It’s dark and early and cold, snow piled in my front yard in heavy berms from Sam’s constant shoveling in the constant winter storming, my house a cocoon of sleeping children. I only make it out of bed before my kids a few times a week, and the silence is a rich reward. So is the hot coffee. And the silence, did I mention the silence? You could trade quiet as a commodity to people who live with small children, honestly; who needs bitcoins when you could buy or trade 30 minutes alone?
Christmas is just past, my table is lit with the candles I’ve been burning all month in anticipation of the season. I don’t know what we’ll do today. We don’t have many scheduled hours during these holiday weeks. Soon the baby will call for me from her crib, Sammy and Clara will shuffle out with bleary eyes, and we’ll begin our little life together again, easing ourselves into the routine of breakfast and questions and crane trucks and combing out curly hair and changing diapers, drinking warmed up coffee, playing in the snow, reading new books. Calling friends. Carrying ourselves through the hours of the day, trying to do what we’re meant to do, trying to keep up, trying to mean something.
Trying to mean something. Those words seem to be typed over our hearts from birth.
A few nights ago, as I nursed Audrey in my bedroom after a particularly chaotic evening and a disappointing day, I flung a desperate prayer heavenward. I couldn’t believe how badly I had done so few things, how many people I had left out of my loop, how many times I’d questioned my decision making abilities, how many untied ends my hours had produced. I’m more of an initiator than a finisher anyways, that’s a clear downfall of mine, but there are times when I go to bed by 8:30 at night because I can’t stand to face all the projects and ideas I’ve begun, with no clear path to an end in sight. So I bury myself in sleep and cross my fingers that everything will be different in the morning.
I’m a hider, through and through.
That night, Audrey warm in my arms, filling herself on my milk, I closed my eyes against the pressure of all my unfinished business and parenting mistakes and personal failures and cried out to God,
“I cannot be three places at once!”
I mean, I can’t. I try. But I can’t. And I needed to say it. I needed someone to know that I hate that pressure, to be and do and mean something; so I told God.
And then- this doesn’t happen all the time, and I’m sorry if it freaks you out when I talk about it- but then, God spoke back to me. Not like, a booming voice across my bedroom, shaking the lamps, but in a thought that didn’t sound like me at all, planted firmly in my head.
“Then be one place at once, Jessie.”
Be one place at once.
What a thought. Of course. One place. Wherever I am. That’s the one place.
I don’t have to hide when I only expect myself to be one place at one time. The pressure recedes. The demanding tide rolls back. I can breathe again. My failures, my shortcomings, my desperation to be and do; Those rising waters drain and I find my breath again.
This sounds impractical. Of course we must be doing many things at once, because we are many things at once. For me: mother, wife, friend, sister, writer, etc etc, of course I nurse a baby while I text you back and while dinner is in the oven and while answering a question from Sam and while contemplating what I’ll write tomorrow. Of course. The idea of being “one place at once” sounds ethereal, sounds like blog fodder, sounds like an idiotic bumper sticker.
When I find my life in Christ shockingly similar to a life outside of Christ, it always looks like this. Striving and struggling rule my thoughts. The voices of the world become my guide- “DO MORE. BE MORE. EARN MORE. SAY MORE. EXPECT MORE. CARE LESS. CLOSE YOUR DOOR. YOU MATTER MOST.” If there is any one thing I want to say with my life, it is the opposite of all that: It is to cease striving. To worship a true God, rather than the gods of my thoughts and my legacy and my comfort. To abide and be in one place at one time, always in the center of the One who whispers when everyone else shouts.
My kids are awake now, of course, it’s midmorning by now, so they’re watching a show while I write this. The baby is napping. I need to call my friend back. I need to answer an email. I have laundry to fold, meetings to plan, books to write. Can I, should I, do any of that? Can I, should I, dream and plan while living here, in this space, one moment at a time?
I don’t know, you guys. I have no idea. But I’m going to listen to that still small voice, because the message is such a relief. It’s the only peace I’ve found in a chaotic world.
Abide. Be still.
“Be one place at once.” Not two. Not three.