There’s really only one place to start, only one space for the dying of seed, the breaking of ground.
I stand in her doorway–just for a breath, my hand on the door frame, watching light cast aside shadows. She rests, still cocooned, all possibility swathed in quilted blossoms. I whisper thanks and ask for protection, for the sculpting of her heart, for eyes that see, ears that hear.
She has an alarm, but I think the rest of us turn it off more than she does, lightly pushing the button to stop the incessant reminding: time comes, time comes, time comes.
I sing to ease her from sleep, cracking the blinds, clicking on a lamp that casts butterflies on the wall. I watch her twist, the curve of her cheek appearing as the comforter slides away. I collect the things she needs, the stack of books she always wants first—her journal, her Bible, her favorite devotional book, a pen. These I put down on her bedside table before I drop kisses on her forehead, her cheeks.
Already, she has learned where to begin, how to open her eyes to the day.
An arm shoots out from beneath the covers, a wild vine that wraps around the back of my neck and pulls me close. ”Good morning,” I say finally, and she murmurs only part of a word in response, sometimes morning, sometimes love, sometimes Mom. I smile and squeeze her, dropping another kiss on her cheek, and then I leave her to listen. Together, we have decided that if the day isn’t born from our listening, we may never hear.
So, I leave her to her moments alone with God, and I walk down the hall to Adam’s room, knowing that he has been awake and listening, waiting for my approach. My good morning song is the only song he’ll let me sing to him, and I think maybe it’s that the day is new and hasn’t yet become too much. Adam smiles sheepishly as I walk in the room, his face the only part of him yet visible. Prayers lift my voice, my hands, the corners of my mouth. I ask that he too will be a well-watered tree.
Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers (Psalm 1:1-3).
Parts of the day, we feel choked by weeds, and it’s good at the beginning to remember the promise of fruit and the music of leaves. He must be the soil, the water, the power behind our growing.
His hands must be the place we root our living.
By the time Zoe emerges from the stillness of her room, the leaf green walls, the blanket of cozy flowers, I move around the kitchen, ferrying plates to the table. Steam curls over our coffee mugs.
“Good morning,” she says brightly, the day now a bloom, her view freshly shaped.
“So, what did God say to you this morning?”
Before I turn back toward the table, I catch her smile, the light in her eyes, the way she lifts her shoulders as though remembering an embrace. “Well, He said that He is preparing a home for me.”
I sit another plate on the table, stopping still, arrested by this thing I needed, this thing she’s spoken. I see it just then, the way God has rooted the day strong, planting us well in the same space, beneath the same sun.
She does not yet know that I began the day with Him pressing fingers into the clay of me, carving the words such a time as this (Esther 4:14). I told Him, weary, that I’m not sure how, that I feel like such a pilgrim and ill-equipped. I told Him what it looks like to me—like perishing in a foreign land—and He said lean not on your own understanding, and seek my wisdom because she is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed (Proverbs 3). He reminded me, in the waking hours, that I am here right now in this place at this time because He wanted to include me in what He’s doing, but that He will do it even if I’m too afraid. And at the beginning of the day, I whispered Esther’s words right back to Him: If I perish, I perish (Esther 4: 16).
So now this, this is something more, something to root us both, for a day feeling the soreness of pilgrim feet. He prepares home.
She hardly knows how well this fits, how the words shelter me, preparing home, the chief purpose to which I am now called. It’s something I understand, and I tell her this, arranging napkins at each place at the table. We love starting out like this, talking of things whispered in quiet spaces.
I tell my daughter about what it means to me to prepare a home: I anticipate my family’s needs and prepare in advance. I stock the pantry, plan menus, wash and clean and set things straight. I make things so they can learn, pay bills so they’ll have light and water. I consider the guidance my children will need to finish the work of the day, to grow. I plant love all over the path, to make them smile and laugh and dance. I ready my arms for holding them. But most of all, when the day is done, I want our home to be the place they come to rest. I want the space right next to me to be the space to which they long to return.
“So, when God tells you He’s prepared a home for you, this is what He means. He loves to think about what you need and prepare for it in advance. He plans for your nourishment, straightens the path before you, and thinks about how to bring you joy. He makes things so that you can learn. He offers you light, living water, and the only food that will ever satisfy your hunger. He knows what you’ll need to finish the work of the day, what you’ll need to grow. He plants love everywhere you’ll set your feet. He opens His arms for holding you. But most of all, He wants this place where He dwells to be the place you come to rest, where you most want to be, the space to which you long to return.”
“Heaven,” she says softly, blue eyes lit deep.
“Yes, but right here, right now too. He’s prepared in advance so we can start and end right here,” I say it, planting my finger in the middle of my hand over and over, like a nail, “sitting right in the palm of His hand. And He holds us so tightly there that the shape of us leaves marks. There’s no where we will go today–no matter how mixed up or foreign it feels–that He doesn’t go with us, that He hasn’t been before us, that He won’t guard us from behind. We get to start here, Zoe.”
“Well,” she says simply, as though the knowing comes with breathing, “it really is the only place to start.”