Wednesday, November 2, 2011
The Mothering Chronicles 4: Falling Short of Picket Fences
November nodded at me today, with her egg-yolk sun and scattered whites on a blue sky plate. Her trees rusty, with October's last rains and breath like maple candy, brought four visitors--a fellow firefighter and his family. A fine family we now call friends. Theirs are two sweet boys with hair the color of butter left to sit from breakfast to dinner. Little ones. Smaller than mine. And I remembered. I remembered feet that fit in palms of hands. Chatter only I could decipher. Soothers that needed microchips because God forbid we lost them. Faces stained with food. Feet that longed to climb, to jump, to do the things big brother did. Smiles. Smiles that set off fireworks in my stomach. How a dogwood stick was fascinating. How stairs were to them like midnight lights to summer bugs. How I remembered. Seven years have seeped away since last I saw those images in flesh and blood. I look at the masterpieces life painted in my heart and wonder what images will be there seven years further along this arc of time. So much of myself is reflected in who the boys are becoming. So much of their daddy too. (How I thank God for that.) Mothering them--this heavenly calling that somehow found me when I didn't know it was all I wanted, all I ever truly longed for in life--has been like a mirror to my soul. They show me who I am. I haven't always liked the reflection. A spilled cup released bitter words. Did they fall from my lips? Babies at my bedside in buttoned jammies, and I am resentful that Daddy doesn't hear them. It is me again, lifting downy covers and arching my back to make a cocoon in which they curl. It is me scratching backs until eyelids fall and breathing steadies, while he sleeps. Resentful? Me? Yes, at times. Even if we pretend it isn't so, our babes show us the truth. Admitting, acknowledging, and refusing to accept unloveliness are the changing ingredients. Visions of perfection, of milk and cookies, and picket fences were all I knew when Nate lay safely in my water bed tummy. My heart broke when the reality of my imperfection deluged my soul until I was asphyxiated with the truth. So far from perfection. Far far from that word. But still, so high, so holy a calling. To fall short seems unacceptable. Unacceptable, yes. Inevitable? That too. But Paul said he forgot what was behind and strained toward what lay before him--his high calling. James said consider it pure joy, brothers because perseverance is cooked in the crock of trials. And mothering, though I longed for it, is indeed a trial at times. Paul too said, "Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord...for it is a safeguard for your faith." (Phil. 1:3 NLT) Whatever happens, rejoice. Paul said he had many valid reasons to be confident in his flesh, in his ability, his education, his skill. But he rejoiced in none of that. His joy came clothed in swaddling clothes. He rejoiced not in who he was, but in a savior who already paid for each failure. A savior who washed those dropped moments, those careless words, those selfish feelings with the spilled blood of a life fully spent. If I could sit knee to knee with the mothers, eye to eye, hearts in hands held open, I'd say, "You'll fail. You'll be less than you hoped. You'll smudge your masterpieces with paintbrushes dipped in darkness. But Jesus. But Jesus, my friend." Jesus repaints the soiled spots because "Love covers a multitude of wrongs." (I Cor. 13) And He is love. He covers. He restores. (Is. 38:16, Job 33:26, Joel 2:25-26) He heals. (Psalm 107:20, Is. 57:17-19) He makes all things new. (Rev. 21:5) And when we feel entirely unable, it is He who remains "able to do exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or imagine." (Eph. 3:20) To mother, and mother well, we must plan to rejoice when we fail--not in the fractured fragments of brokenness that can result from our humanity, but in the opportunity to point our children to the flawless Father who fails not. It will prove the safeguard of our families and our personal faith. Rejoice, sisters, in the net that catches our oopses, our man-I-wish-I-could-take-that-backs, our will they ever survive me as their moms, and purifies them. When nighttime swelled, I slipped into their room just to watch them sleep a moment or two. And there were the locks of hair, curtains over Cort's eyes. There were the freckles--eleven years of crumbs we forgot to wipe away dozing on Nate's cheeks. I sat, swiping hair and connecting the dotted freckles, by each boy. And I prayed. Father, redeem the times. Redeem the moments when this passionate, creative boy pushes against this passionate, creative momma until we hurt and bruise. Redeem the minutes when math is wrong, and he doesn't get it, and I can't figure out why, and we lock our horns together, and turn and twist until our emotions are tangled. Let not my failures mar their beauty. Let them see you when they see me, when they hear me. And I rejoiced. They sleep warm, in peaceful beds--made by their father's hands and their mother's heart--with brows at ease, and hearts filled with the knowledge that they are loved, that they are worthy of love, that they are fearfullyand wonderfully crafted. They know. And I rejoice. It is enough.