Windowsill

WindowsillCompared to a handful of brilliant students and colleagues, I write poetry with neither frequency nor remarkable talent. Still, sometimes, every other year or so, it happens. Because sometimes prose would take too long, and there are moments that require only a few words, written over and over again. This week has elicited many moments like that, but I’ve chosen to write only about this one.

 

Windowsill

Standing by the windowsill you wave your arms,

your strong voice shrill.

And “Up!” you cry and turn around,

your small feet anchored to the ground.

And you learn day by day that you’re not so tall,

like the rest of us,

though you’re by far the best of us,

you see less than us

because you’re only what? Two feet?

Maybe three, but no more. So you’re little, my dear,

and you can’t see so far.

You can’t see it all, and it frustrates you,

the all of it, the too small of it,

not tall enough to see what you want,

what you don’t even know you’re missing,

just that something’s missing

and you’re wishing that somehow, anyhow,

you were able to fit in, to see out,

to peek over the walls of your too-small world.

 

You always wanted to be bigger,

before you could sit up you’d figure

out how to roll side to side,

craning your neck to catch wide-angle view of the floor,

trying to score an extra few centimeters of sight.

Back then the flat of your head met the floor,

perfect fit, but you weren’t having it.

You wanted a round head and a round world

to explore on two feet. Now you’re two feet tall,

but still too small to see all you want,

because windowsills are still too high

and since walking wasn’t hard once you tried,

you wonder if you’ll learn to fly someday.

So you stomp your feet, toddler tantrum style,

the dance of mile after mile of tiny pants and open hands waving,

paving the way for your exploration.

You’re mad because you can’t see,

can’t be all you want to be, so you pout,

“Up!” you shout. I want to look out.

 

It’s not new, little seer,

feeling freer by the minute

as you look into the future

and out of the window.

Your tantrum is not one of a kind,

it comes from a mind that knows you well,

a mind that can tell of when I was younger,

biting my lips in anger,

laughing off danger and wanting whatever I wanted,

no matter how forbidden, no forest too haunted

for me to explore it. And the anger is quieter now,

as I bide my time and keep my own mind,

but it’s there all the same,

a layer of pain, a curtain of rage that’s softened with age,

into quiet breaking and a heart cracked and aching

for a glimpse of a world I’m still too small to see,

a place still beyond this world of you and me.

I still wave and cry “Up!” for a place to stand a see,

a windowsill to show what it means to be free,

to see orphans beloved, and refugees home,

to see wars all resolved and forests full-grown.

 

I stoop to lift you up to look,

your sticky hands splayed on the pane,

your nose pressed flat as I explain

the winter sunset and the snow,

the pastel pink and white below, our home.

I pick you up to see this place,

to let the sunset stain your face a shade of gold,

so we can hold this minute together,

the windowsill, the village cold and dim and still.

And I’m taller than you, but still small enough

that I wish for height, a wider view, a clearer sight

of beauty just above, beyond,

the hard hearts and closed eyes,

past shattered homes and quick goodbyes.

Not tall enough to mend or free,

there’s still a glimpse of good for me,

in a sunsets and a sippy cup, a curious toddler, crying “Up!”

For here you are, my windowsill,

my wider view,

my little girl.

 

Jet Lag

Monday night, 11:00 PM, and Luci has decided it’s time to be awake.

Only our third night back in Germany, it promises to be just as dramatic as the first two, when our one-year-old daughter wanted to roll around our bed for a few hours in the dead middle of the night, before falling sound asleep and three. We woke her at nine, but were certain she’d have gone on sleeping for several more hours if we’d let her. Timmy has taken several of these shifts already, and has online class in an hour, so it’s my turn. And in any case, none of us are really sleepy. Jet lag is no joke, my friends.

A few weeks ago, on the North American side of things, I did a little research on the matter, Googling “jet lag toddlers” as any 21st-century parent is apt to do, but the results were lackluster. “If you’re only crossing three timezones or less, for a week or so, you could consider just keeping your baby on the same sleep schedule,” one website helpfully suggested. All of the advice, in fact, seemed bent towards these scenarios: less than a week of travel, less than three timezones. Because apparently only a crazy person would venture out longer or farther with anyone younger than twelve. I guess we’re just that kind of crazy.

So now I’m sitting in the dark with a small person who doesn’t feel like sleeping and doesn’t understand or appreciate the darkness. I feel–but can’t see–her squirming around on my lap, trying to get comfortable. She squints across the room at the tiny green light on the speaker, peering at it with as much passion as Gatsby staring across the bay at the green light on his long-lost beloved’s dock. Anything to look at to stay awake.

It’s so easy to complain. Lack of sleep is high on the list of parent complaints, for me and for everyone, made even more egregious when we’re tired from travel and work and everything else. And other babies sleep, I sometimes whine to myself. (Not babies with jet lag, of course. They don’t sleep until they’re good and ready, from 3 AM to 12 PM, like tiny college students.)

Luci starts to settle down, whimpering and flailing less, with longer pauses of resting on my chest. I can feel her breath steady and slow, and her eyelashes stop fluttering against my cheek after a while. She’s asleep, but any attempt to put her down in her crib will start the process over for a while, so we stay on the couch for now.

I have a friend who often reminds herself (and me) that most of the problems she has come from a great deal of privilege, or blessing. I think about that now, sitting in the dark with Luci. At the risk of going full-Pollyanna on this situation, I consider the vast extravagance of good things ladled over us, producing this moment sleepless hour:

The capacity–both financially and, frankly, technologically–to return home for Christmas. Jet lag comes from something almost miraculous, the ability to travel around the world quickly, and the fact that we have access to it puts us in a position of privilege. What a gift to reconnect with family who just a century ago would be half-remembered faces in photographs, not living beings we get to see a few times a year in person, and much more often on the Internet.

The attic roof over our heads, at the moment collecting softly falling snow, and the radiator keeping the room warm and safe. I think about places in the world where mothers worry about their houses making it through nights filled with bombings, intruders and other terrors. Or about the mothers without homes at all, living uprooted and uncertain lives in faraway places and wondering how to protect their children in unfamiliar settings.

This now-sleeping child, so curious and adventurous that she’d rather be awake and wandering the dark house than have to sleep and miss anything at all. I think of friends who long for children, or those who’ve lost them. I try to imagine how I’ll feel in ten years, when she needs me less, or twenty, when her jet lagged nights may be spent somewhere else. These sleepless hours, with nothing to do but think and pray with a tired little girl, are an incalculable gift.

Of course I don’t know that when I finally put her down at midnight she’ll sleep for eight hours straight for the first time in… maybe ever. That’s another kind of gift, the unexpected kind. For now, with sleeping Luci and sleepless Mom, I’m thankful for what I have.

What Mary Knew

It’s Happy Hour.

Not the Happy Hour of years past, but Luci and I have developed our own five o’ clock rhythm lately, while Timmy is at basketball practice. Luci sits in her high chair in the kitchen, while I make dinner and serve her bits of small food, a few pieces at a time, which she likes picking up with both of her tiny hands and tucks away with astonishing efficiency. We used to listen to Disney songs or my favorite tracks from Hamilton, but now that it’s December we’ve turned to Christmas music. It’s a good time.

I’m a broad appreciator of Christmas music. I especially love the older, sacred hymns, whose convoluted syntax and vocabulary are as integral to Christmas as the voice of Linus reciting Luke 2 in the King James Version, but even newer tunes have their place. One song, however, awakes fresh ire each Advent, a 1991 ballad called “Mary Did You Know?” Because of the existence of “Last Christmas” and “Christmas In the Northwest,” it’s hard to say if this is my least favorite Christmas song, but it’s safe to say that “Mary Did You Know?” is somewhere in my bottom five.

The verses list specific miracles, which were doubtless a surprise to her at the time, but the majority of the song bends toward asking Mary, mother of Jesus, if she knew she was raising the Son of God. I don’t care for this song because it could end after the second line–Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?–with a resounding “Yes. I definitely knew.”

Though she perhaps couldn’t have anticipated the scope, Mary had ample information about the child she’d just borne in such peculiar circumstances. The angel Gabriel had filled her in on the salient details, that she’d conceive the Son of God by the power of the Holy Spirit, that she would give birth to the long-awaited Messiah (Luke 1:26-38). After Jesus’ birth Simeon, overjoyed to finally meet the promised savior, reminded her that this child would be “a light of revelation to the Gentiles” and “the glory of Your people Israel.” He even interrupted his own prophecy to turn to Mary with the ominous warning that “a sword will pierce even your own soul” (Luke 2:32-35). And yet Mary still “treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).

Though ignorance of what was happening might have been terrifying, for me the knowing makes Mary even more inspiring. Just a little more than a year into motherhood, I’m struck anew by Mary’s strength and humility in the midst of a challenging calling. It can’t have been easy, both before his birth and while raising a little boy, for Mary to know that she was raising the Son of God, who would become the savior of her people and indeed all humankind.

A weaker person might have regretted being told at all, and yet Mary responds to the angel’s news first with humility, asserting that she is a “bondslave of the Lord,” and then with deep joy, singing a beautiful song of thanksgiving. Though doubtless aware of the personal difficulties that this journey would cost her, Mary never made it about her, instead thanking God for the part that she can play in His greater story.

This is where Mary inspires me; whatever I’m doing, I recognize that the easiest way to tell the story is with me at the center. I’m teaching, I’m parenting, I’m living in this little town. I can become so obsessed with these vocations that I forget I’m a small but beloved piece of a much greater whole.

How much harder to live as Mary did, with clear eyes and an open heart, saying, “May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38), then rejoicing to participate in God’s plan for redemption. Perhaps what I’m actually doing with each day wouldn’t be so much different, but my heart would be, turned outward instead of inward, focused on God’s kingdom, not mine.

Walking

The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
And He delights in his way.
When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong,
Because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.

Psalm 37:23-24

These days are about walking.

Teacher preparation starts in two days, and school staff are filling our town and keeping Timmy busy with airport runs, moving help and welcoming new TeachBeyond colleagues. I’ve corresponded with students, cracked some genuine American literature, and listened to the Hamilton soundtrack a few times for good measure. As usual, listing out tasks completed and coming up makes it sound like August has been a busy month. It has, but mostly, August has been the Month of Walking.

Some of the walking has been practical, mundane, even… pedestrian. (Pun intended… I can’t help myself.) Though we’ve been blessed with the car of a former staff member, mostly we walk everywhere here. To the school, to the grocery store, to friends’ houses. We walk for fun, too, in the hills and forests and most often down to the creek. After driving an hour each way to Seattle for a year, speeding up and down Interstate 90, we’re getting used to a different pace of travel, one day at a time.

The more important walking, though, is done down near the ground, by a person just over two feet fall. More and more, our daughter has destinations–Walk to the chickens! Walk to the hall to chew on shoes!–but her walking is mostly for its own sake. Luci walks–arms raised for balance, eyes wide with curiosity and excitement–not to run errands or because she wants exercise, but because she can. She walks for the steps themselves, each one precious and more sure than the last.

And watching her walk, gaining new appreciation for the miracle that any babies, all of us at one point, ever learn to walk, I’m reminded of the many places in Scripture that we’re instructed on walking, our steps and God’s part in them.

And He delights in his way. I think about the great delight that we take in each of Luci’s steps right now, no matter where she’s going. Later, I’m sure we’ll love the metaphorical ones, too, reveling in the moments when she makes wise decisions or acts of kindness.

I think about these verses differently now than I have before. Not as an adult, for whom walking comes as easily as breathing, but as one just learning and the ones teaching her. Because we’re delighting in her steps, we’re holding her hand, sometimes guiding her path. And though the other kind of walking, the expert kind, has its merits, I’m glad of the reminder that on this journey with Christ I’m as new at this as Luci, that He delights in my steps and holds my hand to keep me from falling.

 

Yours Also Is the Night

One of us decided that it was time to be awake! (Guess which one?)

Yours is the day, yours also the night;
    you have established the heavenly lights and the sun.

Psalm 74:16

“I am one acquainted with the night,” writes Robert Frost. I know this poem–its images wet and grim, its refrain mournful and lonely–well enough to teach it, well enough for the few questions that appear on one of my tests. But I don’t know it, because for most of my life I haven’t been acquainted with the night at all. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve willingly stayed up from dusk through dawn. No college paper, let alone college party, was worth the loss of sleep. I just don’t like the middle of the night. For most of my life the night and I were strangers. Until now.

Now we’re getting acquainted, Night and I. We’re getting used each other when I wake up at 1:15 AM to the gurgles of an awake baby, check my watch, and sigh because it’s just not been that magic 5-hour stretch that I hoped it would be since I fell asleep. Since I’ve never been one for the dark hours, night to me is sitting in a chair in a dim room, rocking a baby to sleep. It’s not so bad, I suppose–I’m thankful enough for the time with my daughter–but it’s solitary and sleepy and some nights are much harder than others.

Night-owling college students and Las Vegas guests notwithstanding, nighttime has gotten a bad rap historically. In literature darkness symbolizes ignorance, deception, and evil, perhaps because in real life we fear literal darkness and the unknown monsters it hides. Somewhere along the way, we created binary associations. Day is Good. Night is Bad. God, obviously, must prefer daylight hours. So tough luck, cab drivers, nurses and new mothers: you exist in Darkness.

So it’s with a sigh of relief that I read Psalm 74 at bedtime: “Yours is the day, yours also the night; you have established the heavenly lights and the sun.” It’s not a revelation, but a reminder, conjuring nights of stargazing in the Alps or stirring up the milky phosphorescence in the inky waters off the coast of Vancouver Island. Anyone who’s been camping knows that no matter what animal eyes might glow eerily through the darkness, night is full of beauty and mystery, just as much a reflection of God’s love and artistry as its tamer, better-lit counterpart.

And whatever the Psalmist meant, burying this verse in a psalm about God as Savior, I hear more than just a God-of-all-seasons message here. After finishing the Daily Office reading, with Luci still not asleep, I scroll the day’s headlines. Terror in Belgium and Turkey, images we can’t avoid because we’ve seen them all too many times already. A political season full of petty squabbling at its best moments, disturbing hatred and disrespect at its worst. We’re living in Night, the metaphor.

I think of my tougher nights of late, frustrating for their loneliness and lack of sleep. They’re hard, yes, but at no point do I stand up, walk out, and say “I quit! I’ll be your mother again when the sun comes up.” Day and night, I’m a parent. I love my daughter the same ridiculous amount whether we’re sleeping or awake, whether she’s crying or giggling. The circumstances–the amount of light in the room or the hour on the clock–don’t change anything. I am still her mother, and I still love her.

And in the midst of this night–the headlines and the anxiety for the future–God is still our Father. Still powerful and loving. Still seeking our best, despite the darkness that surrounds us. Because, as another psalm reminds us, “even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you” (Psalm 139:12). Yours also, oh God, is the night.

An Experienced Novice

Luci and Timmy, waiting to board her third flight.

It’s hotter in Texas than we’d like. When we unfold ourselves from inside the narrow tube of the three-hour “express” from Norfolk, Virginia to Houston, we step onto the warm runway and breathe in the foreign, humid scent of February in the Lone Star State. Three flights down, one to go.

Living overseas, Timmy and I have become accomplished travelers. We are comfortable in airports, happy to while away hours reading, drinking coffee and peering out of windows on our layovers. Security doesn’t stress us out, nor do online check-ins or packing an appropriately sized carry-on. We’ve done this a lot. If travel were a video game, we’ve already mastered the levels of Traveling Alone and Traveling While Married (surprisingly tricky at points). I might even say we’re “expert” travelers.

Not today.

Today we’re novices on a new level: Traveling With A Baby. Not as much novices as we were two weeks ago on our trip out to Virginia, when we naively packed books and Kindles, thinking “So what if I have a baby on our laps for six hours? Once she sleeps, we’m going to read and eat snacks and listen to music like we always do.” Ha! Timmy and Kristi of February 13, how wrong you were.

Entering the terminal, the three of us find a mostly empty corner near our gate to spend our hour layover. Timmy goes to find lunch, while I lay Luci down on a blanket on the carpet. After a few minutes, ten small fingers and a pair of brown eyes appear over the top of the row of seats across from me. The inquisitive face of a small boy, maybe eight or nine years old, peeks over curiously at us, watching Luci kick her feet and laugh at the fascinating airport ceiling.

“I think your baby’s tired,” he remarks quietly. When I look up, he repeats his observation, afraid I haven’t heard him.

“You’re right,” I reply with a shrug.

“I think the baby’s cold,” he observes.

“No.” I shake my head, looking at Luci’s flushed red cheeks. “She’s hot. It’s too hot in here.” The boy shrugs, seeming nervous at my disagreement, and I find myself genuinely unsure what to do with him. Until recently I’ve only spent time with teenagers. Now I’ve added three-month-olds to my repertoire, but I suspect small boys are different than either. I’ll need to grow into this parenting thing, I think as the boy continues to watch Luci and I continue to wonder what to say to him.

We’re a culture that values expertise. Whether defining someone as a “professional,” or logging the 10,000 hours of practice that author Malcolm Gladwell claims will elevate you expert level, it’s mastery that we’re after, in ourselves and others. We’re known by what we’re best at. For me, it’s writing and chocolate chip cookies. The days I claim to be an expert teacher–I have put in the 10,000 hours, after all–are usually the ones when I spill my coffee on myself, argue with a student over something useless, and badly underplan my lesson. Expertise is elusive, but valuable.

Wanting to be an expert, I mostly try to rush past the novice stage as quickly as possible. I think back to training sessions at new jobs, times that I spilled lattes or engaged with the temper tantrums of disappointed ninth graders far longer than I should have. I so desperately wanted to be past the “learning curve” part of my work, on to the accomplished and productive work of a seasoned employee. It’s uncomfortable to be new, inexperienced, making the mistakes of the first-timers and hoping for a chance to do it better next time.

I’m an experienced novice. I’ve been a new barista, a new teacher, a new wife. Now I’m a new mother, a novice again. And this time around I’m leaning into the newness, trying not to rush. I won’t learn this overnight, neither the mothering nor the baby-transporting. It comes in steps. Baby steps.

We board the plane early, now part of the auspicious “passengers traveling with young children.” When we’ve found our seats and I’ve gotten Luci happily settled with an afternoon meal, I glance across the aisle at another early-boarding passenger. She’s elderly and silent, her eyes closed and her covered head tilted back. Timeless and austere, she looks out of place in the crowded plane. As the plane fills, it becomes clear that she doesn’t speak English at all. Her world is a fast and loud one, possibly unfamiliar and strange.

Luci’s first plane ride!

And as a novice mother, I watch her curiously in the moments when Luci is sleeping, quiet, or playing with Timmy. Has she done this? I wonder. How was it different for her? How was it the same? As has happened a few times in past months, I feel connected to her by an invisible thread, of motherhood or the potential for it.

Halfway through the flight, Luci decides she won’t sleep under any circumstances, not when screaming is so much fun. We avoid eye contact with everyone, trying various bouncing and pacifier tricks to please her. After what seems like forever, I pick up my water bottle and wave it slowly in front of her. Luci pants to quietness, blue eyes following the green bottle with interest. Across the aisle, another mother gives us an approving thumbs up. A few minutes later, I catch the eye of my elderly neighbor, smiling at Luci. Babies, across languages, are universally adored.

It’s humbling, just starting out, making mistakes that seem so big and making them in front of others. But if being a new mother has taught me anything so far, it’s that everyone has to take these steps. The mothers I love and respect, all of them, have been here already. Taking flights with babies, hypnotizing them with water bottles, one imperceptible step at a time walking towards the experts I admire.

Better and Better

Maugenhard baking with Ceramics Teacher and Dorm Mom

Ceramics Teacher and I were sitting on the counter at Maugenhard boys’ dorm, almost a year ago, two off-duty teachers waiting for cookies to bake and chatting with the dorm mom. We were pregnant, Ceramics Teacher a few months more than I, both excited and a bit skeptical of babies. Along with being the caregiver for twenty-ish high school boys, Dorm Mom was the successful mother of three children of her own, two in college and one a senior at BFA. We knew these kids, the bright and confident kind that lend legitimacy to any advice that comes from their parents.

And as the experienced teachers of teenagers, we needed reassurance as much as advice. Awash in the contradictions of Internet advice and the tales of our baby-overwhelmed peers, we had questions. We’ve been spending all our time with young people who are verbal, (mostly) rational beings; what will it be like to shift over to Babyland? How will we know what to do with them? Would we like them as much as we like teenagers? Couldn’t we just start with a five-year-old?

I’m remembering this conversation at Maugenhard as we drive down to visit Ceramics Teacher, her husband and now six-month old son for the weekend. The Pass is closed again, so we take the long way around, driving east instead of west. This road is wild and unfamiliar to me, having only driven it once before and never in the winter, so when we round a corner and emerge out of the fog, both Timmy and I gasp at the vista that unfolds. In every direction hills wrinkle around us, bare but for sagebrush and snow, a high desert that looks more like Central Asia than Washington State. Having come from the closed-in coziness of a hemlock forest, we drink in the massive silver sky and stoic hills, bathed in metallic winter light. This is beautiful, the best place I’ve seen in a while.

Drive 1I haven’t seen anything yet. Our drive takes us south, through a narrow snowy valley, where a steely stream winds between horses, not so much wild as lonely. Then comes a deep canyon with a wide river floor, where the sun shines off of vineyard-striped hills and red cliff, turning the water sunset golden as we make our way west. At every turn, the view is magnificent, each corner more stunning than the last.

Drive 2That’s when I recall what Dorm Mom told us, nervous mothers-to-be, all those month ago, talking about their first daughter as a baby. “I just remember she’d get to these phases when we’d look at her and say, ‘This is just the best. She could stay like this forever.’ And then she’d grow a little and we’d go, ‘No, we were wrong. This is the best!’ It’s different, parenting, but you’ll love it.”

Uncertain as I was last spring, I understand Dorm Mom’s sentiment now, with an almost three-month-old daughter. Better and better, every day new and surprising, and some stages so beautiful I wish I could snap them to a halt for a while. I think as we drive about how tempting it is to snatch at a moment or a season, imagining that I’ll never see anything better than what I have now. A year ago, I could have said that life was a beautiful as it had ever been up to that point. A good job doing that for which I’ve been called and gifted. A wonderful husband and a lovely home.

But staying–setting up camp at the breathtaking views or pausing infinitely in the beautiful moments–is seldom an option. Luci keeps growing, changing, and so do we. Perhaps I can’t imagine something lovelier than now, this, her. But there’s always more beauty, just around the corner, waiting to unfold as we follow Christ on the road ahead.

New moms and babies reunite!

At the end of the school year we sat together again, three mothers surrounded by gleeful, blue-robed graduates and munching on cake. Dorm Mom’s youngest son had just graduated, and was off to a prestigious college in the fall. How does it feel, we asked her, to have your youngest child off into the world? A new phase of life.

“You know,” she replied. “It’s good. We’re proud. But,” she continued, tears in her eyes and motioning to our two growing bellies. “I wouldn’t mind being where you are now. I’d do it all again. It’s just that good.”

Choosing Morning

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and all that is within me,
    bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Psalm 103:1-5

It’s about 8:30 AM when I decide that it’s morning. Decide, because the definition of morning that I’ve followed for most of my life–the time when I wake up and then need to start the day–doesn’t apply at the moment. The truth is, I wake up often, between three and… one thousand times during the night. Not all of those times are morning. And they’re certainly not all times to get up and begin the business of living in the world.

Upstairs, Timmy has been awake for hours, genially building a fire, making coffee and playing with Luci so I can sleep a bit more. I married a good man, I think, and then I look out the window, which looks like this:

Our bedroom window.

Our bedroom window.

No we haven’t moved into a basement. My parents’ house in the mountains, where we’re living this year, has two floors. Upstairs there are three small bedrooms, a living room and a kitchen. Downstairs is Grandma’s apartment, and our large bedroom. Downstairs there’s also about seven feet of snow on the ground outside, so our windows are rather obscured, further blurring the lines between day and night. A bit of daylight that trickles down the sloping bank, but from where I sit there is nothing else to see. Just a wall of blue-grey snow.

I think sleepily of the verses I read sometime last night, verses from the Book of Common Prayer’s Daily Office. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not his benefits. These benefits, the psalmist goes on to list: forgiveness, healing, redemption, honor and youth-renewing goodness. I think about how easy it is to forget such blessings, especially ones like forgiveness and redemption, the latent goodness we enjoy as a result of Christ’s sacrifice. Wishing for a bit more sleep, I’m forgetting the weight of goodness that awaits me each new morning.

Timmy brings Luci in now to eat breakfast, so I draw this warm, cooing little person close to me. She looks up at me, eyes wide awake, questioning my sleepy ones, then cranes her neck toward the light, a good day-dweller already. …Who satisfies you with good. This, I think, is good. Good that more than satisfies.

The upstairs windows bring new meaning to the glib command to “Get some perspective.” I never understood it until now, when I climb the stairs and look out of the second-floor windows onto the world. From here there are dark-green trees dressed in white, sharp walls of snow lining the road, and austere, wintry forests all around. Light snow falls from light-grey sky, and it’s morning. Real, genuine morning, and I almost missed it.

The front window upstairs

The front window upstairs

Choosing morning–both the real and the metaphor–takes effort. It can be tempting to squeeze my eyes shut on challenges, blind to the places of beauty in the midst of struggle.

It’s just as tempting to stay in the igloo-room, trying for more sleep, extending the night. There’s a time for sleep, yes, but this isn’t it. Coming upstairs means getting dressed, giving up on the night. But here, looking out of a better window on a lovely day, holding my wide-eyed daughter, I realize that the morning is worth it. Upstairs is worth it. This is the day, reads another recent Daily Office selection, that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice, and be glad in it!

And I rejoice in the noisy room, the coffee, the crisp mountain view and the family that awaits on this God-made day, sweet and new and waiting for me.

Miraculous & Mundane

Luci examines her first Christmas tree. She might think that trees just belong in the house.

No matter how far along our spiritual pilgrimage we may have come, we need to be shown time after time that humble ordinary things can be very holy, very full of God. We may hope for vision and revelations and wonderful experiences, forgetting that the context of the revelation of God to each one of us is, exactly where we are–here on earth, in this house, this room, this work, this family, this physical body.

Elizabeth Elliot, The Music of His Promises

“How is–?”

This is the beginning of every inquiry lately, as excited friends and family grasp for the appropriate finish to the broad question. How is life? How are you? How is everything?

Everything. As if everyone is aware of the fundamental sea change that’s shaken up our lives for the better, a hurricane in the shape of a tiny little girl who is in love with her own tiny hands and as I write this follows the swirling of the ceiling fan with round grey eyes.

Friends ask for stories from these days, and I realize that with a few exceptions I can tell them the story of every day. Some days we Go Places (capital-letters standing in for the serious quest presented by a trip to the doctor and Target), but most days go like this:

We wake up. Feed Luci. Change Luci. Dress Luci. Talk with family. Feed Luci. Change Luci. Take pictures of Luci. Eat breakfast, lunch, dinner. Read a story together.Feed Luci. Change Luci. Go to bed early. Try to coax our daughter to sleep through the dark hours of night. Eventually succeed and sleep a little. Feed Luci. Change Luci. Wake up again.

I realize the danger of simple sentences, written not spoken. From the outside, this day sounds at best dull, at worst cold and lifeless. A few modifiers would give it texture, no doubt, but there’s no escaping the cyclical nature of these days, Luci’s first in the world and our first as parents. Nor should there be.

If I were counting minutes, I’m sure I’d be amazed at the sheer amount of time that I spend feeding my daughter, or that Timmy spends bouncing her to cooing contentedness. Then there are the hours we spend just watching her, marveling at the way five expressions can pass over her face in a minute, going from pleased to curious to frustrated with remarkable smoothness. This is perfect. It doesn’t matter that it takes me three times as long to finish writing a blog, with breaks to eat and play on the floor with my daughter. This gift of timelessness is exactly how it should be. Our lives lately are an extravagant collection of moments mundane and miraculous.

(Mundane, I know, is a loaded term, conveying images of endless school lectures or days confined to alphabetizing files. Here, though, I return to its original meaning–earthly–rejecting the modern use as a synonym for boring. These days are earthly, connected to the incarnate realities of eating, sleeping and growing.)

The mundane of knowing that everyone was born, was a baby, has lived through these days of eating, sleeping and discovering. The miracle of knowing that everyone–even the seven-foot BFA alumnus who I saw a few weeks ago–started out in miniature, folded origami-style into someone else.The mundane of new rituals–diapers, nursing, bouncing, tiny clothes–repeated on an infinite loop. The miracle of knowing that everything she sees is new, fresh and exciting, just as she is to us, a whole and lovely little person we’re just getting to know.

To be a new mother during Advent is to appreciate, in a profound way, that Christ’s coming is this same balance of miraculous and mundane. The miracles of a virgin birth, an astronomical birth announcement, an angelic chorus welcome. The mundanity of infancy, with its deeply physical rituals and vulnerabilities. Our Savior could have come another way, maybe, with the pomp and circumstance due the Son of God, but instead He was born, like all of us, connecting Himself to the humanity He’d come for. The miracles remind us of His infinite divinity, but the mundane moments of His early life, especially, remind us that He is one of us, a man among humanity.

And like the sunset I take a hundred pictures of with growing amazement, neither Christ’s coming nor Luci’s ever-changing face are losing their luster. I can look at this smile a million times and fall deeper in love every day. And no matter how many Christmases roll around, I’ll still find beauty and wonder in the loving nearness of Christ’s birth, both humble and grand, miraculous and mundane.