I never wanted to be a stay at home mom.
When we were engaged, Nathan excitedly told me, “And when we have kids I want you to stay at home with them!!” My response was an ugly, “EXCUSE ME? I will NEVER stay at home. I am a CAPABLE and CONFIDENT WORKING woman WITH A MINISTRY and I will NEVER give that up for kids.”
And then I got pregnant with Ella and I was like “Oh. Oh crap. I want to stay home.” It’s safe to say that exactly zero of my life plans have panned out like I thought they would.
That used to make me really angry, and it still does today if it’s kind of sprung on me. But now it’s become such a common thing that I just shrug my shoulders at it and say, “Welp. Another one bites the dust.” Driven, teenage Erica is shaking her head in cruel judgement right now. 30 something Erica is saying “Shut the heck up, kid- you wear weird clothes and need to ditch those judgey pants.”
Young Erica walked fast, talked fast and was a girl on a mission- so get the heck out of her way. Today’s Erica is slower to speak, is more of a marathon runner than a sprinter (ok fine let’s be real- I’m lucky if I can walk quickly) and has had everything that can be shaken in her life shaken the heck up. Young Erica had a plan. Today’s Erica realizes that she can plan her steps but the Lord directs all her ways. PRAISE THE LORD THAT WE GROW UP, FRIEND, AMIRIGHT?
On the note of walking- I come from a family of fast walkers. My mom? Holy crap. That woman can WALK. She zips around here, there and everywhere. It’s incredible. And I USED to be a fast walker… ah, the good old days. Whenever I’m out shopping with my mom these days, my heart starts fluttering when I realize that I can walk fast. It takes me a while to get in the groove of it, but once I do I feel like the freaking Flash.
I should mention that I married the slowest walker on the planet. It’s not that he can’t walk fast, it’s just that he chooses not to. Nathan’s whole self emanates peace and calmness. When we first started dating I was charmed by his peaceful nature and desire to walk slowly, taking it all in. But once we got married it became something we fought about constantly. I’d be like, “Babe. Please. You’re killing me. Can we pick up the pace a little bit?” And he’d respond with a simple, “Why? Why are you always in such a rush? Can’t we just be together?” To which I romantically respond, “NO. WE HAVE TO WALK FAST. I AM LITERALLY DYING INSIDE WALKING THIS SLOW. YOU ARE KILLING ME. KILLING ME SLOWLY WITH YOUR SLOW WALKING SONG.”
Like what the heck is wrong with me that I can’t just slow down for a minute and be with my husband? Slow is just not in my DNA. Not how I was made. Before Nathan, I had a serious speeding problem. I got who knows how many tickets- easily in the teens or twenties. I was always going fast in my little red car. After we’d been married a while, my sister came down to stay with us and she made a comment about my driving. “You’re going like SO SLOW, sister. Ever since you got married you’ve turned into a sloth and it’s freaking me out.” Estrada DNA- it’s fast.
It’s been a busy few weeks around our house. We went to Dallas for Thanksgiving and the following weekend I had my biggest craft show of the year. Now Christmas is only a few weeks away and I’m like WHAT IN THE WORLD IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW. Emmy started walking while we were in Dallas and it’s so freaking adorable because her diaper and chunky thighs make it more of a forward leaning waddle. I can’t even. She’s gotten pretty sturdy on those feet and walks around 24/7 now. All that to say, she’s doing great and I no longer have to coach her or hold her hand walking around- Girl can get wherever she wants. On one hand, I’m sad about this because I know that after her first steps come her first homecoming dance and then marriage. But on the other hand I’m feeling like a little more freedom is coming my way.
At least I did feel that way.
Over the past few days, Em has developed a new favorite thing in life: holding my hand. It’s so sweet, I know. Like for real, painful sweet. She’ll waddle up to me, reach for my hand and then beam like crazy when she can grab my pointer finger and we walk together. She’s visibly giddy when I do this, looking up at me- smiling. Shrieking out with joy, unable to keep her excitement inside. And we walk around together- going nowhere in particular- just holding hands and walking. I don’t really know how I feel about this, if I’m being honest. My Flash DNA tells me that this is the worst thing that could possibly happen to me, my life and any ounce of freedom I have left. I struggle because I don’t want her to get in the habit of only wanting to walk around if I’m with her. And yet my mama heart knows this is not forever.
I was having a introspective kind of day today when this happened again- she reached for my finger as we walked down the hall. All I wanted to do was speed up and get to the kitchen to do who knows what but I heard Jesus whisper to me in that moment, “Slower. Just slower.” Suddenly, my perspective changed. The world stopped turning for a moment, and that moment was hanging there in space- glowing. I looked at my baby girl and drank her all in. Soft, golden hair slowly wafting and shining. Her deep, smokey blue eyes growing wider and then completely squinted from her cheeky smile. She looked up at me and squealed with delight as we walked down our little hallway.
Waddle, waddle, pause. Waddle, waddle, pause.
She’d stop every few feet to just stare at me and smile that toothy, underbite grin. She can walk fast, this girl, but when she’s holding my hand she doesn’t. She just wants to walk by my side.
The weight of this reality is not lost on me. A moment like this- frozen in time- what any mama wouldn’t do to bottle that up and keep it forever. So then why, I ask myself, why does it make me so angry sometimes?
Friend, I need Jesus and I’m not in denial about it. The truth is- I’m always in a rush. And why? I don’t even know. Sometimes I get so frantic in this messy life we live. If my house is a disaster I just start running around yelling and grabbing things, trying to bring the “peaceful clean” back. But there is nothing peaceful about it. I know you’ve never Rage Cleaned before, I’m sure. But oooh honey do I do it at least 8 times a week.
The thing is, nothing ever really gets accomplished when I do this. It’s just sheer madness and there I am at the end of it: with a clean house and I hate everyone. #superhealthymom #momgoals #bestmomever
After my moment frozen in time with Emmy, I just kept hearing that whisper over and over: “Slower. Just slower.”
Ugh. I hate slow.
And yet this life I’m living out- it seems to be stuck in the “slower”. Bending lower, moving slower. Waddle, waddle, pause.
I know that all dreams and good things need a season of slower. A season to form, to breathe, to walk and then run. I’m just so dang impatient sometimes. BFF always tells me that I’m the balloon fighting to fly higher while she’s holding my string, pulling me back down to earth. This could not be more true. I dream and want to DO right away. I see a mess and I NEED to clean it- right away. I hear my baby crying and I get up, make her a whole meal and do a load of laundry while I’m at it- right away. And the truth is I’m really terrible at just BEING.
Mary and Martha are coming to mind right now- those two sisters who hung out with Jesus a lot. There’s a story starting in Luke 10:38 that goes like this:
“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
I used to totally identify with Mary. Young Erica would think, “Martha, you uptight fool, can’t you see that being with Jesus is all that matters? Don’t you know that sitting at His feet is all that we’ll ever need?” And Today’s Erica totally identifies with Martha. Like whoa. All I can think is, “Mary, you lazy jerk, get the heck up and help me already. And Jesus- what the heck? If you cared about me at all you’d make this fool realize she’s being THE ACTUAL WORST and that loving her sister means HELPING her sister.”
(Can you tell that I’m an Acts-of-Service-Love-Language kind of gal?)
Sometimes I really hate Mary, but with this word of “becoming slower” I’m starting to think that maybe I should BE Mary. To walk slowly with my husband, making him my main focus and not our errands. To let Emmy grab my finger more and slowly lead me wherever she wants to go. To say yes when Ella asks if we can “have a chat on the porch” and really BE WITH HER, ya know? Bending lower, listening deeper, being quieter. Taking it all in.
This Christmas season that’s upon us, I don’t want to miss it. I feel like I usually rush all around the Stable. I see all the poop and the hay and I’m like, “MARY. GIRL. You’re bleeding all over the place and like why did you choose that bale of hay to sit on? Let me get you a towel and a freaking midwife. And Joseph- get this woman a SNACK for crying out loud- she just pushed an ACTUAL HUMAN out of her HooHa in a DISGUSTING STABLE so you better get up and help me pick this place UP.” I run around picking everything up for everyone, buying gifts left and right, accepting the wise men as they come and thinking “Don’t you dare sneeze on that baby, when was the last time you washed your dang hands?” and tending all the livestock because by this time they’ve realized that I’m their only hope and friend in this world.
But I never really stop and look at Jesus.
I never let the holy moment come. I rush around making sure everyone else has what they need, when in reality what my family needs is my heart: fixed on the King. Instead of bending low, listening in and quieting my to do list I choose the chaos instead. Why, friend?
This year, my Stable goal is to be slower. To recognize the holy moments in front of me. To see the newborn babe, to touch His face. To remember all the promises of hope and restoration that God has made and realize that there they are: right in front of me, in Him. To hold the King of Kings, so tiny, in my arms? The thought makes me weak. To know that all God has been planning and working on for His kids is here- in this moment- in a dirty, messy place.
Maybe my dirty, messy place can be the space for a holy moment too. Maybe I can look at my girls this Christmas and think, “There they are- my promised girls- He gave them to me.” Maybe I can really kneel into the manger, smell the hay, and remember that Jesus came into messes and “messes” are where He lives. Oh Jesus, will you come live in this mess? Here?
Friend, my heart is for you this Christmas. Wherever you’re at- whatever mess you’re in. Whether you’re a slow walker or a fast walker, my dream for you this Christmas is that you would bend lower, listen deeper and be quieter. If we see each other running around the Stable freaking out, let’s remind each other of this. Let’s stop the chaos together.
I’ll take your hand as we walk together to the manger. We’ll see His face. We’ll let the holy moment come. We’ll turn our hearts towards the King and our families will never be the same.
Slower, friend. Just slower.