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.

The folly of Christmas

Processed with VSCO with a9 presetIt is freezing cold today. I look out the window at the falling snow—always falling these last few days. My fingertips do not move as quickly, and I feel a cold breeze, even inside. I shiver.

But it is more than the bitterness outside that leaves me feeling uncomfortable, filled with unrest.

On the second day of Christmas, we celebrate a martyr.

December 25, the birth of Christ. December 26, St. Stephen, protomartyr.

The magic and warmth and peace that fills Christmas morning seems shadowed, darkened, by this day. I remind myself that “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” (Psalm 116) I remember that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” (Tertullian) I read in Acts this morning that even as he was still alive on this earth, Stephen saw the heavens open and the Lord standing there, perhaps with his arms open, welcoming His faithful servant home.

We might look on St. Stephen and see in him a great hero, which he was. We see in him the beginning of the Church, one of the first deacons, a man who evangelized the nations and taught the people.

But all I can see is his death.

A brother, a father, a mother. All lost by different friends at the end of this year. Two of those deaths were entirely unexpected, like the thief in the night.

My babies are napping upstairs. Only one of them is actually sleeping. I can hear the other little voice, talking to her dolls, her stuffed Star Wars droid, and her ballet shoes. Christmas for her was full of excitement and squeals. She hardly paused to look at one gift before she was ready to open another, whether it was addressed to her or not.

We had chocolate tahini rolls and coffee and salmon and orange hollandaise sauce. We played with new trains, read new books, and scooped many new (fake) ice cream cones. We lit candles and sang songs.

On that morning, it is easy to tell my daughter how full and hopeful all of this is.

But in the afternoon, a text came. My dear friend lost her father. So unexpected, so sudden. On Christmas day.

The afternoon seemed colder, darker. The harsh winds blew snow in great gusts up the sides of the house, across the recently-shoveled walks. Where is the Christ child now? Where is the thrill of hope, the rejoicing in a weary world?

The world simply seems wearier.

There are no easy answers for martyrdoms or deaths, for loss and grief. Somehow even on Christmas morning, the warmth of the stable and the brilliant light of the star can still seem so cold and so dark.

We had mass in our home on Christmas afternoon. A friend, a priest, who remained in town came over and brought Christ into our home. We offered the sacrifice for the soul of the departed. The light was waning and the shadows growing longer. Even on this day that should be so light but was still so dark, we sang “Glory to God,” and “Heaven and earth are full of your glory.”

And all I can think of, again and again, is this:

“But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.” (1 Corinthians 1)

It seems so foolish to hope on a day like St. Stephen’s Day. It seems so foolish to hope, even, on Christmas Day, when death and darkness press in all around us. My reason cannot answer all of my questions. It can’t even put them to rest, unanswered.

I need foolishness, and the foolishness of hope that Christmas invites us into.

A little baby is God, incarnate. Foolishness. The Savior of the World, lying in a manger. Angels appearing to shepherds. A virgin giving birth to a son.

A cross of wood redeeming the world. Death leading to life eternal.

Small wafers held in a human’s hand becoming Christ’s body. Wine sipped from a silver cup filling the soul with divine life.

All such foolishness.

But in a dying world, where else would we go?

“You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6)


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?”


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.

These days of small things

Processed with VSCO with x4 presetIf I don’t do it, it won’t be done.

Too often those words run through my head. And too often, the tone accompanying them is annoyance, frustration, and certainly a bit of exhaustion. My list of things to do seems nearly endless, and I never complete everything on it.

My bathroom rarely gets a good scrub. I vacuum far less than my home needs. I haven’t washed a mirror or a window in probably a year.

It’s more than just chores, though, that prompt this train of thought.

When my babies wake up impatiently and don’t want to wait another minute in their beds: If I don’t get them up, no one will.

When I’d rather take a nap than make dinner: If I don’t make us something to eat, no one will.

When yet another diaper needs to be changed. When the laundry needs to be folded. When mouths need to be wiped, blocks picked up, bumps kissed, and peanut butter and jellies prepared.

If I don’t do this, no one else will.

I’m ashamed to admit this is a complaint. Ashamed to think it, ashamed that I can sometimes resent this position in life, these days of small tasks.

We all have these moments, right? Whether we stay home with children, or go to an office full-time, or attend school. We all are faced with tasks that require us—and sometimes only us—to actually do them. These tasks ask us to have humility and a willingness to accept them and resolve to simply apply ourself to what is given. They are usually the small, unglamorous, dirty tasks like washing the extra coffee cups piled in the sink at the office, or cleaning the toothpaste off the vanity, or letting another car move in front of us in traffic.

If I don’t do this, who will?

I don’t want to stop thinking this. These words can be the opposite of a complaint. I want to think them and to realize the position I am in as I say these words.

These words present me, each time, with a beautiful opportunity.

These words indicate the greatest, most important tasks that are given to me. Truly, the tasks that I alone have been asked to do, the tasks that go overlooked or undervalued or forgotten altogether, are those that are richest with meaning. And the saints are those who fully accepted and embraced these exact moments.

Oscar Romero spoke out against poverty, injustice, and oppression. If he had not spoken, who would have?

Maximillian Kolbe volunteered to die in the place of a stranger in Auschwitz. If he had not volunteered, who would have?

Mother Teresa went to the Indian slums and offered its people love, and care. If she had not gone, who would have?

These acts of the saints sound like great acts, but in each moment, I am sure they were simply what must be done. If they didn’t meet the need they saw, who would?

If I don’t do this, who will?

That is a unique position, indeed. Even something as seemingly insignificant as changing a diaper offers the chance for me to meet the need of another human being. Making dinner, cleaning up toys, offering understanding and patience to my children. These are all small, daily moments, yes, but they are privileges that require me to accept them and embrace them with all that I am. For, indeed, I was made for these moments.

I must do this, for if I don’t, what else would I do?

(15:1) Mater Dolorosa


A new acquaintance of my husband’s recently suggested that he take 15 minutes every night to write. I took this suggestion to heart as I have missed writing but always feel like I don’t know what to say. While I don’t plan to share every evening’s thoughts, I thought I might share some. I am one to often start projects or have grand aspirations and then never follow through, but this is one that I hope (desperately plan) to keep. You are welcome to hold me to that!

Sunday, July 16
John Henry is sick with a high fever today. He spent the whole day sleeping on me, resting on me, whining on me. It is days like these that I am struck by the sheer uniqueness of motherhood—there is truly nothing else like it in all the world. My child is part of me: began in me, lived in me, even now grows from me. So much of him is me. He takes, and I give. He lives, and I slowly die. I feel his pains and his sadness and his discomfort in a way no one else does, for so much of him is me.

All of these moments as a mother make me think of Christ’s mother. Of course she felt as I do when Jesus was sick. She held him, and rocked him, and knew she would do anything to take away his pain. There is a special position, then, for women, for mothers. We can identify with Mary in a way no one else can. We have shared the love we feel for a child, the joy of their smiles, the heartache of their tears. And although we don’t know it fully, we can know in a distinct way the sorrows of this mother at the cross. Standing at its foot with the Mater Dolorosa, we can feel—although only a taste of the depth of her experience—the nails driving in, the spear bringing water and blood, the agony of her Son crying from a cross of wood. Such horror and such grief. Yet such a gift.

Be it done unto me according to Your word.

Throughout her life, Mary assumed an attitude of not mere acceptance, but gift. She does not just passively receive what comes; she presents herself—her womb, her breasts, her maternal heart—as offerings to the Lord. She gives to Him all that she is, she offers herself as a living sacrifice to God. And while she receives the greatest of sufferings, she also receives the greatest of rewards.

Oh, that I might be more like this Blessed Mother. That I might not simply receive what is given as if I am only a passive object of God’s will, but that I might open my heart and open my hands and offer all that I am for the sake of Christ, embracing His will as a small part of His great plan of salvation.

Speak, Lord, your servant is listening. Not my will, but Yours be done.