Whenever I sit in church and look out at all the people in the pews surrounding me, I can’t help but swell with emotion. My voice catches in my throat as I sing, my eyes water. I think about how vulnerable we all are here, admitting that we’re all broken. I see others wipe tears during worship, or bow their head in prayer, and I remember that every person has a story, a struggle, a challenge, a cross to bear. A room full of people who show up asking for help to be better and help to love others better. When I look around, I remember that this person is battling cancer, or this person’s son is struggling with depression, or that person just lost his spouse. Some of us are battling ourselves, wrestling with our faults, hoping to be loved anyway. As the choir’s voices echo against the towering walls, the sanctuary feels warmer. The building soaks up our worries, our trials, our tribulations, lifting it from our shoulders. Our load is suddenly a little lighter. And soon we are able to piece each other back together again.
I can’t believe you chose me.
Stars sparkle in the night sky above us, glistening like jewels. A chill rides along the breeze, carrying the sweet scent of hay. Beasts shift around us while murmuring their songs.
Joseph sits beside me, and we both stare down at our sweet child, wrapped in humble cloths, lying in a manger. My new husband is silent as he reaches for my hand.
Is he feeling what I’m feeling? This immense love swelling inside my heart?
Looking at my peaceful baby boy, my first-born son, I am overcome with love. It washes over me and warms me like the glow of stars above.
But with it comes melancholy. You see, all mothers must let their children go one day. Mothers birth, nurse and raise tiny, helpless babies, but one day those dependent babes grow up into independent adolescents… and they leave. No child belongs to his mother forever.
But my child, from the moment of his conception, has not belonged to me. He has always belonged to the world.
How could I let go of someone I love so much?
I wasn’t prepared for this. There were many questions I fretted over before this birth. Am I worthy of this role? What would Joseph think? Would he leave me? And what would it feel like to give birth? Would I ever recover from the pain? What if the baby cried so much and I couldn’t console him?
But I never questioned what it would feel like to give my child to the world.
So why did The Lord choose me? Am I even strong enough to raise the Son of God? I can barely look at his sweet face without weeping. My cherished child, so precious and fragile, so loved.
Maybe… maybe this what God feels when he looks at me.
Can God possibly love me as much as I love my sweet babe? I wonder, staring at his newborn chest rising and falling. Is that why he chose me? Is that why he chose all of us?
The sound of footsteps approaching shakes me from my thoughts. Joseph rises protectively, gesturing for me to remain near Jesus. From the darkness, men emerge, and from their clothing I can see they are shepherds.
Quickly they explain themselves to Joseph, who leads them to where I sit beside the baby.
When the shepherds see the swaddled baby in his lowly manger, they exclaim that this is what the Angel of the Lord had told unto them. They repeat the words Savior, Messiah.
I can hear the sheer awe and wonder in their voices as they behold my child. It is in this moment that I feel a sense of peace.
God chose me like he chose the shepherds. Like he chose Joseph. Like he chose Jesus.
Chosen from Love. Ever abundant, unconditional, eternal love.
I lift my baby from the manger, kissing his buttery-soft cheek, and show him to the men, who bow before him.
I try to memorize this moment, treasuring the feeling of my babe against my skin before the whole world comes to celebrate his birth. I breathe in his scent, listening to the quick beating of his tiny heart.
Thank you, I whisper, for choosing me so you could choose the world.
As I was combing tangles out of my daughter’s curly hair the other night, I caught a glimpse of us in the mirror. Her chubby two-and-a-half-year-old body snuggly sitting on my lap, perfectly fitting into the gap between my crossed legs. Her never-cut hair springing back into a curl after my comb glides through it. Her teeny kitten voice singing a made-up song. I remember standing in the first floor bathroom of my parents’ house as my mother sprayed “No More Tears” into my hair, combing away tangles as I stared at myself into the mirror, singing a made-up song. Even when I was young, as mother did my hair or let me play with her makeup, I had always imagined the day I’d spend “girly” time with my own daughter.
And here I am, every night after bath, combing the tiny knots out of my daughter’s hair.
It’s so simple, yet so beautiful.
We’ve all been sick for months. Regular colds, infections, illnesses. I haven’t felt myself lately. And when I can’t even enjoy a cup of coffee on a crisp fall day because I’m so tired or dizzy or my throat hurts, it reminds me just how enchanted those everyday moments are.
So I don’t take for granted time spent with my daughter, even when she tries to run away while my comb is caught on a snarl. I breathe in deeply and swallow each instant whole, hoping to keep them with me forever. Like when my son says, “Me love you so much, Mommy, and you love me so much, Mommy,” or when I witness my daughter rub her brother’s head and say, “It’s OK, honey,” to comfort him or when I hear my son tell my husband, “Let’s roughhouse!” So normal. So routine. So trite, even. Maybe what you’d see on a family-oriented sitcom in the 90s. For sure some Full House scenes. But when you realize how much you’ve taken your own health for granted, you realize you take these loving moments for granted too.
And I don’t want to do that.
I want to step back and look at every mirror image and capture it in my mind. I want to be present. I want to see everyday moments as magic.
The sweetest melody I've ever heard
Is the word “Mommy” singing from your lips.
No cozier feeling than your plump body upon my lap, holding you close as we read.
A thousand butterfly kisses wouldn’t be too much. I’ll never tire of snuggling you close.
Somehow every new day is even better than the last.
And even after two and a half years of holding you in my arms, rocking you to sleep before every sleep, I still look forward to when you wake up and call “Mommy!” again.
Sometimes you wake up just in time to witness a masterpiece. A hot pink-orange sun rising over the horizon, spreading ruby and amethyst streaks across a cloud- speckled morning sky. Brushstrokes of brilliance. Whenever I’m in nature, I try to wake up at dawn, hoping to experience the next most beautiful sunrise. Over time, I’ve realized clouds are what make a sunrise magnificent.
If the sky is cloudless, that great ball of fire rises like an inferno and leaves no wake in the sky. Too many clouds, and the heavens are lost in haze. But when clouds speckle the celestial sphere yet leave a clear horizon line, the bright sun paints the heavens with magnificence.
Beauty is not the absence of flaws. Beauty is imperfection just far enough away from the horizon line to see with clarity. To be able to look back and see everything and still say, “All this is beautiful.”
I confess: I am often held hostage by cultural lies, peddled by a self-centered, money-obsessed, fame-worshiping society, which, no doubt, I am part of and help keep alive.
Because every time I look out at my backyard, I see a small junkyard tangled up in weeds, with mismatched patio furniture and too many primary-colored plastic toys strewn across patchy grass that’s mostly dirt. I want a vast, green backyard that stretches for acres, and outdoor entertainment furniture that’s been handpicked by Joanna Gaines. At least, I want that for a moment—until I hear the giggles coming from the sandbox, where my children delight in pure, innocent play. They don’t care about the weeds or the furniture. They only seek love and attention, not the latest Instagram trend.
I hope as they grow up they can look beyond the superficial. Because, truly, what is the point?
What is the point of working a job where people treat you like garbage just so you can be grossly over-paid? What is the point of piling up your money in a vault or spending it all on thousand-dollar bed sheets? What is the point of filling a cabinet full of Waterford Crystal? Or a shoe closet full of Louis Vuittons?
We must all pay our bills and clothe our bodies, and I too like nice things. I care about appearances. But there is a line. Sometimes it’s hard to see where the line begins and ends. How many hours of my life does a company deserve, which takes away time I could be spending with my family? How much money in my bank account is worth destroying the earth? How many zeros at the end of a paycheck, how many titles behind a name to make the rich richer and keep criminals sitting on Capital Hill? What am I doing to serve myself that is causing other people and the planet pain?
You cannot serve two masters, as my mother reminds me, quoting Scripture. And money is a seductive ruler.
It is hard not to want, especially when advertisements glow inside my palm, and everyone, it seems, has more than I do.
Finally, after my burning desire for better and more subsides, I remind myself of what money cannot buy, what is truly invaluable and priceless: those giggles coming from the sandbox. The sight of patchy grass and stubborn weeds creeping across a safe backyard, one where my children can play in peace.
Some people only hear their children’s giggles in their mind. It echoes in their memories. Because other people loved money too much—so much that they chose their bank accounts over the greater good, and let other people die.
I listen closely to the giggles, and remind myself I am blessed with what money cannot buy.
I don’t need the other stuff.
Who cares about the weeds?
I want to live under the sea
Where bullets cannot swim
And monsters cannot find me.
In calm waters beneath wild waves
Where gunfire cannot be heard
And there’s no need to act brave.
I want to live where I can float,
Feel no weight upon my back,
Forget scary stories I’ve been told.
Yet I know even in the sea
Evil creatures dwell,
Peace on earth is just a dream.
For only a few weeks of the year, the sun is in a perfect position to shine directly through my kitchen’s skylights, casting rays through my crystal light fixture, which sends rainbows across my cabinets and countertops. If your timing is right, you can catch a rainbow in your hand.
Life has many seasons. And some of life’s shortest seasons are the most magical. Modern life can be busy and distracting, it can discourage you to stop and notice the sparkles—the fairy dust dancing upon the air around you. So if you’re lucky enough to catch magic in your hand, hold tightly to that rainbow and cherish it before it fades away.
If it were my child
I would stand in the middle of a busy street and scream until my voice left my body.
If it were my child
I would rip out every hair from my head until I covered the grass with my pain.
If it were my child
I would scale the tallest building and stomp until it fell down.
If it were my child
I would beat my chest and bare my fangs and throw myself up against glass until it shattered --
Like my spirit.
They are… they were all our children.
All our grandparents.
All our neighbors.
Our friends and relatives.
They don’t deserve to die in vain.
I must always act as if it were my child or my parent or my friend.
We cannot go on this way.
Or we can no longer call ourselves human.
She stood at the kitchen sink washing dishes, gazing out the window that overlooked the garden. Ripe red tomatoes ballooned on trellis vines. She knew if she didn’t pick them today they’d fall by dusk, left to rot or attract vermin. She didn’t have time to pick them today, however; she had washing and drying and cooking and baking to do. Her work was endless, and the children would be home from school soon. Sometimes she felt like those red tomatoes—ready to fall and rot and be eaten by pests, having been neglected during her prime. For she was better than all this—the housework and the monotony of caring for herself and others. This was all beneath her. And she never even wanted to be a mother. But she’d had no choice. Before she could change the world, she’d become a mother. And yet, she lamented, she could have done so much with her life.
What she didn’t realize was that nothing was beneath her. She was the flea-infested rat beneath the ripe tomato, greedy mouth open and ready to snap up a juicy prize she hadn’t earned. Blinded by ego, she had no idea that she was lucky to have the safety of a heated house, the great fortune of food to cook and family to love her. She deserved none of it. And she could have been changing the world already, if she had the competence to step away from her reflection and look at the people around her. Instead, she foolishly imagined a world where she didn’t take care of others or herself; it was a world that didn’t exist, for all of life requires monotonous maintenance for survival. And she had many choices: she had the choice to change her perspective. To step outside of herself. To find it an honor and a privilege to pluck the ripe tomato from its vine and taste its simple yet delicious flavor.
But instead she let the tomato fall and rot, left to be devoured by greedy mouths only wanting more.