Stands hunched over, keeps to himself. In his pockets he carries the bare minimum, but also things to tinker with… things that need fixing, so that he can quietly replace them afterward. Likes to sweep his thumb over the knuckle of his first finger in broad strokes when he’s thinking.
“Mommy? What’s f… r… a…”
“Hold on a second, honey bean. I didn’t catch the beginning; say that again?”
“F, r, a, g, r, a, n, c, e.”
“Let’s try to sound it out. Remember what sound ‘f’ makes? What does that sound like? Good! Now if you put that in front of ‘r’…”
I have a deadline on Saturday. Tonight’s dinner preparation has left me with a few free minutes between recipe steps, so I slide the chicken in the oven and pick up the short story papers. Little Jo is happily toddling laps around the kitchen table, while Lucy sits perched on the couch with a book spread on her small knees. Normally I wait until the littles are in bed to do any serious thinking or scribbling, so I don’t cherish any high expectations as I glance over the top sheet.
He is a Pandora’s box of emotions tightly shut, weighted with responsibility, true feelings somewhere underneath stratified layers of life-scars. He’s lost his parents. For some reason, though he couldn’t tell you exactly why —
“Eh.” I look up. “Eh, ehhhh! Eh.” Little Jo comes toward me with Big Red Barn extended in the firm grasp of her right hand.
“Do you want me to read it?”
She stops. Big Red Barn slowly draws back toward her chest. “Eh oh.” She shakes her head uncertainly.
“Are you sure? Do you want me to sit down and read it to you?”
“Doh doh doh.” She steps backward slowly while keeping a twinkling eye on me — one of her favorite moves — and when I playfully hold out my hand for the third time, she finally makes a break for it, turning on her baby heel and dashing off with animals now safe from Mama’s page-turning relentlessness.
She’ll return in about two minutes, urging me to sit on the floor and then carefully backing up into my lap. She’ll plunk the book into my hands and wait expectantly for the story to begin, and we’ll read it together on the kitchen floor.
Neither the short story writing nor the mothering feels like an interruption to the other right now, but I know how easily I could think otherwise. As I watch Little Jo flee, I think of a man who used to be annoyed by interruptions.
People used to walk in and say, ‘Well, I just had two hours to kill here in between trains, and I thought I would come and see you.’ That used to bother me. Then the Lord convinced me that He sends people our way. He sent Philip to the Ethiopian eunuch. He sent Barnabas to see Saul. The same applies today. God sends people our way.
…So now I take interruptions as from the Lord. They belong in my schedule, because the schedule is God’s to arrange at His pleasure.
– Spiritual Leadership, J. Oswald Sanders, 97.
These days I catch Lucy asking me about simple words that I know she already knows. In this, as well as Little Jo’s pre-show to reading books, I glimpse a little girl’s comfort in hearing her mama answer with patience over exasperation (not always, but please God, increasingly so) — even when my response is “Sorry, could you ask me later?”
Something is being built in those interactions… and not only for them, but for me. I am learning to respond with kindness amid shredded concentration. I’m learning to smooth my own furrowed brow with a healthy laugh every once in a while.
And as the days go by, and I notice the incremental changes, I know that interruptions great and small belong in my schedule. In them I see again that my Father’s priority is the development of my person over the accomplishment of my tasks: my heart over my hand.