A few weeks ago, I pulled an old favorite off the top shelf of the reading cove. Just seeing the the dark blue binding and embossed gold letters causes my heart to stir. Books are among the best of old friends. Shrieks of delight from the kids met me when I arrived at the bottom of the stairs carrying it. I read the whole series to Cohen when he was four, which now seems unbelievable to me. The only more unbelievable thing is the great detail with which is recalls the storyline and characters. I have had to develop a look to silence him when he stammers “Oh! Yeah.. now I remember…” or the others, who had before this month only heard the introductory story about the four English school children and the lordly lion, would have had a great many plot twists ruined for them.
We are now two chapters from finishing the third story, Prince Caspian, because every time I finished one chapter and they can see the small drawing for the next, they beg me to keep reading. And, of course, whenever we have time, I oblige. There are few things as sweet as watching your children fall in love with the stories that have carried you along in life.
Yesterday, although I kept reading, I dogeared a page. Together, we moved on past the folded-over triangle but here in the wee hours of this morning, I find myself sitting with it.
After a day of seeing shadows and catching glimpses, Lucy gets her first full view of the lion. It has been one year or hundreds since she has seen him, depending on whether one is counting English or Narnian years and she exclaims:
“Aslan… you’re bigger.”
“That is because you are older, little one,” answered he.
“Not because you are?”
“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”
I read that, had only a second to pause with five pairs of little eyes fixed on me, waiting for what would happen next. So I turned down the corner of the page and kept reading.
A couple of Saturdays ago we were all packed into the van mid-morning on our way to visit David’s beloved grandmother. The kids were bundled up the kind of way that makes our van seem smaller than it is actually. Two of the kids immediately relieved themselves of their puffy outerwear: Cohen, because he anticipates feeling overheated and a little motion sick and Scout, because there was no getting that seat buckled over her coat. That was two coats less in the back seat, and it was a good thing because accommodating the various dolls, toys and drawing materials hoarded back there was no small task. Even our oldest and youngest girls, seated in the captain chairs, were clamoring for space among their many traveling companions.
And it was to be all of an hour drive. (*mom sigh*)
After having made and hurried the kids through breakfast, gotten them dressed, argued over which items could be brought and which couldn’t, and all of the other things that go into taking five kids anywhere on a Saturday morning, I found myself in a less than optimum emotional state. To put it less carefully, I was moody.
I rifled through my own belongings, contained at my feet, and passed by the kids’ book. The thought of trying to read loud enough for all of them to hear me, while turned around and managing their behavior was a task my emotions were not up. Instead I landed on a book of poetry.
Madeleine L’Engle’s poem entitled “The Samaritan Women at the Well” enraptured me on that hour commute across southern Ohio. I read and reread it, allowing myself to get lost in the imagery, trying for the life of me not to overthink it (which is always my problem with poetry) but instead to just experience it.
The waters are wild, are wild
Billows barter with unchanneled might
A turmoil of waves foams on the ocean’s face
wind-whipped the waters hurl
the rivers rush
fountains burst forth from the rocks
the rapids break huge boulders into dust
the skies split with torrential rains
waters meets waters
the wind and the waves are too tumultuous
no one can meet them and survive
In this wilderness of water
we shall be drowned
the ocean cannot be compassed
I weep, I die
Put my tears in your bottle
the water is in a cup
(O Lord open thou lips)
Is it any less water
because you have contained it for us
in a vessel we can touch?
I closed my eyes and leaned back and just breathed that beauty in. I read it once more and then we had arrived and the unbundled children hastily and haphazardly rebundled, van doors slid open and the bitter cold rushed in taking up residency where the moment had once been.
And such is motherhood: a steady stream of activity and noise, punctuated by small pauses and moments when the veil is pulled back just enough to let in some enlightenment.
It has taken me considerable time to learn this ebb and flow, mostly because my introverted tendencies resisted it so valiantly. Before children, my days were full of books and journals and sticky-free pens and ah-ha! discoveries and time. The death of free time was a painful one. I am, however late, coming to a place of thankfulness for the ah-ha!s my earlier life afforded (and still nourish) me.
I awoke this morning at 4:30am and not on purpose. I woke up crying, in the middle of a dream, and felt that still small voice beckoning me to sit in the wakefulness with my pile of dog-eared books and my thoughts. I felt my heart drawn to the words of a proverb I had written down yesterday.
The Lord laid earth’s foundations
With Wisdom’s blueprints.
And by his living-understanding
All the universe came into being.
By his divine revelation
He broke open the hidden fountains of the deep,
Bringing secret springs to the surface
As the mist of the night dripped down from heaven.
He laid the foundations and broken open the hidden fountains of the deep…
fountains burst forth from the rocks….
the rapids break huge boulders into dust…
the skies split with torrential rains….
The poem and the proverb wove a tapestry of thought in my mind mixing with the sentiment of an ancient greek philosopher that have haunted my thoughts for a month now, “you can never step into the same river twice”. His voice is like the rushing of many waters, I thought, coffee cup in hand.
I watched the dark brown liquid in the dark blue mug as I gently swirled the cup in my hand. It lapped up against the insides of the mug with its ever morphing shape, unable to resist the motion I had caused. For a moment I could almost hear the sound of waves lapping against a shoreline of wet sand, pulled and pushed by the moon’s power over it. It is all water. The water in my cup infused with coffee beans and the salt heavy liquid that foams on the sand. Should it be an less of what it is because I can contain a tiny bit of it?
The older I get, the more truth seems simple in its complexity and complex in its simplicity. And the older I get, the truer the stories of my childhood become to me. Having read C.S. Lewis’ famous series more times than I can count, yesterday was the first time I knew experientially the reality of what Aslan spoke to Lucy. He is bigger to me now, not because He has changed (for He cannot), but because I have. That says far less about me and my growing than it might seem at first. For, my growing only reveals to me how much more I have yet to see and know.
So in I “ask in reverence and seek in humility” (thank you Tozer for that language) and step into the river that is alive, ever-flowing, ever-changing though never changed and ask for more water and bigger pictures.
Even if I must sip one teaspoon at a time, give me the wild wilderness of the ocean.