Mother to Mother: A Letter From my Older Self

Dear Current Jessica,

Hi, it’s me. A wiser, wrinklier version of yourself who is—as Holly Flax would say in her best Terminator voice—“from da future.” I’ve been watching you with amusement lately. Not in a mean-spirited or vindictive way, but simply because I remember the depths of the emotions you’re wrestling with. I remember how it felt to sweat and struggle and wonder if you’re failing in all your roles—especially as a mother. I’m sorry to say you’ll never fully shake this feeling of inadequacy, but you will learn to diminish its power.

It isn’t easy. Days with little kids can be monotonous, like you’re living in a veritable Groundhog Day of laundry piles, sibling bickering, and vacuuming crumbs from the kitchen floor. I know you sometimes feel lost and invisible amidst the tasks and to-dos, but those things are like pebbles at the water’s edge. They’re real, yes, but they will be washed away. Release your grip; you’re giving too much weight to things not worth holding on to. Try not to worry so much.

I don’t mean to sound dismissive. I know saying “Try not to worry” is akin to asking you to fly or not reload the dishwasher after someone else does it. It’s like that day when your husband asked, baffled, why you were cutting red peppers for school lunches at 10 pm and you spat out, “Because I care!” Oh, my sweet, well-intentioned psychopath, you really do. I remember how consequential it all felt back then, like your kids’ ingestion of healthy veggies was directly correlated to their college acceptance. You care deeply—about everything from artificial sweeteners to the patriarchy. That’s your superpower. But it’s also the reason you grind your teeth at night. It’s a lot of pressure, trying to fix the world.

You have this habit of looking at deficits. This motivates you, but it also keeps you from seeing the glimmering miracles at your fingertips everyday. Notice them. Notice the way your heart leaps when you run your fingers through your son’s tousled bedhead. Notice the taste of strong coffee and the smell of lavender shampoo in the baby’s hair. Notice the sound of knock-knock jokes and whispered prayers and shrieks of childish glee from under a pile of blankets. Yours will be a life of window-rattling noise and vibrant color. It will always be too much and never enough. Accept this. Savor this. When you get overstimulated and overwhelmed: breathe. Let the small miracles buoy you.

I also need to tell you something you easily forget: You are a good mom. Before you start listing all the reasons to the contrary, hear me out. You track shoe sizes and dentist appointments and read parenting books in the school pick-up line. You clothe your kids’ bodies and feed their bellies. You fly kites and kiss bruises and fill your Amazon cart with craft supplies to fuel their creativity. Sure, you also spend a lot of time obsessing over small things, but you obsess because you care (now there’s a t-shirt slogan). You’re not going to do everything right, but that’s ok. Your family doesn’t want perfection, they just want you.

Dear one, give yourself grace. Be gentle with your discomfort and uncertainty. I know you often feel like an imposter. Like you’ve been handed your roles—mother, farm wife, functioning adult—but don’t have the basic skills to do any of them well. But God didn’t give you this beautiful life to watch you fail. No one gets it all right. I know those words may feel empty, but I have the benefit of hindsight and decades of perspective (as evidenced by all these forehead lines). It may feel like you’re in the trenches now, but frankly, these aren’t the trenches. This is just life. This is what it’s about. Pain and joy. Boredom and delight. Uncertainty and promise. There is abundance bursting all around you—just open your hands.

So, how to end? Shall I offer some vague platitudes? Motivational cliches? Tips from the future? I wish I had all the answers. But, even now, I rest in the liminal space. In lieu of certainty—which we know is a fallacy—let me offer permission. This messy, miraculous business of living isn’t always easy. But it’s worth it. Care for the people around you. Care for yourself. Center your heart on the only One who really matters. Be in the moments that count.

(Also, take more walks and start using retinol, but that’s another conversation for another time.)


Future Jessica


My dear friends Kim Knowle-Zeller and Erin Strybis wrote a book called The Beauty of Motherhood that releases in a little over a week. Kim and Erin are exceptional, gentle writers with a heart for mothers and ability to see the magic in ordinary life. I know this book will provide so much hope and solidarity to women like me, particularly those holding the beautiful tensions found in motherhood.

This post is a part of the blog tour for The Beauty of Motherhood: Grace-Filled Devotions for the Early Years (read two more perspectives from my friends Fay and Melissa). With scripture, stories, prayers, and practices, The Beauty of Motherhood provides mothers with refreshment and the reminder that they are not alone as they mother. Order your copy at AmazonTarget or Bookshop. The Beauty of Motherhood releases March 21!  


pc: Allison Christians Photography

Why is this house such a mess?


Why is this house such a mess?

Because I need to return those shoes. Because I’ve needed to return those shoes for a month. Because—by some strange alchemy—those shoes in their cardboard box have been in our bedroom for so long they’ve turned into a piece of furniture we drape blankets on.

Because I’m a little tired. Because I’m a little lost. Because I was completely out of effs to give by the moment bedtime devolved into a “marker fight.”

Because these children shed socks and hoodies like molting birds. Because these children eat syrupy pancakes with their hands. Because these children believe it is a vicious affront to be asked to “eat over your plate” when they would rather bounce on one leg by the kitchen slider and peel the frosting off a chocolate-covered pretzel.

Because we (’re supposed to) value creativity. Because we (’re supposed to) value play. Because yesterday they overflowed the bathroom sink while running a “super stuffie bath shop” and all I could think to say was, “Please use Panda to mop that up.”

Because real people live here. Because we sometimes wear “busy” like a badge of honor. Because a therapist once told me that my connections with actual humans are more important than keeping the books in rainbow order.

Because we believe boredom fuels inspiration. Because on Saturday they used a three hole punch to make confetti for a unicorn’s birthday. Because they see beauty in the way light refracts through magnetic tiles.

Because we like lots of hummus on our peppers, salt on our chips, and couch pillows in our snuggle forts. Because after we rolled in a pile of crunchy, flamed-colored leaves, we carried the evidence back into the house on our clothes, shoes, and hair. Because today—when I could have been folding towels—I cranked Ella Fitzgerald on the speakers and slow danced with the baby under the living room lights.


(inspired by a prompt from exhale creativity)

More of This


“A man who has been in another world does not come back unchanged.”
–C.S. Lewis

Four months into a pandemic and subsequent state shutdown, I sat on the deck behind our house.

The mid afternoon sun was still high in the sky. A warm breeze rippled across the pages of the book in my lap and the sound of my children’s laughter danced across the driveway. I looked up to see all three kids gathered around a clump of dirt and grass.

“Mom! We found a toad!” My daughter Ellis’s eyes were bright as she pointed to the knobby brown creature at their feet. I smiled and watched my kids gently poke the toad with blades of grass before hopping after him—completely caught up in childlike wonder and delight. For the first time in what felt like weeks, I took a deep, grateful, breath.

“I want more of this.” The thought, unbidden and surprising, floated across my brain. Our days lately had been chaotic and stressful. The world was on fire. I was tightly wound, trying to do a full-time job remotely while juggling three kids and the busyness of farm life. Everything felt impossible. Every day felt like failure.

But as I gazed around the backyard, taking in the brilliant blue of the summer sky and the flash of small feet in the grass, I felt something new. Peace.

Our days were hard, but they were beautiful. For the first time since becoming a working mom seven years before, I had space to simply be. I wrote every morning. I read every night. We took walks to visit the cows. We picked handfuls of dandelions in the field. We ate picnics on the lawn and visited Kyle in the tractor. Everything felt smaller, slower, gentler. And I wanted more.

Looking back now, I think this was the start of the shift inside me.

I would not come back unchanged.

In his book “Life is in the Transitions,” Bruce Feiler says the average person can expect to experience three dozen “disruptors” in their adult life—about one every twelve to eighteen months. He defines a disruptor as any deviation from normal life, from the birth of a child to a devastating diagnosis to a worldwide pandemic. It doesn’t matter if the life transition is positive or negative (or a mixture of both), once we go through it, we  cannot stay the same. Change is inevitable.

It all comes down to our expectations.

If we expect life to be neat and linear (as an Enneagram One like me is prone to do), we’re in for a world of hurt. If, however, we view transitions as a fundamental part what it means to be human, we start to see possibility.

Today marks one such moment of possibility for me.

I’m taking a career pause to focus more on my family.

(Talk about burying the lede.)

Today I will say goodbye to a job I’ve held and loved for over ten years to make space for something new. I will release who I am now to find what I longed for all those months ago: more of this.

More play, less rigidity.
More calm, less frenzy.
More grace, less productivity.
More connection, less achievement.

I’ll admit that I’m afraid. I’m not sure who I am if not a director of communications. So much of my identity is tied up in my job and being a working mother.

But when I close my eyes, I see that woman on the deck clearly. Her feet are bare and freckles speckle her nose. Her shoulders are relaxed and her face is soft. The sound of her children’s gleeful laughter fills the air and, for the first time in her adult life, she considers what it would feel like to slow down.

Years later, I’m ready to find out.

You Don’t Have to be Perfect to be Good


One of my children’s wails filled the air. I turned my head from the sink full of post-dinner dishes to see Anders dart into the kitchen with a guilty look on his face.

“What happened?” I asked, trying to keep my voice level and resist the urge to say what I was really thinking: What did you do this time?

“Nothing,” Anders’ face flashed an impish grin, but it faltered under my gaze. “Ellis fell.”

“No,” corrected my husband Kyle, entering the room with Anders’ sobbing sister in his arms. “He pulled the blanket out from under her and she hit her head on the floor.”

“Anders! Why did you do that?” As the words left my mouth, I knew they were pointless. My oldest—a child of rash impulses and wild energy—rarely knows why he does things. Yet sometimes I can’t stop myself from asking.

“I dunno,” he said, the return of his grin infuriating me.

I gritted my teeth and took a deep breath. Anders had been relentless in his provocations all day—pushing his younger siblings, defying my instructions, and generally wreaking havoc on our day and my sanity. I could feel 12 hours’ worth of tension pulsing through my forehead like a heartbeat, but instead of shouting “Go to the stairs!” for the 164th time since breakfast, I hissed, “Go outside. Now.”

Anders’ eyes blinked in surprise, but he didn’t stop to ask questions. “Ok!” He raced to the back door.

“Wha—?,” Kyle started. His confusion was understandable—I’m rarely a mom (or person) who deviates from the plan. Going outside after dinner was definitely not our normal routine.

“We didn’t get outside at all today,” I said, massaging my temples with my fingertips. “I had a bunch of meetings, and he has way too much pent-up energy. I’m going to run him before bed.”

Kyle slowly nodded, “Ok. Probably a good idea.”

The warm summer air ruffled my hair as Anders and I stepped onto the deck. He ventured a glance back at me, still not sure if he was in trouble. I put my hands on his narrow shoulders and bent down to meet his eyes. “Here’s what we’re going to do. You’re going to run up the hill to the calf barn and I’m going to time you.”

“Ok!” Already coiled like a spring, he leapt into action before the words left my mouth. I pulled out my phone to start the timer.

As Anders sprinted up the grassy hill, his shirt flapped up and I saw the outline of bones on his small back. A wiry six-year-old, he barely tipped the scale over 40 pounds. Yet he was strong enough to carry two gallons of milk up from the basement by himself, veins bulging in his arms and neck. Every inch of him was bone and muscle. My heart tightened as I realized—not for the first time—that my first baby was growing into a boy.

Anders slammed into my waist after another circuit from barn to back door, his skin flushed red. “Was that faster than last time?” he gasped.

I glanced at my phone. “You cut five seconds off your time,” I pushed his sweaty blonde hair off his forehead. “Good job, bud.”

He breathed heavily and I couldn’t help but notice all the malice was gone from his jawline. His face was soft and open—the same face I had adored since he was born. I squeezed his shoulder.

“Do you want to go for a walk?” I said, surprising us both for the second time that night. I gestured to the berm between two of our alfalfa fields.

“Really? At bedtime?” He looked up at me with cautious hope, arms still around my waist.

“Sure. Why not?” I said with a grin.

“Yes!” he said. We broke apart and walked side-by-side up the same hill he had been running. The sun was obscured by a bank of clouds, but it was still warm enough to be comfortable in our t-shirts. After the murky humidity of the afternoon, the breeze was cleansing.

I felt like I could breathe for the first time in days.

In the golden evening light, Anders’ steady stream of chatter was a blessing instead of a barrage. When was the last time I did something with just him? I wondered with a twinge of guilt as he dashed under the old dead tree. Before his siblings were born, we used to walk on the farm together every weekend. Now, years later, it was rare for him to have my complete attention.

“Run, Mom!” Anders’ voice startled me out of my reprieve. “You don’t want a branch to fall on you!” I laughed and obeyed. As he dashed ahead, I wondered if four months of quarantine had crushed his spirit as fully as it had my own. The walls of our house seemed to be closing in most days as I unsuccessfully juggled three kids and a full-time job that had gone fully remote.

We drew closer to the edge of the alfalfa field and Anders reached out. “Mom, I’m gonna have to hold your hand when we get to the road,” he said, twining his fingers through mine and pulling me forward. I smiled and rubbed my thumb along his hand, noting the lack of baby fat.

“Are you tired of being at home?” I asked as our feet hit the dirt road and we headed east.

“No,” he said after a pause, clicking his tongue and exhaling quickly—a habit whenever he’s thinking hard. “I like being with my family.”

I winced slightly at the sweet honesty. “I’m so glad, bud.” My fingers tightened around his as I asked the question weighing heavily on my heart.

“Is there anything I can do to make things easier? To be a better mom?”

Anders brow furrowed. “I guess you could try not to yell so much,” he said distractedly, watching a brown toad hop across the road. “Like, you could say, ‘Please don’t do that’ instead of yelling. Because sometimes your voice is kinda mean and I get a little scared.”

“That’s fair,” I murmured as my heart twisted. Clearly my stress was visible to everyone around me. I remembered a few nights before when I told Kyle I thought Anders’ bad behavior—the hitting, pushing, his short fuse—might be my fault. After months of 24/7 family togetherness without a break, I was struggling to cope too. Most days I felt like a pot on the verge of boiling over. My temper flared easily, and I lacked patience and grace. Kyle listened and empathized, but he also pointed out that I was doing a lot of good things too. “You take walks. You do crafts. You’re giving these kids a great life,” he said. “You don’t have to be perfect to be a good mom.”

Kyle’s words danced in my head as Anders and I cut through a field of tall grass on our way back to the house. Surely that’s what I wanted my impetuous, strong-willed firstborn to know too: You don’t have to be perfect to be good.

“We’ll work on it, together, ok?” I said, squeezing Anders’ hand. “I’m sorry for getting angry sometimes. Just remember I love you no matter what.”

“I love you too, Mom,” he said.

He released my hand and raced ahead, whooping and waving his arms. I couldn’t help but think that I always wanted to remember him like this: bright eyes and windswept hair, a spring in his step and a gentle face. Pure energy and joy.

When I started running after him, I felt my own face soften too.


Posted today in celebration of Anders’ eighth birthday.

The Folkema Family // January 2022

These are the days

The Folkema Family // January 2022

001 /
These are the days
of sweatpants and scrunchies
of diligent tracking and incessant googling
of eyes that burn with fatigue by dinnertime
of numbers on the scale that aren’t going down as quickly as I’d hoped
of spontaneous flashes of rage, despair, or crushing gratitude
of success being measured in naps, nursing sessions, and baskets of clean laundry
of feeling like I’m never doing enough
of feeling like I’m never enough

002 /
These are the days
of ships in the night
of zone coverage parenting
of marital miscommunications and bags under our eyes
of saying “I miss you” even though we live under the same roof
of his hand squeezing mine before I crawl out of bed to feed the baby
of foot rubs, conspiratorial grins, and lunch dates in the kitchen
of knowing it won’t always be this way
of a steady kind of love

003 /
These are the days
of newborn smiles and overlapping chatter
of stuffie battles and balloon scavenger hunts
of stepping on Legos and small dinosaurs on the rug
of midnight wakings for nightmares, empty water bottles, or a baby’s hungry cry
of asking “Where are your socks?”
of Saturday morning pancakes with syrup (so much syrup)
of rowdy wrestling and whispered apologies
of sticky kisses that linger on my cheek

These are our days,
long and short
heavy and light
ordinary and magic

gutting and full of grace

On Joy

“Your baby’s head is definitely down,” the doctor says, pressing her hands firmly on my lower belly. “That’s probably why you’re feeling more pressure. He’s getting into place.”

I wince and nod as she helps me back into a seated position. A small movement ripples through my abdomen and my hand unconsciously goes to the spot.

She turns back to the computer. “Other than pelvic pain, how are you feeling?”

“Oh, you know,” I laugh. “Fine. Nothing you wouldn’t expect near the end of pregnancy.” We share a rueful smile, knowing that life-altering growth almost always comes with pain.

I look out the window at a house down the block spangled with red and green Christmas lights. “Well,” she says, following my gaze, “try to enjoy this season as much as you can.”

It occurs to me on the snowy drive home that I rarely live my life this way.

I’m not a savorer.

I’m a rusher. A doer. A pusher. I try to live three steps ahead and plan for the future. It’s rare for me to sit in stillness, to be present, to rest. Yet there’s something about carrying new life that always forces me to lessen my speed.

My body, like this broken world, aches and groans. Uncertainty reigns. Some days can feel dark. It’s easy to lose sight of the wonder of simply being alive.

But joy is laced through everything.

I see it in flashes. Sharp kicks in my ribs. The smell of cinnamon. The glow of Christmas lights. Sunlight sparkling on fresh snow. The generosity of a friend. Tiny white onesies. Childish voices praying before bed. Holiday jazz. The way my oldest lifts my shirt because the only way he can “talk to the baby” is with his cheek pressed against my bare skin.

I cringed the first time he did this—fighting against a lifetime of body insecurity and motherhood-induced touch aversion. But as I felt the warmth of his innocent breath on my belly, discomfort succumbed to joy.

Because joy itself requires surrender. Vulnerability. The relinquishing of control. It comes, as poet Mary Oliver says, suddenly and unexpectedly, “the instant love begins.”

And in this season—of belly ripples and holy anticipation—I want to give in without hesitation.

The Colors of a Life


If our family was a box of Crayola markers, we’d be neon. Possibly scented. All cherry reds and fluorescent oranges and other shades that burn your retinas.

My three kids are precocious, strong-willed, and have a standard volume that’s at least 10 decibels above an ideal “indoor voice.” I’m impatient, hard-nosed, and have a temper that can blaze as quickly as sparks on a pile of dry leaves. Kyle’s not far off that. Within our five, there isn’t a docile one in the bunch. Our home is a place of vivid colors, loud noises, and a general lack of calm. We have been affectionately described as a family that is “active,” “busy,” and “full of life.”

We are not delicate roses—painted in muted shades of dusty maroon and pink. Nay. We are fall leaves—sharp edges and vibrant hues of scarlet and yellow. A riot of colors. We flame from within.

It’s a lot sometimes. On days when I feel overwhelmed, overstimulated, and over-everythinged, I long for a life with blander hues. Pastel blue. Taupe. Maybe a nice earthy beige when I’m solo parenting again at dinnertime. I dream of days with less intensity, noise, and near-constant touching.

But that’s not what I want. Not really.

Deep down, my soul exults in all the color.

I’m stopped in my tracks by the way the warm breeze flickers through my son’s blonde curls. The sound of three kids giggling in a pile on the trampoline. The acrid smell of leaves burning down the road. The feel of small kicks from my growing belly. The flash of warmth when Kyle’s fingers brush across my neck.

Our frenetic days—a rainbow of colors and cacophony—look different in the light of gratitude.

And I want it all.

I want boisterous singing in the car and sticky kisses on my cheek. I want golden afternoons in the grass and small bodies twined around my legs. I want to embrace joy that assaults my senses and sends shivers of recognition down my spine.

Instead of a tumult, I want to see our life like a fall tree—

unapologetic and bright
steadfast through changing seasons
breathtaking in its beauty.

Things I say on a Tuesday


Good morning. How did you sleep? What did you dream? Get dressed. Go potty. There’s nothing wrong with these pants. They are not tight. They do not itch. They are not the worst in the whole entire universe. We don’t say hate.

Here’s your milk. Here’s your oatmeal. You can’t switch to the pink bowl. Stay on your stool. Jersey doesn’t need any more treats. Here’s a paper towel. Stop kicking your brother. I don’t know if orcas eat sharks. Maybe. Who will you play with today? Who is your best friend? What do you do when you’re away from me?

You’re going to be late. Where are your socks? Where is your library bag? Did you finish your homework? Get your boots on. Can someone let the dog out? Do I smell a poopy diaper? Pick a mask. Here’s your backpack—go with Dad. I love you. The rest of you: three minutes. Finish your picture. Find your socks. Let’s change that diaper. Have fun today. I love you too.

What time is my video meeting? Where is my laptop charger? I need to change into a nice shirt. The joggers stay. Why is the internet not working? Where are my AirPods? Why am I hungry? Bob, you’re on mute. What’s the deliverable? What’s your target drop date? Who needs to be looped in? I’ll have to circle back with you on that.

Out of the car. Just one episode. Time for dinner. It’s chicken. You don’t know if you like it until you try it. Here’s your milk. Dad will be late. No, you can’t do fieldwork. Because it’s a school night. Because sleep helps you grow. Hands to yourself. Use nice words. Cake isn’t on the menu. What did you do today? What was the best part? Did you have fun?

Brush your teeth. Go potty. Where are your pajamas? Why are you naked? We have time for three books. Stay on the couch. Don’t climb on my face. Did you lick me? Thanks for the kisses. Now I lay me down to sleep. One more sip. One more hug. I remember—it was fun. We’ll do it again. Sweet dreams. I love you the most.

(Epilogue: You’re home early. Ted Lasso? With ice cream and a cookie? Yes. Obviously. You have the best ideas. You are my favorite.)

3:11 // To my firstborn

3:11 // To my firstborn

Dear Anders,

I asked you this morning, “Does it feel different being seven?” and you said, “Moooom, I was born at 3:11 in the afternoon. I’m not actually seven yet.” I had to laugh at your logic. In honor of your literal interpretation, I promise not to show anyone this letter until you’re actually seven.

Seven. Oof. Something feels different about that. I still remember that day you were born at 3:11—placed in my arms after 17 hours of hard labor. Your pink face turned towards mine when I whispered your name and my heart surged. You recognized my voice.

You’re not a baby anymore. When I pull you to my side for a hug these days, I’m startled by your height. Your frame is taut and wiry, all elbows and ribs and muscle. You’re strong enough to lift your sister and yet still small enough to sit on Dad’s lap during dinner. Your brain buzzes with energy and ideas. You long to have our full attention and rarely feel like you’ve had enough. Dad spends almost an hour in your room before bed every night—playing Legos or reading books—and it’s not sufficient. You always want more.

You live fully in your body, getting your point across with your hands instead of waiting to see the impact of your words. You like to push boundaries and buttons. You like to get a reaction. Frankly, I understand you more than you realize. My own struggles don’t come out physically, but I often feel what you feel. You and I? We want to be heard. We want to be first. We want things to be done “the right way” (our way). We don’t like making mistakes. You’re not alone. But let me say this clearly: God created you to be exactly as you are. You are tenacious and smart and creative. I’m proud of the way you hold your own, ask insightful questions, and think about things in new ways.

I’m proud of who you’re becoming.

You’re so fun to talk to. I’m amazed by the way you retain information and sprinkle it into conversation later (“Mom, didja know kangaroos don’t have thumbs?”). You get suspicious of my barrage of questions at dinnertime about your day, but I only ask because I want to know every part of you—especially the part that learns and grows away from me. This Easter you performed the resurrection story completely in Spanish and your dad and I couldn’t believe how confident and fluent you were. Eres asombroso, mijo.

What else? You love French toast, footie pajamas, drawing pictures of monsters, helping me decorate for parties, “wrestle time” with Dad, and riding your scooter at breakneck speed through the barns. You rarely sit still unless you’re working on a Lego set far above your age bracket (we’re practically out of shelf space for your hundreds of creations). You insist on wearing your farm boots even if it’s 80 degrees and are my favorite person to play rhyming games with.

Anders, you’re just starting to figure out who you are and what you care about. It’s a thrill to watch. I pray that your dad and I will always be your biggest advocates, your sounding board, and your safe place. You are a beautifully designed little boy.

In the eyes of your parents and your Father, you are already—and always—enough.

Yesterday we celebrated outside with family, Nerf rockets, and cake, but today—at exactly 3:11 and not a second sooner—is your birthday. I love you, my sweet boy, my sidekick, my Doodle Bug (and yes, that nickname will stick until college and don’t even try to talk me out of it).

xoxo, Mom 

Socks and hidden grace

“Another one!?” I exhale through my mouth and bend to look under the couch. Among the dust bunnies and lost Legos is a small red sock.

I grab it and add it to the pile already clutched in my hand. The setting sun’s light dances across the floor as I toss the sock into a basket of others gathered from all corners of the house.

“This is an exercise in futility,” I murmur into the empty room.

My children leave socks everywhere, you see.

Maybe their feet get hot. Maybe they want to wiggle their toes. Maybe they reject restrictive foot fabric on moral, religious, or philosophical grounds. Whatever the reason, my children shed socks like molting birds shed feathers. I find them in the car, on kitchen stools, in the dog’s crate, crumpled in the corners of the living room, and even under my pillow.

llogically, the wayward socks feel like a referendum on me. I can’t keep my house clean. I can’t keep socks on small feet. I can’t control the world (or the people in it).

I’ve been in a slump lately. When I shared this with a friend, she said, “I think the secret to getting out of a funk is to practice gratitude.” A line I read by John Milton seemed to agree: “Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.”

I started small. Every day for a week, I wrote a list of things I was thankful for in my journal. After a few days of intentional noticing, I started to feel the gentle flickers of awe within.

Simple things sparkled: warm eggs cooked with flecks of bacon, the sound of my children giggling in the dark, a boyish grin on my husband’s face when he said, “I like you in that sweater,” the very existence of breath in my lungs. Imagine my surprise when one day my hand—as if of its own accord—wrote “small socks scattered everywhere.”

Because this isn’t really a story about socks.

It’s about love for the people who wear them.

It’s about faithfulness.

It’s about seeing the world as bigger than I allow it to be.

And, above all, it’s about recognizing small flashes as what they really are: breadcrumbs leading me back to grace.