See the Snow

We’re in the midst of our first Seattle snow of the year. My five-year-old son’s near-constant prayer since before Christmas has been a request for snow. When the first flakes fell, he was pulling on his shoes “Just to lick it.” He had his dream come true: He bundled up, went out to our cul-de-sac and threw snow with the neighbor kids, made snow angels, rolled down a small snow-covered slope, built a snowman.

For dinner, we brought home Thai take-out and ate in the subdued lighting of our dining room. For the first time since we’d moved into our house, the light fixture was cleaned and a proper dimmer bulb was installed in it (Thank you, James!). Our cafe lighting in our yard glowed golden over the white blanket dusting our shrubs and patio. Then my son whispers, “I’m pretending we are eating in a restaurant,” and I know he’s having one of those rare magical moments of being fully present in life, delighting in everything. Then again, I think kids experience those moments a lot more than I do.

Our whole family was bundled up and playing outside until my daughter’s hands got wet and cold, so I went inside with her to warm up with hot chocolate. We sat by our front window to watch the snow fall and sip warm drinks. She dumped her drink down her front with almost every sip, exclaiming with bright joy on the occasion when “I didn’t spill it!!” I read her Dr. Seuss’s ABC and she chattered exuberantly with me, as only my little two-year-old can do when she is happy, contented, and no one else is interrupting her.

I recently realized that my mind and nearly every morsel of spare time has been devoted to my task list. And although many of those things on my list involve taking care of other people, there was something deeply inward-focused that left me feeling convicted of selfishness.

Yes, I’m a mother who takes care of her children’s need. Yes, it’s a job that requires a lot of selfless acts. But I’ve found ways to make my plans and thoughts center on me and my pleasure and it seemed to me I was also losing the joy and peace that comes when seeking someone else’s happiness.

Just a small amount of attention turned toward someone else’s joy often prompts me to write short, encouraging notes to friends, offer my husband a neck massage, plan an informal tea party for a friend’s visit—and the new infusion of love is lost on no one.

For me, that moment was bringing hot chocolate to my daughter and chatting with her while we warmed up after our snow day.

The rare Seattle snow almost always touches me with beauty, wonder, sacredness. It reminds me that my checklist isn’t supposed to be all about what makes me feel most productive. Beauty beckons me to slow down and experience it, and to invite others to join me.

Yesterday, I was really really sad. I had some news that broke my heart. And though my son didn’t know the details, he saw his mother’s grief. This kid and I butt heads a lot during the day, and his strong-willed nature combined with my temper often leaves me exhausted and feeling defeated half the time, if not more. But then there are moments when I see that my prayers for his heart to grow in kindness and compassion are not going unheard.

My son saw the tears brimming in my eyes and the heaviness in my steps and he folded me into his small, strong arms. It was nearly his bedtime and he asked if he could sleep in my bed, to comfort me. He offered to bring me breakfast in bed (then said it was a bad idea, because I’d get cavities…), and also offered to take me to a park where we could play together, eat dinner, and he would put chocolate chips on my plate.

He was comforting me in every way that his heart knew how. These are the moments in life when I wonder if maybe, some small part of the “why” of terrible things happening, or God allowing them to happen, has to do with the love and healing and intimacy from others who rise up to answer that pain. That something good will be made of all the mess. And that this post-disaster good is somehow better than unblemished perfection.

I’ll leave you today with an amazing song that I recently discovered. It gave me chills and made my throat catch—the truth was just that powerful and resonant. This artist encapsulates so much of my feelings as a mother and an artist.

I hope you love it.

“The Mother” by Brandi Carlile

(I first heard this on Spotify, but a found a youtube video where she’s singing it live to her daughter–it’s stunning).

About Elise

Elise Stephens began her career in writing at age six, illustrating her own story books and concocting wild adventures. Stephens counts authors Neil Gaiman, C.S. Lewis, and Margaret Atwood among her literary mentors, and has studied under Orson Scott Card. She dreams often of finding new ways to weave timeless truths into her stories. Her novels include Moonlight and Oranges (2011), Forecast (2013), and Guardian of the Gold Breathers (2015), a finalist for the INDIEFAB Book of the Year. She lives in Seattle with her family. Follow her on Twitter @elisestephens and Author Elise Stephens on Facebook.

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