes to the bumped toe and the bruised forehead, yes to the moments of correction and discipline, yes to the request to read another book, yes to the interruptions to all of our to-do’s and all of our chores and all of our feelings of “I just need a minute.”

When we can look at these moments, and at these children, with a heart that says “yes” to God and to these little people, they become more than chaos, more than interruptions, more than the feeling that something is going to break and fall apart forever; they become treasure. They are a being, a moment, a chance to treasure and to ponder.

These babies, so full of life, so full of curiosity and delight, with little toes and fingers and with questions and curiosities and with the wonder of the world in their eyes, they are our own Christ-children. We all know the day-to-day chaos, the constant noise and interruptions, even the bigger stables and mangers in our lives, those places in our lives that are nothing like we planned or hoped. But in the midst of all of these, if we can only learn to say “yes,” we will see treasure.

I put down my sponge and follow my two year-old into the playroom. He shows me the eggs he is scrambling, and I sit on the floor, silently watching him break and pull apart the velcro egg halves, beating them in a bowl with a whisk.

And I treasure.

My little son

John Henry says the sweetest little “uh-huh” to assent.

Tonight, we are getting ready for his bedtime.

“Do you want to read a book, Bubs?”

“Uh-huh.”

We read the book, and he points out the “affe” (giraffe) and then leans into my arms for the wiggle that comes with the worm. After looking at the “shish” (fish) a few more times, we finish.

“Are you ready to go night night?”

“Uh-huh.” And he reaches to put the book onto the dresser.

He snuggles into my shoulder, my neck, one hand clutching his beloved owl, the other with his thumb all the way in his mouth.

I am struck by this moment tonight, and every night. My boy, my son, little enough to still suck on his thumb, who needs a little stuffed owl for bedtime, who wants to lay his head on his mom’s shoulder before I tuck him in.

He is so tender.

Last Christmas, he was still new. Having a little baby by the tree is magical. I thought of Jesus as a small little person, like he was.

But this year, I remember how Jesus was a son. I think of Mary with her little son and the Christmases after as she saw Christ’s own tenderness. One day, he would overcome the temptations of the devil and survive on nothing for 40 days. One day, he would enter Jerusalem as a celebrated hero and one day he would conquer death forever.

But first, he was just a small little boy.

What a privilege it is to be a mother, and to get to know a boy who will one day be a man. I get to see him at his smallest, his most vulnerable. I get to see him hugging stuffed animals and crying over a hard bump on the head. No one else will know him as I do.

Even as he grows up and outgrows me—the goal and sorrow, the joy and hope of every parent—I pray many things for him.

I pray he would be brave as Our Lord who carried his own instrument of torture through the city streets.

That he would love justice like Our Lord who turned over the tables of the money changers.

That he would be self-sacrificing as Our Lord who gave his body to be broken for His children.

That he would be humble as Our Lord who came to earth as a little boy, just as he is.

But most of all, I pray that he would be tender as Our Lord, the Lord who wept at the tomb of Lazarus and welcomed the little children into His presence.