A Holy Interruption by Nancy Jo Sullivan


sullivan_nancyI like the idea that Rachael, my youngest daughter, attends a college just twenty five minutes from our home.   At nineteen years of age, she has her independence but still gets home quite often to do her laundry or just to hang out with the family.

Last Saturday afternoon, as she studied for an anatomy test at the kitchen table, I sat across from her, typing on a laptop computer.  Working feverishly on an article that had a Monday morning deadline, my glasses kept falling down on my nose.   As I pecked out paragraphs, the computer keys clicking, Rachael began memorizing the names of facial muscles, repeating each multi-syllabled term, out loud.

“Buccinator…it’s the muscle that makes the lips whistle” she said.  Her eyes were fixed on a thick textbook entitled, Human Anatomy.  Wearing an oversized school sweatshirt, her long hair was pulled back in a ponytail.

As I tried to concentrate on writing my article, she slurped coffee from a ceramic mug and kept reciting terms.

“Zygomaticus…the smiling muscle…” she called out while mimicking a pseudo grin.    I kept right on typing.  “Frontalis…it raises the eyebrows and wrinkles the forehead…” From the corner of my eye, I watched as she purposely furrowed her brow.

I turned off my computer.  I was distracted.  “Are you hungry for lunch?”  I asked.

“Thanks mom…” she said without even looking up from her book.

While I stood at the counter, fixing turkey sandwiches, Rachael fixed her gaze on the anatomical diagrams in her book.  Then, suddenly, she turned and made eye contact with me, her face glowing with enlightenment.

“Mom…Come here and look at this drawing…”     she said as she pointed to an open page.  Setting our lunches on the table, I glanced at a sketch of a human skull.

“This is amazing…the bones of the skull are joined by sutures…It’s like God sewed us together…” she said.

Though I had taken an anatomy class in college, I looked at the diagram with a sense of new-found wonder.

“The sutures look just like stitches…” Rachael said.

“You’re right.”  I replied, adjusting my glasses.  Sure enough, the thin connective tissues that held together the bones of the skull had the appearance of thread.

Words from Psalm 139 whispered to me:

“You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, so wonderfully you made me; wonderful are your works!
My very self you knew, my bones were not hidden from you,
When I was being made in secret, fashioned in the depths of the earth…”

Psalm 139, 13-15

As we ate our lunch,  she continued to study and I found myself thinking back on the months that I carried her in my womb.  So many years ago, God had fashioned every part of her perfectly, a myriad of tiny muscles, tendons, and tissues that now enabled her to smile, whistle and wrinkle her brow.  Before I even saw her, her little bones were being stitched together, the threads of God’s love, fastening her humanness, forever, to heaven.

Rachael took one last bite of her sandwich and handed me her textbook.   “Mom, will you help memorize the neck muscles?”  she asked.  She was completely unaware of the gratitude that was welling up inside of me.  “You can read the names of the muscles and I’ll tell you what their function is…” she added.

“Deltoid” I said.  Looking at her through my glasses, I jokingly lifted one arm in the air and waved to her.

Rachael laughed.  “It’s the muscle that raises the arm.” she said.

I could work on my article later. This was a holy interruption, a sacred moment to recall my daughter’s beginnings and to praise God for the person she was becoming, a woman who understood, on a deep and profound level, the miraculous power of grace.

Today, if your children distract you, be sure to stop, look and listen.  God may have something to say.

All Rights reserved,  Copyright 2009, Nancy Jo Sullivan


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1 Comment

  1. Dear Nancy – thanks for the tender share. The words of Psalm 139 have been among my favorites for years and years. I did a Deacon Moment on Lisa’s show a while back on this Psalm. And to think that from all eternity, He saw you two sitting there that day… and seeing how you’d react to grace and get up from your bit of frustration and begin serving your daughter rather than some other behavior. He saw it all…He looked and saw that ‘it was good.’ Blessings. deacon tom

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