Friday, May 11, 2012

The Mothering Chronices 7: Preparing the Way

People often think of my mom as a saint.  Her smile is very big, and she rarely gets worked up.  She has no idea how to cuss properly, how to get mad, or even how to think a mean thought let alone speak one.  A single mom, she raised five precious-tender-hearted-never-get-into-a-fight-and-kick-the-door-in-or-come-home-smelling-of-Camels-or-listen-to-Bon-Jovi-way-too-loud girls. Our budget was tighter than my britches after Christmas, and she was lucky if at the end of the month she could afford to rent one VHS from Video Unlimited.  Dresses she stitched while we toddled and tumbled over her treadle sewing machine hung for years on misshapen wire hangers because she couldn't afford to buy something new.  She was and still is one of those people. (The kind I wish I could emulate, but somehow always come up short.)  Now mind you, she's not perfect.  If you wanna see her get worked up suggest a "bring your own picnic" day at Vogel for Mother's Day.  Wrong words.  Let.Me.Tell.You.  She likes her food (Read: she eats a five course breakfast every single day, and don't you dare get in the way of her tea!) and she's sure not making her own picnic on Mother's Day.
A few weeks ago, when the air turned up its temperature and the flowers started stretching their necks above the ground, she danced for Palm Sunday at church.  Something happens when Mom dances--everyone notices it.  The men and the ladies, the dresses and the ties, the earrings and the perfume, they all disappear.  She smiles this smile that you'll never see in any of her adult photographs.  But if you dig out the old albums--the ones with cock-eyed black and white photos stuck on parched pages--you'll find the same smile.  It's the one she used before life came and took, before life came and gave, before her father died too young and her mother lost to cancer, before a husband came and left, and five daughters pulled and took and pushed and needed, the smile she used when she was an innocent child. It's a girl dancing before her Father.  And just seeing that, I know how she made it through.  Because He loved her.  HE.

And she drank from His Living Water.


I remember one line from the song she danced to--

Prepare ye the way of the Lord.

And there's this image etched like carvings in a piece of maple that marks my heart.  It's of mom dancing on the Sunday we celebrate the people laying palm branches down for the coming Messiah, and I think how she would have been there with all those crowds of curious people on that day.  She would have waved spring-green palms and placed them on the earth before he crossed her path. 

And two-thousand years later, she did the same thing.  Prepared the way.  Prepared the way of the Lord.  That was her crowning achievement as a mother.  She prepared the way of the Lord for us girls.  She is the one who did that for us.  Did that by drinking from His Living Water.  Did that by clinging to Him as her hope.  Did that by depending on Him alone.  Did that by never quitting God when by all physical evidence it would have seemed (if I'm being honest) like He might have quit her. 
She couldn't come to every tennis match.  She worked.  Sometimes multiple jobs.  She scrubbed other people's toilets so I could eat her homemade lentil soup, and she worked nights at the Golden Pantry when old stinky men with cigarettes lodged in their mouths would want to talk to the pretty raven haired single lady, so we could get a new outfit for back-to-school.  She missed some things, it's true.  But when I wanted to talk at three in the morning, and she hadn't slept, she talked.  She propped herself up on pillows and prepared the way while I sat Indian style on the green afghan that footed her bed. And maybe it was an angel that held her eyelids open because now that I'm a mom, I know what it means to be dog-tired, and I am sure she was far beyond that kind of tired.

And isn't this the great crux of the mothering we do?  That we would prepare the way of the Lord for our children?  Isn't this the thing they most need?  And when Mary chose the more excellent thing, the thing that was needful, was it not that she just made a way for Jesus in her life? 

Because sometimes life--that old great giver and terrible taker--sometimes he just brings us to our knees.  Sometimes he demands so much, and we are left dizzy and uncertain what to do next.  Us moms.  We get left that way sometimes, don't we?  I remember once, when I was a senior in high school, we had a pep-rally game called Dizzy Bat.  I was selected to represent my class.  My instructions were simple, and honestly, I thought I was rocking them out. 

Hold the bat touching the floor.
Put your head on the top of the bat.
Spin around.
Ten times.
Fast.  (That's the part I was rocking out.)
In a straight line to the other side of the gym.
In front of the entire high school.

I ran.
One step.
Then I fell, flat on my back.
Entire high school.

Life gets you the way, doesn' it?

And when you get done spinning and think you're ready to run, you have no clue which way you are going.
We have one direction with our kids.
One focal point.
One way to run.
Prepare the way for them to love Jesus, to know Him, to trust Him, to count on Him, to seek Him, to abide in Him.

In Him is fullness of life.

In Him.

And I get this backwards.  I spin in circles chasing American Dreams because I have spent thirty-five years steeping, like dehydrated mint leaves in steaming water, in a culture that insists there is a right way to raise a child. 

Educate them well.
So we do.  We send them to pre-school and then relocate our family to a town with the best school systems.  We spend hours making sure their third grade camouflage salt dough and vinegar volcano is The.Coolest.One.Ever.

Give them opportunities.
So we do.  Piano.  Soccer.  Football. Art lessons.  Gymnastics.  Horse Camp.
And we work more jobs to afford more opportunities.
And we hire a house cleaner to clean our toilets because we aren't home and don't have time to do it ourselves. Since we aren't home, we probably haven't peed in them anyway, so it's kind of an exercise in futility, but we do it anyway.

Keep them entertained so they stay out of trouble.
So we do.  Sleepovers every weekend.  Trips to the movies.  To the skating rink.  To the park.  More play dates.  Big vacations.

Don't let them want for anything.
So we don't.  (God knows this one taunts me.)  Because I remember not having when others did.  And please God, I don't ever want my children to know that ache. So we buy the name brand.  We do.  As if a name brand can save a soul, can heal a hurt, can carry a child into a lifetime of happiness. 

Take them to church.
So we do.  And to all the activities the church offers because surely they need to know about Jesus and the tired Sunday School teacher can reach them in ways we can't or don't know how to.
Or are too tired to even attempt because we've been busy.
Busy spinning.

And though there isn't anything wrong with any of these things, somehow we abdicate our one single shot to do the preparing.  We divvy out our chance, our stewardship, our few, finite years with these beautiful beings to name brands and complete strangers when God hand picked us for the preparing. 
And some of us do have to work, and some of us can't homeschool, and some of us don't work and do homeschool, and still we sacrifice this one precious act--the preparing act--because we're too busy on facebook and texting.  And I'm talking to myself here, so just ignore my ranting. 

This really is the question.  What precious moments do we have, and what are we doing with them?

Because the needful thing is to prepare the way.
Not for a great college,
not for a great job,
not for success in this life.
The needful thing is to prepare their hearts for The Way,
for The Truth,
for The Life,
for His Kingdom,
for success in their eternal life,
for fullness of life.
For Jesus.

And if you are like me, and you get to spinning so fast that when you finally stop you have no idea which way is up or down or left or right, then perhaps you could sit with me and watch Mom dance.
Watch her move before the God that carried her through all the good--the births of beautiful brown eyed babies, the walks through fields of daisies in spring, and lazy summer days at the lake in the heat of summer.  Watch her make famous the name of the God who gripped her with relentless strength when the angst of life swallowed her marriage, her parents, her siblings, her dreams.  She's still just preparing the way for Him.

If we live to give things or opportunities to our children, we will miss it.
Miss the needful thing.
Miss the chance to prepare.

Our goal as parents, my goal as a momma of sweet, wild, wonderful boys is just this:
To make the name of my God so famous before my children that they know He is the source of life.

In Him is abundance.
In Him is fullness of joy.
In Him is hope.
In Him is peace.
In Him is healing.
In Him is satisfaction.

Mother's Day is declaring her arrival on a one inch square in my May Calendar.  Every year she insists I stop and pause long enough to ask, Am I worthy of the spoiling I know I'll get?  Do I deserve the honoring, the loving that my men will wash over me?

So often, I'm not.
I'm not a saint like my own momma.
I fall so short.
I fall.

And I question God. 
Why, God, did you give them to me?  There are a thousand better mommas.  A thousand who never raise their voice, who never space out and fail to hear their son calling out, a thousand who smile more, who play more, who . . .

But He chose me.
He chose you.
"Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them." (Psalm 127:3-5)
And heritages and rewards and blessings are not randomly tossed from heaven to land like dandelion seeds where they may.  They are selected sovereignly by God for specific recipients.
Recipients like you.
Recipients like me.
And isn't He able to keep us from falling?

And isn't preparing the way partly about teaching a child, modeling for a child the ability to humble oneself and admit we are sinners, admit we too mess up, admit we need Jesus, need His forgiveness.  Isn't that the greatest ushering of a child into the presence of God that we could ever do?

It's never too late to begin afresh.
Never to late to begin the dance before our Father.
The dance that will mesmerize the minds of our children,
will captivate their attention,
will make God famous in their hearts.

May your Mother's Day be of the dancing kind.
With love,


Heather said...

Loved this Sarah!! Thank you!

Sarah said...

Thank you, Heather :-) Happy Mother's Day to a gal who I know is loving every moment.

Anonymous said...

Sarah you did a very good job of telling your mothers life. She is a most wonderful woman. I've know her for well over 45 years which had a long physical absence but never did I lose her in my mind. I see her as a beautiful teenager as I knew her so many years back. She is all you describe and more. I could never put into words how much I still adore her and it is because of her person. I never say much to her about my feelings because she would not think highly of a married person saying his feelings so openly. I have a very wonderful wife I love so very dearly. and I think she knows more then your Mom how I feel about her. So from reading your post I was compelled to tell you a bit about my story and feelings because she too is a most wonderful person who I will love dearly all of my days.
My best to you all and she does have 5 Hot daughters to be proud of. my congratulations to those lucky men.
With Love , John

Anne Arnold Pierce said...

Yes she is Sarah she is all that and more. I so love your mother.
and my Sweet Sarah have a very happy Mother's Day yourself.

Carole said...

LOVE it, Sarah! I want to meet your Mom!! Happy Mothers Day to you both. :)

Love, Carole

Anonymous said...

LOVED THIS. thank you Sarah for your wise words. I'm challenged to ensure my children have a path prepared before them so they see Jesus more clearly in my life. You're mother has always held a special place in my heart. I remember many days at your home as a teenager and your momma was so kind, loving, and creative with what she had. I learned how to make home made pizza out of what ever bread was left over, be it a Bagel or English muffin. I still make those for my kids :)
Leslie Brooks