I paused before exiting the guest bedroom. It was still new to me, since we had moved only a little over a month prior. But the walk-in closet beckoned me to open it, reminding me that I had thrust every photo album, film negative, loose picture, and scrapbook on the shelves in desperation to get the room uncluttered and somewhat organized before our third baby arrived.
Still uncertain, my finger grazed the shelves, and I lingered by each album for several seconds, basking in the fond memories of years past. Somehow sentimentality occupied the fore of my mind these days; somehow welcoming a new little human life into the world reminded me of all of our blessings. Despite the daily struggles of raising daughters, particularly a daughter with a rare disease, our tiny newborn put things into perspective for me. In fact, in a moment of nostalgia, I spontaneously grabbed two of the albums from the shelf and dove into them, relishing the stories contained in each photo and journal entry.
For years, I have been teased and even chastised for spending time on what some perceive as a hobby of luxury: scrapbooking. It’s true that one can go overboard with purchasing lavish embellishments, scouring every craft store in sight for hours, and then spending inordinate amounts of time on creating one or two pages for an album. To me, though, scrap booking preserves my family’s story. It captures our legacy—the quirks and foibles, the inside jokes, heartening conversations, and warm relationships. It’s more than a hobby to me; it’s preservation of our life story.
The older two girls were eager to reminisce with me, though many of the photos were taken when they were infants. Even so, we laughed together as I recounted funny stories of things they said or did when they were little. We pored over pages that showcased their baptisms, including holy cards and Mass cards dear friends and relatives sent for the occasion. It was a time of sharing but also of passing on the Faith in ordinary ways.
I think that’s what my children have taught me when they were all tiny, helpless infants: that God operates in our ordinary, daily lives. We often look for Him in the spectacular, and indeed, He dwells there, too. But more often than not, He speaks to us heart-to-heart in the mundane and menial. All too often, I forget that. I want some sort of thunderous clamor to strike me with holy inspiration. Instead, I get the whisper—the “still, small voice.”
Those tiny babies are reflections of the simple gestures of love we receive from God each day. I see it in their eyes, glimmering with wonder at the marvels of the world around them. I hear it in their giggles, innocent and pure. And their wholehearted trust that they will be cared for reminds me, too, that God cares for every detail of my own life.
That’s what viewing those old family albums did for me that day: brought me back to a place of childhood innocence and awe, a place in my own heart where I constantly sought God in the complicated and jaded ways of adult living and yet where He dwelt without pretense. In recalling my life and the journey of our little wee ones, I saw God at work behind the scenes in ways I had overlooked—hidden ways.
God granted me extraordinary grace when I was chronically sleep deprived and suffering from an undiagnosed autoimmune disorder. I marveled at how I was capable of caring for both Felicity at preschool age and Sarah as a newborn with a rare disease while I myself was sick and without proper treatment. He consoled me through countless friends who sent me handwritten notes of encouragement with precisely the right words when I was silently despondent and doubting my vocation.
And now, as I cradle Veronica in the early morning hours when the rest of the house is still asleep, even as I wonder how I will make it through the day with only three hours of sleep I am reminded of His providence. It’s funny how photographs and stories of the past can conjure memories of the truth that I am, indeed, His beloved daughter—just as my daughters are beloved to me.
Text (c) Jeannie Ewing 2017, all rights reserved.