My seven-and-a-half year old sat near me as I typed quietly yesterday. His Hot Wheels were performing gravity-defying stunts; he rather violently hummed the Cars 2 theme song, replete with adrenaline-loaded sound effects, of course–over and over. And over. I almost quietly asked him to please desist. But then–I realized my Hot-Wheels-overlaid-with-Cars-2-soundtrack days are kind of winding down. (Sniff.)
Keep hummin’, buddy.
See, when our little band of six hefted our lives over to Uganda five years ago, that kid was two and a half. As in, resolving the evasive bits of potty training, still saying cute stuff like “she’s cuttin’ chabbage in the chitchen”. Still napping with me, his sweaty, boy-smelling blond head tucked beneath my chin after we read a stack of picture books (the new Little Engine that Could being one of his favorites).
My oldest was seven at the time (the Hot Wheels phase). And now—as we fold into suitcases (less-than-neatly, and with tears) our our lives here—he turns thirteen this summer. Thirteen, folks. Does that set off any nerve-jangling alarm bells for anyone else?
So I’m not just packing up Nerf swords over here; I’m wondering which of our beloved picture book collection will make the cut. The majority of our “golden years” with our kids—that lovely stage between potty training and the teens—has been blooming here beneath the African sun. Man, I’m not even a “young mom” anymore, for better or for worse. I’m pretty sure now that I’ve hit 36, I’m just a mom. (If you’re ever “just” a mom, right?) I’m chugging toward a new phase of motherhood.
I think I can. I think I can.
There have been these little griefs along the way, as I zipped up a season for good: Like the day when I realized we weren’t likely having any more children. When people read my obituary, it probably would only read the names of these four kids. Now, that did mean my toddler years—those aptly described, “The days are long but the years are short”—would finally blend into years when everyone could go to the bathroom by themselves, shower, and brush their own teeth. Nice. But that also meant my daughter—the only cuddly one—would not be wrapping her petite, tanned legs around my waist and laying her walnut-colored curls on my shoulder.
As my mom wisely, affectionately said, I’ve enjoyed every stage with my kids.
I remember once, on a solitary walk in the morning with my camera, glimpsing—and attempting to capture with the clever black box in my hand—the remarkable grace of a blue heron. It was a slice of the sublime amidst the trash (and even a dead rat, once. Overshare?) that garnished the road where I walked daily, hoping for a glimpse of otherworldly loveliness. And as I happily flipped through my shots, I’d caught it: her S-curved neck; her smoothly-tucked, slate-colored wings.
Now, any photographer worth her salt checks her background. But I was startled, there in the photos, by the distinct normalness from which the heron had drawn my eyes: that cinder-block wall behind it. Oh, and the volleyball standard (i.e. tire filled with cement and skewered with a pole) leaning against the stately tree that looked so beatific each morning.
As I think about Moses’ brash, awe-stricken prayer, “Please show me Your glory,” perhaps beholding that glory is about actually learning to see. If the “eye is the lamp of the body” and “if your eye is healthy your whole body will be full of light”—perhaps that’s why our gratitude, our ability to zoom in on the breath-stealing God-ness in every season—is so tied to our worship. Perhaps it helps me twist my heart’s lens to the beauty God’s been creating all along. In every season.
That morning, completely unrelated, I felt impressed to pray that I’d see the work God was doing in my kids right now–not just when–aww!–thumbing through photo albums of these years. I asked to see beyond the frustrations of the everyday—beyond, to the good work God was creating in them. As I reflected on this, I thought, Show me Your glory. Show me what You’re up to—and have been for awhile—all around me. In everyday grittiness, grant me snapshots of You.
This week, may you hear and bask in the Cars 2 soundtrack just a few moments more.
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