The Gift of Humdrum

It was her one-year well-child doctor’s appointment, and her pediatrician and main nurse were already running late at 8:45AM. They were as wonderfully warm and sincere as ever, but I could sense the suppressed sense of urgency. Movements were quietly swift, chit chat was held at bay, statements and questions were kept brief. “No fever. Her growth curves look beautiful. Questions? It’s so great to see you again. We’ll see you in a few months.” For all our anticipation leading up to her first year doctor’s appointment, it was rather anticlimactic and brief. Vaccines were given, tears were shed, and then baby girl went back to playing with her car seat straps as though she hadn’t been poked with seven needles and screamed bloody murder for 5 minutes at the top of her lungs. She didn’t need any toys. Just back to those amazing car seat straps and she was a happy camper.

Beautiful growth curves. They testified of the daily humdrum of the last 365 days. Up at 10PM, 1AM, 4AM to put the baby to breast with no one else to bear witness of this humdrum but the crickets, the stars, and a husband who often stirred to help relieve a tired mama.

Beautiful growth curves testified of week after week of trying to think of new foods to steam, mash, freeze, defrost, chop, heat, pack, repeat, repeat, repeat. After trying to figure out when I could make time to cook food for the big people and clean up our dishes too. After trying to figure out when this took priority over cleaning self and cleaning house while baby napped.

Beautiful growth curves testified of reading “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” for the 726th time, and noticing that she interacts with this book differently than she did 3 or 4 months ago. It was exciting when she learned how to turn the pages. Now she likes to poke her finger into the little holes that the caterpillar ate! She didn’t do that before! Oh and now her face lights up with the most excited smile every time we reach the last page – He became a beauuuuutiful butterfly!!!! Story and pictures have begun to take on meaning for her, and I see it happening right before my eyes.

Beautiful growth curves testified of all those long afternoons when I sat next to her while she played with something I never thought anyone would find so fascinating, as I watched the clock and thought of all the other things I might be doing with my time. She’s really into playing with that empty water bottle. Maybe I can step away and read my book. With one movement away from her, I prompt her to look up and cry out in protest. But MOM… this is our time! I sit myself down next to her and marvel out loud to the best of my ability at the amazing sounds a crunchy empty water bottle can make when held tightly in two little hands. Again.

I watch the relentlessly depressing daily news and think of how we never hear news reports of all the successful flights that make it from takeoff to landing without incident. We never hear news reports praising the parents who don’t leave their child to overheat in the back seat of a car. We never hear about the humdrum. I hear stories of wars raging in the Ukraine, Syria, Israel, and I think of how fortunate I am to live the current humdrum of my daughter sitting in front of me for another meal, looking out at the same trees and sunlight that she always points at from her high chair, day in, day out, far removed from any imminent threat of violence. We have no guarantees and our relative state of peace is something to give great thanks for, sweet baby.

These are quiet days. As she grows to understand the world, not just by news report but by her own personal experiences, and is no longer consoled so easily by empty water bottles and straps on a car seat, and when her growth is bumpy and rocky and not so smooth, I will look back on these past 365+ days and think, oh this gift of humdrum, what a gift it is.

A Pregnant Pause

As we have transitioned in this season from pastor and pastor’s wife to laypeople who quietly sit every Sunday in the back row at a church full of people whom we do not know and who do not know us, it has been a very curious thing to experience the slow change in posture from one-who-ministers to one-who-receives. It took us a few weeks to break out of the mindset of, “Oh I like how they do that; we could have done this in our services too.” Slowly that faded…and as we simply began to enter into Sunday services as our own weary, disoriented selves, we have begun to cherish the ability to just bring our empty cups and have them filled, or at least start to plug and repair a lot of the leaky holes, one by one.

I suppose at this point, I should stop referring to “we” so that my husband can speak for his own experience. For me, there have been at least two main things that have stood out to me in this time.

The first is this very large part of my heart that has tremendous need for God’s comfort, ministry and peace regarding the level of suffering and amount of death I witness regularly as a pediatric ICU nurse. When the husband was still pastoring, and I was leading worship in music on a regular basis, I realize now that for many of those years, I came before God with the posture of a conduit – “Lord, please fill me with Your heart and Your power so that I can give or minister to others.” But I wasn’t receiving what I needed for my very self, because I wasn’t acknowledging that I mattered too. Now, He is telling me that I matter too, and it’s time to pay attention to my own vital signs. I haven’t fully unpacked it yet, and I probably never fully will. But curiously, as I stand in the back row and quietly sing my prayers unmic’d, no longer preoccupied with the musical arrangement of my fingers or the tone quality of my voice, I weep largely out of my own sorrow and confusion and anger and BLAAAHHHH over suffering and illness and child abuse and poor-quality-of-life-on-machines and death. There is something deep in my soul that yearns for heaven, and sighs deep relief in knowing that the Suffering Servant who bled and died on the cross knows more than just a small taste of our agony. You know, Lord. And You overcame it. It is not just my spiritual rhetoric. You know.

The second thing that stands out to me is the very pregnant pause that occurs in conversations with people who don’t know us, who come over to welcome us. Sometimes it eventually comes out in the conversation that my husband was previously a pastor at a church in the area, and they never seem completely sure how to respond or how much to pry without overstepping their boundaries. I always feel this need to reassure them that it was a peaceful process, which I find unfortunate, perhaps because of too much media sensation about pastors who have resigned from their churches over contentious reasons. I don’t know how to explain where we are or what we are looking for, except that we are “just visiting.” There is so much more, but we ourselves haven’t fully figured it out yet, and hence the tongue-tie, I suppose. By simply divulging that detail about my husband’s previous role as a pastor, we distinguish ourselves from the “typical” visitor, and I can feel it in the pregnant pause. It is something that I both despise and also embrace. I despise it because I feel it comes from the same family of pregnant pauses that I felt separated me from a closeness in relationship that I longed for when I was in active standing as a “pastor’s wife.” I also embrace it because it is basically what encapsulates exactly where I am. In the middle of a pregnant pause. And I need people who know how to pick up the conversation with me, without intimidation, condemnation, or prolonged awkwardness, and who can help me complete my currently tongue-tied response to, “Hi, welcome to our church. What brings you here?”