Late afternoon, hungry babies, I stand distracted and twelve different places in a single moment.
I’m in the kitchen, meat frying in the skillet, wiping down the counters, thinking about problems and worries and decisions, and spending minutes I don’t have on social media, because that, of course, is what is most important right now.
“Yes, kiddo?” I say, not even pausing long enough to put my phone down.
“What, baby?” Shoot, the meat is starting to burn. I move over to the stove to stir it, phone still in my hand, choosing a filter.
“BABY! I’m trying to do so many things right now! What do you need?”
We both reach our breaking point and snap at each other at the same time, exasperated over different things: Me with her, over interrupting me; Her with me, over not receiving my undivided attention.
“Mama! Look at me!”
I realize in this whole exchange that I haven’t even seen her. I’ve been looking at my phone, looking at the skillet, looking at the crumbs on the counter that seem to multiply throughout the day.
She’s standing right at my feet, a flower crown around her head, ballet leotard on her body, sword in hand. “Mama. I’m now known as Princess Brave. I’m moving to the upper level of my castle now and you can only find me by calling out my new name.”
Her audacity to demand my full attention, her awareness that getting me to look her in the eyes is what ensures it, and honestly, just the cuteness of her childlike play snap me out of my selfishness.
I turn the burner off. Put my phone down. Bend my knees so that I am at her level, eye to eye. I place my hands on her hips as I look at her, just as she asked, and say “Princess Brave, I am honored to have you grace me with your presence. Quickly! Go to the upper level of your castle before they discover you have escaped from prison!”
Her eyes twinkle, delighted that I have delved into her game and she scampers away, her heels clicking on the kitchen floor.
It was really that simple, I catch myself wondering? She just needed me to look at her, undivided?
But the very next day, I do it again- differently, yet so very the same. This time, I’m rushing them out the door- we’re late, something I loathe. I had done it to myself, which make me even more irritated.
We were preparing to leave the house and I realize everyone is dressed but me. I run upstairs to throw on an outfit. I glance in the mirror, assessing what I had assembled on my body, and it’s just not going to work. Nope. Not today. Maybe not ever.
“Mama! We have shoes on!” I hear Brennan call from downstairs.
“Gah! We’re so late! Okay, okay, I’m coming!”
I find them downstairs wrestling and I lose my marbles.
“GIRLS SERIOUSLY! Can’t we make it out the door just once without there being some problem? I just did your hair! Just make it easy for me just one time, please!? OUT! NOW.”
My babies freeze.
“Mama… you just used your strong voice on us.”
“My strong voice?”
“Yeah. The one you use when you have a tight heart. Like my book talks about? You have a tight heart right now and that’s when you yell and that’s when we obey right away because we’re a little bit scared.”
But she’s right. She’s right, she’s right. She’s six and she’s right.
I know this about myself, I shouldn’t be shocked.
Turns out a lot is vying for my attention at any given moment, and the more I divide my gaze among it, the more tight my heart becomes.
My girls catch on to this. They see how divided my heart is, how I’m twelve places at once, how I’m not really looking.
So in the only way she knew how to guarantee that I was actually paying attention to what was right in front of me, in the kitchen that day my baby girl demanded that I put everything else down and pay attention to only her.
She did it by simply saying “Mama. Look at me.”
And in a very real way I understand, more completely really, why again and again and again the scriptures remind us to keep our eyes on God, keep our eyes on Jesus, don’t look away and look back if you do.
It’s such a hard thing, isn’t it, to keep our eyes on Jesus. I think that’s why God reminds us so often to do so- he knows how easily we begin to look away and the impact it has on our soul. When there’s social media beckoning and a to-do list that reaches to next July and another dark news headline as we wake up and worries over what the future holds and a baby who needs tending to, it’s such a hard thing to keep our eyes on one thing instead of twelve.
Productivity beckons! Multi-tasking beckons! Stress and anxiety- those beckon too.
Turns out though, we get to choose what we fix our eyes on. Turns out that the more I fix my eyes on peace and goodness and the presence of Jesus in this very moment right now, the more I find comfort and strength and the resilience I need to handle stress and demands.
As I fix my eyes back to Jesus, it doesn’t erase the needs and tasks and stress, but somehow it simply slides them into their rightful place. They don’t seem so stressful anymore, they don’t seem so urgent, my heart isn’t so beholden to them anymore.
And so I memorize a verse to whisper.
And so I put down my phone and lock eyes with my babies so they know that it is only them I’m paying attention to.
And so I play music instead of turn on the news.
And so I be still for five minutes.
And so I sit outside and listen to the wind in the trees.
And so I do one thing at a time and one thing only.
And with every little thing, I feel a little less divided than I was the moment prior. With every little thing, I sense my priorities lining up the way they should be. With every little thing, my soul feels resilient, my heart firm, undivided.
All it takes is listening to that whisper
“Look at me.”
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