I pause. Yep, that’s her. The soft but sure, unmistakable sound of my three-year-old coming down the steps. Two little thumps on each stair, padded sleeper feet, pause at the bottom; fluffly-headed girl blinks her way into the kitchen and my early morning sanctuary becomes workplace.
I swell with love and gather her up, breathing her downy hair into my nostrils, simultaneously wishing I’d had more time by myself this morning in the stillness and dark before the Mamas began. She wants down and I start tea, and watch her out the side of my vision–her sturdy frame shuffling sleepily toward the books, her big eyes swallowing me up. She owns this time. I’m at her mercy, since an act of defiance on my part would result in her waking the whole house.
I’m anticipating the high-pitched, whimpering request and it happens on cue, muffled through the pacifier: I’m huuuuuuungry. I relent because I must if I don’t want the other one up two hours earlier than he needs to be. Swollen with love starts to become swollen with tasks as I follow her to the cereal cupboard. Can I have Cheerios? Sure. Can I have them dry? Sure. Can I have grape juice? Okay, I guess. I get her settled and happily crunching and slink my way back to the stove.
She wants the votive candles lit. I light them. I go back to the stove, wondering if this may be one of the magical times that an independent snack leads to independent play and I can maybe sip my tea and wake up a little.
Mama I want you WITH me.
I surrender my hope of solitude. I bring my tea and pull up a chair. She wants our chairs scooched closer, so I scooch. The tea lights twinkle and her face glows in the dark. She holds out her plastic cup of juice to me.
For you, Mama.
Oh, no thanks sweetie, I’ve got my tea.
NO, Mama, for YOU.
I take a sip and watch her smile. Next come the cheerios, popped into my mouth. More into hers. We’re both crunching and she reaches over and cups my cheeks in her hands, presses our noses together. Her eyes blur and her lips touch mine, smacking and sticky.
I love you, she says.
And my eyes are opened. And I recognize Him.
And I can feel inside of me get big with thanks. And tears rise up because I had almost missed it; almost pushed it away–and for what?
Because isn’t this what He does? He shuffles in and interrupts plans and requests company. He comes with us to the workplace; meets us in the boat and at the well and at the kitchen table before dawn, drawing our foreheads to his and cupping our cheeks in his hands, telling us again of his love. His no nonsense, plain and simple, matter-of-fact love, big enough to hold our messy, sticky, smacking lives.
I have to wake up to Him here. Because my life is Cheerios and grape juice, and if I’m always looking for fancy bread and French wine I’ll miss all the gifts. Because the good news is this: I’ve got a commonplace God who shows up in simple ways among the mundane and rote patterns in my life, and offers to make it all wonder-filled.
And sometimes I’m awake enough to catch hold of it, even if it’s just for a moment, and then He’s gone again. And I get down from the table, take cups to the sink, hear the second one coming down the stairs, and step into the next moment, the encounter nestled in my heart.