singing catechisms

The cold blue sky hugged the red bricks of all the buildings in the neighborhood on a Saturday afternoon in February. Our Friday sleepover friends had just left and Zella Ruth was tucked away for a nap in her crib. 

Pat rolled the rocking chair back and forth, back and forth… with a hiccup where it caught the carpet. And I was there – curled up tight in his lap, with my head tucked under his chin and with my eyes weeping motherhood. I humiliated myself into a little cocoon on his chest, folding all my limbs as small as they would go. I had lost something, something very precious, at the laundromat and that hiccuping rock let me forget adulthood for a little bit.

I wanted to blame everything – the laundry ladies, the drudgery of schlepping overstuffed clothes bags on city streets, the baby strapped to my chest, the postpartum stuff I still don’t understand – but I didn’t have the energy. I wiped sad slobber all over one of his zip up sweaters and listened as he prayed, feeling very like a child.

That was months ago, before we sang the Heidelberg Catechism on Sundays for Eastertide and before the cherry blossoms peak bloomed and then swirled down like snow. It was before my bit of breakdown that happened in the hours stretching between endless walks and goo-gaw talks and failed attempts to get anything done except answering “present” when Zella Ruth gave roll call.

Heidelberg Catechism

I relax into that spot on the bathroom floor – the place where I sit as Z splashes wonder up from her little whale tub. I am slow. I sink into her gaze, round eyes and wet hair stuck to her little head – shining little bruises from little bonks. She splashes again for my reaction and I answer “present” to her roll call – mirroring her chin down, slow blinking face. She lingers. I take the soft, red measuring cup that doubles as bath toy and pour warm on her shoulders. She shudders with delight and follows the water to the breaking surface, slow blinking wet lashes while the warm trickles off her fingertips before looking up for more.

I hum around a few bath songs and settle on a catchy little tune her Papa made up. I sing it softly, touching her little wet features as if this is the only thing in life.

I love your nose, nose, nose
I love your nose
I love your lips, lips, lips
I love your lips
I love your eyes and your ears and your tiny, little tears
I love your nose

She pauses, lifting her nose up so my pointer can keep time on its tiny surface. She waits for the song to cycle again, letting the faint sounds of bath water fill the empty space. I start again, tapping on that nose and watching her open mouth grow into a half smile. There are other verses, of course. Endless verses.

It is Pentecost now and the liturgical season is green – for new life, for growth, for Jesus. The season is green because Jesus is the seed God threw to the earth to be planted in death and raised in new life. And this – this throwing down, dying, and raising is my only comfort in life and in death. It seems so singular – so exclusive and definitive – to say my only comfort at all, ever, always is that I belong to JesusIf that is so, I must belong in a way that isn’t attached to postpartum or marriage or geography or accomplishment or feelings. I must belong to Jesus so deeply that I am not my own anymore (and that is a comfort?).

It sounds messy and untrue because my gut says that comfort is when I am my own.

Sometimes, Z will cruise herself across a room, close enough for our foreheads to touch and then lean in between me and whatever has my attention to say, “Ah!” With raised eyebrows and an open mouth smile, she declares with one word, “Here I am, Mama! You must have forgotten about me, but it’s okay because I am here! And I am wonderful!”

The truth of it was more ethereal and less tactile before Z was born. (Not my own, uh sure. Yeah.) This tiny human sleeping a few feet from our marriage bed (and needing me in the most complete way I’ve ever been needed) made “not my own” less delicate and more… more desperately tangible.

I do the same thing I did in singleness: try to claim that I belong, body and soul, to me. My comfort is queen. But motherhood has been an especially physical response to that tendency – in its denial of what I want to do.

I cannot understand her words quite yet, but it sounds something like, “Be fully present, mama. Be completely here. Look at me long enough to notice the hair swooping over my eyes and the way I can make a bowl be a hat.”

God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in Him. It’s kind of an updated Westminster Catechism idea called Christian Hedonism and it’s what I think of when Zissou appears in front of me thinking she is the world (Sidenote: she is only 10 months, so I realize this analogy unravels really quickly – like in a month or so).

Zella is teaching me how to joyfully choose to not be my own, to be satisfied completely in the Lord. She is teaching me that there is comfort in being present for the banal moments of bath time and the tender night cries of teething because this is the way of the Father. He came all the way down to earth to be present with us.

He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my father in heaven. In fact all things must work together for my salvation.

My truest and most enduring comfort is belonging to Jesus, the one who watches over me in all the ways I can’t watch over Zella. He is the one who watches over me when I lose laundry and when I can’t sing another made up song. He knows exactly what I need and then He gives it abundantly. He is the only one who can grant salvation with belonging.

You won’t find it anywhere in red letters, but I hear it in this season – I hear God saying, “Be fully present when I take roll call because I am here and I am wonderful!” There is absolutely nothing that is more precious or more important than being with the One who set you free, the One who made you so deeply belong that it is a comfort to say, “I am not my own.”

In the spirit of being present, this blog post took weeks with plenty of breaks for giggle parties on the bed, forts in the living room, catechism sing-a-longs, tongue cluck contests and sweet, singing walk dances in the park. My living room is currently in an impressive display of unkept and the bed is not made. Just keeping it real.

grappling with treasuring

This is not about knowing.
The very idea of treasuring is cheapened by suggesting it is only about knowing.

When the man found out there was a treasure in the field, he was not content to know about it. He was not content to go about his days the same, knowing what he knew about a treasure. He was not content to know about the treasure. He wanted to have the treasure – to hold it in his hands and delight in it. He wanted it so much that no sacrifice was too great.

I’m grappling with treasuring.

I know that I know that I know Christ is my treasure. The beauty of this day, the gifts of grace in this moment, the promises that make my future secure – all these treasures are found in the person of Christ.

Christ is my treasure – statement of fact. So, why is it so hard for me to say with certainty: I treasure Christ. When treasure becomes a verb – something I do with the benefits of knowing Christ is my treasure – I am not quite sure I am doing that.

I can’t help but think a child treasures best. When they discover something beautiful, they hold it in their hands gently and rush around whispering its greatness to anyone who will listen. Their excitement flickers across their eyes and the treasure goes everywhere with them. They present it to visitors, explain it to their parents (again and again), and hide it under their pillow so it’s the first thing they see in the morning. They might put the treasure on display, but it will always be within reach because even the sight of it brings joy.

This, this kind of treasuring is not merely about knowing a treasure exists, but about living like we have in our hands the source of all delight.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (Matthew 13:44 ESV)

“Then, in his joy…”
This is what it means to treasure beyond knowing a treasure exists.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

If you would like to dig deeper, these thoughts came out of a sermon by John Piper called, “Quest for Joy: Six Biblical Truths” and I highly recommend you check it out!

what if you didn’t open your gifts?

I know – it sounds crazy.
Who doesn’t open gifts?

I was sitting across from a new friend tonight and I wondered what would have happened if we hadn’t taken advantage of that awkward “turn and greet your neighbor” moment at church last Sunday. What if I didn’t turn around? What if she didn’t extend her hand and say more than, “I’m Sarah, nice to meet you” in that wonderfully Sunday morning way? What if she hadn’t asked for my phone number?

I can tell you exactly what would have happened: after an appropriate amount of time passed (shaking hands, nodding heads, exchanging hellos), I would have sat down content that I had “been social” at this new church and prepared myself for the sermon. And then we would have exchanged “nice to meet yous” as we bundled up and got out the door with minimal awkwardness or personal exposure.

Well, thankfully, things worked out differently.

Tonight, I met a kindred spirit and it was a gift I almost didn’t unwrap. I almost didn’t know the heart in the row behind me loved books and theology and the gospel. I know it sounds strange to be surprised to find such a heart in church.

But it is a gift, to be sure. I listened to her crazy story of God’s faithfulness and she listened to mine. We very quickly had an understanding – an openness that is only grown in the fields of faith.

My friend Alejandra tells me, “You just know… when someone is a believer, you can feel a connection like you are related.”

That’s what happened tonight and I almost didn’t open the gift. God is so gracious to patiently introduce us to His community – to invite us into relationships that reflect Him. In His grace He offers gifts – often many inside every moment – and our opening of these gifts glorifies Him because we revel in satisfaction at what we find.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

and definitely take a few risks during that meet and greet time