Wednesday, August 20, 2014

of flying machines and grace-filled mothering

I wish I had a flying machine.

(We haven't actually seen this movie... this model came in an airplane kids' kit!)
Will and I made Yogi Bear's flying machine at “rest time” today.  I reluctantly relinquished my usual hour of lying-down-flat-in-a-dark-cool-room because he’s been begging me for several days to “make a craft”…

That refrain played over and over in my heart today.

My second son (4.5 yrs) currently idolizes screen time over every other thing in his life (including Jesus, his mom and dad, all his friends, and every toy he owns).  Practically all of his communication with me this morning consisted of complaining, whining, and begging for screen time, until I put my foot down and insisted “I can't hear you” as long as he continued to whine.  He finally forced himself to switch to a slightly less nasal tone just to get me to respond.

Oh, for the wings of a dove…

After sticking the flying machine together and taping feathers to strips of felt to make Indian headbands, I snuck into my room to lay down on my bed, but I barely got 10 horizontal minutes before Ruby woke up.  Ten whole minutes.  

Then it was up-and-at-‘em again, off to the shop, greeting the entire neighborhood en route to and from, the flurry of getting dinner, letting the dog out, putting the dog away, kids fed, bathed, toenails clipped, put to bed, phone calls made, emails typed, and… I’m still so wound up that even though I’m exhausted, I had to type the rough draft of this post before I could even start my bedtime routine.

I want to fly away on Yogi Bear’s flying machine, without anyone sitting behind me - just me.  By myself.  Alone.  Without anyone else.  Alone.  Did I mention, I want to be alone?

Oh…that I could fly away, and be at rest!

Where are my wings?  I kept glaring up at heaven.

Ever have a day like that?  What did you do? 

Desperate, in the middle of the afternoon, I made Ben write down what he was thankful for, and then I did the same - a purple prophecy written in hope, since it sure isn’t evident yet…

(in case it's not clear in the photo, Ben's list - made with help - includes "cousins in NZ, a cute little sister, 2 grandmas who love me, Gpa Tim and that I have his name, and a ride in a donkey cart today")

I went out after rest time and took pictures of sunflowers, each click of the shutter a tiny burst of helium in my heart, finally lifting it up off the ground to gain a bit of altitude…

I petted the dog… For the first time in my life, I’ve discovered how therapeutic it can be to scratch the velvety fur behind a dog’s ears.  I’m amazed it’s taken me 30 years to discover this!

And now, I’m writing this blog post, looking for wings, hoping the story of this day will encourage even just one other heart out there…

The next day...

I discover that a book review for a course I’m taking is due right now, so during “rest time” I curl up with my Kindle for a hasty reading session.  The book I’ve chosen to review is a thick tome on mentoring which came highly recommended, but my initial scratches (months ago) left me worried it might be quite dry.  Hah!  Completely the opposite.  I can’t stop highlighting.  

In the middle of Chapter 2, the author is describing how a good spiritual mentor can help us discern spiritual meaning in and through the events of our daily lives. These words jump off the page:

“[Eugene] Peterson compares pastoral ministry to work on the farm with its routines of unglamorous chores, such as cleaning the barn, mucking out the stalls and pulling weeds.  Spiritual mentoring is farm work in which we meet routinely with our mentor for periodic unglamorous conversations and prayer.  Though moments of grand epiphany burst in or around us, the heart of mentoring another is the modest work of the routine.” (emphasis mine)

This girl, who’s never owned an animal larger than a hamster, has been feeding chickens, scooping dog poop and pulling up huge fistfuls of garden weeds since the beginning of summer, so the “farm work” analogy currently has a - shall we say - pungent meaning for me.

But it was the end of that paragraph which took my breath away:

Most pastoral work takes place in obscurity,” says Peterson, “deciphering grace in the shadows, searching out meaning in a difficult text, blowing on the embers of a hard-used life.  This is hard work and not conspicuously glamorous.”

I have a confession to make.  [stage whisper]  I’m one of those people who secretly likes being “conspicuously glamorous”.  Really.  I like getting attention, looking put together, receiving credit for what I’ve accomplished...

Guess what I’m discovering.  

Motherhood is anything but glamorous.  

(Big surprise, right?)  

Motherhood is “deciphering grace in the shadows.”  

When I read that phrase, I saw why God wants me to read this book: not because I’m supposed to go out and collect unsuspecting mentorees on which to bestow my vast depths of knowledge (hah!), but because I already have three little mentorees living in my house everyday, whose souls I am (scarily) responsible for shaping.  

I mean, of course if you’re a mother, you’re a mentor, right?  Yeah, ok - it should’ve been obvious, I guess.  But for some reason, I just didn’t connect motherhood and mentoring.  I thought mentoring was something older, more experienced adults did for younger adults… (so, um, that would be me, with my three little adults-in-training…)  

I know it’s God who works in all of us to will and to act according to His good purpose, and I know He is ultimately the One forming the character of my children, but I also have a huge responsibility to partner with Him in raising my kids to be godly, mature, responsible, joy-filled adults.  After all, He did pick me to be their mother - gulp! - and here in the middle of this book on Spiritual Mentoring, I am finally getting it.   

I need to learn how to become a good mentor because I already have three precious souls under my care.  

I need to learn how to “decipher grace in the shadows.”  I have this sneaking suspicion that if I can find grace in the shadows, I’ll find those wings I’ve been looking for.

photo credit
I scroll back in my Kindle to another quote earlier in the book which I highlighted in the context of adult mentoring but which takes on a new savor when applied to motherhood:

“The good mentor will help us ‘read between the lines’ for the hidden and quietly earthy messages that God will give because life is full of God.”

Yes.  To help my children read between the lines of life and unearth God’s messages for them because life is full of God. 

Or this one:

“The success or effectiveness of spiritual mentor may be directly related to the ability of mentor and mentor to move beneath the surface into the depths of treasures within the mentoree.  Anything that we bring to the surface has the potential to turn out to be silver or gold hidden in the rough, angular and random shapes of the earthly rock containers that carry these unique treasure.  The patient, sometimes tedious work of mining for the rich treasures within the seemingly worthless rocks is the work of spiritual mentoring.  These rocks are the stories of our daily lives.”

So.  Guess what?

In the midst of the tedious daily grind of dealing with bad attitudes and ungrateful hearts (often my own), dishes, laundry, farm chores, and cooking, I am mining unique treasures of gold and silver in the souls of my children.  I am helping them read between the lines of life for God’s messages.  I am “deciphering grace in the shadows.” 

Those glimpses of grace, when brought out into the light, become wings with the power to lift me up out of the mundane, into the holy. 

Does this resonate with you?  This doesn’t just apply to children, you know; we are mining for treasures with every friendship we have.  We are “deciphering grace in the shadows” in each conversation, each email, each train of thought, each journal entry, each prayer we whisper to the Holy Spirit in the depths of our hearts.  

We are all spiritual mentors for each other, and our holy work is the quietness of listening and paying attention to the “hidden and quietly earthy messages” God is every moment giving.

Because life is full of God, there is grace to decipher in the shadows.  

And that makes the shadows full of wings.

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