To My Boys on Their First Day of School

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My Dear Boys,

The thing that I love most about both of you is that while you are mine, you are utterly yourselves.

Your souls cannot be contained or controlled, and that’s exactly what most terrifies and thrills me about being your mom.

Today you started school.

And what I know is that while you are not alone on your new journey, neither am I. I’m surrounded by other moms and dads who are doing the same thing, loving their kiddos while they are with them and while they aren’t.

So here’s what I know.

Transitions hurt, and stretching feels like a small kind of death, and that's okay.
There’s this saying, “Distance makes the heart grow fonder,” and I feel that already, felt it the moment we stepped out that door and left you for a few hours to learn and grow.

When you wake up in the morning, there will be things like oatmeal and strawberries waiting for you, and when you go to bed, there will be stories of Grandmother Moon and Waynaboozhoo.

And the next morning, I will be waiting with sage, so that when we burn it we can remember who we are. And when you go to bed that next night, there will be stories of Harry Potter and Hagrid, Ron and Hermione to lead you to the deepest parts of your imagination.

You see, this is why the stretching is both beautiful and hard.

Because of the stretching, we will make room for the sacred. We will gather when we are together, and when we are apart, we will do the work we’re called to do.

 

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My Dear Boys,

When you see the world, both now and later when you’re grown, I might ask you to report back to me.

I might ask you to let me know what you’ve seen and heard, what overwhelmed your senses, what distracted you, what brought you comfort, what hurt you.

I might ask, because for now, we’ve got things to share with each other, before the leaving and the cleaving that one day will come in one form or another.

Before that, we report to each other so that we grow together, so that this world experiences all of us, our stories meshed and molded with one another’s stories.

We do this now so that one day, when you build family and community far from my grasp, I can watch in awe of the people you become.

I can watch in awe that your souls grew and stretched to bloom into exactly who you were created to be.

 

So, my dear boys,

Go, and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t be exactly who you are.

Go, and when you come home, I’ll be there, waiting.

Go, make the world more beautiful and right wrongs, because that’s the shape of you.

Go, and as you go, I’ll be going, so that when we come together we will know how to be ready for whatever lies ahead of us.

 

Albus Dumbledore says, “there are all kinds of courage,” and I know that to be true, because I’ve seen it in you time and again.

Let your kind of courage be the thing that guides you.

 

I love you.

 

Mom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LEARNING TO BREATHE IN THE WORLD

When we got home from an afternoon at the pool, my oldest son took a nap. While he was sleeping I crept in to lay down beside him for a few minutes. I looked at his fresh haircut and his eyelashes, listening as he quietly breathed in and out.

For a minute, I synced my breathing with his– in, out, in, out, in— and watched as he slept, dreaming of brighter and brighter tomorrows.

I am often asked how I do this–how I write and parent and manage work and family and joy and sorrow in all places.

What I’ve realized is that when I do something that I am passionate about, something that has ripple effects out in the world and connects me to humanity and to God, it is directly tied to the way I parent my children.

What I write is affected by my relationship with them, mostly by what they teach me about myself and about being a better person every day. So when I synced my breath with his, I thought about how we are tied to one another, connected to one another, a team in the things we set out to do in this world.

That doesn’t mean I’m not still his mother, still his parent, still someone who should guide and lead him, but it does mean that what I care passionately about I share with him, and what he thinks is important, he shares with me.

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So how can I teach him to sync his breathing to the world? As a five year old, seven year old, fifteen year old, fifty year old? What can I do for him to understand that the way he moves and breathes and has his being is meant to be of use and impact every place he inhabits?

What does it mean to work and live with the pace of the world, and not just our experience of it? What does it mean to live into a reality that our way is not the only way, that our story is not the only story?

Our children, when they are young, before we teach them otherwise, have an innate curiosity to know things, to dream things, to imagine things.

While they are still young, they seek to understand how things work, why the world is big but looks so small on a map, what it means to be human.

Is it possible that as adults we can re-learn those things from the little ones who make those curious thoughts their reality?

Absolutely.

So in watching the way he engages the world, I learn how to engage the world. When I listen to his dreams, I am listening to the dreams of God, a vision for all of creation to be restored to and known in its original beauty.

When I sat still enough to breathe in and out with my son, I felt the whole world breathing. I felt faces and names, places and stories come alive to me in a way they never have before, and with that, the love of God spread itself out across everything, this beautiful and deep root system that gives life to everything under the sun.

We read things about breathing in Jewish stories– the name of God, Yahweh, meaning simply breath, simply being alive to the reality of the Creator. As my friend Bob shares in a post about Breath Prayer, our spirits are intermingled with our breathing.   

That means that when we practice breathing with the world and with our own spirits, we align ourselves with the things God.

In Native American culture, breath and stillness are important parts of daily life, because with quiet breathing comes steady listening– to the world around us, to ourselves, to the voice of God. When I am still enough to notice the ant on the ground, or the birds chirping at sunset, I enter into the practice of coming more fully alive.

When I light sage and let it cleanse the space around me, or lay tobacco on the ground as I pray to Mamogosnan, the Creator, the good Father, my breathing interacts with that sacred space and I meet God in the quiet. I meet God in the world. 

Maybe this is why I hear so many parents talk about why they love watching their children sleep– the deepest peace settling over them, the deepest quiet, a vision of humanity at rest in shalom.

We know that after hard work comes rest, and after something momentous happens in our lives we have a catharsis–a moment to stop and quiet ourselves, to process, to breathe. 

The steady breathing afterward is just as important as the hard work beforehand. The world teaches us this in its changing seasons, in its cultivation and evolution, in its growing and steadying.

So next time I go to sleep, I’ll remember that in those moments before my mind slows and enters into a dream world, I am communing with God, with creation, with the world in the call of Yahweh.

And when we wake again to the dawn, we stop and breathe. We look out the window and listen to the steady in and out that gave life to us in our very first moments.

And we know that it is good to be alive and breathing in this sacredly created world.

Amen.

 

 

ONLY LOVE (every part of yourself) TODAY

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In a small group exercise recently, all participants were asked to rank our life identities or roles from 1-4, most to least important. Twenty-something of us sat with our papers folded into four spaces, our pens and markers unsteady for the task. We sat around the quiet room for a few moments and thought about what we call ourselves, what we do, who we care about, and what we dream to one day be.

Immediately I felt uncomfortable and conflicted with the assignment, but chose to go along with it. Some of us were moms, some dads, friends, brothers and sisters, lawyers and educators and students and nurses. Parents and grandparents. We were many things, but being asked to rank those things by their importance was a very difficult task for me.

Am I a Native American woman more than a mother, wife, or worship leader? Do my roles bump up against and fight with one another or do they feed into one another? What do they teach me about who I am and what I do, about how to be better in loving myself and others?

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For weeks after that exercise, I felt guilty that I’d put my identity as a native woman before my motherhood.

Until I went to a conference in Nashville. There, I’d decided to put pieces of my identity behind other pieces. I’d decided that in that space I’d be worship leader Kaitlin and not Native American Kaitlin. By the end of the conference, the fact that I’m Potawatomi became who I was in that space to all the people around me. I needed that part of myself in that setting, and by trying to stifle it, I’d denied myself my own voice.

Driving four hours home, I realized that every piece of who I am is connected.

My dear friend Rachel of Hands Free Mama has a new book coming out on March 7th, and her words speak to what I’ve walked through:

“…life– despite its challenges and daily disappointments– holds moments of joy, hope, comfort, and peace when we choose to start over and offer a second chance to others and ourselves…”

When Rachel writes about slowing down and stopping, about listening and curating moments for the sake of spending time with the people who matter most to us, she’s writing about you and me. She’s writing about our relationships, about our humanity.

But she’s also writing about the things going on inside our own skin, our own tendencies to not listen to ourselves, to neglect the parts of us that may be asking to be heard.

“I just want to celebrate you as you are instead of waiting for you to become what the world expects you to be.”

So if I don’t have to rank my identity and split who I am into pieces, can I love all of who I am called to be?

Can I Only Love Today, my Potawatomi self, my wife self, my worship leading self?

Can I love that all that I am bleeds into everything else that I am or ever hope to be?

There, I find both grace and responsibility.

There, I find grace for other’s stories too, an understanding that every part of our stories matters and makes us who we are today.

If I love all the pieces of myself today, I can love all the pieces of you today, too.

“I hope you feel brave enough to bare the colors of your soul.” 

Only Love Today.

Only Love [ your child-self ] Today.

Only Love [ your adult-self ] Today.

Only Love [ your broken-self ] Today.

Only Love [ your black, white, muslim, jewish, atheist, foreign, native-self ] Today.

Only Love [ your brothers and sisters ] Today.

Only Love [ your enemies ] Today.

Only Love [ the story of your neighbor ] Today.

Only Love [ all those people who are outcasts ] Today.

Only Love [ the outcast parts of your own soul ] Today.

Only Love [ when you have no idea how to love ] Today.

Only. Love. Today.

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Pre-order your copy of Rachel’s book today, and find daily reminders that all of who you are deserves love, and all of the love that you give deserves to be given.

Together, may we Only Love [ every part of ourselves ] Today. 

A Year of Listening: finding myself in the reading room

With my husband’s parking pass, I spent a few hours on campus. I grabbed a coffee in my keep cup and headed across the brick-lined road to the library, where the security guard greeted me.

“Welcome to the library, where all your dreams come true,” this tall and kind African American man said.

I smiled and told him that I was there to return a book for my husband, but that I’d certainly be reading, too.

I quickly made my way to level three and found it: The William L. Matheson Reading Room.

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When we first moved here, Travis brought me to this room, and the Rory Gilmore inside of me had to hold back her whoops of delight.

A room lined with periodicals, a room with a marble floor that every chair scoot bounces noise off of. Long tables with lamps, nooks with chairs.

I looked at a psychology magazine and wondered for a moment what it would be like to be in school again.

My four years of motherhood at home with the boys have been just what we all needed.

And as we continue the journey, I’m being called back, ushered into another world that will bleed into my mommy one.

The boys and I, we are students. We learn together every day, our curiosity overflowing into our little apartment home and our world– sometimes I think those walls can barely contain us.

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A few weeks ago, God spoke something to me. It was something like, “Maybe what your boys need to see you doing is following me, as wild as it may turn out to be.”

And so I cried and said, “yes, yes, I know,” and we’ve kept praying and pressing in.

So for the next year or so, we are waiting.

We are processing and looking and examining, and our hope is that I can go to seminary while we’re living here.

We are seeking that we may find, and every day I am inviting the boys along with me– because this journey is ours.

So I sit in the reading room, and remember how He has wired me– to be the curious soul, the hard working student, the diligent learner. It is my joy.

So maybe in this next year of the wait, I’ll come back to this room when I can, and sit at this table and write and dream.

And because it’s quiet, and it’s not a bustling coffee shop or the comfort of my bed at home where I often read and write, it’s a new experience in listening.

At Wednesday night bible study a few weeks ago, our interim pastor Roger Paynter said, “We’re still a part of the story, you see?”

This is my story, and our story.

And it’ll be crazy, and we’ll take one step forward and two back, but they will be our steps, nonetheless.

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So say a prayer for this family of ours, will you friends?

And may we all listen in when God tells of the mystery-things that so delight His heart.

Remembering Our Single Mothers

When Travis has to go out of town, I quickly jump into single-mother-mode. He’s gone for ten days this time, and we’ve got two days down, but who’s counting?

Maybe it’s that instant flashback to my mother as a single mom. We were 9, 17, and 19, the three kids, watching her do this crazy dance to supply our needs and keep her soul intact.

So when he’s gone and it’s just me and the boys, I think a lot about women like her, but with little tiny toddlers running around, painting on the walls and eating snack after snack, wrestling on the living room rug.

Do you know anyone like her?

Who is the church in this space?

Barbara Brown Taylor says,

“God has no hands but ours, no bread but the bread we bake, no prayers but the ones we make, whether we know what we are doing or not.”

In my few days alone, hands have reached out. I’ve felt a little sick, a little energy-depleted, and friends have reached forward with offers of macaroni and cheese and baby-sitting.

Do you know what it means to someone when you reach out of yourself and take care of them?

2015-07-22 20.43.48 2015-07-22 10.10.13The boys brought a little red bucket to the Emory gardens, and Hannah filled it with okra and rosemary, with cucumbers and tomatoes.

We spent a full day with David and Jeanie, napped on two little white beds. I sat and looked out at the water, watched the birds that flit from branch to branch and talk to each other about how God provides.

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And tonight, Eliot will spend time with his best friend.

And we are so taken care of.

Hands reach out, and we are gathered in, and we remember all that is good.

I am a single mother for eight more days, and then my partner and best friend comes home.

But I remember that struggle when I was nine, when my mama’s whole being carried too heavy a load.

So, can you remember the single moms in your circle?

In your neighborhood?

In your church?

In line at the grocery store?

In your city?

And use the hands you’ve been given to make bread. Use them to buy a cup of coffee or tea.

Use them to make macaroni and cheese, use them to hold a child so she can breathe a few breaths in quiet, so she can re-energize and re-start.

Then maybe we can all see it, the way Love moves and transforms and brings all fresh life, even if it’s only for a few hours at a time, before the heavy lifting begins again.

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“…if only we let love do its slow, meandering work.” -Rachel Held Evans

Two Days After the Stage (we’re still listening)

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It’s been two days since Listen To Your Mother, Atlanta.

We all gathered into the theatre, and we trickled out with new friends, our arms full of flowers, our hearts covered in thanks.

And today I’m quietly gathered into my home, nursing my toddler to sleep while I read my friend Dawn’s book.

I read these books and blog posts, like I listened to those essayed words, poured out from full hearts, and it’s the miracle of Story every time.

I sit in Sunday School and Melissa asks, “What is it about the Story of Jesus?” And there it is again. The Story.

It’s grace and community and connectedness woven throughout humanity, because we all see ourselves in each other.

Miranda handed out the thin red threads, bracelets that remind us who we are to each other, to ourselves.

And there, again. Story.

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It’s all bigger than we see it to be, and it expands and flourishes, even in the deadest and driest places.

But when we get a glimpse, when we catch it and squeeze a hand and grab a shoulder and exhale the “Me too,” it’s humanity bound all over again.

If we received anything out of the show last weekend, it was the chance to see ourselves reflected in each other.

Standing on a stage and spilling out our celebrations and losses, our laughs and tears, our realities and dreams, it was everything that makes mothers mothers, women women and humans human.

It was being told that we can and should, that coffee dates and meals shared around tables are proof that Story-sharing has lasted for centuries because it holds us to one another.

It was Nicki, Dawn, Kayla, Krystyn, Raivon, Karen, Renee, Kit, Kyle, Julie, Rachel, Erin, Miranda, and Jana. It was a season in which faces became names and names became hearts and hearts came together and we became sisterhood.

The power of Story does things unimaginable, does thing unseen in our deepest places, in the places where we’re afraid and so hungry for community, so hungry for someone kind to say that they see us.

So,

Listen to your mother.

Listen to your brother,

your sister,

your cousin,

your barista,

your enemy.

Listen to your gut,

your God,

your quiet.

Just listen.

And let the Storytelling tell you.

And miracle of all miracles, we look for the heavens and whisper, “Hallelujah. Thank you,” as we step into the dawning day.

A Lesson in Motherhood: My Boys & MLK

I woke up to an already buzzing household. Eliot is up before the sun and brings Travis with him, spilling his toys all over the bedroom floor to play until Isaiah and I come in to play, too.

We struggled to do a little homeschooling, and my temper and patience flared up and down as Eliot’s did, especially when he dumped the steaming hot coffee all over me.

We trudged through the rest of the morning, and I stopped to sing, to draw from the deep well that gives me rest and peace in huge draughts.

I stand at the counter and type, and I hear Travis tell Eliot that it’s Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. Eli comes out singing, “Happy Birthday to Martin King!” and his little world is light as a feather because his peace is in singing, too.

How do I tell Eliot who Martin Luther King Jr. was, when it’s difficult to explain what a syllable is during our alphabet lesson?

How do I explain, then, a labor union or contract negotiations?

No, I’m afraid I can’t.

So what can Martin Luther King Jr. teach me, a tired mom who is trying to drink her coffee and love her rowdy boys simultaneously?

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear…

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'”

We can stretch our arms out in front of us, far outside of our homes and away from our children, giving justice to the other.

But first, peace must start in this place, this roof overhead, in these cobwebbed corners.

Because hate is too heavy a burden, and in our behavior toward our little ones, they should see love abounding and expanding.

The boys rest for a few minutes, looking at books. They scan the pictures and words- a world opening up before them.

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They are expanding their hearts and brains for new realities, and I am opening myself up for the same thing.

Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for the reality of peace and justice extended to every man.

This morning, I’m fighting to expand myself into new love for my boys, new hours of patience and kindness and so much more grace.

And maybe one day we’ll watch his speech, and Eliot and Isaiah will know that peace starts here, on the couch where we’re gathered, and spreads out to the broken.

May it be so.

The Pursuit of Seeing: The Glory Network

I have less than a handful of sister friends across the states who I can turn to via text message or phone call. It can be 2 words or 2,000, a stuttering and spluttering of what life is like in a day, and how deeply I need communion with God.

And then I’ve got tangible, right down the road friends who are becoming nearer and dearer family to us every day, and if I called, they’d answer, too, and pray, too, and love me out of the deep bellowing of grace in their hearts.

It’s an intricate network, this connecting woman to woman, soul to soul across all sorts of boundaries and lines– geographical, economic, social, spiritual– it’s a deep bond that shoots, like healthy blood through big veins.

I read about it in Acts, but perhaps it spans all the way back to Eve and her friends, to Ruth and Naomi, who cared for each other in their deep need.

I lay on the floor and watch the fan blades spin, air circulating up and down and through my lungs and back out again.

Isaiah pokes me in the eye and Eliot reads pretend thank-you notes.

I breathe in and out and watch the bleach-white blades, and all is time, spinning.

“The kingdom of home is the place of refuge, comfort, and inspiration.

It is a rich world where great souls can be formed, and from which men and women of great conviction and dedication can emerge.

It is the place where the models of marriage, love, and relationship are emulated and passed on to the next generation.

One of the great losses of this century is the lost imagination for what the home can be if shaped by the creative hand of God’s Spirit.” –Sally Clarkson

If the intricacy of a home can contain all of this, my place as a mother is, indeed, most intricately designed.

But the other day, Isaiah was sick and Travis and I cancelled a date we’d planned on for weeks. And my heart broke because I couldn’t walk arm-in-arm into a room full of colleagues with my husband, kindly beaming beside me.

And on that same day, a friend text me and asked questions that dragged the worries out of my heart and into the open air.

And another friend just said she was sorry, and still, I remembered that I’m not alone. Sitting on the chair, crying, watching those fan blades, breathing, but not alone.

The network is response and feedback. It’s encouragement and movement, constant heart-beating and life-sharing. It’s imagination that gives birth to newness here in my heart and here in my very own home, in my very own interactions with my boys.

And on the hard days, it’s actually God, spreading Himself into all of us, through the kindness of each other.

It’s a beautiful kind of glory, indeed.

 

 

Once a month, we’re pursuing sight and viewing the dailyness of our lives with fresh vision and fresh spirit.

To read more from the series, click here.

Join me by posting the link to your journey of seeing in the comments section below…

 

 

When We Admit It: the season we’re in

There’s something really wonderful about bringing a piece of a former world and home into your new one.

Because it’s not just hearts and worlds colliding, but the seasons we’re all in, as well.

The night before they were to leave, Cody and I sat in the living room and sort of admitted to ourselves and each other the seasons we’re in– theirs and ours– different, hard, but real and beautiful in the shadows.

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And the beauty of seasons colliding is that it forces honesty and reality out of all of us.

We come together and it’s bits and pieces of us flying around like shrapnel in a storm– but it’s all good.

But when they left after three days, I said things like,

Well, now you’ve seen every facet of stress in my life.

Thanks for loving on our crazy boys, even when they pull your hair.

 

I sit on my couch in the quiet of the late afternoon and drink the coffee I started this morning, and I admit with my heart that this is my season and lot, and I admit that it’s hard.

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And all four of us are on the brink of something– jobs, relationships, school, child-rearing, faithfulness in marriage, joy in the adventure.

We saw it in each other’s presence, and while we all long for the future things, this weekend taught us that the present– hard, complicated, unexplainable, and beautiful– the present is where we need to be, where Jesus is and where His voice speaks wonders and promises not yet understood.

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We laughed and drank coffee, we gutted out our hearts like we gut out a pumpkin before the hard work of carving begins, and by the end we are released from burdens and we breathe deeper than before. We smile and we say a million thanks– thanks for loving me in my parenting failures; thanks for being okay with husky hair all over you; thanks for the hugs; thanks for the tears; thanks for the beer and sweet conversation; thanks for understanding; thanks for loving the honesty in us that just can’t be hidden or covered up, no matter how hard we try.

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Once again, it’s the story of humanity–

We are not alone.

Every season, struggle, forced smile and deep sigh–

We are not alone.

Maybe it takes a 700 mile trek and a few days of tender craziness and companionship to realize it, but there we have it, and we wander on in peace and in assurance–

In our seasons, we are not alone.

 

 

 

A Lesson in Sickness: And You Were Here All Along

We’re attempting to get over about 4 days of sickness.

It began with Eliot and worked its way through Travis and into Isaiah in fever form.
— A fevered baby is a sad sight to behold, and my arms were kept full all day and night.

When all my boys were sick, I consulted those holistic mommy blogs, the ones that brag on detox baths and honey-garlic concoctions.

I added triple garlic to every meal, veggies and fruit for every snack.

No one shared bites. No one shared kisses. I was anti-germ, and those germs knew it.

I sat down on Thursday in the midst of it and thought about all the physical ways I cared for our bodies–
the herbal tea popsicles;
the chest rubs;
the honey-lemon water;

and then I sat back and asked how our hearts were being cared for, all of them.

Sickness is a cloudy mess, everyone lost in a haze for days on end.

And when we finally all get back out into the sunlight, we breathe fresh again.

But today the sickness still lingers, and even though it’s been 80 degrees on FALL break, it’s been more of a time of quarantine for us.

I read a friend’s blog this morning, tears pooling my eyes, nearly drowning my vision completely.

— today I dearly miss the Ozark Fall.

This place is still new to us, and we’re still learning our way and exploring new coffee shops and finding community.

And when our tired bodies recover and Isaiah’s chest stops rattling with coughs—

Well, what then?

It’s a lie to say that living can’t happen here, now, in this germy place. No, peace abounds, indeed, and God’s voice is not muffled by our stuffed ears. He cannot be blurred by our tired eyes.

And we’ don’t just find Him when all is clear and all is “normal”– no, He’s actually so visible when life and routine are shifted upside down and sideways and absolutely backwards, when whole seasons of life are new and unknown and downright scary. He’s so visible when we’re unsure and feeling unsafe in the realization that we can’t always just trust ourselves.

So let us ask our hearts to seek Him, even when our bodies are frail. If we must, we gather knees to chest on the floor and rest like babies in His presence. We close our eyes and savor His voice in the stillness, in the sickness. We look out the window and see that life abounds in all ways, in all seasons.

And when we plunge back into story time at the library, when we welcome dear friends from Arkansas into our home this weekend–

Oh, then we see His presence in so many kindnesses, and we remember that He’s been here all along.