It’s a rainy Wednesday afternoon here in “The Plains”, as we like to call the community where my husband and I live with our three small kids. Not that there are actual plains anywhere nearby, but whatever.
We’ve just returned home from a busy play date at the home a new friend from church. Seven mommies and eleven children under six, all together under one roof. Coffee mugs, bottles, sippies, nursing babies, and one very special water bottle, purchased for somebody’s first soccer game last weekend. In a sequence of moments that were anything but quiet and serene, we spent our morning together.
“Is that happy squealing or hurt squealing?” we asked one another repeatedly as our young children played together. We took turns investigating odd sounds coming from the rec room, and alternated intervening in mild disputes over toys and snacks. We replaced articles of clothing that had been discarded, questioned them as to why their socks were so wet when they hadn’t gone outside (had they?), coached them on appropriate social behaviours, encouraged cooperative play, and passed around the six babies, all of whom are at various stages in their first year of life. We chatted, we laughed, we sympathized, we shared, we interrupted, we encouraged. “Chaos!” you imagine. “Lovely!” I tell you.
We are both right.
How my expectations for social gatherings have changed these past four and a half years! A “lovely” morning out used to mean something very different. I would arrive on time and already relaxed after having spent well over an hour getting ready, choosing a flattering outfit that fit well, applying make-up, and styling my hair while Bach’s cello suites floated over the sound waves in my immaculately clean house. It usually involved quiet chit chat where sentences and stories were finished, the smell of spa products or freshly baked treats from a local café filled the air, and I would be in the delightful company of one, or perhaps two, girlfriends who had spent their mornings in much the same way that I had. Then there would be a quiet drive home to an empty house, still immaculately clean but painfully quiet. I would then turn on some music to fill the silence.
By rather extreme contrast, the drive home in our mini-van today involved “Silly Songs With Larry” and was liberally peppered with questions shouted from the back row of the vehicle where my two small sons sat in their car seats within easy slapping distance of one another. My tiny daughter somehow managed to fall soundly asleep, despite the decibels, while I tried to think of something other than the fact that my clean-this-morning shirt now smelled faintly of regurgitated green peas, breast-milk, and bananas.
And now we’re home. My bitty princess has been tucked into her crib and my small sons are having their regularly scheduled afternoon “Quiet Time”. This can mean different things on different days, but the one aspect that remains the same is that they are not allowed in Mommy’s kitchen until summoned. Even more than they do, their Mommy needs quiet, and their Mommy needs time.
Time to do what? Many possible answers come to mind: our normally tidy house is, well, not so much. In our hurry to arrive at our friend’s house “on time” (yet another phrase whose meaning has changed dramatically over time!), we left our beds unmade, small pajamas on the floor, breakfast dishes in the sink, clean laundry on the stairs in a basket, dirty clothes on the floor in the laundry room, and toys on the floor. My hard-working husband will be home in a few hours, and his supper is, at this point, a good idea but far from a reality. It is, however, neither of these tasks that will fill my sacred hour of “Quiet Time”. That is not to say that they aren’t there, nagging, pulling, and distracting me as I sit at my counter with my cup of tea growing cold beside me, but that today I choose to put them aside, because this hour is not for tasks, or for doing.
This hour is for stillness.
This hour is for re-focusing, and not for planning.
For listening, and not for speaking.
For repenting, and not for regretting.
For forgiving, and not for nursing hurts.
For receiving from Him, and not for demanding of Him.
And always, this hour is for choosing to embrace with both arms this season of diapers, mini-vans, sippies, Treehouse, tantrums, questions, snuggles, night-time wakings, wonder, and the joy that comes from giving of myself to these little ones until it seems impossible that anything remains. It is for knowing that there is still this Faithful One who gives to me so that I may keep giving to them. For knowing that while I strive to meet their needs, that my own are likewise being met.
This hour is for deep thankfulness for seven mommies and eleven little ones to share my morning with.