be here now
Finally together at the end of the day, and the murmur of quiet activity is grace. Riley sits with her feet tucked under her at the bar, giggling over a word that twisted in her mouth when she said it, all those wispy, mussed hairs falling golden around her cheeks. Zoe saunters in on sock feet to tell us just the one thing, softly, hair swinging against her back, and Adam leans a moment in the doorway, pausing his Xbox golf to check the progress of supper. It’s as though I can see him growing taller by the minute, turning from a quiet boy into a gentle man. Kevin stops to stir something I’ve left simmering on the stove; the slow rotation of his arm rippling the crisp plaid shoulders of his dress shirt.
Sometimes I’m so distracted I miss the beauty of this practiced harmony, the easy way we travel through life together. We’re a mess—lived in; like a cozy room so disorganized by life as to have its own charm. I swipe the last drops of water from a coffee mug I’ve pulled warm from the dishwasher–running the soft towel in my hand over cracks and years worth of soaked in stains. Through the thinness, I can feel the dips in the rim where the glaze, bright like the sky, has chipped, and I wonder how it is that we could ever be God’s lived in people.
My phone chimes and I drop the cloth on the kitchen counter, setting the mug carefully away for another hand-wrapping, another steamy sip, another blessing. It’s the tiniest thing, but it occurs to me that dishes such as these are only made for giving, only beautiful in the action. I lift my phone and smile. I’m having about three conversations at once with friends–good conversations; the kind in which strong women share real things and get stronger together. Technology can be a tool for many things, but it’s a wonder that one of them is a kind of communion–koinonia. Don’t get me wrong; there’s no substitute for face to face and close enough to touch; but I do give thanks that these days—as spread out and scattered as we can be—we’re still able to flow into and with one another. I lean against the kitchen counter and type a reply, all thumbs, and Kevin gently says, “Hey, so, are you nearly done?” Just the simple question, spoken easily. He has a way with me that feels like the lightness of his fingers tugging at my hand, drawing me closer, always nearer to his side.
I look up mid-word—something about being the moon, reflecting Light. These are deep rivers; rivers only traveled with the best of friends. But there he is, the best friend I’ve ever had, quietly asking if it’s time to draw my attention back to just this room, because there never will be a substitute for face-to-face. I look down again and the screen has gone dark, and I see no reflection in the phone apart from end-of-the-day-me. And then I realize: our words can only take shape right now.
I have to confess something: I’m terrible at divided attention, and still, I allow myself to lose focus. “Multi-tasking”–which some would label a critical mothering skill—makes me feel like a sieve instead of a vessel, so much pouring in too quickly, and all of it just emptying instead of offered. By the end of a day, I lose all ability to manage. End-of-the-day me can only pour myself into one thing at a time. So it’s a text conversation, or it’s work, or it’s presence, but never all three. And my family has come up with such kind ways to tell me that they need me with them—leaning in so they catch my eyes and draw me to them, the gentlest word that tugs me closer. I have suddenly recognized that those moments require the most careful listening.
So God is encouraging me, lately: Just walk away from the phone. Be here now. Let those heart-words become for the ones right in front of you. Because my friends, well, they know. And they’re trying to love right where they’re standing too.
So when he asks me, “Hey, so, are you nearly done,” I smile, close enough to touch him. I carry the phone in my palm and slip it away, tucking it in a basket for charging later.
“Yes,” I say, returning to stand beside him, reaching for his empty hand.