I get up and pad softly across the room to pour myself a mug of coffee, pulling the pot out from the machine while it is still running and leaning over the steaming mug to catch a little extra warmth. Maybe I should risk going upstairs and waking the kids so I can grab a pair of socks from my room.
The world outside is rising slowly. The sky is barely light, more glowing than shining. It’s only 6:00am, and the cool morning has finally started hinting at Fall. Fall is my favorite season of the year. It’s a season that seems so full of possibility, full of new activities and new ideas.
I turn away from the counter with my mug and catch sight of my long, comfy sweater hanging on the back of a kitchen chair. My face stretches into a surprised smile of delight. I set my coffee down as quietly as possible, trying not to clink the ceramic against the tabletop, and I slide my hands into the knit sleeves. I wrap the sweater tightly around me and twirl just slightly.
This morning is getting better and better.
Sure, when I woke up at 5:15 to the cries of my 10-month-old, I was a little annoyed. Every day, I grudgingly set my alarm for 6:00 so I will have a few minutes to myself before my kids get up. I’m never happy to be woken even earlier…or to lose those minutes of solitude because my small daughter wants to wriggle around in my arms and crumple the pages of my book.
But this morning, instead of carting her to the kitchen with me after I fed her, I tucked her into bed with her daddy and padded downstairs to read A Moveable Feast. It’s my first Hemingway. I admit that a memoir set in Paris excites me an awful lot more than a war novel, so in all honesty, it might be the only Hemingway I ever read.
Now I settle onto the couch next to the window where the morning light is gently growing. I let my eyes slowly trail down the memory of Ernest and Hadley winning at the horse races and talking about a dear friend and walking to a restaurant they’ve always wanted to eat in. Their life seems small and simple.
And I wonder why my life, which is full of almost everything I could ever want, seems so unmanageable most of the time.
Dwelling in now is basically impossible. I have cultivated an adult version of ADD that means I am always worried about the next thing to do and always trying to manage more…so that eventually, what? I can rest? Because I somehow finished everything?
After a few minutes, I begin to hear Violet upstairs, making her Chewbacca noise. I’m sure her daddy isn’t too pleased that I interrupted his peaceful rest by assigning him wiggle-worm duty, so I reluctantly close my book and tip-toe upstairs to fetch her.
I am greeted by the biggest smile. The outstretched fingers. The breathy squeal of joy upon seeing Mommy. I swing her into my arms and she smacks my chest gleefully.
Downstairs, I attempt to placate her with Duplo people, and she calmly chews on their heads for three minutes while I sip my coffee and contemplate presence. I settle back onto the couch and gaze out the window at the sun-streaked backyard, pulling my knees to my chest and silently repeating to God my one-word prayer: Please. As in, please give me a little more time here. Please let this last. But it doesn’t.
This isn’t the morning I pictured when I set my alarm. This wasn’t what I hoped for when I rolled out of bed and came downstairs. But there is good in this moment.
Violet pulls herself up on the couch and grabs for my fingers, babbling something that sounds an awful lot like, “Hi, Mom!” She knows what she wants. She wants a walk. She will not be satisfied by standing on my leg to look out the window with me. So I climb off the couch and hold her hands high above her head as she takes tentative, little steps in her footie pajamas, sliding around on the hardwood floor.
I’ve been in a season of very physical demands for almost seven years. There is virtually no way for me to spend time being still when my children are awake. Baby Violet is into everything, and I must be vigilant to keep her from ripping pages out of Dr. Seuss books or pulling the oven door open. My big kids are full of questions and enthusiasm. They want me to be silly with them, to play in big, energetic ways. They have taken to wrestling me to the ground and sitting on my chest until I gasp with laughter.
Sometimes it’s wearying to give my entire body to these little people.
Time purely to myself is rare, even when everyone is supposed to be asleep.
I remember weeping in the car when Violet was about 2 months old, because Jake, my 6-year-old, had promised me I could get “a morning off” when Caitlin, then 3, went to preschool in the Fall. It was Thanksgiving. He was talking about the Fall that was 10 months away. And I burst into tears at the idea that I would have to wait 10 months before I could get a rest.
Fall is almost here now.
Caitlin is about to go to preschool. But, as I will be homeschooling Jake for second grade, there aren’t many mornings off in sight.
I probably won’t be rested. But in its place, I feel…peace. Certainty.
Maybe my soul can find rest even while I am working hard.
I wonder if that’s exactly what Jesus meant when he said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
Anyone who has spent time in Sunday School (or has experience with farm animals) can probably tell you that being yoked together does not mean one person kicks back while the other does all the work. If I am to be yoked to Jesus in order to find rest for my soul…then I will have to rest in the work He calls me to, the work He is already doing.
So I clutch Violet’s sweaty, little hands in mine and shepherd her around the base of the stairs. She twists her body to look up at me and I smile into her bright, brown eyes. I take in her gap-toothed grin and the sheen of drool on her chin; I listen to the exclamation points in her syllables.
It’s hard to see the rest inside of the work.
My hands are busy when I planned for them to be still.
But my soul is refreshed. Refreshed by her pure love for me. Refreshed by her cheerful persistence. Refreshed by the way she chuckles to herself when she gets what she wants—she loves being understood, loves being touched, loves eye contact. She laughs her pleasure and my heart responds.
It’s not the same as stillness and rest. But I feel lighter anyway.
This post was written as part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to read the next post in this series “Rest.”
Adrienne Garrison - August 17, 2019
I love where you took this piece, Melissa! This line: “If I am to be yoked to Jesus in order to find rest for my soul…then I will have to rest in the work He calls me to, the work He is already doing.” spoke to me deeply.