It had already been a frustrating day. My workload had overflowed the boundaries of my working day and spilled over into the after-school hours when my three children were home. It was a cold, grey January day, with a heavy wind that cut through layers of clothing and drove children inside. All theoretical constraints on TV screens and digital devices had been set aside, and I could hear the noise of multiple game and video soundtracks through my office door as I desperately sifted through and edited other people’s words via an online interface, trying to meet my deadlines. I had too much to do and too little time, and I couldn’t afford any interruptions.
That’s when the lights went out.
The screen in front of me blinked and my work disappeared into the darkness, along with every other device in the house. My children whined and groaned as their shows and games faded away. They clamored at me, asking what happened? How long would the lights be off? What could they do?
I put my hands over my face, overwhelmed. My oldest son shushed the younger two. “Let Mama think, you guys!” As they cuddled in next to me to wait for my answers to their questions, a soft silence emerged. The ever-present background hum of modern, wired life was gone. I could hear my children breathing and the movements of the wind outside, sweeping past the houses and through the trees, beating against creaking window frames and doors. But in between those distinct sounds was…silence. And with it, an unexpected peace.
How long had I been waiting for that silence, not knowing it was what I needed? It wasn’t on any of my scribbled to-do lists or blocked into my Google calendar. I hadn’t realized I needed it; I certainly didn’t think I had time for it. I’d been stumbling through my day distracted and preoccupied with everything I had to do, everything for which I felt responsible, especially the three children God gave me—children that I don’t think I’d seen clearly all day.
I squinted at them in the dim light then, and was struck by their reality, with the weight of their presence. I was bowled over, all of a sudden, with the enormity of the privilege of sharing my life with these small people, each a universe in themselves, each unique, each irreplaceable! How beautiful, how awe-inspiring! And how strange it was to see so much more clearly in the dark!
Something inside me softened then, and I surrendered to the quiet. “Let’s get some candles,” I whispered to the kids, and we set off scattering points of light around the house. We giggled as we made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for our dinner, and the house filled with laughter as we attempted to play a board game in the flickering, dim light. Finally, we sat down, teeth brushed and pajamas on, to read a chapter of The Hobbit together with the one working flashlight.
Sitting in the dark and the quiet of my daughter’s room that night, watching the candle flame on her windowsill, I was struck by memories of other darkened spaces, of candles flickering during countless Easter Vigil masses. Memories of
the smell of candlewax,
the weight of the dark, lifted
into shadows and shapes
by the sharing flame and
the quiet sounds of bodies shifting
Every year I look forward to that liturgy, but here was that peace, in my own home, on a midwinter night, shedding light on the beauty of my ordinary life.
Sometimes a simple meal, shared without fuss, is the best of all. For a twist on the tried and true PB&J, share this pan-fried version with your loved ones. Best with a glass of milk and lots of love. http://www.parenting.com/article/fried-peanut-butter-jelly-picky-eaters
Lead, Kindly Light
Lead, kindly Light! Break through the busyness and anxieties of my day, and teach me to see the beauty and wonder of the souls around me. Thank you for filling this world with the good of your creation. Help me to see it always in the light of your love. Amen.
Look for the moments that interrupt the rhythm of your day—time spent waiting in line, at a crosswalk, eating a meal, driving to work, or preparing for sleep. Leave your phone in your pocket; let yourself be in this unrepeatable, unique moment instead of rushing to fill it. Who do you see? Try to extend a genuine smile, greeting, or small act of service to somebody you would normally overlook.
Beauty in the Interruptions – Kate Cousino