Sunday, November 3

The Discipline of Presence

When we move into a fog color fades, mist obstructs, deep within the loss a crash feels immanent.  To punch through it we need to turn on some lights, slow down, pay attention.  Spiritual disciplines are the lights we follow to a new place of heart and character, color and truth.   When I walked through the sunlit neighborhood last week, leaves like confetti meeting the ground, my own private parade, creation celebrating my awakening, this discipline of presence was conceived.  
"A spiritual discipline is an intentionally directed action which places us in a position to receive from God the power to do what we cannot accomplish on our own." - Richard Foster
If I hadn't said yes to this daily practice, I would have let this moment go by.  I wouldn't have seen it on my own.  Under my previous fog in an attempt to keep them focused --  to move it along so I could say in my distracted way that 'we'd had quality time,' -- I would have asked to see the card so I could read it with speed and precision.  But as I learn to let the fog fall away I'm learning to see what's in front of me again.

And this one was big.  This was the moment he turned a corner. 


In September, the phone call came from his teacher -- a wonderfully, encouraging woman who loves on 17 of our young heartbeats every day and goes home to stare cancer in the face.  She said, "Normally, we like to see the students begin the year at a level 16.  He's at a 4."

I knew his reading wasn't where it could be, but I treated reading like potty training: they 'get it' when they're ready. I'd planned to work more on it this year when I knew I'd have him all to myself to teach.  That was before our plans for him changed in a moment.  Before he was going to have a teacher with a quota and a standard.

So, every morning we say, "Love you!" and "Have a good day!" to his brothers when their father drives them to school.  And then my smallest son and I snuggle down for thirty minutes before it's his turn to go and he gets the quality time that moves and motivates him.

Together we take a deep breath, sound it out, think 'e at the end makes the vowel long', repeat it again and essentially wrestle those words off the page. Wiggling legs moving him slowly off the couch every few minutes, finger to the wrong words, long pauses -- it would be painful if it weren't so sweet.  Every morning I get to look down at his blond eyelashes, windows to his diligent brain, and I get to hear his still young voice -- my mommy heart tries to record it -- and sometimes I sniff his hair, just like when he was tiny.

Nearly two weeks ago, I noticed a change.  Something was quicker, his stabs were more correct, his cadence smoother.  It was starting to click.

And then this morning he was reading the papers on the side of the fridge. And the books his dad and I left laying about. And the screen I was typing on.

When we started the game after dinner he told his brother -- the one who has nurtured him all seven years, who has tied his shoes, worried about his safety, wrestled countless hours, and who has read to him on the mornings when younger brother climbed up the ladder to squeeze quality time from anyone who'd awaken -- "No, I want to read the card."  And he did.  And the next and the next as best as he could.  He didn't give up. He nailed Kodiak, but couldn't do bear.  Work in progress.

This is the day I wait for in the lives of my boys.  Every parent has their moments; my husband couldn't wait to play catch. But I love leading them to the belief that they can read. When they think in their head, "I'm a reader" their world transforms, their eyes open to everything that was previously foreign and they own and guard words like the life-giving secrets they are.  Today he is no longer "other;" he is with us.  

What if I had still been in the fog?  What if I still walked through autumn streets seeing only gray, thinking only about summer, wishing it wasn't dead, that it could be brought back to the life I'd envisioned for it.  That was something I couldn't do on my own.  It was something only God could do.  And the way he chose to do it was to open my eyes.
"Everybody is trying to patch us up and get us back to who we were, when in fact what we need to be told is, You're dead.  Who are you going to be tomorrow?" - Reynolds Price