It was a weekend of no sleep and me alone with the three kids, our youngest going through a three-month growth spurt and the older two deciding they were going to learn how to talk back.
It was a weekend of me begging God every step of the hour to help me be a 1 Corinthians 13 kind of mama when all I wanted to do was have a long soak in the bath. It was a weekend of me telling the boys I needed a few minutes in the office alone, to fall on the carpet and weep.
Because no matter how cute our kids, it's a constant barrage of need. "Mommy, Mommy, Mommy" until you hear it in your sleep. It's a dying to yourself over the piles of laundry and the bedding and the cooking and the dishes. It's reading story after story and playing board games you really don't enjoy, just to see them smile. And where is God in all of this?
And yet, somehow we drag ourselves to church in a mini-van full of arrowroot crumbs and Little Critter books.
We had a guest preacher that Sunday. He was a stay-at-home Dad, and he started off by saying parenting had put him to sleep. I silently wondered how he had time to sleep but he went on to say it was a metaphor for his spiritual life. The lack of routine, the constant requests and the hum-drum of staying home had numbed him to sleep. He was no longer engaged in action, but reaction. His prayer life had been replaced by play-dough and Sesame Street.
And that's when he wondered how much of the rest of the world felt distant from God, too? Because if intimacy with God can only be found by those with structured routines and plenty of free time, "most of us are in big trouble," he said.
And he gave us three tips for finding God in the extra-ordinary. That is, not in the lightening or the storm, but in the gentle whispers of the every-day. The extra-ordinary moments of parenting.
1. Look Twice. Practice the art of looking twice, he said, in a culture that barely looks once. In a culture of smart phones and fast food, look at your children twice, look at your spouse twice, look at your Bible twice and the everyday objects in your home twice. Take time to see.
2. Keep a Future Perspective. In her finer moments, the pastor said, his wife would pray while their youngest screamed from colic that God would use her baby's voice to cry out for the poor and the oppressed, for those who had no voice. When their eldest expressed extreme sensitivity, his wife would ask God to use that tender heart to break in compassion for the world.
3. Give Thanks. It's so simple, and can be done anytime of day said the pastor. Practice pausing to say thank-you before doing a craft with the kids, or before going for a walk, or even as you step outside into the glorious sunshine, praise God for this beautiful day. It will soon become second-nature to you and to your kids.
I looked down then, at Aria in my arms, at Aiden and Kasher sitting in their collared shirts, at their tiny dimpled hands and their long eyelashes and I saw God in them, right there. In the tiniest details. In the extra-ordinary.