I had no idea what was in store for me as I stepped out of bed this morning. I did not anticipate the blessing, I could not have imagined this glory. This, a golden, stolen, sun-soaked November day. The juxtaposition of brown crunching under our feet as we peel off layers of clothing, freeing limbs to run and climb and stretch forth in the warm air. I hold my breath, want to make time stop, to listen, see these moments for what they are: endless, but delicately finite. This morning’s strong battle of wills fades from my consciousness, the fresh air wrenching tension from my shoulders, the breeze reminding me of my own breath: inhale, exhale.
Some gifts are easy to recognize: they come wrapped with bows, handed to us graciously, enthusiastically. We pull off the paper, eager to experience some goodness. Today is one of those gifts: the trees are decorated in their finest glory, brilliant reds and oranges calling us into their presence. This day was enthusiastically given, I know, without disguise. As we set our clocks back, darken our evenings, look towards our hibernating routines of winter, I know that the sun is bending earthward today, lighting her beams on our backs, our faces, to remind us to be thankful for this time before.
The Eldest ran and jumped and did things I didn’t know him capable of. He is athletic, instinctually strong and agile, like his father. His darkening locks fall shaggy in his face; he pauses by my side for a sip of water, brushing them out of his eyes. He’ll tell me later: “Mommy, I need a haircut.” He runs back to join his friends, bodies falling on one another with peals of laughter, chasing across the playground. He has heart-ties, strong and deep: these friendships are formative, lasting.
The Littlest has been content to keep company with the adults, sharing her snacks with the smallest amongst us, tender in her care. But she watches: her eyes following the bigger kids until she feels brave enough to join. And when she does, her tenacity takes her to the edge, pushes my comfort level as I run wildly after her on playground equipment too high, too big for her tiny arms and legs to master yet.
And after, quiet settles on this house, because not even these strong bodies can maintain this pace. Pungent autumn air trickles through unexpected open windows. I move swiftly past the laundry whispering my name, knowing the gift of this quiet is mine, too.
When the house awakens, darkness will threaten, the golden moment lost. Chores will take precedence, routines of evening will creep in, demands of the day threatening to rob us of our gratitude, our peace. But I will know this gift; I will tuck it into the creases of my heart pocket, procure it the middle of those other moments, to remember, to give thanks.
I doubt that there is such a thing as a measure of spirituality —but if there is, gratitude would be it. Only the grateful are paying attention. They are grateful because they pay attention, and they pay attention because they are so grateful.” (~Barnes, The Pastor as Minor Poet, quoted by Douglas Wilson).
In an effort to save money, and in recognition of this family being more firmly settled than I had previously embraced, we are going through the process of refinancing our home. We’ve lived here five years now, and the market looks vastly different today than it did when we purchased this house. As part of all of this, this week I timidly welcomed an appraiser in to inspect every nook and cranny and calculate the worth of our home.
We had been burned before in this process a few years back, and eager not to make the same mistakes twice we scurried around preparing this time. All of a sudden my eyes were drawn to all the imperfections that I have grown accustomed to. The kitchen cabinets, though primed, have never made it past that stage as other, more pressing projects took precedence. The plans for our gardens never quite made it into the budget this year, and we are left with a crop of weeds out back. They say that dust bunnies and dishes in the sink shouldn’t affect value, but how can these things not sway one’s judgement of a space?
And what about the window? We have this window in our bathroom that my husband broke wielding a very large and awkward piece of drywall — two years ago! Yes, for the past two years, this window has been lovingly patched together with stategically placed glorious duct tape. Honestly, I’m not sure the insulating value is much different than the rest of our original-to-the-house sixty-year-old single pane windows. But there it is: in all it’s puzzle-piece glory, behind shutters that are almost never open. (Why, you ask, has it not been fixed properly? Well, we were going to replace all of our windows, and then didn’t, and it is so easy to forget that it’s there….) Clearly, we had our work cut out for us.
We spent our weekend taking inventory, and trudging through lists. A bizarre October snow storm kept us company, and may have been a blessing, really. If that precipitation had been rain, I’m sure our basement could not have contained it’s tell tale signs of weakness, and I would have been showing the appraiser our puddles. Plus, the snow blanketed so many of our weeds, giving them a beauty that is not their own. But that pesky window did not get fixed.
Lying in bed the night before the appraisal, I had images of our home failures running through my head. That morning, I ran around picking up toys and hiding laundry in closets, trying to get my house to sparkle. When the appraiser arrived, I handed her a stack of comparable houses that I had found, and set about giving her the tour of our house. And an amazing thing happened.
Instead of being haunted by all of the flaws I could see, the more I talked to the appraiser, the more pride I had in what we have done. Do you remember the carpet that was in the kitchen? (Carpet! In a kitchen!) Well, before the Eldest was born we ripped it all out and laid down a new tile floor. The Little Ones’ room upstairs is really a gem, and nobody forgets what our bathroom used to look like! Slowly, bit by bit, we’ve been making this house our home. Our fingerprints are all over it. It has not happened quickly, and there are always unexpected, less glamorous projects that absorb more time and money than we’d like. This, though, is our place of living out family life, day by day, together. By the end of the appraisal, I was glowing, babes trailing me around the house, as we told the tale of our family in this space.
I’m not sure what the appraiser will see. I’m not sure if she noticed the broken window, or the missing pieces of trim. It’s a numbers game for sure, and little of the narrative that I gave will influence how she appraises our house. But it made me realize that while, yes, in the real world of numbers and budgets, we’d like to see our house hit a certain mark. But in my heart, deep in my soul of daily living, I know what this home is worth. I am thankful for this house that is our home.
One of the phrases that is oddly echoed through my house is “make room.” I’m not sure where this began: I can only imagine it’s something that comes out of my mouth without my noticing. ”Let’s make room at the table” we’ll say as we welcome my sister to eat with us. The Eldest, when he was beginning to use his words, used to exhort me to “make room” as together we would clear a space for the next activity, putting blocks away and readying ourselves for painting. It became a family joke, a line said between the adults, gently honoring the vocalizations of the young ones.
More recently, the Littlest has grabbed on to this phrase. To me, her use of “make room” is deeper, more striking, and always makes me pause. She has been saying this as we prepare for this next babe. Yes, she did move into her big brother’s room not long ago for night time sleep, and perhaps I uttered something about making room for the baby, but never did I stress the idea. I’m sure that there was more pomp and circumstance around being a big kid. But still.
And yes, isn’t that exactly what we are doing? In space, in heart, in body, in conversation? We are taking this season to prepare. This growing one is certainly making room where there hadn’t been: I’m sure that my bladder and diaphragm have been graciously relocated. The baby is present in most family conversations, as we wonder together who this little one will be. We are gestating as a family, shifting in sometimes uncomfortable form, molding around this life, to ready ourselves for his arrival. We are making room.
In all my eagerness to just get started with my calling as a mom to three little ones, I have often found myself ready to dive in right now. But I have forgotten how important this time that we have is now, to savor our family of four. Together, making room. It is special, isn’t it, when we see this gift of time that we have been given? This time, right now, for me to sit with the Eldest and read long Winnie-the-Pooh stories with him, because we can. This time, right now, when the Littlest and I can share music class, just the two of us. This time, right now, when I can nap, and read, and write, and think, even for just a moment. This time, right now, when my husband and I can wrap into each other, even if it is just to watch a show, without disruption. Because this is all about part of the “making room.” To take this time now, to pause and fill up, because I know, I know, what those newborn days, hours, minutes are like.
And yes, we are making room in our house. We are cleaning the clutter, going through baby clothes, washing receiving blankets. We will rearrange furniture. We will rearrange time. The joy is that the Little Ones are helping me do this. Together, we are making room.
One thing I know: that as this lion-pride of mine opens arms and moves ever so gently to the sides to welcome this babe, there won’t be a drop of love spared. While the shifting roles may take time to be worn well, to become familiar again, the blessing is that the love multiplies. My heart is not a finite space. This family will make generous, royal room, and we will know the blessing. In the space of family we don’t have to shelve one in order to make room for another.