The memory of this story is so familiar and it took place over and over again. I slip a lacy fold-over sock onto Joy’s delicate foot and glance at my watch. Forty-five minutes until takeoff. I straighten her hair bow and kiss her head.
“Do you want to help Mommy set the table?”
“Yes, Mama! And I want to tell you something.”
Joy patters behind me in her Sunday best, regaling me with every thought and feeling she’s experienced in the last twenty-four hours. While she happily chatters, I flip pancakes and murmur “mm-hmm” to each important point she makes.
I hand her six forks and six napkins to fold. I glance again at the clock—thirty-seven minutes to go! I hurriedly drop pecans and chocolate chips into the bubbling piles of golden batter. Pulling out our old faithful teapot, I flick on the electric kettle and go to rally the forces.
The hurricane of bustle it takes to get six people into a car and on their way to church never ceases to amuse and exasperate me. On the very day we all feel compelled to be spiritual, focused, and thoughtful, we are usually rushed, urgent, and—dare we admit it?—a slight bit annoyed.
The more years I’ve lived, the more I’ve come to think that it is better not to fight mornings like these. It is better to resign oneself to the bustle and make room for meaning and delight in the midst of it. Accepting this reality helps soothe my mood, even if it means being five minutes late to church.
There will come a day when we arrive on time, I think, but today is probably not this day. So I take a deep breath and flip another pancake. “Breakfast in five minutes!” I shout up the stairs, “Be ready for church!” Within a few minutes I hear the hurried flutter of feet upstairs, followed by pounding on the stairs—a familiar sound to me. Nathan arrives, combing damp hair behind his ears. My two oldest amble in shortly thereafter, looking slightly more ready. Then comes Clay, who was dressed before any of us.
Clay’s “amen” has barely reached our ears before we descend on the pancakes with gusto. Joy likes the chocolate chip, while Sarah is partial to pecan. Soon not a single pancake is left. With mugs full of tea and mouths full of scrumptiousness (if I do say so myself), we listen while Clay reads aloud a Psalm that has captured his imagination this morning. Joy wiggles a little as he reads. But I can see on her attentive face that she is chewing on the words Clay reads out in rich baritone.
Clay thumps the book closed and removes his reading glasses.
“What do you all think?” he asks, surveying the breakfast table. This week’s Scripture focuses on holiness—a lofty topic for preteens.
“I think that if God gave everything to make us His, then we should live our lives set apart for Him. It’s how we should respond to His kindness.”
These words come from Joel, who until this moment has been sleepily consuming chocolate chip and pecan pancakes, leftover from Sarah’s plate. I am reminded once again that it’s hard to know when children’s hearts are deeply engaged. They can be paying attention even when they don’t look it. (Never stop teaching, training, and pouring into your children because you think they aren’t listening. Patience reveals investment.)
Everyone else chips in their thoughts, even little Joy, who was destined from a young age to hear many conversations beyond her years. Then Clay leads us in a prayer, and everyone rushes their dishes to the sink. I decide we’ll finish washing up later and leave them to soak. After a mad dash of socks, shoes, and unevenly tied shoelaces, somehow we all end up in the car. And I don’t even think we’ll be late.
What a miracle!
An Anchor in the Week
We did that every Sunday morning while our children were growing up—a sit-down breakfast with a special treat like pancakes or French toast, a family devotional, and time for us to reflect together on what we had read. In fact, we still do it with whoever happens to be home at the moment.
Even when I am in Oxford, my sweet husband is still keeping tradition and they made pancakes last week when Nathan was home. Life rhythms go on and warm feelings are felt deep inside the heart as each practiced and repeated tradition ties us to the memories and conversations we have had in the same place year after year and builds a legacy of values and faith.
Why is it so important to us? Why did I go to the extra trouble of yet another special meal on yet another morning—especially when church offered doughnuts? Because we are building pathways in our hearts and brains that connect us to thousands of hours spent over years in this way, reminding all of us what we believe and cherish together, what we hold dear, what keeps us faithful through one more table and one more pancake shared over many times of consuming pancakes and French Toast.