I’m writing this from a train, headed north to Oxnard for a work visit. I wrote a blog post on Sunday, but haven’t posted it yet. I had some stories to share, but what came out was more like a book review or scholarly article. It didn’t lead into the story I hoped to share. I tried to make it work, then gave up.
This is something I battle regularly. Most of my writing experience is scholarly. Give me texts to read, a topic to research, evidence to site, and a thesis to defend and I’m golden. But, I want this blog, and my writing in general, to be about life, feelings, what’s most important. When I’m in the “figure things out” mindset, it’s very hard for me to connect with my emotions. The same day that I abandoned the post referenced above, I continued reading my first Anne Lamott book – Almost Everything: Notes on Hope. So, in addition to wanting to read everything by Anne Lamott, I’m now inspired to write what I see, what is happening around me. She advises that writers need to pay close attention to their surroundings. This presence enriches both our writing and our lives.
So, here’s what happened. On Sunday morning, we got up early for church as usual. Dennis had the idea of encouraging the kids to get ready quickly by suggesting a Starbucks visit on the way to church. We have a drive thru Starbucks less than a half mile from our house, it’s dangerous. It worked; the kids got ready in record time! Mateo started whining about wanting the “big hot chocolate” instead of the kids’ size. I reasoned that the kids’ version is cooler and more reasonably sized, so he’ll be able to drink it on the fifteen minute drive to church. He relented eventually and I didn’t think anything more of it.
Also, in the drive thru, I noticed my Dexcom (continuous glucose monitor) reported that my blood sugars had been “in range” 89% of the time this week. That’s a great improvement over the prior week when I was still in holiday celebration mode and eating a lot more carbohydrates!
A little later, we were sitting in church. I had one child on each side of me and was cuddled up with Mateo just before the sermon started. Out of the blue, he whispered to me, “Mommy, I’m sorry I got so upset about the hot chocolate.” Oh my heart. I started to reply when he continued, “… and good job on your diabetes, Mom.”
Tears sprung into my eyes and I had to swallow hard. Telling him he was forgiven, I then took a deep breath and thanked God for this precious moment of connection.
Personally, I was coming out of another cycle of feeling disconnected, being fused with my thoughts, and generally not present in the moment. Over the previous several days, I’d been relearning lessons about the joy that comes from acceptance and presence. Moments of tenderness are the pinnacle of joyful connection. Mateo reminded me of that so poignantly.
Immediately after the sermon, is the collection. While I’ve been using our monthly bill pay to electronically submit our giving for several years now, I usually give Sienna and Mateo a few dollars to put in the collection basket. It satisfies the theological dynamic of giving within the service. As I started to hand Mateo two dollar bills, he suddenly said “Mom, I want to give my fifty dollars.” His grandma had given him $50 for his birthday the week before and I was carrying it in my wallet for safekeeping.
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“Okay. Really? You’re sure?” I said once more.
I handed him the fifty dollar bill and he promptly deposited it into the collection basket. He then smiled at me so sweetly, I could hardly stand it. I leaned down and whispered in his ear: “You humble me with your generosity.” He smiled and hugged me.
The book review that I haven’t posted yet (still deciding whether I will!) is about a great book – You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit by James K. A. Smith. In it, Dr. Smith argues that our loves are directed by our habits. When we cultivate habits that orient ourselves toward God, then we will seek God as our ultimate love and end. Any other secular liturgies become rivals and orient our loves towards worldly things that ultimately don’t satisfy us.
I immediately thought of the liturgical habits that we’ve slowly, over time, instilled in our children. The weekly giving of a few dollars into the collection, routinely confessing to one another, and forgiving one another. Our faith tells us that Jesus did everything to accomplish our salvation and we live under his divine grace. As such, we aren’t big on punishments or shaming the kids when they fall short. We’re big on hugs and loving one another. I apologize to my kids for sinning against them all the time. We are hoping to cultivate hearts of love, hope, joy, and service to others. Within these twenty minutes last Sunday, I felt such peace. Within twenty minutes, Mateo’s behavior and words felt like confirmation that his heart is being shaped toward loving God and relying on grace.
I am hard on myself and often feel like I’m falling short in many areas of life. These tender moments with Mateo were a reminder that God is the one doing the growing and shaping of my children’s hearts. I don’t have to do everything just right. Instead we can simply orient our family toward Jesus Christ, and practice faithful liturgies. God will take care of the rest.