COLLEGEVILLE, Minnesota — I balance the laundry basket on my hip while coaxing a sleepy preschooler downstairs. He wants me to carry him. I explain that my hands are full. He crosses his arms and pouts. I ask him to come with me. He takes one stubborn step down the first stair and glares.
Exasperated, I give up and scurry ahead of him. He's fine and safe on his own, I rationalize. And I'm busy. And in a hurry.
In 20 minutes, I'm rushing his brothers into the car. "Hurry up!" I urge. "Backpacks, lunches, swim gear, shoes, let's go!" So we can get out the door -- punctuated by claps -- on time.
While working from home with multiple children underfoot (and another on the way), I often find myself hurrying everyone along so we can get to the next thing.
Yet, rushing rarely works. I turn into the yelling mom, they turn into angry kids. I brood each time our morning unravels. Am I just unorganized? Too impatient to parent with gentleness? What's wrong?
One sunny Saturday this spring, I took the kids to explore a state park while my husband was home sick. The older kids ran ahead, confident of the trails, calling out sights they recognized from past hikes. I was left to walk with the littlest.
Halfway through the hike, I realized this was our first visit without a stroller or baby carrier. What's more, I couldn't carry him safely on tree-rooted hills while pregnant.
So we walked together. Slowly. Holding hands.
I lifted him up when he stumbled. I praised him when he did not complain. I celebrated when we summited a huge hill. We drank in the waterfall views, noticed rocks beneath our feet and heard squirrels scampering alongside the trail.
It turned into the perfect pace for both of us.
He hiked two miles on two-year-old legs. I avoided getting short-winded from pregnancy exertion. We both plopped into the car at the end, red-cheeked and happy.
Here's what a long walk with a short companion reminded me: God doesn't rush us. God is always waiting patiently. God never hollers back from 20 yards ahead, "Hurry up! You're making me late!"
Scripture repeats the quiet truth of God's gentle pace over and over: "Be still and know that I am God" (Ps 46:11). "When you look for me, you will find me" (Jer 29:13). "Come to me … and I will give you rest" (Mt 11:28).
The church reflects this healthy, holy pace in our liturgical rhythms. Lent's slow season stretches with 40 spacious days to pray and prepare. Advent's measured weeks temper our antsy yearning for Christmas.
Out of love, God comes to each of us at our own pace. This is how we grow into faith: slowly over time, not force-fed by someone else's frantic schedule.
Am I too busy for the ones God has given me? No. If I feel like I am, then I am the one who needs to slow down.
So I pad our morning routine with 10 more minutes to let us breathe. I pause to look at each of my children with lingering eyes of love, setting aside my to-do list.
I remember to let each child lead. As they stir the cookie dough, slow as molasses. As they erase their homework with painful precision. As they walk downstairs beside me, holding my hand.
And I give thanks for this patience-building life: the chance to raise these children and learn from their pace each day. The pace that slows me back to God.
The writer is a mother, writer and director of a project on vocation at the Collegeville Institute in Collegeville, MN. She is the author of several books, including "Everyday Sacrament: The Messy Grace of Parenting," and blogs at www.motheringspirit.com.