The mornings are growing slowly darker. I wake up and think maybe it's going to rain, but it's only that the light is starting to shrink back. It comes eventually and turns the fence gold and then, reflected, it shines through the glass door and across the surface of the coffee table.
Not this morning, though. This morning, mist is clinging to the ground, softening the view and diffusing the light. We stood at the back door, Merissa and I, and stared thoughtfully out at the damp back yard.
Last night I had to admit that Merissa had outgrown her usual bath- a blue plastic container with reassuring rubber edges, so I set it aside and filled the regular tub with three or four inches and set the baby therein. She looked much more at home there, sitting amid bubbles and bright, chewy letters and numbers that bobbed on the surface around her.
Worried that she would slip, I hovered close, but she kept her balance perfectly well. A few times she miscalculated when reaching for a toy and almost tipped, but she caught herself before I could and then watched the water ripple out in wonder.
I was kneeling on the bathmat with my arms folded on the tub, my thoughts pleasantly drifting. There was something about the light shining off the water and the white tub and the sound of the splashing that was soothing.
I knew there was a lot I had yet to do downstairs, but it didn't matter because I felt as though I had all the time in the world. I felt as though I were doing the one thing necessary for me to do in that moment- to peacefully watch over my daughter while she happily played in the bubbles.
I've been able to rest in that place more and more often in the last week or so, and that is unusual for me. Usually when I go about my day, I am haunted by the anxious thought that I am not doing enough, that my life should be filled with doing "hard things for God," though I'm not sure what that means.
Before we had Merissa, I felt as though I were wasting my time, not having a child to nurture and care for. There was this sense of futility about my life, that I was simply spinning my wheels, not giving anything back to God, who was at that time pouring His love and presence out on me in a way I had never known before.
Now we have Merissa and my days are full of caring for and nurturing her and guess what? That thought pattern is still right there! I can still come to the conclusion that I am not doing enough "hard things for God," and that I am spinning my wheels.
A while back, I decided to try practicing the presence of God as Brother Lawrence outlined it- by doing everything for love of God. It sounded easy, but I found it quite hard. It's like learning to ride a bike- I keep losing my balance and fall off to one side or the other. I can't seem to go smoothly forward for any amount distance.
Inevitably, I'd end up doing things in a rote way, one task after another, saying to Jesus dutifully, "for the love of You..." and then look around tiredly for the next thing I could do, until one day Jesus had to say to me, Jenny, I am not a checklist. I thought it interesting He put it like that- I had been unconsciously assuming that I could only love Him and connect to Him if I was doing something. Such is my ingrained legalistic bent.
Then I would give up entirely and not go through my day with any sense of consecration at all, just slogging through the mire of anxious feelings about past, present and future events, worries about money, about my writing, how I am never blogging enough or the right things and how I never measure up as a good mother.
I'd wake in the morning and this whole rush of worries and insecurities would seem to reattach to me, as soon as my head cleared enough to remember them. It would seem like such a heavy weight, I had to throw my hands out to Jesus, as though I needed help just to sit up, and He would be there, and He would whisper, remember.
It's such hard work to remember, sometimes!
Trust, Jesus reminded me- does remind me, nearly every morning. Trust that He is there, that He loves me, that He is expressing His life through me and that I live my life in Him. That I am loved, completely, steady, unconditionally and that I am in my life- this very particular, very small life- for a good reason- His reason.
Believe this, Jesus has been saying to me lately. He says it like an invitation. Stop putting yourself to the test and simply trust Me, He says.
That's what He's been wanting me to remember, and I have been remembering it. That's the thing that surprises me; I have been remembering.
Last night, I remembered. It was one of those moments when my eyes were opened to the richness and the goodness of my life. I had a beautiful, healthy baby girl grinning at me while she chewed on an alphabet letter in this incredible, large, comfortable house and downstairs was my healthy, loving husband whose hard work paid all the bills on time. And there was dinner and bed time and peaceful sleep and all was suffused by God's presence, lit up by it, surrounded and upheld by Him.
And furthermore, I was thinking about the possibility of another child, however that might happen, and it dawned on me, in this undeniably clear way, that I would love that child with all my heart, for exactly who they were and that this love would in no way diminish my love for Merissa, who also has all my heart.
For the first time, I had a glimpse of how Jesus gives Himself entirely to each of us. I saw how natural, how inevitable it was. There is no lack of love; love multiplies without effort. It's what love does.
In a deeper way than ever before, I opened my heart to the knowledge that Jesus loves me with all of Himself- that I delight Him, that His love for me is endless, I can trust it completely. I can abandon myself to His love without second thought, without hesitation, with joy. There is no lack.
I was caught up in a current of gratitude. It was like a state of being, peaceful, still, kneeling on the bathmat, caught up in the light amid the objects of my every day life, doing nothing more than being a mother to my daughter and a wife to my husband, and through all and always the beloved of God.
Isn't it good? Jesus whispered to me.
He meant life itself- to be alive, to grow, to love, to be in this creation that He set us in. How life goes on, how suffering and death cannot stand against it, are so small and powerless in the light of this life- how nothing can separate us from His love. We came from Him and we will return to Him. It's like a river that just keeps on getting deeper, a river that can't be measured and that no ships can sail on.
"It's so good," I agreed.