He’s invited me to several reading parties at bedtime this summer. Usually when my husband’s out of town and it’s just the two of us. The book I carry into his bedroom is about discovering the wonders of God in the moment, especially the ones masked in the mundane.
As I’m reading with highlighter in hand, always in hand, I turn sentence into sunshine. No longer blending in with the mosaic of words, but shining right off the page.
She talks about her aunt, the one who traveled the world, “wandering the streets of the foreign and unusual.”* And the time she came and induced a tiny toddler’s squeals of laughter simply by rolling a red plastic ball.
“I will never forget your daughter’s wild joy in that ball – a happiness like I have never seen in all my travels through all these years.
And in the simplest of experiences . . .”*
With my son’s legs sprawled over mine, I continue to read, continue to highlight, as Ann beckons me to open my eyes to see and unwrap the gift of the moment. The joy of the here and now.
And that example, that story of the well-traveled aunt, it speaks to me. Because I wrestle over our family’s world – it’s become painfully small. While others make plans for ocean views and starry summer nights, I hope to feel well enough take him to the library around the corner. I give thanks that he deems it a treasure, yet I ache when –
well, when I compare.
But that aunt in the book just told me that in all her travels around this big world, she’d never seen the wild joy that she’d seen that day.
In a home.
Doing something incredibly simple.
I sense a subtle tug to let what I’m reading seep into the moment. Because as I read, I’m in one of those moments. One of his last days he’ll ever live the simplicity of a single digit.
My awareness begins to wake up, and I capture his closeness. Side by side our legs dangling off the bed and books propped in hand, his little feet begin to nuzzle their way into my sandals. My loose sandals, my ever-present nagging reminders of sickness and weight loss, become divine dwelling.
My proclaimers of loss turn place of prosperity.
With noses buried in books, neither one let on, but we both know it’s going to happen.
The sandal falls to the floor.
The joy rises to the moment.
Sweet moments like these usually garner polite smiles from this weak and weary mom. But no, not this time. This time, I was primed for more. Primed for joy. This time, when he whips his head around with head-back, mouth-open laughter, I join in.
This time, I am a part of the moment, not an outskirt observer of it.
In unusual playfulness, I kick off the other sandal.
And then, I am humbled. Because my son, my tender son . . .
He climbs off the bed,
Crouches down low on the floor,
And with gentle little hands, starts to put my sandals back on my feet.
Oh, how this boy has seen servanthood at its finest in our little world. It's shaping his soul – in ways no trip around the world ever could.
Maybe our world hasn’t gotten smaller, after all . . .
I graciously tell him I’d rather leave them off.
The better to snuggle with.
Well no doubt about it I was making a fashion statement that day with my hospital-white circulation socks. My elastic crutches that hold me up and help me stand. Picture black capris, white stockings, black sandals. Give me an eye patch and I’m half way to pirate. But a girl does what a girl’s gotta do, you know. At least around the house.
So before climbing back onto the bed, he examines the circular openings on the soles of my socks, wonders why they’re there, answers his own question – so my feet can breathe. Yes, the soles are indeed designed with a need to breathe.
The souls are also designed with a need to breathe.
I turn my head to look at the clock. 8:50pm on the dot. The exact time I said we’d be done reading. With a glimmer of glorious rule-breaking rebellion in my eye, I ignore it. Oh yes I sure did.
Minutes later, he mentions the time, but wants to read Chapter Three and shows me it isn’t very long. This boy, he knows his mama. He knows I don’t throw my yeses wild to the wind.
Tonight, I say yes.
His voice and arm gesture proclaim a hearty YES as if I had just handed him the moon. As he gets comfortable on the small of my back, I hear cicadas out the window and highlight:
“But the irony:With his Chapter Three adventure complete, I point out the chorus of cicadas, tell him they’re singing him a lullaby. He smiles, and pauses to hear their song.
Don’t I often desperately want to wriggle free of the confines of a small life?
Yet when I stand before immensity that heightens my smallness – I have never felt sadness. Only burgeoning wonder . . . all wonder and worship can only grow out of smallness.”*
We close our eyes to pray, and I pray differently tonight.
I thank Him for the chorus of cicadas,
for holes in circulation socks,
for sandals falling,
For feet! he says.
Yes, Lord, for feet.
For kind ladies at two separate bakeries who each offered my soon-to-be birthday boy a special treat this afternoon,
for the breath of life,
the miracles that surround us.
I pray for friends and family.
The sick, the grieving, the ones in harm’s way.
Open our eyes and open our ears, Lord,
to see and hear the miracles that surround us every day.
As soon as I amen, he asks what I read. Apparently, he heard a changed prayer, too. With pleasure, I share with him truth and grace, simple and profound.
“The holy grail of joy is not in some exotic location or some emotional mountain peak experience. The joy wonder could be here! Here, in the messy, piercing ache of now, joy might be – unbelievably – possible!
The only place we need to see before we die is this place of seeing God, here and now.”*
~ Ann Voskamp
And so, on an ordinary August night, my son's bedroom became holy ground.
A simple summer reading date turned vehicle to the Sacred.
The goodness of God set loose through a pair of ordinary sandals.
Together, our hearts traveled where no footsteps of ours ever could.
In the grandeur of the small.
"Take off your sandals,
for the place where you are standing is holy ground."
~ Exodus 3:5
* Excerpt from One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully by Ann Voskamp
Image courtesy of Tim Pirfalt