Little Mirrors

Where do you find the reflection of God?

Looking down: Baggy sweats, stained t-shirt, if I could see my waist it would disappoint me.

Looking in the mirror: Dark circles, pale skin, wrinkles multiplying as I watch. The price of staying at home to raise children is paid in the physical deterioration of a once lovely human being. I should just cover up all the mirrors.

Looking in my children: My hopes, my past, my failings, my humor, my joy, constantly in front of me. But what I see most is more grace than I deserve. More than the mistakes I’ve made, I see the reflection of God in their hearts.

Looking up: Where do I find the reflection of God? Not in my mirror. In two small hands reaching toward each other to clasp in prayer. In gentle expressions of concern for another. In a heart that can hurt over someone else’s injustice and pain. In the peaceful sleeping of a litle girl, arms and legs outstretched to each side, mouth open, trust complete.

Looking back: Children are a better mirror than reflective glass. When I was young and unscarred by time, my appearance was the sum total of my worth. Now that I have lived, that sum total has become the grace God is giving to my children. His worth reflects off my tarnished and wrinkled armor and shows up in the gifts I have to offer now. Trust, faith, humor, peace, laughter, love, time, and me. As I am. As all I have become from years of lessons from God.

The heart of a mother’s work is revealed each moment in the lives of our children. No wonder I look like a refugee.

Perhaps tomorrow I’ll brush my hair. Maybe then I can walk by a mirror without seeing everything ugly and everything unimportant. Today, I’ll go see what my children are up to and look for the reflection of God there.

Now:  11 or so years later and I still can’t pass a mirror without harsh judgement on the person reflected. When does this end? Whatever. My girls are in junior high and dealing with braces, boys, friends/clothes, changing bodies and yet, they still see a mother who loves them. They are good people, believe in God and tell me all about, braces, boys, friends/clothes and their changing bodies. That seems like grace to me. Amazing.

Karen

The Next, Best Waltz (or I Keep Stepping on Cheerio’s)

I played Chopin’s “Waltz in C Sharp Minor” on our stereo today. When I was younger I could play that piece on the piano, if not flawlessly, at least quite remarkably. There have been times when playing the piano was vital to me. I recall working fairly hard at it.

I’ve had a tough couple of days (okay, three years). Both of my children and husband are sick. So…they’ve been home. I have picked up every single toy (numbering close to three thousand) three times each. I have yet to walk across a room without the crunch of Cheerio’s beneath my feet. It’s like some kind of magnet between the floor and Cheerio’s. I landed sideways into a pile of dirty laundry because rounding a corner at 60 m.p.h. I tripped over a plastic blue Barbie convertible. I have wiped runny noses exactly one thousand times (my husband handles his own Kleenex, however) (and thankfully). I have said “NO!” more than any other word in my vocabulary.

Today, as so many other days, I have not liked being a mother. My lofty aspirations of raising, well, someone close to the second coming seem lost in endless days of practicality. Seemingly gone are all the positive, encouraging words that I want my children to hear. And definitely gone are the days when playing a waltz was the struggle of my day.

At times, mothering two toddlers has meant cavorting through meadows blissfully seeing the beauty of this earth through their eyes and peaking through windows calling out for Peter Pan. On the best days, it has even meant praying with and for them to become everything God intended. (Concert pianist? Olympic gymnast? At least walking upright?). That just hasn’t been today, or very often.

Generally, I can only concentrate on creating a walkway through the toys and keeping everyone relatively unharmed…including myself.

Today I put Chopin’s waltz in to see if it might have a calming effect on toddlers. It doesn’t seem to. It’s so disappointing that I can no longer play that waltz, or for that matter, that I no longer even dust the piano.

As I stood momentarily enjoying the magnificence of Chopin, marveling at how talented I must be somewhere inside, I overheard Hannah, my two-year-old, encouraging her stuffed monkey, Monkey McMoooo, to climb up a tower of blocks, “You can do it. Good girl.” And thankfully, I realize that she must have gotten that from me! At least, I dearly hope it was from me. And maybe, rather than just playing the piano, or merely picking up toys, my days are actually spent raising a legacy of people who will encourage others. Those positive words I managed to fit in-between “no” and “You need a Kleenex, Keith, I mean Hannah” have been heard. Hannah will encourage her stuffed monkeys, her little sister, her friends, her children, and on and on.

I am so grateful to realize that this is better than playing a waltz, and will last longer than the five minutes I was able to play it. God willing, this legacy will last longer than runny noses and will override the first 2.3 million “NO’S!”

If I sat down at the piano today to attempt that waltz, I wonder if Hannah would say, “You can do it. Good girl.”

Even though I long for the thrill of playing something beautiful on the piano, I’m deeply satisfied knowing that something even more beautiful and lasting is being expressed in my children. My children; my next, best, Cheerio-distributing, runny-nosed, magnificent waltz.

11 years later…
Hannah, my 13-year-old magnificent waltz continues to love Monkey McMoooo, even though Monkey McMoooo mostly sits upside down in the corner of her room. The “waltz’s” little sister, Talia, who is 12, just asked me to put our pet fish in a safe place so the cat, Sherman, couldn’t eat them. Talia and I rescued Sherman, who is also 12, from the cat shelter where we volunteer. So far, so good, on the legacy. We are rescuing, saving and nurturing all forms of life here in our home. Be it stuffed or living.

I sat down and played the piano yesterday. After which Hannah said “That was pretty Mommy. You should practice that more. Oh, your bangs look good today.”

Close enough.

Karen

(She didn’t need a Kleenex. But I did.)

How to Sit

Okay, I’ll sit in this chair and hold you while you nuzzle my neck and suck your thumb.
Even though it’s 5:30 in the afternoon and I really should do the breakfast dishes before I start making dinner.
Even though I just made you the greatest fort beneath the kitchen table.

Okay, I’ll sit here and hold you until you’re awake enough to venture forth into the unknown kingdom under table.
If you do climb off my lap to go inside the fort, I will: do the dishes, make dinner, mop the floor, organize all your toys and clothes, paint your dresser, read a book, play solitaire on the computer, call my mother, transfer all my phone numbers into my new phone book I got two Christmases ago, complete all photo albums with captions, take a shower and feel guilty that I’m not with you in the fort.
If you don’t go inside, I’ll sit here and hold you.
I should be able to stay here in this chair without everything I haven’t done screaming in my head.
I should be able to love this.

Someday, I’ll be in this chair alone.
When my arms are no longer your comfort, I can: do the breakfast dishes, make dinner, convert your bedroom into a gym, read all my books, call all my friends listed in my old phone book while I’m clean and ironed and made-up and glancing through my perfectly organized photo albums.

Knowing that I only get to hold you for a brief moment doesn’t make it any easier to stay here. I am all to aware that chaos reigns in my own fort, in fact, in my entire kingdom.

Dear God, help me never choose to let go of this precious little body
so that I might hold a dirty dish.

Oh, you’re little hand, stroking my cheek.

Please stop smiling at me.

When you smile…my choice is made.

Here is where I am.

Here is where I stay.

This is how to sit.

I wrote this 11 years ago. I tried to build my 13 year old daughter a fort today and she wouldn’t go in! I guess I should have let her off my lap…Really don’t know how or when she got so tall. She is still precious, even at 13. I did let go of her 11 years ago to do the dishes and I still regret it. On the plus side, I have taught her how to do the dishes, so I can now sit-even though, it’s almost always alone, and everything I haven’t done is still there to taunt me.
Karen

Something new.

It must be possible to do everything you ever wanted to do. I’m sure of it. I don’t know how yet, but I know there’s a slim chance it’s possible. This blog is an effort to sit down and write, to sit down long enough to notice my children, and to see if it’s possible to not feel quilty for either – for any of the time that wasn’t spent working. Well, and sleeping, cleaning, planning for tomorrow, driving, picking up dirty socks…you get the picture. Right now, this is all I want. Tomorrow could be another story. But, this is about today. And stopping. For a moment.