“Children … They undo us.
They show us how much
and how little we’re made of.”
— Author Leslie Leyland Fields
When day’s first light came, I rustled wee ones from quilted cocoons. I brushed lips against soft cheeks and fluttering eyes, and dressed little limbs in cotton and denim. These are the everyday Mountaintop Moments of home, the moments that swell this Mama-Heart.
But it happens sometimes, when I’m on the mountain: I don’t see the mouth of the volcano behind me, nor do I remember the eruptible lava within me.
The clock ticks. The morning pace frenzies. And between cutting off bread crusts, and the spelling review, and the search for the missing sock, these tectonic, volcanic plates within me diverge.
Unchecked, I erupt. With little warning, I spew lava and poison tones. I leave a home under mounds of ash and pumice — this little Pompeii here on an Iowa farm. Wasn’t it just a moment ago that I delivered the peaceful wake-up call?
Yesterday morning — somewhere between the rousing of sleepy girls and the harried steps to the back door — I lost it. Words rose up, burning the throat and letting go — covering wee ones in ash and lava.
“Shoes on, girls! Come on, come on!” And the lava rose.
She’s crying because she doesn’t want to wear the charcoal-colored coat. She wants the pink one instead, because the “gray one is ugly.” Someone can’t find their folder … and where’s the right shoe, Mommy?
It’s contagious. They’re erupting, too — and little lava streams join to make a raging river.
“Yes, you must wear that coat! It’s the only warm one you’ve got. You left the other in the locker, remember?” These words … they look harmless as I type them into a screen — but I remember how they sounded. They were accusing and crimson-red, dripping from a hot, angry tongue.
I can still feel the jaw tighten, the shoulders tense. Can hear the mama footsteps stomping to retrieve the backpack left by a table with half-eaten breakfasts. The bus is almost here!
I back the van out of the garage, and then she tells me she’s forgotten her bear. It’s “Letter ‘B’ Day” at school, and she needs that bear! I heave one last exaggerated sigh, stop the van and run back inside. Hands of this bristling mama grab soft yellow bear paws, and I run back outside.
I look in the rear-view mirror at reticent faces … and I know they know it, too:
I blew it.
Would it have been the end of the world if we’d missed the bus? Was it worth the ash I left them in?
The bus is late. I see it slowing to pick up kids a quarter-mile up the road. There’s still time to pray, to ask them and Him for forgiveness.
I had shown them how little I was made of — this volcanic flesh erupting in me.
And now I had a chance to show them how much I’m made of — not I, but Christ that is within me. He’s given me this grace of time and space to blow the ashes off this mess.
They drop to their knees behind me, and I reach a hand into the back seat to join the jumble of 20 little fingers.
“Can I start this time?” I ask them.
“Dear God, This mommy is sorry. I didn’t need to yell.”
I beg Him for forgiveness … and I beg them, too. They open their eyes, and throw arms around my neck.
“We forgive you, Mommy,” she says. And the lava cools in this Grace Embrace. New heat rises, springing from tear ducts, running a warm-river reminder down my cheeks: I have been forgiven.
Our children reveal to us what we know we are:
beggars before God.
— Leslie Leyland Fields,
As I post today, I take this opportunity to tell you about a book written by Leslie Leyland Fields (quoted above). A few weeks ago, Leslie graciously sent me her book. She asked: Would I take a look?
“I hope you find some words of blessing, encouragement and truth in these pages,” Leslie wrote me. “I know God really changed my heart and thinking through this study.”
And Leslie? God changed my heart, too.
I’ve spent much time in this book over these weeks, underlining, margin-writing, pondering. These words have been life-giving to a mama prone to the minefield of guilt — especially after the volcano erupts.
Leslie, an Alaska mom of six, knows the insecurities of motherhood, too. In her book, she addresses what she calls the “nine myths that can lead to unrealistic expectations.”
Some of her book has – quite honestly — challenged my thinking as I try to divide between truth and myth. Through her book, God has awakened in me what it means to be called Mommy:
“We never replace Jesus in our children’s lives. We don’t even do the work of Jesus in our children’s lives. We do the work of parents, which is to point our children to Jesus,” Leslie writes.
Photo: Lava, from stock.xchng