I’m back from a run, my pulse still elevated, sweat dripping.
“Mom? You’re sweaty.”
Riley’s voice rises from the living room, where she sits waiting on me, her pencil moving over a workbook in her lap. Before I leave, every run, she asks me where I’ll be running, rehearses the steps with me street by street. A few repeats of this inquisition and I’m aware that I need to start paying attention to all the names, even the little cul-de-sac where I jogged past a brood of newly hatched, knobby-kneed baby birds scurrying around on the asphalt. They saw me coming and rushed away. One fuzzy bird, the slowest one, lost balance and briefly tipped forward on its beak. I smiled, loving that one, whispering thanks that God allowed me to see them. So today, I pay closer attention, collecting the details for Riley.
Three days before my first half marathon, and every time I run I’m still wondering if I can do it. It’s not the distance; I’ve pounded out thirteen miles, ten, eight, six. And I want to keep adding miles, as many as my body can handle. Really, it’s an emotional thing, a tired thing, a wow-I-am-so-human thing. Move these legs, I’m always telling God, because running always leaves me sure He can, if I’m sure of nothing else. And I ask Him to help me love the run and not just the euphoric finish. Help me love my now, I tell Him, recognizing that this, truly, is the request: To love the run; the day-by-day everything; the sweaty-sore pressing-through moments; the raging, difficult steps as well as the restful, easier, laughing, indulgent ones. And for me, that means learning to pay closer attention to everything, even my breathing, and the way the clouds are shaped, the shade of blue that is sky, the depth of greens, the sweep of tree branches and blossoms scattered at my feet. It means noticing the sparkle in the roadway, the fresh-beaked birds.
I can feel Riley’s breath on my neck.
I walk upstairs to shower, and she’s behind me, not an inch from my back. I feel the tips of her toes pressing into the carpet just as my heels lift. I pause for some insignificant reason, and she turns sideways to avoid bumping into me. Her nose almost lands on my cheek, and finding that silly, she laughs, her mouth stretching into a breathtaking smile. For a moment, I struggle to find the humor in it.
“Hi, Sweetie,” I say, forcing patience. “What are you doing?”
“I’m following you.”
“I noticed that. Why are you following me?”
“Because. I want to see you.”
A sigh. As much as I want some time alone, I love her too much to allow myself to be annoyed by such surrendered, tender attention. I smile, and into the bathroom we go, and all through my bathing she lays on the floor, asking me questions about what middle school will be like, and what I did when I was a kid, and how we will celebrate her birthday soon. She talks to me about wanting to learn so many things—driving, make up.
“And I don’t know who I will marry,” she says again. “And Mom? When I’m twelve I can sit in the front seat.”
I laugh out loud, letting the joy wash over me as the water runs all through my hair. Riley reminds me of myself at the same age, sitting across the table from my mom with a cup of coffee in my hands, just needing to talk to her. And maybe Riley’s ramblings wander further, maybe the conversation takes leaps across cliffs, but that only makes the discussion a greater adventure.
Patiently, I wander with her, reweaving the threads she leaves hanging, picking up the loose thoughts and tucking them in safe.
“God knows whom you will marry. And when. And if. Let’s not hurry, sweet girl. Let’s enjoy right now. There are so many exciting things right now. Yes, when Dad’s not with us, you can ride in the front seat. I will teach you how to put on make up…a.little.”
“Why a little?” She looks up, not appreciating the boundary.
“Well, because a little goes a long way. And you don’t need makeup to be beautiful. You are beautiful already. Makeup is just art for your face. But I will teach you how to have fun with it.”
“Yes,” she says, nodding, “you will teach me,” as if I have no choice. But I know that for Riley this is just a reassuring recitation of facts, a remembrance of the promises I’ve made and the faithfulness she can expect.
My conversations with my daughter–these precious, amazing moments I once thought I might never have–have taught me a thousand times over why I remind God about the things He’s said, why I talk to Him like I can’t get the thoughts out fast enough, why a prayer will start in supplication and burst suddenly into gratitude, remembrance, the recitation of promises.
You have said that those who hope in you (oh, how I hope in you!) will renew their strength, I often breathe, just as I’ve told Him that this week I’m just not sure about the order of things or how much to attempt or what to let go so that the urgent doesn’t swallow up the important. A dear friend reminded me this week about this quoted passage from a book called Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World (exactly what I want…a Mary heart, even in this Martha world!) by Joanna Weaver:
We live in constant tension between the urgent and the important,”Hummel writes. “The problem is that the important task rarely must be done today or even this week. Extra hours of prayer and Bible study can wait. But the urgent tasks call for instant action—endless demands pressure every hour and day (Weaver, 7).
So much of my praying is about this issue. I want to be present now, to pay attention to the details, to give priority to the important, but the urgent things feel like an avalanche, and I run with rocks tossed at my feet. “How do I love that run?” I often ask Him, and then, all out of breath, “You will make me soar on wings, like eagles. I will run and not grow weary. I will walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40:31)!”
And this, this mad rush of words, this uninhibited waterfall of wondering, this is what He wants. This: such love for Him that I want to know every step He’ll take, that I study and remember every path and the words marking it. This: such trust that His perspective, His reassurance is the thing I cannot wait to have; that I live for our conversations. This is why He did it all—the Holy clothed in human, the Lamb on the cross, the blood covering, the empty tomb—to feel my breath on His neck; to pick up His foot and feel the carpet sink beneath my feet; to know that I follow desperately, so closely—Oh, let me follow that closely!—because, and I tell Him this nearly every day,
“I just want to see you.”
And then, somewhere in the pouring out I hear Him whisper back, Let’s not hurry, sweet girl. Let’s enjoy right now. There are so many exciting things right now.