from the Spring/Summer 2015 edition of Reflections magazine. For more from that issue, go here.
by Mary Carolyn Watson
One of the most vivid memories I have from this past Christmas is sitting in the living room with my husband and our two small children (ages one and three) awaiting the arrival of my mother from the airport.
She’d called to tell us when she’d picked up her rental car, and suggested that she might get checked into her hotel first before coming to our house to see us. “Oh no,” I’d replied. “Please come right now, the sooner the better.”
During the 15 minutes between that phone call and my mother’s knock on our front door, my husband and I sat on opposite ends of our sofa, each holding a squirming child (ages one and three) on our lap, so that all of the effort and time we’d spent cleaning and decorating our house might be seen and appreciated before our two little angels of chaos and destruction undid it all in a matter of minutes. Sure enough, within half an hour of my mother’s appearance, our small Christmas tree had been toppled over, baby Jesus was missing from our manger scene (later to be discovered floating in the toilet), and my youngest had managed to bite off Mary’s head (another figure in our ill-fated crèche).
Certainly small children are blessings as they enrich our lives in countless ways and give parents a profound sense of purpose. Sometimes, however, such abundance can seem overwhelming. I’ve come to think of parenting toddlers as a Sisyphean task. No matter how many times you pick up all the toys and books and put them away, they will always reappear again all over the floor (often within a matter of minutes). In the midst of raising small children, it is not always possible to reduce the clutter or commotion in your daily life.
Rather than trying to attain the unattainable, I am instead learning to embrace the blessings that my current reality holds. To find the holiness in all the mess and the constant cacophony of little voices. To feel gratitude for little sticky fingers that reach up to grasp my hand (or my clean shirt) and for small heads that nod off to sleep in my lap. To have my own sense of sacred awe rekindled by witnessing my one-year-old’s endless curiosity and delight in the seemingly mundane. Just yesterday, she was completely enthralled watching several birds fly around our backyard. The miracle of flight is amazing.
Such abundance can also serve as a guide, helping me to discern what really matters and what does not. It is in the small moments of my day – curled up with both my girls reading a book, or watching them build a tower out of blocks – that I often feel God’s presence the strongest. Completely ordinary occurrences and yet also divine.
I’ve lived through enough chapters of my life to learn that abundance comes in many forms. Even though I subsisted on a shoestring budget during my early and mid-twenties, I enjoyed an abundance of free time and friends. Now as a wife and mother in my thirties, I have an abundance of household responsibilities but also a deep and abiding sense of fulfillment at the end of most days. I do not know what future decades will bring but trust that God will provide abundantly what I most need at that time.
Mary Carolyn Watson is a writer and stay-at-home mother. She lives in San Antonio with her husband and two daughters, where they attend St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. Reach her at email@example.com
Questions for Study and Reflection
1. Whether or not you have small children in your life just now, what are the small blessings you are privileged to enjoy every day?
2. What helps you to discern what really matters in your life and what does not?