I’m at the stove sautéing dinner. There is no recipe, just meat and veggies and a cabinet full of spices, and I’m watching the skillet become art. My phone streams music, and my hands keep time by chopping. I smell and taste, engaging all five senses. This is living.
The light tinkling of an alarm cuts my music short, and for once it’s not a reminder of an appointment or a necessary task I’d likely forget, it’s only a little nudge to witness beauty if I have the time. I turn toward the windows. The small stripe of visible sky promises a colorful display, convincing me in seconds to leave my duties. I cover the pan and turn down the heat, grab my keys and move toward the door, but I see feet peeking from the side of the couch. I stop.
“Let’s go see the sunset.”
My daughter’s been lounging in the same position since she got home from school. She barely looks up from her phone. “I’m good.”
But she knows — and I know — she’s not good. This isn’t my daughter, the girl who rarely stayed inside, whose clever mind seemed a storehouse of ideas, such that she was always creating games and adventure. This isn’t the same girl who used to try things, the girl who was a member of cheer team, the girl who once shot a buck with a crossbow, the artist who sketched the portrait by the stairs. Is this the same girl with an eye for simple beauty? That girl is in there somewhere. I want her to see beauty again.
“Come on and go with me. It’ll be funnnn!” My light-hearted crescendo pulls her eyes toward mine, and she smirks. She’s wondering how many more times I’ll ask before I go alone. The sun waits for no one and time is running out, so I offer the sweetest words spoken to a newly permitted driver: “I’ll let you drive.”
I figure I’ve sealed the deal and make my way toward the garage, but instead of hearing footsteps behind me, I hear my daughter call out, “Then carry me.”
I turn on my heels and lock eyes with the girl on the couch. Her smirk has become a full grin. My husband, who has kept his peace throughout this exchange, is laughing from the kitchen, and without asking, I know why. He’s laughing because this dare is a glimmer of the playful daughter we both miss. He’s laughing at the thought of me carrying someone 4 inches taller than me. But he’s laughing most because he knows I’ll do it.
And he’s right. I scoop up the girl who’s now giggling in chorus with her father, and even as I struggle with slow side steps, laughter bubbles from the core of me, too.
We drive the few minutes to the edge of a nearby neighborhood where an expanse of desert sky is already alight with fire clouds, the remnants of a full day’s sun. My daughter lifts her phone for a few pictures in an effort to capture the moment, but no picture will do this real-life image justice. Her expression is one of contentment, telling me she understands why I would set an alarm for sunset, why I would pause and pull away from screens, routine, and walls.
Just a few weeks ago, this was the spot where my daughter bravely told me her secrets of self-harm and hopeless thoughts. She feared she was opening herself to judgement, but her confession opened her to freedom. To help. To more unconditional love. Her soul had found a way to say, “Carry me.” And of course I would; she only needed to ask.
This journey is a hard one. It’s hard to lay in bed, praying in the dark, “Dear Jesus, protect her from herself tonight.” It’s hard to trust and give space and hold hope all at once, and over and over I hear my soul whisper, “Carry her, Lord. And carry me.” And He has, of course.
My daughter and I take in the last bits of light and color together, and maybe, if hope could be seen, it would look just like this. Mountain ranges tuck us in on all sides and I bet the view is spectacular from one of those mountaintops, but the valley is home for now, and there’s plenty of beauty to see right where we are.
My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath.
We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing . . .
And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you.
Psalm 39:5-7 (NLT)