It starts at 3:23 am, a hungry cry.
And then another, 4:08.
7:07 welcomes a broken chunk of window lattice, and Ellis rapping on the window. Followed by an exclamation. “Mama, I’m poopy.”
7:11, a glance in the mirror when no glance should have been taken, hair three days bedraggled, face a tired shade of pale.
Ellis asks me at 7:14 if I am crabby. I do not lie.
There is snow on the ground and the floors are chilly, so I attempt to build a fire at 7:34.
At 7:40, there is no longer a fire.
I am in the middle of a soggy bowl of Special K when the hunger chorus erupts from upstairs at 7:45.
8:30 – Diaper time for all three girls.
At 8:52, the twins are asleep in their swings. (And as a quick aside, one of the best pieces of advice someone gave me about living with twins was to never to put anything off. If the time is available to do something, it behooves you to make the most of it. So when my girls sleep, it’s the perfect time to get my toddler outside in the morning.)
I cajole Ellis into her snowsuit, boots, hat, and mittens. We venture outside to let the chickens out, collect eggs, and generally burn off steam.
I am away from the clock at this point, but I know we have at least an hour or so of solid sleep time. Ellis needs to play outside as much as I need to go straight back to bed. She wins. Until suddenly the world is tragic, and the only way she can fight off her frustration is to flop face first into the snow when I’m trying to get her to walk. And then something happens.
I break. Every single frustrating minute from the morning pile-drives my patience and I have to fight back against the weight of it. So I yell. I yell at my daughter to stop laying in the snow so we can walk down the driveway. She yells back, and we both stand there, snorting steam into the winter air. I imagine we look like rams, heads lowered, ready to clash again at any moment.
I turn away, staring down the length of the snow-covered driveway. I feel a thousand miles away from anyone.
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
The verse from Proverbs 15 comes from out of nowhere, slips in the door without knocking, stands in front of me.
It is another confrontation. But this one I know how to handle.
I pick my little girl up off the ground, and then I get down on my knees in the snow. Her blue eyes are crystalline with tears. I apologize for my yelling, tell her I love her. The wind blows around us and I feel it pushing away the heat of my anger.
My daughter looks at me, wiping her nose on the back of her mitten, and says, I sorry too mama. I happy now. I laugh. Happy now is her code for everything’s okay. I’m ready to move on.
And just like that, it IS okay. We walk down the rest of the driveway, check the mailbox, come back to play on the play set, and journey off to go pick another bunch of wild grapes growing on our corn crib. They are incredibly sweet after the frost.
I grew up in the church, so I’m familiar with the phrase “the word of God is living and active”. I also get that it sounds a little fake, or maybe just too evangelical, but hear me out. Because I haven’t ever felt a bible verse be more present and real than in that moment, in the snow, having a face-off with my toddler.
The verse became more than a platitude. It became truth – real, actionable, truth. Anger put a sudden halt on my discipline, but Forgiveness let me walk hand in hand with my daughter.
I don’t have a lot of time for quiet, introspective Bible reading these days. I think God knows. I think He also understands, and in the moments when I’m almost ready to crumble, He carefully places a verse in my palms.
Then He waits for me to do something with it. Because it’s not enough just to know truth.Truth needs to be practiced, moment by moment, mess by mess, until it’s meaning emerges.
Living. Active. Present when I need it most.