Another slow humid morning in central Texas. The kids got up before me. I see evidence of several bowls of cereal strewn around the kitchen counters. There’s been television. A lot of it. You know your kids have watched way too much TV when they’re bodies are sprawled in various directions across the furniture. Little people willing their muscles to hold still for another episode. Iris is doing a headstand on the rug with her legs flopped on the couch. Ace is on his third Z Bar… I can tell from the wrappers on the coffee table. He’s leaning on the couch arm rest in such a way that he’s about to tip over.
I wonder where I should start. Coffee? Feed the dog? Water my flowers? Coffee, definitely. I pour it, add milk and shuffle to the living room. I want to start the day by reading the Bible. I do, but my attention drifts. Unconsciously I pick up my phone and tap Facebook. Scroll through the news feed….suddenly it’s like a hundred opinions yelling in a small room at the same time. Uggh. Why did I pick up my phone. I drop it on the couch with a thud. I feel utterly helpless and muted in the face of current mass suffering. To put it mildly, how should I be living during these tumultuous times? The information (accurate or not) is stifling. I want God to lift this mask and help me breathe and understand how I should best live.
11am. I turn off the television.
The kids beg for more TV. I hold my ground. Nope. Find something to do.
I start to make lunch. They’ve dug up some twine and have fashioned lassos. I’m stirring the powdered cheese into the macaroni. “Can we lasso the dog?” At least they asked first. I glance down at our 11 year old dog, Lupe. Her wet black eyes plead with me: Let’s you and me escape for a nap!
Sorry, Lupe you’re going to hate this. “Sure, you can lasso Lupe, but only around her tail, not her neck.” I know full well this won’t end well. Iris is giggling and throwing her rope at the dog, which misses by several feet every time. But to all our amazement Ace ropes the dog on his first throw, right around her tail. Iris squeals with delight and Ace is so stunned by his good aim that he tips right over into Iris. She falls and hits her head on the kitchen counter. I gasp. Oh crud. It looks like she’s whacked the sharp corner. I rush to her and quickly check her head and see to my relief that its just a little red bump. She’s grimacing. Waiting for my face to tell her how much it should hurt. I smile. It’s only a tiny bump. It isn’t bad. Mom fast, I reach into the freezer for an ice pack. And that’s the moment, right then. As I reach into the freezer because the bad thing isn’t as bad as I feared it would be. And it only needs the mild remedy of an ice pack for 10 minutes. A surge of unlikely joy comes to me. I feel seen in a way that I have been aching for. It’s a minuscule moment. It has no relevance on the rest of life or humanity. But right then I feel God with me. I feel the Holy Spirit bring a buoyancy. A feeling like floating down the San Marcos river in an inner tube. The only concerns are what’s the river doing down the way. And pleasant fragmented conversation with friends. I haven’t felt seen and buoyant in months. No one has on planet earth. Unaccountably, I feel joy. I bend down, eye to eye with my daughter and lay the ice pack right on the little red bump, which is only the size of a pinkie fingernail. I smile and mean it. Unprompted Ace says, “I’m sorry, Iris. It was an accident. I’m sorry.”
I look at them both as I hold the ice pack to her head. I see them, in the same way I suddenly feel seen and valued in all my flaws by God. There’s been so little breathing room for three months and I didn’t know how afraid it’s made me. I’ve been tight lipped behind a mask, stoic, frowning at the horizon line. How’s it all gonna turn out. Dubious that my family will still be as I want it to be when the pandemic eases, when protests give way to real change for Black brothers and sisters. I’m just one mother trying so hard to keep a pandemic out, while trying to show her kids how to let love in for every skin color. How am I doing, God? I’ve been afraid to ask. I didn’t realize how tense I’ve been at trying. Tense from fearing failure. Tense because there isn’t any other time for change but right now. I know that. And yet most days my hands feel bound by the immediate distractions of daily domesticity. But right now, kneeling on my grimy kitchen floor, it feels like someone divine has lifted off my mask and I can breathe again. I feel a cloud of witnesses, like my godly grandparents, like heroes in the faith, like friends who have passed on, cheering for me. Cheering for us all but cheering with confidence that we are able. I am able to complete the tasks that have been appointed for me. Good tasks like writing and teaching, like standing up for the rights and value of all humanity, and like laying a balm on my child’s small wound. It’s all good work; all of it matters. I take a big deep breath and release it, unmasked.
2 Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.