Some memories forever embed themselves in our minds, not because they are themselves noteworthy, but because of something that comes after.
One sunny morning in October 2006, I woke up an hour earlier than necessary. I enjoyed an invigorating five-mile run, showered, made myself a spinach-and-cheese omelette, and still got to church on time. And why not? I had a whole extra hour, because it was Fall Back Day — my favorite non-holiday event of the year.
Not particularly memorable in and of itself, pleasant though it was.
The reason I remember it is that, one year later, I was the mother of a two-month-old baby. He was cuddly, alert, precious…and absolutely exhausting. Barely eight weeks into motherhood, I adored my son, but felt sure that my life was over. I would never sleep again, never go running again, maybe never shower again. Then came the night before the October time change, when I had a new and horrifying realization: changing the clock would mean precisely zilch to this tiny person in my arms. The only thing it would mean was that, when he woke up, my clock would probably say 5:00 instead of 6:00.
My favorite day of the year suddenly became my least favorite day of the year, and postpartum blues overtook me like an ocean breaker knocking down an unsusupecting toddler at the beach. Memories of last year’s leisurely autumn morning of running and breakfasting taunted me: “You will never get that back! If only you’d known to appreciate it!”
News flash: Having children does not make life easier.
Nine years later, I’m still alive — and happily, doing more than just surviving. Still, though, I can’t go running as often as I used to. I can’t spend an entire Saturday reading a book from cover to cover. And activities to which I never gave a second thought have become impossibly cumbersome tasks. Getting out of the house to run errands takes EVER so much longer than it used to, and putting myself to bed is allowed only after two energetic youngsters have finally had their last story. To top it all off, we have made the choice, often considered the height of masochism, to homeschool our children. A lifetime sentence, to be sure — am I right?
Something has happened in those nine years. Not all at once, but gently, sweetly, like tiny buds slowly pushing through the earth, a day at a time, until one day you look around and realize that it’s spring.
I have come to see that children make many things better.
I first noticed this on a Monday morning. I was busying myself with chores: starting laundry, putting away dishes, attacking various piles of clutter…all the varied tasks that accumulate after two days of pretending weekends can still be restful. In the midst of it, something struck me: the kids are playing together and letting me get my work done! Further consideration revealed that, while I wasn’t looking, this had become a regular occurrence. Something about coming off of a busy Sunday inspires my children, the next morning, to wake up wanting to play creatively and happily with one another.
During that time, I can accomplish the things that, during the baby and toddler years, seemed Herculean. The ability to complete tasks unhindered is a treat now, not a drudgery to take for granted as I did before I had little people underfoot to interrupt them.
Stranger still than enjoying chores: I no longer hate Mondays. I actually…like them.
And the more I reflect, the more I notice the myriad details of life that have become more beautiful — and have even gone from unpleasant to enjoyable — as a result of what I first thought had permanently handicapped every aspect of my existence.
Although this revelation came to me in the context of motherhood, I believe that God surprises all of us, in different ways, with this Monday grace — this gentle, gradual transformation of things mundane or dreary into things pleasant and even delightful. And I, for one, notice it much less often than it happens. I take the quiet joys in life for granted instead of recognizing them for what they are: reminders that God’s mercies are new every morning, and that He is the One who gives us beauty for ashes…even though, more often than not, we blithely go about living our lives without stopping to acknowledge the change.
I said that children make many things better. Really, though, it’s so much bigger than that. God, in his grace, continually takes the seeming drudgeries of life and reshapes them – reshapes us – so that they bring us joy instead.
May I continually be transformed in this way…and may I always return praise and thanks to the Giver of all good and perfect gifts, great and small.