Sitting at our local coffee shop, my husband and I are enjoying a rare treat; we are leisurely reading the newspaper, drinking coffee and just hanging out. We haven’t attempted this in several years since our sons—quite frankly—ruined the experience with their sighs, fidgeting and “How much longer do we have to sit here?” remarks. At 16 and 12 years of age, both my boys are old enough to go off with friends and as luck would have it, are both invited to social events. I say a small prayer of thanksgiving for this blessing back in our lives.
Between the social and metro sections of the paper, I glance at the coffee shop crowd. Seated on my left is a young couple with their ever-moving toddler. They are in the phase of life when names are replaced with titles: “Give mommy your toy while you eat, please,” “Daddy, can you give Baby his juice cup he dropped?” With only one, they are still able to manage this coffee-shop event. I smile to myself.
Behind me a group of 20-something women is laughing between stories about dates, work and social escapades. As I begin to reminisce about my single past, I’m distracted by the entrance of four giggling high school girls with wet, straight, long hair all dressed in the uniform of the day: flip flops, t-shirts and gym shorts that look like what I was forced to wear for P.E. in the 70s. (How are those in style?!) They communicate with one another—heads down—staring at their pink-and-turquoise-colored, bejeweled cell phones. They have just reached the life phase of venturing out on their own without parents and siblings in tow.
Did I appreciate their high school freedom, young adult adventures and non-judging sweetness? I have to confess, no. I took each phase of my life for granted; seeing the toil and rarely the joy, and always looking to the next phase for something better just out of my grasp. Jesus teaches us to live in the present:
“But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.”
Sitting with the knowledge that several years under my belt brings, I ask for the grace to live in the present and appreciate the blessings it holds. In these ‘coffee shop phases of life,’ I represent the time when a woman has children at home but not underfoot, able to enjoy a full night’s sleep as long as peri-menopausal hormones cooperate and children are home by curfew. “Thank you, Lord that I am past worrying about a big test the next day, if that cute guy I met last night will call, or if my son will ever fall asleep.”
I open my eyes to see an elderly woman and her husband walk in. He looks like he may have had a stroke and leans on her as they slowly make their way to the closest table. Once he is seated, she busies herself getting napkins and utensils. She goes to the counter to order and I can tell she is flustered between ordering and keeping one eye on her husband. She’s probably wondering if taking a break from fixing breakfast at home was worth the effort.
Trying not to stare, I avert my eyes to the corner table where a wheelchair-bound octogenarian is being fed by her nursemaid. I feel a lump in my throat and my stomach tighten, “Are these the future phases of my life?” I take a deep breath and blow it out. My husband looks up and asks if anything is wrong.
As I am about to go where Jesus advised not to, I receive the grace I just asked for: “Not at all,” I respond as sip my second coffee and reach for the editorial section. “It’s a beautiful day.”