when my children come to me
In the middle of the afternoon, when the sun burns so hot we can almost see the scorching heat and the grass curls brown and crackles beneath our bare feet, we eat peaches that taste of sunshine. The sticky juice runs down our chins. We spoon up blueberries dripping with sweet milk and push out of our chairs to walk down the back steps and stare up at the rich blue sky. For a moment we say nothing. We are each one temporarily lost, riding clouds that look like ocean waves.
“Mom, I’m ready to go to the beach,” Zoe finally says, with a raw voice I understand.
I put my arm around her shoulders and smile into her eyes like the sky, and I say, “I know. Soon. But first, just a few more weeks of school…and: homework.”
Just like that, one word splits the moment, and we walk back up the steps, resolved. I know the longing they feel, like a calling from the sea, the whip of salt air through their hair. I have heard my children, and that’s why I wash peaches in the thick heat and drizzle blueberries with sweet milk, and sit the elegant bowls in front of them. It’s why we stop and walk outside barefoot in the prickly summer grass just to look at the sky. It’s the reason I carve moments for them out of tiny gifts of grace.
It begins with a hasty countdown scrawled on our dry erase board, just where I can see. 13 more days. And then, 12. Zoe writes it first, in her unbound, loose hand. She decorates the letters with stars. I read it and smile, and make note of her waiting. Then Riley starts maintaining the count, which is really more her forte, diligently changing the numbers, rewriting them a bit more tightly. Riley accepts what is. She doesn’t wish, unless it’s for someone else, but she starts to speak in terms that etch scrolling lines around her hope. “Mom, it will be her birthday while I’m at the beach.” I treasure up the words, the way they light a spark in her eyes. And as she drops these lines more frequently in our conversations, I squeeze her shoulders and whisper, “almost…it’s almost time.” The echoing of the two in unison makes me feel more urgent for their freedom.
And then in another day or so, Adam comes to me, appearing wild-eyed and hazy from some reverie involving music and numbers and feeling that raises a wrinkle just over the bridge of his nose, and says, “July.”
“What about July? What happens in July?”
I put down whatever I’m holding and narrow my eyes. I already know what he means to say. “I am going on…”
“I am going on a trip.” A smile breaks free, lifting the heavy weight of the afternoon and our work. He makes me smile too.
“Where are you going?” I ask, savoring the sound of his voice, the fact that this longing motivates him to speak to me voluntarily.
“I am going on a trip,” he says again, and again the contagious smile lights his face. His body surges with enthusiasm I can feel.
“I know. But where? Where are you going?”
The room cannot contain that smile. “Grandma and PaPa’s house.”
“Yes. And what will you do at Grandma and PaPa’s house?”
“I will go to the beach.” He says the whole thing, and the words I and go come out low like the trough of a wave, the others like the crest.
He says this in the afternoon, and in the morning, before school, he asks me, “May I have some come home, please,” and I have to remind him to say I want to stay home instead. So I ponder a third voice begging for freedom. And in the afternoon, I put fat peaches in their hands and sprinkle blueberries with a tiny dusting of sugar that glints just a bit in the heat. I beckon them to leave papers on the table and come see the blue sky. I am touched by their unified speeches, by their unique way of telling me together—but each in a rare voice—that they feel tired and long for time unraveled and skin that feels of the sun itself.
When my children come to me, I hear the things they say and the things they don’t. I feel the heart that beats beneath the words, the yearning, the wish. And my desire is to say yes and it’s time, even when it isn’t. Not yet. As the days build and time comes, and they speak more frequently of the same hope, my heart aches still more to meet their need. I bend toward them and imagine ways to give them glimpses of what they long to know. And somehow, the mutual calling out, the shared yearning, bonds them to each other all new. They reach out and touch each other on the shoulders. Zoe finishes her homework. Her pencil snaps against the table, and she grabs Adam’s hand and pulls him out the door, and they race to the trampoline, collapsing giggly and sweaty on the hot, black round. And I love them still more for the way they love each other.
So, in the evening, when we gather to pray, I suddenly know that this is how it is with God too, when His children come to Him. He hears us as we begin, our voices falling like rare chords, like drizzling rain in isolated patches. He hears what we say and also what we don’t. He feels our hearts, sifts through them, looks right deeply past our careful facades and hears the yearning, the wish, the hope. And the more urgently we speak in unison of our desperate need, the more He longs to say yes and it’s time, and the more He imagines ways to give us glimpses of the things of which we deeply long to know. He bends toward us and places fresh, fat grace gifts in our hands. The juice drips sticky from our chins, tasting of His glory, the heat we ache to feel in our souls. He bids us pause in our labor and beckons us out to see what He’s done and what comes. And somehow, our mutual reaching, the blending of our hearts in prayer, bonds us more solidly to each other. We learn to love each other all new, tied by our shared longing, sealed together by our Father and His hope, by the echo of our speeches. Rising up from prayer, we touch each other on the shoulders. We embrace. We offer each other our strength, our joy, our clasped hands to run along together. And in these sweet, carved moments, He loves us still more for the way we love each other.