I’d been doing some thinking back when we were just a family of four. The thoughts sparked from a not-so-quiet morning (which is common around here now, on this side of our Jordan). Cartoons were on the TV to entertain the big one, the bed was rocking in the corner to calm the little one, and I moved pen to paper to prayerfully-process through my recent shift in identity.
Being a stay-at-home mama is such a gift, I wrote, (though it feels an awful lot …
[Pause to put summer-sandals on Santa-clad pajama-footie-feet.]
… like sprinting through a never-ending obstacle course).
The identity-transition from working-from-home to staying-at-home has brought surprising anxiety along with it. For a year, the second our big one’s head hit his naptime crib mattress, I sat down at my desk to work. When our second came, and I stopped working, I felt the daily naptime tension – the habitual muscle-memory of should-be creating, or writing, or doing something to contribute to our general bank account.
I’ve been driven and chasing dreams and striving for success and building a business for over a decade, I prayed. How do I transition to simply being a mom? And how do I do that transition well?
[Pause to pull a toddler-sized wingback a few inches to the left so the big one can climb up to reach the light switch.]
No sooner had the living room light flicked on than I suddenly saw it: I had years of building a career and an identity that was suddenly switched off, and an unfamiliar identity turned on in its place. The former? I was a woman invested in business while also in the throws of years-long delayed fertility, sitting at my morning-table with nothing but the sound of the ticking clock and scratching pen to fill the silence.
The latter? I am a mother, investing in two little boys with the cartoons playing and the little one’s bed rhythmically-rocking and a regular morning-table interruption of the sweetest “Mom! Mom! Mama! Mama! Mama!” repetition.
But how do I reconcile this tension? And turn off this naptime-need to do something when I’m already doing the very best thing?
[Pause to change the cartoon.]
I find the morning-answer in Ann Voskamp’s words: “The answer to much anxiousness is the adoration of Christ.”
[Pause to swaddle the little one.]
When did I get to this point? I prayer-wondered. When did I arrive at this idea that something is only worth doing – it’s only valuable – if it comes with a paycheck? These every day, unpaid moments are the ones that have the most value. They are the ones with the most return on my investment.
[Pause to change the cartoon again.
I read Psalm 131 and chew on the calming and the quieting and the weaning. The weaned child, as it turns out, no longer frets for mother’s milk. She is simply satisfied with her affection. It’s a word-picture that illustrates what contentment with God’s care looks like, despite the smallness of your earthly possessions.
And I suddenly realize: I’m in the weaning-process. God is getting me accustomed to this new normal I had dreamed of, and that is far away from the business-life I had grown especially fond of. He is moving me away from the regular paychecks and the pleasures and profits that went along with it. And He has put two (now three) babes in my arms while teaching me to be quiet and easy in His.
Later that day, I began thinking about that not-so-quiet quiet time. And I began to wonder how we decided to collectively call this daily time with God “quiet.” I mean, I understood the idea of the title and embraced the quiet for years. But I’m afraid that there’s a whole slew of weary mamas running their daily hamster-wheel routine with hardly a moment to themselves who have set aside their regular “quiet time” because this season of life just doesn’t allow for any quiet.
Maybe it’s time we change the “quiet time” name to something less … quiet.
We live in a world that looks down on screen-time-television for little ones. But I’m here to tell you: it’s ok to turn on the TV and tune out the noise for a few moments of interrupted-prayer and disjointed reading. Because somewhere along the line, I learned to carry a conversation with a girlfriend while a little one vyed for my attention.
I’m learning to do the same with God.
And the other thing I’m learning? When I do, it can be just as precious as those “quiet times” He and I shared before, on that waiting-side of our Jordan.
Selah. It’s likely a word you’ve heard before, and it makes its Bible-home mostly in the book of Psalms. But have you heard of The Rule of First Mention? It says that the first mention of a concept in the Bible is the simplest and clearest presentation of it, essentially laying the foundation for every other mention to then build upon it. And the first mention of selah in Scripture? It’s in Psalm 3. When you read the words, you find David right in the middle of a very stressful situation (you can find that story in 2 Samuel 15). To summarize: he had just fled hastily from Jerusalem and a conspiracy to overtake his throne as King of Israel. He evacuated his entire household from the palace and, at some point during his flight, he penned the words of Psalm 3 – crying out to God for deliverance.
“They’re all out to get me,” David prayed in Psalm 3:1. And then? Selah.
By itself, the story sets a precedent for pausing right there in the middle of the chaos and the uncertainty and the fear and crying out to God. But, even more interesting? The person behind the conspiracy from whom David fled? It was his son.
I laughed out loud when I read the words because, how many times had I texted my husband in recent weeks with similar, David-like sentiments about our three little ones? They’re working against me, I said one morning, breathless and overwhelmed with three babes three-years-old and younger. And another afternoon: They’re running circles around me. So, when I saw David’s similar “they’re all out to get me” words, I felt a little bit of relief that even David hid from his son. And when he did, he muttered the very first mention of selah.
The word has somewhat of a mysterious shroud draped over its shoulders, but most scholars agree it has been used as a pausing marker. Most psalms are actually songs and selah is placed as an indicator for the singer to stop singing while the band plays on. Some may call it an interruption. But for me? I like to think of it as an interlude.
“You came into a very controlled environment and spilled chaos into every arena of our life like popcorn kernels exploding from a heated canister,” Erin Loechner once tenderly wrote in a letter to her baby daughter. “You arrived, a kernel of love and surprise and mess. The most beautiful mess of all, shattering expectations and crumbling walls until we became a heap of ourselves.”
It’s funny, isn’t it, how children become a kind of interlude? The years are short, or so the saying goes, as is an interlude. These years with our babes are different from when it was just me and him before. And they are different still than the empty nest that will come after. And I’m trying my hardest to hear the barrage of noise and chaos as a symphony of selahs. To embrace the pause and turn the interruption-perspective right on its head.
Did you know that another word for interlude is respite? A lull or rest. A breathing space. (It’s ok – you can pause here with me and take a deep breath.) But an interruption? It also moonlights as an intrusive disturbance. I don’t know about you, but when I read the psalms and encounter that selah-word, I don’t see it as intrusive. No, I see it as an intrinsic invitation to chew on the words I just read.
It turns out that selah is used 71 times in the psalms, and I am pausing at least that many times to tend to any one of my miracle babes. But, interruption or interlude?
It’s all in how you hear the music.