By Melissa Gutierrez Nelson
Snow fell outside my window, covering everything around in a perfect blanket of pure white snow. “Argh,” I grumbled at the sight. “More snow!” Dread washed over me, as I looked outside to yet another blustery morning in the endless winter. I felt my mood sink quickly as I mentally calculated how much extra time the weather would add to our already over-scheduled day. It seemed too overwhelming to face at 8 o’clock on the morning.
Just as my mind began to conjure up elaborate scenarios where I could ignore all that had to be done today, go back to bed and hide under the covers for the next six hours, (perhaps I could fake a debilitating back injury, or tell my husband that I had mono and he would have to manage without me for the next week or so…) Andrew, my four-year-old, bounded down the steps with his two-year-old brother Tait in tow. “Mommy! We’re hungry!” And just like that, my reverie was broken.
Prospects for my foray back to bed looking dismal at best, I instead turned my attention to the task at hand: getting us all dressed, fed, and out the door without anyone (me included) melting onto the floor in a tantrum mode. After debating why a tank top was not appropriate attire for January in Minnesota, changing a messy diaper, explaining why we could not have chocolate cookies for breakfast, and an eternity spent getting the boys bundled, booted, and mittened, we finally made our way out of the house.
Trekking down the snowy driveway, I silently went through the stops we had to make that day: run to the grocery store, pick up prescriptions, and return library books. I checked my watch for the thousandth time and realized we had just enough time to get it all done before we needed to get home and begin the process of lunch, baths, naps, and getting dinner started. I turned around to tell the boys to hurry, just in time to see Andrew stop, fall backwards, and lie down in the middle of what I vaguely remembered from warmer days to be our lawn.
Faster than I could say, “get up this minute,” Tait, in his usual fashion, immediately followed his big brother’s example and was also happily prostrate in the snow. “Andrew and Tait Nelson,” I said, about to weep with frustration. “WHAT ON EARTH are you guys doing?”
Andrew answered sweetly, “We’re making snow angels, mommy,” as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. I looked at them, and losing any hope of getting to where we needed to be in a timely fashion, I had to laugh.
In my rush to get everything done, I had almost missed the blessing God had wanted to give me. When I looked outside at the snow falling, I saw a van with icy windows that would need to be scraped, slick roads that would slow my driving, and mittens that would lose their way off two sets of fingers in a matter of moments. My children, in all their wisdom, saw something much better. They saw snowballs to throw and snow people to build. They saw fresh, white snow to make tracks through and roll in. That was enough for them to take delight in.
Many days I see my life as a giant to-do list. There are a million things I need to get done, and every element in my day either advances my progress or delays it. It makes for a productive day, but not a very joyful one.
My children have no list. No important task to accomplish, no place that they absolutely have to be. They greet each day with no expectations, and their reward is sheer joy in even the simplest of things. And so, these creatures that I have given my life to raise, to teach, to share all of my supposed insights with – these messy-faced, sticky-handed, exhausting beings – instead continue to teach me.
They show me joy, as they look at a gloomy, rainy day and see puddles to splash in and a much-anticipated chance to carry their umbrella. They show me joy in their amazement at the most ordinary things – from the site of a fire truck to the return of a favorite shirt, freshly washed and ready to wear. My children show me what life would look like if I allowed myself simply to be thrilled by it.
And so, every once in a while, there are days where I just slow down. Where I take the time to receive the joy God wants to give me. On these days, I greet the day without anxiety, knowing that there’s nowhere we need to go, and nothing that needs to be done. The days when the most important thing on my to-do list is to stop, fall back, and make a few snow angels.